16 February 2017

NYC III:Skyline Views, Greenpoint Gallivanting and a Musical Interlude

Monday was my last free day in New York before heading into our office and happily, the weather had improved greatly after Sunday's sleety wash-out. I donned my running kit and did another loop to Brooklyn via Manhattan Bridge and back over Brooklyn Bridge, stopping for coffee at the hard-to-find (but well worth seeking out) Voyager Espresso, which is located inside Fulton Street subway station (enter through John Street near Gold, and no, you don't need to buy a subway ticket).Voyager is rather futuristic looking with a circular central coffee bar and a stripped down menu: black, white or filter. I had an excellent Costa Rican piccolo and some avocado toast, and then headed back up to my hotel to pack and change.

After taking my suitcase to my work-organised hotel —the DoubleTree, a ten-minute walk from the Gild Hall on Stone Street — I went straight back out to catch the East River Ferry to Greenpoint. I've taken the ferry a few times before, mainly during the summer to get between Williamsburg and Lower Manhattan. It's fast, cheap ($4 for a single in winter) and offers a great view of the Manhattan skyline and all three bridges. The ferries run less frequently in the winter, however, and as I had just missed one, I decided to kill some time at Cafe Grumpy's new Financial District branch, which, conveniently enough, opened up right next to my hotel earlier this month. I had a very good piccolo, admired the sexy orange Synesso espresso machine, chatted with the friendly barista about the Reykjavik coffee scene (we'd both visited recently) and then went to catch the ferry.

The ride to Greenpoint, the northernmost stop on the Brooklyn side, takes only about 15 minutes from Pier 11. I was disappointed when I was told that, unlike in the summer, I couldn't stand outside, but when I stepped off the boat in Greenpoint into the incredibly strong wind, I began to understand. The East River Ferry docks in Williamsburg and Greenpoint are also great places to capture a clear shot of the Manhattan skyline, but after snapping a few quick shots, I sought shelter in-land.

I spent the next few hours exploring some of the speciality coffee shops of Greenpoint, which will be the subject of a future blog post. For now, though, here's a preview of one of my favourites: the Nordic-influenced Búðin.

My Greenpoint coffee tour ended near the northern end of Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, so I spent some time window shopping there before schlepping over to for lunch Bushwick (note: it's a very quick subway ride on the L train, but I usually prefer to walk). My destination was fabled pizzeria Roberta's, which I tried to visit with my family in October, but there was a two-and-a-half hour queue. There was no queue at all at 2 pm on a wintry Monday and I took a seat at one of the tables near the wood-fired pizza oven. The waitress started talking about the day's special — some kind of pimped-up porridge — but the margherita pizza was always going to be the only option. It was really good with creamy buffalo mozzarella and a thin but chewy base. I still don't think I'd wait for two-and-a-half hours for it, but it was delicious.

By this point, I had already had six coffees and didn't really need another but I was so close to Blue Bottle's new Bushwick roastery and cafe that it would have been rude not to stop by. I bought a bag of beans, which have been making my suitcase smell delicious. I can't wait to try it.

Back in the Financial District, the sun was starting to set over Liberty Island and I just had time to drop off my shopping at my hotel before meeting some colleagues at The Growler, a cosy gastropub on Stone Street. I had a lovely gin- and tea-based cocktail and a good burger with bacon marmalade. After dinner, I ended up walking all the way up to Madison Square Park to get a good view of the Empire State Building, which was all lit up in purple and yellow to celebrate the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.

To vary my morning running, I decided to jog through Battery Park and up the West Side to Canal Street before looping back towards my hotel. It was extremely cold but at least the wind had died down. I soon warmed up after an El Salvador pourover and some banana-nut bread from Cafe Grumpy. It was then time to head into the office, where I was met with an incredible view both of the Manhattan skyline and Liberty Island from the 46th floor. By golden hour, the views were even more impressive.

After work, one of my co-workers and I decided to go for Galentine's Day cocktails at BlackTail, a cool Cuban-themed bar in Battery Park (coincidentally, BlackTail popped up in London for three days last week). The cocktails were spectacular, although rather more potent than I was expecting. They also give you an "amuse-bouche" mini daiquiri as a palate cleanser; how wonderful! We sat at the bar so that we could watch the expert bar-tenders work their magic. The drinks weren't cheap but it was a great experience.

I then had a date with Le Poisson Rouge, a music and cabaret venue in Greenwich Village, where, for three days only, they were putting on Cruel Intentions: The Musical. Cruel Intentions is a guilty pleasure of mine: it's one of my favourite trashy '90s movies and I watched it so many times that I used to be able to quote large portions of the dialogue. It's also a very New Yorky film and I've been to a few of the filming locations, including the Ukranian Cultural Center on the Upper East Side, which serves as the Valmont house. The musical was great fun, anyway, with plenty of bonus '90s songs (from N-Sync and Natalie Imbruglia, to Meredith Brooks and TLC) thrown in to complement the classics from the soundtrack (Placebo, Counting Crows and The Cardigans, to name but three). I've seen a lot of shows in New York over the years, including some on Broadway, but this was one of the most fun experiences.

On Wednesday morning, I checked out of my hotel and then went for breakfast at Bluestone Lane's second FiDi location on Water Street. The cafe is Instagram-ready with Bluestone Lane's signature white espresso machine, teal and green accents, and foliage. My piccolo and avocado toast were both very good too. After something of a caffeine crisis on Tuesday afternoon (there was no good coffee in my building), I decided to get in another coffee before going into the office and went back to Black Fox Coffee on Pine Street, this time trying a pourover (an Ethiopian Kayon from 49th Parallel, which was one of the best pourovers I've had in the past few months). After a morning of meetings, I just had time to grab a bagel from Leo's (tasty and huge) before catching the subway to Penn Station for the next part of my trip.

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