Yet again, my weekend in New York was EPIC. This time I had to fly out for work for an event on Monday evening but decided to come in early and spend the weekend with Stephanie again.
I arrived in New York on Friday night and Stephanie, really making an effort, had researched a few places for us to go eat. It’s one thing I really love about her – her interest in new places and restaurants. I thrive on that stuff and back in Portland, there’s only a handful of people I know that really take the time and effort to look up and venture out to new spots. Portland is obviously a lot smaller than NYC, but it seems that new places are opening up every week and there’s always adventure to be had if you’re just willing to look for it. During my last visit, we had neglected to check out very many cool restaurants (instead we decided to drink our way through the city), so this time we were going to dine through it as well.
We headed down to the Lower East Side to check out Cafe el Portal, a tiny little Mexican restaurant on Elizabeth Street. The place was crowded, so we headed to Barmarche next door for a pre-dinner cocktail while we waited for the hostess to call us. We sat at the bar and ordered some specialty drinks off the menu while the bartender kept a serious face, barely glancing in our direction and certainly not smiling. All was forgiven when he made fabulous cocktails however. And to his credit, he did ask us if they tasted all right.
We sat in Barmarche and thought about foregoing our Mexican dinner plans. The restaurant was white washed, low-lit and super cozy (just my kind of place), and there certainly were a lot of beautiful people there. The pumping AC was a little much though, so we decided to head to a place a few doors down called Peasant that Stephanie had been to previously.
Peasant has two levels: a main, larger space on the street level and then a quaint, cozy, candlelit bar underneath. As you walk down the candle lit steps, you feel like you’ve been taken to another place. With slats of wood surrounding the interior, wood furniture, wood accents and a low ceiling, it’s as if you’ve found a small speakeasy or a fabulous little hideaway. Your cell phone goes silent as you lose reception, but no matter, this is a place you want to stay forever. A few small tables and benches filled the room of barely lit faces and you could tell everyone was completely romanced by Peasant. “This is a bar, where I just want to sit down, sip champagne and make-out with someone from across the table,” I told Stephanie. Sure enough, about 5 minutes later, a couple in the far corner was doing just that, completely unaware of the couple sitting less than a foot from them.
We eventually got the dreaded call (I really didn’t want to leave) and made our way to Cafe el Portal, where the food was great, and the service was also wonderful. We ordered a pitcher of margaritas (it was time to get the weekend started after all) and enjoyed our meal from this Michelin-starred restaurant. The decor isn’t fancy (and neither is the clientele) but the value is great and it’s definitely worth a visit. As the place began to close up, we apologized and explained that we were trying to get through our margaritas as quickly as possible, when the server offered to get us to-go cups. HELL YEAH! This night was getting good already.
We continued on our way and stopped at a bar we had walked by earlier in the evening. Stephanie had commented that she had passed by it before with a guy friend and he had made some remark about the place being full of dudes (basically a total sausagefest). Who would want to go there right!?! So Stephanie and quickly popped in. Pigeons and sausages became my new motto (I was still in love with Peasant which I mistakenly kept calling Pigeon) and we laughed at the thought of it as we entered a bar. The place was a little too much of a Frat Party for our liking so we downed a drink and decided we would head back to one of our favorite little areas near St. Mark’s Place in the East Village.
Our next stop was at V Bar St. Mark’s which looked like a fun pub but was a little lackluster. The stereo belted out old 80’s tunes and we had some drinks and ended up talking with a couple of guys from Brooklyn, Will and Mike, who certainly were too young to know 90% of the songs. Since we were somewhat deep into the evening by this point, all I really wanted to do was dance, so we made our own dance floor and laughed and danced the night away.
Eventually we went around the corner to another hole in the wall called St Dymphnas and again, I attempted to create my own little dance party. By about 4am, my feet were tired and it was time to call it a night, so we made our way back to Stephanie’s and proceeded to sleep late into the day on Saturday.
Rise and Shine. Saturday was another beautiful day in the city and we were set on going to Brooklyn with a couple of options. During my last visit, I had drank a really great beer from a Brooklyn Brewery called Six Action and on the plane, I read an article about them in Draft Magazine and quickly decided was a place I needed to check out and soon. In addition, we really wanted to go to the Googa Mooga festival which supposedly had a lot of great beer, wine, and tons of great restaurants from the city. Very Outside Lands-ish, this first year festival was in Prospect Park in Brooklyn and we were determined to get our drink and food on and then hang in Brooklyn post-fest. After researching the event however, I discovered that you had to get a free ticket in advance (which apparently sold out in 75 minutes). “F* IT!” we said. It’s only this weekend, we’ll buy one off a scalper and we made our way to the subway to head across the river. Six Action would have to wait until another trip.
Once there, we walked into the park and found a scalper selling VIP tickets for $50. By this time it was 5pm and the festival closed at 9pm, so we were not interested in spending that kind of money for a few hours. After wandering around aimlessly for a few minutes, I decided our best bet was just to start asking people if they had extra tickets. Instantly, a guy handed me one and we were halfway there!
Soon after, a mom pulled up on her bike with a toddler on the back in a bike seat, claiming her husband had just cancelled on her and wasn’t coming down. Steph bought a ticket from her for $20 and we made our way to the front gate. Instantly, we were denied. Steph’s ticket was a duplicate (per the scanner) and we walked back out to the main entrance, feeling defeated. Really!? Did this mom just pull a fast one on us? We appropriately named her Con Mom.
As luck would have it, the Googa gods were on our side once again and after batting some eyelashes and explain our Con Mom story, these two nice guys gave us one of their extra tickets. We headed back in, this time without fail.
Once in, we became instantly aware of the crowds, the place was packed and the first item on our to-do list was to get some beers. We approached a line and decided we really didn’t have any better options than to wait. An hour later, we left with two beers each in hand. I’ve never seen such a ridiculous pouring system at a festival. Figure it out Googa Mooga!! I did enjoy my two IPAs however (they had a great selection of breweries) and we made our way to one of the nearby tables. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the patience to wait in line for food at this point, but vowed to check out Crif Dog in the near future after talking to two girls with a hot dog wrapped in bacon and avocado on the side. Gourmet hot dogs!? Yes, please!
We were seriously enjoying ourselves now with beer in hand and within less than 30 minutes, I looked over and saw a fellow Portlander that I recognized, Eli from Olympic Provisions. We’ve done several samplings and had several meetings with OP as of late, so it was great to run into him at the festival. He was also here for the Monday night event and had a couple of OP counterparts, Nate and Josh, in tow. Out of 40,000 people, we ran into Portlanders at a festival in Brooklyn. What are the chances?!
The next 90 minutes or so is hard to describe. It was an absolutely beautiful day in Brooklyn; perfect weather in the mid-seventies and we were at this lush park in the middle of New York. The Roots took the stage and we began to dance the afternoon away. Here we were, seeing The Roots at a FREE concert (well, almost free) in Brooklyn with the sun dropping in the distance, beers in hand, friends among us. And it was completely unplanned up until a few hours before. It was surreal. One of those moments where everything just falls perfectly into place and probably one of my more favorite moments of the year. I kid you not. Everyone around us just had such a great energy and we laughed and drank beers and danced with our neighbors like little kids in the park. It was exhilarating.
Eventually, after The Roots wrapped, we left and ended up bar hopping some more and took the Metro to the Stumptown house where Connie, another fellow Portlander (and someone I’ve worked with several times) was staying, also in town for the Monday night event.
A few drinks later, we decided to make our way to a Noodle Restaurant called Ippudo near Astor Place. Not really an experimental eater, I have to say that the food was excellent and worth the visit. With bellies full, we parted ways and made our way back to the Upper East side.
On Sunday, we were actually able to rise at a decent hour and we ended up wandering Midtown a bit and then back in the Lower East Side to check out a brunch spot that I had read some great reviews on, another Michelin-starred restaurant. We arrived at Clinton Street Baking Co. and decided we were dedicating our day to ‘drunch’, our new term for a “drunk brunch”. The portions were great and the food was excellent, although their Bloody was a little spicy for my taste, but we were seated without wait and we had a great two-top right at the window to people watch the passers-by on the street.
We walked through the Lower East Side commenting on all of the cute places and whether or not this would be the choice spot to live in a city with so many great boroughs. We walked by this awesome graffiti wall and I just had to stop to take a photo. The colors were amazing and I was eager to capture moments of my love affair with New York.
We were determined to find a great little outdoor spot and I had read about one nearby with a patio in the back of the building. We were hoping to stumble on a place similar to the Spuyten Duyvil that we had discovered in Brooklyn two weeks prior, but our expectations were likely too high. At d.b.a., the beer selection is pretty incredible, but despite the reviews, the back patio/garden area was not. The partially enclosed greenhouse-like space was fairly full and certainly a small escape from the hustle of the city out front, but the energy was just not there. I blamed it on the lack of music. It was just a little TOO quiet. Perhaps if you went with a large group of people (and were lucky enough to find a table to seat everyone) you could create a better vibe, but this place was just not doing it for us.
Off to pink frozen margaritas. Yes, I know. That sounds bad. From beer bar to pink margaritas, but all we really wanted was to sit outside and enjoy the afternoon. Sidewalk was certainly a good option. We were instantly seated (on the sidewalk of course) and sat down to order the bright drink. It was a BOGO happy hour, but unfortunately we had missed power-hour (or whatever they call it) where they literally put a timer on the table and you have an hour to drink as much as you can. Damn, I love this place!
That night we parted ways and I went off to stay at my hotel, the W in Midtown, while Stephanie went back to rest for a busy Monday. It was hard to say goodbye to my friend in the Big City, but I knew I would figure out a way to come back soon.
The next day, was a work day and I worked on some pressing items before setting up for our event that evening. We are the beer sponsor for a major food festival, Feast, in Portland later this year and Travel Oregon and Feast had collaborated on a pre-event kickoff to showcase all of the amazing food, drink, etc. that Oregon has to offer. The event took place at Saxon + Parole, a great spot, again, in the Lower East Side.
That night I helped serve beer to 250 media and tastemakers alongside the guys from OP. I literally think I ate my weight in pork, but wow are their meats phenomenal. Now that’s MY kind of sausagefest! And seriously, what an awesome event! So many amazing chefs and artisans and so many great wines, distilleries, and of course, our beer! I truly love my job. Every day is different and so frequently we get to work with great people who put on amazing events like this one. Check out a photo recap of the event HERE. You can even spot me in one of the photos!
The event wrapped and several of us went to another great bar nearby called The Daily. The service was certainly not speedy as they only had one bartender serving about 40 people or so. The cocktails were certainly incredible though and the liquors and ingredients were all unique in variety.
I left the afterparty before the real afterparties began apparently, but I was beat and ready to put my head on my pillow.
Today, in between work and some conference calls, I walked to the Westside to meet Stephanie for lunch at one of our accounts close to her work. I passed through Midtown, 5th Avenue, Rockerfeller Center, and eventually Times Square. Times Square never gets old. Every time you walk through, you feel kind of like a kid at Disneyland. Bright lights, big city as they call it.
That afternoon, I took a late flight back to PDX. *Sigh*. Parting is always such sweet sorrow when it comes to the Big Apple. ‘Til we meet again, I always say.