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27 April 2018

Snapshots from a New York Spring Break

April is one of my favourite times to visit New York City, although even a late April visit doesn't guarantee clement weather in the cruellest month. On our recent family trip, we were extremely lucky and apart from the rain that greeted us on our arrival, we were treated to clear blue skies and bright sunshine for the rest of our stay. The blossoms were out too in all the parks, making the city particularly pretty.

During the trip, I visited a number of new-to-me coffee shops (and a few old favourites) and will be writing about these in a separate post (my NYC speciality coffee guide is here in the meantime). I've included below a few of my other favourite experiences, sights and foods. Spoiler alert: the real highlight of the trip was when I got to see PACEY (Joshua Jackson, to non-Dawson's Creek fans) on Broadway.

Food and drink


Motorino in the East Village is the perfect spot for a quick but delicious jet-lag-beating supper. The Neapolitan pizzas are fantastic, as are the contorni.


I've done several tours from the Tenement Museum in the Lower East Side, each of which has been fascinating. This time we took the Foods of the Lower East Side walking tour, a two-hour walk around the neighbourhood with plenty of stops to sample foods from diverse immigrant cultures. Highlights were the pickled pineapples from the Pickle Guys, chocolate pretzels from Economy Candy and the amazing dumplings from Vanessa's. You will probably need to book a ticket in advance.


After the tour, I met some friends at the Flower Shop, a pretty bar located just across from Vanessa's Dumplings on Eldridge Street. The cocktails were fab and the $1 happy hour oysters were also a great bargain.


While wandering from my Brooklyn coffee and breakfast spot, Golda, to Brooklyn Heights, I came across DeKalb Market Hall, a new-ish subterranean space filled with food vendors. I had coffee at Nobletree, and wished I had room for some pierogies or a unicorn churros ice cream sandwich.  


On a sunny Saturday, brunch tables are hard to come by in Greenwich Village. We couldn't face the two-hour wait at Buvette but managed to score a cancellation at Dante, a family favourite cafe-bar on a particularly pretty block of Macdougal Street. With brunch cocktails, delicious food and a terrific ambiance, this is a fab place to spend your Saturday.


Some hours later, we found ourselves at The Up & Up, which is just a block north of Dante in the heart of Greenwich Village. The pretty underground bar has William Morris wallpaper and serves superb cocktails from a menu so extensive and creative that ordering was a challenge. I went for the Surprise Trip, which contained gin, black trumpet mushroom, three types of peppercorn and unicorn (NB cocktail is not rainbow coloured!). It was delicious and my brother ranked his Zuzu’s Petals (my second choice) as one of his all-time top three cocktails.


For some time, I've been wanting to try the Impossible Burger — a plant-based burger that even carnivores love — for some time. As a former vegetarian, I've eaten a lot of mediocre veggie burgers in my time and as this market has begun to grow in recent months and years, it's been great to see the offering improve so much. We went to the Umami Burger at the Hudson Hotel and although my 'primary' burger was a very meaty (and tasty) Manly Burger, my dad also ordered an Impossible Burger 'for the table'. Although it couldn't quite compete with my Manly Burger, the Impossible was very good indeed — the flavour and texture was very good indeed, although the patty did begin to lose its integrity.


On Sunday evening, the weather was so beautiful that we decided to try to eat by the water. My dad managed to get us a last-minute table at the River Café and we made our way down to City Hall so that we could first walk over Brooklyn Bridge at dusk. The only other time I've been to the River Café was in 2000 when the parents of our group planned to eat there while we teens were going to go Grimaldi's, the pizzeria next door. The epic snowstorm meant no pizza but the River Café were able to accommodate our snowy selves — there was, however, about 2% visibility and so no iconic views of Brooklyn Bridge and Lower Manhattan. The sun had set by the time we set down to eat but it was a special experience to dine with the twinkling skyscrapers in the background. The food was delicious too. I had scallops followed by roast chicken and everything was beautifully prepared. The pièce de resistance was the chocolate Brooklyn Bridge I had for pudding. When in Brooklyn... Overall, a wonderfully spontaneous night.


For our last meal of the trip, we went to Mighty Quinn's, an awesome BBQ joint, where I've dined before. We ordered everything, as usual, and the fried chicken sandwich, the brisket and the corn fritters were real stand-outs for me.


Neighbourhoods

Central Park


We stayed near Central Park this time and I ran there almost every morning, enjoying the gorgeous morning light and the cherry blossoms. Talk about motivation for getting out of bed and into the city!

Chelsea


I always try to walk along the High Line at least once during every New York trip, especially when the weather is nice. If I have time, I try to stop at Story or Chelsea Market afterwards for some shopping and/or eating.

Flatiron




I spent a lot of time around the Flatiron Building, Madison Square Park and NoMad on this trip, mainly because there were a few new coffee shops and shops that I wanted to visit in the area. I love the architecture, the views and the park itself in this neighbourhood.

Greenwich Village




If I had to pick just one New York neighbourhood to live in, it would probably be Greenwich Village, or perhaps the West Village. I love Washington Square Park, especially on a sunny day when everyone is chilling out, I love the architecture and I love the shops like the wonderful Three Lives & Co bookstore.

Nolita & Soho


I love to shop and eat in Nolita and its westerly neighbour, Soho. I didn't spend as much time there as usual on this trip but did get to wander through the lovely streets, visiting old favourite shops like McNally Jackson and pop-ups like Everlane.

Brooklyn






Most of my Brooklyn interludes on this trip were spent walking from Brooklyn Heights to Lower Manhattan one sunny morning and the return journey to the River Café and Brooklyn Bridge Park the following evening at dusk. It's one of my favourite walks in the world and one of my top recommendations to any visitor to the city — try to go from Brooklyn to Manhattan, though.

Culture


One of the main reasons I went to New York was to see one of my all-time favourite actors, Joshua Jackson, in Children of a Lesser God on Broadway. The production was originally in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts and sadly ended the day before I arrived in Boston last summer so I was really glad to hear it would make the transfer to Broadway. Jackson and his co-star Lauren Ridloff were really terrific and the play — which tells the story of a teacher at a school for the deaf who falls for the school's housekeeper, a deaf alumna of the school — was powerful and moving. It's a story about what it means to communicate, to connect and to love. Ridloff, a former Miss Deaf America, signed all her lines while Jackson would also translate her lines for the audience members not familiar with ASL. If you get the chance, do try to go — it is a wonderful production.


The Blue Note in Greenwich Village is one of the most famous jazz clubs in the city — and, perhaps, the world. I'd somehow never been before and we enjoyed an evening set with Kenny Garrett and his band. The food wasn't anything special but we had great seats and it was an entertaining night.

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