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New York Weekend

September 19, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

The Sheep Meadow, Central Park

[Taken by me on my iPhone]

I’ve written plenty about our week in Nantucket, but nothing about the weekend in New York that preceded it, except for passing reference the day after we got there to our Seattle–>JFK flight and the press of various family events. I’ll say a little more here.

We got to our hotel on 76th and Madison on a Friday evening. My sister and brother-in-law had arrived from Paris a few hours earlier. Once we joined up, we agreed to walk a few blocks up Madison to E.A.T., Eli Zabar’s restaurant and food shop. I had an old favorite, the Meat Loaf with Fresh Tomato Sauce. It’s a whole mini meat loaf, complete with hard-boiled egg in the middle, and it’s good. For dessert, I had their shortbread heart.

Saturday, we headed over to my parents’ place in the late morning, had lunch (takeout sandwiches from E.A.T.), headed over to the AT&T store on 82nd and Lexington to take care of some family business, then walked back to the hotel in moderate heat but high humidity. I took advantage of the break in our day to write another blog post, then we took a taxi down FDR Drive, over the Brooklyn Bridge, and on to La Flor del Paraiso Bar & Restaurant on Atlantic, just a couple of blocks down from Atlantic’s intersection with Flatbush.

The occasion was the wedding rehearsal dinner for my cousin’s daughter and her soon-to-be husband. We got to see assorted cousins we hadn’t seen for months, or years, and one we had never seen before, my recently born first cousin twice removed. And in due course, after hors d’ouevres at the bar, a slideshow of the bride and groom, and speeches, we ate a dinner of chicken, rice, vegetables and more. My sister held out as long as she could, what with the six-hour time zone change, but a little after 10:00 PM, we headed back over the Brooklyn Bridge to the hotel.

Sunday an old friend of mine came over to the hotel from Brooklyn and we had breakfast downstairs in the hotel restaurant, which is a special restaurant in its own right — Café Boulud. We lingered down there, and not long after we went back up to our room, lunch time had come around. Off we went with my sister and brother-in-law to Ristorante Sant Ambroeus, a fabulous Milanese restaurant, gelateria, and tea shop a block up Madison. When in Milan, do as the Milanese do — I had the Costoletta alla Milanese, breaded veal chop Milanese, served in the traditional style with a topping of arugula. Excellent. With the late breakfast, and a large wedding dinner to come, I made the painful decision to pass on dessert.

Sant Ambroeus gelato

With all that food again in mind, I decided the best way to use my afternoon free time was to walk. The rest of the family had other plans, so off I went, over to Fifth Avenue and into Central Park.

Despite the heat, sun, and humidity, I was determined to walk for an hour. I did that and more. I entered just north of Conservatory Pond, went around the south side of it, up past the Boat House (where dozens of employees were picketing), and over to Bethesda Fountain and Terrace, where a group of young men was collecting money in the midst of a street performance that had attracted a crowd of perhaps 200 people. From there, I continued west over the north side of the Sheep Meadow, and then up through Strawberry Fields.

I had entered the gravitational pull of my grandmother’s old neighborhood and became powerless to resist. In her later years, she would hang out at the area that took on the name Strawberry Fields just months after her death (in honor, of course, of John Lennon, who lived in and was murdered in front of The Dakota, directly across the street from my grandmother’s building).

I exited the park on the far end of Strawberry Fields, at 72nd and Central Park West, my grandmother’s building and The Dakota just on the other side of the street. There I discovered multiple tour groups standing in front of The Dakota and taking photos, a few of the photographers, having crossed over to my grandmother’s entrance to get a fuller shot of the building. I had to squeeze my way past them as I headed west on 72nd. Soon I was over Columbus and heading to the intersection of 72nd, Amsterdam, and Broadway, just short of which lies Fine and Shapiro. There are many delis in this world, but only one Fine and Shapiro. I suppose it’s no longer what it used to be. Maybe it never was. But it defines deli for me, and as full as I was, I sure wanted to go in, get a corned beef sandwich, a potato pancake, and some seven layer cake.

North a few blocks on Amsterdam, back east on 76th to Central Park West, up to the corner of the American Museum of Natural History, then back into Central Park for the return trip to the hotel. I crossed the bridge over the northern tip of The Lake, then into The Ramble, from which I emerged by the Boat House and another group of strikers, plus three drummers under a tent providing the rhythm for the strikers. I skirted the north edge of Conservatory Pond and came upon a little open area where two guitarists were playing and a crowd was sitting on the many benches.

As I was about to wilt, well over an hour into the walk, I decided that grabbing an open seat was a good idea. The guitarists turned out to be pretty good. Each had a small amplifier/speaker, and they would play jazz and classical pieces, one providing the rhythm, the other playing at times in unison and at other times taking the lead. I had some shade, I was slowly cooling down, and I decided sitting out there listening to music beat the hotel room. Six songs later, I put some money in their guitar case, headed out to Fifth Avenue, and down the block to the hotel.

There wasn’t much time to get ready before the wedding. Around 6:00, we headed over to FDR Drive and down under the Brooklyn Bridge to the South Street Seaport. Our destination was Bridgewaters, a catering facility in the seaport with the most extraordinary outlook on the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, the East River, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.

The wedding ceremony siting took full advantage of the view. Between the wedding itself, the bridges, the river, the boat traffic, and the Brooklyn skyline, there was a feast for the eyes. Following the ceremony and family photos, we headed out to the hors d’ouevres and cocktail area, where another feast awaited as the wedding space was converted for dining and dancing. An hour or so later, we were ushered back into the transformed room, the outside now in darkness, the lights of the city all around, the Watchtower sign dominating across the river.

But forget the view. A new element had been added — an overwhelming one — The Rhythm Shop. What a band! What an initial impression! Five vocalists all in a row, elegantly dressed, and a backing band of six. Or more. I may have lost count. A drummer. A drummer/percussionist. A guitar and bass guitar. Sax and keyboards. Talk about high energy. They were something. You can sort of get an idea from the videos at their website, or their youtube clips, but it’s nothing like seeing them in person.

Music, toasts, dancing, salad, more music, more dancing, steak, music, dancing, wedding cake, dessert. The Watchtower keeping an eye on us. Occasional conversation with siblings and cousins in the moments when we could hear each other. An exciting evening. And again, as my sister neared collapse, we headed back to the hotel, arriving near midnight.

The next morning, Gail and I had room service breakfast from Café Boulud as we packed, then checked out and headed to JFK for our flight to Nantucket. A great week awaited, but we sure could have used more time, for the city and the family.

Categories: Family, Restaurants, Travel
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