02 Dec The MAPPETITE MILE: XMAS, FIFTH AVENUE STYLE
Ah, Fifth Avenue in December: all the beautiful decorations, the shopping, the holiday cheer. Oh, and, don’t forget the tourist crowds – lots and lots of them. Welcome to Christmastime in New York City.
No doubts about it, with so much hustle-bustle you’ll work up a Santa-sized appetite. Here’s a bit of elven magic to satisfy your What-to-See and Where-to-Eat hunger along the Christmas-resplendent Fifth Avenue retail strip.
With the holidays in full force a stroll down Fifth Avenue is a sight to see in and of itself, a show bursting with color and light. At ROCKEFELLER CENTER travel the CHANNEL GARDENS – the stretch of planters that runs from the Avenue to
the central plaza, the ice skating rink and of course the tree – at over 65 feet high and decked with miles of lights it’s one heck of a breathtaking sight. The same goes for the UNICEF SNOWFLAKE, the colossal mass of individually inscribed Baccarat crystals that form the dripless wonder floating atop the intersection of 5th Avenue and 57th Street.
If it’s art’s that’s on your mind, forget Christmas pasts with the installations at the MUSEUM OF MODERN ART (aka MoMA) and on a mild winter day take it outdoors to the museum’s SCULPTURE GARDEN. (Think about joining up as an individual member – the $85 fee and $5 guest passes will be worth the cost if you’ve got four or more folks on your holiday outing.) For cinephiles, take in a movie at THE PARIS, one of New York’s old school theaters just steps away from THE PLAZA, the grand dame of all city hotels now a much-moneyed condominium residence.
If all this holiday spirit has you ready for a respite from saturated streets then sidle into the quietude of the FIFTH AVENUE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH from 1875 and the ST. THOMAS CHURCH from 1914. These houses of worship may have you covered but for that truly inspired ecclesiastical architectural moment take time for a visit to ST. PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL. Pious or not, this Roman Catholic behemoth makes for a storybook setting in defining American Gothic Revival style.
From 59th to 49th Streets, 5th Avenue makes checking off your gift list a breeze at century old department stores, branded boutiques and big box retailers. With the winter wonderland of SAK’S main floor and Christmas window displays, HENRI BENDEL’S Lalique glass panels and BERGDORF GOODMAN’S haute couture mannequins, shopping is as much art as it is serious retail. There’s also the ginormous glass cube fronting the General Motors building that marks the descent into APPLE’S subterranean flagship store. For kids too young to ogle or envy the taut greeters of HOLLISTER and ABERCOMBIE & FITCH make a visit to the Toyland settings of FAO SCHWARTZ and the LEGO STORE. And of course, you can pretend you’re Holly Golightly at TIFFANY’S but don’t expect breakfast…..
Eloise would be quite the fatty if she was around today to roam the stellar PLAZA FOOD HALL. Yes, you could play the tourist and pluck yourself down under the fronds of THE PALM COURT, but with the Plaza Hotel’s redo this feels a bit too formula for even Eloise to endure, let alone enjoy. Without a doubt, that young scamp would be playing with TODD ENGLISH who takes a very, well, English approach with his thematic food hall. It’s all a-okay eating at the themed counters that include THE GRILL, TAQUERIA and OYSTER BAR. If there’s too much of a wait or if you’re just not up for this multi-meal Disney dining adventure, not to worry with the lineup of purveyors recently added to this food hall’s mix.
Mark your MAPPETITE along the outer perimeter where bakes, sweet and savory, come your way from outposts of some of New York’s best shops: GREENBERG’S, THREE TARTS, PAIN DAVIGNON, FRANCOIS PAYARD and LADY M BOUTIQUE. In the interior grab a bento box from SUSHI OF GARI, a hero from NO. 7 SUB or a roll from LUKE’S LOBSTER. Wow, talk about smorgasboards!
From the Plaza head to HARRY CIPRIANI’S or a slew of other Euro-leaning eats houses populating Madison Avenue but then you’re drifting away from the holiday magic that is Fifth Avenue. Instead, head south to BERGDORF GOODMAN and it’s 7th floor BG RESTAURANT where you can take a break from haute couture with an exceptional dine accompanied by Central Park views – it’s pricey but worth the splurge whether or not you’re one of the ladies who lunch. Another in-department store dine awaits you on the 8th Floor of SAKS at its CAFE SFA – not as posh as BG but you’re still in for a great meal with views of Rockefeller Center.
Speaking of Rockefeller Center, there’s the fish focused menu at the SEA GRILL and the French fare at BRASSERIE RUHLMAN. If more informal eats moments are what you’re after than you can choose from the slew of restaurants populating the Center, though choose wisely as many make for sub-par mall meals. Taste-satisfying standouts include BILL’S BAR & BURGER, TRI TIP GRILL, HARRY’S ITALIAN PIZZA PARLOR and BOUCHON BAKERY all of which, whether you’re in for a slice, sandwich and salad or burger with fries, are priced right so no need to break your holiday piggy bank.
This is all the better if you’ve got children along for a trip to the Top of the Rock or NBC Studios – arghhh, the sacrifices we make when our young’ins in tow! About those kids, naughty or nice, there are sweets to entice from the likes of JACQUES TORRES, TEUSCHER and LA MAISON DU CHOCOLAT.
Have a more adventurous palate? If so, go for an Asian-edged dinner in the basement of the Chambers Hotel at MA PECHE, David Chang’s Midtown Momofuku outpost. Take the sophistication up a notch and you’re in THE MODERN for restauranteur Danny Meyer’s Austrian-edged plates, that is, as long as you’ve reserved ahead and, if so, you’ve also got the MoMA’s Sculpture Garden views.
It may be hard to see beyond all the storefronts in this dense retail quadrant of New York City, especially during Christmastime but unwrap the elaborately decorated present that is 5th Avenue and there’s food that is more yum than plain old bah humbug.