27 February 2020

A Wintry Week in New York City

Ahead of a week in Seattle for a conference, I got to spend a few days in New York. I was staying in the Financial District, close to my company's office, where I was working for most of my trip (happily, I'll be back again in May). I did, however, have a free day-and-a-half in the city at the weekend. I was very lucky with the weather too: although it was cold, it was beautifully sunny on Saturday and Sunday, the rain coming out in time for my return to the office. As well as visiting a few speciality coffee shops, old and new, here's what else I got up to.

After reading about the impacts of the novel coronavirus outbreak on restaurants in New York's Chinatown, I wasn't sure whether the Lunar New Year parade would go ahead, but Mott Street and the surrounding streets were not short of festivities, with firecrackers, lion dances and other performances. Sadly, the coronavirus does seem to be having an impact on restaurants and shops in the neighbourhood.

Regular readers will know that I usually cross Brooklyn Bridge at least a couple of times on each trip, and this time, I enjoyed two cold but sunny morning jogs — one with a fantastic sunrise. I also returned by night to view the Snow Moon. It was impressive in person but with neither a zoom lens nor a tripod, my photos couldn't really capture the beauty of it.

I spent some time on Sunday ambling up through Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village and the West Village. I love the architecture in this part of town, and like to play fantasy apartment shopping when I visit. The afternoon light was lovely, and the sky remained clear as dusk fell and I made it as far as Madison Square Park and the Empire State Building.

I've visited the High Line many, many times, but had somehow never taken the opportunity to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art, which perches over its southern, Meatpacking district, end. From, er, fruit and vegetables, to Liza Lou's Kitchen, the exhibitions were varied and well-curated.

And if you've ever wanted a good overhead view of the High Line, the top-floor outdoor viewing terrace of the Whitney is a great place for some iconic cityscape photos.

Cobble Hill is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Brooklyn and when I was looking for a cinema to watch Bong Joon Ho's excellent Parasite, I happened upon Cobble Hill Cinemas. With no ticket counter inside, it reminded me of some of those lovely cinemas around Odéon in the sixth arrondissement of Paris, and it was a world away from the big multiplexes near Union Square that I often end up frequenting when in New York.

With only a few days in the city and a long wishlist of restaurants and eateries, I ended up planning most of my meals with military precision — and planned most of my evenings around my evening meals.

In Brooklyn, I had an excellent breakfast sandwich at Yafa Cafe (Sunset Park), a Yemeni cafe about whose coffee I've already sung the praises. Further north, in Carroll Gardens, I dined at Buttermilk Channel one evening. I've been wanting to go for a long time but you can't book for brunch, which made an early, brunchy supper a good option. The buttermilk chicken and cheddar waffles were as delicious as I'd hoped, although the portion was so huge that the prospect of their special Monday supper (three courses for $40) was rather too much. The cocktails and service were both very good.

Speaking of chicken, I also had dinner one night at the intriguingly named Banty Rooster in the West Village. Specialising in New Mexican cuisine — and underdogs, like the titular banty rooster, it seems — the new West Village eatery combines warm service with high-quality cooking. Again, the portions were on the large size, so after spicy sea bream aguachile with blood orange, and a roasted half-chicken, I was too full to try the sopapillas — little doughnuts with three different fillings. Also in the West Village, Bar Sardine satisfied my need for a good burger. The small bar has a small menu — though a bigger bloody Mary menu — but a big Fedora Burger, served with smoked cheddar, crispy potato, BBQ mayo and cucumber. Messy but delicious.

Over in the East Village, I made another burger pilgrimage, this time to Superiority Burger, whose sublime veggie burgers, made with freshly sourced, high-quality ingredients, attract large queues. Early on a rainy Wednesday evening, I managed to score a seat in the elbows-room-only cafe. The burger wasn't up there with my favourite incarnations of its meaty counterparts, but it was very good, and the broccoli, cashew and chilli salad made a great accompaniment. And it wouldn't be a trip to New York for me without a good pizza, and the Neapolitan pizza at Ribalta, just south of Union Square, really hit the spot and helped me fend off the jet lag on my first night.

Working in the Financial District gave me the opportunity to return to The Dead Rabbit for a cocktail in the upstairs parlour bar. I ordered the Press Release (you can take the girl out of the press office, but...), which was impeccably mixed by the charming bar tender. The menu itself is literally a work of (graphic novel) art, and well worth diving into. I also indulged in some lunchtime sushi at Haru Sushi and in taco Tuesday at Toro Loco.

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