Friday, September 11, 2009

Labor-less Labor Day weekend, part two

Too much laboring to get the overly-detailed Labor Day weekend into one post, so I present to you...part two.  We last left off on Saturday afternoon, fading slightly into a lovely NYC evening, as we walked the shops of Spring Street with bread and salt scrubs in hand.  After all of that strolling, of course we were craving more carbs, so what better place to satisfy that craving than at Rice to RichesDiana first told me about this place, this mecca, heaven, Xanadu of carbalicious goodness where they serve nothing but rice pudding, accompanied by delightfully pithy signage with encouraging phrases like "I'll diet when the earth runs out of food" and "eating three sensible, balanced meals a day will only spoil your appetite for rice pudding."  We just barely beat a large group of doe-eyed, naive NYU freshmen in the door, so while we did get to order in front of them, I didn't want to slow down the line by sampling every single flavor they had.  If by some miraculous stroke the place had been empty, you can bet I would have asked for a taste of everything.  I'm not usually so bold, but innovatively flavored, amazingly scrumptious rice pudding is worth putting yourself out there and inconveniencing certain culinary employees.  I made do (made do!  it was delicious) with banana and toasted coconut while Dana opted for the more traditional cinnamon with raisins.  It's good that they charge a prohibitive amount to ship this stuff around the country (but isn't it cool that they do that?), because otherwise my fridge might hold a fairly constant rotating flavor supply of this stuff.  It was so, so tasty and satisfying.

After the much needed break for our feetsies and appreciating the replenishing power of rice pudding, we continued on our walking tour of the city by exploring more of SoHo along with Washington Square Park and Dana's old stomping grounds at NYU.  Washington Square Park was a pretty hopping place in the evening hours, with at least three different street performers (errr...I guess they were really "park" performers) drawing substantial crowds with their captivating drums and remarkable feats of flexibility.  We took another break from walking on a park bench for a little while, and then continued on our quest for all things carb-heavy by meeting up with a couple of friends for an amazing Italian dinner at Malatesta in the West Village.  Bruschetta, pasta galore, grilled steak and lamb chops, panacotta...this is the stuff dreams are made of.  To take full advantage of the beautiful weather and get some fresh air after stuffing ourselves silly with all of that Italian goodness, we headed over to the Frying Pan for a few beers and Hudson River breezes.  What a fun concept for a bar - it's a large boat (with a couple of other boats attached) permanently docked on the river, complete with bar and food service and a fantastic view of lower Manhattan and assorted New Jersey locales. out for a little rocking action after you've had a drink or two.  It doesn't necessarily feel like you're docked.

Sunday we turned our attention from the city to the country, or at least as country as Long Island can get, by loading up on diner food and then making the drive out to the Hamptons.  After winding our way through trees, trees, and more trees, we found ourselves in the most adorable towns with some of the most ridiculous beachy mansions you can imagine.  When you can catch a glimpse of the property through the box hedges and fences, you'll be a little amazed.  I'll just take a guest house, please.  We're in the land of opulence and amazing wine cellars, so of course there are vineyards galore.  Erring on the side of conservatism, we just made one winery stop - at Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton.  They were pretty packed for a Sunday afternoon, so we wandered about the tasting room and patio waiting for a spot to open up.  After sipping seven wines and learning a little bit more about their vineyards, we both invested in some quality bottles and then set out to explore the sculpture garden nestled amongst the grapevines.  Let me rephrase - the "sculpture garden."  It was an...interesting...collection of carved wooden objects, complete with a treehouse of sorts, oddly shaped little men, and a sea creature featuring a plethora of tentacles.  We advised some fellow travelers to just stick with the wine, although we certainly did get some interesting pictures out of it.

Time to keep driving down the road!  We fought all kinds of traffic going through the towns, but we also managed to sneak our way onto a couple of schmancy Hamptons beaches (I swear, even the sand is rich here - it's just softer and finer and prettier than at other beaches) and feel at home stopping by the roadside stands featuring fresh produce and all kinds of baked/homey goods.  I was deeply reminded of the Monroe peach stands outside of Hedley, only these were elevated a step or two to cater to the wealthy crowd.  Surrounded by all of the fresh, healthy, vitamin-laden treats, what did we purchase?  That's right - crispy chocolate chip walnut cookies.  They were amazing and sustained us for the rest of our driving and fancy-home exploring until we stopped for dinner at Cherrystones in East Hampton, a cutesy little clam/lobster shack where you check your order off on a list (very appealing to the type A in me) and enjoy tasty selections like clam chowder, crab cakes, crispy shrimp, and french fries.  Yum.  Oh, and the beaches?  We were not deterred by the "parking by resident permit ONLY" signs - those dunes and beaches needed further exploration, and their beauty should not be limited to those with excessive $$$.  So, we basically spent a day driving through ritzy-ville, dreaming of the high life, and relaxing after our crazy city times.  I was a little disappointed that we didn't have any celebrity sightings, but you can't expect P Diddy and Gwenyth Paltrow to just hang around waiting for you to ogle them, now can you?

Monday.  Monday morning came...and I wasn't at work!  What a blissful way to actually enjoy Labor Day.  For my dear tax friends who were at work...I'm sorry.  I'm so sorry.  I know your pain.  Please forgive me for the excessive glee (speaking of glee, has anyone watched Glee on Fox?  I'm kinda in love with it, but I am a musical junkie, so...we'll see if the show lasts.  Anywho...), but I have to make the most of these moments.  After getting all of our exploring in, we couldn't come all the way to Queens without making the short drive over to the Ma and Pa Duffin residence to spend the day getting in some family time.  Well, they're not my family, but they certainly made me feel like family that day.  We bonded with the family dog, Pepper (what a sweet black Lab!), laughed our way through some old family photos, and enjoyed delicious, delicious late-summer treats known as burgers and steaks straight off the charcoal grill.  It's nice to know I have a little surrogate family hanging out on the East Coast if I need them.  We opted to leave a little later in the day to miss out on any traffic, and it paid off - beautiful sunset view of NYC, and just over four hours from Duffin door to my apartment in DC, even with a stop along the way at the Maryland House rest stop.  I find it exceptionally odd that the rest stops in Maryland are named and consist of one building with everything crammed in - pull off the road, grab some gas, and then head into a monster building with Starbucks, Sbarro, Popeye's, and random other food/convenience suppliers.  I suppose I'm just accustomed to pulling off the highway and hitting up Love's.

Fantastic weekend with a fantastic friend exploring a fantastic city and the area surrounding it.  I don't think I'll ever get tired of those.  Anyone want to meet me in Philadelphia?

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