Friday, February 20, 2009

NYC Birthday Blowout: Part Three (with Dragons!)

by Xani

Our final day in NYC... always so bittersweet! (Mmm... bittersweet.) Um, anyway, our Sunday was jam-packed with eating plans. First stop: gotta have bagels!

Bagels!!

Deep into one of the two gigantic bags of bagels....

We walked down to Ess-a Bagels, just a few blocks from our hotel. Ess-a bagels are a favorite of the BCD family, and for years have been brought to the Podolny patriarch from NY to Connecticut, as a peace offering. This time, we bought two dozen bagels ("to go") with the intention of smuggling most of them home to MD. But we HAD to eat one, right away, straight up, hot out of the oven...

Gah! Bagels as big as your face...




Later that day, after checking out of the hotel (Goodbye Marcel at Gramercy, you are awesome!) and dumping our bags at Ann and Steven's, we cabbed it down to Chinatown for some dim sum, where we found PURE CHAOS.

Apparently that Sunday was one of the final days of the Chinese New Year celebration, meaning Chinatown was overrun with people, dragons, and drums. The roads were all blocked off and confetti and streamers were being shot into the air as the dragons danced in and out of the banks and other businesses to bring prosperity in the coming year. (Cue joke about needing a "dragon provision" in the stimulus package.) Needless to say, the dim-sum places were PACKED.

But, undaunted, we met up with not only Lauren and her friend Sarah, but also cousins Doug and Wayhwa, and their adorable son, Ethan. They were in NYC for a brief visit (after their visit to Vegas for Sheldon's birthday bash) before heading home to Beijing (note: these are the best people to have dim sum with!), and it was pure coincidence that we were in town to celebrate my birthday (again!) with me. After a wait with a crazy MOB at Jing Fong, our number was finally called and we took an escalator up, up, up to a huge dining room exactly like the ones I remember from my trips to Hong Kong. Big tables, brightly lit, and the all-important carts roaming around the restaurant. One of the best things about dim sum is that the food hits the table before you even get your coat off...


I won't even try to recap everything we ate. As you can see, the table was overloaded with food. It just kept coming and coming... and everything was delicious! Dumplings with all kinds of filling, hargow, shumai, little fried savory pastries, chicken feet, chinese broccoli, something resembling gefilte fish, the best sweet and sour pork ever, and more and more until we couldn't eat another bite! While stuffing ourselves, we heard the sound of drums from outside getting louder and louder, until finally the drums (and accompanying dragon) were in the restaurant, dancing and drumming and driving away the evil spirits. It was quite a scene, and it was LOUD... all conversation ceased until the dragons and drums made their exit. We followed shortly after, having enjoyed a wonderful meal and experience with great friends and family!


Dragon blessing the owner of the restaurant

We strolled through Chinatown and into Soho, when Ann realized we were just around the corner from Eileen's Special Cheesecake, an NYC landmark for tasty desserts. We picked up a few coffees and a selection of their cheesecake "minis" and headed back to Ann and Steven's for -- what else -- a mini-cheesecake tasting.



Theme of the weekend :)

We got five flavors: classic plain, oreo, raspberry, chocolate, and espresso. The cake was light and fluffy, not super-dense like some other cheesecakes. It seems like this is one of those culinary fights like soft v. hard matzo balls and NYC v. Chicago-style pizza. Everyone's got a preference and is fiercely loyal to it. I enjoyed the fluffy cheesecake, which had a nice, substantial crust. All of them had lovely flavors. The only criticism was that the espresso one was more chocolate-y than coffee-y. Ah well. It was a nice, sweet treat to end our time in the Big Apple, and a NY classic at that!

I cannot say thank you enough to all my friends and family who made this birthday weekend (and the weeks of celebration before and after) so fun and fabulous. I love you all!

We heart NY, and will be back soon, probably in May after EP's exams and graduation. We've already started compiling the list of places to hit up next time!!


xoxo

X

Sunday, February 15, 2009

NYC Birthday Blowout: Part Two

by Erin

After our ridiculously fun Day One in NYC to celebrate the Big 3-0 with Xani, we awoke and headed straight for the best hangover relief: Shake Shack! First great thing of the day: no line at the Shack! Apparently this is HUGE - there's always a line. So, we walked right up to the window and chatted up the friendly order-taker-guy. When we told him we were from Baltimore, his reaction was: "OMG are you on The Wire?!" Honestly, it's not the first time this has happened to us. Whatever, we LOVE The Wire, even if it doesn't paint our fair city in the best light... (Note that from this point on, Lauren called me Bubbles and I called her "McNutty.")

Long-time readers will recall that we first had Shake Shack during our August visit, and like last time, it was so good! We met up with Ann and Steven and enjoyed burgers, dogs, fries, cheese fries, sodas, and a shake. It wasn't too cold out so we enjoyed our goodies outside, watching all the fun puppies and enjoying the sights and sounds of Madison Square Park.


Great, krinkle-cut fries

This time in addition to getting a regular burger, we ordered the Shroomburger, which is, by far, the best portobello burger on the planet! Instead of some boring grilled portobello on a bun, the mushroom is filled with cheese and breaded and deep-fried until crisp - holy cow it's good!

Mushrooms + cheese + deep fried + shack sauce = hangover cure

After our Shackburgers, we went back to Ann and Steven's loft to warm up a bit with some tea and chat. Then we headed back out into the city for some shopping (we heart Anthropologie), and eventually made it back to our hotel to relax a bit before heading out for the evening.Where were we headed? We were headed to Panna II, also known (by us alone) as "Indian Disco"! This was also a repeat for me - we went on my very first NYC visit, back in October 2007. It is crazy in there - there is probably room for 30 people, and there were easily 50+ packed in. PLUS, there was the insanity of the many many Christmas and chile lights hanging from the ceiling. Let's just say, it's a lot to take in. Luckily, the food was great so we were generally content.

Help. Me.

We ordered many delicious dishes, including Shag Paneer (spinach and cheese), Alu Gobi (potatoes and cauliflower), butter chicken, chicken vindaloo (so spicy!), poori and naan, eggplant fritters, etc. etc. All were great and came out super-fast to match the pace of the entire experience. At the end Xani got a special birthday treat of mango ice cream!

Lauren and the Creach

Birthday ice cream!

After dinner we saw a show called Fuerza Bruta, which unfortunately, is INDESCRIBABLY AMAZING. It was unlike any show I've ever seen. It was a show with trapeze acts (the slogan of the show is "Look Up"), a treadmill, people bursting through boxes of shredded paper and glitter, choreographed dancing, and a gigantic clear plastic swimming pool of ladies swimming around which is slowly lowered from the ceiling to a point where the audience can reach up and touch the plastic of the pool. The whole thing ends with a gigantic dance party/rave! It was amazing. I must go back!! Here are some pics:

Girl is in a mini-pool, guy is suspended below her and they are spinning

Ladies in the pool!

Finale scene

Okay, so it wasn't the most food-centric day, but wait until Part Three!

Cheers,

EP

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