Wednesday, March 25, 2009

$5 Bottle . . . Classy

One night on our way home from dinner, we got out of the cab to make a stop at Union Square Wine Shop. We stayed in the discount section. The result was going home with three bottles for under $25. This Astica Malbec from Argentina may not be the tastiest wine, but it's not bad for $5. The "this is like drinking rubbing alcohol" facial expressions start diminishing for every glass of red you polish. Gotta love the first harsh sip from a cheapo wine. By the fourth glass, it's your favorite wine.

The Union Square Wine Shop has a lot of variety. But we prefer our favorite neighborhood wine joint - the Chelsea Wine Country.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Streets of Lower East Side

We ran into the Man in Black on the streets of the Lower East Side. He wasn't crooning with cowboys. He was hanging out with the the wasted, the scum, the unwanted.

We couldn't believe someone tossed him to the curb. As we pondered how we'd carry him back home, a dude stopped next to us and said, "Whoa. if you don't take him, I will." Sorry dude, we're taking Johnny back home with us . . . straight into our bedroom.

Monday, March 23, 2009


Empire Diner located at 10th Avenue. We love its exterior Art Deco stainless steel black and white railroad car look.

The inside is less impressive - more dark modern lounge than 1930s diner. The service was crappy. The depressed and moody waitstaff gathered together bitching at the counter. The greasy fast food was standard. The Love Me Tender sandwich (chicken tenders with tomato basil mayo on a French baguette) was just decent . The Chelsea Burger (bacon, cheese, BBQ sauce) was pretty good, although the fries looked and tasted like soggy potato chips

If you like Art Deco design and diners likes us, the exterior of the diner is definitely worth a look, but skip the food. This place is open 24 hours a day so we can only imagine the kinds of post-partying, post-vomiting retards that look and smell like roadkill that stumble into this small diner at 5 am.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Budget Red

This Pepperwood Grove Pinot Noir has been our standard no brainer budget red wine for quite some time. It's a mellow easy-to-drink red for only $10. It tastes much better than $10 per glass wines sold at restaurants.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Spring Showers

First day of spring started off with a different kind of shower - snow showers. A most peculiar and pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Same Cafe

One restaurant we wish was in New York City (or rather, in every city) is Same Cafe. It's located in Denver, CO. We love places like this and people like the Birkys that opened Same Cafe. They serve healthy, fresh and delicious high-quality restaurant meals to everyone. There's no prices on the menu. You pay what you can. If you can't afford to pay anything, you don't have to. And this doesn't mean just homeless people, this includes people who work three jobs to support their family and just can't afford to buy healthy food or to eat out. You can pay $1 for the meal if that's all you can afford.

They also want to give people a sense of dignity so if you want to pay for your meals by washing the dishes or helping out at the restaurant, then they will happily accept your help in exchange for a meal. There's wealthy people that love their food so much that they pay triple what they would for the same food at another restaurant because they know their money is being used for something good and kind.

We definitely need more places like this - a place where people who can't afford it can get new, fresh and healthy meals (not just the old discarded leftovers), a place where people can feel welcomed and respected, a place where people are all same and one - afterall, we are all humans. One day when we're more financially stable, we would love to do something like this. I think everyone should. Especially during these trying times, we should all help each other. Shame on vain "celebrities" that spend $60,000 a week for their hair, make up, plastic surgeries and personal trainers.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Healthy Budget Pasta

With the amount of restaurants in this city, we could easily eat out at a new restaurant every night. But that would get crazy expensive. So on weeknights, we try to eat at home. Here's one of our recent budget pasta loves (because cooking pasta is easy and it's far easier to eat vegetables with pasta than alone). Ingredients: Ripe plum tomatoes, one bunch of fresh basil, one box pasta, four tbsp extra virgin olive oil, one cup chopped spinach, salt and pepper to taste. Top it off with shaved parmesan. Simple and delicious. Total cook time: 30 minutes.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sangria Sunday

Two and a half hours of walking around the West Village made us thirsty. We saw a sign outside that said "$10 Pitcher of Sangria" and we had to make a pit stop. The bartender let us taste both white and red to see which one we liked better. We chose the red.

We also ordered a plate of chicken Quesadilla which was excellent, and the extra nourishment gave us more energy that allowed us to walk around the West Village for another three hours. The funny thing about our visit to La Palapa was that we started our day eating such healthy and organic food: egg salad without mayonnaise on whole wheat bread, oatmeal and fruit salad. But we always come back to places like this.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Fish and Cookies

Max Fish on Ludlow Street. At night, it's a crowded bar. At day, it seemed more like a neighborhood garage sale. Folks selling their clothes for cheap (I bought a $3 blue dress that looked pretty good in the dark until I brought it home to find tiny holes), and $3 whiskey on Saturdays and $3 wines on Sundays until 10 pm. The oddest sight was looking in through the window and seeing a young girl probably not older than eight years of age sitting at the bar. Well, that's curious, we thought. But then again this is New York.

When we walked into the bar, we saw she was selling homemade cookies. She sat so comfortably on the bar stool like it was her neighborhood bar, glancing over at the used Mac makeup next to her that someone else was selling. Are the days when kids sell cookies in front of the grocery stores gone?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Wisdom & Knowledge Shall be the Stability of Thy Times

The Rockefeller Center is great for two reasons: Our Christmas day and Art Deco.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

A Taste of Old New York

Last Saturday we headed to the Lower East Side to get our bagel fix at Russ and Daughters. They've been selling lox, caviar, and herring from its same landmark Lower East Side location since 1914. Don't dare call this place a deli! Russ and Daughters is one of the last standing appetizing shops in NYC (at one point there were about 30 appetizing shops in the Lower East Side). According to Jewish dietary laws, meat and dairy can't be eaten or sold together. So deli shops are supposed to sell just meat, and appetizing shops sell fish and dairy (along with other things like sweets), which is why lox, bagel and cream cheese are the epitome of appetizing.

They also sell specialty items like Whitefish and Baked Salmon Salad. Their egg salad looked excellent.

Everything looked so good and so fresh here, we wanted it all!

And across the aisle from the fish/bagel/cream cheese section is their equally tempting sweets section - homemade chocolate, babka, rugelach, macaroons, chocolate jelly grahams, jelly bars and marshmallow twists, and a variety of Halvah. Again, we wanted it all but we narrowed in on the cinnamon babka. This layered dairy-free Jewish cake was so good that the loaf didn't last very long in our home. It was sweet but not overly sweet and there were these wonderful chewy cinnamon pieces evenly distributed throughout. Just phenomenal. Craving it as I'm typing this.

They also sell dried fruit like Gooseberries and Medjool dates. We took home a bag of Turkish Apricots. What's great is they don't contain preservatives or added sugar. We think our moms will be getting a few bags of these.

Another great thing about Russ and Daughters aside from their high-quality food is that it's impeccably clean and retains the old school neighborhood feel. The many workers wearing their traditional white jackets and crammed into this tiny store are friendly and quick. The shop is pretty small and gets crowded very fast, which is a small price to pay for quality goods.

Last Sunday was the day of the snowstorm and it was cold. And we were apparently the only insane people willing to eat outside on Russ and Daughter's one bench in front of their store. It was a mighty challenge trying to eat with your gloves - you get the cream cheese all over them. You take off your gloves and your fingers quickly get frozen. But we're glad to know we acted as free advertisement for them - everyone that walked by the bench could not stop staring at us shoving our faces while cream cheese smeared all over our lips, chins, and nose.

Russ and Daughters is run by the fourth generation of the Joel Russ family, which is amazing because the statistic is that supposedly less than 2% of family businesses make it to the fourth generation. So on a street where giants like Whole Foods have marked its territory (a street once filled with small family-owned shops), it makes the existence of a place like Russ and Daughters all the more significant and essential to a city as diverse and historic as New York City. Sure, Whole Foods also sells lox, bagels, and cream cheese, but you can't even compare the two (that would be as absurd as comparing your mom's homemade soup to a can you buy at Safeway).

Although they're deeply rooted in tradition, one very modern thing about Russ and Daughters is their great website. Normally, store or restaurant websites are terrible - there's usually either too little information or too much nonsense you don't need, cluttered with very bad visuals and cheezy background music. Russ and Daughters is a fine example of how a website should be - containing a comprehensive list of everything they sell (in a uncluttered and easy to navigate way), and they even have a blog and a great page called Yiddishism.

On our food guru Anthony Bourdain's recent "Disappearing Manhattan" episde of No Reservations, he said, "Russ and Daughters occupies that rare and tiny place on the mountaintop reserved for those who are not just the oldest and the last - but also the best." We knew about this place before Bourdain shed the light to millions of viewers but we're glad to add this to the list of food tastes and restaurant types we have in common with him. (On another note: We didn't know about a few places he covered on that episode and we'll bring you our own takes on them in our upcoming posts). By the way, since we don't have free travel channel here, we are seriously pining for his shows. If anyone has a copy of his "Disappearing New York" episode, please send it to us!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Love Boat

Days ago, Central Park was completely covered in snow. Today, it felt like summer in the park, crowded with joggers and bikers dressed in summer gear. We went there hoping to skate again at Wollman Rink before it soon closes for the season. When we got there, although the rink was open, we could tell the ice was slightly melting. We didn't feel like getting our butts bruised today so we skipped the skates and picked up the paddles. The lake was no longer frozen. The boathouse was open!

We were surprised at how short the line was. Just $12 for both of us for a one-hour ride around the park.

The views from our little boat were amazing. That's the Dakota (to the left) and the San Remo (to the right).

There was a moment when I felt like Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock's The Birds.

The father in this boat was cooly smooking his cigar while giving his daughter a ride.

Probably one of my favorite scenes - innocence and wisdom.

People somehow engraved their names and love signs on the wall under the Bow Bridge.

The view of The Loeb Boathouse that houses the Boathouse Restaurant as we approach the "boat dock." The restaurant was crowded. We're not certain whether we'd eat at the restaurant or not. It's a bit pricey and the crowd seemed a bit Park Avenue but then again we wouldn't mind having brunch on the deck by the lake. Still, we'd rather be in the boat than in the house. Our next ride will hopefully be in their Venetian Gondola.

We haven't exercised at the gym or at a yoga studio since we moved here, but we've practically walked all over this city. Today in Central Park alone we walked an equivalent of 21 blocks. We walked an additional 20 blocks around the city. A year ago walking 40+ blocks would have seemed outright nuts. At least we're burning off the pizza calories.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Frost Bite

Here we go again . . .

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon

People in New York must love dogs, some preferring dogs to humans, which explains the many doggy day care places all over this city. But why won't they pick up their dog shit? Walking on our street is like walking through a shitty land mine. And yes, this is a real doggy in the window.

Bow wow wow.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day

All winter we waited for up-to-our-knees kind of snow. What we got was here and there fairly tame snow. We weren't expecting this kind of snow when it's almost spring, but we finally got it today. Last night while we were sleeping, we received a whole winter's worth of snow (up to 14 inches here today), the most we had seen. So much so that NYC's public school system (the largest in this country) announced today is Snow Day for the first time in five years. Adults need snow day play day too, so we said "screw you" to the frigid cold and made it back to Central Park early this evening.

It was so strange to see the whole park covered in white since we were just there yesterday and the grounds were as dry as could be. It's so peculiar how drastically the weather changed overnight.

Central Park was stunning. To see this enormous, majestic park blanketed entirely in the purest and fluffiest looking white was truly amazing and a blessing. The kids were having fun too. We wanted to join them in sledding. Hey kid, let me borrow that for a second.

The cold didn't stop us and other child-like adults from swinging away. Weeeeee!

We could only stay at the park tonight for 50 minutes. My finger tips were turning purple (even with gloves on) and doing snow angels causes your bum to hurt as the snow turns into water on your jeans. Snow angel time in Central Park is so worth the snow-burned bum.

Well, looks like there won't be a second snow day. So we're really glad we got to enjoy at least a piece of it - saying farewell to winter with a bang. If only it could last through this weekend so we could go back to the park on Saturday to play around in the snow a bit more. I'm sure that would be a nightmare for Mayor Bloomberg who said that snowstorms generally cost the city about $1 million per inch of snow. Well, we're lucky to live in a place where you don't have to worry about driving on dangerous roads during snowstorms or heavy rain, and you're not paralyzed by the weather thanks to the really efficient transportation system here. Another reason to love New York City. Our list keeps growing.