Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Favorite Things - New York City

Some cities you can return to time and again and it all feels like the first time... when you fell in love with the place and knew you must return again and again.  For me, the Big Apple is one of those cities.

The Plaza
My first visit was in 1988 courtesy of my employer and as luck would have it, I was introduced to the fabled Waldorf-Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue.  It likely began my appreciation for those grande dame hotels that I still prefer to this day.  Although this trip the old gal was getting a total renovation so I skipped the famous Bull and Bear Steakhouse she houses and instead enjoyed steaks at the famous Peter Luger, which I will talk about in more detail in a moment. As for alternate digs of equal style; of course The Plaza makes for a fine hotel choice in America's most exciting city. 

It was once said, “Nothing unimportant ever happens at The Plaza.” One of America’s most celebrated hotels, The Plaza opened its doors in 1907, amid a flurry of impressive reports describing it as the greatest hotel in the world. Located at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South, this luxury hotel was constructed in the most fashionable section of New York City.  Fortunately for me it's also right across the street from my favorite place to shop, Bergdorf Goodman (you thought I was going to say the Apple store, didn't you?  Well that's across the street too, but you can find those everywhere.)

Bergdorf Goodman
The original Bergdorf Goodman department store (above) opened on this site in 1928 (on the West side of Fifth Avenue) but they more recently moved the men's store across the street where I do most of my shopping.  Just around the corner on 57th street I stroll up toward Park Avenue shopping the large selection of boutiques many of which are only available in New York  City.  And one unique shop I never miss is Scully & Scully on Park Avenue.

Herend - One Room of Many
at Scully & Scully
This is a unique shop filled with all types of items for the home and with many gifts and collectibles.  But if you have the 'china gene' like I do, you visit to worship the country's best selection of fine porcelain china.  They have an especially large collection of Herend dinnerware and figurines. I just love the patterns and table settings as they are so elegant and all completely hand painted.  Queen Victoria dined on it, Princess Diana collected it, and I would love to have a full table service of it too! 
After a day of shopping, you can work up quite an appetite and so it's off to dinner next. 

A colleague who was born and raised in New York City insisted that on this trip I try out Peter Luger Steak House in Brooklyn.  Peter Luger has been named the best steak house New York City by Zagat for 28 years in a row, so it was high time I got out of midtown Manhattan and gave it a try.

The restaurant is known for its long wooden bar, and the Teutonic atmosphere with exposed wooden beams, burnished oak wainscoting, brass chandeliers, weathered beer-hall tables and bare wood floors.  Peter Luger was established in 1887 as "Carl Luger's CafĂ©, Billiards and Bowling Alley" in the then-predominantly German neighborhood, with German-born Peter Luger as the owner and nephew Carl as the chef.  While the restaurant has grown and changed hands over time, the atmosphere remains and the menu seems little changed from what it must have been like many years past. 

Steaks here are meant to be shared and the only cut is really a porterhouse. (While there are a few other items on the menu, why bother with anything but the classic.)  You order based on the size of your party.  You can also order several steaks for two if you have folks that prefer different doneness of the meat.  Steaks are served pre-sliced on an inclined plate so that the fat runs down the plate. The edges of the plates are heated to approximately 400F, allowing you to cook your steak further if you so choose.  Classic creamed spinach and German hash browns are all you need as sides to the well-prepared steaks. 

Start your meal as we did with the famous tomato and onion salad topped by the restaurants custom sauce which approximates the taste of cocktail sauce and traditional steak sauce.  This can be used for the salad as well as for the steak.  If you can squeeze in dessert after these large steaks, do enjoy the cheese cake, apple strudel or key lime pie.  We ordered one of each and shared and all were quite delicious.  On a final note, getting into this classic steak house is not easy.  It is a busy place and even on weeknights expect to wait for a table.  Also note they do not take any credit card other than their own so bring lots of cash (or a debit card, as I understand they now accept this as well.)  Dinner can easily run $100 per person, so be prepared.

An Evening at The Met
On most every trip to New York City I also see some theater, attend the opera and take a stroll in Central Park.  Even when going there on business I  try to add a day or two before/after to ensure that I have some time to enjoy all of the classic things that only New York City can provide even though I know I  will come back time and again to America's largest and most exciting city.

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