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Monday, November 30, 2009

Turkey Day in New York City

Thanksgiving - November 26th, 2009

I arrived in New York City at 6am at JFK airport after an uncomfortable red-eye on Delta. Luckily, the Super Shuttle was already there picking up people so I jumped in the van. It's $20 to Manhattan on the shuttle versus $45 for a taxi. We sped to my hotel, the Sheraton Towers, on 7th and 53rd, just in time for me to brush my teeth, meet up with my mom, and head outside to jostle for a good parade view.

We had selected the Sheraton Towers because it is conveniently located on the Macy's Day Parade route. We had a great view from the top of the stairs and made friends with a myriad of travelers staying there. The balloons were larger than life, the bands were loud and proud, and the excitement of the viewers literally electrified the air. I have to say the Pillsbury Dough Boy balloon was by far my favorite. They even had a string they could pull that would make him chuckle, just like in the commercial!

Santa ended the parade with cheers and singing and then the 3 million people who had attended the parade ran off to find food. We had gotten our spots at 7am, the parade started at 9am, got to our area by 9:30am and then ended around 12:30pm so we were STARVING.

We walked up the street to STAGE Deli, famous for their giant sandwiches.

My mom and I split the Tiger Woods Reuben, which was an open-faced pastrami sandwich with hot sauerkraut and muenster cheese. It was really good! My mom also got her first taste of some Jewish classics like latka and Matzo ball soup.

From there we decided to walk around the 5th Ave shopping district to see the crazy Christmas decorations. All the stores were closed because of the holiday but that just made it easier to see the window displays without people walking in front of you. Saks, Bendels, and Bergdorf Goodman all had fantastic displays with lights and trees. We also made a quick stop inside St. Patricks Cathedral. It's really random to see a giant cathedral squished in between a bunch of skyscrapers...

Our sightseeing carried us all the way up 5th Avenue to Central Park where we spent the rest of the afternoon walking through the southern section taking in to the remaining autumn leaves and carriage rides. It's a weird feeling to be immersed in nature only to look up at the skyline and see yourself surrounded by buildings.

We were cutting it pretty close to our Thanksgiving dinner reservation so we headed back to the hotel to change. We then walked to Abboccato at 136 W. 55th right between 6th and 7th street. It's a little Italian restaurant that feels homey yet modern. They were really accommodating and allowed us to order just one of the Thanksgiving meals to share. We went with the option that included a wine to taste with each dish and added on the housemade mozzarella with tomato confit, basil and 25 year old balsamic. The mozzarella was a little hard and there wasn't enough confit to eat with the cheese but it was alright overall.

The first course was the Zuppa di Zucca, which was butternut squash soup with crispy sopressata, mascarpone, and pumpkin seed oil. It was served with a glass of Villa Antinori Toscana 2008. The soup was phenomenal. Sopressata is an Italian dry-cured salami that tastes essentially tasted like really good bacon. The crunch and saltiness of the salami paired with the sweetness of the butternut squash and the slight bite of the mascarpone made it a perfect dish. The wine was okay.

The second course was Ravioli del Plin, which was pinched ravioli filled with pear and Taleggio cheese with a sage and Italian butter sauce. It was paired with a glass of Barbera D'Alba, Pelisseroi, Piemonte 2006. Yet again, I was impressed with the taste and texture of the raviolis. The portion would have been too small if it wasn't part of a four course meal but in terms of taste it was incredible. The sweetness of the pear contrasted with the slight bitterness of the sage and the sharpness of the cheese. It was cooked perfectly so that the pasta was soft but not squishy. Again the wine was passe.

The third, and main course, was the Tacchino, which is roasted boneless turkey stuffed with Porcini mushrooms, Pancetta, and carmelized onions. It was served with sweet potato dumplings and white truffle gravy, and a glass of Rosso Di Montalcino, Le Chiuse, Toscana 2007. I really disliked this dish and, again, the wine. The turkey was very dry, I dislike the taste of mushrooms, and the gravy to meat proportion was limited.

Dessert was Crostata di Mele: A Jonagold apple pie with vanilla-caramel sauce and green apple sorbet. It was served with a Moscato D' Asti, La Caudrina, Piemonte 2008. The apple pie was really mushy which I dislike in an apple pie. The caramel sauce was overwhelming and they didn't provide very much sorbet. The dessert wine, on the otherhand, was quite good with a sweet peach taste that wasn't too intense.

Overall, it was a strange meal since I really loved the first two dishes and really disliked the last two! In terms of portions though it was a satisfying meal when split between two people. It came out to $92 total plus the mozzarella salad which again for two people wasn't bad either - especially in New York!

By the time we had finished dinner, it was only 7:30pm so we couldn't go to bed, regardless of how incredibly tired we were. We had been told by the hotel staff that the Empire State Building is really cool at night so we decided to ward off impending sleep by forcing ourselves to travel to the 102 floor. We bought the express tickets from the hotel for $62 (regular tickets are $37). They promised us it would be worth it since express makes the wait 20 minutes versus 3 hours for the regular tickets.

Upon arrival at the ESB, we walked into a completely empty lobby devoid of a line. My mom was infuriated that she had paid for the express tickets and continued to mutter evils about the hotel staff until we rounded a corner right after security that was about 300 people long!

We walked up to one of the many "uniforms" and held up our express tickets. We were personally escorted to the front of the line, right into the elevator. My mom was suddenly LOVING the express tickets. We got some really evil glares from the people in line...

First we were taking up to the 86 viewing floor and then made our way up to the 102 floor. The view is incredible, especially at night. You can even see the ice skaters in Rockefeller Square! My favorite building by far was the Chrysler building which shown like a white diamond amongst the darkness of the city. You could even spot the flame of the Statue of Liberty way out in the distance.

Overall, it was definitely something I wanted to see and was glad I saw it but it's not something you need to do more than once, although it would be cool to see the city by day as well. The express tickets were SO worth it especially when the elevator trick worked again on the way down.

We then trudged back to our hotel room and passed out. New York is WILD!

Check back tomorrow for "Shopping in Soho."

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