USA Page 6

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This is what ultimately did it for me - the selection of salts. Nine different and unique salts for me to mix and match as I pleased with each main-course savoury dish. Some were from exotic locations like Hawaii, others were found deep underground, so deep, that they are found amongst Jurassic-period fossils. Mixing and matching the right salts to each dish could either give a subtle hint of flavour where previously there was none, or it could cause something of a taste explosion, especially with some of the creamier dishes.

Foie Gras, with fruits and brioche and nine salts... this was WAY too much fun! Interestingly, the menu changes every day (I was very impressed to find the day's date printed on the menu) and I had them print me a copy of my menu for this particular meal. This course took an awful lot longer than it needed to, although it took about as long as it should and not nearly as long as I would've liked it to.

"Macaroni N' Cheese" the most understated menu item yet. Butter poached Nova Scotia Lobster Parmesan "Crisp" (that's the thing on top) with creamy lobster broth and Mascarpone-enriched Orzo. All in all, 17 courses... quite a feast, and a pleasant surprise seeing as the "regular" chef's tasting menu is supposed to be 9 courses (11 effective courses counting desserts and starters). Per Se is now the third restaurant to not only feed me with superlatively good food, but to also make me feel very full - something that doesn't happen often. Although the Michelin guide for New York has come under some criticism, I feel that Per Se is entirely worthy of it's three star rating. It may well have been the best restaurant I have ever been to...

The next day, I woke up early to the sound of one of these things. This particular example is a Bell-222. Though air traffic over New York is very very very tightly controlled, especially nowadays, there are constantly helicopters flying around for all sorts of different reasons - traffic, police, transport of diplomats etc. So I thought, why not get in on this obviously very "New York" experience?

I was very fortunate that when I called, they had a single seat left in one of their helicopters and had had great difficulty selling it, so I negotiated what I believed to be a reasonable price (the tour company would have disagreed, and we'll leave it at that). The trade-off... was that I had to sit in the cockpit. Which may, at first, seem like a good thing, but since the pilot actually flies the thing so that people get the best view out of the side windows, it was a little tricky.

The cockpit does, however, have the advantage of having the cleanest windows because it is rather important that the pilot can see through them. Here is a view of Yankee stadium, home of the New York Yankees, a baseball team in the "World Series", a silly name... and one which would be analgous to calling the AFL grand final the "World League Grand Final" which I think, even the players would think a bit daft.

Here we get a good view of the many bridges which cross the East River and Harlem River.

The upper west side, dominated in this photo by Columbia University... aahhh... so far and yet... so far.

Staring down the barrel of 48th Street. The "twin towers" to the left of the shot are the Time-Warner building towers and the Empire State Building can be seen to the far right.

The Statue of Liberty, whose actual name is "Bob"... or maybe I'm getting it confused with "Liberty Enlightening the World".

Downtown Manhattan with Fort Jay on Governor Island in the foreground. The skyline looks suspiciously inclomplete without the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. The helipad-pier can be seen just above the end of the wake of the sightseeing ferry which is closest to us (how's that for a vague description!)

On Broadway, there is a mock-protest. The fact that they are dressed in period costume is no coincidence - this is a publicity stunt-ad for "The Tudors" a new mini-series on Cable TV here.

Also on Broadway - the CBS studios where the Late Show with David Letterman are recorded I was tempted to line up to be in the studio audience for this show... but then I remembered that I don't really like the show and that Dave isn't actually very funny.

That afternoon, after a failed attempt to get last-minute-cancellation-tickets to see a broadway musical (Wicked), I strolled over to the Museum of Natural History on 81st Street. Well... I strolled over to a tube station and got on a train which took me there.

The building which houses the museum is terribly impressive. Terrible lizard (otherwise known as Dinosaur) skeletons decorate the main foyer-entrance.

They actually had a very extensive and interesting section on Mesoamerica... but I figured that you'd all had enough of that. Besides, scale models of Chichen Itza are all well and good... but having been there, they just don't do it for me like they used to.

This is Australia. Well, all the birds... what do you do if a bird poops on your windscreen? Don't ask her out!

Ancient armenian texts from good ol' Constantinople.

There were a great many exhibits on different people from around the world.

Including an extremely well thought-out display on the makeup of Samurai swords.


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