Posts Tagged ‘Penelope’

Penelope NYC interior restaurant

I spent my Labor Day weekend in NYC, staying in a little apartment near Park Slope and wandering in both Brooklyn and Manhattan. The trip, like most of my New York weekends these days, was a mix of familiar and new: a long browse at the Strand, a fantastic musical I hadn’t seen (Come From Away, which made me laugh and cry), a lovely Friday evening in my favorite tangle of streets in the West Village. (The bookseller gossip at Three Lives continues to be the best.)

I went back to the Chocolate Room, which I visited on my first-ever trip to NYC for a retreat led by Jen Lee, years ago. I finally went to Books Are Magic and then tried out Jolie, a French-Mexican cantina in Cobble Hill. I had brunch with dear Abilene friends (both of whom I’ve known since I was a college student and they were just kids) at Maman in TriBeCa, which was new to all of us.

And on Sunday night, I went back to Penelope.

Like so many of my NYC loves, Penelope was a gift from Allison, my dear friend who used to live in Queens and periodically take me to all her favorite NYC spots. Penelope is the kind of place we both love: cozy and inviting, with simple, homey comfort food and yummy desserts. We first ate there on a frigid January weekend, and it lived in my memory as twinkly and delicious.

There are literally hundreds (thousands?) of restaurants in NYC, and I love trying multiple new ones every time I go. Part of the adventure is simply walking into a new place that looks interesting, on whatever street I happen to be on. But I am also both a creature of habit and a person who and delights in repeating joys. When I find something I love, I generally want to enjoy it again and again.

A couple of years ago, during a work conference in midtown, I trudged over to Penelope for dinner one night, dry-eyed from staring at PowerPoint screens and nearly voiceless from a lingering cold. I sat at the bar, which was festooned with twinkle lights, and ate a bowl of spicy, orange carrot-ginger soup. The waitress, after hearing my scratchy voice, brought me a mug of hot water with honey and lemon, a vibrant yellow slice floating on top. Her kindness choked me up (even more than my sore throat). It was such a gesture of care.

I’ve spent enough time in New York now that parts of it feel like mine: there are places I can throw off the tourist mantle for a few minutes, neighborhoods I know well enough not to second-guess my every step. Much of it, of course, is either unfamiliar or constantly changing; the city is huge and dynamic, and even if I lived there, it wouldn’t stay the same. But I’ve drawn immense pleasure from coming back to my favorite places, including Penelope.

This time, it was late on a Sunday night and the place was nearly empty. But the waitress still had a smile for me, and I sat and read my book, savored my sandwich and glass of rosé, and relaxed into the quiet familiarity (and the nineties jams on the stereo). I walked back to the train through Murray Hill, with my leftovers in a brown paper bag, sleepy and footsore (I’d been walking for three days) and entirely satisfied.

Do you like going back to favorite places in cities you’ve visited? Or would you rather try something new every time?


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This past weekend, J and I finally crossed #2 off my 28 things list – we hopped on a bus to New York, to stay with Allison in her adorable Queens apartment and see our college friend Ben play Pumbaa in The Lion King. I’d seen the show before, in London during my first semester in Oxford, but there are no words, then or now, to describe the stunning visual effects of the animal costumes and the African stage sets. You simply have to see it. (And hear it. The music is incredible, and the woman who played Rafiki is particularly gifted. Her voice sent chills up my spine multiple times.)

Anyway, as we strolled around the city, exploring Hell’s Kitchen and SoHo and Union Square and the Upper East Side, and trying not to freeze to death (it was frigid), we ate some delicious meals. New York is full of amazing restaurants, but these are the ones we loved this weekend.

First, after seeing a fabulous Muppet exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image, we stumbled upon Il Bambino, a cozy, rustic panini shop tucked away on 31st Avenue in Astoria. I consider myself something of a tomato soup connoisseur, but this was the BEST tomato soup I’ve ever had – creamy, rich and fresh, topped with flatbread spread with pesto:

So. Delicious. (The 25-degree temps outside only heightened my appreciation.)

We also had paninis – which were yummy – but the other best part of the meal came afterward. Three words: Nutella. Hot. Chocolate. Decadently delicious:

Saturday night found us shivering in Times Square, gawking at the lights and trying to find a place to grab dinner before the show. All the restaurants right off the square were packed, of course, so Allison and her fiance, Duncan, led us a couple blocks west, to the edge of Hell’s Kitchen, where we savored Thai food at Yum Yum Bangkok. The name says it all. (No photos of that – we were on a schedule, and eating fast!)

On Sunday morning, J and I headed to the Met, to sample as much of it as we could before meeting Allison and Duncan for brunch. Last fall, Allison introduced me to Alice’s Tea Cup and I loved it, so this time we headed to “Chapter III,” on East 81st Street:

The interior is charming, and they sell teapots and tea accessories and dozens of teas. The boys had scones and we all had tea (mine was an almond blend):

And J and I split an omelet, along with this delectable confection:

That, my friends, is French toast bread pudding. With fresh berries and cream, raspberry and chocolate sauces. And oh my, it’s heaven. (I bought the cookbook. So many tempting possibilities!)

You’d think we’d never be hungry again after that, but after spending the afternoon exploring SoHo (I finally got to visit Purl Soho!), we were chilly and hungry. So we headed back uptown (to midtown, anyway), and munched on comfort food (mac & cheese, fish & chips, warm artichoke-spinach dip, cranberry-apple crumble) at Penelope. (Which is utterly charming, not to mention yummy, and reasonably priced.)

We left Monday afternoon, sated, and with many promises to return when the weather warms up, so we can sample more delicious food. (And museums and landmarks and parks, of course.)

Where do you love to eat in NYC? I’m already making a list for next time!

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