Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Change is Good

My blogging routine of almost four months now is about to be interrupted for almost two weeks!  It's become a true routine, in that I look forward to seeking out things I'd like to share in writing and then configuring ways in my head and on my laptop to present them.

Already I feel I will miss it, like one misses a dear friend.  In the meantime, I'll write, and that's good, too. 

Even if I wanted to blog from where I'm headed, it wouldn't happen.  There are just some (few) places one can't blog on Blogger.  

And that's where I'm headed.

Ni hao.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Start "Spreading" the News

A new food discovery is fun.  It feels like finding buried treasure, or at least I imagine it does as I have not yet unearthed buried treasure, nor have I even looked.  But I do see new food items, from time to time, even if I also am not even looking.  And, when feeling adventurous, I am often willing to put one into the shopping basket.  

I recently found two worthy of note. Each may not be everyone's cup of tea (no tea at all, in fact), but since when is any food item going to please everyone?

With that caveat, I begin.  I seek out nonfat dairy products.  Not low fat, nonfat.  This is truly the needle-in-the-haystack challenge.  This includes cheese.  And when you exclude the fake cheese, soy cheese, etc., there's not much left.  Accordingly, it's been a long time since I've had cream cheese to spread on my bagel or toast.  Sigh.  But the other day at Barzini's, I noticed this small container in the dairy case -
Tnuva Quark Creamy Soft Cheese
I had absolutely no idea what it was, but it had that big "0g" and "Fat Free" on the side, so I decided to give it a go.  Well, it's a hit, a home run!  It's not cream cheese; don't get excited.  But it's not fake cheese either and doesn't taste like fake cheese.  Quark cheese is a Mediterranean cheese, and this brand is Israeli.  It has a texture between cream cheese and sour cream and it's spreadable.  The taste is a tiny bit tart, almost as if cream cheese had a dollop of plain yogurt mixed in.  It's perfect on my favorite Eli's raisin bread toast.  I'm very happy with this discovery.

And then there's being bad.  Dessert and snack bad, not something really horrible.  From my new fun time-waster of reading other people's blogs, I learn so many useful things, such as two bloggers from Paris who have recently shouted from the mountain-tops the magical virtues of Lotus Bischoff Spread, which in France is called spéculoos (with such a cute name that also gives away nothing in terms of what's inside the jar, how'd they come up with this)? 
I had to search through a few stores on the Upper West Side and got some funny looks and responses  from the store clerks, but I finally found it.  Honestly, though, now I can't remember where!  I can't believe it, because it's really good, in small doses.  How to explain it - well, it's like a cookie, but it's a cream of the cookie.  You use it like Nutella or peanut butter.  OK, you will just have to try it yourself.  

Oh, is it 0% fat?  No, it's got a few percentage points over that in fat content.  But I can't be a monk, can I?  And I was just so curious and so enjoyed the hunt.  

And now I'll have to do it all over again.  At least I have a $1 off coupon, and you do, too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Caffeinated Weekends - Kava Cafe

Just south of, and practically in the shadow of, the High Line, resides Kava Cafe.  This place is extra special, so run, bike or walk, but however you get there, go. 

I really get a kick out of finding something totally unexpected like this.  Kava is only about six months old.  When it gets "discovered," it will become something huge (but selfishly I hope not).  I loved it just the way I found it the other morning on one of our hot and sticky July days. 

OK, deep breath, now for the description.  It's a sleek Italian espresso bar, as I might dream in my most lavish rendering.  Polished black and brass shine throughout, a practically one-of-a-kind espresso maker from La Marzocco, lots of room to stand or sit at Kava's long bars, and best of all (besides the excellent espresso drinks using Stumptown beans) is the huge garden out back, filled with cedar tables and chairs, and completely shaded by enormous leafy trees.
Gelato, too
The perfect shaded garden
The perfect iced latte in the perfect garden
The sleek Milano-style espresso bar and rich terrazzo floor.
Kava's offerings
No detail left undesigned
(A really nice New York Times review and photos are here for more info.  The review is from January, though, and doesn't mention the garden.)

Perfect location, perfect garden.  Done.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New York When It Sizzles

Not to beat a dead horse (I'll skip the heat/dead horse possibilities here), but it's really quite uncomfortable outside.  This is New York when it's over 100 degrees and breaking temperature records.  Not bad-looking in any temperature, though, it usually has a few more people running the Reservoir than I found yesterday.
Yes, I know, I also heard the news alerts to stay indoors, but I'm not always a good listener.  I guess others took those alerts more seriously.

But some people really don't have a choice,  and I saw a number of them - delivery guys for UPS, construction workers, furniture movers, news stand and fruit stand vendors, bicycle delivery guys, and anyone (including me) standing on a subway platform, where the air refuses to move and feels easily 20 degrees hotter than above-ground.

And for others, who might even have the option to stay inside an air conditioned apartment all day, sometimes even with that lucky opportunity, it's just impossible to stay inside.  I'm talking about spending an entire day with small children who get cabin fever pretty early in the day.  I've been there, though it now seems a lifetime ago.  So I just had to laugh when I saw this in front of the Manhattan Children's Museum at opening time - a long line of moms and caregivers waiting patiently with their charges in the beastly heat, each hoping for their respective nirvana:  the kids wishing for friends to play with and new activities to engage in, and the grown-ups just praying for a cool place to sit down to wait out the hot sun and/or the energy of the kids, whichever comes first.

We've got another one today.  Stay indoors, East Coast.  Today, I'm listening.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Such Heat!

Global warming it is then!  Or perhaps not.  One could argue the point, but who has the energy?  It's just too darn hot.  So, I went out on a hunt for just what one can do in such heat, if one strangely chooses to leave the confines of an air-conditioned space and spend time outdoors, as I attempted yesterday (all in the name of research, as I often say, but this research, alas, didn't involve any calories).

I think this little girl running through the sprinkler in the Union Square playground fountain has the best idea, and certainly won the prize for Appearing to Most Enjoy the Heat (she's not crying, believe me, and watching her dash around in and through that sprinkler with abandon was a riot):
Most everyone else just seemed to slow down, find some shade and do what they would ordinarily do, but with as little movement as possible:
playing chess
playing with toys
wearing costumes and performing childrens' theater, really
finding the shade and grass and just lying there
eating lunch
reading under umbrella
Kindle and iced coffee
And then there were those in great numbers who just didn't seem to understand that it was 95 degrees.  But when you're a tourist, you have to play with the cards you're dealt, and if you really want to see a Broadway show, then you really want to see a Broadway show (and I don't blame them).  I would have been happy to explain the online option for discount tickets if anyone had wanted to listen:
crowd and hours long line at the TKTS booth in Times Square - no shade at all
In the end, who did I most wish to emulate yesterday?  This mom:
back to the water...
Why should only the kids get to have fun while staying cool?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Looking Up

I can look up from a New York street and, if I squint just enough to close out the skyscrapers (and put my fingers in my ears to muffle the loud American voices and honking taxis), I can see Paris (or some other American vision of European architecture of some past era).  Well, just a little bit, and enough to make me realize that I need a trip to Europe, pronto!  

A July spent in New York (after a June spent in New York) filled with European tourists is just digging it in unfairly.  Ha ha, though, the last laugh might be ours - it's going to be 100 degrees today and tomorrow here, and it's barely into the 60s in Paris.  Come to think of it, I'll take that trade!
It's the Plaza Hotel, but the combo rooftop is definitely some kind of Euro.
I have no idea.  Any guesses? 
Paris, bien sûr!
Paris aussi.
A bit of Renaissance Italy?
A Bavarian Castle?  Or Hogwarts?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sunday Marché on Columbus Avenue

Seen on a sunny summer Sunday in July - 
Jersey Beefsteak Tomatoes
Jersey Peaches - they were yummy
Plants, Flowers and Herbs
Lavender - "Here!  Try one!"
Long Island Corn
I didn't even have to sit on a train or bus or expressway traffic in the heat for hours!  Just a quick five-minute walk from my Manhattan home on a Sunday morning, and there it is.  These neighborhood farmers' markets have really improved and grown over recent years.  Just click on the link to see how many and where they are located throughout NYC.  They now sell so many things besides produce, such as baked goods, cheeses, meats, freshly caught fish, and even ostrich meat and eggs!

It's a wonderful thing (and selfishly it benefits me, too) that more and more of my fellow New Yorkers show such a serious interest in the origin and quality of what they consume.  I hadn't been making a Sunday farmers' market shopping excursion part of my routine, but after I saw how quickly my impulse purchase of six peaches were consumed at home by three people (the same day!), it's definitely going to become a regular part of my weekend.  

There really is a difference between the taste of peaches from the market and peaches from the store, even if the sign says they're "local."  There's another important difference, too.   They're tree-ripened so they're ready to eat NOW.  The downside of that is they better get eaten now.  They're not going to ripen over the next few days; they're just going to rot.  That's the thinking, of course, behind the daily visit to a local market that customarily exists in many places, but not in the United States where we usually bulk up once a week or so (and then bulk up literally).  But I prefer the daily shopping - I buy just what I'm going to use and also don't have to decide on what I'm going to have for dinner until just a few hours before I'm going to eat it.  So much more satisfying and, to me, far easier.

Ah, New York. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Drinking and Glasses Shopping

Three courses of a lovely French meal in a café garden as the sun sets, a glass of rosé and good conversation.  The perfect formula for an evening that can end in many ways.  Need I say more?  (OK, in fact, I was out with one of my best friends, but that's besides the point.)

Imagine my surprise then when I found that my post-dessert activity turned out to be buying two new pair of glasses at Tina Catherine, the coolest store on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea we just happened to fall into on our post-dinner promenade to the #1 train.  Well, they do say that alcohol lowers the resistance; so true...they should hand out beer and wine in department stores.

But I am not at all unhappy - quite the contrary! These glasses are the best, the boutique is sleek and easy to shop, and the young proprietors are lovely.  The team consists of two great guys with excellent taste and an optician who is relaxed and knows what he's doing.  They all make it way too easy to select a pair (or two) of beautiful, well-fitting - and very cool - glasses.  

Of course, after I made my purchases and then left them there for the prescription lenses to be ordered, I wondered on the street (and the morning after) what the heck I'd just done (you know, the usual remorse in the aftermath of dining, drinking and spending).  
I need not have worried.  My glasses are now a week old and I still can't bring myself to put in my contacts rather than wear these amazing glasses.

What I loved most, aside from the owners themselves, is the tight and well-edited collection.  Tina Catherine is not full of the designer names that are stamped on everything from perfume to shoes and towels.  The glasses they offer are names one may or may not know - Cutler&Gross, Dita, Lafont, OliverPeoples and Persol.  These are styles that are beautifully crafted and simply designed (but not trendy in a way that will no longer be so in a month).  I could have walked out with everything in the shop; that's how good they are.

But no need to take my word for it.  Go "see" for yourself.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Caffeinated Weekends - Kaffe 1668

For some reason, Kaffee 1668 in Tribeca is all about lambs and cartoon art.  The large wall cartoon art distracted me from placing my order, for a while.  I kept ducking around and through (and probably irritated) the seated patrons so I wouldn't miss any of them.  That's reason enough to stop in; they're clever.

The entire cartoon art collection is on their website; it, too, is worth a visit (and much easier to accomplish than a personal visit, of course, if you're not in New York).

But Kaffe 1668 isn't just kitsch and cartoons.  The coffee and tea offerings (yes, tea) are serious and varied - six single origin coffees and loads of teas (and the homemade brownies, etc., to go with it)!  Also, the ambiance is excellent for getting some work or reading done.  Chairs and tables are abundant, and the room is quiet.  

If concentration is lost for a moment or two, read the cartoons or play with the furry toy lambs.  No one will mind.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Free Hugs

I'm all in favor of sharing good will toward man (and woman), really.  But this one I just couldn't see my way to steer towards.
On a hot, sticky Saturday in July at Union Square, hurtling towards the subway station with other things on my mind, two pairs of new hiking boots and walking sticks in a large Paragon bag hanging at the end of one arm and a large bag of fresh peaches from the Union Square Greenmarket hanging off the other,  the thought of stopping to get a hug from a total stranger was so far down the list, in fact it wasn't even on the list.  Besides, as my walking companion ventured (he being 21 and honest), "eh, no one looks interesting to hug anyway."  Yikes!

And that was that.  Have a great weekend, all.  Hugs!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Storm the ...

Bastille Day, part deux (ou trois, but it's the last, I promise, for 2011).  

The fête on the street in front of Café Cercle Rouge in Tribeca was just too good a photo op to resist, and the weather was perfect.  So how could I not indulge, drink a little St. Germain liqueur and Lillet (not at once) and share? 
Traditional game of pétanque
French music.  La Marseillaise was played often.
Incredible dancing couple.  Love that beret!
Footwork perfection
More pétanque.
Who's winning?
Food and drink and super hats
the St Germain liqueur stand (it's just a poster, and no one seemed to notice)
Good stuff, made of elderflower blossoms
the pièce de résistance, literally
and what would a French fête be without a can-can?