Thursday, January 28, 2010

I Heart New York!

Start spreading the news
I'm leaving today...
I want to be a part of it
New York, New York...

So as promised, here is my (longest ever!) post about our most recent trip to the Big Apple... since I was already off the week before Christmas, I took a few extra days from the week before and we flew up to NYC. Now last year was fun, but this year I was more prepared... Having finally entered the 21st century and gotten an iPhone in November (LOVE it!!), I navigated us around the city pretty well, booked some cool dinner reservations (using OpenTable- highly recommend!), and basically planned out most of our time. The only thing that didn't get planned in advance was the little snowstorm that resulted in our flight being canceled and us having to stay an extra two days! Shucks! But more on that later...

(Before getting started, all pictures in this post were "phone pictures"... we had a camera malfunction unfortunately. Although I want to marry my iPhone, its camera is not it's best feature!)

We started the trip bright and early (or should I say dark and early??), arriving at the Atlanta airport several hours before our flight was to leave. Airports are always an adventure for the Williams'... with Ron's prosthesis, he always sets off the alarm and has to get patted down...sometimes this is quick, but sometimes it can take a while. Well, it was quick that morning, and we found ourselves at the gate with way more time than we needed, which was ok... we snacked and did some last minute planning.

When we landed in the city, we cabbed it into Manhattan to our hotel.

Though Ron almost lost his Egg McMuffin with the crazy cab ride, this was a way better option than taking that shuttle van last year... a mistake we won't make again! We checked into the Doubletree Metropolitan on Lexington Ave, which was pretty good, and hit the ground running! Actually, we used the iPhone to lead us to the subway and headed for Chinatown first to have a late lunch.

Navigating without looking like a complete tourist!

We found our target restaurant, NY Noodletown, which I had heard raves about...and it didn't disappoint! We dined on noodle soup, then shared pan fried noodles with duck. Yum!

We wandered through Chinatown for a bit after lunch, and I bought a scarf (or five...). We didn't purchase any "Gucci-Gucci-Prada-Louis?" from the myriad of little ladies trying to lure us into back alleyways though....not that I wouldn't.... :) We had to go find the tree though!

Rockefeller Tree

We also paused at the Today Show windows, but they were done taping for the morning...

I found the REAL Louis'!!

I wanted to go for a skate, but guess who was uncooperative with this plan??

So instead of skating, we hunted down the oldest pub in the city that I'd read about, McSorley's... which only started allowing women to enter in 1970!

We had just enough time to sneak back to the hotel to change before heading out to what would turn out to be our favorite dinner experience of the trip. The restaurant is called Artisinal, and we loved it.

Artisinal is a fromagerie, specializing in cheese, cheese, and more cheese... there is a full cheese menu, which was completely overwhelming to us who know next to nothing about cheese, but our waiter was great and made a selection of four for us to try as our appetizer.

Our favorite was the soft cheese that came in the little bowl

He marked his picks for us on the cheese menu so that we could read about what we were sampling, where it was from, the age, and what tastes we were supposed to be able to was really fun! I hate feeling stupid, and I am definitely cheese-stupid, but the waiter was kind and made it fun instead of embarrassing! I guess there are a lot of cheese-stupid people out there! :)

After the cheese course, we had cheese fondue with an assortment of veggies, meat, and bread to dip with...and it was delicious!!

After all that cheese, we had chocolate fondue for dessert, with the most amazing homemade marshmallows (among other dippers)... I have since tried to recreate the marshmallows with my new mixer and an Alton Brown recipe, but sadly, they fell short of Artisinal's... maybe it was just the cheese high though! Wish I had a picture of the dessert course!

Day two was low-key... we spent it mostly window shopping without much of an agenda. We did go to the New York Public Library though, which was incredible!

Ron at the Library!!

After the library, we used the handy dandy iPhone to get us back to Ron's favorite restaurant from our last trip, Serafina's. They have amazing pizza, and Ron insisted on returning. His happiness had everything to do with the pizza, and nothing to do with the fact that it must have been "Waitresses Without Pants Day" (see the waitress in the background!)... right Ron??

While at Serafina's we had a little homework to do... Ron had been contacted by Camp Sunshine people and asked to write an essay about what Camp has meant to him. It had to be done that day... cause it was going to be posted on the RaceTrac gas station website as a part of a fundraiser they were doing for Camp (Coffee for a Cause). As I continue to be Ron's primary PR agent, the task fell to me. Feeling inspired by our recent trip to the library, the words flowed and I/we wrote the essay in five minutes on a scrap of paper while devouring our slices. Click the above link for the essay. It got typed up and emailed to Sally later that afternoon just under the technology! RaceTrac raised $28,500 for Camp!

We wandered and shopped for a few hours to work off the pizza... and in SoHo found the best store ever, Uniqlo. It's Japanese. It's cheap. It's fabulous. We went at least three times while we were in the city, and I'm glad we did, cause when we got home and I was trying to order some more stuff online, I discovered that you can't!!! And the SoHo store is the only Uniqlo location in the US! Guess we'll just have to go back to NYC. Rats!!!

Dinner on day two was at Bar Americain, Bobby Flay's restaurant in the city. The food was good, especially the shellfish cocktail taster...yum!!

L to R- Lobster-Avocado, Shrimp-Tomatillo, and Crab-Coconut

The only bad part of this experience was our waiter... the couple at the next table over from us warned us when we were seated that he'd really try to rush us, so much to the waiter's irritation, we ordered one thing at a time and enjoyed it at our own pace. We weren't table hogs... even with ordering apps, salad, entree, and dessert, I think we were still out of there in about 1.5 hours. We had been spoiled by our nice waiter at Artisinal the night before!

So what did we do on day three?? Eat!!! On day three we went on a walking food tour of Greenwich Village... the food didn't walk...we did...and it was so much fun! Freezing, but fun!! Our guide was a pastry chef named Sephra, and she was great!!

Ron and Sephra

Our first stop was for pizza at Joe's...we were hungry!!


As we walked from restaurant to restaurant (eight in all I think from pizza, to Palma, a nice restaurant, to two bakeries, to a cheese shop, and more!), Sephra showed us around the Village. Yeah, would love to live there. So would everyone else I think... they can get millions of dollars for a teensy little walk-up apartment!!

Because it was so cold, we were allowed to warm up in a little herb shop while we sampled our cheese from Murray's, and while there, Ron made a friend!

After our tour, we had an hour or two to kill before the arrival of our friends, Jackie and Cleve Blackwell. We spent it at a little pub called the Blind Tiger, a little local spot with a warm fireplace and friendly people (they DO exist in the city!!).

While there, we talked to a pair of hippie potters for a bit, and when they left, the next pair to sit down were investors (or something!) that worked at Lehman Brothers. Made for some interesting conversations! They asked what all we'd been doing in the city and where we'd eaten, and were astounded that we had heard of and eaten at NY Noodletown... they said that was their favorite place to go, especially late night. Apparently the bars close at 3:00AM here (the city that never sleeps, anyone?), so Noodletown gets packed from 3:00 to 4:00! They insisted that we go again, and wrote out on a slip of paper what we should order when we went back, which of course we did the next day with Cleve and Jackie. We didn't go at 3AM though!!

So, finally it was time to meet up with the Blackwells... I couldn't wait for them to get there already!! As an aside, let's meet them:

Here they are, sweet Jackie and crazy Cleve Blackwell... they live (and race bikes!) in Greenville, SC. Cleve and Ron have raced together on the same team for the last few years, and Cleve and Jackie got married a year ago. Ron was a groomsman in their wedding, and likes to remind Cleve that he coached him through the memorization of his wedding vows! Anyway, we were thrilled that Cleve and Jackie wanted to come vacation with us, and it was a blast!!!

They arrived just in time for dinner... this night we went to Anthony Bourdain's former restaurant, Les Halles. The company was excellent, but the dinner wasn't our favorite. Not disastrous by any means, and the waitress was good, but the food was just ok. We didn't even take any pictures there!!

The next day was packed full of fun!! We started by shopping, happening to stumble back into Uniqlo, and then taking the subway down to Chinatown for Noodletown round two!

This time armed with the Lehman Brothers guys recommended menu, we ate and ate and ate!!

While we ate, I mapped out how to get to our next stop, the New World Stages for the off-Broadway show we went to called Avenue Q.

My secret illegal picture of the Avenue Q stage! I promise I didn't know at the time that you weren't supposed to take pictures of the set!!

The show was hysterical, and perfect for Ron and Cleve, who may have snoozed through Phantom or Wicked... it was loosely based on Sesame Street, which you can kind of appreciate from the secret illegal set picture. :)

After the show, we went and got all gussied up for dinner and first headed to a little tapas place called Cello. Neat little place.

While we were there, it started to snow... and snow... and snow.

We hopped in a cab to take us to dinner.... at Tao. Very cool place. Very New York, at least to us rednecks! :)

Couldn't get a good picture inside because it was so dark, but there was this ginormous Buddha statue in the middle of the restaurant!

Dinner was delicious (I guess that day was Asian food day!), and when we finished, we ventured back outside to see this!!

It "blizzarded"!!!

Of course there were no cabs to be found this time, so we started walking in the direction of the nearest subway station. Except we actually were walking in the opposite direction. By the time we realized it (half and hour later!!), we were nearly to the hotel! We were freezing, but still had a fun time tromping through the snow in our dressy boots, right Jackie??

At one intersection, we saw the Rockefeller Christmas tree! And then, who came walking down the sidewalk but Santa!?! Well, it actually wasn't the REAL Santa, cause he smelled like beer and had some off-color things to say!

Poor Cleve was nearly frozen by this time!

Blurry, but this captures the spirit of the moment!

We had to thaw out when we finally made it back to the hotel, and we took some time to compose a little ditty to remember our trip by. To the tune of the 12 days of Christmas, of course. See our lyrics below.

Our 12 days of Christmas

We awoke on Sunday morning to more snow, which turned out to be a bit of a problem for us getting home! Ron checked with the airline and of course our flight was canceled. Sweet thing spent most of the morning trying to figure out how we were gonna get home!

Cleve and Jackie's flight flew out as scheduled (which we were a bit disappointed about really!), but we were stuck. Really stuck. This was Sunday, Dec. 20th, and according to Delta, the next available flight to Atlanta that they could book us on was on Friday, Dec. 25th!! Christmas night!! Um, no! I was perfectly happy being stuck in the city for another day or two, but five?? And miss Christmas?? I think not! We considered trains out of the city (but they were booked up or canceled already), renting a car (they were all booked too), and flying out of alternate airports, but we were really stuck! After the Blackwells checked out of the hotel and we were trying to figure out what to do, we decided to just go for broke and spend the rest of Ron's AmEx points with a hotel upgrade! So we were off... we literally dragged our suitcases out the revolving door of the Doubletree, past the doormen and taxis, and through the snow for a block and checked ourselves in at the Waldorf Astoria!!! If we were gonna be stuck, we were gonna be stuck in style! :) This may have been the most frivolous and excessive thing I've ever done in my life, but we had just enough points for two extra nights. And it was wonderful!!

The lobby of the Waldorf

Our new swank room!!

We ended up being able to book a flight home for Tuesday, Dec. 22nd with another airline...with two first class tickets, cause coach was all full!! I have only flown first class one other time (when we were flown out to LA for the ESPY awards...), and that experience had been ridiculously awesome. This time, the only thing that separated us from the lowly people in coach was about an inch of extra seat space and a free Twix bar. Not that we were complaining, because we made it home in time for Christmas, but it wasn't exactly what I had been expecting!

Anyway, so back to our snow days...

When we got all checked in to the Waldorf, I was trying to figure out what we were gonna do with our extra time that wouldn't cost us a bunch of extra cash... I was checking facebook and saw that my friend Chrissie Cordell (college, med school, and residency friend, who had also been a bridesmaid in our wedding!) had posted a picture of herself and her husband Andrew with the big Rockefeller tree... they were in NYC too, and I hadn't even known it!! We met up with them that afternoon and walked around a snowy Central Park and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Chrissie and me in Central Park

Ron getting some culture... a museum and the library all in one weekend!!

It was so fun hanging out with the Cordells, even though we were in the midst of stressing about trying to get home...

After we parted ways, Ron and I piddled around and went to FAO Schwarz, where I wanted to buy one of everything! We refrained from buying toys we don't yet need, but we did get some funny pictures of Ron with the life-sized leggo action heros...

Batman and Ro(bi)n

Ron and Chewie

That night, we ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant called Dos Caminos. It was good, especially the fresh guacamole! Ron still is on the hunt for a margarita to match Sol Azteca's... I think it's a lost cause!

On our last day in the city, we made one last stop at Uniqlo, and then made our way back to Artisinal, for their famous (what else?) grilled CHEESE sandwiches. They were picture worthy.

Ron's fancy grilled cheese...

And mine...

And... their CHEESEcake was apparently named the best NY style cheesecake in all of NY by Gourmet Magazine, so of course we had to try that too...

And it didn't disappoint!

We had a very good surprise for our final night in the city.... we found out that one of Ron's best friends, Kenny, was flying into town on his way home for Christmas... He and Ron go waaaaay back, to when Kenny was Ron's counselor at Camp Sunshine when Ron was a "poor little sick kid". Kenny has had a special place in Ron's heart ever since. He was a groomsman in our wedding, and he had been our unofficial tour guide last Christmas when we had come up to New York. We didn't get to hang out long enough this time, but it was great sharing a meal and catching up. I wish I had a picture of the two of them, but I guess we were all pictured out by this point!

The next morning, we were up and at em early to get a cab out to the airport. This time I can't blame Ron for how early we got there... we had no idea how long to expect it to take to get out to the airport with the snow (not long), and whether there would still be a crowd of people sleeping on the floor trying to get on a flight (there wasn't!). So again, we were at the gate at least an hour and a half early. At 6:00 in the morning. So what did I do? I got a manicure in the airport spa! Red polish of course, in anticipation of Christmas and to remember our trip to the Big (red?) Apple!!! It was a fun way to cap off the trip. Our flight left without incident, we enjoyed our free Twix, and we landed in Atlanta before we knew it....

I want to go back already!!!!!

If I can make it there
I'll make it anywhere
It's up to you...
New York, New York!