Posts filed under ‘Gastronomy’
Two nights in Savannah would give you time to see it, but three nights allows you to better savor it in all its verdant mystery. We chose to go at escargot pace and loved every minute of it!
I went back and forth about where to stay in Savannah. You have the town with its leafy squares and you have the river. We chose the river and booked at The Bohemian. And it was. Bohemian, that is. I have never stayed in a hotel with a quilted red velvet headboard or faux fur throw or crustacean-decorated chandelier. Which is to say, I suppose, that I have never stayed in a place that seemed quite so much like a brothel.
We were of two minds about our hotel stay. Admitted hotel snobs that we are, we found our surroundings a bit peculiar. Yet, the riverside location of The Bohemian has a lot going for it. We checked in, arched our eyebrows at the decor, and headed over to the breezy, busy Vics on the River for dinner with great views, good service and their contemporary interpretation of low-country cooking..
First order of the day was to explore the town and collect a few squares. We strolled up Bull Street and picked off Wright, Chippewa and Madison squares en route to one of Savannah’s most revered tourist traditions. Lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ Dining Room is a rite of passage for Savannah visitors, and waiting in line is part of the experience. We thought that by arriving at 10:30 am ahead of Mrs. Wilkes’ 11 am opening that we would be ahead of the crowd. Wrong. We were right around fortieth in line and had the unlucky cut-off spot for the first seating. We stood in line for nearly ninety minutes, but enjoyed getting to know our fellow would-be diners.
The original Mrs. Wilkes has gone on to her reward, but her granddaughter continues to oversee what used to be a boardinghouse dining room. The food is served family-style at tables for ten. We counted twenty-three different dishes on the table when we were seated. The piece de resistance, fried chicken, is presented after guests have had a chance to fill their plates with mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, okra, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, meat loaf and a host of other low-country specialities. Plastic pitchers of sweet tea are placed at the table; you will have to wait a bit if you’re a Yankee who prefers your tea unsweetened. A word to the wise: pace yourself and save room for dessert; our choices were berry cobbler or banana pudding.
We needed a walk after lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ so we picked off a few more squares. Fans of Southern Gothic literature should note that Flannery O’Connor’s birthplace is on Charlton Street near Lafayette Square.
It probably would have been better to pass on dinner after lunch at Mrs. Wilkes’ but we had reservations that evening at another of Savannah’s famed establishments: The Olde Pink House.
Built in 1789, the Olde Pink House is both a fine dining establishment and a history lesson. Our server tantalized us with arcane tidbits about the house while she steered us toward an award-winning first course: Fried Green Tomato Salad.
We learned that the house was originally painted white but that the pink in the bricks used to build it eventually bled through to give it its rosy hue of today. A Savannahian we met during our visit told us that some years back a wealthy young transplant to the city demanded that her father purchase the home for her to live in and that when he failed in that attempt, he built her a similar home a few blocks away. I don’t know if the story is true, but it sounds like something that would happen in Savannah, where the buildings that escaped Sherman’s March to the Sea are cherished as crown jewels of the South.
Some people follow up dinner at Olde Pink House with a a digestif at the popular Planters Tavern in the building’s cellar. We chose instead to take advantage of the fading light and visit a few more squares as we walked back to our hotel.
Next day, we headed uptown once again, curious to see Forsyth Park. Its thirty-acre swath gives it the appearance of being one of Savannah’s squares on steroids. Named for Georgia governor John Forsyth, who donated twenty of the park’s acres. the park features a Confederate War Memorial and a fountain modeled after one at the Place de Concorde in Paris, France.
We had lunch near the park at 700 Drayton in the Mansion at Forsyth Park, which is a sister hotel to The Bohemian. It features a similarly bold decor.
After lunch, we paid a visit to one of Savannah’s finest sights: the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. The interior of this church is stunningly beautiful!
The CE had his heart set on a river cruise, so once again we headed back to the riverfront and boarded the Georgia Queen for a leisurely look back at River Street from the water.
After the boat cruise we somehow found ourselves in one of the many candy shops that dot the riverfront. It was, of course, the one where they were handing out free samples of freshly-made pralines. It would have been impolite to resist, right?
Then it was back to the hotel, briefly. No sooner had we settled back into our room (still giving that chandelier the side-eye) than the fire alarm went off. “This is not a drill. Leave the building immediately. This is not a drill”. So we did. We walked across the street to Moon River Brewing Company and sipped a beverage while we watched the fire trucks and emergency vehicles arrive at The Bohemian. The all-clear was sounded half an hour later and we returned to find our room – and that scary chandelier – intact.
Our time in Savannah was coming to a close, so off we went to search out a few more squares. As we walked through Savannah’s City Market area, we discovered A.T. Hun Gallery’s homage to The Dude. If the price point had been a bit lower, several friends and family members (you know who you are!) would have received this as a souvenir:
After dinner at Circa 1875, the CE announced that he had saved up a surprise. As we stood at Reynolds Square and the dusk turned to dark, a carriage pulled by a handsome white Percheron named Pepper pulled up, and off we went for an evening tour around the city squares. What a lovely way to say farewell to Savannah!
The idea was to go someplace completely foreign without having to update our passports. And that, friends and readers, is how we ended up here in the deep South.
We eased into it with a familiar stepping-off point, bringing Phyllis along with us to Sarasota, FL where she is visiting the CE’s brother, Mark, his wife, Jean, and Soho-lookalike Pearlie Mae. Their son, Nick, will graduate from the US Naval Academy next month and we’re told we may get a sighting of daughter Laura, a University of Florida student, on our return visit at the end of our southern sojourn.
On Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sarasota bears no resemblance to its Atlantic coast relative, hot-blooded Miami. Simplistically, it’s way more Jimmy Buffet than Scarface. As we ambled around the village of Siesta Key, every corner seemed to boast a bar with a make-shift patio where mid-day revelers enjoyed a brewski or three while garage bands kept the volume on high. We, of course, were drinking coffee.
While the bands of Siesta Key may never rise to fame, its beach is known worldwide. In 2011, it was named Best Beach in America on Dr. Beach’s annual list in a nod to its sugary miles of quartz sand called the “finest and whitest in the world”.
Mark is a natural-born tour guide and he zipped us around Sarasota’s various neighborhoods during our brief stay there. We had a glimpse of chi-chi St. Armand’s Circle and enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Libby’s in Southside Village.
We also attended a play at Asolo Repertory’s stunning Mertz theatre, which was formerly the Dunfermline Opera House in Scotland prior to being dismantled and reconstructed in Sarasota.
Of course, we also made time for relaxation:
And for visiting with Pearlie Mae:
We would like to have stayed longer in Sarasota, but we had miles and miles to go before we slept so we packed up and headed for the great state of Georgia. Next stop: Sea Island.
If you live in Southern California, you can probably hear my stomach rumbling, because we are back on the left coast and in serious dietary deprivation mode. With a trip to NYC just behind us and another trip just ahead of us, something has got to give, and I’m hoping it will be my waistline rather than my skirt seams.
We have a strict rule about walking to and from meals in NYC, but I guess we just weren’t walking far enough for the meals we ate. Case in point, we had a couple of great lunches on the UES this trip. We walked across the Park, hoping to see signs of spring, which, during this trip, were few and far between.
It’s almost two miles from our apartment to 79th and Third Avenue, so I guess we burned about 130 calories each on the way there, maybe a few more given the arctic temps in the city these past few weeks. So we would have been fine if, perhaps, we each had a thimble-full of consomme for lunch. Instead, we enjoyed a glorious repast at our new favorite ethnic restaurant in NYC: a cute little neighborhood place called Beyoglu.
We would call it a Turkish restaurant, but according to a NYT review, Beyoglu “is a meze house, a meyhane”. A meyhane is a traditional restaurant or bar in the Balkans region that serves meze, which is the Mediterranean eqivalent of tapas. We weren’t sure what to order, so we went for a little bit of everything, which turned out to be a lot of everything.
Our waitress was initially wary of the bumbling tourists asking too many questions and ordering too much food. But as our meal progressed amid many appreciative exclamations over the food, she chatted with us a bit. Her name is Nina, and she is not from the Mediterranean but from Georgia. And I do not mean Georgia pronounced with a southern drawl, but rather, the Republic of Georgia, which lies south of the Ukraine and north of Turkey, nestled next to the Black Sea. Nina told us that the best food in the world is in Georgia, and I believe her. The next best food in the world may be at Beyoglu.
We ordered falafel, the best I’ve ever tasted; we ordered cacik, a thick, creamy homemade yogurt with cucumber and garlic – it is food for the gods! We shared a Greek salad, with tender lettuce that was just-picked fresh, crisp red onions, Greek olives, artichokes and deep red tomatoes that tasted like, well, like tomatoes, which is something you rarely taste these days. We ordered a lamb special of the day, char-grilled yet tender. Every bite was perfect and the prices are so reasonable that they have to put a disclaimer at the bottom their menu requesting a $20 minimum for a credit card charge.
If you go, tell Nina that we sent you!
On another frigid day, we trudged across the Park again to the venerable L’Absinthe at 67th almost to Second Avenue. We’d been there before, but not for a few years, and this visit reminded me that we should make the long walk more often. L’Absinthe is where you go for a mini, far more sedate version of Balthazar. It is the petit bistro we searched for but never found in Paris. Minus the crusty, gruff waiters, by the way, as our servers were most gracious. I did not realize that L’Absinthe’s chef, Jean-Michel Bergougnoux, is an alumnus of France’s three-Michelin-starred La Maison Troisgros.
Lunch at L’Absinthe can be as simple as steak frites or omelets or a hamburger. For the more adventurous, there is Foie de Veau Sauté au Vinaigre de Framboise (Sauteed Calf’s Liver with Raspberry Vinegar and Vidalia Onion Compote) or Dover Sole Meuniere. I ordered the Choucroute Royale Alsacienne (Sausage, Pork Loin and Braised Sauerkraut) and it was a great choice for a wintry day. We somehow justified sharing a dessert; we are clearly capable of rationalizing anything. It was worth it – their Creme Brulee is excellent.
After lunch, we walked along 67th Street over to Madison Avenue, where we were approached by a black gentleman in his thirties wearing torn clothes and a pleading look on his face. “Could you spare some change, please? I’m so hungry.”
There is a lot of panhandling in New York City and anywhere else you go. On Fifth Avenue and on Broadway above 60th on the UWS, I’ve seen teams of “homeless” people who sit forlornly with signs bearing scrawled, heartrending messages like “husband died of cancer, alone and homeless, please help”. They work their shift and then apparently pool their earnings and they do not sleep on the streets. Last November, a photo of a New York City policeman who bought boots for a shivering, barefoot homeless man made international news. Now we learn that the man, Jeffrey Hillman, has at least twenty pairs of boots and a rent-free apartment in the Bronx.
According to The Atlantic, in general you should not give money to people who beg on the streets. But there are people who go hungry. In January, I came upon a man sleeping in a grate, his legs wrapped in plastic bags for warmth. I could not just walk by. I dug into my purse and tucked a five-dollar bill next to him. He never stirred. And now, on this March day, having just sated ourselves with creme brulee, who were we to judge? The CE spied a food cart just around the corner from where we stood and said to the man, “I won’t give you money, but I’ll buy you lunch. How about that?”
Instantly, the fellow’s expression brightened. It was a win-win situation. And faster than we could say “shake down”, he spun on his heel toward the food cart, familiarly hailing its owner with a high sign and said “Hey, Tony, I’ll have a cheeseburger and a Gatorade.”
The guy was on a first-name basis with Tony, who clearly sees the same act on a daily basis. Tony arched his eyebrows at us over his glasses and gave us a look that said “You’ve been had”. Yeah, we had definitely been had. What could we do but laugh? In the end, I guess it’s good to know that there is such a thing as a free lunch, even in New York.
What a difference a year makes.
One year ago yesterday,March 22, 2012, it was 78 degrees in New York City. In Chicago, the temps topped 80 and weather experts Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey mused upon the wrongness of it all.
Yesterday, March 22, 2013, we awoke to 29 degrees on the CNN thermometer outside our building and read about threats to lynch groundhog Punxsutawney Phil for cruelly predicting an early spring.
Simply said, a snowball’s chance in Hell’s Kitchen has been pretty good this month. And in Lincoln Square, Midtown and all around the town. Ever since we arrived in the city, it has been cold and colder; grey and greyer.
A veteran New Yorker turned to me on the street a few days ago and in a tremulous voice declared that this has been the coldest March she can remember. Our president is chilling out in the Middle East, but I’m sure Oprah will have something to say about an incipient Ice Age. Not to target those two specifically, but I do have an issue with “Global Warming” being slyly switched to “Climate Change” in an apparent effort to keep the heat on, so to speak. There are just as many scientists (the CE among them) who ascribe our melting ice caps to weather shifts as old as the earth’s hills as there are who subscribe to Al Gore’s tax-everyone’s-carbon-footprint-but-mine anthropogenic views.
See how cranky I am about the weather? Here I am getting political, which I generally try to avoid on the blog, but I am in a frigid funk after a week and a half of icy temps and willing to lash out at just about anyone. And yes, I’m well aware that I haven’t suffered like REAL New Yorkers who don’t routinely decamp to southern California like I do.
Okay, okay, it hasn’t been all bad. In the midst of Apple Slush, when it simultaneously rained and snowed in the city last weekend, we walked a hundred yards over to the Time-Warner Center for our first experience at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Saw the Billy Hart Quartet at Dizzy’s Club and were duly impressed, especially by saxophonist Mark Turner.
We’ve also had some family fun, visiting with our boys and with Angie and family.
The local celebs are out and about despite the weather. We saw Kathleen Turner at Cafe Luxembourg last weekend – we recognized her by her voice before we even saw her. She was chatting with the couple sitting next to us and they shared that despite her ongoing struggle with rheumatoid arthritis, she gives generously of her time to local charities.
A few days later we saw Rudy Giuliani coming out of the NBC studios at Rockefeller Center, looking just as chipper as he did as mayor.
I also saw bundled-up Bones cast member Carla Gallo strolling down Central Park South the other day.
I know a few of you look forward to food porn installments from our city visits. Best meal we’ve had so far was lunch yesterday at Cafe Boulud where they served up the most inventive coq au vin I’ve ever seen. Crisp vegetables, potato puree, lardons, port wine reduction and a puff pastry spear:
Hope springs eternal for spring and while the temps are still in the 30′s today, the sun has come out. The CE is off for a Met day at the museum with grandson Thomas, and Angie and I will lunch at Bergdorf. Weather or not, we always manage to have fun in the city.
It was really, really cold in New York while we were there. Nothing will make you appreciate Southern California faster than walking down Broadway in 17-degree temperature with the wind in your face. Brrrr!
So we spent a lot of time seeking warmth, which tends to come quite readily in little units of heat known to you skinny people as calories, and to people like me as No! Don’t! Oops, too late…
We started out, as we always do when we first arrive in the city, with lunch at Bergdorf Goodman’s BG cafe. Nothing says NYC like the impeccable Kelly Wearstler-designed BG dining room with a view of Grand Army Plaza toward Central Park.
It’s a ladies-who-lunch place, but that doesn’t stop the CE from joining the fray.
And there is always the rationalization that lunch is the one and only thing we can afford at Bergdorf’s.
Then, of course, we are obligated to check in at Cafe Fiorello, which is one of our neighborhood hangouts
Of course, we like to try new restaurants when we’re in the city, and this trip we enjoyed a fashionably-late dinner with friends at Aldea, a Portugese restaurant downtown (17th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues). The Arroz de Pato came highly recommended.
One of our favorite downtown restaurants is the Union Square Cafe, and we always try to fit in a lunch there while we’re in town. The food is excellent and the service is unfailingly convivial. It was one of those very bitter cold days when we were there, and we had no dinner plans that night so I splurged:
In the dead of winter, one tends to be more thankful than ever for our daily bread, and especially thankful that Le Pain Quotidian has 20+ locations in Manhattan alone. It’s not fancy, but it’s flavorful and filling, and on a bitterly cold winter day, I gratefully sat at their communal table at their 65th and Broadway location to thaw out and enjoy a bowl of Pot au Feu.
We always go to a Broadway play or two while we’re in town, and the ongoing challenge is to find a good restaurant in the theatre district. Other than our modest little Turkish favorite, Akdeniz, (46th Street, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues) we’ve never found a place to which we would consider returning – until now. I finally have a theatre district restaurant to recommend: La Masseria on 48th Street between Eighth Avenue and Broadway.
We were warmly greeted (on a cold and sleety night!) by the friendly staff and seated upstairs in a cozy alcove decorated in a cheerfully rustic farmhouse motif. Our attentive young waiter recited the numerous specials in an authentic Italian accent. My new tactic is to order fish whenever possible to rein in the calories, but the Dover Sole was far too tasty to be considered lean cuisine. The CE pronounced his pasta to be excellent and the few bites I had of the tiramasu we shared for dessert sealed the deal – we will return to La Masseria.
No visit to New York is complete without a visit to the Met and the tony UES. We fortified ourselves for the Matisse exhibit at the Met with lunch at Cafe Boulud (East 76th at Madison), where the food is excellent and the service is genuinely welcoming even to those of us who do not live in the rarefied East 60′s or 70′s. Their Restaurant Week prix fixe lunch was an absolute steal. Another UES side option we discovered on this trip was Bistro Chat Noir (E. 66th between Madison and Fifth) where a typical bistro menu is a welcome sight on a cold day.
Our favorite new UES discovery this trip is The Mark, where we had dinner with friends on a weekend evening. Located in The Mark hotel at Madison and 77th, you enter through the Jacques Grange-designed lobby and weave your way through the bar where the impossibly stylish revelers perch on unlikely but somehow just-right Holstein printed chairs. The restaurant is another Jean-Georges triumph, more of a drawing room vibe than the streamlined Nougatine in our neighborhood, but with a sensible and accessible menu that hits all the right notes.
Of course, no visit to the city passes without paying respects to Jean-Georges at Nougatine, where the lunch prix fixe continues to be one of the best values in town. If you go, order the shrimp salad for your first course:
A new casual dining option in our neighborhood is The Smith on Broadway across from Lincoln Center. The newest of three locations for this boisterous American bistro, The Smith serves good food and attracts a younger (with better hearing) crowd. It’s a nice addition to the pre-theatre options around Lincoln Center, one-upping P.J. Clarke’s and offering a slightly softer price point than Boulud Sud.
One last discovery of this trip was Il Gattopardo on 54th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues. Just across from the 54th Street entrance to MOMA, this bustling midtown Italian cafe is clearly favored by the locals, which is always a good sign. We had a terrific lunch there and will definitely return.
Our waiter scoffed at us when we demurred on dessert and somehow we ended up sharing the signature pistachio tart:
We’re back home now, where my plan was to subsist for at least the next week on crackers and water. Well, that was the plan, until Ashleigh cooked for us Sunday night. We had Lori and Chadd over to thank them for taking care of all the critters, and Ashleigh wanted to make sure Chadd smiled when he saw dessert.
Chadd loves our animals.
And he loves chocolate:
I believe in signs and wonders, so I’m pretty sure the chocolate tart is an omen that the calories have followed us back from the East Coast to the West. We are clearly being stalked. None of it is my fault: I was just trying to keep warm, right? I’m going to get serious about it and take out a restraining order against everything but hummus and carrot sticks, um, well, right after we go out to lunch…
But let’s get back on the road.
We threw Philadelphia into the mix because it leapt off the map at us between the Chesapeake Bay and our ultimate destination of NYC. We weren’t really expecting all that much, but after reading David McCullough’s John Adams and 1776, Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life and Walter Isaacson’s Benjamin Franklin: an American Life, my curiosity about this city so central to our country’s history had been piqued. Another great read and a terrific primer for a visit to Philadelphia is Catherine Drinker Bowen’s Miracle at Philadelphia:The Story of the Constitutional Convention May – September 1787. It sounds dry but isn’t, and I may have learned more about the origins of our country in this book’s 346 pages than in anything else I’ve read.
The obligatory pilgrimage while in Philadelphia is a trip to Independence National Historical Park. I made a planning goof by not realizing that you have to reserve advance admission to visit Independence Hall, so we weren’t able to go inside, but there was plenty else to do. The sweltering heat mercifully pared the line we stood in to see the Liberty Bell, which gave us more time at National Constitution Center, which was a surprisingly powerful experience.
After a day of American History, we turned to Art History with visits to the Barnes Collection and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Both are must-sees if you are in Philadelphia.
And, of course, since all that touring makes you hungry, we did have a few more great meals in this restaurant-studded city. We spent one lovely evening watching the world go by at the lively Parc Brasserie on Rittenhouse Square.
And on a recommendation from a Philadelphian couple we met along the way, we ventured to south Philly for a southern Italian dinner at Victor Cafe. The red sauce was good, but the arias were even better: all the waiters are talented opera singers who set down their trays to belt out a selection from Verdi or Puccini.
We left just enough un-done in Philadelphia (so many restaurants…so little time!) to justify a return visit, hopefully sometime soon. Great city!
We went for the history but left with hips. Bigger ones. Who knew that Philadelphia was for foodies?
We stayed at the Rittenhouse Hotel, located, no surprise, on Rittenhouse Square. If I lived in Philadelphia, Rittenhouse Square would be my go-to place. It is an enchanting square block of a park and everyone of every age and demographic seems to come here, day and night, to watch the world go by.
Our friend, John Allen, recommended a place for dinner that was close by our hotel, so after we unpacked, off we went to Butcher and Singer. It seemed unassuming enough from the street, but when we walked inside – wow! An atrium ceiling and massive chandeliers let you know that you’re not in any ordinary steakhouse. We were so bedazzled by the interior that we just sat back to enjoy and let our charming waiter order for us. Uh-oh. That might have been a mistake.
Hash browns are one of the house specialities. I arched an eyebrow at that suggestion, but the waiter said, “Trust me. You want these.” Turns out they are “stuffed” with all manner of deliciously evil accompaniments and are most definitely to be shared.
Then there was the steak. And the salads. And, oh dear, the Baked Alaska. Hey, not our fault – the waiter made us do it!
We planned a lot of walking the next day in an effort to atone for these sins. Philadelphia is a great walking city. Only problem was this: the first place we walked to was Reading Terminal Market, which is basically a consortium of calories. Every travel forum I looked at said this was a “must-see” in Philadelphia. And a “must eat”. Once again we were helpless. From what I’d read, two of the top stops at the Market are DiNic’s and The Dutch Eating Place. We couldn’t agree on which, so oh dear, oh no, we went to both. Yes, I hang my head in shame as I tell you this, but really, am I ever going to be back in Philadelphia? This was probably our only shot.
The Dutch Eating Place is staffed by Amish and Mennonite women who dole out traditional breakfast fare, including scrapple, along with the most decadent apple dumplings you’ve ever tasted.
Now we know why Ben Franklin was portly – he lived in Philadelphia! And full as we were, we were eager to to explore the history of our Founding Fathers. Next post: off we waddle to Independence National Historical Park.
Poor CE. Barely recovered from his bridge trauma, he was assaulted anew: by the wily Atlantic Blue Crab.
Crabs and the watermen who catch them are a big part of Chesapeake Bay life, commerce and history. There’s even a Pulitzer-prize winning book on the subject entitled Beautiful Swimmers by William W. Warner. I haven’t read it yet because I just finished James Michener’s tome, Chesapeake, an 865-page love letter to the Eastern Shore and a thorough, if somewhat romanticized, account of the area’s history.
Michener devotes a lyrical chapter of his book to a description of the environs and mating cycle of the Chesapeake crab. And since we visited the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum next to our hotel, we learned more about this staple of the Eastern Bay economy.
We had worked up quite an appetite after all this crab viewing, so we walked over to a restaurant at the nearby harbor for lunch. The special of the day was a crab sandwich, and the CE envisioned a hearty helping of succulent crab meat in his near future. But he hadn’t envisioned it quite the way it was served:
Mr. or Ms. crab arrived in his or her entirety, complete with claws intact, peeking out from two rather plain slices of bread. The CE was not too happy, although I have to imagine that the crab, battered up and presumably deep-fried, was even less pleased about the situation.
As it turned out, this poor crab gave its life in vain, because it was summarily dispatched back to the kitchen. The CE has never been so happy to order a cheeseburger as he was that day…
Aside from the fact that DC needed more AC during our hot, muggy days there, it was a great visit. And probably our last visit for awhile, since Taylor is going to make it four for four – like Angie, Tina and Daniel before him, he’s set to move to NYC in the fall.
Our favorite haunt in WDC is the National Gallery, but we’ve been there so many times we decided to branch out a bit. In addition to the Titanic exhibit at the National Geographic Museum, we visited the National Museum of American History, one of my favorite destinations because it is the home of the stirring Star-Spangled Banner exhibit.
Another must-see offering there is “The Price of Freedom: Americans at War”. We got quite a history lesson just going through the portion of the exhibit that deals with the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
If you go: The National Museum of American History is located at 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W. The cavernous lobby gives you no clue of the treasures that lie within: there is no directory,one harried employee at an information desk, and an inexplicable display of vintage lawnmowers behind glass cases. Get thee to an elevator – there’s lots to see upstairs!
After our injection of history, we wandered over to the Corcoran Gallery for art and air-conditioning. Their permanent collection of American Art to 1945 seems to feature mostly lesser-known works by well-known painters in a stately setting.
We also saw a current exhibit by photographer Charlotte Dumas called Anima. She offers winsome series of photographs of the caisson horses at Arlington Cemetery at the end of their work day as they dozed off to sleep.
If you go: Located on Seventeenth Street between New York Avenue and E Street, N.W., the Corcoran Gallery was almost empty the day we visited. Everyone we subsequently talked to said “there are problems at the Corcoran” – it seems to be in some kind of transition. Has it lost its way? So much potential there, but perhaps not at the top of the list of local attractions.
Of course, all this touring makes a person hungry. We had an outstanding dinner with Taylor at The Tabard Inn and a sumptuous Sunday brunch with him, Christine and Dana before we said goodbye to them and WDC.
Another great – and busy – trip to the city. It’s always hard to say good-bye, but at least Daniel is holding down the fort for us there for a bit. I think most residents of our building display a different taste in art for their apartments, but our friendly doorman, Tommy, took it all in stride the day Daniel moved in:
Just to keep this streak of glamour in the Big City going, we rode the subway downtown with Daniel and his friends Jamie and Peter for lunch at Balthazar:
We went to several performances this trip. Saw the great NYT review for City Center’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes with SMASH star Megan Hilty and grabbed a couple of nosebleed seats. The play only ran for a week and a half – I have to assume it is pointed toward a run on Broadway, especially since the NYT lavished praise on Hilty for outshining both Carol Channing and Marilyn Monroe in her turn as Lorelei Lee. We aren’t diehard fans of this genre but could not help but be impressed by the talent and production values.
A bit more to our liking was “Once” with the winsome Cristin Milioti and Steve Kazee. Based on the film of the same name, it has been nominated for eleven Tony awards, including Best Musical, and will launch a national tour in 2013. If you see it on Broadway, you have the option of joining the ensemble cast on-stage before the performance for cash-bar drinks. In an only-in-NYC moment, as we walked home from the theatre after the play, among the crowds strolling along Broadway was a fellow nonchalantly walking his goat.
We also saw ABT’s frothy production of Giselle at Lincoln Center. First presented in 1841, it is the oldest continuously-performed ballet. In a perfect world, the original Adolphe Adam score would be consigned to the dustheap and some talented composer would give us music as compelling as the story, but I dunno, maybe that would be considered heresy in the ballet world. An unexpected pleasure was a little promenade on stage by a sleek pair of Borzoi hounds in Act I.
The weather was iffy this trip, although there was one absolutely perfect mid-trip weekend, which we celebrated by walking up to Isabella’s, one of our favorite eateries on the UWS. If you go, order the chopped salad – it’s the best!
We also had dinner one evening at Jean George’s newly-redecorated Nougatine. The restaurant has a new streamlined look but the menu, for the moment, remains the same. I had forgotten about the divine butterscotch pudding with little nuggets of sea salt amid the sweetness.
I’d never spent my birthday in NYC before and it was fun to celebrate at dinner with the CE, Daniel and Angie and her boys.
I got the most awesome chicken-themed birthday cards, too! I don’t know how she did it, but Katherine created this one:
One of our favorite days came right at the end of the trip. Angie had asked us to take her to see the Broadway revival of Evita with Ricky Martin and Elena Roger. It also happened to be Fleet Week in NYC and as we strolled down Broadway before the show, we came upon an area of Times Square where a group of Marines were hosting a pull-up contest and mingling with passersby. They even had their mascot bulldog with them. It was a big thrill to see all these lovely young men and women in uniform and have the chance to thank them for their service.
Evita, by the way, was terrific. Purists will note that the vocals aren’t quite up to Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin’s stellar performances, but that did not detract from the experience. It was artfully staged, well-acted and the music remains among Adnrew Lloyd-Webber’s best. We all loved it! Can’t wait for our next trip to the greatest city of them all.