Also: When Did We Start Naming Our Winter Storms?

Despite the ominous-looking, but not at all ominous-sounding Winter Storm Nemo, and the accompanying weather-related hysteria that swept most of the Eastern Seaboard, my personal chauffeur XFE and I went to New York this past weekend for our Global Entry interviews.

winter-storm-nemo_61

Well, XFE went for the Global Entry interview. I went with a secret wish in my heart to accidentally stumble into one of the New York Fashion Week shows, or at least see a ridiculously dressed fashion blogger or two (Mission: Perhaps Accomplished? I’ll explain further down).

Global Entry, for those of you who don’t know, is kinda like the self-checkout lane at the grocery store for Americans returning from travel overseas. You get to skip the line at customs, go up to this high-tech kiosk and self-check yourself on through. Also, you don’t have to fill out that customs form on the plane. It’s all done at the kiosk.

I’m telling you, teleporting must be right around the corner.

future

Anyway, we applied online for Global Access about a month ago and got approved within days. The next step is to go to an airport to get interviewed by the lovely Homeland Security folks. However, the next interviews at Dulles Airport weren’t until May. So, we looked at our options and decided to drive up to Newark, and spend a night in New York before driving home.

This whole plan got a bit iffy with Nemo on the warpath. We went back and forth and fretted about whether we should drive into a storm. I’m sorry, a BLIZZARD. Watching the Weather Channel on Friday night did not help our decision making. I was pretty firmly in the “no way” category, while XFE was in the much more reasonable “we’ll decide on the morning of” category.

Sure enough, Saturday morning we learned that New York had not been hit as hard as expected. So we loaded up the car with snow boots, and a makeshift-emergency-living-in-your-car-kit and hit the road.

Oh, what’s in a makeshift-emergency-living-in-your-car-kit, you ask?

  • One fleece blanket for staying warm
  • Car charger for cell phone (for tweeting, obv.)
  • Several varieties of Kind bars (so we don’t have to resort to cannibalism)
  • Several bottles of water (sparkling, naturally)
  • Bottle of wine (Celebratory; as in ‘rescuers are on their way,’ or last hurrah, as in ‘they’re not on the way.’)

I think there were other, more practical items in there, like shovels or flares or something, but XFE packed the kit, so I’m not sure. My contribution was several recent celebrity magazines. Because gossip doesn’t care if you’re stranded.

Nevertheless, we never drank the wine, nor had occasion to break into our kit because the roads were totally clear. And totally empty. We saw maybe two dozen other cars the whole 3.5 hour trip, an unheard of situation. (We did see, however, lots of electricity repair trucks, snow plows, and for some reason, cement trucks.)

We arrived at practically empty Newark a full two hours before our appointment time. It was so weird and creepy to be walking around what is probably one of the busiest airports on a Saturday morning, and see only a few other living souls.

After watching a short video and answering a few questions, we were done and on our way to New York. We went to the Breslin at the Ace Hotel for lunch and that’s where I saw the maybe fashion blogger. In the middle of our lamb burgers, this blonde Asian girl in a swirling oxblood cape and matching fascinator came sweeping in and joined a table of Asian guys next to us. She’s exactly what I imagine an Asian fashion blogger would look like.

Not pictured: Blonde Asian girl in cape and fascinator.
Not pictured: Blonde Asian girl in cape and fascinator.

We had a similarly interesting lunch experience on our way back to DC on Sunday. One of us really, really wanted to get on the road and made the mistake of thinking that we’d just get food somewhere on the road. (Not me, by the way. I’m all about eating first. Pretty much before any activity, really).

Thus, we ended up at a Ruby Tuesdays somewhere in southern New Jersey. The service was a bit lackluster, and we spent at least 15 minutes in a practically empty restaurant reading a table tent promoting their seafood fondue. The tent promised that if our server did not offer us the option of ordering the fondue while taking our drink orders, we would receive a fondue for free. Alas, when our distracted waitress finally arrived to take our orders, she did suggest fondue as well. (We passed. I’m not fond of seafood in my warm cheese. Blech)

free app

But it wasn’t just the lackadaisical service and odd-tasting lime-chili sauce (I had the chicken tacos, XFE the quesadilla. Both came with chili-lime sauce) that made this lunch stop so entertaining. No, it was the brilliant conversation that was being had at the next table over.

The waiter—let’s call him Jim—was training a would-be server, and he apparently recognized the patrons sitting at his table. After introducing his trainee, Jim launched into a loud and friendly chastisement of how he had not seen these elderly patrons in quite some time. He was laying it on pretty thick.

That’s when we heard the elderly gentlemen explain that his wife had been very sick for a while.

After an awkward pause, Jim began to backtrack and apologize for teasing them.

Another awkward pause, and Jim changed the subject with a cheery, “OK then, so what are we thinking about as far as drinks?”

Pretty sure the training manual doesn’t cover this scenario. I also don’t think I heard Jim offer the couple the seafood fondue.

orange crush

The Ups and Downs of Bachelorette Dining in New York

I still have a few more Australia posts to write (nope, not letting go of vacation), but I did want to talk about this past weekend’s trip to New York and specifically the food before I forget it all in a work-and-life-in-general-induced haze.

Lucky Cheng’s not surprisingly, was not very good on the food front. But then, why would it be? Nobody’s there for the food. Or the service. Let me tell you. As one of the girls said this week, “Those drag queens waited tables like men.” And it’s true. The fine ladies of Lucky Cheng’s put the word “wait” into “waitressing.”

lucky chengs

Unfortunately, when the food did arrive, it didn’t really put the glitter in my platforms either, if you know what I mean. We had five forgettable appetizers. Oh wait. Not entirely forgettable. I remember the butternut squash soup tasting not-so-mildly like soap. Soup/Soap/Let’s call the whole thing off. And let’s give a round of quiet clapping to the fine dishwashing staff who must’ve done their jobs so admirably well that we could taste the results of their hard work. Bravo.

This was followed by four platters of supposedly “tasty Pan Asian cuisine” to share, none of it very good or easy to eat. I remember wrestling with a quarter-chicken drenched in some dark sauce and served on what I think was mashed potatoes. I don’t know. At the risk of sounding like a cranky, near-sighted old lady (which might all be accurate), the lighting was turned down so low you really couldn’t see a thing. Which might have actually been a blessing in disguise.

There definitely was some dry fried rice with indeterminate meat products involved. I had a spoonful of that. Overall, there was much food left on the table after it was all said and done.

Amy and a queen

I guess we were sort of warned about the food quality. When we called to confirm gluten-free options for the bride-to-be, we were told to call back when the chef got in at 7 pm. Considering that the first show began at 7:30, we all thought this was a pretty laid back approach to dinner prep.

The next morning, we dragged our starving selves to brunch at Balthazar. This incredibly popular hotspot is very Paris bistro chic. The interiors are gorgeous, with lots of old mirrors, wood floors, and milky light fixtures. It’s massive, and yet, crowded beyond belief and fairly noisy. We had reservations for noon and the place just got busier from there.

balthazar

Three of us had eggs Florentine with spinach and artichokes, another girl had steak and frites, and our gluten-free friend had a simple omelette. The eggs Florentine came in these adorable little skillets, and each was perfectly cooked according to our stated preferences (I like mine a little on the hard poached side, which I know is an insult to chefs everywhere).

The only problem with these adorable little skillets is they didn’t really hold a lot of actual food. And there weren’t any sides. Amy’s omelette came with home fries cooked in clarified butter (she can’t have dairy either), so we swooped in and ate those little delishiousnesses as well.

eggs florentine

The service was pretty good, when we could distract our waiter from looking at himself in the oversized mirrors behind our banquette. I will say, once we got his attention to place our orders, things came out very soon after and they were very quick to clear away our Bloody Mary glasses the minute we put them down.

It was ok, as far as $22 eggs go. Next time, I’d come at a less busy time, park in a corner with some café au lait and a book and just soak up the vibe. Also, the location—near all the shopping in SoHo—can’t be beat.

Finally, for Saturday night dinner we went to Mario Battali’s Babbo. This was definitely the highlight of the weekend eating. We had 9:30 pm reservations and again, the place was packed. Babbo is inside a tiny New York townhouse, complete with a large staircase in the middle of the downstairs dining room.

Babbo

Even with reservations, we had to wait about 10-15 minutes, but once we were sat in our upstairs corner table, we understood why. The service was impeccable. Not at all rushed but everything came out perfectly timed. The pacing was just perfection.

We started with fragrant blood orange cosmopolitans, which were recommended by our very helpful waiter. After a tasty crostini topped with chickpeas and balsamic vinegar reduction, we moved on to appetizers.

chickpea amuse

I was a bit disappointed in my carciofi romana (Roman-style artichokes). They were four small grilled artichoke hearts topped with a single little crostini with goat cheese. It would have been better reversed: four goat cheese crostini’s topped with the artichoke hearts.

The real appetizer winner was our friend Linda’s grilled octopus. It was so nice and smoky and had a lemony vinaigrette and was just amazing.

We split a few pasta dishes including one of my favorites from our trip to Rome, bucatiniall’ Amatriciana. Again, I was just slightly disappointed. They made the wonderfully spiced sauce with pork cheek instead of bacon and I personally feel like the heat of the sauce could have used a more fatty, salty, bacon-y contrast.

Far better was the pumpkin “lune” (basically little raviolis) with sage and browned butter. I wanted to lick the plate, it was so good. I was actually sad that I had to share it with the other girls. I almost ordered one for dessert (what I’m saying here is that I liked it.)

For a main course, I had braised beef. It was salty and tender and extremely satisfying.

braised beef

Finally we came to the desserts. I resisted the urge to order more lune and instead we split three desserts amongst us, including the marscapone cheese cake, the chocolate hazelnut cake (which I thought would be my favorite), and the pistachio and chocolate semifreddo (which actually was recommended by our waiter and again, he didn’t steer us wrong. It was my favorite). But honestly, none of them were bad and in fact, they were very, very good.

And with that, five very stuffed girls tottered out on their high heels into the night.

Sometimes Pictures Suffice

So, there was a little thing called Amy’s bachelorette party this weekend.

She is the last in our group of five to get married. Well, technically, there’s still me, but I’m not getting married, so that left Amy. And that explains why we went hard on the bachelorette front.

train ride up
Some nice girls just taking the train to New York.
bride to be
The Bride to Be
room at W Times Square
Our room at the W Times Square. Which had a cannabis problem in the lobby on Saturday night. Whole place stunk like skunk weed.
Getting in the limo
We made friends with Sal the Limo Driver on our way to Lucky Chengs.
Bride Outside Lucky's
The bride to be outside Lucky Cheng’s.
Drinks at Lucky's
These lovely drinks are called “small orgies.”
table dance
The bride to be was injured during this dance. She strained her neck trying to get away.
Lucky's entertainment
Us plus one.
Balloon artist
Amy seems intrigued by the balloon artist.
The final hat
She’s talking about wearing this as her headpiece at the wedding.

dance contest

retail therapy
Some retail therapy to recover from the drag show.
Dinner at Babbo
Dinner at the deliciously wonderful Babbo. So, so good.
Yertle imposter
The night kind of unraveled into debauchery from here. There weren’t just female impersonators, there was also a Yertle impersonator at a bar called Turtle Bay.
the partiers
I may have bullied some people into doing shots.
Creepers
And this is why you should lock up your camera after a long night of drinking (this was at around 5 am)
Captain Morgan stance
Yep, if you don’t lock up your camera, sometimes your “friends” will take it and leave shenanigan pictures on it.
injury
One last picture of Amy being injured.

That’s it. The last hurrah for the last single girl in our group. It looks a lot less innocent in these pictures, but honestly, it was a high-class affair featuring good food, good shopping and a little spa action (with a slight detour into college-bar territory).

Hotel Crashing: Kimpton’s Ink48

The first night I was in New York last weekend, I stayed with my lovely friend Emilia in her super cool and industrial loft in Williamsburg and hung out with the hipsters, drinking rose at the Brooklyn Winery and listening to some kind of blues-jazz mashup that might have even been “gypsy jazz.” The band was jammed into a tiny corner and featured a guy with a gravelly voice lamenting some lost loves and whatnot. There may have been a beret involved. And a porkpie hat on the standup bass player.

wine_bar_01_0
Brooklyn Winery (from the website)

The whole evening had a very Parisian cinematic feel, but that’s what you get when you’re hanging out in hipster-ville. It was about a million degrees so everything had that hazy, slow-down-and-just-give-in-to-the-heat look and feel. You start to focus intensely on that little droplet of sweat streaking its way down your back, despite the fact that the cab driver has the air conditioner going full blast and the whole front of you is freezing. You look out the window and see the glare of the streetlights shining down through the hot black night onto spraying fire hydrants and kids jumping through the reflective water. Folks hanging out on their stoops because it’s just too hot to stay inside when there’s no breeze moving the still, humid air.

The next night, however, we found a way to beat the heat….the rooftop at Ink48. Now, I’m always a sucker for a hotel bar, but I’m usually into the small, dark, desperate ones tucked away in the side of the lobby, where women slightly past their prime and rumpled out-of-town businessmen inch slowly toward each other in an intricately choreographed getting-to-know-you dance across several stools, their hands meeting over a bowl of mini-pretzels and wasabi peanuts.

A rooftop bar just seemed too bright, too open for the type of drinking I like to do. A rooftop bar is a place to see and be seen, not a place to spy on other people who may or may not be cheating on their spouses.

However, the rooftop bar at Ink48 was exceptional. Mostly because it had the most fantastic views of the city and river.

Hotel Ink48 New York
Me and Emilia on the rooftop. No wasabi peanuts.

The whole hotel was awesome. I will say, it’s in a bit of a weird location at 48th Street and 11th Ave. (Midtown West), which is walking distance from Broadway and the theaters. But it’s not a short walk, and the hotel itself is surrounded by auto dealerships and other warehouse-type buildings. It’s very close to the piers and the museum ship, the Intrepid and the Javits Convention Center, so it’s a great location for that purpose, but not really in the heart of the city so to speak. And I actually think that might work to their advantage since it’s a bit off the beaten path, the rooftop bar is probably a lot easier to get into most nights.

BUT, it was a gorgeous, boutique hotel. We had a really nicely decorated room with plenty of space (a rarity in NY hotels), light-up bedside tables, and contemporary floral artwork above the bed. We also had a great view of the river. Emilia and I also ate at their restaurant, Print, and had yummy oysters, a meh gnocchi dish, and a freaking awesome gazpacho that I want to try to replicate (it had watermelon in it – ahhhhmazing).

Room at Hotel Ink48 New York

Bathroom at Hotel Ink48 New York

The only thing that would make Ink48 even better was if they had a pool on that rooftop. They had lounging chairs and a small rectangular water feature, but no pool.

Rooftop at Hotel Ink48 New York

XFE and I are big fans of the Kimpton chain, and the last time we were in New York, we stayed at the Muse, which is right in Times Square. That particular Kimpton was a bit more run down, so we’ll definitely book at Ink48 next time we’re in town.

Hotel Ink48 New York

Hold on to that Feeling (Inspired not by Journey but by Bartles and Jaymes)

Emilia and I went and saw a little of this on Saturday night.

Falling in love 80s style

After standing and sweating in a TKTS line in Times Square (the people who work for TKTS were wonderful, by the way, handing out water and answering questions while we waited), we scored 30% off tickets to “Rock of Ages” at the Helen Hayes Theater.

In case you didn’t know about this musical, which is currently being made into a film starring Tom Cruise (WTF? I don’t see it), here’s a description:

“Rock of Ages is a rock/jukebox musical, with a book by Chris D’Arienzo, built around classic rock hits from the 1980s, especially from the famous glam metal bands of the decade. The musical features songs from Styx, Journey, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Twisted Sister, Steve Perry, Poison and Asia, among other well-known rock bands.”

 

Now I am, of course, a child of the 80s. I graduated from high school in 1990 and the late 80s were definitely my formative musical years.

But unlike the characters in “Rock of Ages,” I was not really into Journey or Night Ranger, although, don’t get me wrong, I can sing along with just about any hit from the 80s, including “Sister Christian” and “Don’t Stop Believing,” both of which were featured in Rock of Ages.

No, I carry a slightly darker 80s music secret – I was what folks these days would probably call “goth.” But back then, we called it “New Romantics.”

I was known to wear a puffy shirt or two in my time. I had a penchant for velvety vests. I was obsessed with anything Victorian. I never met a beaded appliqué I didn’t like.

I was a really big fan of Book of Love, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo and the Bunnymen, and of course, the Cure and Depeche Mode. Again, all classics to the movement.

While “Rock of Ages” didn’t cover the New Romantics, it did hit all the right nostalgic notes and it was an awesomely fun time. I especially liked the fact that they encouraged you to take your drinks back to your seat, something that most theaters forbid.

We got in a lot of trouble for taking this photo, so enjoy!

And, at the theater bar, they had Bartles and Jaymes wine coolers, which hold a very special place in my heart. The story of my first kiss is forever entwined with those wine coolers. I was 16 years old, and I was on a date with my best friend’s brother (BRB). He was a couple of years older than me—I think he had just started college—and he was definitely pretty dreamy.

We were at a drive-in out in West El Paso watching “Die Hard.” Oh, funny side note, I’ve been told that that particular drive-in now specializes in, ahem, adult movies. Ick. Because you really want to watch porn at an outdoor theater?? There are homes nearby!

Anyway, BRB and I were sitting in the back seat, and he had his arm around my shoulders, which is probably why I don’t remember what the movie was. My stomach was flip-flopping all over the place. We were drinking Fuzzy Navel wine coolers when BRB pulled what I consider pretty much the smoothest line I have ever heard, even to this day. He went to hand me a wine cooler and said, “Wet your whistle? Here, let me.” And he swooped in for the kiss. Heavy making out ensued to the ever-so-romantic soundtrack of gunshots and Bruce Willis.

It must not have been very good because he never asked me out again. And that’s ok, because it was a bitchin’ first kiss, to use some 80s vernacular.

Were you a child of the 80s? Rocker, nerd, New Romantic? Do you remember your first kiss? Was Bruce Willis and his pretty pursed lips involved? (seriously, look at that poster. He’s begging for a smooch)

Bolting to New York

I”m on a Bolt Bus headed to New York, trying to mind my own business but since I’m a nosy Rosy, it’s not so easy. Especially when your seatmate is discussing the intricacies of financing a group house on the Jersey Shore. And the logistics of getting said group and money where it needs to go? Fuggedaboutit.

So, this is a very short post indeed. I’ll definitely try to post more tomorrow, although, I do have a pretty jampacked weekend planned. The main reason I’m going to NY, (other than to see my lovely friend Emilia is to see the Alexander McQueen exhibit at the Met. I. Am. Beyond. Excited. So I’ll definitely post on that as well as other shennanigans.

I know I’ve been promising a Q&A post with Yertle. But Yertle is kinda busy these days. He’s got this big massive project due at work on Monday, so he’s not really in the mood to humor my questions. I know. What a diva. Petunia Potpie offered to fill in, but I don’t think anyone’s really got questions about a run-of-the-mill, albeit-slightly-overweight house cat. But Yertle assures me he will be available for a sit down interview on Sunday. Until then, here’s a little something to tide you over.

"Yes, I'm eating a salad! I've got to keep my figure in check. I'm not getting any younger you know, and I can live to be 80-100 years old!"