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Sunday, October 3, 2010


You know how they say "a picture is worth a 1,000 words"? While on my trip to the Big Apple this last week I managed to do only a passable job of taking pictures of my experiences. I know I know BAD blogger. I've noticed that when you first visit a city you see it through the lens of your camera, but the second time you visit you see it through your own eyes for what feels like the first time. I caught myself numerous times staring up at the skyscrapers around me with a sense of awe...and my camera still tucked in my pocket. However, I did try to take some so this blog won't be completely bare!

Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2010

I arrived at JFK around 7:30pm and called 212-777-7777 for a towncar into the city. It is a great service but I recommend not upgrading to the deluxe car because there is really no difference. A ride to Chelsea runs about $48 dollars. I arrived at the Maritime Hotel at 363 W 16th Street between 8th and 9th ave. It is a very eccentric hotel designed to feel like you are inside a sleek, seaworthy ship. Even the rooms feel a little like cabins thanks to the dark wood, small quarters, and nautical colors. Thankfully, it also seemed to be bed-bug free (yes, New York is going through a massive bed bug epidemic).

After dropping my things I met one of my coworkers downstairs and we ventured out to a small Italian restaurant, Boom, for dinner (152 Spring Street in Soho). Apparently, they are famous for their lasagna and I can see why as the layers of bolognese, parmesan, and pasta melted in my mouth. It washed down perfectly with a bottle of Amarone.

We decided to pass up Tiramisu in favor of Magnolia Bakery cupcakes. Magnolia is at 401 Bleecker St. in the West Village and is famous for its baked goods. I settled on a vanilla cupcake with purple frosting and rainbow sprinkles. We ate our cupcakes while sitting on a bench in the small park across the street. There was a color array of people hanging out in the park and I soon lost interest in the cupcake in favor of eavesdropping (the cupcake was a little rich for me).

Image Credit: Magnolia Bakery Website

It was approaching 11pm so it was time to head for the bars. We started off with a game of pool at Hogs 'n Heifers, which is the bar that the movie Coyote Ugly was based on. As you enter the bar you can see an array of brightly-colored bras hanging from every available hook, rafter, and beer bottle. It also turned out that Anheuser-Busch was giving out free Budweisers that night so we drank to our hearts' content.

We continued deeper into the Meat-Packing District to Plunge a top the Gansevoort Hotel. Plunge is on the 14th floor and is hip and crowded with a wraparound patio that shows off the beautiful Hudson river below. We had expensive drinks out on the patio admiring the view and gawking at the young execs circling girls in short dresses.

Image Credit: Gansevoort Hotel Website

So much alcohol called for another round of food at the infamous Popburger, a late night burger joint for the hungry and hungover. The burgers are "bitty," the bathroom is dirty, and the clientele sitting near us were puking into plastic bags but otherwise it was a great place for the 2am nightcap. We wiped our hands and faces and headed back to the hotel (after all we had a client presentation the next morning!).

Thursday, Sept. 30, 2010

We started the morning off with hunks of thick, crispy toast and jam in the hotel lobby before heading off for our presentation. It went fabulously and luckily my hangover didn't set in until an hour or so after. To dull the pain, we wandered down the street in search of comfort food. We first looked through Chelsea Market but nothing really sounded good. The place itself is beautiful though.

We ended up settling for Pastis because a bowl of French onion soup and mimosas sounded perfect. Yes, it was only 2pm. We were going to order more when we found out that Minetta's, home to the infamous Black Label Burger, only had reservations at 6pm and 11pm for dinner. We decided to hold out and eat there at 6pm (it is impossible to get reservations).

We arrived at Minetta's and were transported back to the 1930s. The walls are covered in caricatures of famous people and photographs of famous boxers. One photo that hung above our booth was of Eddie Minetta, Rocky Marciano, the welfare commissioner, brigade general, and the state tax commissioner celebrating together over cake. Fixing a match perhaps? It was here that I learned from one of my coworkers that Nascar originated from Prohibition days when the men who made moonshine built fast cars to avoid the police. Eventually they began racing these cars and once Detroit entered the picture it blew up into the biggest sport in America. SO RANDOM.

I, of course, ordered the Black Label Burger, which in my opinion isn't technically a burger. It's a combination of dry aged ribeye, skirt steak and brisket that are ground up and then cooked with clarified butter, salt and pepper until it is dripping with juices. Its served with a dusting of grilled red onion on a simple bun with a side of mayonnaise. It is worth every dollar of the $26 price. Once I bit into the burger, an intense hunger hit me driving me to gulp down the entire thing faster than I wanted or had anticipated. It felt like I hadn't eaten for days as I licked every last drop from my fingers. I would've licked the plate if everyone at the table wasn't staring at me with their jaws hanging open. I literally felt like a rabid wolf hungry for more.

Extremely satisfied and licking my chops (to extend the metaphor farther) we wandered across the street to a wine bar where we shared some hilarious stories. It was here that I learned that the bikini swimsuit was scheduled to launch at the same time at the testing of the atomic bomb which not coincidentally was tested on the BIKINI islands. My coworkers are FULL of random facts!

We paid our tab and then headed to Times Square for a little tourist entertainment. We stood in front of the Forever 21 billboard and watched the model take our picture (see if you can find me in the crowd- answer is at the end of the blog). We tried ten times to get a good photo of the new Sony logo that our company had designed, and then we headed to Blue Fin for some people-watching.

Within five minutes of entering Blue Fin and snagging a table our coworkers was attacked by four Southern women ranging from 25 to 50 years old as soon as they overheard him use the word "ya'll." We spent the next two hours talking to them about everything from the early years of advertising to the Twilight book series. They were hilarious but eventually we had to bid adieu as my coworkers were headed back to L.A. early the next morning.

Image Credit: NY Magazine

Friday, Oct. 1, 2010

I woke up this morning nursing my second hangover of the trip and somehow managed to pack up my suitcase. I then walked to 15th Street and 6th Ave to my friend's building who I'd be staying with for the weekend. It had poured down rain the night before but luckily it was only drizzling as I lugged my suitcase the five blocks. People look at you really strangely when you are wandering down the street with a suitcase. Perhaps I should've taken a cab.

My friend's apartment is a newly renovated studio close to the West Village on the third floor of a beautiful apartment complex. It is fairly small but featured stainless steel appliances, large windows, and a sizable tub in the bathroom. I dropped my things and headed back out the door to the East Village to have lunch with another friend from my days at USC.

Upon arrival, I took a tour of this friend's apartment which was like night and day in comparison to the apartment I had just left. This apartment was a long, narrow slightly dated studio across from a park. The apartment is white-washed brick with small windows at either end and a kitchen filled with crooked shelves. I loved it. My friend had also acquired a crazy cat by the name of Caspian who would stalk me and then attack when I wasn't looking. He was hilarious and absolutely adorable.

After catching up on our lives, we walked down the street to Westville, a stylish little cafe on the corner of Avenue A and 11st in the East Village. The menu was fresh, organic-style foods. I ordered the corn-on-the-cob appetizer served with lime, cumin, and cotija cheese, and the turkey chili with a side of sour cream. The corn was piping hot and delicious. The chili was also piping hot and thick with vegetables and chunks of turkey. It was so relaxing eating hot food while looking out at the lightly drizzling New York landscape.

My friend and I parted ways (she had an art show she was preparing for) so I struck out towards Soho for some shopping. In doing so, I managed to walk right between Nate Archibald and Dan Humphrey from the CW's Gossip Girl. I shouldn't had my number ready and written on a slip of paper to give to Nate (boyfriend if you are reading this no hard feelings). But the chance passed in a split second and they were gone.

The next few hours proved to be uneventful in terms of purchases but I did finally figure out where to find all the sneaker stores! They line Broadway just north of Bleecker. I finally gave up and headed back to my friend's apartment on the westside to catch up on emails and take a nap before dinner.

For dinner, my friend and I met her grandma at Mediterraneo on 2nd Ave and 66th St. It is a tiny little Italian restaurant that is extremely popular and doesn't take reservations so be prepared to have a drink at the bar while you wait for a table. We only had to wait 15-20 minutes to be seated which on a Saturday night isn't bad at all. I ordered the Pappardelle All' Anatra (homemade pasta with fresh duck ragu) which was absolutely incredible. I can't believe the food that I've had on this trip! My friend's grandmother was hilarious and so much fun to talk to. We left dinner in a great mood and ready for a night of dancing.

Our first stop of the night was at Double Crown bar and restaurant at Bowery and Bleecker. The coolest part of the place is that if you enter from the main entrance and walk through to the back dining room there is a door hidden in the wall that when pushed leads to a secret bar in the back. My friend was so excited to show me this hidden door but it was so secret she had trouble finding it! She pushed three or four different parts of the wall before it finally gave beneath her hand. The back bar wasn't anything too terribly exciting so we ended up back out front. At one point a bunch of her girlfriends from highschool met up with us for some appetizers before they headed back to New Jersey. The fries with Italian sausage and Sriracha mayonnaise were so tasty! They looked like lipstick containers and tasted like mini hashbrowns.

After saying goodnight to her friends, we headed to another friend's apartment to pre-party. Upon entering the apartment, we were swept up in a crazy dance party of fifteen people. We were encouraged to throw off our heels and have some Gatorade/vodka shots (ick). After dancing it out for about an hour, we decided to hit the bars.

We eventually decided on Pianos at Ludlow and Stanton, which is a great place to dance. It's a $5 cover to go upstairs but I highly recommend it. We then proceeded to dance the night away and then shared a taxi back to the westside with this crazy girl and her boyfriend who invited us to come back to her apartment and smoke some pot. We politely declined and opted for late night thin-crust pizza instead. Sadly, my friend managed to drop her piece in the elevator.

Image Credit: Pianos Website

Saturday, Oct. 2, 2010

I can already feel the sadness hitting me as I realize that this is my last day in New York. The only thing keeping me sane is that I will be back here for Thanksgiving.

We woke up late and did what all New Yorkers do on a weekend morning...we went to brunch. My friend had been wanting to try out a place called Friend of a Farmer on Irving between 18th and 19th. We sat upstairs which literally felt like eating in a high-end farmhouse. I had an omelette with egg whites, ricotta, spinach and tomatoes that was served in a searing hot pan with potatoes. The service was a little loosey goosey and the omelette was okay but my mimosa went down nicely.

On the trip back we wandered through the Union Square farmer's market and stopped in Urban Outfitters and Steve Madden to add to our ensembles for our night out. We then spent the rest of the afternoon huddled in her bed watching Grey's Anatomy.

My friend went to Penn State so before dinner we stopped by Irving Plaza to meet and greet with some of her college friends. It was a weird place to watch a college football game considering it is a small concert venue. There were only three TVs so there was no way I was going to get the bartender to change one to the USC game. DAMNIT. They did sate me with free tallies of Natty Light.

From there we headed out to dinner at Kingswood at 121 W. 10th St. It's run by Australians. I had a halibut dish that I thought was lacking flavor but the bread was delicious. We were almost immediately harassed by a group of finance guys celebrating their buddy's 30th birthday. They turned out to be fairly nice and one of them gave me a lot of advice about the best places to get an MBA.

We spent the rest of the night at Arlo & Esme on 1st street between 1st and 2nd ave. At first it felt too crowded but I was soon convinced by the cavorting Canadians around me to get my dance on (I admit it doesn't take much). The dance floor was far to congested but once you get started there is no stopping. Eventually the continuous pummeling of elbows and booties drove us out around 1am. I had to leave early the next day anyway so we decided to call it a night.

Image Credit: Arlo & Esme Website

On the taxi ride home I reflected on my second experience in New York, so different from the first. I'd had fun with my mom last Thanksgiving hitting the Broadway shows, climbing the Empire State Building, and lunching at Tavern on the Green but I definitely preferred this trip where I'd finally started to see what life is like as a real New Yorker.