“A bottle of white, a bottle of red
Perhaps a bottle of rose instead,”
Billy Joel sang these words but they also describe the Saturday I spent in Manhattan last week. I had planned to go back to Pennsylvania Saturday but with a slight twisting of my arm by Janice and Sammy I was convinced to stay another night. I started my morning by spending some time with Janice in her Japanese garden and feasting on a hearty breakfast of vegetable frittata and smoked salmon (thanks for the spread Janice!) I was thoroughly impressed and entertained by Sammy’s Toastmasters speeches about his love of all things Italian, including a proper cup of coffee and the Maserati he purchased earlier this year. I was having such a good time that it was hard to get my butt moving out the door when they mentioned I should stay over. “Oh, okay” I said, without much hesitation. As soon as those happy words were out of my mouth Janice snatched my overnight bag and sent me out on my way to enjoy another gorgeous day in Manhattan.
I met up with Paula by Penn Station and we walked the High Line down from the newly opened section on 30th Street to the Meatpacking District where it ended. We wanted to stop at Cookshop, our tried and true favorite restaurant in Chelsea. But as expected at 1:20PM on a beautiful Saturday we could see clumps of people waiting outside. The thought of their delectable “Butcher Board” danced through my head but we kept on without bothering to get off the High Line.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen the High Line as busy as it was last Saturday. It was as if half of Manhattan (or all the tourists who came to visit New York) were strolling “the abandoned railroad tracks turned epitome of urban renewal project” that is this mile or so long park. Granted it was a nice day but with so many people out and about Paula and I walk through the park rather quickly. Once near West Village we started to look for a place where we could sit outside. Last year I organized a brunch for my girlfriends at then a new restaurant called Bistro de la Gare and remembered that they had a small garden in the back. Luckily they were still in business and the two of us ended up being the only ones sitting in their pretty garden. I opted to just have a drink while Paula had her first meal of the day. Just as I remembered they still have Mexican influenced brunch items (along with American and French) with fresh and local ingredients. Paula had the tuna Nicoise and the one bite I had me claiming that it was a winner. What also won us over was their watermelon sangria. It was fresh, beautiful to look at, not to mention being out of this world delicious. Our waiter told us that they use three different white wines, including a sparkling moscato. It was not too sweet but enough to put a big smile on our faces; it felt as if we were drinking the spirit of the summer.
From there we weaved our way through West Village to reach 10 Downing where we proceeded to have a bottle of Pere et Fils rose from Provence, followed by a bottle of Macon-Villages chardonnay from Burgundy. We had their cheese plate as well as the charcuterie, but the portions and the selections were not inspiring. Yamil came to join me and Paula when we were drinking the last of the rose, and he accompanied us for the rest of the evening.
We continued our stroll through Manhattan by heading east and stopping at Otto where we had a much better cheese plate. We left the selection to our wonderful waitress, our one and only request for the cheeses being “stinkier the better.” Imagine the delight on my part after not having had any decent cheese in so many months… Two cheese plates in one day. Triple cream, gorgonzola, taleggio, goat, oh my! We had great service at 10 Downing with the manager helping us pick the wines and at Otto Saturday evening we had no less than 3 wait staff with us. I know things get a bit slower in the city in the summer time but I felt special nonetheless. We had a bottle of Italian red at Otto and as always, I loved their cheese plate, which comes with truffle honey and other fruit preserves. We put our names down for a table in the dining room but when our name came up the board (they give you a ticket with a name of an Italian city and when your table is ready, the name of the city comes up on a mock train schedule board on the wall with the track number showing how many people are in your party), we opted to stay in the bar area and finish our conversation.
Yamil was telling us about how he had gone to Nicky’s the night before (actually at 2AM that morning) and that got us thinking about banh mi sandwiches. It didn’t take long for us to decide that we should walk all the way over to Avenue A for that wonderful creation and off we went. As we were making our way through Astor Place Paula spotted a food truck in front of Chase. At first I didn’t understand why she was so excited but then I noticed the word “Speculoos” and immediately agreed with her that we should make a pit stop. I know. As I write this even I am amazed at how much I can eat, drink, and enjoy myself in New York City…
Oh the joys of Speculoos. Sticky and spicy, gingery and caramel-y, only if I can somehow combine the best qualities of Speculoos with those of Nutella! Doesn’t that sound like the perfect thing to put on everything? We chatted up the guys running the truck to get their recommendation on what we should order (they were both very cute, by the way). I don’t really have a sweet tooth but I wasn’t about to turndown a crisp waffle smothered with Speculoos cream. So we decided to go all out. To use the words of the guys running the truck, we “doubled down” and got a waffle with Speculoos spread and topped with Speculoos ice cream. Paula and I lamented, or thought ourselves lucky, about not buying a giant jar of Speculoos cream while we were in Paris last year. We would have surely eaten the entire jar with a spoon over a day or two, and ballooned up like a Goodyear blimp.
We did eventually make it over to 2nd Street and Avenue A to a little hole of a Vietnamese sandwich shop, “Nicky’s.” A gem of a banh mi store that I fondly remember and was happy to see it had not changed one bit. I ordered my usual, regular banh mi, and waited patiently to take that perfect bite of the crunchy baguette with creamy pate, ham, and refreshing Vietnamese pickles. I asked for mine to be made spicy but went on to add more Sriracha to give it that extra kick. It was the best thing to eat at one in the morning after a day of fun in the city. Yamil and Paula were munching on their sardine banh mi’s and all I heard from them were the occasional “hmmm and ahhhhh.” Sounds of happiness.
I’ve had many fabulous days like this in New York over the years and my meandering around the city made me recall why I like New York so much. For me it doesn’t include any shopping or even sight seeing, but just walking the streets of Manhattan for hours and hours. If a good friend or two can join me in the process and share a bottle of wine, a bite to eat, and a laugh, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
On Saturday I did I love to do in New York; to eat, drink, and enjoy.
Cookshop: a great place to get a bite or a drink any time of the day, way over on 10th Avenue at 20th Street. Reservations highly recommended for weekend brunch. 156 10th Avenue New York, New York Phone 212.924.4440
Bistro de la Gare: wonderful brunch with creative drinks, but for some reason never very busy. 626 Hudson Street Greenwich Village New York, New York Phone 212.242.4420
10 Downing: great for brunch or dinner, or sit outside and have a drink while people watching. 10 Downing Street New York, New York Phone 212.255.0300
Enoteca Otto: a fun place to hang out day or night. olive oil gelato! truffle honey! endless Italian wine! One Fifth Avenue (the restaurant entrance is on 8th street between 5th and University), New York, New York Phone 212.995.9559
Nicky’s: 150 East 2nd Street New York, New York near Avenue A
The High Line: www.thehighline.org