12 Hours in New York (A Meme)

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It all started with this bagel.

At Murray’s Bagels on 13th Street and 6th Ave., I consumed a bagel so good–an everything bagel with plain cream cheese, Scottish Salmon, tomato, onion and capers–I thought to myself: “If I were told I had only 12 hours left to spend in New York after which I would be exiled forever, I would definitely have to stop here for my favorite New York bagel.”

Then I wondered: where else would I go? What else would I do? With 12 final hours in New York, how would I spent my time?

Then I thought: wouldn’t this be an interesting meme for people to talk about their own cities? The meme could be called “12 Hours in…” (you pronounce the “dot dot dot”) and people around the world could tell how they’d spend 12 final hours in their own city.

So here’s how I’d spend a final 12 hours in mine….

12 Hours in New York

by The Amateur Gourmet

For starters, let’s say you get to pick the 12 hour range: which 12 hours would you want to spend out of the day. I’d like to choose 11 am to 11 pm. And I’d like it to be a Wednesday, please, because it’s less crowded and less touristy on Wednesdays.

At 11 AM, I’d begin at Murray’s bagels where I’d eat the bagel you see above along with a Tropicana orange juice. This would take 20 minutes and during those 20 minutes I’d flip through that week’s New Yorker: there’s nothing like reading The New Yorker while eating a bagel in New York. I’d focus on “Tables for Two,” the cartoons, anything by Anthony Lane, John Lahr, or Alex Ross and roll my eyes at the caption contest at the end because those things drive me crazy (especially since I’m really bad at coming up with anything to submit.)

I’d stroll down 6th Ave. over to my favorite coffee shop, Joe The Art of Coffee, where I’d have a cappuccino and read a little of whichever book I was reading at the moment. I know it seems like a gratuitous waste of time, but some of my happiest New York moments have been reading at Joe and I’d have to have one last visit to that bright, sunny space where I wrote my book and finished reading Anna Karenina.

After that, at 12 PM, I’d stroll over to my favorite book store in New York: Three Lives & Company and browse those shelves one last time.

Would I go to Batch or Birdbath for a pastry before heading to my next destination? No, I’d have to save the calories: I wouldn’t want to stuff myself too soon–I still have 10 more hours.

Now, I’d hop on the F train and take it down to 2nd Ave. where I’d get out and visit another New York institution, one that you’d have to visit before leaving New York forever. And that, of course, is Katz’s Deli.

Here’s Diana with a pastrami sandwich during a recent visit:

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The real question is: which would be my last Katz’s sandwich–pastrami or corned beef? Diana convinced me that the pastrami at Katz’s is less fatty and ultimately more enjoyable; but would I want the less fatty option on my last meal in New York?

Solution! Order both and eat a little bit of each. And order coleslaw too and a Dr. Brown’s black cherry soda.

But don’t finish anything: you’ll be too full for your final 9.5 hours. Now it’s 1:30 PM.

Here’s where we get cultural. I chose a Wednesday so I could see a matinee. I’d hop in a cab and race uptown to see a final Broadway show. My two greatest New York loves are New York theater and New York food; so for a final Broadway show, which would I see?

Let me do some soul searching here. Assuming this happened tomorrow (with the shows currently running), I could see the latest phenomenon–Harry Potter in Eqqus–or I could support a beloved new favorite before it closes (that being [title of show] which you should all go see because it’s fantastic.)

But, as a guy who grew up on Broadway shows, I’d have to pick a classic done extraordinarily well; and that’s easy enough with the current production of “Gypsy” starring Patti LuPone. A legendary performer in a legendary show, what better pick for a final visit to the New York theater?

We leave “Gypsy” at 4:30, probably 5, and that only gives us 6 more hours before leaving New York forever.

You’d think I’d go for more food, but I’d need to hit a museum before leaving. A museum and then the park and then a big blow-out dinner.

Which museum? My favorite New York museum, by far, is the Guggenheim. The architecture, the layout, the eclecticism; I love it. But, unfortunately, the Guggenheim can be very hit-or-miss with its exhibits. I went Friday with Diana to see the latest, a Louise Bourgeois exhibit, that we both really enjoyed (except the penis on a hook which raised my voice two octaves). To me the choice comes down to: the MoMA (which has my favorite permanent collection, since I love modern art); the Met, which is ginormous and overwhelming and yet one of the most awe-inspiring places in the city, or–for sentimental reasons–The Museum of Natural History where my parents used to take me, growing up, and where nothing really changes so that squid and the whale, which inspired the movie The Squid and The Whale, still looks exactly the same as it did 20 years ago.

But I pick MoMA. It’d be my last chance to visit “Starry Night” and those famous Picassos (the one with the four women especially); I’d go to the contemporary gallery and I’d go to the photography exhibit and then I’d leave the museum, running, at 6 o’clock to get one last look at Central Park.

But won’t it be too dark? No, I control daylight too (in this hypothetical) and for me it stays bright until 8 PM.

I take one last stroll through the park–no horse and buggy, that’s cheesy. I may even do a quick tour of the Central Park Zoo.

You may be wondering: “Adam, you’re a food blogger, why aren’t you eating more?”

Sure, I could grab as many Levain bakery cookies as I could handle; I could gorge on gnudi at The Spotted Pig. But then I’d feel sick and food doesn’t taste good when you have so much of it all at once.

No, I’d let my day build up to a final blow-out dinner at one of the city’s bastions of fine dining. To me, the choice comes down to Jean-Georges vs. Le Bernardin. I rule out Per Se because, in this scenario, I could still visit The French Laundry which would have similar food. And I rule out Daniel because, although the food is always wonderful there, I find it to be the most stuffy of all the 4-star restaurants; it’s also filled with much older wealthier people which, admittedly, is also true of Jean-Georges and Le Bernardin, but I remember seeing more people my age at the latter two, not so much the former.

Anyway, the logic doesn’t really matter because any of these places will provide a stellar final New York meal.

I’d have to go with Jean-Georges just because the location is perfect–right there at the foot of Central Park–and because, of all the fancy restaurants I’ve been to in my life, Jean-Georges dazzles the most with its food. It’s always inventive, always surprising, and always lip-smackingly good.

If possible, I’d write a passionate letter to Jean-Georges first and explain that this was my last meal I’d ever eat in New York and to spare no expense (in this hypothetical, I have zillions of dollars) in representing New York at its finest, pairing each course with a notable wine–maybe even wines from Long Island, just to really make the point–and perhaps paying homage to some of the city’s favorite foods: a super gourmet hot dog? A highbrow knish? An actual slice of DiFara pizza, just to be witty?

Hopefully the meal would end with just enough time to go to one of the touristy spots–Empire State Building, Top of the Rock–just to soak in a final view of the city before leaving. And there, on the roof, I’d take a deep breath and bid my favorite city farewell.

And thusly I would end my final 12 hours in New York.

Now the part where this becomes a meme…

On your blog or in the comments here, tell us how you’d spend a final 12 hours in your city. Where would you go? What would you do? What would you eat? It doesn’t need to be all about food, it should just be a sincere account of what you’d do….

Can’t wait to read your “12 Hours” posts. In a strange way, they may provide very useful city guides for people who have short visits to your place of residence. Speaking of which: if you live in Baltimore, you are very much encouraged to write a 12 Hours post. I’ll be there next weekend!

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