Patriotic Poundage Tour of NYC - October 2001

This was our first trip to New York City since September 11th and the destruction of the World Trade Center. We had planned this trip some time ago, and this was not the time to cancel it. In fact, we were eager to get into town and do our bit for the local economy. Mayor Guiliani had come into his own in the crisis and New Yorkers had risen to the occasion.

Of course, the view on our approach to the city from Newark Airport was a bit of a time warp. It has been a long time since the Manhattan skyline had such a midtown bias. One of us spent a summer in Hoboken during the World Trade Center construction, and it looked weird then, rising out of the south end of the island. Now, with the two towers missing, it almost seemed as if the island was unbalanced.

Once we emerged from the Lincoln Tunnel, however, things seemed balanced enough,. There were lots of good hotel deals, so we checked into the remodeled Peninsula Hotel. We had stayed here some years ago, but then found another favorite, and then another. The old Peninsula had rather ornate decor and rather sophisticated room electronics. The new Peninsula has cleaner lines, and if anything is more comfortable than the old. The electronics have gotten even more sophisticated but less baroque. The entryway display gives the outdoor temperature and humidity. Our stay was extremely comfortable.

So, what does one do in New York anyway?

We Ate!

This is a quiet retreat on 40th Street, just south of the Public Library. The food may seem simple, but it is rich in flavor and more imaginative that it might seem from a glance at them menu. The chef used to cook at Aquavit, and the influence on Ilo is obvious. We were impressed with the clever variations on familiar combinations, like a plum sauce with our white asparagus, eggs and bacon, and the charred pork with ham and dark leafy greens.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire ended years ago, but its spirit lives on. The cooking here is perfection and classic dishes are prepared with imagination. The wiener schnitzel is the platonic version, the tafelspitz (the Emperor's take on New England boiled dinner) is fit for an emperor, the beef goulash is a dream, and we loved the roast duck with cabbage and brioche dumplings. Hang around for dessert and try the lighter than air nockerl, noodle pudding and put your preconceptions to bed.
Good hearty Brazilian fare. The stars were the main courses and the side dishes. Start out with the fried yucca chips and you'll wonder what the Belgians see in potatoes. We loved the acorn squash stuffed with shrimp, heart of palm and other goodies, and the roast baby chicken. Another bonus, they serve all afternoon.
We've been shopping at d'Artagnan by 800 number and Internet for years now. They have been our most reliable supplier of foie gras, squabs and venison for some time. But, now they have a store and restaurant on 46th Street, so we had to drop in. We had the charcuterie plate with a host of goodies, including a spectacular duck prosciutto and wonderful truffle butter chock full of truffle chunks. We particularly enjoyed the foie gras burger on a brioche bun with a raspberry onion confit. It sounds like a parody - with lark's tongues - but it melts in the mouth like a dream.
Taylor's Bakery
We were drawn to this bakery on 18th Street by the wonderful smell. We tried and really liked the lemon pound cake and pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. We were also impressed by the sign on the door explaining that their main bakery on Chambers Street had been destroyed by terrorists and that they were open again thanks to a kindly competitor lending them the use of their kitchen.
If you do get down to 18th Street, also check out the milliner Ellen Christine down the street.
Buttercup Bake Shop
We were over on 2nd Avenue and here we found another great smelling bakery. Inside, we saw a surprisingly good looking collection of classic American multiple layer cakes. The brochure explained it all: "The founder of the Magnolia Bakery, a west village legend, comes to midtown..." Unlike Magnolia, you can order whole cakes here! We tried the German chocolate cake, hummingbird cake and the coconut cake and by gosh if they weren't as good as those at Magnolia.   We went back to Magnolia Bakery to check and found that they were as good as ever, but seemed to have a totally new staff. This could have just been a coincidence, but we did start to wonder.

We Explored!

Closed Off Streets
One feature of the new post-attack New York City is closed off streets and security check points. Most of these make sense. ConEd power distribution centers are indeed potential terrorist targets. Since we were house sitting on the Upper West Side this meant we had to get security passes to go down certain closed streets. The co-op office handled this for us in minutes, though as it turned out, we never went down any of those streets anyway. Still, in these troubled times, it pays to be prepared.
WTC RIP Graffiti
We mainly saw this on the upper east side, on 3rd Avenue in the 60s and 70s.
The Subways
The subways were up (or perhaps down) and running, but there was extensive damage to the lines on the west side of lower Manhattan. South Ferry is unreachable. The MTA has risen to the occasion with a special Effective 9/19/01 subway, portion of which is shown here. As for the weird W line, I assume that this has something to do with last year's contested election.
Police Action at Barney's (Uptown)
We were passing Barney's on Madison Avenue and noticed a police car pulling up to join two other police vehicles on the curbside. The policemen were getting their matted shields ready. We could not help speculating as we cleared out of the area. Was this a bomb scare, or had someone found a plastic container of powder marked "anthrax"? This latter was a distinct possibility. After all, there were makeup lines with names like Jungle Rot and Urban Decay. They sound a bit dated now.

We Shopped!

Jo Malone
We really enjoyed all the imaginative scents in this shop in the Flatiron District. Particular favorites were the Verbenas of Provence and the Amber and Lavender.
Ellen Christine
This shop is right down the street from Taylor's Bakery, but it seems to have come from another world, the world of hats. Easter Sunday is a mere shadow of its old self, but this shop brings back the glory days of head borne confections and concoctions. Go to Paragon Sports if you just want to keep your head warm, but check out Ellen Christine to indulge your fantasies.
Jim Hanley's Universe
Another place to indulge your fantasies. Jim Hanley's is just south of the Empire State Building (another fantasy indulged) and has an excellent stock, helpful and knowledgeable sales people, and a warm and welcoming atmosphere. The aisles are wide enough to browse and the crowd is quite amiable. We loaded up on X-Men and Supernatural Law comics and put some Christmas gift ideas on our shopping lists.
Paragon Sports
No trip to New York City is complete without a trip to this 18th Street sporting goods emporium.  They have it all - dive socks, running shoes, head bands, GPS receivers, and even those little pull up things for those of us who can't tie shoe laces. We always find something to buy, check it out!

Urban Center Books

We dropped into Urban Center Books on the ground floor of the New York Palace Hotel looking for a book on Jackson Heights, a community in northern Queens where one of us was raised. The staff was familiar with the book, Jackson Heights - A Garden in the City, but they had sold their last copy back in 1996. We had been trying to find this book online for some time with no success. We were referred to ...
Strand Bookstore
This is always a bit of a rabbit warren, but it is chock full of books and it was right on route. We were directed downstairs and back aways to the urban books. Here we found a young man searching assiduously. Since there was only room for one searcher on the shelves, he asked us what we were looking for. We told him. "Oh yeah, I just saw that", he replied and in a few seconds had plucked it from the shelves for us. We hope he found what he was looking for.
Citarella East
We are not particularly fond of airline food, so we usually make a stop at Carnegie Deli on our way out of town. This time we broke down early and scarfed down a corned beef reuben, a hot pastrami and too many pickles for breakfast one day, so we promised to atone on the flight home.
Citarella came through. We arrived at 5:15 AM for our 7:30 AM flight so we had over an hour to chow down on stuffed roast cornish hen, foie gras terrine, sourdough bread, garlicky broccoli rabe, long stalk artichoke bottoms and other goodies. This waiting time was a testament to the efficiency and crowd handling skills of the airline check in and security people, and it gave us a chance for a leisurely pre-flight meal.
Fairway Market West
This Upper West Side institution is still going strong. We came for the take out and some basic groceries. It was all hustle and bustle inside. We held up the line trying to choose from the dozen different kinds of turkey roll - smoked, pastrami style, honey cured, dark meat. The cold cuts were excellent, we went nuts at the olive bar and just loved the baby potatoes, roasted up with herbes de Provence.

We Got Things Fixed for Our In-Laws!

Neither my sister nor my brother-in-law are great shakes at do-it-yourself. This means that there were a few loose bolts here and there in their apartment. We decided to do some minor repairs while they were off gallivanting in Italy. Our first stop was:

Lexington Hardware
We managed to get most of the nuts and bolts we needed here. This included some wood glue for fixing the new desk, a toilet paper roller for the unfinished front bathroom and a set of allen wrenches to tighten the handles on all the doors and closets. We also got a roll of duct tape, because you can always find a use for duct tape.
The only thing they didn't have was a set screw for one of the loose handles that was now hopelessly detached from its door. For this, they sent us to:
Umbrella Locksmith
New York City is chock full of locksmiths. Like Duane Reade drugstores, it is hard to walk three blocks in any direction without running into one of them. One imagines a city full of people locked out of their homes but not willing to walk more than a block or two for help.
They couldn't find the set screw we needed, but for a few dollars, they retapped the slot, cutting in a new set of grooves so it could work with a bolt they had available.
Simon's Hardware & Bath
As it turned out, our first survey of door handles was incomplete and we needed yet another set screw. We dropped into one hardware store on 3rd Avenue and made a casual query and were sent a few blocks down the street to Simon's. Here I was sent to one of the service desks towards the back of the store. The man there was on the phone dealing with a major order, or so it seemed. I put the door handle down on the counter and prepared to wait. I finished off Riddle of the Sands on my Palm III, finally scrolling down the last 2% of this wonderful novel of the sea and espionage.
A few minutes later, the guy at the desk put his hand over the phone. "It's all fixed", he said. I picked up the handle. It now had a set screw in it. "That's great", I said. "What do I owe you and can I buy a spare?" "That's the only one I have, no charge", he replied and returned to his phone call.
Is this a great town or what?

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