The Duke men's basketball team opened its fall break Duke Elevate trip with a full New York experience: airport delays, heavy traffic, Frank Sinatra, an amazing skyline, a city that never sleeps and a five-star restaurant willing to make special accommodations for a travel party that was caught in it all.
Ground delays in Newark backed up the team's departure time from RDU and had the plane in a holding pattern upon arrival. After touching down on the tarmac, the Blue Devils quickly boarded their bus with suits in hand for the trip into the city.
As the bus rolled out of Newark Airport, the travel party was greeted by Frank Sinatra's New York, New York. Fortunately the playlist for the drive featured more New York-themed tracks along with a few Motown hits (more on this tomorrow) as tunnel traffic brought the bus to a grinding stop just before the Lincoln Tunnel.
Duke arrived at The Modern an hour and a half later than expected but was still greeted by a courteous staff and a restaurant full of curious observers. Each of the eight dinner tables in the private room at The Modern included a special guest, including Grant Hill, Kyle Singler, Brian Zoubek, Steve Duncker, Ronnie Wurtzburger and Ashok Varadhan. Hill and Varadhan, a securities division executive committee member at Goldman Sachs and a former Duke basketball manager, spoke to the entire group about taking advantage of all the various friendships and professional networks afforded to members of Duke basketball family.
A couple amusing events occurred throughout the course of the evening. The first occurred shortly after arriving when several members of the team went to use the restroom. Some confusion arose when when a woman excited the unisex bathroom into a sink area filled with six Duke basketball players. I am not sure who was more confused, the woman who thought she was in the men's room or the Blue Devils who were worried they were in the women's room. Turns out all parties were good as the unisex washroom had several individual men's and women's bathrooms contained within it.
The second event that nearly brought a tear to an eye was when the first course was delivered to Marshall Plumlee. Servers brought a bowl with pickled beets and toasted hazelnuts, and Plumlee looked ready to down a spoonful of the bowl before a second server quickly came over to add the butternut squash soup to the dish. Plumlee took a more cautious approach to the rest of the meal although he still managed to devour seven dinner rolls.
Here is a look at the Duke dinner menu at The Modern:
Butternut squash soup with pickled beets and toasted hazelnuts Red endive and watercress with shaved pumpkin, ricotta salata and chestnut vinaigrette
Pan-seared yellow fin tuna au poivre with potato gratin and spinach Or Smoked beef tenderloin with olive oil potato purée, hen of woods mushrooms and perigueux sauce
Modern chocolate tart with pistachio ice cream Or Ice cream, three flavors
Following dinner, Duke found its way to the hotel, a familiar spot on East 34th Street. The Blue Devils quickly grabbed room keys and headed off to bed with a 6 a.m. wake up call looming on Saturday.
Duke heads off to West Point Saturday before an evening trip to Broadway. Check GoDuke.com daily for the latest Duke Elevate blog as well as exclusive video packages from the Blue Devil Network. Periodic updates, pictures and notes also available on Twitter at @Duke_MBB, @dukeblueplanet and @BlueDevil_NTWRK.