New York Dining

Waitress Preview Day 2

We’ve had a fabulous long weekend in New York, and although the purpose of the trip was to see the new musical, Waitress, we also had a chance to visit some favorite restaurants, and try a few new ones. Here’s a recap:


We began with a dinner for two at Momofuku Ko, which I’d read about in a favorite book The Rosie Project. Dani was still flying in from Chicago when Linda and I had a delightful meal, made special by a wonderfully welcoming staff. Not every course was a home run, but it hardly mattered because everything else was perfect.

For lunch Friday Dani was still at her friend’s apartment, and Linda and I stepped back into 1962 for lunch at La Grenouille, a classic French restaurant, and the last of its kind. This is a place they talked about going in the series Mad Men, and it’s unchanged.


Dani caught up with us for our anniversary dinner at Eleven Madison Park. We’ve had two of the greatest meals of my life here, and one awful one. Fortunately they’ve returned to form, and although this one wasn’t quite as memorable, it was exceptional, particularly the service.


Despite our feelings about The Donald, we stayed at the Trump International Hotel, because we got a deal on, and someone has to pay the unfortunates who work there. One plus is that one of our favorite New York restaurants is just downstairs. We had a lovely lunch at Jean-Georges, which—even thought the prices have doubled in the time we’ve been going—is still the best lunch deal in town, with the same food as dinner at a fraction of the cost.

A great thing about New York is that you can actually dine really late. So after the wonderful Waitress production we had an 11pm reservation at db Bistro Modern, a reliable late night choice operated by Daniel Boulud, whose high end restaurants we view with less favor.

Caviar Russe 2

The stunning highlight of the trip, and one of the best meals of our lives was Easter lunch at Caviar Russe, where we had the caviar tasting menu, an eight course extravaganza where every course incorporates caviar in a meaningful way. The wine list is extremely attractively priced, which just makes things better. Linda and I had one of the best meals of our lives here in 2014, and this one was even better. So of the greatest meals I’ve ever had, Caviar Russe occupies two of the top five spots. (For those keeping score, the others are two different meals at Eleven Madison Park [neither of them recent] and New Year’s Eve at Victoria and Alberts.)

Caviar Russe 1

We had a reservation at The NoMAD, operated by the Eleven Madison Park folks, but after such a spectacular lunch it would have been a waste. So instead we went to a local Turkish place, ABA Turkish Restaurant, which was very popular, and fine, but actually not as good as our Turkish and Middle Eastern restaurants in Orlando. But after that lunch, it hardly mattered!

We finished off our culinary extravaganza  with a Monday lunch at Vaucluse, a new French brasserie by Michael White, owner of, among other things Marea (which we aren’t wild about). Vaucluse is a beautiful room, and the brasserie food was elevated, yet traditional. The best Salade Lyonnaise of my life is my parting memory of New York.

Quite the culinary whirlwind, and something we can only do every couple of years, but there were some truly memorable experiences that we’ll hopefully be remembering long after the Amex bill comes.


If you can just do one thing in New York, I have to say—well, see Waitress! But other than that, Caviar Russe is the place to be.



Waitress Preview Day 2




This anniversary trip to New York City features a lot of fine dining, but it started because of Waitress, a new musical based on the movie, and with a score by Sara Bareilles. Dani asked for tickets for Christmas, and I was able to get them prior to opening night.

Sara tells the story of how she became involved with the show in her biography, Sounds Like Me. At the time she didn’t know the director, Diane Paulus, was quite famous, and she hadn’t seen the movie. But when offered the job she went home and watched it, and immediately wrote the first song for it.

That song and most of the others are on an album, What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress, that she released last year, and which Dani and I have been listening to in heavy rotation. It’s a great album, but it’s very, um, Sara-ish. So it was with some trepidation that we went to see the show, since not many people can sing—or even play—a song the way Sarah Bareilles does.

I’m pleased to report that: 1) this cast—and especially the lead, Jessie Mueller—can sing them that way; 2) the onstage band is on top of it; 3) this is an amazing Broadway show, not just some pop songs set to a movie. In fact, the songs fit so perfectly that, having not seen the movie, I can’t really imagine it without the songs.

What’s remarkable is how polished the show and cast are given that we saw it on the second night of previews. There might have been one song in act 2 that I would have cut, but other than that I wouldn’t change a thing. The audience agreed, and was wildly enthusiastic from the moment the lights dimmed. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a more enthusiastic audience.

I was struck by how much of Sara’s album made it into the show, although one great song, Door Number Three, didn’t make it in recognizable form. But for the most part her album will give you a great idea of what this show sounds like, even if you can’t exactly figure out who will be singing what number.

Needless to say, we loved the show, and if I could see it again tonight, I would!

Momofuku Ko


I’ve wanted to visit Momofuku Ko ever since I read about it in the excellent book, The Rosie Project, which you should definitely read. It’s very hard to get a reservation, but thanks to split-second timing last week I was surprised to be able to get in on a Thursday evening.


The layout is a bit like l’Atelier, where you sit at a counter facing the chefs and watch the food being prepared. The ambiance of the restaurant is great, with excellent music at just the right level, so it’s easy to hear your companion, but no other guests, thanks to a large gap between each pair of seats.


We absolutely loved all the personnel at Momofuku Ko. They were all warm and gracious, and genuinely glad we were there. The sommelier, Chase Sinzer, in particular, spent a lot of time with us, and helped us select a couple of superb Burgundies.


The meal consisted of 16 courses, mostly tiny bites, and some were spectacular. I had been expecting a very sashimi oriented meal, but actually very few courses resembled anything I’d had before. Highlights included a miniature pomme soufflé; chopped black bass sprayed with shiso mist; a nice serving of Osetra caviar (that didn’t particularly go with the accompanying sweet potato puree); the visually stunning razor clam with basil seeds (a signature dish); a roasted potato served in a delicious bouillabaisse broth; and foie gras that was frozen and finely shaved over lychee.


I must admit that not all the courses were home runs. Spanish mackerel with a runny baked egg was not particularly flavorful. Most of the hot dishes were misses, especially a tough sirloin (although the accompanying potato churro was wonderful) and the chicken pie.

Two dessert courses were pleasant and not too sweet, and at the end Chase comped us some Green Chartreuse, which we had never had before, and really enjoyed.

It was a delightful evening, and I would definitely return to Momofuku Ko.


New York

Following our cruise we spent a busy four days in New York.

Upon arrival we checked our bags at the Waldorf Astoria Towers and headed south to the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial. The memorial is very well done, just a somber pair of holes in the ground, with water flowing endlessly down into them. The new building is very beautiful.



There were long lines for the museum, and we didn’t have time before meeting our friends for lunch, so we wandered around Battery Park and the Irish Hunger Memorial, which was an impressive sloped garden featuring indigenous plants and recreating some of the conditions that forced so many to immigrate.


If you enlarge this view from Battery Park you can see the Statue of Liberty that greeted those immigrants.


We met our friends Ron, Bev, Keith and Parlo at Bouley for a four hour lunch. The four of them are in New York for a Champagne extravaganza, but we’re on a different mission. (Most of the links in this post take you to my food blog for more information about the restaurants.)


We attended a late dinner and show at 54 Below, a nice cabaret. The performer was Sarah Boggess, who played Ariel in the Little Mermaid and Christine in Phantom on Broadway.


For lunch Saturday we went to one of Linda’s favorites, Benoit, for their fabulous chicken.


We attended a matinee of If/Then, a new Broadway show starring Idina Menzell. The cast was fantastic, and made some fairly flawed material quite enjoyable.


Dinner took us back downtown to Gotham Bar and Grill. Despite its name, the food was far from bar and grill stuff, and we really liked it, although it was very noisy.


Sunday at noon found us up by Central Park, for lunch at our favorite, Jean Georges.


This is such a wonderful restaurant! The service is friendly, the room is spacious and quiet, there are great wines available by the half glass so you can assemble your own pairing, and at lunch the prices are amazing.

After lunch we saw a matinee of A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which won the Tony this year. While it might not be up to the level of some past Tony winners, it was very funny and entertaining. Jefferson Mays plays nine different roles, and was really quite amazing.

The weather dropped into the 30s for one night and we decided not to make the trek to Chez Josephine, and on the spur of the moment walked a couple blocks to a small storefront and had a lovely pan-Asian meal at Wild Ginger.

Monday was our last day in New York, and we made it count, at two spectacular restaurants.


Most notable was Caviar Russe, which is about far more than caviar. We’ll definitely be returning here. IMG_5320

And for dinner we went down to Chelsea to experience Morimoto.


It was interesting in that the omakase was much more about cooked food than sushi.

IMG_5324Tuesday morning we turned back into pumpkins and headed to the airport for the flight to Orlando. It will be a shock after almost a month of traveling, but it will also be nice to be home.


New York Dining

We tried quite a few new restaurants during our week in New York, and returned to many old favorites. Here they are, in order.


Le Rivage

This really authentic French Bistro is very popular with locals, but just a block off Broadway. It’s located in a virtual “restaurant row” on 46th Street between 7th and 8th Avenues. It offers all the classic French dishes, well prepared and served in a cozy environment overseen by the owner, who made sure we were enjoying everything. Reasonably priced.


Haru Sushi

We found this little sushi place just off Broadway after a show, and were quite pleased with it. Although it is a mini chain, it didn’t seem so, and it was worlds better than the tourist restaurants on Times Square. The decor is soothing, the fish is fresh, and the service was super-attentive. I would definitely return.



Lunch here was pretty much perfection. The bread service is much appreciated, and something not offered by many restaurants any more, even the three-star variety. There are a few bargain pre-fixe deals in town at top rated restaurants, but I’d have to say that Bouley’s is perhaps the best. The quality of food and service really can’t be topped, and the room is unbelievably comfortable and welcoming.


You go to Sardi’s for the history, not the food. It’s probably the same as it’s always been, but standards have changed. However its location right in the theatre district, and the drawings of ancient theatre stars that paper the walls are what it’s all about. Linda loves the spinach cannelloni, but warns that the appetizer portion is plenty.

Candle 79

This upper east side vegetarian restaurant is a charming place, with excellent service, and is walking distance to the Metropolitan Museum, which was our next stop. It was packed, so Pamela and I took a table upstairs while Linda and Dani ate at the bar. I loved the house made ginger ale. I was a bit disappointed in the food, because it seemed under-seasoned and under-flavored, despite having quite a few ingredients. The hummus appetizer was fine, but the falafel seemed like almost the same dish, just seared hummus in a pita without much sign of tahini or other ingredients.

48 Lounge

I’m an old fuddy duddy, but this place was close to the theatre, the hotel, and was open late. Lounge seating is–let’s face it–uncomfortable, and the soundtrack makes it almost impossible to converse, so going in I knew it would have two strikes against it from my point of view. But the drink list and wines were interesting, and the food was okay. Pork sliders were the best, followed by the kobe hot dogs. Tater tots, spinach artichoke dip and hummus were okay but nothing special. If you like lounge ambiance and are in the area, it’s worth a shot (pun intended).

Sushi Yasuda

Many people think this is the best sushi in New York. I don’t get it. Most restaurants I’ve been to serve better sushi.

“Omakase” is where you put yourself in the chef’s hands and multiple specialties are served. I’ve had it in some highly regarded restaurants in Los Angeles. At one, special delicacies were flown in daily from Tokyo (they later were put out of business for selling endangered species). At another, plate after plate of tiny tastes were served, with each thoughtful ingredient contributing to an almost life-changing wonderment.

Not at Sushi Yasuda. Here, the omakase showed up as a platter of sashimi looking like it was cut up by an axe murderer. Nearly every fish had the soft, mealy texture of near-pudding, and it was all uniformly flavorless. Then a platter of sushi showed up. Same fish, now on crumbly rice. The final plate was a piece of eel sushi, also mealy. How do you even make eel mealy? At $357 for three, the biggest dining disappointment ever.


Eleven Madison Park

I had the greatest meal of my life at Eleven Madison Park. I also had the second greatest here. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend their new format. There are still 16 complex courses, and the service is still masterful yet friendly. But the emphasis on theatre rather than flavor has taken it down a notch. Some courses seemed repetitive, and there were very few “wow” moments. I’d trade the table-side magic act (lame) and the carrot grinding for a few of those one-bite orgasmic wonders of the past.

The carrot course was actually one of the best. It offered a dozen ingredients to add to the freshly ground carrot. I selected mustard and mustard seed. If that sounds like haut cuisine, you need to get out more. And it would have been just as good if the carrot was ground in the kitchen rather than on a hand grinder clamped to the table.

Another theatrical course that was a bit more successful was the “picnic basket.” This was a fun idea, where you took ingredients out of the basket and set up your own picnic. The second best food came out of this. It was a freshly made soft pretzel with house-made mustard. There’s a theme here. Madison Park makes good mustard.

The various shellfish courses that started the meal were simply repetitive. And why did we have to all have the same meat course, when they were individually plated? Surely there are enough two ounce portions of lamb and duck in the kitchen to be able to mix it up?

Sadly, the great bottle of cognac that used to end the meal is also gone, replaced by a local apple brandy.

In short, Eleven Madison Park is still a good restaurant, but it is no longer THE restaurant. I’ll certainly go back… but not until the concept changes again.


Benoit is a traditional French Brasserie in every way: ambiance, food and service. Our favorites here include the charcuterie plate and the whole roasted chicken for two. Ironically, we’ve had the whole roasted chicken at Alan Ducasse’s thee star Michelin Louis XIV in Monte Carlo, and this one is much better! We avoid Sunday brunch, because they don’t have the same menu, therefore no roast chicken.


Chez Josephine

This is my favorite after-theatre restaurant. Its dark and cozy ambiance is perfect for winding down after a show, and the period jazz piano player summons up the perfect soundtrack. The place oozes Paris in the 1920s, plus the food is top notch. On my latest visit I really enjoyed the pan seared Alaskan halibut in lemon sauce. The cozy table in the window offers the perfect intimate atmosphere, with music at just the right level for intimate conversation. And how wonderful to enjoy this caliber of food until 1am, so there’s plenty of time to relax.



This cozy little place is on 46th Street’s restaurant row between 8th and 9th. The fish is fresh and menu offerings are extensive. The sashimi sampler was generous, and the salmon tartare had a great sauce. Compared to top rated Sushi Yasuda (where we ate two days earlier) Ocha was much better at a fraction of the price. Service can be a bit inattentive, but if you’re in no hurry it’s a great choice.


One if by Land, Two if by Sea

This place, billed as New York’s most romantic restaurant, was recommended to us by Joy, who went there for her anniversary. We really enjoyed the ambiance of the place, which used to be Aaron Burr’s carriage house. The food was delicious, service very professional, and the piano player among the best I’ve heard. It’s divided into a number of intimate rooms. Most of the lighting is provided by table-top tapers, so it is, indeed very romantic. My barramundi had a wonderfully crispy crust, and the espresso souffle was light and airy. A glass of rainwater madeira was the perfect way to complete a perfect meal.




Broadway Shows


This trip we fit in four shows: three new ones and one favorite.


This Disney show is based upon a movie from the 90s that flopped but became a fan favorite. The Alan Menken score was resurrected and Harvey Fierstein added story, including a love interest, in what was to be a touring company show that could later be offered to school productions. But its out of town opening was so well received they decided to take it to Broadway. On broadway it received two Tonys, and has been playing more than a year.

With that build up, I was expecting more. The plot was extremely trite, shallow and formulaic, there was no character development, and the songs are only passable. The dancing and energetic (and large cast) was great, though. But it’s definitely not a show I’d sit through again.

Lucky Guy

Norah Ephron’s last project was this dramatic play about Mike McAlary, the New York reporter and columnist. I don’t usually go for contemporary dramas, but this one featured Tom Hank’s Broadway debut, so we gave it a try. It’s a great production, with a wonderful cast, and surprisingly interesting material. The New Yorkers who comprised the audience obviously good even more out of it than we did. Hanks is an amazing actor, especially in person. It was also neat to see a Broadway show where the performers had to actually projects, as they weren’t miked.

The Book of Mormon

This is the most disgusting, irreverent, profane abomination I’ve ever seen. We loved it. I’d already listened to the soundtrack album and envisioned how it would be staged, and it was pretty much as I’d imagined it. Basically, it’s South Park about Mormons with music. If you think a show about female circumcision would make a good musical… well, you need help. But it does.



I think this was my 15th time seeing this show, so I’ve seen strong and weak performances in every role. The Broadway version is usually best, since the sets are bigger and better, and it often attracts the best talent. Not tonight, though. It was like watching a high school production. Glinda was being played by the standby, and she threw away every one of her funny lines. But she wasn’t the only problem. Fiero also seemed like a high school student, with no depth of character, and extremely awkward dance movements. Elphaba had a beautiful singing voice, but no chemistry with the other performers. I wouldn’t have said it was possible for this show to contain so little humor and so little emotional impact. The audience still loved it, but it left us bemused. Thank goodness it’s not always like this!


New York to Istanbul

With a lull in Linda’s projects for Disney, she was able to get away, so for her birthday we booked a cruise in the Mediterranean. When Delta changed their flight schedule, our connection through JFK became dangerously short, so we decided to fly into New York a day a day before our international flight and celebrate her birthday a couple of days early, with dinner at Daniel and a night at the Hotel Athenee. Booking through Amex got us some nice benefits, including an upgrade to one of only two balcony rooms. Although it was rainy (with an impressive thunderstorm in the middle of the night) we were lucky during our walks around the city, and never needed an umbrella.

Dinner was nice, if not quite at the level of Eleven Madison Park or Jean Georges. The dining room is beautiful, and there were an astonishing number of wait staff. The service was extremely professional, but neither stiff nor friendly, just sort of a frenetic attempt to make everything perfect. It was, at times, a bit exhausting to watch. That’s very different from Eleven Madison Park, where the perfection feels effortless.

We had the six course tasting menu with matching wine pairing. There were two choices for each course, and I let Linda pick first, then took all the alternatives. As it turned out, I think I got the better choices. Of the wines, a 2009 Copain Pinot Noir from Alexander Valley really impressed us with its earthy/fruity complexity.

The next day we ate at Linda’s favorite lunch restaurant, Alain Ducasse’s Benoit, where we had her two favorite courses, the Charcuterie and the Roasted Chicken. Both are really, really French, and the pommes frites that accompany the chicken are the best anywhere.

On our walk back to the hotel we passed the Apple Store, where a tribute to Steve Jobs had been set up by fans. It happened to be iPhone 4s launch day, and there were hundreds of people in line outside.

Our 5:15pm flight to Istanbul was delayed when a bird was sucked into one of the engines on arrival at JFK, and eventually Delta ended up replacing the plane, recatering it, and we finally took off close to three hours late. Fortunately we had nothing to do on arrival. We were both able to get four or five hours of sleep on the way, and felt fairly refreshed as we watched the comedy team of baggage handlers try to round up 69 passengers and their bags at the Istanbul airport. Then it was off to meet our ship.

Our luggage is on the bottom.



The reviews of Asiate all said it had a great view. That’s all they said. So I was a little worried about making it our final meal on this New York trip. But it was right across the street from our hotel, on the top of the Mandarin Oriental in the Time Warner Building, so we gave it a shot. It turned out to be a good choice. The sashimi appetizer I had was the best ever, and I eat a lot of sashimi. The tuna was perfect–buttery and plentiful–and it sat on a bed of complex ingredients and sauces. The salmon entree was also quite good. And as you can see, the view can’t be beat.

A nice end to a nice trip. We packed a lot into these three days in New York.

l’Atelier NYC

We finished our last full day in New York with a visit to Joel Robuchon’s l’Atelier in the Four Seasons Hotel. I really enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and great food at l’Atelier. We’ve tried them in London and Las Vegas, and this one was just as good. The servers are friendly and informative, and the sushi bar-like setting is unique.

Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark gets a makeover

We just got back from Spider-Man. This is the second time we’ve seen a show before and after they fixed it (The Addams Family was the first). The original version was so bad it prompted me to write a review entitled Spiderman: Turn Off the Suck. This version of Spider-Man is nearly a total rewrite. I’d say more than half the dialogue was new. They added 30 minutes of exposition to explain the plot and motivations, rearranged some confusing scenes, re-staged most scenes, cut several subplots that didn’t work, made much better use of their moving video walls, and essentially discarded the original act 2, nearly in its entirety. They also got rid of the “geek” chorus, the spiders with mannequin legs and the lonely guitarists standing at the edge of the stage.

In the original version, the main villain, the Green Goblin, died very early in the show, and the second act was incomprehensible nonsense about a spider goddess making Peter Parker think New York had been destroyed so he would fall in love with her. Thankfully, that is gone, and now the Green Goblin survives until the very end. Because he was so funny, they have given him several opportunities to essentially do a standup schtick with the audience, and there is a hysterical bit where he tries to navigate a voice mail system to leave a threatening message. This also moves the climactic battle to the end of the show. Duh. These changes have upgraded the show from a D- to a B+. It was an expensive but shrewd move to close this show for six weeks, dump director Julie Taymor and start over. I applaud those who had the guts to take a chance on it.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert

Some Broadway shows have plots so convoluted that it requires advance study to follow them. This is a not a problem for Priscilla Queen of the Desert. The entire plot may be summarized as: three drag queens and a bus.

That’s not to say the show isn’t fun. It is. Filled with stunning costumes (cupcakes, human paint brushes, a dress made of flip flops), top notch musical performances, and a collection of pop hits from the 70s and 80s, the show will delight anyone who enjoyed La Cage Aux Folles (although that show actually has a deep story).

As good as the cast was, they were at times upstaged by the bus. It twirls, spins, opens up, hangs over the front rows of the audience, serves as an anchor for a twenty foot long high-heeled shoe, and eventually every surface of it is revealed to be a video wall. If it sounds tacky, it is, but all in good fun. The audience ate it up.

Earlier in the day we had lunch at Jean Georges, one of our favorites, and New York’s best lunch deal. It was a novelty to simply walk downstairs from our room to go to the restaurant.

Then we went for a long walk in Central Park. I’d never really had a chance to explore before, and we climbed to the top of Belvedere Castle. It was fun, but hot, and we all needed showers when we got back to the room.

Our late dinner after the show was at db Bistro Moderne. So nice to be in a town where you can make an 11pm dinner reservation and not be keeping the waiters up late.

Eleven Madison Park

A few months ago Linda and I went to Eleven Madison Park with our friends Ron and Bev, and had the best meal of our lives. So it was with some trepidation that I made a reservation for a return visit during this trip. Everything was so perfect in that earlier meal that I was afraid we were set up for disappointment. But it was just as perfect on this visit. Both food and service were just as delightful.

The amazing thing about the food here is the number of discrete flavors identifiable in each and every dish, and then the way they come together into something greater than the individual elements. Through about twenty different offerings on the tasting menu, each course offered new tastes, as there were few repeats from our previous visit. This time we had the matching wine pairing, which was also a little bit of genius. Definitely our favorite restaurant anywhere.

Trump International Hotel

This is the first time we’ve tried this hotel, and it seems ideal. Our room is a spacious one-bedroom suite that overlooks Central Park. The view is really quite amazing. Best of all, the hotel restaurant is one of our favorites, Jean Georges. I had no idea they served breakfast, but we can’t pass that up, even though we’re also having lunch there tomorrow! The Amex platinum deal is great, with one night free, breakfast included, and late checkout. And it’s an easy walk to the theaters and restaurants we have planned, except for tonight’s outing to Eleven Madison Park.



Linda enjoys the delicious charcuterie board.

We finished our trip to New York with an authentic French Bistro lunch at Benoit. We’d spotted this place in our walks around the neighborhood of the hotel, and it looked just like a Paris bistro. So before catching our limo to the airport we walked over and enjoyed a great charcuterie plate and a melt-in-your-mouth roasted chicken, along with pomme frites, of course. It was only later that we found out why the food was so wonderful — it’s Alain Ducasse’s restaurant! Then it was back to the airport, and reality. Great trip.

Whole roast chicken and pomme frites. They brought this out whole for show, then returned it to the kitchen to carve.

Eleven Madison Park

A jam-packed day of culinary adventure in New York City!

The City’s Top Rated Zagat Restaurant — But Why?

Our day began with Lunch at Le Bernardin, the city’s top rated food according to Zagat, the only place rated 29/30. We’d been to Le Bernardin before, and didn’t like it, but Ron and Bev wanted to show us how good it could be. Indeed, we had a much better meal. The service and appetizers were wonderful. It still probably wouldn’t be a place I’d take the time to revisit, with so many other choices available. The fish isn’t remarkable enough on its own to draw me back. Linda described her entree as a dish well suited to a retirement home! The preparations just lack the extra layer of genius that transcends good and takes it to superlative (as we were later reminded at Eleven Madison Park, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

1986 Bordeaux Retrospective

Our next stop was the original reason for this trip: A 1986 Bordeaux Retrospective put on by Executive Wine Seminars in Tribeca. 39 attendees shared two bottles each of 13 different wines. We were interested to collect some ideas for our own Wine Syndicate events, but in this event actually turned out to be a bit less profession, formal and polished than we were expecting. Basically it was a couple of tipsy guys pouring wine, and a lot of people with opinions but very little sign of good palates. Still, it was interesting to have four first growths side by side, although the Talbot actually edged out the first growths in my notes:

Vieux Chateau Certan (Pomerol)(Parker 92)
Pine, black pepper, thyme, 88

Rausan-Segla (Margaux)(P96)
Tar, Smoked meat aftertaste, tight, 91

Pichon Lalande (Pauillac)(RP96)
Floral, balanced, structured, most fruit of the first four, 90

Cos d’Estournel (St Estephe)(RP95)
Perfume, chalky, tannic, anise, tight, 88

Ducru-Beaucaillou (St Julien)RP92
Tannic, mint, corky finish, flawed bottle, 90?

Graud-Larose (St Julien) (RP94)
Big, structured, long smokey finish, jammy, old style, 93

Leoville Las Cases (St Julien)(RP98)
Chewy, tight, mint, balanced, elegant, herbs, died quickly, 94

Talbot (St Julien)(RP96)
Coffee, balanced, scorched earth, toast, cranberries, 97

Haut-Brion (Graves) (RP93)
Chalk, gravel, chocolate, coffee, vanilla, mint, perfume, 96

Margaux (Margaux) (RP96)
Cheese, tight, 91

Lafite-Rothschild (Pauillac) (RP99)
Lead pencil, vanilla, 93

Mouton-Rothschild (Pauillac) (RP100)
Smoke, herbs, figs, tight, tannic, veggies, mint, 95

Climens (Barsac) (RP)
Apricot, low acid, pleasant, 90

Bottom line is that Parker really overrated the Lafite and underrated the Haut Brion (as usual). The only two of these wines I’d buy are the Talbot and the Haut Brion.

The Greatest Dinner of My Life

We finished this busy day with dinner at Eleven Madison Park. We’ve tried Michelin three star restaurants around the world, and dined at the kitchen tables of some very famous and talented chefs, so we’re probably a bit jaded as foodies. It was therefore a complete and delightful surprise to experience what we both agreed was the best meal of our lives!

A relaxed and friendly atmosphere, very professional service, and superb winelist and wine service all helped to make the evening special. But it was the food that stole the show. Course after course, every bite surprised and delighted. There wasn’t a weak entry in the lot, and we tried essentially everything the kitchen offered. At the middle of the meal we visited the kitchen for a demonstration of molecular gastronomy using liquid nitrogen, and then ate the result.

This list cannot capture the amazing flavors of every bite of this meal:

  • Halibut tea with nori lavash
  • Fluke sashimi and scallop sashimi, both with citrus
  • Goat cheese lollipops coated with beet dust
  • Sea urchin panna cotta
  • Smoked sturgeon sabayon
  • Fingerling potato with caviar
  • Foie gras terrine with pickled onion
  • Seared scallop with Valencia orange
  • Roasted cauliflower curry
  • Braise pork with peas and mint
  • Wagu beef with smoked potato puree
  • Egg cream
  • Chocolate with popcorn ice cream
  • Mignardises

Wow, just typing that list I can taste each one of those again!

Our sommelier, Rob Kihlstrom, provided superb advice. The wines:

Claude Jenet Champagne (comped by the restaurant)
Balanced, creamy, good food wine 92

1996 Nuits-Saint-Georges Meo-Camuzet Aux Boudots
Smoke, dried cherries, vanilla, leather, 95

2005 Reisling Auslese Schieferterrassen Heymann-Lowenstein
Minerals, pears, perfect balance, 96

1997 Clos de Tart
Tar, meaty, bacon, smoke, earthy, mint, anise, vanilla 95

1989 Hermitage Sorrel la Greal corked (2 bottles)
We gave up on this after two flawed bottles and changed to…

1989 Chateauneuf du Pape, Vieux Telegraph
Vanilla, cherries, chocolate, big, chewy, 93

1975 Leoville Barton
(a taste sent from Keith Edwards, who happened to be there the same night with Parlo, Russell and Nicole)
Classic old Bordeaux, 92

Guillon-Painturaud VSOP Cognac Grand Champagne (comped by the restaurant)
Pleasant, citrus, 92

We closed the place at 1am. What an amazing restaurant. We can’t wait to return!


Spiderman: Turn Off the Suck

When we first planned this trip to New York, I asked Ron if there were any Broadway shows he wanted to see, and he mentioned Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark. Having heard how awful the show was, and that it was by far the most expensive Broadway show ever produced, I admit to a morbid fascination to see just how bad it was. So we got tickets to see it. When we purchased them, American Express insisted on reading a warning that many purchasers had been unhappy with the show and that there would be no refunds. Not a good sign when you’re spending $300 a seat!

We knew the show had never officially “opened.” technically it is still in previews, the longest any show has ever remained so, and a sure sign of trouble. Nevertheless, it continues to be sold out. Since the day we bought the tickets there have been two other interesting developments: the director, Julie Taymor, was essentially fired, and they’ve announced the show will close to for a month or two to be reworked. In fact, today is its last day.

With all that going against it, I was expecting it to be bad, and I wasn’t disappointed. It might not be the worst Broadway show ever, but it’s in contention. If you factor in production cost, it’s a clear winner.

The main reason it sucks is the usual one: story. It seems as if they couldn’t bear to just retell Spiderman’s origin, so they layered two incomprehensible plotlines on top of it.

Incomprehensible plot line number 1: Four unidentified teens are attempting to come up with a Spiderman story that is essentially this show. The story is… a retelling of Spiderman’s origin, combined with incomprehensible plot line number 2.

Incomprehensible plot line number 2: Arachne is a mythical character who committed suicide and became an immortal spider. Now she is in love with Peter Parker and is creating imaginary versions of his past villains and convincing everyone on the planet that the world is being destroyed (or not) to convince Peter to be with her rather than Mary Jane. If that sounds like it makes no sense, it’s because it makes no sense. It is, however, a good excuse for having lots of people dressed as spiders dangling from cables.

The first half of Act 1 is so bad that the audience was giggling in embarrassment over how bad it was! I’ve never experienced that before.

The other huge problem with the show is the dull, repetitive and poor music by Bono and U2. There might be five halfway decent songs, and that’s being generous.

A lot of people have said they don’t know where the 70 or 80 million bucks went for this show, but I didn’t feel that way. There are tons of giant moving things: set pieces, video walls, ramps, lifts, hoists, plus a rigging system that can fly two people over the audience as they fight. It looks expensive.

The show has exactly two things going for it: those giant moving things, and the impressive arial work of the eight stuntmen dressed as Spiderman. I’ve seen a lot of over-audience flying, but this is truly impressive. It’s also the reason the audience applauds at the end, although there was no unanimous standing ovation, the first time in a while I’ve seen that.

If they can continue to pack the theater after they rework (and presumably officially “open”) they may, at $300, eventually pay back the investment, but this show can’t travel, which limits its revenues. If you take away the gimmicks that are clearly not portable, it would be unbearable.

The show sucks mainly because Julie Taymor, who co-wrote and directed, is a mask designer, not a writer or director. She won a Tony for directing Lion King, but that already had a story and a score, and she won the Tony because it was her idea to design cool masks and put them on top of characters’ heads instead of over their faces. That doesn’t make her a writer or director. Obviously.

So now that they’ve called in others to fix it, what will they do? Will they have the guts to discard the two incomprehensible plot lines and all but five songs? That seems unlikely. As a result, I’m betting that the Spectacular Spiderman will continue to suck, but perhaps just not so spectacularly.

Chez Josephine

After the always superb lunch at Jean Georges (perhaps my favorite restaurant in the world), we strolled down Broadway, which becomes a giant flea market closed to traffic on Saturdays. Then, in the evening, on the spur of the moment, we went to the revival of La Cage Aux Folles starring Kelsey Grammer. It was fun, as always, but I wasn’t sure it deserved its Tonys; I couldn’t help thinking that parts of the Trinity High School production had been better!

For dinner we walked to Hell’s Kitchen and had an nice French meal in the darkly romantic and jazzy Chez Josephine‘s, with live piano and trumpet jazz. Occasionally a patron would play a set; an elderly black woman really impressed with her sultry voice and lightning riffs.

Sunday morning our three-week adventure came to an end, with Dani winging her way back to Chicago and Linda and I headed back to Orlando.

Michelangelo Hotel

When we saw The Addams Family in Chicago during its test run, the songs were good, but the show was pretty poor. So poor we couldn’t imagine how it made it to Broadway (admittedly we saw it when its star, Nathan Lane was out sick). So, gluttons for punishment, we decided to see it on Broadway. I purchased tickets early enough that even though the theatre was sold out, we had front row seats.

From the first note it was clear that the entire show had been reworked. The first act was completely rewritten, with lame numbers cut, and an almost entirely new book. A new plot (one that actually made sense) had replaced much of the old, with The Addams Family now aware that they are strange, and attempting to be normal for one night (and failing miserably, of course). The songs mostly remained. The audience loved it, and certainly we loved the first act. Less work had been done on the second act, so the show only ended up being good, not great, but it was an amazing improvement. And Nathan Lane is indeed a comedic genius.

Afterward we went to our traditional post-theatre dinner at Sardi’s, which never changes.

I’m impressed with our hotel, The Michelangelo.

A large hallway connects the bedroom and living room.

It’s the nicest we’ve stayed at in the theatre district, with upscale furnishings in the lobby and rooms, and a very spacious one bedroom suite at a reasonable price. It’s just off 7th Avenue at 51st street, so an easy walk to all the theatres and to Columbus Circle for our lunch at Jean Georges.

New York

Just as the sun began to rise we entered New York harbor and a tug boat escorted us past the Statue of Liberty. By 7AM we were docked in Brooklyn. After clearing out of our cabin, we breakfasted in the dining room (for the first time) and then spent a couple of pleasant hours reading and waiting for our disembarkation time in the Skywalker Lounge on deck 16. Oddly, we had the place to ourselves, even though it afforded the best view in all of New York, from a movable high rise that would be there for only ten hours!

This is a photo taken with the iPhone 4 camera, as were about half the photos in this journal. What a terrific upgrade it is.


England, Ireland, Iceland, Greenland, New York 2010

By Land and Air and Sea

And so we set out for a three week adventure, first to London, then a peculiar repositioning cruise that will take us to odd places on the way back to New York. Our morning flight from Orlando left us a loooong layover in Atlanta, the price to be paid for free first class tickets on the red eye to London. After hanging out in the Delta lounge we head out over the Atlantic.

New York 2005

Dani’s Broadway Journal

Day 1, 7/9/05 Manhattan

The day mercifully didn’t start out at the crack of dawn. We had an 11:35 direct flight to New York. The flight was rescheduled to 11:20 so we were a little worried about being late, but upon arriving at the airport we learned that due to the outer bands of Hurricane Denis the flight had been delayed to 11:40 so it didn’t really matter.

Instead of flying Delta like we normally do we tried their new commuter airline Song. It was wonderful, there are touch screens in the seats to play with that offer 24 TV channels, games, movies, and a trivia game for all the passengers. Song also offers real food for lunch. Unfortunately also due to Denis there was a lot of mild turbulence so the food couldn’t be served until the end and we were in the back of the plane but C’est la vie.

Mom and Dad were playing the trivia game and losing terribly but not for lack of trying, or so I’m told. Every time they tried to hit one answer the plane would rock and they would miss the answer they had intended. Mom gave up after one round but Dad hung in there for the second half of the flight and won the game 3 seconds before we arrived at our New York terminal.

So that we wouldn’t have to mess with finding a cab we had asked the hotel to send a car for us once we arrived. The city is a little like Los Angeles only cleaner, safer and with less graffiti. The city is so TALL!!! It’s much taller than LA. As we were driving from JFK towards the city but hadn’t gone through the tunnel yet it looked a lot like I expected it to. Some twenty or thirty story buildings mixed in with some smaller ones, billboards for upcoming Broadway shows, and very dirty. But once we got onto Manhattan itself the city was beautiful. It was very clean by comparison and the buildings are so TALL!!! I think I’m in love with this city. Even though there are no patches of grass the city is much greener than I expected. A lot of the major streets have fairly large (fifteen or twenty foot) trees planted along them. It is a beautiful city.

We are staying at the Waldorf Towers, in the Presidential Suite no less. Well, that’s not exactly true. We’re staying in a “sub-Suite” of the Presidential Suite. There is a main door to the Presidential Suite but there is also another door that can be closed to make the whole wing part of the Suite. It’s a very nice room with twelve-foot ceilings and tasteful decorations. There is one king-sized bed and a rollaway that fits nicely in the corner.

We were offered a tour of the Presidential Suite after our luggage arrived. It is to say the least large, not including its two sub-Suites. Some of the more famous patrons of the Suite include:

  • Every President of the US (Since 1931)
  • Queen Elizabeth II, England
  • King Hussein, Jordan
  • King Saud, Saudi Arabia
  • General Charles de Gaulle, France
  • Chairman Nikita Krushchev, Soviet Union
  • Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Israel
  • Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Israel
  • Premier Giulio Andreotti, Italy
  • President Valery Giscard D’Estaing, France
  • Emperor and Empress Hirohito, Japan
  • King Juan Carlos I, Spain
  • President Nicolae Ceausesch, Romania
  • King Olav V, Norway
  • King Faisal, Saudi Arabia
  • Mr. and Mrs. and Miss Alcorn, USA

Well okay, I made the last one up, but still. It’s pretty impressive.

Because we hadn’t eaten all day at 3:30 we decided to have a very late lunch. Given our disheveled appearance after 2 hours on a plane we elected to try the only restaurant in the hotel that would permit our (okay, my) blasphemous jeans to enter their premises, Oscar’s.

Big mistake. The food was okay but our waiter (his name tag actually said “bus boy”) Victor seemed to have been temporally slowed down to some degree. After sitting at our table for, oh, about half an hour he walked past and caught Dad’s meaningful glare and said with great surprise, “Oh, you’re ready to order now?”

The meal proceeded on along those lines until after 5:30. The people seated next to us, at his only other table, scarily enough, got up and left without signing their check, to our great amusement.

The thing that strikes me about New York is how expensive everything is. All I had was a hamburger and fries (the fries didn’t actually come with the hamburger, we ordered them separately). It cost 21 dollars!! After such a LATE lunch we didn’t see the point in dinner so we retired early to our room for a quiet evening.

Day 2, 7/10/05 Lion King

Dad and I ventured down to the 26th floor this morning for a continental breakfast. They had some good croissants (not La Duree, but hey) and some chocolate croissants filled with dark chocolate, good enough that a second one found its way onto my plate. We didn’t have too much time before lunch so we just went back up to the room.

Lunch was at a Parisian brasserie/bakery called Balthazar. It was a recommendation of Ron Siegel’s. Initially when we went in I was skeptical. There was not a soft surface in the place, so it echoed terribly. It was difficult to tell if it was old or just trying to look old. It had huge mirrors on all the walls that looked to be made out of a collection of old mirrors. None of them matched. I had the soup of the day, chilled carrot. It was delicious. Instantly all my skepticism evaporated. Mom had what she called “The best fois gras of my life” but I thought it was terrible. For our main course Dad and I had smoked salmon and Mom had beef stroganoff. The only weird thing about the whole meal was my coke; it tasted more like a drainage treatment solution than a fizzy beverage, but we had plenty of San Pelegrino. Dessert was a chocolate mousse that was to die for.

We had arrived early for lunch so we were done by 1:00. The Lion King tickets weren’t until 3:00 so we decided to stroll around the campus of NYU witch was only a block away. It was odd, without being told it was a campus I never would have guessed. It just seems like part of the city.

Mom had tried to find a pair of sunglasses that weren’t $65 at the hotel and failed, so she went into a grocery store at the campus. It was HOT out so Dad and I decided to check out the frozen food for a while. The only hint that we were in a college town was the fact that everything in the store was teenager sized. Mom also found some nice looking cheap sunglasses too.

After that it was time to head to the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway to see Disney’s The Lion King. When I was nine we saw Lion King in Toronto but this was going to be my first “real” Broadway experience. I was pretty calm and collected while we waited outside the theater doors but about ten minuets before they opened the excitement bubbled to the surface. At long last the doors opened and I got my first look at a real theater. It was beautiful. We had the best seats in the house: first row, center on the mezzanine. The wide sweeping ceilings had beautiful paintings and gilt, the seats were made of green velvet. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. When the lights finally dimmed and the curtain rose I think I was the happiest person on the continent.

The show was even better than I remembered. I had forgotten how good it was. The young Simba and Nala were exceptional! It was such a great show. There wasn’t an inch of the stage that didn’t do something. There were at least three trapdoors and a staircase (Pride Rock) would rise in and out of the floor. The back half of the stage would raise up to about a 25-degree angle. They had plants that would inflate out of the floor and steam jets too. It was amazing. The lighting was superb, too, and the costumes. There was one cheetah that was simply breathtaking. The way the head moved it really looked like a cheetah. It was incredible.

After the show we bough a program and a shirt that had a painting of Scar’s mask that says, “I’m surrounded by idiots”.

We had already wandered around Times Square so we just walked back to the hotel. Dad had been sick all through the last week so he was pretty tired. Instead of going out we had dinner at the Japanese place in the hotel. It was good, I had Chicken Teriyaki and a really weird dessert. It was called “White Chocolate Ice Berg Floating on Deep Blue Ocean”, no I’m not kidding. The ocean wasn’t very deep blue, it appeared to be Lime Jell-O with white chocolate mixed in. It was served in a dark blue bowl with a long curved stem that split into three. It should have been on Star Trek. The only thing normal about it was the iceberg (white chocolate mouse).

All in all it was a very good day.

Day 3, 7/11/05 Sightseeing

Again Dad and I had a continental breakfast. Today was the only day we didn’t have a play so it was our sightseeing day. We all went down to the lobby and asked the concierge to recommend a tour. We ended up booking a two-hour boat trip that did a complete circle around Manhattan Island. It didn’t leave until 1:30 so we had some time for lunch. We wandered around for a while until we came to a Houston’s. It was very good. Mom and Dad ordered half-pound burgers. I, opting for something lighter, ordered a French dip sandwich au jus. Unfortunately I didn’t realize it was covered in mayonnaise. Dad and I switched orders and he says it was the best French diphe’s ever had. I’m happy for him.

We didn’t realize how much the previous day’s activities had taken out of Dad. He ended up opting out of our planned sightseeing for a quiet day in the room. Mom and I caught a cab at the front of the hotel with plenty of time. The cab driver got to the corner of our hotel, made a right turn and was pulled over by a cop. Apparently the road we were on was a thru fare on weekdays and we had made an illegal turn. The cops wanting to thoroughly assert their authority over him made us wait, and wait and wait. After about ten minuets with no sign of the cops, Mom decided to bail on our poor cab driver. Having not even made it past our hotel we simply walked through another door, through the lobby and out the front again. A very confused looking bellman hailed us another cab. Once we got in and told him we wanted pier 78 and had to be there in 15 minutes. Nearing the corner of our hotel cab driver number two looked like he was about to make the same turn our last poor driver made. Mom quickly explained the fate of our last driver and he said “Oh yeah, I fuggot abou’ tha’. ” Surveying the traffic he asked me where the cops were. I told him they had just gotten out of their car and were walking towards our poor cab driver. He located a very large delivery truck and hid behind it while making the same illegal turn.

Now unfortunately traffic was bumper to bumper. I said that our boat left at 1:30, well, we arrived and 1:28. We ran down the pier and thrust our tickets at the man. He said, “Oh you need boarding passes to get on. ” I ran to the ticket office line where he had said to get them and encountered a man in front of me who had no idea what he wanted. As I stood in line for five minuets trying to be patient with the absolute moron in front of me I was sure that the boat was going to leave without us. Finally he left and I obtained boarding passes. As Mom and I stepped onto the boat they shoved off. Phew!

It was sort of funny: our guide’s name on the boat tour was Noah.

He was very personable and cracked a lot of jokes, he also knew a LOT about New York. He made a lot of potentially dull information very interesting.

Because it was Cole’s birthday today I used my new cell phone to call her. We suffered from a bad connection and I had to redial her SIX TIMES!!

Dad was still pretty pooped when we got back to the hotel. We decided to cancel our dinner plans and have it at the Bull and Bear downstairs. It was delicious. I had a Queen cut of Prime Rib with garlic-mashed potatoes. Mom had a strip steak and Dad had Surf and Turf with some of the best lobster I’ve ever tasted. Desert was to die for. It was a real New York Cheesecake drizzled with strawberry sauce.

Another great day.

Day 4, 7/12/05 Spamalot

Yesterday the maid had accidentally turned on our alarm, it went off at 6:30. So Dad, planning ahead laszt night, turned the alarm to 10:00 instead, because we couldn’t figure how to turn it off. Still, it woke us up.

The continental breakfast is only served until 10:00 but there wasn’t much point anyway because we had a 12:00 lunch reservation at Jean Georges. Instead of having a normal menu it has a tasting menu at lunch so you pick two or three things to try. They looked so good we decided to try three. Amazingly, the courses were only $12 each.

This was the best meal I think any of us has ever had. Every dish was an explosion of flavor. My favorite was Dad’s scallop dish. Mom and Dad liked his sea bass. The meal was too good to express with words. There was a REAL cheese tray. Mom couldn’t remember the last time she had a real one. There were about twenty different cheeses to choose from. She was in heaven. I personally thought they stunk (well they did!).

Dessert was the most amazing part for Mom and I. It was a Jean Georges’ specialty, marshmallows, coffee, mint or vanilla. They were not exactly the consistency of a normal marshmallow they were a little softer. Dad turned his nose up but we thought they were great.

We returned to the hotel for a quiet afternoon.

At 6:30 we left the hotel headed for Spamalot, the hottest ticket on Broadway right now. I wasn’t as thrilled about it as I am about Wicked or I was about Lion King because it’s based on Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail. Dad is the real Monty Python fan but Mom likes it okay, too.

Spamalot was playing in the Schubert Theater. The show stars Tim Curry as King Arthur, David Hyde Pierce (Niles from Frasier) as Gallahad, and Hank Azaria (voice of Homer Simpson) as Lancelot.

We had pretty good seats as far as location goes, they were second row balcony, but the seats were so uncomfortable!!! There was no leg room. And normally when someone tells you there was no leg room it means they only had a couple of inches between their knees and the seat in front of them but in this case “no leg room” means that my shins were digging into the seat in front of me. I bruised the right one from prolonged pressure. There were literally only seven inches between the seat and the one in front of it.

It turned out that the show was GREAT. We all loved it. We were all laughing so hard!! The cast was the original Broadway cast and you could tell, they had the audience in the palms of their hands. The show was just so funny. They had their timing down to a science. It was truly amazing that a line as simple as “Well, I guess we’d better go and find some Jews” could bring the house down.

Sarah Ramirez was incredible as the Lady of the Lake. Her range was amazing; there was no style she couldn’t sing in. She also had this really funny number called “The Diva’s Lament” in the middle of the 2nd act (she doesn’t have much to do in the 2nd act). In it she asks the audience “what happened to my part?”. It ends with her yelling for someone to call her agent. After haughtily finishing and stalking off stage the action continues as though uninterrupted. Reading her bio I discovered that among one of her less prodigious roles was the cashier in “You’ve Got Mail”.

Spamalot was the funniest show we’ve seen!!!

After purchasing a “Fechez la Vache” t-shirt, a pair of coconuts, a program and a killer rabbit puppet, we crossed the street and had dinner at an after Broadway standard, Sardi’s.

It was really good. I had Shrimp Sardi’s and Chicken. Mom and Dad both had cannelloni. The walls were lined with caricatures of famous Broadway stars. It was a really neat place. We all had a really good time.

Day 5, 7/13/05 Wicked

We woke up really late today (we didn’t start dinner until 10:00 last night). We elected to cancel our lunch reservation at the trendy La Bernardin and go to a tourist standard, Tavern on the Green.

Tavern on the Green has lots and lots of dining rooms. There is a hallway covered in stained glass and mirrors that curves around and eventually leads to a conveniently placed gift shop and several of the dining rooms. The one we ate in was pretty, with a view of the garden. It looked like we were eating inside an Easter egg. The colors were all pale yellow, pink, and blue. There were at least six miss-matched chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. It was a nice meal.

Tavern on the Green is located in Central Park. We hadn’t intended to stay afterwards but there were carriage rides launching from outside the restaurant. We took a 45-minute ride around the park. We had a nice Irish driver and a horse named Jimmy. He told us all about Central Park and he drove us past the statue of Balto, the boat launching station (kayaks), and the rows of famous writer statues.

Jimmy had a very plodding gait until we were about two minutes from his stable. Then he didn’t understand why a simple red light ought to keep him from his oats. It was fun. The carriage was white with red velvet seats.

Central Park is nice, much nicer than I imagined. The trees are big, beautiful and green. It was quite a shock to see green after so much gray. I felt really safe while we were going around, and it didn’t have anything to do with the two-ton horse attached to our carriage. There are also some really scenic places in Central Park by the waterways. It was a really enjoyable afternoon.

We went back to the hotel around 4:30 to let Dad rest until Wicked. All afternoon I had been so excited I could barely sit still. After all, I have been waiting for more than 6 months to see this show. Finally at 6:30 I couldn’t take it anymore and started getting ready to go out.

It’s funny, no one seems to take Broadway seriously anymore. Everybody wants to go, but nobody wants to dress up for it. Admittedly Lion King is a kids’ show and we were going to a Sunday matinee but the dress for Spamalot was pathetic.

Well, even if no one else dresses up for Broadway, Wicked was my favorite show and I was going to look good for it. I silently kicked myself for forgetting my green blouse (get it?) but got dressed in a blue blouse, long black skirt, and black vest. The show was at 8:00 so we wanted to leave the hotel at 7:00 to allow plenty of time.

We encountered a problem downstairs. The theater was only eight blocks away but eight blocks in high heals seems like eighty, so we were going to take a cab, as were twelve other couples. At this point I started to panic, I was NOT going to miss the opening of Wicked. But luck was in our favor, a limo driver capitalizing on the lack of cabs in the vicinity offered to take us the eight blocks for $45 + tip. Okay, whatever, just get us there in time for the show.

It ended up being a good thing because, fishing for more business, he offered to pick us up from the hotel the next morning for our flight. We arrived at the theater with plenty of time to spare.

Our seats were REALLY GOOD!!! Third row, center section. OH MY GOD!!! We sat down and I was in shock. I knew we had good seats but this was unbelievable. This theater was more modern than the other theaters we’d been in. This one felt newer, the seats were wide with lots of leg room and it was a lot bigger.

The other shows’ sets somewhat extended into the theaters, but this one was just incredible. The whole proscenium was covered with gears. Some of the gears were decorative but others actually worked. There were also dead vines over everything. Elaborate sets on each side of the stage incorporated balconies and staircases. A huge tin dragon hung above the arch of the stage, animated by cables!! 

Finally the show started, and WOW!! This was no longer the Broadway cast, but everyone was so good!! The lead was a look alike for Idina Menzel the original Elphaba. She sounded like her, and she looked just like her.

After listening to the music for six months I was still blown away by all the story that you can’t necessarily get from the music. It was so cool to see all of the acting that went into the songs that made them so great. All of the characters were so REAL. I have seen some great theater but if the best thing I ever saw was a 10 this was an 11. All of the talent that went into the show was just so good.

The number that really surprised me was “No Good Deed. ” On the CD it is a really good song, but live it stopped the show.

Because of where our seats were it felt like we were getting a private show for the first five rows of the audience. All of the major action of the show took place on the right side of the stage, literally ten feet in front of us. TEN FEET!! It was like they were telling this story to us. You could see all of their facial expressions and it was just so cool.

There were two wings of the stage that came out on either side of the orchestra pit and most of the major action happened on that wing right in front of us. I have never had an experience quite like this.

It was just a phenomenal show. I loved every minute of it. At the end of the show we would all have happily gone back in and watched it again.

After the show was over we loaded up on souvenirs, a Wicked shirt that says “Defy Gravity” on the back, a coffee cup, a program, a baseball hat, and a jacket.

My parents were hungry after the show so we went to the Stage Deli (recommended by Thomas) and they had sandwiches larger than their heads. I was too excited to eat.

All in all this has been the best trip EVER!!!