April 16, 2013 § Leave a comment
If you’ve read this blog before, you’re likely already aware that I love to eat, and my friends love to eat, as does my family. So when, not long ago, it came time to purchase a birthday gift for one of my foodie friends, you’ll understand when I say that I experienced kismet. Wandering through McNally Jackson bookstore here in New York, as I am wont to do on random weekends, I stumbled upon the perfect present, a recently published tome titled Where Chefs Eat: A Guide to Chefs’ Favorite Restaurants.
According to publisher Phaidron, it is:
The ultimate restaurant guide chosen by the real experts: more than 400 of the world’s best chefs from Heston Blumenthal to René Redzepi and David Chang.
From bargain noodle joints to high-end restaurants; late-night haunts to all-day breakfasts; neighbourhood eateries to destination restaurants, Where Chefs Eat has more than 2,000 personal recommendations for where to eat around the globe.
Said friend loved it. As luck would have it, he had a trip planned to Northern Italy just a few weeks later. He perused the guide and decided on a side trip to Modena to visit Osteria Francescana, a tiny restaurant with only 11 tables, serving three different tasting menus (enough to satisfy the pickiest and hungriest eater), where food becomes art at the hands of chef Massimo Bottura. The osteria has earned three Michelin stars, was included in Food and Wine Magazine’s list of “100 Restaurants Worth a Pilgrimage” (May 2013 issue) and was just listed in the No. 3 spot of The World’s Top 50 Restaurants (according to the U.K.’s Restaurant Magazine).
I received his email after the meal, and I quote, “I can’t move.” I loved that.
November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment
I love to walk. I head out four or five mornings a week. Which is a good thing, because, if you’ve read previous posts on this blog or my other, Food, Seriously, you’ll know that I also love to eat. Whenever I move to a new city or neighborhood, one of the first things I do is map out a new route. I like having it set – the time, the distance – so that I don’t have to think about those things. My mind is free to wander … wherever.
When I moved to the Lower East Side, I was faced with same challenge, and this time I realized that at least part of my walk could take place along a river, the East River to be exact, and through the East River Park. It runs from Montgomery Street to East 12th Street, along FDR Drive, and like many others in the city, it’s recently been updated, made user friendly.
The park is unbelievably close. I cross over FDR Drive at Delancey Street and walk (quickly) alongside the river. On with way, I pass tennis courts that are busy, even at 7:30 a.m., even when the temperature is 37 degrees; benches installed facing the river like they’re expecting something or someone; a track encircling a soccer field, both of which are in use most mornings; metal tables connected to metal chairs that are mostly empty at this time of day; leafy trees; a baseball diamond; joggers, some leisurely, some running a good clip and checking their watches – a good sign they’re training for Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon; and finally a playground, where I exit the park at East 10th Street. Throughout my walk there is the East River hit by varying angles of the morning light, the odd boat buzzing by, the Domino Sugar Factory back lit like in a movie, and the Williamsburg Bridge.
How fortunate we are to have these beautiful public spaces – rejuvenated by the city for our pleasure.
And this one on the Lower East Side is to me, daily, a marvel.
October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
There is a new exhibit at the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” In their review on Saturday, The New York Times called it “stunning.”
Maybe you learned and forgot, or maybe you never learned in the first place, that three of the world’s religions share one source: the herdsman, Abraham. The goal of this exhibit is to remind us of this, or to educate us anew:
Over the millennia, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have each created a rich body of founding texts and interpretive underpinnings for their respective faiths, each of which derives from the teachings of Abraham. This exhibition treats these three great Abrahamic religions, setting forth in splendid and historic detail the complementarities and differences among them, explaining their development, and exploring their lived experience through public and private prayer.
In an age when there is so much talk about Christians versus Muslims versus Jews, and the hijacking of the conversation by extremists, particularly in the case of Islam, this exhibition makes a timely a timely debut. It’s the perfect moment for a history lesson or review. Knowledge, understanding, tolerance … for free. The exhibition runs through February 27, 2011.
I’ve written about the main branch of the New York Public Library previously. Even without this fabulous exhibit, it’s one of the sites that I always recommend to visitors. The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is an architectural wonder; and it backs on to Bryant Park, one of my favorite parks in the city, in every season. I just walked through the park the other day, and right now it is being readied for the holidays. As of October 29th, the ice skating rink called Citi Pond will be open, and the structures that on November 5th will open as the The Holiday Shops are in place.
Go to the Library to brush up on your history and then to the Park to share in the joy of the season.
October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment
The eternal battle: Manhattan versus Brooklyn. Which is hipper, more current, has a better quality of life and better food? Since I’ve lived in New York, it’s been Manhattan for me, with only a few visits to the other side of the East River.
But now, unbeknownst to me at the time that I moved to the Lower East Side, I am two stops from Brooklyn on the F train. Also, unbeknownst to me, is the benefit this happenstance.
Example #1 – The Brooklyn Book Festival – Even on a dreary, rainy Sunday in September, this festival drew tens of thousands of book lovers, including me, to downtown Brooklyn. The line-up of authors and panels was impressive and informative. My thrills included, Siri Hustvedt, T Cooper, Stewart O’Nan, Kate Christensen, Sam Lipsyte, Rakesh Satyel, and Monique Truong. Three hours of brilliant conversation – all for 15 minutes, each way. Time spent? Minimal. Value gained? Priceless.
Example #2 – The Brooklyn Flea Market – I went on an insanely beautiful Saturday morning, which meant the outdoor location in Fort Greene (as opposed to indoors at One Hanson on Sunday). There are over 150 vendors of vintage clothing, boots, and shoes, jewelry, rugs, furniture, you name it. And, yes, there are some fantastic food vendors should you get a bit peckish during your visit. (Who knew that a piece of Whole Wheat Spelt Nut bread with a smear of butter could taste so good? The folks from Brooklyn based SCRATCHbread, clearly. And you’ll also find fish tacos, and pizza, and burgers…) I had no intention of buying anything. Silly. I left the Flea Market with two trade paperbacks ($5) and a fantastic vintage dress ($30). And, I’ll be back. To shop and eat … I found a few restaurants on Dekalb Avenue that have my name on them.
Example #3 – The Brooklyn Academy of Music. I ventured across the river to BAM even before I moved to the Lower East Side. The Harvey Theatre is a fantastic space. I saw Patrick Stewart inhabit Macbeth, and Ibsen’s The Cherry Orchard, as part of The Bridge Project. It’s closer now, so I’ll be going again soon.
I may be a Lower Manhattan gal, but I definitely appreciate what Brooklyn has to offer, and there’s a lot.
October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Are you old enough, or enough of a movie-buff, to remember the film, Crossing Delancey? The one with Amy Irving and Peter Riegert, where book lover Isabelle Grossman (Irving) meets and falls in lust with the cool downtown author rather than her matchmaker’s choice, Sam Posner (Riegert) who happens to own a pickle shop on Essex Street, south of Delancey. She ends up with the pickle-maker, but not until she’s suffered through a long, played-out drama (of course, there wouldn’t be a movie unless she did).
It wasn’t until I moved to the Lower East Side, and saw the Essex Street storefront of The Pickle Guys – yes, south of Delancey – that I began to understand the movie. Not from the perspective of the 1980’s, but still … the Lower East Side and pickles, there’s a history here. And you can learn about that history by visiting the virtual NY Food Museum’s Pickle Wing which tells you more than you could have ever thought it possible to know about the pickle, including its detailed evolution and time line.
There is a fine art to authentic pickle-making, and pickling anything, if truth be told. Like the breweries and delis, the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, the pickle shops of the Lower East Side were owned and operated by immigrants, who brought Old World techniques to the preparation of food and beverages. While many of these traditions have been abandoned in favor of industrial methods, processed food, and large corporations, recently there’s been a food revolution of a sorts, whereby old school methods of food production are being reclaimed, revitalizing lost food trades and industries, in the process. And pickled products are becoming big business, via small, artisinal vendors, once again. Just look at Brooklyn Brine Co., owned and operated by three 20- and 30-somethings. As The New York Observer put it:
Formerly the province of grandmothers, and, in New York, the Lower East Side, pickling is experiencing a youthful Renaissance. Jars of various vegetables in liquid are now ubiquitous at greenmarkets and flea markets, in kitchen stores, at butcher shops, sandwich shops and Williams Sonoma. It’s not just earnest, entrepreneurial young outfits like Brooklyn Brine but a resurgence of pickles on restaurant menus all over the city and a rash of amateur canners stuffing farmers’ market booty into Ball jars in their own cramped kitchens, consulting recipes on Epicurious.com or books like Eugenia Bone’s recent Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods.
If, thus far you’ve missed the rebirth of the pickle, your opportunity to get in-the-know has arrived. This coming Sunday, October 17, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is The Tenth Annual New York City International Pickle Day. The festival will be held, appropriately, in the Lower East Side parking lot on Broome Street (between Essex and Ludlow), as well as on Broome Street (between Orchard and Ludlow). The Pickle Guys will be there, as will Brooklyn Brine, and a few dozen other vendors.
Mark it on your calendar. It’s bound to be a salty, delicious, fun time.
October 6, 2010 § 1 Comment
I have managed to delay this particular post for as long as I possibly could, afraid that once I’d gone there, there would be no going back. I was right. There’s a reason for the queue snaking out the door of the Doughnut Plant every Saturday and Sunday. This is a Lower East Side institution.
In 1994, Mark Israel began making doughnuts in the converted basement of a Lower East Side tenement, using his grandfather, Herman’s, recipe. Mark would bake all night and, in the morning, he would ride his bicycle, delivering the doughnuts to the likes of Dean & Deluca and Balducci’s. Eventually, he developed his own techniques for doughnut making and had the brilliant idea to add fresh roasted nuts and fresh seasonal fruits to his glazes. After a trip to Mexico in 1999, he added Mexican churros to his offering. In 2000, the 379 Grand Street location (at Norfolk) was opened.
The Doughnut Plant serves two kinds of doughnuts: yeast and cake. I’ve been told that the cake is a bit heavier, and it’s also a bit smaller. I opted for the Toasted Almond yeast doughnut. It was huge and it was delicious: the dough was had a nice consistency – substantial without being heavy – and the glaze was seriously flavorful, filled with almond pieces, and sweet, but not too sweet. When I go back, I’ll give the cake version a try. I am hoping for orange … I’m certain that I’ve smelled the aroma of orange, flowing strategically out of the plant vent, and onto the sidewalk, as I pass by.
You can also get your fix at Dean & Deluca, Zabars, Citarella, Joes Art of Coffee, Orens Daily Roast, and Agata & Valentina.
September 21, 2010 § Leave a comment
I love the theater, plays and musicals, Broadway and Off Broadway, you name it. When I moved to the Lower East Side, I assumed that my closest fix would be the Public Theater on Lafayette Street. At the time I didn’t realize that, in fact, there is a theater less than a five-minute walk from my apartment, at the Henry Street Settlement‘s Abrons Arts Center. I know now. As their website explains:
The Abrons Arts Center brings innovative artistic excellence to Manhattan’s Lower East Side through diverse, cutting-edge performances; exhibitions; residencies; classes and workshops for all ages; and arts-in-education programming at public schools.
There are classes for adults – dance (ballet, ballroom, belly, modern), music, theater, and visual arts – and for children of all ages – tap, salsa, and krumping for teens (who knew?), flamenco, children’s ceramics, digital photography, and musical theater, and even Broadway Babies and Creative Dance Movement for toddlers. This is just a sampling of what’s available. The complete list of Classes & Workshops can be found here.
As for the much-anticipated theater aspect, last Friday night I made my first visit. I saw one of the final performances of Christina Masciotti’s new play, Vision Disturbance. I had intended to see the two-hander from the moment I walked by the center and saw the sign positioned out front. And then I read Ben Brantley’s review in the Times and David Cote’s review in TimeOut New York, and I new I had to go. The play lived up to the reviews; it was insightful and moving, operating on multiple levels through witty, razor-sharp dialogue and monologue, and simple staging. The performances of the two leads, Linda Mancini as Mondo and Jay Smith as Dr. Hull, were funny and heartbreaking. Everything you want in 80 minutes of sustained disbelief.
There is an impressive schedule of events between now and the end of the year, including a couple of plays, as well as musical and dance performances. Next up for me? Joey Arias in Concert which I am attending with with good friends who’ll finally make the trek to my “neck of the woods.”