A Food-Centric Staycation In NYC
Ok, so you guys already know that I love birthday. Right? I won't harp on that for too long. This year, my husband Brandon surprised me with the best gift yet: a weekend away. Now normally, we would opt for a beach or a country road or a far-away place, but things have been crazy with our upcoming move. What was the solution? A staycation. Which, let me tell you, was so needed considering that we have lived with my parents for the last 3 months. Hi Mom! Hi Dad! You guys are the best but the AC does NOT work in my bedroom and hence, we live with the door open. Hi, teenage years, I remember you fondly.
Needless to say, a little privacy was much needed and there is no part of Manhattan I love more than the West Village. I went to school at NYU, so I recall my days meandering Washington Square Park with a lot of nostalgia. On Friday night, we dropped our bags off at our airbnb and the pre-birthday celebrations began.
A word to the wise: this staycation itinerary is for those who really love food. If you are not one of us, why are you here? Just kidding. But not really.
Leading up to the weekend, I was given no details about what we were doing. This was excellent, because Brandon usually can't keep a surprise from me for more than a day. At 5, he texted me to meet at "Mocha Burger", a kosher restaurant with a 5.8 rating on Foursquare. Huh? I was really confused. Good thing I dressed up, because a few moments later, a follow up text came through:
Carbone?! I have been dreaming about going to this place for literally ever. Wow. Talk about starting out strong. So we walk in, and the vibe is just immediately unbeatable. The playlist is on point with a variety of oldies like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Harry Belafonte. The walls are painted a romantic deep blue, with giant bouquets of flowers spilling from the entryway.
We sit down and are quickly greeted with a puffy bread basket, razor-thin salami and pickled cauliflower. A match made in heaven for our ice cold martinis, that come in glasses still frosted like a window on a winter's eve. Sip, sip, hooray! I highly recommend the house salad, fried calamari, and spicy rigatoni. We wanted the Veal Marsala too, but didn't have the stomach room. I know, I know....#amateurs.
After Carbone, we wanted to walk through the park. We strolled, and ended up at the Wren for a nightcap.
On Saturday morning we awoke at 10:30 AM with quite the hangover. Martinis, wine, nite caps, night strolls, it's not our everyday. We had a hankering for eggs and I knew immediately where we would go: Buvette. Buvette is a teeny-tiny French gastrotheque by Jody Williams, partner of Rita Sodi. Together they run 3 restaurants, one of which is I Sodi, my favorite Italian restaurant in NYC, so I knew this would be good.
The wait was 35 minutes, but well worth it. We got coffees nearby and stood outside the tiny restaurant, patiently salivating at the sights and smells of towering eggs and creamy lattes from inside. We studied the menu and knew that there was no route to be taken besides the steamed eggs route. We would get one version of eggs with prosciutto and shaved parmesan, and another with pesto, confit tomatoes and goat cheese. Have I told you we never order the same thing at a restaurant? While Brandon loved the pesto/tomato/cheese situation, I couldn't have fallen harder for the simple "jambon cru". I like my eggs pure, mainly perfumed with a river of butter. They sat on crispy toast and were topped with a pile of prosciutto. The plates were tiny, and some said the portions small, but I was full and happy as a clam.
A pit-stop at the Abington Square farmer's market for some peaches, a Waltz into Sandro and Maje (my favorite French boutiques) to check out the sales, and one 30% off Juno ride later, we were on Museum Mile. Ever since my weekend trip to Paris where we saw an interactive Klimt exhibit, I really wanted to see more of his work. The Neue Gallerie is home to the infamous Woman in Gold, as well as more by Klimt and other Austrian artists. It's a small gallery that can easily be seen in a few hours, but with a lasting impact. On Saturdays, they do a tour at 3:30. We stopped for lunch at Cafe Sabarsky, which makes me think of the olden days, where the bourgeoisie sat around all day and just dilly dallied. We ate roasted beets, goulash, and roasted bratwurst. It was quite good for a museum cafe, albeit pricier.
On the way home, we stopped at Saks because there was a big shoe sale going on, and it was pouring rain, so the original plan of a walk in Central Park was suddenly not an option. After I spent too much on a pair of satin sandals, we went back to our hotel for a break before the evening festivities.
On the radar for Saturday night was the east side, by way of a movie, oysters, dinner and dancing. Take a nap and power up, because the next bunch of plans is one of my all-time favorites. Start off with a movie at the Angelika. You can't go wrong, they play mostly independent flicks and 9/10 times I want to see them all. Eat some popcorn to hold you over until your first stop, Burp Castle. This is a legendary bar where you can actually talk to your friends because the staff is constantly shushing everyone. No really, you can shhhhhhh the crowd too. After a beer, make your way over to Upstate, which is where Brandon and I went on our first date. Sit at the bar and order oysters. We don't bother with food there.
I usually cry at least once or twice because holy shit it's been almost 3 years together? And it started out with oysters and champagne at Upstate. Time moves so quickly. After the aphrodisiac, we walked over to Takahachi which serves up delicious, affordable sushi and adorable kushiyaki, which are Japanese skewers of assorted things. Order a handful of things and a bottle of sake. Keep it light and tight though, because right after, you're going to be moving and shaking.
Downstairs is Drom. Come here when you're good and ready, aka mildly or maximally tipsy, and enjoy the dancing. They play all sorts of music, so check beforehand. We landed on a latin night and couldn't have been happier. We were likely the worst dancers in the room, but also the most in love.
On Sunday morning, I won't lie, waking up was a struggle. The only thing that kept us moving was the prospect of our old standby, the chinatown bang bang. Now for those of you that don't know, a bang-bang is two meals back-to-back. I was introduced to this concept by Brandon and my life has never been the same.
First things first, coffee and a pastry. Mah Ze Dahr can't be beat. If you're really going for it, they have amazing soft serve too.
Here is the way to do it: go to Nom Wah and put your name down. Their estimate will be at least 30 minutes but they're always off by a mile. While you wait, walk a block over to Joe's Shanghai. Sit down and slurp on soup dumplings. Theirs are some of the best in town. One order should be enough for two, and if you're really starving, get a side of sautéed greens to help cut through all of the fat.
Then, walk back to Nom Wah and prepare to have your world rocked by their egg rolls. The best I've ever had. Don't forget shrimp + snow pea dumplings too.
At this point, you can choose from a few different activities, but if it's summertime, you may want to zip down to Coney Island. It's a quick 30-minute cab ride, or an hour on the subway. I like to buy cut watermelon (pre-cut fruit is my biggest luxury) and then walk down the boardwalk all the way to Luna Park. There, you can people watch and eat fried clams, hot dogs, mediocre pizza, or sweet-as-summer ice cream. Grab a cone, grab your love, and walk along the water all the way into Monday.