18/50 NYC Adventures: THE CRONUT

THE CRONUT.

I've been waiting a while to share about this dynamite treat. Never was there such a curious, outrageous, truly spectacular sugary specimen as the cronut. The CRONUT. Masterminded by the pastry architects at the Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho, the cronut is one of the few great hybrids of our time, the delicate marriage of a fluffy, flaky croissant and a decadent, rich donut. Let that sink in for a moment. A CROISSANT DONUT. And the wonder doesn't stop. Not only is the texture soft like butter, coated in rich molasses granules, but the flavors... they are just over-the-top outrageous. This particular one? Passionfruit with Maple glaze. Dear Lord, I just became a believer all over again.

The cronut is so famous in Manhattan that people line up every morning, beginning at 6:30 AM, to attempt a purchase. You see, there is a 2 per person limit. You aren't allowed to purchase any more than that. I mean, you can purchase OTHER pastries. But the cronut? They only make 350 each day and they sell out within an hour. So when you finally score a cronut, you've definitely earned your day's quota of bragging rights. There is no shame in sauntering into work (perhaps even a few minutes late, just for the statement), all smug like, "Yeah... got cronuts this morning." Wait for the jaws to drop. Wait for the pain-stricken howls of envy and regret from your coworkers. You know what you won't experience? Attitude for the asinine choice you made to wait in a forever-long line, in strange (sometimes evil) wintery weather, and pay far too much, all for a pastry. Nope. No one will question your race for the cronut. They just won't.

// The sexiest pastry of our time. //

// Celebrating its 1-year birthday! //

The Truth.

Of course, I can't tell you any of this from experience. I never waited in that god-forsaken line. Because an angel of the Lord delivered my cronut TO MY DOOR (cue epic Celine Dion ballad NOW.)

I've mentioned our delightful foodie friends Anthony and Jessica before (here and here), and I'm sure to shout their names from the rooftops again, but on this particular day? Well, they made me want to live in Manhattan, on the same block as them, FOR-EV-ER. Anthony, out of the dear kindness of his heart (and after previously hearing that Stevie and I had never indulged in this cronut mischief), decided to surprise us with cronuts. He got up early. He went ALL THE WAY DOWNTOWN (ugh, such a chore), in rush hour, no less. He waited in that looooooooong line. He purchased two (overpriced) cronuts. And he brought them home after work, delivering them to us in that stylish, infamous cronut-y packaging that can make you a target to get hoodlum-jumped on the subway. He did all of that. For us. I'm seriously tearing up just writing about it.

Guys. It was SO DEEEEEEEEEEELICIOUSSSSSSS. It was the ambrosia of the gods. The sweet honeyed nectar from a mythical, mystical, magical, emotional alternative universe of taste-sensory glory.

And of course, after indulging in the most decadent treat of my life, we immediately made plans to GO TO THERE.

Here we are, there, eating other delightful Dominique Ansel treats. The DKA, the Frozen S'more (and Stevie snagged a cheesecake-y thing for later!) We were undone.

And then we were done.

// Yes, that precious soul is blow-torching our S'more. Amen. //

// Other fine delicacies. //

Getyusome.

Nothing can compare. Nothing can come close. This was the pastry to take the cake (literally) and we are forever changed. Thank you, dearest Anthony & Jessica, for being the kindest, most giving creatures in Manhattan-land, and for GIVING US THE GIFT OF CRONUT.

17/50 NYC Adventures: East Village Tour

East Village Tour

This is a continuation of our Alphabet City Progressive Dinner tour. The East Village is one of the city's most eclectic hubs, ripe with ethnic restaurants, itty-bitty bars and funky shops. If you're a purveyor of rich food and off-the-beaten-path atmosphere, allow your feet to wander all over this hood. You could walk around this area of town for hours and never see the same restaurant twice.

If you take the subway to Astor Place, you will exit right by Starbucks. If you're interested in doing a bit of pre-game people watching, grab a beverage and sit in this massive window. This particular Starbucks location has the most perfect view of Astor Place, looking all the way down St. Marks Street. You can check out all the chic fashionistas walking by - and you don't feel like such a creeper, staring from your perch on a bench. Because instead, you're a creeper behind the glass. Just sayin', it's a bit of an upgrade.

Once you've had your fill of crowd-watching, dive into the mix and start walking down St. Marks. There are some of the CUTEST little shops in this area. Resist going into everything, because then you will never actually get to the eating. Which, in my opinion, is the best part.

Mighty Quinns

103 2nd Ave, New York, NY 10003 mightyquinnsbbq.com

Cuisine: Merger of Texas & "the Carolinas"-style Barbeque

Must Order: Burnt Ends, Pulled Pork, Brisket BBQ, Edamame & Sweet Pea Salad, Baked Beans (and I don't even LIKE baked beans, but these were scrumptious), plus all the Pickled Add-Ons (cucumbers, celery, red onions, chilies)

Impression: So, about a month ago I wrote a post about the deliciousness of Harlem's Dinosaur Barbeque (and I will stand by that review!), but I have to admit - THIS IS BETTER. Also a completely different style of barbeque. Mighty Quinns is smokier, steeped in juicy sauce and tenderly, joyously falling off the bone. Into my mouth. Warming my heart. The Burnt Ends Pork was probably my favorite, but its a real toss-up, because all the meat was so freakin' delish. And the atmosphere is awesome, kinda country (I mean, as country as it gets in the middle of Manhattan) and staffed with folks who know their barbeque. This place had a 30-minute line out the door, and it was completely worth the wait. GO TO THERE.

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop

125 East 7th Street, New York NY 10009 biggayicecream.com

Cuisine: Ice Cream

Must Order: Salty Pimp (vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, sea salt, chocolate dip), American Globs (vanilla ice cream, pretzels, sea salt, chocolate dip), Gobbler (vanilla ice cream, pumpkin butter & maple syrup OR apple butter & bourbon butterscotch, pie pieces, whipped cream)

Impression: It's pretty self-explanatory. It's a big, gay ice cream shop. There is a gigantic unicorn painted on the wall. And there is really, REALLY good ice cream to be eaten, if you don't mind the insanely long lines. There are benches outside where you can eat and enjoy the sunshine, although beware - the serving sizes are huge and your ice cream might do some melting in the spring sunshine :)

The Far East. Village, that is.

Once again, many many, MANY mad-crazy thanks to our bright-eyed guides to the East Village, dearest Anthony & Jessica. Geez, I'm so thankful to know you. And to glean from your foodie research and wisdom. You two are just the creamiest of the crop. Love you both :)

13/50 NYC Adventures: DUMBO (& Juliana’s Pizza!)

DUMBO

"Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass", has been fondly shortened to the term DUMBO, which is a section of Brooklyn located over the bridge from Manhattan. A hub for entrepreneurial, creative and tech startups who have since gone mainstream (such as EtsyMakerbot & HowAboutWe), DUMBO is the kind of place where you can ride your bike to work, bring your dog to the office and lounge outside over a workday picnic lunch. This is also an area where (both fortunately and unfortunately), all the hipsters were born and continue to multiply at a maddening rate. Everyone here is so urban, mangy and unstylish, that somehow it became a style.

Don't be alarmed. In spite of the androgynous unwashed hair, excessively tight pants, and mad-scientist-thick glasses crowd that seems to gather here in droves, this area of Brooklyn is super, super cool and laid-back. Showcasing an eclectic mix of stoney buildings, industrial lofts, aged shipping docks, inventive green space and iconic steel bridge foundations, DUMBO is a neighborhood on the rise. When our best friends came to town (and brought the most heavenly weather from Georgia with them), we took our time eating and strolling through this temptingly awesome area of town.

// Rent a Citibike for a hour. It's the way to roll. //

// The lines are CRAZY long at Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, but I hear it's worth it. //

// These. Are the party people. //

Eats.

This area of town boasts delicious eats (but really, what part of New York doesn't?) We focused the majority of our time with the pizzeria masters at Juliana's Pizza. Let me tell you the secret story (my sources shall remain unnamed!) about Juliana's Pizza, which is located next door to the iconic Grimaldi's Pizza.

Apparently, for all of New York eternity, the Grimaldi family has been the reigning authority in New York-style pizza.

Since 1941, Patsy Grimaldi (who, just so you know, is a man) has been making a mean pizza in a coal-fired brick oven. The pizza, unarguably, ROCKS. There are no questions or qualms about that fact. However, a few years back, Patsy's family sold the Grimaldi pizza location (19 Fulton St.), the brand and the name to another guy (we will call him The Dude). The Grimaldi family, later, regretted that decision. In a series of events (the grimy details allude to unpaid rent, public disputes over pizza quality, drama over licensing the family name, increased city taxes, and an unhappy landlord), The Dude who bought the Grimaldi joint ended up moving the pizza place into another building. Which just happened to be next door. The Dude left behind the famous coal-fire brick oven (which ignited the original Grimaldi recipe), and guess who jumped at the chance to move back into his old stomping grounds? That's right. Patsy Grimaldi. Since he had already licensed out his name, he called this new pizza joint Juliana's Pizza, named after his mother. Today, Juliana's Pizza stands in the original Grimaldi location, with the original coal-fire brick oven, serving the original Grimaldi recipe.

The funny part is, no one knows this story. So people line up outside of Grimaldi's Pizza, wait for 2+ hours to eat, and have to deal with the high-maintenance rules (cash only! no slices!), wondering if the rumors they heard about this pizza are true. All the while, Juliana's next door is quietly serving the original New York pizza recipe, made in the original pizza oven, served in the original location. That, my friends, is the definition of TOO LEGIT TO QUIT. Ponder that one for a second.

// Decisions, decisions... //

// Order the classic margherita pizza or anything with the scarmorza cheese! //

Play.

Brooklyn Bridge Park is just a stroll from the concentration of delicious DUMBO eats and treats. What makes this park special is the fact that it's made up by a connected series of green spaces and converted piers. While the boys threw the frisbee (and probably got in some people's way, it was crowded), Tricia & I sunbathed and stared in wonder at the view of the Manhattan urban jungle. That skyline is just crazy.

// I think John was working on his Brooklyn Swag Face. Or something. //

// Can you spot the Statue of Liberty? //

Oh, Brooklyn.

DUMBO is the place to play. And soooo easy to get to from Manhattan. Because we took SO many pictures, I had to divide this post into two. More tomorrow from the Brooklyn Bridge View!

11/50 NYC Adventures: Opera at the Lincoln Center

Opera at the Lincoln Center.

Have you ever seen the movie Moonstruck? It’s this fantastic little film centering around an Italian family in Brooklyn, starring Cher (yes, CHER) and Nicolas Cage. Way back in the day. It’s this hilarious, overly-dramatic story and just happens to be one of my family’s favorite movies. In the film, Cher gets asked to go on a special date to the Met Opera House, and she gets all done up – hair, nails, clothes, the works. And then she gets to the Opera and just cries and cries because the experience is so beautiful and meaningful to her.

That, my friends, was my grid for what the Met Opera would be like. So when Stevie and I were offered FREE tickets from our sweet friend Ina, there wasn’t even a question about whether or not we would go. Yes, yes! A thousand times yes! So off we went. We went to the Opera!

// Lincoln Center Fountain //

// Walking to The Lincoln Center. Check out my epic photobomber. //

// Just warming up my chords. In case, ya know, they need some back up. //

// Inside The Met //

// Our view from the top. //

// That famous gold-leaf ceiling. //

The Show.

This particular opera was Arabella, and it was entirely in German. Now listen, I’m going to be honest with you. I can be honest with you, right? No judgment here? I was really excited to go to the Opera. I was really excited outside, taking all sorts of fanciful pictures by the fountain. I was really excited when we were ushered to our fabulous seats and got to stare up at the epic gold-leaf ceiling. And I was really excited when the curtain went up and the room darkened, signaling the beginning the show. However, my excitement came to a crashing HALT when the performance started. The Opera is… well, operatic. And it’s not ignorant to say that most operas consist of large women screaming singing at each other throughout the performance. Because that’s pretty much all that happened during the first act. I might have fallen asleep. By might I mean that I definitely fell asleep. For about thirty minutes. Don’t judge me. You said you wouldn’t judge me! I didn’t understand what was going on! I DON’T SPEAK GERMAN.

Let’s Get a Disclaimer Going Here.

I am almost seven months pregnant. I have to eat, drink and pee around the clock. It’s obnoxious to anyone who doesn’t love me (and still grating to those who do, lets be real.) I didn’t know that the opera would be FOUR HOURS LONG. I didn’t know that I should have packed snacks and drinks and prepared for a day-long event. I just didn’t know. So my low blood sugar and parched throat (and measly 5 hours of sleep the night before) could have had a LOT to do with my annoyance/lack of considerate understanding during the first act. However, something changed. Something wonderful happened.

When Stevie started laughing.

It may or may not have woken me up. I look over, and he’s laughing (along with members of the audience), at whatever is happening on stage. There he is, giggling knowingly, as if he’s in on some sort of cheeky joke with the cast. I hissed at him,

“How do you know to be laughing right now?! YOU DON’T SPEAK GERMAN!!”

He just smiled and pointed down, down past the row in front of us, where someone had turned on a monitor with subtitles.

Subtitles!

Eureka! I didn’t know we had those!

He helped me find the dark button for a secret screen right in front of my face, and suddenly things got interesting. Suddenly, there was a story to follow. Suddenly I was excited again. Thank goodness, right? Because I was starting to feel guilty. You know, for my attitude, my appalling ignorance, and my lack of enthusiasm for this incredibly exclusive privilege. And also - we had two more intermissions and two more acts to follow. It was time to get on board this train. It was time to get into the opera.

The second act had a gorrrrrrrgeous set depicting a ball in 18th-century Vienna. There was dancing and pretty costumes, too. Thankfully, Stevie ran across the street during the intermission to get me fuel. He sneaked in an iced coffee and a Starbucks protein box, and for this I will be forever thankful. He revived me. Woke me from my low blood-sugary stupor. Which completely prepped us for the third act, which showcased a little bit of scandal thrown in for good measure. Wild stuff. We were pretty shocked by the story’s turn of events. And the voices, well, they remained operatic. But they were incredible. So strong, so incredibly disciplined and trained. These people are renowned, some of the world’s greatest voices in their craft. How can someone sing full-out for 4 hours straight? It’s honestly athletic what those people can do.

// This guy.

He deserves an A+ in husbandry. And also... here he is reflecting on what we just saw. BAHAHA. //

All in All?

I think the opera is a distinctive kind of experience. I don’t think you can expect to naturally love it the first time. It an acquired taste, like when you first drink coffee or try snails or something. It’s just not an automatic LOVE. Which I hate to admit, because I fancy myself a theater person, so I thought this kind of performance would be right up my ally. But I don’t think we (we, being the broader American people) should be too hard on ourselves. It’s not totally our fault that there is practically zero exposure to the opera in our education system – I mean, we are ignorant to this art form, but should we really be punished for not knowing how to appreciate it? I can’t say that I loved it. But at the end, I liked it an awful lot and I can say with complete honesty that the show was a masterpiece. The kind of masterpiece that you KNOW took a really long, tedious time to create, even though you don’t totally understand all that went into it. Like trying to understand… a really hard math problem? That’s a bad example. But that’s all I’ve got for ya.

Thankfully, my beautiful, cultured friend Ina was totally on the same page. She admitted to feeling similarly about the 1st act. Which made me feel better about my audacious and idiotic lack of initial appreciation. What can I say? We can’t all be Cher, welling up with tears at the creative masterpiece that is the opera. Some of us, well, we’ve got to feel bad for not being in on the joke. We’ve got to be shown how to use the subtitles. And we have to fumble our way through attempting to understand something loftier than ourselves. But that’s just a metaphor for life, right? Mmm see how I turned this around? Now you’re not judging me so harshly, are you?

No. I bet you’re still judging me.

Yeah, I’m gonna have to live with that.

10/50 NYC Adventures: Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty.

Well, thanks France. I bet you folks never knew how famous we would make your epic gift. We really took that statue and RAN with it. Well, due to the intense fundraising efforts of Édouard René de Laboulaye and Joseph Pulitzer, with the design by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel) our sweet Lady of Liberty stands proud atop Liberty Island in the middle of New York Harbor.

I've never really given it much thought, but have you ever wondered WHO she is? After visiting (and doing a bit of research), I learned that Lady Liberty is actually Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, who was especially worshiped by emancipated slaves in ancient Rome. Not totally sure how I feel about that. Why erect a Roman relic, created by the French, to inspire the American people towards a better tomorrow? It's just a bit jumbled for me. But alas, does it matter? Because here she is: our red, white & blue symbol of freedom. Well, more like coppery-green. But you get where I'm going with this.

// Liberty Island and downtown Manhattan, divided by New York Harbor. //

// I mean, it's not too shabby. //

Staten Island Ferry.

My savvy friend Jenna told me to do this. In order to see the statue close up (but not so close so that you have to actually pay to see it) you can ride the free Staten Island Ferry across the harbor for a 15-minute viewing of the lady. Then you simply get off the ferry and board the returning ferry that takes you back to Battery Park. And if you really want to enjoy your viewing session, you can order a glass of wine on the boat. That's right. That's the kind of freedom that we Americans enjoy. A good seat and a good beverage.

// For safety purposes, we had an armed guard accompanying the ferry across the water. 'Merica. //

The Statue.

It's historic. It's French. It holds significance for every American who embraces the gift of freedom. And... you can pound your wine while pondering this inexplicable privilege. I'm sorry, do you need more reasons to visit??