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NYC October 2011 Day 2

We woke up bright and early, got dressed and got out onto the street by 7:45 am.  The one nice thing about waking up that early is that we were greeted with the most beautiful sunrise, reflected in the glass of the new tower, 1WTC, that is being built  in the northwest corner of the World Trade Center site. We sat and looked at that for a while but neither of us wanted to miss one minute of precious time on our first full day exploring the city so we left in search of coffee and too see where the Wall Street Occupiers were camped out. As it turns out, they were basically right beside our hotel so we didn't have to look far. At that point there were only enough protesters to fill the small parkette with little spill over and it didn't seem like a big deal at all. They were all just waking up themselves so it looked like a sea of marathoners taking naps, wrapped in their metallic space blankets.

The first thing I wanted to do was go to see the statue of Liberty because this was one of those touristy things that I was way too cool to do when I went to New York in my younger days. I am now old and not worried about such nonsense so we made our way down to battery park to catch the ferry. Well, it's a different world now and getting on that ferry requires security that would rival El Al Airlines and, unfortunately, I travel with a stunt rigger. This always means that at some point, a knife, some wire snips, and a couple of leathermans are lurking in the recesses of one of the bags that he is carrying. That morning was no different and so we were given the option of throwing hundreds of dollars worth of tools in the garbage right there or returning to the hotel to leave them in the room. There was no point in getting angry and to be honest, it was way better than having it happen at the airport when we have 15 minutes to get to our flight so I was almost happy to be able to just walk back to the hotel. Eventually we made our way onto the ferry and crossed the river to see the Statue of Liberty up close and I have to say, on a beautiful day with a perfect blue sky, she is stunning.

We didn't get off at Ellis Island because neither of us had any family come to North America that way and we wanted to get back and start walking. I will tell you what we DIDN'T eat that morning, we didn't eat any churros from the three churro trucks that were gathered around the ferry area and to this day, I still don't know why we didn't eat any because we both love them. I am still a bit sad about that.

More walking, more picture taking, more atmosphere soaking in and suddenly it was lunch time and I was starving. By this time we were back in chinatown when I looked to my right and gasped because there was Dim Sum Go Go, one of the places that I had read about that I wanted to try. We didn't want to eat too much because we assumed we would be snacking all day so we didn't eat the amazing roast chicken that kept being put on all of the other tables but we did try a few dumplings. I LOVED the duck dumplings the best and the ginger/scallion condiment that is set out for you along with two other tasty condiments was so delicious I would have been happy to just have a bowl of that with some noodles. We had har gow and sui mai because those two simple dumplings are the barometer for any dim sum restaurant and they were flawless. The place doesn't look like a dim sum joint but the food is great and when we go back I will return and this time I will eat everything.

beautiful dragon fruit from an outdoor produce seller in chinatown

After that we continued to walk around more and eventually made our way up to time's square. Shack finally felt like he was home - it was like ADD nirvana and he loved it. I was feeling peckish but there is no place to eat unless you want to pop into the Hard Rock Cafe and we all know that wasn't going to happen so eventually I had to drag him away in search of a snack. He wanted to find Ami James' Tattoo shop and all we knew was that it was on Wooster St in Soho. We were getting pretty good at negotiating the subway by now so we found it quite easily. We stopped in, after having to sign releases and have our pictures taken since they were filming for his tv show, and inquired about getting Shack his first tattoo by Mr James but it seems that you can't make an appointment, you can't request a specific person and it was going to cost almost $1000 to get two words tattoo'd on his arm. Now, I am all for artists getting paid really well for their work and , in fact, I charge a pretty penny for my own services as a makeup artist, but over $400/hr to do a tattoo that will take 2 hours MAX seems a little excessive. I think he might have paid it if he could have booked Ami to do it but that just seemed a bit over the top so we continued on our way.

 We turned right at the corner onto Grand St and ran right into a cute looking little cantina called Papatzul so we went inside to have a drink and a snack. I had a sangria and I have to tell you, it was really quite good and went down quite quickly. Shack ordered the carnets and I ordered the Ceviche Papatzul Vuelve a la Vida. My ceviche was really delicious but it wasn't ceviche, it was coctel which is basically ceviche that has some ketchup in it so it's in a thicker, red sauce instead of just lime juice. 

Luckily, I like a coctel from time to time so I happily ate it but I am not sure if they made a mistake and brought me the shrimp/avocado coctel instead of the ceviche I ordered but by the time it came I was on my second sangria and didn't really care. Shack's carnitas were great and the order was huge - four really large tacos with enough meat to make another few tacos if we had more tortillas.  The meat was tender and flavourful and I loved that they were smothered in red onion and cilantro.If we lived here, I could see this place become a regular spot to hit for a drink and a snack a couple of times a week. I would have liked to eat more but we had to rush back to the hotel to get back up to the west village for our 7pm reservation at Po.

I am going to honest here and tell you that Po was not even on my list of places I wanted to eat at. I didn't end up eating at any of the restaurants that I had to hoped to visit. I was dying to try Red Rooster in Harlem and I was really hoping to be able to sneak into Babbo for an early, blue hair special dinner but this restaurant was recommended by a couple of people and, more importantly, it was the only place that could actually accept a reservation for the following week when I was calling around and I wanted to make sure we had at least one relaxed meal. In retrospect, I would not do this again and the next time we will just show up early at the places we really want to eat at and take our chances.
Our server was fantastic, the restaurant is tiny but lively and by 8pm it was packed. We had a beautiful bottle of Barolo and our apps of beet salad and an order of meatballs were very good and we were both happily anticipating our pastas. Since I had already looked at the menu online, I knew I would have the vongole and as soon as Shack saw that they had a carbonara, he ordered that. Unfortunately, his carbonara was a bit of a dry, congealed ball by the time it got to our table. I don't know what happened, I don't know if his pasta was done too quickly and had to sit while they finished mine - I don't know. I do know that carbonara should be silky and smooth and a bit creamy and at almost $20 for a bowl of pasta with an egg in it, it really should be perfect, no?
Unfortunately, he had to send it back to the kitchen. My vongole was not earth shattering but it was good and well prepared and what should have been a fabulous dinner was tainted by the terrible carbonara and we left with a still hungry, mildly grumpy Shack. 

We grabbed a cab and returrned to Florio's, the place in Little Italy from our first night where we encountered the cadillac guy. There were two men who appeared to work for Verizon who urged us to sit down and have dinner here. I am not sure if they worked for Verizon or the restaurant but we took their advice and sat down outside. Shack ordered rigatoni bolognese and two grappas. I have to tell you, that I am not sure what they served us but it was NOT grappa. I am pretty sure it might have been lighter fluid but it was NOT grappa! At this point, we no longer cared so we left the lighter fluid untouched and I had a couple glasses of prosecco and Shack had some red wine. His pasta came and he was finally a happy, happy boy. He pronounced it the best bolognese ever and made me swear that we would cook rigatoni more often at home. There was much singing, the maitre d grabbed the mike for a while to sing some duets with the girl who was singing and, in the end,  we closed the joint, drunk, full bellies and having a hoot. Was it Mario Batalli? No, of course not but it was solid Italian American comfort food that was exactly what we needed.

We decided that this was a good time to go to the top of the Empire State Building. There wouldn't be a huge lineup and it would be really pretty to see the city all lit up in the dark in the middle of the night. It also helped that by this time, we were pretty tipsy and so I was sure that we wouldn't be as bothered by the cold and wind and I was right. I knew that I was going to regret this all tomorrow morning, but for the time being, we were having so much fun that neither of us wanted to think about that. When you have been together for almost 17 years and this is your first holiday alone in 13 years and you can still laugh this much together, you just let it happen and worry about the hangover later.

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