For my 14th annual Thanksgiving/birthday vacation, I decided to do something different. Instead of going to my house the day I landed back in the United States, I spent two days in New York. My flight landed after 8AM. I was out of the airport by 10 and had my car by 11. My friend that I was traveling with had never tried my favorite restaurant, which is in the direction of the hotel I chose for our two days in NYC.
Since going on the Slice of Brooklyn Tour on December 4, 2011, the Sicilian pie at L & B Spumoni Gardens has been my favorite thing to eat. Since I started flying in and out of JFK airport (which I’ve done for the majority of my international trips since November 2012), I’ve been saying that the thing I look forward to the most about a trip is eating Sicilian pie after leaving JFK Airport. I first said this during a trip to France in November 2012. Nobody agreed with me, but that’s my opinion and it hasn’t changed.
I’ve never ordered by the slice there and I’ve always had between one and three people with me when I’ve gone. This time, I knew my friend would not eat much and we would end up taking some home. If the quality of that pizza is a 10 on a 10 scale when you eat it fresh out of the oven, it goes down to a generous 5 when I reheat it my oven. I don’t have the heart to throw it in garbage and I never have.
After a quick drive there with very little traffic, we found a spot in their small but always accommodating parking lot. We ordered a Sicilian pie and like the majority of the dozen or so people I’ve taken there over the past few years, my friend enjoyed it, but not as much as I did. We (I) ended up taking five slices home.
From there, I drove to Fort Hamilton. I’d tried to visit the fort a few years earlier but they were not doing museum tours on the day I was there. This time, we got a nice (free) tour by an extremely friendly and informative gentlemen called Tom. He was very well traveled and full of information on Fort Hamilton, which is the only active military base in NYC. It’s named after the guy that’s on the $10 bill.
Our hotel was nearby and after dropping our bags off, we boarded the nearby R train at 86 St and took it to Rector St to visit Federal Hall. Like Fort Hamilton, Federal Hall is closed on weekends (the only time I’m usually in NYC). I’d been wanting to visit for years to see where our first President was sworn in. I’d visited his birthplace last summer and Mount Vernon in 2010. I wasn’t sure what to expect, we spent at least an hour. There are guided tours throughout the day, but it’s easy to tour on your own, which is what we did. What stood out to me was looking at the bible that our first President swore on while taking his Presidential oath.
Down the steps from Federal Hall is the entrance to the Broad Street station on the J Z line. We took the J train one stop north to Fulton Street and transferred to the C line, which we took to 14 St. It had been several months since I’d been to the Chelsea Market and my friend had never been there (or in that part of Manhttan). I was hoping to treat myself to another fruit necklace for my birthday, but Glitter Limes was not there.
There’s a new macaron place I’d been hearing about at the Gansevoort Market, which I’d never been to before. The Gansevoort Market is just three blocks south of the Chelsea Market and much smaller and less crowded. They sell everything I like there: gelato, macarons, Royce chocolates, crepes and pizza (to name a few). Luzzo’s (which is my 2nd favorite pizzeria behind the previously mentioned L & B Spumoni Gardens) is there as well as Royce Chocolate (my favorite Japanese chocolate brand).
My only purchase was a box of 12 macarons (for $33) at Dana’s Bakery. Their flavors are as interesting as any place I’ve been to. The two I keep going back to are Bisous Ciao and Macaron Parlour. I also visit Macaron Café and La Maison du Macaron from time to time. After sampling a birthday cake macaron from Dana’s, I added that to my list of places to stop at in the future.
After a pretty quick visit to the Gansevoort Market, we took Husdon to Bleecker, where we stopped at Cones to get sorbet. My friend got lemon and I got watermelon. The lemon was good, but you can get that anywhere. The watermelon was amazing and I will stop back to get more next time I’m in the area.
We wanted bubble tea, which we were unable to find in Peru. It was available in the Miraflores section of Lima, but we never made it there because of the notorious Lima traffic. Since we would be catching the train at the W 4 St station, we went to Fay Da Bakery, which is right near the entrance and has locations throughout Manhattan and Queens. I got a mango smoothie with coconut jelly and my friend got papaya and that (and the sorbet at Cones) was our dinner. When I have lunch at L & B Spumoni Gardens, I rarely have anything significant for dinner.
We stayed at the Best Western Gregory Hotel, which is located a couple blocks from the 86th Street R train station in Bay Ridge. The Verrazano Bridge is off in the distance. We exited at 77th Street to see if there was anything exciting north of the hotel, but there wasn’t.
The next morning, we got in the car and headed to Staten Island. There are two Italian restaurants there that I’d read about in Time Out New York and I’d been wanting to visit the Conference House for years.
It was lunch time by the time we crossed the Verranzano Bridge. We went to Joe and Pat’s on Victory Blvd. If Bensonhurst and Gravesend look different from Manhattan, then Staten Island really looks different. I’d been there a dozen times before, but driving past mansions and finding plenty of parking on one of the main streets was shocking to my friend.
I wanted to try the pizza at Joe and Pat’s but my friend was not up for it. I looked at their Instagram photos and picked what really stood out. I got a slice of the margherita and really enjoyed it. Only having one slice left room for other things on the menu. We shared the seafood antipasto and arugula salad. Both were excellent and made me want to return.
Although I don’t like cold weather, I do enjoy all the different pumpkin related things that become more available once fall arrives. They had pumpkin tartufo on their dessert menu and it was amazing. Of the four things we tried, none were mediocre. Although I want to try Denino’s the next time I’m in Staten Island, I definitely hope to return to Joe and Pat’s someday.
It was a nearly 30-minute drive to the Conference House, which is located on the southwest corner of Staten Island. This area is even more rural than the north of Staten Island. Tours of the house are guided only. Our guide was originally from Toronto. I sensed it in her accent. She was certainly not from New York. As the custodian of the house, she is allowed to live on the premises. Although the house itself is not remarkable and had been neglected for a long time before restoration, the story behind it is very interesting. John Adams and Ben Franklin were part of an unsuccessful peace negotiation with the British there back in 1776.
Before crossing the Outerbridge into New Jersey, we stopped at Peri’s Pearl Tea, which we found on Yelp. They sell macarons from Dana’s Bakery as well as plenty different bubble tea and smoothie flavors. I got the mango (again) and my friend tried Pomegranate (not one of my favorite flavors).
Since Peru presented us with plenty of challenges (insane traffic in Lima, altitude sickness in Cusco), it was nice to spend two days in the familiar area of New York City before heading back to the Keystone state.