Thursday, January 19, 2012

Christmastime in the City // NYC Christmas 2011

So... I am a bit delayed in creating a NYC recap. Here we go:

Leslie and I made our annual trek to NYC two weekends before Christmas. Another lovely weekend of fun, food and fotos.


The Mud Truck: [website]

I started my day of Christmas shopping with an Americano from the Mud Truck in hand. Delicious. And easy to find. A giant orange truck at Astor Place.

I love NYC at Christmastime because there are pop-ups and markets everywhere in the city. Makes for fun Christmas shopping.

Kate's Joint:

I found Kate's Joint via Scout Mob. It's a vegan place in East Village. I tried the vegan mac-n-cheese and wow! It was delicious. A generous portion of the best, creamiest mac-n-cheese. I would definitely visit here again.

National September 11 Memorial: [website]

My friend Justin and I visited the September 11 Memorial in the afternoon. If you've been to Ground Zero pre-Memorial, I would recommend you visit again. The memorial is stunning. To be able to walk around the reflecting pools and see the names up close was moving.

Korilla BBQ: [website]

I connected with my friend Betsega who moved to NYC from Nashville last summer.  We hemmed and hawed about where to eat dinner when we spotted the Korilla BBQ truck. Apparently this is the truck from "The Great Food Truck Race" on Food Network; I don't have cable so I take their word for it.

I had the Chosun Bowl with tofu. They were keen to the tofu choice and made sure to ask if I wanted the whole dish to be vegetarian/vegan, to which I replied yes. The bowl was well worth the $8.

Republic: [website]

The new friends I made that night hadn't eaten dinner so we went to a noodle place nearby: Republic. Bets and I went with dessert. I hadn't had tapioca pudding in forever, so I tried it. Uh, delicious. I'd walk in and order that again in a heartbeat.

Stumptown Coffee Roasters: [website]

The Stumptown cafes I know are in Portland.  But there is one shop in Manhattan at the Ace Hotel. I can't get enough of the Americano. Add a treat for breakfast and off I went to Christmas shop some more before Leslie arrived....

Bryant Park & Real Simple Pop-Up Shop:

My shopping took me to the holiday shops at Bryant Park. Real Simple magazine had a pop-up shop at the park. There was a cooking demonstration when I stopped by, which included samples of peppermint brownies and apple cider. Yes, please. Leslie and I did swing through there later in the week for more apple cider.....

Coolhaus New York: [website]

I've been following Coolhaus on Twitter (@coolhausny) for a while. They have ice cream; they have cookies; they have ice cream sandwiches. Including vegan ones. I got a vegan almond cookie as an afternoon sugar fix.

Burger Heaven:

Leslie arrived! With camera in hand! We headed into the city with my friend Tom to see some exhibits at MOMA. She needed food so we located Burger Heaven nearby for her to have dinner. (I had the sweet potato fries, pretty good!)


Fridays at MOMA are Free Target Fridays. Just walk in, get a free ticket at the counter and waltz into the museum. Awesome. Love it.

We checked out a few exhibits, including a photography exhibit that Leslie had on her to-do list. The last time we visited MOMA was for the Tim Burton exhibit, which might still rank at the top of museum exhibits that I've ever seen.

Cooper's Craft And Kitchen: [website]

Les and I had a list of places to seek out in the city. So we pulled up some floor space at MOMA, I yanked out the iPad and we hunted down one of the places to visit.

The winner: Cooper's in East Village

And we were winners, too. By this time, my sweet potato fries had worn off. I ordered the veggie flatbread and we had to try the Harpoon Winter Warmer. Goodness. Christmas in a pint glass. Loved everything about this place. In fact, we would stop back in later for some more Christmas in a glass. Also, they had Founders Red Rye on tap as well. Loved seeing Grand Rapids represented in NYC.

Lula's Sweet Apothecary: [website]

If you do nothing else the next time you visit NYC, you must stop by Lula's in East Village. Holy goodness. It's a vegan, non-dairy ice cream place. So smooth and creamy. Betcha can't tell it's vegan. I had the new candy cane flavor, very holiday-ish. I think Leslie had the peanut butter fudge, which was also divine. We sat outside to enjoy our treats and Leslie talked to every person that passed by, encouraging them to get some ice cream.

Egg: [website]

Saturday brunch. Where should we go? We consulted a magazine article that Les got from a friend and narrowed it down. We decided on Egg in Williamsburg. There was a bit of a wait; to be expected on a Saturday morning at this little place with a cute name.

We split the big French press, because why not? I had a hankering for eggs and went with the Eggs Rothko with kale. It was the good choice.

And something about Egg: They had their own farm. [Read more here.]

Mast Books: [website]

After brunch we decided to just wander through some parts of town that we hadn't visited yet. We started in East Village in the daylight.

Lucky for us, Saturday was also the annual SantaCon, the day-log pub crawl in Manhattan with everyone dressed up like Santas, Santas helpers, Christmas trees, or anything that seems remotely holiday-ish to the revelers. It became Leslie's mission to record the drinking Santas throughout the day. You can see some of them in the slideshow below.

We stopped by Mast Books on our wanderings. It was a very clean, organized bookstore, with new and used books. But more importantly, close by was....

Lancelotti Housewares: [website]

Oh, how I loved this store! So many things I wanted to buy, all kinds of gadgets and goodies. I did end up returning a few days later to get my Letterpress Cookie Cutter and Stamp Set. Note: Skip the sugar cookie on the back; it's just OK.

Cafe Grumpy: [website]

On our way to the High Line park, we needed a hot drink and treat. So we stopped by Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea, a lovely little place I found on my last visit to NYC. I went with the special Guatemala coffee and a chocolate fig brioche. Sigh. So good.

High Line: [website]

We meant to visit High Line before but were thwarted by illness or not great weather. Not this time! Leslie didn't have the flu and the skies were clear. So we strolled the length of the High Line. It was quite lovely. There will probably be a return visit in the spring or summer when things are greener.

192 Books: [website]

This was a bookstore I wanted to visti on my May tour of bookstores but it was kind of out of the way. But it's right by High Line so we stopped by. I loved it and all its new books. I could sit there and just read through books.

A Startup Store: [website]

I read about A Startup Store before the trip. And then kind of forgot about it. But we stumbled on it as we wandered down through Chelsea on our way to Anthropologie at Chelsea Market. Loved it! I even bought the Portion spoon for myself. It was one of the Quirky items available.

Artichoke Pizza: [website]

More surprises were ahead. Back on the street, wandering toward Chelsea Market, we ran across Artichoke Pizza. Another place I've been meaning to visit on past trips to the city. Les and I determined then and there that we would be eating dinner there. After our stop to Anthropologie, we backtracked to Artichoke. And surprise, ran into my friend Tom who had met a friend for a late lunch in the neighborhood. He joined us for some hangtime while we ate pizza.

Now, the pizza. It totally lived up to the hype. I'm trying to remember what kinds we got; I think we split a whole pie between the Margherita and the Artichoke. Both were delicious.

There are three Artichoke locations in NYC; pick one and go.

Gimme! Coffee: [website]

Sunday started with coffee and killing time until our chosen brunch option opened. We went with Gimme! Coffee. I went with the Honduras Linda Vista, brewed just for me. Loved it!

Saltie: [website]

We wandered through the neighborhood, drinking our coffee and wasting time until Saltie opened. We patiently waited outside the door waiting for them to open. Worth the wait. So good. I had the Ship's Biscuit: a soft scrambled egg with feta on the most delicious toast. This was a two-handed breakfast sandwich. What a way to start the day...that would only get better.

Cherry Lane Theatre: [website]

Leslie asked the Fates via Facebook for tickets to the play "Asuncion," written and featuring Jesse Eisenberg. [Review by the NY Times] I decided I would be the Fates and bought tickets for the Sunday afternoon performance. We killed some time by running over to St. Luke's Thrift Shop; we tried to stop by Milk & Cookies down the street from the theater but it was closed for a staff meeting (bummer). Then it was showtime. And it was worth every penny, nickel, quarter, dollar.

Milk & Cookies: [website]

Hunger set in after the show. We started with cookie appetizers. I had been here during my bookstore tour in May. This time I went with the mint chocolate cookie. Good choice.

Ghandi Cafe:

Being in the West Village, we struck out to find food. Indian food was on the brain and we found Ghandi Cafe. I had the spinach and cheese dish with garlic naan, which was good; the surprise carrot dessert and chai tea that came with the meal made up for the initial bad service (they sent that server on a delivery).

We capped off a fantastic day with a return trip to Cooper's for some football watching.

Sweetery NYC: [website]

Sunday was a good day but Monday might have been better. It started out with breakfast and coffee from the Sweetery truck. I treated Leslie to breakfast with my gift certificate from last May: spinach and cheese croissant and coffee for me. I really wanted a brownie but they were not cut yet -- I would get that brownie before I left town; I was determined.

From the Sweetery truck we decided to wander north on the west side of Manhattan, another part of the city that we had yet to explore. We went from Hudson and King all the way to Central Park.

Bookmarc: [website]

We wandered into West Village. What delight. All of the sudden, Magnolia Bakery. "Oh, there it is." We did't feel the need to go in. But across the street was Bookmarc, the Marc Jacobs bookstore, and we felt the need to go in there. Fun store. Even found my sister's Christmas present there.

Left Bank Books: [website]

On our wandering we found this great little used bookstore, near the Meatpacking District. There was also a fun paper store nearby, FYI. I loved this bookstore and will likely return.

Darling: [website]

Darling boutique near the Meatpacking District was awfully cute. And I found the most darling dress on sale, a lovely little wool jumper, new but vintage looking.

Think Coffee: [website]

I think it was the previous Christmas trip that we were introduced to Think Coffee by my L.A. friends Dave and Lois. Well, there is a Think Coffee right around the corner from Darling so we stopped for a restroom and tea break before continuing north. The shop was pretty large, not too busy, and therefore, quite comfortable.

5 Napkin Burger: [website]

Through Chelsea into Hell's Kitchen. And then hunger strikes. So we start looking for a place to eat. Nothing was striking our fancy until I saw 5 Napkin Burger across the street. "That's where we are eating," I said. I had read about this place and its veggie burger, which had been declared the best veggie burger around.

And yes, this was the best veggie burger I have ever had. It was a housemade burger with the special 5N sauce.

Columbus Circle / Central Park / Rockefeller Center:

Properly fueled, north we went to Central Park and the holiday shops at Columbus Circle. My friend Justin met up with us for some wanderings. We poked about the shops for a while, wandering through Central Park to see the ice skaters, and eventually landed at Rockefeller Center to see the tree and more ice skaters. It was very NYC Christmas and quite lovely. Les and I went down to Bryant Park for a few before finding our nightcap location.

Vbar & Cafe: [website]

Once Leslie had satisfied her photography urges, we decided to roam down to Greenwich Village for one last treat of the night. We chose Vbar & Cafe, coffee place by day and wine bar by night. We enjoyed a glass of wine with a side of olives (Les was re-living her recent trip to Spain) and we backlit our drinks for pictures with my iPad -- very sophisticated.

Ripley-Grier Studios: [website]

Part of Leslie's time in NYC was for work. And she needed her top lighting assistant at a photo shoot on Tuesday morning. So off we went to Ripley-Grier Studios to meet her subject. Good times.

Breeze Thai-French Kitchen: [website]

We decided to grab lunch in Hell's Kitchen before Leslie grabbed a cab for the airport. Using the handy Scoutmob app, we found Breeze. It got pretty good ratings. I think we were the first customers of the day; not many others followed us in for lunch. The crispy tofu and veggie spring rolls were good, or good enough for 50 percent off from Scoutmob. Would not go out of my way to find this place again. Still not sure where the French part of the name comes in, because both my and Les' were more Thai than anything else.

I said "good bye" to Leslie and roamed about the city myself for a couple more hours. I got my brownie from the Sweetery (gift certificate all gone!), returned to Lancelotti to get my cookie cutters, and then poked my head into Housing Works Bookstore and Alabaster Bookshop before heading home to pack. Another successful and jam-packed week in NYC....

Here is Leslie's slideshow of our time in the city:

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