Ruminating on things eaten in Paris last year

Maybe it’s that my sister in-law is headed to Paris right now. Or that I’ve recently joined the fan club for those normal French pharmacy beauty products that just seem so much better every time I use them, like this dry shampoo and this really basic moisturizer. It’s probably also that I was in Paris a year ago crazily enough, and being stuck inside during a snow day had me wistfully thinking about that late winter trip.  If you’re looking for even more inspiration, Cup of Joe’s recent city guide of Paris has me thinking France is always a good idea, whatever the weather.

Of particular note to me, even a year later:

baguettes, always good, with butter even better
gastro pub Les Deux Cigales , very delicious
mint tea at the Grand Mosque of Paris worth the marauding pigeons 
all pain au chocolat forever!

 

Embrace The Pretzel Croissant

I love breakfast. It’s the best meal, hands down. You can eat it early, you can eat it late or you can eat it twice like me most days.

There is a strange promise in being fancy for breakfast every once in awhile. It’s like seizing the day, reminding me of being on vacation. Making any day commuting in Manhattan to feel like a vacation day is a good approach for making my life more enjoyable.  I love to put in a little effort some morning to make it in earlier than usual to stop for a croissant and a cappuccino because Im old enough now to just embrace my love of frivolity without caring.

This week at the office my lovely coworker brought in pastries from The City Bakery to celebrate Mardi Gras. My favorite of the bunch is by far the Pretzel Croissant.Call me an iconoclast but It’s a beautiful, salty thing of butter wrapped into a pretzel homage of sorts. The crispy outside is saltier than a regular croissant. The inside is the familiar buttery goodness. I have a fondness for it’s brown-flecked flakey layers. I enjoy that while saltier it’s still a croissant, through and through.

I like it even more jam, a perfect blend of sweet and salty, eaten at my desk. Those tiny crumbs of course ruin my usual attire of dark on dark.

The City Bakery
3 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011

 

Feeling like Early Spring in Brooklyn

I started this drawing of brownstone Brooklyn in a sketchbook more than a year ago but only now felt like finishing it  as the temperatures reached a mighty strange 65 degrees this past weekend. Lately we’ve been talking about moving out of Brooklyn, maybe to Queens or even Manhattan (the shock!) This strange and pleasant February weekend outside reminded me how much I like living in this borough, though. So maybe it’s not meant to be yet.

Enjoying a warmer and sunnier borough means spending less money and more time outside around my favorite parts of the city: Prospect Park walks, bike riding to the beach, meandering from brownstone neighborhood to neighborhood, beers outside and in a back yard at my favorite flower shop bar (ah, the backyard life), the waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg, and food adventures down to Coney Island or Sunset Park or Midwood. Central asian food is next on my list.

I’m feeling overly optimistic (we do have this weird climate-change-weather to blame) that Spring is right around the corner and this will be a pretty good Brooklyn season for me and Brian. And hopefully a good one for everyone.

Brooklyn is mighty fine in the warmer weather.

Happy Lunar New Year

I recently got back from a wonderful birthday trip to Hong Kong! Which is to say, Happy birthday to me and Happy Lunar New Year, I’m so grateful to spend any time exploring the food and lives of other people around the world, ever slightly unhinging the way you can feel your experience is the central way of life.

Before we took off I started thinking about New York City’s Chinatown, seeing that it was first settled by Cantonese immigrants to the city . It’s the largest Chinatown in the United States, too.

It’s easy to ignore the beautiful, unique nature of Chinatown’s busy, neon signed streets. It’s easy to accept it as a part of Manhattan’s core, not stopping long to appreciate it’s flare for out-of-the-norm. After being in Hong Kong, I’m ever so ready to score it’s back alleys for egg custards and waffles.

e. There has never been quite a time to appreciate an immigrant enclave in New York City that right now, to think that at a time we also excluded Chinese immigrants from coming and settling in the United States. I’m so thankful that it is a part of the fabric of New York City, though, with more Chinatowns in both Brooklyn and Queens growing today.

A local favorite Chinatown favorite is Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, a staple in my journeys through the neighborhood.

If you’re there at the right time, when the tables aren’t too busy, you can easily watch the chef slap the hand-pulled noodles down in the tiny side kitchen with a loud, sudden whack. The noodles are chewy and fresh. The thicker the cut the better in my book! I prefer them stir fried with vegetables.

Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles
1 Doyers Street
New York, NY 10038

Women’s March 2017 Postcards

You can donate to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood while get these post-cards for sending to your elected officials!

I’ve printed these on recycled matte paper with an illustration I did in gouache and watercolor. For every bundle sold I’m going to donate 90% of the proceeds, using the rest to print & ship for as long as I can.

It’s hard in these crazy times to keep focused and do as much as you can, especially while we’re juggling work, life, family, and health. So I’m trying to keep my eyes clear and use whatever I have to do something, anything. I know I’ll have to protest again and over and over again. Right now, I’m using creativity for a little burst of energy though.

It was beyond nice to have a random, kind stranger buy two bundles online last night. I’m very excited to both raise some money and to send my art out to other women.

Boston Favorites (from a New Englander transplanted to New York)

Every year at Christmas I head home on a bus or train to Boston, meeting my family in the suburbs of both Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Holidays are always enjoyable and stressful yet I’m thankful to be able to spend brief spurts in the city.

Boston is a place I keep passing through even after three years of moving back to New York City. It’s a city for trips home or short weekends. It’s a city where my family and friends live. It’s a city I’ve known for so long as the city, that it’s funny that I live in this other big city.  It is a comfort though, to always have it be a part of my trip home.

So in honor of the holidays I wrote a little rumination on what I love about Boston and its environs, things to do and eat and see and. Places change (how dare them!) but I hope these will continue to be useful. Of course, this is by no means exhaustive and just my little take on a city I keep in my heart.

I’ll keep updating it as I go back and forth with any new found favorites. Heck, I might even move back one of these years. It seems like my life will be switching between Massachusetts and New York every few years based on my track record so far.

Oh and yes, there are many touristy historic things to do I left out.

Things I love to do:

Lounging in the Copley library courtyard in summer or the reading room in the winter or fall. In the summer there is a wonderful farmer’s market in the square, too.

Walking the emerald necklace through Jamaica Plain, spending an afternoon in the arboretum and strolling Centre street.

Exploring a college campus, especially Harvard’s.

Walking that part of the Charles River esplanade where kayaks come in through a small waterway.

Spending an afternoon on Newbury Street, a sort of both lovely and overwhelming intersection of all of Boston’s shopping. I like to perch at Trident Booksellers and just people watch with coffee and a book.

Finding time to walk the Mass Ave bridge all the way into Cambridge, stopping at Flour Bakery and then seeing the robots at the MIT museum. Finish it up with dosa in Central Square.

Stoping in for a movies at The Brattle or The Coolidge Corner Theater, some of the few indie theaters left in the area.

Getting the right perch for the view of the harbor from the ICA at night, better yet on their free after hours nights.

Keeping close to the T windows on that part of the Red Line when it emerges on the Longfellow bridge and everyone is compelled to look out at the Charles river no matter their curmudgeonly.

Picking just one gallery to spend the day in at the MFA Boston.

Picnicking in Boston Common and walking down Charles Street into Beacon Hill, getting lost up and down the hill.

Being in awe of the glass flowers at The Harvard Natural History Museum.

Meandering around the cloisters courtyard at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Browsing and shopping in the brownstones of the South End. The SoWa market is a nice reason to visit.

Putzing around the North End, eating grandma slices or at the original Regina Pizzeria.

Tracking down the food trucks!

Walking the entire length of The Rose Kennedy Greenway from end to end, which has some fabulous landscape architecture and a moving holocaust memorial near the North End. In the summer kids play in sprinklers and it’s a nice spot to rest while people watching.

Catching a ferry to one of the Harbor Islands in the summer to picnic or adventure inside old ruins that I am sure are haunted.

Attending Open Studios at The South Boston the Distillery where many artists live and work.

Touring the Sam Adams Brewery in my secret favorite neighborhood Jamaica Plain.

Things I Particularly love to Eat and Drink:

Clover Food lab in Harvard Square (or any location they just moved from their original there) has a place in my heart because no matter the multitude of food trucks turned brick and mortar I love that you can sit, drink a beer, and order a fairly cheap falafel plate for dinner with fries.

I just tried the coffee and pastries at the new location of Tatte bakery in Harvard Square. The space is so lovely and light, like a Parisian bakery with the backdrop of Harvard’s campus in the background.

Hot pot in Allston at Shabu Zen, or any of the stalls at Super 88.

For imbibing, Grendel’s Den to feel like a college kid in Harvard Square, Deep Ellum for a well crafted cocktail and silent movies on TV screens.

Tasty burger in Fenway because you can easily eat at the bar while watching Boston sports without being too obvious. Secret sports viewing is key for a non-sports obsessed New Englander.

Algiers Coffee house because it reminds me of New York City’s Cafe Reggio where I can linger for a long time without buying much and 1369 to read and people watch in Central Square.

Area Four for my most favorite pizza and garlic knots.

The Salty Pig so I could build a board of pig parts plus a fancy pizza with more pig parts. Pig is key.

Highland Kitchen in Somerville for comfort.

Chinatown eating! Especially Dumpling Cafe.

When I was feeling fancy I loved Oleana (of course I’d say this, I got married there!), Neptune Oyster, or Ten Tables in either Cambridge on Jamaica Plain.  p.s. I really need to try Sarma next time I’m in the area!

Places I love to browse:

The best overall bookstore, a browser’s delight and open later than most things in sleepier than I like Boston, is the impeccable Brookline Booksmith. The delightful Globe Corner in Harvard square closed but gratefully the Booksmith assumed a great deal of their map and travel collection. Wanderlust denizens, rejoice!

For more travel, lingering, and reading literary magazines without purchasing them I actually admit I love the Barnes and Noble in disguise Harvard Coop. The down the street independent The Harvard Bookstore is not actually a part of Harvard but that doesn’t stop tourists from always asking where the sweatshirts are when they walk in. It is a great all around bookstore though, with strong academic and non-fiction sections as well as a solid used book cellar.

Every year Brian and I also find ourselves at Schoenhof’s in Harvard Square, a hidden foreign language bookstore with a deep catalogue of French and Spanish titles plus a lovely staff.

I have a special spot in my heart for Black Ink in Harvard Square or Beacon Hill for the finding the best offbeat gift, card, or special thing you are lusting after.

Oona’s in Harvard Square is for everything you dreamed your vintage closet could be someday.

For handmade gifts I’m a fan of Olive and Grace. I’ll often stop by on the days before christmas for an extra gift.

 

Trips out of the city:

deCordova is a hidden gem of modern art and rolling sculpture park greens making it perfect for an afternoon adventure.

West Concord has the best bread and sandwiches in a cozy shop plus of course Concord itself has charm and Walden Pond is a childhood favorite.

Mass Moca is worth that zip car trip out west.

And for the record, I actually love the cold, rocky New England beaches north of the city.

Also, most of New England isn’t far from a car trip, either. You can be in Salem, Portland Maine, the White Mountains, or the New Hampshire Seacoast in a few hours at most.

 

Pastrami on Rye

katzI’m thankful for Katz’s Delicatessen, perhaps too much.  This love affair started in college during an immigrant’s history class when we took a culinary walking tour of the Lower East Side. After I devoured a knish at Yonah Schimmel’s faster than humanly possible (it was free) we emerged into Katz’s. Then I finally greeted the joy of pastrami on rye under those neon lights, walls plastered with celebrities who’ve dined there.

A jewish deli that’s been around since 1888 is a perfect emblem of New York City’s past and future; it’s the immigrant’s foodways become American, become everyday.

These days I enjoy stopping in for dinner, splitting a pastrami on rye with a plate of pickles with Brian. It’s hard to imagine but I do enjoy that it’s a place simultaneously full of tourists and locals mingling over plates, taking photos near the notorious When Harry Met Sally table.  When you’re out for a few drinks but haven’t had dinner, Katz’s is also there for you.

The small ritual of tasting the pastrami at the busy counter before they make your sandwich is always welcoming. I have never delighted more in the tart, tangy bite of mustard and meat than when at Katz’s. As the meat disappears, I pick up stray pieces of pastrami, dipping them into leftover mustard because I have no shame. Please don’t order the sandwich on white bread with mayo,  embrace the mustard!

In thinking about this love of pastrami the other day I realized I’d never been the other long standing pastrami haven Carnegie Deli.  Since it’s closing in December, uptown we went. We sidestepped the tourist line to sit down, getting the pastrami on rye to go. We ate at almost dark at the edge of Central Park. It was different than Katz’s, I think a bit fatties, but we devoured it all nonetheless.  We made several hungry dog friends that evening. Each bite attracted a new strolling pup.

Later still hungry on a Friday evening,  we wandered into a Momofuku milk bar. We ate both a confetti cookie and a cereal milk soft serve with rainbow sprinkles.

In thinking about pastrami, and these weird and scary times in our country, I find solace in the food of New York City. A love of pastrami is like a love of a diverse city. From the Jewish Deli to the Korean American David Chang’s food empire, all that’s good on our plates seems to come from cultures meeting in cities.

Much of the noise following the election is that our coastal cities, and those cities across the country even, are liberal bastions at odds with the real America of the rural inner America.  I’m not sure why that invalidates cities as real America, though. Real america is also encountering other people, from what they look like, where they’ve come from, how they’re different and similar to us, and what they eat.

New York City, the iconic prototype of the immigrant city, will never stop being an immigrant palate’s delight. And I’m thankful for that! Let’s hope it stays that way. 

A Personal Geography of a New York City Breakfast

breakfast

 

The night is fading as my preferred time to be awake in the city. The morning has that new feeling of home, both because of age (thirty in three months, how’d I grow up this fast?) as well as the fact that I’m one of the many who work in lower manhattan, repeating those morning rituals on city blocks with strangers. 

There is a real promise in breakfast that I’m beginning to love, from preparing it at home to indulging in a deli sandwich in the park. As I get older, I’m struck about how the city is here for everyone at different points of their lives, at different times of day even, with all our cumulative experiences defining the same place but often never converging. New York might be a place for the night revelers always (I hope so) but the morning is a quiet, other side to the city, a slice of the day that can we enjoyed liked nothing else. 

My personal breakfast geography begins with a simple breakfast at home,usually.  What is better than your apartment, that sanctuary against the city, with the ritual of making a meal and brewing coffee? My kitchen breakfast is toast and coffee eaten with the radio on either in the kitchen standing up (less time) or in the living room, on the couch with a book. The weekend is reserved for to crepes (Brian) pancakes (me), or eggs with arugula and toast (both of us.) During the week, I only make it through one cup of my french press, knowing that by Saturday I’ll be able to drink the entire pot. 

I drink coffee all over the city, from everywhere. I mean it.  I drink coffee from the deli that I can only purchase in quarters pilfered from bedside jean pockets to fancy cups lingered over in coffee shops on my route to work or as a reason for a walk on a Sunday afternoon. While I drink a cup high and low I don’t have a favorite New York City coffee shop, I think the ability to find it everywhere is the most charming. Lately I particularly like to splurge on a cortado from Toby’s Estate, with the hidden Strand in the back, since it’s near to my office and makes me feel a little bit like Aziz Ansari. 

On my way to work, if i’m feeling lucky, I’ll indulge with an everything bagel, not toasted because they’re fresh in the morning. I take mine every time with veggie cream cheese.There are so many bagels and I’m terrible at the game of best-of but I’m a standard girl with Terrace Bagels and Murray’s bagels because they cross paths with my life. If not a bagel, it’s two eggs and cheese with bacon on a roll from whatever deli crosses my path. Currently my deli is called 666 deli! What an omen, I think.

Many days are just bananas from the fruit sellers, an unexpected joy of living in New York City. When you can get fresh fruit all over, such a regular street companion, I tend to stop noticing how frequent fruit sellers are. The local fruit man by work always promises me he’s giving me the only good deal on blueberries and bananas in town. I think he might tell that to every customer, but a girl can dream. 

There is much to be had in the quick, fancy breakfast, too. The pursuit of a perfect chocolate croissant keeps me eying pastry counters, popping into coffee shops to see what they’ve got. All bets are off if they’ve got a a chocolate almond croissant. I’ve recently discovered though that the pretzel croissants at City Bakery are an amazing savory morning twist on the sweet croissant tradition.

On a weekend morning, especially in the summer, I love to split a Breads Bakery babka in Union Square with Brian. Actually, everything at Breads Bakery is out of this world indulgent.

But really, is New York the capital of brunch? If I’m being honest, I like to skip out on brunch. I’ll take a diner truck stop special over most brunches unless it’s Miriam in Park Slope because nothing convinces me like Mediterranean meets middle eastern food to stop and eat saucy eggs. In our corner of the city in Ditmas Park Brooklyn,  I’m less a fan of brunch (too much waiting) than a good coffee shop breakfast. Our local stop is Quathra on the charming strip of Cortelyou, where you can linger with coffee and a plate from their breakfast menu without the rush and crowds of brunch. There back garden is perfect for summer. I’m a waffles or spicy eggs girl there too.  

Anyway, I’m here for breakfast. I like to trace my way around the city in mornings.

 

Sushi Yasuda

sushiyasuda

When Brian turned thirty this past January we looked high and low for a few indulgent things to do in New York City. The thing is, so many of the fancy restaurants don’t keep my interest for very long. Give me a plate of dumplings or slice of good pizza and I’ll be more happy than I am with tiny plates of foraged mushrooms at every-other-farm-to-table-restaurant or upscale Italian joint in the city.

Ahem, but sushi, I’m ready to burn a hole in my pocket for sushi.  Elegant fish prepared piece by piece is exactly the kind of thing worthy a big milestone. So after a bit of a research, we decided that Sushi Yasuda was perfect for marking an entire new decade.

sushi_yasuda_one

Sushi Yasuda is one of the top sushi restaurants in Manhattan even if Mr. Yasuda has moved on. It’s tucked away on a nondescript block near Grand Central. The simple layout has an understated elegance, the kind of light and minimal restaurant I’ve already created fantasy narratives about visiting Japanese business travelers stopping in for dinner.

For the full experience, the kind worthy of splurging for because that’s what you’re going to do here, we sat at the bar for the Omakase set where the chef prepares the sushi meal piece by piece for you. There was no set menu or price when took our spot at the warm colored bar. We didn’t even order drinks, instead sipping green tea that is generously refilled by attentive waiters. The only question we were asked was what we didn’t want before the chef began. I decided I didn’t want to try sea urchin, but Brian did, fish being one of the few times he’s more adventurous with food than me. When we weren’t supposed to use soy sauce he let us know, which I loved, because of course we’re woefully unaware Americans. Often he’d set down a trio of fish, my favorite being variations of salmon. He’d note for us if something was flown in from Japan. Each bite was velvety and rich, the right balance of fatty fish to sushi rice’s slight sweetness, with a hint of wasabi underneath.

sushi_yasuda_two

The older Sushi chef had a sweet smile, a bit of a quiet wit. He laughed when he asked us if we were finished after what felt like a million years marked in single pieces of fish. When the bill was paid we left,  it was lightly raining in the city but warm for a January so we decided to stroll across town, thinking we’d probably never dine that well again because to be honest, some roundtrip plane tickets are cheaper.

Sushi Yasuda
204 East 43rd Street
New York, New York 10017
212-972-1001
www.sushiyasuda.com

 

Favorite Bookstores of Brooklyn

bookstores_of_BK

Word / Spoonbill & Sugartown / Powerhouse Arena / Idlewild / Unnameable / Bookcourt* / Greenlight / Community Bookstore / Terrace Books / Freebird

I have a habit of keeping visual notes of the best things, from what I’ve eaten to days I’ve spent. Bookstores in New York City are on the top of my best things list in life. Even if they’re fewer than before–I still miss the old Rizzoli space, sigh!– they’re still numerous enough to keep me happy. I often just plan a weekend day with Brian around ending up in a bookstore. After sketching my favorite Manhattan bookstores, it took me a while and an illustration class project to get them all down.

My favorite of the favorites is probably Unnameable because it’s the right mix of new and old, as well as in the perfect location for meandering around stores in Prospect Heights. Who doesn’t want Ample Hills AND a book on a Saturday bike ride? A close second is Community Bookstore in Park Slope because it’s cat is on the cover of a Japanese book about bookstore cats. I love a bookstore cat.

*update Feb 2017 Bookcourt closed! But soon enough Emma Straub is opening Books Are Wonderful in the ‘hood.