More bites from the Big Apple
I have been to New York many times, for work and for pleasure, but it's a city that never grows old. The food, the shopping, and the energy makes for one invigorating trip. On this last visit, I returned to a few old haunts, but made some new discoveries as well.
Every other time I’ve been to New York I’ve always stayed in Midtown. For work it makes sense because it’s so central, but on most past trips, I’ve found myself taking cabs downtown to dine and to shop.
After some extensive searching online, I settled on the Lower East Side, also known as LES. Once quite rough around the edges, the area has become a bit more gentrified, though still not as trendy – or expensive – as Soho. I wouldn’t recommend the area to my mother, for example, as it’s pretty clear this is where the hip young things hang out. (I hope no one noticed I’m a bit past the sell-by-date for the area myself.)
I’ve stayed in a few Thompson Hotels (another one in New York and the one in Toronto) but I found the Thompson’s LES location to be my favourite. This chain does try hard to be groovy, and the dark hallways and less-than-stellar lighting in the rooms are perhaps better suited to the above mentioned younger set.
My room was bigger than almost any other I’ve seen in New York, and even came with a small wrap around balcony. The floor-to-ceiling windows provided a pretty spectacular view. (Ask for Room 1600, though I imagine all the 00s are pretty good.) The staff is also very courteous and helpful.
One of the best parts of staying in LES is the selection of excellent dining choices nearby. The first night we had dinner at Beauty and Essex. You enter through what looks like a small pawn shop to find a huge, thumping, two-story restaurant behind it.
A gingery margherita got the party started. The lobster tacos, the salt & pepper shrimp, and the skillet roasted corn side dish were all tastier than expected in such an obviously trendy place.
The next night I dined at Frankie’s Sputino 17, a tiny Italian joint with great food. (The two Frankies came on our show for the A16 cookbook episode and Anna and I ate at their Brooklyn location on a previous visit.)
I had crazy delicious burrata cheese, which is probably one of my top 10 favourite things to eat on the planet. For a main course I had the sweet sausage, roasted red peppers and onions over creamy polenta. Total comfort food.
Night three I couldn’t resist an old favourite, Balthazar. Whenever anyone asks me where to eat in New York, this is always among my recommendations.
A big bustling French bistro in Soho, the food is always exceptional and the ambiance lively. A glass of champagne and prawn cocktail seemed apropos, and I followed up with the organic salmon with summer squash and snap peas. For dessert, I had to steal a bite of my boyfriend’s strawberry rhubarb pie (gluten-free, who me?) To die for.
One more regular haunt I recommend for lunch is Fred’s, the restaurant at Barney’s department store. (Fred and Barney. A coincidence?) The people-watching is half the fun. The chicken chop salad and a glass of chardonnay get me in the perfect mood for some afternoon retail therapy.
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most iconic sights of New York, but I’ve mainly viewed it from afar, or at least from a fast moving vehicle. The weather was spectacular the entire weekend of our October visit, with highs of 28 degrees, so it was the perfect time for a stroll across its expanse. A warning, it is crowded on the Manhattan end, but the crowds do peter out so I recommend persevering. The city and Brooklyn views are great.
No visit to New York is complete without a Broadway show. I know that Book of Mormon and The Jersey Boys are still the hottest tickets around, but they are also the most expensive. I shopped around a little, ‘natch, and got some reasonably priced tickets to the musical Rock of Ages. I figured if they’re making a movie out of it (Tom Cruise as Stacie Jaxx, how great is that!) it has to be entertaining. Based on 80s rock tunes we all know (if not love), it’s a romping good time. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face or the tunes off my mind well into the following day.
I have quite a few regular stops on my New York shopping itinerary, including Scoop, Intermix, J Crew, Saks, Barney’s, and Bergdorf’s. But on this trip I finally ventured into Uniqlo, an affordably-priced Japanese chain with stores in Soho and on Fifth Avenue. (And as of October 21st, also on 34th.)
The Soho Uniqlo store is huge, carrying a ton of affordable clothing items for men, women and children. Down jackets and cashmere sweaters start at $80, but there are plenty of other basics for less. I came home with a great little grey wool blazer which only set me back $99. Score. Uniqlo, please come to Canada – or see you on my next trip to the Big Apple!