New York – Craft Beer, Neon Hell and Dino Bits

Beer Authority, New York

Time to plan another holiday that, you guessed it, includes checking out the beer scene. Vancouver was unseasonably wet and rainy for June and we were looking forward to a bit of sun and off we went on a glorious 6am flight, Saturday morning. Getting up at 3:30 is awesome. Who’s the idiot that booked this flight? 

Beer Bars

The Pony Bar

First stop, we ventured to Hell’s Kitchen to The Pony Bar and they had about 20 taps and two casks that night.  We sat at the bar and had a great night chatting with the friendly bartender as well as the two native New Yorkers next to us. I confessed my dislike for Neon Hell and they, of course, agreed. These guys were drinking some shots and told us we had to have one – called a pickle back. A what? A pickle back. We gave the, “uh, we’ll pass” but he insisted and put it on his tab. If you’re a n00b like me, it’s a shot of whiskey followed up by a shot of, yes you guessed it, pickle juice. Sounds rather vile, but was actually pretty good. The Pony Bar makes their own pickle juice and according to our new pal, it’s the best in town. The Pony Bar is a small place but well worth the visit. All beers are $5 but they give you 8oz for the high alcohol content and 14oz for the others. They had some cool t-shirts and a hoodie but in order to get the hoodie, you have to drink 420 pints. Let’s do the math, 420 pints divided by 7 days = 60 per day. Yeah, not going to happen and so, that’s the story of how Kelly got a t-shirt instead of a hoodie.

Beer Authority

Beer Authority, New York

Beer Authority is located at the Port Authority, right across from the New York Times, and was a fine choice.  The beer list was amazing – 90 taps and 100 bottles. Stick a pin in me, cuz I’m done. Food wise, Kelly ordered the mac and cheese with Portobello mushrooms, garlic, goat cheese and fresh herbs. O. M. G. It was ah-maze-ing. Beer Authority also has a page in their menu solely devoted to beer/food pairings. I’m really surprised that more beer-loving venues don’t do this. While we dined, we saw the video of eye brow threading over and over and over again at the place across the street. We also had a bird’s eye view of the Peep Show door and watched to see who entered, but no one did. Sad. Poor peep show people. Guess they have to wait until the wee early hours to get their clientele to show up.

La Birreria

La Birreria, which is kitty corner from the Flatiron building, is the rooftop restaurant at the back of Eataly. Eataly is pretty amazing looking as well with tons of food options and a pretty good beer selection in their fridge. However, we skipped through Eataly (perhaps literally) and headed up to Birreria. After a short wait at the bar, while consuming one of their tasty beers Sofia (witbier) and Gina (thyme pale ale), we were seated. Today was the first sunny day we’d had in New York and they put the Canary in the sun. This wasn’t going to end well so we asked to be moved before my pasty white skin rebelled. Shade, all the better to drink beer, my pretty. Our lunch was tasty – I dined on a mushroom dish while Kelly enjoyed a house made sausage plate. I sensed our server wanted to turn the table over as he didn’t return to get us another beer. Silly dude.

Rattle N Hum

Rattle 'n Hum, New York

Next stop, Rattle N Hum. Their beer list is constantly changing, as taps will, but the selection was great. About 40 taps to choose from in this packed bar. Besides the beer, we shared an order of IPA fries which are spiced in IPA brine, fried twice then finished with house made HOP salt. Oh yum. 

The Ginger Man

The after work crowd had already taken over and it was challenging to get a beer at the bar. Good list but you need your Elbows Out in this place.

Blind Tiger

We had a late lunch and a couple of pints in this great bar. It’s small, but in a cool little neighbourhood. I counted about 30 taps as well as a comprehensive bottle list with a vintage selection. The bartender was super friendly and knowledgeable about his beers. I’m sure we’ve all encountered bar staff/servers who didn’t know a Corona from a Wit, and thankfully, this isn’t the case at Blind Tiger. It’s the type of place I could see myself frequenting if I lived in NYC.

Food

Five Napkin Burger

Dinner choice that night was Kelly’s pick and it consisted of one of his four food groups – that’s right, burgers. Five Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen was the destination. However, as Kelly pointed out, you only get one napkin so it’s a bit of false advertising. He chttp://5napkinburger.com/ould have used at least two napkins as the bacon cheddar burger juices dripped down his arm a few times. Damn tasty, though. I had a veggie burger and it was awesome as well. The place was packed and we were pleased to see craft beer on their menu. The lights are adorned with meat hooks – pretty cool décor. Five Napkin is a block from the Pony Bar so we headed over there for beer après dinner. Tonight’s bartender outed Kelly as a Canadian from his accent.  Huh? We have an accent? Well maybe Kelly does. He did live on the east coast for a while. We had a couple of pints at the bar and guess what was on the TV? The Tony Awards. Not sports, the Tony’s. Only in New York would you see Tony groupies watching the TV and cheering. As it turns out, one of the guys who won for Newsies was the dad of a girl at the bar. Ok, not so odd then. 

Marea

We celebrated our second anniversary on this trip and we had reservations at Marea, a lovely Italian restaurant by Central Park. This two Michelin star restaurant was a perfect choice for dinner. The restaurant was packed and vibrant, but the noise wasn’t overwhelming. We could still carry on a conversation (and hear the blowhard beside us who should probably ditch the attitude). Twit. The service was attentive but not overdone. We were served a lovely cucumber and caviar amuse bouche while we let our bottle of Brunello di Montalcino breath. Kelly started with the Rigatoni – genovese ragu, celery & parmigiano. The house-made pasta was perfectly cooked and flavourful. For our mains, I had the Capesante – seared sea scallops, English peas, green apple, oilo di cenere, smoked pork broth. The scallops were beautifully done and the accompaniments, perfect. Kelly had the Bistecca – grilled creekstone 50-day dry aged sirloin, braised romaine, bone marrow panzanella.  The steak – perfecto. When I made the reservation, I asked for a quiet corner being that it was our anniversary. The restaurant obviously made note of this as they brought us a complimentary dessert, which was their Bomboloni – deep fried doughnuts, zabaglione crema, espresso crumble chocolate sauce with white espresso gelato. Oh my. Yes, it was that good. But that wasn’t the end of it – they brought us a selection of house-made chocolates. The dark chocolate was one of the finest chocolates I’ve ever had. We had an amazing meal at Marea and would highly recommend it.

John’s Pizzeria

We checked out John’s Pizzeria for dinner one night after a show. The two-level restaurant was packed and served the usual pizza and pasta menu items. One of the pizza chefs was busy tossing dough and making pie right in the restaurant area. Good service, good food and reasonably priced.

Halal Cart

Visit the Halal Cart at 53rd Street and 6th Avenue – $6 for the chicken and rice. You’re probably thinking it was just a small container for $6. Nope, it was one of those round pasta sized take out containers. Thankfully we shared this and we’re doubly thankful we were warned about the red/hot sauce prior to dousing the chicken. I’d have to do the DNA on it, but I’m pretty sure this hot sauce comes from fire breathing dragons. So go easy on the red and heavier on the yummy white sauce unless you want to burn a hole in your esophagus.

Ellen’s Stardust Diner

Most mornings, we had a quick, but tasty, egg wrap at the 810 Deli by our hotel so we thought we’d try something different on our last day. Well, different it was. I’m not sure how we missed the sign that said SINGING WAIT STAFF, but we did. Imagine my unpleasant surprise when one of the servers was belting out a show tune while walking on top of the booth we were in. Please don’t step on my hair… Ellen’s Stardust Diner is a unique experience, to say the least. You’re jammed into the tables like sardines, the service was slow since the servers take time to sing, and it’s damn loud in there for breakfast hours. The old ladies from Oklahoma thought it was the best thing they’d witnessed since throwing their panties at Tom Jones, but me, not so much. Needless to say you couldn’t carry on a conversation in there so if you want to ignore your breakfast companion, this is the place to go!

Touristy Things 

Times Square – Neon Hell

We’ve all seen images of Times Square but it wasn’t what I was imagining. I thought it would be more open space and less body checking. Times Square will herein be referred to as Neon Hell in this post. I couldn’t stand it. Sorry New York tourist board, but what’s the appeal? Way too many people, jostling tourists, some naked cowboy dude, Spiderman with a fanny pack and cartoon characters in ill-fitting costumes that are grimy and rather creepy. Get me the hell out of here. Kelly saw (and yes, heard) my appeal to depart so we went east and found Heartland Brewery and Chophouse for dinner. We both had their seasonal voyage paddle with our dinner and found their beers decent and definitely better than the crap in Neon Hell. The Farmer John’s Oatmeal Stout was my favourite and Kelly liked the Buffalo Bock.

Yankees/Mets Game

We didn’t do much pre-planning for the trip as I dislike having to be somewhere at a specific time while on holidays. I don’t mind a few planned events but please, not every second mapped out. Luckily, Kelly’s the same way so it works for us. One thing we did do, the day tickets were released, was get tickets to the Yankees/Mets game at Yankee Stadium. So on Sunday, we grabbed a week-long Metro card and headed uptown to the Bronx. We had no chance of getting lost as we followed the sea of Yankees’ jerseys on the train. We felt the need to Yankee ourselves up and thus, grabbed a hat for Kelly and a t-shirt for me. Who’s a local now? That’s right. We are. Go Yanks. See, I even have the lingo down. National anthem time and I expected them to belt it out like we do at Canucks games but it wasn’t to be. Only a handful of people sang the National Anthem. Come to Canada, people, we’ll teach you patriotism. In the second inning, the Mets scored three runs and we were wondering if this was going to get ugly, but the Yankees rallied back and won 5 – 4. The winning run was scored in the bottom of the ninth – a walk off home run, baby. Needless to say, the Yankees fans were ecstatic, although there were a number of disappointed Mets fans at the game. Now, we need to discuss food, American baseball loving people. Some wise person must have legislated that the caloric count is to be posted next to the menu item. And holy mother of God, there are a lot of calories in the buckets of food. That’s right, buckets. Buckets of wings, sliders, chicken fingers – all served with fries, of course. We’re talking 1,500 – 2,500 calories. And it appeared that this wasn’t sharing food – get your hand out of my bucket…  So I did what any reasonable Vancouverite does and kept circling the stadium until I found over-priced sushi.

In Remembrance

One thing we definitely wanted to do was see the 9/11 Memorial. It still chokes me up while writing this that 2,977 people died on that horrible day. The oldest victim, 85 years old and the youngest, two.  I remember waking up on September 11, 2001 and hearing on the news that a plane had crashed into Tower One. At that point, it had just happened and no one knew why. When I got to work, coworkers and I converged in the boardroom and watched the newscast and saw the second plane crash into Tower Two. Like many, I’ll never forget that day. I truly believe I’ve become more emotional since that day. What tragic, senseless death and destruction. A friend of mine worked near the twin towers and saw people jump from the towers. How does one ever erase that from their mind.

9/11 Memorial, New York

The memorial is beautifully laid out and includes the names of all that perished that day at the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and Flight 93, as well as the terrorist attack on February 26, 1993. If you recall, the World Trade Centre was the target of that terrorist attack when explosives were detonated in the garage killing six and injuring thousands. All 2,983 names are inscribed on bronze parapets that enclose two pools, which are set in the footprints of the original Twin Towers, while 30-foot waterfalls cascade into the pools, each descending into a centre void. I was surprised that it wasn’t open to the public but rather, you have to get tickets (without producing ID or payment) and then go through an airport-like security check. I can understand wanting to ensure that no one damages the memorial in an act of vengeance, but then why not look at our ID as well? The ticket process was a waste of time, in my opinion.

There is a roped off tree known as the “survivor tree”. Originally planted in the 1970’s, this eight foot stump was the only remaining foliage from the site. It was nursed back to health and is now a vibrant 30+ foot Callery pear tree.

Dinosaurs!

Although we’re not the typical museum people, we wanted to see the American Museum of Natural History and mostly, for the dinosaurs. I love dinosaurs, well, at least the one from Toy Story – Rex is soooo cute and so stupid. Love him and his little 2 inch arms. I digress.  Back to the dino bones. The museum was pretty cool and there were lots of bones from Alberta. It’s amazing how they’ve uncovered so many bones and reconstructed them. And the size of these buggers – I would NOT want to be running from one of them. Crush you like a bug, a small bug, they would. These dudes were huge. And if you think cleaning up after your dog is bad, just imagine the presents these suckers would leave.

Getting My Culture On

Another day of rain in the forecast so off to the Guggenheim. I can’t say that I’m much of an art aficionado, but it is the Guggenheim after all. The interior of the building is a unique spiral with art lining the outer walls. We did a hot lap through the various pieces of art and special exhibits. I wish I appreciated art more but I’m one of those people that artists hate by saying “I could do that”. But seriously, there were two painted canvases side-by-side. One was green, the other red.  All one tone, nothing else that my untrained eyes could see was unique. I’m a whiz with a roller, just saying….

After the Gugg, we took a jaunt through Central Park on our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Kelly especially wanted to see the Arms and Armour exhibit. There were some wee little men in armour back then. Clearly, they didn’t have growth hormones in their chicken. Interesting how some of the armour protected the family jewels while others omitted that piece. Huh. I’d think the little fighter dudes would vote to save their twig and berries and give up a finger or two, if material coverage was an issue.

I should point out that every school in the greater New York district decided to send all the little screamers on a field trip this week. We dodged sample people at both museums and I’m pretty sure I saw one riding on the back of the armoured horse. Bad kiddie.

Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island

Ellis Island, New York

We booked online to make sure we didn’t waste the day in a line-up for the ferry and at 11am, we were off to the Statue of Liberty. The Statue is a site to see but unfortunately, the observation areas within her big skull are closed for renovations. A lobotomy of sorts, perhaps?

Ellis Island was of particular interest to me as I knew that my Grandma’s sisters had emigrated from Ireland, whereas my Grandma went through Halifax. I found the names of my great-aunts as well as what is likely my Dad’s paternal Irish relatives and maybe my Mom’s from Austria.

Empire State Building

Up we went. Up, up, up. The view from the 86th floor is obviously great but the pictures didn’t turn out that well as the sky was hazy. Oh well, memories last longer than Instagram, right? I hot lapped it while Kelly did a slow saunter and he eventually caught up to me in the lobby, ready to escape the masses. By the way, I’m pretty disappointed that King Kong wasn’t hanging off the side of the building. Work on that, will you New York? (two strikes, Neon Hell and no King Kong).

NHL Store & FAO Schwartz

We hit up the NHL store (dismal failure for Canucks fans – it’s all east coast centric) and FAO Schwartz. We’d gone into the Toy’s ‘R Us in Times Square earlier in the week and saw some cool 8’ high Lego figures. The Hulk was about 8 feet high and wide (he’s a muscular guy, you know). Hulk, SMASH! They also had Lego buildings and the Statue of Liberty in Lego – I can’t imagine how long those must take to construct. My favourites from FAO were Batman and Captain Jack Sparrow. I wonder how I can get those in my carry on… Of course we had to visit the keyboard on the floor and watched some pretty talented employees pound out a song with their feet. Next stop, perusing the candy aisles. Holy crap, there’s a lot of large candy here. More than supersized, it looked like Dino snacks. The coolest part, though, was that at the back they had the Muppet Whatnot Workshop where you can custom build your own Muppet! $100 for this privilege, which we didn’t do, but it looked pretty cool.

Shows

Book of Mormon

We bought tickets months ago as we’d heard the production was hilarious, and it didn’t disappoint. We, and the entire audience laughed from the opening scene to the end. If you’re not familiar with the story, it’s written by the same guys that created South Park so that should properly set the stage for the type of humour. The story revolves around two Elders who go on their mission to a remote village in Northern Uganda. Ding dong… Hello!! My name is Elder Price… Elder Price is the top student whereas Elder Cunningham didn’t bother to read the teachings of Joseph Smith. I won’t put in a spoiler alert, but the writing and acting is superb. If you don’t get offended by a story poking at religion, see this show! Check out the 2012 Tony Awards for the opening song. The only shock of the night didn’t come from the script, it was their drink prices. I ordered a vodka soda and Kelly had a rum and coke. $34 please. Whaaaa? I didn’t order the bottle! The drinks came in these adult sippy cups and apparently you got a discount if you refilled. Yeah, no thanks, fool me once…

Nice Work if You Can Get It

Nope, I’m not talking about being a beer taster (although I’m game for that if someone wants to employ me), I’m referring to the play with Matthew Broderick and Kelli O’Hara. We bought some last minute cheap tickets for this play and laughed the entire time. Every once in a while, you saw the Ferris Bueller quizzical eyebrow lift just to add that extra humour to the scene. All of the actors were fabulous! 

Farewell, NYC

We had a great time exploring NYC but I think I need to find a better balance between seeing the “mandatory” touristy sites and just exploring the city. I felt like we didn’t really experience New York, if that makes any sense. Maybe if I’d seen Spider Man swooping down Broadway, I’d think differently.

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