Thursday, October 22, 2009


As fall sets in and the outdoor garden dies back, I focus my energies on the indoor plants that will keep the apartment feeling clean and fresh during the winter.  Cactus, furns, and some exotic tropicals are the bright green guys that keep the gray of winter at bay.

Staghorn fern.  Just soak in the kitchen sink once a week.

White cinnamon tree.  It needs lots of water in summer, and almost none in winter... just like in its native Florida.

This hibiscus is a new addition this year.  We'll see how successful it is as an indoor plant.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Can the new-arrival-on-the-scene cheese shop compete with Big Mama? It will be a challenge. Bedford Cheese at 229 Bedford Avenue is consistently rated one of the finest cheese shops in the city. Look below to understand why.

I could crawl inside and take a nap! The descriptions are witty and yet straightforward and unpretentious. I had to pick up some cheese, just enough for a snack.

Ok, I'll take some baguette, salami and thick sliced prosciutto as well. Let's just make it dinner.

What is a dinner of cheese and meats without wine? Not dinner. Local favorite Blue Angel Wines, at 638 Grand Street, had a tasting of and a special on Clos Roche Blanche Cuvee Pif 2008. Yes, thank you.

The cheeses were: Pau (left) a Spanish goat's milk; Vermont Shepherd (right) a sheep's milk (which I don't usually like, but this one is great); and Grayson (center) an Virginian cow's milk whose scent will slap you in the face, but that goes down real smooth. Yum!

The last stop on the weekend of errands was local bookstore, Spoonbill & Sugartown at 218 Bedford Avenue. The shop is best known for its art books and obscure local magazine, I just wanted to pick up some travel guides because the looming task for next weekend is to plan and book all of our hostels, cars, ferries and activities as well as do research on great eats and sights for our upcoming trip to Australia, New Zealand and Tahiti. I can't wait! Just for the planning! You know me.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


After the hardware store, I headed to Beacon's Closet at 88 North 11th Street to sell some old clothing.  Beacon's is a zoo.  Avoid it on the weekends if you can.  Right next door, however, is my favorite building in the neighborhood.  The landmarked No. 100 North 11th Street is the former Hecla Iron Works building, where much of the decorative iron work on the city's late 19th century construction (including the St. Regis hotel) was fabricated.

The interior is now apartments (of course) but this incredible quasi-neo-gothic arch work remains.  An apartment in the building was featured in Nest magazine (RIP).  If anyone knows which issues, please tell me!

I then stopped by Woodley & Bunny at 490 Driggs Avenue for some fancy guest hand soap for the bathroom.  They no longer carry my favorite kind, which has the world's most beautiful packaging, so I got a substitute.

I was almost late to a haircut at the no name haircut place at 150 Ainsley Street, above (forgive the picture, it was raining hard).  I got a quick, inexpensive trim, and learned from Tom, the guy who cuts my hair, that a space under renovation just around the corner from our apartment is going to be, get ready for it: A CHEESE SHOP.

Here it is.  Fine cheeses will be this close to my doorstep!  How soon will it open?  Will they have more than just cheese?  And the biggest question of all... will it hold a candle to the city's greatest cheese emporium, the Bedford Cheese Shop.  More about that tomorrow, stay tuned.

Images via Waterfront Alliance and

Monday, October 19, 2009


Brooklyn is full of beautiful tree-lined streets developed mostly from the 1830's-1890's with grand old brownstones and brick townhouses filled with original architectural details, dotted with the occasional historic church or huge patch of Olmsted and Vaux designed greenspace. Areas as diverse as Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene and Bedford-Stuyvesant all have amazing residential gems remaining from their origins as middle and upper-middle class neighborhoods (albeit often in varying condition today). Williamsburg, on the other hand, lacks this grander architectural history.

Both Williamsburg and neighboring Greenpoint have, since at least the 1850's and until very recently, been hardscrabble, working-class neighborhoods filled with a variety of industrial buildings and modest but often charming residential stock. The long decline of industry in New York, the gentrification of the area since the 1990's and the mega real estate bubble of the last decade meant Williamsburg was ground zero for an injection of new development. Massive rezoning from manufacturing to residential followed by a rush to beat a height restriction deadline meant that entire blocks, even stretches of multiple blocks were torn down just as the market collapsed. What is left is often depressing scenes like this one:

A mix of funky but original old warehouses, wood frame single and multiple family homes covered in vinyl siding, plus huge trash strewn empty lots and tacky new stucco and glass condos towering above the surrounding area. Not exactly a romantic landscape of architectural wonder. Despite its looks, however, I love my neighborhood. It has some of the best restaurants in Brooklyn (I'll even say in all of New York, but more on that later) and the list of well conceived, unique local businesses grows by the day. There are also lots of original "local" old family businesses that are hanging on or even thriving as the inexorable march of gentrification continues. It may be ugly, even tacky, somewhat toxic, and slightly forlorn at times, but it is home.

This past weekend was spent running a lot of errands and doing a little domestic shopping. In the spirit of a Bay Area friend who regularly recognizes the merits of her neighborhood in Oakland (in my mind, the sort-of Brooklyn of San Francisco) I have documented my errand run in a celebration of my favorite local businesses. First stop of the day: Brooklyn Kitchen at 616 Lorimer Street. I picked up two new cookbooks, the Cook's Illustrated Best 30 Minute Recipe book for when I need to whip up something for myself or my boyfriend as well as Ruth Reichl's Gourmet Cookbook, for when we decide to entertain. Skimming them both, I am excited to move beyond the beloved Barefoot Contessa rut I have been stuck in. I also asked the girls at BK about their new venture, which I mentioned here. Opening day is November 9th. I am going to start a countdown clock, but in the meantime went by to get a look at the building.

Not much to look at, at this point. Inside culinary bliss awaits. OP-EN! OP-EN! OP-EN!

While walking to my next stop, I came across this former gas station at Meeker Avenue and Lorimer Street (which I had often admired as a good spot for some sort of nightlife). Low and behold, it is under renovation to become a restaurant. I have researched and asked around, but cannot seem to find any information on it. Anyone know anything?

Judging from the interior details I spied, as well as the new window frames going in, my guess is semi-ironic BBQ joint. We will see if I am right.

Onward! I picked up some light bulbs at my local hardware store. The family owned Crest True Value franchise at 558 Metropolitan Avenue has really tweaked their business and marketing model to appeal the the neighborhood's younger newcomers, who seem to be into DIY home improvement. They always have great sales on gardening supplies, and are always super friendly to my boyfriend and me when we go in together... not a customer service quality you find often at all old-school local businesses in the area.

More to come tomorrow...

Thursday, October 15, 2009


The Indian summer everyone predicted has not materialized. Instead, the year's first (of a few, I predict) Nor'easter is barreling toward the city. It is gray and rainy and cold. The good news is, the newest issue of WOI has arrived, and I can do some imaginary travel. Let's go to Tangier, shall we?

This 18th century Jewish merchant's dwelling, in the city's medina, was lovingly restored by a pair of Italian architects. Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini wanted their shared home to look like merchant's home it was, filled with Morrocan, Tunisian, Indian, Sicilian, Syrian and Spanish elements, but rediscovered by some 1860's romanticist traveler. It's the kind of design narrative I just love.

I mean, really.

Here is the library. The walls above the tiles were painted with multiple layers of different colored paint before being lime washed over to get this ancient, diaphanous effect.

That wallpaper is antique 19th century.

This is called the Indian bedroom. Fantastic Anglo-Indian bedframe with paisley bedspread.

Images via WOI

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I came home early from work with an autumn cold. The weather turned cold this week as well, so I thought it would be a good time to make the season's first batch of chicken noodle soup. I like to make my own stock and freeze it ahead of time so when the time comes to make the soup, and I am sick, I can have it at the ready.

Chicken Stock
(adapted from Barefoot Contessa)
makes 5-6 quarts

1-2 chickens or leftover carcasses
3 large yellow onions, quartered but not peeled
6 carrots
4 celery stalks with leaves
4 parsnips, quartered
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of thyme
1 bunch of fresh dill
1 head garlic, cut up but not peeled
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns

Combine ingredients with 7 quarts water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 4 hours. Strain broth, leave in fridge overnight. Skim fat off the top and either use right away and/or freeze in 2 quart containers.

Chicken Noodle Soup
makes 6 servings

2 split chicken breasts
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
5 stalks celery, chopped
4 carrots, sliced into circles
2 cups egg noodles
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Heat oven to 350 degrees, bake chicken breasts rubbed with salt, pepper and olive oil for 35 to 40 minutes. Cut off the bone and let cool.

Bring stock to a boil, add carrots, celery and noodles. Simmer for 10 minutes, add chicken to reheat and parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve. Feel better.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


We attended a wedding this weekend at a classic institution of late 19th century New York: The Players Club.

Founded in 1888 by Edwin Booth (brother of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes) Mark Twain and General William Tecumseh Sherman, the Players Club became a home for intellectuals, writers, and especially actors of the time.  Members still include many famous names from screen and stage.

The building was originally a private townhome, built in 1847, for a wealthy banker.  During the 1840's the streets around Gramercy Park and the 20's and 30's along 5th Avenue were the most exclusive neighborhoods in the city.  Gramercy Park is one of only two private parks in the city that requires a key for entry, and the only one in Manhattan.  By the time the club was founded in the 1880's the area was no longer the most fashionable place to call home (that title had moved uptown to 5th Avenue just below Central Park).  Gramercy had, however, become a symbol of old New York gentility... and thus an excellent location for a club that celebrated the artistic and intellectual legacy of the city.

Here is the library around 1907

And today...

There is a great accumulation of portraits, books and old stuffs.  Check it out:

This guy had a good spirit.

Images via musuem, theatre jones and Piera Gelardi