It’s been a few years since my last trip to New York, but a stay in Times Square is a completely different experience than a weekend in Brooklyn. A melting pot of cultures, Hasidic jews share their space with Puerto Ricans while Dominicans neighbor up to Indians. It’s a place where a walk down Nostrand Avenue offers a funky taco spot, cute Caribbean restaurants, hipster coffee shops and legit dive bars.
I spent my weekend trying to take everything in with less than 48 hours and a mild case of the cold.
New York on a Friday
Arriving on a late flight, we booked it to Brooklyn in a short-by-New-York-standards, 30-minute cab ride. After checking into our place, we walked a few short blocks to dinner at The Finch, a Clinton Hill restaurant. It earned a Michelin star just ten months after opening. It’s a cozy bistro with small tables, a Carerra-marble bar and an open kitchen that sits in the middle of it all.
At 9:30 pm on a Friday night, it’s understandably packed, but to our advantage. Walk-ins, we were seated at the only open spot—the bar, which is approximately one-and-a-half giant steps away from the open kitchen. No doors, no walls, no screens, no cabinets impede your view of the staff making the magic happen. I watch them, and the attention to detail that went into every plate was not a one-man job. It was as if every dish was a team effort, and before that dish made its debut, it was expertly examined for quality, strategically constructed for maximum flavor and gently garnished for presentation. Every dish that leaves the kitchen is the best of its kind.
I had the squid ink tagliatelle with littleneck clams, lemon, chili and basil. Chad had the sea scallops with snap peas, asparagus and peppermint. My dish tasted like all the best flavors of the ocean. Black, squid ink sauce drizzled on top was the gorgeous finishing touch to the salty, fresh, robust taste of the clams, pasta and accoutrements. Chad’s dish tasted like a brilliant garden, with the sea scallops acting as the analogous snails. They burst with flavor while the greens held their own in a complex mix of just-picked deliciousness.
It was—without a doubt—the perfect welcome.
New York on a Saturday
My only full day in the city started with iced coffee and a bagel with cream cheese from one of the aforementioned hipster coffee shops, Cinnamon Girl. After my so-New-York breakfast, I headed off on my adventure. My one must-do for the day—Serendipity. I made my way to the opulent-dessert eatery by way of the A train. A quick stop at the Museum of Modern Art, I took in some Picasso, Kahlo, Rousseau and Marcel Duchamp before indulging in edible craftsmanship.
Serendipity on a Saturday at 3 p.m. on the first 90-degree weekend in New York is, as you would imagine, packed. Luckily, a party of one, I was seated right away. Tucked in a cool corner at a two-person bistro table, an ice water and Frozen Hot Chocolate were the only things that I needed, #thankyouverymuch.
A goblet full of frozen-chocolate yumminess is enhanced with layers of whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles that top it. I look around and notice that almost every table ordered the same famous frozen drink. The only difference is that they’re all sharing it with others while mine is all to myself. I shrug, think “what the hell, go for it,” and proceed to lose myself in chocolate heaven.
Angela’s jerk chicken was pretty awesome
Saturday night ends with another great dinner experience at Angela’s. It’s a Caribbean restaurant on the corner of Nostrand and Jefferson. I order the jerk chicken and Chad orders the oxtail. They were both awesome, but the New York Times does a great job of describing the flavor profiles in this article.
The last stop for the evening is the New York Salsa Festival. Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, Cubans, Peruvians, all gather at the Barclays Center to watch salsa masters like Willie Colon, Eddie Palmiere and Fruko Y Sus Tesos to name a few. It’s a night of music, dancing and Puerto Rican pride for everyone, including those of us who aren’t boriquas.
New York on Sunday
While the weekend was filled with great art, fabulous food and super-fun music, back-to-back traveling is exhausting. On Sunday, we head back to LaGuardia. I pack my bags for the flight home. Back to Texas. Back to our little dog Pete and our normal lives of domestication.