MW and I arrived to our hotel in Queens around 3pm to a drizzly, gray afternoon. MW's new Prius was a champ in getting us there safely! We checked in and got settled, not expecting KBurd (Fergie) and Regg until much later in the evening. Eventually we cleaned ourselves up and headed out to a bar nearby for some dinner and beers to pass the time. MW had a gigantic Chicken Pot Pie and I inhaled my burger and fries.
When KBurd and Regg arrived it was so good to see their faces!! We spent time catching up and eventually it was bedtime so we could rest up for the next crazy few days.
We woke up Wednesday and caught some breakfast at Dave's Bagels, a local shop that we walked to (and frequented). After filling up we decided to head to Midtown to see Rockefeller Center and the famous Christmas Tree! It was a busy day since the weather was so nice.
As warm as it was, it was still very windy!
We decided to meet up with an old friend of Regg/KBurd/MW's from high school at one of the few breweries actually in NYC, Heartland Brewery. After a quick stop by Radio City, we were there in no time.
I find the following sequence funny and endearing:
The beers at Heartland were quite good. I think Regg and his friend shared a sampler of the house drafts while I tried the Harvest Wheat and the Not Tonight Honey Porter. Soon, though, our stomachs were rumbling, so we took some tequila shots and headed out and down to the East Village.
Thanks to our good friend J, who sadly could not be with us, we knew of a small place serving the best Mac and Cheese in NYC: S'Mac. We ordered up two samplers and settled in to the cozy environment with active salivary glands.
The boys walking up to S'mac
Regg is contemplating which sample to try first
KBurd makes a suggestion, with delight in her eyes
Happy Mac and Cheesers
They arrive in scalding hot iron skillets
You even get a map of which types the sampler comes with so you are prepared for each taste. My favorite was the Alpine: Gruyere and bacon! yum! MW and KBurd both enjoyed the Parisienne: Creamy Brie, roasted figs, shiitake mushrooms, and rosemary! It was very savory. MW is becoming quite the mushroom eater, much to my surprise. To be honest, they were all extraordinary! If you are in NYC, you must go! These happy faces tell it all
Two empty skillets
Upon finishing, we checked our watches and decided to head back to Queens to freshen up before the concert. We bought unlimited subway passes for the week, so we weren't shy about hopping on the subway (sometimes just to go a few stops). But this turned out to be the only day we crossed back and forth before the concerts. Night one was fantastic and it was great to enjoy good music with good friends. MSG really is a magical place and Phish has the ability to bring it to life. That night we headed straight home and crashed hard.
Thursday we were up fairly early but it takes 4 people a while to get ready with one bathroom. I feel I need to note that, since we decided not to head back to Queens before the concert, I was no longer carrying my camera and will attempt to document through iPhone pictures as best as possible.
By the time we were moving and ready for the city, we decided to skip breakfast and head, instead, back to the East Village for the french fry experience from Heaven. Pommes Frites is a European style french fry shop with an endless combination of delicious, mayo-based dipping sauces. MW and I split a large bag of fries and got several dipping sauces, including Rosemary Garlic Mayo, Pesto Mayo, Parmesan Peppercorn, War Sauce (mayo, peanut satay, and raw onions), and the house standard: Especial (mayo, ketchup, and raw onion). By far our favorite was the Especial!
KBurd in line for some mayo goodness
We sat on the edge of the sidewalk, since it was pretty busy inside and we wanted to enjoy the sunshine and nice weather.
MW had an accident with the war sauce, but luckily our sights were mostly set on the Especial at this point. RIP War Sauce.
After filling our guts with fried-delicious-mayo-dipped-goodness, we located a bar in the East Village through Yelp (one of my favorite resources) and headed over for some brews. Jimmy's No. 43 was located down some stairs and had a very dark and cozy feel to it with old hardwood floors and hunting game hung on the walls. We happened to visit during a week when they had all Green Flash Brewery beers. I got a sampler, my usual go-to.
It was a great spot to hit while we thought about our next dining locale. We spent some time relaxing and genuinely enjoying one another's company. As a group, we meshed well with our travel expectations. We all have a very go-with-the-flow attitude, so there were never any difficulties, which made it even more pleasurable. Even with the few times I've met both KBurd and Regg, I grow to love them each time and have come to consider them both great friends. It's really a shame we live so many states apart.
Once our bellies signaled we were growing hungry (which is astonishing, considering the amount of mayo we consumed) we headed off in search of Bite, a European American and Mediterranean Cuisine. First, KBurd convinced us to stop for Egg Creams. We were leery of something called an "egg cream" that you drink and I expected something warm and thick, like eggnog. Egg Cream is like a carbonated, slightly creamy italian soda, available in vanilla and chocolate (we split one of each). I was instantly hooked and we slurped away until we reached Bite. We started our dining experience with Fresh Mozzarella and Basil Bruschetta and a Roasted Pepper Tapanade Hummus plate. Both were divine. MW even ordered a peach sangria that was strong and delightful.
Warm fresh pita with hummus is killer
The walls showcased the owner's son's drawings. They brought a smile to my face.
This was definitely one of my favorite spots of the trip. The owner was nice and the large windows in the front were so inviting. The food was simple but filling. The hummus was so smooth and flavorful that words just can't do it justice. I know when we return to NYC, Bite will be on our list of places to return to.
Completely content, we returned to Midtown and set up base camp in a bar close to MSG called Rattle N Hum. 40 Beers on Draught plus over 100 bottles to choose from. We're draught drinkers, so we poured over the menu. MW was thrilled to see a nice selection of IPAs to choose from. By the time we came upon RNH, the bar was already pretty packed, but we lucked out and nabbed a small table right by the front door where we awaited the arrival of some friends from Upstate NY.
Once they showed up, we had a few more beers and then rendezvoused to MSG.
Our seats both night one and night two were Fishman side and set back, but provided great views of the lights and the entire audience. Another great concert and we promptly ran to Dave's Bagels before making it home and collapsing into comas.
Friday was basically a return to all our favorites. We started slow and spent some time in the hotel with our friends, who arrived in town that morning and were also staying at our hotel. Eventually made our way back to Bite (for Hummus and sandwiches). It really was THAT good. I wish I could just move upstairs and start every day with Bite. We walked around a bit, but wanted to stake our claim at a table towards the back at Rattle N Hum. We got there around 4 or 5pm and it was already lively, but we were able to slide into a booth and sip beers until we were reunited with our friends.
Reunited and it feels so good! We spent an hour or two crammed into our 6 person booth, getting pretty cozy with one another. It was a good time had by all. The beers changed daily at Rattle N Hum, so there were lots of new ones to try each day. We decided to go in early to the show to get to our seats and get our bearings, so we left, but stopped for some cheap pizza on the way.
This pleasantly lit spot between two buildings had small tables and a guy playing acoustic guitar. We hung out for a minute, soaking up the ambience just down the street from MSG.
(thanks to Regg for providing some of these pictures)
Regg, KBurd, MW and I had seats dead center this night, and they were by far my favorite seats.
The magic begins
The music and lights were phenomenal. The whole arena was transformed into this buzzing ball of energy that swayed and crested like a tumultuous ocean. Because the arena is actually a circle, hanging in suspension within a square building, you could actually feel the floor moving as people danced to the music. It was unreal. Even the lights became an integral part of the musical experience. It was by far my favorite concert of the run. It was a great night to relish with good friends and stories of that night will be shared between us for years to come.
Afterward we took a stroll through Times Square. Since it was the 30th, the stage and post for the NYE ball were all set up, and we stood right beside all of it. KBurd and I were determined to have Egg Creams and Roasted nuts this evening. We actually spent a good portion of our meandering earlier in the day looking for some Egg Creams, with no success. As we entered Time Square, we passed a nut vendor who didn't look very appetizing so we dejectedly walked on. However, on the next corner, as we stood in near daylight taking in the sights and sounds of NYC, the smell of glorious roasted nuts wafted through our senses. KBurd and I simply looked at each other and knew it was meant to be.
They. Were. Amazing.
Everything I had hoped for and more. As I stood chewing on my honey roasted handful, I turned around and realized we had a nut stealer among us (uhem, MW). Unfortunately, we never did find Egg Creams the rest of the weekend. Next year KBurd, next year.
From there, our trusty guide lead us to the Pig N Whistle, where a year earlier MW and I (and KBurd and our good friend EMC from Seattle) started our evening of New Year's Day. We found ourselves upstairs where there was a nearly empty, small bar and a refreshing balcony over looking the street.
Luckily our friend Rob is a pro at taking discreet pictures. This one is from him, thanks Rob!
We spent some time sitting around, sipping waters and beers, reeling from an overwhelming concert before calling it a night and heading back to Queens (where we were all conveniently staying).
This may give you an indication of how we were feeling at that point.
Fuzzy brained, silly, but ready for one more night!
Saturday (NYE) we woke up even later but we needed the rest. After dressing, we stayed in Queens for breakfast and went to Pete's Grill, a local diner we found last year. It was a hearty way to start the day. Unfortunately I thought I could tackle french toast topped with
5 gallons a large portion of cinnamon baked apples (basically apple pie filling). It was a little too hearty. And, as always when I delineate from my standard fare, I regretted not getting eggs and a bagel. But I managed regardless.
This day we spent walking around Little Italy and China town, mostly staying to Mulberry and Canal streets. MW got some gelato and we stood and watched an older group of Chinese singers entertain a small crowd at a park nearby. It was a warm day and we were in no rush, so on we walked for a bit.
At some point we made our way back to Midtown and poked our heads into a couple bars before heading to our old favorite Rattle N Hum (for the final time). Again we grabbed a table in the back, picked at some food, drank some beers, and saw our crew one more time before the concerts.
This time, we sat on the floor 9 rows from the stage. It was a whole different experience than the previous three nights. At midnight, the band pulled off their typical NYE gag:
(this is long, but it will give you an idea; pulled from youtube)
(yes there are floating audience members and instruments)
Go to about 15:00 - we were right in the thick of all of this
We all counted down to midnight, when balloons dropped directly on us and Phish played Auld Lang Syne. MW and I shared a new year's kiss before enmeshing ourselves in a group hug with our little NYE family. It was the perfect way to ring in the new year and I hope it is a great one for all of us!
Phish played three sets that night and then released us into the busy streets of NYC dazed, tired, but completely satisfied. Bars were packed with people from Times Square, so we headed straight for the subway and hopped on to steal away home, lost in our thoughts and wordlessly breathing in the hopes and anticipations we each held for the new year.
Sunday Morning (1.1.12) we said goodbye to our other friends from Upstate as they left to get on the road. MW, Regg, KBurd and I shared one more breakfast at Dave's before Regg and KBurd got on the road, leaving MW and I in NYC to celebrate our 5 year anniversary.
We cleaned ourselves up, picked a place on Open Table/Yelp and made dinner reservations, then went off to grab a drink at The Ginger Man, a bar we had attempted to visit last year but found extraordinarily packed full. It was dimly lit and a bit romantic as we nudged up into a corner booth and sipped our brews. MW's Big Sis and her boyfriend were in town from NYE, so we connected with them and decided to meet up in Little Italy, where they currently were. Conveniently, our restaurant and the friends they were staying with were both on the Upper West Side, so we rode up there and grabbed a spot at a local sports bar to watch the Football games. MW and I couldn't stay long, but it was great to see Big Sis and her man again.
We walked two blocks to Coppola's West, a romantic Italian Restaurant with great reviews. We were seated next to another couple at a table for two and after a few minutes, the manager came over and offered to reseat us at a larger table. It was a nice offer and we accepted, allowing us more space and privacy to talk. MW ordered minestrone soup, which we shared, and Chicken French while I had my Italian staple, Chicken Parmigiana. We sipped Chardonnay and had a great conversation. I wouldn't have changed one minute of that night because it matched us so well. The restaurant had a cozy sort of charm without being stuffy or high-browed. And the food, naturally, was fantastic. Including the heavenly tiramisu and decadent NY Cheesecake we stuffed down.
MW has been a wonderful partner to me. I never expected to share my life with someone so equally and I am truly lucky to have him. I look forward to many more years of sharing in our happiness.