Grandmother did NOT want her grandkids to come over the river and through the woods to her house last Thanksgiving.
She was tired of the self-imposed COVID lockdown, and besides, New York City was opening up. So she flew her granddaughters — three of them, at least, vaccinated and ready for fun — to the Big Apple for a Thanksgiving celebration that turned into much more than a turkey dinner and a parade on television.
The first order of business was to find a place to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade — live, but away from the huge crowds out on the street. So she researched those hotels with restaurants along the parade route that offer a brunch indoors at parade time. We found the New York Athletic Club, a reciprocal membership organization with the Boston Harvard Club, situated on Central Park South/59th Street, which offers a Thanksgiving brunch all morning, and during and following that mid-morning feast, a comfortable parade-watching spot on the 9th floor above the crowds, with plenty of breathing room.
Most shops in Manhattan are closed on Thanksgiving Day, so the beauty of our location, in addition to the brunch, was its access to the Wollman skating rink, open all day on the holiday. Wollman, literally a few steps from the front door of our hotel, provided the perfect outdoor exercise before our next eating binge, a visit to nephew David Stockwell’s upscale Italian Brooklyn restaurant, Faun.
Thanksgiving dinner is for hanging out with relatives, right? It just happens that my young nephew, Faun’s owner and proprietor, had prepared a Thanksgiving spread for us worthy of holiday culinary heaven. We visited his delightful backyard garden, where diners were still eating outdoors thanks to the patio heaters scattered about. Stockwell offered us a fresh fig from the tree he grows along with the herbs and vegetables used in his kitchen. Then we sat down indoors, with his wife, Carla, and daughter, Ramona, (second cousin once removed to my granddaughters) to a meal without a menu; The delicious offerings kept coming from the kitchen (just as at Grandmother’s house but oh-so-much fancier). Out came:
Winter citrus salad with mizuna (an East Asian leafy green cruciferous vegetable), walnuts, passionfruit, and vinaigrette; lobster bisque with mussels and chile oil; agnolotti pasta with English peas, robiola cheese, asparagus, and broccolini; duck breast with mushrooms, eggplant purse, cranberry compost; fried Brussels sprouts with pomegranate seeds, cilantro, and mint; and “tres marias,” three scoops of ice cream in a waffle cone with meringue, blueberry puree, whipped cream, and granola. The latter is like a banana split sans banana. Of course, everything was accompanied by cocktails, aperitifs, wines, and cognacs of our choice with plenty of lemonades and Shirley Temples for all.
Did anyone of us long for a plate of roast turkey and cranberry sauce last Thanksgiving? We didn’t hear a peep amidst the groans of post-prandial satisfaction as we headed back over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s hotel on 59th Street.
Still in New York, we made good use of our school vacation weekend, with tickets to the matinee of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.” This 3½-hour production was split into two separate showings when it played in London, but Broadway combined both into one massive show, and friends had suggested that our 9-, 11- and 14-year-old might be fatigued with just one intermission and a long sitting time in the theater. Turned out that these young theater goers, all of whom were experienced in reading every Harry Potter book, seeing the movies, even visiting the Harry Potter hometown and school at Universal Studios in Florida, were perfectly content sitting out more hours in live theater, especially with all of the astonishing special effects this production offers. No one was bored or restless; in fact, they agreed that they liked this production even more than their only other Broadway experience, “Hamilton.”
On Sunday, since we were also close enough to walk a few blocks down to the Museum of Modern Art, we made the first of our three visits to New York museums. After lunch at its lovely restaurant, we wandered all five floors of the museum at leisure, enjoying the Mark Rothkos, the Jackson Pollocks, the Edvard Munch (“The Storm,” not “The Scream”) painting, the Ansel Adams photography, and the weird and wonderful sculptures of contemporary artists such as Guadalupe Maravilla and wall hangings such as Miguel Angel Rios’ “Columbus Making Ripples.”
Then it was down to SoHo for some original museums that only a kid could love: The SlooMoo Institute (or museum of slime) and the Ice Cream Museum, both within a block of each other. At SlooMoo, after numerous hand-sanitizing stations, we allowed our natural animal messiness to indulge in squeezing, squishing, and pummeling all different colors and textures of slime in vats everywhere. You can even enjoy a shower of slime after doffing the plastic raincoats the museum provides, and for those who want to dance in it, as one grandmother did, there’s a trough of slime available for that purpose. (You have to clean your feet first.) At the end of a visit, each person is given an 8-ounce container of slime — of their choice of color and squishiness — and a bunch of small plastic trinkets to put into the slime to decorate it to your personal creative bent. (Warning to travelers who hope to take their slime treasure home on the plane: the TSA will not allow that much of the stuff, so leave it at SlooMoo and buy a 1-ounce box it you truly want to take slime home.)
The Museum of Ice Cream, at 558 Broadway, is a delight for aficionados, since you’ll be offered a new cone and flavor in every room you enter. The most fun for little ones seems to be the swimming pool of sprinkles. They’re actually rubber, so not edible or sticky, and great fun to slide down into them and play.
The city puts up most of its Christmas slights by Thanksgiving, so an evening walk East toward the Plaza Hotel, with its stunning lights display, and particularly the windows of Bergdorf Goodman on 57th Street and of Saks Fifth Avenue on 50th Street and Fifth Avenue, put one in the holiday mood even though the Rockefeller Christmas tree is not lit until after Thanksgiving. (This year’s lighting is set for Dec. 1.)