Tag Archive | "New York City"

A Swinging Midtown Manhattan Weekend

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Swing Remix dance, part of the weeklong tribute to the late Frankie Manning,  one of the Lindy Hop world’s legends.

Swing Remix dance, part of the weeklong tribute to the late Frankie Manning, one of the Lindy Hop world’s legends. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

By David McKay Wilson

New York City’s hotel boom brought me to midtown Manhattan, where I’d decided to spend a weekend at North America’s tallest hotel, a few doors down from The Late Show studios. I live in New York City’s northern suburbs and typically come into the city on weekend nights to dance. But it had been a spell since I’d slept over down there.

Why not live it up? A guy gets to splurge once in a while.
Our destination was the Residence Inn/Central Park Manhattan, located atop the Courtyard New York Manhattan/ Central Park – all 68 stories with 639 rooms. It opened in December, 2013, so our room on the 52nd floor still had that fresh, hadn’t been slept-in smell about it. It was a room with a kitchenette and a shower with a temperature gauge. The locks were high-tech. The alarm went off without us even setting it. Upstairs on the 52nd floor, rain pelted against the window, obscuring the view at the H&M Building and Bank of America, which loomed a few blocks away. The sky darkened. Thunder crackled. A bolt of lightning struck off a building nearby, welcoming me to one of America’s prime tourist destinations.

New York Hilton Midtown

New York Hilton Midtown

We headed for our first destination: Minus 5 Ice Bar, on the street level of the New York Midtown Hilton at West 54th and Avenue of the Americas. The scene was chill when we arrived at 6. We donned faux fur coats before entering the ice cave, which was very cool, at 23 degrees. We wore white cotton gloves and slugged down cinnamon-flavored vodka drinks from ice glasses. There was an ice sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park landscapes were etched on the ice walls. You sit on faux-fur pelts and feel your fingers get cold while you drink.

T-45 Midtown Diner in the Hyatt Times Square New York

T-45 Midtown Diner in the Hyatt Times Square New York. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

Refreshed after 40 minutes, we returned to the streets on a brilliant evening, the storm having passed, all of New York aglow.

On West 45th Street, we arrived for dinner at T-45 Midtown Diner, the sleek diner designed by George Wong, with a beautiful poem penned in cursive on the far wall. It’s on the ground floor of the 487-room Hyatt Times Square New York, 135 West 45th ST., which opened in December, 2013. At T-45, we shared a beet salad with goat cheese, and vegan chili. The chili was spicy and hearty. The beets were still a little firm, just as I like them.

We capped our visit at one of the city’s newest rooftop aeries – Bar 54, on the hotel’s 54th floor. There, we ordered glasses of Merlot, sipped them out on the balcony, and peered south to the new World Trade Center tower, its spire shimmering at dusk.

Fortified, we head for the Swing Remix dance, was which was part of the weeklong tribute to the late Frankie Manning, one of the Lindy Hop world’s legends, and the man who taught me the eight-count in 1994. Here I was 20 years later, still dancing that dance. In the Jewish Community Center gymnasium on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Solomon Douglas Swingtet had hundreds of dancers in motion. All level of dancers were there – from Ryan Francois, this era’s Frankie Manning, to newbies showing up to dance for the first time.

Dancers sort themselves out fairly quickly. If you are there as a couple, you can just dance together for as long as you’d like. If you are there alone, ask someone to dance – it’s perfectly acceptable for a man or woman can make the ask.

Sunday morning dawned on the 52nd floor at the Residence Inn, and we lingered a spell, soaking in the morning light. After all, the buffet was open until 10 a.m. But we lingered too long. You need to show up at the buffet before 9:15 a.m. When we arrived, there were a few scraps of omelet and potatoes left in the buffet pans. The coffee urns were empty too. We waited for 15 minutes. Still nothing. Oh well. I found a bagel and a banana, and headed for Central Park.

The Positive Brothers in Central Park. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

The Positive Brothers in Central Park. Photo by David McKay Wilson.

There, we strolled down the Literary Walk under a canopy of towering elms, with Robert Burns staring up into the spring, inspired, pen in hand. It led us to a plaza, where the Positive Brothers, brimming with energy, provided an entertaining performance of street humor, acrobatic feats, and improvisation. I’d been selected at random from the audience, so I spent a good 15 minutes out on the public stage, lining up with five others, and serving as a candidate to be somersaulted over by one of these tattooed black guys. I dodged that assignment, and was left to part with a few bucks for the show. Collecting the donations is part of the schtick as well, and through it, we learn that we’d been watching the show together, and laughing together, with people from the Netherlands, Italy, China, United Kingdom, Ohio, and Boston. The world had come to New York City for the weekend. We were part of that world.

David McKay Wilson has written on travel over the past 30 years as a freelance journalist, with his travel stories appearing in The Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, New Haven Advocate, and Gannett News Service. An avid cyclist and skier, Wilson enjoys vacationing in the mountains and by the sea. His articles on public affairs have appeared regularly in The New York Times. He’s currently the nation’s top freelance writer for university alumni magazines, with his work appearing in publications at 81 colleges and universities, including Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown and the University of Chicago.

David McKay Wilson, a veteran journalist who lives in New York’s Hudson Valley, is an avid cyclist, skier and swing dancer. His travel writing has taken him around the world, with his work appearing in the Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Hartford Courant, and several Gannett daily newspapers.

 

 

 

Sleeping Around: The High Line Hotel, New York

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The High Line Hotel, New York

The High Line Hotel, New York

Shari Hartford

Location, location, location. Certainly not to be taken lightly, it makes the difference between meh and wow when it comes to hotels. During a recent visit to the High Line Hotel, I had the ultimate New York City hotel experience…trendy location, quirky and unusual structure, fantastic room and a great backstory.

The High Line – the area, not the hotel – quite simply, is a reuse of elevated train tracks on the westside of Manhattan that last saw a choo choo in 1980. In 2006 ground was broken to begin the renaissance from overgrown and dilapidated to a glorious park rising 30 feet above the rushing streets. The High Line Park is now a major destination for tourists and locals alike who wish to walk the walk, enjoy the views and admire the carefully chosen plantings that grace the entire length.

A bedroom at The High Line Hotel

A bedroom at The High Line Hotel

The High Line – the hotel, not the area – has an equally compelling history.  Built in 1895 as an Episcopal seminary dormitory, the red brick gothic-style structure experienced several incarnations before its current status as a hotel, opening in September 2013. The vast property still contains a functioning seminary, private gardens and several condominium units. In keeping the character of the original structure, none of the 60 guest rooms are alike and all are furnished with antiques combed from the east coast. Some of the rooms overlook the private garden…in season you can sit and reflect on times past. Think hunting lodge meets Hogwarts without Dumbledore and Harry.

Barista at The High Line Hotel

Barista at The High Line Hotel

When you arrive at the High Line, don’t search for the reception desk. There isn’t one. Instead the small lobby doubles as a coffee café by day and a wine bar at night with comfy couches and chairs that add to the quirky vibe. A staff member with a laptop does all the checking in. My deluxe king had all the charm of the bygone era with large windows, hard wood floors, a [non-functioning] fireplace with mantel, wooden armoire, sharpened pencils in a cup on the desk, a reconditioned black dial telephone and a live terrarium. The nod to the present included a flat screen television, electrical outlets for devices next to the bed, free wi fi, plush robes and a spacious bathroom with upscale bath products. (Also available for guests are bicycles for exploring the city streets and passes to the Equinox gym a short block away.)

Bath and Suite at The High Line Hotel

Bath and Suite at The High Line Hotel

When I departed after a wonderful night’s rest, I was sad to rejoin the present. After a bracing Intelligentsia coffee at the zinc topped bar and a quick wave to the mounted moosehead in the lobby, it was out into the cold, real world. After 13 snow “events” this season, I would have been very happy to hibernate until spring in this little corner of history.

The High Line Hotel, 180 10th Tenth Avenue (at 20th Street), New York, NY 10011. For more information, see thehighlinehotel.com.

 

 

shari2 Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

 

Sleeping Around: Affinia 50, New York

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Affinia 50 Guestroom Deluxe with King Bed

Affinia 50 Guestroom Deluxe with King Bed

By Shari Hartford

Sometimes a hotel feels like, well, a hotel and sometimes it feels like home. Home it is for the Affinia 50, a jewel of a boutique property, centrally located in midtown Manhattan, just steps away from Grand Central Station. The Affinia 50 is appealing to both the leisure and business traveler with a newly designed lobby and second floor glass-enclosed club room. The nightly wine hour is a perfect location for unwinding before a night on the town or after a day of meetings.

The residential vibe continues in the 251 rooms and suites that are renovated and decorated, with 100 having sleek stainless steel kitchens. And there are 19 accommodations with large furnished terraces – not something you see every day in New York City.

Affinia 50 kitchen.

Affinia 50 kitchen.

Since I spend a bit of time going from hotel to hotel, I have become rather blasé about good bedding, comfy pillows and mattresses – I expect that in a quality hotel. (And, happily, we have kicked non-removable hangers to the curb!) But excellent lighting with dimmer switches, accessible and convenient electrical connections, adequate bathroom storage, good closet space and a large work area make me sit up and take notice. There is all this, plus more at the Affinia 50. I also loved that each room had a hardwood floor foyer; here again, the residential feel.

If a trip to New York is in the cards, consider the Affinia 50. They will welcome you home!

For more information:

Affinia 50, 155 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022  affinia.com.

 

shari2  Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

 

Sleeping Around: The Refinery Hotel

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refinery-hotel-03

One of the ‘cloud-like” beds at The Refinery Hotel in New York.

 

By Shari Hartford

Back in the day, ladies wore hats…everyday, everywhere and the center for the millinery trade in New York City was 38th Street. Number 63, built in 1912, housed a factory where these hats, and their respective feathers, ribbons and bows (otherwise known as “trim) were manufactured.

Fast forward to May 2013 and the opening of the luxurious Refinery Hotel on this same site. As you step into the lobby your attention is immediately grabbed by the vaulted ceilings and the custom artwork that is both playful and fascinating, like the display of antique hat-making tools behind the reception desk. The twenties-inspired décor pays homage to the building’s roots—and location.

With 197 guest accommodations, the loft like rooms feature distressed hardwood floors, desks custom-designed to resemble sewing machine tables and walk-in stone floored showers. Always a sucker for good bath products, I couldn’t get enough of the Le Labo Santal 33 bath gel. The beds were cloud-like and all the room electronics and electrics are state of the art.

Winnie's at The Refinery, NYC

Winnie’s at The Refinery, NYC

Don’t miss the lobby bar, Winnie’s (named for Winifred MacDonald who ran a tea salon in the building during prohibition), for one of the house-special cocktails, like Cloche & Dagger and Winnie’s Ghost. When you’re ready for food, Parker & Quinn (on the 39th Street side of the hotel) puts forth classic American bistro fare in a clubby and convivial ambiance.

But my favorite spot was the rooftop lounge. Not yet operational when I visited, there will be a retractable roof over an indoor-outdoor space for warm weather hanging out and gazing at the soaring views of the Manhattan skyline, and a large and cozy fireplace for the winter months. A full bar menu and small plates will be served.

The Refinery is a perfect example of looking where you’re walking. On a nondescript street with business storefronts it’s easy to walk right on by. But don’t. It’s well worth the detour and the stay.

For more information, see refineryhotelnewyork.com

 

shari (1)  Shari Hartford is the former managing editor for Diversion magazine, where she wrote about travel in the northeast and cruising. She is currently a freelance writer and editor based in her hometown of New York City.

 

 

Artful Traveler: Bird by Bird At the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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Kimono with Birds in Flight, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1942 Dye-and pigment-patterned plain-weave silk crepe (chirimen)  Overall: 76 7/8 x 49 3/8 in. (195.3 x 125.4 cm) Gift of Harumi Takanashi and Akemi Ota, in memory of their mother, Yoshiko Hiroumi Shima, 2007 (2007.44.1)

Kimono with Birds in Flight, Japan, Shōwa period (1926–89), 1942
Dye-and pigment-patterned plain-weave silk crepe (chirimen)
Overall: 76 7/8 x 49 3/8 in. (195.3 x 125.4 cm)
Gift of Harumi Takanashi and Akemi Ota, in memory of their mother, Yoshiko
Hiroumi Shima, 2007 (2007.44.1)

 

By Bobbie Leigh

Prepare to be dazzled. Birds in the Art of Japan, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, will leave you spellbound. “Inspiration for the exhibition comes from traditional Japanese court poetry, haiku, and a Wallace Stevens  1923 poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” says John Carpenter,  Curator of Japanese Art  at the Met’s Department of Asian Art.  Intermingled among the scrolls, screens, ink paintings, and  bird books are contemporary  textiles, ceramics, lacquerware, and bamboo art.

KoheiNawa, Japanese, born 1975PixCell-Deer#24Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2011Mixed media; taxidermied deerwith artificial crystal glassH. 80 11/16 in. (205 cm); W. 59 1/16 in. (150 cm); D. 78 3/4 in. (200 cm)Purchase, Acquisitions Fund and Peggy and Richard M. Danziger Gift, 2011

KoheiNawa, Japanese, born 1975
PixCell-Deer#24
Japan, Heisei period (1989–present), 2011
Mixed media; taxidermied deerwith artificial crystal glass
H. 80 11/16 in. (205 cm); W. 59 1/16 in. (150 cm); D. 78 3/4 in. (200 cm)
Purchase, Acquisitions Fund and Peggy and Richard M. Danziger Gift, 2011

 

The mega-watt appeal of this new exhibition  begins with  Kohei Nawa’s glass PixCell-Deer, a contemporary sculpture  recently acquired by the Museum at  the entry point for the galleries.  Although a semi-permanent addition to the Arts of Japan galleries and not specifically related to avian themes,  it encapsulates all that follows—sublime sophistication  emotional and intellectual  complexities,  and  above all, a poetic sensibility.

The exhibition is organized roughly by  galleries devoted to specific types of birds, from pheasants to peacocks,   ravens to roosters,  mynahs to magpies —almost all types of birds  but only one with gossamer wings. Each gallery also features classic  poetic inscriptions that the  bird images might evoke. Intermingled among the scrolls, paintings, and watercolors  are contemporary  works that  match the  sensibilities of the medieval  ones.

Mochizuki Gyokkei ( Japanese, 1874–1939) White Peafowl, Japan, Meiji period (1868–1912), 1908 Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, gold, and gold-leaf dust on silk Image: 59 1/4 x 141 in. (150.5 x 358.1 cm) John C. Weber Collection

Mochizuki Gyokkei ( Japanese, 1874–1939)
White Peafowl, Japan, Meiji period (1868–1912), 1908
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, gold, and gold-leaf dust on silk
Image: 59 1/4 x 141 in. (150.5 x 358.1 cm)
John C. Weber Collection

Cranes, waterbirds, birds of prey,  among others are depicted with meticulous realism  whether in flight,  in battle, soaring in the heavens,  enjoying domestic bliss,  or simply showing  off   their  spectacular plumage. The best example of this preening is a 1908  painting of a  rare white peafowl on a  gold  leaf and gold-dusted  silk screen.  Rather than feathers, its diaphanous,  delicate  grand tail  looks like extraordinary fluffy material.  Another striking feature of this over-the-top  image is that the bird’s eye looks straight at you.

Mori Sosen (Japanese, 1747–1821) Silkies (Ukokkei) Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), before 1808 Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk Image: 33 3/4 x 51 in. (85.7 x 129.5 cm)  Fishbein-Bender Collection

Mori Sosen (Japanese, 1747–1821)
Silkies (Ukokkei)
Japan, Edo period (1615–1868), before 1808
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk Image: 33 3/4 x 51 in. (85.7 x 129.5 cm)
Fishbein-Bender Collection

 

In the next case, is a rare  painting of Silkies by 18th center painter Mori Sosen.According to Carpenter, when Marco Polo first saw this rare bird  on one of his 13th century journeys, he is reported to have said that  this bird  was a  kind of fowl that had not feathers, but hair only like a cat’s fur.  As in so many of these paintings,  a lot is happening.

Mynah Birds (detail)Japan, Momoyama (1573–1615)–Edo (1615–1868) period, early 17th century Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper Image (each): 61 x 142 1/8 in. (155 x 361 cm)  The Metropolitan Museum of Art Purchase, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation and Anonymous Gifts, 2013

Mynah Birds (detail)
Japan, Momoyama (1573–1615)–Edo (1615–1868) period, early 17th century
Pair of six-panel folding screens; ink, color, and gold on paper
Image (each): 61 x 142 1/8 in. (155 x 361 cm)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Foundation and Anonymous Gifts, 2013

Birds’ eyes also dominate in a pair of 17th-century screens depicting a flock of more than 120 mynah birds (same as blackbirds)  in flight or  hopping along a shoreline. Their expressive eyes, no two are alike,  also suggest human interaction.  Mynah birds have a political significance in Japanese mythology: to defy corrupt political power.  The motive behind this composition may have been  a call to rebel, to remember the time when the ancient capital Kyoto where the emperor lived in his palace was under threat from the Tokugawa warlords.

Gorgeous textiles, both Buddhist and secular,  with elegant bird motifs  and a gallery devoted to ukiyo- prints  are highlights of the art forms used to keep the viewer  focused on the various ways,  classic and contemporary,  Japanese artists explored  and depicted bird motifs.  There are always surprises—tiny seeds woven into a wedding robe with embroidered birds or   amid a classic flock of cranes on a screen painting,  a  soaring  conceptual bamboo sculpture called  Flight by Honma Hideaki (b. 1959).

In the last gallery Fukase Masahisa’s 1978 photograph, The Solitude of Ravens, is a powerful work with nearly the same impact  as Edward Munch’s The Scream.   It depicts a black as night raven silhouetted  against a slightly less dark sky.  Unlike earlier images of crows in previous galleries,  here the raven is imbued with mystery, solitude, and a prevailing sadness.  It’s a bit of a downer to end this riveting show, but it does yet again give the viewer an unprecedented sense of birds in the arts of  Japan.

Birds in the Art of Japan  is on view through July 28;  www.metmuseum.org.  Another rare exhibition, “Audobon’s Aviary: The Complete Flock,”  will showcase Audubon’s  Watercolors in a three-part series at the New York Historical Society.  (Part I: March 8-May 19)

 

bobbie2-200x300  Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques

Well & Good NYC: NYC’s Most Beautiful Yoga Studios

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Yoga Works Soho

By Melisse Gelula and Alexia Brue

Let’s just come out and say it: Pretty yoga studios matter.

Sure, it’s really all about inner reflection, but when a space feels sacred, so does your practice.

Design details, after all—like the amount of light in a room or a deep, warm wall color—are vibe inducing, easily soothing the mind or energizing the spirit.

We rounded up the nine most beautiful yoga studios in the city, from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side, many of which sprang up (recession-be-damned) in just the past year.

Read more at Well + Good NYC

 

Alexia Brue (left) is co-founder of Well+Good. She was a contributing editor at Luxury SpaFinder and Spa magazines and is the author of Cathedrals of the Flesh: My Search for the Perfect Bath (Bloomsbury). She has an MA in arts & culture journalism from the Columbia School of Journalism and has written for the New York Times Magazine, Vogue, and Conde Nast Traveler among others. Alexia has appeared on the Travel Channel, NPR’s All Things Considered, BBC Radio, and more. Melisse Gelula is co-founder of Well+Good. She is the former editor-in-chief of SpaFinderLifestyle.com, spa beauty editor at Luxury SpaFinder Magazine, and travel editor at Fodor’s Travel Publications. She has an MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto and has completed six years of training as a psychoanalyst. Melisse has written for such publications as Departures, Martha Stewart Living, Organic Spa, and Budget Travel and has been featured as an industry expert in the New York Times and on CNN.com, the Travel Channel, E! News, and more.

10 Reasons to Love the High Line in NYC

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The High Line in New York City.

 

By Bobbie Leigh

When Joshua David and Robert Hammond met for the first time  at a community board meeting in  1999,  they were dumbfounded.  Not one other person was there to  protest the destruction of  a decrepit,  elevated rail structure that snaked around the far West Side of Manhattan.  Abandoned for years, the rails were a dilapidated wreck some 30 feet above the street.  But David and Hammond were convinced  the rail structure could be something else, something wonderful, a friendly, quiet, urban park.  The chances of  this happening according to Hammond was “one in a hundred.”  Today  the High Line  is a superstar New York attraction,  a grassy park with wild flowers, park benches,  and  a busy calendar of community and art events. It now runs from Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street, thanks to a new section that doubles the park’s length, connecting three neighborhoods along the West Side. Another section is in the works.

 

First a bit of history.  The city owned  the land but was willing to have it rezoned for high-end development and  as parkland.  David and Hammond  created the nonprofit Friends of the High Line which had tremendous community support and lobbied for the park.  What made  it a reality is the city government investing  about $112 million, leaving  about $40 million  or more to be raised privately.   You  probably  couldn’t accomplish a similar feat anywhere else in the city except  perhaps Central Park. It takes deep pockets and high profile neighbors like Diane von Furstenberg and Chelsea art and boutique owners to get behind  a  project like  this.  But there was political will, social and celebrity  clout, and  bundles of money. The High Line is now a  public park where you can sit on the grass or on handsome  reclaimed  teak benches made from  abandoned  buildings in southeast Asia. The Friends  of the High Line  operates and controls every aspect of the park from  upkeep and maintenance to design  and  rules — no dogs, no bikes, no boom boxes.

10  Things to Love about the High Line:

1. It’s free and open from  7am to 11 pm  in summer.

2. In the two years since it opened, there have been no reports of any crime—no  muggings or robberies.  It’s spotless and graffiti free.

3. The views are glorious.  You can  see the Statue of Liberty, the Chrysler Building,  snippets of the Hudson River and New Jersey to the west.

4. A temporary public plaza at 30th street is an art space, Rainbow City, with playful, crayon-colored inflatable sculptures, some 30 feet high.



 

5. Glorious plantings – wild flowers,  American holly trees, magnolia,  a patchwork of  wild grasses, bold orange butterfly milkweed,  purple prairie clover,  and  ornamental  white onion flowers.

6. Free guided walking tours every Saturday at 11 am.

7. Stargazing with amateur astronomers, Tuesday at dusk, usually 9:30 pm.

8. The panes of  glass installation, The River That Flows Both Ways. It is located at the Chelsea Market Passage on the High Line near 16th Street. From a tugboat drifting on the Hudson River, Spencer Finch  attempted to recreate the  shifting  color of water by photographing the river’s surface once every minute  over a period of 11 hours and 40 minutes.

9. Public  performances  at the wooden  seating steps in the  wide area between 22nd and 23rd streets.

10. The Falcone Flyover between West 25th and 26th Streets. This is  a metal walkway that rises eight feet above the High Line path, enabling  an elevated view of the plantings and the city. (Another viewing spur is at 30th Street.)

 

The High Line is open daily from 7:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Summer hours continue through the fall. Evening is a great time to visit the High Line—the sunsets are spectacular over the Hudson River, and the lighting system designed by L’Observatoire International casts a gentle illumination on the spring plantings to create a warm and welcoming mood at dusk. Please check the High Line Web site or follow the High Line on Twitter for the latest information and operational updates.  And  keep in mind that  every Thursday  in August , there’s dancing and Latin Music  from  7-9 pm.

For more information, 212-206-9922; info@thehighline.org; www.thehighline.org; www.nyc.gov/parks.

 

Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.

 

 

Compliments to the Chef: David Burke

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Chef David Burke

 

By Nan Lyons

Cook, inventor, author, entrepreneur, decorator, and culinary dramatist in chief. Those are just some of the qualities that David Burke keeps securely under his Chef’s toque. When he focuses on any one of them the results  can be astonishing.

Through the years I’ve gotten to know Burke’s restaurants, at least the ones in New York, and have found that they run the gamut from audacious to zany. You might say he specializes in theater of the absurdly delicious.

 

David Burke Townhouse

 

The Townhouse, Burke’s most formal restaurant, in the East 60s, is sophisticated and chic, lacquered to a high gloss and for a whimsical spin, Technicolor  glass balloons  sway from it’s ceiling. As for the menu, he can go from opulent to outrageous faster than a speeding zucchini.

 

Fishtail

 

Fishtail, again on the upper east side, is filled with brainiac  food of every description, designed to push the most imaginative of  Burke’s aquatic envelopes. One of Fishtail’s  most popular entrees is called Angry Lobster , and who wouldn’t be after suffering his incendiary sauté pan.

In a more casual vein Burke opened a welcomed oasis in Bloomingdales that serves weary shoppers just enough sustenance to help them go on spending. It’s clear that each of Burke’s restaurants  has a completely different “MO” — not to mention philosophy — but they all serve the chef’s most requested dessert, cheese cake lollypops with raspberries and bubble gum whipped cream.  Escoffier might not have always approved of some of Burke’s choices but you can bet Dr. Seuss would have made a standing reservation.

David and I met for a soupcon of conversation at the newest and I might add the very coolest of his burgeoning culinary empire, The Kitchen. It borrows the edgy feeling of an industrial space from it’s edgy SoHo neighborhood. However, David himself seemed decidedly non-edgy as he looked around at the crowd beginning to collect for lunch. He told me that he really liked the atmosphere at The Kitchen because it was so accessible. On his drawing board was an outdoor terrace for the summer, his first in the city, to serve drinks and mini plates of some of his showstoppers.

 

David Burke Kitchen

 

David Burke’s career began in ernest when he returned from studying in France with Pierre Troisgros and George Blanc,  the crème de la crème of French Chefdom. He landed at the River Café under Charlie Palmer’s brilliant direction and the rest is culinary history. Burke himself lives in Jersey but he seems to be eyeing lower Manhattan as his next residential adventure. When I asked about down time for him or his favorite travel agendas he said “ I try to take my kids on vacations with me. We might spend some time in Nashville but as for me I really haven’t gone many places I don’t have a restaurant, like Chicago”.

David owns the Primehouse in Chicago as well as the Fromagerie, in  New Jersey. I think from the way he spoke of Fromagerie it  might have been his favorite, but keep that under your Camembert.

As for his interest in diversions and hobbies he told me “my work is my hobby”. So much for relaxation. But when I asked if he collected anything the answer would have made a museum curator’s head spin. Old Masters, Young Masters and any Masters that cost many zeros. These he sprinkles liberally around his restaurants as food for the spirit.

The only other thing that turns David’s pilot light on is inventing. He did a fair amount of it some years ago and is known for culinary innovations such as flavor sprays and flavor transfer spice sheets. These fall under the category of Culinology (the blending of culinary arts and food technology). Who knew?? As he spoke of his gastronomic discoveries he seemed just a bit wistful. It seems that he no longer has the time for inventing. Too many new restaurants to open, too many lollypop flavors to  introduce and too many Old Masters to acquire.  Still, it’s clear that  no matter how many pots David Burke tries stir at the same time he will always be a man for all seasonings.

David Burke Townhouse/ 133 East 61st

Fishtail/ 135/East 62nd/

David Burke Kitchen/23 Grand Street/ Bloomingdales/ 59th and Lexington

 

Nan Lyons is the co-author of “Someone is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe” and the author of  “Gluttony” and “Around the World in 80 Meals.” She lives in Manhattan.

 

Eataly: A Manhattan Mecca for La Cucina Italiana

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Oscar Farinetti (left) watches Mario Batali takes a bite. On the right is partner Joe Bastianich (right) and Mayor Michael Bloomberg (far right)

Bobbie Leigh

Go hungry. In fact, go very hungry if you really want to have more than a taste of  Eataly, the sprawling Italian food mecca at Fifth Avenue and 23rd street in New York City.   Just don’t call it a food mall.

Owners Joe Bastianich, his mother Lidia Bastianich, Mario Batali, and  Eataly-founder Oscar Farinetti call their Italian outpost  in the Flatiron District  ” an artisanal food and wine marketplace.”   Farinetti opened the first  all-things Italian  food emporium  in Turin and another  in  Tokyo.

At 50,000 square-feet in the old Toy Building, Eataly is supposedly the biggest  food market in the world and well on its way to becoming a city landmark. The first thing that strikes you on entering at Fifth Avenue is that it sounds and smells like Italy.  People are speaking Italian and drinking tiny cups of espresso.  Instead, try a machiatto (steamed frothy milk and espresso) at Caffe Lavazza or a gelato (artisanal of course) before you start your explorations.

Recognizing that Eataly sprawls in all directions, the staff hands  out  a sheet labeled “How to Eat at Eataly.”   Helpful, but you will still need a strategy.  Explore first, then eat, and finally shop for a cucina Italiana meal  at home.  And  be patient,  lines can be long — even at checkout.

Pasta, pasta, pasta ...

Wander through the aisles and you will see hundreds of  brands of pasta, fresh and dried, endless rows of tomato sauces, honeys, jams,  and condiments. The pantry aisles are well stocked with an impressive number of olive oils and vinegar and rows  of gherkins of  all sizes. Italian chocolates were flying off the shelves during a recent visit.  Made without milk, cream, or butter, the brands to buy are Venchi dark chocolate and anything made by Giraudi.

If your weakness is household goods,  better go with a fat wallet as the Alessi and Guzzini brands of  kitchen equipment are irresistible, as are the exquisite copper pans and table linens. Rizzoli has its own little on-site bookstore with Bastianich & co books taking the lead.

Tastes better than butter.

The wow factor is the huge variety of canned and dried goods, dried meats, sausages, hams, prosciutto, pancetta, and  local and imported  cheese.  Beer is a standout, more brands than you can count, including such craft beers  as Menabrea, Moretti, and Birra Lurisia. La Birreria, Eataly’s  year-round  rooftop beer garden and microbrewery, is  scheduled  to open  this spring. Eataly Vino is a shop next to the 23rd Street entrance with roughly 1,000 bottles from various regions throughout Italy.  Here’s where you can find grappa by Montanaro and limoncello from Sorrento made by Convento.    Fresh fruits and veggies are pricey compared to the green market at Union Square at 14th Street, but you will find a better array of mushrooms — 14 at last visit —  than most places.

Pizza ovens.

Once you have the layout down pat, it’s time to eat. La Piazza is a stand-up food bar in a central rotunda where you are served little tastings of salami, cheese, and sea food from  the well-stocked raw bar. Some 70 wines are available  by the glass. Just find a spot and a waiter will give you a menu and take your order. Il Pesce  specializes in seafood prepared Italian style in antipasto and main course portions, You can eat while sitting at a table or seated at a counter. Near the books and fresh pasta, there’s a place to put your name on a list for “first-come-first served” seating. There are two other seated counters for eating: Le Verdure is the place to go for hot soup and bruschetta and Pizza and La Pasta for tagliatelle, lasagna, and ravioli. Skip the classic Neopolitan  pizza  made with a creamy mozzarella. It’s  good, but not as overwhelmingly good as the pasta dishes which are unbeatable.

For more formal white tablecloth dining, consider Manzo, (beef in Italian). With 16 tables and  20 seats at the bar  it is open for lunch and dinner daily and is the only restaurant here which takes reservations (212-229-2180).  A tasting menu is $90 person. The cooking is bold and sassy and the menu will encourage you to experiment with dishes like seared foie gras with crispy pigs tail, squash and aceto  traditional. You can’t miss with the porterhouse for two and souffle potatoes. Manzo’s specialtyis Piedmontese beef.  But keep in mind that you will be dining in a busy, noisy restaurant without walls, tucked up right next to the adjacent cooking school.  The staff is enthusiastic and well-schooled, but you still have to contend with a location that lacks character and charm.

Dinner to go.

Your final stop before heading home might be to buy dinner. At the rotisserie counter, the Rosticceria, you will find an excellent roast chicken and roasted potatoes  and every Friday, roasted boned breast of turkey stuffed with turkey sausage. At the meat market, count on 17 different cuts of veal while at the fishmonger, the standout is a whole bronzino ( European sea bass).  Among the daily baked breads,  one great favorite is the olive bread.  Desserts at the bakery are nothing less than sublime and even that old  standby, tiramisu, is a far cry from the cloyingly sweet version you get in most restaurants.  For a schedule of cooking classes at La Scuola di Eataly and for more information, visit Eataly.

Bobbie Leigh has written for many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Travel & Leisure, and Departures. Currently she is a New York correspondent for Art & Antiques.

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