Back in the Borough: Saturday Night Out

Happy Monday Friends!

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Chris and I had a really great one as we continue to try to check things off my “Manhattan To-Do List”. I do realize that we have plenty of time to get these things done (if we do end up leaving the city, it won’t be for at least another year), but when you have a list of fun things to do, it’s hard to not want to take on everything all at once, ya know what I mean?

Anyway … back to Saturday. I set up this whole little evening for us to try out some of the places I had read and heard about lately, and that’s exactly what we did.

Our first stop was meant to be the Manhattanhenge.

Allow me to explain. Manhattanhenge is the term, coined by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, for the four times a year where the sunset happens to align perfectly with the city’s east-west grid layout which, as you can image, makes for some gorgeous photos. So Chris and I headed out to try to catch this phenomenon … but the clouds had other plans for us, unfortunately. The photo we ended up getting was this:

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Compared to this:

^^Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bell and Time Out New York.
^^Photo courtesy of Jonathan Bell and Time Out New York.

Oh well, there’s always next year, right? We’ve already set a reminder in Chris’s phone for next April to research which days it will so we can try again.

After Manhattanhenge we headed towards Chinatown to meet up with couple friends of ours (who recently got engaged … yay!), for dinner at Cutting Board which, according to this month’s New York magazine, has some of the best cheap eats in the city. On our way there, we just happened upon the Ghostbusters firehouse (Hook & Ladder 8) in TriBeCa, which I think was a little bit on Chris’s bucketlist because he recognized it (I never would have) and insisted that I take a photo of him outside of it:

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P.S. If I may diverge here for just a moment. One of my absolute favorite  things about this city is the ability to stumble upon things that simply amaze you–whether it’s a building, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant, people doing something magnificent, or just something plain beautiful that makes you stop and stare. You know, kind of like when we stumbled upon the Friends apartment building in the West Village a couple of weekends ago:

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But I digress. So after Ghostbusters we went to the Cutting Board, where we were not disappointed in the advertisement of tasty, cheap food. (I think our bill came to $60-something, and that was for four people with drinks, three appetizers and entrees. That has never happened to me in this city before. Ever.)

The restaurant was a quirky combo of Chinese/Italian, but somehow it just worked. Here’s a bit of what we tried:

^^The calamari came with three different dipping sauces. Next to it was our spicy fries and seaweed. Yum!
^^The calamari came with three different dipping sauces. Next to it was our spicy fries and seaweed. Yum!
^^Chris and company wanted to try something unique on the menu, so they ordered this toast that was covered with fried pieces of pork and condensed milk. I'm told it was not necessarily the tastiest...
^^Chris and company wanted to try something unique on the menu, so they ordered this toast that was covered with fried pieces of pork and condensed milk. I’m told it was not necessarily the tastiest…
^^I started ordering bubble tea, but the waiter recommended I try one of their specialty aloe drinks instead. They did not disappoint. Pictured is my mango drink and my friend's grapefruit one.
^^I started ordering bubble tea, but the waiter recommended I try one of their specialty aloe drinks instead. They were great. Pictured is my mango drink and my friend’s grapefruit one.
^^We all opted for some version of seafood, which I suppose was sort of boring. Still, my muscle pasta was seriously delicious, and I think it only cost around $9.
^^We all opted for some version of seafood, which I suppose was sort of boring. Still, my muscle pasta was seriously delicious, and I think it only cost around $9.

After dinner it was on to the 2nd Floor on Clinton. The bar is discreetly tucked away on the upper level of Barramundi, a regular ole’ bar that’s loud and pumping. What you have to do is walk all the way to the back of the bar, towards the bathrooms, and the staircase to the upper level bar is located on the left. I had read that a bouncer–usually wearing a hat and playing on a iPad–would be at the door, but instead we found an all-black clad woman who asked if we wanted to go upstairs. True to what I had read, she made a face when we told her we were a group of four, and made us wait for a couple of minutes while she “checked out” the upstairs area to see if there was room.

As a side note, we arrived around 9:45, and there definitely was room for us, but as we were leaving around 12:30, there were people waiting at the stairs to get up. The atmosphere upstairs is intimate, and it is actually a smaller space, so if you do want to make sure you get a seat, and if you’re a group of more than two, I would suggest trying to get there on the earlier side.

Anyway, we were escorted upstairs to an entirely different scene than what was downstairs. Subdued lighting. Candles. Comfy couches and chairs. A waitress in a tux-like outfit. And while it wasn’t completely quiet, it was definitely much easier to hold a conversation than it would have been downstairs.

The bar doesn’t have food, but it has a cheese plate and, much to our delight, some delicious liquor-infused chocolates. The drinks are pricey (about $15-$17 per drink on average), but they were tasty, and I loved how personal the attention felt. When I ordered a drink that I wasn’t sure about, the waitress told me that we could return anything we weren’t happy with for something else, and for each of the two drinks my friend got she asked our waitress to essentially surprise her (with a few hints of what she likes and doesn’t like). She did a great job each time.

^^Vodka-infused chocolates with the Sailor's Punch (left) and the Amazonia drink.
^^Vodka-infused chocolates with the Sailor’s Punch (left) and the Amazonia drink.
^^For my second drink I picked the Saracen, made with lemon bitters, sherry, cucumber and mastiha skinos liquer (whatever that is), among other things. The waitress called it 'earthy,' and said people either loved it or hated it. I happened to be on the love side.
^^For my second drink I picked the Saracen, made with lemon bitters, sherry, cucumber and mastiha skinos liquer (whatever that is), among other things. The waitress called it ‘earthy,’ and said people either loved it or hated it. I happened to be on the love side.

We definitely ended up spending more on drinks than we did for dinner (I think the bar tab was around $67 each, without the tip), but that’s why it was good to have a cheap-o dinner.

This weekend I have a couple of new places I’d like to try out, as well as a canoe/kayak day trip that I’ve read is supposed to be a lot of fun. More updates to come, my friends … in the meantime have a great week!

P.S. Chris and I finally got around to booking our (late) honeymoon this past weekend — Great Barrier Reef here we come!

Bis bald!

From the Archives: There’s no place like…

Hawaii with a friend.

While I await the upcoming adventures of Chris in Japan from this weekend (snowboarding with his best friend at the resort where he works -tough life!), I’ll pull some trips from my archives to post.

When a high school friend of mine decided to move to Hawaii after she graduated from college, sure, I knew I’d miss her, but also, I was friggin’ excited! Since Chris was away in Banff, Canada, at the time, I decided I’d treat myself to my own little Valentines day treat and I booked my flight to coincide with the ‘holiday of love.’

And I was in love. From the second I stepped off the plane and got “leid,” until the time I had to (unfortunately) board to go back home, I fell more and more in love with the island. We stayed on Honolulu and made a couple of treks out to Waikiki and some other touristy spots, but for the most part, the greatest thing was seeing Hawaii through the eyes of a person who lived there. Faye took me to local bars and her favorite restaurants. We went to a fancy hotel bar and saw David Beckham (not planned, just fate, I swear!), and we went on hikes and jumped off of waterfalls. Here are a few of the highlights:

Everywhere you go in Hawaii you want to take photos, but it’s so frustrating, because no photo ever turns out as beautiful as the scenery actually is. Since it’s now been a full two years since I was there (sob!!!), it’s hard for me to remember all of the tiny details of the trip, other than to look through my photos (another good reason to blog!). I think nobody really needs convincing to go to a place like Hawaii, but I have to admit, it was never really on my ‘must visit’ list until I knew I had someone to go there and visit with. Having gone now, though, I’d go back in a heartbeat. My trip with Faye was more on the adventurous side, which I loved. Next time I might spend more time on the beach, mixed in with the hiking and the waterfall jumping. Still, I love a vacation that has some sort of mix of the two.

Hopefully I’ll have an update next week or the week after from Chris’s trip to Japan. He’ll be there right during the Japanese New Year (it’s actually the night he arrives), so it should be really fun.

Until next time…bis bald…and see you soon!