It’s been almost three weeks since my last post, and I hate to get so far behind, but it’s all been for good reason – I’ve been enjoying the hell out of summer! For starters, I took the Megabus to Pennsylvania for the Fourth of July – the first time since Christmas that I’ve been home with my family (side note: what in GOD’S name was I doing taking the Greyhound from the hell hole that is Port Authority before? Megabus is infinitely better, shout out to my wing woman for bringing it to my attention). It was nice to do absolutely nothing (like literally nothing…I read and ate food and watched movies and lived in my PJs for 5 days), be taken care of, and catch a break from the city for a bit. This year especially so, as the end of June/beginning of July was a bit of rough patch emotionally for me. My boyfriend and I would’ve celebrated our one year anniversary on July 2nd, and our second date (and one of my favorites) was on July 4th last year; I think it would have been too painful for me to stay in the city this year, so it was perfect to retreat to the country for a bit.
In any case, returning from the Fourth of July brought me back to a two-day work week, followed by a Saturday full of day drinking at my friend’s loft in Brooklyn (like literally killing a bottle or two of rosé and a 6-pack of Coronas from 4pm to midnight….), and a Sunday brunch with my favorite blogging couple over at Queen’s Comfort! (If the Egg McRuffin – an English muffin topped with four different melted cheeses, bacon, fried egg, chives, and a side of tater tots – isn’t enough to entice you out to Queens, the Donut Diva’s strawberry nutella cake donut will).
Throw in a few wine dates, coffee dates, dinner dates, and museum dates, and the weeks just flew right by me, bringing us to last weekend, when I celebrated my 27th birthday.
This has been one of the best birthdays to date. I am so fortunate to have an amazing group of girlfriends here in the city who really made it special. I remember when I first moved here in August of 2015. I knew not a soul except for the former student who let me couch crash at her apartment in the East Village for a week until I found a place. I didn’t have my first friend until mid-October and I absolutely hated my job, so it was a pretty lonely and depressing first couple of months going on online dates with randos or, the even sadder alternative, sitting in my apartment alone on a Saturday night watching Netflix when everyone else was out having a good time. Despite the crushing loneliness of being surrounded in a city of 8.5 million people and not knowing a single one, I knew I wanted to be in New York and that, like my friends and family assured me, it would take time to adjust – eventually, there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. To see how far things have come since then makes me extremely happy and I really can’t picture myself living anywhere else.
Back to birthday celebrations…it started out with my best friend driving down from Boston on Friday night. There was a LOT of food and drink involved over the weekend, beginning with aperitivo and homemade spritzes (extremely Italian recipe: “three fingers of aperol, two splashes of soda, a little more than half the amount of aperol of prosecco,” courtesy of hot bartender from Italian wedding), then Saturday brunch at my favorite brunch place in the city: Gemma at the Bowery Hotel.
We initially were going to go to Vic’s – a block away from Gemma in Noho – and even had booked a table for two at noon, but the staff were SO rude and extremely unwilling to accommodate that we actually walked out of the restaurant before ordering and headed down the block to take our business to a place that actually appreciates it and is consistently delicious. I’ve been to Gemma a few times and it has never disappointed – everything I’ve eaten there has been a home run, and they actually have some really healthy options for the health-conscious! Protein breakfast (chicken breast, spinach and scrambled egg whites, and tomato slices) and baked eggs in tomato with avocado are case-in-point.
This time I opted for a Bloody Mary and Eggs a la Gemma, which were poached eggs on top of brioche and cooked prosciutto, covered in hollandaise sauce and served with grilled asparagus.
They also give you a basket of their delicious banana bread and house made honey butter to start. It’s a super cute and atmospheric place without being overly done or cheesy. I always recommend it to out of town visitors looking for a classic NYC brunch experience.
After brunch, we may or may not have walked over a mile to grab a marble cruller and creme-filled yeast donut at my favorite donut joint – The Donut Pub! – on W. 14th Street before heading back to Astoria to chill out with an iced latte from my most recent discovery – Gossip Coffee. Yes, I told you there would be a lot of food involved.
Fast forward through the hours of getting ready doing hair and makeup and quite possibly drinking more spritzes, and voila! Ready to go out:
I wanted to do something chill and low key with my friends this year instead of making my birthday into some big marathon event where everyone gets dressed up in fancy clothes and pays too much for small portions, mediocre cocktails, and conspicuous consumption. We’ve all been to those parties, and we’ve all promptly looked for escape mechanisms halfway through. Keeping it low key means less stress and less pressure, and more fun for everyone.
I settled on GG’s, a smallish, dimly-lit, casual and intimate pizza place on the Lower East Side off of Avenue A and E. 5th Street. You might have seen pictures floating around the internet – their square slices with perfectly-round pepperoni pieces are definitely insta-worthy for my fellow IG addicts. The restaurant itself was exactly the venue I was looking for! We settled on ‘nudja and pesto sausage spreads on toasts for starters, followed by a few different pizzas to share. Though they are famous for their thick-crusted Sicilian style square pies – in particular “Grandma Pie (The O.G.)”- my favorite was actually The Pink Pie – a thin-crusted round pie topped with vodka sauce, sundried tomatoes, and balsamic. Unfortunately I did not get a picture of the round pie, as we devoured it pretty quickly upon arrival, but the OG pie was just as drool-worthy:
The bottles of rosé were flowing just as much as the conversation, and a dear friend – my first New York friend! – bought a funfetti birthday cake to cap it off. It was such a great dinner, with excellent service in a fantastic atmosphere/location…I will definitely be returning, probably not to share though… 😉
After GG’s, we walked a few blocks down to Bob Bar off Eldridge Street – a small, one-roomed square space playing ’90s/early-2000s rap and hip-hop throwbacks. TOTALLY my jams! It was really fun, I danced my feet off to Missy, Kanye and R. Kelly (unfortunate timing), and enjoyed a couple of White Gummy Bears and Blueberry Gimlets. I was happy to note that the crowd was late-twenties/early-thirty-somethings and for the most part pretty chilled out. Would definitely recommend as a fun place to bring out-of-towners – and the doormen were nice enough to spare me the cover charge since it was my birthday, as well as keep an eye on my leftover birthday cake and gifts.
I’ve been hanging out in the Lower East Side a lot recently, so expect a Lower East Side: Part 2! posting on some great places to check out for cocktails and dining. Until then…hellooooo, late-twenties. Lesson number one: apparently it’s possible to get a hangover even when you were NOT drunk the night before. Duly noted, body; duly noted…