Friday, August 15, 2014

From The Highline to Justin Timberlake was "Once" "Beautiful"


Day One (Sunday)

Well, after returning from NYC at the end of June, another business travel opportunity came about which required me to come back sooner than expected. To those of you who followed my journey last month, I brought Nancy at the time, along with Ethan and Madison.
I knew that I’d be dreading this next visit since I’d be missing them. So in preparation for the trip, I kept hinting to Nancy to come and join me. Unlike the visit back in June where I had to stay in New Jersey due to business site visits in the area, this latest trip focused on my site visit in NY itself. Therefore, less hassle with all the transportation that’s needed to get us from NY to NJ. It wasn’t until 3 days before my scheduled departure when Nancy finally decided to join me, and it all worked out with her work schedule.
As always, I like taking the red eye flight from Los Angeles to New York. And that’s exactly what we did. We left LA around 9pm, and arrived in NY at 5am (local time). We decided take a cab from JFK to Midtown West. For the next 5 days, the Marriott Manhattan/Chelsea was going to be our home. As you can imagine, we got to our hotel very early in the morning around 6am. Since it was that early, there was no available room for us to use at that time. We expected that. We rested for a bit in the lobby, took care of a few online activities, and started our day around 7am. Again, this, to me, is the reason why I like flying the red eye. I can get my day started early.
Here are the highlights:
Bagel Maven
Just a few short minutes from the hotel is Bagel Maven. We didn’t want to eat a heavy breakfast, so we opted to share a toasted poppy seed bagel with lox, walnut raisin cream cheese, red onions, and tomatoes. The cream cheese gave a nice hint of sweetness to this bagel. I like trying a new bagel place whenever I visit the city. While this may not be the best bagel I’ve had, it suited us just fine.
A not-so-Beautiful-time...almost Beautiful
To those who remember my last Trip Report, we’re big theatre fans and one of the shows we’ve been meaning to see is Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. So again, for this visit, since we didn’t need to do any of the touristy things, we decided to head to West 43rd St and line-up for the rush. The box office was scheduled to open at 12 noon, and when we got there at  9am, we were 4th in line. As the hours progressed, the line grew longer – about 75 to 100 ft. deep. By the time we reached the last 45 minutes before the box office opened, we noticed “other” people cut in front of us, thus hurting our chances.
There were 3 of them who gladly moved back to their rightful position, while the other 2 or 3 insisted they were part of the earlier group. By the time Box Office opened, everyone in front of us got tickets to Beautiful (Standing Room Only). When it was our turn to purchase tickets, there was only 1 (one) SRO ticket ($40) and the next choice was to buy a premium seat for $299. We needed 2 tickets and did not want to buy one and have the other person watch something else. Nancy and I wanted to watch the show together. At this point, there was nothing else we could do other than go with our Plan B – join the rush or lotteries for the other shows. It was upsetting, but at that point, what else could we have done....so Plan B it was!!!
Other Lottery/Rush Attempts
We headed over to If/Then (starring Idina Menzel) for a chance at their lottery, however, our names didn’t get picked, but we had an option to buy $40 full view orchestra seats. I had already watched If/Then back in the winter time, but not Nancy. So back to Plan B or C, she asked me to check the tickets for Once (fortunately the theatre was just 1 block away). When I got there, they were selling discounted rush seats (side orchestra) and we decided to go with Once so it’s a “new” show for both of us. Yes!!! We watched Once, and enjoyed the simplicity of the show. It was not the typical Broadway flashy show, but if focused more on the songs, the characters and the story.
Prior to seeing Once, we had over an hour to kill and we headed over to Hell’s Kitchen. I remember Lea wrote about this restaurant during her
most recent trip to
NY, so we went ahead and gave it a try. We ate the most fabulous Avocado Massaman Curry with chicken, potatoes, onions. It was soooo good, flavorful, perfect blend of Thai spices. The portions were generous, it was big enough for us to share….I’ll definitely be back.
Chelsea Market
After watching Once, the only other show that got us interested was Hedwig (with NPH aka Neil Patrick Harris), but the lottery for that show was at 5pm, and Once ended at 5:20, so there was no way we would’ve made it to Hedwig. Instead we decided to take the train to 14th Street, and walked over to Chelsea Market. I've read so much about this market, but I’ve never been, and what a place. We enjoyed walking around, and noticed Amy’s Bread. We saw this over at Hell’s Kitchen, wanted to try one of the cakes, but decided to wait until later. And now voila, there was an Amy’s Bread at Chelsea Market so we listened to the call. We ordered the Monkey Cake with cream cheese icing, pineapple, bananas, and pecans….yum…not too sweet on the icing, and cake was so moist. I’ll be back and try the carrot cake.



Artichoke Basille’s Pizza
                                                                         Another reason why I wanted to go near the Chelsea Market was because of Artichoke Basille’s Pizza (located just outside of the market). This joint is always a part of the top pizzas in NY so I just had to check it out. We ordered 3 slices…crab, margherita, and artichoke of course. I wouldn’t say that the pizza was bad, but I guess when I compare it to DiFara Pizza in Brooklyn, Artichoke Basille’s didn’t even stand a chance. I was underwhelmed with crab meat pizza, the artichoke pizza was quite saucy. I think the classic margherita worked just fine. Will I visit again? Probably not. Sorry. (as you can see, I didn't even take a picture)

Walking off some of the food crawl calories - The Highline






Well the other reason why I wanted to venture out towards Chelsea Market was because of its proximity to The Highline. The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues.This was another first for me and Nancy. While we didn’t walk the entire Highline, we walked from 14th Street all the way down to Gansevoort (Meatpacking District). While it may not be the longest walk, I had to give ourselves some credit. After all, we’ve been exploring the city after coming straight from the airport, and we flew all-night. After making it to Gansevoort, we decided it was time to go back to our hotel and get our much needed rest.
That was our Day One.


Day Two (Monday)

Nancy in the city

It was a work day for me today so all the exploration took place tonight after work. Nancy did her exploration of the city on her own we decided to meet in Greenwich Village. She actually had a late start since she didn't have to get up early. She paced herself and enjoyed the city on her own. For lunch, she went to Ramen Thukpa as recommended by a local blogger....we love ramen.

Molly’s Cupcakes
Directly after work, we planned on meeting up at Greenwich Village. I walked down on Bleecker Street towards Molly’s Cupcakes. I was soooooooglad to see Nancy. She survived in the city on her own this afternoon. We ordered a couple of cupcakes, Mango Cupcake and Crème Brulee cupcake. We enjoyed the cupcakes; the filling and icing were both very delicious. Another interesting thing about Molly’s Cupcakes, instead of barstools, there were 5 swings…yes, swings like the ones you’d see at a park. I thought that was pretty cool. (Picture credit goes to Lauren Loves to Eat)
What to watch?
Well, since we weren’t that interested to watch the handful of shows playing on Mondays, we had a few choices. One of them was going back to Bryant Park’s Summer Movie Night, and tonight, they showed National Lampoon’s Summer Vacation. I remember watching this when I was growing up. However, as much as it would’ve been nice to go back to Bryant Park (an experience we had last month), I wanted us to do something different. As luck would have it, there was another show!
Broadway Sings Justin Timberlake (with link to videos)
I learned about this show over 2 weeks prior to my trip, and it happened to coincide with my trip. I consider myself a fan of JT, not sure if I’m a huge fan, but definitely one who likes most of his songs, even back when he was with ‘Nsync. Well tonight we purchased 2 tickets to Broadway Sings Justin Timberlake at Le Poisson Rouge in Greenwich Village. We had an option to buy Standing Room Only tickets, but we decided to purchase 2 seats with 2 minimum order (food and/or drinks). The show was scheduled to start at 8pm, and by 7pm, we lined up and were let in shortly after 7pm.
For dinner we ordered Truffle Mac and Cheese and Nachos….nothing so adventurous, but surprisingly, the mac n cheese was heavenly. The Nachos….uhmmmm….well, since I’m a spoiled Californian with access to exceptional Mexican food, the nachos was not worth raving about….it was just okay. 
The crowd started to fill up the venue, and man, were we glad to be sitting. There were probably 15 songs, and the highlights for me were their versions of Take Back the Night, Suit and Tie, Sexy Back, Not a Bad Thing, Senorita. Gone, My Love, and a 10-minute ‘Nsync medley. It was amazing! There were 2 great stars onstage, Lena Hall from Hedwig and Andy Mientus from Les Miserables. Nancy also had pictures taken with them directly after.
This show was a thrill, it was different than the typical Broadway show. It was entertaining especially if you’re familiar with JT’s music. I’m so glad we went tonight. I didn’t realize how much of a JT fan I was until I listenedd to the songs this evening. Long live, JT! Here's are links to a few of the videos I took. Enjoy! 'NSync Medley Suit and Tie Not a Bad Thing  Gone Take Back the Night My Love It's Gonna Be Me
Saved room for dessert
Directly after the show, we headed over to Spring Street (Nolita area, I think), and had rice pudding from Rice to Riches. We shared 3 different flavors….rum raisin with mixed nuts, tiramisu, and rocky road. I enjoyed rum raisin the best!!! Although it was rice, it didn’t feel heavy. It felt good to cap off our evening with this yummy dessert.
That's Day Two :-)
Day Three (Tuesday)
This has got to be one of the most exciting days thus far from this trip and I’ll tell you why:
The early bird catches the Beautiful worm
As you may recall during our Day One, we went to rush for tickets to watch Beautiful - The Carole King Musical, but were ripped off because there were people who cut in front of the line. Totally not cool….but we obviously learned our lesson. So the night before, Nancy decided that she needed to make sure she’s at the theatre very early to grab one of the earlier rush tickets. I couldn’t join her since I had to be in Brooklyn during the day. So on Tuesday morning, we did wake up at the same time, left the hotel around 7am, and she headed straight to W. 43rd St to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre where Beautiful was playing. By 7:05am, (yes 7:05am), she sent me a text message that she was the FIRST IN LINE. Yes, that means there’s no arguing with the first person in line!!!! It didn’t take long after that (maybe 15 minutes) when a family of 4 joined the rush line. By 9am, there were 12 people behind her in line. The box office was scheduled to open at 10am, and YES, we got 2 tickets to Beautiful. It was for $40, Standing Room Only, otherwise, the other choice was to purchase $300 premium seats (ouch)! What the heck??? We’re going to watch BEAUTIFUL!!!!
Before Beautiful
I came straight from work and we decided to get a quick bite to eat at W. 53rd Street for The Halal Guys. It never fails to deliver. We were both hungry and ordered 2 separate plates (Chicken over rice, and Gyro with Chicken over rice). At first we thought it was a good decision since we were both starved….but, we should’ve known better…they served very generous portions for $6. We ended up finishing ½ of our plates which we planned to take back to the hotel with us.





An Extraordinary BEAUTIFUL Show 
We have seen many, and we mean many Broadway shows. Some are obviously more excellent than others. However, we haven’t had this major drive to watch a show until we saw Jessie Mueller and Carole King perform live at the Tony’s. We knew we just had to catch that show. First of all….to the inquiring minds, Beautiful is one of the hottest tickets on Broadway. When I learned that Nancy was coming with with me to NY, the regular priced tickets were sold out. Your choices are limited: buy highly marked up tickets from scalpers (no, thank you), or try and get rush tickets. They only give out 8 Standing Room Only tickets, meaning if you go to the rush line, and the 1st 4 people are buying 2 SRO tickets each, then you’ll have an idea of what tickets you may or may not get.
Beautiful bald man  :-)
The SRO section is located at the very top, rear mezzanine, while it was all the way at the top, it was fine. The Sondheim Theatre is a new theatre, and you get a pretty good angle looking down from that section. Because it’s SRO, your only other chance to “sitting” is if no one shows up in any of the sections. But the chances are soooo slim. The show was sold out. There is no denying that we wanted to sit but heck, we’re finally watching Beautiful.

As the show progressed, the latecomers occupied any empty seat, so there was no chance for us to grab any empty seat in the Mezzanine Section. We have no idea what seats were empty in the orchestra section since we weren’t in that section.
A Beautiful Reward
At the end of Act One, one of the usherettes came to see us and said, I have good news for you. She gave us a piece of paper. We were given ORCHESTRA SEATS for Act Two. Turned out that there were no-shows in the orchestra section!!! So there, we ended sitting in a $300 section during Act Two!!!! Thank you, Stephen Sondheim theatre staff!!!!


Stage Door with a Tony Award Winner for Best Actress
Directly after the show, we went to the Stage Door and met the principal cast players. We enjoyed Jessie Mueller’s heartfelt performance, and her portrayal as Carole King!!! Loved her voice that we just had to come and meet her. We were able to talk to her and take pictures with her….the Best Actress Tony Winner!!!















A Beautiful Late-night Dinner
We left the stage door sometime around 10pm and decided to head back close to our hotel near Herald Square. We went to Kunjip restaurant and had some great Korean Bulgogi Bibimbap and Soon Tofu….aaaaahhhh all’s well today!!!
That's Day 3, a beautiful day 3 it was.






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