Two Californians making a leap of faith and moving to the Big Apple.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

You can't go home

Part of the whole "city that never sleeps" thing is, I'm discovering, that it's really easy to be out all day. All told for today I'll probably be home and away for 75 minutes, tops. And it doesn't seem particularly unusual or wild or extravagant: walked to work, had a workday, V met me at the office, we walked to the village for dinner, came home real quick to feed the kitty and have a drink before going to the Upright Citizen's Brigade theater for a $5 improv show performed by the writers from The Colbert Report. Fun show, walk home, and suddenly it is basically time to be heading to bed.

How does anyone find time to be at home here? Much less time to do things like laundry? I guess that's why there are wash and fold services.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


At this point we've been in the city for about two and a half weeks. We've apartment hunted, we've seen a show, we've shopped, we've had grocery delivery. We've even hosted out-of-town guests. Which isn't to imply that we've done it all or seen it all, not by a long shot. There is still stuff within 5 or 6 blocks of us that we are discovering and being wowed by. The city is full of nooks and crannies, and the best of them are delicious.

A friend of ours said before we came here that "All food in New York is better than any food anywhere else," which is (I think I've mentioned) a touch of overstatement. But the thing that is genuinely impressive is how you can walk into random places on the street and find stuff that would be truly 5-star top-notch food anywhere else.

This morning I poked around for a solid 2 minutes on Urbanspoon looking for a nearby breakfast/brunch place, and came up with Madeline's Patisserie about a 5-10 minute walk from the apartment. I went down there, picked up some croissants and a macaroon (lemon espresso) and was back before Victoria got out of bed. And the fruit of that labor? Possibly the best croissants I've had in years, maybe ever, possibly including croissants in Paris (admittedly without the help of online ratings or reviews, not quite a fair comparison.) And definitely the best macaroon ever.

And this is just the sort of thing that happens basically all the time. The pizza place across the street from us is divine. Bagels a couple blocks away is irresistible (seriously, even though the company provides breakfast, V and I have been to bagels twice on weekdays already, so good).

So, the list of OMG, 5-star food that we've had already:
Bagels: Brooklyn Bagels
Cupcakes: sugar Sweet sunshine
Mediterranean: Gazala Place
Croissants, macaroons: the aforementioned Madeline's
Thai: Room Service (at least for the lunch special, wow)
And we've had magnificent bread from several little places I can't even dig up links for

Not to say that everything is stunning. There's definitely been some ho-hum food, and (more commonly) drinks. We haven't made it yet to the fine cocktail places that have been recommended to us, or some of the beer places that have been recommended, but we have yet to find anything that is the match of Noble Experiment, Hamilton's, or O'Brien's. Local IPAs here taste OK as beer, but rate poorly for IPA.

And we haven't even bothered to try eating Mexican here yet.

Still, all in all, the trade has definitely been in an "mmm" sort of direction.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Been a little while since I've had a moment to sit down and write. I guess that's to be expected. I'm backdatng this so it is less confusing later on.

Started thinking that seeing a show would be good, and getting into the habit of doing theater early on is something that I'd like to encourage in us. So I hunted around online to see how rush tickets work. The best information I found currently is these pages:
NYTix - Rush schedule
Playbill - Rush policies

Some shows are just rush: get there early enough before the box office opens, line up, and you can buy a couple tickets (usually two per person) at a deep discount. Other shows are student rush: same rules, but you must have a valid student ID. A newer form is the "rush" lottery: show up a couple hours before showtime, put your name in the hat, wait for half an hour or so, and if your name is called then you pay (cash) for deep discount tickets. Less deterministic, but also favors people in the area who can be free at that time of day vs. students / tourists with time on their hands.

So tonight we headed up to the theater district to put our names into the lottery for Wicked tickets. We showed up at 5:30, put our names in, killed 20 minutes, came back, and waited with the crowd to see if we were called. They did something like 25 names (pairs of tickets). Right toward the end, my name was called! Totally exciting. Based on the size of the crowd I'm guessing that we had something like a 1 in 10 chance. (Would be better not in the summer, and also probably better on a Tuesday or Wednesday). So that's how I wound up buying two front-row tickets to see one of the biggest Broadway musicals, at $26/each.

Ran home, had some dinner, changed clothes, headed back to the theater. The show itself was great, easily a 9 out of 10. Didn't quite have the pull-at-your-emotions tug of something like Les Miserables, which is my only very very minor nit. All in all, a huge fun time, and definitely a top-notch way to start out NY theater experience.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Apps for that

A note on living the tech life in NYC: I've definitely come to depend on Time Out New York for finding things to do, CityTransit for subway maps that work with no reception (although I hear that KickMap is at least as good if not better, and I definitely believe that the KickMap subway map design is vastly superior), and Happy Hours to find currently-running happy hour specials in your area.


Go With The Flow

Last night our hope was to go to The Moth down in East Village / Lower East Side. Unfortunately we got there and into the line about 10 or 15 minutes too late to get into the venue, which is kind of a drag since we've been wanting to go to a Moth event since right around the point that we knew we were moving to the city. But if you can't get in, you can't get in.

So instead we traced our steps back to Zaitzeff, where I had seen a sign proclaiming "All Bottles of Wine, $15." According to the very cute and friendly waitress, their liquor license isn't being renewed, so they are trying to burn through the wine stock before it becomes an issue, and most of their bottles were normally $30 or $40 (so at $15, counting for restaurant markup, it was probably just about at their cost.) In any case, we sat at a beautiful table in the evening, split a bottle of wine, and at some point (maybe before the wine, now that I think about it) it was decided that we should just try to stay up all night/day in order to finally kick us into EDT from PDT. So while we enjoyed our wine we poked around for stuff to do to fill the time.

First stop: cupcakes. Victoria found (via yelp) sugar Sweet sunshine just a couple blocks away. We were convinced to get the strawberry w/ peanut butter buttercream frosting, and the Bob (yellow cake with chocolate-almond buttercream). OMG so delicious, and it was really nice that they were actually cupcake sized (and priced). These were definitely the best cupcakes I've ever had, and even Victoria agreed that they were in the running against her One True Cupcakery, Red Velvet in D.C.

Next stop: entertainment. We walked another few blocks to sneak into Punch up Your Life, a stand-up comedy showcase hosted in a bookstore/cafe, only $3. Definitely funny stuff, and at least one of the comics was out-and-out hilarious. A great way to spend the evening.

Finding something to do for cheap when the show let out at 10:30 or so was apparently beyond us. We eventually settled on a late movie showing at a movie theater up in midtown near Times Square. But we apparently didn't have the presence of mind to check on subway status, and the station that we headed to in order to maybe make it to the theater in time turned out to be closed. So we wandered through Little Italy as things closed up, and found ourselves on Broadway a few blocks below Houston (thus, SoHo). And not having anything better to do, we decided to just walk up Broadway until we tired of it. And so we walked all the way up through SoHo (stopping at Gonzalez y Gonzalez, apparently a NYC version of the mexican place in the NYNY hotel in Vegas that we've been to a few times), Union Square, Madison Square, Herald Square, and into Times Square, something like 50 blocks. Got to Times Square, did some shopping at the open-til-2am Forever 21 (which, weirdly enough, has a men's section), and then walked back to our apartment.

Lots and lots of walking, lots of empty streets. Walking from Times Square down Broadway and 6th ave at 230 in the morning is a different experience. But one of the things that I find very striking about the city so far is that, by and large, things just don't feel unsafe. It's never completely empty, there are (even late) almost always other people around. And the people that are walking around don't generally seem threatening. In all of the miles that we put on last night, there were only two situations that really triggered my awareness: one of a guy walking too purposefully in our direction on Broadway in the mid-30s, and one of two guys that were stumblingly drunk walking our way, swerving all over the sidewalk and looking both a little rowdy and a little too likely to puke. (Oddly, it was difficult to tell whether they were drunk or zombies, with the staggering and all.) Other than that, things felt very safe. Lots of cops around, no obvious drunk drivers, nothing too rowdy. Just people, doing their things.

And as for the being up all night: we caught an hour or two "nap" right around dawn, got up and made breakfast (OMG, french toast with good challah is magnificent), and will probably have an easier-than-normal day today, and hopefully make it to bed early. And if all goes well, this should help the screwy sleep schedules. And if not, then at least we had a pretty interesting and fun night.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More Lessons

Some more random things I've learned in the last week or so:

* Jaywalking: It really is a way of life, and it really is pretty safe in most cases. The crosswalk light is the guarantee, but the flow of foot traffic will go whenever it is "safe," by which we mean there aren't any cabs currently at full speed heading this way. With one-way streets everywhere (it's really a surprise to stumble onto a two-way), it's pretty easy to predict who is coming into the intersection and when.
* Storefronts: You really cannot judge anything by the storefront. The little deli across the way from us looks like a dumpy place from the outside, but inside it is clean, well stocked, and full of things I wouldn't expect to see (quality meats, cheeses, juices, vegetables, etc). The place we went for dinner last night was similar: the difference (to my West Coast eye) between the facade and the food was stunning.
* Walking: I've found on the web various info suggesting that New Yorkers walk 1 to 4 miles a day, average. Distances here are really tweaked. It's really easy to walk to breakfast/lunch/dinner/bar/the store/the park/some attraction which is "just a mile away." I haven't kept really close tabs on it, but I'm quite sure that every day since we got here I've walked at least 2.5 miles, I wouldn't be surprised if the minimum was more like 3 or 3.5, and I know some days have hit 5 or 6 easy. And it just feels completely natural: it's the fastest way to get around, there's tons to see, and there are loads of people walking with you. It's definitely a city that is meant to be handled on foot.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 5 - Exotic Foods

Made it to the Union Square farmer's market this morning, stocked up on some fresh veggies, saw some interesting things (violet bell peppers? Exotic melons?) but not what we wanted (Vermont maple syrup, which was there at the Saturday market a month ago, drat.) Walked from there to Kalustyan's, which is the kind of place that kind of has to be seen to be believed. Every kind of spice you can imagine, every kind of oil, extract, seasoning, every kind of nut, all for sale. Probably the most memorable thing we didn't get was the gold (leaf) covered almonds ($29.99/lb, imported from France). Probably the most memorable thing we did get was the 32oz jar of capers. Between Chicken Picatta and Pasta Puttanesca, we go through capers pretty well. I'd never seen anything more than a 4oz jar. So that's like, totally exciting.

Did a little shopping in the afternoon. We're only 7 blocks from The Macy's, which is amazingly big (7 or 8 stories, and a whole NY city block). We figured it would be sensible to poke in and see what that was all about. There are definitely some neat things there, but mostly it just seems touristy, not a lot of great deals and ruder than average store people. Maybe its just us. We'll see, I'm sure we'll have occasion to go back, we're not writing it off completely.

By 6 we were getting hungry, and so we walked west out of Herald Square to 9th Ave, a neighborhood often known as Hell's Kitchen (although brokers prefer the less colorful "Clinton"). We had about 10-12 blocks of 9th Ave to get to our intended dinner destination, and I have to say that those blocks were easily the most delicious looking blocks I have ever seen. So many types of food were represented, from classy French to BBQ, Pizza, pub, Italian (red checkered tablecloth and fine bistro). The specials advertised on all of the sidewalk chalkboards were mouthwatering. Everything looked and smelled amazing.

And then we got to our planned destination: Galaza Palace. The menu here is filled with Med. favorites like baba ganoush, hummus, etc, as well as a collection of more unusual specials not on the menu that I couldn't try to remember the names of. We had a hummus variant with whole fava beans, the baba ganoush, a beautiful salad, and a buttery, savory pastry filled with goat cheese and spinach. All of which was magnificent. But the crowning memory of the dinner will definitely be the family-secret recipe: a potato cake, soaked in honey, with a light-flavored vanilla custard, sprinkled in pistachios. Unbelievable.