Alright, so, it’s been a year and half since I left NYC. But recently, some of my friends have been planning trips to the City and asking for travel advice, so I figured it was time to compile my wisdom into a blog post.

Step one for grad students: find awesome roommates. This is the single most important thing for you to do. They can be fellow students or other interesting city people, but make sure they are awesome. Also, try to live somewhere that doesn’t have bedbugs (see below).

Step one for tourists: check hotel reviews to try to find one with as few bedbugs as possible. Bedbugs are rampant in NYC and having them in your hotel room will be miserable, but not as miserable as when you bring them home with you to your regular dwelling. Google your hotel, read the reviews, and do a search text for “bedbugs” and “bed bugs.” stay somewhere with very few hits in the text.

OK. So once you have your awesome roommates or your low-bedbug hotel room — it’s time to see the city. This blog post does not include reviews of the famous museums — if you are a grad student, you will have plenty of time to see any of them that interest you (but do make an effort to do so, which can be tricky, because they tend mostly to be open only during business hours), if you are a tourist, I am sure that you can find information online that will allow you to pick which of them you want to see and then go see them. Do note, that most museums in NYC are free, even those that seem to charge. The charge is actually only a suggested contribution (though it is not approached as such). I recommend giving some sort of donation, whatever you can afford and makes sense to you, but especially if you are a poor grad student living in the city, and only have an hour or so before the museum closes, I think it is fair to offer a smaller donation to the person who “charges” you admission.

Whether you are living in the city or a tourist, your location at any moment is going to largely determine what you do. Despite being a small island and having excellent public transportation, it can take two hours to get from Washington Heights to the lower east side. Someone living in upper Harlem, who has a girlfriend in Brooklyn, will refer to their courtship as a “long distance relationship.” Distance changes in the city and it is hard to get from one place to another. So, when you are hungry, pull out your Iphone (Droid, etc.) and pull up Urbanspoon (or Yelp, but Urbanspoon rocks in the city) and find a restaurant near where you are standing. Don’t forget, you’re in New York City, so unless you are desperate, don’t eat anywhere with less than an 80% (4 out of 5) approval rate.

Below are some of my favorite things in New York City. If you find yourself near any of these locations, or up for an adventure, I suggest you check them out.

Either before you go (they have tour shows now), or once you are in the city, definitely see In the Heights — probably my favorite musical. It is good to see either before or after you have actually been up to Washington Heights — on the west side, along the Hudson River, beginning at 155th street. If you are a grad school student living in the city, note that most Broadway shows have a lottery system in which they sell front row seats for about $25 to those who come ahead of time and are lucky enough to get their name drawn from a hat. Yes, I have actually gotten tickets to a Broadway show this way. However, In the Heights is so good, that I don’t know if I would risk it. If you are thinking about seeing another show while you are in town though, then you can always give this a try, as long as you have good back up plans so that you are not too disappointed if you don’t get picked.

On your way uptown, if its a warm day, stop at the boat basin. A beautiful place to sit in the sun and sip on a drink, watching the boats on the Hudson.

Once you get up to Washington Heights, get a morir sonando. They won’t be hard to find, but you’ll have to be looking for the street vendors pushing grocery carts filled with oranges and limes. Just ask for one, smile, and throw in a “por favor”, and any other conversational Spanish you have you your back pocket. Morir sonandos are Dominican beverages made from fresh squeezed juice from two oranges and one lime, a touch of vanilla, chopped ice and evaporated milk — amazing. It means “to die dreaming,” which is exactly what would happen if you were hit by a bus sipping on one of these awe inspiring beverages.

On your way back downtown, if you’re around midtown and craving something sweet — hit up Buttercup Bake Shop — the people who responded to the trans fat ban in NYC with, “We think it is really tough, thank goodness we only use butter, so it won’t affect us.” Boutique cupcake shops have popped up all over the U.S., so this might not be a particularly novel place for you, but if you haven’t ever been to a boutique cupcake shop, I recommend checking out this one.

Alright, once your back downtown, it’s time for a tour — and the only one I recommend in the city is Big Onion Tours — especially the multi-ethnic eating tour.

Take the time to stand on the top of the Empire State Building — quite a quintessential NYC experience. The line can be long during the day, but the secret is that the last elevators go up at 1:15AM, and you can pretty much walk in and right onto the elevators after 11PM to get a great view of the city lights.

Top of the Empire State Building

Also, take the time to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge (tip: walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan and not the other way around if you want the best views of the city).

Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge

I know I said that I wasn’t going to give a rundown of all of the New York City museums, but by two favorite are:
1. The Lower East Side Tenement Museum
2. Ellis Island
Of course, if you’re going to Ellis Island, you might as well hit up the Statue of Liberty too.

Ellis Island

Statue of Liberty

Also, I know I said that you would pretty much just end up eating anywhere Urbanspoon tells you to that is close to where you are standing when you get hungry, but if you are looking to plan a meal in advance, here are some favorite restaurants:
1. My absolute all time favorite NYC restaurant: A Cafe — 973 Columbus Avenue, between 107th and 108th Streets. It’s a pretty sweet deal. 25 bucks gets you a delicious appetizer and dinner, and it’s BYO — so pick up a delicious bottle of wine at a bodega and bring it in with you, there is no corking fee.

Friends at A Cafe

2. Vatan Indian — all you can eat vegetarian Indian food. You get a plate that has a sample of everything on it and once you know what you want, they will bring you more, and more and more of it. If, after your Indian food, you want a manicure/pedicure at 11PM, hit up Hair Party 24 Hours. Your pedicure comes with a free glass of wine and a massage chair. If you drag your boyfriend along, and he doesn’t want a pedicure, he can still get the wine and sit in a massage chair for free.
3. Ed’s Lobster Bar — best. lobster roll. ever.
4. Gramercy Tavern
5. If you absolutely must hit a Little Italy while you are in the City, try to get up to the one in the Bronx, much more authentic and much better food than the one on Manhattan.

Enjoy your adventures! If you have any other advice about traveling in the City or disagree with any of my advice here, feel free to leave comments below.

Butter Sage Sauce

I have been a bad blogger. Turns out that starting a new job, traveling to four weddings, taking part in the annual traditional family summer vacation in Vail, going on a long weekend with Dan to Colonial Williamsburg, and hosting a number of visitors including my wonderful, amazing brother, has made for a very busy summer. It’s freezing outside right now (OK, its 50 degrees), the leaves are falling, and I feel like fall completely snuck up on me. Maybe the cooler weather will mean that I have time to download my pictures off my camera, organize them, and write about some stuff — I’ll cross my fingers but I won’t hold my breath.

In the meantime, I have been meaning to share some recipes here, and I have been asked for this one, so here it is —

Butter Sage Sauce (This is my own combination of a number of different recipes and I encourage everyone to experiment with it.)

8 sage leaves
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup cheese (good Parmesan)
4 TB butter
1/4 tsp dried red pepper (or one chopped Tabasco pepper from your window garden)
optional: chopped peppers, tomatoes

Brown the butter
Remove from heat
Then add: spices, lemon juice, cheese
Stir and serve over pasta — I recommend ravioli

If you add peppers or tomatoes, put them in the butter as soon as it starts to melt. It takes longer for the butter to brown, but everything else works the same.

Butter Sage Ravioli

Butter Sage Ravioli

Butter Sage Gnocchi with Peppers

Butter Sage Gnocchi with Peppers

Happy 35th Anniversary

A little present for my padres — Congrats!

The Craveros are old family friends and I have known these girls just about since they were born.

Claire is in Siguatepeque, “Sigua,” for the summer, doing some health volunteering in my old stomping grounds of the mountains of Honduras. She’s been to a host of other places too, including India.

Anne is spending the summer in Sitka, learning to take pictures of whales among other things.

Check out their blogs — but I wouldn’t even try to keep up.

Very Hot & Humid Today

I don’t think this is a good sign in June…

From Alert DC:
Very hot and humid conditions are expected in the D.C. area today. The high temperature is forecast to be 99 degrees, and the heat index could rise to 104. Citizens should stay hydrated, avoid overexertion, and remain in an air conditioned environment when possible. Do not leave infants, children or pets in a parked car, even if the windows are cracked open. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing when outdoors. Further info on extreme heat: http://bit.ly/bHBwiD

Our 3rd floor apartment stays above 85 with both ACs running; Spot says she is hot.

Yesterday, thanks to some clever engineering by our fellow building residents, we watched the World Cup outside under our building’s umbrella.

Watching the World Cup Outside

Watching the World Cup Outside

Erin Miller
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building

Increase in daily coffee intake: about 8 oz.

Went bowling at the White House, completed my last week of work at NACCHO, left an hour early my last day to fly to CO to be in my friend’s wedding, read the Affordable Care Act, just about cover-to-cover, and started work in the Assistant Secretary’s office. Huzzah.