New York, Day 1

Eric and I have been married 20 years.  TWENTY!  That's cause for celebration, right?

Exactly.  We saved our pennies, made lots of plans, and took a long-awaited trip to New York City.  Just the two of us for five blissful days, while my wonderful friend Michelle stayed with my brood.  They ought to erect a statue in her honor in Central Park . . .

We ate, walked, shopped, ate, talked, looked, laughed, met, gaped, ate, and slept a little bit.  Very few stones went unturned on our trek through the greatest city in the world.

Thus starts a four part blog series covering the highlights of the trip.  Of course, food will feature a good bit in the entries, but I want a permanent journal-type record of all the wonderful things we saw and did together.  I hope you enjoy the photos and editorial.  Please take time to click on the links provided to learn more about some of the places we visited.  And if you get a chance, visit them yourself in person!  New York is amazing.

Here I am, in the "town car" on the way from the airport to our hotel:

I've had a (fixation, obsession) love of Manhattan since I was a very young girl.  Every time I read a book or saw a movie that took place in NY, I felt more and more that I ought to be there.  To visit would be great, sure, but I really hoped to live there one day.  By the time I was in high school, I enjoyed tossing around the phrase "I'm going to be a lawyer and live in New York."

Life happened, and here I am in Minnesota, surrounded by a family I love and involved in a life that keeps me busy and happily fulfilled.  "Some Day" Eric and I might live there for a year, when the kids are out of high school and we can do something crazy like that.

We got to our hotel at about 2:30 p.m.  It was a really interesting place, one I found in a travel book from the library.  I looked under "cheap" and found The Carlton Arms Hotel, on 3rd Avenue and East 25th Street.  Gramercy Park neighborhood, only 8 blocks from the Empire State Building.  Great, central location.  The hotel is artsy.  Nah, that's an understatement.  Each room is painted by a different, local artist.  From the door of the room to every square inch of wall, bathroom, and even ceiling, the rooms all have different themes or subjects.  The first night we did not love our room, so the nice guys at the desk happily switched it for our other three nights.  It's a very no-frills place, no room service or concierge, no elevator, fresh towels upon request, etc.  But for $130 per night with a private bath in a nice, safe neighborhood - SOLD.  It was clean and fun and perfect for us.

View from our fire escape.

After a quick check-in, it was off to the Empire State Building.  I was there once, but 22 years ago, and Eric was eager to see that to get his first look at such a huge city.  On the way, we stopped at a "deli" which we learned in NY means convenience/grocery/liquor/hot-and-cold-food type of store.  Some are bigger than others, some have more to offer in the way of food, or a table to sit at, but they are everywhere!  This one was larger, with plenty of choices.  We wanted something quick and spicy and cheap.

Bowl of ramen soup, with ham, mushrooms and egg.  VERY spicy, delicious.  $6 for the two of us to share.  Just enough fuel to keep us going for the afternoon.

Here's Eric, enjoying:

A few more blocks, and we were there.  What a production they've got going at the ESB.  Lots of weaving through pipe-and-drape, funneling past gift shops and photo booths.  Two different elevator rides (and $22 each for tickets) took us to the 86th floor observation deck.

A few blocks down . . .

                             . . . in the lobby . . .                                               . . . and just one amazing vista!

At the top, we met the first of many people who would leave us with the feeling that New Yorkers are among the friendliest and most delightful people we've ever encountered.  The much talked about "Rude New Yorker" was never found in our treks around the city; just the opposite, really.  Funny, helpful, outgoing, educated, and very willing to share the love of their city with the tourists they encounter.

For the record, while we were at the top, my very sweet husband asked me if I'd marry him again.  I told him I'd give it at least another twenty years, and we shared a kiss which must bring the total of such actions in this very place into the millions.  It's NOT just in the movies!

It was time to head back to our hotel and get ready for a big night out.  It was the actual day of our 20th anniversary, and we had reservations at Bar Americain (  It's owned by Bobby Flay, and judging by the menu and reviews, we had high hopes.  Secretly, I had a tiny apprehension about a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef being rather cliche' and I'm very thankful to say I had no need for such concern.

It's located a few blocks north of Times Square, which means it's in a busy and hopping area.  Even on a Wednesday night, there are people everywhere, on every city street in NY.  It's one of the things I love best about this city - the energy.  The constant flux and flow of people and taxis and conversation and lights and music and life. 

Again, we enjoyed talking to people at the bar, and got some recommendations of things to do and see during our trip.

But let's talk food, shall we?  Alas, in the grand tradition of technology and our lives, it was at this point the camera stopped taking clear pictures.  You'll have to just imagine, then.  But go to the website, they have cool pics!

We shared each course, and started with the Shellfish Cocktail "tasting of all three" - which meant Shrimp-Tomatillo, Crab-Coconut, and Lobster-Avocado.  They came presented on a long plate, and each cocktail was in a large shot glass.  It was lovely!  Our favorite was the shrimp - two huge, perfect shrimp, with a pool of the tomatillo sauce at the bottom of the glass.  It was tart and herby and incredibly good.  Both the crab and lobster ones were delicious too, very fresh and generous pieces of the shellfish, fresh herbs, perfectly seasoned and delightful.  Rose' wine and Prosecco went beautifully with this appetizer (one each, and we shared).

Next was the Lamb Tenderloin Salad.  This was by far our favorite dish of the evening.  Succulent, medium-rare slices of warm lamb, atop a bed of arugula and what tasted like a simple balsamic dressing.  Tiny cherry tomatoes, slivers of fresh mint, a dollop of thick, Greek yogurt and diced and roasted fava beans finished the plate.  So many flavors, but they all melded perfectly, yet could be enjoyed for their own distinct character.  I have never tasted such lamb before, it was just the right amount of tender and rich.  Eric kept asking if I could make that salad at home.  I'd like to try!

Our entree was Duck with Dirty Wild Rice, Pecans and Bourbon Sauce.  Yes, it was as good as it sounds.  There were a few slices of medium rare duck breast, along with a leg and thigh quarter.  The breast meat was so very tender and flavorful, perfect for swirling in the bourbon reduction on the plate.  But the dark meat!  Oh, divine.  I do not know how the skin could be so incredibly crispy and crackly good, while the meat underneath was moist and falling from the bones.  The dirty wild rice had too many things going on for me to even guess, but it was both sweet and savory.  The entire dish had a very Southern feel and flavor to it.  Cabernet and Pinot Noir went very well with both the lamb and the duck.

We rarely order dessert at restaurants, but hey!  it was a celebration!  The Bourbon Praline Profiterole was a good choice.  Tiny cream puffs, split and piled high with vanilla bean ice cream, topped with a crispy-glazed praline pastry crust, drizzled with a bourbon caramel sauce.  Yes, it was as good as it sounds and we wished we could have licked the plate.  Espresso was necessary with dessert.

Sigh.  What a meal to remember.  What a great event to celebrate, and what a wonderful husband I have.

To finish the night, and because the lights were calling, we walked down to Times Square.  We were there once in the winter, but nothing compares to a warm summer evening!  It's as bright as day, even at midnight when we arrived.  A million people might be an exaggeration, but not by much.  SO many people, from all over the world, smiling, taking pictures, holding hands, looking in every direction at once.  It's a magical place, to be sure.

Stay tuned, Day 2 will be coming soon - downtown including Wall Street, World Trade Center site, shopping, Chinatown, Little Italy, lots of walking, and more great food and fun.
JillEating Out, Travel5 Comments