when friends come to town

When friends come to town, you decided to check out all the restaurants and plays that you have had on your list for ages, but just haven’t gotten around to.  You walk all over Manhattan in search of nothing in particular, but just a means of catching up and seeing all the sights. This last weekend I had one of my good college friends, Alexis, fly out from California to spend some time soaking in the amazing east coast fall.  While she arrived in a storm (no literally, there were rainstorms and overcast skies for two days), the sun came out and we managed for two glorious days in the city.

Friday turned out to be surprisingly packed, so I had to scrap the leaving early on-time plan.  Since Alexis is always good at sampling different cuisine, I decided to take her to Jeepney, a Filipino joint in the East Village.  I had been there once before and really decided on it because they served Ube ice cream for dessert, which was one of Alexis’s favorite.

When we had arrived, the hostess said there was supposed to be a 90 minute wait for a table.  Since my hunger levels would have turned to hanger levels in that time frame, we opted for bar seating and may have had more fun in doing so.  There we could watch as the bartender whipped up drink after drink, topped with various orange peel and berry art.  I wasn’t in the mood to drink, but really should have at least asked about their virgin selection.  Those juice combinations would have tasted mighty fine.  Ah well, all the more reason to go back.

IMG_3466 ^^ One great thing about friends, especially good friends, is that they are generally open to ordering and splitting a couple different items.  This means sampling more of the cuisine at half the price and still leaving room for dessert.  Entree #1 Bicol Express {slow-roasted pork shoulder, coconut milk, sili, bagoong sauce, vigan longganisa, pickled chilies and baby bok choy} and a baby pot pie.  Double thumbs up for the bicol express with the savory sauce and tender meat.   I wasn’t as much of a fan of the pot pie or bao buns we sampled, but such is life.

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^^ The real reason we ate there.  Because it’s normal to center a meal around dessert.

On Saturday we slept in (try 9.5 hours of sleep!!! unheard of and evident that my body was still recovering from Monday’s red-eye), I went for a run, and then it was off to explore Manhattan.  I took her down to one of my favorite bagel shops (since Ess-A is no longer close by) Tompkin’s Square Bagels, where we drooled over the selection of sandwiches and spreads.

IMG_3471 ^^ Whole wheat everything w/ cream cheese + lox for her and whole wheat everything with blueberry cream cheese for me.  Deeeeelish and not to mention beyond filling.  Thank goodness we were banking on walking the rest of the day.

IMG_3470  No cookies were purchased on this venture, but it makes me smile when I see black-and-white cookies in every store.  Such a symbol of New York.  The rest of the day was honestly spent walking all around the city and if my FitBit were working and syncing properly with my phone, I would be able to tell you all the steps we took, miles we walked, and calories burned 😉

IMG_8191 IMG_8195 IMG_8201 ^^ Both of us agreed that the west village is where it is at, especially with the quaint looking brownstones and lovely fall leaves.  Alexis was just glad that she could wear a winter coat and dress up for cooler weather since cooler weather is rarely a thing in California.

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Who wants to even guess how much it would cost to live in one of these apartments?  Maybe my life savings?

IMG_8211^^ Since we had eaten our bagels around brunch time, we skipped out on a full lunch meal and decided to regroup, warm our hands, and charge my phone inside a Starbucks. This happened to be my FIRST red cup of the season (despite the changing temps, I have always gone for the good ‘ol iced cold brew) and don’t see what all the controversy is about.  Anyways, a new favorite combo >> skim peppermint mocha with only 2 pumps peppermint and make it extra hot 🙂

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Got to love me some Snoopy and Macy’s 🙂 Avoiding some of the chaos, we made our way through Herald Square (NOT my favorite place in town) and up to Bryant Park where the ice skating rink and holiday shops are already open for business.  Luckily for us we managed to take a picture right before the sun set, then continued to walk around and decide on a place for dinner.  Oh if we weren’t planning to go eat a full meal later, I would have taken to buying a snack or two from the vendors because the smells were so inviting.

IMG_8216 IMG_8217 ^^ I still don’t know what that delectable concoction is/was but I will make it my goal to get someone to go back to Bryant Park with me and split one before the holiday season is over.

IMG_8220^^ Not the best quality photo buuuuuut we ate ETHIOPIAN FOOD!  I have never been to an Ethiopian restaurant and was actually baffled at the selection on the menu.  I let Alexis do the deciding and we ended up with a meat combo and veggie combo, all atop this spongey pancake.  They don’t even provide utensils and the trick is to use the pancake in order to scoop up the toppings.

So.darn.tasty and I have to say, it’s pretty cool to explore the different cuisines in the city.  After all, that is something NYC is known for and I tend to stick to my Chipotle and Bareburger.  Once we had digested a bit more, we set off in search of the musical theatre by Lincoln Center.

IMG_8222Though this is a true classic, I had never seen it, not even the movie, so this was quite the treat!  We had picked up tickets at the TKTS booth by South Street (lower Manhattan) so the tickets were 50% off and right near the orchestra!  Originally we had tried to see “An American in Paris”, but all the Saturday tickets had been sold.  Anyways, who knew they had broadway productions outside of Times Square and at Lincoln Center?  (Don’t answer that.  That may have just been me…)

IMG_3472 Since we were watching the musical at Lincoln Center, we decided to drop by Magnolia’s to complete a day of eats with a little sweet banana pudding.  Because when in Rome New York, right? I probably should stop using that excuse since I live here and work right by a Magnolias.  Or not.

“Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.” – Khalil Gibran

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The Best Burger In Town

For most people, the fourth of July (and summer for that matter) is synonymous with BBQs and cookouts.  I know most are into the veggie/vegan trends and I even dabble it in all just to understand what people are thinking and feeling.  But when it comes down to the facts, I just love cheeseburgers.

Now I still have a ways to go in this city, but this certainly is going to be a close race for my NY favorite.  In today’s world of green juices, kale obsessions, and soy products, we sometimes need to indulge in the real stuff.  Maybe it’s unhealthy, maybe it’s not.  To me, it’s a little like living on the edge and satisfies a craving.

I was lucky enough to have my dad in town on business and even though he was only free for one night, it gave us plenty of time to chat (me doing most of the talking and not letting him get a word in…typical Kaitlin), catch up, and of course go out to dinner.

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After finishing up my softball game in Central Park, we  made our way over to the west side and started walking up and down Broadway.  I think I’ve adopted a more willy-nilly attitude to food and am fine wandering around to ultimately pick a place to eat.  My dad on the other hand is a man of precision and really likes to have some known quantities.  Not that he doesn’t explore but he definitely likes to have some of his favorites on the menu.  😉

Poor guy was in meetings back to back all day, stuck in a hotel conference room, and running on little sleep.  No fear, Kaitlin’s here to make a foodie decision.

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We had taken a pit-stop around Lincoln Center to take in the surroundings and check some options on Yelp.  There happened to be a P.J. Clarke’s in the area and I had only heard rave reviews about it, so our decision was made.

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Fearing we would have to fight the masses of Lincoln Center and corporate crowds for a table, I was surprised when we were waltzed in and seated right away.  The atmosphere is very much home-style/bar comfort with the wood features and tables and gingham tablecloths.  Yet, there is definitely an edge of upscale dining, which also comes through on the menu.

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TFred went for a Brooklyn Lager, either because it had a great rich taste or he was trying to be thematic with New York.  I debated a beer or a Prosecco drink only to go for my favorite – club soda.  Judging on the fact that spring was almost at a close and the humidity was practically in full force (ok not true…it’s just an adjustment for this CA gal), I was parched and could only fathom water.  Plus, as we discussed on Thursday, I have an addiction (or obsession) to bubbly water.

I had almost debated the Kale Salad + Salmon when I caught myself.  I eat salmon and kale every other night of the week, why order it at a restaurant known for its burgers?   My theory is it’s best to order something the establishment is known for or you cannot make at home.  After all, going out to eat should be a treat. (Note: the word “treat” doesn’t mean it has to be unhealthy – it’s just a treat you don’t have to cook!)

IMG_4971“The Cadillac” – Smoked Country Bacon, American Cheese

IMG_4970B.L.T.E. Burger – Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato, Lemonaise, Fried Egg

I asked the waiter what the most recommended or requested burger on the menu was.  His response?  “The Cadillac”, hence why it was in quotes.  Since TFred decided to make that his selection, I went with the BLTE- a heavenly portion of beef burger cooked medium rare (my choice) and topped with bacon and a fried egg. There’s something about the St. Joseph roll too that made the burger perfect – soft and doughy texture that absorbed the juice from the burger and yolk from the egg.

Oh boy people, this was well worth what people call a “cheat meal”.  If you ever have the opportunity to order a burger with a fried egg, I highly recommend it.  The two or three times that I have done this at The Counter, I have not been disappointed.

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We continued to chat and catch up and then it was time to make a game time decision – what to do for dessert.  Stay at the restaurant where the NY Cheesecake made for an excellent option, or wander up north to Magnolia Bakery?

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Since we needed some time to digest our meals, we selected the later and soon headed up to the 69th street location.  There we were not only greeted by a wave of cool air but an endless array of baked goods – from cupcakes to blondie bars, from brownies to their famous banana pudding.

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I happened to spot a section with ice cream sandwiches made with blondies and brownies.  We ended up splitting a chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream sandwich, a perfect pairing for a perfect father-daughter date.

P.J. Clarke’s
44 W 63rd St
New York, NY
(212) 957-9700

Other Locations
Third Ave, NY ~ Lincoln Square, NY ~ On the Hudson, NY
Washington, D.C. ~ Woodbury, NY (Fall 2014)
Mario Ferraz, SP ~ Oscar Freire, SP

Springtime at Lincoln Center

Sure there are perks to living in the city.  Namely, having a taxi at every corner (if it isn’t the end of a shift though), oodles of options for restaurants, plenty of public transportation, and the occasional awards show right outside your doorstep.

IMG_4678 Gosh, if spring is always this gorgeous, it makes having a gnarly winter worth it.  I have decided that spring is my absolute favorite season, no matter where in the world I am located.

IMG_4681 So it turns out there are plenty of hot spot attractions right by where I work.  There’s Central Park, the Plaza (now Fairmont), and lovely 5th Ave shopping. There’s also Lincoln Center, the Julliard School, and the Film Society at Lincoln Center.  I even wandered up past the ABC studios and another famous Magnolia Bakery.

IMG_4686A few weeks back, I was ever so lucky to find myself in possession of tickets to the Chaplin Award Gala.  This was the 41st year of the gala and was honoring Rob Reiner for his career of acting, directing, and producing.  To be honest, I didn’t know much about the gala or Mr. Reiner himself when I said yes to the tickets.  They were passed down by one of my bosses and why would I ever say no to such an opportunity?

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Like I said, I didn’t know much about the gala or the guest of honor, but that’s just because I grew up under a rock.  Turns out that after a little Google and Wikipedia search, I did know some of his work.  Um, The Princess Bride, or When Harry Met Sally?  Goodness Kaitlin, get your act together 😉

IMG_4692 It was only last week that I visited Katz’s Deli and wrote up my review here. Needless to say, Billy Crystal was just as hilarious and Meg Ryan looked fabulous.  She was much taller than Crystal and when they showed little clips from the movie, I noticed how the camera must have angled to lessen the height difference. Well played Hollywood.

IMG_4697 There’s good ‘ol Martin Charles Scorsese, handing over the award.  Not only did we get to hear all about Reiner’s career, but to see the one of the most influential filmmakers in cinema history as well?  Quite the night.

IMG_4702And this would be the gala we were not quite lucky-enough to get invited to.  The tickets were in the $200 range and I was not ready to fork that over, but we can dream of rubbing elbows with the NYC elite.  We improvised with a trip out to Filipino food, an adventure I will soon recount right here. 🙂

“The power of imagination makes us infinite.”
– John Muir