Last month when I flew into LaGuardia, it was a crisp fall day, the plane came in low over the Statue of Liberty, up the West Side of Manhattan and banked to the right over to the airport. From my window seat, the trees looked like burnt siena, fiery red and pumpkin colored cauliflower tops. This past week when I flew to New York, on a clear Thanksgiving morning, the plane took a southerly approach, and from my left-side seat, I got an eye-level view of the East Side of Manhattan as we crossed over Brooklyn and Queens. This time, the trees looked like tiny brown matchsticks and the buildings gleamed white as the sun bounced off their unshaded roofs and windows. As we got lower and lower in the sky, the glaring edifices gave way to a sea of brick, and we quickly touched down in the gentlest landing I’ve experienced in years.
Hailing a cab, we wound our way north, and reached our Upper West Side destination without Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade interference. We arrived as my sister and her boyfriend were waking up, and I joined them at Starbucks for coffee, while Mark grabbed his first of many weekend slices of pizza from the smells-better-than-it-tastes stand next door. The day was cold but sunny, and we decided to walk the crowded streets in search of a new winter coat for my sister’s boyfriend. That was silly of us! It was Thanksgiving Day – of course everything was closed. Okay, plan B: let’s go walk in the park. As we approached Central Park West, we were met by streams of people moving in the opposite direction as the parade route was clearing out, leaving piles of trash in their wake.
Again, we weren’t thinking too intently because obviously we couldn’t get across CPW to the park due to the rows of bleachers and police barricades. We walked down a few blocks until we were able to cut across, stepping over mounds of newspaper and Starbucks cups being swept up by city workers.
We wandered through the park, which was jam-packed with like-minded tourists and parade-goers, until we reached Columbus Circle, where we took a warm break inside the mall lobby and watched as these holiday stars changed color beautifully.
Thinking it would still be a number of hours before the Thanksgiving meal was served, we thought it best to try to find some authentic New York pizza on our walk home. Before we got too far up Broadway, I impulsively bought a majorly delicious Nutella crepe (also the the most expensive crepe ever: $5 for plain Nutella!) at a sidewalk cart. It was hot and gooey and perfectly folded into a triangle for walk-and-eat-ability. I always appreciate a well-folded crepe.
Not wanting to revisit Mark’s pizza joint from earlier that morning, I quickly Yelped pizza places in the area and picked the best of the bunch: Rigoletto on 72nd street. The small restaurant was new and clean, with a slate bar and a few beers on tap, and, most importantly, pizzas that looked fresh, not having sat in the case for days and days. The pepperoni slice I had was a good start to a New York pizza weekend: crunchy crust, but not burnt, hot cheese that didn’t fall off in clumps and just enough sauce to not be overwhelming. It was my sister’s Texas boyfriend’s first slice of true New York pizza ever!!! So exciting!
Feeling just full enough, we returned to our aunt and uncle’s apartment in time to hang out and watch football with our cousins and welcome the rest of the family when they arrived: my parents, other aunt and uncle, more cousins all the way from LA! Moving into the living room for the cocktail hour (signature drink = Dark & Stormy made with ginger beer), the only smudge on an otherwise perfect party was that my aunt who was hosting was quarantined in bed with a stomach bug. We were so sad she couldn’t join us, but luckily she was having the meal catered and served so she didn’t have to worry about getting the food out to the table, and thankfully she recovered the next day in time for us to spend some time together later in the weekend. I had such a fun time chatting with the adults and playing with the kids. I love getting together with everyone, and I always feel let down when it’s time to part ways.
After a delicious traditional turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes with marshmallow and all the other sides, the kids had to get to bed, and the rest of us tucked into the den to watch the Ravens beat the Steelers (woo woo!!!) before turning into bed ourselves, satisfied and happy.
Friday morning before my sister and her boyfriend headed back to Texas, we went to breakfast with my parents at Fairway Market. This is a grocery store. I was so confused when we walked in as to why we were eating breakfast in a grocery store, but upstairs is a small cute restaurant. I had a buckwheat crepe with brie and spinach in what was turning out to be a pizza and crepe weekend. I love when savory crepes are made with the traditional Breton buckwheat flour. Savory crepes should obviously be made with a more savory flour, and I hate when restaurants use the same sweet crepe pancakes for both their sweet and savory crepes.
After breakfast, we relaxed back in the apartment before Mark and I set out that evening to visit a college friend and my cousins in NOHO and NOLITA (let’s just call it Lower Manhattan…East Village?). Not wanting to take my huge puffy sleeping bag coat that would be a nuisance at a bar later, I took my chances with just a sweater and a pair of gloves. By the time it was dark it was already so cold that Mark and I had to stop at Bahr Che on our ten minute walk from my friend’s to my cousin’s for a warming glass of wine and an antipasto of finocchiona (had to…wanted to…same thing). The thinly sliced salami flavored with fennel seeds and served with chunks of warm bread hit the spot. On to our next destination: my cousin’s apartment.
My cousin just moved into a new apartment, so of course we wanted to check it out and meet his roommate. The two bedroom was a good size by NYC standards and was a good rest stop before moving on via taxi to Serafina in the Meatpacking District, where we met my other cousin for dinner. I had a bright and peppery arugula salad and an interesting pizza, which was pretty much a regular cheese pizza with a pesto swirl and sprinkled pine nuts on top. It was yummy with a chewy, super thin crust and good cheese flavor that was augmented by the fresh pesto. During dinner, my cousin hawk-eyed Malcolm Gladwell, the famous unassuming author of such critically-acclaimed economics/human behavior books as Blink and The Tipping Point. Cool!
After dinner we made our way across the street to Bar 675, an underground basement bar with nooks and small libraries carved out of the brick wall, where you can lounge with your eight closest friends and play games such as Jenga and Catchphrase.
Luckily we arrived early enough to snag one of these coveted spots, and enjoy a few rounds of Catchphrase before more and more of our cousins friends came to join us.
Being the elder members of the party, Mark and I made our exit earlier than the others, but I think we hung in there pretty well, as evidenced by one lost glove and an 11:30am wake up time the next day.
Oh the next day…..I wasn’t feeling too great when we made the trek back down to Spring Street to meet one of my best friends from growing up for a lunch of, you guessed it, pizza! At Rubirosa, Mark and I split a classic pie that was more of a margherita with medallions of fresh mozzarella and a very thin layer of sauce on a stiff but not crunchy crust. I liked the cozy Italian cafe atmosphere and loved seeing a good friend.
We immediately went back home to relax with my aunt, watch college football (oh Michigan, what a nail-biter) and nap before pulling ourselves together for dinner with some ex-Baltimore friends at Jacob’s Pickles on Amsterdam Ave on the UWS. It was a perfect pick with wonderful friends – cozy comfort food with amazing homemade pickles, big-as-your-face biscuits and Matzo ball soup. The biscuits were my favorite part of the meal: crumbly and served with all the fixin’s: super salty butter, maple butter, honey and strawberry preserves. The kosher dills were also delicious…as were the piping hot battered fried pickles…and to top it all off: a root beer float and crunchy hot fried Oreos! I would highly recommend this spot for a totally unhealthy but deliciously filling meal.
Unfortunately we had to pull ourselves out of bed at 3:30am to catch our early morning flight on Sunday, but we were happy to be back home and in bed napping by 9:30.
On such a fabulously fun Thanksgiving weekend I am grateful to have the most loving friends and family. I am also reminded to be thankful for all those people that made our Thanksgiving special…We heard a lot this year about the retail workers who are now having to work on Thanksgiving for the first time, and I agree that this should be one day when the stores stay closed, but let’s not forget about all the others that are also working on this holiday: the people at the airport, the pilots and flight attendants, the taxi drivers, policemen and women, the Starbucks servers, and the trash picker-uppers who are cleaning up all those Starbucks cups. I hope they got a day off along the way to hang out with their friends and families.
Quick weekend tally:
4 pizza meals (including Mark’s extra slice Thursday morning)
5 friends to catch up with
17 family members at Thanksgiving
4 TUMS needed