Brunch at NYC’s Artisanal Fromagerie

A pleasant surprise at New York’s Artisanal Fromergie Bistro (2 Park Avenue, NYC) for a midtown brunch.  I had been to this Murray Hill bistro many times in the past.  It was always busy, crowded with business lunch and media exec types.  Yet, I never imagined it would be jam-packed for Sunday brunch since it’s a bit off the beaten path.

Well, fortunately I made a reservation or we’d be standing in line.  The brunch and cheese menus had eager diners lining up outside the door with good reason.  The food’s great.

Artisanal Fromagerie NYCThey take cheese seriously here and have a temperature-controlled cheese cave to shield their offerings from all over the world.  Yet, it’s brunch and that means mimosas and something sweet.  I opted for the Almond Croissant French Toast, stuffed with the creamiest almond cheese blend and served with a not-to-sweet apricot compote.  My zia would shake her head if she knew we paid $16.50 for a croissant but this is midtown and Sunday brunch doesn’t come cheap.

My Italian friend ordered a “flight” of three seasonal cheese.  I guess a “flight” is a fancy word for assortment.  He left the choice to the house and specifically asked for American cheese since he was visiting the U.S.  Bravo to him, while the waitress thought it rather odd.

Oh, and just in case you can’t find Artisanal, the front entrance is actually on East 32nd Street and not at 2 Park Avenue.  It’s about a 10 minute walk from Grand Central Station for a great NYC brunch and the vibe to match.

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Day Trip to Baltimore

Baltimore is the little, big city in the center of Maryland.  At just a short drive from Washington DC, Philadelphia, Delaware and Virginia, even New York, Baltimore is the perfect day trip destination with varied activities when all you have is 24 hours.

Chessie BaltimoreThe centrally located Inner harbor area was once the main port of entry for America’s burgeoning immigrant population.  Today, it’s full of restaurants, shops and seasonal activities such as the Chessie paddle boats which line the shore.

Can’t miss sites should include the National Aquarium and Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium, which is full of strange things like the “Coughin’ Coffin” made of cigarettes.  The Aquarium is a true gem in the heart of the city and while it can no longer host dolphin shows, the friendly mammals swim up close in giant tanks.  Don’t miss the jellyfish room and the rain forest too!

Baltimore AquariumShoppers will find the typical array of chain stores like Forever 21 and H & M department stores, sprinkled with a mix of souvenir and candy shops.  You could waste the day shopping but why would you want to when the same shops are likely in your own backyard?

We had lunch at Bumba Gumps where the young staff was friendly and full of Forrest Gump trivia and the New England Clam Chowder wasn’t half bad.  It sits at the harbor’s edge and offers outdoor dining on a sunny day with a view of the city’s historic ships and the charming and very red, Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse.

If your stay is longer than a day and you need a place to hang your hat, The Hyatt Regency Baltimore is convenient to the Inner Harbor and has the best fried calamari at its mezzanine level bar.  Pair it with a margarita and then work off the calories in the hotel’s state-of-the-art gym or rooftop pool.  If you’re lucky enough to book a room on the 12th floor or belong to Hyatt’s Gold Passport Club, an added perk is the free breakfast and all-day drinks and snacks inside the recently renovated, 12th floor Regency Club.  Membership has its privileges!

Baltimore is great for day trippin’ whether you’re flyin’ solo or grabbing a weekend getaway.

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A Big Green Apple – St. Patrick’s Day in NYC

Chicago may dye its river green and the White House its front fountain but New York City takes the big shamrock when it comes to all things Irish for St. Patrick’s Day. After all, how could it not with the magnificent St. Patrick’s Cathedral holding center stage on Fifth Avenue, the parade route between 44th and 79th Streets.

New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day parade began in 1762, long before the U.S. was an independent nation, when a homesick group of Irish ex-pats decided to flaunt their Irish pride. Now, more than 250 years later, New Yorkers and tourists alike get their green on for the world’s largest parade to honor Ireland’s patron saint.

NYC St Patricks ParadeThe parade kicks off at 11am every March 17th, as some two-million spectators line the route. So many people, so many leprechauns, so much green beer and bagels to match, that it takes about four to five hours for the marchers to reach the end.

So shake your shileleagh . . . shimmy with your shamrocks . . . and enjoy the luck o’ the Irish.

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