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Posts Tagged ‘New York City’

What used to be Puttanesca, an Italian restaurant and my neighborhood local, is boarded up and beneath the “Post No Bills” warning, someone scrawled “Love Is The way” in white paint.

This week, someone with more time and more color, embellished the original.

I did love Puttanesca. I doubt the graffiti artist(s) want me to think of food when I see their work but every time I walk by the empty store front, I miss my local and wonder where it went.

One day it was there and the next, it wasn’t. Every table, every chair, every scrap was gone. All that remained was some dust and a few light fixtures left to glow within the cavernous space. The cute Serbian bartender who liked to talk literature and gave me free wine while I wrote blog posts at his bar, moved on to who knows where. The place where I ate (along with hundreds of others) post Super Storm Sandy, wiped out.

Is it possible to put a restaurant’s face on a milk carton?

What’s weird or weirder or maybe just weird to me is that they renovated just before closing. They expanded the bar area to cash in on the wine bar craze and they reopened a few months before they emptied out for good. Clearly, a plan went catawampus.

The building was sold. Could that be the twist?

It’s a corner lot, 6 stories, brick and a little run down. But it’s New York City real estate. The building reportedly sold for $17 million. It’s just a few blocks from “Billionaires Row.”

57th Street (which must be “Billionaires Row” though the moniker is new to me. It used to be, less colorfully, considered part of “Midtown”) is transformed with one high-end hotel next to the other and of course, there’s the monstrosity that gave us the most expensive apartment ever sold in NYC. The sale price? $100,471,452.77.  Yes, that’s right, $100,471,452.77 – I’m sure the seventy-seven cents sealed the deal. Don’t have $100,471,452.77 to fork out for an apartment? I suppose even some Billionaires might find that pricey. No worries! There’s an apartment for rent in the same building and it will only cost you $150,000 per month.  At that rate, you could live there for over 55 years before being all-in on the current high water mark in apartment cost.

I live a few blocks away from “Billionaires Row” so I get to bask in the glow and enjoy the halo effect from my neighbor’s bling-ness. Or to look at it another way, my rent went up 6% last year and 10% the year before.

Glow aside, I wonder if everyone else sees what I see: Do you see the people and places giving NYC its character – the very things that suck in Billionaires and non-Billionaires alike – leaving the city? (I wrote about this once in more detail. Check it out here and I’ll move off of this particular soapbox for now.)

I started with love and rambled quite a ways away. As I read back, I’m afraid I seem a bitter about Billionaires.

I’m really not … mostly … I mean Billionaires are people too and I’m very pro-people!

And love really should be the thread through it all so I invite anyone willing to take the stroll over to Hell’s Kitchen to join me at my new local, Bello. It’s been around since 1985, the Northern Italian food is tasty and when I sit at the bar, they give me a little extra splash of wine. I love a little extra splash. I also love the Rigatoni Matriciana.

I haven’t asked them to make me a margarita yet. They’re sort of hard-core on the Italian cuisine vibe so I haven’t made the leap. I’ll get to it though and I’ll give you an update when I do.

I don’t know if sky-high rent drove Puttanesca out of business but given the changes happening all around us, rent seems a likely culprit. On the bright side, I found Bello!

Maybe everything happens for a reason. Maybe I’ll see you at the bar, smiling over a big splash of wine. And hopefully, like the sign says, love is the root of it all.

PS to all Billionaires, Would-Be-Billionaires and Total-Non-Billionaires: The bar at Bello can be chatty so please join in. And FYI, I’m not one of those people who gets offended when someone offers to buy me a drink. So if you’re hesitating and debating, “Should I, shouldn’t I” the answer is always, “Yes, you should!” Love is the way and a lovely glass of wine is a fine and loving expression. And if you’re nice, I might buy you right back. It’s only neighborly. And while we’re on the subject, here’s good reading for any neighbor: The Gentrifier’s Guide To Not Being An Asshole – hot of the press from The Village Voice – a look at neighborhood change from a deeper perspective than my wine glass allows.

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In January 1996, 20.2 inches of snow fell on New York City. I know this because I just googled the stats and because I lived here in NYC in 1996.

Today, we’re bracing for another storm. If you watch the news, you know it’s the storm to end all storms and it’s named “Juno.” Names aren’t just for hurricanes anymore and since a named storm raises anxiety, “Juno” is better click bait than simply saying “it’s going to snow.”

During most of the day, the sun was kind of out. There were flurries flying on the wind and nothing was sticking. Had I been home to watch TV, I’m sure I’d have seen local news teams standing in front of the city’s salt storage or in front of a parked plow because there wasn’t any snow to stand in front of but the reporting must go on. And then I bet the coverage cut away to pandemonium in a supermarket.

Bread aisles up and down the east coast are empty. I guess people crave carbs and refined wheat when it snows.

I remember when a big snow storm, for me at least, was a big social event not a news event.

There’s a magic moment in New York City, when the snow baffles the noise. When they’re aren’t any cars out and plows haven’t made a pass, there are no motors, or horns and any city noise left to float through the air gets wrapped into the snow. People hunker down so if you’re out and about, your feet forge their mark on the pristine path and the crackle and crunch of your boots on the snow is the loudest thing around.

In 1996, I lived in a 6th floor walk up on the Upper East Side and had friends across the hall and on the floor below. We hung out in good weather and bad and on the night of the big storm, we owned First Avenue. Looking both ways was about dodging snowballs, not traffic. We ran circles and walked shoulder to shoulder in the center of the avenue and plopped down to make snow angels and more snow angels. Back home we gathered with pink cheeks, chilled finger tips and snow dampened jeans to sip red wine and wonder if we’d have to go to work the morning.

“Juno” got a late start so I think that perfect snow moment will probably arrive around 2AM when I’m tucked warm in my bed. And the friends I shared the 1996 blizzard with are now spread across the city and the country and by the middle of the night tonight, will hopefully be happily asleep dreaming of snow days.

So tonight, I’m turning off the news. I’m going to read and maybe watch a movie and sip red wine and remember the perfect pink-cheeked abandon of a magic snow moment.

 

Times Square, NYC Snowmagaddon 2015

Times Square, NYC Snowmageddon 2015

 

 

 

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I love my nieces’ chubby-knuckled hands. I know they’re growing into confident women with the strong grip necessary to lift a margarita and become margagogo staffers.

I like candle light reflected on a tin ceiling. It dances.

Alphabet pretzels (all 26 letters plus “@”) are endless party fun. They’re even better when they’re baked in butter. I’m hopeful that 2015 will see the introduction of the hashtag pretzel. #PretzelFun

Brownies, a treat that’s not quite a cake and not quite a cookie, are inspired. The person who invented them is a culinary genius and has contributed to my happiness too many times to count.

I appreciate a well placed curse word. Sometimes, it’s truly satisfying to let one rip.

Margaritas and chocolate. Chocolate and margaritas. This blog could have just as easily been called “chocagogo” and I could run around looking for the best chocolate to eat and share.

I’m lucky to have great role models and blessed to love and be loved.

I like snickerdoodles. They taste good but mostly I like them because “sinckerdoodle” is silly to say.

I have a really cool jacket that earns me tons of compliments every time I wear it. I’m lucky to have had the choice to buy it or not.

My parents are together, happy, healthy and busier than I am.

I like to make my bed with fresh, warm sheets straight out of the dryer. Then I like to get in it right away.

Volunteering makes me feel connected and I’m glad to lend a hand. I believe good intentions can start a domino effect so a small act might be bigger than I think.

Comfortable shoes are a relief.

Holiday lights and decorations and music fill me with a peaceful, warm feeling. Have you ever listened to a recording of Mahalia Jackson singing “Silent Night?” The first time I heard it, it moved me to tears.

I’m grateful for so many things big and small.

When the world becomes too scary, I count my blessings. Being grateful helps me catch my breath and soothes my soul. From Ferguson to Brooklyn to Peshawar (and lots of places in-between) there is so much pain and fear and confusion and many, many souls to soothe.  I wish I had some answers – any answers. I wish I had a broad and healing touch. It is so much. It’s so big.

So I take a deep breath and count my blessings.

And I’m grateful for my nieces’ chubby-knuckled hands.

Hope, Robert Indiana - NYC

Hope, Robert Indiana – NYC

 

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As a recovering smartphone addict, I’ve needed my next text so badly that I’ve neglected friends, dropped out of conversation, let vacation scenery wiz by unnoticed and walked entire blocks without seeing where I was going.

For me, distracted walking is guaranteed to lead to disaster. With eyes wide open and no obstacles in my way, I’ve managed to damage my property and my body.

I’ve misjudged the curb and ended up in tears more times than I can count. Once, playing soccer, I broke my ankle and cracked my tibia. I wasn’t doing fancy tricks or going in for a tackle. There was no collision; no heart-stopping, breath-holding moment of impact. I just tripped myself.

Turtle_On_Its_Back_Cartoon_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_090122-130120-872048And then there was the 42nd street Incident. One cold night, crossing 42nd Street with a large and weighty backpack strapped to my shoulders, I tipped over. I landed on my back, smack in the middle of the street, arms and legs flailing. It took a team of coordinated and shocked New Yorker’s to hoist me to my feet. It was humiliating, life-endangering and to top it off, even though I landed on my back, I managed to put a hole in the knee of my brand new jeans.

All of this without any “help” from a smart phone.

People should be taking tumbles and trips of the most un-fun kind.  There should be more broken ankles, bruised shins and skinned knees. I don’t wish pain on anyone. I just don’t see how we can routinely cross the street like this and come out unscathed.

And, we are in fact, hurting ourselves. I read an estimate that at least 10% of injuries landing people in the ER are caused by cell phone distraction. The number may be bigger. People tend not to self report embarrassing things like falling through an open manhole while playing Cut The Rope.

The problem of distracted walking is so bad that in London, they’ve installed bumpers around light poles. Really? Yes. You can read about it here.

I hope New York City won’t resort to bubble wrapping light posts, mail boxes and the few remaining pay phone stands to keep us safe from ourselves. But these obstacles are very real – as are pot holes, traffic, uneven sidewalks and surly, surging crowds.

For me, getting my nose out of my phone was a survival imperative. Let’s face it, I need all my faculties synched and focused when I’m walking. So I put myself on a 12 Step Program: 12 steps without looking at my phone … then another 12 steps with no phone and then another. Now I make it to and fro without a tweet or a text.

Once I picked up my head, I noticed all the people around me walking with their heads down. For these shots, I held my phone up and allowed distracted walkers to move themselves into my frame. Not a single person noticed a stranger taking their picture. I was sure I’d have some explaining to do. I was sure that in New York City, a city where there’s so much to see, that someone would look up.

Paying more attention to my phone than my feet isn’t just physically hazardous. It’s also socially awkward and stifles the senses.

I know, I know. I’m like the friend who finds their soul mate and can’t believe anyone lives single or the person who reads about Chia Seeds or tries Boot Camp – completely drinks the Kool-Aid and wants you love it as much as they do. I think I’m on to something though and I’ve discovered more than just how to avoid a visit to Roosevelt Hospital’s ER.

I came to Candy Crush late in the craze but made up for it with lots of enthusiastic play time. One Christmas, my mother and I spent so much time blowing up sugary confections that my then 7-year-old niece apologized for introducing us to the game. I’ve sat at dinner and pulled my phone out of my purse because I think I hear my text ping or because I haven’t and I wonder why nobody is texting.

And New York City (any city, any place) has a lot to offer or a lot to be missed. There’s architecture and art and love isn’t just in the air, it’s on the street right in front of you! You just have to look up, look around, pay attention.

So come on everyone, give it a try. Save your ankle bones, protect your knees and lift your spirits. Put your phones down and pick your eyes up.

If you don’t want to listen to me, listen to Tupac.

"Hollar If Ya Hear Me" closed but keep your eyes open - it will be back!

“Hollar If Ya Hear Me” closed but keep your eyes open – it will be back!

Or listen to Annie Lennox … or if you don’t know that musical reference, don’t worry. Just know this: The streets where I walk are a little safer now that I’m phone free. It could be argued that I’ve lost my chance to “bump” into someone interesting but I’ve increased my chance to make eye contact. I still slip when out with a group of friends. Social media sometimes sucks me back, but I try to stay in the moment – ready and present for potential magic.

We found some magic at The Spyglass Rooftop Bar at the Archer Hotel (38th St, NYC). Rooftop bars in NYC are crowded and magic can be tough to spot in a packed room. But the bouncer hooked us up with comfy seats and an amazing view of the Empire State Building and the Eternal Lights from the 9/11 Memorial. And they serve Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc. (It’s much too busy to order a margarita here. Stick with something simple.)

Cakebread Cellars believes that life’s occasions are elevated by good wine, good food and good people – and I couldn’t agree more.

Life’s occasions are also elevated by keeping your head up and your phone stowed so you see more than you miss and you have the chance to capture every, single, magic moment.

Magic captured at the rooftop of the Archer Hotel

Magic captured at the rooftop of the Archer Hotel

 

 

 

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UPDATE: August 27, 2014: Subway Inn wins another stay of eviction. Maybe they will find a stone big enough? More updates to follow!

 

The Subway Inn; dive bar, landmark, home of the $6 draft, is closing.

Maybe I’m too hasty. The last word isn’t out yet. But there are some David and Goliath fights where it’s impossible for David to find a stone big enough to bring Goliath down. And the fight between a New York City real estate developer and a tenant is one of those.

Bummer.

The Subway Inn brings people of all stripes together. Regulars mix with tourists who mix with 20-somethings looking for a bargain. Stepping across the threshold turns strangers into friends.

My friends gathered there. We showed up late night and early evening (though I never made it at 10:00 AM when the bar opens) and after a formal function or two. I remember my flouncy, blue velvet dress against a red upholstered booth, rhinestone earrings glittering in the bar light and waiters in white coats bringing bottled beer and stepping out-of-the-way when a good song got us up dancing.

And the story-telling was excellent. A regular, tucked into the bar was happy to make room for me and tell me about his days delivering beer. He once dropped a keg right through the floor of the Subway Inn. He meant to heave it on the bar but the keg skidded by the bar top, gained momentum and crashed through the bar floor to lodge its edge in the actual subway platform below. He said it took years for the city to make a repair so “6 Train” riders had to step over the dent as they got on and off the train.

The Subway Inn is a time capsule. It appears as if nothing has changed since the bar opened in 1937. Not a single speck of dust has been disturbed in 77 years and now a wrecking ball is going to take care of clean-up.

Change is inevitable and often hard. Even when we’ll be better off for it, change can throw us off. The thing is, there’s no part of me – not even a teensy part, which can see how this will make New York City a better, more vibrant or more interesting place to live. And what’s happening to the Subway Inn is happening to independent shops all over the city. Landlords can get higher rent from chain stores and earn more money if they raze the old and replace it with luxury living opportunities.

If big names like Bobby Flay can’t win the rent wars (Mesa Grill is closed) what chance do the little guys have? Pearl Paint, after 50 years, is gone. Bowlmor, the oldest alley in the city and where I celebrated my 30th birthday, is closed as are all the businesses in that building. Luxury condos are moving in.

Union Square Café, a Danny Meyer restaurant, is on its way out and Chat ‘N Chew, where my friends and I have done exactly as the name requests, is gone. (There are more, lots more. Don’t even get me started on the book stores and newsstands. If you’re interested, check out Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, which chronicles the goings around town.)

The Subway Inn and independent places like it, make the fabric of New York City. They might not always contribute the finest thread to the tapestry but they’re the part of the pattern that makes you look twice. They’re the zing of interest, the beat of the street, the thing that makes you smile even if you don’t quite know why.

And they’re melting away as rent inflates and we march toward the sameness of big chain stores, banks, luxury buildings and super high-end restaurants with menus and prices that all look the same.

We are bleaching the tapestry of the city. We are turning New York beige.

I need a great drink and food to make myself feel better. Unfortunately, The Marrow (Bank St, NYC) didn’t sooth my nerves. Instead, my visit reinforced my worry that newer isn’t better.

A fair and balanced review requires several visits so let me admit straight off: My review will never be fair and balanced. My snarky tone could be the result of low blood sugar since the staff cleared and tossed my full plate before I could eat my fill and my request to wrap it fell on deaf ears. The Marrow might make the best pork chop in the entire world but I will never, ever know.

The margarita was “juicy” and out of balance. But it was a hot day so the citrus and ice was refreshing and Vitamin C is a good thing – keeps scurvy at bay.

Some advice if you decide to go: First, eat fast and don’t be afraid to slap any hand that makes a grab for your plate. And second, plan your outfit around the wallpaper. Yes, I said wallpaper. It’s so busy, it clashed with patron’s shirts. Between the fussy walls and beat up floors and booths, the vibe at The Marrow is confusing – something between eating at Versailles or in your Grandfather’s basement in Queens. 

Not beige but still a bummer.

Refreshing Scurvy Cure at The Marrow

Refreshing “Juicy” Scurvy Cure (Margarita) at The Marrow

 

 

 

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I learned long ago that when life hands me limes, it’s up to me to figure out how to turn them into something tasty.

So when this sunny Cinco de Mayo crept up on me – and me, a margarita aficionado had no plans, I had to spring into recovery mode to turn limes into margaritas.

5 Ideas for Cinco de Mayo Fun (for people like me who lack planning skills)

1. Make Guacamole and cry tears of joy. You can pick up all the ingredients on your way home and whip up a little love in a bowl. Since Guacamole is avocado mixed with anything, recipes vary. I like the simple set up that lets the ingredients stand out. My guacamole/guacrackole/crackamole recipe is:

  • 2 Avocados, mashed but chunky
  • 1 medium onion, white, chopped, about a cup
  • 1 medium tomato, juice and seeds removed, chopped
  • Cilantro to taste
  • Jalapeno to taste
  • Sea Salt to taste
  • Liberal dash of love
  • Mix but don’t mush!
  • Eat fast so you don’t have to share!

2. Make Scarlet Margaritas! I found this recipe on myrecipe.com. We have recipe/taste tested and my independent panel of judges approve. The drinks are festive and a taste sensation. Win/Win.

Scarlet Margs!

Scarlet Margs!

 

3. Make Margaritas from Mix! Ok, I said it. Don’t hate me. Sometimes cutting corners is the only way to celebrate a holiday without adding stress. So if picking up all the ingredients for a fresh-made drink is too much, you can get by with a bottle of tequila and a bottle of mix. For the tequila, I still suggest Milagro. For the mix, you’re on your own. But what ever you do, do not follow the instructions on the mix bottle. Those recipes usually suggest a 3 to 1 ratio of mix to tequila. If you’re looking for a spike in blood sugar, this is the way to go. If you want a reasonable drink, experiment and cut back on the mix and increase the tequila (I suggest a ratio of 1 to 1). Add lots of ice and … a message from my Dad … drink responsibly.

4. Margarita Ice Cream! This is so easy to make you’ll almost feel guilty when your friends worship you for your ice cream making skills.  This recipe is from Nigella Lawson so it makes sense that it’s called Nigella Lawson’s No Churn Margarita Ice Cream. After a rough year that included being choked by her husband, publically outed for a cocaine habit, banned from travelling to the US and getting divorced (well maybe that last one is a good thing) Nigella is someone who needs to turn her limes into something great. So thank goodness she has this recipe!

And this recipe is universally loved. When I made it, I got raves from someone who doesn’t like margaritas (gasp!), someone who doesn’t like ice cream (double gasp!) and someone who doesn’t drink at all (huh?). Everyone loves Margarita Ice Cream.

So check out Nigella Lawson’s site for all sorts of good stuff. I copied her recipe here (and did my best to convert measurements but please check them!)

  • 125ml lime juice (1/2 Cup)
  • 2 x 15ml tablespoons Tequila (2T)
  • 3 x 15ml tablespoons Cointreau or Triple sec (3T)
  • 150g icing sugar or powdered sugar (1 1/4 Cups)
  • 500ml double cream (2 Cups Heavy Cream)

 

Margarita Ice Cream

Margarita Ice Cream – I swear this picture doesn’t do this treat justice

 

5. Celebrate at a Place known for something other than Margaritas.  I’m turning my limes into an outing to Butter (NYC). Butter in Midtown is a cool space. It’s set underground and its high ceilings reach the street to let light shine into the restaurant. And they have Parker House Rolls – or at least what I remember as slightly sweet rolls, with a little salt on the top that were amazing (but maybe not Parker House shaped). And while I don’t exactly equate drinking margaritas with eating rolls, anything goes for this non-traditional Cinco de Mayo celebration!

Butter NYC

Margarita & Flowers, Butter NYC

 

Here’s wishing you turn all the limes in your life into the best margaritas ever!

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

 

 

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Yes, it’s winter.

It happens every year but this winter is extra dreary because it’s actually cold and snowy and icy and grey … and did I mention it’s really, really cold? Since anyone who resides in the ever-widening snow belt has to slog through it every day, we also endlessly talk about the weather. There’s no escape, even in our conversation, and that’s making winter even drearier.

So while New York City is likely running out of road salt, budgeted overtime hours for plow drivers and possibly patience the good citizens are, thankfully, funny as ever.

Since the weather drove me inside for the little exercise I get, I can report on SoulCycle’s hilarious request that clients practice good hygiene (they call it doing laundry).  The bikes are close together and they worry that when your neighbor takes a deep, cleansing breath, they might choke on your odor.  Flywheel’s attempt to be hip and cool with everything down to the locker instructions is also worth a chuckle as they dare you to lock up your Blackberry.

NYC, you’re doing great! Let’s keep up the humor and keep our heads on!

Greensquare Tavern, 5 West 21st St, NYC, is holding up their end in the humor department.

You should go here, not only because the signage is funny but because the food is fresh, organic and good.

If you order a margarita, the joke is on you so please steer clear. This is more of a pull of beer, pour of wine kind of place.  We ordered meatballs and being New Yorker’s, expected a single meatball centered on a giant white plate to be set between us.  But instead of gingerly cutting tiny food in half and wondering what else we’d eat, we got a bowl – and not a single meatball in a giant, but an actual bowl of meatballs!

We left Greensquare tavern nourished by the food and connected to the restaurant through our mutual dislike of Jury Duty Justin Bieber.

And we are warmed by the promise of Spring!

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