Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Big Apple... Second Bite.

Day two in New York began slowly and with ease, enjoying a hot warm shower and a cup of coffee from the lounge downstairs at The Carlton Hotel.  As I sat and sipped, I was remembering the details of the previous evening, when the hubbs finally arrived in town, somewhere close to midnight.

After I left the festive surroundings of the Flatiron District, I meandered back to the hotel for catnap, and then settled down with a refresher inside the Salon at the hotel.  A few laughs and chats later, I decided to walk the short distance a few blocks away to visit a place I've been meaning to for quite some time, Brasserie Les Halles, homebase of Chef-at-large, Anthony Bourdain.  Being a huge fan of his, I couldn't be in New York and not stop by Les Halles- at least for a cocktail or glass of bubbly.  I arrived close to closing time, but managed to slip in and enjoy a glass of sparkling rosé and a conversation with the bartender.  Had I arrived earlier, I may have been able to sneak a late night bite in, but I was happy as a clam just stopping in to say hi.

"Bustling and lively, Brasserie Les Halles is a typical Parisian brasserie serving fresh and simple dishes of France’s everyday cuisine.  For centuries, the old market district of Paris, Les Halles, fed people from all walks of life with food stalls, restaurants, brasseries, bistros and cafes, open at all times day and night.  This is the rare spot renowned for skillfully knowing how to leave French classics untouched, unmodernized, and absolutely delicious."

Perhaps on my next trip I will stay a spell and order dinner...  This visit was enjoyable, anyhow.


To fuel my Thursday adventures, I indulged in a light breakfast at the Madison Bistro.  A tiny, well-appointed cafe located just a few blocks north of my hotel, I found it to be a charming, quiet and excellent place to plan my day.

"For fine French cuisine in a romantic and elegant setting, be sure to visit Madison Bistro in Murray Hill, and enjoy Master Chef Claude Godard’s updated traditional bistro fare."

I ordered their Two Eggs w/Bacon, Sausage, Sauteed Potato & Baby Greens, which ended up being one of the prettiest breakfasts I've ever been served.  My eggs were cooked perfectly, the sausage is house made, the bacon was cooked exactly to the crisp I like and the salad was tangy and refreshing. The food is all incredibly fresh and plated immaculately- even better?  It tasted amazing.  Bravo Madison Bistro.

At the bistro, I determined that I would like to spend my afternoon wandering Grand Central Station-- in my humble opinion, one of the most exquisite and intriguing buildings in all of New York.  The history of this terminal is absolutely mind-boggling, so me going into detail is just silly.  Built in 1831, the grand dame of Beaux-Arts architecture sees millions of people pass through her doors on a regular basis, catching trains, enjoying a meal or just ogling her beauty (like me).

One of my favorite ways to pass the time is to sit on the terrace and people watch.  On this particular day, the sun was shining, people were headed to and from just about every-which-way and I found myself completely content, staring into the heavens of the station.  It's twinkling, cerulean blue ceiling dusted in stars and astrological formations makes the mind wander.  The hustle and bustle of the crowds, the ticking of the world's largest Tiffany clock and the energy of the building is beguiling to me.  I think I sat for two hours on the great marble steps without moving, taking in the place.  A big perk of the station is, you got it, the air conditioning.  Many folks use Grand Central as a short respite from the sweltering New York heat on their lunch hours or mid-walk to wherever.  I certainly took advantage.  Not only is it one of the most photographed buildings in the world, it is a treasure to me and I find great comfort and solace within it's walls.  Friends greeting, tearful departures, anxious new travelers and tourists with mouths agape as they stare in awe at this spectacle.  There is something magical about Grand Central, and visiting never gets old.

All that people watching made me hungry as a bear, so of course I had to fetch me some oysters!  The one and only Grand Central Oyster Bar was the perfect place for me to satisfy my need to slurp some east coast bivalves.

"The Oyster Bar first opened its doors in 1913 on the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. Woodrow Wilson was President, the United States was on the threshold of World War I, and Prohibition was just six years away. New York City was slowly emerging as a literary and artistic center, and little “salons” that attracted writers and artists and dilettantes were starting to spring up in Greenwich Village and in other parts of the city. The resplendent new Grand Central Terminal opened its doors that year too, on the site of what formerly had been the old and rundown train depot. People flocked to see the new terminal that was then as now considered an engineering marvel."

These guys know the meaning of fresh seafood.  In this vaulted ceiling, checkered tablecloth-clad cafeteria style eatery, folks can enjoy over 30 different varieties of oysters at any one time, chosen from a list of what I counted was almost 150.  Wowza- now that's my idea of an oyster bar!  On top of their overwhelming oyster selection, guests can choose dishes like Penne with Florida Royal Red Shrimp, Maine Lobster Meat and Broccoli Rabe with Garlic & Oil Broth or a Maine Lobster Roll on a Toasted Potato Bun with Cole Slaw & Sweet Potato Chips.  For you non-seafood lovers, plates such as the Grilled Sirloin Steak with French Fries and Vegetables should suffice.

I, of course, chose a simple half dozen of the shelled guys, careful to pick only oysters that are found on eastern shores.  I went with the Belon from Maine, a couple Malpeque from Prince Edward Island and to round it all out, a few Tatamagouche from Nova Scotia.  The oysters were all impeccably fresh, served on ice with cocktail sauce and mignonette in adorable little paper cups.  Nothing terribly fancy, but I appreciated the emphasis on the food itself.

If you're looking for entertainment here, pull up a stool and sit at the seafood bar, where all oysters are shucked in front of you and the soup is made-to-order in bubbling little single-serve cauldrons.  I caught a glimpse of their popular seafood stew being made and thought twice about trying to stuff myself silly.  Instead I opted for a slice their "famous" Donut Nectarine and Brown Sugar Caramelized Apple Pie (a la mode), with many thanks to my new friend sitting beside me.  A gentleman I shall refer to as one of the original Mad Men, on a day trip to visit the only dentist he trusted these days.  Hilarity ensued, and before we all new it, several more slices of pie were served and paid for by this mystery man with a sweet tooth.  Not a bad end to my Grand Central Station visit, not bad at all.


By this time it was about 3 o'clock and I was parched from all that briny goodness.  Upon recommendation from a friend, I headed my way back towards Madison Square Park to The NoMad Hotel, which rests at Broadway and 28th Street.  Touted as one of the most stylish and sublimely chic  hotels in Mid-town, The NoMad defines urban luxury- From it's discreet, richly furnished lobby to it's ornate, sexy parlour and mysteriously dark bar, you will immediately fall in love with this classy establishment and it's staff.  I only visited for drinks, but felt a twinge of envy when I realized how awesome this hotel was.

The Bar.

The Parlor.

The Library.
The Bar, which "evokes a balanced mix of spirited club and elegant lounge. A selection of classic and proprietary cocktails will be crafted by award winning-mixologist, Leo Robitschek",  is situated at the rear, behind the Parlour, an elaborately decorated dining area where guest can sit by the open hearth and "observe the preparation of fresh breads and seasonal specialties."  Alongside, sits the Library, "a fully curated, two-level library which is connected by an original spiral staircase imported from the South of France. Guests can lounge throughout the day on custom-made furnishings and enjoy light fare and finger foods which are served alongside coffee, tea, wine, and cocktails. An eclectic literary collection is available, featuring extensive volumes on such wide-ranging topics as The History of New York, Music, and Cocktails and Spirits."

I sidled up to Bar and was greeted with a warm smile by a fellow with a sporting moustache, sophisticated vest and white sleeves rolled up to the elbow.  How very Victorian throwback cool.  He was incredibly friendly and gave my plenty of time to read over their extensive cocktail list.  My first drink choice was the Rolling Stones influenced Start Me UpBourbon, Rum, Strega, Honey, Ginger, Lemon & Orange Bitters.  I enjoyed the sweet bite of this drink, served over a massive ice cube with just enough zing to keep the burn of the bourbon to a minimum.  Next, I ordered their Hair Trigger: Venezuelan Rum, Fernet Branca, Ginger, Lime & Cucumber.  How could I not?  I'm from the San Francisco Bay Area and we consume 25% of the Fernet supply in SF alone-- the barkeep found humor in that little tidbit.  I actually really liked the combo of the fresh cucumber, fernet and rum because it neutralized the concoction and was nicely balanced.  I was only at The Nomad for short time, but I will definitely return.  In fact, I can't wait for my next trip to NYC, because I would love to experience the dining as well.  The entire experience is on my to-do list.  NoMad, I shall see you again.


My lessons in Mixology were over and it was time to return to the Carlton Hotel to meet up with the hubbs and the rest of the gang from Creative Feed for a group dinner.  We were headed to Wine:30, an "intimate, neighborhood and wine bar in Murray Hill"- an attractive Mediterranean influenced restaurant with an emphasis on wine and wine pairings.  I was excited to check this place out, seeing as I had passed by it several time on my walking adventures throughout our stay.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by our host and lead to their exclusive wine cave, downstairs and completely separated from the rest of the diners at the restaurant.  The cave, which was dug out by hand with buckets by the owner, was an intimate and interesting way to experience our dinner.

A lovely prix fixe menu was arranged for our group, complete with a fantastic staff of servers to help us along the way.  Wines were chosen, excessive laughter erupted, cronut knowledge was shared and the food began to arrive...

Dipping Sauces
Cucumber-Dill Yogurt (favorite, an unusual yet palette pleasing choice)
Spicy Tomato & Pepper

Spicy Beef Sausage, Peppers & Onions
Roasted Corn, Black Beans, Chihuahua. Cilantro-Lime (favorite, loved the crunch of the sweet corn)

Choice of Entree
* Free-Range Roasted Chicken Breast with Chimichurri sauce, served with Wild Rice and Sauteed Broccoli Rabe.
* Seared Hangar Steak with Potatoes au gratin, Roasted Asparagus & Bernaise sauce. (I chose this entree and was impressed with the potatoes au gratin.  The steak was seasoned nicely as well.)
* Lemon-Basil Linguini with Asparagus, Tomato, Basil, Garlic, Parmesan and Olive Oil.

Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes (who doesn't love red velvet?)

Overall, Wine:30 was a pleasant experience.  The restaurant itself is quaint, but has a great atmosphere, full of smiling faces and friendly people.  Outside, during nice weather, there is a lovely patio garden seating area that is perfect for warm summer dinner parties.  While the restaurant small is small and often packed to the gills, the staff at Wine:30 do a great job of accommodating just about everyone inside and out.  Their wine list is impressive, especially for such a compact space, and if you aren't in the mood for wine, they've got a great selection of imported beers to choose from.  If you are ever in the Murray Hill area of Manhattan, swing by and check this little gem out.


It's hard to imagine that there's a day three still to come, one that explores the nightlife of Brooklyn.  From video arcade bars, 4am sandwiches from the corner store, watching graffiti artists from a rooftop patio and squeezing our way through tiny doors and into the past for vintage cocktails to sampling Crawtators and getting lost on the NYC subway.  So much more to come... Stay tuned.


*Photos 4,7,8 author's own
*Remainder of photos courtesy of establishment media galleries.


1 comment:

  1. It is good experience about Brasserie les Halles Restaurant. It is nice place to enjoy the night life.