NYC: Saturday

Saturday morning we chose to eat the free breakfast at the hotel to save time (and money).  GIANT mistake; it was so crowded you could barely move to get your food, and we almost didn’t even find a seat.  It was truly an awful experience.

Terribly unsatisfied by breakfast, we grumbled our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, via the subway and a walk across Central Park:



I was surprised at how many photographs were being taken in all the museums; very few exhibits had posted “No Photography” signs.  And in the age of camera phones and such, I suppose anything goes.


Andrew said his favorite experience was seeing the copy of the ‘Burghers of Calais,’ since we’ve seen the original ourselves!



I loved some of the modern art:


Between the MoMA and the Met, we were able to see Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream,’ Van Gogh’s ‘Starry Night’ and his self-portrait, as well as multiple works by well-known artists including: Rothko, Kandinsky, Pollack, Manet, Monet, and so many more.  I should have taken more photos.


Before we left the Met, we ran back upstairs to see this treasure: ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware.’ I’ll admit, spending much of my ‘growing up’ years outside Philadelphia, (not to mention living NEXT DOOR to the home Washington himself spent time in during the Revolution), I feel like I have an appreciation for things related to that time in history.


Yet again, we showed up at our lunch stop closer to dinnertime than ‘lunch time,’ and still had a bit of a wait at Lombardi’s Pizza, which claims to be America’s first pizzeria:


It’s in Greenwich Village (or maybe the West Village?) and surrounded by little cafes and things.  After lunch, we took the opportunity to walk all over SoHo, Greenwich Village and the West Village.


…until we found ourselves at the ORIGINAL Magnolia Bakery, at the corner of Bleecker and 11th Streets!  We waited in line and I was jazzed to get my photo taken under the awning.



After having a treat at the bakery, we walked back to a subway to get home and I snapped this photo:


I was amazed that some of the subway stops were super clean and beautiful (like the one above), and others were smelly, trashy and gross.  Again, should have taken more photos.

We had wanted to go to a little cuban restaurant, Cafe Cortadito, in the East Village, but we couldn’t get reservations!  Bummer–guess we’ll just have to go there next time.

Instead, we tried Pig and Kaho, located just down the road, but the wait was too long.  Foiled again.  Thankfully, along the walk we’d passed Yunnan Kitchen and thought it looked interesting.  Can you tell Andrew was really feeling ethnic food??

Well, Yunnan turned out to be a gem of a place and I’ve already written two stellar reviews of it on Yelp and TripAdvisor. We were seated right away (although we noticed people waiting shortly thereafter), had awesome service and even better food.  My pictures of our dishes didn’t turn out that well, but we split four small plates of a fried rice, some pickled duck, a green papaya salad and a spicy chicken.  Everything was excellent.


After dinner we walked through Chinatown to the end of the Brooklyn Bridge.  It wasn’t too much of a walk, but we decided to head back via subway without crossing the bridge.  Another itinerary item for next time!


Next: Easter Sunday!

NYC: Friday

Note:  I already have two non-trip-related blogs in the queue, and more to come (I’m sure) before I finish with our NYC adventure.  Not sure if I’m going to mix them in, or wait until I’ve finished regaling you with our trip–just tryin’ to keep you on your toes!

My eyes popped open at 7:13 Friday morning and when I saw Andrew still sound asleep, I decided to head to the workout room, despite his informing me the night before that ‘we were to be up at 7:15 and out the door by 8:30.’  I decided that we were on vacation and that a 7:15 wake-up time for him wasn’t even realistic, and off I went.  Imagine my shock, then, when I returned 30 minutes later to find a completely ready and awake Andrew, tapping his feet while I hurried to clean up.

In the meantime, however,  a reference to ‘fried chicken’ and the name ‘David Chang’ coming from the television caught my attention.  David Chang, as in the chef who owns Momofuku, as in the asian noodle bar that was on our itinerary for that very afternoon?  

Yes, yes it was.


How awesome (and completely random and serendipitous, really) was it to catch that exact moment on that exact channel on that exact day?


More on Momofuku later; it’s time for breakfast!

Andrew took me to Ess-A-Bagel, one of the city’s best bagel shops, hands-down.


They’re known not only for their bagels and cream cheese, but also for their cold salads (think pastas and whitefish) and sandwiches.  The line wound around the length of the store twice, populated both by tourists and locals.


Andrew got two dangerously coated everything bagels, plain, and in true me-fashion, I tried to find something I couldn’t get at home: a pumpernickel-raisin bagel with blueberry cream cheese on half and cheddar cream cheese on the other.  Excellent choice!  The bagel flavor was fantastic–it definitely had that ‘pumpernickel/rye’ flavor, punctuated with sweetness from the raisins.  The blueberry cream cheese was a perfect addition, and much better than the cheddar.


We walked off all those carbs by heading uptown, past the Chrysler Building:


And into Grand Central Station:


After exploring Grand Central, including finding one of Magnolia Bakery’s outposts and popping into Banana Republic (for Andrew, surprisingly enough), we headed to the New York Public Library:


Can you imagine going here as a kid to check out books?  I told Andrew it would ruin you for libraries the rest of your life if you ever moved.  It’s like a cathedral!  And I didn’t even get a photo of the outside; it’s even more beautiful and majestic.  There are two giant lion statues at the front, and a park at the rear.


We saw some of the reading rooms and the Gutenberg Bible, which is the first book printed with movable type:


We headed uptown on 5th Avenue (as in the one where Saks Fifth Avenue is located) and may have stopped into Tiffany’s:


We might have even found something on the third floor (sterling silver) a.k.a. the only floor on which ‘real’ people can afford to shop!


I chose a bracelet to match the necklace Andrew got me there TEN YEARS AGO while we were in the city with a friend.  I still remember him pulling that seafoam green box out in the middle of the restaurant…

We hopped on the subway and headed to the East Village again to grab a late lunch at Momofuku, thinking that by 3 p.m. it wouldn’t be quite so crowded.  Nope, it was packed.  To kill some of our 45-minute wait and quench Andrew’s thirst, we stopped by a 7-11 (so weird to walk into one, instead of drive).  I have a thing for Coke slurpees.


Momofuku Noodle Bar is one of David Chang’s restaurants in the city and his most casual.  It’s famous for it’s pork buns and ramen noodle bowls.  I’ve read about this place multiple times over the past few years, and when I saw it listed under Food and Wine’s ‘go-to’ places in NYC, I thought it would make a perfect addition to our trip. The inside is pretty small.


We were lucky enough to sit right at the counter and watch the busy food prep in the kitchen.


We started with beers and super spicy, house-made potato chips, followed by an order of pork buns to share:


The taste was divine, the pork belly fat less-so.  They’re served on these yeasty, sweet dough discs that were wonderful.  Next time, I’d get a different meat.

Andrew ordered the traditional ramen noodle bowl:


Our bellies now overly full (and neither of us finished our meals), we headed back to the room to freshen up before getting in line for Friday night’s free admission to the Museum of Modern Art:


Incidentally, I just found out our local art museum, the Albright Knox, has free admission on Friday’s, too.  While the viewing experience left something to be desired due to the number of people, it sure beat the $25-per-person entrance fee.  Check to see if your local art museum (if you have one) offers any breaks on the price of admission!

After such a late lunch and no dinner, Andrew thought it would be a good idea to swing by the Magnolia Bakery at Rockefeller Center (not the original location) for a treat.  

I was initially dissuaded by the crowded atmosphere, but once we made a plan to sit and enjoy our goodies elsewhere, I went back and was blessed with a less-crowded store, as a large group had just left.

I chose March’s cupcake of the month, pistachio, as well as their banana pudding (divine, by the way).  Andrew opted for plain old vanilla, as well as a cream-filled lemon cupcake.


Sitting there eating those treats made me want to pull out MY Magnolia Bakery cookbooks and bake something!

On our walk home through Times Square, we stopped to watch some street performers, who were everywhere throughout our visit.  Even on the subway!


Up next: Saturday!

NYC: Thursday

This past weekend, Andrew and I ‘got away’ for a few days to New York City–about a 6-hr. drive from Buffalo–at the tail end of my spring break.  Between school, homework and the ongoing pantry project, we both needed a vacation.  However, as with all vacations (especially ours), rarely are they as relaxing as we’d like…

I snapped photos of just about everything…here is day 1 of the trip:

We left at lunchtime on Thursday and had picked up in-car snacks the night before, to both provide me with some healthier options and to prevent the infamous “Oh look!  Ice cream!  Let’s stop!” cries from the passenger seat.

Holly’s in-car lunch: apples, almond butter, grapes, hummus and carrot sticks.


Andrew’s in-car lunch: Mighty Taco on the way out of East Aurora.


My health-kick lasted about an hour before the snacks came out: Pringles (for him), Fig Newtons (again, an Andrew pick but equally liked by me), Powerade and jelly beans.  My healthy snacks included some dried fruit and nuts, white cheddar popcorn (OK, that was really Andrew’s pick) and some ‘healthier’ chips.  (All were opened–except the chips–but much remained uneaten.  Next time: exercise more restraint at Wegmans!) We may have gotten into the Easter candy a little early…


Look!  There’s the city!  We drove in through Hoboken, NJ, and entered via the Lincoln Tunnel.  By the time we pulled up at our hotel on 40th and 8th, it was dark.


Our FOUR-MONTH STAY (yes, I am yelling) at the Staybridge here in West Seneca while we were house-hunting earned us enough points to get a room near Times Square for three nights.  So worth it.


Shortly after arriving, arranging for the car to be parked and tipping the bellhop who brought us our bags, we headed out for dinner via the subway.  Andrew had, in true Andrew-fashion, written up a minute-by-minute itinerary of our trip.  I love that man.  Thursday night’s dinner: perhaps the most famous Jewish deli in all of NYC, Katz’s Delicatessen in the East Village.


The menu features all sorts of meats on rye, such as brisket or pastrami, as well as matzo ball and split-pea soups.  You order at the counter at the appropriate station (drinks, sides and sandwiches all have their own place) and hand the staff member filling your order the ticket you were given when you entered.  They mark the price and hand it back to you.


Andrew got a brisket sandwich and I got a half-pastrami on rye (oh my heavens, that meat was amazing) and a matzo ball soup to share.  Two kinds of pickles come with your sandwiches–the bright green ones were more cucumber than pickle and I loved them.  I also tried a New York egg cream in vanilla.

After paying and handing back our unused ticket (each person gets a ticket, but in a group they tally the charges on just one–we were warned we had to hand in the extra one upon leaving or be charged $50!), we headed out with very full bellies.

While wandering around, we stumbled–literally–upon this place:


The Clinton Street Baking Company!  Yes, I have their cookbook.  They are famous for their pancakes, but are open for lunch and dinner and drinks, too.  Andrew offered to take me in, but I turned him down; I had no more room! No, we didn’t eat there.  Yes, it will be a stop on our next trip.  (And yes, we’re already thinking we may try to steal away in the fall for NYC round 2.)

After walking a few blocks, getting momentarily lost and also finding a cute Cuban place we added to the agenda for later, we took the subway back toward our hotel and got off at Times Square:


Mind you, this is now probably 10 p.m. or later.  Times Square is perhaps the most awake, alive, loud, frenetic place you could be at night.  Except maybe Vegas.  Even the stores (like American Eagle or Levi’s) are open past midnight to cater to shoppers (a.k.a. tourists) still awake and going.


Up next: Friday!