"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Big Apple Bites

Long weekend in NYC
Saturday, Feb. 27 through Monday, March 1, 2010
We took off early Saturday morning on US Air on a dirt-cheap flight to New York City. The Big Apple and lot more of New England had just recently been hammered by yet another snowstorm that reported up to 20" of accumulation in Central Park. We monitored the flights closely beforehand, but had no delays coming out of Nashville. We had to change planes in Philly (please explain to us how airlines make money this way by charging less for more stops, more fuel, etc.??) which also had a good amount of snow but we had no problems landing on time. Now's where it got sticky...but not due to snow..instead our plane to NYC was coming from Scranton, PA, and had mechanical problems that keep delaying it 30 minutes at a time until 4 hours had piled up before it finally got to Philly. The really frustrating thing was that we were only 50 minutes by plane to New York and 90 minutes by train, but were offered no respite by US Air all afternoon. Man, what a sorry airline.
When we finally did get into NYC after wasting a whole afternoon in the Philly airport, it was smooth sailing as the roads looked good and getting a cab to downtown was without a wait. We opted for the Doubletree Guest Suites Hotel right smack in the middle of Times Square after securing a good rate and a ton of Hilton points to be applied on later travels. Our room was on the 20th floor and looked right down on Times Square itself (photo above).
Our planned 6 PM dinner reservations at a Cuban restaurant we heard good things about had to be cancelled thanks to US Air's pathetic performance. So, we had to opt for the Glass House Tavern across the street from The Barrymore Theatre near our hotel where we had tickets to see the new David Mamet written and directed play: Race. The Glass House Tavern actually turned out to be pretty good with decent fare including a yummy rock shrimp pot pie appetizer. The strangest event at dinner was after we had eaten and our waiter dropped a plate nearby that shattered sending fragments in every direction including right into Ashlee's cheek dangerously close to her eye. The waiter wasn't overly sympathetic when we showed him the shard and he offered us "something free" despite the fact we had just finished dinner. "How about knocking off some of our bill, buddy?" we thought. He obviously didn't read our minds and delivered our full check. Oh well, there went a good tip for you, young man. We probably could have raised a stink with the management and got a comped meal, but that's not really how we roll. But, we also don't forget mediocre service and won't be back there or recommend it to anyone else.
We headed across the street afterwards to The Ethel Barrymore Theatre as throngs of people were moving in for the 8 PM show. We were surprised at how small the theater seemed in comparison to most Broadway venues (500 seats or more). Our seats were in the front row (a first time for that for us) and we were so close to the stage you could reach out and touch it. The place was packed and the 2-act play began promptly. Race is the story of a rich, white businessman (played by Richard Thomas of "John Boy" Waltons-fame) who is accused of raping a young, attractive black woman who he admits to have had a relationship with before. He seeks the help of a small, but very successful, law firm whose two partners just happen to be white (James Spader of recent Boston Legal fame) and black (David Alan Grier of comedic In Living Color fame). Also helping in the case is a young, attractive black female lawyer (Kerry Washington of Ray and Last King of Scotland fame) fresh from the bar exam who is learning the ropes from these two seasoned vets.
The entire play takes place inside the firm's law office and obviously, the sensitive topic of race is keystone onto which the lawyers must decide to take the case, and if so whether they can win it no matter what the guilt or innocence of their client might be. Mamet's work always tends to be volatile in terms of topic, language and characters, and you would think that the subject of race would be the end-all. and it was at times with terrific performances turned in by Spader and Grier. However, Thomas and Washington seemed somewhat underwhelming in their important roles and the play suffers from that in terms of being great and powerful overall in comparison to other Mamet work like Glengarry Glen Ross, Speed the Plough and The Spanish Prisoner. It was a very interesting experience to be that close to the stage during a Broadway production, and our opinions of Spader and Grier could not be higher, but taken in an overall context it was bit disappointing per our expectations due to the performances of Thomas and Washington.
It had been a long, rather frustrating day with the flight delay, the OK dinner that was still a second choice, and the Broadway play that didn't quite live up to our expectations. So, it would have been understandable for us to just pack it in early and try again tomorrow, but this is "The City That Never Sleeps" and we just couldn't give up on it yet. After chilling a few minutes in our room, we flagged a cab down and headed uptown to the Mercury Lounge to catch some live music from The Sadies, an alt-country band from Canada that we had heard good things about. We read that the Mercury Lounge is tiny, but gets excellent reviews on its acoustics. We agree with both. The place is VERY tiny only allowing 250 people inside, and the acoustics are top-notch. The reviews about The Sadies and their live show are also accurate. They are a fantastic live act. We arrived as their first set was starting and the place was packed. Good thing we had taken the risk and bought tickets beforehand just in case we wanted to go (at only $13 a ticket, it wasn't that much of a gamble). We were able to move up closer between sets and get a better view when they came back to the stage. To describe The Sadies sound is kind of hard to do with words since they tend to wander in and out of stylings from alt-country to surfer rock and back around again. Check out the clip below for a better understanding: We slept in fairly late on Sunday thanks to our long Saturday and Saturnight. We got up in time to grab another cab and take a quick ride up to Bleecker Street in the heart of Greenwich Village for our 11:30 AM food tour of the West Village. We took a great food tour in Chicago a few months back (see previous blog), so we thought we would give New York a chance to counter. The small 12-person tour was sold out and the weather was cooperating nicely with no precipitation and temps creeping up over the freezing point and mercifully no wind to speak of. Our guide was Heather and she did an outstanding job weaving us in and around the West Village to some of the many delectable eateries in the neighborhood. Here were our stops in order:
Amy's Bread - we stopped in this artisan bakery before the tour actually began to grab some hot coffee and some delicious morning pastries.
Famous Joe's Pizza - our first "official" stop was for some real crispy New York thin crust pizza which we all ate right out on the street. Excellent.
Rocco's - this Italiana pastry shop was amazing in terms of the choices they had available (photo below). We were supplied with mini-canolis that were just about perfect. More street-eating. Did we mention these shops are tiny and more of a grab-and-go kind of thing? Totally New York.
Fiacco's Italian Pork Shop - our favorite nibble of the tour came here with a deep-friend rice ball that wasn't the least bit greasy and incredibly flavorful. Again, we ate right out on the street as a group. Tons of fun.
Palma - this was actually our first venture inside an establishment to eat. Since it was the first sit-down restaurant on the tour, it could obviously accommodate us. But, we didn't go in and sit down. Instead we were led behind the Southern Italian restaurant where the original farmhouse from this property still exists before the area became so urban. You would never know it exists from the street. In the dining room/kitchen of this little villa we were given a wonderful-tasting dish made from boring old cauliflower. Who would have thunk it?
Centro Vinoteca - half-way through our tour we were invited to sit down at this Italian restaurant and wine bar and order a glass of vino if desired while we were served some delicious risotto from their menu while enjoying their street-scape window views (photo below).
It was time to stretch our legs now and take a history and architecture tour of the neighborhood, but before we got started we stopped at the Milk & Cookies Bakery where were each given a HUGE chocolate chip and oatmeal mix cookie. Still warm from the oven. Heavenly.
Our guide, Heather, did a good job of pointing out interesting landmarks in the neighborhood (such as the narrowest house in Manhattan - photo below) as well as other restaurants and shops not included in the tour but still worth checking out if you had the time. Our last stop was were we first met our tour group - Murray's Cheese Shop. This place is legendary and incredible in the variety of cheeses available - over 250 different varieties. We got to go upstairs above the store to the "classroom" where cheese classes are taught...who knew you could go to school for cheese. Once we were all seated were able to sample 3 different kinds of succulent cheese as well as a fresh salami. It was a perfect way to wind up a perfect tour. We highly recommend http://www.foodsofnytour.com/ if you are ever in The Big Apple. After the tour we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon in The Village poking around in stores and checking out a local watering hole that Heather recommended, The Blind Tiger Ale House. Unfortunately, once we went in The Blind Tiger it was a long time before we came out due to great beer (see Rob's beer blog for more info on that), great atmosphere as the USA and Canada took to the ice for Olympic gold on TV, and great camaraderie from some nice locals who befriended us while we sat next to each other in the small pub. New Yorkers definitely get a bad rap in regards to their friendliness especially to visitors. Not only in the bar but everywhere we went in the city the folks were friendly, inquisitive of where we were from and how we were enjoying our visit, and more than happy to give out information and suggestions. It's been like that each time we have come to The Big Apple and it's part of the reason we keep coming back. As darkness fell we decided to forego another dinner reservation we had at a nearby restaurant participating in Restaurant Week and instead check out another suggestion from Heather, Little Havana on nearby Cornelia Street. Maybe it was the fact that we missed our Cuban restaurant reservation the night before, or maybe it was because Heather not only suggested it but also worked there part time, or the fact that it was owned and run by a 77-year-old Cuban national who still does all the cooking herself - but it was a decision we didn't regret because the food was delicious and we were the only ones in the tiny place until another couple from our food tour earlier in the day also came in to have dinner - good selling skills there, Heather! We slipped across the street to listen to a little live music but it was jazz and that doesn't do much for us so we called it a night and headed back down the glitz of Times Square to draw the shades and get some sleep. Monday was a lazy day for us as we slept late, packed up our stuff, stored our bags with the hotel and took another quick cab ride back to Greenwich Village. Yep, we had another Heather suggestion to check out: Bleecker Street Pizza - supposedly the best in the city and it definitely was good and cheap. We decided to spend the rest of our time just walking back toward the hotel and taking in the city on foot. We figured we would get a cab when we got tired but we never did making it the whole way back (about 3.5 miles) along with a few stops along the way for some light shopping. The plane ride home was uneventful (thank goodness) except for the fact that both flights (NYC to DC and DC to Nashville) were both pitifully devoid of passengers. Again, how is the po-dunk airline staying in business? Oh well, keep doling out the dirt cheap airfares US Air and we'll keep flying you and griping about you on our way to another visit to The Big Apple in April perhaps?? We shall see.

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