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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sunday Serendipity

First thing in the morning we packed, checked out and then ran like crazy to Serendipity to get our name in at 11am when they open. Luckily, there was only a little line so we were able to get in after about 20 minutes.

The inside of the shop is tiny with only enough room for a handful of tables on each floor. The bottom floor as a gift shop near the entrance where you can buy trinkets and candy. The entire place was decked out for Christmas including glass ornaments in an array of colors clinging to the walls and a neon pink Christmas tree against the back wall. There are also a myriad of old-fashioned glass lampshades hanging from the ceiling.

We sat at a tiny little table in the middle of the restaurant and ordered from the ornately decorated menu. I had the Haight-Ashbury sandwich and my mom ordered the black bean soup. Lastly, I ordered a frozen hot chocolate which is the Serendipity trademark. It really did taste like frozen hot chocolate! It was massive, ice cold, and definitely used high-end chocolate. The Haight-Ashbury was a little soggy and strange tasting but it's not what I came for so I didn't really care.

The staff was really nice and when I asked about the movie, Serendipity, they said that the table Jon Cusack and Kate Beckinsale sat at was upstairs. The upstairs area was just as small and cozy. And yes, I took a picture of the table because I am a total geek.

Full of chocolate sauce, my mom and I decided to hit up a few more landmarks before we had to go to the airport. FAO Schwartz was AWESOME, Rockefeller Square was romantic, and Grand Central which was empty but beautiful.

From there, we picked up our suitcases from the hotel and took the $45 flat fee taxi to JFK. Something I noticed about JFK that is annoying is that all the restaurants and stores are past security. My mom and I were flying on different airlines in different terminals so we didn't have anywhere to hang out for the three hours before our flight left. It sucked. We ended up parting ways and I sat for two hours with nothing to do because I was too cheap to buy a $14 book.

To end the blog, I will provide my review of the Sheraton Towers Hotel. Location-wise it is the ideal place for the first-time tourist because it is so close to many of the things you would want to see and do the first time you visit especially the fact that it is on the Macy's Day Parade route. Next time I think I'll head to Soho which has much more of a locals scene than Midtown.

In terms of the hotel, itself, I felt that I was overpaying for the experience. After the parade they refused to let us back in through the main door resulting in about two hundred people trying to jam through the tiny side door into the building. The rooms were relatively spacious but my mom's comforter was dirty and they never replaced the dirty water glasses in the room. The bed was really comfortable but the room was way too hot so we ended up leaving the windows open all weekend to get some air. Overall, for over $300 a night it was not good enough.

In terms of the trip? New York is my new favorite US city, although Austin comes close. For someone who is always on the go and extremely social, it was the ideal place for me. Granted I probably experienced the best four days of November weather ever, I think that I could stand the cold in exchange for the culture and activity. I'm literally returning home just so I can plan my next trip here!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Art and SC in New York

November 28th, 2009

Saturday in New York proved to be Art Day. We started off up the street at Serafina on the corner of 55th and Broadway for breakfast. The outside looks like a rundown cafe but the inside looked like a sparky Hollywood movie set.

I ordered a $6 bowl of cereal expecting Cornflakes and room temperature milk only to have a beautifully decorated bowl of deliciousness arrive. My mom's eggs were the first eggs I've ever truly enjoyed - thin and salty.

From there, we made our way into Central Park - the scenic route to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

For those of you who have been to and read my stories from aboard, you know that I HATE museums. The Met might be the first museum to finally woo me. I loved how each exhibit recreated the time period it was displaying. The Egyptian section had giant tombs, the Medieval exhibit had knights on horseback, and the French/American history section had full-blown recreations of rooms from the period.

The best part was the Petrie Cafe and Wine Bar in the Met where we had lunch. My mom and I split the open-faced flank steak foccacia sandwich with tomato, carmelized onions and blue cheese with a side salad with goat cheese. The side salad was boring but the steak sandwich was probably the best meal I've had here besides that lox bagel that I keep thinking about.

We passed through the Modern Art exhibit on our way out of the museum where I saw some naked Picasso women, a set of New York paintings where the artist painted herself in as a character, and lastly a giant dead shark. Yes, a dead shark suspended in a huge water tank. Trust me, I tried to get a picture - no luck - security is really tight.

After the museum we decided to wander through the Upper East Side down to 60th Street and 3rd Ave where the ice cream parlor, Serendipity 3, is located. We switched from Park to Lexington to 3rd as we went south. Park is pretty boring although some of the old buildings are cool.

When we arrived at Serendipity there was a three hour wait which put us dangerously close to the start of the Lion King show we had tickets to at 8pm so we decided to come back tomorrow. We took the long way back to the hotel stopping at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel for pictures and Lou's Cafe on 53rd and AoA for dinner.

Lou's Cafe was pretty bland. Granted I had kind of a stomach from so much walking (we'd put in about 5 miles at this point) so the pasta I had didn't sit very well. My mom's chicken caesar wasn't any better. Feeling a little dissatisfied, we stopped at the hotel to change and then made haste to the Minskoff Theater just in time for the Lion King Broadway show.

The Lion King was the most amazing thing I have ever seen. There were giraffes and elephants and dancers in the aisle ways. We had perfect seats too right in the center orchestra about 13 rows from the stage. The woman who plays Rafiki is from South Africa and she would speak in African dialectics which made it that much more realistic. It was a little cheesy but hey it's based on a Disney Story. The contraptions they made were really crazy too. The scene where Mufasa is trampled by buffalo was done really well in terms of creating the feeling of a gorge you couldn't escape from. They also incorporated the moving of scenery into many of the dances so you never had to wait for a curtain. It was very much like dreaming.

After the show, we wandered around Time Square and bought candy from M&M World. I tried to find USC colors but they were out of red and yellow so I had to settle for mustard and maroon (ick ASU colors).

And off we went to Galway Hooker on 5th and 36th St, the New York USC bar. There we convinced an alumni and her mom to let us sit at their table because the place was packed. I ran into about four people I knew there that I hadn't seen in ages which was really cool. It was also great to cheer along with a hundred other people whenever we scored. Too bad the game wasn't good...but at least the burger was!

We made it home around 2am and promptly passed out. New York is almost too crazy, even for me!

Check back tomorrow for the New York finale.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Shopping in Soho and Dancing in Midtown

November 27, 2009

We woke up late and wandered up the street to AQ Kafe at 1800 Broadway between 58th and 59th for breakfast.

My mom ordered the three eggs with tomato, goat cheese and dill, baked in a casserole dish. I'm not a huge fan of eggs so I didn't like hers as much but she thought it was delicious. I ordered a toasted bagel with lox, cream cheese, tomato, red onion, and mustard sauce. I've never had a lox bagel (I know, crazy right?) and it was the best thing I've ever tasted.

After breakfast, we took the subway to Soho to spend the day shopping and looking around.

We started to head towards the East Village because we saw some street tents but the area didn't look so great so we turned around. Not before we watched two vendors go at it about the "property line" between their tents.

We walked down Broadway and stopped in a ton of my favorite stores. I bought SO much stuff from Mango, GUESS, and more. We continued shopping all the way to Blue Ribbon Sushi at 119 Sullivan Street which had been recommended to me as one of the best sushi restaurants in New York. I'll pause here to point out that New York is not the city for sushi so this is one of the few sushi restaurants with GOOD sushi in NYC.

The restaurant was small and tucked away. The wait staff was extremely friendly and were happy to offer some insight into new things to try. I ordered my customary spicy yellowtail hand roll which helps me determine where a sushi restaurant falls in terms of quality. My mom ordered the tuna and avocado Hakozushi which is fish and rice layered rather than wrapped in seaweed.

The quality of the fish was perfection but unfortunately the price tag was too high so we didn't eat very much. I was still hungry when we left but we were headed back for our 7:15pm reservation at Tavern on the Green where I would get plenty to eat.

Tavern on the Green is a famous restaurant located within Central Park that has been around for over 130 years and started out as a building to house sheep. Now, it is an ornate, old-fashioned restaurant that has been featured in many famous movies including Edward Scissorhands and Ghostbusters. Unfortunately, it hasn't been able to keep up with modern times and has gone bankrupt. The restaurant will be closing its doors forever on Dec 31st, 2009, which is why we had to eat there.

Our reservation was for a table in the Crystal Room which is the most famous of the different dining areas but we first had a drink in the bar while waiting for our table.

For dinner, my mom ordered the slow-baked organic salmon with roast vegetables, cauliflower puree and caper white balsamic vinaigrette. The salmon was perfectly cooked though the vegetables were over-cooked. I like over-cooked vegetables so I thought they were great but my mom prefers al dente.

Speaking of "al dente," I ordered the special which was a truffle-scented risotto with asparagus, parmesan and pine nuts. It was raw and cost $26. I never send food back but this time I had to out of principle. The waiter caused a huge fuss saying it was "al dente" and that he had worked in all the best Italian restaurants in New York and that that is how risotto is cooked. I replied saying that it wasn't how I wanted it end of story. Another waiter brought me a new one because our waiter couldn't face me again apparently. This time it was delicious and actually "al dente." It also filled me up so much that I had to pass on the cheesecake I had so been looking forward to.

I have to say it's no wonder that they are going out of business with jerks like that working there. We didn't give him a tip. From the restaurant, we took a taxi to the Hudson Hotel at 356 W 58th Street to go to their bar for drinks. The Hudson Bar is a giant one-level floor with a dance floor in the middle, a bar along the left, and tables along the right. Each of the tables have different chairs though so it looks really odd when people sit together. For example, one of the tables had a tall plastic chair paired with an old cushioned armchair so the two people were at completely different heights. The overall look of the bar is very modern with lighted floors and basement walls.

The clientele was sort of yuppy/sleazy but that just made the people-watching excellent. Our waitress was really sweet and gave us the table without making us buy a bottle which was nice. I watched a group of girls flirt with greasy druggies, a fight over a spilled drink, and my mom dancing to hiphop music. What. A. Night.

After leaving the bar my mom yanked me into the nearest Ray's Pizzeria for a 2am slice of margarita before heading back to the hotel and falling asleep.

Check back tomorrow for Day Three: Lion King and USC