Monthly Archives: July 2012

Lunch at Union Square Cafe

Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé, Parigot & Richard, Burgundy $15

There are a few places I return to again and again when I’m in NYC and  Union Square Cafe is one of them.  The location is really convenient (just off of Union Square Park) the bar is comfortable and the food is always solid.  Restauranteur Danny Meyer has a well-deserved reputation as  being masterful at creating an environment that offers simple yet sophisticated food with a front of the house staff that is known for their warmth and competence.  All true, as confirmed by my experiences over the years, whether I was here, Gramercy Tavern, Blue Smoke, The Modern or Tabla.

That being said, I’m not really a fan of the bartender who took my lunch order on my most recent visit.  He has been there many years and I don’t have a real beef with him, I just don’t find him to be particularly warm. Aside from his slightly sour personality, my lunch was everything I had hoped for – fresh, creative and delicious.

Oyster menu

Oyster tasting

I opened with my own little oyster tasting.  There were three varieties offered so I went with one of each.  I’ve never directly compared oyster varieties before and it was pretty trying to discern the differences in flavor and textures.  If you’re an oyster eater, I highly recommend this little indulgence.  The Duxbury was briny in a delightful way – there was no doubt this was a gift from the sea.  The Barron Point was saltier than the Duxbury and also had a firmer texture, a bit toothier, I guess you could say.  The Fanny Bay was more mild.  It reminded me of a piece of white fish sashimi, less sea-centric, shall we say?

$22

I followed my oyster fest with a wonderful yellowfin tuna burger, rare as I requested.  It was served with a carmelized onion and cumin-scented cole slaw which was fantastic.  I haven’t been eating my burger rolls much these days and I felt guilty about wasting this one – it was eggy and perfectly grilled, but I was saving myself for dessert.

$9.50 – worth every cent.

I knew this was going to be my main meal of the day, so three courses seemed an appropriate indulgence.  I really love key lime pie and USC really kicks it up with a coconut meringue and graham crust – amazing!  And, yes, I ate the entire thing.  Who says eating out solo is a bad thing?

My lunch was lovely, although next time I find myself in the neighborhood I might see who’s working the bar prior to settling in with a menu.  Gramercy Tavern is nearby and perhaps I’ll give that a shot if the grumpy barkeep at Union Square is behind the bar.  I don’t mind spending $75 on lunch, but it would be nice if it was served with a smile.

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Crazy, perfect diamond

Random thoughts on a rainy Sunday –

Highway driving makes me insane.  There are three behaviors that I do not understand – driving in the left lane if you’re not passing, not turning your lights completely on during the rain and using your brakes repeatedly.  Insane, I tell you!
Last night’s run was perfect.  Of course, my simple definition of perfect* is: more than I expect.   It was longer, slower, more of my favorite songs played as I listened to a long ignored playlist.  I repeatedly had to remind myself that the focus was distance, not time.  Slow down and breath.  It was great.
You know how people talk about meeting their soulmate? Their other half?  Is there such a thing as “soulmate” or a person who absolutely fills each and every void we possess?  By the way, I don’t think they’re the same thing, and one of them seems a bit more plausible to me, but I’m not subscribing to this set of expectations.  I think that the right person, for me, is the one who will make me shine, who will polish what’s already present with attention and love.  And this seems not only more realistic, but more desirable, to me.

*Did I mention I have high expectations – myself included?

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Allman Brothers and Santana at SPAC – 7/27/12

I had a chance to finally get to a show last night at SPAC – first of the season.  Despite all the rain we’ve had recently the lawn was in good shape and the crowd was definitely there to have a good time.  The Allman Brothers sounded fantastic.  Gregg’s voice was in tip-top shape and if Willie Nelson ever needs a doppelgänger I’d say Gregg Allman is his guy.  It’s really nice to see Derek playing with more soul as he ages.  Watching Carlos playing the blues was awesome and it is very difficult to believe that a man with his youthful spirit could have possibly been on stage at Woodstock.  Wow.

I’ve seen both of the acts before, but there was definitely something special in the air last night – and I’m not talking about the pervasive smell of weed, either.  I won’t forget last night for a long time.  More pictures here at my Seen gallery at the Times Union.  See if you can spot me in a group photo with my new best girlfriends!

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Derek and Warren

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Gregg

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Carlos working the stage

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The unmistakable Carlos

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Minding my Ps and Qs or adventures in parenting Quinn

ImageMy youngest son, Quinn, was born when I was 38.  My pregnancy was considered “premium” and I had obstetrician appointments so frequently towards the end of my 40 weeks, that I joked I was going to pitch a tent in the waiting room to eliminate the driving back and forth.  Maybe the humor I was able to express, along with the sheer determination I exerted in having that third child when my body was uncooperative,  laid the foundation for his personality because this child is a strong and funny little person.  And he just delights me to no end.

Yesterday was a typical day of life with Quinn.  We discussed his eventual children – 4, two girls, two boys.  The girls will be named Buttercup (his blond) and Princess (she’ll have dark hair).  He shared his strengths with me, which are his ability to tan, making people laugh, playing games (board and electronic) and his tolerance for pain.  The latter was a fairly recent discovery and involved a finger, an infected splinter, a needle and some gross pus.  Tough as nails, I tell you.

We discussed important things like Muggles and tornadoes and healthy foods. He danced to the Supremes while wearing the cutest Levi cutoffs I’ve ever seen and cuddled during movie time in his Sponge Bob jammies, equally animated in motion and rest.  Alive.

This morning I read this beautifully post written by my friend, Mark McGuire, about a nine-year old boy who died this week from an untreatable cancer.  This child, Myles, was a student in the district where I teach and I was aware of the situation from an emotionally safe distance.  I am incredibly impressed with the grace exhibited by his family, and so very proud of the support lent by my colleagues during his final months.  Children shouldn’t die before their parents and my heart aches for a mom who will never know what her son’s future children will look like.

I think it’s time for Quinn and me to watch the 7th movie in the Harry Potter series. I hope my boy interrupts the movie with questions and observations and shares his thoughts and hopes with me.  Believe me,  I won’t mind at all.

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Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

The title of this post kind of sums up how I felt after a recent run. I had a stitch in my side that wouldn’t quit and I was forced to slow to a walk more than once over the course of 5 miles. I didn’t feel particularly strong and I wondered if I had finally landed on the other side, the downhill side, of my personal mountain, so to speak.  Yuck.

My lack of satisfaction with my run, while genuine, was put into perspective as I started thinking about my satisfaction with where I am in life. How, overall, I feel pleased with my ability to keep moving forward, breathing deeply all the while. Living.

How often do you think that every day spent on this earth is one less day you’ll be here? Even if one believes in Heaven or reincarnation, there’s no mistaking that each day brings one a step closer to their final moments. When it’s all over will you reflect on your days and feel as if you lived or merely existed?

Sometimes when I’m running and struggling with each step of every mile, I consider how far I’ve come and the distance still to run. If I am 3 miles into a 5 miles run and feeling like I still have too far to go, my mind often makes the leap to how those numbers apply to my life expectancy. The thought that my own life is probably 60% over generally gives me the kick in the ass necessary to finish those remaining miles.

I have a fairly sensitive nose, probably a blessing and a curse in equal measure. I passed an older man walking a small dog and caught a whiff of his scent. Some sort of musky fragrance that took me back to my childhood in the 70s. It was what the cool people wore, earthy and androgynous. He probably was one of the cool people at that time, but now he was just another old-ish kind of guy dousing himself with the aroma of yesterday. And keeping the light on for the generation to follow his into retirement. My generation.

I know I want to run every chance I get before walking my dog and smelling like the past are what I have left.  I don’t mean to say that either of those are necessarily bad things, but I’m trying my best to experience life – love, laughs, aches and pains included.  And when that day comes and I spritz myself with Chanel and grab my dog’s leash, I’ll have plenty of memories to take along for the walk.  How about you?

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Don’t be afraid to care

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My favorite NYC landmark

         Care: (verb) Feel concern or interest;
attach importance to something.

I spent a day recently doing my best Holden Caulfield impersonation.  You know, basically getting lost and visiting some of my favorite NYC haunts, like Macy’s and the West Village.  I also went to a couple of restaurants with bars that offer conversation, as well as a bite to eat.

I know that NYC has a reputation for being kind of cold and impersonal, a reputation perhaps earned by its sheer magnitude.  I’ve never had that impression of the city, though.  To me, it is a place filled with people going about their lives, yet still willing to be engaged if approached with sincere interest.

View from the High Line

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So many people walking the Line!

One of my more recent favorite things to do while in Manhattan, is walk the High Line. Since I was consciously moving at a leisurely pace,  I walked the current entire length, 30th Street to Gansvoort, and I enjoyed every step.  It is a beautiful public space and it never would have been developed if residents didn’t care. Isn’t that awesome?

My feet magically found their way to a place that I absolutely adore – Lupa.  Now, I’ve been to a number of Batali joints, maybe all of them in NYC other than Del Posto, but this is the spot I return to again and again.  The food is certainly a magnet for me, but ultimately it comes down to the quality of care and attention I have received without exception at every visit.  I’ve been here with my former husband, one of my children, with the girls, and solo and I  have never felt anything but comfortable.  This particular day, though, was even more special.

So refreshing!

I sat at the bar a few seats removed from an attractive couple I took to be in their mid-60’s, or 20 years older than myself.  As I sipped my lovely glass of rose, I couldn’t help but be interested in them.  They were sweet with one another and possessed both a steadfast comfort and a romantic buzz.  What a fabulous combination, huh?

We started to talk after I heard them discussing their attempt at baking marijuana brownies – a big disappointment, they said.  We shared some laughs about their illicit baking and the conversation started to flow…parenting, inane drug laws, music, travel.  I asked if they were married and they smiled and confirmed they had been married for 30 years, his 2nd marriage, her first at the age of 40.  He kissed her behind her right ear fondly.  They still had a sizzle between them that was glorious to see.  They were retired, spending their time traveling, painting, living.  My heart was lifted.  They told me about their experiences at Burning Man.  Yes, Burning Man!  How amazing are they?  I was inspired.

When they departed the restaurant, we exchanged names.  And hugs.  I believe all three of us felt we had learned something from each other, as if we were infinitesimally changed from who we had been prior to our interactions.  By showing a little interest, by caring, the world was now a different place.

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Breathe, breathe in the air

ImageWhen I’m in NYC, I just want to inhale it – the energy, the people, the food, the buzz.  All of it.  Well, I suppose I can omit the urine stench and the “juice” that leaks from the garbage trucks in summer, but, aside from those liquids, I want it all.  I love the spontaneity of the city, the possibility for good things that lies around each and every corner.  I’m not naive, but I prefer to focus upon the potential for good things, not bad, when I’m walking around New York. Bad things can happen even in the most innocent of locations, as a recent experience illustrated.

Last weekend I spent a blissful 24 hours, solo, in the city.  And, while I traveled alone, my most favorite moments were shared with others, city friends and strangers alike.  Here’s how my time (and $) were spent…

Room 401 – $160 from Hotwire

I arrived at Grand Central Station and walked three blocks to my Hotwire booked hotel, The St Giles Court on 39th and Lexington.  The location was terrific, the price fair ($160) and the room lovely.  So far, so good.  I lightened my load, grabbed a quick bite to eat at a nearby diner (Scotty’s, solid and reasonable) and headed to Macy’s. Despite the cool rain, I was happy to walk at my own pace and my shopping was relaxing and productive.

I returned to my room and got dressed for a run.  I was unaware of any place to run other than Central Park, so I walked over to 5th and went north.  6+ miles later, I found my way down Lex with enough time to sneak in a mani/pedi prior to making my way over to the upper west side for drinks and dancing. 

My world traveling friend (who I used to babysit for!)

My girl, Alex, is heading off to travel the world, an occasion that must be marked with cocktails, obviously.  We met at Prohibition on Columbus at 84th, a cool spot for delicious drinks (agave margarita anyone?), a bite to eat and a tight cover band, East Side Mix.  Loud and fun.

My favorite pub in NYC.

Seeing as how I was basically in the neighborhood, I couldn’t bypass the Dublin House.  A pint of Harp, and a chat with a friendly man with a charming brogue later, and I happily caught a cab across town.  It was a good night.

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