Favorite Things Lately, Volume 11

Rose Main Reading Room at NYPL: It’s almost a religious experience walking into this world-famous, recently renovated space. Behold the chandeliers, the stone archways and oversize windows, the intricately molded ceiling. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the room resembles a kind of cathedral as it seems to be a literal monument to the power of ideas and scholarship.  It’s also my favorite place in the city to write.

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Mini Zip Wallet from Everlane: I happen to be somewhat wallet-averse. I need to keep things light in a purse I lug around all day, and most women’s wallets are way too bulky. I’ve been stuffing everything into a threadbare Anthropologie giveaway change purse for the past 4 years. It’s gotten super gross. Enter this adorable mini wallet from online clothing and accessories shop Everlane. The company is all about ethical sourcing and transparent pricing, so every item has a breakdown of all related costs (labor, materials, duties, etc.). At $50 (with a true cost of $23), this wallet, made in Spain, is a very good deal as far as small leather goods go. My husband, a product developer and industry insider (who does not work for Everlane, promise) praised the workmanship and the price.

everlane

courtesy of Everlane

Turkey Leg Sandwich at Henry Public: After half-a-dozen years, this iconic sandwich ($17) is still worthy of gushing prose. The sandwich’s juiciness is derived from the very un-Kosher process of braising the pulled turkey leg meat in milk for hours. Add crispy, deep-fried onions, a heaping side of French fries, an expertly made cocktail, and you’ve got the ideal meal for these short, dark days.

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oo35mm: A haven for beauty junkies who’ve tired of Sephora, this pocket-size, 2nd story Chinatown shop is brimming with an assortment of beauty products, many of them imported from South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. The employees are super helpful, especially when asked to talk through the dozens of single-use sheet masks, infused with a variety of ingredients like rose, honey, and 24K gold. Some even resemble animal faces! They’re an affordable indulgence at around $1.50 to $4.50 a piece.

oo35mm

Favorite Things Lately, Volume 10 (The All-Food Edition)

Ice & Vice: If I were to speak honestly, I’d posit that I’m an ice cream authority. (Humility is overrated.) By authority, I really mean: I’ve eaten a lot of ice cream, and therefore, I feel qualified to speak on the subject. This Lower East Side/Chinatown parlor is creating some of the city’s most inventive flavors. And not just inventive, these flavor couplings actually work; they’re not merely a study in senseless experimentation. To me, though, it’s texture that makes the cone. Many of the city’s buzziest spots are inconsistent–smooth one day, icy the next. Not the case here. Just fluid, milky perfection. While eating the two flavors below, Milk Money (toasted milk, sea salt, chocolate ganache) and Opium Den (white sesame, toasted poppy seed, lemon bread crouton), I kept repeating, out loud, “This is so good.”

iceandvice

Emmy Squared: While the original Clinton Hill spot, Emily, slings thin-crust, New York-style pies, this Williamsburg sister restaurant focuses on Detroit-style pizza. The pies rise as they’re are baked in square trays, with the crust taking on an other-worldly crispiness. While some folks discard the crust of their NYC slice, I can envision the inverse happening here, that is, someone eating JUST the crust–it’s the star of the show. Start with the “okonomi” fries–waffle fries topped with bonito (dried, shaved tuna) flakes. And, if you’re in a burger mood, the casual bar downstairs serves an indulgent two-patty, pretzel bun version.

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Dizengoff: The Chelsea outpost of this popular Philly hummus spot, from acclaimed Zahav masterminds Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook, is a shining example of how attention to detail elevates even the humblest of foods. The hummus here is smooth, creamy and destination-worth, but the pita, baked fresh, deserves its own write-up. It’s textured, not-too-dough-y, a bit flour-y, all-in-all: perfect. The frozen “lemonana,” their frozen mint-lemonade, is my favorite non-alcoholic drink of the season.

dizengoff

Sons of Thunder: Poké is having a huge moment in the city, and not without reason. The Hawaiian raw fish salad dish is fresh, tasty and healthy. One of my favorite poké bowls is at this Midtown East outpost. My salmon poké is always clean-tasting and never overly fatty. The accompaniments, like seaweed salad, cucumbers, and radishes, up the health quotient.

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Via Carota: It’s not often that an Italian restaurant really surprises you. This spot from acclaimed chefs Jody Williams and Rita Sodi, of favorites Buvette and I Sodi, respectively, was an unexpected dining experience, in a really lovely way. The plates are thoughtful and varied. Everything on the menu feels as though it was pored over–the ingredients, the pairings, the preparation. One of my favorite dishes, a snap pea, mascarpone, lettuce and prosciutto salad, felt like the culinary embodiment of summertime.

viacarota

Favorite Things Lately, Volume 9

Eldridge Street Synagogue: Founded in the late 1880s, at the start of European Jewry’s mass immigration to the United States, this synagogue had a thriving congregation for more than half a century. In the 1920s, membership began to dwindle and the building fell into disrepair. After being designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996, it underwent a meticulous renovation, which included a modern artistic reimagining of the focal stained glass window. The sky-blue-and-yellow-star window is striking in person and reason alone to visit the synagogue, but be sure to walk around and take in the rest of the details: the flower-like sconces, the chandelier, the Moorish arches. Stand in the middle and think yourself into another time. The synagogue is now in a bustling section of Chinatown, a reminder of the changing face of the city. (Admission is $12; Mondays, pay what you wish. The quality of the tour on offer depends on the specific guide, but I’d recommended it for those not familiar with Jewish history.)

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Roll-N-Roaster: Maybe I’m on a nostalgia kick, but I’m also in love with the transportive power of this superb Sheepshead Bay roast beef restaurant. Opened in the early 1970s, this place is a master class in the aesthetic of the era–wooden beams, a palette of Brady Bunch-esque citrusy browns, hanging glass light fixutres. It’s Brooklyn in the 20th-century sense: old school and with no tolerance for overreaching modernity. And the food? Crave-worthy. The roast beef on a fresh sesame bun with a ladle of melted cheese is fast food at its finest.

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McNally Jackson Books: Wandering around a bookstore is my favorite lazy-day activity. Visually, there’s something awe-inducing about seeing all those book spines stacked side by side. All that work, all those hours, all those ideas. I’m giddy for both the new authors, who are ready to make their marks on the world, and the old and gone, who enjoy a legacy of literary relevancy. McNally Jackson is one of my favorites. It’s intimate without being confining. It’s just the right size for exploring new releases and tracking down classics. They’ve arranged it in such a way where I want to spend time there, reading the first few pages of every book that catches my eye. I’m sure an architect or designer can help explain the technical whys of this attractive configuration. I just know once I enter, I never want to leave.

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Escaping the city: On the plane ride to Los Angeles over Memorial Day weekend, I watched the local New York news, which featured Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference sternly warning New Yorkers to stay indoors as a spate of potentially record-breaking cold approached. I felt as though I had boarded the very last plane out of the city before a zombie horde descended. It was a harrowing escape. In LA that weekend, there was a blessed heatwave–temps climbed into the high 80s. I’m not sure I’m ready to decamp for the West Coast, but boy is it nice to get away from the cold for a weekend. We New Yorkers pride ourselves on our grit, but winter can take a psychological toll. Just one weekend away made me feel as though I can survive the wind and the freezing rain (way worse than snow) through the next two months.

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Venice Canals in the neighborhood of Venice in Los Angeles

 

 

Favorite Things Lately, Volume 8

1 Stick With Me bonbons: They say when you eat, you engage all of your senses. Prepare for your vision to kick into overdrive. These glossy creations from the pocket Soho confectionary run by a Per Se pastry alum are painted and splattered like mini Jackson Pollocks (if Pollock preferred pastels and skewed toward minimalism). Flavors like crème fraîche strawberry and speculoos s’more ensure your taste buds don’t feel left out. The treats are packaged in adorable book-like boxes. At $3.40 per bonbon, they’re an I-really-REALLY-like-you-so-money’s-no-object gift idea. (Thanks, Kev!)

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2. This ricotta gnocchi recipe: Time-consuming weeknight dinners are for Type A perfectionists and masochists. The rest of us want something simple-ish, fairly healthy, and if possible, delicious. Enter this indulgent ricotta gnocchi recipe from Serious Eats that’s fit for a Sunday feast, but quick enough for a Tuesday night. It takes longer than the 10 minutes touted by the website; it took us about 35 minutes from start to sitting down, bowls in hand. Still, it was a fairly quick prep considering the caliber of the dish. The resulting gnocchi is dreamy–like tasty, buoyant little clouds. The sauce is a key element, so spring for the good stuff, like Rao’s. There you go: simple, delicious, and uh…not super unhealthy? “Not super unhealthy” is my personal food philosophy anyway.

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3. Carpe Donut cider doughnuts: We all know the deal with apple cider doughnuts. You pick them up at the farmer’s market when you want something sweet, and they’re usually tasty but never revelatory. I was prepared for more of the same when I grabbed one of these around 4 p.m. as I felt some “hanger” pangs coming on. Forget everything you thought you knew! These fresh-from-the-fryer doughnuts are moist and chewy–an amazing accomplishment considering the perpetual dryness and crumbliness of most cake doughnuts. The outside has an appealing crispness, putting the limp, soggy exterior of most cider doughnuts to shame.

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4. Spring!: It’s here! It’s finally here. And I’m so happy. The trees have turned the most intensely pigmented shade of lemony green. The cherry blossom trees have flowered and blanketed the pavement in romantic little petals. Did I mention that the temperature has been perfect? Mid-70s with clear skies and light winds. I realize these days are fleeting, that before I know it, the penetrating heat and throat-clogging humidity will descend like a dense fog. For now, though, let’s enjoy it, this minuscule, short-lived little season that, for a few brief weeks, turns NYC into the most beautiful city in the world.

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Favorite Things Lately, Volume 7

1 The Whispering Gallery in Grand Central Terminal: Stand in the corner of the domed chamber outside the entrance to Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant, diagonally across from a friend a loved one. Whisper a question. Listen as they answer back, their voice traveling across the ceiling through the power of reflected sound waves. It’s a magician’s parlor trick rooted in the science of physics. The gallery hosts a steady stream of people, whispering to one another, looking up and smiling.

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2. The park bench plaques in Central Park: Whenever I find myself alone in Central Park, I like to wander around and read the engraved plaques that decorate many of the benches. Mostly, they speak of loved ones lost and the deceased’s appreciation for this most beautiful of city attractions. I imagine the immortalized taking the same steps I’m taking. Did they love to people watch as much as I do? Did they find the park loveliest in the spring or the fall? What stories could they tell? Central Park’s Adopt-A-Bench program was born in 1986, and currently, a plaque will set you back $7,500 ($10,000 starting Jan. 1). The endowment is used to maintain the benches and conserve the landscape.

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3. Christmas Morning Cereal from Dominique Ansel Bakery: After excitedly munching on this dangerously delicious treat, my husband inquired as to how much it was, since the world-famous bakery is known to be pricey. My expression betrayed me. “$10?” he asked? “$12?!” his face growing more incredulous. “No way it was more than $15!” he said. “$15.50,” I blurted out. So, that’s the major caveat. Here are the positives: this “cereal” is everything I want out of a post-dinner dessert: sweet, salt, crunch, texture. It features a balanced combo of Rice Krispies, caramelized milk chocolate, sugared hazelnuts and mini cinnamon meringues. You only need a handful or two to feel sated. When you look at it that way, it’s almost a bargain, right?

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4. Spiked everything: I believe it was Jean-Paul Sartre who said that everything tastes better when spiked with Maker’s Mark. Or was it Socrates? The holiday season is the absolute best time to add alcohol to your favorite foods and drinks. My favorite wintertime beverage is a bourbon-spiked hot chocolate. It has a double-warming effect. Plus, well, there’s chocolate! I also recently added bourbon to this pumpkin cheesecake recipe per the offhand recommendation of a commenter (thanks, stranger!), which gave it added complexity. One of my favorite baking successes is this chocolate pecan pie with bourbon. If it could speak, it would say, “I love winter, the holiday season, and you, sweet friend.”

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Favorite Things Lately, Volume 5

Garry Winogrand exhibit at The MetPhotography often elicits the most visceral reaction of any art form. A single shot can invoke beauty, joy, struggle and serenity, all within the same image. When people are the subjects, the photographs become a kind of mirror, reflecting ourselves back to us, conjuring and illuminating the entire spectrum of human emotion. I, admittedly, hadn’t heard of Garry Winogrand until this exhibit (on view through September 21st), but now count him among one of my favorite photographers. I especially loved his vibrant shots of late fifties and early sixties NYC, which showcase the beautiful, controlled chaos of the city’s streets. What’s amazing is how many of these photographs were printed posthumously, so we as an audience get to experience the power of the shots he took but was never able to fully digest. An evocative quote accompanied one of his images: “Sometimes I feel…the world is a place I bought a ticket to. It’s a big show for me, as if it wouldn’t happen if I wasn’t there with a camera.”

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928–1984) New York World's Fair 1964 Gelatin silver print San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Dr. L.F. Peede, Jr. © The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928–1984)
New York World’s Fair
1964
Gelatin silver print
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Gift of Dr. L.F. Peede, Jr.
© The Estate of Garry Winogrand, courtesy Fraenkel Gallery, San Francisco

2. Buffalo chicken sandwich at Bobwhite Lunch &  Supper CounterSome people search the city far and wide for the best iteration of a burger or New York-style pizza or even soup dumplings. For the past 10 years, I’ve been on a quest for one of my favorite dishes ever–the most mundane of suburban staples: the Buffalo chicken sandwich. It’s easy enough to find in small-town USA but nearly impossible to track down here.  All of this is why I may have shed a tear when I bit into Bobwhite’s version for the first time last summer (and then a few more when I had it again a few weeks ago).  The chicken, usually subdivided into large strips, is incredibly flavorful–Bobwhite brines their chicken overnight in sweet tea!–and is coated in tangy-hot-buttery Buffalo sauce. It’s technically a special, but I’ve seen it on the menu every time I’ve come in.

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3. The Falls cocktail at Weather Up in Brooklyn: I’m not sure why this is the case, but fancy cocktails tend to taste better in the summer. Perhaps it’s because a good drink is best enjoyed outdoors, basking in the warmth of a summer evening (or, desperately swatting at ferocious mosquitos hellbent on your destruction; potato, po-tah-to). Weather Up in Prospect Heights serves one of my favorite drinks I’ve had this season. It includes all of the best things in the world: honey, lemon, bourbon, mint, ginger and, since it’s a fancy Brooklyn cocktail bar and including these is the law (see Sec. 102.3 of the libation code), Angostura Bitters. They like to change things up every few weeks, so it’s technically no longer on their official menu, but they’ll make it for you if you ask nicely.

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4. New catch Holland herring at Russ & Daughters Cafe (and original shop): My love of herring was instilled in me from an early age while crowded around celebratory tables filled with Russian delicacies. I didn’t know what herring could be until I had this variety. New Catch Holland herring is to regular old herring as pasta at the best trattoria in Italy is to Chef Boyardee. This herring is salty and buttery in a way only the best fatty fish can be. The newly opened cafe serves it the same way as the original takeout shop has for years, with chopped onions and chopped cornichons, and with an optional hot dog bun. It’s a seasonal specialty and only available for a few more weeks.

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Favorite Things Lately, Volume 4

1 Dried squid from Aji IchibanThe New York City outpost of this Chinese snack shop makes me feel like a kid in a candy store…the kind of candy store that’s actually filled with an extensive collection of dried fish, fruity jerky, dried fruit and even dried olives. My favorite is the below, a spool of Haikkodo dried squid sheets. The squid is sweet, salty, delicious, and annoyingly addictive. You can buy it by weight or in prepackaged bags for $7 a piece.

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2. Degenerate Art at the Neue GalerieThe Nazi regime didn’t censor the works they found most abominable, instead, they staged an exhibition in Munich in 1937, labeling the works as degenerate–a product of mental illness–and deriding the artists in a public setting. The exhibit went on tour, causing an uproar from citizens around the country who were appalled by the grotesque nature of German Expressionism and the part they thought it played in the supposed degradation of German culture. The works were mirrored by a collection of propaganda-style acceptable art creating a dichotomy of “disgusting” expressionism versus safe, heroic realism. The same technique is used by Neue in this exhibition of the same name, featuring many of the same works from both sides. To stand in the room of competing works is to bear witness to the artistic manifestation of stifling totalitarianism versus artistic freedom. It’s quite a thing to see.

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3. Poetry in MotionSince 1992, the Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts for Transit program has filled the walls of subway trains with specially-selected poetry, enriching the commutes of many New Yorkers. There was a four-year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, but for the past two years since the program’s return, the poems chosen, in collaboration with the Poetry Society of America, have seemed especially poignant. They add a dose of inspiration to an everyday activity that is at best, non-memorable and at worst, horrifyingly rage-inducing. The below poem by Dorothea Tanning, Graduation, was the inaugural poem selected for the program’s return in 2012. It’s layered, poignant, and sticks with you long after you’ve read it.

Courtesy of Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts for Transit

Courtesy of Metropolitan Transit Authority Arts for Transit

4. Brooklyn Bridge ParkThis 85-acre waterfront park recently opened two new sections, including a beach (for hangin’, not swimming) near Pier 4 and an sporting area on Pier 2, which includes basketball courts, bocce and handball courts, and soon, a roller rink. There’s also a 30-foot-high berm of soil that separates the park from the BQE, blocking out traffic noise. A newly landscaped area near Pier 3 features installations by artist Dahn Vo–the bronzed life-size replicas of the various sections of the Statue of Liberty (below), on view until December 6th. Though there is ongoing discussion about whether more money should be going toward small, underfunded parks, instead of behemoths like Brooklyn Bridge Park and Central Park, there is something to be said for the transformation the waterfront has undergone, morphing from abandoned eyesore to one of most beautiful and most unique multi-use landscapes in the city. Plus, the view of the Manhattan skyline from the park’s various hills and walkways never gets old.

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Favorite Things Lately, Volume 3

1 Chocolate chip pudding at Sugar Sweet Sunshine: This sugar bomb is definitely not for the demure dessert lover. Packed with whipped cream, butterscotch pudding, and hunks of spongey chocolate chip cookie, this treat is as straight forward as they come–which is why I love it so much! But who needs nuance when you can have an indulgent cup of everything that makes life worth living? And for $4 for a standard 10 oz. cup, it’s more than enough for two people. The bakery is open until 11 p.m. on weekends, making it one of the only post-dinner casual dessert destinations on the Lower East Side.

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2. Eating at the bar: A few weeks ago, my husband and I ate two of our weekend meals at the bar. The first was a date night drinks-and-apps-style dinner at expansive French restaurant Lafayette. The second was a hearty brunch at Ditmas Park favorite The Farm on Adderley (below). I’d forgotten how much I enjoy the casualness of bar eating. You never feel rushed. No one is trying to upsell anything. You can always get the bartender’s eye if there’s something you need. Plus, you get an insider-y view of the restaurant’s goings on.

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3. Brooklyn’s Chinatown: After a decade in the city, I sometimes feel as though I’ve seen nearly every corner of NYC, my own borough especially. I am, of course, wrong. There is so much left to explore. For years I’ve been meaning to check out Brooklyn’s Chinatown, which is home to one of the biggest Fujian immigrant enclaves in the city. Starting at about 42nd Street and 8th Avenue, right below Greenwood Cemetery, the strip is 20-plus blocks, densely packed with bakeries, hot pot restaurants, noodle shops, dim sum parlors, grocery stores, fried fish carts (below) and so much more. On a Saturday afternoon it was certainly more crowded than Manhattan’s Chinatown on a regular weekend, and the latter gets a bump from tourists, who were nowhere to be seen here. My husband and I had a delicious báhn mi at the bare-bones Ba Xuyen, one of the Vietnamese restaurants sprinkled throughout the ‘hood.

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4. Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum: First conceived as an exhibit for the 1964 World’s Far, this room-sizes panorama is the highlight of the Queens Museum‘s collection. The model is beyond impressive, featuring every building constructed before 1992, the year of the last full update, with a few additional buildings added sporadically since 2009. There are all sorts of small, inventive details, including a plane on a nearly invisible wire that lands and subsequently takes off from the scale version LaGuardia airport. Every few minutes, the city goes dark and small bulbs illuminate the panorama.

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Favorite Things Lately, Volume 2

1 Cake at Cafe Sabarsky: I’ve already sung the praises of this cozy Austrian cafe inside the Neue Galerie on the Upper East Side–a lovely place to visit in winter. Here, the best part of the meal is always dessert. As a self-diagnosed dessert junkie, it helps that I can scout out my cake before I order it; whole cakes are displayed all around the dining room. The below hazelnut layer cake and pistachio-chocolate mousse cake were exactly what I needed on a cold, slushy, awful, just disgusting day. I believe my socks were soaked from walking around in the sleet, but while eating forkfuls of hazelnut and pistachio with freshly piped whipped cream, I didn’t even care.

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2. The permanent exhibit at Museum of the Moving Image: There’s a 6 minute movie of the best moments in cinematic history that plays on loop here, and, if you look closely, you’ll see a certain spark ignite in people’s eyes as they stop to watch. The movie is a microcosm of the emotional reach of the entire collection, called “Behind the Screen,” at this somewhat out of the way museum in Astoria, Queens. There are old projectors, cameras, TV sets and zoetropes. There are also costumes, masks and makeup, set displays, iconic photos and promotional tie-ins. There are interactive exhibits that let you dub music over a famous scene or your own voice over dialogue in the movie Babe or create a stop-motion movie that you can email to yourself. The sculpture below, called “Feral Fount,” advances historic zoetrope principles, morphing into a mind-melting scene when lit with a strobe. All in all, a reminder of the genius of the medium.

3. The Off-Broadway play Murder for Two: I knew nothing about this musical-ish comedy before the curtain rose, which in a way, was a good thing. There’s a gimmick, but it’s oh-so-clever. The plot revolves around the murder of a famous author, a cast of 12 suspects, and a police officer investigating the case. The catch? There are only two people in the cast; one playing the cop, the other playing ALL 12 SUSPECTS.  Jeff Blumenkrantz (who just left the show and has been replaced with an equally amazing actor, I’m sure) is incredible as a clingy psychologist, a regal ballerina, a valley girl-esque grad student, and many other distinct personalities. His face is cartoonishly expressive, and his mannerisms and vocal fluctuations make each character seem distinct. The screenplay is farcical and over-the-top, but also smart and with a macabre wit that’s often laugh-out-loud funny. Just another reason to love the thee-ay-tah!

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4. The Jungle Bird cocktail: One school of thought maintains that if it’s cold out, you want a cocktail that’s warming, soothing and comforting–an Irish Coffee, for example. But I often prefer the other school, the one that suggests the best cure for the winter blues is an escape to the tropics. One of my favorite tropical cocktails, the Jungle Bird, features a refreshing combination of dark rum (Cruzan Black Strap is preferred, though I only had Gosling), Campari, simple syrup, lime juice and pineapple juice, shaken and strained into a tumbler glass. Drink it and pretend like it’s not as cold outside as  it is inside your freezer.

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5. Softcover photo books from Artifact Uprising: About a year and a half ago, when I was working on my wedding album, it dawned on me that I hadn’t printed real, physical photos in over a decade. My most recent albums were from college–early college, back in the early aughts. I’m a naturally nostalgic person, and I realized I missed flipping through an album and just remembering. Clicking through old Facebook pictures didn’t really compare. Enter Artifact Uprising, a modern, environmentally conscious (everything is printed on recycled paper) and affordable photo book site. Since I discovered Artifact Uprising, I’ve been on an album binge, creating mementos not just of our vacations but, maybe more importantly, of my husband’s and my life together here in NYC.

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Favorite Things Lately, Volume 1

1 WAR/PHOTOGRAPHY exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum: This installation was a punch in the gut. It explored the history of modern wars through 400 images and objects dating back to the mid 1800s. Some of the images were graphically violent. Others were uplifting. The complex tangle of emotions I felt from start to finish was raw and ran the spectrum from shame and disgust to euphoria and joy. The stoic wedding photo of a severely burned marine and his wife, whose love-conquers-all story I vividly remember reading in 2006, was brought into real-world focus when the placard explained that they divorced in 2008 and he died in 2012. Though spread over only two rooms (albeit, one quite large), the exhibit felt incredibly comprehensive. A visitor’s comment card posted to a wall as you exit summarized my–and I’m sure many others’–feelings perfectly: “We can do better.” See it before it closes February 2nd. While you’re there, check out the imaginative, over-the-top Jean Paul Gualtier fashion retrospective as well.

Displaying Palu - OJ Orjuela

Louie Palu (Canadian, b. 1968). U.S. Marine Gysgt. Carlos “OJ” Orjuela, age 31, Garmsir District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, from Project: Home Front, 2008; courtesy of Brooklyn Museum

2. The garden at Elizabeth Street Gallery & Garden: This striking sculpture garden adjacent to an antiques gallery was only recently opened to the public. And residents are currently embroiled in a battle to save it from development. It’s a worthy fight. The green space is the Secret Garden of Nolita, filled with classical statues, stone benches, flower beds and a romantic gazebo. Since passersby aren’t always sure what it is, they’re often hesitant to go in, usually making for a pleasantly uncrowded experience. On a mild fall afternoon filled with changing leaves, a visit here was a nice way to bid adieu to the temperate weather.

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The garden in late October

3. Tom Swafford at the 7th Avenue Q/B and Grand Army Plaza 2/3: One of my favorite things about commuting from the aforementioned subway stops is that Tom Swafford is often busking. Tom is an accomplished violinist who plays an eclectic array of music, from weepy dirges to twangy ditties. If I’m not in too much of a hurry I’m often secretly relieved to have just missed the train.


4. Tacos at Los Tacos No. 1: This may just be New York City’s answer to LA’s taco superiority. Small, well-crafted tacos using freshly-pressed tortillas, tender meats (and for the vegetarians: grilled cactus) and authentic toppings like onions, a thin guacamole sauce and cilantro. A one-star rating on Yelp complained that there was no cheese or sour cream–the best kind of unintentional endorsement.

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Courtesy of Los Tacos No. 1

5. This recipe for a chocolate chip skillet cookie: This is a show-stopper of a homemade dessert. Who doesn’t love a frisbee sized melty chocolate chip cookie straight out of the oven? Top it with vanilla bean ice cream, grab a bunch of spoons and let people dig in. I’ve made it twice and it was a certifiable hit both times. And, it’s actually easy to make. No joke. I highly recommend chopping up a gourmet chocolate bar (which is usually about 3 oz., the recommended amount) over using bagged chocolate chips–it makes for a better texture. If you’re preparing it for a party and don’t want to spend more than 10 or so minutes in the kitchen, divvy the ingredients up into tupperware containers beforehand.

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