Category Archives: Maps

Love Letters to NYC

love letter typewriter1,000,001 love letters have been written to New York City over the ages. If you’re an artist who has spent even a small fraction of time here, it undoubtedly changed your consciousness in some fashion, and sooner or later, you will attempt to put your finger on how best to express the imprint she’s made on your heart and soul.

One of my very favorite literary love letters to New York is “My Home Town”, an essay Dorothy Parker penned for McCall’s Magazine in 1928:

It occurs to me that there are other towns. It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, “Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I’m going to live somewhere else.” And I do — that’s the funny part of it. But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze. Some one, and I wish it had been I, has said that “Autumn is the Springtime of big cities.” I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more. I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees. I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton — or they told me it was Chesterton — said, “What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!” I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives. I see it — by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia — even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements. So I go back. And it is always better than I thought it would be.

I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for. Each day, there, is so definitely a new day. “Now we’ll start over,” it seems to say every morning, “and come on, let’s hurry like anything.”

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. There is excitement ever running its streets. Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises. Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of “Something’s going to happen.” It isn’t peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York.

Then of course, I also adore E.B. White’s “Here is New York”, written in 1948:

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh yes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company. . . .

The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible. A single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The intimation of mortality is part of New York now; in the sounds of jets overhead, in the black headlines of the latest editions.

All dwellers in cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority. In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer might loose the lightning, New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm.

Stumbling across these brilliant excerpts got me pondering which other art works of staggering genius really stand out as some of my all-time favorite love letters to New York. Coming up with a SHORT list is near impossible, there’s just too much to choose from (so expect follow up posts in the future, as more examples come to mind). For the purposes of this post, I included a few tried-and-trues that simply could not go without mention, and opted to focus more so on semi-recent indie-newbies that you may not be as familiar with. Enjoy!

 
LITERARY/ILLUSTRATION:

Check out Flavorpill’s compilation of NYC-loving literary masterpieces, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” and Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”.

All the Buildings in New York… That I’ve Drawn So Far
by James Gulliver Hancock
One artist’s painstaking labor of love, docu-illustrating NY’s iconic architectural landmarks and the perhaps lesser known gems that exist perfectly beside them:

 
Mapping Manhattan
by Becky Cooper
Another artist’s labor-of-love-turned-public-art-project in which New Yorkers individually contributed personal drawings of their Manhattan to Ms. Cooper’s greater vision:

 

CINEMA:
IMHO, Woody Allen takes the cake for greatest cinematic love letters to NYC:

Look closely! This short uses miniatures to “capture” a day in the life:

A sweet ‘lil short about NYC romance that’s sure to pluck at your heartstrings:

 
MUSIC:

5 Boroughs, 3 B Boys, 4 Ever:

Perhaps the greatest Big Apple anthem of all-time:

Mraz transports feel good LOVE throughout Manhattan:

These young newcomers distill NY’s Soul so poignantly:

Cat takes the prize for capturing the essence of my Manhattan best of all:

 
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There are just so many notable love letters to NYC out there! Which are YOUR favorites? Please share by leaving a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Books, Culture, Film, Love, Maps, Music, New York City, Writing

Best Mexican Food in Manhattan

I’m a born and raised Los Angelina, currently dwelling just a mere stone’s throw from Loisaida, and thus, take my Mexican food very seriously. I’ve come to discover over the last several years since I moved to New York City that much to my shock and dismay, an abundance of good and cheap Mexican eats does not necessarily exist in other large metropolitan melting pots, even where a significant Hispanic population has more than a substantial presence.

It’s a conundrum I find more than a little strange. Hispanic/Latino culture is obviously thriving in NYC. They comprise nearly 30% of the city’s population, according to the 2010 census. So, why the dearth of good Mexican food in a city that has close to 24,000 restaurants?

My first couple foodie forays, to what certain friends (who shall remain nameless) deemed as “the best Mexican restaurant”, left me rather broken-hearted. $14 guacamole? No handmade tortillas? No fish tacos? Can someone please make me a decent mole?!

So disillusioned was I that at one point, I simply gave up, vowing only to eat Mexican food when I traveled back home to visit. And I would, the entire time, just to get enough of a fix, to tide me over for a couple months. It had been a several times a week staple of my California diet, and I refused to let NYC sully a cuisine I treasured. I’d rather abstain rather than risk further disappointment.

Thankfully, right about that time, I was sent on a mission by Tasting Table to photograph Tehuitzingo (695 10th Ave., between 47th & 48th St.), a little joint in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen that serves amazing, authentic Mexican food out of a hole in the wall in the back of a grocery store. And by a hole in the wall, I mean, you head all the way to the back, past the glass cases of traditional ingredients (piles of cactus, cilantro, rainbows of peppers, & home made cheeses); through a narrow mirrored seating area with less than a dozen stools, lit bright neon green by the cerveza signs overhead; to a literal hole in the wall, where-in two senoritas wait to take your order in one muy pequena cocina. They’ve got some slightly unusual ingredients on the menu, like goat, tongue, and tripe, for more adventurous eaters. I opted for one pollo and one carne asada taco, which came simply topped with diced tomatoes, onion, and cilantro. A variety of bottled hot sauces adorn the counters, to add your own brand of spice. The first bite instantly transported my palate and sense memory right back home. I couldn’t stop at two and quickly ordered another, blissful in the knowledge that I’d found an answer to my comida cravings after all. Tehuizingo is a funky little gem, serving up real Mexican flavors, in a no frills setting, where one can easily walk out stuffed for less than $10. It’s a great spot for a weekday lunch with co-workers, a quick bite when you’re on the go, or a late night snack, when in Midtown.

Faith restored, I dared to try Mexican restaurants in NYC once again, and soon discovered several surprisingly delicious joints along the way. Here’s my carefully curated short list, just in time for your Cinco de Mayo festivities:

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Dos Toros Taqueria137 4th Avenue; 11 Carmine Street

Dos Toros is to NYC, what Poquito Mas is to LA. It’s not fast food. It’s really good, fresh food, served fast. There’s usually a long line (actually a good sign), but it moves fast as they’ve got their system down to a science. It can be tricky to find a seat, but people don’t tend to linger either. They’ve got the standard fare – tacos and burritos with your choice of chicken, carne asada, or carnitas – being the most popular. Quesadillas, tostadas, and platos con arroz y frijoles round out the rest of the menu. I’m a creature of habit when it comes to this place and always go for the carne asada burrito with guacamole. Everything is made to order just the way you like it and typically comes with a heaping portion of crispy tortilla chips. Their prices are cheap by NYC standards. The portions are quite filling and delicious. I also give them props for their sustainable business practices. They make a point of letting customers know that their chicken is locally raised with no hormones or antibiotics; their produce is locally sourced; and that they compost, recycle, and use non-toxic products.

Tacombi 267 Elizabeth Street, between Prince & Houston; in Chelsea Market, W 15th Street, between 9th & 10th Avenue

Tacombi’s tacos make me so happy I could cry. They simply explode with layers of undeniable flavor and spice. The “barbacoa” – shredded beef cooked in a red chile sauce – is a must eat, go-to favorite of mine. That’s until I bite into a “pollo verde” – shredded white meat chicken in a mild green chile sauce – and lose my mind with delight. Their fish tacos, either fried in a crispy beer batter or seared, topped with red cabbage and creamy pepper sauce, are sure fire winners, as is the shrimp taco, prepared in one devilishly spicy sauce that seriously kicks. You must get one of their fresh “agua” concoctions to wash it all down. The hibiscus tea and watermelon juice aguas are refreshing and not too sweet. I actually love mixing the two brews together. Not to worry, they sell beer by the bottle too.

Tacombi has a cute little “tacobike” cart set up at Chelsea Market, in the 15th Street Arcade, which is perfect for a quick bite at lunchtime or a mid-afternoon snack. You may have to fight the hoards for a seat at one of the indoor tables though. Better yet, since it is street food, that’s often where I’ll eat, on a nearby bench or up on The High Line, for a picnic overlooking the Hudson River.

The ambience of Tacombi’s Nolita location is loads of fun. Their sky lit, open warehouse is home to a bonafide 1970’s VW bus that’s been converted into their taco serving station. Peek through the bubble window as they warm your tortillas on the grill and assemble your taco with all the fixings. The space is filled with cream-colored metal folding tables, painted with red checker/chess boards on top. Kitschy 60’s surf films screen on the walls, and the vibe is upbeat, yet relaxed. It’s a slice of Playa del Carmen or Baja, right in the heart of Lower Manhattan.

Hecho en Dumbo354 Bowery, between E 3rd & Great Jones St

Hecho’s reputation for killer cocktails is what initially drew me. Their food solidified it as a real contender for this list. We walked in sans reservations, late one Saturday afternoon, and were able to nab those prime seats at the end of the bar, right in the front window. The bartender was very friendly and knowledgeable, helping steer us towards a Tres Vidas (smoked chile, bell pepper, lime & mezcal) and a Margarita Tamarindo (tequila blanco, fresh squeezed tamarind juice, and chile piquin rim). Both were spicy, yet refreshing, stiff, quality cocktails. Instead of sitting down for dinner, we stayed perched at the bar, for optimal people watching and several small plate antojitos – short rib steak tacos topped with diced onion and cilantro, queso fundido with fresh salsa and warm flour tortillas, and a tuna sashimi tostada – perfect choices for a leisurely afternoon or happy hour. I love that they use all locally sourced and organic ingredients, and make all the fundamental components of their dishes, fresh in-house. You can definitely taste it.

Word has it that this place gets pretty packed and noisy for dinner, but they recently started offering a 5-course chef’s table menu, which seems to me perhaps the best way to experience Chef Danny Mena’s skills. Parties of two only are seated at the back counter, peering straight into the open kitchen. The menu highlights fresh seafood and local meats, prepared in cherished, traditional Mexican style, for a reasonable prix fixe of $55. It’s available by booking online only, via their website or at Open Table. You heard it here first, amigo. De nada.

Hell’s Kitchen679 Ninth Ave, between W 46th & 47th St.

I had the rare pleasure of indulging in a 7-course chef’s tasting menu at Hell’s Kitchen recently that put all other past experiences of Mexican cuisine to shame. Chef Jorge Parilla pulled out all stops to give us a taste of his hometown of Alpoyeca, Mexico and his most cherished family recipes. We kicked off the feast crunching tri-colored crispy corn tortilla chips, served with not one, but 3 distinctive types of guacamole, which we paired with a classic margarita a casa. We were then treated to another series of ‘pequenos trios’: First, 3 golden empanadas, each with their own incredible sauce to match – roasted pork with crema fresca and salsa, duck en mole with pico de gallo, and huitlacoche truffle and mascarpone cheese with salsa verde. Then, 3 pillowy maize tostadas – tiger shrimp, ground pork, and carne asada – drizzled with salsa verde. Perfect little bites! Next, the chef utterly captured my heart with his traditional pasole – a hominy and pork stew, topped with avocado and fried leeks, cooked with such love, it warmed my belly and soul. It’s an unforgettably comforting bowl of goodness that would make any hangover run for the hills. As if that wasn’t enough, we then dove into 3 huge entrees – roasted lamb shanks with cilantro mashed potatoes, tamarind rubbed grilled sirloin with fresh vegetables in an endive-pasilla sauce, and pan seared sea bass with sweet plantain puree – all cooked to perfection.

We sipped on a Hell’s-Ma-rita, with fresh tamarind and lime juice in an ancho-salt rimmed glass, and a Watermelon Mint Lemonade, as Chef Parilla chatted with us about his inspirations. He was so humble, sharing stories about his food, an expression of passion for his land and close-knit familia. Eating this meal felt like a privilege and an honor. The food was not only one of the best meals I’ve had in recent memory, but Chef Parilla’s dishes are some of the most colorfully creative, genuinely artistic plates around. I can say with total and utter confidence that Hell’s Kitchen is the best Mexican restaurant in New York City. Hands down, period, the end. Vamanos immediamente!

I’d be remiss not to mention a couple of other spots that serve up some signature cocteles that make for a mighty fine siesta:

El Camion Cantina and Tepito are terrific East Village joints for margarita happy hours. They both serve up great classic margaritas as well as some really tasty fruity margaritas, my favorite being passion fruit, pomegranate, raspberry, or hibiscus. They all go down way too easy, and for a mere $5, why not sample them all? I’d recommend the margaritas in lieu of the food at both of these places, though the meals that I had at each were good.

Yerba Buena, however, serves up some really special cocktails, not to be missed. Their Piquito Picante is probably one of my favorite cocktails in NYC. It’s an intoxicating concoction of gin, jalapeño infused cointreau, cilantro, cucumber, and lemon juice that strikes a perfect balance of spicy and cool, and smells like pure heaven. I also love The Desert Rose, made with dried rose infused gin, prickly pear puree, and lemon juice. In all seriousness, there’s no bad call on this cocktail menu. Imbibing here is a bad habit waiting to happen because you want to try every single offering. The bartender and host are also easy on the eyes and fantastically cool gentlemen to boot. I can’t speak to the food, yet, as I’ve only been for drinks at the bar, but the place is always packed, and the restaurant is a beautifully designed, intimate, warmly lit space. Yerba is easy to overlook from Avenue A, but swing open the door and you’ve stepped into one sexy space that plays that sophisticated, but not overly so, note just right. It’s a great, laid back place to bring that date you want to impress. Lucky for you, they’re offering a special Cinco de Mayo menu. ¡Disfruta la fiesta!

For more recommendations, be sure to check out my Eye For Style “Best Mexican Food in NYC” map!

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Filed under Cocktails, Culture, Food, Maps, New York City, Photography

Eye For Style’s Escape to Brooklyn

As soon as it appeared in my inbox, I knew this adventure would be right up my alley. The folks at Urban Oyster Tours had kindly invited me for lunch and a 3-hour tour of Brooklyn, to explore where its culinary and agricultural worlds collide. Frankly, they had me at hello with talk of ‘experiencing the entire farm-to-table journey of my food’ and seduced with promises of taking me straight to the heart of Brooklyn’s most unique food destinations, to sample and speak with the creative entrepreneurs behind them. Twist my arm? Not likely.

To my surprise, not only was the tour destined to be chock full of local artisanal eats, but we had multiple guides for the day – Bob Lewis (local historian, founder of NYC Greenmarkets, and Special Assistant at NY State Agriculture & Markets), David Naczycz and Cindy VandenBosch (founders of Urban Oyster), and Caylin Sanders (founder of local travel web portal, EscapeMaker.com). Each were a veritable wealth of information about Brooklyn’s myriad riches – its food and architecture; neighborhoods, people, and cultural traditions; agriculture and urban planning initiatives – past and present.

We met up at Skylight One Hanson, one jaw-dropping landmark of art deco magnificence, perhaps better known as the former Williamsburg Savings Bank, and current winter home of the Brooklyn Flea, which now serves as a prime events location for hire year round. As we jitneyed to our first destination via “The Good Bus”, we got the scoop on what Urban Oyster is all about:

“The name comes from the legend that New York Harbor once contained half the world’s oysters. Over time though, most of the beds died off due to pollution and over-consumption”, David explained. “Like oysters, the neighborhoods of New York are treasured resources that require nurturing in order to survive and flourish. We seek to reveal the hidden pearls of this great city – the neighborhoods, people, and businesses that are uniquely New York. We aim to connect people to these special places through their stories and history, in an effort to support and value local production, consumption, cultural diversity, historic preservation, and sustainability for the benefit of generations to come.”

Given my unbridled obsession with NYC local food & drink culture, coupled with my family’s business of historic preservation, such excursions are tailor-made for culinary architecture geeks like me. I ventured repeatedly to Smorgasburg and New Amsterdam Market last summer, both weekend outdoor markets where you can snap up local artisanal goods, fresh produce & ingredients, and literally sample everything under the sun, as you chat directly with the people who make the things you’re eating, in picturesque locales along either side of the East River.

And Urban Oyster Tours are another opportunity to do the exact same thing. They take you straight to the cooks’ kitchen and give you a comprehensive history lesson ‘mise en place’. They offer a variety of expertly crafted outings – “Eat Like a Local” through Boerum Hill; “Mom & Pop Shops” in Cobble Hill; “Food Carts” of Lower Manhattan; “Immigrant Foodways” in Williamsburg; and their most popular “Brewed in Brooklyn” and “Craft Beer Crawl” which combine a lesson in local beer making techniques with the best part – tasting! Sip your IPA, on the site it was made, while you chat up the brewer? That’s refreshingly rare.

You can get on board with regularly scheduled tours or arrange a private tour of your own. Either or, it’s an entertaining way to show your out-of-town guests how the natives do it, and for locals, it’s a delicious opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and learn more about the vast expanse of your own backyard. It’s so easy to become a creature of habit in your own city and re-visit the same old haunts time after time, but these tours can provide a fresh perspective to the same old stomping grounds, pointing out places you might otherwise miss.

If you’ve lived in the NYC during the last 5 years and have even a mild interest in food culture, chances are you’ve participated in the endless debate as to which borough is the true epicenter of culinary arts – Manhattan or Brooklyn? Manhattan certainly makes a compelling case for itself, as farm-to-table restaurants from celebrity chefs like Dan Barber, Dan Kluger, David Bouley, and Mike Price steadily increase in popularity and rooftop farm initiatives gain steam. Brooklyn is a venerable mecca for foodies in its own right though, and many would simply argue it’s the borough that represents the best of NYC food culture, period.

It’s certainly where the small batch, artisanal, locally made, grown, and sourced movement has sunk its deepest roots at present. While Manhattan is the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street, Brooklyn is at the epicenter of another social revolution – locavorism – and is pro-actively re-positioning itself as THE food and agro-tourism destination you must visit. Great strides are being made in just about every neighborhood enclave to return to their roots of food cultivation and production. There’s been a virtual explosion of urban gardening and community revitalization projects, such as The Brooklyn Grange, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, and Added Value, all of whom are committed to getting people re-invested in their communities and the joys of volunteerism. We’re witnessing a revival of the love affair between foodies and farmers, and the people who make speciality foods are being recognized for their important contributions to the social fabric of the city’s culture again. We’re finding ways to revamp cultural traditions of the past, with a fresh twist that suits our modern lifestyles.

The first stop on our BK Foodways tour was Moore Street Market, one of the few remaining public markets designed during the LaGuardia era as a sanitary alternative to the pushcart vending culture prevalent during the early turn of the century. Our guides provided us with a comprehensive history of the market, complete with historic photographs and fascinating anecdotes, painting a picture of then and now, as well as briefing us on the upcoming urban planning improvements, including a landscaped outdoor public plaza on Humboldt Street, scheduled for completion in Summer 2013. We walked around the market’s interior, meeting several of the long time vendors who treated us to homemade horchata, corn pupusas, and a special tea remedy, made from ingredients native to her family’s homeland in Pueblo, Mexico.

Then, it was off to Roberta’s Pizza for lunch. Housed in an unassuming cinder block structure, with zero curb appeal in an industrial section of East Williamburg, we entered to discover an enormous wood-burning oven as the centerpiece of their open kitchen, which we later learned literally took the slow boat from Italy to Brooklyn. The place is super rustic, with long picnic tables and benches; a small wood bar with a bevy of local beers and a clever cocktail menu scrawled on the chalkboard overhead; and an enclosed outdoor patio heated by a wood-burning furnace, that stares directly into the Heritage Radio Network station which broadcasts 24/7. The crowd is very, well, Brooklyn – local locals, each with their own signature mustache or coiffed beard, complimenting their casual vintage wear and quirky-rimmed glasses. I watched the process as they hand fired our pizzas to bubbly perfection, then topped with veg grown in their roof top garden (or at the nearby BK Grange) and meats sourced at the local butcher shop. We sat down to the communal table, first devouring the fresh margherita, then several more mouthwatering kale and homemade Berkshire sausage pies. A heaven you’d never know existed…

Then, we traveled to over to Brooklyn Winery, a beautiful space in the heart of Williamsburg, utilizing re-purposed wood, recycled furniture, found objects and memorabilia to create one warm, inviting place to imbibe away the hours and socialize with other connoisseurs. We were privileged to receive a glimpse behind the scenes, touring the space where they age their varietals in barrels stacked ceiling high. Their one-and-only winemaker, Conor McCormack, happened to be on site bottling and corking a few cases of a new Cab Sav, so we got to watch and then taste it, as we chatted with him in the intimate event space upstairs. The duo owners, Brian Leventhal and John Stires, who left unfulfilling, but lucrative positions in finance to follow their passion for wine and create a space that they themselves would want to hang out in with their friends, also mingled with us. We asked all kinds of questions, and they answered every single one, from where they got the furniture, to the grapes; how they design their labels and acquired such a desirable location; to the types of events they have on offer and their vision for the future. Ridiculously centrally located near Bedford Avenue on N 8th Street, with a spectacularly unique wine menu and lots of comfortably designed nooks to chill in, this is the place you want to spend a mellow Friday night, come for a workshop or a tasting, or host an intimate shindig of your own.

Finally, it was over to Brooklyn Farmacy in Carroll Gardens, a lovingly restored, 1920’s era soda fountain. Brought back to life by brother and sister team, Peter Freeman and Gia Giasullo, for a Discovery Channel reality TV renovation series, it’s a quintessential old gem that makes you think you’ve stepped back in time. Children came in with their parents to have a scoop of ice cream at the counter after school, grandparents read books to grandkids off the shelves of their library, and a group played board games on the big table in the back room. We were treated to traditional chocolate and vanilla egg creams, as the owners shared priceless stories about the history of the space, the condition they found it in, and how they went to great lengths to make it their own while attempting to remain true to the neighborhood. This joint manages to strike the perfect balance between family-friendly cute and edgy Brooklyn “Jerk”. You can buy more than 2 dozen locally made products from different BK artisans, proudly displayed in the Farmacy’s original wooden built ins. Lucky for you out-of-towners, these delicacies can be purchased online at With Love, From Brooklyn and NY Mouth.

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As the tour came to a close, I had a very heartwarming feeling that history has not been lost, but in fact, there are many people committed to preserving the stories and places that make these diverse neighborhoods truly one-of-a-kind. The culinary traditions of the past are alive and well for the current generations to appreciate, if you put yourself in capable hands and know where to look. As the afternoon sun began to dip behind the trees, I sat outside on the Farmacy’s bench chatting with a few old men from the ‘hood about how life used to be and how things haved changed. I commiserated, with an understanding nod and an appreciation for their perspective, but also with joy in my heart that pearls like these still exist for me and hopefully, my children to experience. It may not be like it used to, but perhaps there’s still hope, that eventually we can make city living even better for the future.

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Want to learn more about Urban Oyster Tours straight from the founders?
Sample goodies from these very same artisans yourself?
Get ideas for local culinary tours and travel destinations?

Head to: Escapemaker.com’s Local Food & Travel Expo
Saturday, April 14 from 12 – 5 pm
@ Skylight One Hanson

And be sure to check out all these places and more on my “Best of Culinary Brooklyn” Eye For Style map!

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Filed under Architecture, Cocktails, Culture, Design, Events, Food, Maps, New York City, Photography, Travel, Workshops

Shop, Eat, Drink in Spring!

Spring has officially sprung and the weather is already unseasonably warm, so locals and tourists alike are itching to soak up all the outdoor activities on tap throughout the city. There are several festivals kicking off the season this very weekend and dozens more opening just a few short weeks from now. Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a handy dandy list for the best places to crawl, eat, nosh, and repeat ad infinitum, that are guaranteed to put a spring in your step…

Shop, Drop, & Drink

Saturday April 7, 2012

Williamburg, Brooklyn

Nearly 50 businesses will offer special sales and discounts to celebrate the arrival of spring with an all-day mobile shopping event. Contemporary stores like Bird, Life:Curated, Jumelle, In God We Trust, and beloved vintage boutiques like Horizon’s Vintage, Malin Landaeus, and Antoinette will ALL offer single-day sales and special offerings all the live long day.

Event-goers can unlock immediate discounts – like a free tote from Catbird or a mini-sundae from Momofuku Milk Bar - by simply by using the free Domino Smart Guide app, taking a picture of the item they’re interested in, and posting it to their Facebook wall. The app’s map is the perfect way to hone in on exactly where all the participants are located and what kind of perks they’re offering for the event.

Mobile art truck sensation Art Attack will also be roaming through Williamsburg selling inexpensive pieces by local artists. Crawlers can track the truck by following @RabbitArtAttack on Twitter.

If you’re unfamiliar with the ‘Burg, or just want to broaden your horizons and plug in to what’s new in the ‘hood, this is a great way to spend a leisurely Saturday, checking out and supporting the wide array of small businesses throughout in the area in one fell swoop.

 

Smorgasburg

Opening Day: April 7, 2012

Every Saturday, 11am – 6pm, thru 
November 2012

East River Waterfront, b/w North 6 + 7 Sts, Williamburg, Brooklyn

Brooklyn’s favorite all-food market, returns for the 2012 season, promising a veritable food bonanza with a healthy mix of delicious Flea veterans and talented newcomers. Go grab that nosh you’ve been dreaming about since November and discover some new favorites before the other cool kids do.

If you want a refresher course on what to expect, check out Eye For Style’s “best of the fest” recommendations here.

Dekalb Market

Spring Weekender Opening

April 7 + 8, 2012 from 10 am  – 6 pm

138 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Dekalb Market is launching as a multi-purpose cultural destination featuring a new outdoor event space with a full season of free, curated music, art, food, film and eclectic experiences in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.

Housed in a collection of salvaged shipping containers, the market aims to unite Brooklyn’s creative entrepreneurs in a community setting that include an incubator farm, events and performance venue, and a collection of eateries and work-sell spaces.

Dekalb Market 2012 will include: Dance parties, free open-air markets, unique foodie events, bike in and rooftop movie nights, lobster boils, interior design shows, roller derbies and an ongoing series of special live music performances. All of this alongside the new permanent Dekalb Market Beer & Wine Garden, featuring local craft beer, wine and sangria, the ideal spot to hang out with friends, relax in the sun and take a break from shopping, set against the gritty-cool urban backdrop of downtown Brooklyn.

Open seven days a week, locals and visitors can now spend a leisurely morning, afternoon or evening while enjoying over 60+ local food vendors and on site retail shops.

THE SPRING WEEKENDER opening days extravaganza will be host to myriad activities including: a curated flower and garden market; cooking, farming, gardening, and crafting classes & workshops for adults and children; a market wide Easter egg hunt; DJ sets and live music from local bands; locally brewed beer & wine garden; and more!
 

COMING SOON:

 
Hester Street Fair

Hester @ Essex Street, Lower East Side

Opening Day: Saturday, April 28

Every Saturday, 12 – 6 pm thru October 2012

 

New Amsterdam Market

South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip


Opening Day: Sunday, April 29

Every Sunday, 11am – 4pm thru December 2012

 
 
 
 
 
Frieze Art Fair New York

Randall’s Island

May 4 – 7, 2012

12 – 7 pm

Frieze New York presents the most forward-thinking galleries from around the globe, bringing an international focus to the dynamic contemporary art scene in New York.

Frieze Projects will showcase work by over 1,000 of the world’s leading artists, and Frieze Talks will host a program of debates, panel discussions, and keynote lectures, housed in a bespoke temporary structure designed by New York-based SO-IL architects and located in the unique setting of Randall’s Island Park, overlooking the East River.

Frieze New York 2012 will also offer a choice of eating and drinking options, from Frankie’s Spuntino, Sant Ambroeus, The Fat Radish, Roberta’s, The Standard Biergarten, and Intelligentsia Coffee.

 
 

Madison Square Eats Spring 2012

Daily, May 4 – June 1

Worth Square, just west of MSP @ 24th & 5th Ave.

For Eye For Style’s recommendations on how to spend a leisurely day relishing the bounty of MSE3, Eataly, AND Madison Square Park, click here immediately.

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Eye For Style’s Favorites of 2011

Alas, it’s the end of another year, and the perfect time to look back and reflect on the people, places, and things that most captured our fancy.

I’m so honored that Photoshelter named me one of their staff’s favorite photographers for 2011 and plan to include me in their line-up of featured photographers for January 2012. In keeping with that same spirit, I thought I’d compile a list of some of my 2011 favorites to share with you. While a few of these events have come and gone, a majority of these recommendations are still going strong, and can be enjoyed well into 2012. Lucky you, it’s shaping up to be an awesome new year already!

Favorite musical find: The Hot Sardines, Yuna, Jaymay

Favorite go-to album: Adele 21; Beastie Boys Hot Sauce Committee Part 2

Favorite concerts: Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros @ Escape to NY; Ray La Montagne at Rumsey Playfield, Central Park

Favorite movie: The Artist; Bill Cunningham New York

Favorite gallery show: Aaron Johnson @ Stux; Stephanie Gutheil @ Mike Weiss

Favorite museum exhibit: Alexander McQueen at The Met; Maurizio Cattelan at The Guggenheim

Favorite architectural event: Open House NY; GVSHP Spring House Tour; MAS NYC Programs

Favorite art festival: Festival of New Ideas; Bring to Light; HOWL Festival; Figment on Governor’s Island

Favorite food festival: Smorgasburg; Union Square GreenmarketMadison Square Eats

Favorite food event: Edible Manhattan’s Good Spirits at Le Poisson Rouge

Favorite food truck: Sweetery NYC; Korilla BBQ; Wafels & Dinges

Favorite brunch: Northern Spy Food Co., WestvilleTartine; Back Forty

Favorite dinners: David Burke KitchenGoat TownTakahachi; Cask

Favorite coffee: La Colombe; Blue BottleHampton Chutney‘s cardamom coffee

Favorite bakery: Jane’s Sweet BunsZucker Bakers; Veniero’s Pasticceria; Ceci-Cela Patisserie

Favorite cupcake: Chickalicious; Butter Lane

Favorite mid-afternoon snack: Dumpling Man; People’s Pops; Pomme Frites

Favorite cheap eat: South Brooklyn Pizza; Tacombi; AsiaDog

Favorite sandwich: Num Pang; Barnyard; Mamoun’s

Favorite burger: Whitman’s; Royale; Korzo Haus

Favorite ice cream: Big Gay Ice Cream; Cool Haus

Favorite cocktail spot: Masak; The Beagle; Summit Bar

Favorite wine bar: Terroir; Grape & Grain; The Immigrant; Aria

Favorite cheese shop: Saxelby Cheesemongers @ Essex Market; Bedford Cheese Shop

Favorite gift boutique: Still House; Exit 9; Alphabets; Mxyplyzyk Inc.

Favorite accessories boutique: Barbara Feinman Millinery; Shape of Lies

Favorite clothing boutique: pinkyotto; Cloak & Dagger; Honey in the Rough; Pas de Deux

Favorite home decor: Jonathan AdlerKabinet & Kammer; Lancelotti Housewares; White Trash

Favorite kitchenware depot: Broadway PanhandlerThe Meat Hook

Favorite bookstore: St. Mark’s Bookshop; Three Lives & Co.; Strand; LES Tenement Museum

Favorite stroll: Section 2 of The Highline; East River esplanades; The Ramble

Favorite yoga studio: Integral Yoga Institute; Laughing Lotus Center

Favorite day spa: Russian Turkish BathsMama Spa

Favorite new tech gadget: Roku 2; iPad 2

Favorite thing about NYC: EVERYTHING!

For more information about my very favorite places throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, be sure to check out my handy-dandy Eye For Style maps.

Need a recommendation for that perfect gift or restaurant for that special occasion? Check out my Eye For Style Services page.

In the meantime, wishing you a Happy 2012 full of urban adventures, art explorations, good eats, shopping scores, ample playtime, and so much more!

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Best of Local Holiday Shopping in NYC & Brooklyn

More than ever, I think it’s really important to support local artists, craftsman, and designers during the holiday season. Visiting independent holiday markets and pop-up shops is not only fun, it’s a sure fire way to find gifts that are are completely unique, and so much more personally tailored to your loved one’s tastes and interests. No big box retailer in the mall, selling mass-produced crap from China, can compete with that!

Some of the very best local holiday markets are happening this weekend, so I’ve compiled a handy-dandy list of my favorite events to make your shopping a little less stressful, and a little more festive. Fingers crossed, you’ll get all those purchases out of the way in one fell swoop, so you can move on to the most enjoyable activities – cooking and spending time with the people you adore!

 

The Brooklyn Flea

Skylight One Hanson @ Ashland Pl., Ft. Greene

12/16, 2 – 9; 12/17 + 18, 10 – 5; 12/21 + 22, 2 – 9

If you can’t tick everything off your list at this one location, you’re officially a glutton for Christmas shopping punishment. If you like feeding all your birds with one seed, and getting the madness over with in one easy rip, head to The Flea immediately. This event is really the best of both worlds, merging the food purveyors from Saturday’s Smorgasburg, with the clothing, craft, and vintage treasure vendors of Sunday’s BK Flea. Thankfully, they are all co-mingling under one spectacular roof for the winter, at the architectural gem that is Skylight One Hanson, formerly the Williamsburg Savings Bank. It’s worth a visit just to see the gorgeous landmark’s interior, but with 100+ vendors lining the former teller windows on the ground floor, secret rooms on the upstairs mezzanine, and the original bank vault on the lower level brimming with an impressive food court and seating area, this is as good as local holiday shopping experiences are likely to get.

Best plan of attack? Start your shopping day here with a little coffee, breakfast noshing, and browsing. Do a full lap around to check out all that’s on offer, before heading back to your favorite vendors for those all too perfect gifts for you-know-exactly-who. Once you’ve had your fill, make your way over for the evening festivities at:

 

The Brooklyn Night Bazaar

149 Kent Ave, between N 5th & N 6th, Williamsburg

12/15 – 12/17, 5 pm – 1 am

This triple threat, grub-shop-party event pops up in a huge warehouse space this weekend only. The 3-day event, designed specially by JDS Architects, is guaranteed to be one happening spot, bursting at the seams with shopping, food, music, film, and art installations. Many of the food vendors are familiar faces from Smorgasburg, but seeing as Brooklyn has no shortage of culinary talent, dozens of other esteemed BK food scene luminaries will also be on hand to sweeten the pot, along side several local wineries and breweries. 60+ artist merchants will be peddling their crafty wares, as a handful of musical acts take to the stage, including DJ James Murphy (DFA/LCD Soundsystem) and The Hold Steady. Admission to TBNB is free, food is modestly priced, while tickets for the live performances can be purchased separately for $10 – $22. For a complete line-up of participating talent, and to purchase tickets, visit: http://bkbazaar.com

 

While you’re shop-crawling around Williamsburg, drop by Artists & Fleas Designer and Vintage Market (70 N 7th Street, every Sat & Sun, 10 am – 7 pm) to visit some of my very favorite artist merchants in the NYC area, housed all in one convenient indoor location, year-round since 2003. Affordable and cool gifts abound here: jewelry galore, chunky knit accessories, funky vintage & modern threads, one-of-a-kind handmade journals, decorative art, and much more.

If making the trip out to Brooklyn just isn’t your thing, you’re in luck because they’re bringing 30+ of their most stylish vendors to the heart of Manhattan for:

The Artists & Fleas Holiday Pop-Up Shop @ Chelsea Market

10th Avenue @ 15th Street

12/15 – 12/31, 10:30 am – 7:30 pm

Located in a never before seen, 4000 sq. ft. industrial space in Chelsea Market, this pop-up is a perfect destination for all your holiday shopping needs. You’ll undoubtedly find a cornucopia of handmade goodies by A&F’s cream of the crop. The full-time tenants of Chelsea Market, formerly the Nabisco Biscuit Co. Headquarters, have tons on offer as well – Morroccan home decor, kitchenware, gourmet food products, books, and more. Take a load off and stop for: a coffee at Ninth Street Espresso; a creamy cold treat from Arte Del Gelato or Ronnybrook Farms; a wicked hot chocolate a la Jacques Torres; baked goods from Amy’s Bread or Eleni’s. Choose from: Thai or Italian; California cuisine or NY farm-to-table; sushi from the seafood market or charcuterie from Dickson’s Farmstand; or a soup/salad combo from Hale & Hearty. The options are endless. The building is conveniently nestled directly beneath The High Line, along the picturesque Hudson River waterfront, and at the crossroads of the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and West Village shopping districts, making it a must stroll destination area.

So, after you’ve enjoyed the Artists & Fleas pop-up, had a bite in Chelsea Market, taken a jaunt along The High Line and through the fashionable MPD, make your way east a few blocks to round out your shopping adventures with a visit to:

 

The Union Square Holiday Market

14th Street between Broadway and University Place

11/24 – 12/24; M-F: 11-8; Sat: 10-9; Sun: 10-6

This has been my go-to holiday shopping destination for the last several years running, despite the fact that it can be a claustrophobic zoo, packed with wide-eyed tourists all day long. Nevertheless, I do enjoy meandering through the maze of red & white, candy cane striped tents, browsing and sampling, and intermittenly stopping for a hot chocolate or apple cider to warm up. I confess that this year, the market feels as if it’s lost a bit of its magic. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been to it several times before, and there aren’t as many new vendors participating. Cool pop-ups have been increasingly the rage throughout 2011, so organizers really have to up-the-ante to keep things interesting, especially for resident shoppers. A lot of this year’s fine artists in particular look rather identical to each other, though I do dig the NYC cityscape themed art that seems to adorn every canvas, leather clutch, tote bag, t-shirt, greeting card, or surface that one can manage to print a digital image on.

I do have a few absolute favorite vendors that I consider to be real stand outs, who lure me back again and again to buy items that have become a part of my personal holiday traditions.

My favorite gift vendors are: COPA Soaps’ intoxicating essential oil infused, heaven-scented bars of skin softening, shea-buttery magic that smell good enough to eat; Nirvanna Designs’ warm and stylish line of crochet/knit hats, gloves, and outerwear, made with high quality wools and lined with super soft fleece; DeLong Ceramics’ decorative tiles and hanging ornaments featuring the iconic landmarks of NYC/BK; Edie Art’s whimsical, colorful paintings depicting the magic of child’s play against the backdrop of NY cityscapes; Shaya’s stunning line of simple, geometric, handmade jewelry that artfully mixes elements of sterling silver, gold, and copper.

My favorite food vendors are: Brooklyn Salsa Co.’s line-up of palate-pleasing, kick ass salsas, consciously prepared utilizing a rather unique combination of sophisicated flavor profiles, with local sustainable ingredients, each cleverly named to represent 1 of the 5 boroughs; Spices and Tease’s beautiful rainbow of exotic, ethnic spices and nose tantalizing herb/flower/tea blends; No Chewing Allowed’s exquisite, melt on your tongue, premium French truffles and steamy hot chocolate.

If you’re still craving more shopping after all that, I should probably take your credit card away from you (or ask you to be my sugar daddy). That said, should you be interested in visiting other local holiday markets, in more neighborhoods throughout the city, I suggest you check out Destination Guides’ equally comprehensive list.

May you find the perfect gift for everyone on your list and have a blast doing so. Wishing you and yours a most happy holiday season and a grand New Year of the Dragon 2012!

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Zagat Food Truck Frenzy!

When: May 23, 2011

Where: 21st & 22nd Streets, between 10th & 11th Avenues, 12 – 3 pm

Price: $15 – 18 USD

Gourmet mobile food trucks are all the rage from coast-to-coast this year. And today, hungry New Yorkers will have the rare opportunity to sample many of the city’s best food trucks all in one convenient location when two entire blocks of West Chelsea are transformed into a lunchtime food festival courtesy of Zagat. Each ticket scores diners a voucher for four food items, which you can pick and choose to your heart’s desire from any of the participating vendors.

Food trucks include:

Bian Dang 
• Big D’s Grub 
• Big Gay Ice Cream Truck 
• Bistro Truck

Coolhaus
 • Cupcake Crew 
• Cupcake Stop
 • Desi Truck • Eddie’s Pizza

Endless Summer Tacos 
• Feed Your Hole
 • Joyride Truck 
• The Katchkie Truck

Kelvin Natural Slush Co.
 • Korilla Food Truck
 • La Cense Beef Burger

Luke’s Lobster 
• Mexicue
 • The Mud Truck
 • Patacon Pisao 
• Souvlaki GR

Steak Truck 
• NYC Sweetery 
• Treats Truck 
• Van Leeuwen Ice Cream

Once you’ve had your fill, foodie fanatics are encouraged to rate their favorite dishes on ZAGAT.com.

For advanced discount tickets click here, or buy them at the gate for a mere $18.

See you there!

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GVSHP Village House Tour Benefit – May 1, 2011

This Sunday is Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s 13th Annual House Tour Benefit and it will offer exceptional access into seven of the Village’s finest and most exclusive homes.

This year’s tour highlights include a stately Italianate home with an elaborately-paneled entrance and intricate, original moldings; an artist’s townhouse and studio with an unexpected layout and surprising hidden features, including a backyard treehouse; a 350-square foot apartment with anything but a small sense of style accessed by a splendid shared courtyard; an art collector’s two-floor retreat featuring a life-sized mosaic tile tree; an extra-wide townhouse with Victorian-era details, once the home of Emily Post; and a traditional townhouse featuring a restored stoop and façade and an interior rich with period detail, some salvaged from other Village residences.

Advance tickets may be purchased online before April 30 and will be available for pick up on May 1st after 12:30 pm at Greenwich House Music School. The tour is completely self-guided, rain or shine, from 1 – 5:30 pm, and a cocktail reception will follow the tour at a private townhouse in the neighborhood atop a stunning roof deck.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon in The Village and support a very worthy cause while you’re at it. GVSHP is at the forefront of the fight to protect still un-designated portions of Greenwich Village and a leader against NYU’s massive 2031 expansion plan. While NYU seems determined to take over the Village for their megolithic purposes, GVSHP is thankfully one of the only organizations to continuously hold NYU accountable for the promises they’ve made to the neighborhood, and serve as community watchdog to make sure the university responsibly rehabs its existing properties. They are invested in the push to move NYU’s future expansion plans to the Financial District, so that the spirit and integrity of Greenwich Village may be preserved for future generations. Be sure to take a look at their website to see the all myraid community causes they’re involved in, and if these issues speak to you as well, please buy a tour ticket in support or make a donation. Every little bit helps!

 

The weather promises to be lovely (fingers crossed), so if you’re interested in making a whole weekend of it, consider also attending the OHNY and Fourth Arts Block (FAB) Tour of East 4th Street on 
Saturday, April 30 at 1pm.

FAB is rooted in the Lower East Side’s long history of hosting community and cultural spaces that served marginalized immigrants, artists, and activists. In the 1960s and ‘70s, East 4th Street coalesced as a center for experimental theater and film. Four decades later, the block’s cultural groups founded FAB to preserve and develop these historic arts spaces.

The tour grants you access to many of the East 4th Street theaters, promoting an opportunity for discussion and awareness of how FAB weaves the arts with neighboring small businesses to strengthen a distinctive East Village cultural and community identity. To buy tickets, click here.

 

*Sidenote: The fact that I’m mentioning any of this at all, makes it official. I’m turning into my mother.

I jest, but seriously, I’m such a preservation/architecture/design nerd in my own right that GVSHP made me a docent captain for their House Tour Benefit this year. I’ve volunteered as a docent for the last 3 years running and it’s definitely one of the events I most look forward to every spring. I’m a freelance artist, and tickets aren’t cheap, so volunteering my time is an ideal way to participate. I love meandering through the Village with a map, exploring those yet undiscovered nooks and crannies of my neighborhood, and gaining unprecendented access to the crème de la crème of NYC residences. It is a rare treat to actually enter these homes that I walk by every day, and oogle the impeccable design, art collections, and impressive restorations. The tour always inspires to me to dream big about what I’ll create in my own future West Village rowhouse and secret garden (after I make my first couple of millions!) I also meet the nicest people every year and really look forward to the fascinating conversations I have with other die-hard Village lovers who are always chock full of interesting lore about these buildings and the illustrious residents who’ve inhabited them in the past.

You must understand that I find this passion of mine more than a little ironic because as a child, I was constantly dragged, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, to many a home and urban walking tour by my mother, Christy Johnson McAvoy, an esteemed historic preservation and architectural consultant in Los Angeles. She’s one of the founding members of Hollywood Heritage, multi-term President of the Los Angeles Conservancy and the California Preservation Foundation, among other notable credits.

I was affectionately known in these circles as “the preservation kid” growing up, undoubtedly attending more tours and conferences than many of the adult members of these organizations. I developed a well-earned reputation for being that incredibly well-behaved child who sat quietly in the corner entertaining myself with coloring books during Hollywood Heritage board meetings at Wattles Mansion. And I was probably one of the only people under the age of 30 to witness Cecil B. DeMille’s Barn crawl slowly through the streets of Hollywood on a flatbed truck in the wee hours of the morning as it made it’s 1983 pilgrimage from it’s original location (where it was in danger of succombing to the wrecking ball), to it’s now permanent resting place in the parking lot across from the Hollywood Bowl on Highland Avenue. When my Mom worked on the city surveys of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood, I’d accompany her as she drove every block, and call out each home’s architectural style from the back seat, like it was a fun game. “Colonial Revival! Tudor! Craftsman!”

It was clear to me as a young girl, people in the preservation community admired my mother tremendously. She was extremely beloved and a singular wealth of knowledge on topic of historic preservation. Everyone wanted her involvement and advice. She was leagues ahead of her time, crafting her own niche and starting up her own consulting business, in a relatively unpopular field by Los Angeles standards. She was, and remains to this day, a human encyclopedia of architectural information, with a mind-boggling personal library and memorabilia archive to boot, that is virtually impossible to rival.

And while I recollect that it was sometimes fun to check out an infinite array of exclusive Hollywood landmarks and feel privy to rather sophicated circles at such a young age, I also remember wanting to just stay home and play with my toys, and thinking that other kid’s parents didn’t do this weird kind of stuff on the weekends. (“Awww, Mom. Can we go now?”)

As proud as I am of my mother, it became important to me to chart a different course and pursue my own interests as a grew older. Being the Hollywood chick that I am, it seemed a natural path to explore acting and filmmaking. I had an talent agent in my teens, and attended UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film, and TV, though I never quite felt 100% comfortable in front of the camera. As I realized I was more suited to creating behind the lens, I attended Art Center College of Design and majored in Film Directing.

Despite my best laid plans though, my mother’s passion for preservation and architecture did in fact rub off on me, and when presented with the opportunity to photograph a series of landmark buildings for the National Register of Historic Places and CA State Office of Historic Preservation after I graduated from film school, I was happy to oblige. I justified this because A) I needed the work and B) “it was more about photography than architecture”. Surprisingly, I found myself quite enjoying the work of photo documenting historic preservation and rehabilitation projects, and over the course of the next decade, I ended up photographing over 60 historic building projects in Los Angeles and California. (Read more “backstory” here)

So, I have to chuckle a little at myself now, when I attend these type of events – of my own volition and with great enthusiasm. Now that I live here in New York City, it’s actually become a way for me to stay connected to my mother and continue sharing our mutual passions. It’s impossible for me not to think of her during the GVHSP tour and I always end up calling her afterwards and sharing every little detail. I have great hope she’ll make it out one spring and join me for the tour. That will be one full circle moment, to be sure.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll think about taking your son or daughter on the tour with you! They might protest, want to touch stuff, and intermittenly act bored, but you might just plant a seed about the value of preserving the places of the past, for the future kids of Greenwich Village, and that IS actually pretty cool…

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you!

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Introducing: Eye For Style Maps

After tons of research, and many foodie photo missions over the last 2 years, I am happy to present Eye For Style’s “Best of NYC” – my absolute favorite, highly recommended, culinary and cultural hotspots. Each awesome destination has been personally hand picked and mapped out, with original photography and reviews, by yours truly. Featuring topics such as NYC’s Best: coffee, pizza, brunch, burgers, cheap eats, vintage clothing, and more!

For the complete list of Eye For Style Maps, click here.

Disclaimer: I’m a die-hard Greenwich Villager and Loisiada, and make no bones about the fact that, in my opinion, The Village and Lower East Side are the best neighborhoods in New York City. My maps reflect this biased love – and I’m totally cool with it. These are my stomping grounds, my passion, my point of view.

That said, I love good food, wherever it may live, and I can occasionally be lured above 14th Street, or to the nether lands of the outer boroughs, for truly excellent eats. I would love to hear your comments and opinions about what YOU consider to be the “Best of NYC”. Please share your picks here and I’ll be sure to add them to my list. As much as I love giving suggestions, I love receiving suggestions even more, so dish the scoop. I’m all ears!

Since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, you’ve probably been racking your brain or scouring the web for that perfect romantic dinner spot, some better than average chocolates, and/or an intimate booth to grab a cocktail? If you’re still drawing a blank, make it easy on yourself and check out my maps of the Best Dinner Date Spots, Best Sweets and Chocolate, and Best Watering Holes for up-to-the minute tips on the ideal locale to wine, dine, and treat your sweetheart. Every one of these places are a guaranteed “no fail zone”. Pick any recommendation from the list with confidence, so you can simply focus on charming the pants off your date. You can thank me later…

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Best Pizza & Ice Cream Dates in Greenwich Village

 


Pizza and ice cream is a perfect way to kick off a summer date night, especially in Greenwich Village where exceptional options abound on practically every corner. Luckily, I’ve taken the guess work out of it for you by crafting some terrific pairings. You may wish for a bit more of a walk in between courses, or slightly “healthier” options, so feel free to mix it up and create a combination of destinations that best suit your date’s taste. Be sure to print this list and the complete Eye For Style map before you head out so as to have all your options easily at hand. Trust me, she’ll admire your take-charge thoughtfulness, guys. Once you’re both stuffed to the gills, take a stroll mano a mano appreciating the uber-romantic vibe that is The Village, before you grab some libations at one of the many cool watering holes in the area. If you follow this plan (adding your own brand of charm and some witty reparte, of course), you should score that lengthy kiss on the stoop come evening’s end. And who knows what may follow. You can thank me later…

EAST VILLAGE DATES:

South Brooklyn Pizza & NYC Icy - 122 1st Ave ; 100 Ave A  171 Ave A (as of 6/2011)

SBP is the newbie in the ‘hood, having just opened 3 months ago, but it’s already garnered a well-deserved reputation. They only do one kind of pizza – margherita – which is frankly phenomenal. They occassionally have their “square” pizza with which they’ll experiment with a variety of ingredients, like mushroom or sausage, at their whim. I’d eat your first slice plain, so you can really taste the flavors of the basil, mozzarella, and tomato. The EVOO is so delicious you can actually taste the kalamata olive from whence it came. This is not a pizza where you want to sop up the oil with a napkin. Instead, have fun sexily licking it off your fingers (hey, it makes for some good foreplay). On your second slice, try the toppings they have mixed up fresh on the counter – a sick roasted garlic spread or marinated green peppers – for a completely different flavored slice. You might want to save the kissing for later, but it’s well worth it. Slices are $4 each, whole pies will run you $28.

NYC Icy is a relative newbie in the ‘hood, having just opened up their pop-up stand on Ave A @ E 7th a month ago (though they used to have a permanent location on Ave B). It’s a very no frills establishment, just a couple of big freezers and a cash register. Check the sandwich board for the day’s special samplings, a rotating array of over 200 flavors, most of which are more creamy than icy, with some dairy-free options as well. My favorites are Mexican hot cocoa (with a swift chili pepper kick), earl grey (with a hint of cream and lemon), and the ultimate: mango with fresh basil (which also pairs extremely well with spicy Thai food).

Artichoke Pizza & Sundaes and Cones – 328 E 14th St ; 95 E 10th St

Artichoke only fires up 4 types of pizza – classic margherita, artichoke (with a cheesy, creamy sauce), crab, and Sicilian – and they’re all freaking delicious. Don’t let the long line keep you away – spend the time getting to know each other better! Grab your  $4 slice, cop a squat on a nearby stoop and enjoy the bustling scene on 14th Street, as seating at this joint is highly coveted and minimal at best.  Better yet, call ahead and order a whole pie, then head southeast to nearby Tompkins Square Park for a pizza alfresco picnic in the very secluded section of the park bordering 10th Street where there’s tons of tables and virtually never any people. Take a stroll east and do some window shopping along 9th or 10th Street, two of the loveliest blocks in the EV, until you across 3rd Avenue and arrive at:

Sundaes & Cones has some of the most interesting, Asian-centric ice cream flavors around – wasabi, red bean, taro, green tea – to name a few. I personally adore the sesame and lychee in a big ol’ waffle cone. They have other traditionally American flavors as well, but why not try something new? Show off your adventurous, open-minded side. Chicks dig that.

Motorino & Momofuku Milk Bar – 349 E 12th St ; 207 2nd Ave

Motorino specializes in neopolitana style pizza – with a thin, but not too thin crust that bubbles around the outskirts. The ingredients are super fresh and flavorful, and the price is fairly reasonable at $18 a pie (no slices here). I could easily eat a whole one myself if I’m really hungry and wish they were a bit larger, but it’s no big deal. Gotta save room for ice cream! I’ve especially enjoyed the soppressata piccante, as well as the sweet sausage and cremini with kalamata olive, but I think the real draw here is the brussel sprout and pancetta pie.

I must confess that I’ve not actually had the soft serve with various whacky toppings to choose at Momofuku Milk Bar because every time I’ve gone, the line is so damn long that I’m just not in the mood and have opted to head elsewhere. The place has a long line and great reputation for a reason though, so if you’ve got some company to kill the time, I’d stick it out. If you don’t have the patience, Veniero’s Pasticceria is right around the corner, as is most of the selections on this list. Someday, Momofuku, someday!

Luzzo’s & Alphabet Scoop – 211 2nd Ave ; 543 E 11th St

This place is small and can sometimes be crowded, but it’s one of the best authentic neopolitian pizzas in Manhattan. It’s also one of the only places that still uses a coal-fired oven and you can taste the difference. The crust is thin and slightly charred, a bit soft, but not overly chewy. The pies are big, but once you get started, you don’t want to stop (which is hopefully the direction your date will be taking later in the evening.) Luzzo’s is by no means cheap, clocking in at around $23 – 28 a pie, but the basil and mozzarella are fresh and delicious to be sure, making it very worthy of experiencing.

Alphabet Scoop is actually a non-profit organization that “changes lives one scoop at a time”. They employ neighborhood kids in an effort to teach responsibility and keep them out of trouble on the streets, connecting the local youth with personal adult mentors off-site. This artisanal ice cream is homemade right on the premises with fresh ingredients. Portions are large and prices are fair. Your date will most definitely appreciate your thoughtful, civic-minded generosity, scoring you some brownie points. Remember, supporting important causes is hot!

Two Boots & Lula’s Sweet Apothecary – 42 Ave A ; 516 E 6th St

I love the classic Italian meets Louisana bayou flavor combinations that Two Boots employs here. I also love the clever way they name their pizzas after indie movie characters and trailblazing music icons. Cleopatra Jones (sweet sausage with tri-color peppers) and The Newman (of Seinfeld fame aka sopressata and sausage on a white pie) are my go-to favorites at this joint. When I’m feeling particularly spicy though, The Bird (as in local EV resident and saxophonist, Charlie Parker) – a white pie topped with spicy buffalo wings, bleu cheese, and jalapeno – is in a league of its own and hits the spot. So wrong, it’s right. This pizza will definitely generate a little heat and then you might just want to rent a movie, instead of go out on the town. Which is convenient because, in addition to the pizzeria, the location on Avenue A is also a super cheap video store with tons of great noir, classics, and cult flicks. Cuddle up and enjoy the film, but before you go home, head to:

Lula’s Sweet Apothecary – vegan ice cream never tasted so good! I dare to you try their dairy/gluten-free fare and tell me that it’s not equally as delicious as its sugar-filled counterparts. Lula’s flavors are truly unique and rotate daily. The staff is super friendly and they happily offer copious samples, which can be a double-edged sword because it tends to make the indecisive line move a bit slow. (It’s not a relationship, it’s ice cream, people. Make a commitment and move on). Lula’s has soft serve too, with a “twist” if you like the two flavors swirled, cake batter being a favorite. They make a killer banana split with an assortment of natural toppings to choose from as well. The ambience of the place is a throw back to the days of real ol’ fashioned ice cream parlors and can be quite a romantic scene if you nab stools in the bay window.

Want an even healthier option? Try opting for a smoothie at Liquiteria (@ 170 2nd Ave) or Juicy Lucy’s (@ 85 Ave A). These juice bars are equally as delicious as any other sweet treat you’ll find in the area. So, if you’re looking for something cold, utterly fresh and supremely yummy in the tummy, don’t hesitate to give these places a try. You won’t be disappointed. A wide variety of healthy and exotic flavors abound here!

Once you’ve worked your way through the EV, you and your sweetie will surely want to try these WEST VILLAGE DATES:

Numero 28 Carmine & Cones Ice Cream Artisans

Bleecker Street Pizza & L’Arte Del Gelato

John’s Pizzeria & Jacques Torres Chocolate Haven

Famous Joe’s & Grom

Two Boots To Go West & People’s Pops

Lombardi’s & Ciao Bella

With healthier option: Gusto Organics

Or go to Eye For Style maps for the complete list of Greenwich Village pizza & ice cream dates!

And how about a “make your own pizza” date? Pizza a Casa now has workshops & classes at their LES location. Now that’s amore!

*****

Update as of 7/30/11:

There are 5 new cool treats vendors in the East Village that are definitely worth sampling this summer:

People’s Pops Pop Up – 118 E 7th St; serving: popsicles & shave ice, through October 15

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream – 48 1/2 E 7th St

Goat Town – 511 E 5th St

Timi’s Gelateria Classica - 37 St. Mark’s Place; mobile cart @ 145 Ave A

Big Gay Ice Cream Shop – opening any day now, on E 7th St @ Ave A

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