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Friendship, food and culture: Nikki's New York weekend


Friendship, food and culture: Nikki's New York weekend

Old Jan 28th, 2008, 08:04 AM
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Friendship, food and culture: Nikki's New York weekend

Every year I get together with some college friends for a weekend of friendship, food, and culture in New York. It started out in January for reasons of convenience, and that has worked out well because hotel rates are much more affordable this time of year. Only two of us would be staying in a hotel this year, and I spent the past few weeks checking hotel prices using www.quikbook.com. Several weeks ago I reserved a room at the Park South Hotel, where I have stayed a couple of times in the past. But last week, prices started dropping like a rock, and I found a $249 rate at my favorite hotel, Le Parker Meridien, that was just a little higher than the room we had already booked. When I checked the hotel’s website, I saw that there was a further 20% discount if one paid in advance, lowering the hotel’s rate to a terrific $199 per night plus tax.

I figured we were just a few days out from the trip and we had purchased theater tickets already, so we were definitely going. I don’t like to pre-pay hotel rooms, but this seemed safe enough. Tried to book the room on line. Got all the way through the process and pushed the button to complete the booking. Got a message that the system was down; call this number. I called, wanting to know whether my credit card had been charged. Explained the story to the guy who answered the phone. “It’s that kind of Monday,” he said. My credit card had not been charged. I asked if I could do the reservation by phone. Turns out the rate was not available on the phone, just on the internet. He wants to know if I want to book a room at $259. I don’t. “Keep trying,” he says. So I do. My husband figures the $199 rate will go away as soon as the system starts working again.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 08:12 AM
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Fortunately my husband is wrong. By noon Tuesday I have scored my room for $199 per night for two nights. Friday morning I drive from Massachusetts to Hartford, pick up my friend and drive on to New York. I have taken the train once or twice for these weekends, but I have found that it is less expensive to drive. Even when you figure in parking in the city. Even with the high cost of gas. Even when I am all alone.

We check in to the hotel some time before 3:00. Another friend calls from her train (she’s coming up from D.C.) and tells us we have dinner reservations at 8:00. So we scour the New York Times and the New Yorker for a museum exhibit to take in before dinner. We decide on the Kara Walker exhibit at the Whitney. http://www.whitney.org/www/exhibitio...ker/index.html

Arriving around 4:00, we get in right away. This is an interesting but disturbing exhibit. The works are filled with unsettling images around the general theme of slavery. The free audioguide has commentary by the artist, and we note that there is an odd disconnect between the smiling, conversational tone she strikes and the horrific images she creates. I hypothesize that she expresses her deeper feelings through her art rather than her speaking voice.

We leave around 6:00, and people are pouring into the museum. There is a line around the block for tickets. The museum is open until 9:00 on Fridays, and this is quite the scene. We are glad to be leaving, feeling smart to have caught the exhibit at a quiet time.

After meeting up with our friend at the hotel and catching up, we head out to dinner at Bistro Ten 18, at 110th and Amsterdam. http://www.bistroten18.com/. There are six of us and we enjoy a very good dinner at this nicely priced neighborhood restaurant near Columbia. I order the goat cheese souffle with red pepper coulis and wild mushrooms, then seared duck breast with braised fennel, caramelized parsnips, mache & cherry chutney. I would happily return. The atmosphere is relaxing and we spend three hours talking, eating, laughing, solving the world’s problems.

Saturday morning we start slowly. We have brunch at Norma’s in the Parker Meridien, a great place for a pricey breakfast. There are five of us, and we share all sorts of interesting stuff that you won’t find very often. Red berry risotto “oatmeal” in a crispy wafer bowl. The waz-za: a waffle stuffed with fruit, topped with fruit, and covered with crème brulee. Chestnut pancakes. Eggs benedict with smoked salmon and fingerling potatoes. Great stuff. As we leave, a friend says a man in a baseball cap in the lobby is Steven Spielberg. If it is him, he sort of looks like a lot of guys I know.

We have tickets to the matinee of August: Osage County. Two friends have arrived separately in New York for the day to join us, one of them driving six hours round trip to do so. It is great to see everybody. We all meet up at the theater and settle in for the show. And I do mean settle in. It lasts three hours and twenty minutes. Two intermissions, like plays are supposed to have but almost never do any more.

When researching the play, we had looked at reviews and sent them around to each other. The New York Times gave this a great review (http://tinyurl.com/2297jc); the Washington Post less so (http://tinyurl.com/24orl5). A few of us come down on the side of the Times, some others on the side of the Post. I love it. It opens with a line by T.S. Eliot and mentions him a couple more times during the course of the first act. When a play hits you over the head with literary references, a red flag goes up and I spend the rest of the play trying to figure out why. So that is fun. Great laughs, great timing, wonderful acting mostly by members of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company from Chicago, where the production originated. This is an added bonus for us, since Chicago is where we all met, over 35 years ago.

After the play, we have just over an hour before our dinner reservations, so we stop for a drink at Zanzibar, on Ninth Avenue and 45th Street. The waitress assures us we can sit at any of the many tables; reservations aren’t going to fill the place until 10:00. So we order some drinks and enjoy some conversation, catching up with each other until it’s time to leave for dinner.

We have dinner at Roberto Passon, an Italian restaurant on Ninth Avenue and 50th Street. I love the menu there, everything sounds wonderful. I have been there twice now, and I must be consistent in my tastes, because I think I’ve ordered the same thing both times, a year apart. A quail dish wrapped in bacon that was an appetizer special, and lamb shank with mashed potatoes and caramelized pearl onions to follow. I’d like to go back and try something else next time.

After dinner, the two day trippers leave us, and the rest of us walk the few blocks to the Iridium jazz club at 51st and Broadway. http://www.iridiumjazzclub.com/. We are there to catch the 10:30 performance by David “Fathead” Newman, a tenor sax player celebrating his 75th birthday. We marvel at his great playing and think it’s great he can play so well at his age. Then he introduces Frank Wess, another tenor sax player who just celebrated his 86th birthday and who played with Count Basie. These two guys play up a storm, dueling aged sax players, one all dressed in black, complete with beret, and the other in his dapper suit.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 08:13 AM
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Sunday morning I am at the enclosed rooftop pool at the hotel at 8:30 when it opens. This is why the Parker Meridien is my favorite hotel. A terrific view over Central Park and up to the sky. What a way to swim laps.

After dressing and packing I regret my laziness of the previous morning. I could have gone to Patelson’s, at 160 West 56th Street, right across the street, the wonderful sheet music store where I have spent many, many hours over several decades browsing and buying music. But they are closed Sunday morning. I console myself with the thought that I have probably already bought everything they have for the particular configuration of instruments I need (a flute, two violins, two cellos and a piano). Instead, I go to the Carnegie Delicatessen around the corner on Seventh Avenue for a pastrami sandwich to take home. Just my way of bringing back a little bit of New York.

We have lunch at the Burger Joint inside the Parker Meridien, which I had never tried before. Good burgers as advertised. We get the car and head up the West Side Highway. I drop my friend off in Hartford in a light snow and head home. I’m up again at 2 AM, can’t sleep, now that I have computer access I’m looking up the T.S. Eliot references from the play and sending them around to my friends. And, with apologies to Eliot, this is the way the weekend ends.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 10:36 AM
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This sounds like an amazing weekend. Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jan 28th, 2008, 10:41 AM
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Yes, it sounds wonderful!
What a yearly treat.
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Old Jan 31st, 2008, 05:53 AM
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Nikki: great report and again, crossing paths at RP !
I had wanted to see August/Osage instead of Sheba, but no good seats for us - but it just was extended so I've told my daughter to go snag some for us - it sounds too good to miss -

After your description, my next trip I am going to have to try Norma's for that breakfast - you've made me hungry !

if you go back to Passon, my favorite things are the white asparagus/prosciutto/poached egg and the veal piccata, or the pasta....or the...I love it all !
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Old Jan 31st, 2008, 09:49 AM
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I love eating at The Burger Joint. It is my post marathon treat!
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