DRINKING NOTES FROM A BIG COUNTRY (PART 2)
Loco MotivesI'm in Rehab (Saudi Arabia) again this week and it's a great opportunity to reflect on the second part of my US tour, New York! After leaving Texas I caught the Friday night flight out of Houston. I stopped briefly in Charlotte, North Carolina airport and whilst waiting for my connecting flight and, having a thirst, managed to hunt down some of the local craft. In this case it was NoDa Brewing Companies offerings which lured me in with their "Hop, Drop 'n' Roll" (A classic American IPA) and "Coco Loco" (A complex malty number) both great beers an a treat to get some good local craft from a state I didn't realise I'd get a chance to sample anything from.
A Hell of a TownAfter a couple of beers in Charlotte I carried on to New York and met Laura in JFK airport and we shared a cab to the Empire Hotel in Manhattan, our base for the weekend.
The fare came to about $63 and we got some serious agro from the taxi driver when I handed over $65. Apparently by this point I still hadn't got the hang of the whole tipping thing.
It being late and us being hungry we headed out to the local pizza parlour which came highly recommended by the hotel. We ordered a pepperoni and I had a Negro Modelo. Not exactly craft or local but it's one I've wanted to try ever since I was in Taiwan and dreaming of Mexican Amber Lager. (A topic of a future post perhaps.)
The pizza place owner was basically Mr. Panucci from Futurama... "Pizza going out... C'MON!!!"
More Like a Goat than a GoatThe following day we headed down to the Museum of Modern Art after being lured in by a poster advertising a Picaso sculpture exhibition.
|More like a goat than a real goat? Seems like one of those "wetter than water" type comments.|
My favourite piece was this recently excavated fishing boat which had been shot at by hundreds of arrows. It was inspired by the story of a Chinese general. The legend goes that the general's army was running out of arrows so he took a boat filled with straw men and feigned an attack on the enemy. When the boat returned it was so pin-cushioned that the general was able to replenished the armies supplies. I loved this story because of the sheer cheeky audacity of the general.
|Or it could just be a very abstract hedgehog..|
|There was also the papier-mâché star spangled banner for some reason.|
A Walk in The ParkAfter the museum we headed down to Central Park. It was hard to believe that it still felt like Autumn in early December. The weather was mild and the trees were still flush with their autumnal plumage. We came across a talented group of lads managing to rob a crowd blind out of sheer peer pressure. They did eventually pull of some stunts but I estimate they made $1000 in donations in less than 30 minutes. This goes to show what the power of true entertainers can achieve. They did this by doing a couple of quick backflips and handstands and getting a bit of a crowd going. Then with well rehearsed lines and speaking in perfect unison to naturally amplify themselves to a crowd of hundreds, they whipped up the crowd into a frenzy with some gags and by celebrating every donation they got. Dozens of people offered them up and each was greeted with a "Hey Guys! I just got twenty dollars!", "From Who?", the rest of the lads would hail in time, "This girl" "Where's she from" and so it went on. They really built up the tension and managed to get hundreds of dollars in donations. President Obama may be interested in change but these guys were interested in tens, twenties and fifties! They eventually managed an impressive finale involving jumping over about half a dozen people in a line. Impressive in itself but not as impressive as how successful their little show was.
|Not a bad little action shot|
Solid GoneAfter walking through the park we headed to the Natural History Museum. The museum has a staggering collection of dinosaur fossils and my incredible replicas which really to help to bring these magnificent beasts to life. I think My favourite was the triceratops but I'm not really sure there was so much to see. It wasn't hard to find Laura's favourite.
|Being big fans of the jungle book I couldn't help but see the resemblance in this Fossil to the dancing bear Baloo. "Solid Gone".|
Saddle UpWith the sun setting and the Saturday night vibe starting we both agreed it was time to get into our drinking boots and head out to see what we could find. After a couple of Anchor Steam Beers in the reception we headed to The Pony Bar. We both got IDed on the way in with the bouncer giving us a friendly grin and simply stating "Business before pleasure". The Pony Bar is a lively place with over 20 taps. We tried a couple of the local efforts. First up was a Captain Lawrence Effortless Session IPA which had a slightly rough bitterness but was crisp and refreshing. Next I tried a Great South Bay Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale which can only be described as syrupy bourbony goodness! Laura had a Sierra Nevada Kellerwies Hefeweizen which was a little heavy on the banana and bubblegum notes for me but still very nice.
In Tacos VeritasNext we headed for tacos at Cascabel Taqueria where we washed some great tacos down with some Dogfish Head Aprihop. The apricot notes in this beer are quite subtle given that they have actually added apricots. I can't help but think the same effect could have been achieved with just selecting the right hops for the job. Vic Secret is a great hop for adding apricot notes in my opinion although Mosaic does well too.
To Prop or not to PropFinal place we headed to for the evening was The Ginger Man. At first impression this dimly lit joint was a great place to rest our weary legs and enjoy some good music. They had around 70 taps and with a selection like that we could have quite happily stayed for a few. After sitting for a while with no service I approached the bar and ordered a couple of beers. "Where are you sat?" asks the barman. I pointed to the table we had in the corner and was about to order when I was told "You'll have to wait for the waitress, I can't serve you unless you're sat at the bar."
Unfortunately this place wasn't the only place I've been that operated this ridiculous system of service whereby because we weren't actually sat at the bar we couldn't order beer. So I returned to my table to continue to wait for the tardy waitress to make her way around to us whilst the barman stood idle and after half an hour of waiting we eventually got our drinks. I had a Stone 'Enjoy by 25/12/15' which I have to admit is probably the best beer I have ever tasted. It was perfectly balanced and so crammed full of fruity notes I might as well have been munching down a packet of fruit pastels! I ordered a second pint and again marvelled at how the waitress seemed to be operating in an entirely different time-zone to the barman.
I realise this absurd system of having to be served by a waitress if not actually sat at the bar is to enable them to work for their tips. In this case it totally backfired as not only was the service so poor we sat most of the time waiting and not drinking. The horror on the face of the waitress upon realising we'd not tipped seemed to suggest she held this atrocity worthy of a trial for crimes against humanity at The Hague. She seemed deaf to the viewpoint that, in our view, she had actually significantly impeded our drinking and we would have drank more if she wasn't there at all.
A Candle Light Nightcap
I've a vague suspicion we might have stopped somewhere else for a night cap but this is as far as I'll take it for day 1 in New York. In day 2 we stopped off at the Brooklyn Brewery for a tour of their facilities and a few samples amongst a few other interesting places so keep an eye out for that post.