Tag Archives: Greenwich Village

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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Best Cheap Eats in the East Village

Sure, the economy sucks, but that’s no excuse for not eating well, especially in the East Village, where starving artists co-mingle with a thriving Latino population, and even the most jaded Upper East Siders will “slum it” for evening to partake in the hipster fabulousness of the non-stop, late night cocktail/party scene that is synonymous with the LES.  Hard times or not, everyone loves a good bargain, and these haunts won’t disappoint – your taste buds or wallet. And for those of you who, come the wee hours are stumbling aimlessly in uncharted territory, begging for something tasty to soak up all that you’ve just imbibed, I’ve made it easy for you. Print this Top 10 list and the complete Eye For Style map before you head out. You can thank me later…

1. Artichoke Pizza328 E 14th St @ 1st – 2nd Ave

Hands down, the best slice in the ‘hood. They only fire 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 and erratic hours keep you away. It’s worth it. Grab your 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, head southeast to nearby Tompkins Square Park for an alfresco pizza picnic – a perfect, cheap summer date on your way for drinks at one of the many cool watering holes on Avenue B and C.

2. Snack Dragon Taco Shack199 E 3rd St @ Ave B

Amazingly delicious tacos for only $5! I love the carne asada and the fish tacos remind me of being in California, where good and plentiful Mexican food abounds. It’s a lot more difficult to find it here in Manhattan, but these tacos fit the bill nicely when my cravings stir. These tacos are full of flavor, very simply prepared with that winning combo of onion, cilantro, and salsa. The place is really small and quirky. I honestly have no idea when it’s open and they don’t have a phone. You just have to take a gamble and walk over there. If they are open, you’re in for a tasty treat. Get one of each to really fill you up and some of their fresh berry lemonade to wash it all down.

3. Mama’s Food Shop200 E 3rd St @ Ave B

This place is down home, comfort food done right – huge platters of mac & cheese, fried chicken, collard greens and salads – all made with fresh, local ingredients. You can get a heaping plate of food for $13, practically enough for 2 meals. Pick your protein and add a couple of lovely side salads, or opt for an all veggie salad medley.  Stay and enjoy the eclectic décor, a mish-mash of retro furniture that makes you feel like your hangin’ out on Mama’s back porch in the South somewhere, chillin’ with your neighbors, shootin’ the breeze. And make sure you say yes please to a piece of cobbler.

4. Paul’s Da Burger Joint131 2nd Ave @ St. Mark’s Place

Wow, what a freaking good burger! So far, the best one I’ve had in NYC. So huge and juicy, once you pick it up and start eating it, it’s hard to put down. The bun will get soggy from all the drippings quickly, so I suggest you dive in with full abandon and power through until you finally surrender. If you manage to finish one of these monsters, and still have room, I suggest you head down the block to my next pick, for the best french fries at:

5. Pomme Frites123 2nd Ave @ St. Mark’s Place

These Belgium, thick cut fries are absolutely outstanding. Even a “small” here is a huge pile of golden crispy potato magic, all wrapped up in a white paper cone. And what’s even better than the fries? The 40+ mayo and mustard based sauces that you can pick from to accompany them! Do ask for the sauce on the side though. They do tend to be a little too liberal with it, which can be overkill and potentially make the fries soggy. They’re a great snack to share with a friend and goes great with a Paul’s Burger, if you’ve got the stomach for both. I double-dog dare ya.

6. Dumpling Man100 St. Mark’s Place @ 1st Ave

Between the hours of 3 – 5 pm, you can get a 6 piece seared dumpling plate and a drink for a mere $3.50. That’s cheap – and filling! When I’ve gone to Dumpling Man during other hours of the day, I’ve opted for the “Mix It Up”, whereby you can choose a combination of their dumpling offerings: chicken, pork, veggie, shrimp, “surprise”, or sweet. I probably like the pork best, which is somewhat curious because I’m not a big pork fan and typically don’t eat it a lot, but they do have the most flavor. The chicken ones are great too and have been voted “best chicken dumplings” according to various local foodie rags. The “surprise” dumplings of the day are usually especially yummy, often with stuffed with combinations of ingredients like ginger and scallions, yam or spinach, lemongrass and chestnuts. They also have daily soup specials, like corn & quinoa or traditional miso.

7. Mamoun’s Falafel22 St. Mark’s Place @ 2nd – 3rd

I’m a big fan of the chicken or lamb shish kebob sandwich, for a whopping $5. It comes with a lot of juicy, flavorful meat stuffed in a pita with iceberg lettuce, chopped tomato, parsley, onion, and a delicious spoonful of tahini sauce.  The falafel, hummus, and baba ganouj are also all very good in their own right and only $2 – 3 a pop. Put ‘em in a sandwich or go for the plate, which is even more food for just a couple bucks extra. This is good, delicious, filling food, right in the thick of the St. Mark’s punk and street vending madness.

8.  S’mac345 E 12th St @ 1st Ave

Mac and cheese made 10 different ways and served in a skillet. What’s not to love? Choose from old school versions like the all-american or 4-cheese, or something with a bit of a twist like the nepoletana pizza. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, try the parisienne (with figs and shitake mushrooms), spicy cajun or masala-style varieties. Whether you want just a nosh or are hungrier for a major munch, S’mac delivers a variety of sizes and some unique flavor combinations that really satisfy.

9. Café Orlin41 St. Mark’s Place @ 2nd Ave

This place has some of the best everyday brunch in the city for super reasonable prices. I’m a creature of habit when it comes to what I usually order – pumpkin pancakes slathered in cinammon vanilla yogurt and/or their mushroom shallot scramble with toast. Everything on the menu sounds delightful though and the portions are substantial. Try and get a spot on their sidewalk patio. It’s a bit of a squeeze, but you’re in prime position to watch all the activity bustling along St. Mark’s Place. I haven’t been here for dinner yet, but I have visited their sister restaurant, Café Mogador, located just a few doors down for one hell of a memorable meal with friends. Both these places serve up sophisicated, Middle Eastern and Meditterranean fare, without breaking the bank.

10. Westville East173 Ave A @ E 11th St

This place has spectacular food, for carnivores and vegetarians alike. One of my favorite things on the menu is their veggie plate – a mound of your choice of the latest seasonal farmers market vegetables. Eggs and burgers are also not to be missed. The space is beautiful, airy and open. Floor to ceiling windows line both facades of the building, providing lots of opportunity for hipster watching along Avenue A. It’s cheap AND healthy, which is a major plus in my opinion, and often not easy to find around these parts.

Want to know my favorite Cheap Eats in the West Village? Click here for the latest Eye For Style map.

For Time Out New York’s picks for Best Cheap Eats in NYC, check out this week’s cover story.

What are your favorite cheap eats? Comment below with your personal picks. All recommendations welcome!

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Eye For Style Recommends: GVSHP’s 2010 House Tour Benefit

Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
2010 House Tour Benefit
May 2, 2010, 1 to 5:30 pm

As an architecture and design lover, this is one of my favorite yearly events. It’s a rare treat to actually be able to go inside some of the fabulous homes I walk by all the time and get a glimpse of how a select few are living in high style and comfort. I find it to be a fun way check out incredible art collections, spectacularly quiet gardens, and some of the finest interior decorating in the city. Not to mention, get inspired about how I’ll someday decorate my own lovingly restored, multi-level rowhouse (when I finally “make it” in this town). One can always dream!

The tour makes for one of the loveliest Sunday spring outings available to New Yorkers, and GVSHP is a really worthy organization to support. I’ve been a docent on the tour two years running now and I can’t think of a group I’d rather volunteer my time for. I always meet terrific people, who are passionate about the architecture and history of this beloved neighborhood, and always willing to share stories of past residents’ adventures in the Village. Be sure to support this critical organization’s efforts, so they can keep fighting the good fight and protect the Village’s most important historic resources for future generations.

Here’s what they say about this year’s tour:

The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation works to protect the cultural and architectural heritage of Greenwich Village, NoHo, and the East Village. Now in its thirtieth year, GVSHP has secured unprecedented achievements for our communities through advocacy, education, and documentation. Offering a rare glimpse into six of Greenwich Village’s finest and most exclusive townhouses, the Twelfth Annual Village House Tour Benefit is held to raise funds in support of GVSHP’s work to educate about and advocate for the distinctive character and irreplaceable architecture of our neighborhoods. This year’s tour features the spectacular residences of:

Clyde & Summer Anderson, Charles Street
You’ll find a surprising and ingenious solution in a small bathroom in this Italianate home with a restored stoop and a glass façade leading into a backyard terrace and garden.

Clora Kelly & Helge Skibeli, West 11th Street
A townhouse formerly owned by St. Vincent’s hospital with a fun, funky, and colorful interior.

Paul & Christine Smith, Commerce Street
This tiny home in the Commerce Street cul-de-sac has returned to its original stoop and brick façade after many years under stucco.

Jane and Richard Stewart, Charles Street
A townhouse designed in the French Second Empire style on what was once known as Van Nest Place.

Lawrence and Alice Weiner, West 4th Street
A former stable and bakery building, this home features a redesigned modern façade and the artist-owner’s pieces on the interior.

Jeffrey Weingarten & Belinda Broido, West 11th Street
Cuban art is a feature of this classic Greek Revival townhouse with many historic details updated for modern life.

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Best Coffee Spots in Greenwich Village and the LES

Starting my day with a good cup of joe is an essential part of my daily routine. One of the first things I do every morning is put on the kettle, pull out my french press, and grind my own beans (stored in the freezer for maximum freshness). I steam my fresh Ronnybrook milk into a perfectly frothy consistency, stirring in a bit of honey for natural sweetness. This is my morning ritual and I love it. Sometimes, I wonder if I love the ritual, almost more than I like drinking the coffee itself.

Every since I’ve discovered this particular coffee-making ritual, I just can’t drink that terrible pre-ground, drip stuff anymore. Wow, can you taste the difference! After one develops their palate for a really good french press or stove-top espresso, going back to automatic drip or percolator coffee is a real last resort.

So, as a lover of really good coffee, I’m delighted to the see the recent trend of coffee connoisseurism sweeping the city. The movement almost seems to rival fine wine tasting as of late. Thus, I decided to embark on some local ‘coffee missions’, on a quest to discover the best coffee offerings in my neighborhood of Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side,  creating a map with my own photographs to boot.

As I sampled many a latte, cappuccino, cortado, and au lait, I found myself pondering, “What really makes a great coffee tasting experience?” The quality and taste of the coffee itself is obviously most important, but ultimately, I feel that the coffee drinking environment plays a vital role in the enjoyment of the overall experience. So, as an architectural photographer and design lover with a sweet tooth, I took the place, space, and vibe created into account when deciding what constituted “best coffee spots”. The beauty of a space, the social interaction and solo sipping meditation that takes place within it, is a crucial aspect of the whole adventure.

1. Abraco Espresso, 86 East 7th Street @ 1st Avenue

This place is a tiny little shoebox of a joint and there is almost always a crowd of people packed like sardines inside and a line out the door, but don’t let that turn you away. The coffee is magnificent, each cup made upon request with love, and their homemade breads and biscotti are the perfect sweet companions, not to be passed up. The owner and his cohorts are always very friendly and chatty. Regulars and newbies alike are greeted with a smile. I will confess this place is a bit of a “scene”, but for some reason, I kind of get a kick out of it. Said shoebox is packed with Village hipsters talking just a little too loudly about their latest industry gig, personal achievement, or friend circle gossip, and for a willing eavesdropper, it’s a delicious, humorous addition to the experience. Just sip your cortado and embrace the chat with a grain of salt. But forget the shake of cinnamon on top ‘cause they don’t have it here. You drink it up the way they serve it, in a variety of mis-matched glass cups and mugs, or one of those quintessential Greek-y “it’s our pleasure to serve you” paper to-go cups, and you’ll enjoy every sip of it, guaranteed.

2. Bluebird Coffee Shop, 72 E 1st Street @ 1st Avenue

This place has only been open since December 2009, but it’s already garnering quite a loyal following, including yours truly. I had a cortado (made with Counter Culture beans) and a brown sugar cookie. The owner herself is one of elements that makes this place so great. She has an obvious passion for what she does and greets everyone with a warm smile and friendly chit- chat. The day I was in, she was talking all about which recipes she was dying to try out next, beaming with a geniune enthusiasm for experimentation. She makes different cookies, cakes and sandwiches daily. They all sound exquisite and are made with fresh, local, and somewhat exotic ingredients. The room is simple, painted in a calm bluebird blue, and nicely designed with beautiful woods and metal accents. Lots of light pours in through the front windows, a long wood bench is built into the brick wall, and cool copper tables dot the room. There are a few tables out front facing First Park at the corner of  1st St and 1st Ave. It’s a relaxed place, inhabited with people in no apparent rush. With all the daily variety happening here, I definitely plan to frequent again and again.

3. MudSpot, 307 E 9th Street @ 2nd Avenue

This coffee isn’t for everyone, but I personally dig the thick, sludgy coffee they serve up here that tastes almost like hot chocolate. You can get espresso here, but I think the original Mud is spot on and a good bang for your buck at $2.25. The Mud Mocha is also good, but the OG coffee has enough rich chocolatey taste for me. They also have several different Mud blends for sale by the pound, with fun New York centric names, if you’d rather make it at home. Good coffee aside, I just love the vibe of this place. It’s everything you’d dream an East Village coffee spot would be – sexy, funky people and a non-stop mix of killer music. I love to sit in the window or the bench in front, reading the latest Dan Savage column in the Village Voice, and watching the all the street action on E 9th (one of the best blocks to window shop in the EV). There’s a great enclosed patio out back where they do table service. A good brunch on the weekends including mimosas and a cup o’ mud will run you $12 cash. The food is terrific, baked goods are made fresh on premises, and they have a decent wine selection as well. Before the Mudspot, there was the Mudtruck, the catering-type painted an eye-catching burnt orange color, parked daily in two convenient locations – next to the 1 subway on Christopher Street in the West Village and the Uptown 6 subway on Lafayette at Astor Place in the East Village.

4. 9th Street Espresso, 700 E 9th Street; 341 E 10th Street; Chelsea Market

These people really know how to make a good espresso. A really good and tasty espresso, adorned with the most skilled latte art. They also carry several different coffee blends, their own varieties and beans from some of the finest fair trade coffee growing countries around the world, for the home coffee connoisseur to buy by the pound. The location on E 10th Street is small, but beautifully warm with lots of light and pine wood details. A few stools and a narrow counter line the east wall, but try to acquire the best spot in the house – perched in the front window. This picture window, or the bench on the sidewalk out front, is ideal for all the people/dog-watching that flows by the outskirts of Tompkins Square Park. I also dig their daily chalkboard art. I’ve generally had positive experiences with the baristas here, but have heard from others that they do sometimes have a bit of an elitist attitude. That hasn’t been my experience though, and they seem to be doing a lot of things right, currently operating in 3 locations, including Chelsea Market.

5. Grey Dog’s Coffee, 33 Carmine Street; 90 University Place

For some reason, I’ve just repeatedly gravitated to their hazelnut café au lait. These cats really know how to steam milk properly into froathy, creamy goodness. Straight up espresso is also at its best here, no question. Grey Dog’s is not just a coffee house, but definitely a great destination for any meal of the day, that won’t break the bank. They have terrific breakfast options, sandwiches that are too big to ever eat in one sitting, cheese and antipasto plates, and out of this world cobblers and cookies. I prefer the Carmine Street location’s vibe and have enjoyed many leisurely meals with friends in their cozy, dark little den. Also like taking my coffee and walking up Bleecker Street, into Father Demo Square or Washington Square Park to sip my joe fountain-side. The University Place location is also cute and conveniently located, but occupied mostly by NYU students, and often gets very loud and crowded. They do have great selection of wine and as the day progresses, the place turns into more of a dimly lit, late night hang out spot.

I’d be remiss not to mention a few other spots in this list, so honorable mentions go to:

The Roasting Plant has an extensive variety of free trade and organic choices, and their method of delivering said choices is the coolest part! You select your bean choice from the daily list displayed on a big LCD monitor, and then your beans are literally sucked from their transparent wall container, through a maze of steel tubes running along the ceiling, into the bean grinder behind the counter. Each cup is individually brewed for freshness and taste. The LES location is rather tiny and only has a few small chairs to sit. There’s bench outside on Orchard Street which is a nice spot to rest, as you work your way through all the fabulous shopping and eateries of the Lower East Side.

Everyman Espresso serves up delicious Counter Culture coffee within a rather colorless, personality-lacking interior. Despite the rather chilly reception and “too cool for school” attitude from the barista behind the counter, my au lait was good. Small and pricey, but good. A relative amount of enthusiasm, a splash of color, and some artwork would go along way towards making this place truly great!

I feel the need to include Think Coffee mostly because I really respect and support their commitment to the environment and sustainable business practices. They use entirely compostable cups and plates, and recycle almost everything within their locations. Their coffee is definitely tasty and they use their own blend of beans, also selling a variety of fair trade and organic coffee by the pound. The Mercer Street location is always packed with NYU students on laptops, thus not my favorite place to linger. The locations on 4th Avenue and Bleecker Street are nice looking, but for some reason, I don’t tend to want to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee inside for very long. Strikes me as more of pit stop or get it to-go place.

Porto Rico Importing Co. is where I get the coffee beans that I brew via french press at home. The smell is unbelievably intoxicating as you walk in the door. I love seeing the rows of open burlap bags of beans. They have a ton of choices, both in regular and organic varieties. I’ve had so much fun sampling different beans from all over the world and I still haven’t exhausted all the options! Porto Rico is more of a coffee purveyor, than a coffee house. They do serve coffee and espresso by the cup and I highly recommend it as a worthy to-go pit stop, but it’s not much of a sit and sip joint.

If you’re interested in exploring the world of gourmet coffee on your own, I enthusiastically support all of the places on this list. If you wish to kick it up a notch, I read about several coffee tasting workshops around the city that school you the fine art of coffee sipping and appreciation. For more information click here.

To view more of my food photography, please visit my website, www.eyeforstyle.net.

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Afternoon Delight at Dumpling Man

My new mid-afternoon not-so-guilty pleasure is Dumpling Man on St. Mark’s Place, where between the hours of 3 – 5 pm, you can get a 6 piece seared dumpling plate and a soda or water for a mere $3.50. That’s cheap – and filling! When I’ve gone to Dumpling Man during other hours of the day, I’ve opted for the “Mix It Up”, whereby you can choose a combination of their offerings: chicken, pork, veggie, shrimp, “surprise” (the dumpling of the day), and sweet (a desserty type pumpkin or banana) dumpling. It’s a great way to try them all, play a game of which is which, and determine which you like best. A small catch about the $3.50 special is – no mixin’ it up. You can only choose one type of dumpling and they must be seared (not steamed). No biggie. I probably like the pork best, which is somewhat curious because I’m not a big pork fan in general and I typically don’t eat it a lot, but they do have the most flavor. The chicken are great too and have been voted “best chicken dumplings” according to various local foodie rags. The shrimp and veggie hold their own, and the special “surprise” dumplings of the day are especially yummy, often with stuffed with combinations of fresh ingredients like ginger and scallions, yam or spinach, lemongrass and chestnuts. They also have daily soup specials, like corn & quinoa or traditional miso. I always love being able to taste a bit of everything, so I say bring a friend and share a couple orders. Create your own mix up! For $3.50 you can’t go wrong.

And be sure you get the whole experience at least once by eating in at the counter and watching as the dumpling ladies fold these delicious bundles of yumminess right before your eyes. After that, you’ll probably start fantasizing about them come 3 pm everyday, and luckily Dumpling Man rewards such behavior, bringing people back for more and more by providing a frequent eaters card which earns you a free order of dumplings after you’ve purchased 10.  Just don’t forget the dumpling sauce – or the sriracha for that super spicy KICK!

Dumpling Man, 100 St. Marks Place, between 1st Ave and Ave A, East Village, NYC

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Happy New Year 2010!

I’m so grateful to be ushering in this epic new year and decade, right in the heart of Greenwich Village, with all my amazingly beautiful NYC friends. I am truly blessed. I am living a dream, one that I’ve dreamt for a very long time, and it feels so good to have finally arrived at this magical moment. Now I’m free to DREAM new, even bigger dreams for my future. YES!

Wishing you all a perfect New Year’s Eve filled with deep love and belly laughs, killer music and beautiful scenery, bubbly champagne and delicious nibbles, warm embraces and juicy kisses, amongst your favorite companions under the Blue Moon. Cheers and may all YOUR big dreams become reality in 2010. Clink!

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Musical Discoveries in NYC’s Parks and Subways

Upon moving to NYC, I managed to land myself a fabulous floor through one bedroom flat, in a little row house on West 4th Street, originally owned by one of the founding mothers of the historic preservation movement in Greenwich Village, previously occupied solely by photographers (including the legendary Paul Strand), just one block from Washington Square Park. I could not have found myself in a more perfect location – at the epicenter of the most radically artistic, musical, literary, political community – steeped in history and more vibrant than ever! Majorly good juju for a newbie in town. Oh, how blessed I am.

So, one of my favorite things to do after working on the computer all day, was to take a cup of tea into the park in the afternoon and listen to MUSIC. I could always count on someone to be playing some sort of instrument at one corner of the park. ALWAYS. And I can whole-heartedly say, some of the best musicians playing out there today, hands down, are playing in New York City’s parks and underground subway tunnels. Busking and crowd pleasing, on their own schedules and terms (when the NYPD isn’t harrassing them, that is), raking in a guitar case full of bills, on the regular. Some really epic talent! Maybe they’re waiting to be discovered, or for that big break that will propel them into major stardom, but honestly I think not. They do it because they love it, because the people love it, because it’s an instrumental part of what Washington Square, Tompkins Square, and Union Square Park are about at their very core. Stumbling upon these performances in the city automatically injects a jolt of fun into my day and is such a gift to the general public. These musicians represent some of the most stellar creativity NYC has to offer. Nothing beats an afternoon in the park, by the fountain, under the Arch, listening to jazz, and people-watching. I love New York City!

So here is my short list of “The Best Musical Acts of NYC’s Parks & Subways 2009″:

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Baby Soda Jazz Band

Stumblebum Brass Band

Xylopholks

Brothers Moving

Jason Stuart, upright bassist extraordinaire

Collin Huggins, The Crazy Piano Guy

To view more of my music photography, please visit eyeforstyle.net.

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Filed under Art, Culture, Dreams, Music, New York City