Thursday, August 22, 2013

Linda and Penny's Excellent Adventure - in NYC!

So I won a prize.... a very unexpected prize.... World's Biggest Cookie Swap  . I won the Grand prize to boot - a trip to New York City and lunch with the one and only Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten. First I screamed from excitement

Then it hit me... OMG I have to get on a plane! See, flying is not high up on my list of things I like to do. I don't get panic attacks or anything, but those thoughts of a fiery death while plunging to earth kind of bother me. I went back and forth about what to do... do I go.. do I reject the prize? What do I do?  Well I decided to put my fears aside and go for it. Eeeks.  Ok, here we go.  After much back and forth between all involved parties, the date for lunch was set -  Wednesday August 14, 2013.
The prize allowed me to bring a guest with me, so I chose my fellow Allrecipes Ambassador Penny. She generously agreed to fly to my location and then we could fly to NYC together on the same flight. That made me feel much better! We decided to stay extra days in NYC since neither of us had ever been there and to fly all the way from California to New York for one night was nuts. We made hotel plans, travel plans for Penny, went shopping for needed stuff and then on Sunday Aug 11th, Penny flew to my house. Between the excitement of going to New York along with a lot of gabbing, we got  maybe three hours of sleep.  The shuttle picked us up at 3:30am and off we went to SFO for our flight. The flight was smooth and I didn't gouge Penny's arm with my fingernails.. well at least not excessively. We landed at JFK, got our bags, got the shuttle and got to the hotel with no problems.  We stayed at the  San Carlos Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. It was a very lovely hotel and near everything!
Even though we were dead on our feet when we landed, getting to the hotel energized us so we got changed and set out to explore. We had NO set plans in NYC other than the lunch date on Wednesday so we could go where we liked. We walked around 2nd and 3rd Avenue and found a neat place to get pizza. We both wanted to try a real thin crust NY pizza... the kind where you have to fold it and the grease runs down your arm. Well, this place didn't have the running grease, which was a good thing and the pizza was terrific  Angelo's Pizza . We scarfed down some yummy food
 Yes I did my part to control the pizza population.. happily. We walked around Midtown - seeing   Trump Tower  - big and ostentatious - like the man
walking down Park and 5th Avenue.. seeing all the streets we have heard about on TV and in the news. Things were much closer together than we thought. This kind of thing happened during out entire trip... we'd walk and bump into something else we wanted to see. It was pretty neat walking. I recommend it as you see so much STUFF that way. I don't remember what time we got to bed, but it was a fun evening out and about.
The next morning we were refreshed by a good night's sleep and ready to tackle our day. But guess what? 

POURING RAIN!!  Not a sprinkle, not a drizzle.. but a freaking deluge
This put a crimp in our plans. We had intended on walking everywhere and well, this rain sucked.  We talked to people at the hotel and they said no way would we be able to get a cab and even if we could, we wouldn't get anyplace in that cab as traffic was at a dead stop. They recommended the subway.  Ok, we hadn't planned for learning this but off we went for our first ride on a NY subway. We got off the subway a bit early.. okay.. 9 blocks early so we walked the rest of the way in the downpour
First stop :
If you aren't familiar with Chelsea Market  it is like foodie heaven.  Almost all the shops there are food related, unique and just wonderful.
Here are some pictures from some of the shops:


Directory of all the shops

Bowery Kitchen  - I would have loved to have bought a bunch of knives, but I am sure TSA would have been very interested in speaking with me

The Filling Station - I bought a couple of delicious salts here. Can't wait to try them. I would have loved to buy some oils and vinegars but was a little nervous about leaks on the ride home in checked baggage... can't take this in carry on.

Lunch here.. delicious stuff. Made to order
By the time we were ready to leave, the rain had stopped so we caught the subway and headed to the Upper West Side and to the Mothership - Levain Bakery . I had seen this place on TV multiple times, heard about the cookies from friends and went to NY with this on my MUST DO list!
The goods - Dark Chocolate with Chocolate Chips, Dark Chocolate with Peanut Butter Chips and Chocolate Chip with Walnuts... freaking awesome

I saw this sign and nearly cried with joy

All the people working here were skinny... HOW?

Me - drying out from rain and ecstatic!
We decided to walk and just see the city so headed back toward midtown. We walked all the way down Broadway to the adult version of Disneyland.... Times Square . Yikes.. this place was a zoo.
 The New Year's Eve ball drop

The busy insane streets
We went to Hershey's Chocolate World and nearly got run over by crazed chocoholics multiple times. We kept walking and went to  Grand Central Station  This has been all restored and is absolutely gorgeous.  We hobbled down 42nd street, back to the hotel and put our feet up. I have no idea how many miles we went that day, but the bottoms of my feet were screaming. We decided dinner would be close by . We went to Risorante DeGrezia  Lovely dinner, fancy place..a little pricey but it was our vacation!
The next day was the BIG DAY - Lunch with Ina!! We had a light but boring breakfast across the street fro the hotel and then later we walked across the street to the Ladies' Home Journal Offices for lunch. They greeted us right away in the lobby and then took us on a tour of the offices. Interesting to see all the people and the product closet where all the new items for upcoming issues were kept. We went to another floor and got to see their test kitchens
There were three complete kitchens in the same area

Drool - WANT

The Pantry
We were taken to a lovely private dining room for lunch.
The food

The table
All of the recipes were from Ina's cookbook -Barefoot Contessa Foolproof 
On the menu
Balsamic Roasted Beet Salad
Grilled Zucchini and Cous Cous Salad
Yogurt Marinated Chicken and Mango Kebabs
Salmon and Melting Cherry Tomatoes
Sliced Baguette
And desserts!
 Salted Caramel Brownies and Raspberry Crumble Bars

Ina came in and she is just a warm lovely nice lady. It felt like we were in her kitchen, chatting over lunch about all sorts of things.. Tidbit - Ina hates cilantro!  I enjoyed meeting her and it was nice to see a celebrity be just like you see her on TV.. a real nice person.
After lunch pictures - she was nice enough to take
All of us.. God I need a new makeup
 Me, Ina and Penny
Ina saying goodbye

We each got a goodie bag to take home - autographed cookbook!
We did a little walking and went to a place that the food deserves no mention whatsoever for dinner . Boring, mediocre and processed. Oh well.. Can't win 'em all.  The artwork on the wall was at least interesting.
Another big day on Thursday - Off to The 9/11 Memorial site We started off walking down Lexington Avenue and stopped at Penelope for brunch.  It was delicious.. best  breakfast we had in New York. We HAD to go here since my travel mate's name is Penelope and since she is a fabulous cook, we knew his place had to be great... and it was. We walked through some of the ethnic neighborhoods.. fascinating that the Jewish neighborhood was right next door to the Middle Eastern neighborhood. At the Jewish university, we saw a bunch of police officers - one was dressed in full bomb/ attack gear, which was a tad unnerving. The rest of the officers were not in a hurry to get into the building so we didn't worry too much.
We walked through the Gramercy Park and Union square areas and finally got to the 9/11 memorial preview site to pick up admission tickets.
We went over to wait in line for the memorial itself. The security there is very tight - just like going through the airport except you don't have to take off your shoes
Here are some pictures of the Memorial site and the new World Trade Center Towers
New towers

Memorial Pool - There are two, each in the footprints of the original towers

New towers

New towers

Memorial Pool

One of the names - Several names had flowers inserted in them. Recent tributes from loved ones

I did not know that the victims from flight 93 and flight 77 were also listed. The victims from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing are also included
This is the Survivor Tree   Fascinating that it survived the blasts
It was very sad to visit this place, but I felt it was important to go. TV cannot convey this site adequately and this is a piece of our history. A tragic piece, but still a piece.
Our next stop was a short walk to get on the Statten Island Ferry to see the Statue of Liberty The ferry ride was fun and I got lots of pictures of the Lady. Here are a few

She truly is magnificent.. and it is awe inspiring to see her in person
The cruise also afforded us the chance to get some lovely skyline pictures

Yes that is one of the new towers in the photos
 We wandered over to Little Italy next. I had never had a cannoli and wanted to try one. The fact I had never had a cannoli was shocking to every New Yorker we spoke to. If I had looked around here, I might have been able to find one.. but would it have been a "real" cannoli?  Probably not.  Anyway we went to Ferrara Bakery & Café  . Holy moly, good God Almighty.. check out these pictures

I was in heaven again... first trip to heaven had been Levain!  I got a couple cannolis for later and then we went across the street to dinner. Florio's Restaurant  We had yet another wonderful dinner. This place was neat.. crusty old school Italian owner, tables out on the sidewalk with all the neighbors coming by to eat food and smoke cigars and yummy pizza. Little Italy was by far my favorite borough... ..and it smelled awesome.  You smelled tomato sauce, basil and melted cheese as you walked down the sidewalks
Next morning was a bit of walking around, a quick breakfast that was pretty decent and then off to JFK to head home. Gosh what a wonderful trip! I hated leaving as I really enjoyed the city. Everyone we met there was very nice and helpful.. even the subway drivers. Next time I go back, I want to find a hotel in Little Italy and visit some more interesting neighborhoods...and have another cannoli