New York diary: Day 5

Wednesday, 15 June, 2016. 21:36

The alarm went off at 07:00, which seemed rudely early. I left M. snoozing in bed and went down to have breakfast. I had a couple of small bowls of raisin bran again, this time picking most of the raisins out of the second bowl. I’m amazed that America can make even raisin bran less healthy by increasing the proportion of dried fruit to truly ridiculous levels. It’s almost like eating a bowl of raisins, with a few bran flakes thrown in. I grabbed an apple and ate that in the room while preparing to head out to the meeting.

I left about 7:40, getting to the meeting room a few minutes later. The first session was a long one, going from 08:00 to 12:00. I’d sort of expected there might be snacks provided, especially after arriving after lunch yesterday and seeing that people were eating leftover sandwiches and pastries from a lunch that had presumably been provided to the CPIQ meeting which had preceded ours that morning. But no, there was no sign of any snacks at all. Fortunately I’d brought a pack of Fantales from Australia to share around, and several people took some to keep their sugar levels up. We did get a bathroom break midway through the morning, but at lunch the only thing that happened was the meeting chair told us there were several places outside on the street to buy food.

Grand Central
Grand Central Station.

The morning session went fairly smoothly though, and we broke for lunch a few minutes early. I joined Scott, Margaret, and Jonathan and we decided to follow Scott’s lead as he lives in New York. He led us across a couple of blocks to Grand Central Station, where he was recommending the various places in the huge food court below the main concourse.

The building, by the way, is spectacular. A large empty space with a vast vaulted ceiling painted sky blue with star constellations on it dominates the scene as you enter, and the floor is sunken a couple of flights from ground level, so you have a panoramic view over the hustle and bustle of people scurrying in all directions like ants. The construction is a cream coloured marble and there are grand classical staircases descending down to the busy floor. It’s really quite something.

The Oyster Bar
The Oyster Bar.

We descended to the food court and Scott started pointing out options, but Margaret wanted to try oysters at the Oyster Bar, which is apparently another famous “New York institution”. It was a cavernous restaurant tucked into one side of the underground space, with heavy vaulted ceilings hanging glow over room after room filled with tables and bar seat dining spots.

We grabbed four seats at a bar and a guy quickly gave us menus and recommended the soft shell crab. Scott, Jonathan, and I went for that on a sandwich, and I figured that would be lunch, and a somewhat expensive one at about $16. But then Scott said he’d have a clam chowder as well, as did Jonathan, and so I joined the fun for an extra $6. By the time we added a tip it came out to $26, and that’s US dollars too! But the food was delicious. The chowder was Manhattan style clam chowder, which isn’t really a chowder at all, but rather a tomato based soup with vegetables and clams in it. It was very good, and the waiter told me, “Don’t forget this,” tapping a bottle of hot sauce on the bar as he placed the bowl in front of me. I added some and it worked very well.

Manhattan clam chowder
Manhattan clam chowder, in the Oyster Bar.

The soft shell crab sandwich was amazing too. Rather than being cut into pieces, the crab was battered and fried whole, and simply placed on a white bun, which was then sliced in half, cutting the whole crab down the midline. As presented on the plate, the crab pincers extended from the bun, in the usual pincer positions, making the whole sandwich look like a big crab! It was curiously aesthetically satisfying, and on taking a bite it was gustatorily satisfying as well, with the hot juicy crab, a bit of light mayonnaisey sauce, and the soft white roll. Absolutely delicious.

Soft shell crab roll
Soft shell crab sandwich, in the Oyster Bar.

After lunch, the afternoon meeting session went fairly quickly. There was a fairly significant lack of consensus on one issue, so that took some work to come up with a plan to move ahead on it, but we seemed to get there in the end. We finished for the day a little early, not long after 16:00. I left the others to their concert in Central Park tonight and went back to the hotel.

M. was there, resting after spending a long day doing a lot of walking, down to Greenwich Village and Tribeca and back. She had had only a cookie and some chocolate ice cream to eat, so was hungry, and had searched for an Indian restaurant, which she suggested we try for dinner. So after I freshened up we went out about 17:00 to walk over to Amma’s Indian restaurant, on 51st Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenues.

I misremembered the address as 30-something Street, so suggested we go via Grand Central Station, so M. could see what it looked like. She was duly impressed. Then we continued south, actually away from the restaurant, until we reached 40th Street and I asked where in the 30s it was. M. took out her notes and said it was 51st Street! So we backtracked and then crossed over to walk up Lexington Avenue.

Spice world
Spices in Grand Central Market.

We passed the Grand Central Market, and M. wanted to have a look inside. It was a long, wide corridor, lined on both sides with fresh food stalls, selling everything from fruit and vegetables, meats, seafood, bread, pastries, cakes, preserved foods, to spices, tea leaves, coffee beans, and chocolates. It was bustling with people, presumably picking up something for dinner on the way home from work. I got a sample piece of a raspberry rugelach, which was very nice.

Leaving the market, we continued walking until we reached 51st Street, where the stretch east of 3rd Avenue turned out to be lined with little restaurants of all varieties. Amma’s turned out to be inside the ground floor of an apartment building, in what had obviously been an apartment before being converted into a restaurant. It looked very fancy, with white tablecloths and everything. A waiter brought us a wine list to peruse and order from before even showing us a food menu. M. chose a glass of rosé from France, while I tried some cabernet sauvignon-claret blend from California. The waiter tipped tiny sips into our glasses to test before pouring from the opened bottles.

Amma Indian
Dinner at Amma’s.

For food, we ordered a “trio of vegetarian samosas”, which included a pea samosa, a spinach and paneer, and a spicy potato one. Although before this came out we were presented with two small onion bhajis, which were described as “onion fritters, compliments of the chef”. All these were good. For mains, we got a tadka dhal, a chicken xacuti, some rice, and a peshwari naan. The xacuti was a thing I’d never heard of before so decided to try. It was a spicy sauce with shredded coconut in it, a little like a rendang, but more tomatoey and very spicy. The dhal was actually listed as a side dish, and the waiter seemed very worried that we hadn’t ordered enough food, trying to get us to order more, or have a double serve of dhal. We were firm though, and glad we were, as the amount of food was easily generous enough to do. The naan had something red and sweet in it, but it wasn’t obvious what it was, perhaps a cherry paste or something like that.

After dinner, we walked back, and since we passed the Rockefeller Plaza, we stopped in at the Lego store to quickly buy a large fill-your-own cup of Lego bricks in the ten minutes before they closed at 20:00. I filled the cup with mostly small pieces to fill the gaps between a few larger bricks, and this get best value for money. The selection of available bricks was a bit sparse and eclectic, with a lot of odd colours, so I stocked up on these unusual pieces.

Rainbow Room
Sunset beyond the Rainbow Room.

From there we returned to our hotel for a relatively early night, and set the alarm for late at 08:00, so hopefully it’ll be a good long sleep tonight. Oh, one annoying thing is that when I tried to change a roll of film tonight, deciding to load the ISO 400 film to use at the baseball game tomorrow night, I loaded it okay, and then went to press the button to change the ISO speed setting of the camera, and accidentally pressed the film rewind button instead! So the film ended up wound right back into the canister, unexposed! I can get it out and use it, but I need a special tool which I don’t have here, so I won’t be able to shoot that roll on this trip. Ah well.

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