This is certainly my year of traveling to mark special occasions, as this was my second 80th birthday trip celebration of the year. Much to my husband’s dismay, my mother-in-law politely requested that all she wanted for her 80th birthday was a trip to New York City with my sister-in-law and me! This was one mother-in-law trip I couldn’t pass up. We went in mid-November and arranged to meet up on her actual birthday. We flew in from Chicago, Florida and Seattle.
We didn’t have a lot on the agenda other than the obvious early-planning musts (i.e. dinners and a show). Be sure to plan ahead when traveling to New York if you have special restaurants in mind. I checked with the few I wanted to go to a couple months ahead of time to find out the first day they open for reservations. Then I put those dates on my calendar as a reminder to call. Generally, you can’t make a reservation in New York until 30 days out, but some have slightly different policies so it’s good to check in advance. Hot New York restaurants usually book up the first day they open for reservations, so call early.
On this trip, we selected The Modern at the Museum of Modern Art for our arrival, 80th birthday celebration dinner. I chose it for two reasons. First because it was close to our hotel, the Essex House, and I knew I’d be racing in from JFK hoping to arrive between 5pm and 6pm. And second, because my parents spent a week in New York this summer and dined all over the city for a week straight. They both agreed that the best meal they had was at The Modern.
By the end of our brief trip to New York, we all agreed that The Modern was our best meal, too. We splurged for this special occasion and all three of us indulged in the chef’s tasting menu. If the menu prices are too high for you, consider dining in the bar. It was packed when we left and with the same chef behind the helm, I’m sure you can’t go wrong.
Speaking of eating in bars, the second evening we wanted a quick pre-theater dinner. I selected Nougatine, which is the bar of the famed Jean-Georges. I had a memorable tasting menu at Jean-Georges many years ago on a trip with my parents and sister and wanted to somewhat relive that experience. I thought the bar would be a perfect option for us for an early pre-theater dinner. Unfortunately, the poor service and average food soured us a bit. I guess I had Jean-Georges level expectations.
My sister-in-law was in charge of our third dining experience and unbeknownst to me picked another Jean-Georges restaurant, ABC Kitchen. We had a much better experience here and I think the décor was one of the coolest I’ve been to. If it’s not your style, it’s my style! I want a home decorated like this. And if you haven’t been shopping at ABC Carpet and Home, be sure to go early so you can browse all levels of the store.
My only culinary disappointment on this trip was not making it to Eataly. I always recommend this as a must in New York, especially if you haven’t been or don’t have something similar in your city.
Regarding shows, we only had time for one show, Beautiful, about the life of Carole King. All I can say is that I added a Carole King station to my Pandora account and it’s a household favorite now. It’s a lovely, simple, raw story about Carole King’s life. Nothing dramatic but very real and touching.
Other than these commitments, we had little else on the agenda. We were fortunate to get a private tour of the New York Stock Exchange on Friday morning. This was a real treat and it was fun to walk the floor and watch the trading. Much quieter than what you see in movies, especially now that so much is done electronically.
We spent a morning at the Guggenheim and shopping along Madison Avenue. Madison Avenue is always a fun street to walk and shop and always plays to my green side (and I don’t mean eco). It’s mostly chain stores these days so it was kind or boring. We had fun touring a rare book store, Ursus Books, on the third floor of a Madison Avenue building. It was owned by a friend of my mother-in-law’s so was a “must” visit on her list.
It seems like every time I go to New York different stores stand out to me. Here are three that I liked on this quick trip:
Comptoir des Cottoniers – Interesting store from the UK. Simple, affordable (at least compared to other Madison Avenue Stores)
Henri Bendel – I hadn’t been here in a long time and popped in at the last minute just prior to our Red Door Salon appointments. I wish I had more time here. Their accessory offerings inside the front door were very affordable and fun. I could have knocked off a lot of Christmas gifts here.
Mulberry – This was in Soho and I loved their collections of leather goods. It was the first store I went to so I didn’t buy anything but now wish I did. That’s always the problem with the first store.
Regarding the Red Door Salon, we thought this would be a classic way to celebrate a special girls weekend but only had time for pedicures and manicures. Unfortunately, this was a waste of money. There really wasn’t anything special about this area of the salon nor the actual service. I’ve had better pedicures at other high end salons, even at the former Red Door Salon in Seattle.
I mentioned that we stayed at the Essex House. I first stayed there when I was in college on a family Thanksgiving trip. Since then I’ve stayed at quite a few others, but now I pretty much only stay at the Essex House. Same for my husband when he travels on business. Ownership has changed over the years (now a Marriott), but the location hasn’t. Rates change often so don’t be afraid to check it out.
Wait, did I say The Modern was my favorite meal? I totally forgot about the sausage and egg breakfast sandwich from the Shake Shack at JFK on my way out of town. I’m still dreaming of it! Almost made flying in and out of JFK bearable.