Saturday, February 13, 2010

off to dumbo

Returning to blog posts about the NYC trip in January, here is what we did on our first full day, Friday the 8th.

Having been in MI and IL for the week prior, we were somewhat adjusted to the time zone and the cold.  While this certainly made getting up before noon much easier, temperatures in the 20s were still not optimal for walking around outside.  (Still much better than the teens and single digits in MI and IL.)  Nevertheless, we got up by 9am and spent some time outside.

But first, a little story about Steve's trip out to get some morning coffee from the Starbuck's next to our hotel.  When he got on the pretty small elevator at the third floor—where our room was—to go down, there was already a French family inside.  Then, someone else squeezed in as well.  Steve ended up pretty much face to face with Thomas Keller, the chef of The French Laundry, Bouchon, Ad Hoc, and Per Se.  He was pretty sure it was Keller, and he caught the French family saying something about a "grand cuisinier américain," which I'm sure Keller easily understood as well.  In any case, Steve didn't get up the nerve to say anything, but Keller gave him a small smile, as if he knew he had been recognized.  Most likely, he was heading over to Per Se and/or Bouchon Bakery in the nearby Time Warner Center, both of which were closed for an annual winter break while we were in town (making improvements and such). 

Once we were caffeinated and ready, Steve and I headed out to the subway at Columbus Circle.  We secured a couple of Metro cards and got on a downtown train bound for Brooklyn.  We got off at High St. and walked over to DUMBO—Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass.

DUMBO is a somewhat industrial-looking neighborhood that seems to be in the midst of a renaissance of sorts.  There are several galleries, some boutiques, a few restaurants, and the Jacques Torres chocolate factory.  In addition to the commercial side, there's a waterfront park—Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park—with views of the Manhattan Bridge on one side and the Brooklyn Bridge on the other.  I found plans online for the further development of Brooklyn Bridge Park, which will stretch further along the water.  There's even an old carousel, temporarily housed in the building next to Jacques Torres, which will hopefully have its own pavilion in Brooklyn Bridge Park one day.

Steve and I arrived in the neighborhood around 11am and walked around a little before finding Grimaldi's Pizzeria for lunch.  They opened at 11:30am, and there were already people waiting outside when we arrived.  We got a table right away when they opened, but it filled up quickly, especially for a Friday lunch.

We decided to order what we usually get on pizzas at these types of places: sausage and roasted red peppers.  It was essentially a regular coal-oven pizza margherita underneath, with that lovely extra white mozzarella that you don't really see very often.  Best pizza ever?  Not sure about that, but it was pretty good.  It served as our requisite NY pizza for the trip.

After lunch, we walked back to Jacques Torres for the next phase of my plan: hot chocolate.

At Jacques Torres, we ordered a classic hot chocolate for me and a Wicked hot chocolate for Steve.  Steve's had ancho chilis and chipotle, in addition to cinnamon and allspice.  I tried his, but I was happy with my more traditional cup.


With our nice warm chocolate in our mittened/gloved hands, we headed down to Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park.  We probably should have stopped in Almondine, the bakery co-owned by Jacques Torres across the street from the chocolate store, but we were too full from the pizza and content with our hot chocolate.

At the park, we walked a little along the water, and I took some pictures.  We didn't stay too long, because it was frigid out there.  The future Brooklyn Bridge Park section was closed off by a gate too, so there wasn't as far that we could go.  Steve was probably happy about that, since he was waiting not quite so patiently to stop freezing.

Once we had gotten our fill of the park (and the cold), we walked back to some of the shops we had passed on our way into the area.  The first one was powerHouse Arena.  When we passed it the first time, I stopped to take a picture of a window full of children's stuff.  My favorite was the I Live in Brooklyn book.

Upon entering the store, we realized that the books were all somewhat obscure, artsy ones.  They had stacks of photography books, some classic kids books, quirky newer ones, and even some mock-vintage and toy cameras on display.

We also spotted the skateboarding photography book by one of Dan's high school friends from Lansing, Mike Blabac.  I thought it was cool that they had it, and then I noticed that the "pH" logo on the spine matched the ones on a lot of the books in the store.  I realized that Mike's book was actually published by this company—powerHouse Books.  Considering that the raised section in the back of the store was taken up by offices, these were probably also the offices of his publisher.

Next, we found a West Elm store—like Pottery Barn but more eclectic and certainly more "Brooklyn."  (The medicine cabinet in our bathroom came from there.)  Since we had only seen catalogs from them, we went in to look around a little.  I think the closest stores to us are in East Bay (Emeryville) and North Bay (Corte Madera).


Our last stop in Brooklyn was a children's boutique called Pomme.  They had clothing, some toys, and other adorable things, many of them French.  I didn't take any pictures, but it was very cute.  Their website has a nice list of things you can do in DUMBO, many of which we did.

Sadly, it was too cold to try to walk the Brooklyn Bridge at all.  I've been on it before, but it was in 2003, before I was really very into taking pictures.  If we get back to NY during warmer weather some day, we'll have to do that.  I'd definitely like to revisit DUMBO when it's nice out.  It's the kind of neighborhood that I really love.  It may be "trendy," but it's trendy in that less uppity way that my neighborhood of San Francisco is trendy—more quirky/eclectic/artsy.  Anywhere that has great views, good restaurants, an awesome bakery, and cute boutiques is good for me.  It is a little on the sparse side right now, but I have a feeling that it will be really wonderful in a few years once it's developed more.

After riding back to Manhattan, we decided to thaw out and relax for a while in our hotel room before getting ready for dinner.  We had reservations at Le Bernardin that night, which deserves its own post, partly because I have so many pictures.  So we'll leave off here for now.  More soon :)

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