Friday, November 19, 2010

Eating and drinking my way around New York City...

On the plane to New York I watched Sex and the City 2, which even though is set mainly in Abu Dhabi, it had enough of the Big Apple to whet my appetite for my latest visit. It was my third time to Manhattan and its towering skyscrapers and my most enjoyable trip to date.

Jason in Times Square NYC
Jason does Times Square NYC
Previously San Francisco was a favourite city of mine, but I think that New York may have just stolen that crown with its walkable streets, myriad cocktail bars and amazing places to eat.

Madison Square Park
New York Madison Square Park
Having lived in L.A. for the past two years it was a delight to walk and not drive through all the different neighbourhoods, which really seemed to have been cleaned up from my previous visits, and look up to marvel at all the fantastic architecture and interesting skyline sights.

The Empire State Building by day and night
Empire State Building New York
Empire State Building at night
We did have a chuckle at New York parking though.

New York City parking
New York parking
Unseasonably mild for November, my wardrobe worries were laid to rest and although I wasn't wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I still wasn't bundled up for winter either.
New York Times Square
We stayed in Park Central Hotel on 7th Avenue, which was very basic but was in a great location (just down from Central Park and opposite Carnegie Hall) and had a nice comfy bed.

New York's signature steaming man-hole covers
New York steaming manhole
After arriving in the city on Saturday night around 6pm, we ventured out to The Bubble Lounge for some champagne cocktails with a friend living in New York.

The Bubble Lounge 228 West Broadway
The Bubble Lounge New York
The Bubble Lounge NYC
We followed drinks with an amazing family style Thai tasting menu at Kittichai on Thomson Street in SoHo. The food was simply delicious and was a great way to sample a variety of dishes you may never order individually.

Views from High Line Park
High Line Park viewNew York Meatpacking District streets
On Sunday we used the opportunity to catch up with other friends for brunch at Markt in the Flatiron neighbourhood, before taking a stroll along the elevated High Line park, a former freight railroad that has been transformed into an aerial urban parkland, in the Meatpacking District.
Meatpacking District NYC
It's a well designed park and a lovely way to see more of the surrounding area (you can even see the Statue of Liberty from it), and there are plans to lengthen the 1.45 mile stretch through Chelsea up to 34th Street and the Javits Convention Center.
Jason's Empire State Building view
Meatpacking District New York
After the High Line it was on to the Broadway Theatre (having spotted comedienne Sandra Bernhard along 5th Avenue) to see Sean Hayes (of Will & Grace fame), Kristin Chenowith and the hilarious Molly Shannon, in a matinee performance of the musical revival of Promises Promises.

Promises Promises - The Musical Comedy
Broadway Theatre New York
Promises Promises Musical billboard
Promises Promises musical stars
Sean Hayes was amazing, with a great voice to match his comic timing, although Molly Shannon's outrageous second act performance did outshine Kristin Chenowith, regardless of her great vocals. It's a fun musical comedy and the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Brasserie 8 ½
Brasserie 8 and a half New York
For a change of pace that evening, as there were just the two of us, we used to find a restaurant close to our hotel and took a chance on Brasserie 8 ½ in Midtown along West 57th Street.
Brasserie 8 and a half New York
After you descend the dramatic staircase, you're greeted by a canteen like space. On Sunday night it was quieter than we'd expected for New York, but a refreshing change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the city streets. I'd highly recommend the food and cocktails there.

Chelsea Market
Chelsea Market New York
The next day our friend flew in from South America in the morning and our first stop of the day was at MOMA (The Museum of Modern Art). Then we headed back out onto the streets and walked down through Chelsea to Soho House in the Meatpacking District for a late lunch (and to sample their cocktails of course).

Soho House cocktails - A Manhattan in Manhattan
Soho House Manhattan cocktailSoho House cocktail
After a tasty lunch we explored the surrounding neighbourhood and walked for miles back through SoHo, Greenwich Village and back up to our hotel.

The Chrysler Building at night
Chrysler Building at night
On our way back we walked through Grand Central Terminal for the first time, which was filled with Christmas market stalls and seemed like a much nicer commuter experience than some of the busy train stations in London.

Grand Central Terminal
Grand Central Station NYC
Inside Grand Central Station
And although holiday season hasn't totally kicked in yet (wait until after Thanksgiving), it was nice to see buildings like the Trump Tower illuminated with their festive lights.

Trump Tower
Trump Towers NYC
For another change of pace that night (because we hadn't eaten enough already), we decided to try some authentic New York pizza on a recommendation from a local friend at Angelo's on West 57th Street.

Trying Angelo's pizza
Angelo's Pizza
Jason eats Angelo's Pizza
The next day my other half, Charlie, flew back to L.A. and I stayed on for a few more days for more New York adventures with my girl friend, starting with some retail therapy at Woodbury Common Premium Outlets.

Woodbury Common outlet shopping
Woodbury Common treesWoodbury Common premium outletsWoodbury Common shopping outlets
By bus from the Port Authority Terminal it took us about an hour to get to the retail village in the Central Valley in Orange County, New York and it didn't take long for me to find some bargains in the Energie store, whilst we dodged the rain. The return trip was slightly longer as we hit rush hour traffic so with bags in hand we decided not to go back to the hotel, but venture out for drinks and dinner.

The View at the Marriott Marquis Hotel
The View bar NYC
The View bar NYCJason enjoys The View cocktailsNew York night view
Our first stop was a real tourist destination in Times Square, The View Lounge at the top of the Marriott Marquis hotel. The cocktails were OK and we managed to avoid the $8 per person cover charge after 8pm which seemed a bit steep, but the view as you can imagine was impressive and the revolving bar was certainly a different experience.

Jason at Extra Virgin in West Village
Jason enjoys Extra Virgin cocktails NYC
A taxi ride later and another taste of New York's infamous rain and we found ourselves at Extra Virgin in the West Village. The restaurant is a wonderful discovery and my friend had been there on a previous visit, so wanted to return and I'm glad we did. The dining space is intimate, but we had a fantastic window seat and enjoyed delicious food. I tucked into scallops to start and a wonderful tuna dish for my main meal, all washed down with some tasty cocktails.

Tiles for America 9/11 Tribute
Tiles for America New YorkTiles for America New York
NYC Tiles for America
After we left Extra Virgin and before we hailed a cab back to the hotel we also passed by this tribute to the victims of the September 11 attacks, which made me remember my first visit to New York when I'd taken a ride to the top of the World Trade Center.

On our last day it was time to venture further afield and take the subway over to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar
Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar
Duck breast sandwich
Jason at Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar
When we emerged from the subway we stumbled upon the Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar and I enjoyed a glass of rose along with a delicious duck breast sandwich, much needed energy to help weather the blustery winds and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge back into Manhattan.

Jason on the Brooklyn Bridge
Jason on Brooklyn Bridge
We'd overheard the waiter at the bar discouraging some other tourists from walking over the bridge as it was so windy, but we're used to blustery, cold weather in Britain and it was a gloriously sunny day so off we went.

Walking over the Brooklyn Bridge
Welcome to Brooklyn
Brooklyn Bridge wires
Jason on the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge NYC
The bridge itself was undergoing some renovation, but aside from that there were great views of the city and famous landmarks, including the neighbouring Manhattan Bridge, the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, Liberty Island in New York Harbour and the towering Financial District.

Manhattan Bridge
Manhattan Bridge NYC

The Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
New York's Financial District skyscrapers
Financial District NYCFinancial District view NYC

Manhattan's infamous skyline
Empire State Building viewMahattan skyline view
After all that exercise it was time for a treat, something sweet and a hot cup of tea. We'd already vowed to avoid Starbucks after living there for the past few days (mainly for their free wifi), so as an homage to Sex and the City we decided to walk on up to Magnolia Bakery on Bleecker Street and sample their sugary wares.

Magnolia Bakery West Village
Magnolia Bakery West Village NYC
Magnolia Bakery West VillageMagnolia Bakery cakes West Village
Two frosted cupcakes later and we were very happy customers, enjoying them on a bench in an Autumnal looking West Village.
Autumnal West Village NYC
Magnolia Bakery cupcake
With one night left in the Big Apple we freshened up back at our hotel and then ventured out to meet friends at SoHo's Mercer Bar. After lots of cocktails and laughs we headed for another recommended eatery for some Pan-Asian cuisine.

Dinner at Kelley and Ping
Kelley and Ping Soho NYC
Our last stop of the night was another trip to Soho House for some goodbye cocktails and a toast to a wonderful trip in New York. Then it was time to say farewell and grab a couple of hours sleep for a 3.30am start and the first flight of the day back to L.A. at 6.30am.

After spotting this season's Project Runway winner, Gretchen Jones, in Times Square on Sunday, my favourite designer, Mondo Guerra, was going through JFK airport security at the same time as me and making security uncomfortable with his Pee-wee Herman doll. So excited was I to see Mondo that I missed my gate and ended up exiting the departures area and having to go through security for a second time (I'm not at my best that time in the morning).

After watching the wonderful Joan Rivers documentary on the flight home I arrived in sunny L.A. to be greeted by my two favourite boys at the airport, Charlie and our Labrador Cooper, who was suitably excited to see me.

I'm sure you'll agree that's how you have a fun-filled time in New York City...

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