Sunday, July 17, 2011

Eating our Way Across NYC

Let's just say I married the right man who shares my love for great food. I'm going to go ahead and officially call us "foodies". We scour the web, Travel Channel, and Food Network to find the best restaurants - then we go, eat, enjoy, and talk about food and flavor like a bunch of nerds! I'm really here to go to school, and don't worry... I'm always on time, do all my homework, write my papers diligently, and participate in class. However, when school's out... it's time for fun and eating!! This week we have literally eaten our way across NYC.

On Monday, we went to Mario Batali's Eataly in Gramercy Park. Oh, Mario... you had me at hello on this one. Eataly is a GIANT Italian market. You can buy anything - produce, cheese, chocolate, gelato, bread, fish, meat, pasta... just like a fancy grocery store.

In addition to the market, however, are about six restaurants tucked in every corner of the place. Near the fish area is "Pesce" - the quaint little fish bar. Near the pasta is "pizza" and "pasta"... two restaurants with separate menus... one just pizza and one just pasta. Near the veggies, there is "Verdure" - the veggie restaurant. I mean... it's nothing short of genius. Here are the "street signs" within Eataly to help you navigate. We made about two full laps around the place before we settled on "pasta". Try to contain your surprise.

The pasta restaurant was right here, tucked in between the pasta aisles! I'm not going to lie, it was some of the best pasta I've had in my life. I had this big wide pasta with seafood, and Brent had Penne with fresh marinara, fresh mozzarella, and basil. It was incredible. I'm pretty sure I'm going to go back and get what Brent got. You could eat here every day for months and still not try all that they have. It was kind of like Disney World for foodies. It was PACKED on a Monday night. I would seriously come here once a week if I lived here. It was that cool.

On Wednesday, we headed down to the Lower East Side to Prune. Brent heard about Prune from Anthony Bourdain. (I love how we talk about Anthony Bordain like we know him.) We had reservations a week and a half in advance and still had to eat at 6pm. It's hip. ...But mostly hip for older people and chefs. In fact, we were sitting next to this older couple and he was a chef - owned a restaurant in fact. He was like, "How do young people like you know to come to a place like this?" We said, "OH...we watch Food Network and Travel Channel like crazy." They laughed.

It was really cute and vintage inside. This is a picture off the website... it was packed to the gills when we were there.

This is the real reason why Brent wanted to go here.... bone marrow. I am a foodie, and I will eat almost anything... except something scraped out of a bone. I'm sorry, but it gives me the shivers. Anyway, Brent ate it up and LOVED it. I tried one bite like a good girl, but it wasn't my thing. I got a seafood stew that was to die for!!!

Friday night we stopped by Magnolia Bakery. Duh.

Excuse my tired appearance. Apparently I forgot to put on makeup? In my defense... this was after ten straight days of class without a day off. I seriously deserved a cupcake. Or two.

Last week when we were prowling around the West Village, we discovered our own personal heaven... Murray's Artisan Cheese Shop. Oh.My.Yes. It is a pantheon of cheese. A store full of nothing but cheese... every kind of cheese you could ever possibly imagine. They are world famous, and they actually have five cheese caves under the store. If they don't have it, it doesn't exist. We discovered that they have cheese CLASSES at this place in a wonderful glass classroom overlooking the cheese shop. We immediately made a reservation for a "cheese 101" class this Saturday. So, so fun.

For $50, you get a 2 hour class that teaches you how cheese is made, the difference between all the different kinds of cheese, how to taste cheese, and how to pair cheese with food & wine. Plus, you get to taste a ridiculous amount of cheese and drink unlimited wine and champagne plus bread and dried fruit & nuts. Heaven. It was one of the best things I've ever done in NYC - it was a blast!!!

After Murray's, we walked a long way to make ourselves feel better. After the cheese and wine coma wore off with the help of a nap, we were hungry again. Shocking. However, we were tired and didn't want to go far. We had seen this adorable little gem on one of our walks through the neighborhood. It's a cute little French place, La Boite en Bois. It's like a little underground cave that only seats about 20 customers.

Look how precious! Again, this is from their website since we got their last open table last night. It was one of those places where we got there at 8:30 and didn't leave till after 10:00. We lingered over wine, onion soup, french bread, bouef borginion, roasted lamb, and ricotta cheesecake. It was quiet, quaint, and the owner himself took our orders and served us. Utterly wonderful. We'll be back.

You'd think we'd had enough... but no. Sunday morning, after a cup of coffee and some Cheerios at home, we set off for Brooklyn. We've both been to NYC quite a bit, but neither of us had ever walked the Brooklyn Bridge. Today was the day. I really, really loved walking the bridge. I don't care if it was tourist-y. I'm glad I got to do it. It was HOT but beautiful.

Upon arrival in Brooklyn, we had a plan. We ate lunch at Motorino, a favorite haunt of Rachael Ray. Apparently she was not hungry for pizza today, but I still held out hope. They just make pizza, and they do it right... thin crust in a ridiculously hot wood burning oven.

We feasted on prosciutto di Parma pizza and cremini mushroom & spicy sausage pizza.
And we didn't regret it.

After re-feuling with pizza, we needed a brownie to wash it down, naturally. (Remember, we walked FORTY minutes across the bridge. Just a friendly reminder.) So we hit up another place featured on "Best Thing I Ever Ate" AND the Oprah Show: Baked.

We were after the sweet and salty brownie: Success.

I meant to show you a picture of the brownie on our plate in all its glory, but alas, we devoured it and all that was left was this:

... and that pretty much sums it up, folks. We've left behind us a wake of empty dishes, crumbs, and most of our vacation money. But to us, money spent on good food is money well spent.

P.S. After the brownie, we did start to feel a little guilty, so we walked 40 MORE minutes through Brooklyn Heights which was delightful. Class starts up again tomorrow, and Brent has to leave me on Wednesday to go back to Durham :-( but we are still enjoying every moment!


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Yum, Fun, and Pretty!

After a week in NYC, I feel like I'm living the dream! It's really the ideal situation: We get to pretend as if we live in NYC for a month, and then we get to go home. I've been having the best time. Every day is busy with class (even Saturdays and Sundays!), but being in the city makes it all worth it. If I were to categorize the three things we spend our time doing, it's eating, having fun, and enjoying the sights. Oh yeah, and studying, reading, and working too, but that's not as fun in pictures.

On day 1, we hit up JG Melon, Bobby Flay's favorite burger joint. We were hoping to see him there, but no such luck. It's also one of Brent's favorite burgers (one of the many things he and Bobby have in common). I'm not gonna lie: It was one.delicious.burger. No frills here. Just meat, cheese, and bread, but they do it right.

As fans of the show "Best Thing I Ever Ate", we scoped out this favorite haunt of Food Network's Anne Burrell, Extra Virgin, in the West Village. We sat outside on this adorable little deck and watched the hipsters go by. We had delicious summer drinks including a watermelon martini. Then we shared mussels in white wine sauce (heavenly). Brent had mushroom crusted chicken and basil risotto and I had shrimp & lobster pasta. I fell in love with this part of NYC. How have I never been down there before??

Another one of our favorite shows is No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. He loves this place called "The Spotted Pig", also in the West Village. When Anthony went there, he got the special "chef's menu" on the secret third floor where he ate a whole pig's head. We decided to forgo this and eat in the regular dining room. We had their famous shoestring fries... I mean they were good. Infused with garlic and rosemary and tons of salt...

When I was a kid, my parents took me to New York, and I remember eating at this Oyster bar in Grand Central Station. It's been there since 1913! It's still there, and I've been wanting to go back. It's down under the subway, so the ceilings are so cool! It's a really fun atmosphere, and it brought back memories. Brent & I shared a feast of clam chowder, oysters Rockefeller (also featured on "Best Thing I Ever Ate" - Scott Conant, if you're interested), and a platter of 10 RAW oysters, 2 clams, 3 mussels, 2 shrimp, and half a lobster. It was so fun to try something different. Neither Brent or I had had a raw oyster ever (surprisingly), and they were good!! I mean I wouldn't eat it everyday... but it was truly delicious and a fun adventure.


OK, so we mostly eat (as you can see), but to GET to the restaurants, we normally walk so we can eat more AND so we can see the great sights. Here's the obligatory Times Square picture.
Loooooove Central Park. Praise God that it's not unbearably hot as it was last year. It's actually quite pleasant and good for walking these days!
I am having SO.MUCH.FUN with my classmates. We're a cohort of only 12 people, so we are basically together 8 hours a day 7 days a week for 4 weeks for 3 summers. That's a lot of hours. We also take online courses together throughout the year. So... we're pretty close. I love these girls. It makes class fun when you're there with 11 of your closest friends. We eat lunch together every day, and today we had a most delightful lunch in the middle of Broadway. Here's me with Jamie and our sub sandwiches and Meredith being her crazy self.


There are so many things in NYC that are just plain pretty. Brent & I both think that the city is getting cleaner, prettier, and friendlier every day. I must say that I am truly enjoying this place. It is fantastic! Here's a cute little house covered in ivy. I love how it is just enveloping this house! Central Park views - blue skies!

Grand Central Terminal - truly "grand".

"I want to be a part of it.......New York, New York!"

Until next time, I'll be eating, having fun, eating some more, and, um, studying......


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth of July NYC Style

Well friends, you know we Norwoods like to move a lot, and we're not really kidding about that. We were in Durham for two whole weeks, so it was time to pack up again and head out on the road. I'm not kidding. No, we didn't really move, technically, but as of yesterday, we are residents of New York City for the month of July. I know... in the midst of all the moving craziness, I almost forgot that I am also a grad student and I have classes to attend! I'm in Year 2 of my masters at Columbia, so I'll be taking four classes (one class a week) while I'm here in July. But this time, Brent AND Blazer are with me! If you weren't a blog reader last year, you can catch up on my NYC solo adventures that involved a dorm room by clicking to the right on the category "Adventures in Grad School".

This year, instead of going solo in a dorm room, we are going high class! We packed up the whole fam in the Honda Pilot and drove from Durham to NYC. That was a fun experience since I've never driven into NYC. We passed through Virginia, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Washington DC... it was fun!

We searched for months and months to find a good rental for the month in NYC. It's funny how when you only want to rent an apartment for a month nobody wants to talk to you!! We ended up finding a great apartment at 70th and Riverside on the Upper West Side. Coming from a dorm, having a kitchen and a TV is like heaven! The apartment is nice. Not Durham nice, but nice. However, it did not quite meet our cleanliness standards, so we spent the entire first afternoon scrubbing. The one REALLY good thing about renting this apartment is that it's actually being rented to us by a guy who sells high-end real estate in NYC. He's trying to sell a penthouse in the building next door... for $11 million. It's vacant right now, so he was having a party for the Forth of July. Kind of like a party/open house for his property. (P.S. Have you ever seen "Selling New York" on HGTV? If not, go IMMEDIATELY to your DVR and record it. It's one of our favorite shows ever. If you've seen it, we felt kind of like we were at one of those swanky open houses they feature on the show.)

Anyway.... we got to go right up to the penthouse for the Macy's fireworks show on the Hudson River. Oh was beyond amazing. The apartment had a GIANT balcony with complete views of the city AND the Hudson River. We literally had front row seats, 24 floors up, of the biggest fireworks show in NYC. It was one of those moments where you just can't believe it's real. We had a blast. And if I had $11 million, I'd buy it for sure. :-)
Me on part of the wrap-around balcony with a city view

Sunset on the Hudson

City View Hudson View - all the boats were out to watch the fireworks! You can see some of the thousands of people on the street below there to watch the show.

Not the BEST pics, but proof that I was actually there! I can never get fireworks to photograph properly. For great firework pics, check out Elicia's blog.

What a great memory! Not a bad first day in the city. Class starts tomorrow!


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