Having lived in Manhattan for five years, my returns to the city are more of a homecoming than a tourist holiday, a time to catch up with friends and revisit favorite old haunts. These always-too-short weekends are filled with conversations that linger over delicious meals and long meandering walks that hardly ever end at the original destination, if there even was one.
This weekend was no different. Saturday morning my friend took us to her new favorite East Village diner, B&H, for some of the best omelets and challah bread in town. From there, we strolled west, down funky St. Marks Place, ending up in Washington Square Park. It was a warm fall day and locals were taking advantage of the sunshine. An enterprising man had set up a hula-hoop station that adults and kids alike were making good use of.
Once we caught a glimpse of Freedom Tower, we set off to pay our respects at the 9/11 Memorial which is nestled in its shadow. There were many distractions along the way, such as a store with gorgeous handmade jewelry and a coffee shop selling chocolate chip sandwich cookies with Nutella filling. Genius!
We dined at Jubilee, a quaint French bistro in mid-town east. I enjoyed a perfect feast of garlicky escargot and fresh baguette, succulent scallops over a bed of creamy orzo pasta and a molten chocolate cake with caramel ice cream. C’est magnifique!
The next morning I met some friends for brunch in my old Upper West Side neighborhood, then strolled through Central Park, which has always been my favorite spot in the city. A few steps into the leafy green expanse, all sounds from the bustling city fade away and are replaced with bird trills and children’s laughter. The ornately carved bridges evoke the Victorian era during which the park was created and the varied landscapes provide new amusements at every turn.
We tried to get tickets to see a hot new show while we were in town, but it sold out before we got our ducks in a row. Instead, we took in the Museum of Modern Art which was showcasing a special collection of paintings by Rene Magritte. The Belgian surrealist is perhaps most famous for his Son of Man painting which featured prominently in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair (and which was sadly missing from this exhibit).
After admiring this impressive collection, we revisited some of the masterpieces among the MoMa’s permanent holdings. While we took delight in works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, and Miro, others proved the maxim that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
With my host conveniently living in mid-town east, passing through Grand Central Station was as inevitable as acquiring a bag of roasted nuts from a street cart. But instead of confining myself to the subway, I spent a few minutes inside the cavernous main hall watching the flow of humanity around me. Time seems at once to speed up and slow down. To borrow a line from Seinfeld, it’s like standing at the nexus of the universe!
The fabulous Grand Central Market abuts one end of the station. Stall after high-end stall is stocked with a dazzling array of treats, from spices and chocolates to fresh fish and cured meats. A home chef’s dream, this is where I would have done my shopping had I actually cooked when I lived in the city.
My farewell dinner was devoured at Ethos Greek restaurant, another gem in mid-town east. We shared a traditional Greek salad along with fried Graviera cheese, eggplant rolls stuffed with feta and a bottle of crisp Santorini white wine. My Chilean sea bass came with a succulent stew of potatoes and onions and a rich tomato sauce accented with more Santorini white. Just when we were about to throw in the culinary towel, our waiter brought us a gratis platter of dessert samplings! If I weren’t afraid of popping the button on my jeans, I might have jumped for joy!
What’s your perfect weekend like?