Category Archives: New York City

Check out the Wangechi Mutu sculpture at the MET – NYC

(After the fact post)

You don’t even have to go into NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art  to see these four new haunting sculptures. They’re in the four niches of the MET’s facade — the first time that sculpture has been placed in them.

The commission went to Kenyan artist Wangechi Mutu, whose work I know from the Des Moines Art Center where her Water Woman sculpture of an enticing and somewhat menacing mermaid/siren is a big hit with the fourth-graders I take on tours.  The Met installation is temporary so see it while you can!

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DUMBO, Brooklyn Bridge Park, the East River Ferry – Brooklyn!

What a glorious day in Brooklyn’s DUMBO (“Down under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass”) neighborhood. Now I understand what the fuss is all about. Last time I explorer the old cobblestone streets and warehouses in the rabbit warren of streets between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, I didn’t find much going on. Flash forward several years and the place is full of people, strolling along Brooklyn Bridge Park, with it’s great views of the bridges, lower Manhattan and even the Statue of Liberty in the distance. Old brick warehouses are now home to trendy shops (Empire Stores, The Modern Chemist), food courts (TimeOut market in Empire Stores), coffee roasters (Brooklyn Roasting Co.), bookstores (Powerhouse Arena/books) and theaters.  (And now I know where Bargemusic – the outdoor music venue – is. And the venerable St. Ann’s Warehouse theatre, where I sat at an outdoor table in a lovely courtyard in the shell of an old brick building, looking out at the water.)

I bought some excellent Thai food at a food truck and ate in the Pearl Street Triangle picnic area,  carved out of a patch of street beside the massive Manhattan Bridge, with the subway rumbling by high above.. Another cool picnic area nearby is the Archway Under Manhattan Bridge.

I took a New York ferry (for a whopping $2.75) that stopped at several Brooklyn spots before the final stop at East 34th street (which was a bit of an odd drop off, right by the midtown tunnel but I walked to Third Avenue and hopped a bus to the upper east side.)

Met some nice people on the ferry including a young family from Argentina and a woman from Montana. Several ferry options are available and the pier is next to the venerable River Cafe (where we attended a bar mitzvah about 30 years ago) and a stand next door that touted famous lobster rolls. (Next trip!)

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Amy Sherold show, Mission Ceviche, Fabrique Bakery, High Line, Hudson Yards, Central synagogue – nyc on a fall day

Is there anywhere like New York city on a sunny fall day? The place was humming with activity, crowds of people outside everywhere enjoying the sights and sounds of a vibrant city.

After a quick direct morning flight from DSM (thank you delta) we had an afternoon to play in the city. What a treat! We took the 6 train south from the upper east side where we are staying at my aunt S’s apartment to 14th Street, stopped at The Strand bookstore (where I did find a copy of a 20-year old book about Vietnam that I hoped to find, except it was hardback), and then walked west along 12th street (relatively quiet and charming compared to 14th), past 5th Avenue (and One Fifth Avenue, where my parents had their wedding) thru Greenwich village to Gansevoort market, where we had delicious ceviche bowls at a Peruvian stand, Mission Ceviche, sitting on seats around the cooks. Across the street, we bought cardamom buns at Fabrique, the first nyc outpost of the bakery we discovered last summer in Stockholm.

The High Line seemed narrower and even more jam packed than usual, which added to the excitement and frustration. Many people speaking foreign languages. Stunning plantings, art installations, architecture, city and river views from on high. Very slow walkers (and I am not exactly fast.)

The eight Amy Sherold portraits of ordinary striking black people (not Michelle Obama this time) jumped off the stark white walls of the large airy open gallery on 22nd street. Stunning. As with the Obama portraits in DC at the National Portrait gallery, I saw black people in particular posing next to these portraits, which I found moving.

We continue north on the High Line to the glittering new colossus of Hudson Yards, which felt like a cross between a Batman set and Disneyland, with huge hulking dramatic buildings and skyscrapers and a copper-colored tower of tunneled walkways that tourists and presumably locals were lining up to walk up and up and down and down. Overwhelming and disorienting and showy and unnecessary are the words that came to mind. (Here’s a promo blurb: Hudson Yards is unlike anything ever built before — a living, breathing neighborhood that champions first-to-New York experiences. Climb Vessel, the interactive centerpiece of Hudson Yards. Visit The Shed, a new center for art and inspiration. Or take in the scene from thrilling new heights on Edge — an outdoor space a thousand feet in the air.)

For a far more charming encounter with architecture, we sat in the ornate cavernous Moorish Central Synagogue and enjoyed the gorgeous singing and ceremony of a Shabbat service (we are here for a family bat mitzvah). Also was relieved, sadly, that we had to go through a metal detector to get into the sanctuary.

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Swedish invasion of NYC? Welcome to Fotografiska (museum) and Fabrique (bakery)

First I read that our favorite pastry shop in Stockholm, Fabrique (Stenugnsbageri) is setting up an outpost in NYC in the Meatpacking District (on 14th Street, where else?)

Next came news, yesterday, that our favorite museum in Stockholm, is opening an outpost in NYC. Unfortunately it won’t be open until mid-October (we’ll be in NYC in early October) but Fotografiska  is now very much on my to-do list for future trips to the city!

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For my next trip to DUMBO (in NYC’s Brooklyn)

I’ve long been curious about Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood but the few times I’ve walked under the Brooklyn Bridge to explore it, I wasn’t sure if I’d really found it. (DUMBO actually stands for down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass.” It’s the area between the two bridges and a few blocks east of the Manhattan Bridge.) So this recent walking tour of Dumbo offered by the NYTimes may some day come in handy. See below:

The Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, once warehouses and longshoremen, is now hot and hip. On an itinerary inspired by The New York Times and conducted by Urban Adventures, discover one of the most fascinating neighborhoods in the city, including some spots off the tourist trail. Catch the ferry from Manhattan and have an experience that combines local sights with hands-on and exclusive access.

New York Times Exclusives:

  • Tour the Smile to Go bakery with a staff member to watch pastries being made and taste them fresh out of the oven.
  • Pour your own beer at Randolph Beer, where the beer is also made.
  • Meet the staff at innovative places like Powerhouse Arena and the Brooklyn Roasting Company.

Trip Highlights:

  • Travel like a local on the commuter ferry from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
  • Visit Brooklyn Bridge Park, built partly on old shipping piers, and get breathtaking views of the Manhattan skyline.
  • Learn the history of Brooklyn’s waterfront and how it has transformed from industrial to recreational.
  • Try the offerings at some of the neighborhood’s favorite local food creators and businesses.
  • Feel the vibe that has attracted artists, innovators and tech companies and revitalized the neighborhood.

Schedule Details

Duration: 3 hours

Meeting point: Entrance of Pier 11 just east of South Street and Gouverneur Lane, underneath the F.D.R. Drive in Manhattan

Starting time: 9:00 a.m.

Ending point: Randolph Beer

RESERVE

Duration

3 hours

Cost

$99 USD

Maximum Group Size

12 people

Activity Level

Easier

Questions?

Terms & Conditions

Terms & Conditions

Days of Departure

Tour operates daily

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Hour 1: Views of Manhattan and Brooklyn

Meet in Manhattan and hop the commuter ferry for a short ride across the East River to Brooklyn, with great views of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. Land in Dumbo, named not for the elephant, but because it is “down under the Manhattan Bridge overpass.” Long home to shipping piers and industrial warehouses, this charming and historic neighborhood is now one of the most desirable in Brooklyn because of its access to the waterfront, breathtaking views and historic architecture. Walk through Brooklyn Bridge Park, built largely on those old piers, to learn how the waterfront changed from a source of food to a thriving industrial area (where entrepreneurs did everything from process tobacco to create the first cardboard boxes) to an unsafe abandoned slum to what it is today: a beautiful park for recreation and home to modern businesses. Stop at Jane’s Carousel, from a 1920s amusement park. It was purchased by a local artist who restored it, and a glass-enclosed ride offers a view of modern Manhattan from a historic perch.

At the Empire Stores, you’ll see the latest transformation. This brick warehouse block is believed to be the first place coffee was commercially roasted and processed, but was abandoned for many years as shipping moved elsewhere. Now, it has been revived as a community space with shops, cafes and restaurants, rotating art exhibits and an outpost of the Brooklyn Historical Society. Take in the panorama of Manhattan from a secret viewpoint, then head to the Smile to Go, a spinoff of a popular downtown restaurant, the Smile. See where all the pastries are made, watching the bakers at work as you hear about the process. Then sample an array of creative, chef-driven pastries fresh from the oven.

Hour 2: Layers of History

Walk down the old cobblestone streets to see more of the old warehouses and factories that have been converted into lofts, restaurants and art galleries. Stop at Powerhouse Arena. It’s a bookstore specializing in books on art and photography, but is also a space for art exhibitions and literary events, including book readings, launch parties and panel discussions. Meet a manager to talk about the community activities that happen here, and about the literary and art communities that inspire and visit the space.

Pass under the Manhattan Bridge archway and into another part of the neighborhood to visit the Brooklyn Roasting Company. It is housed in an old building that was part of the historic Arbuckle’s Coffee company, whose roasted coffee was a favorite of cowboys for years. Brooklyn Roasting has brought the coffee tradition back to the waterfront. Learn about their history and how it ties into the neighborhood’s past. Of course, sample some of coffee, which is curated and blended from beans from all over the world.

Hour 3: The New Brooklyn

Head farther into Dumbo and learn about the growing start-up and tech world in the neighborhood. Stop for a quick bite at Untamed Sandwiches, which uses sustainable and local food for its braised meat and vegetables. You might stop instead at CUPER, an unassuming cafe inside the Made in NY Media Center, a co-working space and incubator where you can usually find artists discussing projects and business people making deals. Finally, stop at the hidden gem of Randolph Beer. Craft brewing is all the rage, but the Randolph goes it one better and serves its beer where it’s made. Learn about the growing craft beer scene in Brooklyn, and pull your own beer from the tap. (You can’t get much more local than that.) End the tour sipping your beer and reflecting on how far Brooklyn has come, yet how close it remains to its roots.

 

Tour Inclusions: Local English-speaking guide, pastry, coffee, gourmet sandwich, pour your own beer, ferry ticket.

Tour Exclusions: Additional food and drinks, souvenirs and personal shopping, gratuities for your guide.

Children: No age limit. This is a child-friendly tour. Children between the ages of 6 and 11 inclusively are permitted on this tour at the rate listed above. Please select ‘child’ when booking. Children under the age of 6 are permitted to join this tour free of charge. Please inform us at the time of booking if you’ll be bringing a child under the age of 6. You can do so in the special request box on the checkout page.

 

 

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Fluffy pancakes we spotted in Tokyo in 2016 have arrived in the U.S. What next? A new kind of ice coffee maybe?

In July 2016, we were intrigued in an Tokyo coffee cafe to see Japanese people eating fluffy pancakes as an afternoon treat. Now comes work that those pancakes (apparently known as “souffle pancakes”) have come to NYC, Pasadena, LA and London, according to the NYTimes.

What next? I predict a new kind of ice coffee that we also saw in Tokyo circa 2016 — details below!

July 2016: At about 4 pm we stopped at a chic coffee cafe called 24/7 where people we eating stacks of fluffy pancakes. It didn’t occur to us to eat them any time other than for breakfast but must say they looked delicious. My ice coffee was served in a ceramic soup bowl with a giant block of ice and a little pitchers of milk and simple syrup. Made iced coffee quite exotic. Must try that at home.

 

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Wandering downtown – NYC

3E2B0234-9648-432F-9637-74D07EFB5A27I got a chance to do what I love to do most in NYC (besides seeing old friends and family): Wandering around interesting pockets of the city.

One day, I started at the Bleeker Street subway station and stopped for what turned out to be a giant breakfast at Russ & Daughters Cafe. (I took about half of my eggs/onion/lox and salad to go and left it at Union Square, hoping a hungry person would eat it…) D and I then wandered around the Lower East Side up to the East Village and ended up at Union Square and the holiday crafts market, where I also found some mutsu apples at the farmer’s market.

The second day, I started at the Spring Street station and wandered south into Little Italy and Chinatown, then a little west to Soho (western section is still charming, along Thompson and Sullivan/Spring and  Prince Streets) and then up to Greenwich Village/NYC, stopping for a nutritious lunch (not) of a chocolate chip cookie and coffee at the wonderful old Vesuvio bakery storefront on Prince Street (now technically the Birdbath Bakery despite the iconic storefront from the 1920s) and admiring a gated mews lined with pretty old carriage houses, MacDougal Alley,  just north of Washington Square Park. Reminded me, fondly, of London. I lingered in front of 1 Fifth Avenue, an elegant old building where my parents got married (when it was a hotel, I believe). Then I ended up at The Strand bookstore and at Union Square where I caught the #6 subway back to the Upper East Side.

Noshing on the Upper East Side included a delicious perfectly cooked (medium rare) half pound hamburger at EJ’s Luncheonette and kreplach soup and a corned beef sandwich (shared) at P.J. Bernstein’s. 

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NYC Restaurant hopping in the Village —Prune, The Spotted Pig, Snack Taverna

Outside Snack Taverna, West Village

I have wanted to eat at the tiny East Village restaurant Prune ever since I read Blood, Bones and Butter, the well-written, compelling memoir by Gabrielle Hamilton, the owner/chef of Prune. Yesterday I finally did and loved it. My pal Myra and I may need to make this the annual dining spot at the end of our much-cherished post-Thanksgiving rendezvous. The food was outstanding — unique and memorable without being fussy or out there — and the service was welcoming, warm and attentive. Did we want bread to sop up the one or two spoonful left of our mussel and leek stew? our server inquired. Yes. Please.

Prune, at last

We arrived when it opened for dinner at 5:30 (Myra had an early train to catch) and the place was empty but it soon started filling up and we were glad we made a last minute reservation. Soon the dozen or so tables were full and single people sat comfortably at the bar.  Several customers seemed to be regulars and were greeted by name or even a kiss by wait staff.  Felt like a neighborhood handout. Myra and I shared everything (except her martini and my beer): creamy white parsley root soup with a flavor-packed piece of crispy chicken skin; fried oysters with a white creamy herb sauce; the light and delicious stew; a side of crispy grilled onions and garlic, and for dessert a rectangular “crouton” topped with a light caramel sauce and a scoop of ricotta ice cream. We will be back.

Earlier during our wander around the West Village, we stopped for a drink at another tiny restaurant, The Spotted Pig, that has long been on my list, run by another female chef, April Bloomfield. At 4 p.m. the bar was full, as were a few tables. Cheerful cozy place. The menu is more English fare, somewhat pricey but hope to return. We ate a light lunch at Snack Taverna, which was surprisingly good considering that we just stumbled in, lured by little beyond an empty table (actually all the tables were empty, which usually is uninviting).  This place seemed to be doing an good take out business.  We had good solid Greek-with-an-earthy-flair food:  a light country Greek salad (no lettuce; a slab of fresh feta) and spinach feta leek triangles.  Myra had a yummy egg atop polenta with a delicious light sauce. Around the block we found Westville, the restaurant I am always looking for but I can never remember the name or street. Glad to try something new.

Spotted pig

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PJ Bernstein’s, Pomodoro Rossi, new Q subway, gotham Hall, Central Synagogue– NYC

We love NYC but hope to get home to Des Moines tonight on this dreary rainy day. Our flight is already delayed so we aren’t sure we will make our connection in St. Louis. Other than that, we had a great time. We were surprised to enjoy our two visits to Central Synagogue so much. It turned out to be a spectacular Sephardic temple on 55th and Lexington, run by a smart charismatic group of women rabbis and cantors who we’re warm, friendly, and sing beautifully. The lead rabbi was also Asian. Another surprise.  The party was held at Gotham Hall, an imposing former bank (I’m told) on 36th and Broadway and 6th Avenue, near the original Macy’s. It has a huge domed ceiling below which some 300 or so of us ate, danced and partied until after midnight.

Breakfast at PJ Bernsteins

Last night we had good Italian food at Pomorodo Rossi, a neighborhood place on Columbus and 71st or so, can conveniently located near my relatives apart. Good pasta with seafood and a light red sauce, grilled artichoke and an outdoor table where we had a rare and wonderful dinner with our dear friends Myra and mike who won the good friend award for driving in from Connecticut.

At Pomodoro Rossi, Columbus Avenue

Today, we met my brother at The Whitney Museum, our favorite place to hang out on a rainy Monday. This time we saw the Biennial exhibit which had some challenging stuff, as expected. Lunch was lobster bisque and a shared crab cake sandwich at Lobster Place in Chelsea Market.

Noshing on Schnecken at Greenbergs, Madison Ave. in 80s

at Lobster Place, Chelsea Market

On the east side, we had corned beef and breakfast at PJ Bernsteins on 3rd, morning pastries on Lexington at Corrado Bakery and coffee served by Aussies at Heavenly Rest Stop at 91st and Fifth, in an alcove of a fancy church by the same name.

Heavenly Rest Stop, Upper East Side

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Gansevoort Market, new subway station at northern end of The High Line, Bryant Park holiday fair, subterranean Japanese restaurant

Another cherished post-Thanksgiving adventure with  Myra during which two old friends from college catch up while wandering around a great American city, noshing, window-shopping, people-watching, architecture-admiring, restaurant-searching, laughing, lamenting, reminiscing, dreaming and occasionally searching for a decent public bathroom (Penn Station had to do this time). Among the highlights (beyond the great company):

Bry;ant Park

Bryant Park

Gansevoort Market, a “rustic industrial” food court on 14th street, small, manageable, calm, excellent poke at Gotham Pike.

Dirck and Myra eating Poke at Gansevort Market's Gotham Pike

Dirck and Myra eating Poke at Gansevoort Market’s Gotham Pike

The High Line, which never disappoints, especially on a beautiful afternoon. There are always new art installations when I return, even after just a few months. And more work has been completed since my last visit in September on the retro-looking building with wide oval windows designed by the late Zaha Hadid. This time we found the attractive, European-feeling  new 34 St-Hudson Yards 7 Subway Station, with its cool mosaic tile domed ceiling underground. (Opened in 2015, the station is the first new one in NY in 26 years.)photojavitz

– The crafts at the holiday fair at Bryant Park were generally less impressive than those at the holiday fair at Grand Central Station, but what a lovely scene with the pretty ice skating rink, holiday lights and wreath-festooned stone lions at the foot of the New York Public Library.  Also appreciated the inventiveness of the food vendors including one cooking unlikely creations with matzoh. Yes matzoh.

Myra at Sawagura!

Myra at Sakagura!

Sakagura, a remarkably authentic Japanese restaurant (including classic interactive, water-spraying Japanese toilets) in the basement of a drab building just east of Grand Central. Who knew? Apparently a lot of people, including many people of Japanese descent. The place was packed. I almost felt like I was back in Kyoto, without the around-the-world flight. Instead, we walked down two flights of steps akin to the kind found in an aging middle school basement.

Japanese toilet!

Japanese toilet!

Earlier in the day, my cousin took us on a fascinating tour of the production “commissary” of Juice Press, in a cool Long Island City marketplace.photo1

Juice press tour with the family!

Juice Press tour with the family!

photo2juice

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