We had 3 objectives for this last day of 2016: Oysters for lunch (again), seeing The Great Comet at the Imperial Theater, and going to Eataly to pick up a variety of delicious bites to enjoy at “home” for New Year’s Eve. Mission accomplished.
We finally gave up our cab habit and took the Metro to 28th Street and headed to the John Dory Oyster Bar by the Ace Hotel. A really great classic but funky bar/restaurant with all bar or high-top style seating. You know they are serious when the oyster bar is the same size as the actual bar. We were the second party to be seated for what I’m sure will be a long day and night. Happy hour prices were available for a number of items including: their Cocktail of the Day, a Honeysuckle Daquiri which is made of rum, honey and lime, Prosecco by the glass and Oysters for $2 a piece, a bargain in NYC. Kerry, our craft cocktail fan, naturally chose the daiquiri, as did Cherry. Robin and I went for prosecco and we all shared 2 dozen divine oysters served with a jalapeño cilantro mignonette and horseradish mixed with a lemon olive oil. A delightful twist on the classic condiments. We then split Haddock fritters with Curried Mayo, Sea Bass Ceviche, Char Pate sliders, Kedgeree and Chorizo stuffed Squid served with white beans accompanied by a New York State Gruner which was a lovely complement to our dishes. Another great lunch! Cherry channeled my grandmother and declared that she would pay….just what Apple always did when she particularly enjoyed lunch with family and friends. Always a nice gesture and much appreciated.
As it was a sunny day and we knew that traffic anywhere near Times Square would be totally nuts, we opted to walk the 17 blocks to the Imperial Theater. All was well until we hit 42nd and came across multiple barriers and dozens of police officers. Thinking we had given ourselves plenty of time, we panicked a little when they diverted us to 8th Street. All the way, all four of were silently feeling completely relieved that we weren’t going to see the New Year in out on these streets. It was only 1:45 and it was already packed! Our theater tickets gained us access to 45th Street and we were happily in our seats in time for the show.
We had a few minutes to simply gasp at the stage set-up, seating and set design. Red velvet curtains adorned the walls with period pictures hanging from them. There is no conventional stage, instead a series of walkways, stairs and a sunken pit in the area where traditionally an orchestra would be. Instead, it was much smaller and contained a piano, Pierre’s office and a couple of stools for other musicians and occasional actors. There is no real distinction between the audience, the musicians and the actors and performers, which made it one of the most fantastic productions any of us had ever seen.
Why pick this musical? Well, mostly because it has a Petersburg connection. The choreographer, Sam Pinkleton, grew up in Hopewell and then attended the Appomattox Regional Governor’s School (ARGS) for High School, with a concentration in theater. His mother, Kimberly Ann Calos, is a well known business woman and community activist in Petersburg and for a while, I worked for her. My own son, Rory, just started at ARGS this year in the Literary Arts program. Kim recently attended the Opening Night and when we found out we were coming up here this week, it seemed perfectly obvious that we must see the production! And are we glad we did. It’s a real source of pride that we got to witness firsthand the mesmerizing results of a local boy’s talents.
I am no theater expert despite enjoying attending shows and plays. However, it doesn’t take an expert to know when something is as good as this show is. It is truly an ensemble piece in every sense, with the set design, lighting, music, choreography, and of course the amazing performers all playing equal parts to make a mind blowing whole experience. The show is based on just a few pages of War and Peace but never seeks to deeply delve into history, instead just exploring the relationships between several characters. It’s funny, shocking, vibrant, colorful, sexy, edgy, poignant, sad and beautiful all at the same time. Oh, did I mention that Josh Groban is in it? He’s amazing and what a treat to hear his voice in the same room. Oh, and the performers dance around the entire theater, meaning that even the back upper rows on the Mezzanine feel a part of the extravaganza. When the first act was over and the lights came up signaling the intermission, we all just looked at each other and said “wow”. Robin was seated next to the Executive Producer of a TV show from LA and she had seen 8 shows in 4 days and declared this to be the best one. When Robin confessed that it was her first Broadway show, she responded by saying that she had certainly chosen well. The second act while less exuberant, was no less powerful. Beautiful singing with some very powerful solos and duets. We simply didn’t want it to end. Bravo and Encore!
Leaving the theater was a challenge, but thankfully we were heading in the opposite direction to all the Times Square revelers. We fought through the crowds and found ourselves the right metro to Downtown. We headed straight to Eataly knowing that if we dared stop home, we might not come out again.
Eataly, just like Chelsea Market, was just as heavenly as I had imagined. It even has a wine bar. We should probably have made dinner reservations at some fabulous restaurant this evening, however, we were all perfectly happy to buy some delicious hors d’oeuvres, nice wine and curl up on the sofas in our PJs. Having worked in the restaurant business for the bulk of my adult life, I spent years in a row working on New Year’s Eve. For many of them, it didn’t really feel like work as it was a lot of fun and it was great being at the place where people wanted to be on this big night and quite frankly a real honor. Having said that, every year, I fantasized about spending New Year’s Eve in my pajamas on the sofa by the fire with a bottle of great champagne. After selling the restaurant, I did just that…except I also extended an invitation to about 25 friends too, who also happily donned their PJs.
Back to Eataly….gorgeous breads, every cheese imaginable, fresh pastas, beautiful meats and fish, pastries galore….heaven on earth. I loved it, of course. We stocked up on Duck Rillettes, Irish Smoked Salmon, cheese, prosciutto, salami, mortadella, huge cooked shrimp and a variety of dainty sweet treats.
Back at the apartment we took took off our shoes, poured vodka and tonics and sat for a bit, just relaxing. I then put together our mini banquet and we happily and heartily indulged ourselves. Everything was terrific. We did start to wonder if we would make it until midnight after such a big day, but we rallied and managed, opening a bottle of nice Cava to start the proceedings and ultimately watch the ball drop on TV. Funnily enough, Robin’s mom celebrates her birthday on New Year’s Eve and Kerry’s Mom on New Year’s Day so each called them on the right side of midnight.
Despite the late hour, I felt the need to finish this before sleeping and therefore to bring this year to an end. I started 2016 alone, waking up in Quebec City after a fabulous few days spent there and in Montreal. The trip was not only a springboard for moving on with my life in a great way but it also lit the spark for this blog which took me until October to start when I went to Peru. As I reflect on this year, I feel really really fortunate. It’s been a year of true personal growth. A lot of good stuff happened. Some tough stuff happened too. To be ending this year in the great city of New York in a beautiful apartment with wonderful company is the icing on the cake. I have started and ended the year wandering around a city with my camera, soaking up the atmosphere and culture and of course eating great food. The very things I love best in life. Lucky me. Cheers to an amazing 2017!