february 15th – nyc

monday in new york arrived a little quicker than we probably would have liked because monday meant we were halfway through our trip – oh no!  well, even though we’d spent the last couple of days lounging in bed until the early afternoon, we couldn’t allow ourselves to just sit around on our hands three days in a row.  no, sir!  not while in new york!  so phillip and i bid au revoir to natalie for the morning and, you guessed it, hit up hot & crusty for more bagels!  i think at this point our bagel count was nearing ten.  um, should we be embarrassed?  wait, on second thought, let’s all keep our comments to ourselves regarding our bagel consumption on this trip.  yes, i think it’s safer that way and at the end of the day we’ll all still be friends.  🙂

we ordered more fresh baked bagels and hot coffee and, because we couldn’t resist, a boulder-sized chocolate, chocolate chip muffin.  well, if we’re gonna be bad, we may as well do it right!  phillip and i leisurely munched on our treats at a table inside as we people watched all the locals in their monday morning routine.  a gentleman to my left with lox and the newspaper, a couple beside him sharing a croissant, the local delivery man stopping by to get to-go bags (i’d bet good money one of them was for natalie!).  through the window we saw gentle snow flurries beginning to fall, so we figured if we were going to do some walking we’d better get to it.

it turned out that phillip and i pretty much had the whole day free to ourselves.  as much as i would love to have gone to the public library to curl up with a book, we decided to stay in the area.  since we’d already gone to the met on saturday, we decided to venture to the west side of town to see what we could see.  now, despite the fact that the snow was beginning to pick up, phillip convinced me to take a stroll with him along the sidewalks of iconic central park.  i must admit it was quite a lovely idea.  we saw several bundled pups dragging along their owners, couples arm in arm, and joggers aplenty.  the grounds were mostly quiet and although it was getting colder with each step, the scene was nothing short of picturesque.

we soon arrived at the corner of 81st and central park west where we turned to head to the american museum of natural history.  what we had forgotten, though, was that it was presidents’ day, which meant that all the little kiddos were out of school, resulting in a ridiculously long line just to even get inside the museum.  phillip and i walked about fifty yards just to claim a spot but only spent about two minutes standing there before we agreed that we’d rather spend our time elsewhere.

we made our way across the street and decided that we could bear the cool weather a little longer.  it’s not often we’re in new york with the perfect blanket of snow surrounding us, so it was a clear choice to continue our relaxed moseying among it all.

we were walking south a few blocks when i spotted perhaps the best food truck we’d yet seen.  please don’t ask why, but phillip gets this strange amusement out of the phrase “meals on wheels.”  he volunteered for the organization as a youth and to this day is still enamored with the whole thing.  i practically ordered him to stand in front so i could take a picture.  worth the cold toes and fingertips if you ask me!

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eventually we reentered the park and i was pleased to see that we were in strawberry field, a classic central park memorial to john lennon.  now, a few years ago my extended family had a spring reunion up in new york.  i remember walking through the park with my dad, cousin ali, and cousin brian.  when we came across strawberry field, milo nearly had an out of body experience.  to quote him, i can say with complete certainty that he used the phrases “strong” and “complete home run” to describe it.

after snapping our touristy photos, we were back on the trail and i unknowingly heard myself humming to the 90s classic “strawberry wine” by miss deana carter.  oh, how it takes me back to my childhood!  kyle, clark, and i were raised on good ‘ole country hits that were, actually, country.  this song makes me think of birmingham, summer, and all the rides in our station wagon and mini van racing from one brother’s sporting event to another.  i don’t even want to think about the fact this was 20 years ago.  Lord, it makes me yearn for it all just thinking about it.

okay, now where was i?  oh, right, central park.  🙂  well, our strides took us in no particular direction, so we wound around the frozen lake, across bow bridge, past the boathouse, and finally by alice in wonderland.

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it was about that time our stomachs started to rumble, and i was craving a mean bowl of ramen.  well, we let google do the looking for us and allowed it to direct us over to 82nd and 2nd for some lunch at mei jin ramen.

well, isn’t this place just about as adorable as it gets?  upon entering, mei jin is deceivingly small to the naked eye, but if you venture back and to the left, an entire separate dining area opens up to you.  a decent spot for groups but a better place for pairs, the atmosphere alone won me over in nearly an instant.

we had arrived right in time to beat the rest of the lunch rush as we were swiftly seated at a table for two.  this cozy ramen restaurant is obviously a local favorite and i get the feeling it was at one point a secret among some.  well, i think it’s safe to say the cat is out of the bag.  hungry eaters across the city have certainly found out how delicious it is, and that monday phillip and i were among them.

thankfully the menu isn’t overwhelming, and based on what i saw in front of another diner, i was quick to choose the crispy and spicy sesame chicken don.  phillip, after getting a little advice from the waitress, ordered the mei-jin (miso) ramen.

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folks, both of these bowls of food were insanely delectable.  phillip and i hardly talked we were enjoying the food with such frenzy.  the chicken was the perfect level of spicy for my wimpy spice tolerance and was even better when eaten with a bite of sticky rice.  phillip’s ramen was out of this world.  the noodles were thick and almost buttery and so much fun to slurp.  the beef was tender and cut thin enough so that you could chew a piece off with each taste.  the only thing left to do now is find a place like this in atlanta.  anyone have any ideas?

filled to the brim with probably the best meal yet, phillip and i hustled back to the apartment so that we could put our feet up and visit with natalie and wyatt.  although our day wasn’t particularly busy per se, our legs were glad to rest from all the walking.

a few hours later phillip and i were off again to be gone for the rest of the evening.  we had exciting plans later that night, but first more eating.  now, you might be saying, “geez, the only thing these people do on vacation is eat!”  well, i don’t think i could argue with you but we both are foodies and know that remarkable cuisine makes the best memories.  as i once read online, “people who eat are the best people.”  perhaps it’s time to change my personal motto?  i mean, i don’t think i really have a personal motto right now, but it’s never too late to claim one!

anyway, we had about an hour before our event (i promise i’m getting to the details), so we stopped in to pizzarte for, wouldn’t you know it, pizza!  this restaurant is quite modern with its minimal decor and crisp colors and clean lines and i felt quite hip when we were shown to a table right next to the street window.  i almost felt like a mannequin on display, but i was feeling pretty fabulous that night so i don’t think i minded too much.

since we’d filled up on ramen earlier that afternoon, phillip and i figured we could split a pizza to start and then always order more if we were still hungry.  the menu has a pie for just about any palate, and since we’d had red sauce the night before at uva, i suggested a white pizza might be appetizing.  phillip found on the menu and then ordered us the quattro formaggi.  now, i practically consider cheese a food group entirely on its own, so dough covered in gorgonzola, caciocavallo (whatever that is), smoked buffalo mozzarella, and pecorino romano sounded like the way to go.

as though they knew we had a limited amount of time, the bakers were swift to make our pizza and bring it to our table.  isn’t your mouth watering just looking at it?  i thought i saw some drool there at the corner of your lips!

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phillip served us each a slice and we dug in with reckless abandon.  the first few bites are easiest with a knife a fork but then you can easily pick up the rest of it with your hands.  after a few thoughtful chews, i decided i liked the pizza but that it was quite on the salty side.  now, i understand with four cheeses how that could happen, but i needed something to cut it a bit.  the baker came to our table and recommended we try it with their spicy olive oil.  well, when pizza is your life you better know what you’re talking about and this gentleman certainly did.  even though there’s a little bit of a kick on the end, this pizza is elevated from good to great with some of this on there.  be warned, though, that a little goes a long way!

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by the time we finished dinner, the snow had turned to rain, so phillip hailed a cab to take us to madison square garden.  “wait!” you might be exclaiming.  “madison square garden on valentine’s day weekend?  isn’t that when they host the westminster kennel club dog show?!”  well, i’ll be a monkey’s uncle!  you’re absolutely correct, my dear!  part of the Christmas surprise was tickets to the 140th westminster kennel club dog show.  you should have seen the excitement on phillip’s face when he realized that the show was part of the trip!

i’ve been twice with my mom, once in high school and again in college, and both times were experiences i will never forget.  i was raised to be a dog person, first with our golden retriever buckwheat and then our corgi casper and our rhodesian ridgeback elvis throughout our middle and high school years.  phillip, thankfully, is also a dog lover, so it was an easy idea to bring him here to new york to experience the ultimate dog fan event.

once we de-layered and grabbed a program, we rode the escalators five flights up to the general admission section.  we might not have been ringside, but we had a great view of the arena.

at eight o’clock on the dot the festivities began.  that evening we got to see the herding group, hound group, toy group, and non-sporting group.  some new breeds were in the mix among the classics; all were fun to watch as they strutted their stuff.  i could try to describe it all to you here, but you either have to watch it on tv to get the idea or go in person to truly grasp the joy of it all.

the first night’s program ended a few hours later after a couple hundred breeds and a large box of popcorn – it’s hard not to snack as you watch!  but before our tired selves were chauffeured back up town, we did manage to snap a few selfies.

okay, okay, most of those were silly, but i think this one was just about the best.  🙂

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