This new year has rung in cold and snowy, which is as it should be in January, although maybe not quite so cold as single digits? We spent the first week of the New Year bearing up with the cold and snow in New York City, where the 40 mph wind gusts and the snow and the single digit temps threatened to put a damper on our usual diet plan while visiting Manhattan – eat and walk and walk some more and then eat again. We managed to keep our traditions, although the Saturday of January 6 was a bit challenging…I think the windchill was at negative 5 when we walked home from dinner that night.
We usually plan this annual trek to NYC far in advance, researching restaurants and any other food related event that might be occurring, plus one or two other venues that are not necessarily food related, although that is optional. This year the non-food aspect – aside from several movies on the big screen – was a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens in the Bronx. I have always wanted to see the Holiday Train Show there, and the day we planned to go was actually the nicest of the whole week – sunny and in the upper 20’s, which seemed like summer.
It was very easy to get there – take Metro North to the Botanical Gardens exit…duh! Takes about 20 minutes, from Grand Central to the entrance to the Gardens, $9 round trip. We were very surprised at how crowded the Train Show was, considering it was January 9; I can’t imagine the scene during the height of the Christmas season. It was amazing though, and of course nice to still experience the holiday decorations and even music.
It was simply riveting, and I would recommend it to anyone who can stand crowds. That being said, no one was out on the grounds, where the main paths were cleared of snow and the air was crisp and the sky blue. It was remarkable; I can picture going for an entire day in the spring when the daffodils are out, it must be spectacular. As it were, the conifer gardens and the leafless deciduous trees were a treat all to themselves this time of year, no regrets.
Our plan of attack regarding food was simple – no place with $16 glasses of wine or $30 entrees need apply. We made only one mistake in that regard, and that was because I didn’t realize you could get the menu online with prices if you clicked on the PDF format…so I booked a dinner at a very expensive place for my birthday without realizing that it was a bit more than the typical Stephen Starr French bistro as found in Philadelphia…oops! I fell for the hype and I regret it, what can I say? This was one of the only reservations we made; otherwise we bar-hopped or walked in and never had any problem, mostly I’m sure because there were so few people out on the streets during that icy blast called January. We even got window seats at Gaonnuri, with a crazy view of the skyline, where typically probably only Korean mucky-mucks get to sit. Prices reflected the view, so it was a one-drink, one-app kind of place, but it was definitely worth the experience.
Korean dining spots were a common theme – from the heights of Gaonnuri to the casual Barn Joo 35 (where the spicy pork hand roll was a stand out) to a return visit to Atoboy – we tried to stay off the straight and narrow. Also, it was quite nice that our hotel is very close to the area known as Korea-town!
We discovered a couple new bars within our neighborhood, particularly enjoying District Social, where the food was far from typical bar food, and The Trailer Park Lounge and Grill, where it was. Beron Beron, a bustling Japanese joint in the East Village, had some of the best fried chicken ever, believe it or not. Dim sum made it our way twice, once to our favorite Jing Fong (chicken feet!) and then to a spot new for us, Joy Luck Palace (and more chicken feet!). We particularly enjoyed the latter, so it was good that it wasn’t until after the fact that we realized they had received a “C” rating from the NYC Health Department on their most recent inspection…OMG! And it was super busy!
We stopped in to Bobby Flay’s Gato, where we had a sample appetizer which proved to be so delicious (imagine, if you will, the Eleven Layer Potato, for god’s sake) that even though the place was way out of our self-imposed price range, we might return. We were heading that night to the destination restaurant La Loteria, where they make Mexican food like you’ve never had before. I mean duck flautas?? Yes please, we will be back to this one for certain.
Sure we had some lame experiences – ask me about the Chelsea Bell, where the handicap restroom not only was out of toilet paper, it was even without a dispenser for toilet paper – but for the 95% part we got very lucky and had some amazing NYC experiences. #One perhaps was a repeat of last year’s winner – the I’ile Flottante at Le Coq Rico. This is simply the most wonderful dessert on the planet. We went just for dessert, but maybe next year the lunch prix-fixe will be the way to go, with that dessert included. Incroyable!
#Two – probably that would be the sweet breads at the aforementioned over-priced, over-hyped Stephen Starr spot known as Le CouCou (maybe that’s the name because you pretty much have to be coo-coo to go there, when there is so much more in NYC to chose from…) It was a mighty fine plate of organ meat, with a singularly delicious sauce like no one but my husband has ever made for me before.
New favorite coffee spot – just a tad too far from our hotel to enjoy every day – Little Collins.
Place we won’t have to go back to – Chelsea Market. We’ve been there a dozen times, but this time it was a “been there, done that” sort of experience. Replacing it would be UrbanSpace Vanderbilt – now that’s my idea of a food hall! And of course a trip to NYC is not complete without a walk on the High Line, which gets better and better each time we visit.
Not enough food pictures, I know, but it was a good time had by all and we have the pounds to prove it, if not the photos. We can’t wait to go back!