When we heard (from our favorite private chef) that Wu’s Wonton King is the place professional chefs eat, we were there! We found it on an unglamorous corner in Chinatown/the Lower East Side on East Broadway and were not disappointed, although we probably should have asked what the house speciality, fried crab, cost ($84) before ordering it. Then again, if we had asked, we wouldn’t have ordered it and it was delicious. This will sound familiar to members of the $317 Club. (Inside joke explanation: years ago we got a surprise dinner bill of $317 after eating with friends at another Chinatown restaurant post-Thanksgiving.)
Our other entrees were in the $18 ballpark (which suddenly seemed like a bargain) and also excellent including the #1 wonton soup, stir fried chicken with veg, and pork dumplings. All very fresh, quality ingredients and well seasoned.
On to LaGuardia where we were delighted (not something I’ve ever written about LaGuardia) by the spanking new terminal C, all white walls, wide white corridors, clean modern design, appealing restaurants. And our delta flights were on what felt like new planes with well-upholstered seats and screens to watch TV and movies.
What a fantastic show at The Whitney: Edward Hopper’s decades of work when he lived in New York City during the first half of the 20th century. Among the paintings is an old friend, his famous Automat, which belongs to the Des Moines Art Center. As a docent at the art center, I loved showing and discussing Automat with visitors, especially the many fourth-graders I guided though the museum.
Seeing it in New York was like spotting an old friend at a crowded party. And seeing it surrounded by other evocative, melancholy New York landscapes and portraits by Hopper made me see it in a new way.
Leaving the museum at 2:30 and very hungry, we found an excellent late lunch of Naples-style thin crust pizza and a salad of fresh greens at Simo, well-positioned across the street from The Whitney. (I gather we weren’t the first famished museum goers to chance upon the place.) Prompt cheerful service, casual dining room, delicious food. Another one is opening soon at Columbus Circle.
After walking up the High Line to 29th Street and then over to the annual holiday market at Union Square, we returned with our friend Myra to Grand Central Station where she took the train to and fro from Fairfield County. The Oyster Bar, a wonderful old gem in the bowels of the station, turned out to be another perfect dining spot for a light dinner of delicious fried oysters, fries, beer and a Manhattan. I hadn’t been there since about 1986 and hope to visit again …much sooner, next time.
Stuff happens and so it did when D unexpectedly injured his finger while trying to open an apartment window. Fortunately we found quick and excellent care on NYC’s upper east side from CityMD Urgent Care on 3rd Avenue and 67th St.
We arrived when the small storefront office opened at 8 a.m. and were third in line and seen promptly by about 8:07 a.m.
Rather than an impersonal doc in a box, we found the staff, from the front desk folks to the PA to the MD, caring, professional, even fun to talk to. We talked Ukraine with the PA who, at age 14, left his native Crimea (formerly Ukraine, stolen by Russia in 2014). I talked Broadway musicals with the MD, who offered a mixed review of the latest cast of Funny Girl.
All this while they were examining, cleaning, X-raying, numbing, stitching up (just a few) and bandaging D’s finger. This is our fifth visit to a doctor while on vacation, over the past 30 years or so. Previous visits: In Estes Park, Colorado when our daughter had swimmers ear; Ireland when our other daughter had strep; Norway when I broke my arm and Vietnam, when I had swimmers ear. Not sure what our bill will be this time but the care was good…
Sag Harbor used to be the low-key outlier of Hamptons shopping. Or so I recall from the many thanksgivings past out here on the southeastern tip of Long Island.
On the Saturday after turkey day, the shops on Sag Harbor’s small Main Street were packed with well heeled shoppers browsing in beautiful (and very expensive) home goods stores with suede furniture, exquisite ceramics, delicate linens, clever gizmos and knickknacks. Fun to browse. Not affordable to purchase.
Among the ones we liked: Modern General (where I did buy a $13 mug for my son that reads: Text your mother. This is the third store with that name I’ve been to this year. The first in Albuquerque; the second in Milwaukee.) the 1818 store (inside a lovely old home we are guessing was built circa 1818) and Comerford.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Goop” store is also somewhere near, but we didn’t chance upon it.
To my surprise we drove right into the ChautauquaInstitution, the famous educational/ cultural retreat in the western NY town of, yes, Chautauqua, on our drive back to Chicago from Ithaca. Years ago we got as far as the firmly shut outer gate, when passing through the area during in the peak 9-week summer season for tourists and visitors. Back then, we had to pay to get through the gate and enter the enclave, so we didn’t. From the confusing information on various Chautauqua websites (the town tourism website (https://www.tourchautauqua.com/trip-ideas/a-visit-to-the-chautauqua-institution was clearer than the institution’s website), a “Gate Pass/fee” ($30) is required to enter the grounds during the summer. Except Sundays when it’s free at least until 2 pm. In spring, fall and winter, all drive-in gates are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, no passes/fees required
Still almost everything was shut down …or felt shut down …on the crisp Fall day when we dropped by for about an hour. The sign on the post office said “Closed until June 2023.” Apparently some events are offered beyond during the summer season, and some residents live there year-round.
It was fun to be able to drive through and gawk at the pretty gingerbready cottages and stately buildings that host lectures, concerts and dance performances. We also found a table in the almost deserted village green that worked well for a picnic. (And yes, sadly, this is the place where author Salman Rushdie was stabbed by a madman last summer.)
Over the Pennsylvania border in Ohio, we found cheaper gas, as promised: $3.49 at the Love’s station in Conneaut, Ohio vs $3.89 in Chautauqua and $3.79 in Erie. Love’s also has a dog park.
Apple fest 2022 filled the Ithaca Commons with strollers eating apple crisp, tasting various apple varieties with assistance from Cornell pomologists and browsing at craft booths. We learned that the snapdragon apples we discovered last year didn’t make it this year…bad weather conditions but I did buy a few Shizuka apples with a Mutsu- like taste. I also found Cornell orchards apples at the P&C Fresh near the ag school but it had nowhere near the selection of varieties that used to be sold at Cornell’s pomology department when I was a student (class of 81.) Greenstar Market downtown had Mutsus, but P & C did not.
We walked into a new place on the commons during apple fest called the Yellow Deli that was (somewhat oddly) offering free samples of their delicious fare (Rueben sandwiches, chili, cheesecake drinks. But I happened to hear a woman who walked past us say “too bad they are an anti-Semitic cult.” We googled and could not find anything about anti-semitism but plenty about the cult. Apparently there are yellow delis across the US and in foreign counties and they’ve been labeled a cult. Bit of a bummer but good to know.
Onto the next attraction, an exhibit of gorgeous quilts by local talents held at a local community college in nearby Cortland, Tompkins Cortland Community College, aka TC3.
I forgot to mention last night’s excitement.$2.98 a gallon gas in Homer NY. We thought our eyes were deceiving us. We haven’t seen prices like that in years. And in nearby Ithaca, the price is $3.69 to 3.79.
Finally made it to the Adirondacks! They have beckoned from the nearby Finger Lakes of Central NY but we could never detach from Ithaca long enough to visit. They started in earnest about 3 hours northeast of Ithaca, about 2 hours after Syracuse and I’m still trying to pinpoint what makes this region feel so different than the Finger lakes. More rugged, dense woods, dark wood and log cabins, sparkling lakes with the beach at road level. Ithaca is more bucolic farms and pastures high surrounded by wooded hills, above the deep narrow finger lakes, old gingerbread farm houses made of brick or stone, tidy farmsteads.
We stopped briefly in the rugged resort Adirondacks town in Speculator (gotta love that name) where we found a gorgeous little public park beside a small lake, dotted with yes, heavy wood log Adirondacks chairs and benches. (The real deal, not plastic knockoffs.) the park was named after the boxer Gene Tunney who had a trading camp in town.
We found a rustic mini mart with a long line for the one bathroom. I asked the bored looking clerk if there was another option and voila, we were at public bathrooms (line-free) a half block away. The leaves were far more colorful, with splashes of red and orange and purple. The roads we drive on to get to vermont were so backwoods that I checked my google maps to make sure it wasn’t set on “no highways.” There simply weren’t any or many.
On the way back to Ithaca, we drove backroads along the western shore of Lake George which was lovely and rustic…until we got to the resort town of Lake George, which was over touristed. Then we drove diagonally south east, stopping briefly in the pretty college town of Cazenovia. We met Myra and Mike at Salt Point Brewery which was having an October fest celebration, with outdoor dining, a band, beer, pizza, brats and an amazing sunset.
Rain prompted us to visit the Ithaca Commons where we discovered that Sew Green, which sells gently used Eileen Fisher clothing, has moved about a block east into a smaller space on Greene Street. There is a smaller but still good selection. We had a little snack nearby of savory hand-baked pies at Mama Said, then onto Taughannock Falls state park where there was no problem taking Millie, our dog, on a hike along the north and south rim trails.
Tonight we had a dinner of sandwiches and beer flights at AuroraBrewing Company, sitting outside on a chilly grey early evening so Millie could join us. We had a fabulous view looking across a green pasture and vineyards at Cayuga Lake in the distance and the hills rising up beyond.
This is our sweet pup Millie’s first trip to Ithaca and we assumed it was a dog friendly place. Generally it has been…with some surprises. No dogs allowed inside The Ithaca Farmers Market’s open air pavilion, although that didn’t deter the occasional Ithaca iconoclast. I get that it can get too crowded. And dogs can hang out outside the pavilion, for what that’s worth. Still, really?
At our favorite gorge-ous park, Treman, no problem bringing a dog although it can get a little tricky navigating the steps and narrow stone ledges overlooking the deep gorge and waterfalls with a four-legged friend (on a leash, of course.) We did our usual trick and parked one car at lower Treman and drove up to upper Treman and parked the second car, then hiked one way, the easy way, down from upper to lower.
The very popular Watkins Glen Park was packed with visitors (far more than our little secret, Treman) and we learned from the ranger at the entrance booth that dogs can’t go on the gorge trail…only the rimtrail high above the gorge in the woods, which was disappointing but actually wise since the gorge trail is so narrow and busy. Even on a Tuesday midday in late September, there were many visitors including many foreign tourists. A nice Israeli family from Tel Aviv lavished Millie with petting.
On to Finger Lakes Cider House, near Trumansburg, with its spectacular on-high views of Cayuga Lake. No dogs allowed inside the rustic-chic bar-restaurant-shop or on the deck but no problem having dogs in the huge open air tent full of picnic tables (perfect during a rain storm, we discovered) next to a huge field of u pick’em dahlias and zinnias. We duly enjoyed our flights of cider, grilled cheese, homemade tomato soup, garlic cumin black beans and crunchy cornbread.
Back to my happy place, upstate NY! Specifically the area around Ithaca. We managed to drive here in one day, albeit long day, from Chicago. About 11.5 hours with a few stops primarily for Millie the dog. The scenery was blah through Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania until a few seconds after we crossed into western NY on Interstate 86. Like clockwork came the wooded hills, the emerald green fields dotted with red barns and white farmhouses, the shimmering lakes and rivers. And the sky! A drama show with dark clouds or fluffy white clouds in the distance, moving across a blue sky, sun blaring through.
In Corning, we stopped for a quick dinner at Nichols BBQ for an excellent Brisket sandwich and an excellent pulled pork sandwich which we ate at an outside table so Millie could join us. People were so sweet to Millie including a nice guy who asked if he could take a photo of Millie as his “dog of the day.” Turns out he and another guy with him were on a 47-day bike ride across the US from Portland to Portland, run by Trek, the bike maker.
On Sunday, we went on our always fun obligatory trip to the IthacaFarmers Market where I had excellent Cambodian food and bought Ithaca gear for the grandkids. With the weather improving, we decided to walk around Cascadilla falls in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Fall creek, we spotted a band playing on a porch, with a small crowd. Interesting.
Then another band on a porch and then another. Turns out it was Porchfest 2022, an annual event where local musicians of all kinds play on porch’s throughout the neighborhood … jug and banjos, electric guitars, a soul singer with a sound machine, a family with little kids. Too much fun! One volunteer told me Ithaca’s was the first Porchfest. And it went on hiatus during the height of the pandemic.
Apparently other cities have them too, including Des Moines. The sun came out after a thunderstorm and lit the neighborhood. Then a half hour later, as we were listening to a crazy band, with kids dancing frenetically, the sky got dark and it poured again. No one cared.