Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New York City

Nothing compares to New York City. I experience a rush when I step onto the city streets that I can't imagine you would experience anywhere else in the U.S. One of Chris' best friends, Ben, lives and works in NYC and was kind enough to let us stay at his place in SoHo for the weekend, so we took full advantage of this great opportunity.

I could ramble on and on about NYC but I will do my best to summarize some of my favorite parts of our trip. We visited NYC on our one year wedding anniversary and I feel like we crammed in every possible tourist attraction NYC has to offer. We absolutely wore ourselves out! This time I wanted to experience a more low key weekend and have a nice, relaxing trip. We had a picture perfect weekend and I wouldn't have changed a thing.

Ben's apartment in SoHo

Check out the stairway up to his 4th floor apartment....straight up! Chris wasn't too happy with me since I had a heavy, large suitcase.

Ben's tiny kitchen. Notice you don't have much counter space to do your cooking!

I took the bus to NYC out of Union Station. Some of you may question the bus, but let me tell you how great it is. First, a round trip ticket usually runs around $40 per person. The bus is clean, there is free wifi and the drivers waste no time getting you in and out of the cities. There are several different charter buses to choose from and you really can't beat the price. The trip takes right at 4 hours. When we went for our anniversary we took the train which was really nice too; however, several hundred dollars more. When I looked into train tickets this past weekend it was going to run about $300 round trip, per person. So let's see.....$40 or $300? No question in my mind! If you're ever planning a trip to DC keep the bus in mind for a quick trip up to NYC for several days. I highly recommend the Bolt Bus, DC2NY or Washington Deluxe.

I could spend a week in NYC just shopping...actually I would probably need more than one week. On Friday we spent the entire afternoon walking up and down Broadway St. in SoHo. There were many great stores....many more than Charlotte, NC or Washington, DC has to offer. :) Some may think that DC has a lot of great places to shop, which it does, but it doesn't hold a candle to NYC. Some of my favorites along Broadway were Mango, BloomingdalesTopshop and Madewell.

I regularly check out Topshop and Madewell's websites; however, I haven't had the opportunity to visit one of their stores. Topshop was unbelievable and I scored a great shirt and hair accessory. I bought the coolest shirt but I didn't see it on their website so I'll take a picture and post it soon. I've noticed that feathers are big this season, especially worn in your hair. I found a great peacock feather hair clip that I purchased which adds a nice finishing touch when I wear my hair pulled back (I'll post a pic of this too).

Topshop in SoHo
Photo courtesy of Putucos

You can't go wrong at Madewell, one of J.Crew's sister wonder I love it so much. Their line of clothes is very similar to J.Crew, but a little less preppy. Reps claim that Madewell's merchandise are priced at 20-30% less than J.Crew, so definitely take time to check them out.

Madewell in SoHo
Photo courtesy of Refinery29
On Saturday I spent most of the morning visiting the small boutiques in and around SoHo. I visited several vintage stores and picked up a few cute things for next to nothing! New York vintage stores have the biggest selection you can imagine. A great vintage jewelery store is Pippin Vintage Jewelry. They have hundreds of pieces priced under $50 and drawers filled with $5 pins, earrings and cuff links.  Another great jewelry store, but a little more on the pricey side, is Gas Bijoux. Want to stand out from the crowd? Visit Le Labo where you can create your own fragrance. Your shopping options are endless.

I don't even know where to start, but I will just mention a few of our favorites from the weekend. For lunch on Friday we visited Lombardi's Pizza. New York City was the birth place of New York Style pizza and in 1905 Lombardi's opened it's doors as America's First Pizzeria. It did not disappoint!

Sweet Italian sausage, roasted red peppers & wild fresh mushroom pizza

Smile you're at Lombardi's

On Friday night we went to the SoHo House with Ben and his girlfriend, Megan. The SoHo House is a private members' club and hotel located in the Meatpacking District. The atmosphere was awesome and it was neat to experience an area of the city that wasn't accessible to just anyone. After dinner we ventured over to The Standard Hotel and went to the Biergarten. The Biergarten is an outdoor bar (partially enclosed in the winter with outdoor heaters) located underneath the High Line. They feature a classic German menu of beer, sausages pretzels and more. They even have a few ping pong tables....which yes, we attempted a game or two and we were TERRIBLE! There are times where I am very impressed with DC's dining and nightlife scene, but nothing compares to NYC.

**Please take note of my jacket in the pictures below. Look familiar?



Best buds

Megan & Erin

Ben & Megan attempting a game of ping pong

For the absolute best cake doughnut I've ever tasted, visit Balthazar's Bakery. Deb with the Smitten Kitchen first informed me of these doughnuts and she was absolutely right. For all my southern readers I do have to specify that these are the best cake doughnuts I've ever eaten. There is nothing better in this world than a warm, hot out of the oven, melt in your mouth Krispy Kreme doughnut. But I will have to say that these came in a close second place. The doughnuts have a crunchy outer layer with a moist, dense cake-like inner layer. Along with the doughnut (it was a mini size) we also got a sticky bun and a pain au chocolat. You can't go wrong with any of the breads and pastries so make a stop at Balthazar's.

Balthazar's Bakery

Saturday afternoon we decided to venture to NYC's latest and greatest tourist destination, Eataly. Eataly is basically a marketplace that gives you a taste of Italy without the flight. Restaurateurs Joe Bastianich, Lidia Matticchio and Mario Batali teamed up with the founder of a gourmet food and wine market in Turin, Italy and created Eataly. The market features areas for shopping, learning and most importantly eating! The market is located in the Toy Building at 200 5th Ave. between 23rd and 24th streets and includes multiple restaurants, including a fine dining Italian steakhouse, a Neapolitan pizzeria, a year-round rooftop beer garden and microbrewery, a wine bar, a gelato station as well as a cooking school and retail sections for everything from Italian cookware to all the essentials you need to cook a gourmet Italian meal. This place was incredible! It was a little overwhelming at first since there were hundreds of people trying to make their way through the market to decide what to buy, eat and drink. Luckily I was able to snatch two seats at the wine bar and Chris and I enjoyed several glasses of wine along with our paninis. If you have an opportunity to go, order a charcuterie board with your wine.


Yes, please

Last but not least was our dinner Saturday night. I feel that some of the best places to eat in any city are the neighborhood, family owned joints that not everyone knows about. Ben introduced us to this little regional Brazilian home cooking restaurant named Casa. Unbelievable. That's about all I know to say because it truly was one of the best meals I've ever eaten. The restaurant is extremely small so I highly recommend calling for a reservation. Make sure you start off by ordering a caipirinha. This is Brazil's national cocktail, made with cachaca, sugar and lime. What is cachaca? It's Brazil's most common distilled alcoholic beverage that is the result from the fermentation of sugarcane juice that is distilled afterwards. At Casa they offer several different varieties, one of the best being the passion fruit. Chris and I ordered the same entree, feijoada. This dish is considered a Brazilian national dish made of black bean stew with prime meats (usually stewed pork and beef) served with white rice, fresh oranges, collard greens, farofa (seasoned, toasted manioc root), and a vinaigrette sauce. It may not sound very appetizing, but I'm telling you that if you get a chance to try this dish you won't be disappointed. It's a little sweet, savory and spicy!

As you can tell we had a great time on our trip. I'm already trying to plan my return. My Mom and I went one weekend in December last year to see all of the Christmas decorations and it was spectacular. Be prepared for the crowds though....walking down the street, at every single restaurant, the hotels, you name it! It's the most popular time of year to visit NYC but if you've never been at Christmas then you need to plan a trip. There is truly something magical about that city.

By the way, 58 days until Christmas!!!

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