Sunday, December 21, 2008

Great Find: La Maison Du Chocolat Opens On Wall Street

A while back, I had heard La Maison du Chocolat, my favorite Parisian chocolatier in NYC, was opening a shop at 63 Wall Street...i.e., in my neighborhood and in the building of my former residence no less, but it was only during my snowstorm jaunt on Friday that I discovered that the glorious event had already happened! A month ago, I was told. It's a nice sized store, smaller than the location on the Upper West Side, but comparable and perhaps slightly bigger than the Rock Center location. I noticed a small seating area in the back of the store for anyone who wants to mange in-store. In any case, I picked up my favorite Caramel macarons to celebrate...and they were as luscious as ever. I hope this store stays afloat during the economic downturn, as it's nice to have good chocolate in walking distance.

Happenings: First Big Snowstorm Of The Season

As a refugee from warmer climates, I have a love-hate relationship with snow. I'm still fascinated by the first snow of the season. I love the way the city looks blanketed in white, especially when I'm looking out from the warmth of my apartment. The city always feels quieter, calmer, slowed to a comfortable pace.

The part I hate is what comes afterward: the treacherous black ice left on the sidewalks and roads, the freezing temperatures, and the mess. Friday was pretty miserable -- snow, then freezing rain--the worst combination. And Saturday was so cold my toes felt like they were frostbitten after a short walk outside. Today was a little better, but I hear the wind chill's in the negatives tonight. I'm not going out to verify. But we survived. At least the roads are clear. And I've been through worse. I guess I'm closer to being a true New Yorker, now that I can say that.

Here are some pictures I took walking around the Financial District on Friday, after the storm.

The stock exchange:Stone Street:
Hanover Square:
Trinity Church:
Foot bridge at Rector St:

Christmas in NYC: Holiday Markets - Part 2

Last Saturday, I stopped into another holiday market, this time in the courtyard of St. Bart's at 50th and Park Ave. Bought some French cocoa dusted truffles that melt in your mouth and a photo for a friend homesick for NYC. This market's pretty small--just a couple short rows of vendors, but if you're in the area and you're looking for cheap jewelry or scarves, or chocolates or photos for that matter, it might be worth a stroll...

Things I Love About New York: Darn Cute Public Art

Last Saturday, I was running errands in midtown when I was stopped in my tracks by giant Sanrio characters (and Miffy, who apparently isn't a Sanrio character) in the form of bronze sculptures painted white by Tom Sachs.

The artist's site explains:
Working from the original toys, Sachs and his assistants construct enlarged versions using sheets of lightweight foamcore and glue guns, which are then cast in bronze, and ironically painted white to resemble the white foamcore surface. “Hello Kitty” and “Miffy” also function as outdoor fountains.
Here's My Melody...
Hello Kitty...
Hello Kitty again...
...and Miffy the Rabbit.
They really are a sight to behold. If you want to experience their grand innocence yourself, head to the Lever House plaza at 54th and Park.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Happenings: Amanzi Tea Opens In Tribeca

I was on my way to Whole Foods today and noticed a new shop has opened in Tribeca at 166 Chambers near Greenwich St. Apparently, Amanzi Tea is part of a two-store chain (the other store is in South Carolina), and according to the employee who helped me, today was their NYC debut. They feature a full tea bar, where you can order tea lattes, bubble teas, tea cocktails, iced teas and baked goods.
You can also buy hundreds of loose-leaf teas in 1 oz bags ($3-5) and 4 oz canisters ($9-12). They have open canisters out so you can inspect the leaves and smell the teas. They sell tea pots, accessories too and gift sets too.

Bought some tea. Will let you know if it's any good.

Christmas In NYC: Buying Your Own Tree

Every year, City Guy and I enjoy buying a real life Christmas tree from our favorite tree vendor, which happens to be set up along the sidewalk outside a school yard in Tribeca, near the Chambers Street stop. They sell trees (and tree accessories and decorations in the tent) until Christmas Eve, at which time, they'll probably have sold out of their inventory (though if there are any trees leftover, they mulch them).

We usually pick up our tree over Thanksgiving weekend, but since I was sick, we did it this weekend. Turns out this past weekend is traditionally the busiest for Christmas tree vendors, according to the woman who worked there.

We looked at 5-foot Balsam firs and Frasiers from Canada and the South and settled on a very symmetrical, pretty little Balsam fir for $85 plus tax (the Frasiers supposedly smell stronger and don't drop as many needles, but they're $100 and up). They will deliver for $20, but at this size, you can just hail a cab and it will fit perfectly into the trunk (though we tipped the cabbie extra as he seemed peeved about the dropped needles in his trunk).

I've noticed trees outside of Whole Foods and Zeytuna this year, so you could also try your local supermarket. Though, these trees at Zeytuna are not the same fragrant Balsams or Frasiers. What kind of tree is this?

Christmas in NYC: Holiday Markets

On Friday, I stumbled upon my first Holiday market just outside the Bowling Green stop, in front of the US Customs House. A "mini" version of the markets you'll find at Bryant Park, Union Square or Columbus Circle, its highlights are an Italian sausage stand and Breezy Hill Orchard's apple cider and gingerbread stand, but as you know, I'm obsessed with food. Also lots of scarf and hat and jewelry vendors. So yummy - perfectly chewy, just the way I like it. They have gingerbread women too.

On Saturday, after our trip to the Museum of Arts and Design and before lunch at Nougatine, we strolled through the Columbus Circle market. This is a much larger market and is open everyday through Christmas Eve. Stopped at Breezy Hill Orchard's booth...again...but this time the gingerbread was harder than the day before. I prefer it chewy. Oh well. This woman sold German delicacies, hot apple cider and Gluhwein...oh and a German Advent Calendar. This market's got your requisite scarf and hat vendors (though I passed on a purchase, as the quality of the product seemed more suited for tourists who need to keep warm for a week than a native who needs cold protection for a whole season). Also craft vendors, like Vernakular, who sold journals with great NYC-centric photo covers (at $25 a bit pricey) You can buy jewelry, candles, toys, baby clothes, pocket hand warmers, games, and other knicknacks.

Even if you don't buy anything, just walking through the market and seeing the people and sights is a good time.

Things I Love About New York: The Holiday Season

After nearly two weeks of being sick with a cold, I'm 99% well (still blowing my nose, however). and finally able to enjoy the Holidays in NYC to the hilt. After five years of living in the City, I'm still in love with the way the city transforms itself between Turkey Day and New Year's Day. This year, I'm feeling particularly infused with the holiday spirit and hope to share it with you.

So here is my list of things that make up the quintessential NYC Christmas. Click on the headers for related blog posts:
  • Tree Lightings--Yes, I had to watch them on TV this year, but even after they're lit, they're worth visiting and gawking at like a five-year old. Rock Center, Wall Street, Bryant Park...
  • Buying Your Own Tree -- non-New Yorkers often ask me how we New Yorkers get our trees. There aren't Christmas tree lots here, not the way you get in CA, but there are Christmas tree sidewalk vendors. No joke. Photos and details of our tree shopping trip here.
  • Holiday Markets -- They're cropping up everywhere. NYMag has a great compilation of markets around town. I've already stopped into both the Bowling Green market and Columbus Circle market for my Gingerbread people fix (from Breezy Hill Orchards)
  • Ice Skating -- Rock Center and Wollman & Lasker Rinks in Central Park are old standbys; Bryant Park's The Pond is free, but the skates aren't very comfortable (for my flat feet, at least); I have yet to check out the new rinks at South Street Seaport and the Natural History Museum. Once I do, I'll report back.
  • Department Store Windows & Displays -- my favorite by far is Saks' Snowflake spectacular - words cannot describe, so here's a video but Bergdorf's, Barney's, Bloomingdale's, Macy's and Lord & Taylor all put on great displays.
  • Tickets to a Holiday Show -- In the past, I have really enjoyed the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and recommend you go at least once. This year, I'm in the mood for the Nutcracker Ballet. They're also doing Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" at the Marquis Theater.
  • Shopping!!!! - last but not least, what's Christmas in NYC without the amazing end-of-year sales. This year especially. I always start out shopping for others and end up buying stuff for myself. Do you?
Ho ho ho!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Christmas In NYC: Stalking the Tree Lightings

Watched both the Bryant Park and Rock Center holiday tree lightings on TV, which was good enough for me, at least this year. I'll have to go one year when I'm feeling strong enough to stand out in the 40-degree cold for 3-4 hours, which is what I'm sure you have to do to get a spot in the crowd with a sight line. Bryant Park does it right - they lit their tree first and then cued up the entertainment. I just felt sorry for the folks at Rock Center - not only did they probably get there a couple hours early to find a good spot, they had to wait 2 more hours for Harry Connick, Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers to entertain before the tree got lit. Since I'm not a 14-yo girl, that would have tried my patience.

There's another tree lighting happening today, however, in front of the Stock Exchange on Wall Street. Since it's just up the street from me, and it's not as "big" an event as the others, maybe I'll muster up the's the info:
The New York Stock Exchange will hold its 85th annual Christmas tree lighting on Broad Street between Wall Street and Exchange Place. Activities will begin at approx 3:15 p.m. A tradition since 1923, the NYSE’s tree lighting is believed to be the city’s oldest. Lighting this year’s NYSE tree will be the "Queen of Soul" Aretha Franklin. Ms. Franklin will perform two songs from her newly released, first ever holiday album, “This Christmas Aretha”. Also performing at this year’s tree lighting is Victoria Cuomo, Brendan James, the Monsignor Donovan Choir, Push Play, Tiffany Giardina, Gavin DeGraw, and the stars of the Broadway musical White Christmas.
It's Aretha Franklin, for Christmas sake! Miley Cyrus, eat your heart out.

Happenings: Cupcake Party

In yet another example of why I am growing quite fond of NYC, today, the cupcake blog "Cupcake Takes the Cake" is celebrating their 4-year blogiversary with a cupcake blowout. Grub Street reports:
with free cupcakes from folks like Crumbs, Sugar Sweet Sunshine, Little Cupcake Bake Shop, Kumquat Cupcakery, and Butter Lane: “Prizes include coupons for free mail order cupcakes, cupcake cookbooks (Baked, Baking With Agave Nectar, Confetti Cakes for Kids), cupcake-themed novels, 2009 cupcake calendar, a giant cupcake-shaped cookie jar, red velvet cupcake mix, a cupcake necklace, cupcake t-shirts, cupcake flowers from 1-800-Flowers, and more.” Yay!! cupcakescupcakescupcakes!!!!The fĂȘte will be at White Rabbit from 6 p.m. till 9 p.m.
Sounds like sweet baked loveliness to me. Would like to go, but not sure I'll feel up to it. I've still got the sniffles, but feeling much better than I did on Tuesday. Bad news is City Guy has come down with my cold too. :(

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Happenings: Not For Tourists Holiday Party

Here's another thing I'd be doing if I weren't sick....

NFT, the ever popular "Not For Tourists" guide to NYC, is celebrating their 10th anniversary by giving away free copies of their 2009 guide and free booze tonight in the Lower East Side.
Go here, print out the invitation, show up at 6 pm at Fontana's Bar, 105 Eldridge St, and live it up. I'm a sucker for free stuff.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On My Mind: My Holiday Cold & Where I'd Be If I Weren't Sick

Day six of my cold, seven if you count Thanksgiving Eve, which is when the fire in my sore throat broke out. I was hopeful this time that I could nip it in the bud, though 90% of the time a sore throat means a full battalion of cold symptoms will be marching through like clockwork. Gargled with warm water and salt and napped all Thanksgiving Day but to no avail.

Some people never seem to get sick. Some people are highly functioning cold victims--you'd never know even they were sick, and after a few days, they're back on the Stairmaster.

Me? I catch a cold 3-4 times a year (the average for adults, I'm told), at least one of those during the Holidays. Each cold lasts at least 7-10 days and always starts with a sore throat so painful I can't do anything else but think about the pain. Then there's sinus congestion, phlegmy lungs, a wet productive cough that keeps City Guy up all night (poor thing), chafed red nose and cracked lips, the loss of hearing, taste and smell, the mental and physical fatigue, culminating in a few days of neon green or yellow..never mind. Recovery is always slow and imperceptible, but after the 7-10 days, I'm usually better.

So, at this rate, I should be up and about town by the weekend. But unfortunately, I'll have missed a few key NYC holiday events, which I had planned on attending to get me into the holiday spirit. Maybe you can go instead?

Holiday Happenings I would be enjoying this week if I weren't sick:
  • Kissing City Guy under the mistletoe in Madison Square Park at the "Unbreakable Kiss" installation sponsored by A Diamond is Forever. The kiss would be recorded by 60 cameras, creating a video image of the moment frozen in time. Proceeds go to charity (through Dec 4, from 2-8 pm)
  • Attend "Holiday in Bryant Park" tree lighting celebration tonight -- an ice rink, a gorgeous tree, entertainment and Holiday craft fair -- what's not to love? I guess I'll have to watch it on TV...
  • Brave the crowds and go to the Rockerfeller Center Tree Lighting Ceremony tomorrow - I know it's crazy, but this tree is legendary--it was first put up during the Depression to give us all hope--apropos, don't ya think?--and I LOVE it (see my snapshot above). Just once, I'd like to see those holidays lights switched on with my own eyes...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Word On the Street: An Experiment in Neighborliness in Brooklyn

I came across this article on Brooklyn Cohousing on the NY Times site this morning. Brooklyn Cohousing is essentially a real estate development in Brooklyn designed for 40 or so households who aspire to "village" life and all its neighborly benefits within an apartment complex. Each family has their own private apartment, but they know all their neighbors, can cook and eat meals in a shared dining room, vote on decisions that affect the community, hold art classes and other communal activities and watch after each others children. It's not as strict as a commune and sounds like a nice attempt to establish a sense of connectedness in the city. Only time will tell if this works in practice--it's not set to open until Spring 2010--but I, for one, think it sounds practically utopian.