thEATer Weekend in New York

Last month, I had the chance to go visit a dear friend of mine in New York City.  I try to get up there at least twice a year to visit friends, see some shows and eat delicious food!  This visit definitely lived up to all three!

I took the train up on Friday morning and arrived just before lunch.  I dropped my things off at my friends's apartment and headed down to Chelsea for an afternoon at the new Whitney Museum of American Art.  But first, I needed lunch.  I chose to revisit a place I had been to before: The Meatball Shop.  It's a cute little restaurant and I chose a window seat for prime people-watching.  The menus here are fun: they're dry-erase where you check off or circle the items you want.  I selected spicy pork meatballs with a spicy meat sauce on a whole wheat baguette.  The meatballs are truly fantastic - but this time, the baguette was rather dry and not particularly tasty.  I finished my lunch fairly quickly and headed out for the Whitney Museum just a few blocks away.

 Spicy Pork Meatball sandwich from The Meatball Shop

Spicy Pork Meatball sandwich from The Meatball Shop

A few weeks before this trip, I had read an article on Slate that described in drool-worthy detail about one of the city's best chocolate chip cookies.  This miraculous cookie was always served fresh and warm, made with three different chocolate chips and served with a little glass of bourbon vanilla infused milk.  As I arrived at the Whitney, my brain finally made the connection that the museum was the place where I could find this spectacular treat.  So I made my way to the top floor's cafe and sat at the bar and ordered this cookie.  And I'm sad to say that I was severely disappointed.  Not only was it more than the article led me to believe it would cost ($10!!), I found the cookie to be a little dry and barely had any white chocolate chips.  And while it was served warm, it felt like it was re-heated in a microwave vs. fresh from the oven. And the milk was just pain milk - no bourbon vanilla infusion.  So when all was said and done, I paid $12 for dry cookie and some milk.  But they do get points for presentation!

 Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie from the cafe at the Whitney

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookie from the cafe at the Whitney

Leaving the cafe behind, I continued my trip through the museum.  Saw some lovely and some bizarre pieces of work.  Most of all, I enjoyed the views of the Hudson and the city.  The Whitney is in a great location, right on the water.

 View from the Whitney Museum

View from the Whitney Museum

After the Whitney, I headed towards Union Square and stopped at Baohaus for some steamed buns.  I'm a big fan of steamed buns and enjoyed them many times over in my travels to Japan and China.  But I wasn't quite expecting the style in which Baohaus makes their buns.  Rather than being purse shaped with a filling inside, these are more like mini tacos with whole pieces of meat and toppings. Tasty, but I still prefer the traditional steamed buns.

 Steamed buns from Baohaus

Steamed buns from Baohaus

After Baohaus, it was time to head towards Times Square for my first show of the weekend: Something Rotten.  This was a delightfully funny show that had me smiling from start to finish. After the show, I met up with my friend at her apartment and crashed - it had been a long day!

The next morning, we brought breakfast back from our favorite French bakery Maison Kayser.  They have the most amazing pastries and breads - but my all-time favorite is their mini apple brioche.  Close seconds are their pistachio financiers and pain au chocolat.  This has become our tradition every time I come to New York.  I usually don't like to revisit too many places - there's just so much food to explore in the city.  But Maison Kayser is one of the few exceptions!  

 Clockwise from left: pain au chocolat, pistachio financier, almond croissant, apple brioche

Clockwise from left: pain au chocolat, pistachio financier, almond croissant, apple brioche

We had a lazy morning and finally left mid-day to grab some lunch just before my second show of the weekend.  After some disappointing snacks the day before, I was ready to have some really good food.  I started off the day well with the French pastries - and the trend continued when we stopped at the Halal Guys cart for a gyro platter.  Full of rice, beef and chicken - it was a bowl of deliciousness and it just hit the spot!

 Beef and Chicken Gyro

Beef and Chicken Gyro

The second show of the weekend was An American in Paris - a beautifully staged and choreographed show with incredible dancing by Robbie Fairchild and Leanne Cope all set to the music of the Gershwins.  Their pas de deux in the second act alone was worth the price of admission.

Then it was time for another meal - this time at a lovely Italian restaurant near Columbus Circle called Masseria Dei Vini.  It's a sister restaurant to La Masseria in Times Square - and both have incredible authentic Italian fare.  I selected a fresh pappardelle pasta with bolognese sauce which was out of this world. We decided to skip dessert for now and wait until after our show at Lincoln Center.

 Pappardelle Bolognese at Masseria Dei Vini

Pappardelle Bolognese at Masseria Dei Vini

So here we are on Saturday night for the third show of the weekend (for those counting): The Kind and I.  This was my first performance at Lincoln Center and I was excited to see Kelli O'Hara, who had just won the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical.  We're ushered to our seats to find that we're on the side but in the front row!  When the show starts, this huge ship glides across the stage and just when you think it's going to go off the edge, the whole stage moves forward and extends towards audience.  It felt like we were right in the thick of the action.  This ended up being my favorite show of the whole weekend.

Sunday morning started much like Saturday with a pastry run to Maison Kayser.  We then had a leisurely morning perusing the Sunday Times reading various articles including one about Paul Rudd.  We rather enjoyed that one and the accompanying photograph. :o)

The last show of the weekend was a matinee of On the 20th Century starring Kristen Chenowith and Peter Gallagher.  I wasn't familiar with the story or the music (nor have I found either memorable) - but both Kristen and Peter were quite fantastic and it was an overall enjoyable show. 

The last meal of this grand thEATer weekend was a burger, fries and shake from Burger Joint - a little dive burger counter tucked away in the corner of the hotel lobby at the Le Parker Meridien. An odd pairing for sure, but people line-up just to make their way to the counter and order from the hand-written cardboard menu signs.  The burger was tasty, the fries salty and crisp, and the milkshake smooth and creamy. Shortly after getting back to my friend's apartment, it was time to pack up and catch my train home. We certainly packed a lot in one little weekend - but it was so much fun and I can't wait until my next one! 

Chinese Wedding Dinner Adventure

My freshman year of college, I met a dear friend named Katherine.  Throughout college, we were buddies and went on many adventures together...to new restaurants, the movies, the theater.  After graduation, our friendship continued with new monthly adventures: kayaking, alumni events, theater and brunch, to name a few. Fifteen years later - and our adventures are still going strong!

Earlier this spring, Katherine, married a wonderful man named Matthew and they planned a weekend of celebrations this month with friends and family.  The weekend ended in the true spirit of our monthly adventures, with a traditional Chinese wedding dinner.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect - I was just told to come hungry.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were told that this would be a TEN course meal. No wonder I was told to come hungry!  Our table had a giant lazy susan in the middle, and shortly after being seated, the first of many dishes arrived.  For two hours, we were regaled with platter after platter of delicious seafood and meats and vegetables.  I made sure to take pictures of every dish and take notes so that I could share with you all!

After the dinner, I did a little research and learned that many of the ten dishes have a symbolic meaning in the Chinese tradition.  So keep reading for photos and descriptions of all ten of the dishes!


FIRST COURSE: Crabmeat and Asparagus Soup

This soup was a light first course - a thick soup filled with pieces of crabmeat and white asparagus and very flavorful!  I have not always been big on seafood - but this was the first of many seafood dishes in this meal that I came to enjoy. In the Chinese tradition, the crab represents prosperity and success.  

 Crabmeat and Asparagus Soup

Crabmeat and Asparagus Soup

SECOND COURSE: Crispy Crab Claw

This course was delicious and one of my favorites.  Each crab claw is cracked to reveal some flesh and then a shrimp paste mixture is molded into a ball around the claw then coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. 

 Crispy Crab Claws

Crispy Crab Claws

 Inside the crispy crab claw

Inside the crispy crab claw

THIRD COURSE: Shrimp and Scallops with Chinese Greens

This dish was quite tasty - the shrimp were enormous and reminded me of shrimp scampi, with strong garlic flavors.  In the Chinese tradition, shrimp represent happiness and good fortune.

 Shrimp and Scallops with Chinese Greens

Shrimp and Scallops with Chinese Greens

FOURTH COURSE: Yang Chou Fried Rice (with shrimp and pork)

The fourth course of our meal was probably the most familiar - fried rice.  It had a combination of shrimp and pork and was quite tasty.  Apparently, the fried rice dish is often served at the end of the wedding dinner, but our couple chose to move it up in the menu.  I think that was a good idea, because I'm not sure if I would have had room for rice if it had been served last!  In the Chinese tradition, rice represents fertility, luck, wealth and a connection between heaven and earth.

 Yang Chou Fried Rice

Yang Chou Fried Rice

FIFTH COURSE: Crispy Skin Fried Chicken

This chicken was so delicious and flavorful and beautifully arranged on the platter.  It was also served with these crispy pop-chip like crackers that added a nice crunch to the dish.  The chicken is served with the whole head because it represents togetherness and completeness.

 Crispy Skin Fried Chicken

Crispy Skin Fried Chicken

 Crispy Skin Fried Chicken

Crispy Skin Fried Chicken

SIXTH COURSE: Pan Fried Sea Bass

The next dish was pan fried sea bass.  It was prepared with the skin left on one side and the other side pan friend to get a crispy coating.  It was served in a delicious glaze and topped with fresh parsley.  You just had to be careful of the fish bones!  LIke the crab, the sea bass also represents prosperity.

 Pan Fried Sea Bass

Pan Fried Sea Bass

SEVENTH COURSE: Twin Lobsters with Ginger and Scallions

We're now more than half-way through the meal...do you still have room?  Cause I wasn't sure I did when this platter of two lobsters was brought out.  As I mentioned before, seafood isn't always my thing - and lobster in particular.  I had avoided it in all forms: steamed lobster, lobster rolls, even lobster mac 'n cheese.  But I decided I needed to try everything at this meal - so I took a small claw, picked out the meat and tasted it.  And IT. WAS. AMAZING.  So much so that I made that lazy susan spin right back around to me with the lobster and took a second (much larger) piece. Not sure if I'm ready to put on the lobster bib and crack one open - but I definitely won't be saying "no" to some lobster mac 'n cheese if it comes my way.  In the Chinese tradition, the lobster represents the dragon, or the groom.

 Twin lobsters with ginger and scallions

Twin lobsters with ginger and scallions

EIGHTH COURSE: Salty Shrimp, Scallops and Squid

The eighth course brought more seafood - this time with a combination of shrimp, scallops and squid fried with a salty tempura batter.  This was a favorite dish at my table.

 Salty shrimp, scallops and squid

Salty shrimp, scallops and squid

NINTH COURSE: Seafood Combination in Bird Nest

We're really in the home stretch now...only one more dish to go! This course was a beautifully arranged "basket" of seafood and vegetables in a bird nest made of fried taro surrounded by a crown of fresh broccoli.  This was my opportunity to fill up on some green veggies before I truly had no room left!

 Seafood combination in bird nest

Seafood combination in bird nest

TENTH COURSE: Beef with Mushrooms and Mustard Greens

The final course of the night was a giant bowl of slices of beef with mushrooms on a bed of mustard greens.  At this point in the meal, I had room for but a bite or two of the beef - but it was a very satisfying final course.  In the Chines tradition, vegetable greens represent close family ties.

 Beef with mushrooms and mustard greensS

Beef with mushrooms and mustard greensS

BONUS COURSE: Peanut Cookies, Fortune Cookies and Strawberry & Coconut Jelly Squares

So no meal would be complete without dessert, for which one can always make room.  We were treated to a light spread of cookies and jello-like squares of strawberry and coconut. What a sweet ending!

One of the more appropriate fortunes read at our table!

And here is what lay in the wake of our finished meal.  What an incredible feast!  

At our table, we also discussed what tips we would give others partaking in their first Chinese Wedding Dinner.  We all agreed: come hungry!  Seriously, skip lunch, skip your snack - this meal will have you waddling out the door like it's Thanksgiving. You should also come with an open mind and be willing to try new things.  And, vegetarians need not apply - there is nothing but meat and seafood in this meal.  But I imagine if you were invited to a dinner and were vegetarian or kept kosher, they would make accommodations for you.  Everyone at my table enjoyed trying new dishes and being a part of the whole experience.

Many thanks to Katherine, Matthew and their parents for the honor of attending this celebration.  Cheers to the happy couple!

 Katherine & Matthew

Katherine & Matthew