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the other coast

I just spent an awesome couple of weeks at my home away on the east coast. Being a first generation Californian, I have as much New York in me as I do California. So when someone (like my California sis in law) asks me what to do and where to go, I am an annoying font of unending response. For the obvious (Statue of Liberty, Museums, Macy’s, Ground Zero), buy a guidebook. If you want a piece of my New York, here you go…

Stay

photo courtesy airbnb how gorgeous is that basement wall?

photo courtesy airbnb…how gorgeous is that basement wall?

Brooklyn. Airbnb is a great option for apartments that are bigger and much less expensive than a hotel room in Manhattan. And it’s a quick couple of stops from Union Square on the ‘L’ train. Easy peasy. We stayed between Williamsburg (hipster) and Bushwich (artsy) in the most adorable apartment. Walking distance from great Brooklyn neighborhoods (think Chestnut Street for the hipster, SOMA for the artsy).

Eat

Seriously eat everywhere. My cousin hooked us up with an amazing pizzeria in Bushwick called Roberta’s. It was totally worth the 90 minute wait, even with a 6 month old. Cocktails and foosball out back keep you happy.

blackandwhite

Eat a black and white. It’s not the same as anything made in California and I’m not just saying that. It’s not a cookie and it’s not a cake. Find them in delis and don’t be put off by the cellophane wrapping…they get stale quickly. Don’t share and make sure you alternate bites or you’re not getting the whole experience. Italian ices. When I was little we could buy Italian ices on the street, now you will find them at pizza parlors and even ice cream stores. Ices are something like sorbet…kind of. Lemon is the traditional favorite, but my favorite is always melon. For the best ices you’ll need to buy in Brooklyn or Queens, but you’ll find them everywhere. Don’t have just one. You need to compare.

Travel

Use the subway, don’t be a wuss. $2.50 to get in (just put twenty bucks on a metro card) and you can go anywhere you want. You’ll get lost but it’s okay…you’re on vacation. Get a map or an app and figure out what line gets you closest to where you want to go. Look at the map and see what’s at the end of the line so you know which side of the track to board on then follow the signs. If you stay in Brooklyn take the ferry to Manhattan at least once. The waterfront is one of a kind.

Visit

Midtown: Don’t wait in the ridiculous line to go to the top of the Empire State Building. It’s a gorgeous building, but a horrendous line. If you want to see New York from the top go to the Top of the Rock. Both buildings are in midtown and you can see one from the other. Walk through Central Park. You have to. And if you can stomach it have a dirty water hot dog…it’s a hideous tradition. If you have a sweet tooth go to Dylan’s Candy Bar and buy mediocre candy in a ridiculously over-stimulated environment. My son’s first stop every trip. If you want to try some amazing chocolate go to Max Brenner’s. Don’t eat there, but buy some delicious, beautifully designed Israeli made kosher truffles. Go to Grand Central Station, find the bar in the center of the station, get a drink and pay too much money to people watch…it’s a gorgeous building. Make sure you look up.

Chelsea/Meatpacking DistrictGalleries and restaurants…do your homework. Spend some time on the High Line, walk, eat, enjoy. The High Line is an abandoned elevated freight rail line that once served the meatpacking district when it was packing meat. Now it’s a unique public park. Chelsea Market is the food hall of all food halls with restaurants that are beyond fabulous. Can you say Buddakan?

Gramercy/Greenwich Village/Soho: Eataly is Mario Bataly’s Italian food mecca with restaurants, marketplace, wine shop. Go hungry. Visit the Strand Bookstore, but only if you go with a friend who also loves books. My people were (kind of) patiently waiting on the sidewalk after about 15 minutes and I was still in the first 1/10 of a mile in and they say there are 18 miles of books. Go to Union Square at night to people watch. Maybe the snake people will be there. Shop on and around Spring Street.

Lower East Side: The Tenement Museum recreated the homes of several turn of the century families that are open for tours…pretty cool to see how my people lived after they came through Ellis Island. Katz’s Deli is famous for their knishes….if you haven’t had a knish in a while you need to visit. And pickles….find a pickle place. Essex Street is a good place to start…you’ll recognize it by the barrels of pickles standing out on the sidewalk. There are a few although once upon a time there were a lot more. Keep your eyes open. Last visit I went to The Pickle Guys…try a few different flavors. And finally find The Doughnut Plant…it’s down below Delancey. The best most interesting and delicious donut flavors you’ll find anywhere. Get something seasonal. Then get a creme brulee and a jelly donut. And go back on the weekend and get some ice cream too.

So there you have it…I’m still a newbie to Brooklyn so don’t have much to say about it yet. But we did love the vibe there. Once the kids are up and out we may just pack up and move east of the East River.

Keep in touch,
Leslie

wallpaper gone mad

Covering walls with paper a la granny’s flowered sitting room went out of style sometime in the 80s. Then somewhere around the turn of the century wallpaper started creeping back into design vernacular. And Jon Sherman had recently dipped his toe in the world of interior design, decided he liked it and apparently went a little insane and bought a truckload of old wallpaper manufacturing equipment, moved it cross country to New Orleans and decided to open a wallpaper factory with the unlikely name Flavor Paper. He says that because he didn’t know anything about the business he broke all the rules…and lucky for us. Flavor Paper creates designs that are surprisingly relevant…but you’ve got to look closely.

A few years after opening his factory in the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans, and surviving Katrina, Sherman moved the factory to Brooklyn to be nearer the majority of his clients. There he bought a 4 floor building on Pacific Street, turning the bottom two floors into factory and the top two floors into residential space. He’s got the penthouse and roof deck and rents the apartments below to employees. And I thought I had a great commute! The ground floor is factory with a glass front wall allowing passers-by to watch the papers being printed. Second floor is showroom. Not only is the product gorgeous, but check out the building! I’m going to….this summer. I’ve already set an appointment to see for myself how and where wallpaper art is made. Does this mean I can write off my whole trip? If that’s the case, then maybe I can afford to paper my bedroom when I return!

all photos courtesy flavorpaper.com

Happy Wednesday….keep in touch,
Leslie

ps….they’ve added pillows to their line of product. Pricey but maybe I’ll take an extra big suitcase just in case.

Blood, Bones and Butter: Gabrielle Hamilton

blood‘My parents seemed incredibly special and outrageously handsome to me then. I could not have boasted of them more or said my name, first and last together, more proudly, to show how it directly linked me to them. I loved that our mother was French and that she had given me that heritage in my very name. I loved telling people that she had been a ballet dancer at the Met in New York City when she married my father. I loved being able to spell her long French name, M- A- D-E- L- E- I- N- E, which had exactly as many letters in it as my own. My mother wore the sexy black cat- eye eyeliner of the era, like Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren, and I remember the smell of the sulphur every morning as she lit a match to warm the tip of her black wax pencil. She pinned her dark hair back into a tight, neat twist every morning and then spent the day in a good skirt, high heels, and an apron that I have never seen her without in forty years. She lived in our kitchen, ruled the house with an oily wooden spoon in her hand, and forced us all to eat dark, briny, wrinkled olives, small birds we would have liked as pets, and cheeses that looked like they might well bear Legionnaire’s Disease.’

~Gabrielle Hamilton, Blood, Bones & Butter

Memoirs often leave me cold, and it takes a really strong recommendation from a very well respected reader to convince me to pick one up. Luckily for me, I picked this one up. You should read this book too. Gabrielle Hamilton doesn’t just introduce her readers to the world of the kitchen, she takes us through the crazy world she inhabited that brought her there. And she does it with a writing style that is both engaging and revealing, and at the same time is well written. There is nothing that bothers me more, and I admit when it comes to memoir I read with a critical and cynical eye, than redundancy or too much telling and not enough showing or the overuse of simile and metaphor. (If run-on sentences bother you, you can skip that last one.) I’ll read a bad story written well before I’ll read a great story written poorly.

Gabrielle cooked for over 20 years before she decided she really was a writer and began work on an MFA, cooking only part time to support her education. The path through her MFA convinced her, along with her part-time cooking gig, that in fact she really did belong in the kitchen, perhaps with a pencil in her hand. After returning to New York  she took a crazy leap and opened a restaurant in the East Village in 1999. Since then she has  won awards for both her chef-ing and her writing. Her convoluted path through lies, drugs, sex, travel, marriage and self absorption, took her on a less than direct path to the opening of Prune. I’m not sure if it’s her crazy story or her descriptions of food and her sense of hospitality, but I want to eat there. Lucky for me I have a trip planned to attend a wedding on the east coast this summer…maybe this will give me reason to be less grumpy about being in New York in July.

Keep in touch,
Leslie