A long weekend in New York. The city is still buzzing and somewhat in shock from the recent dual uptown and downtown Blue and Red party sharing of election night acceptance and condolence. It is the weekend before Thanksgiving: that all American, parades of billowing balloons and black Friday shopping. The unusually balmy weather gives the city some pre-holiday giddiness that only adds to the traditional New York City buzz. New Yorkers are talking to strangers over shared tables at dinners (this happened twice on our visit). What can you pack into four days in the city that never sleeps? A lot it seems. Tie on some comfy walking shoes and join us as we discover familiar and not so familiar things to do over a long weekend in New York City.
The Other Park
We were lucky to experience some unusual New York, November late Indian Summer-like weather, and hopped the F train to Brooklyn, exited at Flatbush and entered into Prospect Park. We joined nannies with strollers, zealous joggers, and cyclists and fell in love with the many paths and forested walkways of this Brooklyn oasis. Take a detour into the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens or stop at BAM for a concert or lecture on your way in or out of this lush and lovely green space that Frederick Law Olmsted, the renowned designer of Central Park, (that other park) thought to be his most successful and accomplished park design. Walk down Carroll Street through Park Slope and experience some of the neighborhoods’ beautiful Brownstones and some 40 minutes later, find yourself on trendy Court Street in Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill, next door to Historic Brooklyn Heights. Or perhaps a little further north to the hip and gentrified Williamsburg.
A Night at the Opera
On any visit to New York, one should take in it's many and splendid cultural institutions. If you have never experienced the Metropolitan Opera and a glass of champagne in her luscious red-carpeted period lobbies, then indulge your senses in Anna Netrebko's Manon Lescault this fall in the Met’s breathtaking production, with Marcelo Álvarez as Des Grieux providing more than a match for Ms. Netrebko’s over-the-top soprano. Set in occupied France in the 1940s, it is a fitting setting for an opera about an unprincipled protagonist, willing to do anything to obtain her ends. The stunning set is perfect! Tickets begin at $25; for prices, more information, or to place an order, call (212) 362-6000 or visit www.metopera.org.
Two Museums: One Traditional, One Not So Much
The Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiled its new show, Masterworks: Unpacking Fashion at the Costume Institute just days before our arrival. The exhibition is an incredible story of the evolution of clothing over the last 200 or so years, in about 60 displays, and lets the viewer easily follow and understand the “conversation”; think of the meaning behind the cerulean lecture in The Devil Wears Prada, and you will understand. Outfits on display include Worth, Schiaparelli, Chanel, Vivienne Westwood, Dior and it is a must stop for the fashionista.
The Museum of the City of New York was opening their New York at it's Core exhibition on the Saturday of our visit and was full of live music and welcoming entertainment. The exhibit follows the history of the city's initial rise from a Dutch colony to today's metropolis. We also were totally enthralled with Gay Gotham: Art and Underground Culture in New York, until February 26, 2017, "brings to life the queer creative networks that sprang up in the city across the 20th century--a series of artistic subcultures whose radical ideas had lasting effects on the mainstream." We encountered gay icons from Mae West to Leonard Bernstein and Andy Warhol, Robert Mapplethorpe, and Cecil Beaton; George Platt Lynes and Gertrude Stein.
A last minute reservation was made and with much anticipation we entered Pondicheri, chef, and restaurateur Anita Jaisinghani ode to beautiful family based Indian nosh. This Houston-based restaurant opened its New York doors in July and had been receiving raves, including two write-ups in the New York Times alone. We focused on the Thali menu which we thrived on during our time in India: literally 'plate': big silver platters, divided into sections, soon filled with heaping helpings of whatever vegetarian wonders Anitaji has cooking in her kitchen that day. John scooped up the Vegetarian Vishnu: red beet soup, smoked eggplant, spiced okra, sautéed greens, sweet potato peanut samosa. I opted for Earth: chicken 25, spiced okra, smoked eggplant, sautéed greens, beet cashew raita, all washed down with cold seasonal pints of draught beer. The food gods, Vishnu included, were smiling on us on our first night in New York!
Eataly Flatiron continues to be a raucous, bustling, busy bite of Italy located at 200 5th Avenue with entrances on 23rd Street between 5th & 6th Avenue. We enjoyed their truffle and fungi inspired menu at the popular Manzo before heading uptown for our night at the opera. I savoured splendid tagliatelle with Veal Ragout, shavings of Grano Padano and truffles and John was speechless with his Farrotto: lightly toasted farro with whipped parsnips, wild mushrooms, and parsnip chips. Second night score, restaurant-wise!
The new Eataly NYC Downtown Italian marketplace debuted at 4 World Trade Center this month and features tastings, a sit-down Southern Italian restaurant, bread bakery, Italian coffee bar and several to-go options. Make sure you ask for a window seat for spectacular views over the National September 11 memorial and the radiant reflecting pools.
7th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn offers tons of takeaway options from small storefront eateries that combine fast food on the go with a sit-down dining experience that sometimes spills onto late November warm and sunny back patios. HANKI Everyday Korean brings a lot of soul to their Seoul inspired authentic Korean food. For meat lovers, the great Dak-Galbi 'Hanki Set': fire-grilled chicken served with a spicy/sweet sauce with slivers of green jalapeños warming the tongue and sides of veg japchae (cold sweet potato starch noodles) is a must. The Tofu Steak 'Hanki Set' is a vegetarian dream: smooth tofu, shiitake mushrooms and onion 'steak' grilled in soy with four sides of banchan. A generous side of seasoned brown rice finishes both sets. Wash it down with one of their signature warm or cold teas, and you are ready to finish your sunny November amble of Brooklyn.
Brunch or a Burger at The NoMad Hotel;
Locals hail The NoMad Hotel Chef Daniel Humm's Vegetarian burger as THE veterinarian burger to have in the city right now, and according to the table beside us, a pretty damn fine dry-aged beef burger as well where the hotel's atrium is just the place to grab sunny Sunday brunch or an intimate dinner under the canopy of a twinkling city. We chose the brunch option, our last morning in the city, and start with a traditional Bloody Mary, and John sips a Coffee Martini. Perfectly poached Eggs Benedict (sans fresh crab meat, I'm allergic) presented on slightly buttered cushions of house made muffins draped with a tarragon-scented hollandaise. John opts for the spinach, chèvre and mushroom omelet, served with toast slathered with the most exquisite butter. Of course, there is that famous Veggie Burger: lentils, cremini mushrooms, and piquillo, served quite simply, letting all the splendour of the burger shine through. Unobtrusive slick service adds to a lovely last morning in New York.
The New New York
“Lower Manhattan’s remarkable revitalization over the last 15 years is a cornerstone of the ‘new’ New York City,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. “With tourism reaching record levels in New York City, visitors and locals have more choices to explore, shop, stay and dine than ever before in this newly reimagined downtown neighborhood.” And indeed it is truly new: enter your upscale shopping experience at the $1.4 billion Westfield World Trade Center shopping complex via Santiago Calatrava’s soaring Dove of a transit hub, the Oculus and 365,000 square feet of retail space. Up your shopping game at brands that include Apple, Under Armour, Kate Spade, and Lacoste.
And of course The National September 11 Memorial Museum at the World Trade Center. Take a quiet two hours to enter this solemn space of remembrance and reflection which attests to the triumph of human dignity over atrocity. Exit the museum and spend some time in the late November sun viewing the magnificent reflecting pools that sit within the original footprints of the Twin Towers. A challenging but inspiring morning.
Two Christmas Markets, Two Very Different Feels
The Union Square Holiday Market combines their green market with their Christmas market and makes for a less corporate, more organic seasonal experience. wander the winding aisles and stalls of handicrafts and one-of-a-kind gifts, or hang out in Market locations like Little Brooklyn or Urbanspace Provisions. The kids can spend time in their own craft studio while you warm up in the warming station.
Head uptown to Bryant Park, and do some early Christmas shopping at the Holiday Shops at Bryant Park. Peruse the stalls of handcrafted jewelry, handmade soaps, scarves, hand warmers, unique small pieces of photography and paintings and of course, your requisite NYC souvenir. Or strap on some skates and try the ice out on the Bank of America Winter Village at Bryant Park. There are lots of food kiosks ringing Bryant Park should you or the kids need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
Make sure you visit NYC and Company and pick up a couple of City Passes. Not only will you save 40 percent off regular combined admission prices while visiting some of the city's most important sites, but you will also get to jump the line and take the VIP route. How great is that?