Welltravbrit's Ongoing NYC Jaunt

Old Nov 16th, 2015, 04:08 PM
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Welltravbrit's Ongoing NYC Jaunt

If I wait till I get home I never get around to a trip report so posting on the fly is my best bet. I keep hoping I'll become more dependable or even take notes, but lets be honest that might not happen and if I wait till I blog about this jaunt - the trip report certainly won't happen till January!

BACKGROUND: We come to New York once or twice a year and honestly I never think to write a TR, essentially because the city is about visiting my husband's family. But this time it's a little bit different as we're staying for six weeks. I'm not sure how useful this will be (or if anyone even writes ongoing reports in the America forum) but I really want to thank everyone here who gave us LOTS of recommendations prior to the trip. I really appreciated all the wonderful ideas and hope we do them justice.

HOW: We use Sabbatical Homes both to rent out our place and to find a place to stay and this has worked for us several times over the last few years. It's a great way to go if you're thinking about going on a longer trip and you happen to live near a University. We've rented a place in Chelsea from an Art Professor and it's larger and nicer than we expected.Apparently legal rents of over 30 days fall outside of the whole Air BnB controversy and I'm hoping that won't derail the whole discussion. We all know New York is expensive but renting a place like this is one of the few ways to bring down the cost, though it's still prohibitive. Thank goodness for the share economy, and the nice Brazilians renting our house in California.

WHY - Well once we found people to rent our place for a couple of months the only question was why not? Thanksgiving was also a big attraction and we are looking forward to having 12 around the table. This place is huge and astonishingly I found a stack of folding chairs in a closet which means I don't have to ask guests to bring their own chairs, though they may need to bring cutlery . What are the chances of renting a place that has twelve chairs? We are very happy we landed here!

Well, we've been here less than one week and friends have already swung into town. My feeling is that if you stayed in NYC the whole world would come past your door with regularity and we're looking forward to seeing lots of friends, family and even a few Fodorites! OK, I guess I should move along to some descriptions or recommendations...

My first restaurant recommendation is RED FARM which has two locations. We opted for the one in the UWS rather than the Village because our friend had heard the lines are shorter.

I really liked this place as did everyone in our group, there were five of us. They don't take reservations and the host said it gets very busy by 7:30pm so try to come on the earlier side. It's a farm to table (isn't everything now, does this mean anything?) Chinese/fusion. At first I was pretty dubious about the place especially when the waiter went into some ghastly paroxysm of enthusiasm for the chef, he's so hip, sleeve tattoos, edgy etc. even the types of women he dates TMI, really! Yawn, I don't watch all the Food Channel shows and I thought the whole "bad boy" chef thing was played out after reading Anthony Bourdain's book. Please we are already in the restaurant sitting down so there's no need to "sell" me on the whole thing, we're already committed. Thank God he stopped after delivering his patter and I must admit he did I good job of steering us to interesting dishes on the menu.

We let the kitchen pick a series of dumpling and they were fun, delicious and visually entertaining. Delicious steamed soup dumplings which came with careful directions, fried crab claw dumplings, others that came with a fresh green juice accompaniment in a shot glass. Overall they were really fun for a group and very tasty too. I enjoyed not knowing what was coming next and the kitchen did a good job with the variety of textures and flavors. Afterwards we opted for marinated grilled pork chops and a steamed sea bass with black bean sauce and steamed pea sprouts. All in all interesting a fresh both dishes also came with a good number of veggies which was nice. I would definitely come back though it may be best in a slightly larger group. I'm definitely going to search out some soup dumplings in Chinatown if anyone has any recommendations?

VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE - I was very much looking forward to this production and I highly recommend the front row of the stage seating though it may be a little harder to come by after the wonderful NYT review that just came out. I like Miller so I was predisposed to like the play but for us the cast, the staging and the cadence of the performance was very powerful. This production is a very minimalist staging by a famed Belgian director that came to NY via London where it was premiered. To my mind it deserves the critical accolades it has enjoyed. The play is reduced to a sort of Greek tragedy without all the trappings of the domestic setting.

We are hoping to see lots of theatre while we are here and I have tickets to an off Broadway production Abyss later this week and to see Paper Bullets in a few weeks. I'm going to try for rush tickets to Charles III and we're hoping to see a few things off Broadway. One of the advantages of staying a little longer is the opportunity to get beyond Broadway to see some smaller shows. In this vein we went to see NEIGHBORHOOD 3- REQUISITION OF DOOM at The Flea in Soho. It's a simple production that is getting some publicity because it's directed by Joel Schumacher.

We see quite a lot of smaller theatre companies and it's always interesting to see newer works with young actors. While we enjoyed the evening I wouldn't recommend it to someone coming into the city for a short visit looking to see something fabulous. It is certainly a play that has something to say about fear, the acting was good, it was well paced and amusing enough but not madly compelling. I would certainly return to the Flea another times, it's worth noting that the tickets are cheaper the sooner you buy them and that when you go to these smaller theaters it's amazing how much younger and more local the audience is.

Over the weekend we took a great walk down through the WEST VILLAGE and it really made me wonder - why we don't we spend more time in this part of New York? What a wonderful place particularly in the sunshine. We took a guidebook book and did a walking tour which took us along lovely old residential streets, past the Cherry Lane theatre, by a Keith Haring mural, past an old Italian church beautifully decorated inside with everyone singing at the Spanish language mass and past the site of the Stonewall uprising commemorated in the nearby park with a sculpture by George Segal.

We into Murray's Cheese shop on Bleecker street - what a wonderfully unpretentious place. I'll definitely do some of my Thanksgiving shopping here, it reminded me of similar places up on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. http://www.murrayscheese.com/our-bus...lage-location/

I also liked Mc Nultty's which has been around for over a century, it reminded me very much of J Atkinson & Co in Lancaster (UK) which has been around since 1837 and has very much the same ambience. http://mcnultys.com

After all this we ended up near the SPOTTED PIG and having heard mention of the place we ducked in. It was between lunch and dinner (4:30pm) and there was no wait (the good news) however this meant they were only offering a limited menu (the bad news). We went for burgers and they were good, gorgonzola but nothing as quotidian as a tomato. But despite the hype I don't think I'd be back. Yes it does have a slightly gastro pub feel and the seasonal decor outside is charming but the tables are VERY close together and it's very loud- perhaps this is the charm for some people? Plus I don't like waiting so I don't think dinner would be great for me. It's not that I'm impatient - I'll wait quite happily when I really have to (in an immigration line or at the doctors), but I don't like to voluntarily wait for food! From the crows of people hanging around for them to seat the 5:30 dinner crowd I guess waiting is part of the hype, as you can imagine I'm not a great fan of brunches were you can't get a reservation .

Many more things to rant and rave about but I'll leave them till next time. We are having a lovely time, I'm enjoying the gorgeous sunshine and I'm very grateful to be here - particularly when it isn't cold!
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2015, 04:33 PM
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More, please! I'm finding it quite interesting & informative. I'm heading back to NYC next summer.
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Old Nov 16th, 2015, 04:59 PM
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Glad you are here...The Bonhams TCM auction is next Monday - viewing starts Friday - it is a hoot. http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/22486/

A Guide Named Sue
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Old Nov 16th, 2015, 05:09 PM
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Oh and this will be great on Thursday - come early and see all the good current exhibits.

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Old Nov 16th, 2015, 05:21 PM
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Taking notes for our not near long enough long wknd in December. I love NYC!
denisea is offline  
Old Nov 16th, 2015, 05:59 PM
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If you see a couple later in the week looking lost, that will be us. The big rain storm will be Thursday. Have fun...

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Old Nov 16th, 2015, 05:59 PM
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I too thought the view from the bridge was excellent

I just did a tour at the museum at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. the restoration is really lovely.. This is located in the ever expanding Chinese neighborhood..
the museum is free on Mondays, and the tours led by docents are really informative.

just a few blocks away on Division Street is Kiki's a greek taverna.i had brunch there but would love to go back for dinner or lunch.

the holiday market at Bryant park is up and running, as is the free ice skating rink.
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Old Nov 16th, 2015, 06:13 PM
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I'm a sucker for a great NYC trip report and this one has lots of promise! Looking forward to future installments!
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Old Nov 16th, 2015, 08:25 PM
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Thanks for posting your NYC adventures. We're looking forward to our visit the first week of December.
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Old Nov 16th, 2015, 10:09 PM
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East Village Cheese had to move from 3rd Avenue to East 7th Street due to a rent increase. While Murray's is probably the best multi-country cheesemonger in the City, the prices at East Village can be up to 1/4 of the price. Granted the quality is not the same, but it is one of the great bargain food shops in NYC. Cash only run by Tibetans.


For Italian cheeses and provisions there is probably no store better place than Di Palo's.


And for Spanish cheeses and store made chorizos try Despana. The best chorizos I have had in the US.

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Old Nov 17th, 2015, 07:58 PM
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I'm so glad you've started your trip report! Hopefully, we'll be able to visit New York in the not-too-distant future and actually spend a few days in the city, so I'm looking forward to reading about your adventures.

Lee Ann
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Old Nov 17th, 2015, 08:58 PM
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For soup dumplings you might try Kung Fu. I eat fairly regularly at their original Flushing location and have not been to the West Midtown Manhattan branch but I have heard that it is quite good for Shanghai xlb, soup dumplings, and for hand pulled noodles.


Sorry cannot post the link due to horrid connection right now.
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Old Nov 17th, 2015, 09:16 PM
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Thanks everyone for all the feedback, suggestions etc. Sue, the Museum of the City of NY has quite a number of interesting things right now. IMD, thanks for the "cheesy" suggestions! Maxima - thanks for the suggestion I very much want to see the synagogue we saw some very interesting Jewish history in the East End of London recently. Musicfan- the pressure is on, I hope the TR has some ongoing promise?!!

Tom <If you see a couple later in the week looking lost, that will be us> I don't believe it - after reading your trip reports I'll look for a couple with the right attitude having a great time .

Ok- back to something resembling a report...

Today I had a really nice day that combined several of my favorite things. If I'm saying that there's bound to be a museum and probably some theatre too.

The weather was gorgeous, fresh and sunny and after taking a subway to the UWS I walked across the part to the METROPOLITAN MUSEUM. One of the reasons I like approaching the Met from the UWS is to visit the obelisk on the western side of the museum. It was taken from Alexandria and getting it to NY was a feat of engineering, commemorated in a nice small exhibit at the museum a few years ago. Suffice it to say getting it into the position it is currently in was extraordinary.

I've started a Great Courses intro to the Met collection and wanted to see some of the Greek and Roman objects the lecture had discussed. We did the same thing for the Louvre a few years ago and it was a great way to get to know the museum. However, in London this spring I'd made good use of the guided tours and decided to try them at the Met having never done so before. Astonishingly (perhaps because it was a lovely day?) I was the only one on the tour and I set off for an hour with my own private guide. It was great, I love the Met but there's so much to see that a guided tour, or even the headset is very helpful. Anyway I got to see an number of the objects that I wanted to see, various sculptures, vases, the amazing Etruscan chariot and the lovely painted interiors from Boscoreale near Pompeii. It's the sense of complete emersion that you get from this type of room that makes the Met so special. After the tour I spent some more time looking over the same section but then, as one does I started to flag.

Despite being incredibly cost conscious when it comes to theatre (see my moan above about Broadway prices) I'm a great believer in museum memberships, and the Met offers some great perks including the wonderful Balcony Lounge where you can get away from the crowds. Anyway, a cup of tea, some lunch and a bit of quiet and I was ready for more, this time it was the KONGO POWER AND MAJESTY exhibit
the http://www.metmuseum.org/about-the-m...ons/2015/kongo

This is a fascinating exhibit for anyone interested in African history- precisely because it goes much further back than most exhibits which tend to focus on nothing more than the Nineteenth Century. It was very enlightening and they've collected quite a number of very old Congolese objects which made their way into European's "cabinets of curiosity" and court collections from the 15th Century onwards. I had no idea that Christianization began so early ( via the Portuguese) and they exhibition does a very good job of discussing the syncretic religious forms in the Kongo. Seeing St Anthony of Padua on the cross was something very new!

From here we were heading to the Red Cat for dinner but the whole thing was scuppered when I got an email from Today Tix saying we'd won the lottery for OLD TIMES tickets. $19.65 for a seat in the orchestra was enough to make us change our plans! I've been entering multiple online lotteries daily but it's clearly worth the minimal effort. I cancelled the Red Cat and instead we headed to the theatre.

Pinter isn't everyone's cup of tea but I love his language. There's a surrealism to his work and there isn't s singular narrative (or even multiple threads that can be woven together) here. It's a cerebral play with a flat emotional cadence and the typically Pinterian pauses, you're not quite sure what's happening by the end and the whole thing is strangely unsettling. If I'd spent $100 on the tickets and had been looking forward to it for months I may well have been disappointed, not least by the fact that it's a short one act play. However, as a last minute, serendipitous opportunity it was great and I was very happy to see Pinter get this kind of production on Broadway. We came in with few expectations and left with plenty to talk about, both about the play, the staging and the performances

Afterwards the play we headed to Jean-George's SPICE MARKET which had been recommended by several people here. Luckily they could get us in without a reservation which was an advantage of showing up on the later side of a Tuesday night! We enjoyed the meal and in particular the pork vindaloo which NeoPatrick recommended. Don't expect anything too hot, they warned us it was spicy but while it was very fragrant and an excellent dish this didn't have the heat we love.

Spice Market is an attractive place, clubby, dim, hip, evocative and a little generic . It reminded me of a pan Asian version of the Bombay cafe Dishoom in London which I love. I wasn't at all surprised to see there's a Spice Market in Doha and London and it's reminiscent of some hotel spots in South East Asia . When the chap asked us, "Have you eaten here before?" we felt like saying , "No but lots of other places like this." It's clearly designed to be replicated and will no doubt be in Vegas, Washington and Chicago soon! But despite all this we liked the decor and food- with the exception of a noodle dish which was just too sweet. It strikes me as a good place to go with a group, but if I had to decide between here and Red Farm, it would be Red Farm for sure. It's just a more serious kitchen, but we'll probably return to both and the Vindaloo in particular was indeed good recommendation.

Before I forget...
The PICASSO SCULTPURE EXHIBIT AT MOMA - Several people on the board have already raved about this and I'l add my two cents. It's a great exhibit and the one I was most excited about for this trip. Once again a museum membership came into good use for the fantastic MOMA member hours between 9:30-10:30 every morning. This is a very popular exhibit and it was so much better to see it before the museum opened. We had some friends in from out of town and luckily they could join us for only $5 each. The exhibit which opened to a rave review in the Times (it was almost over the top) follows Picasso's sculptural works chronologically and shows the broad range of styles, techniques and materials that he used in sculpture , as in his other artwork. I would have loved a little context ( or even a simple timeline) about what else was going on in Western sculpture at the same time but that's a very minor criticism. The show is very much worth visiting and a real eyeopener (once again) to the sheer breadth of Picasso's talent.
welltraveledbrit is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2015, 09:19 PM
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I didn't see a couple of the replies before I posted. Thanks for the encouragement Lee Ann. Thanks ekacrunchy, I really appreciate the food recommendations and having followed in your footsteps in Puglia I know you know your food!
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 05:32 AM
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Picasso had enough genius that each of his ten or twelve periods are worthy of a place in a museum.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 09:22 AM
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Can you give a description or some details about this, please? I was given a chance for this kind of ticket on Sunday at the TKTS booth and I said no because I wasn't sure what it was going to be like. The ticket-seller guy told me, "oh it is a highly interactive performance" at which point I very emphatically said NO. I wasn't sure what he was talking about and he was honest and said he didn't know either.

Is this kind of seat something I should jump at next time? (instead I saw An American in Paris and the dancing was sublime)

thanks very much for your wonderful trip report so far!
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 09:33 AM
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Not quite sure what the chap was talking about!?!

It isn't interactive, essentially they have put two banks of seats on the wings of the stage. so if you're looking from the orchestra you'd see a steep bank of bench, stadium style seats going up on either side. A kind of upmarket padded bleacher I guess. With the exception of one character the staging is almost entirely restricted to a white stage set. One character walks outside and sits on the edge of this, we were in the front row (of the stage seats) and he was very close to us but there isn't any interaction. I don't know what the stage seats would be like higher up but we found this side view very intimate and very much enjoyed it.

We've only seen( or had) stage seats for two performances - this one and a Mark Rylance Twelfth Night productionin London. In both cases I was very happy with the seats but I don't know how common this kind of thing is, or if it's always preferable? However, I can say if gives you a different perspective on the theatre and that's always fun.

Hope this helps!
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 09:57 PM
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Sue - Just to say we are hoping to make it to the Woody Guthrie talk tomorrow at the Museum of the City of NY. Thanks for the suggestion .

This evening we saw the Off-Off Broadway play Abyss which I can recommend. It's great to go to smaller productions and this is a good one, well directed well acted and suspenseful - though I agree with the Times review that it's a little too long.

Today I was down at the Tenement Museum where I took an interesting walk through the Lower East Side. The walk was focus on particular buildings in the neighborhood and the changing face of the area, waves of immigration, gentrification etc. It ended at the Essex Street Market which was one of the original covered NY markets, set up when the hand carts were put out of business by the mayor. It's an interesting place and ideally it should be bustling with local shoppers but is is rather forlorn, though I bought some delicious fish and there were a number of good, unpretentious vendors.

In case anyone else is a member I just wanted to say there are tickets for Charles III on TDF for two nights next week. We're going on Monday and I'm very much looking forward to seeing Tim Piggott Smith on the stage.
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Old Nov 19th, 2015, 10:04 AM
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I'll probably swim up to the lecture. I'll be the one in the Tiffany blue colored left sling.

Also, Met Museum members...If you are at the Museum on Sunday at 1, there's a member's only free lecture - show your card at the auditorium door - it's given by the Met's head of digital media. I saw it on Wednesday. It is good.

A Guide Named Sue
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Old Nov 19th, 2015, 11:30 AM
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If you should be walking around Madison Square Park this courthouse is very interesting… especially the interiors.
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