Donna Bell’s: Because sometimes you get bored of egg and cheese on a roll

28 May

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And also because out-of-town guests are always a little scared when you take them to a bodega for breakfast and swear they won’t get food poisoning. Donna Bell’s Bake Shop on 49th near Eighth Ave. is an unexpected treat haven in a nothing-special section of midtown I deem… NoTiSqu.

Although DB’s is darling, unknowing tourists rarely give it a try because they get sucked in to the familiarity of Starbucks right next door. Little do they know that inside DBs lives the most delightful grab-and-go egg breakfast sandwich on a fluffy biscuit (that I have had the willpower to avoid on the way to work for the past four months…until last week). ANYWAY, you can get it with freshly carved ham or roasted turkey or a sausage or veggie patty. They also serve Cafe Du Monde coffee. McDonald’s this is not.

Peer into the storefront and see towers of homemade southern baked goods like scones and muffins alongside the huge buttery biscuits, and also a variety of seriously special sugary bars and squares and cakes and pies. This is where carbs go to die. But first they will make you very, very happy.

Fun fact: Donna Bell’s is owned by actress Pauley Perette (NCIS) and her two best friends.

Sad fact: Closed on Sundays.

 

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Toddlers dance on (teak) tables at South Street Seaport

27 May
I grabbed this image from the South Street Seaport website.

I grabbed this image from the South Street Seaport website.

I swear—your next playdate should be at South Street Seaport. On summer Sundays from 2-4pm, the See/Change stage features a kid-friendly program that miraculously (!) does not drive adults nuts. Live music and DJs (playing more than kiddie tunes) add to a mini-scene that is not crowded or lame. The astroturf area is semi-contained, so tots can move around while parents kick back in sling chairs. Plus, there is shade! And it’s free! What’s not free are the $8 sizable draft beers sold by the two-week-old Ambrose Hall, but who cares with DJ BagelBites leading the party?

“Family programming” aside, there’s a lot happening down there as the area continues to rebuild after Sandy. Pop-up shows, food trucks, an art gallery, outdoor movies and live entertainment make it a good place to while away an hour or two this summer. I might be getting old, but I like things to be easy.

And did I mention the shade?

 

 

 

You, too, could eat this cheese plate and feel happy

20 May

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If you haven’t been to Gotham West Market yet, you should swing by. And if I sound like I own the place, it’s because I live upstairs. So yeah, I like to pretend it’s my personal charcuterie/coffee shop/craft beer bar/ramen spot/tapas place/burger joint/artisanal market.

It’s not as much a food court as it is a foodie *hall* with communal tables and perch-worthy bars. Plus there are huge garage-like windows that open right onto 11th avenue, making it SUCH a pleasant place to be at 5pm: nice breeze, late-afternoon sunlight, neither crowded nor empty… total rosé hour. (There are also a few actual outdoor tables if you want them.)

I’ve tried just about every purveyor in here, but my fave of-the-moment place to bring my iPad (the entire hall has free wi-fi … and clean bathrooms!) is The Cannibal. I usually shy away from charcuterie, but my aversion to strange meats is matched only by my love of strange cheeses, so it totally works. (And yes, of course I got a bowl of Brussels sprouts to keep my meal balanced!)

Lobstah on the Hudson

19 May

Manhattan has a new lobster shack—and it floats. North River Lobster Company opened on Saturday at Pier 81. It’s on a boat (that sometimes sails). Think Frying Pan, but for grown-ups. Grown-ups who want a snack.

Along with lobster rolls ($18), clam chowder ($6) and fish and chips ($14), the crew of this multi-level boat serves up whole lobster, fish tacos and some non-finned fare. There is also a serious raw bar. And there are two of those other kinds of bars, too, the ones where you can perch on a stool and order a mason jar cocktail or a beer. Or a bucket of beer.

While they were still working out a few kinks on opening day, this is a great place to stop if you are meandering down the west side.

There is a slight chance that its out-of-the-way location on 42nd and Twelfth might prevent it from being mobbed this summer. But that might be wishful thinking, so you should probably just go now. Before the Frying Pan overflow finds out about it.

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Wouldn’t you like to be eating a lobster roll here instead of sitting at your desk?

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Morningside Heights gets fancy

11 Jul


Flat Top

Walking around the hood today, B and I noticed a new biz cropping up! And it happens to be our fave thing: a restaurant. (Yay! More food.) Apparently, Flat Top is a bistro. Or a cafe. Or a place to drink wine. Or a combination of all three. Sleek-looking with a blue-gray exterior, it caught our attention because it’s so different from anything else in the area.

Then we peeped the menu in the window. We were surprised to see bone marrow, a $17 burger and $20+ entrees! There’s even a big, meat-y dish (porterhouse?) for two, for $62. I can’t be more specific than that because the menu had mysteriously disappeared by the time we’d made our way back from the park. Guess it will return in time for next week’s opening…

Since we moved here three years ago, the area has seen some great additions: Bettalona, Jin Ramen, Kuro Kuma, Toast Chicken, etc. But this is much pricier than our typical local joints. Who are they hoping to attract? Students on scholarships? Independently wealthy professors? The Harlem elite?

Maybe just curious moms with blogs.

Two new-ish, don’t-miss, taste-this North Fork wineries

8 Jul

I REALLY love wine tasting on the North Fork. I’ve experienced it by bike, in the dead of winter, in a chauffeur-driven car and even with a baby. Done responsibly, it’s an easy and relaxing day trip from the city. (Just time it well, traffic-wise.) On my most recent visit, we explored two wineries that didn’t exist the last time I was out there. But I was so impressed with them!

1. Sparkling Pointe: With the motto “If it’s not sparkling…what’s the pointe?” this place is obviously all about the bubbly. It’s the only NY winery dedicated to the exclusive production of Méthode Champenoise (which basically means the French method). While it’s one of the more expensive tastings on the North Fork ($17 for a flight of four wines), your palate will thank your wallet. The space itself is beautiful: light, airy and modern, with white walls and brightly colored paintings depicting scenes of … life in Brazil? Yeah, just because the owners love it there. (Their Carnaval costume is at the entrance to the gift shop). While this is a little bizarre for Southold, it’s a nice touch that helps further distinguish Sparkling Pointe from all of the other wineries. Same with the huge back patio, where cool-looking people in sunglasses enjoy bottles on ice, creating a bit of a Miami-among-the-vines feel.

2. One Woman: First of all, just look at this adorable place!

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A tiny hut serves as the tasting room for an awesome one-woman show. Claudia Purita grew up in Italy tending to her family’s farm; now she singlehandedly cares for her own grapes. When we visited, her daughter was pouring in the tasting room and said Claudia hardly ever comes in—that’s how much she prefers to be out in the field. By the way, these “tastings”? They are serious pours (unlike the precisely measured ounces from the nearby factory-feeling Pindar, for example). There were only a handful of people at One Woman, so we enjoyed our sauvignon blanc buzz on the teeny porch at a totally unpretentious picnic table.

Sometimes it feels good to get out of Manhattan.

Off the registry: My fave presents for foodies

3 Jul

I had a baby, so I went away for a while.  But I’m back … and so is wedding season!

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As invitations take over our fridge, I cannot bear to order another boring appliance off the registry. So I started to compile my favorite non-traditional gift ideas–and realized they are all related to food. I guess I like to eat!

Here are my non-traditional gift ideas for foodies (who probably own plenty of  kitchen stuff):

MOUTH: Treat them to high-quality artisan foods, from charcuterie to chocolate, coffee to cookies, jerky to jams. Overwhelmed by the choices? Go for a themed gift bundle (Meat Market, Brunch in a Bag, etc.); one’s even called The Happy Couple. Or get the bride and groom a recurring gift subscription so they can be reminded of your good taste month after month.

GOLDBELY: This still-in-beta site sells regional gourmet specialties from around the country—treats for which the region is known, like Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza from Chicago, Salt Lick BBQ from Texas, Pioneer Pecan Pies from Oklahoma City and 7-layer caramel cake from Caroline’s in South Carolina. Kind of kitschy, kind of cool.

WINE CLUBS. Your best bet is to pick a local winery you know and love, or else a small retailer near you (over a national club like Zagat or NYT). If you’re buying for beer snobs, try the craft brews of a monthly beer club. Spirit-of-the-month clubs are fun for mixologist couples.

I am also a big fan of experiential gifts:

CULINARY CLASSES. It’s convenient if the couple lives near an ICE or Le Cordon Bleu but you can also check out national chains like Sur La Table or Williams-Sonoma. Local restaurants may also offer cuisine-themed classes on slower nights.

DINNER AT A BRAND-NEW RESTAURANT. Research the latest hotspot and treat them to a night out. They’ll need it when newlywed life becomes… just life.