Friday, September 07, 2007

NY Was Fly - *Updated with a Couple More Photos*

During the year, Husband and I maintain a whicked schedule. It's too much, really, but it's the way it is. But when we go on vacation, we are great relaxers. We feel no pain.

NY was great. The weather was perfect, pleasant and warm. We took it easy spending three nights at Husband's parents' house then just he and I escaped to Manhattan for two nights, leaving the kids behind. And we did get to the U.S. Open. My original hook up never did come through but my good friend Kim exercised her ticket connection and gave Husband and I killer passes to opening day for our birthdays. Great!

If you are a US Open fan, Flushing Meadows is much more intimate in person. And my appreciation for the event deepened for sure. As I watch the rest on TV, I feel I can see it in 3D.

Here are some highlights:
The entrance. I call him Old Man Husband:Best match we saw was with my new favorite up-and-comer, 18 year old Donald Young. He is exciting to watch and he struts the court with an all-round athlete's swagger.
Instead of boring you with the million Henin and Federer photos, here we are watching them, cockeyed sunglasses and all!

At lunch time, we went to one of the restaurants tucked in the guts of Arthur Ashe stadium. We were prepared to pay a zillion dollars for a salad, possibly a sandwich. The restaurant was pretty, but we could hear that the service was falling apart all around us. "Where's the cheese?" "I asked for chicken." And on, all echoing around us. When the waiter came to us, Husband ordered a cheeseburger (whatever) and announced, "I want no lettuce or tomato. I don't want any lettuce or tomato even touching the bread or burger. If you accidentally forget back there in the kitchen and you take it off the bread before you bring it to me, I'll know. If you bring me a burger that has touched a tomato, I will totally flip out. I will make such a huge scene up in the restaurant. You do not even know." My hand was shading my eyes at this point, though he was making me laugh, but I could see the motion of the waiter's pencil frantcially against his pad: NO TOMATO. NO LETTUCE. He probably wrote some other things too, but I'm not certain. Twenty minutes later, a server brought a bacon cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato and onion. Husband looked at me. The waiter saw the plate and I said, "I don't think that's our order" and the guy's face glowed bright pink. "No, no, that's not his!" Husband just stared at me the entire time and I giggled as the plate was swept away. Husband cracked a smile. "See?" He said. The rest of the lunch and the Open went off perfectly.

On the way into the city, we stopped at Babycakes Vegan Bakery. It was an adorable spot though more dingy than the online photo captures. I ordered a vanilla cupcake, a slice of corn-apple bread, a slice of cinnamon bread and a few mini corn muffins filled with a dot of "cream" and topped with strawberry jam. The cupcakes were pretty good, kinda greasy and grainy, but the breads and those mini corn jammy jam things were FANTASTIC!
This is the view directly across the street from the bakery. These are my favorite type of views of any city, alive with expression and grind.

One night out, we made it to Candle 79, one of the most well-know, high-end vegan restaurants in the NYC. My husband is a fan of my cooking, but he is not a fan of most restaurant vegan food. He does not like Real Food Daily at all. When I told him I wanted to eat at Candle 79 as one of our dinners out in the city -- we only had two! -- he said, (Silence) "Okay." If he says ok, he means ok. We don't waste time with "are you sures" and all that bullshit.
The food was great, even by Husband's admission. I took pictures of our meals, but my camera does not perform well with a flash. All the food looked the same through the lens, and that's not fair. I'll tell you instead: I started with a watermelon saketini (hello!) and the live heirloom tomato-avocado tartare with quinoa crackers and jalapeƱo dressing. SO Good! Husband ordered the smoked hummus appetizer and went bananas over the parata bread. For the main course, I had the moroccan spiced chickpea cake and Husband had the porcini-crusted tofu with mashed potatoes and caramelized onion-wild mushroom sauce. I gotta say that Husband's dish spanked mine, but mine was still pretty damn good. We ended by sharing a strawberry pie slice topped with dulce de leche ice cream. Fantastic.

After dinner we visited a friend that lived near by and then around midnight we started walking along 2nd Ave back towards the hotel. Husband ducked into a bakery and bought some old school east coast butter cookies while I enjoyed the city night. Two men were talking near the curb, one straddling a bicycle. The guy on the bike was Ilan, the winner of Top Chef last year. I embarrassingly did a double or triple take, which caused him to look at me and slow his conversation with his buddy. I thought, Uh oh, does he think I'm checking him out? I felt a urge to say something and quickly, wisely, squashed it. Big ups, Ilan!

Our other night doing up Manhattan was spent with Titi Jen and her boyfriend. We met in the Meat Packing District near SoHo that is no longer about packing some meat. The last time I was in that neighborhood was about 15 years ago when the streets smelled like a shit-garbage cocktail. My friends and I braved the stench at three in the morning to get the best bagels in town. Only bagel buyers and tranny hookers shared the streets that night. While we stopped at a light in my friend's car, an 8-foot tall hooker turned from his group and looked at me sitting in the passenger seat; his wig was red and high. We stared at each other. He and his co-workers looked brightly and colorfully illuminated on the dark, dead corner. He then blew me a kiss as his friends laughed. I meant to wave back, but didn't. Now, the Meat Packing District is giz-entrified, ladies and gentlemen. It has been transformed into what looked like a movie lot. Sassy restaurants every few yards, crusty bagel shops gone, fantastic designer stores in their stead. It was gorgeous, but it made me feel like I always do when I see the lava-like creep of gentrification: Where the poor people at? Where did they get pushed to? It was hard to like the new look entirely.

We went to a brand-new, beautiful and dark-wooded spot for dinner called The Spice Market. Before we were seated, I drank a cherry mojito at the bar and watched candle-lit patrons as Husband and I tried to guess where they were from. The drink was sparkly and delicious. I dug out infused fruit. The actual food served at The Spice Market was not note worthy, though the surroundings were divine. Our table stood against ceiling-to-floor windows that were pushed open letting a summer breeze cross through the floor. Long curtains billowed a bit. I kept looking out to the newly glossied street. I noticed a boy of thirteen selling chocolates from a cardboard box at the restaurant's entrance.

After dinner, we headed to a dance spot called Link Lounge that features salsa on Tuesday nights. Husband was ready to test his newly-aquired skills and I was ready to see what the NY salsa scene was into, especially since the iconic Copa sadly closed early this summer. Before we got to the club, Titi Jen leaned over and said to me, "These dancers at Link dance on the Two." She meant they pretty much start dancing, or break, on the second beat of the rhythmic measure. It's a more syncopated way to dance and I remember it been associated with very early Mambo. I've never been a big fan of the Two and it wasn't ever as popular in the West. I've always hot stepped it on the One. Entering Link was like jamming ourselves into a crowded gym steam room. I felt sticky before even seeing the dance floor. We squeezed our way through to the edge of the floor, and what I saw made my jaw slack. I was thrilled by the action. These young dancers were not dancing what I remember as Mambo on the Two. They were revolutionizing salsa into something new and hot even though it clearly stemmed from an older style. They were dancing on the Two for sure, but it was spiced with a hiphop flare yet based in the very origins of African-Carribbean salsa; it was grounded to the earth, completely in sync with the drum-and-base brilliance of a salsa from 30 years ago. That's what the DJ played too, old music that kicks off with a base line, follows with the clave, gaps filled with congas, punctuated by horns! It makes you want to lower your head and let it impale you. Titi Jen and her boyfriend, trained in all their Arthur Murray ballroomness, turned their noses up to the perfect evolution that was happening before us, but I turned to Husband and said, "See these kids? THIS is salsa, Papi. This is the feeling you want in your dancing; grounded, gritty, real." I don't know if I would've been able to get out there and hang. I would've needed some time to adjust to the style. Oh man I wanted the time, but the dancers were so honed and muy cliquey. I was dejected that I haven't seen anything like this on the West Coast. Husband said, "Go ask someone to dance," but I pulled his hands to me and said, "No, you practice with me." And we went to the corner of the bar, away from the high-level twirling and gettin down, and we danced together on the One, laughing and basically getting down ourselves.


Maven said...

I'm still and always about packing some meat, if you know what I'm sayin. I'm glad you had such a rad trip. I used to go to Candle Cafe on the regular, back when I was dating a dude who lived on the UES, but we broke up before Candle 79 opened. Now I'm kind of stuck in an Angelica Kitchen rut whenever I go to NYC.

LeS said...

Oh fun fun fun.
Makes me want to climb directly on the next flight east. And that first picture of Husband? Seriously hysterical.

tina said...

I feel like I was there with you!

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

What fun! Lovin' all the photos -- esp. Mina's -- she's got it.