Monday, May 6, 2013

Central Park, Mussels and More!

Every time I visit New York City I am reminded of how immense the city is, and how much there is to see and do. In one morning I had already seen two neighborhoods for the first time, DUMBO and Chelsea, but as the afternoon wore on we headed to one of my favorite places in the city, Central Park. I believe I haven’t seen the same two places in the park twice, but this is understandable as it is 842 acres in its entirety.

Central Park was designed by landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted and the English architect Calvert Vaux in 1858 after winning a design competition, and was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1962. The most visited urban park in the US, it hosts about thirty-five million visitors annually. The green oasis boasts several man-made lakes and ponds, miles of walking tracks and bridle paths, two ice-skating rinks (one of which is a swimming pool in July and August), the Central Park Zoo, the Central Park Conservatory Garden, playgrounds, seven major lawns, the meadows, a wildlife sanctuary, a large area of natural woods, a 106-acre billion-gallon reservoir with an encircling running track, and an outdoor amphitheater. And that list doesn’t contain the indoor attractions such as Belvedere Castle, the Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre and the historic Carousel.

Source: here
We entered near the American Museum of Natural History, an impressive building that spans a whole city block. Looping around Strawberry Fields, we followed Terrace Drive to The Mall, where we enjoyed the last hours of daylight on Bethesda Terrace, overlooking the Lake. The terrace is split between two levels, united by two grand staircases and another that passes under Terrace Drive. You might recognize the terrace or the Bethesda Fountain from pop culture such as Law & Order, Gossip Girls, They Might Be Giants videos, Elf, Enchanted, Home Alonethe list goes on.

We lingered at the Bethesda Fountain on the lower level of the terrace, listening to a string orchestra that had set up camp and watching newlywed couples photograph. The fountain sculpture was the first major public commission for a major work of art in NYC to go to a woman, Emma Stebbins. A bronze, winged angel carries a lily in one hand, and with the other hand blesses the water below which flows from an upper basin to the pool surrounding the four cherubs, Temperance, Purity, Health, and Peace.  Also called the Angel of the Waters, the statue refers to the Gospel of John, where there is a description of an angel blessing the Pool of Bethesda, giving it healing powers.

The arcade in the lower passage features Minton tile ceiling, the only known example of Minton encaustic ceramic tiles used in a suspended ceiling. The majority of the nearly 16,000 tiles had been in storage for more than 20 years before the 2007 unveiling of a $7 million restoration by the Central Park Conservancy.

We passed the teardrop shaped 2.5 acre Strawberry Fields again on our way out. A tribute to John Lennon, who was murdered nearby in the Dakota Apartments, the center is marked by the black and white Imagine mosaic, designed by a team of artists from Naples, Italy.

We made our way back to Brooklyn as the sun was slowly sinking in the sky, tired from the events of the day but hungry for another memorable meal. Mussels & More gave us that and the best meal I have had in about six months. The place was hopping when we arrived, unusual by New York standards where dinner starts at 8pm (kind of like in France!). The owner shooed us in ahead of some other customers for a nice table in the middle of the dining room with rather ordinary décor, although the people watching was great. A glance around revealed several large parties that appeared to be extended families seated in the immediate vicinity, Brooklyn-Italian accents audible suggesting the place is a favorite among locals. We ordered the jumbo shrimp cocktail to start, and it was fresh, the horseradish sauce great. But the real treat came during the main course, I ordered the scallops with risotto served with seasonal veggies. Sounds rather mundane? The scallops were huge, perfectly seared – and there were plenty of them! The risotto was heavenly, soft and with a great texture, the kind I could NEVER replicate at home. And the finishing touch, asparagus so fresh I imagined it to still be in the ground that morning, perfectly cooked to keep that crunch but bring out the flavor, topped with a parmesan crust that had me raving. It was fabulous. And just to top off the New York experience we shared a slice of New York cheesecake, the authentic original that has inspired thousands of Cheesecake Factory outings across the US. If only I could bottle the sensation of utter satisfaction that was brought forth by my dinner that evening… PS. I bet the mussels are great too!

I could not have asked for a more perfect day. Mikus was enjoying all the extra attention, especially since he didn’t have to compete with his big brother for it, nor was he having to maintain constant vigilance to avoid having his toys swiped. The time with my sister and brother-in-law was a welcome respite from the daily routine of a stay at home mom, and the chance to explore parts of New York I had never before seen certainly a blessing. If only I knew what the next day would bring…


  1. Oi, kā arī es tur gribētu tur būt! Tavi NYC apraksti ir tik aicinoši! Paldies!:)

  2. One cannot think of NYC without the Statue of Liberty and Central Park. Great trip. I've never been to NY, maybe one day.


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