My first trip to New York was in summer 2001. Yes, that 2001; it was barely six weeks before it happened, but we’ll get to that in a second. Two years prior to this particular trip, my friend Leslie and I visited Nova Scotia. You’re probably thinking “why Nova Scotia?” That’s…a long story; I will save it for much later. It was a fantastic trip and where I picked up drinking, but most important, it’s when we discovered a Canadian band called Great Big Sea. It was love at first sound. A couple of years later, they started touring in the States, and NYC was one of the first stops.
Even though we were poor college students, we found a way to make it up there. Plane tickets weren’t quite as obnoxious as they are now (not to mention, miles went a LOT further then) and Leslie had a friend who was conveniently working there for the summer and had a place we could stay.
We did a lot of the typical “first time in New York” things, at least the ones we could afford. But the whole reason we were there was to see Great Big Sea. Who, eerily, played at an outdoor summer concert series at the World Trade Center, on a stage right between the two towers. Clearly, this is an experience we will never forget and she and I always exchange texts on 9/11. Our biggest regret from that trip was not splurging on the tickets to go to the top. Always go to the top, friends.
Take away the tragedy that occurred right afterward, my first trip there, albeit super fun, left me wondering how in the hell anyone could live there. It was crowded and dirty and at that time of year, hot as balls, which means it was full of stank. I didn’t not like it, but I wasn’t in a rush to go back.
But back I went in winter 2005 because I have A Problem. I have many amazing friends in my industry. The best of them have even helped me stalk Jake Gyllenhaal (and for any of them reading this, I still haven’t met him; let’s keep that in mind going into next year). So that December my friend Haley and I flew up, tickets in hand to the Brokeback Mountain premiere.
I confess, there is nothing like New York at Christmas; it is genuinely magical. I loved every minute of that trip, despite they seedy room we rented (still poor) and the fact Jake was of course not at the premiere (don’t get me started on this). But we did have the chance to meet Heath Ledger, which in hindsight was extra meaningful.
Haley decided to move to NYC after this trip, which she did a few years later. And as much fun as it was, I…still didn’t get it. I was (and still am) West Coast ryde or die. But stick with me here, East Coast, friends. It gets better.
I didn’t go back for 10 years. TEN YEARS. In 2015 I flew up for my 35th birthday to see – wait for it – Jake Gyllenhaal in a play (#AProblem). Make fun of me all you want. I wore a hockey jersey on heavy rotation in high school – I am used to people thinking I am bonkers. Anyhow, one of my girlfriends was supposed to go with me, but couldn’t at the last minute. So this was my first non-work-related trip on my own. I would absolutely do it again; in my opinion, traveling alone is a meditative experience. I went to the 9/11 museum, had lunch at one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite places, saw two plays (my first Broadway experience), had yummy Thai with my NYC bestie, and indulged in a truly decadent birthday dinner at Babbo. It was great.
And it was the first time I GOT IT. The energy and the vibe, they completely sucked me in and I at long last understood the appeal of living in New York. But I would have to fall into a gazillion dollar gig or marry super fucking rich to live the life I would want there. As imaginative and resourceful as I can be, I am quite certain it doesn’t actually work like in the Sex and the City, Friends, and definitely not Younger.
I’ve now had the privilege of visiting NYC twice this year. Once for all work and once for a little work and a lot of fun. The second was a girls trip to, among other things, attend Indie Beauty Expo New York. If you think the one I wrote about in Dallas was amazing, my god…New York was Skincare Wonderland. I’ve planned that as my next post, stay tuned.
In the meantime, I wanted to share a few of my favorite places I’ve experienced during these last few trips. I know my friends who live in New York or travel there often are LOLing at this. However, I also know a lot of people who haven’t yet had the opportunity to go. And, as I discussed with one of my girlfriends who does live there, you don’t always get to play tourist in your own city. Especially THAT city.
After a decade of not laying eyes on this city and having never stayed anywhere schmancy, shacking here in 2015 was a pure treat. Luckily, about six months prior, these ridiculous restrictions on where one could fly out of our local airport, Love Field, finally expired. Because of this, Virgin America (may they RIP) moved in and had can’t miss deals on introductory flights. We got round trip airfare and three nights at Gild Hall for only $500. That was a “I can’t really not do this, right?” moment. And also, Jake.
Gild Hall is in the financial district, walking distance to a massive subway station, which meant I never had an issue getting anywhere. I actually quite enjoy taking the subway. So says someone who doesn’t live there, right? Anyhow, this is a cozy little boutique hotel, with a handsome restaurant and bar attached. The lobby looks like some bougie man’s library. And for that alone, I loved it. But overall, I had a great experience. My room was adorbs. And most importantly, the front desk realized that week was my birthday (maybe cause I told them?) and I came back on my actual birthday to find cake and champagne in my room. We know how much I love my bubbles.
Located across the street from Bryant Park, the food at L’Adresse is delish, don’t get me wrong. But that’s not why I am writing about it. I am writing about it because they’ve got a raspberry iced coffee I think about every day of my life. I went there the first time for a breakfast meeting back in June; I ordered this delightful beverage and…the avocado toast? At least that’s what I think I ate? I don’t know because I was trying not to stick my face in my glass.
Not only did I go back to get it a second time that trip, I went back during my girls’ trip in August. I would go right now if I could. I tried once to re-create it at home; I got the flavors miraculously correct (it has a hint of grapefruit juice) – but L’Adresse must have magic fairies who are capable of straining out all the raspberry seeds one-by-one. I wasn’t so lucky.
AC Hotel by Marriott Times Square
We stayed at AC on our girls trip on August, only weeks after it opened. I really enjoyed it. The rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows and a super chic design. It’s a genuinely lovely hotel for a not-so-New York price, which is nice. Our side looked right into the newsroom of the New York Times. Which was fun for me, though it’s not like I got to witness Watergate 2.0. (Yes, I know that was WaPo, but a girl can hope).
There is a fun tapas place on the first floor with a great wine selection and decent food. But my favorite was the rooftop bar, pictured above. The views and meat and cheese board are spectacular. I won’t admit to how many of those we consumed. But the best part? At happy hour every day there is complimentary bubbles, which they pour as a champagne fountain.
A CHAMPAGNE FOUNTAIN. I could stare at this thing all day; it’s like a zen garden to me. Screw a koi pond.
We had a late dinner at Il Brigante after Indie Beauty Expo since Seaport was geographically desirable and they had good reviews. The good reviews do not do it justice. Carbonara is one of my all-time favorite dishes, if not my most favorite (seriously, if I could have breakfast tacos in the morning, a reuben sandwich for lunch, and carbonara for dinner every day and not gain anymore weight or die of coronary disease, I would be perfectly happy). Anyway, Il Brigante’s carbonara was phenomenal. The restaurant itself is tiny and cozy. I highly recommend making reservations, as even at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday, they were packed.
Bryant Park Cafe
The first thing everyone asked me when I said I was going to New York the last week of August was “do you know how hot it will be?” Well, yes. However, I live in Texas – quite possibly the crotch of hell. For more reasons than one. So this trip really didn’t bother me. And turns out, we were in luck; the weather was PERFECT.
I had one work lunch whilst there in August, with one of my most lovely studio reps and her sweet coordinator whose enjoying her first job out of college. Hey, remember those days? When you still had energy and ambition and weren’t yet a crotchety old cynic? That was fun.
Because the weather was on point, we were able to have lunch outside at Bryant Park Cafe. Fun conversation, yummy chicken salad, a glass of crisp rose – it all was delightful and just quintessential New York City.
A girlfriend I was with in August is one of the most safety conscious people I know. She’s often made me think twice about some of my less than stellar awareness and security habits. So when the Uber driver dropped us off basically in the middle of the street and said, “well, it says it’s here somewhere”, that was the first, but not last, moment I kinda wondered what exactly I had gotten us into.
We had late reservations at Momofuku Nishi in Chelsea that night, with time to spare we decided to find somewhere to grab a pre-dinner cocktail. I did a quick lookup on Yelp and came across The 18th Room as “new and hot” and five stars. So, why not?
As we stood on the sidewalk staring at a handful of indistinguishable buildings, I started thinking Yelp was a big fat liar. Shortly, a rather large gentleman who looked like he could have been security for Suge Knight asked if we were looking for Bathtub Gin or 18th Room. Since I hadn’t a single clue what a Bathtub Gin was and rightfully didn’t think it sounded very tasty, I was like uhhh, 18th Room?
He took us to a door you would miss if you sneezed too hard, opened it up for us, and there stood the other half of Suge’s bouncers. The first room looks and is outfitted like the backroom of a boutique coffee shop (I am not making this up); it’s very random and very confusing. It was at this point every single episode of Criminal Minds started flashing through my head: “the unsub lures dumb girls in with promises of craft cocktails.”
Luckily, the very nice man opened the door to what is a super swank speakeasy. It is SO FUN. The drinks are amazing and come in vintage glassware, for which I completely geek out; the staff is beyond friendly; and the menu comes wrapped in a newspaper featuring advertisements and articles from prohibition.
Like many people I know, I obsessively binged Ugly Delicious on Netflix shortly after they rolled it up. Having sadly never been to a David Chang restaurant, I giddily jumped on the chance to grab a reservation at Momofuku Nishi, despite the fact we had had pasta the night before. But can one have too much pasta in New York (or wherever)? The answer to that is always no or we can’t be friends.
Regardless, this was the not the same pasta-going experience as Il Brigante or any traditional Italian by any means. This is DAVID CHANG.
We opted to splurge on the pasta tasting with beverage pairing. I highly suggest it – four pastas, two desserts, and drinks to go with each. Pictured above was my favorite course: duck tomatillo orecchiette with sparkling wine served in a glass rinsed in mezcal. So fucking good.
I’m going to find a way to hit up Majordomo the next time I’m in LA. I am on a David Chang food quest now.
The Band’s Visit
Last but not least, I offer you a suggestion that is surprisingly neither food nor drink. But also a really great time. Coincidentally, a handful of my favorite girlfriends from LA are in New York as I write this, and they went to see The Band’s Visit the other night. They have impeccable taste, those ladies.
Although I saw two plays whilst on my visit in 2015, I had never seen a musical in New York (I’ve seen plenty among Dallas, LA, and Vegas). Therefore, now I am a spoiled brat, as my first experience was the 2018 Tony winner for Best Musical. The description from the official website:
BAND’S VISIT is the winner of 10 Tony Awards, making it one of the most Tony-winning musicals in history. In this delightfully offbeat story, set in a town that’s way off the beaten path, a band of musicians arrive lost, out of the blue. Under the spell of the desert sky, and with beautiful music perfuming the air, the band brings the town to life in unexpected and tantalizing ways. Even the briefest visit can stay with you forever.
It’s a short (if I remember correctly, it’s not even two hours), but sweet theater experience and tickets are conveniently available via TKTS.
There are many more things I have enjoyed about New York over the last three trips, but as cheesetastic as this sounds, I can’t necessarily put them into words. I’ve fortunately had the opportunity to visit many of this world’s wonderful cities: London, Paris, Frankfurt, Toronto, Chicago, and less obvious great ones like Calgary and Halifax (to which I really need to go back as an actual grown up), not to mention the chance to live in Los Angeles. With that in mind, and although I have many, many more cities to go, I don’t believe there’s anywhere else on this Earth quite like New York.