NYC 2018: Days 1-2

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Nate and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary with a week in NYC! We had both been to New York separately, but this was our first time traveling there as a family. We ate….and drank….. (and ate and drank and ate and drank.) Seriously, I had a pretty ambitious list of places on a note on my iPhone that I wanted to visit, and we checked off a pretty decent number of them!

A few things about these next two blog posts:

  • I’ll be splitting this trip into two posts (days 1-2, and days 3-5) so it doesn’t get too long.
  • I totally took a break from instagram/photography, so I put exactly 0% effort into taking and editing these photos. I didn’t bring my DSLR to NYC…these were all shot on my iPhone X. Just wanna go ahead and lower your expectations now in the photography department…
  • Our love language is food! Nate and I love to research and explore restaurants, coffee shops, and bars when we travel. We chose to put most of our budget into those things, as well as a few museums. We didn’t see any Broadway shows on this trip because A) I’ve seen a bunch in Dallas/Houston/San Antonio, and B) we just decided to spend our time and money elsewhere.

DAY 1, TUESDAY

Up at 3:30 am to catch our flight (hence the tired eyes.) We usually try to catch an early flight and then just caffeinated throughout the first day of travel. I’d rather have the extra time to explore!

However….right after we got up, showered, took the sheets of the bed and in the washer (my sister and some friends stayed in our house in Austin last week to go to SXSW and watch our cat), and headed out the door, I got a text that our flight was delayed from 6:00 am until….11:45? Due to aircraft maintenance or something equally poopy. I called United and they managed to get us on another flight that had a layover in Houston, so we ended up landing in NYC a few hours later than planned.

That meant that we wouldn’t be able to go to the 9/11 museum that day like we had planned. But we rearranged our schedule and re-booked a couple restaurant reservations, and everything (obviously) turned out just fine.

Maybe this is cheesy, but I really love observing how Nate and I handle minor setbacks together. I mean, it probably seemed a lot worse than it really was (because everything is worse at 4 am), but we were pretty bummed about our flight getting delayed 6 hours after splurging on non-stop tickets, and we had to kinda depend on each other to make the best of the situation and shift our perspectives. I love going through life with him.

I killed time at the Houston Hobby airport with a giant iced coffee (Dunkin Donuts was the best I could find…no judging) and my kindle. (I have this one, and I’ve read hundreds of books on it! I love it for traveling because I can bring three books with me but the kindle is tiny and light and fits in my purse.)

Speaking of Dunkin Donuts, do we all remember the “original” Dunkin? It looked like this:

It had a little nub on the end to dip in coffee! My mom used to always get this one when I was a kid, and I would think OH MY GOSH, mom, how boring! No sprinkles? Haha, but I was telling Nate about it and just about died laughing because it’s just so awkward! Look at that weird little nub on the end! (Being up since 3:30 am could have played into the humor I found in the moment, too.) But really….what happened to that funny little donut with the nub? I never noticed until Dunkin Donuts discontinued it.

Finally in NYC! We stayed at the Hotel 50 Bowery, and it was beautiful! It’s downtown, right by China Town. This isn’t the most popular place of NYC for tourists, but we picked this hotel for a couple of reasons:

  1. I could book it with credit card points (love!) and it was a lot more reasonable than hotels near Times Square.
  2. It’s near East Village, which is where we ate pretty often.
  3. It was a quick 10 min train ride to get to Brooklyn, where we spent a full day of travel.

A friend recommended Hotel Indigo, but I had already booked 50 Bowery so we just stayed here. But Nate spent a weekend at Hotel Indigo when he was in NYC last month, and it’s in a similar part of town and he said it’s also a great hotel.

The bathroom was teeny, per usual for New York. But how pretty is that white tile? I always love staying in different hotels around the world and looking at…..the bathrooms. Haha, yup. I’m always fascinated with the different tiles and colors that the hotel designers chose!

We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and immediately went out in search of coffee! Quick note about coffee shops: when I travel, I always research third wave coffee shops  (Sprudge is one of my favorite resources) and then I “star” them on a google map so when I’m walking around the city, I always (hopefully) have a coffee shop nearby. I just don’t want to waste my dollars on a crappy cup of coffee at Starbucks if there might be an AWESOME independent coffee shop right around the corner that I didn’t know about!

This is what my google map looked like for NYC:

We stopped at Everyman Espresso for our first coffee of the trip. This ended up being one of my favorites from the entire week! First off, how cute is that tiled wall? Apparently I’m really into tiles these days.. But I just wanted to ask the barista if I could go back there and hold up my capp in front of it for a picture! (I didn’t.)

Two capps for two people. Every time we stopped in a coffee shop, I was thankful for a few minutes of warmth while I drank my coffee and escaped the wind. It was in the 30s all week, and I was pretty much cold any time I was outside!

This was a “pre-dinner snack” (or a very very late lunch at 5 pm) at Saluggi’s. They make their own mozzarella fresh in house every single morning!

The crust was meh… I love a thin crust pizza that has a little bit of charr and texture on the crust, and this one had a nice flavor but was lacking any personality in the crust. The toppings were perfect, though! Tangy, pink tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella in thick dollops all over the pie. We ordered a small (remember, just a “pre-dinner snack” of sorts). This thing vanished in about 60 seconds.

We walked up north for a while, stopping in the Apple Store to warm up (and play with  the toys.) Mark my words: Nate Kennedy is going to own this HomePod within a few months. He just can’t help himself….he has to have all of the Apple Toys. (He also can’t stop talking about the Apple AiPower wireless charging pad, yet to be released.)

Pre-dinner cocktails were at one of my favorite cocktail bars in NYC: Pegu Club! This is by Jim Meehan, the same guy who started PDT (Please Don’t Tell – the super secret (but not anymore) speakeasy cocktail bar).

Nate had the Pegu Club (strong!), and I had the Earl Grey MarTEAni, which was my perfect! We enjoyed pre-dinner drinks, so we had no trouble getting a table at Pegu Club. Later in the evening, I hear it gets pretty crowded.

I noticed that most cocktails in New York were around $16. That’s $4-5 more than average in Austin, but we would typically also get a couple other perks, like our own table (lots of cocktail bars were sitting only, no standing room), and a bartender or waiter who attended to us personally and answered all of our questions about the ingredients. I’m guessing they’re planning on about 1 drink per person per hour; at least we ordered about that much. So if we ended up staying somewhere for two hours and ordered four drinks (plus tip), it was a lot more expensive than a cocktail on Rainey Street in Austin, but it was also much more of an event.

We had reservations at Mission Chinese, and Nate was so excited! He’s been reading/watching Danny Bowien non-stop lately and re-creating lots of his recipes, like the mapo tofu. We had high hopes of seeing Danny at his restaurant.

We got there a bit early and had 20 minutes of time to kill, so we enjoyed a cocktail at the bar. If you get the chance, try a cocktail at Mission Chinese. They have some crazy flavor combinations! This one had szechuan peppercorn oil on top, which is used in szechuan cooking (it causes the numbing sensation you get from this spicy food.)

Dinner time! We started with the Thrice-Cooked Bacon with Rice Cakes. Delicious! A little spicy for me, though. (I’m kind of a #spicywimp.)

And then green tea noodles. These were my favorite! The matcha flavor wasn’t too intense, and they were soft and creamy.

And then, right before we dove into the mapo tofu, Nate told me to look over my left shoulder, and there was Danny Bowien. Yay! I’m so glad we got to see him. I wanted to take a picture with him, but he was deep in conversation with someone and I didn’t want to interrupt. He’s such an interesting dude. Adopted, from Oklahoma, paints his nails awesome colors, has a super cool wife and son, is only in his mid-30s and already has two super successful restaurants in San Fran and NYC. I mean….kinda crazy!

We took the train to Milk Bar for a little dessert, then called it a night.


DAY 2, WEDNESDAY

Good morning, New York! Our 15th floor room had a view of the Manhattan Bridge, and even though it looked warm and sunny, this day was cold and windy!!

We walked to Kossar’s Bagels and Bialys, the oldest bialy bakery in the United States. This was my first time trying a bialy. I didn’t know exactly what they were, so if you’re in the dark like I was, here’s the scoop: they’re Polish pastries that are kind of like smaller bagels with and indentation at the top (instead of a hole going all the way through).

I got a sesame, toasted, with butter. It was closer to the texture of toast than a bagel. Tasty and warm, but I prefer thick, chewy bagels better.

And then RIGHT next door was the Doughnut Plant, so of course we had to stop in for another breakfast snack! They have examples of all of the donuts in a case so customers can see them up close. I ordered the oatmeal cake, and Nate got the pistachio yeast.

This was so yummy! It had dried fruit and nuts baked into the dough, and the top was like a crumbled granola bar. Kind of tasted like I was eating a bowl of granola, but in a donut form.

And then….off to get some coffee! And cold. Have I mentioned that I was always cold on this trip? I seriously need to invest in a warmer coat. This Patagonia synthetic jacket is good for cold days in Austin, but it didn’t hold up to NYC temps!

Café Integral is a beautiful coffee shop that only serves Nicaraguan coffees. We got a Flat White to start, then two pour overs to drink on the subway.

So much happier when I’m caffeinated. 🙂

We spent the next few hours at the Guggenheim! The building itself was stunning.

We made it through the entire museum in about 3 hours (and we saw about 90% of it.) We bought tickets online the day before, so we didn’t have any lines at all – just walked right in! The audio guides were pretty helpful here, so if you’re able to get those, I would recommend it. I enjoyed being able to keep my eyes on the art while the voice in my headphones explained it to me, instead of shifting my eyes back and forth from the words to the painting.

Central Park is always pretty, even on a cold, windy day. We walked through the park from the east side to the west. Every time I visit New York and I look at the price of real estate, I’m amazed that the city has managed to keep such a GIANT portion of it devoted to this park. I mean….it’s massive! Respect, NYC.

We both needed to decaffeinate, so we stopped at the adorable little Box Kite Coffee. This is the only location now (even thought the website says otherwise), and my photo shows the entire shop. It’s seriously closet-sized!

Wednesday night dinner was my most anticipated meal: we ate at Prune! I’ve been excited to try this place ever since I read chef Gabrielle Hamilton’s memoir Blood, Bones & Butter. It’s one of my favorite foodie memoirs of all time; if you enjoy food books, you need to read this book!

It’s a teeny-tiny east village restaurant that opened in 1999 that serves basic, classic, homemade food. It’s a comforting, warm place that is an extension of Gabrielles’ personality (from what I can tell, anyway….I don’t know her personally.)

We both ordered the same drink to start, which rarely happens! Boulevardiers for two.

I looked down, and saw my ring, and saw our matching drinks, and then I looked across the table and saw my man sitting at dinner with me, and felt this intense swell of happiness that I get to call Nate my husband. So I snapped a picture to remember the feeling of that moment. 🙂

Everything was beautiful and exceeded expectations! We ended up ordering two stews: the lamb neck and shoulder stew with white bean, and the mussels and leek stew with fingerling potatoes. Rosé for me, red for Nate.

I was stuffed from dinner, but everything was so good that I just had to have a taste of dessert too! We picked the dark caramel crouton with ricotta ice cream. Decadence.

After dinner, we walked about a mile to the Independent Film Center for a movie. I’ve gotta say, Austinites: we’re pretty lucky to have Violet Crown and Alamo Drafthouse. The IFC in New York was kinda crowded and dingy, and they didn’t have any menu items or craft beer….just the basic soda/popcorn you’d expect at any regular movie theater. But the movie was pretty funny.

We stepped out of the movie theater, and it was snowing! What the what? It was just all too much for this Texas girl. I want to be warm all the time. We booked it for the closest bar, and (thankfully) it was cozy warm and had a darling fireplace in the corner. Nate always loves to try beer that he can’t find in Austin, so while we were at Blind Elephant he picked two beers (one from Maine, the other from upstate New York) and we sipped those by the fire place. It was a cute, cozy bar!

One more quick pizza stop before calling it a night! Joe’s Pizza sells NYC-style pizza by the slice, so we got a piece of cheese. I was snapping a picture of it (as I do…), and the guys behind the counter said, “we want a picture, too!” So, Nate and I went back there and took a picture with them. How jolly. 🙂

That’s a wrap on days 1-2! Nate and I tend to go-go-go when we’re traveling, because we want to see as much as possible. But I really took a break from all things social media/blogging, so even though we were walking 10 miles a day and packing every moment pretty full, I felt relaxed and in the moment they whole time, and I was honestly very refreshed by the end of the trip.

Talk soon!

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6 months ago

[…] A memoir about the restaurant industry: Gabrielle Hamilton is an excellent story teller and I love her memoir. She shares her grit that it takes to open a tiny restaurant in New York City. I loved this book so much that I went to NYC and ate at her restaurant. […]

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