Adventures afoot

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Now that we’re back from our jet-setting adventure, it’s time for a good old-fashioned training post! My Deception Pass training has taken a real beating lately. Between a bout of illness and my New York trip, I hadn’t run in… *cough*… two weeks. Yikes! I joined a training group and my runs with them have been humbling to say the least. It’s a testament to how awesome trail running is that I don’t sit in my car and cry afterwards. Last weekend’s group run was at Discovery Park, which is in Seattle and very cool. I cut the group workout short, but vowed to come back the following day to do another loop.

I roped T into joining me and we brought this little troublemaker:

TR-PuppyI ran with Austin most of the way, but I made T take him down the stairs:

TR-BoyThe trails were beautiful. It’s so hard to believe we’re in the city:

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And the company was excellent:

TR-BoysWe lucked out on the weather, because it was pouring rain later that day. As it did for the remainder of the week. On Tuesday, I headed out in the drizzle for a lunchtime run. I’ll confess that I was not psyched. The weather was blah. My legs felt heavy. I felt like I was running in place, even though my heart-rate monitor alert was chiming like I was sprinting. Sigh. I really wanted to cut the run short, but I forced myself to do the full time.

And I’m really glad I did, because just minutes after I would have turned around, I saw a sea otter bobbing around in the Sound. I’ve never seen one, so I stopped to try and get a picture and just enjoy him. This is right before he dove back under the water:

OtterIt reminded me of how many cool things I’ve seen while out training and how fundamentally lucky I am to be able to do these things. It completely recharged my attitude and allowed me to go out with Mr. Austin in a torrential downpour for Thursday’s run. I decided to try a new route and found a new park to run through. I felt like I might get axe-murdered, but it was actually totally fine. And very pretty:

ThursdayTrailAll in all, it’s been a pretty good week. Austin’s eye is healing up and he was able to go to daycare this week, so all is well in the Dragonfire household.

Urban wanderings

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The next morning, I slept in. (T was up at 6:30, poor bastard… ) I was definitely feeling the effects of last night’s excess, so I headed back to Hu Kitchen for breakfast. Then I wandered around the city. It was actually really fun to not have an itinerary and just go where ever I felt like going. I went to Grand Central Station and took some photos:

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Then walked past the library and said hi to the lions. Fun fact, the lions have names. This is Fortitude:

NYC5-LibraryLionAnd here’s Patience, chilling on the South side:

NYC5-LibraryLion2And to save my poor, sore feet, there was a lot of this:

NYC5-SubwayMy adventures took me through one of my favorite subway stations. The 14th Street/8th Avenue stop. I’ve always loved these little guys:

NYC5-SubwayCrittersNYC5-SubwayCritters1NYC5-SubwayCritters2I even had lunch at one of my favorite spots from the good old days, Republic in Union Square. Sometimes a big bowl of noodles is just what the doctor ordered:

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I was running out of steam and was about to head back to the hotel when I got a text from T that he was heading back. Kismet! We relaxed in the room, drinking the rest of our wine and recounting our adventures. Initially, we were supposed to go downtown and check out another store, but I think everyone was tired, so we ended up having some more happy hour drinks in the hotel bar and then headed to dinner at Brasserie Les Halles‘ Park Avenue South location. T had a little too much wine and cocktails, so I teased him with tablecloth doodles:

NYC5-DrunkyTBut food definitely helped, especially this delicious beef bourguignon:

NYC5-DinnerBBAll of the food was delicious. And as was custom with this group, there was plenty of it. We splurged on a bunch of dessert, including bananas flambé, because fire is cool:

NYC5-BananasFlambeWe walked back to the hotel and passed this beauty:

NYC5-EmpireStateBuildingIt was a fantastic way to end a wonderful trip. I had a very early flight the next morning, so I had to pack and get ready. T was continuing on to Philadelphia and then to D.C, so he also had to get up early. (No late night bar visits for us!)

The next morning, I woke to pouring rain. Luckily, it was a pretty short walk to the subway. I couldn’t resist taking this rainy shot of the iconic old TWA terminal, still sadly unused. (I may have witnessed TWA’s last passengers in September of 2001… )

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As with any great vacation, I was a little sad to leave, but also happy to get home to the boys. Austin had been giving the dog sitter hell with an eye injury/infection, so I was particularly eager to see the little goofball.

No sleep ’til Brooklyn

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It was time for T to get to work, or more specifically, it was time for the business part of the trip to begin. While there was a theoretical itinerary, it became quickly apparent that things were a bit free-form. We met for coffee and then walked to a couple of places around Bryant Park. I wasn’t sure what a “design inspiration” trip would involve, and after attending one, I can say it involves going to various places and having lengthy discussions about decor, lighting, shelving, etc. I was happy to wander around and look at things.

Then we got on the subway to Brooklyn to see the big new flagship store. (Taking a group of this size on the subway was quite the adventure… ) The Brooklyn store was amazing. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that this is the Gowanus canal:

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Those little black structures are actually wind turbines. And there are solar panels in the parking lot:

NYC4-RooftopViewIs this really the same place where they would put EVERYTHING in plastic bags and piled garbage everywhere? Most impressive was the rooftop greenhouse. It’s run by a company called Gotham Greens. They grow enough fresh greens hydroponically to supply all of the NYC stores. If I found myself in Brooklyn during the zombie apocalypse, this is where I would head:

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NYC4-Greenhouse1Everything is controlled electronically so that it’s always a perfect 70 degrees.

NYC4-Greenhouse5They start the plants in these little cubes:

NYC4-Greenhouse2NYC4-Greenhouse3And then they grow into these healthy plants:

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While the group wandered around the store, another wife and I chilled out on the rooftop seating area. They had these cute sinks full of succulents:

NYC4-SucculentsSinkAfterward, we grabbed some lunch. Then I chauffeured the other wife to the correct subway to get to the airport. (I needed a little break from the group. Plus, I’m a really nice person!) On the way back to meet up with everyone, I passed this awesome mural:

NYC4-ComandanteBiggieAfter a little more coffee, the group split into two smaller groups and we wandered around the neighborhood to look at other inspiration things. We happened upon an olive oil shop that told us about a mayonnaise shop, so of course we HAD to check that out.

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I loved their cute little logo:

NYC4-EmpireMayo2It was a teeny tiny place, but the proprietress let us taste all of the flavors. T tried the ghost pepper, because he’s special like that. We bought some of the lime pickle. It was really delicious and interesting.

NYC4-EmpireMayo3Then we rejoined the group at this weird Turkish wine bar to chill out before dinner. We were the only people in the place and all four staff members were very attentive and appreciated our being there. Then we went to dinner at a local Mediterranean place that looked good and had decent Yelp reviews. (And most importantly, would let us make a reservation for 11 people at a reasonable dinner hour.) It was a beautiful spot:

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The food and wine flowed freely (maybe a little too freely… ) and we had great conversations. I got to know a lot of T’s co-workers and their significant others VERY well. 😉

Afterward, we headed back into the city. A group of us (unsuccessfully) attempted to see the 9/11 memorial. (It was closed.) Then we cabbed it back to the hotel. T really wanted to check out this cool little bar he’d read about and only yours truly and one of his co-workers was up for it. It was called Raines Law Room and it’s a really fun little space. You basically go to this hotel bar and ask about the Law Room. The hostess then takes you to this quiet, secret-feeling little bar. You push a button to summon a waitress. It was the best.

NYC4-RainesLawRoomNYC4-RLRmenuThe drinks were fantastic. Two of them probably wasn’t the best life decision, but sometimes you just have to go for it. Luckily, I didn’t have to get up early and work the next day. Poor T…

A trip down memory lane

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After last night’s epic festivities, we slept in and had a nice leisurely morning. We packed up and checked out of our magnificent room, leaving our luggage with the hotel for a few hours. Both of us were feeling like we needed something a little less decadent for lunch, so we headed to a Paleo restaurant that I’d read about.

NYC3-HuKitchen1It was great. And pretty reasonable by NYC brunch standards:

NYC3-HuKitchen2We both got the Paleo benedict and split some sweet potato hash. I ended up not eating the biscuits (Grain-free baked goods are apparently just not my thing.) but it was otherwise excellent.

NYC3-HuKitchen3Then we hopped on the subway to our old stomping grounds, Park Slope. I love visiting places where I used to live. You get to play that game of “That used to be a… ” and appreciate the businesses that have stuck it out. But first, our old apartment:

NYC3-OldApartmentAnd here’s Seventh Avenue. It hasn’t changed nearly as much as I’d expected it to. Some businesses are gone, but a lot of them remain intact.

NYC3-OldHoodWe walked up the street, enjoying the pretty weather and feeling nostalgic. We passed a little flea market that had a very nice looking taco truck. Naturally, we had to partake:

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The taco was insanely delicious. If I hadn’t still been full from breakfast, I would have gotten a second one. (and maybe a third.) Holy crap!

We then headed over to Grand Army Plaza, with more food trucks. (I can’t believe how big food trucks are in NYC, it was nuts.)

NYC3-GrandArmyPlazaThen into Prospect Park. This was Smokey Joe’s former dog park:

NYC3-ProspectParkI love this park, it’s so beautiful. Especially on a crisp fall day.

NYC3-ProspectPark2 NYC3-ProspectPark3On our way out, I noticed some artistic Halloween decorating:

NYC3-JackOLanternWe took the subway back to our hotel to pick up luggage and then grabbed a cab to our new Midtown Best Western digs. Needless to say, our room wasn’t quite as opulent as our old one:

NYC3-BW1And no bathtub makes me (and my very tired legs) extra sad:

NYC3-BW2And no more nice river view:

NYC3-BW3We unpacked and then headed out for a little snack. I generally hate Midtown, because it’s crazy crowded, but I do love the over the top retail here:

NYC3-CoolBuildingWe’d seen this little pop-up market, with all sorts of different food vendors, from the cab, so we had to check it out.

NYC3-FoodFestivalThere were all sorts of delicious things. I had to indulge in one of the truffle-cheese pretzels from this place:

NYC3-PretzelCartI loved the tables’ design:

NYC3-FoodFestival2It wouldn’t be New York without a cannoli:

NYC3-CannolisThen we relaxed at the Best Western, drinking some of the wine we’d bought on Friday. Then we met up with T’s work peeps in the hotel bar for happy hour, followed by dinner. After being by ourselves for the last few days, it was weird to be in a big group. But thankfully T works with really cool people, so it was a fun evening. We closed out the evening with gelato at Eataly.

A dinner to remember

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***Warning: this post is about food. In short, it’s about one dinner. So, if you aren’t interested in a whole lot of talk about fancy food, I won’t be offended if you move on to the next post.***

I’m not sure if I’ve talked about this on the blog before, but T is an expert-level gift guesser. He ruins surprises with the vaguest of clues. It’s exasperating. So, when I had the opportunity to make reservations at a restaurant that he’s always wanted to go to and believed to have closed? (They actually close at the end of November.) I had to go for it. Open Table would take reservations 30 days in advance and if I logged on at/around midnight EST, I could pretty much choose any time I want. Hilariously, that evening was T’s birthday, so I gave him a card with the surprise on it and he got to help me pick a time for dinner reservations. Needless to say, he was VERY surprised. (Score!)

And that’s how we found ourselves getting all gussied up:

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And going here:

IMG_9769Being that it’s New York, we expected the restaurant to be pretty dressy. T brought his suit and I was expecting to need to get a dressy-dress. But when we looked on the website (and walked by the restaurant the night before) we confirmed that it wasn’t super fancy. Which is just as well, I’d have felt weird wandering around the Lower East Side in formal attire. It also made it a much more comfortable atmosphere. The server was really nice and we enjoyed some very nice cocktails to start. Then it was time to let the games begin!

The first course was an oyster in an edible “shell” (they told us what the shell was made of, but I can’t remember the other ingredients besides hazelnuts.) It was so amazing, I almost forgot to take a picture of it! Suffice it to say, it was much prettier when it came out:

IMG_9772Second course was an egg-yolk potato ravioli, with little crispy potato bits and cucumber caviar. I managed to take pictures of all of the dishes from here on out, before gobbling them up. I’ll also save time and say that everything we ate was AMAZING…

IMG_9774Third course: a frog leg in a rooibos-infused broth. Insane.

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Fourth course: cuttlefish with carrot, chamomile and schmaltz:

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This one was particularly cool. Szechuan-spiced charred chicken liver, with melon and little crunchy triangles of Ethiopian injera bread.

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In the four-way tie for favorite dish, this one was on both T’s and my list: shrimp & grits, (where the grits were made out of shrimp) with pickled jalapeño and chives(?).

IMG_9781At this point, I should mention that each of these beautiful courses is paired with a fabulous wine and we were feeling no pain! Seventh course was a Hamachi tuna with turnip, Shiso and blood sausage:

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The next good course for the dude at the table next to us to impress his date with his food-snobbery. But I thought this pork collar was fantastic. They paired it with poppy seeds, red bell pepper and a tamarind-sauce. Mmmmm…

IMG_9784Next up: Waygu beef with watermelon and a fermented black bean powder. I can’t remember what the crunchy thing on the top was made from, but it was a nice compliment to the steak.

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This course was fun. It was a crunchy Earl Grey tea thingy, with butternut squash and little tapioca pearls. I wished I’d thought to turn the dish around so you could see more of the stuff underneath:

IMG_9788Closing in on the home stretch: a verbena plum mousse (that had more of a gelatin consistency) and some vanilla bean powder-infused oil. And buckwheat was somehow involved…

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And finally, dessert course: an Ovaltine cake, with marcona almond, cardamom, and sheep’s milk. There’s a little piece of grapefruit in there as well.

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And then, of course, there was a little finishing “mignardise” (which is French for fancy stuff at the end of the meal, j/k!) The little cubes were a nice dark berry flavored gelatin and the little cookies were mildly flavored and covered in cheese. (I should mention that I’d had much wine at this point, so this course is a little hazy… ) T fortified himself with an espresso in a beautiful Bodum glass that we admired for probably an embarrassing amount of time. I shudder to imagine our neighboring table’s social media entries…

IMG_9795It was a fantastic evening that I’ll remember for a long, long time. We didn’t feel like messing with trying to find a cab and the Uber ride to the restaurant was a cluster, so we braved the subway. Which gave us the opportunity to have drunken architectural conversations about “whether that was the Woolworth building or not, but it has a crane on it!” I’m so happy I took a picture because it’s pretty clear that it is, in fact, the Woolworth building. (The crane is hard to see in this picture, but it was on the building behind it, one in front of the Freedom Tower.)

IMG_9796Thankfully, no one nefarious is downtown that late at night and we made it back to the hotel safe and sound. If you’re still reading at this point, thank you for indulging me in recalling our night of culinary excess. And now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

Taking a bite out of the Big Apple

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We slept for a delightfully long time and woke up both refreshed and famished. So, we got ready and headed out to Breslin, the bar and restaurant attached to the Ace Hotel (a.k.a. hipster central.) The decor did not disappoint:

NYC2-Breslin1 NYC2-BreslinBarI loved the brightly lit kitchen in the back of the shadowy dining room:

NYC2-BreslinInterior NYC2-BreslinMenuWe split a caesar salad and then T had a fancy stuffed pepper thing and I had steak and eggs. The menu specifies that the eggs were fried, but when I tried to specify that I wanted them “over hard”, the server informed me that they only could do fried. (Sigh.) And then asked me how I’d like my steak cooked. (Double sigh.) Plus there was some poor man-bun-wearing creature who was tasked with bringing people coffee and tea wandering around and trying to randomly give out these beverages. He tried to give us two other people’s coffee after he brought ours. But dim-witted wait staff aside, the food was really fantastic.

We then headed over to the Ace to check out the lobby decor.

NYC2-AceLobbyPer usual, they’d done a great job. We had our pictures taken in the photo booth:

NYC2-AceLobby2I liked this type treatment on the stairs:

NYC2-AceStaircaseAfterward, we walked around the neighborhood, enjoying the cool architecture:

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And then we walked down toward the Flatiron building:

NYC2-FlatironStreetOne of the things that has changed a lot since we lived here is the prevalence of bike lanes. They’ve put a bunch of rental bikes around the city, so you see a lot more bikes out on the road, so it’s very good to see some kind of infrastructure for them. There were also quite a lot of skateboards:

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(One of the kids in this group was dressed like Where’s Waldo. I’m so sad that I couldn’t get a photo of him.) These guys were GoPro-ing their ride through the city. I always wonder if anyone actually watches the random skateboarding videos on YouTube or Vine or wherever they post them.

We continued our walking tour by heading to a couple of shops in SoHo. It was crazy crowded and I generally hate SoHo because it has weirdo crap like this:

NYC2-SohoChobaniSeriously? A Chobani store? WHY?! I soothed my troubled soul with a trip to Pearl River, one of my favorite places to browse back in the day. Because you can find random stuff like this:

NYC2-TbirdI cannot get enough of this picture. I think it’s hilarious. If the mask hadn’t been a little too expensive (and would have given Austin a heart attack), I’d totally have bought one.

More walking and shopping later and we popped into another old favorite for a snack: Bubby’s. They had some very good advice:

NYC2-Bubbys2Which we took:

NYC2-BubbysThen, we headed back to the hotel to relax for a little while before dinner. Which is where I think I’ll stop for now, because dinner needs it’s own post. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

A New York state of mind

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This has been quite a year for spontaneous adventures. T had a business trip come up for NYC, so of course, I had to tag along. His official work duties started on Sunday night, so we hopped on a Thursday red-eye for a little long-weekend vacation on our own. Red-eyes are kind of a nightmare, I don’t really sleep on planes and typically crawl off the plane like a zombie. Throw in a time change and it’s no fun at all. And so it was that we found ourselves in JFK at 5:30 in the morning (2:30 our time.) We decided to head to the hotel and hope they took pity on us and let us check in REALLY early.

This was the first thing we saw when we popped up out of the subway station. There’s been a new addition since last time we were here:

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Unfortunately, the hotel couldn’t check us in early. They did take our luggage, so we were free to wander around the city for a few hours. It was weird to be downtown so early. We had Wall Street all to ourselves:

NYC1-WallStreetI couldn’t resist taking a picture of George Washington, next door to my old gym.

NYC1-GWstatueTo give you an idea of what it usually looks like down here, plus the aforementioned gym, on the right. (They’ve covered up the windows where tourists used to watch Heidi and I on the elliptical. Upgrade!)

NYC1-GymWe decided to take advantage of the early hour and headed over the to the 9/11 memorial. I was trepidatious about it and the walk over didn’t help. You can still see damage on some of the buildings:

NYC1-DowntownDamageThey are building a very cool Calatrava-designed transit center. It’s going to be gorgeous when it’s finished:

NYC1-CalatravaThe memorial was devestatingly beautiful. After so many years of being this big giant scar, it was wonderful to see such a thoughtfully designed memorial. I still bawled like a baby, but there was also a feeling of closure. And at that hour of the morning, it was very peaceful. Pretty much just us and the security guards.

NYC1-Memorial3 NYC1-Memorial2 NYC1-Memorial4The memorial staff places white roses on the birthdays of the deceased. I thought that was a lovely gesture.

NYC1-Memorial5I highly recommend going to the memorial, especially first thing in the morning. I’m really glad I went.

Fueled by plenty of coffee and a bagel sandwich, we continued walking around lower Manhattan. I’d never spent much time in Battery Park, and it’s a super cute neighborhood. There are these tiny, secret little parks amidst all of the buildings:

NYC1-BowlingGreenAnd nice benches where you can rest your weary feet:

NYC1-ToddBenchWe stumbled upon the Irish Hunger Memorial:

NYC1-IrishHungerMemorial NYC1-IrishHungerMemorial2 NYC1-IrishHungerMemorialPathAll of that walking worked up an appetite, so we hit up the Shake Shack.

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Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones with that idea:

NYC1-SS_lineThe birds of NYC are no fools, they found a very advantageous spot to steal unguarded french fries.

NYC1-SSbirdsWe sampled quite a lot of the menu. Delicious! Not healthy, but delicious! I can’t believe this place was a tiny hot dog cart, back when we lived here.

NYC1-SSfoodFinally, it was time to head back to the hotel and see if our room was ready. I’d read a book written by a hotel front-desk manager with tips on getting an upgrade, so we decided to try it. T handed the front-desk agent checking us in $20 and said “I’d appreciate anything you can do to make our stay special.” or something to that effect. And it worked! She put us in a suite! T was positively giddy as we walked in:

NYC1-HotelIt was a beautiful room. With a nice king-sized bed:

NYC1-HotelBedWith a view of the street on one side:

NYC1-HotelViewDayAnd a view of Brooklyn and the river on the other (I took this image a little later, to capture those pretty clouds):

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We had a fancy bathroom:

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With a VERY fancy big bathtub:

NYC1-HotelBathWe knew the best way to get acclimated to the time change was to tough it out and not take a nap. Since that big bed was definitely too tempting to pass up, we took showers, changed and hit the road again. This time, we headed over to the Meatpacking District to check out a cool new food market that T had heard about. We passed a cool “living awning” on the way:

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And this rad graffiti:

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Gansevoort Market is super cool. Tons of great little artisinal vendors and a beautiful seating space:

NYC1-GansevoortMarketThen we headed over the High Line with 700 of our closest friends:

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We passed the new Gehry building:

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And other architectural gems:

NYC1-HighlineViewT had read about this specialty of Dominique Ansel (the same bakery behind the Cronuts phenomenon), so we headed over to check it out:

NYC1-CookieShotAnticipationIt’s called a cookie shot. And it’s basically a cookie, baked in the shape of a shot glass and filled with special organic, grass-fed milk.)

NYC1-CookieShot1 NYC1-CookieShot2I only had a bite, but holy crap was it good! We took another little break back at the hotel and then headed out to the East Village for a little happy hour:

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And then a fantastic dinner at Momofuku’s noodle bar:

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We shared all of the above and everything was delicious. Then it was back to the hotel, a nice soak in the giant bathtub and then finally, much-needed SLEEP!