Friday, August 11, 2017

Canine in the City: the Dog Friendly Residence Inn New York

Central Park view from the Residence Inn New York

As a New Yorker, my pooch has yet to stay in a hotel in New York City. And I don't usually frequent hotels in my hometown, though I have stayed at a few. So I was eager to see what the Residence Inn New York / Central Park had to offer, both for canines and for humans.

Residence Inn by Marriott

I was not familiar with the Residence Inn by Marriott brand, an extended stay hotel that has kitchenettes in every room. If you are have seen a studio apartment in NYC, the kitchen area is similar; there's a small refrigerator and separate freezer draw, along with a hidden dishwasher.

The fitness center, with outdoor patio
There was also a coffeemaker and a microwave, and pots and pans. If you want to cook more, a hot pot can be sent to your room.  And there are pots, pans and dishes.

The king sized room I saw wouldn't be great for a family, but there are larger rooms with ore beds and this is certainly ideal for families. The hotel also provides free breakfast and free WiFi.


The bathroom
The Residence Inn goes beyond the usual commitment to sustainability with rooftop beehives. The beehives are apparently the highest hives on a man-made structure.

The Residence Inn New York is atop a courtyard by Marriott hotel, with which is shares a lobby.

Since the hotel is so tall, rooms have amazing views of Central Park, the Hudson River and Times Square, though new construction blocks some of the vistas.

Exercise right

Dishwasher hidden in a drawer
The Residence Inn New York is a couple of blocks from Central Park, with biking and running paths, and multiple playgrounds. If you want to exercise in the hotel, there's a large fitness center. On a patio off the fitness center, there are free yoga classes.

Bring the dog

Residence Inn hotels charge a one time cleaning fee when you bring your pet, but then the dog is allowed in the lobby, or to get on the bed. You can take your dog to off leash in Central Park, where city dogs socialize and chase balls.

The hotel also has treats and food bowls is you forget yours.
Puppies at the dog-friendly Residence Inn

Bark-Fest with North Shore Animal League

I was at the Residence Inn for a bark-fest adoption event with the North Shore Animal League, so there were lots of puppies in the usual breakfast room of the hotel. But apparently the puppies agreed that the Residence Inn is a comfortable place to sleep.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Another Great Brooklyn Bar: Sweet Polly

Sweet Polly

Do you keep a list of bar and restaurants you keep meaning to try? Sweet Polly was at the top of my list ever since it opened about a year ago. I finally made it there the other night and plan to return soon.

This elegant bar has complex cocktails and small plates. The drinks are divided into house cocktails and 'forgotten classics.' There are also 2 cocktails on tap and a few local beers and ciders. And wine for those who avoid the hard stuff.

Tuxedo #2
We shared a De La Louisiane like a Sazerac: it combined rye, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, bitters and absinthe. The classy coupe glass made it even more elegant. The Tuxedo #2 was a martini riff, with gin, dry vermouth, bitters and absinthe. It seems like a jazz singer should be crooning in the corner.

Next time we will stay awhile and get a cheese plate or some crudo.  And definitely dive deeper into the cocktail list

Friday, August 4, 2017

Bargain Hunting in Brooklyn: 3 Course Meal, $30

Arugula pizza at Gristmill

Happy hour menus get butts in seats at bars but eating early is often anathema to New Yorkers. Sure, there are pre-theater menus but many of us would never deign to make an early dinner reservation.

Sugar snap peas
Well, Gristmill in Park Slope, Brooklyn has an enticing alternative, and you can eat as late as 7:30. It's 3 for $30 menu, available Monday through Thursday, starts at 5pm, which is still brunch time for some But you can get to the restaurant at 7:15 and have a fantastic bargain priced meal.

For whatever reason, Gristmill, which opened at the same time as a couple of other highly touted Brooklyn restaurants, hasn't gotten the same press.  But it deserves it. The wood-fired oven turns out excellent pizza crusts and breads.

Cucumber and yogurt
On the 3 for $30 menu (which changes frequently) we had a light cucumber and yogurt dish that was not quite a soup, but delicious. It was perfect for a hot summer night. It was studded with nasturtium blossoms. I am a sucker for edible flowers.

We also shared sugar snap peas, enliven by edible violets.

Kale and potato pizza
Then we got two full size pizzas (the only other choice that night was a non-vegetarian burger). One pizza had arugula and cheese; the other, kale and potato. And cheese, plus a spicy jalapeƱo vinaigrette. The pizzas were more than enough for dinner, but with two appetizers, we had to take half of each home.

And we still had our third course.

That night, the desert options were a blackberry buttermilk pie and chocolate cake. There may have been another choice but I stopped reading at these.  Our waiter packed up a slab of each, and we had dinner for the next night, too, with dessert.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Electric SUV: Bollinger Motors SUV

Bollinger B! sport utility truck

When I built cars with LEGOs as a kid, they always looked kind of boxy. I was reminded of this when I saw the Bollinger B1 sport utility truck, an all electric SUV (SUT?) that can go off road.

Robert Bollinger, introducing his baby
The boxy, matte finish truck is like a toy truck come to life. I was at the global reveal, at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan, but this truck is like no other.

Heading towards to Classic Car Club
Bollinger Motors, led by Robert Bollinger, expects to produce its first product by 2019. The truck can go off road and features an all electric powertrain. The range is 120 - 200 miles, depending on battery size.
Robert Bollinger, CEO

With seating for four and a huge cargo area, the B1 is designed for both work and play. Not sure you can build one as cool looking with your old LEGOs but looking forward to seeing these when they go into production.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Easing NYC Commute: Ford Partners with Chariot

NYC commuters, your Chariot awaits

According to today's New York Times, more New Yorkers are commuting by bicycle. I am all for this, and am, in fact, running the NYC Marathon again as a member of the Transportation Alternatives team.

But not everyone can or wants to bike to work. I get it. I am also rather fed up with the NYC subways this summer. I've been stuck in more stalled trains, or behind sick passengers, or delayed because of signal problems or police incidents or train traffic than cumulatively over the last decade.  The subways are so horrible that Governor Cuomo has declared a state of emergency.

Ford partnered with Chariot
This is on top of construction at Penn Station, which many subways traverse, which is undergoing its summer of hell.

So I was intrigued when I heard about a new transit option, Chariot. Chariot, a crowd-sourced shuttle service, partnered with Ford to help commuters in New York City. This is part of Ford Motor Company's smart mobility plan to innovate beyond private car ownership.

Chariot already operates in San Francisco, Seattle and Austin, and launches in NYC in August. The service is designed to address transportation deserts and fill in gaps in transportation. When Chariot launches, it will have two routes, Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Dumbo, and the Lower East Side to midtown.

The old (cab) and the new (Chariot) alternatives to crowded subways
Chariot CEO Ali Vahabzadeh said the 'micro transit' is entirely crowd sourced; by fall, Chariot plans to have 60 shuttles running throughout the city, with routes determined by users who make suggestions.

What is great about Chariot, as opposed to other app-based transportation services, is that each shuttle  fits 14 people. Vahabzadeh said at Chariot takes at least 10 people off the road. If you have sat in traffic, you know that having fewer cars on the streets is critical.

The Chariot service costs $4 per ride, with no surge pricing. Riders are guaranteed a seat. And since this is a sustainable mass transit option, it qualifies for TransitChek reimbursement.

And, just to reinforce the idea that Chariot is needed: on my way to the launch meeting, my subway inexplicably stopped moving for a good 17 minutes. I would love to ditch the Metrocard.

What to Eat in Michigan: Zingerman's, Of Course

Zingerman's brownies
Delis are usually not the best place for a vegetarian, but Zingerman's so no ordinary deli. The Ann Arbor, Michigan based deli has a comfort food, family friendly restaurant, Zingerman's Roadhouse and sees sandwiches on its excellent bread at the Detroit airport.

Best of all, it has a catering business, Zingerman's Roadshow, which features some of its top sellers. And when Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, aka FCA, shows off its new cars, it invites writers to Michigan and treats us to Zingerman's.

Sheila's viva las vegan

If you are a macaroni and cheese aficionado, Zingerman's Roadhouse has several varieties, all rich and creamy. I found out that a hoppy IPA pairs quite nicely with the cheese.

At lunch, the Roadshow crew showed up with Sheila's Viva las vegan, a fabulous sandwich stuffed with hummus, roasted red peppers and artichokes. 

I was almost too hungry for dessert. Almost. Zingerman's has a signature Magic brownie, intensely chocolatey and studded with walnuts. If you don't like nuts mucking up your dessert, you can have the Black Magic brownies.

Zingerman's brownies and other treats are sold online, but having them fresh in Michigan is the way to go.

Thanks Fiat Chrysler for the yummy food!

Note: FCA paid my travel and food expenses.  I was not otherwise compensated. Calories are all on me.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Avoiding the Summer of Hell: Driving the Lexus NX 300h

The Lexus NX 300h, ready for its close up

This summer has been dubbed the Summer of Hell for commuters, with much needed track repairs at Penn Station causing delays for Amtrak, LIRR and NJ Transit riders.

Central Park, from the highest vantage point
The subways are even worse. I've been on more broken down subways due to derailments, sick passengers, track fires, police actions and non-specified reasons in July than in the previous decade combined.

So I was glad to have the Lexus NX 300h to tool around the city for a week. Twice, we drove to Central Park to explore the park, rather than riding our bikes there and being too third to enjoy the great expanse.

The cream leather seats, which look perfect against a New Yorker's back wardrobe
For example, we 'discovered' the 4 acre Arthur Ross Pinetum, an arboretum within Central Park that has a collection of specimen pine trees, along with a playground and adult fitness equipment. [Think pull ups bars, not Frederick's of Hollywood]. We brought bagels and cream cheese and had a picnic at one of the tables.

The driver info panel, with directions front and center

Usually, we riding the bike path over the Brooklyn Bridge [photo taken by my husband]
Though I was driving the Lexus around familiar terrain, I used the navigation system just to get a feel for it. The large touchscreen had clear directions and upcoming turns were also on the dashboard, so you can keep your eyes front and center.

We also climbed up Belvedere Castle to survey the park. This is the highest point in the park, and overlooks the reservoir and the Ramble.

Another day, we explored the east side of the park. At 750 acres, the park really does require several days to see.
A model boat, with rubber ducks on for a ride

On this side, we went to the model boat pond, formally known as the Conservatory Water.  This is the backdrop for countless movies, from One Fine Day to Stuart Little. We also walked around The Ramble, which seems like a forest. It is totally artificial, but the city literally disappears around you.
The Lexus NX 300h is perfect for a stylish New Yorker

Why not get a hybrid?

Though gas prices are still relatively low, saving the environment is important to me. It's one reason I often bike rather than drive. But since there are times you have to drive, and the subway is so unreliable, a hybrid makes sense. The Lexus NX 300h actually gets better gas mileage in the city, 33 mile per gallon. It gets 30 mpg on the highway.

Note: Lexus loaned me the NX 300h for a test drive. Opinions expressed are my own.