Thursday, January 16, 2014

Apple Juice (aka Cocktails in NYC)


After I had checked into my room, had a glass of wine, and changed out of my travel duds, I met up with my friend Meg at The Nomad, just a few short blocks away.

We had a couple of really well crafted cocktails in the gorgeous bar while waiting for our dinner table; one of mine had rye, bird chile infused Aperol and Cherry Herring! The bar was packed, even on a Wednesday night, but still comfortable with lots of dark wood and high ceilings. There is another area off to the side called the library that is very quiet if you are looking for a more subdued atmosphere.

After our dinner Meg and I met my brother in law for night caps at Booker and Dax. The shtick at this bar, part of the Momofuku empire, is that many of the drinks are mixed with hot pokers or loggerheads. Might not be such a great draw in the summer but on this cold winter night it was excellent. The drinks were flamed up and delicious. In fact we had two rounds!

There are so many great cocktail bars in NYC that we had to be content to just pick a few as I only had 4 nights. Since the East Village is a breeding ground for all things hip, cocktail bars included, Forest and I spent an evening with friends Karen and Laren, who graciously led us on a nice little crawl through the 'hood.

We started the night at the infamous PDT where you enter through a phone booth inside Crif Dogs. The small space and low ceilings makes it feel like a private club but the bartenders are welcoming and the drinks fantastic, nothing snooty here. The small size does warrant making reservations though.
Moving on to Death & Co. we checked in with the door man and he led us in, seating us at a pretty corner table. This bar is turning on the style a bit more, velvet curtains, big chandelier, and a sophisticated wild west vibe (is that even such a thing?). But still with great cocktails to back it up. Each page of their drink menu is dedicated to a different spirit, and a preparation method, providing lots of unique options to choose from. 
The final cocktail stop was Pouring Ribbons. The scene was much calmer here, in fact the bar wasn't quite full. The interior is more sparse, not as cozy to me. The superstar here is the booze, and to be more exact, the collection of Chartreuse that they have amassed. Holy monks!
It goes without saying that all the bars were A+ places to drink, we were there on a week night so didn't have to deal with a lot of crowds which was very nice. 

Another night we had pre-dinner drinks at The Breslin which is inside the Ace Hotel (again, just a few blocks from the Eventi). If NYC cocktail prices give you sticker shock this is a great place to go. All the cocktails are $13, which by the city's standards is pretty cheap. Tasty drinks, a space that was great for a group, and as it is in the Ace Hotel there are lots of hipsters to amuse you!

My favorite bar in the city was the much lauded Dead Rabbit. Everything about it could easily be seen as hokey, overworked, precious, etc. But it all just gels. The old-timey music, the drinks served in tea cups, the upstairs parlor room. The location is way down town, and there didn't seem to be anything else around it, but the amazing menu of drinks and fun vibe absolutely make it worth the effort to get there. 

Brooklyn drinking gets its own post, stay tuned. 

NYC photos here.



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Saturday, January 11, 2014

In a New York Minute

Just before Thanksgiving I spent a whirlwind 4 nights in the Big Apple, my last visit was far too many years ago so I was excited to be back. Forest was on her way to visit her parents and we decided NYC was a good place to meet up for a few days. I arrived on a Wed afternoon to take advantage of a little "me" time, she arrived the next afternoon just in time for happy hour. Dayne joined just for the weekend, making his trip truly whirlwind! And we all had a great time!

I cashed in a bunch of miles and treated myself to first class, direct flights. When I landed at JFK I jumped on the Sky Train to Jamaica Station and then bought a ticket on the Long Island Railway to Penn Station. It was a quick, hassle-free way into the city.

My home base was the Kimpton Eventi hotel in the Chelsea/Flatiron area. This is such a great location to stay in! It is 2 blocks from either Penn Station or the R Line, and there is a lot to see and do within easy walking distance. As with all Kimpton's, the hotel hosts a nightly wine reception which provides an excellent excuse to sit and relax. And free wine.


I had taken the advise of some friends and requested a room with a view upon check in, I went to bed and woke up each morning with the Empire State Building watching over me!

My room was modern and very comfortable, large by NY standards. The bathroom was beautiful, all marble with a rain shower head. I did have some issues with turn down service but we'll chalk that up to "first world problems".

All photos here

Friday, January 3, 2014

Booze Cruising to Estonia

We arrived in Helsinki late, after 17+ hours of travel, then easily grabbed the airport shuttle (no reservations required and only 6€ each) for the 30 minute ride into town, and walked the short distance after being dropped off at the central train station, to the Omena Hotel.

The Omena Hotels are a comfortable chain where you take care of yourself without the assistance of a front desk staff, room service, etc. They text you a door code and room number 24 hours before arrival, and you use that for the front door, elevator, and room door code.



Our room was large and slightly resembled a cabin on a ship, complete with table and booth seating. It was clean and comfortable also, and the perfect place to crash since we went to bed at 1am and got up at 7am to catch an early ferry to Tallinn. After meeting Forest & Thibault for a quick nightcap at the nearby American Bar we called it a night.

We boarded our ship around 8am for a 9am sailing and the common areas were already full, mainly of octogenarians drinking and dancing to a very loud live band. Did I mention it was 8am?



The crossing was quite rough which made it hard to walk around, but these grannies were waltzing and fox trotting all over the place. Most tables were crowded with pint glasses of beer, some of these with folks looking a bit green around the gills. Besides partying it up as the big draw of the sailing to Estonia, there is the opportunity to do some duty free booze shopping, as the price of liquor in Finland is very high. The shops were busy with folks snatching up cases of beer and 10-bottle packs of vodka. We focused our efforts on gin & rum- nothing unusual to be found but larger & cheaper options than in the Alko stores in Helsinki & in Lapland.



The ship serves a pretty decent buffet breakfast, there are two seatings, one at 8:30 and one at 10:30, but We hadn't booked in advance and the first seating was full. We grabbed a quick snack in a small cafe and then watched the dancing until our reservation was ready in the main dining room.



2 1/2 hours later we docked for an overnight in Estonia, my 34th country on my 45th birthday.

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Location:Tallinn, Estonia