3 Days in NYC: TV Shows, Musicals and Food

We started the weekend on Friday night with a mini-version of Saturday: awful transit followed by an entertaining time. Rain and Friday nights aren’t a good mix for the DMV area, it took a while to grt to the Birchmere. Once were there, we met up with our friends the Fureys, then settled in for an evening of comedy. It was the usual line up of Paul and Storm opening up for JoCo, always good and better when Paul and Storm came out to help out on JoCo’s songs. We left a bit early as it was an early morning wakeup the next day.

Stuart did us a favor Saturday morning and dropped us at the Park and Ride, then we waited for the 5A, which was running late. We gave up when we saw it going the opposite direction (meaning a good 20 minutes until it was headed back) and caught the 950, then two subway lines to Union Station. We still managed to get there on time, but the train didn’t, left about 20 minutes late. We took the train to New York 3 times last year, and each time the experience was perfect. Saturday was the exception, as the late start was just a premonition. Twice we had to stop for several minutes while they checked things, then the ceiling above Jill started leaking, and when she moved across the aisle that was leaking too. We stopped in Newark already close to an hour behind schedule, and didn’t move again. Apparently the signals were out, and they didn’t know how long it would be.

After close to 30 minutes we gave up and got on a PATH train to World Trade Center. It took a while since it was a local, but I only realized today it was a great idea: 500 people were stranded on a different train for more than five hours, and I saw tweets from people who were stuck more than seven hours. After we got into the city, the rain drenched us so fast we quickly gave up on the idea of walking (even to another a subway station) and caught a cab to the hotel. We’d planned on having several hours to relax, but we did have enough time to change before dinner.

When we were in NYC in July, we failed to get into the Daily Show, and in order to try again, Jill indicated she was interested in attending the Rachael Ray show. It’s not easy to get tix soon for that, and those are on whatever day they give you, so I did some investigating and eventually found a charity auction for two VIP tix to her show, two nights at a hotel, and dinner at Asia de Cuba. I won it at a very fair price, and Saturday we were staying at the hotel and going out to eat at the restaurant.

Asia de Cuba is just what the name implies, Cuban food with an Asian flair. We took the subway there (easier to not get wet without luggage), and got there right on time. We started with crab croquetas and asian spiced pork spare ribs (Jill’s highlight, they were scrumptious). The waiter warned us that most people split the entrees, but we had a gift certificate to use up and went with two. Jill didn’t really like her coconut mustard seed sustainable Chilean seabass (it was a huge plate with the vegetables) although I really enjoyed my tropical hoisin roasted duck. We could have skipped dessert except I realized we still had some credit to burn, so I ordered the bread pudding just so I could have some of the cheesecake ice cream (it was so worth it).

After dinner we headed up to 30 Rockefeller Plaza for Saturday Night Live. We were a bit early so we headed downstairs to sit for a bit, then joined the line when we came back upstairs. We went through security (Val Kilmer was right in front of us, but he was whisked out of line), and they brought us upstairs. A little after 11 we were seated as the house band was playing, then after everyone was seated Don Pardo said a few words, then Jason Sudeikis did some stand up and Kenan Thompson sang a song.

Soon it was 11:30 and the show got started. It was a whirlwind of activity for the next 90 minutes, if there wasn’t a sketch going on then the band was playing and they were putting together or breaking down sets. We were seated stage left and could see what was going on most of the time, but there were plenty of monitors if we couldn’t (but we saw Pearl Jam just fine, they were great as always). Things that surprised me: the small size of the studio, the clock only drops down from the ceiling for the opening and closing shots and many of the sets go up on the main stage (not to mention during the final sketch the set wasn’t stable until after it started).

After the show, we hung out to meet with the writer who’d donated the tix to the other charity auction I’d won, and we chatted for a bit (he’s one of the writers on MacGruber), then he took us and another couple on a brief tour of the studio. It was fun (and we saw Bill Hader and Jason Sudeikis), but soon we were outside, and we took a cab back to the hotel with a driver who knew the capital of every country and US state.

Sunday we slept in, it was a good thing as with the time change and the busy day we’d been pretty tired. We had brunch downstairs at Wall & Water, where I had the Eggs Benedict, Jill had a Western Omelette and “the best hotel coffee ever”. Next we headed uptown to a yarn shop, then another subway ride to the P & G Bar (with a quick yarn shop stop on the walk over from the subway), where we met up with our FRFF buds Seth and Hilary (Hilary was bartending) and spent a couple hours catching up.

We had an early reservation at Gramercy Tavern, so we said goodbye and went directly there. It was the nicest restaurant we’ve been in for a while, the food and ambience reminded us of Restaurant Eve. I started with the whole spelt spaghetti while Jill had the butternut squash custard – we each liked the other dish more and switched halfway through. For entrees she had the squab and I had the lamb, no trading there as both were superb. I had the butterscotch sundae for dessert – since it had pear sorbet in it, I paired it with a pear cider, very nice. Jill had a peanut butter semifreddo that was also very good. Afterwards we had made no plans – no show or musical act had really interested us. So we went to Times Square, and saw Alice in Wonderland in 3D. Good flick, much better than their Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We went back to the hotel afterwards, intending to hit the bar, but it was closed, so we had some wine back at Wall & Water.

Monday we slept in again, but that didn’t leave us much time as we had to checkout and change hotels. We checked in at the New York Helmsley (thankfully let us check in early) and headed out. Jill wanted a burger for lunch, and the closest good one was Good Burger (she wasn’t familiar with the film). We ordered burgers and shakes (got mine with an egg on top), and they soon came out. The burgers were good, and grilled on a actual flame, reminded me of Foster’s Grille.

We went uptown so Jill could do a little more shopping (clothes and yarn), then went over to The Daily Show. I was only able to get regular tickets for it, but I had the benefit of trying once before and we got there right before 3PM, right on target. Jill was free for at least the next hour as your guests need to join you by 4:30, so I just read my book until she returned (she found a car dealership serving coffee). They let us in a little after 5, but we still had to wait in line a while longer until they seated us. A comedian came out to warm us up, then Jon Stewart came out for a funny Q&A, then they started about 6:30. They recorded straight through (and it was fun watching Jon crack up while the Aasif Mandvi piece played), but there was audio problems during the segment with Wyatt Cenac and Mick Foley, and they had to film it again (I was happy they used the first take of Jon getting away from Mick when they aired it, it was much funnier).

We didn’t have a lot of time after the show, so we caught a cab to Times Square and wolfed down a couple slices of delicious pizza at Patzeria’s Perfect Pizza, then headed down the block and into the theater where the The Addams Family was playing. We were soon seated, and enjoying drinks in our seats due to the best theater invention ever: souvenir sippy cups. Nathan Lane was simply amazing as Gomez, and the musical was really good. Seth had recommended we stop at Junior’s for some cheesecake, so we did. We weren’t that hungry, so we just had slices of cheesecake, strawberry shortcake for Jill, carrot cake for me. They were decent, but huge and we didn’t finish either one. We went back to the hotel, but Jill wanted something to counteract the sugar. Everything in the hotel was closing, but I figured the McFadden’s up the block (near the burger place) was still open, and I was right. We nursed beers and had a good conversation with the bartender, who reminded us of Seth Meyers.

We got up early the next morning, checked out and left our luggage with a bellman, then headed a couple blocks south to Daniel’s Bagels where Jill had an everything bagel with cream cheese and I had a ham, egg and cheese on sesame. Later we went back up and got in line for the Rachael Ray Show. It turned out we didn’t need to get in line, the tix really were VIP and as soon as they started letting people in we got to skip ahead of the line. Then we waited for while inside, then they seated us (kind of a theme). We got another warm up comedian, unfortunately this one not only more obnoxious but he never left, basically serving as a cheerleader. We ended taping two separate shows (don’t know when they air yet), and the guests were surprises until they appeared.

Rachael Ray Show

Ingrid Michaelson was first (and best), singing Everybody, then Bruce Jenner (meh) and Timothy Olyphant (he was fun, and I’m a big fan of motherf’n’ Deadwood and plan on watching his new series Justified). There were two cooking segments, one a Western Omelette sandwich and the other a “bullseye” (perfectly preserved onion slice) burger. Parts were fun, but we’d been there a while when taping finished and time was running short – we had a little over an hour to catch the train, and were one of the last in line to get out.

But the hotel was two blocks away, and soon we were in a cab hurtling towards Penn Station. We made it with fifteen minutes to spare, enough time for me to get a Nathan’s dog and Jill to get a Moe’s burrito. The ride back on the train was more like our earlier trips, no problems and no delays. We almost got back home according to plan, but just missed the bus out of West Falls Church that would have connected us to the last bus going past our house, and instead we took one near to the Herndon library, I left Jill there and walked home and got the car and picked her and the luggage home, then I heated up some frozen jambalaya, then we watched Chuck and collapsed into bed.

Map of NYC locations