Friday, March 13, 2009

Weekend Wanderlust: New York City

Jenny Mac: Sweet bite of the Big Apple

NYC is one of my favorite cities. To visit. I did kid myself for about eight minutes once that I could live there. Oh, that cold weather is mean but as a mere visitor, there need be no long term commit to frigid winters. And, do I love to visit. I went once as a wee lass with my Dad and older brother. I was a freshman in high school and while I didnt quite get to explore the city how I wanted (read, Dad kept me within an inch of him or the brother the entire time). But I started a love affair that has only blossomed and bloomed. Living in the south, I was frequently asked if I was from NY. At a party once, someone asked if I was from NY and if I was Italian (my favorite). A companion with us at the time, hailing from rural West Virginia with a sour face said to me "That's not a compliment you know. " Oh, but it is! One of my favorite moments was being asked by a tourist where to find St. Patty's cathedral. Oh, you know I got a big smile out of it. Another highlight was sitting in a sushi restaurant on Madison Ave across from the Dolce and Gabbana flagship that was hosting a huge party for Fashion Week. We walked out of the restaurant and right into that party. I was enjoying my first martini within three minutes in a sea of incredibly beautiful clothes.

My joy of visiting NYC only increased upon my first trip with a native New Yorker. Oh, the secret restaurants tucked away. I was already smitten with the landscape from watching Sex and the City but anyone can find 5th Avenue, but its a completely different story with a native guide. I have gone the tourist route for sure: boat to see Liberty, Times Square, and even Tiffany (which incidentally was the first place we ever looked at wedding rings). I will even admit a quick brunch at Tavern on the Green just for fun. (A one time only venture). I look foward to seeing Rockefeller Center (especially the tree at holiday time) but highlights for me are the gems tucked away.

Here are my Five Favorite Things to Do in NYC:

1. Go to Century 21. Its down in the Financial District across from Ground Zero. You can cab from midtown or certainly take the subway (take it, its easy). Century 21 is a bit of a goldmine in which you will find Versace, Pucci, Armani and beyond at deep deep discount. The shoe department is worth skipping, and so is the Men's department (PS: Dont take your husband, its not nice to make him shop with you. Plus, does he really want to know every little dollar you spent?)

2. Go to Zabar's Deli and get a spread of tasty bites (great cheeses, great flatbread, great bread, etc) and have a picnic in Central Park. On a beautiful day, it is so picture-perfect and full of life. We may or may not have brought some vino in with us as well and enjoyed that on a balmy afternoon. If you go in the summer, you can get the schedule ahead of time of all the concerts in Central Park. They get some incredible performers.

3. See a show. I have seen a wide variety, one of my favorites "Movin Out" based on Billy Joel's music. For me, seeing a show on Broadway is an even better anecdote and experience than seeing something at the Fox Theater. Predictable, I know but there is such a gamut to choose from. Everyone can find something they like.

4. Spice Market. This is a delicious restaurant by High Chief of Cuisine Jean George Vonchericthen. Located in the MeatPacking District, you can make a reservation 30 days out. Great atmosphere and a scrumptious sake martini. Any other Spice Market can not hold a candle to this one. For a little pre-dinner perfectness, go to Hotel Gansevoort across the street for cocktails on the top floor lounge. The view is lovely and so is the vibe.

5. Eat in Little Italy. You can pass right by Chinatown and its sea of bedazzled crap and fake purses and find an incredible and authentic Italian restaurant. Me, who likens herself an Italian, and loves it when others make that mistake, finds this spot to be worthy of even the most critical foodie. There are so many to choose from but Angelo's is one of my favorites. I was there one year during Taste of Little Italy. Are you kidding me? If you love Italian food, what a fete! It was crazy packed but fun to be a part of at least once.

Other honorable mentions include the Hudson (part of the Morgans Hotel Group). This is an uber swank and hip boutique with a great bar that becomes a late night hot spot. They have a great outdoor terrace, great food, and great staff. If you dont mind the fact your room could be literally as big as 150 square feet. Look into it. A friend of mine who knows NYC better than the Mayor always recommends Soho House New York. It requires a membership but its on my list. Listen, you can go to all the little clubs you want. 10June, etc etc. You are on your own since I don't necessarily want to go to a club the Olsen twins frequent AND the club du jour of the juenesse doiree changes to frequently for me to keep up with.

There are all kinds of guides and info online to help you plan your trip. But being the good friend I am, I have some inside info for you. Back in college I had the great opportunity to meet a true gem of a guy. We worked together one summer and I have some very fun and very funny memories of Jamie C. He is a big-city dweller and after his long tenure in the Windy City, he is now stationed in the Apple. He is also a sassy and prolific writer. Check out his wit and wisdom at And wear your seatbelt honey, he tells it like it is and I love it. I asked him to share some favorites and he produced.

Jamie Cutburth Goes Inside the Apple: Savvy info from a real New Yorker

1. Watch people on the hidden balcony at Grand CentralOn the upper east side of Grand Central Terminal hides Metrazur. This Charlie Palmer restaurant and bar gives you a bird’s eye view of the now infamous opal-faced clock tower, valued at more than ten million dollars by Sotherby’s. Grab a table by the balcony to gaze at the tower and get a great view of the bustling crowds on their commute. Now that you’re settled in, enjoy their sizable wine list, including the Argentinean Malbec or Chalone Vineyard’s Chardonnay. Both are delicious. Let the people watching begin.

45 Grand Central TerminalManhattan, NY 10017(212) 687-4600

2. Snack on the biggest little secret in townNew York is known for cupcakes, lots and lots of cupcakes. Magnolia Bakery is where it all began. Located in Greenwich Village, we all fell in love with their frosted treats watching Carrie Bradshaw devour them in Sex and the City. They stick to the simple flavors, and do it well. Head north to Crumbs on the Upper West Side for the big moist treats waiting for you. If they’re in stock, try the Baba Booey, a peanut butter and chocolate treat you won’t soon forget. If you’re not done yet, make your way to Buttercup Bakeshop. They have East and West side locations, so it’s easy to find them. Make sure you give the red velvet or lemon a try.

3. Take a break from the city. Bryant Park is a hidden gem in the center of Midtown Manhattan. Located at 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, behind the public library, this perfect patch of green plays host to movies all Summer and The Pond, Manhattan’s premiere ice rink in the winter. No matter when you visit, you’ll be able to stay in touch with free wi-fi. Enjoy a perfect picnic when you grab a sandwich at ‘Wichcraft' the sandwich shop owned by Tom Colicchio (yes, the head chef on Top Chef) and head over to the lawn. If the kids are in tow, make sure you head to Le Carrousel for a ride on the horses.

4. Get the best postcard picture you’ve ever seen. Ready for breathtaking views of the city? You can’t see the skyline from Manhattan, so you’ll need to sneak over to Long Island City’s best kept secret, Water Taxi Beach. It’s just a quick boat ride across the Easat River. Once you’re there, enjoy great music, local micro-brews, and some of the best hand-made burgers anywhere. If you want to keep seeing the rest of the city, grab an all-day pass and take a lap around the south tip of the city and on over to the west side. It opens each year in May and stays open through September.

5. Impress your friends with your newfound knowledge. Who wants to go to school when you’re on vacation? If you’re a cheese-lover you will. Make your way to Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleecker for their Cheese 101 class. $50 will get you a three-hour tour through five cheeses and an unlimited supply of wine, champagne or cava and bottled water. The teachers, technically known as cheese mongers, really know their stuff. Each works at the shop for years before heading to the front of the class.

Try these tips, and tell me you didn't have a great time. Ciao.

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