WINE DINE & FOOTLIGHTS
by Michelle Carol
|Happy New Year! by Bayassa via Flickr|
“What are you doing for New Years?” This is a question I dread more than the sight of a “Cash Only” sign in New York City.
It may be the time of year that makes the question stressful. I like to attribute the NYE anxiety to its inconvenient timing that blindsides me just after the conclusive weeks of last-minute holiday shopping, travel arrangements, and the undeniable truth that after the beginning of December, the days blend together so suddenly that I have to stop and ask, “How on earth is Christmas Eve tomorrow?!
If that excitement and frenzy of spreading ourselves thin to see relatives, in-laws, and friends by running around like lunatics to hop trains, buses and planes to make all ends meet wasn’t difficult enough, right around December 23 we’re faced with the social responsibility to ourselves, our friends, and the new year to choose what we will do on New Year’s Eve. I’m exhausted just rethinking this.
|Planning for New Year’s can be exhausting, especially with Christmas in the mix.–credit|
If it were say — 2009, I would have put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to have an idealistic NYE. I’d mull for weeks over the perfect outfit, a mix of both mine and my friends’ closets. If it were 2006, I might start sucking up to my sister and prepare to ask her for a ride on NYE in exchange for being her human taxi a dozen times. When 2012 was nearing its final days, I found myself a New York City resident for the first time, but with an empty slate of New Year’s plans.
“One of my friends will have a house party at their apartment,” I assured Stephen. I expressed to my boyfriend who lives 2 hours from me in Connecticut that I felt very passionate about being in the city to ring in 2013. A low key shindig with good friends and good food would be ideal, if someone put it together.
By mid-December, Stephen reminded me that we had been invited to our friends’ house in CT for a small dinner party get-together.
“It’s too bad they don’t live in NY,” I answered.
“Don’t say that though. Invite everyone to NYC instead,” he responded.
I was shocked when no one wanted to travel, spend a ton of money, deal with the crowds, or, my favorite, “freeze in NYC.” As the days grew shorter and Christmas came and went, I learned that aside from the few friends I knew would still be visiting home, the rest of my girlfriends in the city were going to concerts, clubs with $150 tickets, and Boston (!?). I considered the bar scene, but the craziness and the cost, both monetarily and the hassle of traveling within Manhattan, did not sound appealing to either one of us.
“So, what are we going to do?” He asked me on December 30. It was a valid question. I spent a few hours on Yelp, as well as asking coworkers and friends to tell me exactly where we should go on the big night. When I heard that Central Park has a midnight 5K and free fireworks each year, I began to plan my night around that. I live on the Upper East Side so it only made sense to me that we’d have dinner in that area and then walk to the park for the fireworks. I filtered my searches for live music and found a nice Italian restaurant on 61st and First called “Olivia.”
Stephen arrived at my apartment at 7pm after a long day of work and a loud train ride in. While I drank Pinot, steamed his shirt and curled my hair, he napped unconsciously on the couch. Some several avenues and dozen or so blocks later, we arrived by foot to Olivia. The piano player by the door smiled and the host saw us to our candle-lit table for two.
|Hard parmesan completed our beef carpaccio–credit|
We shared an appetizer of beef carpaccio and hard Parmesan cheese over a truffle oil drizzled salad. The atmosphere was romantic and relaxing. We were the youngest ones in the restaurant by several years, well years, actually. I was impressed with the menu’s “gnocchi” section, and ordered Gnocchi with Veal Ragu. It melted in my mouth the way gnocchi should. Stephen finished his a chicken and capers dish with neither praise or compliments.
|Gnocci with Veal Ragout–Yum!–credit|
We drank our bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and walked westbound toward the 73rd Street entrance to the park. I was shocked by how few people we encountered on our walks to and from the restaurant. I know it was a Monday night on the Upper East Side, but come on! It truly felt like any Monday night until we neared the entrance to the park. I should also mention that we passed four taxis throughout the night, thus defying my apprehension to rely on cabs on New Year’s Eve. They do exist—at least when it falls on Monday.
|Thousands of runners took flight at the Emerald Nuts Run in Central Park. –credit|
The Emerald Roadrunners lined up near The Mall, many in funky costumes and 2013 flair. A DJ blasted some jams and police secured the parameters of the area. There was ample standing room, and we were able to find a great spot at 11:40 with ease. I leaned up against Stephen on the stairs above the fountain and The Boathouse.
At the stroke of midnight, the thousands of runners took flight. Fireworks began just west of the fountain and lasted about 20 minutes. We felt safe in the park the entire time.
The fireworks were beautiful, and I was closer than any of the millions of people watching on TV, from the packed crowds in Times Square, New Jersey or Brooklyn.
|Central Park was the ideal place to celebrate the start of a New Year In New York–credit|