Destination: New York City ’s Balthazar
It’s been overcast for days; the weather has fluctuated a bit which has caused precipitation, so it’s been raw rather than cold. My skin and bones definitely feel Winter knocking. This is not a bleak story, however; it’s quite a happy one.
It’s December in New York, and I just opened the first window on the Advent Calendar (on the Christian Calendar, this is the start of the year) which most people equate to as the countdown to Christmas!
What to do for the Holidays in NYC
I’m often asked if my family and I are going anywhere for the Holidays, and I always look at them with astonishment – Why would anyone want to leave New York City, when the rest of the world wants to take part of how our city celebrates the Christmas Season. Within blocks, one can manage to perform a scene right out of any great Holiday film. You have Wollman Rink at Central Park; The Plaza Hotel which sits right across Bergdorf Goodman and FAO Schwartz; there are Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Saint Thomas Church and a host of other places of worship; and of course, there is Rockefeller Center with its famous Tree and Ice Skating Rink.
For shoppers, there’s Madison Avenue and the great windows on Fifth Avenue to fawn over. For the gents, there is always a respite in the arms of the Old King Cole Room at the St. Regis for a drink.
Lower East Siders
My girls and I are Lower East Siders, and we definitely appreciate all that uptown has to offer; but in the next few weeks, we will journey with you to some of our favorite Holiday haunts in our neighborhood and share with you some of our favorite memories and stories of the Season.
Buche de Noel at Balthazar
Growing up, I remember my parents flipping on WPIX, Channel 11, every Christmas Eve to listen to Christmas standards from Handel’s Messiah to Johnny Mathis’ Winter Wonderland while watching a burning Yule Log on the television screen. I have such fond memories of those days; that though the Yule Log is no longer available for viewing, it is forever embedded into my Christmastide DNA. So, as an homage, every year I go to Spring Street and Crosby to the Balthazar Boulangerie shop and put in an order for a Buche de Noel. It’s rolled up flourless chocolate cake with chocolate cream and marzipan decorative toppings. I wouldn’t dare try to make it myself, though I have looked in The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook and thought about it for a second.
Irish Breakfast at the bar in Balthazar
Another Balthazar Christmas Tradition my wife and I perform every first week of December is having an Irish Breakfast at the bar. The Irish Breakfast consists of 2 sausages, 2 pieces of medium cut bacon, fried mushrooms, baked beans, fried tomatoes, two eggs any style and fried bread. With a cup of coffee, you’re golden. Options are limitless when it comes to English Breakfasts’ in the city, but there is no better atmosphere during this time of year than at the bar at Balthazar. The energy from the tourists and the locals mingling is unequaled. Classical Holiday music in the background, 20-year-old bottles of Burgundy shown on the upper shelves, garland wrapped around the columns and the “buzz” of happiness, mostly provided by their fantastic Bloody Marys, all around.
Three Wise Men from Orient
I always picture the Three Wise Men from Orient far, traversing through cruel weather and needing a warm place to rest their bones and dry their skin; and wondering if Balthazar, my favorite of the three knew where to take them.
How and when do you start celebrating Christmas? Let us know, we’d love to hear it. Maybe we can even meet at Balthazar?! If you liked this Christmas Story, please share it with your friends…
Travel TIP: Right before leaving on our Long-Term travels, we decided to treat ourselves to a few staycations in NYC because we had been staying at Brenda’s parents’ house for 6 months, in NJ. There were nights that we were just too tired to trek our way home. The hotel we enjoyed the most was the Grand Hyatt in Midtown, which is so close to everything and conveniently located next to Grand Central.