Saturday, March 12, 2011

The nightmare that is apartment hunting in New York

If there is one thing I despise about New York, it's real estate. I hate looking for apartments. The majority of brokers are deceiving, fees are high, craigslist sucks and everything is overpriced. JP and I mainly did our own search for apartments in the luxury buildings in Chelsea (criteria: west of 3rd ave, east of 8th ave, north of Houston for the most part, and south of 32nd street). We saw newly constructed buildings with tiny apartments at astronomical prices (The Continental), buildings with amazing amenity and views but in an unsatisfactory area (Tower 31) and perfect buildings where apartments disappeared in a matter of seconds even if they were still being remodeled (Centro). A broker stood us up after I emailed him with a list of buildings we had already seen by ourselves.

We went elsewhere and got the most amazing broker I have ever worked with (not that I've worked with many) and would recommend to anyone in a second. With him we saw everything from 18th floor Union Square apartments with terraces to prime West Village (W4th and Perry anyone?) walk-ups with no laundry and slanted floors (he was testing the pre-war building waters with us on that one afterward which he realized that he shouldn't show us anything like that anymore!). There were buildings on the UWS with Dale Chihuly chandeliers in the lobby and crazy amenity fees ($5,000 per year for two people?) and buildings with multiple huge walk-in closets and 28ft+ living rooms. I spent over a week from noon to 4pm looking at apartments and as well as weekends (Saturdays AND Sundays) as needed (and it was needed). 95% of what he showed us were great apartments but they just weren't exactly what we were looking for (not bright enough because of a low floor or northern exposure or too pricey for what it is)...

And now I feel kinda douche-y (I rarely use that word) because he spent so much time and energy on us and we've decided to go with one of the apartments we found ourselves in Chelsea (granted, only silly people would go to those luxury buildings with a broker). I even called the leasing office and asked if they pay the broker fee (unfortunately no). So we said sorry it didn't work out and got him a gift card (I think he deserved it and it made me feel better). We dropped our signed lease off today at the building and will move in at the beginning of April. I will say this - if anyone is looking to move within NYC/to NYC and need a good broker, especially one who knows the Chelsea/Flatiron/Union/Greenwich Village/Nolita area well, click here. In the mean time, I have to figure out what new furniture we need and how we'll get rid of our old furniture...and here's the floor plan!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Jersey weekend

I've been hibernating this winter since coming back from Paris it seems. Desculpe. (See, I'm semi-making an effort to learn Spanish....). So now that I'm back in NYC lets do a Jersey post. 

Jersey is where we went for President's day weekend. My mama's house first, where of course we stopped by Taco Bell. Don't hate, the Taco Bell near mama's house is really good, and fresh and their fresco tacos do in a pinch since rarely is there anything to eat back home thats not pre-packaged/processed especially when eating a cold cut Polish/Russian sausage and a yogurt is the equivalent of dinner. 

Next was JP's mama's house where she does not reside at the moment (+1 for beach house in Mexico). 

I think Player kinda remembered me even though he hadn't seen me in over a year, but you know, something about dogs having really good memories....regardless, he was super happy to see us and even happier to be taken for a walk or two on the beach although he did get a sticky-thorn type thing in his paw that made him bleed but we got it out and he was fine. 

Here's Player on the super-windy beach.

Here's Player with squinty eyes. 

Here's Player getting his belly rubbed by yours truly.

After watching Toy Story 3 with JP (who hadn't seen it before and held a grudge against me for seeing it without him) and his brother EP, getting some eye drops from CVS because one of my eyes was bright red from allergies, and visiting Tia C but finding no chamoy salsa at the store, we drove down to Cape May where we had dinner reservations at The Ebbitt Room. By the way, I blame Mittens the cat for my allergies, even though Mittens was locked in a room the whole time and didn't come near me. And Mittens is not her real name but a bagillion times better. JP's top names for cats that we will never have are Mittens, Kibbles and Sprinkles. Dog names are harder to come up with.

Back to The Ebbitt Room. It's a fancy-schmancy place in an old Victorian house that is now The Virginia Hotel. I don't know what was up with the waitress, but it seemed like she thought the three of us were a bunch of punk kids. After ordering a round of cocktails (which the waitress semi-messed up), we got three appetizers and three entrees. I think that made her be a little nicer to us. That, and the bottle of wine we ordered following our cocktails. Then again, if I'm in a nice restaurant and planning to spend that kind of money, the waitress shouldn't be snooty to begin with. I don't know when you go to a restaurant and expect a level of service that just isn't achieved and then ruins your meal. That happened at Rat's back in October/November.

The food was good overall, but there seemed to just be too much stuff going on. I was underwhelmed by the appetizers. A spicy ahi tuna tartare came with orange segments, hearts of palm, cucumber, avocados and plantain chips. I can't say much about it because I didn't try it.  

The calamari with lime-ginger aioli and micro greens were light in batter (rice flour maybe?) but a little greasy and definitely too chewy. The seared scallops with cauliflower puree were nicely seared and meaty, but the puree was way too sweet.

My main of duck two ways with beet risotto was good but nothing to write home about. On one side I had a duck leg confit, and on the other side a rare duck breast (maybe it was a magret, it was pretty fatty...). I did like the duck but the risotto wasn't creamy and a little dry. And then I don't know what was up with the clump of greens in the middle of my dish.

JP ordered what I wanted to get originally - an apple and brie stuffed pork-chop with roasted root vegetables and tarragon-cranberry jus. I thought he wouldn't like it because of the brie but it was barely noticable. This was actually quite tasty except the pork was a little dry...perhaps because there was barely a bone there?

EP had grilled prime 10oz NY strip steak which came with butternut squash and goat cheese gratin, a chili and red wine poached coffee and coffee demi. Whoa, lots of stuff on a plate. The gratin was delicious but I'd call it more a lasagna than a gratin. Although I don't know if there was pasta in it or just potatoes. There was definitely something other than squash and goat cheese. And the poached pear was really good. Just not sure how all of that goes together.

For dessert, we shared the special of the day, a steamed sticky toffee pudding, as well as a panna cotta. The pudding was delicious, but never have I seen a panna-cotta not in a was almost like a cheesecake! And it came with a biscotta and other stuff. Everything about this restaurant just screamed that they were trying too hard and putting way too much stuff on one plate. Good but I'm not sure the prices are justifiable...

The next day, after pancakes and tater tots and toast and sausage at a diner, we of course went to eat TACOS. Full disclosure: Comercial Mexicana (no relation to the public company of the same name down in Mexico) in Wildwood is owned by Tia C. Although the prepared food part in the back may or may not be called Ricos Tacos. I still can't figure it out.

You proceed to the back past the wall of chilis and spices, and past the refrigerated (and non-refrigerated) cases of Boing and Jarritos (by the way, a bottle of Jarritos has 220+ calories, so you're better off getting a Mexican Coke) to the counter with the refrigerated cheeses, and order. Your choice - burritos, tacos or quesadillas with a ton of different meats (asada, barbacoa, pollo, lengua if you're into that kind of thing). I, of course, went with the chorizo tacos and picked cilantro and onions as my topping (you can also get lettuce, tomato, sour cream and queso). Comercial Mexicana has ample seating in back (8 booth-type things? And a jukebox!) so we sat ourselved down and waited. But not for long. Four tacos with double-tortillas. 

The tortillas are really good but I actually left the second tortilla from each taco on my plate...too much for me. Along with your order, you get limes, a red salsa (heavy on the dried chiles) and a tomatillo salsa. I preferred the cleaner, lime-ier tomatillo salsa to for an acidic kick to the chorizo. 

JP ordered the enchilada tacos but topped them with the lettuce/tomato/sourcream/cheese - I think they would've been better with just cilantro and onions, the way EP got his. Much cleaner and you can taste the meat flavor better. 

Then we went to get a slice of pizza (what can I say, we're fatties) at Sam's Pizza on the Boardwalk. Apparently they burned down a couple years ago and rebuilt but miraculously their really cool old-school cash register survived the fire (insurance fraud?). This was the pizza that two (three?) summers ago burned my tongue. I'm still not a fan - mainly because the sauce on the pizza is too sweet and you can clearly taste the dried oregano in it. Too bad Britton's Bakery wasn't open. I could have totally finished my weekend glutton-fest with an apple fritter. At least I finished it with some Bent Spoon ice cream the next day.