Monthly Archives: November 2012

Thanksgiving weekend with the fam

I haven’t celebrated Thanksgiving with my family in about 10 years, I think. The last time might have been when I was in high school. That is why it is extra special that I was able to be in Portland during the holiday this year.

My mom hasn’t been doing well (a compressed nerve), so I wanted to help all I could, although she made tons of stuff before we arrived. The jello and the rolls were my responsibility, as well as the kitchen clean up during the event. Everyone pitched in a lot.

My friends from Oslo, who actually live in Portland and had only been on a two year contract in Norway, came, as did my sister, her boyfriend, and my aunt, uncle, and cousin. It was lovely! The food was tasty, the conversation fun, and the red wine delicious.

Black Friday was a lazy day of leftovers and newspapers. It was definitely something to be thankful for.

Chicken waffle, breakfast corndogs and sticky pecan buns. Not a diet meal!

To round out the weekend, we played board games as a fam and ate brunch at Screen Door, the amazingly good but unhealthy Southern food restaurant on E. Burnside. The Kiddo was a dream, playing with her Melissa & Doug reusable sticker pad, which, by the way, is amazing because the stickers stick to glass too, and are rubber so you can clean then, then rub them a bit, and the stick again. Also they never tear (not yet anyway). Then we visited our friends and their Newfoundland puppy, Bjørn.

He is 10 weeks and already weighs more than Kiddo!

An intense weekend of family, but a good one.

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Last day in NYC and en route to Portland

Our last day of the NYC leg was good and bad.

We got up, packed, got ourselves to the Lower East Side where we ate at the famous Katz´s deli. Hubby ate a whole pastrami sandwich and then felt sick for about 4 hours. I ate a heavenly bowl of matzoh ball soup and half a brisket sandwich and was in paradise.

Fluffy and airy soup from Katz´s delicatessen in NYC.

Then we walked back towards our hotel, got in a fight, sulked, walked to Penn Station with all our crapola, and were hot and crowded but got ourselves to Newark.

Next was the United Airlines fiasco. Seriously, it was one of the worst experiences I have had with an airline. And I have traveled on Christmas Eve with Luftansa, with lots of delays that made me run around Schipol with a gazillion pounds of carry on baggage, only to find out that they had lost my bags in a sea of 17000 diverted bags at Frankfurt with all the presents in it.

So, what made it so bad?

Well, something happened to our seat assignments. We booked our tickets through a travel agent, so they should have been seriously legit, right? Well, we had no seat assignments when we checked and Hubby called them the night before trying to fix it. I could hear the United lady through the phone talking in circles, refusing to do anything. What was the offense? They booked our 22 month old in a middle seat between two strangers. I was behind her, and Hubby was behind me. All in middle seats. We said that surely it must be against their policy to issue a seat to a toddler between two strangers. Nope!

So, we decided to arrive at the airport early to speak with the check-in agents. They told us they couldn’t do anything. Usually I am the “good cop” when Hubby and I interact with people, but I was livid. The agent told us that this happens “all the time”, and then when we were outraged about THAT, these poor families all the time with toddlers sitting away from them, said that we “must be very lucky that this never happens, or lying.” She said we could “probably count on the goodness of strangers” to get Kiddo next to us. We told her we didn’t want to accept the boarding passes as they were, and she just stood there.

On we went to security. We could have tried to access the lounge because Hubby travels a lot with work and has a gold card, but instead we went to the gate to try to get it sorted. No one there, but a few other passengers with problems who hoped to talk with an agent. Finally, Hubby spoke with someone, and after a half an hour, decided just to pay to upgrade. We did. The flight itself was nice, obviously, since we were in first class! But it was just an unbelievably frustrating situation. Poor customer service + a poor system that really doesn’t allow the agents to fix things on the ground = bad news for United customers!

Upper West Side and Central Park

Our third day in NYC we finally went north!

We started off trekking up towards the park. We ate a breakfast sandwich at The Blue Dog Café, which had no seating, so it was less than ideal. Food was good. Lots of businessmen coming in and buying stuff.

Since we couldn’t sit and I already had to pee, we decided to get coffee somewhere else, so we ended up at a Scandinavian espresso bar near Central Park, Fika. They had no bathroom, so I had to sneak into a random coffee shop down the road.

Then we went to the Central Park Zoo, which was a joy! Small, uncrowded, and happy alpacas for Kiddo to feed. How amazing! Except when she fell and hit her forehead on the pavement. But accidents happen.

Then we were off to lunch at No. 7 Sub at the Plaza food court. I didn’t know there was a food court there! It was a really tasty sub, even though it was so spicy after I ate the first half I was totally immobilized and trying to find something to soothe my firey tongue. The people watching was also amazing. Lots of Upper West Side ladies with lots of make up and Chanel suits. I thought they made that crap up on Gossip Girl, but I guess not. Kiddo slept during lunch and then woke up when we tried to switch her to my back in the Ergo.

We decided to go to the MOMA design store. It was fun, and Kiddo loved some of the toys. If we hadn’t been traveling extensively, we might have bought something, like this magnet doodle board. This whole traveling thing is great! We spend lots of moolah on food, but we are not tempted to buy any clothes or toys or anything that we don’t desperately need!

Next we started to head up towards the Museum of Natural History. On foot. About half way there we realized that, oh crap, it might close at the end of the working day, as opposed to all the retail shops that seem to always been open. We were right. We got there 30 minutes before closing, but we did a speed trip through and saw the Asian animals and the dinosaurs. For free, since all the ticketing staff had left their stations.

Then we went for dinner at Carmine´s, which is a family style Italian restaurant that is a bit of a tourist trap, but also an experience. Huge families, birthdays, decibel levels rivaling the Bush concert I went to when I was 14. Kiddo was NOT HAPPY so we ate, chatted briefly, and cabbed it home. Kiddo fell asleep sitting up in the cab. Wow. Phew. What a day!

A compendium of restaurants in NYC

We wanted to remember all the restaurants we tried on this trip, but I don’t see how I can write full reviews for all the places we have eaten in the past 48 hours so I am going to do short blurbs.

 

The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village

Beautiful, tasty food. We tried the deep fried poached eggs and the burger. I wish I could have tried everything on the menu. Loved the décor and low levels of pretension on site. Super hipster place. Lots of leather and high heels in the clientele, lots of film students, lot of foreign languages being bantered around. Nice vibe.

Ratings:

Food: 4/5 stars (Tasty and well presented, but not the best food ever)

Atmosphere: 4/5 stars (Funky and fun, but stools? Hi, I am old, I need chair backs 🙂

Service: 5/5 stars (Friendly and full of smiles, even though we came in with a toddler and changed our minds 17 times about the high chair versus stool for Kiddo)

Price: $$$ ($60 for 2 breakfasts, a tea, a bloody mary – and tip)

 

ViV Regional Thai Cuisine in Murray Hill

Very shiny and light interiors. Robins egg blue walls, small tables, red enamel sink in the bathroom: a weird mix. Good happy hour drinks deals, no deals on food. The Chaing Mai sausages were amazing. Lots of regional dishes on the menu, wished we could have tried more.

Ratings:

Food: 4/5 stars (Tasty and unique)

Atmosphere: 3/5 stars (Clean, but got the feeling they were trying too hard.)

Service: 4/5 stars (Friendly but they tried to push more food and drinks a little too much.)

Price: $$ ($30 for 4 beers and two starters – and tip)

 

Woorijip in Koreatown

Buffet with amazing selection of hot and cold dishes, full of vegetarian, fish, meat, noodle, and rice dishes. Our favorites were the spicy kale, bean sprouts, kimchi, and spicy chicken. You probably could eat better Korean food elsewhere, but this was fast, cheap, and we could see what the different items looked like before selecting them – a plus for novice Korean food consumers.

Ratings:

Food: 3/5 stars (Good stuff, but you need to know what to get and what to avoid)

Atmosphere: 2/5 stars (I am glad we didn’t eat in. It was hot and steamed up and crowded.)

Service: n/a – we got take out and left

Price: $ ($6/pound for take away.)

 

The Grey Dog in Chelsea

Homemade American food that is solid, tasty, and free from a lot of artificial crap. I feel like it could have used some extra punch, though, to be charging what they were charging.

Ratings:

Food: 3/5 stars (Solid breakfast, but nothing to write home about)

Atmosphere: 4/5 stars (Country music blaring created a bit of artificial din, but the décor was fun and not standard and the clientele eavesdropping paradise.)

Service: 4/5 stars (Order at the counter and free refills. Hard to go wrong.)

Price: $$ ($40 for two breakfasts and two coffees – and tip)

 

Shanghai Asia Manor in Chinatown

A spacious spot in usually cramped Chinatown, with amazing food. We ate steamed veggie dumplings, which were good, steamed shrimp dumplings, which were great, and steamed buns with condensed milk dipping sauce, which I would eat every day if I knew how to make them, oh my god so delicious! By chance we saw another table ordering the snap pea leaves, and asked what the “plate of green” was, and ordered it. Ah-MAZ-ing! Then we got sesame chicken for the kid, and egg fried rice. Yum, yum, yum!

Ratings:

Food: 4/5 stars (Hubby said it was the best Chinese he has ever tasted, but that might have been because we were starving and starting to go rabid.)

Atmosphere: 3/5 stars (Clean and spacious for Chinatown, but not the least bit fancy.)

Service: 3/5 stars (Nice server, until she started trying to cajole responses from Kiddo. Leave my kid alone please, thanks!)

Price: $ ($40 for 3 appetizers (dim sum) and two mains – and tip)

 

Natureworks in Murray Hill

A self billed “healthy” café, with a menu full of sandwiches and salads and “protein plates”. We each got a vegetarian salad with falafel, feta, olives and tahini dressing.

Ratings:

Food: 4/5 stars (Healthy and tasty and didn’t taste “healthy”.)

Atmosphere: 4/5 stars (I technically didn´t go; I am going off Hubby´s description.)

Service: n/a – takeout

Price: $$ ($24 for two large salads)

Another promenade through Southern Manhattan

Today we planned to take it easy, but depending on your definition of “easy” we might not have lived up to it. It has been a lovely day in any case, though I am totally knackered…again!

We slept in until 7am today, which was a feat considering how early we crashed last night. Then we set off to find a hole in the wall diner a short walk from our hotel for some American breakfast. But it was a tiny place with only a counter and we knew that would be a disaster for Kiddo, so we went on. We found The Grey Dog and ate pancakes and bacon until we were revived and ready for the day. They had good coffee too, with free refills.  We are turning into proper coffee drinkers again!

After breakfast we decided to go find a playground for Kiddo to run around a little. We stumbled on the Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly Playground and Kiddo was in her element. She ran up to the Tic Tac Toe board, pointed to the X and said, “x,” which of course made me swell up with pride. Then we saw a squirrel and tried to feed it a dog bone we had picked up at The Grey Dog, but it wasn’t interested. Hubby and I were super cold so we decided to move on.

Next we stumbled into the Chelsea Market, where we wandered around and wished we were hungry, but we weren’t. There was a cute bookstore where Kiddo played for a bit, and we resisted buying stuff, and then we moved on to the High Line park, a park built on the historic rail line elevated above West Manhattan´s streets. It was nice to look out over the water to Hoboken and escape from the high rises for a little while. Plus Kiddo got to play with the world´s best free toy: gravel. Some Chinese tourists took pictures of her being cute. Everyone was happy.

Loving the carless walkway and the view from the High Line park

Then we started walking towards Chinatown. We found a few fun shops along the way, including Egg, with fancy kids clothes. It is much more fun to shop for Kiddo than for us. We lost one of Kiddo´s Latvian wool mittens and hoped to find a new pair but there were only super expensive ones and we have some extras with us (cotton though, boo!). I started to get really tired, but dim sum beckoned, and eventually we made it to the Shanghai Asia Manor, where they poured us tea and water before we could even get our backsides in the booth. Bliss! We had some amazing dim sum and then snap pea leaves with garlic. It was super amazing and gave us the strength to walk the 35 blocks home. (How do people use taxis in Manhattan? We can never hail one when we want one! Yes, yes, I know there is a subway but we thought in the time it would take to find a map and find the route home, we would be halfway home already.)

After relaxing for a while, I decided we couldn’t just skip dinner but we didn’t feel like going out, so we sent Hubby out for salads from Natureworks. Kiddo stayed awake until 9:30pm, and we weren’t so dead that we had to crash right away. Take that, jet lag!

A day out in Southern Manhattan

Yesterday was a busy day out on the town, only made possible by the fact that Kiddo is extremely flexible and patient. Sometimes I try to remember how amazing it is to have such a flexible kid, especially since this trip probably wouldn’t have been possible if she had a more challenging personality.

The three Latin American coffees we tasted at Cafe Grumpy in Chelsea. Hubby liked the San Luis the best, I prefer in general something darker than all three 🙂

We started the day away at around 6am (5:30 for me). At 7:45 I decided our small hotel room was too little for an active toddler, and besides I was hungry, so we packed a day bag and headed towards Café Grumpy in Chelsea, where we got their tasting platter of Latin American coffees. Whoa, how hip! Kiddo played with crayons and bottle caps and the bussing tray, and when she started getting antsy, we quickly left. We didn’t want to upset the hipster vibe, and the Sunday crowds were starting to pick up.

Next we walked to The Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village for brunch. We came early to wait in line, and oh my, what a line! It was hipster heaven over there, but worth the wait. Kiddo fell asleep in the Ergo just as we sat down so we had an uninterrupted brunch. Two deep fried poached eggs over chorizo stew for me and a burger and shoestring fries for Hubby.

Then it was off to Soho. Hubby wanted to look at Uniqlo down jackets since he didn’t bring anything for the Portland leg of our trip. We had a lovely walk over there, putzed around got slightly lost, got Kiddo a piece of white pizza and sat next to someone famous whose name we couldn’t remember, and failed to catch a cab so walked all the way back to Midtown.

Then we met up with an old friend from Geneva for a beer at ViV Regional Thai Cuisine in Murray Hill and had an amazing Chaing Mai Sausage as an appetizer. The friend had to run so we went to get some take out at Woorijip in Koreatown. We didn’t know what we would like so we got a selection, which was way too much, but it was really fun. Our favorites were the spicy kale, the bean sprouts, the glass noodles, the kimchi and the spicy chicken. We crashed about 15 minutes after we ate. It was an amazing end to a great day.

The gluttony of our indecisiveness….mmmmm!