Lower East Side #9 – The Proximity to Brooklyn

October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment


The Brooklyn Bridge, Photo: tlc.howstuffworks.com


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 #1The 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 #2The 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.


Lower East Side #7 – The Doughnut Plant

October 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

Outside the Doughnut Plant New York City

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.

Daily Specials

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.

Mark Israel is a Hit

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.

Toasted Almond Yeast Doughnut

And there’s good news for those not wanting to venture quite so far downtown.  A second location of the Doughnut Plant just opened in the Chelsea Hotel.  Check out their review in The New York Times.

You can also get your fix at Dean & Deluca, Zabars, Citarella, Joes Art of Coffee, Orens Daily Roast, and Agata & Valentina.


In the doughnut queue

A rack of yeast doughnuts

Lower East Side #5 – bloodline nyc: objects for the home and life

September 15, 2010 § Leave a comment

bloodline nyc

A beautiful Saturday – all sun and blue sky – a long walk, and another Lower East Side find.  This time it’s a lovely little shop carrying “objects for the home and life.”  It’s called bloodline nyc.  And, if you’re looking for a wedding gift, or housewarming present, or perhaps a little something special for yourself, then this is the place for you.

Artfully displayed in the compact space, you’ll find Danish modern furniture, Turkish towels, Scottish scarves, exquisite vintage glassware and ceramics, and interesting antiques oddities, presented alongside sleek canvas totes, the softest cashmere hats, and fragrant French soaps.

There are two proprietors, Marie Roldan and Peggy Usamanont.  I’ve been to bloodline twice, and both times  I met up Marie.  In addition to her in-depth knowledge of every item in the shop, she is wealth of information when it comes to all things Lower-East-Side, especially where to eat.  When  you visit, make sure it ask for her picks.

“bloodline”: it matters not which race, color, creed or our financial situation we are born into – we all have a bloodline – and, it tells of the generational trip an item makes before it gets to the store.

Happy shopping!

Vintage Dishware

Vintage Glassware

Scottish scarves and canvas totes

Assorted vintage items

Savon de Marseille soaps

Lower East Side #4 – The Essex Street Market

September 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

Essex Street Market, Lower East Side

The Essex Street Market turned 70 this year.  In the land of retail, and of food, that’s pretty amazing, and it’s history is worth mentioning:

Essex Street Market began in 1940 as part an effort by Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia to find a new place for street merchants to do business. At the time, pushcarts and vendors crowded the city streets, making it difficult for police and fire vehicles to easily pass. To ease congestion, Mayor LaGuardia created the Essex Street Market and several other indoor retail markets throughout the city.

The market evolved, and eventually fell out of favor for a time, when supermarkets were all the rage, before experiencing the benefit of renewed interest in the Lower East Side.

In recent years, many new residents have again moved to the Lower East Side, causing another shift in the character of the neighborhood.  Infusing a new vitality and more money into the area, these residents bring new expectations for the Market.  They value the rich cultural and historical traditions of the neighborhood and also seek a wider variety of culinary products.

To some degree, their success has certainly been a case of a “rising tide raising all boats.”  In this case, it’s well-deserved: fruits, vegetables, cheese, bread, fish, meat, chocolates, cupcakes, heck. there’s even a barber.  The list of merchants includes: Jeffrey’s Meats; New Star Fish Market; Pain D’Avignon; Essex Farm Groceries; and Formaggio Essex.  And there are two “Eateries,” Essex Restaurant and Shopsins General Store.  The prices are good, the food is fresh, and whenever I’m there, it’s busy.

Located at the corner of Essex and Delancey, the market is open Monday through Saturday, from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (closed on Sunday), and is easily accessible by subway (J, M, Z, F, V ) and bus (M9, M14A, and B39 ).

If you do visit, you will no doubt eat well.

Essex Street Market, Everyday Food Needs

Essex Street Market, Meat

Lower East Side #2 – The Sweet Life

August 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

The Sweet Life

On my morning walk, I have a habit of coming across places that are not yet open.   That tends to happen at 7:30 in the morning.  I always think, I have to remember to come back here later in the day, or on the weekend, or at any time when the restaurant or shop is likely to be open.  And this weekend I actually managed to do just that, when I was in need of some cookies, ideally covered in some form of chocolate, to accompany the passion fruit and mango sorbets I was bringing to a dinner party for dessert.  I was roaming around on Saturday and realized I was just a block or two away from The Sweet Life on Hester Street.  And, yes, they might have exactly what I was looking for.  And, yes, they did.

This spot is a Lower East Side institution.  Located at the corner of Hester and Ludlow streets for almost 30 years, “The Sweet Life NY is a candy and gourmet chocolate  family owned retail shop.”  They “continuously search the world so that we can bring you the highest quality, most delicious dried fruit and nuts, gourmet chocolates, coffees, teas, and every candy imaginable.”

The Sweet Life Candy Jars

The Sweet Life does not exaggerate.   When I arrived, the smell of chocolate greeted me at the door.  I slowly made my way around the shop, taking in the bins of nuts and mixed dried fruit, and every candy imaginable – Jelly Bellys, lolly pops, licorice – and chocolate-covered everything.  Whether you’re in need of a fix for your sweet-tooth or your best friend’s, it’s worth the trip.  If you visit on the weekend, you can stop by the Hester Street Fair, just a block away.

But back to The Sweet Life.  How can you not love a shop whose motto is, “anything can be dipped in chocolate”?

My sentiment exactly.

Lower East Side #1 – The Hester Street Fair

August 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

I’ve just moved to a new neighborhood in New York.  For those of you who live here, or even those who have visited, you know this is a change akin to moving to an entirely new city.   Just about everything requires modification: where you shop for groceries, not to mention wine, where you take your laundry and dry cleaning, figuring out who’s got the freshest sushi, and the freshest produce.

For me, the new neighborhood is the Lower East Side.  It’s Chinatown meets the Tenement Museum the Donut Plant meets Kossar’s Bialys meets meets The Stanton Social.  You get the idea.   So much to explore, so little time.

Photo: HesterStreetFair.com

Today, I begin with the Hester Street Fair.  Located in Seward Park, at the intersection of Essex and Hester, it’s a gem; and, like so much else in this neighborhood, it has a storied history.  Established in 1895, it “was once home to New York City’s largest and oldest pushcart markets.”

Here’s what you’ll find at the Hester Street Fair:  handmade jewelry and dresses; made-to-order omeletsmaracons; antiques; and gourmet pretzels; and more.  Go for lunch.  There are picnic tables set up under white tents for you to sit and enjoy the food, and the people-watching.  The fair is open every Saturday and Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., April through December, no matter the weather.  You can get the map and details here.

For once, I’ll let the images speak for themselves.  With one exception … the photo of Afrodesiac Worldwide (you’ve got to love the name!) does not do the product justice.  There are dresses and tops, all made from African-sourced cotton in factories located in Ghana (prints that fabulous aren’t produced here any longer).  And there are earrings, huge, beautiful earrings, made of old, Ghanian brass coins.  It’s all art.  And, one other call-out, this one from a culinary perspective, the Lemon Coconut Cookie from Sarivole Organic Bakery is soft, chewy, and flavorful.  Ah, and I should mention The House of Z:  a home for creative indulgence, where Amy and Drew Burchenal have freed themselves to “create with our hearts and souls.”  Amy’s black-and-white, color and painted photographs, Drew’s poetry, sea glass and vintage pendant necklaces, are all worth a visit.  And, next weekend, I need to get back to sample one of Luke’s Lobster Rolls … but, I digress…


Fragrant Spices at the Hester Street Fair

Sarivole Organic Bakery

Afrodesiac Worldwide – Dresses

Afrodesiac Worldwide – Clutch

Afrodesiac Worldwide – Earrings

The House of Z: a home for creative indulgence

The House of Z, Poetry Books

The House of Z, Vintage Pendant Necklaces

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