Jess and Kelly turn 30, take on Manhattan

Months ago we decided that we would take a trip together to celebrate our 30th birthdays, which are both in May. Usually when I try to plan something that far in advance, it doesn’t end up happening. But we were determined. And just to make sure we didn’t let life or school or jobs or anything else get in the way, we purchased our train tickets in March (for me, this is waaaay in advance). We might not have planned a single other detail until the night before we left, but at least we knew we were going!

Our train was first thing Friday morning, so Jess spent the night in DC with us on Thursday. I am so very sad to say that we took Jess out to dinner to a place we thought was an excellent spot for gluten free dining based on one prior experience (I should know as a statistician that a sample size of one is not really sufficient), and we both got glutened (so sorry Jess!).

After spending 30 minutes on the phone the next morning with the manufacturer of the CVS version of Imodium unsuccessfully trying to figure out whether it is gluten free (I got a call the following Tuesday letting me know that it is – a little late!), Jess dashed over to CVS to buy the real stuff. We popped some pills and rushed to the train station.

Our trip was not off to a great start, but it got better from there.

We scored a table in the dining cart and chatted all the way to NY. By the time we got there, our stomaches were starting to settle.

We stayed with our friend Emmy from college and her husband David who live in Brooklyn. We had a leisurely afternoon visiting with them at their apartment, munching on some apples and cheese, while I half dozed in recovery from my night of no sleep. Then we got a tour of their Brooklyn neighborhood, including a stop at the Dollar Deal, and headed to Happy Hour at a Spanish restaurant in their hood that has excellent white sangria and warm dates stuffed with an almond and wrapped in bacon (oh, baby).

Then we went to a great little vegetarian / soul food spot called Cornerstone for dinner. Jess and I both had the arugula and baby spinach salad with Gorgonzola cheese, walnuts, sliced pears, and an orange vinaigrette dressing, and shared a bottle of red wine. Yum.

On Saturday morning, Emmy and David cooked up some poached eggs and bacon before we headed off for the day. We took a spin through the Brooklyn farmer’s market and flea market before taking the subway into Manhattan. Our first stop was Eataly. We wandered around the gigantic Italian-style open market for a couple of hours, stopping somewhere in the middle to have lunch at the veggie counter. We had a nice salad and an even nicer glass of Prosecco each.  They let us continue wandering the market with our Prosecco. The dessert counter even had a couple of gluten free options, so we each had gluten free Italian cookies held together by gooey chocolate.

Next up was Chelsea Market (if you haven’t noticed, our trip was kind of food-centric). We wandered around there for a good long while too. When we came upon Friedman’s Lunch, I was almost wishing we hadn’t already eaten because they a great looking GF menu, including sandwiches with fresh GF bread, not something you see every day. We stood in the brownie store for a solid 2 minutes just inhaling the delicious, deep, dark chocolate aroma of the brownies. We wandered in and out of places selling olive oils, salts, nuts, grains, cheese, meats, fresh produce, fish, and everything else you can think of. It was hard not to spend a lot of money there. Luckily I wasn’t hungry. I did buy a snack of dates rolled in almonds and coconut. I sampled a pistachio spread which was heavenly, but cost $14 for a 3 ounce jar. I passed.

We spent the next half hour trying to hail a cab in the rain. We failed miserably and took the subway instead to the upper east side where Jess’ brother and sister-in-law live with their two kids, ages 4 and 6 (in a 700 square foot apartment!). Her brother had to work, so unfortunately we didn’t get to see him. We scarfed down a gluten free brownie that Jess’ sister-in-law made and played with the kids. We didn’t get to stay too long because we had to leave to meet up with Emmy for our dinner reservation at Nizza.

Nizza is a place I would definitely go back to. After Eataly and Chelsea Market, I wasn’t that hungry, so all I could fit in was a caprese salad and some polenta, which were both good. But they had an extensive gluten free menu, including several different soccas, pastas, salads, meats, fish, etc. They even brought complementary gluten free bread to the table when we arrived! This was the first time I have gotten to enjoy a bread basket at a restaurant since I have been gluten free. Emmy isn’t gluten free, but ordered the socca just because it sounded good, and it was.

Next we saw Billy Elliot, which was well done and entertaining. It’s hard for me to imagine that an 11 year old can have that much talent, but there it was staring me in the face! I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m moving it the top of my Netflix queue now. And coincidentally, the female lead was someone that Emmy knew from high school!

After the show, we headed back to Brooklyn and hit up another one of Emmy and David’s usual local spots for drinks. Later we went back to Emmy and David’s and I ate half a pan of these awesome lemon bars, courtesy of Emmy. The alcohol totally clouded my judgment there, but I don’t regret it.

After a few hours of sleep, a shrimp and cheese omelette with bacon (also courtesy of Emmy), and a final hour or two of visiting, we sadly headed back to the train and to reality. I think we both wished we could have stayed longer, but I think Jess was also happy to get home to her beautiful little girl.

We had a fabulous time celebrating the beginning of our fourth decade of life. Happy birthday, Jess!

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