Today was our last day of any sort of driving, which only consisted of dropping the Dodge Challenger back to JFK airport.
The doorman at our hotel was almost as sad to see the car go as I was, as he heaped praise on what an “awesome beast” the car was … “it’s got a Hemi, baby” (referring to the type of V8 engine), he told me as he handed me back the keys.
First problem of getting back to JFK was that with all of the skyscrapers in Manhattan, our TomTom wouldn’t pick up a signal. Knowing that JFK is east of Manhattan, I just headed in that direction and crossed my fingers and hoped I wasn’t heading into one of those New York suburbs that you are meant to avoid.
Fortunately, I made it unscathed to the East River and picked up a signal, so was able to find my way to JFK without the need to lock the doors and pray.
So ended the driving part of our holiday, a mere 6,440 miles (10,300 km)
By the time I had made it back to the hotel, New York had turned on a rainy day for us. Jane and I were both content to have a day of not being tourists, so caught a train to the meatpacking district for lunch at a burger joint and a walk around the Chelsea markets, which managed to fill most of the afternoon.
For dinner, our hotel concierge had recommended a restaurant on the Lower East Side called WD~50, owned by chef Wylie Dufresne. WD~50 has apparently received rave reviews and has reputation for very innovative cooking, which has earned it a Michelin star.
We arrived at the restaurant to find out we would be sitting at a table virtually in the foyer area, next to the restaurant’s bar. We’re not sure if that had much bearing on our experience, but for both of us, the restaurant fell slightly flat.
Forewarned that the restaurant pushed the boundaries, we opted for the degustation menu to give ourselves the best chance of experiencing the talents of chef Dufresne. Whilst elements of most dishes were definitely clever (ie what looked like a mini bagel that was made out of ice cream), too many of the dishes felt like they had one or two many ingredients, or that one of the ingredients completely overpowered what should have been the star of the dish (ie the chick peas overwhelming the foie gras).
Maybe we were not in the mood to have our palates so challenged, but we have definitely eaten in restaurants staking their reputation on innovative cooking that are much more successful with the end result. WD~50 was by no means bad, it just didn’t deliver what we had been primed to expect.
Across the road from our hotel was the “Birdland” jazz club, established in 1949 and named after Charlie “Bird” Parker. Before heading back to the room, we thought we should poke our head in and see if anyone was playing.
What followed was the most magical hour and a half of jazz, delivered by an enchanting French singer Cyrille Aimee and her 6 piece band. With her playful, velvety voice, she kept the audience entranced with every song. At least we assumed they were entranced, as the club operates a very strict and rigorously enforced “keep quiet during the performance” policy, so a hush fell over the room every time she sang.
When we arrived at the jazz club, it seemed like their cover charge was a bit steep. When we walked out at 1am, it seemed like a bargain.