Carmen Herrera at the Whitney

http://www.artnews.com/2015/06/05/dont-be-intimidated-about-anything-carmen-herrera-at-100/
https://news.artnet.com/market/carmen-herrera-turns-100-303360

Being twenty nine so far has been weird, wonderful, and difficult. Being a young woman is a similar mix. And not to mention that trying to find creative meaning and practice in life–I don’t equate that with a creative job, I follow Virginia Wolf’s Room of One Own’s guide to always having your own–is also similarly a trifecta of deliciously hard.

In thinking about the struggle of women for creative recognition, this fall I discovered Carmen Herrera through her first major exhibit in more than two decades at The Whitney. She’s 100 years old and finally getting a retrospective! That fact alone made me smile. Just thinking about her tough attitude on art makes me feel like it’s easier to get anything done in life, creative or not. It’s the kind of attitude I want for 2017.

Herrera is a Cuban American artist, a part of the history of abstract expressionism in the 20th century and yet she’ve never quite got her due like this, never had her rightful time the sun. She didn’t even sell her first painting until 89,  if you can believe it. She was born in Cuba, moved to New York and Paris, and found her voice in the early 1950’s as other more well known male abstract expressionists were taking the scene.

Her minimalist, arresting painting described as “an art of crisp, clear straight lines, of pure color and pure shape. Her paintings are cut to their bare minimum, but it would be wrong to describe them as sparse or restrained. Their solid colors are arranged so that they teem with energy, whether effervescent

 

I feel as though this story, her work of strong, straight lines composed with bright and visually powerful colors, can resonate with anyone, especially this year, especially with women who strive for things outside themselves.
Her exhibit is up through January 9th, a good way to ring in the New Year.

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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.

 

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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. 

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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.

 

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Late Summer in the Hudson Valley

Summer is almost gone, only days away from ending! New York City seems to say goodbye around Labor day but I like to stretch it out, languishing in that humidity a little bit more.

This summer was packed with mini-trips for me since I usually skip a vacation in the summer in favor of off-season big ticket travel. This year it was excursions to the beach, events around the city, a weekend to Washington DC, trips up the hudson, and a yearly stay a lake house with my close lady friends in Connecticut.

Saying goodbye to the sun and lounges in the park is a bit hard, but I’m a bit conventional (ahem, basic) when it comes to the leaves changing.  Like a born New Englander, I want all seasons to have an end so I can keep looking forward, it’s that anxious Puritan spirit in me. 

I’ve been reminiscing about a later summer trip around the Hudson a trio of us ladies took. Now that a dear friend of mine lives on the edges of Westchester and Hudson County in the city of Peekskill, I’ve been making more regular trips to explore the  region. All of the stops the trio of us made on a weekend trip would also be great for the fall getaway out of the city. A car is necessary to galavant around  with ease,  but it is easy to make any locale in the general region your base for exploring. 

I’m hoping to make more time to explore the area this coming season, dipping my toes into the Catskills, now that a beautiful Victorian in Peekskill is a frequent friend base!


Our Weekend Itinerary

Peekskill Brewery

You can make it up to Peekskill on the Metronorth easily and the town is accessible by foot. Luckily still, the Peekskill Brewery is right by the train station. We traveled up early on a Friday for a happy hour at the bar.

I’ve been spotting their brews around the city now, too. I’m a fan of their sour draft. Pick up a growler for the weekend!

A general fan of Peekskill,  there are a few great spots to eat in town too.  Check out Birdsall for brunch if you’re headed to that way either to or from NYC.

Vernooy Falls

The hike was a delightful trek up a moderate path to a series of shallow and cool waterfall pools, a carved picturesque scene. The three of us braved the icy mountain water, dipping our bodies in. I pretended the pools has a magical quality to will my body in the cold water. 

We stayed in an airbnb cabin for a night in the Catskills, driving to the falls trail on a Saturday afternoon after we checked-in. It was the highlight of our quick weekend jaunt! 

Phoenicia Diner

We couldn’t turn down stopping in at the a trendy (dare I say…hickster) spot in the Catskills. The wait was around a half hour given the Sunday crowd but we enjoyed the scene, sipping cups of coffee before eating at the bar. The food was a fancier take on the filling diner standards, with nice accents like great jam and a pleasant asthma charm from the place mats to the decor. 

New Paltz

The city of New Paltz served as a charming stop on our ambling drive back home on Sunday. We made a point of asking our waitress at the diner where we could do some quick antique browsing before we headed to New Paltz. She recommended the Antique Barn, which turned out to be a nice area to stop and eat ice cream in the late summer heat heat.  Next time I’m in the area, I’d love to explore Mohonk Mountain.

The Bradley Farm

On the outskirts of New Paltz there is a small farm with a petting zoo of sorts that features a small brewery called Pull Brewing. We stopped in, admiring the ripe tomatoes and tasting all the beers on tap, then enjoyed a draft in the yard.  It was a nice time to have drink and meet goats, a first of its kind imbibing experience. 

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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

 

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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.

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Ruminating on Tokyo Street Style

Tokyo_Street_Style

Am I turning into one of those people, those Americans, obsessed with Japan? Every time an artist I follow on Instagram makes it to Tokyo I go crazy with a fury of likes, wistful stares at rain-soaked alleys of izakayas.

It’s no wonder that though my trip was last fall, I keep sketching and thinking about what I did, saw, and ate in Japan. Just recently I remembered I bought a few style magazines in the airport for all the wonderful Tokyo street style images. I’ve been sketching the silhouettes of Harajuku-styled women from their pages lately.

The best street style was of course found around Harajuku and then Shibuya. But I also just enjoyed the understated everyday look of Japanese women. Observing the culottes, the exaggerated shapes, the love of back packs and sneakers was enough of a reason to wander the city, stopping on benches, lingering in department stores.

Thankfully Kinokuniya by Bryant Park stocks a million and one Japanese fashion magazines.

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A Late Winter Trip to Paris

paris_blog_guide

A life of Francophilia

I never left the country as a kid. Our family vacations didn’t even extend to Canada despite living in New England. Instead, we drove from our house to Cape Cod or to New Jersey.

The first time I actually left the country though was to Paris when I was twenty-four. Brian and I persuaded a family friend to let us stay in their tiny apartment right by the markets of Rue Monge. A free place to stay in Paris is always a thing you take someone up on, even if you’re broke.

Ever since, I’ve been (not-so-secretly) fixated on France. Not because I’m particularly a skilled being a francophile. My french begins and ends with cordial interactions in stores and a taste for ye-ye pop tunes on spotify. I think it’s just that feeling of first leaving the country, emerging into that lost aura of a lack of language, that sticks in my gut.

Though we travelled with friends who hadn’t been to Paris before, it felt like a a different kind of trip for me, like a return where I could be nostalgic but also feel changed, ignoring the touristy things I didn’t feel compelled to do, returning to places I went to before, all while assembling a scrapbook in my head.

Arriving

This return to Paris happened serendipitously because we found incredibly cheap one way tickets to Paris on Wow Airlines (yes that is a real airline name that flew us across the Atlantic.) The flight was 99 dollars one way, though it involved a particularly interesting connecting flight in the dead of early morning in the Icelandic snow. I’d totally do it again for the right circumstances, but might just fly NYC to Paris direct next time. It would be a fantastic way to just get to Iceland, though. Think backpacker-style when booking. I excel at packing in a carry-on now!

Staying in Paris

We rented a unique duplex apartment-meets-house in the 11th arrondissement, with many beds and two little garden terraces.

Bastille meets Oberkampf felt local, like a not-so-touristy place to call home for a week. There were several Parisian-style brasseries and cafes situated on Rue Voltaire, ones where you could sit without much hassle with a single espresso, a single glass of wine. Nearer to the actual Bastille, ambling down side streets,  you could find small stores, coffee shops, and a larger variety of food and nightlife that felt more New York City than Paris.

The neighborhood buzzed with the life of regular Parisians, not tourists. Though right near the attack sites of last November, it was not sullen. People were eating, drinking, and lining up for baguettes like you’d imagine.

Near the end of our trip, a student protest roarer up Rue Voltaire with a few break-off individuals smashing bank windows. We followed the protest a little bit, strolling blocks behind, watching the gendarmerie block off streets. After stopping in a cafe to use a bathroom, a woman behind the bar switched to English to explain that students protesting were normal. Welcome to France she said to me, handing over an espresso I bought to use the toilet, a bit sardonically.

Our Week

Walking, Viewing & Arting in Paris 

Walking Paris, even in the mid-40s weather, is a must. On foot you can play it off like you’re a local, seeing both streets with halal butchers alongside grand Haussmannian apartments of the Latin quarter.

We walked all over the city,  from Bastille to the Seine to the Marais to the long stroll from the Louvre to the Arch du Triomphe, to the metal chairs of the Luxembourg Gardens, even up the hills to Sacre Coeur. Parisian doors in Saint German des Pres captivated me as we strolled by. We even walked right into Notre Dame, in a jet lag stupor before it closed, still awe struck.

Skipping both Versailles and Louvre–what iconclasts–two of us end up doing a magnificent tour of the Palais Garnier old opera house. On the tour we were even invited in to view the controversial Marc Chagall ceiling while the stage crew set up for the evening’s show.

D’Orsay was the only big, classic Parisian museum I wanted to stop in, even though I’ve been before, because I’ve got a soft spot for Cezanne and Van Gogh and that old train station clock view.

The quizzical Musee Carnavelt is free and a pleasantly strange place to meander, focusing on the urban history of Paris with a flair for the weird.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery was a neat irregular destination to take in during a morning walk. Come for the famed graves, stay for meandering the paths of moss covered stones. If you come early during the week, it’s mostly empty.

But the view from Tour Montpartnasse is worth the wait at dusk. You can see the sunset, staying for the Eiffel tower to glitter at night. Paris, you win, you’re so beautiful, I get it. 

Shopping & Neighborhoods to Meander

My favorite shopping was a trip to the northern edge of the city, near the ring road that marks the boundaries of banlieue, to Marche Puces de Saint-Ouen. I’ve never encountered quite an antique and vintage market that rivals it before. Besides an array of classic french vintage, ceramics, and old bric-a-brac, I enjoyed just exploring the cavernous tunnel of tables.

The streets of the Marais were the best for meandering cafes, shops, and admiring Parisian architecture. Bensimon, that French brand known for minimal tennis flats, has a flagship shop in the Marais, too.  On the edge of the neighborhood is the a curated and designer department store Merci Paris, which is worth a look at the very least for their used bookstore cafe where you can relax as others buy expensive but beautiful things.

Canal Saint-Martin was also a neighborhood full of smaller shop to stroll through, with Artazartthe best art bookstore I’ve been too located right on the canal for sitting and hip people watching.

An unlikely recommendation is the grocery meets department store Monoprix. Check out their French made soaps, they’re about a euro each, making them a perfect budget gift. The beauty department is noteworthy as well as the fact that most of them are also grocery stores. Stock up on butter at Monoprix!

Eating and Drinking

The everyday food of Paris is the food I like the most, the cheap things you can buy on the street or at the generale alimentation: crepes, croissants, macarons, bottles of wine, chocolate mousse, oh and yes the bread.

On the topic of delicious, heavenly bread, I will admit that our group ate 15 baguettes in a week. We liked them that much. You can read for days about finding the best baguette in Paris, but every single one of them is worth ripping into, so who cares which boulangerie you’re getting them from. The smartest tip seemed to be finding the local bakery that had a line in the morning or afternoon, with a peaking view of the actual kitchen in the back so you’d know they were baked on premises.

French butter, the kind just a little salt and bought at any old grocery store, takes a baguette to another level of heaven. Add grocery store 8 euro wine and you’re golden.

A bit fancier than the grocery store but also similarly everyday are the markets of Paris. On our last full day we ate an indoor picnic of cheese, bread, and spreads from the Marche Bastille. I think I’ll be forever chasing the salty texture of the green olive tapenade we bought from a friendly vendor who chatted us in perfect english about his brother in New England.

Local to the Marais, I would recommend the very un-french Cafe sudeois for a taste of Swedish Fika, a cafe full of cakes upon cakes that I could eat again and again. That fresh cream is definitely a good idea, trust me. And lastly, the very-Parisian Jewish Las du Fallafel might be the falafel I’ve ever had, and reason enough to visit the Marais over and over.

But seeing as we were in France, the best actual French meal we ate was had at neighborhood gastropub known for riffs on traditional tartares called Les Deux Cigalle. It’s was a welcoming,  tiny spot with an inviting menu in Montparnasse. Brian ate a tartare but I ate a giant, delicious burger, feeling like a true American in Paris. Turns out Parisian loves burgers, too, so I feel a bit hippier than I had expected now.

Besides that French meal, I really just enjoy the tried and true French cafe, with a waiter who will ignore you yes but who will also let you simply order one glass of wine, or espresso and a croissant for breakfast, nothing more. There’s nothing as pleasing as being able to linger, ordering a chocolate mouse and a large beer because why not.

I think New York City could use a little less rushing in-and-out every day, especially on the weekend when you feel like you’re about to be stampeded for breakfast. I could use a perched table for watching the street any day.

See you next time, France. I’m keeping notes.

 

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Turkish Delight from Kalustyan’s

turkish_delight

I may take for granted that while living in New York, I can find almost any food on any old regular day, no matter the time. I do just that by stopping to buy turkish delight, a sugary gummy confectionary often studded with nuts and flavored with rosewater, in the evening at my local bodega-turned-grocery-store.  Somehow the eastern European owners stock it, tucked away in bins next to cheerios and vitamin water.

My Bulgarian sister-in-law whom grew up eating Turkish delight marvels at its prevalence in the city, from my neighborhood all the way to Brighton Beach, because elsewhere you’ve got to go looking.

I mistakenly forget it’s not normal to eat candy of the world whenever you’re feeling the sweet tooth. The nougat ones, milky white and studded with pistachios, are my best friend.

 

But the truth is that for the best selection of Turkish delight and almost anything else you’ve longed to try and cook with, there is no other place to look than Kalustyan’s in Murray Hill,the Middle Eastern and Indian speciality food and spice emporium operating in Manhattan for forty years. Or as it’s colloquially known, Curry Hill, because of all the indian restaurants that dot that section of Lexington Avenue.

I first came across Kalustyan’s in the back of a cookbook with instructions on just how to find what you’re looking for when the local grocery store doesn’t even stock Goya beans.  Since then, it’s been a yearly pilgrimage spot for me to pick up hard to find dried beans, a beloved prepared spice mix of Ras-Al-Hanout among the other world food items for my kitchen. Not to mention the copious amounts of Turkish delight which is bountiful and the bane of my dentist.

Come to Kalustyan’s to try Turkish delight but definitely stay to try grape leaves or hummus at the cafe, while stocking up on their own brand name of spices.kaluystans

Kalustyan’s
123 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10016

 

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