Saturday, March 21, 2015

What not to miss in NYC

As a New Yorker, it is quite difficult to narrow down all the spectacular experiences; this is an attempt to make a few suggestions while visiting New York, without becoming completely overwhelmed. Its better to visit New York several times, at different seasons, to appreciate all it has to offer. Although the possibilities are endless, I am focusing on the less ordinary, atypical choices…except this first suggestion: take a bus tour on your first day to get a sense of the geography and enormity of the city.

There are many spectacular views of Manhattan at night but my two favorites are the view from the promenade in Brooklyn Heights and the Staten Island ferry heading back to Manhattan. As the ferry draws nearer to Manhattan, the city lights grow before your eyes.

After you walk the High Line, Chelsea Market is a great place to visit and eat…anything from fabulous pastries and sandwiches to lobster, oysters and sushi in one of the many little food shops and bakeries. Get the food to go and sit at one of the tables scattered throughout the market. For lunch, you can stop by Mamoun’s on MacDougal Street and have a picnic in Washington Square Park while watching the people and non-stop entertainment, including some intense chess games. Bryant Park on 42nd Street is a lovely place to eat an outdoor lunch with plenty of tables and great views of surrounding skyscrapers, including the Empire State building and the Chrysler building.

Take a tour of the United Nations and go see a Yankee game. On a Saturday morning, wander through the Union Square farmer’s market. Take a food tour of Greenwich Village or Harlem or Chinatown. Do a behind the scene tour of Lincoln Center and go to an open rehearsal of the NY Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall. Tickets are $18 and you sit in the same seats that go for $90 at the evening performances. The Frick Collection is far more accessible than the Metropolitan Museum, which is quite extraordinary. And see at least one Broadway show buying tickets at half price on the day of the performance in Times Square at TKTS ticket booths.

The meatpacking district used to be the hippest place to go for great nightlife. It is no longer.  Instead visit the Lower East Side, Boerum Hill and Williamsburg in Brooklyn. If you want a genuine Italian experience, visit Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, not Little Italy. In addition to Eataly, try the recently opened food court in the basement of the Plaza Hotel. Or even high tea in the grand lobby…it continues to be a great old NYC tradition, followed by a buggy ride through Central Park at dusk.

If you want to see some serious nightlife, take a walk around the East Village at dinnertime and just try one of the obscure little joints on Avenue B or around the neighborhood. Casa Mezcal at 86 Orchard Street is a multi-level restaurant focusing on Mezcal drinks, great Oaxacan food, theatre and art with live jazz upstairs. Friday and Saturday nights are quite lively; visit every floor before deciding where to eat or drink.

Next month, I’ll tell you all about the new superstar restaurants in Brooklyn.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bouley Restaurant

In the early 1980’s, I used to spend every weekend at the Ram’s Head Inn on Shelter Island. One Friday evening, having arrived after the restaurant’s kitchen had closed, my husband and I ordered the last of the crème brulee left in the pantry. The following evening, the amazing chef, Ray Bradley, came to our table to meet those people who ate 7 crème brulee the previous evening. And Ray began telling us about his dear friend, David Bouley, who was opening a new restaurant in Manhattan, the first to focus on local produce.

The original Bouley was a magical place, which smelled of apples and sugar. The herb infused sauces were sublime and every dish was a perfect balance of flavor and beauty. I love bread and David Bouley bakes the most fabulous bread on this planet, my personal favorite being the olive bread. We ate there often and always when my brother came to visit from California.

Later, this great chef opened Bouley Bakery around the corner and served his masterpieces in a slightly more casual atmosphere. Then came September 11th. I heard that Bouley shut down and the staff alongside David Bouley, were cooking for the volunteers who came from all over the world. I went to help and after burning myself four times in five minutes while trying to cook salmon, the Maitre D’ sent me to serve at Ground Zero.

In your wildest dreams you could not imagine the quality of the food being transported to the “green tarp.” Salmon, chicken, varieties of vegetables, many desserts and of course his signature bread. Word got around pretty quickly that the food being served for free under the green tarp was infinitely superior to the food from the MacDonald’s stand nearby. And the thanks from the volunteers made all of us know how much his food was appreciated.

If I had to pick one favorite restaurant in New York, it is Bouley. Always rated highly in Zagats, David Bouley is a true New York hero and an outstanding chef. And, one of his sous chefs opened the only restaurant in Brooklyn to get 3 Michelin Stars…a testament to his great ability to share his expertise.

 Bouley is now located at 163 Duane Street. The entrance is on Duane Street at the corner of Hudson Street in the Mohawk Building, a soft peach colored brick building built in the 1860′s.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner Monday through Saturday, 11:30am-11: 30pm.

Telephone: 212.964.2525

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Checking Out of My Apartment and Into a Hotel

Living in New York City, I rarely have the opportunity to spend a night in a hotel.  The concept of a “stay-cation” seemed somewhat pointless to me, but since my daughter and I have the same birthday, I decided to give her our loft to host a party for her friends and I would spend the night at The Standard High Line.  What an amazing surprise.

The entrance, just below the High Line (probably the loveliest place to walk in Manhattan) frames a bright yellow revolving door, which enters into a romantic dark lobby with beautiful young people enthusiastically welcoming guests. The rooms on the far end have the most spectacular views, (with floor to ceiling windows facing north, south and west) which are so breathtaking, you don’t want to leave your room. But that would be a mistake.

Just downstairs is the fabulous Standard Grill, upstairs on the top floor and the roof are the most exciting bars in the area.  (I tried the Tabasco/grapefruit margarita…yum!) The ambience at the Standard Grill is vibrant and exciting. People from around the world (and New Yorkers) fill the bars and the restaurants (there is also an outdoor casual space) until late in the evening with good reason, the food is excellent and the space is dynamic. We had raw clams & oysters, caviar and oyster shooters to start followed by steak tartare and Copper River salmon.  The bittersweet chocolate mousse for dessert was divine…with colorful spatulas to serve yourself!

If you insist on staying in your room, the food on the room service menu is prepared by The Standard Grill. You can watch the ships, kayaks and the occasional swimmer pass by while drinking champagne and being comfortable in the luxurious robes. Or raid the mini bar…

The Standard High Line is located on the far west side of Manhattan in what used to be the meat market. Less than two blocks away is the fantastic Chelsea Market where you can buy a huge array of foods to take away or eat right there. Swarms of people were eating giant lobsters at the many tables scattered around the market. You can buy fresh fruits or signature Italian sandwiches, sushi, breads and all sorts of pastries and gelatos. The Brooklyn Flea has even opened a store there with vintage clothing and accessories.

Across the street is the very formal, Del Posto, absolutely one of the finest Italian restaurants in the city.  The food is served quite elegantly and their pastas are sublime! My favorite dish there is their truffle pasta which is made with flat noodles stuffed with an Italian cheese similar to Camembert.  

The neighborhood is a perfect weekend destination and The Standard High Line is the perfect place to stay!