It’s been a whirlwind the past coupla weeks, so I’ve got a backlog of discoveries to share from NY and LA. I had about 16 hours to unpack from my NY gigs and repack for my LA job--then hit the road running again. Now that I have a chance to sit down (collapse, actually) for a moment, I’ll start with parsing out my NY adventures in the E. Village and LES.
A foodie and fashionista friend turned me on to what is my favorite new find of the moment: The Smile on Bond St between Lafayette and Bowery. It’s a groovy combo of café slash gift emporium that's fresh on the scene (about two and a half weeks, at this point). When I arrived in the late afternoon, the kitchen was closed for the day, so I ordered a Mariage Frères Marco Polo tea. You’ve gotta love a place that actually offers Marco Polo tea, stamps it’s to-go cups with sweet little logos and serves up a chocolate and brie sandwich.
The gift offerings include the ever classic Santa Maria Novella wares, Mariage Frères teas, and super-hip Wool and the Gang knitting kits. I can already tell The Smile will be a frequent stop for me on future visits.
How can one not be smitten with a venue that’s at the end of an alleyway? Somehow, I’d not yet discovered Freemans til this trip. The interior is something like a cross between a hunting cabin and a natural history museum with antlers on the wall of the dining room and dioramas behind the bar.
Freemans has terrific cocktails and the bartender offers a good show. But be warned, you might just get a cocktail shower while he’s shaking it up. I was offered the quip, ‘it’s sometimes a little like Sea World up here.’ Next time I sit at the bar, I'll be sure to wear my raincoat.
Since I was staying on the Lower East Side this trip, I explored the area a little more indepth than usual. I’d heard about a new wood fired pizza place called San Marzano, adjacent to the former 71 Clinton Fresh Food (Wylie Dufresne’s fab little resto before the days of wd~50). On a Tuesday night at 9 pm, the place was hoppin’. Here’s why: the folks at San Marzano could not be nicer and the pizza is spot on. Until they get their wine license, it’s byob (no corkage) when dining in. You can also get slices to go. All with a friendly smile and no attitude – go figure!
I revisited Porchetta, where you can get a kick*ss pork sandwich with a side of pork fat flavored potatoes and tasty greens (in both cooked and salad form). I love this little spot with its perfectly suited old-fashioned black and white tile walls and flooring, wooden stools and countertops and big pig stencil painted on the wall.
You can smell the incredible aroma of the pork roasting from down the block and it’s everything it promises to be.
My veggie friend was a huge sport to come along for the pork experience and was promptly rewarded with a feast of cupcakes at Butter Lane, just across the street. Cupcakes are all Butter Lane does and, unlike many, they do cupcakes exceptionally well. The little cakes are moist, flavorful, not overly sweet and you're given the choice of both French and American buttercreams, which won me over. The bright, colorful wallpaper and chalkboard list are cheerful in a not too cutesy way. I’m hoping someday the masses will realize the mystique around a certain bakery in the W. Village is something akin to the emperor having no clothing and venture forth to better cupcakes. In the meantime, get yourself to Butter Lane before their lines become legendary.
Snacks, Venezuela Style
I don’t know what I was thinking trying to 'drop in' to Caracas Arepa Bar on a Friday night at 8:30, but it is worth the wait. Absolutely everything on the menu we tried is delish and I totally dig the Tinto de Verano drink, which is a mighty tasty, sparkling version of a sangria. The space is perfect--right down to the hammered metal tile ceiling.
For dessert, I experienced something new to me called an oblea. Obleas are dulce de leche spread between two uber thin, crispy wafers the size of corn tortillas. OMG!...let’s just say it’s a really good thing these aren’t available anywhere near me at home in SF.
I spied the restaurant Marfa on my way to meet up with a friend on the Lower East Side. I figured any place named after Marfa, TX where the Donald Judd museum resides, had to be smart enough to check out—and turns out, it is. Pretty much any venue that serves PBR gets an extra brownie point with me. And the food, which I’d characterize as super-clean, fresh, contemporary Ameri-Mex/Tex-Mex was terrific. The house cocktail is a ‘marfarita’ (not a great name, but I get it…) which blends two flavors I’m particularly fond of: grapefruit and chili spice, mmm! The space is simple and stark (not unlike Judd’s art, actually) with luminarias on the tables and it works. Maybe it’s because I had art on the brain (clearly!) it almost felt like eating in a Mexican museum with an interesting, diverse and colorful crowd decorating the space.
Okay, my LA-la land adventures will be forthcoming…but I need to catch my breath first!