Travel Tips: BOS to NYC

I hate traveling around the holidays. All transportation companies know that this is the one time that you need to travel, so they hold all the cards.

Here are the ways I like to travel between Boston (home) and NYC (close to childhood home), ranked in order of preference (best first) and lowest agony levels (to borrow a measurement tool from Hipmunk). Afterwards, I’ll share what I did.

Jet Blue

Pricing: When flights are at their cheapest, it’s around $49 each way. Right now, holiday flights are ranging around $89-$181 and higher. You knew the little voices in your head were right when they told you to book a month ago.

Time: Worst case scenario: 1 hr (travel to airport) + 1 hr (security and boarding) + 1.5 hrs (flight) + .5 hrs (deboarding) = 4 hours. But it’s broken up, so it’s not that bad.

Agony levels: Minimal. During your security and boarding time you are free to buy things and use the restroom at your leisure. And while you’re flying… you can watch live television! This is one of my favorite benefits of Jet Blue. Also, their seats are so much roomier and comfortable than other airlines.

Delay potential: Low. Usually just weather related, and then your delay is experienced in an airport, which isn’t so awful. Again—opportunity to buy stuff and use the bathroom liberally.

Amtrak

Pricing: Acela trains are around $100 bucks right now, which is decent. Not great, but OK.

Time: Not awful. Worst case scenario: 1 hours travel to South Station and boarding + 3.5 hours travel = 4.5 hours.

Agony levels: Not awful (unless you’re not on an Acela train, in which case… awful). Trains tend to have wifi and outlets, and seats are generally pretty comfy (just sometimes you have to walk a bit to find one). I usually load myself up with DVDs and a couple of snacks and I’m fine.

Delay potential: Medium low. Generally just weather. If not, it’s usually just 15 minutes here or there. But if it isn’t… then you’re stuck on a stupid train. (See above re: not taking anything besides the Acela. It’s just not worth it.)

Bus (Bolt Bus or World Wide Bus and in a pinch MegaBus)

Pricing: Dirt cheap. Usually it’s around $20 bucks (but buy in advance in case seats run out).

Timing: Average scenario: 1 hour travel to South Station (or less if I’m going to Alewife for World Wide) and boarding + 4.5 ride = 5.5 hours. For best travel time, take a very late bus—I got on a midnight Bolt Bus and was in NYC 3.5 hours later ON THE DOT. You can do anything in NYC at anytime, so why not arrive near Penn Station? It’s perfectly safe now.

Agony levels: So high. People around you stink. There’s no elbow room or foot room or computer room. There are outlets (that may or may not work) and wifi (ditto). The bathroom is small and cramped. The pit stops are always in terrible locations (seriously, has anyone ever voluntarily eaten at a Roy Rogers?) and the view is 95.

Specific-company tips:

  • World Wide Bus will sometimes give you water bottles. This is usually only from Boston TO New York, and not the other way.
  • MegaBus will sometimes let you board the bus you bought a ticket for. Sometimes not. Get there early and fight like hell.
  • Bolt will sometimes let you go standby for an earlier bus. If you bought a ticket, just wave that. If not, have $20 in cash.

Delay potential: So incredibly high. Traffic and weather can compound to create 7 or 8 hour trips (this has happened to me multiple times). DO NOT GET ON THE BUS IF IT IS GOING TO SNOW. Take an earlier or later bus until the storm has stopped. Otherwise you will spend 2 hours driving the 2 miles around the 90/84 interchange. And it will suck.

As you can probably tell, I hate the bus with an undying passion (but I also love holding onto my money). So I compromised and booked an Acela train ($101) for before Christmas and a Jet Blue ticket ($82, after taxes) for after. If it made sense to travel in more off-hours, I might’ve taken the bus. I don’t love that I just spent $183 bucks for services that I *could* have spent $50 bucks on (if I’d taken the bus), but I do love knowing that I’m less likely to spend 5+ hours feeling dead inside each way…

Cacio e Pepe Recipe!

A few years ago, I wrote about the delicious cacio e pepe dish I had in New York City. I rhapsodized over the simple-yet-blow-your-mind combo of pasta, pepper, and cheese. Well, food blogger extraordinaire, Smitten Kitchen, recently dined at another NYC-based Italian restaurant (apparently there’s more than one, imagine that), had the same dish, had the same delirious feelings of love towards it, and has written up a recipe to make it at home.

Looks faaaaaaaaaaaaaabulous. And ridiculously easy. I’d pair it with a nice, dry red wine, and a salad with some orange slices, sliced almonds, and a bit of more Romano cheese. Oh and that would make me SO happy!

Pink Berry versus Red Mango

This weekend in NYC, I was made part of a fierce and heated debate: Which is the better low-cal, yogurt-flavored, of-vaguely-Asian-origin frozen yogurt? Started in 2005, Pink Berry had the first-in-market advantage in the states, and quickly became the stuff of celebrities and obsessions. Red Mango, on the other hand, was founded in 2002, came late to the scene in the United States, and seems relegated to second-class status.

Both are yogurt-flavored frozen yogurt, served with mostly fresh fruit toppings and other not-so-sweet toppings (Captain Crunch is available, but heath bar is not). The styles of each store are a similar style—clean, hip, and happy. Each has its converts and its faithful contingents who swear, “It’s so much better than [other brand].”

Add me to that list. After a weekend in the city, I can now be counted among the Red Mango enthusiasts. While so much is similar between the two franchises, there’s one thing that’s quite different; the taste. Red Mango’s servings do a better job of capturing that tangy sour-sweetness of real yogurt, meaning that the fruit it’s so often served with works to (I love it with mangos) complement it instead of serving as a distraction.

I went back for seconds in the same evening, just because it was so delicious. Thank you to Claire and Kyra for the introduction to my new favorite obsession.

Guest Post: Bacon Dinner Club

Everyone enjoys a little stalking, right? So when I saw on Facebook that my NYC-based friend Kyra (of the dating blog Gotard City) had posted pictures of a Bacon Dinner Club, I immediately demanded the story. So here goes the first ever Stalking Sarah guest post! Thanks, Kyra!

A little over a year ago, my friends and I decided to start a Dinner Club based on our mutual love of the Food Network, cooking, and most importantly, eating. We choose a new theme or key ingredient (basil, citrus, the color white, tapas,  desserts, etc) and we get together once a month to cook and eat together. It’s usually an all-day affair.

Dinner Club’s important to me for a number of reasons: It’s an opportunity to make socially acceptable bad decisions in the form of food. I like to eat. I love to eat. Tasting delicious food is one of the best pleasures in life. It’s fun to see all my friends together. We get to play board games and catch up. I get to play hostess and show off all my materialistic crap that I’ve acquired from Crate & Barrel. And, I get to learn more about cooking and try new foods.

A few years ago, I started dating someone named Movies. After a while, he got to be a part of Dinner Club, too. None of my friends were particularly amazed by him, but none of them really disliked him either. And at the end of the day, though, I’m the Kim Jong Il of Dinner Club, so if I wanted my boyfriend there, he was gonna be included.

Unfortunately, Movies’ picky eating habits had never been squashed by his parents, so he often violated the “try new foods” mandate of dinner club. On numerous occasions, he’d make a passing comment about not wanting to try someone’s dish. Whenever we circulated the tentative menu before the actual Dinner Club date, Movies would send a note reminding us that he didn’t like certain foods.

The biggest point of contention among us Dinner Clubbers was bacon. Continue reading

Gelato Update

As I wrote back in July, I have long been on the search for fabulous gelato. So I was thrilled when, on two recent trips, I discovered some incredible versions of this artisanal delight.

Dolcezza

Tanya (of Veggie Love) dragged me into this Argentine gelateria, kicking and screaming. “I won’t have delicious things, I won’t I won’t!” Ok, total lie: It doesn’t take much to convince me to try gelato; simply pointing out the shop is usually all it takes. But once inside, I acted somewhat unusually. Rather than veering towards my usual choices of hazelnut or pistachio, I pointed at something else. “I’ll try the honey avocado,” I ventured bravely. Avocado?? Ice cream!?

Well don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it, folks. That stuff was incredible. I’m an avocado lover generally, and Dolcezza’s gelato brought out the creamy avocado flavor amazingly, well complemented by the honey. It was neither overpowering nor overly sweet. We meant to bring some for our friends working down the street, but by the time we left, the gelato had sent us into such rapture we barely knew our own names…

♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5, for inducing amnesiac effects

Cones

While walking in the East Village of New York City with friends, I spotted a gelato shop on the corner of Bleeker and Grove street, called Grom. We were looking at the mouth-watering menu (caramel with Himalayan pink salt) when a man walked over and stuck his head into our huddle. “You want good gelato?” he asked in a thick New Yorker accent. Not waiting for an answer, he started pointing around the corner, saying, “the best stuff is right up this street, at Cones, right next to John’s pizza. They make it all by hand.”

Now I don’t know about you, but when complete strangers stop me on the street to tell me to go eat somewhere, I go there. Especially when they’re locals. So I dragged my group a block and a half up the street to Cones. Run by a charismatic and chipper Argentinian, the gelato is absolutely out of this world. The hazelnut, in particular, made me weak in the knees. The coconut, sitting in a cup next to a scoop of dark chocolate, made me moan.

♥♥♥♥♥ out of 5. Perfect date spot—the food itself is an aphrodisiac!

The Wheels on the Bus Go… faster, cheaper, and with WiFi?

We interrupt this mostly-food, a little bit travel blog to bring you some very important travel information:

Greyhound Bus company (you know, the one with the over-priced tickets, slow buses, overbooked coaches– essentially hell on wheels) has placed an application for redemption. It’s called BoltBus.

BoltBus will go between Boston & NYC and NYC & DC and will feature:

+ guaranteed seats
+ fares starting at $1
+ WiFi internet
+ power outlets
+ more legroom

(I think they had me at “guaranteed seats.”)

The catch to all of this? You have to buy your tickets online. (Riiiight…)

Reference: “Here comes the bus,” Boston Globe, March 10, 2008

Childhood Snack Evolves into Sushi Delight!

As a kid, one of the more bizarre but delicious snacks I favored was a banana cut up and spread with peanut butter. There was something wonderful about the combination of the salty gooeyness of the peanut butter combined with the sweet fruitiness of the banana.

As a grad student often working from a tight budget, I’ve rediscovered this tasty snack, loving it not only for its flavor combo, but also for the protein and potassium punch it packs. (Apologies to anti-alliterationists.)

Eel sushi, however, was never really in the picture. Until, of course, New York City gave the combo some thought.

One of the things I love best about cuisines in larger cities– and in NYC especially –is the irreverence that chefs bring to their food. Pine needle in your cucumber? Sure! Lavender in your mashed potatoes? Why not! Someone somewhere, it seems, is always having a flavor epiphany.

And at the restaurant Ginger, someone had it about eel. This East Village restaurant recently delivered take-out sushi to a friend’s apartment, so I can’t wax poetic about their location or their interior (though I can direct you to a blog that has). I can, however, tell you about the one roll that I can’t stop talking about.

The Golden roll, as I believe it’s called, features cooked eel and banana wrapped in the typical rice and seaweed, topped with a little dab of peanut butter. Just as the banana balanced the peanut butter in my childhood snack, the eel comes into this combination with a rich and smoky flavor that unites the two other ingredients.

It sounds bizarre, I know, but the result is something amazing. (There is, of course, the “Aaron Burr” effect, but it’s nothing that a glass of your favorite sake or champagne can’t wash down.)

Ginger

109 1st Ave
(between 6th St & 7th St)
New York, NY 10003

(212) 260-6223