Happy Summer (almost) Coney Island Art Walls

http://www.ninachanel.com/
Nina Chabel Anbney
John Ahearn

I don’t know why but I’ve under visited Coney Island in the past few years. To remedy the situation the other Sunday we woke up and headed straight to the beach during a late Spring heatwave that I think is  a harbinger of a humid Summer season to come.

The beach was packed in that great, characters-of -New-York way. I forgot to bring my sketchbook instead reading the Sunday paper in the sand.

I was particularly energized by the Coney Island Art Walls for the season, presenting a diverse set of local artists. Nina Chanel Abney’s work is a riveting set of political abstraction and figuration. She is one to watch in contemporary art.

Here’s to more Coney Island for the season to come.

To do: Beach lounge and dip your feet into the water! Luna Park. People watch. Coney Island Art walls, walk the boardwalk and peer. Weekend fireworks and Spinners games are next on my list.

Eat: Coney Island Brewery. Hot dogs, duh.

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Swedish Things in The City

Two year’s ago I took a week long trip to Stockholm because (of course) the flight was a great deal. Flying Norwegian, we spent our days just walking the city, stopping for coffee, and enjoying the late setting sun.

I think all the residents of Stockholm were out that week in May, basking in this eternal sun after a long winter, lounging in the many parks that dot this city of islands. I’m not sure I’ve been to such a lush, European city of water and trees before.

Everywhere we went we were greeted by warm, lovely people and distinct art and food. Ever since I’ve harbored a Scandinavian crush.

For a slice of Sweden in New York City, here are a few noteworthy to me:

Coco Balls! I remember eating these both at a cafe for fika, the art of a slow downed coffee break, and at the airport before leaving. They’re chewy, dense, and satisfyingly sweet with coconut on the outside. I have yet to ventured a try at making them myself but the Swedish inspired coffee shop in Brooklyn and Manhattan Swedish coffee shop Konditori. The owner is a swede transplanted to Brooklyn. They stock other fika delights like kanelbulle, too.

Another alluringly but strange snack I enjoyed in Sweden was salty-sweet licorice. I learned it’s quite an acquired taste, though.  Luckily for me (and all you New Yorkers who don’t know it yet) you can find all your licorice delights and more at Sockerbit on Bleeker Street in Manhattan

Even before I went to Sweden, wooden clogs were ever so trendy in New York City. I bought my first pair of many at the Brooklyn Flea by Nina Z, a Swedish expat who brought the well known wooden shoe to Brooklyn in 2008.   I’ve just about worn my pair into the ground. A hint to those who lust after her beautiful clogs: she often has a sale section at the Brooklyn Flea.  I very much love the summer collection styles this year.

I hope to get back to Sweden someday. If not, I’ll be grateful a momentary glimpse at another place, finding the city’s imprint right here in my own.

 

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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

 

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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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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.

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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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Sketching, Spending Time at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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I love going to The Met but never in a large amount of unstructured time. It’s because I’ve finally been back in New York City long enough that I find a particular joy in repeat patterns of my own city life and in also knowing my limits with any cultural activity.

Almost three years back and I want to be an old lady, shuffling past everyone to see exactly what I want and nothing more. I want to complain about tourists under my breath while also being a tourist for a Sunday. I want to be too tired to see too many galleries, asking for lunch and an afternoon cup of coffee by the time I’ve gone up and down the main stairs twice. I want friends to tug me along to what they want to see until we can see no more, knowing that my hunger will triumph when you reach those immense front steps, warm or cold air hitting at once.

The hot dog stands out front are my forever friends. Once, drawing one of them, they came over to look at my notebook.

 

favorites_themet

It’s all about knowing my mood while there. It’s about finding favorite galleries and repeating them I move on.

I love finding the Chinese Court most times, even if I’m really looking for the bathroom. If you know your way around The Met, I commend you. I’m perpetually lost inside. On the way, though, I like to stop to take in those immense Buddhas, considering with respect the simple question: how did they get these in here?

The stark arts of the Northern Renaissance will always have a sway. I’ll stare at Netherlandish portraits over and over, both because they’re funnily giving you a side glance with shaming eyes and because they’re just so viscerally real. They look like real people, like the people on the streets, I always think, except in lots of black and white cloaks which is actually not that wholly different from New Yorker’s black wardrobe today.  

Portrait of Madame X  by Sargent is a favorite. Maybe it’s my New England yankee in me. I remember going into Boston to see Sargent’s work, both my artist mother and grandmother admiring his work. Perhaps a proto-feminist narrative lurking behind that falling dress, that scandalous barren shoulder, keeps me looking.

Another favorite is in the captivating Islamic galleries. The repeat patterns of the Iranian prayer niche, a mosaic of stunning color from 755, is arresting. It’s also a moment place to stop and consider how such scared, ancient items make their way into a museum in New York City, and what cultural exchange could (should?) look like under other circumstances.

I walked right past Woody Allen and Sun Yi back in December, right smack dab in front of the museum. I think might be the most New York  moment I’ve experienced yet. Goodbye its over for me, I’ll never have another Met moment like this. But I’ll keep coming back. I’ve got rooms to find before I die.

 

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A Few of My Favorite Manhattan Bookstores

bookstoresofmanhattan

Once in a New York City bookstore I saw a framed map of long gone great bookstores of Manhattan.  I’m paying homage to that literary map of Manhattan by noting a few of my current favorites.  Bookstores come and go so fast but let’s hope the city is never without them.

A Bookstore tour of Manhattan:

  1. Book Culture: This is full of academic,  used, and nice spot for browsing
  2. Kitchen Arts and  Letters: All cookbooks! Enough said.
  3. The Corner Bookstore: Classic Upper East Side bookstore.
  4. Albertine: French language books in a beautiful 5th Ave mansion.
  5. Kinokuniya: The Japanese chain delights with extensive collection and of course Japanese reading material too./
  6. Rizzoli: Art books everywhere.
  7. Idlewild: Travel guides and foreign language.
  8. The Strand: Iconic, a classic.
  9. Union Square Barnes and Noble: A chain but the best of it, perfect browsing spot.
  10. McNally Jackson: Champion indie, good for a cup of coffee too.
  11. Posman Books: Another champion indie, with several locations around the city.
  12. and a tiny hidden Strand

 

 

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Emily Pizza in Brooklyn

pizzabyemily

 

I could eat pizza everyday in New York City though I try not to for the sake of variety. In my quest pizza, I keep coming back to Emily in Clinton Hill though. They’ve got those artisan styled pizzas with great toppings, a kind of new-Brooklyn-style-pie. The Colony has honey on it which is fast becoming my favorite pizza addition.

EMILY

919 Fulton St.
Brooklyn NY 11238

 

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