Thursday, September 4, 2008

Last weekend.. finally..

Post by: Beth

We had a very busy weekend over the Labor Day holiday... It was our first weekend here, so we packed as much stuff in as possible. We also took about 100 photos, so I'm going to post all the photos and just weave the story around the photos and more or less let them tell the stories. :)

First off, most of you probably know of my love for Project Runway. If you're in the dark, Project Runway is a TV show on Bravo that's hosted by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. On the show, they have aspiring fashion designers audition by submitting some of their pieces of work and portfolios, and they select 15 designers to be on the show. Each week, the designers are given a challenge (i.e. design and create an outfit using only items found in a grocery store; design and create an outfit using only items used to manufacture an SUV, etc). Each week, judges (Michael Kors, Heidi Klum, Nina Garcia, and usually one guest judge) evaluate the designers' creations, and eliminate one contestant. This happens week after week, until only 3 contestants are left, and those 3 designers create an entire line to show on the runways of NYC's Fashion Week in Bryant Park. The judges evaluate the lines during the runway show, and one designer wins $100,000 to start his or her own line and distribution, as well as a Saturn vehicle, etc etc. I'm addicted and have been since Season One... Raja may not admit it but he's halfway addicted (and actually really good at critiquing the designers' work, spotting a catastrophe early on, etc). It's really good entertainment as many of the designers are male and as flamboyant as they come, so it equals tons of drama and you never know what might happen next on the set.
(I'm going somewhere with this.. I promise.. just keep reading).

So we're moving to India soon, and many people that have lived in or visited India have told us that it's a great place to get custom clothing made, because the labor is so cheap. So you can buy fabric and go to a tailor, and that tailor will measure you and make you a piece of clothing that fits you perfectly, for about the price you'd buy something ready to wear off the rack here in America. Since Raja always needs suits and they can get pretty expensive, he's decided to buy suiting fabric here (people say better suiting fabric is available here for some reason), and take this to India so he can have a couple of suits made during our stay there. (I'm still going somewhere with this...)

Since I've watched Project Runway religiously since Season One, I knew exactly where we should go to get his material. Each week, the designers on the show are taken to a huge fabric store here in the city called "Mood," and since Raja's been watching it with me, he agreed to try it out because it looks like they have just about every material possible on the show. So when he announces this past Saturday that it's the day to go material shopping, I am ECSTATIC. We are going to "Mood" !! Finally !! So we look up the address and it's not too far from our home; we decide to walk and I'm so excited the whole way. We finally see the building and here are shots of it from the outside... It looks just like what you see on the show every week, but bigger!

When you get inside, the door is propped open, and the Project Runway sign is on the door... It's the first thing you see once you get off the elevator -- it only served to fuel my excitement further.

Once inside, I see that it's actually really crowded! It's hard to get a shot of an aisle without people in it... There are a LOT of aisles on each floor, and 2 floors, and I was amazed that each aisle had 5-6 people on it on a Saturday morning. There are about 50 (no kidding.. 50) fabric stores on 2 streets in the Fashion District, so there are a LOT of choices, but it seems like tons of people love "Mood" !

I can't help it... I'm so excited to be in the actual store that I just take pictures of myself all over the place.

The sales guy that helped Raja was really nice and attentive, and I got to ask him if he's helped any of the Project Runway designers before when they visited here for challenges. He said he has, and that it's a LOT of work but also a lot of fun. So neat, huh? :)
So Raja found some good material, but wanted to look around at some of the other stores since there are so many choices to make sure he didn't find something he liked even better. We've checked out a couple of more stores since then, and we're going back to "Mood" to buy the fabric -- I told him it was going to be the best, but he just didn't listen to me. ;)
Once outside on the street again, I took a picture of the big button and needle that's right on Fashion Avenue:

And THEN... we turned the corner, and here is Parsons, the design school where the Project Runway designers' workroom is! This is where they sketch, sew, and send their outfits down the runway for the judges' evaluations. I'd gotten Raja to take me to it once before during one of my visits to NY when he lived here previously, but that was before I was blogging, so I had to take more pictures so I could post them on here. The red signs behind me say "Parsons - The New School for Design".. that's the building!

After all the shopping and Project Runway fun, we went to SoHo and shopped around a while, and then we were off to Little Italy for a late lunch/early dinner. I LOVE Little Italy -- It's one of my favorite places in New York. It's always lively, always fun, and they have great open-air restaurants where you can sit outside at a cafe table, have a glass of wine or sangria, and have a fabulous meal in a fun setting.

We looked at a lot of menus to try to pick the perfect restaurant. Raja finally threw his hands in the air and said "Every menu is exactly the same.. just pick one." He was right. :)

Here's the menu at the restaurant we finally settled into... While we were looking at the menu posted outside the cafe, the host came out and sang a song in Italian to get us into the restaurants, and it's hard to say no to THAT... :)

Here's the view from our table:

So, you know... when you sit down in an Italian restaurant, you generally get some yummy bread and a rack of oil and vinegar like this one, right? :

Well, the guy in the picture below had something different in mind, apparently.

He and his girlfriend sat down right about the same time we did, and we quickly started noticing that he had a lot of requests for the waiter. Every few minutes, he'd wave a waiter over and ask for something else. Before much longer, we realized he was asking for the same thing repeatedly: more olive oil... ?? His olive oil shaker (remember the picture of the olive oil and vinegar rack above?) was completely empty within 5 minutes of being seated. I was trying to figure out where exactly it all went -- they've only been served bread so far, after all. Raja and I were hunting around and then finally... we see it:
He's been filling multiple bowls like this up with olive oil. He kept emptying his oil shaker completely into a bowl, then he'd ask for another shaker and another bowl. I was baffled. Absolutely couldn't believe what I was seeing.
Raja and I were shaking with laughter, then our waiter and the hosts sees us, and they started laughing as well.. I've never seen someone pour so much olive oil in my life. He didn't even eat 1/10th of the olive oil he used; I have no idea why he kept insisting he wanted more, but it was bizarre. He was still pouring olive oil when we got our food.... ;)

And here are some videos that I took while at the restaurant.. Yes, one of them does include the olive oil-loving guy asking for something eles, and you can see his multiple bowls of olive oil sitting all around! The man in the green shirt was the host for the restaurant -- the one that came out and sang an Italian song while we were looking at the menu. He was REALLY nice and outgoing and made the experience even better.

After the fun meal, it was time to walk back to the subway to take the train home... Here are some pictures we took along the way:

The next day, I'd picked out another restaurant I wanted to try... I'd read about this place in Madison Square Park called the "Shake Shack." We visit this website a lot to read reviews of places before we try something out... Most restaurants/bars have somewhere between 5-25 reviews on, so you can get a semi-good to great idea on what to expect from reviewers, as well as lots of basic info about location, price range, attire, if they take reservations, etc etc. The Shake Shack had about 400 reviews, with the reviews averaging an impressive 4 out of 5 stars... If you've ever used before, you know this is a GREAT rating. The menu is simple: shakes, burgers, fries, and frozen custard. I'd read on yelp reviews that the wait for this place could be long, so we took a couple of books just in case it was true, and we were off.

Here's my sweet husband now as we leave the apartment :)

When we got there, we saw that there was DEFINITELY a line..... We're at the back, and you can see all of the people wrapping around the path to wait for their turn to order.
This is the actual building from which you order and pick up your food. So you wait in line until you order at the window, and then you find a table or bench and sit for about 15 minutes while they cook your order. Then you go back to the window to pick up the food and finally it's time to eat. :)

Now that we were finally about 30 people from front of the line, and I took a picture of as much of the line as I could fit into the lens frame... There were probably about 100 people in line by the time we ordered our food right around noon.

They have these menus set up all along the line's path so you can be ready to order by the time it's your turn.

Almost time for us to place our orders.... !
And I hate to be anti-climatic here, but by the time we got our food, I was so hungry I forgot to take photos of our food!! =( =( I will say that it was worth the wait though --- VERY yummy. It was a great day to sit in the park and eat our lunch and have frozen custard... After that, we walked around the park and walked home. All in all, a very fun day in the city and a good experience :)

Next up for us: dinner tonight with Sangita and her husband at a Thai restaurant, and then tomorrow night, Mom and Jenny get here for their visits! They'll be staying from Friday night through Tuesday morning, and we're excited to have them here... Expect lots of photos after this weekend!


The Freeman Family said...

Yay you posted. I have been "stalking" your blog waiting for a new post of your first weekend.

I got so excited about the fabric store and Parsons. I love Project Runway too, unforuntaly we don't have that channel anymore. If only you had met Tim Gunn!

Beth & Raja Gupta said...

Lee -
I know!!-- I probably would have peed in my pants if I met Tim Gunn. Raja DID see him on an airplane one time and took a picture of the back of his head so I could confirm it was him. And it was unmistakably the back of Tim Gunn's head!
We don't get Bravo on our tv up here either for some reason.. I watch it on You Tube though -- its really easy to find if you want to watch it. :)

Big Cuz said...

I would love to go to that fabric store, and I am sure that mom would too, if only I could get her on a plane. you never mentioned though what the prices were like. were they reasonable, or NY prices?

Beth & Raja Gupta said...

you know, big cuz.. neither raja nor i usually shop for fabrics so i was sort of at a loss as to your "comparison question."
i asked raja what he thought and he said:
"they seemed comparable to most of the other fabric stores in the fashion district here, but had a much wider selection. as far as comparing its prices to hancock's in birmingham, unknown. but mood probably carries some fabrics that hancocks wouldn't stock"
and there you have it ;)

Big Cuz said...

FYI... I just got the bright idea to go to the website and see if they might possibly have their prices listed, and they did. They are pretty decent prices. not too high!