Jeff and I have been watching the coverage of Hurricane Sandy's devastation from the safety of our home in Illinois. It's so hard to wrap our minds around the images we've seen, especially when we were there just four weeks ago. To all of our friends in the northeast: you're in our thoughts, and we hope things return to normal for you soon. And we love New York very much.
So...I'm going to continue writing about our time there with Mel. The first part is here in case you missed it, but this is the condensed version: we arrived on a Sunday morning and walked all over the place the entire day, visting the Frick and Central Park and gorging on sweets and pizza along the way.
Jeff's credit card point accumulatin' fu allowed us to spend the rest of our time at the Grand Hyatt New York. It's next to the Grand Central Terminal and boasts a sprawling, impressive lobby starring two enormous, slightly elongated white heads that we thought were alternately freaky and soothing. We left our luggage in our new room and set off on foot to meet my friend David at a little deli near the Apple store and Bergdorf Goodman.
David works as a makeup artist for Estee Lauder at Bergdorf Goodman, and he is a fan of Beauty Broadcast, my sister's YouTube channel. He Internet-met me through that, and last year he was kind enough to send Poof, Mom and me custom-engraved lipsticks from Estee Lauder. We've become Facebook friends as well and have amazed each other with arcane pop cultural references and various wisecracks. I was excited to meet him in person.
If you've never met an Internet friend in real life, you're missing out because it is an experience unlike any other. You understand the way your friend's mind works, but you've never seen them move around in space as a three-dimensional being. So as you marvel at your friend's actual person-ness, you're able to jump right in wherever it was you left off when the two of you were online.
And this was the case with David. He was smart, sweet, down-to-earth, and a million laughs. Jeff, Mel, and I immediately recognized him as a member of Our Tribe, and an instant lovefest commenced between the four of us. David is originally from central Illinois, so we have that in common, too. He was just the best. I mean, look at me grinning like an idiot up there. I know this sounds cheesy, but when he gave us goodbye hugs, it felt like he represented the entire city, and we parted ways filled with goodwill for the people of New York.
(PS David weathered the storm by watching a marathon of scary movies in his Brooklyn home. He's just fine.)
Up next: an obligatory trip to the top of the Empire State Building. We stood in line (or do you prefer on line? because I don't) for about an hour. The line wound through one room after another, and as soon as we worked our way through one, we'd get our hopes up that it was finally elevator time, only to face another room filled with more line.
The noon-time view from the 86th floor was tremendous and worth the wait, of course, and we took it in from all four sides. Stunning and worth the wait!
We also took the photo that's at the top of this post--please note that my hair is threatening to take over my entire head. It's been about six months since I've had it cut, and while we were on the trip I gave up on trying to tame it. The wind (and later, the humidity) caused me to tweet and Facebook the following:
The observation deck was a mob scene, and Mel began experiencing some mild agoraphobia. We headed back down in search of sustenance. Jeff had planned to take us to Ippudo for the best ramen in town. This involved a mile-long walk (I'm guessing) south (also kind of guessing; I have no sense of direction). Along the way Mel and I spotted the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and begged for an ice cream pit stop. Jeff, who hadn't seen the truck, agreed in a hurry.
From what I could tell, the BGICT sells normal ice cream novelties (I guess--no ice cream trucks come to our town) along with some exclusive ideas such as Mel's waffle cone that I'm holding for her. They coated the cone's interior with Nutella.
Jeff and I shared a Salty Pimp, which is vanilla soft serve drizzled with dulce de leche, sprinkled with sea salt, and dipped in chocolate. Look at it stalking Melissa! A while later, we saw a photo online of Anthony Bourdain devouring a Salty Pimp, too.
We weren't eating as much as we were feeding. And then off we went in search of more food.
Ippudo! It took us a while to find its hidden entrance, but once we were inside, we were treated to a very special meal in a rowdy but cool atmosphere.
I liked the ramen-under-glass counter near the front of the store. The cooks yelled whenever new customers entered, and small parties were seated together at a communal table. Jeff, Mel, and I somehow scored a posh booth.
Mel was wearing the cutest ensemble that day: vintage Batman shirt tucked into a yellow pencil skirt, knee high socks, Doc Martens. I wore my usual dress and big necklace, and Jeff had on his classic black shirt/black jeans combo.
We shared an appetizer of pork rolls (right) and a two kinds of ramen (one is on the left). The ramen was perfectly cooked and topped with tender pork and an egg. The rolls were phenomenal and stole the show in my opinion, with spicy pork and, if I remember correctly, some cabbage. The roll itself was so light, soft, and squishy that it didn't even seem like food. Mel and I talked about its texture for days to come. What was going on with it? How was it made? We don't know.
After lunch we walked around the Village and saw a mural of pets that made me miss Bun, who was being cared for by her grandparents (thanks Mom and Dad!). Jeff wanted to visit another place that specialized in Belgian fries--that's all they make--but ONCE AGAIN they were not up to Jeff's par. We didn't even finish them. Repeat: we did not eat something that was fried.
Jeff, care to explain?
Belgian fries (frites) are a completely different experience than American fries. If you travel in Belgium, you'll find them in upscale restaurants and on the street, often arriving in a paper cone and accompanied with homemade mayonnaise.
If you want to know how to make Belgian fries, this is the best resource that I know. It's tricky and to do it right, you need to use the proper potato and fry in a mixture of duck fat and oil.
But when done right, GAH! They're fried twice (and sometimes thrice;-))--first in lower heat to cook the inside, then in higher heat to crisp the outside, and this creates a fry that is almost completely creamy, not crumbly, on the inside, protected by a salty crust. Heavenly. Game-changing. Haunting.
I've found quite a few places in the U.S. that serve Belgian fries, but with one exception, I've never had a fry that came close to a true Belgian fry. But that exception was on this trip.
But that exception was not this place, Pommes Frites.
I'd been to Pommes Frites before and enjoyed the fries, though they weren't quite the fry I sought. However this time, while ordering, I overheard that it had changed owners. The first bite confirmed it was not for the best. The fries were burnt and bland. Do not recommend.
Afternoon shadows were closing in on us, so we took a subway down to the financial district. Jeff wanted to see the gorgeous new Gehry building and the One World Trade Center under construction, and he took the photos above, which I thought were beautiful. I love the way he composes his shots.
As we entered Battery Park, we saw a sculpture that had formerly been installed near the Twin Towers and was damaged during 9/11. Its theme was world peace, and it was so touching to see that it had survived that awful day. The piece was more poignant and meaningful due to the ordeal it had endured.
We sat on benches and looked out at the Statue of Liberty for a while--such a lovely day--before we headed back to our hotel via the subway.
Grand Central Terminal is huge, with a large open area that reminded me of Chicago's Union Station. The vaulted ceiling is blue with gold constellations.
In an attempt to broaden our horizons, we ate at a German pub called Bierhaus. Oktoberfest had just begun, and the place was crowded and very loud. Monday Night Football was on the various televisions, polka music played, and we could barely hear ourselves speak. Melissa is used to this kind of party/bar atmosphere, but Jeff and I aren't. At least I'm not anymore--minus the beer, it reminded me of a junior high school cafeteria. PTSD, ahoy!
Jeff and Mel ordered some special-seeming beers and I had a sparkling apple cider. We shared a platter of meats and some German potato salad. The food was just so-so and appeared to be nothing more than some rolled up cold cuts (I have a love-hate relationship with that term) and a warm hot dog. This was the most disappointing meal of the trip, but we still had a good time.
We stopped by Baked by Melissa (how could we not?) on the way back to the hotel and each of us had a microcupcake. They were delicious one-biters, and mine was so good it made me mad that it was so tiny. We took a pit stop at our cool-looking room before heading to the Hyatt's 16th floor.
Jeff had jumped through some kind of hoop that allowed us access to a special lounge where nonstop snacks and beverages were available. We had it all to ourselves and, exhausted, we lounged on the outdoor furniture and admired New York at night. I took a photo of a shimmery Chrysler Building reflected on another building. I felt so fortunate to be able to spend time with Jeff and Mel in such a beautiful city.