24 hours in New York City

 

“So lucky to be alive today… in the greatest city in the world”

“In New York… in New York” – Hamilton

New York City. It’s one of those places that stimulates me and exhausts me at the same time. You know what I mean?

Just got back from a quick trip anniversary trip, and I’m still so wired from the whole experience.

Seriously, you don’t even need caffeine there.

The streets, the people, the atmosphere. It’s all enough to keep you alert and bright eyed for hours, if not a day or two afterwards.

Recently, my husband and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary by heading from DC to NYC for a day.

Here’s how our 24 hours unfolded.

After taking the train, then checking into our hotel, we freshened up and headed to lunch.

We chose Carbone for a long leisurely lunch before our show later that night.

Carbone is a Michelin rated retro style New York Italian restaurant. If you watch the Netflix Aziz Anzari show, Master of None, it was featured in the second season. Aziz is a big pasta fan in real life, so we were sold!

 

The Decor: Big beautiful florals in vases. Pink tiger lilies. Bright blue walls. Tiled floor. This is a HAPPY place.

The Food:  The food is Italian-American, so think big platters meant for sharing. Meatballs. Pastas. Italian salads. That kind of stuff.

The meal begins with a basket of garlic bread, a plate of salami, and a warm fresh ball of gooey mozzarella that they cut with scissors right in front of you. We also ordered the caesar salad, which was the best I’ve ever had. Big garlic croutons with a creamy dressing, and lots of anchovies. (of which I could only eat one… thought I could handle more, but guess not).

We also couldn’t resist the penne al la vodka, lobster ravioli, and veal parmesan.

The Atmosphere: This restaurant is very old-school with waiters who are a bit bossy and brash. It’s the New York experience, really.

Our waiter rolled his eyes at me for looking at my cell phone when he was explaining the menu. (I couldn’t help it. I got a text from my brother, who NEVER texts me. Thought it might have been emergency.)

It’s also very noisy here. The tables for two are pushed together quite closely, so you hear everyone’s conversation around you, and see exactly what everyone else is eating too.

The people next to us, practically in our laps, were also celebrating their anniversary and we chatted with them few minutes, which was fun

Overall impression: This lunch was really enjoyable, and I feel fortunate that we got to eat here. A few groups got turned away as they moved out of the lunch hour, and supposedly it’s impossible to get a reservation here for dinner. While the food was certainly tasty, the whole experience of food + service didn’t quite measure up to Michelin-quality, in my opinion.

I don’t think I would go back there again on my next trip, but I’d recommend to others for a fun NY Italian meal.

Hamilton on Broadway

Okay, so I have to preface this part by saying that while I do enjoy musicals, I’m really picky about them.

I once fell asleep during the musical Camelot and slept through the entire intermission.

Anyway, believe the hype about Hamilton!

It’s really good! As in, your head can’t stop bopping the entire time.

You can’t wait to see what they’re going to do in the next scene.

Every song is better than the last.

This show is so creative. It’s educational. It appeals to a large audience.

And the songs have been stuck in my head for days.

Breakfast

So, after a late nightcap after the show at a rather lame speakeasy (it’s not awesome when the same waitress takes your same order and doesn’t remember)  my husband and I were looking forward to our breakfast ritual in NYC.

We always devour fresh bagels and then buy a dozen to bring back with us to DC.

Before you think that’s weird (because there are bagel shops in DC after all), when I lived in California, I once knew someone from Long Island who would bring BAGELS and NEW YORK style pizza back on the plane with her.

Anyway, a bagel is pretty much my idea of heaven.

I’m pretty sure if I have the opportunity to choose one of my last meals, it would probably be a New York Everything bagel with scallion cream cheese.

Until next time, New York!

 

 

Dinner at Sfoglina

halogen-jacket

You know how you find a great new restaurant and you want to tell everybody?

That’s how I feel about my latest discovery! It’s called Sfoglina. I can’t rave about this place enough to neighbors, coworkers, anybody who will listen to me.

Each dish was soooo good, and I can’t wait to go back. Though there were only two of us, we went all out and ordered whatever sounded good to us. Here you’ll see all the highlights of the meal.

Some Prosecco to start the evening
Some Prosecco to start the evening

The Decor: Sfoglina is really cozy. There are booths and tables inside with burgundy and beige feminine touches. Inside there is also a lively bar with stools which were completely taken by the time we left. We opted to sit outside on the lovely patio because the weather was still nice this evening. IMG_1598

The best spicy calamariIMG_1599

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The Food: The menu at Sflogina is really simple, but that’s how it should be, right? Each section of the menu only has about 4 choices, so they can focus on the quality of the ingredients.

This restaurant is all about their homemade pastas, and the two we ordered were absolutely heavenly. Next time we visit, we’re going to order their pasta special which includes a sampling of three different ones. One fun highlight is that they always seem to have panna cotta on the menu for dessert, but it changes flavor frequently. Tonight, it was one of all my favorite Italian flavors, tiramisu.

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Fall pasta with fresh mushrooms
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Because one pasta just isn’t enough, there had to be pasta amatriciana too
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Short rib over parmesan polenta

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The Service: Our server was really lovely and attentive. On top of that, the manager visited our table several times to make sure all was well. We told them it was our anniversary, and at the end of the meal, they brought us a lemon dessert (not pictured) and two flutes of the most delicious dessert wine. panna-cotta

Reservations?  Sfoglina was recently awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand, which means it’s really delicious food at an affordable price. Because of this, the restaurant is likely to be packed! Yes, they take reservations and you should make them unless you plan on being there when they open at 5 pm for dinner. We got there around 5:30 pm, but by the time we left at 7:30, the entire restaurant was full.

 

Day of the Dead Party

Happy Halloween!

Each year, Oyamel hosts a Mexican Day of the Dead fiesta here in DC. (Incidentally, Oyamel is just one of many fabulous restaurants run by star chef Jose Andres. You may have heard his name lately because of all generous Puerto Rico relief work!)

Anyway, here’s how the festive night unfolds…

You line up outside with all the other eager patrons, waiting for the doors to open.

As soon as they let you in, you’re presented with a colorful display of food and drink stations, passed bites, a live latin music band, a dance floor, and painted skeletons everywhere.

The atmosphere is buzzing with festive energy, amplified by the free-flowing drinks.

Seriously, I could not even keep up with all the interesting cocktails being made all around me.

A bit of a lightweight (it was a week night after all), I enjoyed two non-alcoholic Mango aqua frescos for most of the night, but later topped those off with one very salty and delicious traditional Margarita.

One of my favorite food stations was the Ceviche, where I devoured about 5 of those little tuna tartar tostadas and a couple of oysters.

Waiters with large trays endlessly circled the area, presenting us with street tacos!

There was everything from roasted pork to beef to vegetables, all served with the spiciest sauces and moles. Not for the spice shy, that’s for sure!

This night was so fun, and we ended up meeting a great group of people.

Until next year, Oyamel!

Quick Nashville Trip

Although I grew up in the South a few hours away from Nashville, I never really spent any time there.

But recently, we took a quick trip to Nashville, and I was surprised by how much the city offers. Here’s a quick round up of what we did, where we stayed, and what we ate.

The first day we arrived close to dinner time and headed straight to Rolf and Daughters for dinner. This restaurant serves small plates, and it’s a must if you like innovative cuisine.

It was too dark to take flattering pictures of the food inside, but we had a series of really delicious plates like sourdough bread with seaweed butter (obsessed!), homemade fusilli pasta with mushrooms, Njuda baked sweet potato, and the signature dish, chicken with preserved lemon and garlic.

Patio at Rolf and Daughters

The drinks were really good too and I had something so unique made with Pimm’s, fresh herbs, and falernum, an old timey simple syrup made of ginger, cloves, almond, and lime.

When we travel, we like to stay in Airbnb. This time, our rental was in a neighborhood near Vanderbilt University. This historic red brick cottage had so much Nashville charm- old creaky floors, a slanted bathroom ceiling (where we bumped our heads a few times), country music posters and art, and country decor.

I loved the bedspread and the chicken motif decorations!

The next morning, we headed to Biscuit Love early so we’d be there when they opened. This place tends to get long lines and it makes sense why. The food was so good.

I feel like biscuits are making a revival in the States right now. I know biscuits can be different things in different countries, but here biscuits refer to traditional southern rolls made with tons of butter and flour. As you can see, they can be eaten savory or sweet. 

We ordered the fried chicken biscuit smothered in spicy white gravy. The star of the meal though were the mini biscuit donuts served up with blueberry compote and whipped mascarpone cream. Needless to say, it’s worth heading back to Nashville just for this plate again!

The Parthenon at Centennial Park, downtown Nashville

After breakfast, we walked downtown and spent some time in Centennial Park. This park has green public spaces where people can perform or exercise (African dancing and drumming) and a replica of the Parthenon.

From there, we headed to lunch.

You can’t come to Nashville and not eat Nashville hot chicken. There are a couple of good places that serve it, but we went for Hattie B’s. We stood in the long line for about an hour, but it was worth it!

Crunchy. Spicy. Savory. Totally satisfying Nashville Hot Chicken.

After our lunch, we went to Music Row for some country music at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. This place is really amazing. There are three levels and each one had live music all day long. We ended up staying for about 3 hours and then walking around the streets to hear other musicians playing too.

Even if you don’t know much country music, this part of Nashville is really great to visit.

After listening to music, it was getting later in the day but rather than dinner that night, we decided to have some drinks and appetizers instead.

We headed to Patterson House for a few hours.

This speakeasy was so charming. I’d call the atmosphere swanky old-fashioned library (sounds strange, but it works). We tucked ourselves in to a dim cozy corner and enjoyed our lovely drinks!

The bar tenders are really enthusiastic about their job and so skilled here that they can even concoct something just for you. You just tell them your preferences and they come back a few minutes later with a delicious custom made creation.

My cocktail was great. Herbal. Fresh. Gingery. Exactly how I like it.

Arcadia Farm Fall Harvest Dinner

In early fall each year, Arcadia Farm hosts a special Fall Harvest dinner benefitting Veteran farmers. This kind of food event is one of my favorite ways to transition to Autumn here in DC.

See my two previous farm dinners, Feast in the Forest and Arcadia Farm to Table Dinner.

This particular afternoon was PERFECT.

The air was crisp and clean. The sky was sunny. This was the kind of day that makes you feel energized and happy to be alive. 

The afternoon started with delicious drinks around 4:30 pm. They had wine and beer, but the Huckleberry Juice Punch called my name. Similar to cranberry, this punch was tart and and refreshing, made with infused herbs and vodka.

During the cocktail hour, you were encouraged to walk around the farm, admire the sights and say hello to the chickens! 

Because they started running out of the Huckleberry punch, I switched to champagne, which I enjoyed while sampling oysters and trays of passed appetizers.

Soon, we all sat down for dinner at a long family style table, and feasted on 3 scrumptious courses of meats and vegetables.

Everything served was local, either grown on this exact farm or nearby.

There were so many delicious courses like Thai style beef salad and fried okra, but my favorite course of the night was the roasted pork with tomatillo sauce.  

This dinner was a true indulgence, and it was made better by all the fun conversations with people nearby.

As the afternoon sky slowly turned from golden to lavender, the moon come out overhead.

That meant it was soon time for DESSERT!

They served a trio of little sweet bites including cardamom shortbread, mint meringues, and butternut squash cake. (I might have snuck a few of these home in a napkin!)

This day was the perfect welcome to fall.

And guess what I learned, ya’ll?

While I absolutely cannot wait until I can attend this dinner again next October, I found out Arcadia Farm hosts a summer dinner harvest too.

I’ve got my sights set on the next Farm dinner in May 2018!

What I’ve been doing lately

October already… I can’t believe it. Things have been a little quiet here on the blog.

I had a whole line up of posts about Puerto Rico, but as the island continues to recover, it just doesn’t seem right to be like “Look at all my vacation pictures in Puerto Rico, ya’ll!”

Of course, I will post more from PR when things settle down there, but in the meantime, here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

A few weeks ago, I went to Uncensored DC, a fundraiser held at an old underground metro station. The event was all about books with themes of censorship, and the night was meant to honor our freedom to read.

When my husband suggested we go, I imagined people awkwardly standing around wearing brown grandpa sweaters (I know, active imagination here).

But as you can see, this event was actually really hip… no grandpa sweaters in sight! It helped that there were 5 stations of different cocktails, provocative art on the walls, and a fun band playing.

Another fun highlight in the past few weeks was Pizzalapooza at the MGM National Harbor. Thirteen chefs from all over the country (and even one from Italy) showcased their pizza creations, like this one with thinly sliced beef and a dollop of ricotta cheese.  

There was also a dessert table where you could sample mini-desserts like creme brûlée, tiramisu, biscotti, fresh berries with cream, and pistachio cannoli. This was sugar heaven. (Why? Why do I love sweets so much?)

Finally, this month had lots and lots of walks around the lake with the dog. The leaves started to turn colors in the last few days, and it’s getting to be Autumn around here. 

Two other fun things happened this month including a special Farm Dinner I attended and a 3 day trip to Nashville. I’m going to write about those in my next posts soon.

What have you been up to lately?

Scenes of San Juan

Okay, Mother Nature. I respect you.

The last few weeks, Mother Nature has been rough on the Caribbean, Texas, and Florida (and an earthquake in Mexico too).

I can’t believe that since I wrote my last post on Puerto Rico that Hurricane Maria struck the island dead on.

I keep seeing “vacation” images of Puerto Rico in my mind, and it’s hard to reconcile all the destruction we’re all seeing on the news these days.

I sincerely hope it’s not too long before the residents feel more comfortable and things start to go back to normal.

Here are some of my favorite remembrances of colorful quirky San Juan.

Bright sherbet colored buildings and Jesus shrines on the street
Wall of rum… any flavor you could want, literally
View of ocean from San Felipe del Morro Fortress
Beautiful final resting place overlooking the sea
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I loved how wild and dramatic the ocean was in San Juan



Cathedral of San Juan Bautista; Is it just me, or is this portrait  unusually “brawny” for cathedral decor?
Public open air free library on the street

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Amazing detail in this underpass art mural