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…
Monday was Myra Day, one of my favorite days in NYC (or anywhere else). We met at Grand Central, which looked a bit diminished without its annual holiday market and the Scandinavian food court, both presumably casualties of Covid, but the rest of the city was hopping with holiday cheer. We wandered through Soho and NoLita (north of Little Italy, east of Sogo, primo streets:Mott, Elizabeth), both pleasant backgrounds for our annual epic get-together. I returned to Dominique Ansel Bakery, this time for a light lunch (chicken salad with pistachios on a delicious croissant) and these crazy “milk shots,” little chocolate-lined “shot glasses” made of pastry dough, filled with milk. They got a bit soggy but were a delicious take on milk and cookies.
The holiday market was ON at Union Square, and full of good gift options, from Scandinavia hand towels to Turkish pottery to Ecuadorian scarves. Dinner was at the very chic Sona, a very different Indian restaurant on 23rd street, with different takes on traditional dishes (and much higher prices.) The butter chicken looked the most familiar and was delicious. The chicken korma was unrecognizable – three conical shaped fried dumplings in a shallow pool of creamy green -colored sauce, served with a cheese-filled naan reminiscent of a quesadilla. The best innovation was the saag paneer made with Swiss chard rather than the usual spinach. All served by attentive staff in stylish surrounds with tables that quickly filled with chic New Yorkers who apparently thought nothing of dropping considerable cash on fancy Indian food on a Monday night. I ❤️ NYC.
P.S.across the street from Sona: a popular new Italian restaurant called Rezdora.
If I lived in NYC, I might attend Shabbat services a lot more than I currently do…if said services were at the Central Synagogue on Lexington and 55th. There is so much singing, and live instrument playing, Broadway caliber, that I am truly transported. maybe not to God but somewhere otherworldly, especially in the magnificently ornate Moorish temple.
After my cousin’s bar mitzvah performance (bravo Casey) we had quite the party at The Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center, way up in the 65th floor where we posed for photos outside on the deck with the Empire State Building twinkling in the background. The place was sufficiently elegant inside with lots of fancy well-dressed New Yorkers and lively 13-year-olds. I danced the night away, often in the company of very energetic party motivators and by the end of the evening I could barely walk but it was worth it, I think.
After a little fika at the Swedish bakery, fabrique, (which we discovered years ago in Stockholm, lily and I visited the Stunning “little island“ off the west side Highway near the Whitney Museum. A lovely little well-landscaped oasis in the Hudson River with more incredibleviews of the downtown skyline, the Statue of Liberty and New Jersey. The Whitney’s Jasper John’s show was worth a visit but my favorite painting- with a broom wasn’t there. I really liked his US maps. We also. Handed upon a show by Jennifer Packer, that I really liked and a fun craft as art show, and then more glorious views from the various balconies of the Whitney, followed by a walk north along the High Line, always a favorite. The subway has a new pay option (or new to me) — you can pay by tapping your credit card or debit card rather than buying a MetroCard. Pretty dandy.
I’m on the Metro North Hudson Line train heading back to NYC after a quick but lovely and overdue visit with my old friends Merida and Chip. I’ve been visiting their charming 1840s farm house on a hill overlooking a rolling wooded valley for almost 40 years, lucky us.
The train trip is about 2 hours hugging the Hudson which looked stunning yesterday in the fall sunshine. I got off at the end of the line in Poughkeepsie and Merida picked me up and whisked me off to the country where we took long walks through the woods and pastures, past ponds and streams, tromping in the muddy grass in borrowed Wellies with two sweet white dogs who reminded me of my lab Millie. Chip took me over to visit the rescue horses at 13 Hands equine rescue center he volunteers at on a spectacular hillside overlooking a wooded valley with a sweet white farmhouse.
Because I need proof of a negative Covid test (as well as proof of vaccination) in order to attend a family bar mitzvah here, my priority today was finding said test. Not hard but some tricks to it. The first two testing centers turned out to be private pay. One cost $250! I guess that’s to be expected in a well-heeled neighborhood (upper east side), sort of concierge Covid care. Not surprisingly, it was easy to get in, few customers.
But I opted for the much cheaper (I hope) insurance-pay option at one of many MedRite locations (mine was on Second avenue in mid 80s) although I’m not sure if my insurance will pay and like so often with health care, no one could give me an answer when I asked, “hey, what does this cost?”) I did gather it’s free for people without insurance. Damn right!
I had to fill out a few forms, wait about a half hour with about 6 other people in a spanking clean, large white-walled waiting room. The staff were pleasant and patiently answered my questions. The test took a few minutes and no long a-tip inserted way up toward my brain, just a little swirling around each nostril. I ended up getting the rapid test (a text with a negative result popped up on my phone about 15 minutes later) and the more accurate PCR test with results in 24-48 hours via a portal I had to join with a pin and password. Apparently I can check tomorrow morn. The bar mitzvah invitation stipulated that either a PCR within 72 hours of the event or a rapid antigen test within 48 hours were my options but it was tricky working it into my schedule, which included an overnight visit to see a friend in Dutchess county, which I didn’t want to spend searching for a Covid test in the countryside.) I got the PCR test results (negative) 24 hours later.
This adventure left me with no time to visit TheMet, as planned but no matter. I happily window shopped and people watched while strolling along Lexington and Madison avenues on a perfect sunny fall day. A late breakfast/lunch was had at Tal Bagels, at 81st and lex, which has a great selection of bagels, cream cheese spreads, plus tables outdoors and inside separated with plexiglas and a bathroom. My first stop, h &h bagels on 2nd had only counter service.
So great to be back in NYC for the first time since the pandemic began. I expected the place to look more battered than it is given all it’s gone through but I sensed the same vitality on the streets as always. I did what I love doing best in this city (and several others with walkable successions of neighborhoods including San Francisco, New Orleans, London, Paris and Rome). I got off the subway at Prince Street (a shouting, shoeless street person in the car propelled me to depart…the city still has its problems) and wandered east and then south and then back north and a little west back to the 6 subway line at Union Square that leads back to my wonderful Aunt Shelby and her upper east side apartment where I am lucky to stay.
I wandered up and down streets near soho (I think that’s where Elizabeth Street is), the lower east side (hello Russ and daughters deli, sadly the cafe was closed, maybe more limited hours due to the labor shortage caused by the pandemic?), Chinatown, Little Italy, soho, Greenwich village,/Washington Square (hello tons of kids in Halloween costumes) and Union square (hello Mutsu apples at the green market).
I can’t tell you which streets I walked on. A map of my movements would not look logical or like a route to anywhere. I like it that way. I chose streets that grab my attention with their potential for interesting window shopping or architecture-admiring. I did chance upon a tiny Chinatown street, Doyers street, that had almost turned into a pedestrian alley thanks to the dining huts now in the street (a pandemic feature) with tables and red plastic stools where people sat, slurping noodles, so I joined them. Reminded me of the street food stands in Vietnam but with higher tables and stools and this was Chinese noodles (I had flat “knife cut” noodles, flat and wide with sharp cut, also somewhat resembling the shape of a plastic knife…with shrimp and chicken. Very basic, fresh, starchy, filling.)
At the southern end of soho, I think, on spring street, I found a bakery/cafe full of young people in a long line so I joined them, which turned out to be wise. Dominique Ansel knows her pastries. I particularly liked a crispy chewy pastry I first discovered in DC in May called kouign-amann ( “queen a-man”). Akin to a “caramelized croissant,” Kouign Amann is a Breton pastry with a crispy, caramelized crust. The bakery Aldo had pretty French macaroons,cronuts, sandwiches and fanciful creamy creations. My favorite was a pink bun (the top looked like a little beret) with a big blob of white cream in the middle dotted with big red blobs that looked like giant cut strawberries.)
You don’t even have to go into NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art to see these four new haunting sculptures. They’re in the four niches of the MET’s facade — the first time that sculpture has been placed in them.
The commission went to Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, whose work I know from the Des Moines Art Center where her Water Woman sculpture of an enticing and somewhat menacing mermaid/siren is a big hit with the fourth-graders I take on tours. The Met installation is temporary so see it while you can!
What a glorious day in Brooklyn’s DUMBO (“Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”) neighborhood. Now I understand what the fuss is all about. Last time I explorer the old cobblestone streets and warehouses in the rabbit warren of streets between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, I didn’t find much going on. Flash forward several years and the place is full of people, strolling along Brooklyn Bridge Park, with it’s great views of the bridges, lower Manhattan and even the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Old brick warehouses are now home to trendy shops (Empire Stores, The Modern Chemist), food courts (TimeOut market in Empire Stores), coffee roasters (Brooklyn Roasting Co.), bookstores (Powerhouse Arena/books) and theaters. (And now I know where Bargemusic – the outdoor music venue – is. And the venerable St. Ann’s Warehouse theatre, where I sat at an outdoor table in a lovely courtyard in the shell of an old brick building, looking out at the water.)
I bought some excellent Thai food at a food truck and ate in the Pearl Street Triangle picnic area, carved out of a patch of street beside the massive Manhattan Bridge, with the subway rumbling by high above.. Another cool picnic area nearby is the Archway Under Manhattan Bridge.
I took a New York ferry (for a whopping $2.75) that stopped at several Brooklyn spots before the final stop at East 34th street (which was a bit of an odd drop off, right by the midtown tunnel but I walked to Third Avenue and hopped a bus to the upper east side.)
Met some nice people on the ferry including a young family from Argentina and a woman from Montana. Several ferry options are available and the pier is next to the venerable River Cafe (where we attended a bar mitzvah about 30 years ago) and a stand next door that touted famous lobster rolls. (Next trip!)