Good-bye New York, for real

IMG_5322 Oh how I love New York. It is hard to describe the magic of New York City to someone who has never visited. I have close family who have yet to visit me here, and they always seem baffled that I live here. (“Is it dirty?” “Are there a ton of people everywhere?”) I get it.  Parts of the City are dirty.  It can smell pretty horrendous in July.  It’s crowded, especially in the Times Square area. But New York City is so much greater and better than those momentary frustrations (which every place on the planet has in some respect). There is an intersection of cultures and people here that is so rare.  It is amazing how often you turn a corner and spot something completely original, fascinating, or just plain cool. IMG_4666

Piano, in Washington Square Park.


Is that a little apartment built on top of that building? (Chelsea)


Cool, yet spooky, community garden in the East Village.


It’s a clock!  Telling us the time, and the time remaining, in Union Square.


A perfect little house wedged in among buildings, East Village

People always think New Yorkers are stand-offish. They assume they are so accustomed to crazy things happening around them they don’t notice other people.  I have found the exact opposite to be true.  If anything, New Yorkers think everything is their business. They feel that they can comment on anything or interject themselves into any conversation because there is a certain amount of anonymity to living here, but also because it is understood among New Yorkers that we are willing to share our experiences with others. That’s why we live here. To be anonymous, yes, but not to be invisible. I remember when I first moved here my husband and I bought a piece of furniture at Housing Works and as I stood on the sidewalk with it while my husband paid inside, 3 or 4 people stopped to comment on it. (“How are you getting that home?” “You should refinish the bottom part there, it looks like it’s had some water damage.” “Nice Art Deco piece, what did you pay for it?”) I was on the phone with my sister who lives in Wyoming and she said, during the third interruption, “Wow, New Yorkers are bold, aren’t they?” Yes, they are, in such a lovely way.

I have so many moments that flash through my mind when thinking of New York. Like the time I stepped off the subway and saw the little black boy wearing his Jewish friend’s yarmulke and watching them laugh hysterically when people did a double take. The celebrity sightings, which you have to be too cool to acknowledge. The tranquility of the Central Park Zoo in February, or Central Park anytime. IMG_5173   The proximity of poverty to grandeur. The constant reminder that our fellow New Yorkers can be obnoxious, but are just as often fascinating and entertaining. Manhattan-20130906-00600

My oldest, demonstrating her New York City attitude

It is so hard for me to leave this City that I have adopted as my own. When I moved here I was a twenty-something following her boyfriend to the City of his dreams. Over the past ten years I fell in love with the City too, married that boy, and had two children. I have found it to be a great place to have small children. I have never for a moment felt isolated or bored because there is so much to do and so many cool moms and kids to hang with. People wonder how you navigate the City with children.  That part is easy.   My children have loved it too. They have loved the parks, the playgrounds, IMG_4952   IMG-20130603-00293 Manhattan-20131002-00741 IMG_20130518_104058_532 DSC_7863 IMG-20130505-00174 Have hung with the local wildlife, DSCN8107

Yes, she’s kissing a worm.  She’s got a little Wyoming in her after all.

IMG_0145 Manhattan-20130505-00182 IMG_0074 IMG_4959 Have loved taking every kind of public transportation imaginable, IMG_3984

Metro North Train


Two old ladies waiting for the bus


Amtrak (don’t try this at home)


Old reliable, the subway

Sometimes they even walk. IMG_20140322_104051_833 2 But, let’s face it, they often end up like this: IMG_0125 They have tasted some of the best food on the planet IMG_0171 Oysters at Fish (West Village) IMG_0184Grom’s Ice Cream (West Village, among other locations) Manhattan-20130907-00615Pommes Frites, East Village 
Manhattan-20131028-00780 Baguette from the Silver Moon Bakery-UWSManhattan-20131123-00854

(It is hard to find a food photo that doesn’t have one of their fat little fists grasping for the food) Cornelia Street Cafe, West Village

And have hung with the coolest cats in town: IMG_5340

Eat your heart out, Williamsburg! (Bohemian Beer Garden, Queens)

But, because of those two rascals, who have done things to my heart I did not know possible, it has become clear that it is time to leave this City. Quite simply, our family needs some things we can’t have here, like affordable preschools and even a backyard! And so I say, with sadness, goodbye-New York for real. But, that doesn’t mean I still won’t love you from afar.

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Momofuku Ssam Bar


New York City has a lot, A LOT, of restaurants, and people love, LOVE, to talk about them. For some it’s a way of showing you are “in the know” about an obscure place no one else has discovered.  For others, it’s a way to demonstrate their refined tastes (and large wallets).  But, for most New Yorkers, it’s just a way to share their passion for food. People here love to eat and talk about eating. (Not so much cook… when we moved into our apartment, the prior residents left behind laundry cards and their favorite take-out menus as a welcome gift).

The only problem is that to try out many of the best restaurants in the City you really have to commit to an entire meal and pay a large bill.  That’s fine for a special occasion, but what about those of us whose wallets are thinner?  When a special occasion happens once a year and not once a week?  Are we supposed to miss out on the best of New York? I guess you could stroll into Per Se, Le Bernardin, or Il Mulino and boldly order an appetizer with a glass of wine (and nothing else), but that would be totally uncool.  Totally NOT New York.  Luckily, David Chang has solved that problem for us when he created his little empire of restaurants that make some of the best food in New York City, with no pretension.


It is difficult to choose my favorite David Chang restaurant. Momofuku Noodle Bar? Yes! Momofuku Milk Bar? Yes! Momofuku Ssam Bar? Double Yes! But, if I were forced to choose among them I would have to choose Momofuku Saam Bar, for one simple, affordable, yet delicious reason: the steamed pork bun.



There is no better steamed pork bun in the City, and probably the world. Come in without a reservation, have a seat at the bar, and bliss out on some of the best of what NYC has to offer.  No judgment, and SO New York.  Take that Le Bernardin!

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Pearl River Mart


Pearl River Mart, situated on the cusp of SoHo and Chinatown, embraces the best of those two worlds. It has all the trendy, fun goods you would expect to find in a SoHo store, but most are of the affordable and asian-inspired variety typically found in Chinatown.

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Pearl River Mart has a penchant for offering things you likely haven’t seen elsewhere, but they don’t charge you that “unique finds” fee that so many boutique stores tend to add on. If you don’t think you are into Asian-inspired goods, a trip here might change your mind. So much so that you’ll wonder if you should throw a Chinese New Year’s Party this year, just for an excuse to hang this cool dragon in your house.


I love that it is hard to nail down this store. Is it a clothing store? A home design store? A place to find a some cute decorations for a party or housewarming gift?

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It ends up being a really fun place to shop.  Even if you don’t have a reason to step inside, you’ll soon find one.

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La Lanterna Caffe


I have never understood al fresco dining in New York City. It is either too hot or too cold. Inevitably you are placed on a busy sidewalk adjacent to a busy street and are assaulted by diesel fumes, people who stare at your food, and the occasional stranger who wants to stop and chat. So, when I strolled into La Lanterna Caffe one freezing January day and was asked if I wanted to sit outside I balked “of course not.” Then I spent the rest of my lunch staring mournfully at those seated outside at the in the glass-covered and heated winter garden. (I know, duh, it says so on the sign.)



The glass ceiling is surrounded by old brick buildings covered in vines and these enormous and colorful (heated) lamps are placed among the tables. The food is also really good.  They have a large Italian menu and know how to lightly dress a green salad.


There are inexpensive wines by the glass and lots of good espresso drinks if you plan to stay awhile. If outdoor dining really isn’t your thing, the inside is also quite charming.


Where It Is and Why I’ll Miss It: Just south of Washington Square Park at 129 MacDougal Street; a nice al fresco dining experience where you might actually want to stay awhile.

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Oozy Chocolate Chip Cookies


After visiting Levain Bakery and Jacques Torres Chocolate, and purchasing an enormous bag of pastilles from the latter, I was inspired to try to create one of those enormous, soft on the inside, yet toasted on the outside cookies from Levaine.  While at Jacques Torres, I noticed a sign next to the pastilles that described a recipe published in the New York Times a few years ago for a  “Jacques Torres” chocolate chip cookie.  When I returned home I looked it up online, anticipating whipping it up that afternoon.  Unfortunately, the recipe calls for cake flour, bread flour, and 24 hours chilling time in the refrigerator.  At the end of the day, I just didn’t have the stamina to leave the house to purchase bread flour and then try to jam trays of cookies in my teeny tiny fridge for the allotted time.  Also, I needed to move fast because the bag of pastilles had been opened and they were disappearing at an alarming rate.  Instead, I decided to rely on my old favorite: Martha Stewart’s chocolate chip oatmeal cookies with walnuts.  I used the pastilles in place of the chocolate chips and was rewarded with gooey cookies that were nonetheless a little too crispy on the bottom of edges.


While eating four or five of those, I contemplated how I might achieve that Levain-like texture, and decided I would form the remaining dough into oversized balls, place them in a freezer-safe ziploc bag, and slide them in the freezer.


A few days later I took a few out, lowered the cooking temperature by 25 degrees while adding about 5 minutes cook time and Eureka!  I had a slightly crispy outer coating and an oozing chocolate core from those large pastilles.


Even better, they were just oozing with chocolate on the inside, as evidenced by the spatula I used to transfer them to the cooling rack.


Now, whenever I make cookie dough, I roll them into balls and place them in the freezer.  That way I can cook a few at a time, or eat a frozen ball at midnight if I crave one.  That’s not weird, is it?  My youngest certainly doesn’t think so…


Oozy Chocolate Chip Cookies:  (Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Oatmeal Cookies)

1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 lb. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon backing powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup wheat germ
1 cup chocolate pastilles (or 12 ounces good quality chocolate, chopped into chunks)
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped




(1) Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  Starting with the mixer on low speed and increasing until it is on medium, beat until the mixture is creamy and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Add the eggs and vanilla extract, then scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine.

(2) Combine the rolled oats, flour, baking soda, baking powder, and wheat germ in a large bowl, and stir to combine.  Add the dry mixture to the butter mixture, then mix on low speed just to combine, 10 to 15 seconds.  Remove the bowl from mixer stand and stir in chocolate chunks.

(3) Line the baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.  Use a large ice cream scoop to form balls of dough.  Place the balls of dough about 4 inches apart on baking pans.  Bake until golden and just set, about 18 minutes (or 22 minutes if frozen).  Remove from oven. Let cool on pan 4 to 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

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Kim Laudati Skin Care


When I’m feeling particularly drabby, either because I still haven’t lost those last 10 pounds of baby weight or because I haven’t washed any hair on my head other than my bangs since last Thursday, I have a couple of options to perk me up.  I can spend some time with my friend Esere (“you look so good now that you finally have some meat on those thighs!”) or I can book an appointment with Kim Laudati.  Kim gives hands down, the best facial I have ever had in NYC.  When you meet her she will remind you vividly of Demi Moore with her long dark hair and slightly husky voice to match.


Kim doesn’t operate one of those insanely expensive spas, although she could.  What she does is give you amazing value for your money.  At most spas the aesthetician will take a break while steaming your face or after applying a masque.  Not Kim.  She takes the opportunity to give you a mini massage of your arms, shoulders, and head.  She is a perfectionist (after growing some Elvis-like sideburns during my second pregnancy she waxed my face to a baby bum sheen and then spent at least ten minutes methodically tweezing out every errant hair) and a total techie.  You’ll hear her turn on various machines while you are trying to stay awake and feel warm, yet cold metal plates massaging your face and then have oxygen pumped into your gleaming pores.  Every scrub, masque, and serum smells insanely delicious.  Book her now.  Soon, you’ll be competing with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow for an appointment.

Where it is and Why I’ll miss it:  Franchise expected, but currently 274 Madison Avenue, Suite 803, between 39th and 40th street, luxurious high-end spa at half the price.


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Shakshuka atop Lamb Sausages


Florence Prime Meat Market can be a real problem, especially for someone like me who lives far enough away that visiting often is difficult.  When I go I always enter with the intention of getting a couple of steaks, maybe a whole chicken, and a thick-sliced pound of bacon.  Then I spy those lamb sausages in the glass case, which inevitably leads me to consider some lamb shanks.  Before I know it I am envisioning placing a perfectly cooked sirloin roast on the table for dinner that night.  Inevitably,  I end up returning on the subway with a 15 pound bag of meat and frantic thoughts of how much of it I can jam into my shoebox-sized freezer while cooking the rest over the next 2 to 3 days. This was my solution to those darned lamb sausages that snuck into my bag.  I stole this recipe idea from a delicious appetizer I had at Veritas awhile ago called Merquez and Farm Egg.  It was served as a poached egg on top of lamb sausage in a chunky tomato stew.  I wasn’t sure how to accomplish the same at home until I saw a recipe for Shakshuka, or spicy tomato stew with egg on  All I had to do was make Shakshuka* and then serve it atop those beautiful lamb sausages and presto!  Room more for more meat in the freezer!


Gotta love the personal touch from Florence Meat Market.


A real work of art, and I haven’t even cooked them yet!





If you have an extra minute, using freshly ground cumin seeds really makes a difference in taste.



*In the Smitten Kitchen version she calls for cheese atop her (vegetarian) version.  Because the lamb sausages were already infused with feta cheese I skipped that step.  The trickiest part of this recipe is getting the eggs to cook so the whites are cooked but the yolk is still runny.  In the picture on top, my yolks are very runny.  As you can see below, they cooked a bit more when I tried it again. Both are good, the only thing to avoid is hard cooked eggs because then you can mix the runny egg into the stew which has such a rich and satisfying result.

Shakshuka atop Lamb Sausages:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Place sausages on baking sheet and drizzle small amount of olive oil over the top.

Serves 4 – 6

4-6 lamb sausages (or cumberland, sweet italian, or any other you like)                            1/4 cup + 2 Tbs olive oil                                                                                                                   2 Anaheim chiles and 1 jalapeño, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (this mix was the right amount of heat for us, but you could add or subtract depending on your heat preference)                                                                                                                                          1 small yellow onion, chopped                                                                                                         5 cloves garlic, crushed then sliced                                                                                                    1 teaspoon ground cumin                                                                                                                  1 tablespoon paprika                                                                                                                          1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, undrained                                                             Kosher salt, to taste                                                                                                                           6 – 8 eggs                                                                                                                                              1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place sausages on a sheet pan and drizzle with olive oil.   Cook in preheated oven for about 20 minutes, until they are crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, Heat oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add chiles and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.

Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1/2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 15 minutes. Season sauce with salt.

Crack eggs over sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across sauce’s surface. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set, about 5 minutes. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk.

Place one sausage in a shallow bowl and top with tomato stew and cooked egg (or two).  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve immediately.

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Jacques Torres Chocolate


I have a friend whose husband, year after year on Valentine’s Day, goes down to the local Duane Reade and gets her the Whitman’s sampler box of chocolates.  You know these chocolates.  They are the ones that seems stocked to the gills with what looks like pepto bismol colored “truffles”.  The one that forces you to take minuscule bites out of the bottom of each one in the vain hope you will find a chocolate covered caramel.  My friend never even bothers to open the box.  He thinks she loves it.  It is one of those quandries of the long relationship – “do you know me at all?” she wonders, while he muses, “good thing I got one before they sold out! She so looks forward to this.”  Now, any gesture on Valentine’s Day is appreciated, but I think this year I am going to pull him aside and tell him he needs to take the subway downtown and get his wife a real box of chocolates at Jacques Torres.



Jacques Torres is a fabulous chocolate maker.  His hot chocolate is like, well, hot chocolate – not cocoa powder mixed with water or milk.  It is simply thick, melted, decadent chocolate that comes in varying flavors like Mexican hot chocolate (with a bit of spice), peanut butter, orange, white chai, mocha chocolate….the list goes on and changes quite often.


He has dozens of freshly made truffles and other chocolate treats – any one of which would satisfy a sweet craving for a long time (and would never inspire someone to nibble the bottom first).




For those who like to cook at home, I really love that he sells his chocolates in those little discs, called pistoles, making it easy to measure chocolate for a sauce without having to chop up a bar.   I use the 60% bittersweet chocolate to make hot chocolate for the kiddos (well, for me too) and the 70% to make some really big and delicious chocolate chip cookies (I also eat more than my fair share of those as well).


And yes, you can order some of his products online, but this place is the perfect reason to book those tickets to New York immediately and experience this shop in person, which is so much sweeter than opening a box in your house.  Promise.


Where it is and Why I’ll Miss It:  There are several locations now with more planned in the future:  look at for updates, but for now you can find him in Dumbo (Brooklyn), SoHo, Rockefeller Center and the Upper West Side; delicious chocolate in so many forms.

Posted in Brooklyn, Midtown West, SoHo, Upper West Side | Tagged | 1 Comment

Levain Bakery

You know the type of person who has to go somewhere or see something just to say they’ve done it?

“I went to Paris, Barcelona, Vienna, and London – each for one day”.
“I went to this place that serves the world’s biggest burger and ate the whole thing.”

That ain’t me.  I’d rather spend some time in one city and get to know it a little than frantically hop around from place to place.  I’d rather not eat a disgustingly large overcooked burger just to say I’ve done it.

So, when I tell you the cookies at Levain Bakery are divine, I can understand why you’d shrug and say “oh yeah, that place that makes the REALLY BIG cookies?  Such a gimmick.”  I hear you.  But lordie, lordie, those things are legitimately good, regardless of their size.  In fact, I think the size might be one of the secrets to their deliciousness.  They are always sort of crispy on the outside, but gooey in the middle.


And the flavors are also so great: oatmeal raisin, dark chocolate chocolate chip, chocolate peanut butter chip, or chocolate chip walnut.  You won’t have a favorite.  You’ll want them all, all the time.


The other treats they offer aren’t so bad either:

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Where it is and why I’ll miss it:  74th and Broadway; a delicious cookie for 2, or 1 if you skip lunch.

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I knew this place was going to be good when my French teacher recommended it.  The croissants and other treats are to die for, the coffee is ….god, it is terrible.  But the croissants totally redeem the place, along with the quaint and cozy back room where you can linger for as long as you like.



So take some croissants to go or order a tea and hang.  A really nice respite from the craziness of Soho.



Where it is and why I’ll miss it:  55 Spring Street; delicious croissants and quite place to relax.


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