Thursday, September 10, 2009

Labor-less Labor Day weekend, part one

Labor Day weekend.  A traditional time for families to gather around a grill, enjoy a few days at the beach, celebrate the twilight days of summer.  For the tax accountant who does compliance work in any way, shape, or form...Labor Day doesn't exactly bring on those warm fuzzies.  For the last four years I've spent Labor Day weekend toiling away at the office, busting through all kinds of tax returns in order to meet that 9/15 deadline.  Well, not this year, folks.  Part of this D.C. gig involves a slightly less ridiculous schedule, and not only did I actually not work on Labor Day...I also took off the entire Friday before.  And work buddy Dana and I left Pdub early on Thursday to get a jump on traffic as we headed to New York City for the long, long weekend.  I mean, rush hour on the Beltway?  No one wants to deal with that.  Ever.  Look at how free and clear our path is!  Woohoo!

Now, growing up in NYC, as Dana did...albeit Queens, which is actually far more neighborhoody and suburbany than one might expect given that midtown Manhattan is what comes to mind when you think of NYC...affords you a lot of opportunities.  However, you do miss out on certain experiences.  Certain life-changing experiences such as dining at one of America's finest culinary institutions...Chick-fil-A.  I mean, how has this girl never experienced the joy of a boneless breast of chicken seasoned to perfection, hand-breaded, pressure-cooked in peanut oil and served on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips?  And I can't take any credit for that description...all courtesy of the Chick-fil-A website.  Of course, this should be accompanied by waffle fries, plenty of ketchup/honey mustard, and the Coke beverage product of your choice.  Well, I knew I had to remedy this situation, so I mapped every Chick-fil-A between DC and NYC so we could take full advantage of the situation.  Let me just say that it lived up to all of my hype.  Yeah, and we had brownies, too.  Please note the "I ♥ Chick-fil-A" sticker Dana's sporting.  Mission accomplished.  Remainder of somewhat-longish road trip spent discovering just how differently we grew up, rocking out to random dance mixes on 87.7 (much to Dana's delight), and anticipating the joys our weekend would hold.

Friday we kicked things off just the way you should start any sleeping in.  Oh, how I do love the sleep.  Sleeping in followed by an authentic NYC bagel with plenty o' delicious cream cheese?  Even better.  Einstein Brothers will still be tasty to me, but now I'm going to crave a slightly doughier, chewier, amazingier bagel.  After dragging our tired bodies out of bed and fortifying ourselves with carbs, we stopped by Dana's friendly neighborhood deli for some size-of-our-faces large sandwiches (and Diet Coke!  cannot live without the sweet, carbonated bliss that is Diet Coke!) to toss in the top of the water-filled cooler that accompanied us on a short trip down the highway to Jones Beach.  Fantastic, fantastic beach weather - low 80s so we weren't sweating the entire time, a slight breeze to keep us cool from the sun's rays, an occasional light cloud cover.  Fantastic, fantastic beach crowd - low on screaming children, no annoying music allowed, and minimal conversation with crazies.  We stretched out on the sand and enjoyed our books and splashed in the ocean waves like giddy children.  The waves were a touch on the strong side, and I, with my somewhat limited wave/ocean experience...ummm...well, I did pretty well until one rogue wave managed to knock me off my feet.  Dana at least got a good laugh at that one, and I had the presence of mind to snag my sunglasses before they were swept out to sea.  Great afternoon just chilling by the water - what a fantastic (I promise I'll find a new adjective soon) kick-off to our Labor Day weekend festivities.

Back to the apartment to remove sand and salty residue and prepare ourselves for a night of Manhattan fun.  Dana's Queens apartment is conveniently located right by a stop for the Long Island Railroad, which after a twenty-something minute ride deposits you right in the city at Penn Station.  The LIRR really is a...train.  Not subway-ish at all like I expected.  Needless to say, Dana was constantly amused by my observations on what to her is a commonplace, everyday occurrence.  Please note the photo to your left, detailing my "oooh, we're going to ride the train!" face, because it's the only photo op you're going to get from this night for multiple reasons: (1) my camera didn't leave my purse after this moment; (2) Dana's camera did make an appearance later in the evening to capture our escapades; and (3) Dana's in Greece (lucky gal!) and I don't have her pictures from the weekend yet.  I'm certain you're all heartbroken.  Well, soldier on, brave souls, and I'll just regale you with tales of dinner and dancing the night away.  After disembarking at Penn Station, we made our way over to Greenwich Village to catch our highly-anticipated dinner reservation at Perilla, restaurant of one Harold Dieterle, winner of Top Chef season one.  Dana and I are both total Top Chef junkies, so that was a draw, plus the seasonal American food is supposed to be amazing - another draw.  The first home run of the evening were some exquisitely crafted cocktails we indulged in while briefly waiting on our table, followed by a delightfully surprising crispy calamari and watercress salad, grilled hanger steak with sunchoke creamed spinach and wild mushrooms (red snapper special with shrimp and avocado for my dining buddy), and deliciously chocolatey s'mores with chocolate sorbet for dessert.  Dinner was great.  Really, really great.

We made plans beforehand to meet up with several of Dana's buddies (and Judy!!  one of my resident New Yorkers!  SO GREAT to see her again so soon!) at Aspen, highly recommended by one of her well-informed, well-connected NYC peeps.  Intriguing set-up - very woodsy, lodge-like setting in the middle of the city.  Complete with polyresin (or something like that...I'm totally making up my resin compounds here) deer heads adorning the wall above the bar.  Interesting.  Initially we were a little concerned with the DJ's selections, but then the music got better and we stayed out...late.

Saturday brought more sleeping in (much needed after our late night, of course) and more fun in the city.  We headed in for a late lunch at Balthazar, where I was quite happy that you could have brunch at that hour of the day and indulged in brioche French toast.  We also ended up with a $16 bread basket courtesy of our wily waitress who coyly asked her two starving patrons if they'd like some bread.  Sneaky, lady who sensed our deep, deep desire for carbs or really food of any kind that would arrive as close as possible to immediately.  And yes, we'll take the remaining $12-ish worth of remaining bread all packaged up to go with us.  Not that we ate it at any point during the remainder of the day, but...something about toting it around the city for the rest of the day made it a little more worthwhile.  Anyway, the bread accompanied us as we made our way up and down Spring Street in SoHo, wandering through adorable brownstones and making key shopping stops along the way.  Oh, Sabon and your patchouli lavender vanilla body scrub with Dead Sea salts, where have you been all my life?  I love you so much that you will accompany the bread as we walk about the city allllll day.  You can hang lovingly from my arm as I snap endless shots of the fine architecture, quirky signs, and curiosities this city has to offer.

This is getting a little lengthy (like that ever stopped me before?  Ok, Project Runway is about to come on, and even with the wonders of DVR at my disposal, I'm ready for a TV break), so I'm going to bust it up into two posts and pick up with the rest of Saturday a little bit later.  For the full-on photo experience from the weekend, complete with random captions, just click here.  And actually, it doesn't really cover the entire weekend because I relied on Dana's camera for a couple of key events, but you'll get the general idea.  A rather excessive general idea, given my love for punching that digital camera shoot button.

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