I craned my neck to get a glimpse of the sky through my hotel window. Shards of crystal blue peaked between the corners of the buildings, letting me know that weather-wise that day was going to be A DAY. The sun shone so brightly that it was difficult to see even with the help of my sunglasses. Everything it seemed, shined and reflected off of each other. A perfect Friday, really, to go rowing in Central Park and then hang out in Greenwich Village.
The wonder of Central Park is that there is always something to see and admire. It ranks right up there with baseball games as a people-watching venue: New York natives jogging, tourists wearing their I [Heart] New York sweatshirts, musicians and artists displaying their talents. It’s all here. Then there are the trees. Fall colors shyly emerged from the tips of still verdant leaves– drawing rapt attention from those sluggish of summer and eager for fall.
Steve gallantly rowed me around the pond by the Boathouse. Renting a rowboat for an hour is probably one of the least expensive excursions available in New York: $12 for an hour and $2 for each subsequent 15 minutes. Out on the water with the other boaters made me feel like we had entered a Seurat painting. The nature and light dappled around us.
We finished our row with lunch at The Boat House. The outdoor patio seating was full with forty minute wait, so we opted to eat inside from their to-go counter. As we turned to head over there, a woman behind me, who spoke to her husband of their “usual table”, tapped me on the shoulder to let me know that the prime rib sandwich was excellent. I passed this tidbit to my red-meat eating husband. He tried it and concurred. I ordered the veggie burger; should have got the salmon salad instead.
We had tickets to see Ravi Coltrane at the Village Vanguard in Greenwich Village, so we walked down to Times Square, a haven for tourists opting to spend their money and time buying tennis shoes, visiting the Hershey’s Store, hoping to get spotted on MTV, and eating at the Olive Garden. Basically it’s one loud, raucous, crowded shrine to commercialism. We kept walking until we finally took the subway for the rest of our trip.
Out of the subway station in the Village, it was like we entered a different world. Quiet surrounded us as we strolled along New York’s older buildings and brownstones. It was conceivable that we would spot the cast of Sesame Street along one of the tree-lined avenues, or Carrie Bradshaw running out to meet Mr. Big’s (sigh) limo. Since Grover or Mr. Big were not around to catch my eye, Three Lives and Company book store did. Nestled on a street corner, it provided a selection of literary fiction, poetry, travelogues, cookbooks, and reflections on the craft of writing. It was like the book gods created a store just for me– my own little bit of heaven.
From there we made our way to Washington Square Park. On a beautiful Friday evening everyone was out to enjoy the last vestments of nice weather. It was predicted to get chilly and overcast the next day, and no one knew if this was it– the final time to don shorts and t-shirts and sunglasses.
We made our way to Apiary, a restaurant run by Scott Bryan, a chef who Anthony Bourdain considers a god. Steve, who has a little man-crush on Bourdain, was eager to experience the culinary delights there. I, on the other hand, was a little skeptical. Was this going to be a pretentious meal with pretentious service? Was this going to be some manly place that puts pork belly on everything?
The restaurant’s pink font and pink chairs let my worries be put to rest. The decorations were whimsical, soft, and feminine with a modern spin. Our server was kind and knowledgable. I don’t recall seeing pork belly on the menu. I ordered the Apiary salad, a perfectly mounded pile of greens dressed in olive oil, vinegar, and chives. It was so lightly dressed that there was not even a puddle on the plate. For dinner I opted for the Scottish Salmon dusted with horseradish with braised artichokes topped with trout roe and a light cream sauce. Everything about the meal was subtle. The fish had a smooth salmon flavor as opposed to the strong flavor found in Atlantic salmon; the horseradish gently asserted itself as a supporting role rather than a key player; the roe’s mild saltiness balanced the sweetness of the artichokes. It was superb. Steve ordered the ricotta ravioli with sage-butter starter, followed it up with steak, potatoes, and creamed spinach, and completed his meal with the peach galette topped with creme fraiche ice cream and caramel sauce. The only disconcerting moment arrived when I listened in on the girls sitting next to us. One also ordered the salmon, but scraped off the roe and sauce. Their only comment about their meals was, “Yeah, this is good,” before continuing on their conversation about one of them locking herself out of her house. I wondered if this was a problem among New Yorkers: being spoiled by too much good food. My home town doesn’t give me easy access to Scottish salmon so perfectly cooked, and I was going to enjoy every bite.
Our evening ended at the Village Vanguard– the jazz mecca of New York. There is no assigned seating, so Steve wanted to get there early to be first in line. We weren’t first, but as finished our descent down the red staircase, Steve was surprised to learn that the very, very, very, very front seats were vacant. Steve snatched them. I rested my feet on the stage. When Ravi Coltrane came out, he stood in front of us, looked at Steve, and asked, “How ya doing?” While Coltrane didn’t know this, I knew Steve was in heaven. He was about two feet from us, and we could feel his reverberations through the stage and see him play every note. He channeled his dad’s spirit, and it was the most “jazziest” show we have seen to date. Later on, Steve stunned by the experience, had to go have a drink. I, sated by the sun, sounds, and tastes, went to sleep.