I have done more in 2011 than any other year in my life.
Getting (close) to my goal weight, running seven 5Ks, changing positions at my job (again), parasailing, Step Trek, and of course, starting my blog are the highlights, but I have ended the year with another: my first trip to New York City.
James could hardly believe it when I told him that I had never been, especially since he worked in the city for a year. So guess what I got for Christmas?
A trip and my own personal tour guide. How lucky am I?
To go along with the "things I've never done before" theme, we decided to take an Amtrak train to get there. I wasn't worried about derailment or anything, and the trip was surprisingly comfortable - more comfortable than a Greyhound Bus or airplane would be (although the trip would have been shorter).
James and I decided to pack some food to eat on the train to avoid overpaying for too much food on the train, so we brought along some apples and gouda cheese from Costco - this combination is one of my favorites, one that I discovered at Zenith when I ordered the apple and gouda plate over a year ago.
|Apple and gouda from Costco - don't knock it, it's quality cheese!|
On a visit to the snack car, James saw that they sold Sabra hummus in a little kit with flat pretzels. I love my hummus, so he brought some back - these are the same ones that are sold in Kiddieland at Kennywood, and I have found them at certain Giant Eagles in the area (by Century III Mall, not at The Waterfront nor Kennywood Mall stores):
|Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Kit|
When we arrived in New York City, it was pouring...and rush hour. Penn Station is housed in Madison Square Garden, which was an absolute madhouse due to the pouring rain and lack of transportation at the time. James attempted to hail a cab with no luck after about 20 minutes (we later found out that the drivers switch out cars at 5:00 PM, which seems dumb since that's rush hour, but there are less cabs on the road at that time than any other), so we decided to hoof it 10 blocks to our hotel, "The Element" near Times Square.
We were drenched by the time we arrived. Puddles soaked our shoes and socks (and part of our pants), our hair was dripping, and our luggage had absorbed a lot of water - however, I think we would have still been trying to hail a cab by the time we got there, so whatever. At least upon check-in, we were told that there was a reception going on until 7:00 with free food and drinks.
|Free food. Can you tell?|
Ok, it wasn't the best food - jarred salsa, bagged tortilla chips, heat-and-serve buffalo chicken, cheese cubes and crackers - but given the situation, we had no problem indulging.
Luckily, by the time we finished eating and settled into the hotel a bit, the rain had let up, so we walked down to Times Square, then hailed a cab to Greenwich Village, one of James's favorite hangouts when he worked in the city.
|Bright lights in Times Square|
We sought out a pizza place called Kesté, co-owned by James's friend Roberto, who used to own "Pizzeria Regina Margherita" in Bellevue. We had no problem finding it, and we were immediately seated. Unfortunately, Roberto was not there that night, but our waiter said that he would pass along that we had come in looking for him.
We started with the Caprese Salad, which was standard - basil, tomato, mozzarella, olive oil. Their mozzarella cheese was fresh and made in-house, and the olive oil was high-quality:
When our waiter, who was extremely engaging and friendly, described the day's special pizza, the Vesuvio Pizza, which he said will "change your life": two types of mozzarella (one being buffalo mozzarella), basil, olive oil, and prosciutto. I don't know if it changed my life, but it definitely improved it. I doubt that I could find anything comparable in Pittsburgh (a challenge to local pizzerias, perhaps?)
The pizzas are made in a brick, wood-fired oven in the back of the restaurant. Due to the high temperature of the oven, it only takes about 45 seconds to cook the dough and melt the cheese into fine pizza perfection:
|Pizza Oven, Kesté|
For dessert, we went with an Italian favorite: Tiramisu. Chocolate- and espresso-flavored deliciousness, for sure. I've had tiramisu in several other places, but nothing compares to one at a true Italian, New York City restaurant
We ended the day with a walk through Greenwich Village, coming upon Washington Square Park, which had its Christmas tree lit up and dazzling through the foggy air:
|Washington Square Park|
And of course, no walk would be complete without stumbling upon a taco truck. No, we did not buy anything, but we did check out their offerings. James was surprised that I said that I would totally try an "oreja" taco sometime, but my stomach just did not have any room left in it from our meal at Kesté.
|Taco Truck Menu - see the "oreja" taco?|
Really, I would - I'll try anything (at least once...)
Before entering a cab to get back to the hotel for the evening, we happened to stumble upon the place that would culminate our New York City visit in two days. We had reservations for 10:00 pm on Thursday, and it was what we were looking forward to most:
Kesté Pizzeria & Vino
271 Bleeker St.
New York, NY 10014
Website: http://www.kestepizzeria.comTwitter: https://twitter.com/#!/KestePizzeria