Monday, December 22, 2014

Surviving The City, The Big Escape

With tourists five deep in front of the windows along Fifth Avenue the holidays are a perfect excuse to leave the city behind and venture off the island. I've got four great adventures to share, all just a MetroCard or MetroNorth ride away.

Take the 7 train out to Flushing, Queens for a little science and mini golf amongst the Cold War era missiles at the New York Hall of Science. Located in Flushing Meadow Corona Park (home to the 1964 World's Fair) the Hall of Science is the perfect place for your budding space explorers.

Search for life on Mars with the Mars Rover, climb aboard the Friendship 7 (a replica, of course), or play nine holes in Rocket Park. Sports fans can test their speed, agility, and learn about physics at the Sports Challenge exhibit. Step into the batting cage and throw your best fastball to a waiting Met (they play just a few blocks away) while the speed gun catches your game-winning pitch. Or build the day away in the new Design Lab, a totally hands-on space where the kiddos can make a creative mess all while learning to solve design challenges.    

What kid doesn't dream of adding in their own sound effects to their favorite television shows? Spend an afternoon at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens re-dubbing The Simpsons or doing your best Audrey Hepburn "the rain in Spain" dialog. I wrote about our adventure last spring (read it here) and it's just a M/R or Q/N train ride away. Time things right for cocktails at The Astor Room next door in the world famous Kaufman Studios and you just might see Big Bird on a break from The Street.

A ride on MetroNorth to Yonkers (get off at the Glenwood station) will bring you to the Hudson River Museum where you can explore the local ecosystem, reach for the stars in in the planetarium, or go back in time at the restored 19th century Glenview Mansion. The exhibits are small but the scenery is beautiful and it's just a little over 30 minutes from Grand Central. The planetarium has a good selection of shows throughout the day and it's cheap, just $4 for adults and $2 for kids.

For some swanky suburban strolling take the MetroNorth New Haven line to Greenwich and get a little culture in at the small but impressive (and kid friendly) Bruce Museum and lunch with the ladies at the Belgian chain Le Pain Quotidian. Across the street from the Bruce is a great playground, perfect as a bargaining tool if you want to get a little shopping done on Greenwich Avenue.

Exhibits change frequently at the Bruce Museum but they have an extensive collection of rocks and minerals that the little C&Gs love. If the security guard isn't busy ask him to poke around at the hermit crabs in the touch tank. He took a few slimy snails out so we could all get a closer look. Um, none for me thanks, I'd hate to ruin my appetite for the do-it-yourself hot chocolate and pain perdu up the street at Le Pain Quotidian.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Surviving The City, Holiday Edition

For the past three years we've headed to NYC for the winter break, staying at the very budget friendly Hotel Grandparents. They have the best cocktail bar in town and the most charming silver haired bartender. Mr. C&G definitely inherited his skills from his father (along with a full head of thick hair) and Papa C&G makes the best vodka martinis.

We just spent a week in Aruba with the C&G Grandparents and I think we'll give them a break this year. But I've learned a lot by visiting the city at the busiest time of the year and I'm going to share some tips and ideas for fun activities all while keeping your sanity. And finding cocktails.

High on your list of sights might be the Museum of Natural History, but with the Night At The Museum sequel coming out I would save this for another time. We had membership admission a few years ago and were able to skip the line that snaked down the stairs, up Central Park West and over West 81st Street (no exaggeration). Once inside the crowds made it impossible to see anything so we beelined for the Columbus Avenue exit and made it to Sarabeth's (Amsterdam between 80th & 81st) for food and Bloody Marys.

If you're up for braving the Metropolitan Museum of Art read my review from our visit last spring, the museum is so big (and admission price is only a suggestion, a little known fact) that it's easy to pick out a few things and then head out for snacks. The Temple of Dendur is a favorite and with the light streaming in from the wall of windows it never feels overwhelming. Plus there's plenty of spots to rest tired little legs (or yours) after some hieroglyphics deciphering.

Overlooking Madison Square Park (and convenient to Eataly) is the incredibly interactive Museum of Mathematics. Check out the past posts here and here for reasons why you need to spend a day amongst the polygons and tessellations (plus you'll sound extra smart). The boys love MoMath and with so many stations to check out it never really feels claustrophobic. Eataly can get just as crowded as the Natural History Museum so either stop there first and carb up or go after the lunch crowd for pizza and a glass or two of vino. La Pizza & La Pasta (a kid favorite) opens at 11:00 and it's at the opposite end from the 5th Avenue entrance. (fyi Shake Shack in the park is closed for renovations)

If your brood insists on checking out the lights and insanity of Times Square know that some calm and cocktails are only an elevator ride away. Just maybe not on December 31st. The Renaissance Hotel (48th St. at 7th Ave) has a 2nd floor lounge with cozy couches and floor to ceiling windows. Yes the cocktails start at $15, but I promise you ten minutes in Times Square and you'll be ready to pay double that for a quiet place to sit down. Order some pretzels and chips for the kiddos and everybody will be happy.

No trip to the city is complete (according to Big & Little C&G) without a trip to FAO Schwartz. I'm not sure why because the boys rarely buy anything (I guess it's the equivalent of my window shopping along Madison Avenue) but I don't argue because the bar at the Four Seasons is only two blocks away.

The line in front of FAO Schwartz moves fast and soon you'll be surrounded by life-sized stuffed animals. Lego fans should head right for the escalator to the 2nd floor and keep walking to the north eastern most corner. I always give the kiddos a 15 minute limit and a $10 budget before we escape to the bar at the Four Seasons. They'll stay occupied in the cushy banquets (sneak in the 58th St. entrance) with whatever cheap trinket they've bought while you enjoy the free snacks and overpriced (but always delicious and they leave you the shaker) cocktails.

Stay tuned for part two of Surviving The City, with four great adventures just a train ride away.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Weatherproofing Your Cocktails

Warm your cockles with Cognac and Chambord
Yes, the weather outside is frightful but even a fire inside can't make it delightful. Normally I love a good heavy Scottish style rain, if only it weren't sitting on the several inches of ice covering our driveway.

I came back from Aruba fully intending to take a break after all those frozen cocktails one must drink when one is in the Caribbean. No more drinks for me, at least until the weekend (save the detoxing for January). My plan lasted only 20 minutes, coming home from the airport we found our driveway unplowed and our heat not working. Mr. C&G silently handed me a wee dram of whisky after the boys were tucked into bed (buried under mountains of down blankets) and hasn't mentioned my lack of willpower since.

The forecast calls for a Nor'Easter
We're still having some ongoing heat issues but at the moment all is warm and toasty Chez C&G, if a bit stormy outside. I've got four cocktail recipes to post tonight, all with weather related titles, to ward off any chill as we swing into the holiday season. With a nor'easter howling outside it's only fitting that my cocktail glass is filled with Irish whisky, some Cherry Heering, and a splash of ginger beer, also known as The Nor'Easter.

I'm also researching a possible trip in the near future to France (for C&G or a friend, I won't divulge) so next up in the brandy snifter will be the Chilly Parisian. For something a little more tropical grab the Grand Marnier (flavored with oranges from the Caribbean) and mix it with coconut vodka for a Stormy Coconut. Or if you're more in the mood for a taste of the Highlands add some blended whisky to the Grand Marnier for a Stormy Scot.

Nor'easter: 1 1/2 oz Irish whisky, 1/2 oz cherry Heering, splash of fresh lime juice, ginger beer. Mix the first three in a glass filled with ice, stir and top with ginger beer.

Chilly Parisian: 2 1/2 oz brandy, 1/2 oz Chambord, mix in a glass filled with ice and strain into a brandy glass.

Stormy Coconut: 2 oz coconut vodka, 2 oz Grand Marnier, 1/2 oz pineapple juice, 1/4 oz fresh lime juice. Add all to a cocktail glass filled with ice, stir and enjoy.

Stormy Scot: 2 oz blended whisky, 1/2 oz Grand Marnier, 1/2 oz sweet vermouth (Cocchi di Torino), dash of orange bitters. Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass and garnish with a Luxardo cherry.