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Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

Oh, New York, New York. The Empire of all things fabulous, diverse, high brow, and well, high-priced.

This past weekend I visited the mecca of Tiffany's, Sex in the City-style shopping sprees, $15 cocktails with a penthouse view, the Subway (and I don't mean the six-inch sandwich), and lots of very important people (I'll get to my celeb spotting moment in a minute) rushing about. It's amazing.

As a girls weekend in The City, celebrating two moms-to-be, the occasion called for a couple must-dos. We must find a cute place to honor the maternal ones amongst us and we must head out for one night on the town, dressed to kill (or at least dressed for something other than a night with the remote control, a bag of Doritos, and a Bud Lite).
Thankfully, our seasoned and giddy expert KH, a resident of the Upper West Side, came to our aid. For our baby-shower-esque spot, KH discovered this gem, Alice's Tea Cup, a whimsical, colorful nod to Lewis Carroll's cast of characters on West 73rd St.

Working with five peckish yet overwhelmed ladies perusing the menu, our server recommended we order two of the Mad Hatter for Two, which each included two pots of tea, two scones with preserves and jam, two tea sandwiches, and a choice of choco-chip cake, a lemon tart, or chocolate mousse.

We selected sandwiches of hummus, curried chicken, roasted cumin and carrots, and a lapsang souchong chicken, granny smith apple and goat cheese, scones of mixed berry, vegan chocolate pumpkin, buttermilk, apple cranberry, and s'mores, and the Mother-to-Be tea (herbal raspberry/chamomile) and the Rooibos Phoenix (hints of honey/caramel/vanilla).

The ceremonial presentation with the gentility of pouring and sipping tea, and nibbling on dainty tea sandwiches created a very feminine and comfortable atmosphere we all relished. Of the items I tasted, I loved the cumin/carrot sandwich (give me uncommon over chicken salad any day!) and the vegan chocolate pumpkin scone. I kick myself for not buying any of that Rooibos tea - it was also unusual and perfect for a chilly day when you just want to sip tea and read.

If I went back, I would not get the desserts at all - ordinary and dry - but I would recommend the scones, a pot of tea, and a little sandwich or two. The place does great business with children's parties, but I think adults looking for childhood nostalgia and a place to enjoy nibbles of this-n-that would love Alice's.
Shopping can take a lot out of you, so when you need to refuel, don't go to Luigi's on 8th and 25th in Chelsea -they don't have a web site for me to link to and the first clue that the pizza wasn't "authentic" was the owner's Puerto Rican flag t-shirt. But we were desperate and needed a quick bite before the comedy show at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

Instead, get thee to the crowded but divine City Bakery. I must bestow almighty praise to to the insanely helpful Frommer's Portable Guide to New York City for leading us to this place. City Bakery - 3 West 18th St -not only has buffet/cafeteria-style stations with fresh organic vegetables, salads, baked goods, and more, but it features a MAC-N-CHEESE station, a Chocolate Room (more like a closet, but I'll give props anyway) with all kinds of candy bars and sweets to grab, a so-thick-it's-pudding hot chocolate with enormous homemade marshmallows, and apparently celeb sightings of the highest caliber.
UMA THURMAN, we saw.
Okay, I won't go all celeb-nutty, but it was pretty incredible to get mac and cheese, decadent hot chocolate, AND Uma, all in one place.

Granted, you pay for City Bakery by the pound and the place could use more seating. However, my $18.87 plate of roasted beets with mint, roasted butternut squash and pear, mac and cheese, green beans with pine nuts, turkey meatloaf, chicken with smoky ketchup, and roasted cauliflower was exactly what I needed -a break from carbs galore for some actual fruits and vegetables - and hoped for - unique, very Uptown, and yes, celeb-approved.

Hot chocolate that should come with a spoon
Our final evening in New York, we enjoyed a meal at an intimate Italian spot, Spiga - 200 West 84th - which really capped off our time there nicely. The servers and host were attentive, from bantering in Italian with our learned guide KH to helping us with our coats upon arrival and departure. The server accommodated us by plating three salads on one large dish for us all to share - the mix of pear, pecorino and arugula was fantastic! The wine we non-pregnant ladies enjoyed, a Setriolo Chianti Classico Vendemmia 2006, was smooth and warming, and the pace of the meal leisurely, with plenty of time for us to nosh and chat. One drawback: Spiga only accepts cash or American Express, so hit the ATM before if need be.

I chose the black squid ink linguine with shrimp, lump crab meat and arugula in a spicy tomato broth ($18.95) and I really was glad I ordered it instead of a creamy pasta, lasagna or ravioli I usually would ask for. Three in our party ordered it and I was the only one who raved, but I loved the color of the pasta, the chunks of crab, and the spice in the broth.

To show us a little of the Manhattan glamour, KH took us to the Stone Rose Lounge in the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. It was all glass and mirrors, low tables and plush seating, risque artwork and a fierce female DJ spinning, with lots of investment banker types (and one pony tailed sugardaddy in particular) milling about. Just a little Googling will tell you this place is owned by Cindy Crawford's husband, so that just proves right there it's all kinds of special.

Stone Rose is SO NYC it was ridiculous - with out-of-hand prices for beverages. Our bill included two virgin strawberry mojitos at $10 a piece and my Stone Rose cocktail of Woodford Reserve, Grand Marnier, white cranberry juice, sour mix and simple syrup was a hard-to-swallow $15. Well, it WAS NYC and I did want a taste of the high life (though I can get High Life at home, just $4.99 per six pack!)

At some point you just have to stop counting the dollar bills you spend and just start enjoying the views, the smells, the United Nations of communities you see all around you, the taxis, the lights, the fire escapes, the marquees, the Noo Yawk attitudes and the often surprising warmth and kindness from locals, and the gracious plenty of moments to see something new in New York City. I am thankful for wonderful friends and the opportunity to do just that.


  1. I love your writing style!! I'm listing your blog on mine...thanks for an enjoyable read.

  2. I've been lurking, and I love it too.

    Regards from your erstwhile co-book-clubber...

  3. Oh! High Tea! What a fantastic idea for an outing! It fits in with the dietary needs of the crew you went with, and it seems to be tasty and relaxing :)


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