Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter's Eve at Lincoln Square

Last week, at the suggestion of my buddy, Brittney, I attended the annual tree lighting and winter festivities in Lincoln Square.  Winter's Eve, as it's called, is deemed (according to their literature) "NYC's Largest Holiday Festival", spreads along Broadway from Columbus Circle to 68th street, and features live music, face painting, acrobats, carolers, arts and crafts, shopping, a large scale tree lighting, and food from some of the best restaurants in the area.  It was beautiful and fun and very festive, but, to be quite honest, it was kind of a lot.  Here's the skinny.

Victor, Rachael, and I met Brittney and her adorable son, Max on the steps of Lincoln Center just after dark to pick up a little holiday cheer while watching the tree-lighting ceremony.  We joined a bevy of cheerful families in listening to an interesting conglomeration of musicians and performers (a jazz band, some cloggers, and a virtuoso fiddler) and oohed and aahed when the appropriately PC blue-lit holiday tree was illuminated.  The crowd was a little large and the performers were a bit too far away to hear clearly, but from our vantage point, we had an unobstructed view of the semi-large tree, so while we were a tad removed from the festivities, it was a pleasurable, if slightly unremarkable tree lighting experience.  (And Max really liked the virtuoso fiddler, so that alone was worth the trip!)  We then headed up to Richard Tucker Park to one of the numerous outdoor food tasting stations for a little grub and some more holiday festiveness.  Well . . . apparently, every other person in New York and its surrounding boroughs had the same idea.  Every foot of the less-than-one-block triangle of space was quite literally packed with tents from different restaurants serving winter-inspired chow and encircled by lines of people hoping to snag some of the cheap grub.  Dozens of swanky eateries featured soups, ravioli, and pasta for three and four dollars per portion and every person in the square seemed to know which tents they wanted to visit.  Luce had wild mushroom ravioli, Gourmet Garage had tomato bisque, and Bar Boulud featured a butternut squash soup.  Folks squeezed past each other, moving through the square, often toting piles and piles of cheap gourmet food and hot chocolate.  I tried some fabulous ravioli, but when we tried to find a place to enjoy it, we were jostled from side to side and were, generally, pretty uncomfortable.  It seemed that the best plan of action was to just keep moving with the flow.  Like I said, it was a lot.

We had a thoroughly addicting (and I'm assuming VERY cream-based) tomato soup from the Gourmet Garage tent and a cupcake from Magnolia and headed down toward Columbus Circle in search of a Mexican Hot Chocolate from Rosa Mexicana.  (Obviously, I participated in this adventure before the installation of my raw vegan diet).  Along the way we encountered an array of jugglers, unicycle riders, clowns, and face painters, all partially or completely surrounded by mostly impenetrable crowds.  Nevertheless, the trees lining Broadway were illuminated, the air was a crisp, and the company was unbeatable.  When we arrived at Columbus Circle, the scene was very similar to the one uptown - festive, but riotous.  We wove our way toward the hot chocolate booth just to find out . . . they had run out.  Wah wah.  Dude, that's what happens when tens of thousands of folks come out to celebrate in the cold weather.  The Rosa Mexicana people didn't anticipate tons of hot chocolate sales?  Really?  We scooted to the edge of the sidewalk to survey the situation and figure our next move (we would be trampled if we attempted to do so in the middle of the path).  We decided to head toward home and heat and peace and quiet.  The sidewalk, for as far as I could see, was cacaphonous.  Interestingly enough, though, the holiday spirit permeated even the thickest sections of the crowd as the normally (well, in my experience when bargains are to be had) combative crowd threaded politely past each other.  I heard folks actually saying, "Excuse me" and "That pulled pork looks good.  Where did you get it?".  I even, for the most part, saw more smiles than frowns.  Not to oversimplify the entire gigantic festival, but I think that perhaps Lincoln Square's Winter's Eve, in its own way, was a New York success.  What can I say?  Smooshing huge amounts of hungry New Yorkers into a small space without conflict and nary a disgruntled comment is, in my estimation, somewhat of a Christmas miracle.  Happy holidays.

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