Catching the Christmas Spirit in NYC

As the drumbeat of Omicron grew louder, we decided to try and steal a weekend away in the city before things started locking down again. We had a gift certificate for a weekend at the Loews Regency , conveniently located at 61st and Park Avenue. We had purchased the GC at a benefit for Near & Far Aid back in March 2019 and the management was kind enough to keep extending the expiration for us, as we had essentially avoided the city for almost two years. The Regency (where I have stayed in the past) underwent an extensive renovation over the last year, so it was good to return and see all the improvements that were made.

Staying at the Regency is akin to staying in an apartment in NYC. I grew up somewhat near by, so it always feels like a homecoming to me. The staff at the hotel were exceedingly welcoming and friendly, and the Hotel itself felt very clean (Covid-safe). The Suite we had was somewhat generic, but it was spacious and even included a tiny kitchen.

We arrived at the Regency, dropped our car with the Valet, and our bags in the room and set off on foot for dinner at Lamalo, a “Modern Middle Eastern” spot located in the Arlo Nomad Hotel on East 31st Street. The weather was unseasonably warm so we were happy to walk down Fifth Avenue and admire all the fabulous light and window displays. The streets were mobbed, but everyone seemed to be in a festive state of mind. There were testing sites starting to pop up on random corners, which was a sign of the escalating Omicron threat.

We arrived at Lamalo with a hearty appetite, which was lucky because they offer the option to enjoy an entire smorgasbord at your table. We ordered the Lamalo spread which included all of the available spreads (with as many refills as you desire) as well as a Skewer (I chose the mushroom skewer and my husband opted for the octopus).

I had had my eye on Lamalo for a long time, and decided it was the perfect spot for a quick pre-theater meal. The mezze were brought out quickly, and it was all very tasty, though not spectacular. The Labneh, Tahini, Hummus and Baba Ganoush were highlights, as was the spinach and artichoke dish. My husband stated that the bread was excellent. We ended up asking for seconds on the hummus, as we were pretty stuffed from this spread.

The Skewers were generous and tasty, and when they came around to see whether we wanted dessert we both agreed that we had no room. While not groundbreaking, La Malo was a perfect pre-theater spot which I would recommend.

We headed out and burned off some of our dinner as we walked to The St. James Theater to catch David Byrne’s American Utopia. My husband was a huge Talking Heads fan in the 1980’s and we had heard that American Utopia was an uplifting, joyous night at the Theater, which was something we were craving. After showing our vaccination cards and settling in to our seats, we were reminded that masks needed to stay on throughout the performance.

The show was indeed a celebration, with the entire audience getting on their feet several times to dance at their seats. I am not sure whether Covid has affected their performance schedule, but if you are a fan of David Byrne, you will be in heaven!

Friday we had an early lunch planned at a restaurant I had been dying to try. Since our trip to Thailand a few years ago I have been on a hunt to find some authentic Northern Thai food like we enjoyed in Chang Mai (you can read about our adventures here). Many have said that Thai Diner on Mott Street is the very best in the city, and we wanted to see if that was indeed the case. Having been granted a Michelin Star, it seems as though many agree that it is outstanding.

Luckily we had one of our sons with us so we were able to order a good sampling of dishes to share. The interior of the restaurant is really quite fab, but we opted to sit in their rather luxurious outside accommodation in light of the Omicron spread.

One bit of advice if you are going to Thai Diner, go with a sizable appetite. Everything on the very extensive menu is tempting.

After mulling all the choices we settled on a wide array of flavors and spice levels. The food was incredible! We literally could not stop eating. The Khao Soi in particular was just as good as it was when we had it in Chang Mai (and it was available vegetarian which made me happy)!

Even though we were stuffed, we had to try their desserts, specifically the Coconut Sundae (incredible) and the irresistibly cute Coffee Monster Cake (looked better than it tasted).

After an afternoon spent exploring we made out way to the Whitney in order to check out the Jasper Johns retrospective as well as spend some time admiring one of my favorite works, the Liza Lou Kitchen, which just makes me happy every time I see it. The sun was setting and the views are just incredible from the museum. Currently you need to pre-book tickets before you visit, which is very easy and convenient. You can do so here

After the Whitney, the weather was so lovely we decided to cross the West Side Highway and visit NY’s newest outdoor space, Little Island. Located at Pier 55, Little Island is an inviting oasis which springs up from the Hudson River. Filled with happy visitors busily admiring the view, Little Island reminded me of a tiny High Line

After witnessing the sunset, we made our way to 103 Greenwich street for a much anticipated dinner at Michelin starred Don Angie. Celebrated again and again as one of NY’s best Italian restaurants, we had to work hard to secure a Friday night 7pm reservation. The restaurant was warm and welcoming, and was buzzing with positive energy. The crowd was young and pretty casual. Don Angie is known for their Lasagna for two, but alas, we will have to wait for another visit to try it. The menu is eclectic, and a little off-beat if you go there expecting “traditional” Italian fare, but everything was exceedingly tasty and satisfying. The Gnocchi in particular were ethereal, and the Chrysanthemum salad was delicately dressed while smothered in Parmigiano Cheese – super satisfying. The Japanese potatoes were more like the best imaginable tater tots. Don Angie is worth the hype, and I would like to return with a larger group so that we could try more things.

The final stop ion our whirlwind NYC weekend was seeing Everett Bradley performing as his alter ego Holidelic at the Lucille Lortel Theater . Bradley is a percussionist who tours with the E Street Band as well as Bon Jovi, but also REALLY loves Christmas. The show was campy, fun, and inspirational as his message is kindness and inclusivity. 

After the show we Ubered back up to the Regency (we had clocked 12.5 miles of walking during the day) and fell right asleep. We were so happy to have fit so much into our NY pre-holiday weekend, and were grateful (lucky) that we didn’t end up getting Omicron just as it was exploding in the City. Thanks as well to the Regency who kindly honored our twice expired gift certificate!

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