The Magpie Edit: Edition 32 — An NYC Travel Diary.
This week’s edit will take the provisional form of a travelogue reflecting our trip to New York this week. I received a lot of positive feedback on my last ambling travel diary, so I have you Magpies to thank for the idea. (I think it feels a bit like “old fashioned” blogging? The kind we did on no-frills platforms?)
This was a funny trip to NYC. It was the first time I’ve visited where I felt my time outside the city had fully eclipsed my time inside it. It still felt navigable and familiar, but I felt a step removed, perhaps comparable to the feeling you get when visiting a former school. You remember the halls, and you even conjure specific memories at specific desks in specific airless rooms, but it feels slightly obscured by the haze of nostalgia, or the way memory can soften and relax the details. I felt this particularly when I took the subway up to the Upper West Side and stood in front of our last apartment building in NYC. That apartment holds so much. It was the site of one of the hardest times of my life (lockdown, two young babies, and I caught COVID fairly severely at the very, very beginning of the pandemic), and yet it is where I spent countless hours with my babies and Mr. Magpie and I streamed everything and went deep into cocktail making and we did Zoom weddings and tried to smile through multiple marooned holidays without our families and we spent half our life spilled out in Central Park a block away and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote because I didn’t know how else to make sense of my life. It was a time of wintering. I was deep into a cocoon, hibernating, and yet I’d not chosen to be there.
So, I stood in front of that building and waited for the feelings to come forth. Instead, I was aware of the massive heaps of trash dotting the entire curb (it must have been trash day), and I didn’t recognize the doorman, and I found myself straining for sensucht that did not materialize. It’s either that I’ve crossed some arbitrary threshold into belonging to my new life in the D.C. area, or perhaps — and I think sometimes this is the case — I just wasn’t in the headspace. Mr. Magpie told me over drinks at Katana Kitten that trip that Jay Z (and we know nothing of his entrepreneurial chops, but we loved this insight) will apparently openly listen to any pitch for collaboration/investment, but he says no a lot. And sometimes the “no” is business-related, but a lot of times, he apparently said, “it’s just because I’m not in a creative headspace.” I mean, yes. Sometimes we are in fallow times and no matter how much we plumb for meaning, or feeling, it won’t arrive.
Anyhow – the trip was interesting in that way. But let me be clear: I love New York. I miss it, and deeply enjoy each return, and it’s divine to be there without kids. I feel slightly wrong-footed writing that, but I am often trotting up and down the Subway steps with an overtly “footloose” feeling, remembering the hundreds of times I was carrying a stroller up and down, or guiding a tiny toddler around a puddle of urine. It is easy to get around, fascinatingly quick-paced, stylish and cultured, with so much to do and see even if you just plop yourself down in Madison Square Park for an afternoon.
This trip, we arrived in the afternoon, cleaned up, and went downtown with ambitions of getting an early dinner at Semma NYC. I’m not going to detail our hotel because we didn’t love it — we usually stay at the Made Hotel in NoMad, which I do recommend. Accommodations are petite but clean, outfitted in chic mid-century furnishings, cleverly designed — and the hotel has absolutely wonderful staff trained in true hospitality. They offer daily hot coffee at their excellent coffee shop (Paper) and nightly happy hour (free wine!) to hotel guests in the chic lobby. I don’t love NoMad in general, but we choose it because it’s walking distance from my husband’s office, from the train station (pro tip: always enter/exit Moynihan Hall vs. Penn Station across the street; you can get to and from the trains from both sides, but Moynihan is infinitely more pleasant, and brand new), and so easy to get around since it sits right on top of tons of subway lines. I always go out to Brooklyn to visit my sister, but have friends/meetings uptown, and then we tend to like to dine downtown, so it feels like I’m never more than 20-30 minutes away from your destination. I have also grown rather fond of the Flatiron area (sits adjacent to NoMad) because that’s where my daughter went to school and I have all my favorite haunts around there. It feels like a second home. Finally, there are a few gorgeous Parisian-style buildings in NoMad (seen above!) that make me swoon every time I visit.
Anyhow, I changed quickly into my favorite black Gap kick fit jeans, a dramatic white top from Alexis (sold out but you can find on eBay brand new), my favorite metallic kitten heeled booties from Alexandre Birman (you can still find them at TRR), a pair of oversized glitzy flower earrings from RDR, and this gorgeous clutch Michelle Wilhite sent me (seen above). Overall, a very glitzy-brooch-heavy moment toned down by basic denim. Can I tell you something so funny? On our way downtown, I received a message from a Magpie reader who’d seen Mr. Magpie and I heading down the steps to the Subway, and she commented that she also owned the black kick fit jeans! They’re like our secret signal. Anyhow, we went down to Semma early (arrived around 5:45) and were lucky to score some of the last seats at the bar, which is honestly our favorite way to dine just the two of us. It’s intimate and you tend to get great service because the bartender is always at hand. We’d heard fab things about Semma, which describes itself as “Heritage Southern Indian cuisine,” and it did not disappoint. The cocktail program was fabulous — really fun cocktails; you can see my rum-based Koyya Paanam above), but my favorite things we ordered were the prawns (enormous and deliciously flavorful) and the dosa, which seems to be sort of a “must order” as I saw them at every table. We’d been to Semma’s sister restaurant, Dhamaka, before, but I would recommend Semma over Dhamaka. Semma has a great ambiance and cozy interior. Dhamaka’s food and service were excellent but it’s in Essex Market, which sort of feels like a mall dining court? I couldn’t get over the noise and vibe there. After dinner, we ambled over to Katana Kitten in Greenwich Village, which apparently some redditors claim to be “one of the best bars in the world.” It is a vibe. It has a divey, Chicago-neighborhood-bar feel (if you’ve in Chicago, you know what I mean), with wood floors and stools and movie posters on the walls and dim lighting and throwback music, but instead of the requisite pungency of bathroom cleaner and sticky counters, it was clean and, you could tell, they were serious about their cocktails. They’re known for highballs, which they serve in slightly ironic frosted mugs. The cocktails themselves are wonderfully balanced and never too-sweet. Katana Kitten has a really fun, let’s-get-after-it energy, and I felt mildly like I was back in my pre-children era sitting there. At the same time, the patrons are all impossibly cool and well-dressed, and any of them could have been a very famous drummer or model. It was very New York.
Speaking of “very New York,” overall, we kept saying “New York was New York-y” this trip, in that we had a couple of those horrible encounters that are par for the course when you live there, but you often forget about. A rat actually climbed over Landon’s foot. Not, like, jumped over it or dodged it or skirted it — actually climbed over his foot. In his words: “I could feel each of its four paws on the top of my foot.” We also went down one of the 3495 entrances to the subway in Harold Square and there was a woman throwing up in a plastic bag at the foot of the stair. We felt bad for her but also not a great way to head into dinner hour. Ah, New York!
The next morning, I got up bright and early, put on these pants, this blouse, and my go-to Daybreaks, and sprint-walked (it was COLD) to grab coffee and overnight oats at Ralph’s Coffee in Flatiron. It’s adorable and Instagrammable in there, though I do prefer Devocion, which is a few blocks east. (Mr. Magpie — whose taste in coffee you should trust more than mine since he takes his black and I always order lattes — thinks Devocion and St. Kilda’s have the best coffee in Manhattan.) I went to Ralph’s, though, because I was on my way to a blowout at Dream Dry on W. 21st. DreamDry has become a ritual in my trips to NYC. It is slightly more expensive than DryBar but much, much more reliable and the amenities are nicer. I was chatting with my friend Nan Philip that we can’t quite figure out what’s happened with DryBar over the years. Is it franchised? All of them feel so rundown and the quality of technician swings wildly. I’ve had really bad experiences there, and then a handful of good ones. It’s good in a pinch, and I like how easy it is to book a blowout, but if you’re in NYC, Chicago, or Atlanta, try Dream Dry instead! I am obsessed with the on W. 21st. Beautiful interior, with great stylists, and they make it easy to book online, too. I’ve gone the first morning I’m in NYC the last few trips and it’s become a lovely little ritual. It’s just nice to have great hair when going out, seeing friends, having meetings, and it also means I don’t need to pack all my hair gear in my suitcase (I never trust the hotel hair dryer and bring my own Revlon 1 Step). DreamDry uses all Oribe products, and the stylist this time used their Royal Blowout spray, which resulted in a really smooth blow out. It’s currently in my cart.
I stopped by Eataly to pick up some treats. I love, love Eataly — it has not lost its charm or become too institutional or aware of itself yet, which is remarkable. Right now, they have loads of beautiful panettone and Easter chocolate in elegant displays in the middle of their Flatiron store. I bought a few items to give to friends and family, and then selected a little box of patisserie to bring uptown to my girlfriend Alison, whom you probably know from her fabulous business Homeworthy, in which she films the interiors of the homes of wildly chic people around the world. Alison and I attended high school together and have remained friends over the years — she was such an anchor for me when I first moved to NYC and felt deliriously overwhelmed, and I find her to be one of the most poised, graceful women I know. I could talk to her for hours and hours, and we often circle back to themes of motherhood and creative entrepreneurship. Anyhow, she hosted me in her fabulous UWS apartment (seen below; wild fact: I could see her apartment building from the bedroom window of my last apartment in NYC!), and we enjoyed lunch and played cars with her 18-month-old son.
Then, I went back downtown to collect myself at the hotel before an early cocktail date with Nan Philip at L’Adresse. There’s nothing particular remarkable about L’Adresse, but it’s a nice, big, uncrowded bar that actually has a happy hour (cocktails/wine are $10, which is unheard of in Manhattan), and it was convenient to where I was staying/where I had to head next. Nan gallantly accommodated. I truly hope you follow Nan on Instagram/her beautiful blog because she is an absolute gem. I have had the wonderful opportunity to connect with so many creatives thanks to Magpie, but Nan is the kind of woman I would seek out as a friend no matter what my career. She is warm, funny, full of life, deeply kind, and smart as hell. I could have talked to her for hours and hours. We touched on all the essentials: her review of Saie’s new foundation and her favorite reasonably priced moisturizer (had never even heard of the brand), dating in the Big Apple, travel plans, favorite blogs and creatives. I love you Nan!
Afterwards, I jumped on the subway to make my way out to my cousin’s home in Brooklyn. It was a “New York-y” journey, because I missed my two trains by half a second each and had to wait for the next ones for 11 minutes apiece. It was a slow, slow trek. I read a good chunk of this new thriller en route. (I’m never without my Kindle when taking the Subway. You go in and out of service to often to rely on cell phone.) My cousin hosted myself, my sister, and a few of our good friends for an in-person book club (!). We’d all been part of this book club before the pandemic, then we took it online/virtual, and it was such a treat to sit and talk books in real life, while enjoying takeout from Miss Ada followed by homemade ice cream one of my girlfriends brought (!). We actually discussed Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which brought me such joy because — still, weeks after reading it! — I think of it often. My sister, who works for Doen, was wearing these jeans (by Doen) and this blouse (also Doen) and I might need to buy both to copy her. She looked fabulous.
The next morning, I put on this hot pink top, this adorable fair isle sweater, and these jeans, and met with new friend Carly Hill at Devocion. She is so fun (so quick-witted!) to chat with and we have a similar weakness for impractical fashion that we explored over oat milk lattes. I was wearing my Daybreaks again and have to say I’m glad that sneakers are acceptable fashion at the moment because I did so much walking/subway trekking and it was too cold to wear a flat with my foot exposed, which brings me to three big street style trends I observed while in NYC: 1) Adidas Samba sneakers are IT. These are sold out nearly everywhere in women’s sizes but so many chic peas were wearing them all over Manhattan. I grabbed the horrible photo below as an example. Isn’t the scarf so good?! 2) Wide-leg, full-length, pleated trousers. The chicest gal I saw (wish I’d been quick enough to snap a photo, but created a look board below instead) was wearing wide leg trousers similar to these (look for less with these or these) with Sambas and this Toteme coat. This is going to be tough for us short gals because we’ll really need to have the pants tailored well, but I’m intrigued. 3) Field jackets! Barbour is back, baby! The boxier styles feel especially “on trend.”
After coffee, I zipped up town to Match 65 for salads with Mackenzie, another longtime friend I had the good fortune of meeting through writing this blog. She is one of the funniest people I know in real life — I sat and laughed for about two hours straight. But she is also deeply empathetic and we always find ourselves pouring our hearts out about motherhood and some of the adult relationships that strain us. Our server probably hated us, but I couldn’t tear myself away from our conversation.
Back in the hotel, I switched into this hot pink dress (with the cardigan layered over top because it was COLD) and we headed out to Brooklyn for a cocktail at Grand Army. We loved our experience there — there were about four or five cocktails I wanted to try, which is sort of unusual for me. I tend to like fruit-forward, gin-or-rum-based cocktails, and I feel like half the standard menu is brown liquor. This place had so many FUN and fantastic options, and the bartender was notable–great conversationalist. Then we walked over to meet my sister and brother-in-law for drinks at Sunken Harbor Club followed by dinner at Gage & Tollner, a classic steakhouse. Unfortunately, en route, we received a text from my sister that their sitter had bailed, so we enjoyed one drink at the Sunken Harbor Club (as we had a reservation and they can be hard to come by) and then cancelled our dinner res to taxi over to their apartment in Fort Green. Sunken Harbor Club was a TRIP. Super kitschy tiki bar — borderline Disneyworld vibes inside — as they even have a soundtrack of crashing waves playing at all times, staff wear uniforms, and they ring a bell when your cocktail is ready. However, the cocktails were lovely and imaginative. At my sister’s, we enjoyed carry-out from The Fly and, honestly? It was just what I wanted: to sit with my shoes off and talk for hours in her cozy home.
The next morning, we got up, grabbed coffee and pastries at Felix Roasters (super fab interior – like, oil paintings on the wall, beautiful wallpapers, a gorgeous brass bar), and jumped on the Amtrak home.
P.S. While traveling, I used a bunch of the items I shared in this “travel essentials” guide. I have been specifically in need of a tech organizer (I always have a big ball of cords floating around in my suitcase) but I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy the $70 Dagne Dover one I’d been eyeing, so I ordered this $13 Amazon option for my next trip. Will report back. I also ordered a new laptop case (have been going without one for too long and it’s too risky) and this portable charger for our next trip.
P.P.S. New York is still a shock.
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