As the great Mary Chapin-Carpenter once sang so poignantly, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” Those lyrics perfectly sum up the events of my weekend in NYC. Sometimes you are lucky and get the best of the Big Apple, and sometimes, the City has its way with you, and you get the worm! I started with the best of intentions. I would head down early Saturday morning to attend the PBGV Specialty at the Meadowlands in Secaucus, NJ held annually the weekend just before Westminster, then spend that evening and the next day in NYC before heading home Sunday. But before we even departed the North Country, there were bad signs. First off, I had some trouble with the car that had to be repaired before the road trip (new tires and an alignment, and I still feel something’s funny under there!). Of course, this caused some concerns about the financial viability of travel plans. Then both our arrangements for a place to stay in the City Saturday night and our pet-sitter fell through at the last minute. So I managed to Priceline a room in Secaucus (for $65 total—whoo-hoo!), find another pet-sitter, and throwing all caution to the wind, off we went. We were supposed to pick up some friends in the Bronx on the way to the Meadowlands, but when we took the exit that they said to take, we were in Nyack, NJ and not the Bronx! With the help of a friendly patron at a Mobil station (that unfriendly New Yorker thing is a stereotype that does not usually bear out), we got back on track and made it to the show on time and got to see all the wonderful PBGVs. (We'll be rooting for our girl, Fairchild, tonight at Westminster!) But that was about the last thing that went well all weekend. :-(
After the dog show, we bussed into the City, hopefully, for dinner and theatre. I had my heart set on seeing “Spring Awakening” (hailed as the new “Rent,” and I am the most devout Renthead!), but there were no tickets. My second choice was “Grey Gardens,” but I really couldn’t afford to do two shows this time, and the TKTS guy felt confident that they would have “Spring Awakening” tickets the next day. So I decided to wait and put all my eggs in the Sunday matinee basket, and we headed to Chinatown for some dinner and a little shopping. I had printed out all 18 pages of The Village Voice’s Top 100 Inexpensive Restaurants in New York, and I had a particular restaurant picked out called Great NY Noodle Town. However, I couldn’t make out whether it was at 28 ½ Bowery or 281 Bowery. Naturally, I chose the wrong direction, and after walking forever in the freezing cold, we were still only in the 100’s and leaving Chinatown heading toward Soho! We were cold and hungry, so we just decided to eat at some place we passed on the way back; it was good but nothing remarkable. After the dinner debacle, it had become late, and I began to stress out because all the shops were closing, and I hadn’t yet found the scarf that I came looking for. But we managed to find the perfect Valentine’s Day, red-and-pink, rose motif, velvety, fringy scarf at the last stall before the subway! So it seemed like things were looking up. But then it took nearly two hours to get all the way back to the hotel in North Rutherford, and we were exhausted by the time we showered and fell into bed. Then I was so worried about getting up in time to get to the theatre to try to procure show tickets, that I really didn’t sleep much, keeping one eye on the clock all night.
Sunday was a study in chaos and disappointment. I’ll spare you all the boring details—too late— but the short version is, we weren’t able to get tickets to either show (my greatest heartbreak), and in making various attempts to procure the tickets (from theatre to theatre and from the midtown TKTS to the South Street Seaport one which we never could find!), we managed to suck up the best part of the day, so that we weren’t even able to connect with our friends for breakfast, brunch or lunch (compounded by the fact that I think I left their phone number at the hotel back in NJ in my morning haste and had no way to contact them). After tears were shed and the dream of seeing a show was finally abandoned, we shifted into Plan B mode, which was to pop in on some of our favorite food places in the City, and procure provisions to cart home to Plattsburgh. But there was inordinate amount of traffic for a Sunday (hence, no parking anywhere), and we seemed to have an extraordinarily difficult time of finding some of the places, and when we finally did, many of them were closed! BOO HISS! So we barely made a dent in our to-do list, but we did manage to procure at least a few goodies from several of our favorite haunts.
From Balducci’s, we got coffee and olives. From Balthazar, we got a loaf of brioche and some of their divine chocolate bread. From Billy’s Bakery, we tried a vanilla-vanilla cupcake to see what all the fuss is about and to compare them to the ones I made at home. The cupcake was still a bit on the dry side (though not quite as much as mine), and the frosting was still sickeningly sweet to my taste (although a little creamier than mine). We also tried the red velvet cupcakes (at $2.50 apiece! OUCH), and though they were superior to the vanilla-vanilla and a glorious color, they were still a bit on the dryish side. We definitely preferred the boiled icing to the powdered sugar stuff. But still, nothing to rave about. At Porto Rico in the Village, we acquired more coffee. And though I nearly got a ticket for double parking, no trip to NYC would be complete without a stop at Jim “No-Knead” Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery (which is now, strangely, not on Sullivan Street in Soho, but in Hell’s Kitchen). The Sullivan Street Bakery is like a temple to foodies and breadheads, and even if I get that ticket in the mail at a future date, it may well have been worth it. I grabbed a loaf of their legendary Pane Pugliese, a large ciabatta, two pieces of my personal Achilles heel, the Potato Pizza (a crispy dough topped with just thinly-sliced potatoes, onions, olive oil, sea salt and maybe a little rosemary—sounds like nothing, but it is EVERYTHING!), and also two pieces of the Pizza con Pecorino with hunks of pecorino cheese stuffed inside the dough. LORD HELP US! And then I also decided to try their Carta, which is just a crispy flatbread cracker-type of deal, but it’s quite delicious. Oh, and of course, we popped into the Chelsea Market for some of Jimmy’s Gelato (though their name has now changed to L’Arte del Gelato). Sadly, they did not have the beloved Chocolate Cayenne flavor of blessed memory, but I enjoyed some stracciatella (vanilla with shaved chocolate pieces) and Cyd had peanut butter. They were both good, but not anything close to the spicy chocolate variety.
After all the running about, we decided to make one last Hail Mary attempt to find our friends in The Bronx. We did not have their phone number, but I had my Mapquest directions with their address on it. It seemed doubtful, given the day’s frustrations, that we would get there without incident, but so we did, and we even managed to get a parking spot near their building! However, as they had show tickets that night (for “Spam-a-Lot” which we saw last year), and we didn’t have time to go back down into the City and all the way back up, we settled on a quick dinner at a local pub called the Piper’s Kilt (tee hee….”We have a piper doon!”). But at least we had that time together, though we were not able to check another NYC restaurant off our “to-try” list. (Sigh.) But before you get to pitying me too much (which, naturally, was my goal), I must report that the day ended on an upbeat note with a stop at Stew Leonard’s in Yonkers where I procured many tasty things, including freshly-baked challah, homemade tortillas and garlic croutons, flavored pankos (paprika, mustard), ginormous shallots, sugar snap peas, a mixed bean salad, marinated boccocini balls, Stew’s own cream cheese and their smoked mozzarella, their own in-house dried soppresata and also some fresh provolone and parsley sausages, and even a King Cake for Mardi Gras!
We didn’t arrive home until 2:00am with our souls (and pocketbooks!) more than a bit depleted. But I suppose the worst weekend in New York City is always better than the best weekend in Plattsburgh. And there will always be a next time… (Great, the way my luck’s going, I’ve just tempted fate by saying that, and now I’ll probably get hit by a bus…SHEESH!) ;-)