Tuesday, August 04, 2009

New York State of Mind

Looking down on a rainy city from the Sony tower

Aside from being pickpocketed, I enjoyed my trip to NY. In addition to working in the huge Sony Plaza building all week, enjoying some impressive thunderstorms over the city, avoiding the heavy rain and incredible heat and humidity outside, I found time to do some of the following:

1. The Perfect Pint. I have to disagree, they certainly don't serve the perfect pint, but did have a large selection, a cute barmaid called Bernadette, a gay speed-dating event going on that we almost joined by accident, Irish air-hostesses, and a bunch of golden girls from Kansas on their first trip to NY who decided I reminded them of Hugh Grant. A random and quite wacky evening.

2. Buddakan. A fantastic new Asian fusian restaurant in the Meat Packing district. Treats such as edamame and truffle dumplings, soft-shell crab, divine charred steak, lobster-fried rice and extremely naughty desserts, all washed down by some very nice Californian wine. Highly recommended.

3. Press 195. A small diner in Brooklyn which stocks a few excellent ales, including their own Outrage Age and Stone's Levitation. Stone Levitation is a tasty amber ale that was hoppy enough to keep me happy, and only 4.4% abv, so I started with this. Next, Outrage IPA, which is brewed by Kenny Landin at Butternuts Brewery, an American India Pale Ale with a bite at 6%. To be honest not as nice as the Stone, but still the second best beer I've had in NY!

4. Cyclists on Penny Farthing bicycles! After observing earlier in the week that there hardly seemed to be anyone cycling in New York, on Sunday morning we were passed by dozens on huge Penny Farthings, of all sizes, from child to adult ones that must have been two metres high or so!

5. The Music Hall of Williamsburg. Following a tip in TimeOut, I went across to Brooklyn for a free gig on Friday evening at this interesting venue. After watching a fantastic sunset over the Manhatten skyline (photos on stolen camera), I enjoyed Holly Miranda then Ben Sollee performing. Miranda played guitar and sang, with just a bass guitar supporting, which I was surprised to find really worked well, her melancholy voice blending in beautifully with the guitars. Sollee played cello as if it were a guitar, creating a "unique mix of folk, bluegrass, jazz and R&B". Interestingly he brought on stage a banjo player that I'd seen busking at the subway station on the way to the gig!

6. My schoolfriend Andy, his beautiful wife Tracy and their friends for a dinner party. This was right out near Coney Island, and an old lady from the Dominican Republic I sat next to on the subway warned me to be careful around there. She was right, as it was on the way back that I was pickpocketed, as I dozed on the train after rather too many cocktails. They took my camera, work Blackberry, and a small plastic bag with postcards (sorry everyone) and my Primark sunglasses! Gits, I paid 2 quid for those!! Andy's wife is a marvellous cook though, and it was great to catch up on the 12 or so years since I last saw him.

7. American Museum of Natural History. A good choice by Meegan, though Sunday afternoon on a rainy day was perhaps not the best time to visit. "Ohh maa gawwwd, Ostriches" screamed at high volumes by kids running and shouting everywhere, dodgy food in the basement, but despite all this, some very impressive dinosaur skeletons, mammals, and a Moai statue amongst the huge collections on display. One of those places you could spend a week and still not see everything. Just like our Natural History Museum back home.

8. Japanese restaurants including Sushiya just near our hotel, and Miyako in Williamsburg. Some healthy food to contrast with the chicken wings, burgers etc that are all too commonplace in what is second only to London for amazing food.

9. Brooklyn Museum. The second largest museum in NY, a huge collection of art which rivals the Met but with a fraction of the crowds. Outside a Caribbean festival, inside Yinka Shonabare, the British Nigerian artist, Light of the Sufis: The Mystical Arts of Islam, American Identities: A New Look, and much more. I'd strongly recommend here rather than the more famous Manhatten galleries if you want a bit of peace and quiet with your art.

10. Benihana. Alcohol-free (!) cocktails at this Japanese chain restaurant were sickly-sweet and horrible. No wonder when we ordered them the barman kept checking that we wanted each one alcohol-free. A veritable virgin disaster! This place is obviously more popular for happy hour, as several times rather inebriated customers spilled on to the pavement, just up from our hotel.

11. Newark Airport. For the first time I left from Newark Airport. Given how awful JFK is, I had high hopes for Newark. I was to be disappointed. Another airport with a underfunded domestic feel to it. Why can't America do decent airports (I'm not saying we're leading the field, but we're still streets ahead of anything I've seen Stateside. The flight back was really quick with a strong tailwind, getting us home in about 5 1/2 hours! Too quick really, not enough time to sleep on the flight!

12. Brunch at Fat Hippo's on the LES (Lower East Si-eeede!). I wanted to go to Clinton Street Baking Company, but by the time Essa had brushed his hair and we got down there they had an hour and half wait. It looked good though, and I'll try to visit again next time. Schiller's looked busy and I can vouch for the food being great, but what's the need in visiting the same place twice in NY? Anyway, the LES seems like the brunch capital of New York, get yourself down there at the weekend for Eggs Benedict and a smoothie.

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