Thursday, July 17, 2008

Neighborhood: Cobble Hill

Miss Fashion, who grew up in Brooklyn and is helping me discover new neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, suggested we meet in Cobble Hill last night for dinner. I had previously fallen in love with DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights, but my evening in Cobble Hill was even better in some ways. This neighborhood reminded me of the Lower East Side, without the grit. I mean, people were mellow and smiled and sat at sidewalk cafes eating dinner with their kids and dogs.

First, we met up at Borough Hall and walked around the neighborhood, where Miss Fashion pointed out the beautiful brownstones. There were kids and parents everywhere, and at one point, we witnessed a returning father being greeted by his wife and kid at the door. A very sweet moment.

We then went to One Girl Cookies on Dean Street whose reputation is built on their Whoopie Pies and amazing cookies. Being the sweet-fiends we are, we both loaded up. Let me just say the pumpkin whoopie pie is amaaaazzing! And the Lucia cookie (the one with the black and white marble frosting) just sent my endorphins soaring. So good. And how cute is their store? So much bigger than bakeries in Manhattan with an entire seating area in the back, where you can just sit with your girlfriends and get your sugar rush on. I will definitely be back.

We strolled down Smith Street (Brooklyn's "Restaurant Row" according to some) and I was surprised by how many adorable boutiques there were, including Bird, which had great dresses and accessories, including foldable commuter shoes/ballet flats with carrying case:...and another whose name I forget that carries the cutest Vivienne Westwood rubber Mary Janes and Wedges, which Miss Fashion was crazy for. And we stopped in at Rime, this streetwear store that sold Kid Robot stuff, including both tricked out and do-it-yourself Munny's. They were having a DIY Munny contest actually. There was a Flight 001, where I stopped in for some travel accessories and we also passed Brooklyn Industries, though we didn't stop in. There were just too many cute stores and not enough time.

You've got to love Cobble Hill's broad selection of restaurants, from Cuban to Thai to Italian to French. On Pacific, the Angeleno in me got excited when passing the surf-shack Mexican restaurant called Pacifico and seafood joint called Trout (although the blogosphere seem less than enthusiastic about the food) But we ended up eating in the outdoor patio of Apartment 138 because Miss Fashion had heard good things:I had a Caesar Salad and a classic burger slider. The food was really delicious, esp considering restaurants seem to slack off when it comes to the slider. This one had a lovely toasted brioche bun and perfectly cooked patty and sauce. Yum! And the Caesar had a uniquely tart dressing that I really enjoyed.

Miss Fashion and I talked a lot about finding a neighborhood to call home in NYC and all the factors that go into that decision. I'm still haven't weened myself off Manhattan, but I'm beginning to think that in the future, with more excursions like last night's, I may change my mind.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stuff I've Learned: Go to B&H Photo Around 3 pm on a Weekday

Ah! B&H Photo, how I love thee and dread thee! There are other photo stores in the city, of course--J&R, Adorama, etc.--but for sheer volume of inventory and selection, you can't beat B&H. Which is why I suck it up and trek down to 9th and 34th once a year or so to get my photo fix. Also, I'm very nostalgic about B&H. I ordered my very first Nikon SLR from them via their catalog many many years ago when I was a fledgling photographer.

So let me tell you something--I've gone to B&H Photo twice in the last two days. The first time in Sunday to purchase the item; the second time yesterday to exchange said item for a better one. Sunday was a zoo--complete pandemonium. There are 50+ customer service stations in the digital photo area and there was still a line at least 20 people deep. They had a little picnic table set up downstairs with refreshments to keep their customers happy. Nice touch. Still, the crowds made want to swear off the thrills of the conveyor belt delivery system and multi-step purchase process (select item, get guy to write up ticket for item, pay for item, pick up item) and never come back.

But alas, our hasty purchase (motivated by our great desire to leave the store in a hurry, I think) meant I had to go back for an exchange. But yesterday, I went in the afternoon, and there was no line. Night and day! I asked the guy if it was always this slow on weekdays and he told me I'd missed the rush. "Come before 3," he said. "That's when it slows down."

I know a lot of you are working at 3 pm on weekdays, but I thought I'd pass this along, just in case you find yourself in need of photo equipment and you happen to have the afternoon off.

Note: Check out the comment left by Henry from B&H. Their expansion will be done in the fall. And btw, he says mornings are better and so are Mondays and Tuesdays.

Cruising on the Hudson River

This past weekend, City Guy and I enjoyed a dinner cruise along the Hudson River. World Yacht, the cruise operator, states on its site that their boats are large enough and the river calm enough that one is unlikely to feel the waves. Boy, were they wrong. Maybe it was just that particular night, but you could see the boat pitching violently just standing on the dock. Once on board, while waiting to leave shore, I had to hold on to the posts to keep my balance. Mind you, I get seasick just watching the waves, so it took two Dramamine to keep me from running to my porcelain friend.

But it was worth it...especially after the sun went down. The sunset on the Hudson is spectacular, getting to see the Waterfalls up-close really makes you appreciate their magnitude and engineering. BTW, the food was horrible (honestly--I set my standards low, and they still managed not to meet them), but you really go for the view. Check out these photos:

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happenings: Opening Day at Whole Foods Tribeca

It's open! It's huge and I was completely disoriented, its layout being very different from the one I was accustomed to at Union Square, where you enter on the bakery, deli and cashier level and go down one floor to the rest of the store. At Tribeca, you have one wide-open floor plan. I think I prefer it. When you enter on Greenwich, you are right in the produce department, which I think is the most natural way to start any grocery shopping trip. You also notice things you don't notice at Union Square--like who knew WF made baby food in their deli (or is this a Tribeca thing?) or had so many eco-friendly household products?

It was beautiful! If you've never been to a store on opening day, you'll never know the absolutely perfection of every item on the shelf fully stocked and lined up to the edge. It was like a movie set.

I was surprised at how packed it was for 11 am in the morning! Tribeca housewives and their babies everywhere...not to mention the coterie of WF managers and workers, stationed at every aisle, ready to help you find this or that. Though I have to say, it's going to take them a while to figure out their own store--I was looking for tahini, and woman valiantly tried to find it for me, though she didn't seem to know what tahini was, as she was looking for it in the Asian food aisle. When asked the same question, another man, confident in the way managers are, took me directly to the spot in the deli fridge where the fresh tahini that I indicated I preferred over the shelf-stable version would have been, but alas, it wasn't there. He informed me that some of the stock was still coming in, so I bought the shelf-stable instead. He was really helpful in any case.

There are some new features in the Tribeca store. One is a sushi bar smack in the middle of the store called Genji. You can pull up to the bar and get sushi rolled for you or opt for a bento lunch. I took a look at the menu, and it's on the pricier side.
Exotic salt dispensers. How pretty is that pink salt? And that lavender salt too. Not sure how they taste, however. There are multiple checkout areas and multiple entrances-- one on Warren and one on Greenwich.

I didn't make it to the tour, but I did score a couple samples of really tasty olive oil and these takeaways:
The Kiss My Face soap smells so great, btw. Grapefruit...

All in all, my love of WF has only grown with this latest addition. Funny thing, though--even though the Tribeca location is closer to where I live, it's a couple blocks from the Chambers St. station, so I have to drag my grandma cart further than I do when I go to Union Square. For this reason, I may sometimes go up to Union Square when I have heavy grocery shopping to do. Otherwise, Tribeca is it, baby!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Happenings: Whole Foods Tribeca Opens Tomorrow!!

No more lugging the grandma cart to Union Square! Whoo-hoo! I'm such a dork--I actually went up to Warren Street yesterday morning, thinking it was opening on Monday, but the Whole Foods employees taping the "If you're here for the tour, enter on Greenwich St" sign on the door set me straight. (What tour, btw? Sounds like I missed some free food.) It's tomorrow, folks, and rumor has it the Tribeca location is larger than the Union Square one. Of course, I will report back after my trip tomorrow.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Happenings: Fourth of July Weekend in the City

This was my fifth Fourth of July since moving to NYC. For the first three, we were out of town and for two of those, in foreign countries. Last year, we were in crazy wedding planning mode, so this was the first Fourth of July weekend we spent in town enjoying the festivities. As tradition dictates, we ate lots of bad food, watched fireworks, battled crowds and watched a bunch of movies (on Netflix actually--Lust, Caution (great), 27 Dresses (forgettable) and August Rush (screenwriting 101--horrible). The weather was overcast, hazy and humid all weekend, by the way.

On Thursday night, we kicked off the weekend by having dinner at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. Maybe we didn't order the right things, but we weren't impressed. The lamb chops I ordered were burnt and flavorless. City Guy's strip loin was nothing special.

On the Fourth, we went to Shake Shack, b/c City Guy had never been. The last few times I'd been to Shake Shack, I got lucky. Not this time. Check out the line. But it was well worth it. Sorry no pictures of the legendary food--ate it all before I remembered to take a picture!

The line in front of us:
Line behind us:
In the evening, we walked down to the South Street Seaport area and tried to find a spot where there weren't already a hundred people in front of us to see the Macy's Fireworks Show. We waited for a bit with the crowds along the East River. This was actually one of the less crowded spots. I brought a blanket and snacks, thinking there would be room for a picnic, but I should have known--this is New York. People stand.
This was our first view--totally blocked by the Brooklyn Bridge. We were hoping the fireworks would clear the bridge, but nope...
After a while, we scooched south to get a better view, which yielded this:

Here's a little video:

Here are the Waterfalls at night:
It started raining during the show. Here's the crowd of umbrellas after the show.
On Saturday, we finally went to the Brooklyn Museum to see the Takashi Murakami exhibit, which closes next week. I'd never been to this museum before. It was smaller and less impressive than the Manhattan museums and a couple of exhibits, including the European paintings, were closed. I kept wondering how they were going to get people to come here after the Murakami exhibit closes. Decorative Arts, Asian Art and Antiquities are all better at the MET. The feminist art galleries and the crowd-curated photo exhibit were actually my favorites, but are they enough of a draw?

Anyhow, I'd been putting this trip off b/c of the bad reviews the exhibit got when it first opened. I also really loved the "Superflat" exhibit I saw in LA at the MOCA in 2000 (which was Murakami's first big exhibition in the US), as well as the "Little Boy" exhibit, which covered Superflat artists, at the Japan Society so I was bound to be underwhelmed this time.

There were also some presentation choices I didn't like. The wall panels were written for children, and my cell phone was out of juice, so I couldn't follow along with the phone-in guided tour. The merchandising push at the two gift shops was pretty blatant--these plush versions of my favorite character (frazzled DOB) were $35 a pop. They're very cute, but only about 6 inches tall and I figured I could get my cute fix by taking some pictures--I bought a book called "dr0p dead cute" about Murakami's female contemporaries instead. At least I'll learn something. I also felt there should have been more pieces like Tan Tan Barfing, which is complex and really shows off Murakami's skills and intelligence and fewer simplistic DOB pieces (which I know are crowd-pleasers, but aren't much more than graphic design).
A replica of the statue of liberty stood in the parking lot. Thought that was funny, considering it was the 4th of July weekend.This display in the lobby was pretty darn cute. Here are two of the four creatures:
All in all, an enjoyable weekend. Just wish the weather had been nicer.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On My Mind: People Are Fascinating

Today was Day 2 of my cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education. After four hours of cooking on my feet, I'm beat when I come home. I don't know how professional chefs do it. I'm not learning as much as I did when I took Techniques of Fine Cooking I, but I'm still enjoying the class. You get to eat everything you cook and take home leftovers--which means I haven't had to cook dinner for the last two nights.

But the best thing so far has been the fascinating women I've been cooking with for the last couple days. This class reminds me of jury duty--you get to meet people from walks of life and backgrounds you would otherwise never encounter.

Without giving away any identifying details, I'll just say they're well-read, well-traveled, articulate, healthy, smart, curious, career-oriented and married to men who are interesting and successful in their own right. Two of the girls were saying they work out every day, and I thought, wow--if they can do it, so can I. I've been impressed. New Yorkers are smart, driven and dynamic. Instead of being intimidated or jealous, I'm going to try stepping up my game!