20/50 NYC Adventures: Black Seed Bagel

Black Seed Bagel.

Word on the street is that this is THE PLACE for bagels in NYC. Forget those monstrous, slathered-in-cream-cheese, bloated New York bagels... Black Seed Bagel boasts the latest and greatest recipe in the bageling world. It's the only place in Manhattan serving this style... and it hails from Canada. That's right. You read me correctly. CANADA. Much like the cronuts at Dominique Ansel's, people line up at the crack of dawn to score their beloved breakfast bread. And sometimes? Well, Black Seed runs out. So you better hurry.

The Hype.

Why all the fuss? Apparently Montreal-style breakfast bagels are the jam these days. How do I know this? Weeeeeeeeeeell, I went to this uber-posh dinner party for a dear friend, and let me tell you, the guests at this gig were SO CHIC. A real New York moment, honestly. I don't know how I got invited. One guy was a fashion designer, another guy was an artist (like, a REAL one), another dude and his wife started this super cool blog that was taking Manhattan's restaurant realm by storm. It was like everywhere I turned, there was another awesomely accomplished, interesting-souled person to talk to. And one of those delightful humans shed some light on the "best bagel in the world" that I "absolutely HAD to try" before moving out of NYC. So I mean, what do you do when a stranger so strongly recommends something? Usually nothing. But people, he was talking about BREAKFAST FOOD. So, an obvious exception.

Taste the Gluten. DO IT.

Thank God we listened to him. Black Seed Bagel blew my mind. And our mystery friend was right - it was the best bagel I had ever tasted. Stevie and & seriously considered getting back in line for seconds. Why are they so great? These bagels are significantly smaller than NYC bagels, with a honeyed hint of sweetness and an almost almond-esque finish. It could be the fact that they bake them in a brick-fire oven. Or the way they hand-roll the dough and then poach the bagel in its final moment before serving. Could it be the butter-glazed outside, the tenderly crisped inside? Stevie opted for the Everything Bagel with cold-smoked salmon, avocado, tomato & cream cheese, while I omitted the salmon and had everything else. It was truly, truly SO GRAND. Ah, I'm salivating just at the memory.

Just Sayin'.

You lucky Manhattan-ites - go and get it. NOW.

Upper West Side Walls

This was Stevie's idea. We wandered around for the afternoon, and he wanted to capture the color, texture and hilarity of the UWS "walls" in our neighborhood. I just love his creative, blonde self. In all seriousness, he is a wizard with the camera. Enjoy his photo journey.

// The original colorblock. //

// Iconic brownstones. Aren't they just lovely? //

// Epitome of moving in Manhattan. //

// It cracks me up how "New York" these people look. //


We love our little neighborhood. We're gonna miss it.

15/50 NYC Adventures: The New York Botanical Gardens

The New York Botanical Gardens

If you want to spend a lovely Saturday away from the maniacal urban jungle of Manhattan, the New York Botanical Garden, located in the Bronx, is the perfect prescription. Just a stones throw outside the city, this expansive green space will give your lungs the full breath of fresh air they’ve been longing for. We had been hearing so much about this little escape outside the city, so we made a plan to catch the spring blooms for the beginning of May. Let me just tell you – it was PERFECT. Making it even more perfect? My delightful Aunt Shirley drove over from Connecticut and joined us for a day of lounging, waltzing around the gardens, and sniffing about every kind of bloom imaginable. And her company is always a pleasure, so it was pretty much the most. Perfect. Day.

Getting There.

There are several ways to get out of the city and up to the Garden. We took the C train from the 86th street stop and then switched to the D train at 125th (which is an express) and took that all the way. Our total travel time was about 50 minutes. It was just so easy. However, we learned a small lesson by taking the subway. You want to ride one of the cars in the back of the D subway. We rode in the front car and came up out of the subway several blocks away from the Garden entrance. Thankfully, an adorable 65-year old Italian New Yorker was standing outside a convenient store, clutching his tiny cup to-go cup of coffee, kibitzing with a few others in the sunshine. He stopped us in our tracks, "Hey, you two trying to get to the gaahden?"

He was very New York. I just grinned at him in wonder. What an excellent accent.

"You don't look like you're frahm around he-ya. The entrance to tha gaahden is 3 blahcks away. You gahtta sit on tha back train cah next time."

Then he proceeded to congratulate me on my burgeoning belly and told us some stories about his three grandchildren. He was precious. People are just precious. Thankfully, his advice was sound and we wound our way around the Bronx and found ourselves at the entrance to the garden. It was mesmerizing from then on.

// We got in trouble for walking on this grass. Yes, seriously. //

The Garden.

What can I say? There is SO MUCH to do at this garden, you can't really do it all in a day. However, you can ride the trolly around the entire landscape and at least get to see most everything, even if you don't experience all the different exhibits up close.

// My dear Auntie Shoil. Love her almost too much. //


The Azaleas swept through the entirety of the garden, lighting up the green space in epic hues of hazy pink, rad purple, splashy red and whispery blue. They looked ripe and ready to usher in a wedding party.

// These two. Makes my heart sing. //


The fancy victorian-style Conservatory housed an ethnic variety of plants and flowers from different ecosystems from around the world, including more orchids than I had ever seen. Very exotic, indeed.

// These seriously looked like candy. I wanted to just reach out and snatch a bite. Stevie forbade it. //

// We walked a LOT, so I sat a lot, too. Gotta take breaks for the tootsies! //

Native Plant Garden

The Native Plant Garden guided us on a historic walk, designed entirely in a modern aesthetic, and showcased plants and wildlife indigenous to northeastern North America.

// It's like he's checking out her booty. Even ducks like a good round behind! //

Everett Children's Adventure Garden

One of my favorite parts was the Everett Children's Adventure Garden (of course!), outside of which there was a bustling (free!) wine and cheese mart. I couldn't indulge the way Stevie & Aunt Shirley could, but it was still so much fun, basking in the sunlight, admiring the explosive cherry blossoms and eating fancy cheese. 

// Oh geez. I can only imagine that he was peppering her with incessant questions about the hops/malt/yeast used to design this brew. Those life-long-learners, you gotta watch out for them. //

// I feel terrible that I don't remember their name, but this band played for several hours and they were great! //

// Yeah, I know. Stevie is an absolute GENIUS with our camera. I mean, POW. //

// We three! //

// I swear, someone must have paid these children to play ring-around-the-rosie. I mean, it's just too perfect, right?? //

My Recommendation.

This place is absolutely stunning. If I were going to be around NYC all summer, I would certainly take another trek up to the Garden for the Rose Garden Celebration in July. We got to see the rose bushes on our trolly ride, but to experience their beauty in full bloom would be absolutely Disney-magic-esque. Cmon, New Yorkers, you can do it! Get up out of the city! There are sights to be seen!

8/50 NYC Adventures: High Tea at The Plaza Hotel

The Plaza.

Iconic. Epic. Faaaaaahncy. This hotel is so known, so featured throughout historical literature and film that it has become a character in its own right, almost a living, breathing entity. The Plaza is a cornerstone of all that was scandalous and glamorous in Fitzgerald's roaring twenties epic, The Great Gatsby. This hotel set the awkward dichotomy between regal and bumpkin as Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin cracked us up 'til we cried in Big Business. Every little girl was jealous of Eloise's spectacular living situation and every little boy wanted to be Kevin in Home Alone 2, sliding across the slick mosaic tiles in the lobby. This hotel has been impressed upon our memories even as children. It's a legend in it's own right, the epitome of classic perfection and a standard of American royalty.

// Walking in on a red carpet. Well sure. //

The Time I Took My Sister There. And Surprised Her.

I've told you about The Plaza before. I've visited so many times over the past year, because DUH it's pretty and fancy and there are always gigantic arrangements of fresh flowers in the lobby that looks like they were flown straight in from Eden itself. And I like the chandeliers. Each time I walk through the lobby (usually touring around guests), I long to sit in that gorgeous central restaurant, the renowned Palm Court. It's probably just where people meet for important business lunches, but in my mind (that of a 12-year old little girl who loves tea time and china and playing dress up), I think it's the pinnacle of all fanciful fun in this city. Yes, so silly. But I knew that there was someone who would probably love a tea time experience here even more than me: my little sister.

The Company.

I say little. But she's not. She towers over me at 5'8 and whenever strangers meet us, they immediately think she's the older sis. It's probably because of my cheeks. I have some wicked chipmunk cheeks. Even though I look like I'm storing away some nuts for the winter, these days I've accepted them as a semi-endearing feature... while Rachel's cheeks are high and contoured and chiseled like an America's Next Top Model. But I don't tell her that too much. Cuz I don't want to lose all her goodness to the realm of modeling. She's got brains, too. Aaaannnywho, my little sister is a total doll and I just knew that she would die if I took her to The Plaza for high tea. And who doesn't want to see their baby sister freak out in the middle of a quiet, refined hotel? Too bad she's so composed. Drat her meticulously polite upbringing. Where did that come from??

This is fun. She thought I was just taking a picture of her:

Rachel at the Plaza from Kristen Hale on Vimeo.

The Menu.

We were seated. We tried not to giggle too much. We were presented with gold-tipped menus. I tried not to talk to the waiter in a fake British accent. It was hard. We ordered one of each of the tea services and awaited our porcelain beverage china to arrive. We tried to talk about the weather and mother and daddy and where "everyone should summer" (much like Phoebe from Friends at 2:06). Then our drinks actually arrived and instead we dove into real conversation about life, dreams, boys (eek!), babies (double eek!!) and our dissimilar yet spectacular journeys. My sister is a fountain of sweetness. We had such a dear, wonderful time together.

The Service.

Should you be surprised? The service was astounding. Our waiter was precious, noting my pregnant belly and artfully explaining to me what I should and shouldn't eat and drink. He brought delicious substitutions for all the soft cheeses and uncured meats in the meal and left us to sit and talk for hours. There was no rush. So of COURSE we sat there for hours, sneaking pictures when I hoped others weren't looking. I didn't have the heart to whip out my giant SLR (you can't help but feel a sense of decorum in that place) so all the photos are brought to you by my handy dandy iPhone. One of the best parts? Well, one of the tea sandwiches was so delicious, I might have ordered a second helping. Which he gladly brought out and didn't charge me for, stating, "the baby must have what it wants!" Seriously. So precious. Although that rosy memory has faded slightly since I had a weigh-in at the doctor yesterday... perhaps a few too many tea sandwiches. Perhaps.

The Experience. 

Overall, this experience was just THE BOMB. The Plaza holds its standard. I mean, that place could have some mad ego because it's so dazzling and spectacular, and yet, the air is crystal clear of any vanity or pretension. It's just so, swell. There was nothing unpleasant about our high tea experience, even the bathrooms were stunning. Coming to New York? I would more than highly recommend a reservation at the Palm Court for the high tea service. You would absolutely be wooed by the opulent romance and epic, lavish charm. And if that doesn't get ya, the tea sandwiches will.

7/50 NYC Adventures: Rockefeller Center & Top of the Rock

Rockefeller Center.

The Rockefeller Center is a stout 22-acre complex in the thumping heart of NYC. A tiny little part of me always scans the complex's crowds, hoping to catch a glimpse of a scurried Liz Lemon wolfing down a hot dog and spazzing out about something Tracy-related. Of course, that never happens. But a girl can wish, right? The Rockefeller Center is a broadly-spread out plaza where you can wander around, check out the art-deco statues, eat and shop. In the winter you can catch the lighting of the famous tree, see people skating in the ice rink, and perhaps catch the Rockettes just around the corner at Radio City Music Hall. I'm going to be honest with you - visiting this area at Christmastime is just not worth it. Too many tourists. I guarantee you that true New Yorkers never go near this place in the winter - it's just swarming with human beings from other countries, whipping out their cameras left and right to photograph what you probably already have in your own home, a Christmas tree. But again, that's just my opinion. We visited several times this past Christmas when we had multiple guests in town, and each time I just felt a little disappointed by the experience. It's just too much. However, in the spring/summer/fall, this is a great area to traipse about and explore. You can check out the Channel Gardens, shop at my favorite Anthropologie, and take an NBC studio tour. It's the little things. But. I haven't told you the most obvious and BEST part about the Rockefeller Center: taking the elevator up to the Top of the Rock.

The Top of the Rock.

I've been to the Top of the Rock Observation Deck a few times because it is my absolute favorite skyscraper view of the city. It doesn't matter whether you go during the day, at sunset, or late at night, each view is just killer. Better than the Empire State Building, yes, and I'll tell you why. From the Top of the Rock, you can see all the way south to the water, past the mess of Times Square hoopla and downtown's skyscrapers. You turn East and see the length of the East River and all the bridges to Brooklyn. Turn West and focus on the ever-increasing lights beyond the Hudson River, with New Jersey all lit up. It's breathtaking and shocking. How did this island evolve into such a crazed, exciting network of eternally-tall buildings? It's just a wonder.

Now so far, you could see everything I've described from the Empire State Building, as well. But all that changes as you look North. From the Top of the Rock, you have a principle view of Central Park in its entirety. Gazing upon the Upper East and Upper West Sides, I can't help but marvel at their perfect parallel lines and the obedient grids these neighborhoods so kindly occupy. The stretch between these two mini-villages are colorfully filled in by the park lakes, ponds, vast lawns and meadows and trees... it's just incredible. Because of the height and position of 30 Rock, it completely blocks this view from the Empire State Building, and since Central Park is my favorite part of NYC, I much prefer this uninterrupted view. Also a bonus? Getting to actually SEE the Empire State Building. It's a beautiful view from up so high.

Begin Again.

We visited 30 Rock again recently with our buds Elliot & Lena. This was where he got down on one knee and proposed to her years ago, and in honor of that memory, they wanted to visit again. With a new chapter of their life unfolding, they wanted to document this sweet changing of the seasons with a fresh photo announcement. The best kind of announcement, in my opinion :)

// Awww isn't this just EPIC?! //

// Perfect time for our camera to die, eh? iPhone to the rescue! //

You Should Just Visit.

30 Rock is a New York City icon. Yes, it's touristy and expensive and all that, but it's more than worth your while. I don't need to recommend you to visit or tour because it recommends itself. For the best views in NYC, there is no better place.