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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cheap is Chic Chat: Hearting New York

I heard the car doors slam last night, and that only meant Mom was back. Her suitcase was heavier, her voice was louder and even though she still had the gleam of bright lights, big city in her eyes, it was obvious that home is where her heart is.

Mom admits it’s easy to get pick-pocketed in NYC – by your own hand! And even though Bright Blue and Cherry B had to use false promises and soft words to coax her out of the Juicy Couture boutique before she made a ridiculous, buttery blue purse purchase, she kept most of her impulse buying in check . . . as best you can when temptation blares from every storefront.

So, even though bargains don’t necessarily abound in the big city, Mom made a few purchasing decisions that kept her New York state-of-mind on a dime:

  • Virgin Megastore: The landmark Times Square retail outlet is closing and everything (including displays and hardware) is 50 to 60 percent off. Bright Blue bought classic “Virgin” NYC t-shirts as souvenirs for $7. Mom refined her CD and live show DVD collection for less than $10 each. Her favorite purchase? Lil’ Kim’s "Ms. G.O.A.T" (Greatest Hits of All Time). And Cherry B? Let's just say she'll be showing up at the Cherry Blossom Fashion show in a pink Bunny tee . . . And when say Bunny, we don't mean the nickname for nice old ladies. If the girl can't run a run-way, she sure knows how to raise a brow.
  • Falafel Sandwich from Street Vendor: Hotdogs and pretzels are classic NYC, but Mom looks for more ethnic options. Her $5 pita sandwich included grilled eggplant, stuffed with warm falafel and squirted with hot sauce (by request). It's more than a mouthful and can keep you full all day.
  • Prix Fixe Brunch Menu at North Square: It's not hard to find a restaurant offering "recession menus" and "stimulus package" meal plans right now, but Mom has to give Bright Blue credit for finding one of the best meal deals in town. It's a bit of a challenge to find the NorthSquare entrance on Waverly Place (adjacent to the Washington Square Hotel), but once you do, you'll find a classic local lounge/restaurant hotspot that offers live jazz during Sunday brunch and a delicious menu of classics like eggs benedict three ways (classic, salmon or crab) and the aforementioned prix fixe menu. For the set price of $20, Mom ordered the Challah French Toast and Chicken Apple Sausage, which came with the additional choices of coffee or fresh squeezed OJ, as well as a mimosa or bloody mary.
  • Vintage Coat from Andy's Chee-Pees: The "antique clothing" store has two locations. This one was between 5th and MacDougal, (16 W. 8th St.), not far from North Square's East Village corner. Mom and crew, which also included Bright Blue Sky bosses Beth (Boots) and Elliott (Appletini) Dunwody, turned the boutique upside down with their virtual vintage fashion show. The music was cranking, the clothes were flying, and when Mom found the perfect fitting faux fur coat, a collective "awww" echoed across the store. She decided not to believe the $120 price tag and after a bit of bargaining in her most enduring Southern accent, she wore her new/old coat out of the store for half the price, AND they threw in an already-sentimental heart-shaped broche, just because the store clerks loved her love for the city (one turned out to be a fellow Southerner whose mama back in Mobile came to Macon for Oprah). What else was found at Andy's? Boots scored her another pair of kick-butt kicks. These are red and black and were made for walking - with her in them! Appletini suaved himself into a red and black matching smokers jacket that looked pretty darn smokin'. There was also the red and black bowling shirt with a vulture on the back that will soon make its Macon debut at Gold Cup.
  • Pizza and Bellinis from Otto: Again in the East Village, not far from Washington Square; co-owned by Chef Mario Batali (yes, the awesome red head of Food Network/Iron Chef fame). Mom and the girls enjoyed their last NYC lunch feasting on Otto's signature Vongole Pizza (clams, garlic, mozzarella), classic Margherita Pizza (buffalo mozz, basil, sauce) and a pitcher of Bellinis for a little over $20/person. Her only regret? Wearing the vintage jacket around clams and not saving room for their famous homemade Gelotto.
  • Famous Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes: You get to Greenwich Village and you immediately want to trace Carrie B's well-high heeled fictional footsteps. The original Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street is worth every step. What better souvenier to take south than famous $3 cupcakes from a bakery with a southern flair? No southern girl should leave without their red velvet version. And there happens to be a used book store a few feet from its door, if you really want to get into the Bradshaw brain.
  • Carmel Car & Limo Service: It's the name of candy, so how could we not? Don't let the toll-free 866-666-6666 number freak you out. Mom has had it saved on her cell phone for the past two years and yet to summon the Antichrist. Instead of hailing a cab or taking the shuttle from the airport, Carmel provides a clean towncar or SUV to transport you from the airport to the hotel at a flat fee. Even with tip and toll, it comes in under $40. Mom has used this car service several times now, and she is cease to be amazed at how her ride magically appears to the dot on time. It's serious good curbside customer service.
That was just a tiny taste of Mom's big bite out of the Big Apple. There is an entire Allman Brothers element I will get into later this week, incidentally on the 40th anniversary of the band's first concert performance. Mom is still unpacking and downloading pics, so I have just included a few for now. The Macon weather is too perfect for her new NYC winter-friendly coat, so I'm snuggling in its big city smell and dreaming of the day my paws hit the pavement with her.

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