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Posts Tagged ‘Wine’

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 honor of National Margarita day, I want to tell you about the most well-balanced, perfectly shaken, slightly smoky, not sweet, not sour, perfectly-citrus-with-a-tequila-tang margarita I’ve had all year. (And by “all year,” I’m going for a rolling 12 months and not the less than 2 months of 2015.)

That’s what this blog is about after all: The search for the perfect margarita.

The thing is, I don’t remember. I don’t remember the best margarita I had all year.

I remember my vacation in Colombia with my friends when my only concern was where I was getting my next great meal and what would be on my plate when that meal was set in front of me because my Spanish is sub-par at best. I sipped margaritas, looked at palm fronds waiving in the breeze, rolling ocean and cloudless blue sky. Every one of them was perfect.

There’s something about context that colors a whole experience.

I was in Costa Rica after a day of horseback riding through rain forest and eating with a local family when our guide offered us cashew wine. Cashew wine, you wonder with a raised brow and wrinkled forehead. Yes, it turns out a cashew is a nut and a fruit. A fruit that looks a little like a giant apricot or pepper with a claw.

And cashew wine, in that moment in the forest with macaws cawing in the trees was extraordinary. So extraordinary that we couldn’t wait to try some at home and sitting with friends in a New York City apartment, it was the worst thing ever.

In Portugal, we sailed the ocean blue and drank vino verde. I loved it. I loved its green tint and young, crisp taste. The sun set over the ocean and sails filled with wind and the wine was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. And then I got back home and you can guess what I think about vine verde now.

But I remember those moments and those drinks and always will. Those moments and those drinks were the best.

Last week, Moss Beach Distillery (Half Moon Bay, CA) was the scene of a perfect moment if not a perfect margarita. I was with people I love with a view anyone would have to love and got a margarita that would be hard to love if not for all the other lovely things that went along with it.

I realize this blog isn’t about the goal of finding the one, single perfect margarita but about the journey and all the fun and friends and family who keep my company on this path. “Perfect” is a subjective concept anyway, right?

So maybe I’ll never find that “perfect” drink. But, I’ll have lots of fun trying.

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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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