Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Peaceful Oasis in NYC - Day Four of our Gluten Free Vacation!

After three busy days in the city, we decided to take a break from the hustle and bustle and head up to The Cloisters
Museum, located at the very northern tip of Manhattan. It's part of the MET but we'd never heard of it before a friend in Atlanta mentioned it just prior to our trip. We are so glad we took the jaunt to this ever so lovely and peaceful place. It's beautiful there and the views are absolutely spectacular!
We toured inside the Museum on our own before getting a bite to eat at the outdoor cafe. We'd packed energy bars, pretzels and chocolate chip cookies from Everybody Eats since we only knew there was a cafe, not that I could find anything safe there. Luckily, we were able to split a large cranberry/goat cheese salad and some gluten free chips. We ate our own cookies for dessert. It was a gorgeous, warm day and the shaded cafe tables have a view of one of the Cloisters (above left). After a most satisfying gluten free lunch, we headed inside to meet up with the 1 pm tour, which offers an overview of the history of the Museum and more detail about many of the plantings in the three Cloisters located there. The flower below was an even more brilliant hue of magenta in person than shown here, and the plant on the right is Rhubarb, which I'd never seen in person before. The leaves are actually poisonous and the stalk is the edible.

One of my husbands favorite pies is Strawberry-Rhubarb and now that I'm a more confident gluten free baker, I'm going to attempt making him one ....eventually. We recently discovered we live only ten miles from a Strawberry Farm, so I can't put if off much!

After The Cloisters guided tour we headed back to the 190th Street subway station and got off the train near Central Park. From reading about Shauna's NYC adventure and her time at the John Lennon Imagine Memorial at the park, I wanted to go pay my respects there as well. Along the way, we passed the man who calls himself the Mayor of Strawberry Fields. He announced quite loudly that he would return momentarily - we're not quite sure he was speaking to.... Anyway, we had a moment of silence and took some photos and left before the Mayor returned. However, we ran into him the following day near The Dakota.

Tonight we're going to see 'Hairspray' so after a short stroll around the lower west side of Central Park (which is gargantuan), we made our way back to Wyman House to get ready for an early dinner and the show.

Through a Celiac listserve query, I found out about a place called 'Cesca on the UWS, that offered gluten free options, but did not have a gluten free menu per se. I noticed too, that Catherine had it listed on her favorite NYC restaurant guide so we decided to give it a try. We'd made advanced early bird reservations and noticed that the pre-theatre menu posted on the website asked that no substitutions be made so I assumed that the $31 deal was out for me. But when we arrived, our server (who'd been made aware of my gluten free needs through the note) explained that the special theatre menu allowed gluten free options for each course that evening. And so I was able to take advantage of the special theatre menu and my meal was one of the best of the trip - and only $31!

To start I had a buffalo mozzarella salad...amazing of course. My main course was a chicken dish that had a balsamic reduction with grapes, served over mashed potatoes. I'm not talented enough to describe how incredible this dish husband's risotto was wonderful and could not hold a candle to my entree. Since my meal was so filling I opted for the sorbet for dessert, instead of creme brulee. It was a combination of blood orange, mango and blueberry - one scoop of each. Without question, this was the BEST sorbet either of us had ever had. We could not get over it...I've never had sorbet that I wanted to eat until I was sick but this was that fabulous! Luckily, my husband was there to help consume it, as it was a very generous portion. For a place without a gluten free menu, 'Cesca takes great care in understanding what gluten intolerance is. And so eating there was a worry free and delicious experience. The ambiance is wonderful here and there is not an air of pretentiousness about it, even though it's a very upscale place. Another fabulous find in NYC!

With very full bellies - we left 'Cesca and headed to the Niel Simon Theatre to see 'Hairspray - the Musical'. Remember that I mentioned out tickets were free? While they were not bad seats, upstairs in the dead center, my 6'1" husband likes and aisle seat so he can stick out his long legs for comfort. Our smack-dab-in-the-middle of-the-row seats didn't allow for that and he was fairly uncomfortable. And to be honest, I'm almost a foot shorter than him and I was pretty cramped as well. But the show was fabulous and George Wendt (from Cheers) played the Mama role. We had no idea he was in the cast, or that he could sing! The entire cast was wonderfully talented, as most Broadway Actors are, and I loved this production of Hairspray better than the first movie. I haven't seen the John Travolta movie version yet. If you like musicals and big hair, go see this show!

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