Saturday, August 8, 2015

Turning 57 in Times Square

In April, I won a trip to NYC.  Am I a lucky girl or what?  We decided to take the trip in late July, celebrating our second 6th anniversary and my birthday.  I had not planned to be standing in Times Square with thousands of my new best friends, but the Ex-Ex turned off the TV at 11:11 pm and announced that we were heading out.  Our hotel, the mid-town Hilton, was only a couple of blocks from the Square that evidently never sleeps.  We wandered around, checking out the crowd and the bright lights of Broadway as well as Times Square.  The Ex-Ex snapped this photo as the iPhone announced midnight.  Then I realized that I had not had a food truck hotdog even though we had been there for 3 days.  Seriously?  So, I stood in line for my dog.

Now, the guy didn't know it was my birthday, but he gave me a double dog, mustard and ketchup, if you please.  It wasn't the best dog I've ever eaten, but you can't beat the location on a Sunday night.
We had a great trip.  The weather was in the mid-80's, just a few sprinkles of rain a couple of times, low humidity.

What we did:

The Statue of Liberty became my Eiffel Tower-- which means I took more photos of it than anything else.  But it was my first time to visit her and I was in complete awe!  We climbed the stairs to the top of the pedestal.  We couldn't get tickets to the top unfortunately.

I love the quote in the museum--

C'est vrai, n'est-ce pas?  We do like things big, but are our peas really bigger?  I must figure that out.

We went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art--

Maybe I am just really weird, but when I walked into the room and saw this painting by Vincent Van Gogh, one that I've never seen before, I teared up.  The colors.  The brushstrokes.  Not the usual bright yellow vase of sunflowers that you normally think of when you think of Vincent, but these are so much more appealing to me.  Soul of a Sunflower is what I would name it.  Vincent did this in Paris in 1887.

I love Degas' Little Dancer, too.  I read a book about Mary Cassatt and Edgar Degas this summer so I knew more about Dancer than I had before.  I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira.  He originally made Little Dancer of Fourteen Years out of wax, using real hair, a real tutu, satin ribbons, and real slippers.  When he worked up the courage to exhibit her at the Sixth Impressionist Exhibit in 1881, the critics were relentless in their criticism of her so he took her away and stashed her in a corner of his studio.  After his death, his heirs gave permission for bronze castings to be made of her.  I've seen them in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, the Musée d'Orsay, and now the Met.

We went to the 9/11 Museum and Memorial.  The Ex-Ex and I both love to read, but we do not read the same books.  The only fiction I have ever convinced him to read is Pat Conroy's novels.  He finally convinced me to read one of his recent favorite books, The Heart of A Soldier by James B. Stewart.  It is the story of Rick Rescorla, one of the heroes of 9/11.  I highly recommend this book.  It is an adventure story, a romance novel, and it gives an account of the events of 9/11, a day Americans will never forget.  The friendship between Rescorla and his best friend, as well as the love he shared with his wife of only a few years is recounted with so much feeling that I came away thinking that I intimately know this man.   We wanted to visit the Memorial to pay our respects to him, as well as the thousands of other innocent victims of that horrible day.

We strolled through and by a bit of Central Park.  Llamas and goats were the stars of the show for me.

You never know who (or what) you will see on the streets of NYC... Can you name the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  Thanks to Son #1 I can.

The Ex-Ex recently read David McCullough's book The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge.  So, at the top of his list was walking across the bridge.  We took the subway to Brooklyn, got off at the first stop, found ourselves near the entrance to the bike/walk/run path across the bridge.

It was a beautiful day and a great walk!  I stayed out of the way of the bikers and there were no accidents involving me.

The locks of love are only few and far between here and I hope that it stays that way.  An important lesson on locks has been learned at the Pont des Arts in Paris, friends.

Part of our trip was tickets to a Broadway show.  I chose An American in Paris at The Palace Theatre. No surprise there.  I watched the 1951 movie with Gene Kelly again earlier in the summer to get into the mood.

We had great seats.  Steven Van Zandt and his wife were a few rows ahead of us.  She was getting her photo taken with people before the play and during intermission, but Steve kept a low profile.  I like and respect that.

We had dinner at Tribeca Grill, also part of the weekend package.  Once again, we found our way there by subway (I am no longer terrified of the NYC subway, I am happy to report) and had a delicious dinner.  It was Restaurant Week in NYC and participating restaurants had 3-course prix fixe menus for a discounted price.  We do that here in the Triangle, too.  Robert De Niro wasn't around, unfortunately, but his artwork was all over the walls.  He drew the cover for the menu.

My lentil salad was excellent.

The Ex-Ex needed meat.

Our dessert came decorated!  Key lime cheesecake.

I had a couple of glasses of excellent Costières de Nîmes rosé.  Tribeca Grill has an impressive wine list (more like a wine catalogue).

I decided, though, that I have a real thing for Irish pubs and there must be at least four on every city block of Manhattan.  We found The Three Monkeys near our hotel.  When we were in NYC in 2013, we spent a few hours there while waiting to be admitted to the taping of The Letterman Show.

The flatbread pizza at Three Monkey is delicious.  It was our first meal.  We had a long morning just trying to get to LaGuardia airport.  First flight at 7:00 am cancelled.  Second flight at 8:30 am delayed.  Change of flight, different gate, what about the checked bag?  Third flight sat on tarmac for about an hour while maintenance was performed.  At least the pilot was funny.  He looked like he was 12 years old.  Finally arrived at LGA.  No suitcase.  Filed a claim.  Told it was on next plane out of RDU to LGA.  SuperShuttle tickets bought.  Traffic.  Shuttle driver without a pass for the toll so we sat in long cash line.  Ex-Ex ready to jump out and walk after that.  Dropped off three other passengers and finally our turn.  Couldn't check into room yet.  Left small bag with the baggage guy and hit the streets.  Starving by now.  Found The Three Monkeys by accident.  Felt like an episode of Cheers-- you wanna go where everyone knows your name and all that.  Of course, no one there had any idea who we were but we felt at home in some weird way.  And relieved to be at our destination. (The suitcase did finally arrive in the middle of the night.)

After our morning at the Met, we found Sean, the bartender at Luke's on Third Avenue.  He mixed up three birthday shots (perfectly respectable day shots, he called them)-- one for the Ex-Ex, one for himself, and one for the birthday girl.  I cannot remember what he put in them but they tasted faintly of cantaloupe.

We discovered McGee's, the inspiration for the hangout on the TV show How I Met Your Mother.  I had a couple of glasses of cider and some pub appetizers with Neil Patrick Harris staring at me.  He will always be Dougie Howser to me, though.

It may seem strange coming from someone who writes about food all the time and posts so many recipes for cakes and cookies that her friends get sick and tired of it, but we weren't in NYC for the food.  We walked past Daniel accidentally and I stood there in amazement because I have indeed read about Daniel Boulud and his famous cuisine.  But I doubt that I will ever sample it.  I do not think that my tastebuds merit that much money quite honestly.

It was a wonderful long weekend, one that I will always remember.  And to circle back to midnight July 27 in Times Square, it is probably the only time I will celebrate my birthday there.  Thank you, Ex-Ex, for getting me out of my pajamas and down to Times Square in order to welcome in my new year.  Here's to a great one!

And thank you for the ice cream cake when we got home.

After I got home and started looking at blogs again, I saw one from Ciao Chow Linda and the featured recipe was flatbread pizza.  Dated July 27.  Perfect timing.  N'est-ce pas? You know what they say about timing...

Linda gives great suggestions, but the sky's the limit here.  I am a huge fan of just diced tomatoes, ribbon-thin sliced basil and cheese.  Linda uses Flatout Flatbread Artisan Thin Pizza Crust.

Flatbread Pizzas - 
each recipe is enough for two flatbreads

Bake the flatbreads plain, in a 375 degree oven for four minutes; top with the following, then bake another six to eight minutes or until crispy on bottom, if that's how you like it. (Some people preferred the non-crispy bottoms)
Or place them on your outdoor grill, carefully keeping an eye on them so they don't burn.

1. Zucchini and Cheese - Mix 1 cup ricotta cheese with 1/4 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese. Chop up a bunch of herbs (I used parsley, basil and thyme) and mix with the cheese. Spread on a flatbread that's been baked a few minutes. Then thinly slice some zucchini (I used a mandoline to slice but if you don't have one, just slice as thinly as you can.) Break up some zucchini blossoms and scatter them on the top, then sprinkle everything with grated mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.
2. Corn and Tomatoes -  Boil two ears of corn for two minutes. Drain, let cool, then slice off "planks" of corn. Use cherry tomatoes, as I did, or thinly slice regular tomatoes. Layer the flatbread with the corn and tomatoes. Thinly slice shishito peppers (or whatever kind of peppers you have). Scatter them across the top, along with some mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.

3. Caramelized Onions, anchovies and olives - This is nearly the same as making a pissaladière, a Provençal pizza. I used two large sweet onions, sliced and sautéed in about 2 T. olive oil at slow to medium heat. It took an hour and a half to get the nice, rich brown caramelization. If you hurry the process, they're likely to burn or cook unevenly. Spread the onions over the flatbread, layer with slivers of anchovy, then slice some pitted green olives in half and place on top. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bits of fresh thyme.

Check out Ciao Chow Linda for more inspiration.  Her latest recipe, for Cherry Almond Cake, looks amazing.  And I do have some cherries.

Bon appétit, birthdays, NYC and new adventures!

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