November 8, 2013

NEW IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: A serious coffee shop and an outdoor café.

Let's see, where exactly have I been since June of this past summer? That's a misleading question because the answer is, not anywhere really except close to home, and I haven't posted to the blog in all that time. There are reasons and excuses, but no matter, I'm now working up the energy to get back to it.

So here is my first new post in a while, and, just in time, two new coffee shops opened over the summer, each just around the corner from my home. Dag's is a takeout place with freshly made and boxed food to go, and Illy coffee. It's located in a tiny Parks Department concession on 47th Street off First Avenue. This is its fifth incarnation I believe, and sadly, none successful beyond one summer, but Dag's may be a winner. The orange themed logo, awning, tables and chairs are a playful enticement, and so far they've had no trouble filling up the spots at lunch time. Once in a while I stop there mornings when I walk the dog, and get an Americano to go, or we'll sit and enjoy some leisure time, and some (as fresh as it gets midtown) air.

The other, PennyLane, is round the corner on 45th Street, off of Second Ave., and it's for serious coffee lovers, surprising for a rather dead street, but the UN is just down the block (from both places actually) and the clientele is often made up of a cross section of the world where good coffee is appreciated. PennyLane serves Stumptown coffee. The cafe itself is spartan, with modern tasteful furnishings. You can buy a choice of pastries, but it's really all about the coffee.

Both are welcome spots in this neighborhood—I've written about the dearth of good coffee and cafes in this neighborhood, and this past year I posted—with fanfare—about the arrival of Macaron, on Second Ave—happily, it's doing well.

Coffee at DAG's outdoor cafe on 47th St and First Ave.
Boxed lunch—burgers, salads and sandwiches.

PennyLane on 45th and Second.

The signboard changes daily—words to the wise, or just a 'bon mot.' 
Coffee lovers.
A serious Barista!
And, around the corner at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Starbucks al fresco.

Ana Tsarev's red fiberglass flower sculpture, LOVE.

April 21, 2013

SUNDAY MORNING COFFEE: Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

Last Sunday, a warm, sunny spring day, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe & McNally Jackson Books hosted an all day Downtown Literary Festival at their Soho spaces. The list of events was pretty impressive, starting early in the morning at Housing Works, segueing between there and McNally Jackson, and ending in the evening with an After-Party at Pravda (a Russian speakeasy as they describe it). There were book and poetry readings, and talks on a range of topics to pick from. I was keen to get to a morning reading at HousingWorks of "Russ&Daughters, The House that Herring Built" by Mark Russ Federman, former proprietor of the famous Jewish 'appetizer'* store and foodie destination of the same name.

The reading started off with a breakfast spread of bagels and cream cheese compliments of Russ&Daughters (who knew!) and a coffee (iced Cappuccino) from the Cafe. Mark Russ Federman took the podium, 'spieled' a bit, and then read from his book—a lighthearted, but sometimes poignant, anecdote filled tale that takes you through the history of grandfather Russ's arrival in 1907 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, selling herring from a pushcart, to a successful business that is still going strong. It took a lot of hard work and more than a little 'chutzpah' but the story is one shared with scores of Jewish immigrants who arrived on the Lower East Side of New York during that period. And, it's my grandfather's story—a furrier—who arrived, in 1903, from Eastern Europe via a ship out of Hamburg, like the first Mr. Russ—and so my interest.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, Crosby Street.

Breakfast. Bagels and Cream Cheese, compliments of Russ & Daughters.
Lox Populi-Russ&Daughters

And... Coffee from the Café.

Mark Russ Federman takes the podium.
This reading was arranged by a newly formed group called Dish: Food, Drinks, Stories, that put on readings and talks by, "New York's hottest chefs, restauranteurs, mixologists, food authors, bloggers and critics." They have a FaceBook page at: DISHNewYork

Their debut event, takes place May 1, 7PM, at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, and features, along with others, Lucy Knisley, illustrator and author in conversation with Saveur online editor, Helen Rosner, to celebrate her new graphic novel, "RELISH, My Life in the Kitchen." 

*Appetizing: a Jewish food tradition that is most typical among American Jews, and it is particularly local to New York and New Yorkers. To keep the Kosher laws, stores selling cured and pickled meats became known as delicatessens, while shops that sold fish and dairy products became appetizing stores.

March 29, 2013


I met a friend for Japanese Tea at Cha An in the East Village. The tea parlor has been there for years and I've wanted to try it for as long. We met at 3, a 'proper' hour for tea, and climbed the narrow steps to the second floor. The place is tiny and dark, with windows on the street side only that let in subdued light. But the setting is cozy enough, done in dark woods, with banquettes along the walls and bamboo screens, if, sadly, a bit frayed around the edges and in need of sprucing up. On the menu is a choice of lunch 'sets,' and an afternoon tea set (with, of all things, bagels).There are other savory choices and desserts, and a good selection of teas. We had the Chef's Dessert Assortmenta flan, a cream puff and ice cream with a tuille— and O-cha, or green tea—a Sencha and a Kabusecha (a kind of Gyokuro).* I can't accurately describe the desserts since our waitress (not Japanese) was not around to ask once she set the tray down. But, before I start to sound like a resentful entry on YELP have a look at the pics—short work was happily made of all.

Cha An Lunch Set with Tea.
'Chef's Choice Dessert Assortment,' with Kabusecha (in front) and Sencha.
Sampling the Goods.
And... a sign, at the bus-stop on my way home.

'Bubble tea!!!' 3rd Ave, East Village.

*Here's a website that sells green teas and can tell you all you need to know:

March 2, 2013

BRYANT PARK: Hot and spicy Malaysian food

February, and another awfully cold day, but the sun was shining brightly and the food was hot and spicy at the Malaysian Winter Market, a two day event that took place under heated tents at Bryant Park. I headed there on day one intent on locating Auria (of Auria's Malaysian Kitchen) since a FB friend had been posting mouth watering pics of her dishes for some time. I wound up waiting on line for 45 minutes to get a taste of  her spicy crab sliders, possibly the most sought after chow, and definitely the longest line. A Dr's appointment uptown necessitated a hasty retreat and I wound up racing across 42nd st. in the bitter cold, to catch the bus, all the while shoveling sliders into my mouth—sorry, not a pleasant description, but hey, they were worth it.

Admittedly, I can't say I'd ever had Malaysian food, but the next day I returned with my friend Sara in tow, and  got to sample more of what was offered. I made my way around the tent snapping away as best as I could given the crowded and hectic scene, and even managed to catch a demo by David Talde, chef-owner of the hot ticket Talde's in Park Slope Brooklyn, preparing his take on a traditional Malaysian shaved-ice dessert topped with, distinctly American, Cap'n Crunch cereal—hmm?

This post is a stretch even by my recent inclusive standards, but we did end the tasting glut with a cup of very good, very sweet, and new to me, Tamarind tea, and an odd little gelatinous donut pastry, from Laut—that's Sara sipping 'a cup,' below. For other of the restaurants and participants at the market see: 

Auria, of Auria's Malaysian Kitchen kiosk.
'The' line for Spicy Crab, and Beef Sliders.
David Talde demonstrates his shaved ice and Cap'n Crunch Sundae.
Lunch break. Sampling the Goods.
and... Tamarind Tea from Laut.

February 9, 2013

YEAR OF THE SNAKE: Tea in Chinatown

RED, good luck novelties.
A day in Chinatown, just before the start of the Lunar New Year on the 10th of February. According to the Chinese Zodiac this is the Year of the Snake, my astrological sign. So I headed downtown to buy myself some red good luck trinkets to ring in the new year—not something I'd normally do, but the last time it was the year of the snake I was advised by the Asian woman giving me a manicure, to paint my toenails red, head to Chinatown and pick up red good luck symbols—I did, toenails and all, and it was one of the the best years I'd had. I kid you not.

Red is an auspicious color in Chinese culture—it's a fire sign that symbolizes good luck and joy—it's found everywhere during the celebration of the New Year—witness the displays of red trinkets inside and outside shops. At a paper shop I picked up a good luck symbol embossed in gold on a red background—now affixed to my front door.

After lunch in a local place on Bayard I set out to find a Tea parlor, Cha Chan Tang, for a good cup of tea, and dessert. Somehow I had the street wrong and wound up walking in circles and getting colder by the minute.

I gave up and nipped into a bakery, the only place near the bus stop headed home, but this was the real deal, cheap, filled with locals and serving tea, Lipton's in a paper cup. Perfection.

More RED, New Year's cards, money envelopes, and good luck trinkets.

Cha Chan Tang tea parlor, Mott Street.
No Name bakery, egg custard and Lipton's tea, $1.75.