Tuesday, October 29, 2013

If you look…

The day my meetings ended I made it back to Chelsea Market and the High Line Park but this time walked it all the way up to 30th street where it ended.

The soon to be extension of the High Line
Great views all along the trail though.  You don't often get the chance to look down on New York from 3 or 4 storeys up!

Chrysler Building from the High Line

Next day was the first of the two Living Social events I'd organized a week or so before.

I've blogged about Living Social before but really I am so impressed by them.  On one of the events, I had a problem reserving the actual day/time that I wanted -- there was a language 'misunderstanding'.  People that know me know what I mean here!  It would have been all rather embarrassing if I'd ever met the people again, but thankfully this is a big world!  I contacted Living Social's help desk and they resolved it, just like that.

The premise behind LS is the deal of the day (at least 50% off the ticker price).  They and a listed company called GroupOn are the leaders in this field but I chose to follow LS after reading a review of their competing styles.  Each time I visit a city, I try to see what is on LS as a special event and of course with larger cities the options are far more.  New York was jam packed!

My first event was a walking gastronomic tour of the West Village offered by a firm called Sidewalks of New York (see http://sidewalksofny.com).  They do loads of other neat tours too so do check them out!  Everybody on the tour had the same LS voucher as I did!!

Meeting place was near the West 4th Street subway station on Bleecker Street outside 'Porto Rico Imports', a business incorporated in 1907 and really spelled that way!  Our guide, Dante, told us that as they've been there so long and own the building, their prices are lower than anywhere else.  I bought some of the 100+ types of home roasted coffee and found he was absolutely right!

The tour was great in that Dante gave us history, some exercise and some pretty nice food -- not big slabs of it to be sure, but the combination of tastes was pretty good.  First stop was Mamoun's Falafel Restuarant on MacDougall Street, next to the renowned Cafe Wha where every major name musician in the world had performed.  Dante told us that clubs in the Village turn out at 4 am so this place and the pizza shop down the street (Artichoke Basille's our last stop on the tour) had their best custom between 4 am and 5 am.

This area of New York is old with many buildings dating back to the 18th century, in fact 1727 when a large fire rampaged through the city and destroyed all but one wooden building.

18th century apartments, these days very, very expensive indeed
We crossed 6th Avenue and went into the Italian quarter -- not Little Italy, but another one.  We passed a lovely little off-Broadway theatre called the Cherry Tree and discovered the first piece of memorable trivia of the day.

Definitely 'Off Broadway'

Whether a theatre is considered 'On' or 'Off' Broadway is nothing to do with location.  Its all to do with audience size.  On Broadway is 500+, Off Broadway is 100-499 and Off Off Broadway is under 99 -- who knew about 'Off-Off'?  Not me.

Next stop was Faicco's Italian Specialities where we had some antipasto after we'd walked past the Soprano's favourite lobster roll restaurant -- called Pearl, clearly they'd never heard about Chelsea Market! -- and Mario Batali's first New York restaurant -- he's moved on now but it's still Dante's favourite Italian restaurant in the area.  It's called Po at 31 Cornelia Street.  Sadly I never had a chance to try it this time around.

Not on the tour but right next door to Faicco's.  Looked great though!

Things became a bit of a blur after this point as the streets started to look the same and in fact as it turned out they were as we'd walked around in a great big circle!

Don't often see 4th Street intersecting with 10th Street
But Dante was a good tour guide and brought to life the first Prohibition bar in New York -- Chumley's   -- before the only fine dining establishment on the tour, called Fatty 'Cue, a Malaysian fusion barbeque joint if you can believe such exists!

Chumley's -- soon to be a new 'Speak Easy' so called because if you weren't polite to the doorman, you wouldn't get in!
We sat at the bar and the GM described the endless time it took to marinade, brine and then air dry the pork belly before they simply deep fried it and slathered it with salsa verde.  Sounded great but the taster was little pinky finger size and tasted like deep fried falafel!

We also had a New York bagel and the best canoli in New York at Pasticceria Bruno -- he'd made them for the Pope last year and beaten Bobby Flay in a canoli throw down too -- before we all parted ways.  Good fun and I was able to take note of where a lot of great jazz and blues clubs were hopefully for another time.

Some of Bleecker Street's blues clubs

I then moved hotels to Pod 39 -- a take on the Yotel hotels in Heathrow and Gatwick, small but comfy. The literature said "75 square feet of luxury" and it was just that!  But really nice and funky too.  I liked the bar area downstairs as each time I came back late it was jammed with a nice party feel.  Young people, tourists, and $200 a night.  Great deal!!  Check it out here -- http://www.thepodhotel.com.

Love the iPads in the wall!

The following morning my event was a 2-hour pizza making class at AOA Bar and Grill -- check them out here: http://www.aoabarandgrill.com -- in Tribeca.  Again all but 4 of the packed house were Living Social customers like me -- no they aren't listed like Groupon, but maybe they should be!  The class was great though, did take 2 hours and the pizza was really nice too -- my pizza that is!!

There really is a process in making a pizza.  It looks like you mash lots of stuff together, stir vigorously, then stretch the dough out, lob more stuff on top and then bake.  But there's way more than that.  As its baking you really do have to measure things out properly otherwise it turns out … well it actually doesn't turn out at all.  The teacher and pizza supremo, Robert, tossed out loads of wrong 'uns along the way.

I took the subway down to the new World Trade Centre building but found every tourist in the world there at the same time and endless lines so turned left and walked to Wall Street to see if I could get a tour of the New York Stock Exchange.

The security guard told me nobody gets in after 9-11 but I apparently could call someone.  This was annoying so I went to the Museum of American Finance opposite -- check them out here:  http://www.moaf.org/.

Its not everyone's cup of tea of course but finance has been central to my life for at least the last 25 years so of course I found it interesting.  It really is amazing how one dedicated and clearly mad person can do so much with an empty canvas.

That was Alexander Hamilton by the way, an ex-Scot and Caribbean islander who because of his great intellect was sponsored into school in the North East just at the time when the fledgling US kicked off the warm embrace of their colonial overlords.  He met and fought with George Washington and came up with the idea of pretty much everything financial after the war when the US was broke and their great allies, the French, were about to collapse into bankruptcy and then revolution.  Where do we start?  Bank of New York in 1784, bonds, currency -- "let's call it the … ah, ah, I know… the dollar.  Sounds like the German 'Thaler' but with our accent…"

Oh yes, nearly forgot.  He bought that too.

He was president, and apparently a good one, and then died under 50 in a duel with a friend.  Hamilton hadn't loaded his weapon but his 'friend' did!  What's the old saying about being aware of keeping your enemies close but in particular your 'friends'?

The current score…

I closed off the day by going to BB King's Blues Bar on 42nd Street to see a British band called The James Hunter Six.  Not a blues band, more swing or R&B but still great fun.  Don't go there for the food though.  I had fried chicken that was raw in the middle!  They replaced it but I didn't really fancy it much after that.

My last morning was all about corned beef hash at Bloom's, a Jewish deli style restaurant close to Pod 39 on Lexington.  I'd had that itch since arriving in New York and I hadn't been able to scratch it until then.

Great way to finish my trip.  Thanks Noo Yawk, I had a blast!

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