12/50 NYC Adventures: Harlem's Secret Barbeque

Harlem's Secret Barbeque

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon. Church was over, all the people were squeezing through the exits, spilling out onto the sidewalk, scurrying along quickly to make their lunch plans. We were some of those people. In the icy spring air, with the rain misting all around us, I looked up, desperate for him to read my mind. He just nodded back at me, thoughtfully. He knew.

It was time. For my feeding.

That beautiful man said, "Why don't we go up to Harlem and get barbeque sandwiches at that place?"

That place!

I almost exploded with glee.

We had been hearing rumors about that place. That place up in Harlem (shhhhhh don't go there at night!), close to the water (be carrrreeeeful, don't go there!), underneath an old bridge (seriously, DON'T GO!) that had the best barbeque in New York. For Georgians? Barbeque is like the ambrosia of the Gods. We are always in the mood for it, always craving it, and never quite satiated in this Yankee-ville we have found ourselves living in. But friends of friends had mentioned that place in passing. It was like a whisper of a recommendation. And we had been wanting to try it, except... well, it's located in HARLEM.

I mean, you don't just go up to Harlem. Not unless you have a good reason. And you need a very good reason. You don't just stumble around Manhattan and find yourself accidentally in Harlem. It's a rough hood. And we didn't think there was ever a really good reason for us to try this place for dinner (since you have to walk about a mile off the subway, mostly on side streets, until you get to the restaurant, which is located on the Hudson River). It just seemed... well, like dangerous work. Like we would need a Jack Bauer escort for a complete sense of security. And we've gotten really lazy, living in wonderful cities where everything can be delivered to your door... so that place had remained simply a rumor.

But on a Sunday afternoon? A rainy one? Well, the exception had to be made. We practically skipped to the subway, rode it for an eternity up to 125th, and carefully stepped out. Time to put on my fight face. You know, to ward off attackers. Reminiscent of the time we avoided thugs in Naples in hopes of eating the best pizza on Earth. (Now that I think of it, we are making a habit of going into unsafe places at just the promise of a tasty meal, hmm what does that say about us?) Anyway, I couldn't let the hoodlums know I was practically panting at the thought of a juicy pulled pork sandwich on a hot bun. With mac & cheese.

Oh dear LORD, I prayed, get to me that barbeque place. And help me look "street"

.

// It's kind of like the journey to grandmother's house... instead of going over the river and through the woods, you go under the bridge and past the scary night club. //

// Yeah. This is my protector. The guy who thought that acting like Batman and running through the streets with his "wings" would ward off terror. Thanks for making us look inconspicuous, hon. //

// Once you've reached the infamous Cotton Club, you're almost there. Don't linger. DO NOT LINGER. //

// Our destination! Follow the hooded gentleman. //

Dinosaur Barbeque.

So here's the deal. Once you're inside Dinosaur Barbeque, this place carries absolutely no indication that it is located on the island of Manhattan. It's wonderfully UN-pretentious, reasonably priced, and full of completely unassuming patrons. Like, there was a biker gang sitting up at the bar. I've never even SEEN a biker gang in this city (where would they park?)  But at Dino Barbeque, they sat loud and proud during our entire visit. Gulping down their brew, Gaston-style. Everyone in the restaurant just seemed like they were from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and South Carolina, not the chic metropolis that is New York City. What a relief. These are our kind of people! There were normal looking families (the kind who TALK, not just shove an iPad in their kid's face to shut them up during the meal, which yes, I have seen one too many times in city restaurants). The waitress actually knew about the different ingredients in the various homemade barbeque sauces, could explain the craft brews (to Stevie, not me. I just drooled while she spoke), and recommended the mac & cheese as their best side. I almost asked her to marry me. Darn it, she got away too quick.

But she came back quickly, like an angel from Heaven, with our gigantic platters of ambrosia barbeque. A silence came upon us for a good twenty minutes. This was feeding time.

// Alright, you can't see the biker gang here, but I was kinda afraid to photograph them. THEY WERE THERE. //

// Pure. Joy. //

The Results Are In.

People. This place. Was gooooooooooOOOD. WORTH THE COMMUTE. Worth the Bauer-less safety risk. Worth it all. If you ever find yourself jonesing for a hit of BBQ in the middle of Times Square, don't settle for some pricy pampered ritzy chef's interpretation (which will probably consist of tiny portions and include at least one french ingredient that you can't pronounce.) Just get yourself to the 123 or ACE train! You can do it. Maybe just throw up your hoodie once you get off the train and take the journey westward... the divine scent of smoky pork and motorcycle fumes shall guide you. And it will be WORTH IT.

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??

A Proper Farewell to 2013.

// Snapped this in the park. I found Cruella de Ville, people. I'm pretty sure she's an East-sider. //

Hi, 2014. Bye, 2013.

Well, happy new year, friends! I hope you're staying warm wherever you are! I've spent the past 2 weeks completely unplugged. Believe it or not, the laptop began collecting a bit of dust. It was pretty marvelous. I've had a bit of time to reflect and refresh and I would encourage you to go for it, too! Although many of you probably already have. It really does wonders for the soul.

I'm still processing 2013 and I think I will continue to reflect over the coming weeks. A lot has happened this year! However, I'm also crazy excited about what 2014 holds and I can't wait to share all kinds of new content with you. But before diving into a slew of healthy recipes and goals and resolutions, I want to say a proper goodbye to the memories of 2013.

Farewell, 2013. It's been REAL. I feel like we really lived this one.

// From the top: Skiied this springTWICE. Oh the mountainous glory. // Harvard in the famed NEMO blizzard // These girls, braving the storm! MISS YOU! // Marveled at the Colorado Rockies // Traipsed through Venice. No wait, ATE through Venice... // Witnessed my best friend accomplish his dream. // Visited Disney for the 1st time! // Family Vacay with these beautiful people. Sheesh. // All my favorite ladies had babies this year! Yes! // Venice, again. It's just ridiculous. // Us in Paris. We were on our best behavior at Notre Dam. // Saw the REAL castle that Disney was based on. In the mountains of Southern Germany. Oy. // Under the Tuscan sunset.// My niece was born! Hallelujah! Photo Cred: Kara B. // Um, had an encounter with a really bad bird. // I picked the Lion's nose. In Florence. Supposed to represent St. Matthew. //

// Watched a duck chill out in the alps. // Mom visited me in NYC! Party girls! // Had Pimms in London. It was a genuine treat. // Threw a Downton Abbey party. It was, hilarious. // Reflected into Chicago's "bean" // Spooked the birds in Siena. // Ah, Serenbe with the Spencers. Only my dream meal. // Yep, that's the view from the Amalfi Coast. Don't cry. Just go to there. // Locked our love to the bridge in Paris // Saw Taylor Swift with my besties!! // That's a precious bicycle. In precious Florence. // Just us, hanging out. In our new hood on the Upper West Side. // My view from the top of Copper Mountain, ready to dominate a black run! It was breakthrough for moi. // A sign on the city streets. // Taking tea at the famous Fortnum & Mason. The queen awaits my return, I'm sure. // My new home, New York City. //

Things I didn't love about 2013? 

1. I think I let my head spin a lot. I was always rushing around, often caught up in chaos, too many to-do's and plans for the future.

2. I missed my friends and family.

3. I spent a lot of time indoors because of the freakishly long New England winter.

Things I loved about 2013?

1. I had SO MANY adventures this year! I saw a huge part of the world I have spent my lifetime dreaming about: Western Europe. And it was even more epic than I ever imagined.

2. I watched Stevie fulfill a massive dream: graduating from Harvard Business School. I can remember sitting with him by the Sacramento river when I was 18, and he told me he hoped to one day, maybe, just maybe, apply to HBS. I remember thinking, is that in Boston? And here I am, 7 years later, with the privilege of watching him walk down the grassy lawn at Harvard Yard, getting that diploma (in a slightly creepy monk-like outfit.) Absolutely priceless.

3. People were literally exploding with children everywhere I turned. My best friend had her first baby. My sister just had her second. My other sister had her third! Along with my OTHER sister who also had her first. Not to mention about 10 more of my dear friends, sprinkled all over the country, who also gave birth to their first sons and daughters this year. Absolutely miraculous. Also, there must be something in the water.

4. I completed a running challenge. It might not seem like a lot to some super intense athletes, but it was a great way for me to be accountable and accomplish something I had never done before!

5. We moved from Boston to New York City. This is an insane life-long dream. I am drinking in every moment here, because I know this won't last forever. But for now, I am an Upper West Sider and loving every moment.

I hope this coming year holds more surprises, adventures, dearer relationships, better recipes, hilarious stories and lots of peace. Above all, I hope 2014 holds more laughter and joy than ever before. Here's to 2014!

Ladies in the Snow

Ladies Weekend.

You can't deny the power of a girls weekend. It's the circled dates on the calendar that you look forward to for months. It's the light at the end of a frazzled holiday season. It's the relief, due in part to that glass of wine, but mostly due to just having those heartfelt girls near to you. You can see the warmth in their eyes, hear the music in their laughter, feel their sweet empathy and let go of all worries. You don't have to talk about work. Who wants to talk about that? You can just laugh. Let loose. Be free. For those 48 hours, it's all about fun... probably with a few tears thrown in there for good measure. I mean, we are women, right??

I had some of my best girl friends in town this past weekend, and... well, they just wowed my socks off. Mostly with their wit. But also with their humility, perspective, grace and vulnerability. These girls. They are the lifeline, the lively, the lifers. Isn't it wonderful to know who will be by your side forever? These treasured women flew in from all corners of the earth - Mobile, Al., West Palm, Fl. and NICARAGUA - all to stay in my tiny abode here in New York. What blessed souls. I'm sure they returned home with a new-found appreciation for space. Though I already miss them, I am most thankful for our times together. It's the best Christmas gift. I hope everyone has friends like these.

We traipsed all over this town, even in the midst of the heavy snow that fell upon us all day on Saturday. Hence the wet socks and the necessary trip into Urban Outfitters to buy more. All photos are taken by these sweet ladies: Natalie at Fresh Life Findings, Alex at The Wonder List and Erica at This Side Photo.

// It was Santacon in West Village // The big tree in Midtown //

// Cafe Lalo (remember this from You Got Mail?) //

// Cafe Lalo treats //

// Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree (really tricky to capture) // Radio City Music Hall //

// On the stoop of Kathleen Kelly's apartment (We might have a slight You Got Mail obsession, yes.) //

// Art on my windowsill. //

These girls just made this cold weather a little bit sunnier. I hope you're having a wonderful week, counting down to Christmas!