New York and Holyoke

It was a weekend that started a day early. Since we were both taking Friday off, it was easier to say yes to a happy hour with Jill’s coworkers Thursday night (the fact that it was held at the Dogfish Head Alehouse had nothing to do with it). Jill wanted to do dinner there, and I didn’t disagree. I had the burger my coworkers had raved about (it was pretty tasty) while Jill had a pizza (good), but there was some disappointment – they were out of their Punkin Ale. So Jill had the Pangea and I had the Chicory Stout, both fine choices.

Friday morning we took Illa to the kennel, then drove into the city and parked at Union Station. We got breakfast from Au Bon Pain, then got on the train. A dependable 3 hour trip later, we were at Penn Station in NYC. The weather was nice, I even regretted wearing my jacket (it would be required later). We checked into the Carlton (got a great deal) then relaxed for a while.

We headed out early as the show was early, got to Craftbar right on time for our 4:30 reservation. And before you ask, yes it is one of the places owned by the chef who’s on Top Chef, but I didn’t know that before Jill informed, just liked the reviews and needed something in walking distance. But it was a good choice.

Jill had the Pecorino-Stuffed Risotto Balls to start, basically the best cheese sticks ever. I also enjoyed my Confit Chicken Wings, a very different (but tasty) take on Buffalo Wings. We shared the Wild Arugula, Lemon Vinaigrette, Grana Padano, and Pine Nuts salad, the vinaigrette nicely offsetting the bitterness of the greens, then Jill had the Confit Pork Shoulder, Tomato Molasses, Turnip Slaw, a spin on an Asian lettuce wrap that I will be stealing for a recipe soon. My pan-fried Organic Chicken, Collard Greens, and pickled Watermelon wasn’t quite as good, but the chicken was very juicy. I had just enough room for some caramel ice cream for dessert, hit the spot.

I had told Jill we could cab or take the subway to Madison Square Garden, but she’d seen some vendors next to Madison Square Park on our walk to the restaurant, so we walked up to check them out (ironically the park is nowhere close to the current location of Madison Square Garden). Jill didn’t find anything she wanted there, but further up the street at Cheap Jack’s as the hipsters were searching for Halloween costumes she found a clutch purse she liked, for much less than she thought.

We got to MSG with plenty of time, looked around the nearby Borders before heading in. I think I’ll give the show it’s own entry, so look for that tomorrow, but the Twitter length review is it was a good concert, but not as good as the first night and maybe out of contention for the top 5 concerts of the year (it will make the top 10 without a problem, though). Afterwards we had a nightcap at Seven, then headed back to the room.

Saturday morning we were up bright and early for our train north. We got into Springfield, CT a little later than planned (I hadn’t realized that switching trains meant the time on my email receipt was only for the first train), but got to Holyoke in the early afternoon. Jill’s sister Melissa took her kids off to lunch, then Jill and I and her other sister Robin headed over to Northampton to do the same. Robin wanted to try a pizza place, so we parked and put money in the meter only to discover the place wasn’t open yet. We walked down the street and settled on a return trip to the Northampton Brewery. I had a pizza and Jill had a Reuben, and she finally got her pumpkin beer (I went with a sampler again, never a bad decision there).

After we got back, the nephews and the older niece got dressed in costumes and went out trick or treating, we stayed behind with Robin and Jill’s mom and grandmom to hand out candy and otherwise amuse ourselves. After the kids came back they went home to do some more looking for candy near their house. We went inside and watched some of the Food Network’s spooky cake challenges and Jill’s mom made tuna salad sandwiches (a grilled cheese for me). I was interested in going to Easthampton for the We’re About 9 show there, but Jill was exhausted and I had to admit to being pretty tired myself, not up to heading over there myself, so we called it a night (I think we went to bed before they would have went on anyway).

Turning the clock back couldn’t have come at a better time, I slept like a rock for quite a while, and still got up at 7. We needed to as we were on the road shortly after 8 to Melissa’s place in CT for breakfast. And we got the works, scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausage, bacon, hash browns and cinnamon rolls. I immediately had to work that off as my nephew Jake took me on a long bike ride around the neighborhood. We barely had time for pictures before it was time for me to leave for the airport.

The flight was fine, no problems. The reason we’d parked at Union Station was so it would be easier for me to get there from BWI and pick up Illa from the kennel before it closed at 4. But looking at the schedules at the airport it looked like making the connections wouldn’t be easy. I took a middle seat by choice (in the front row), and thanks to a slightly early arrival was able to get the earlier bus to the Metro, got to Union Station by 3 and picked up Illa right before they closed.

He was happy to be home, had some runaround and a walk in the woods, then zonked out. I sauteed spinach and made mashed potatoes with blue cheese to accompany some leftover rotisserie chicken, then cleaned up the dining room and caught up on some TV before going online.