Posts tagged “new york

passion beat: chef david z. @ boqueria, flatiron

Boqueria's David Z. piles on the charm (photo courtesy Lyana Fernández)

When chef David Z. fell in love with cooking at the age of 10 in his native Veracruz, Mexico, he had to do it in secret – in those days, hanging out in the kitchen wasn’t considered manly.

He went on to open his own restaurant before coming to the US 12 years ago and landing a job at Midtown’s splashy Brasserie 8½. Today, David’s unabashed flare for food is evident at Boqueria, the popular tapas destination in the Flatiron District.  Looking much younger than his 50 years, you can spot him right by the window doing his craft; and if you’re smart, you’ll sit right in front of him at the bar.  That’s where I decided to chat him up in Spanish while I was waiting for my friend Lyana (whom you can hear perusing the menu during the video).

It was Labor Day weekend, and while nearby sidekick Sala One-Nine (a good choice for mid-week lunch specials) looked hungry for customers, Boqueria was buzzing as usual.  And there was David, turning out plate after plate of tortilla Española, manchego, and pan con tomate (his secret touch: a pinch of sugar).  He’s a natural comedian and could easily have his own cooking show – as he told me joke after joke, I noticed these weren’t ordinary tapas.  David is a master plater:  he smears aioli into fluttering fans reminiscent of Seville (“for the summer,” he says) and piles rounds of bread onto cheese boards as if they were miniature monuments.  I was mesmerized.

Above all, David is a passionate man.   He talks about his love for gastronomy as if he were serenading his beloved, and when I ask him about his effortless artistry, he tells me it’s all in the feeling: “Even though you’re doing it for others, you have to do it for yourself first.”

And he’s definitely muy manly.  Check out those Michelangelo-esque hands…


worth posting for: love stories from storycorps

I haven’t posted in so long, I was worried I’d forgotten how to use WordPress.  Thankfully, I’m here.   As for the blog slump – I’ve been feeling that I only want to post something that’s truly worth it.  And this is.

Tonight I went to a magical event presented by WNYC – the public radio station I worked at while I was new and wide-eyed in the city and doing my Master’s degree at NYU.  At the time, it was my dream to be a part of WNYC.  So I went down to the old location at One Centre Street by the Brooklyn Bridge, stood awestruck looking up at the majestic Municipal Building, then went back to my student-housing studio and drafted a passionate letter to the head of human resources.  It worked.

14 years and two transatlantic moves later, I’m at Bonhams – the auction house on Madison Avenue – for the launch of All There Is: Love Stories From StoryCorps.

In case you haven’t heard of StoryCorps, the independent nonprofit has gathered over 40,000 interviews since 2003 from over 60,000 people who’ve stepped into “StoryBooths” all over the country.  The intimate, moving conversations are recorded and preserved at the Library of Congress.  You can listen to them every Friday on NPR’s Morning Edition.

While the stories are varied, there’s a common theme:  we’re not all that different – no matter where we come from, we all share similar hopes, fears, and the desire to be loved.

Tonight, it was all about love.  As StoryCorps founder Dave Isay put it, these stories are about hope and serendipity – about finding love in unexpected places, and finding love when it was thought it wasn’t to be found.  The book is also a testament to the value of relationships and commitment.  My favorite quote of the night: “Being married is like having a color television set.  You never want to go back to black and white.”

No, wait. I think my favorite quote is this one:  “And then we had a honeymoon that lasted 63 years.”

Buy the book, cry like I did, and support this important initiative – StoryCorps is now the largest oral history project of its kind.  And this incredibly inspiring collection reminds us that love really is…all there is.

http://storycorps.org/book/all-there-is/


durianrider’s first bite of the big apple

Raw romance: Durianrider and Freelee outside Whole Foods Union Square

Once upon a short period of time, I was a raw vegan.  I got really into it.  And then I discovered there were other people who were really, really into it.  That’s how I came across Durianrider.

The 34-year-old Australian athlete takes his healthy-living mission around the world with his partner Freelee and is known for his, shall we say, colorful videos.  So when I saw him standing next to his bamboo bike in Union Square, I recognized him instantly.

Turns out Durianrider (Harley Johnstone) had landed in our metropolis only 12 hours before.  Breaking news!  In this meaty interview (pun intended), he reveals what he eats in a typical day, where he thinks you should get most of your calories, and which New York landmark really made his jaw drop.


cuban quickie: bongo brothers food truck

Bueno, bonito, y barato: Bongo Brothers NYC Cuban food truck

I had just finished the breakfast special at Café Orlin when I spotted it:  a Cuban food truck.  ¿Que?   Sí, right on 5th Avenue between 18th and 19th streets.  I eyed it suspiciously – not just because I’d never seen it there – I’ve been burned by wannabe Cuban food before.

I grew up in a Cuban household.  My mother’s name is Lucy.  I have a right to be picky about these things.

And yet I’m not the best judge of what you might think of as Cuban cuisine:  instead of the usual meat dishes like lechón asado (slow-roasted pork) and ropa vieja (stewed shredded beef), I get intense cravings for plátanos maduros (sweet, ripe plantains) and tostones (salty, green ones).  And when I do, I don’t want to sit at a restaurant or hit the kitchen.  Or pay over the odds for something that’s never going to top mi familia’s.

Enter Bongo Brothers Cuban food truck.  $1 for an order of tostones or maduros.  $1!  So, even though I was full, I had to get a bite.  That’s after I interviewed Danny Teran – one-half of the Bongo Brothers team – who was very excited to talk to me and tell me his story, even while I held up his line of hungry customers…and despite the humming of the truck.  Gracias, Danny.  As you can see from the photo at the end of the video, I didn’t get very far down the street before I tore open the steamy parcel bearing memories of salsa steps, sunny skies, and sandy shores.  Hasta la próxima.


friday photo: great mango stall, 14th st. & university place


five more reasons to love new york

Al Mazur with his new fans at the 92nd Street Y

At the beginning of Love Etc., a new documentary, we see a couple in bed, limbs entwined under a mound of crinkled sheets.

“I have to move the car,” mumbles one of them.

It’s a slice of New York romance – and one of five real stories shot over the course of a year throughout the boroughs.

I was at the sneak preview last night at the 92nd Street Y.  The characters range in age from 18 to 89, but one story truly captured my heart:  that of Albert and Marion Mazur of Canarsie, who celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary shortly after the film was completed.  Their tenderness for each other was palpable in every scene – right down to Al’s careful slicing of his wife’s peanut-buttered toast when she became too frail.  Marion had always taken care of everything around the house, but now it was Al’s turn.

“Do you want to listen to the radio?” asks Al as they sit down to eat.

“I’d rather listen to you,” replies Marion, without missing a beat.

We’re treated to more lessons of love as we watch Al and Marion.  They didn’t always see eye to eye; it’s just that every disagreement ended with a mutual agreement to “start over.”  Al said that his 48 years of marriage had felt like 48 minutes.

Marion passed away a few months ago, and Al spoke about their enduring story during the Q&A: “I really don’t know where the time went.”  Then he told us their secret:

“We lived our lives together, but separately.  That was really it.”

He tried to get her to exercise with him, but it really wasn’t her thing.  She was into political events while he wasn’t, so she’d often do that on her own.  Yet their joint dream was to have a musical hit, and their baby was a song they called “Every Day’s A Holiday in Brooklyn.” Even then, they preserved their individual identities and fused them into a beautiful whole:

“I wrote the music line, and she wrote the story line.”

Love Etc. opens this Friday in New York City.


friday photo: sunset, hudson river park

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fab find: chozen “ice cream with chutzpah”

Chozen co-founder Meredith Fisher shares the flavors she grew up with

There are countless ice cream companies vying to cool you off under the summer sun.  How do you choose?

You don’t.

Chozen.  It has to be the most clever concept for ice cream I’ve come across, and I knew I needed to get an interview – and a taste – the second I saw it at Smorgasburg last Saturday.

With flavors inspired by traditional Jewish desserts and based on family recipes created by local bakers using all-natural ingredients, this is “Ice Cream With Chutzpah.”

Watch the video below to get the full story from co-founder Meredith Fisher, then make sure you check out the neat descriptions of all the flavors on their site.

This video is fudged – I was so smitten by my scoop of Apples & Honey that I forgot to take a picture of it, so I ran down to Whole Foods yesterday to try out Chozen’s bestselling Coconut Macaroon.  Those are the pictures you see at the end.  I don’t usually buy ice cream to keep at home, but I had a very good excuse this time.  Now there’s no telling how long that pint’s going to stick around the freezer.  And the Chocolate Gelt is calling my name – I can hear it all the way from Union Square.

In case you’re keeping score – yes, I did indeed have two desserts in a row on Saturday.  Actually, three.  But one of them, as you know, was raw bananas.  So it doesn’t count.


fab find: rob & anna’s “it’s just bananas”

Who are these people? Watch the video below to find out

I’ve always loved coming up with names (“name generation,” as they say in the ad world.) And so I get especially excited when I run into an example of both why-didn’t-I-think-of-that branding and I-want-to-eat-that-now brand.

This week, I want to rave about two vendors who caught both my eye and my taste buds during my first visit to Smorgasburg – the all-food market happening every Saturday throughout the summer on the Williamsburg waterfront.

First up:  Rob & Anna’s.  It’s really only one person – or not the people you’d think.  You’ll see what I mean in this video when I introduce you to Emma Schwartz, the brains behind the one-month old enterprise.

Frozen bananas masquerading as ice cream is not a new idea, but nobody’s found a way to make it mainstream…until now.  I really want to help out Emma and her gang.  They’re completely unpretentious and have a rocking idea that’s so simple, healthy, and fun, it’s bananas nobody’s done it like this before.

Rob & Anna’s Frozen Banana Soft Serve.  Every Saturday at Smorgasburg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Go!  Or at least get their numbers up on their Facebook page.  Liking this post helps us all out, too.

And come back Wednesday when I’ll showcase two other ladies churning out another cool – and saucy – idea.


friday photo: empire state fog, flatiron

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what to do with your mom in new york

Mother figure: Fernando Botero’s “Eve” at the Time Warner Building

For me, there’s only one way to travel:  with the tongue.  My trips revolve around food.  It’s something I learned from my mother, who trained me to eat out since before I could chew.  So when my mom was preparing to visit me last week, I first made a list of my regular haunts to introduce her to.  Then I looked at the list and sighed.  There was no way we could hit them all in the time she was here.

Here’s what we ended up doing – with a few non-gustatory attractions thrown in.  Bear in mind I live in the Village and wanted her to get a feel for my neighborhood, so most of these are downtown…

Day 1

Mom wanted tapas since she can’t get them in Orlando.  This threw a bit of a wrench in the plans since, even though I love Spanish food, it’s not a regular thing for me.  We followed a Time Out tip to Las Ramblas on West 4th which, disappointingly, didn’t score highly with us.  If I had a redo, I would have taken her to Pipa; and that’s where you should take your mama, too.

Day 2

If you’re not a theater buff, Broadway tickets are going to shock you.  But it’s mom we’re talking about here, so you’d better shell out.  We headed to the TKTS booth in Times Square on a sweltering day, but don’t bother.  Here’s the trick:  go to the theater’s box office 45 minutes before the performance and wait for returns.  That’s where you’ll get the best prices.  And, even though I cringed at the idea, Sister Act, it turns out, is surprisingly fun for both mother and child.

After that, we jumped on the A train down to High Street for legendary Grimaldi’s pizza.  Getting there post-matinee – around 5pm – was key.  No usual marathon wait, and you’re out the door for a scoop at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory faster than you can say “mamma mia.”

Day 3

When your mom is a Cuban Catholic and your dad is a Russian Jew, there’s one thing you gotta do: get a history lesson at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum followed by an order of blintzes at B&H.

Did you know that if you live in an apartment building, you live in a tenement?  The root “tener” is Latin for “to hold,” and a tenement is simply a building that holds at least three families.  During the museum’s tour of the Orchard Street residence, you and your mom will also learn about the Prussian homemaker whose husband went to work and never returned (he skipped out on the family and was later discovered in Ohio), and, conversely, about the Italian cabinetmaker who went to great lengths to sneak his wife into the country sans papers.

Oh, I nearly forgot:  we started the day at the best breakfast (with the strongest coffee) in town:  Cafe Mogador.

Day 4

A place with 8 little tables and the best panini this side of Italy is special, as is your mom.  So take her to ‘ino on Bedford Street, where she’ll swoon over the stellar cheeses and fixings encased in perfectly pressed ciabatta.  Wash down with their freshly squeezed OJ, then head uptown for a stroll around the lower portion of Central Park before sinking your spoons into a lofty – and shareable – chocolate soufflé at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Building at Columbus Circle.

At night, go to Suzie’s Finest Chinese Cuisine on Bleecker Street for old times’ sake – it’s where my mom and I ate when she moved me here in 1997 for grad school.  The food’s not so fine anymore; and maybe it wasn’t back then, either.  But I was 22 and had a lot to learn.

Wander up to Rocco so mom can pick up a real cheesecake as her carry-on luggage.  A very important detail they didn’t teach at NYU.

Have a glass of vino at my local Tavern on Jane – where the tables are draped with white paper and topped with big fat crayons.  A great spot to meet friends, talk for hours, and listen to your mom’s words of wisdom.

Day 5

Run over to Murray’s Bagels on 6th Ave between 12th and 13th for half a dozen so she can fulfill the remaining carry-on quota.  They’re each hot in the bag, crusted over with the necessary sprinklings, and worth every $1.15.

That’s all, kids.


friday photo: golden retriever at dinner, west village

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time to make the blintzes

“While Moses was giving the Ten Commandments to the men, the women were making blintzes.”

So says Lynn Kutner at the beginning of our 2.5 hour Blintz-A-Thon at a West Village synagogue. The author of two cookbooks, Bountiful Bread and A Pocketful of Pies, Lynn, like me, has Russian heritage – and a love of the kitchen – in her blood.  I am so grateful to her for being so generous with her time and culinary flair in anticipation of Shavuot, the joyous (dairy) holiday.

Watch as she shows us the tricks of the trade…and I make an attempt.  Note:  I asked Lynn how to maximize small kitchen space when making these.  Answer:  cook four, roll four.

All recipes © Lynn Kutner

Blintz Batter

Makes about 10 crêpes

3 eggs
2 tablespoons melted, cooled butter or 2 tablespoons (sunflower) oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour (unbleached all-purpose, i.e. Hecker’s)
1/2 cup water

1.  Break eggs into bowl.  Remove white “strings” using two spoons.
2.  Beat in next four ingredients.
3.  Beat in milk and flour very well to make sure batter is smooth.
4.  Beat in water.  Cover and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight.

To cook:

Fry one test crêpe in a hot, buttered nonstick pan.  If it is too thick, thin batter with a few drops of water.

The technique for making a thin, even crêpe is to pour about 3 tablespoons of the batter onto one spot on the very hot pan.  Immediately swirl the pan so the batter coats the bottom evenly.  When the first side is nicely browned, turn and cook the second side.  The whole process takes 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.

It is the second side (the less pretty side) that is filled, so that the better side shows.

Lynn’s Healthy Crepes

2-3 eggs
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup, honey, or molasses
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup (soy) milk
1/4 cup water

Blueberry Filling for Blintzes

(Fills about 8 medium)

One 12-ounce bag frozen blueberries or 1 pint fresh blueberries
1/4 to 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn starch
1/2 teaspoon cinammon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
Pinch of salt
1/2 tablespoon water
Small squeeze of fresh lemon

1.  Mix all ingredients except the blueberries in a saucepan.  Stir in the blueberries.
2.  Bring to a slow boil, stirring constantly.  Boil 2-3 minutes.  Put in an ice bath to cool.  May be made a day or two in advance.  Recipe may be doubled or tripled.

Cheese Filling for Blintzes

(Fills 10)

Mix together well:

2 packages Friendship farmer cheese (with salt, 15 ounces)
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons apple juice

While it’s not expressly noted here, fry the blintzes on both sides until golden.


friday photo: truth in advertising, west village

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mango magic, union square

Peeling and slicing the succulent mango can be tricky business.  Take in the street action on the SE corner of 14th Street and University Place; then watch as Luz, a local vendor, shows us how it’s done.  This was taken before I figured out you need to turn the iPhone, but I wanted to share it anyway.


friday photo: toast, brooklyn flea @ fort greene

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improvised interview: at the brooklyn flea (part 3)

Charlie of People's Pops shows us some muscle

After posting this photo as a video teaser on Facebook, I got a flurry of comments, including this email from a male friend: “A friend of mine once told me it doesn’t matter if a guy has a pot belly, as long as he has strong arms and shoulders. Apparently, that’s what triggers googly feelings in women. What’s you’re take on that?”  He was writing in response to my friend Cat’s comment that the guy had nice arms.

What’s my take?  I have to agree.  I remember being especially drawn to the arms of the guy I had my biggest teenage crush on.  He was a photographer for the school newspaper, and I just loved the way the veins poked out of his forearms when he held his camera.  Make of that what you will.

Today, there’s just something (not sure I’d call it “googly”) about watching a man’s sinewy arms grip a steering wheel…or feeling a strapping shoulder under your hand on the dance floor.  What do you think?  Methinks this post is going to stir up some trouble.

Meanwhile, scroll down to check out the muscle that goes into making all-natural shaved ice at People’s Pops – one of the coolest stops during my virgin visit to Fort Greene.

p.s.  In case you missed them, here’s part 1…and part 2.


improvised interview: at the brooklyn flea (part 2)

Next up from my Saturday afternoon in Fort Greene:  those cheesy guys I told you about.  Todd and co. behind forthcoming restaurant Speedy Romeo (with forthcoming website) talk fresh formaggio…plus a zesty flavor combination to set your tongue aflutter.  Make sure you watch the very end for a zealous taste test from the stylish and single (listen up, Romeos) Andrea.  Grazie, signores.

p.s. This is a three-part series of short videos.  Missed the first one?  Watch it here.  And make sure you come back tomorrow to see the muscles that are melting hearts…with ice.


improvised interview: at the brooklyn flea (part 1)

Andrea capturing the fabulous foliage in Fort Greene

Oh, how I wish I’d gotten an iPhone sooner!  Shooting that video with Taylor the ukulele player made me feel so in the zone, I knew I had to do more of it.  And now my only regret is that I could have taken really great videos starting in October when I moved back to New York and was rediscovering my old city with new eyes.  But I’m making up for it now – I can’t put the camera down!

Listening to and learning from people’s stories is one of my favorite things – it’s the reason I went to journalism school when I first came to New York in ’97.  And having the ease of video in the iPhone makes it possible for me to taste my old broadcasting days whenever something interesting pops up.  Which is often.

This Saturday, I met my long-time friend and fashion maven Andrea for a jaunt around the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene.  I found Fort Greene charming – great architecture, leafy, laid back – although Andrea and the locals tell me it’s getting to be just like the city they’ve tried to escape.  The market was very cool with unique food stalls I haven’t encountered anywhere else, so out came the camera.  I recorded three short on-the-spot interviews, and this is the first.  I wanted you to meet Andrea – my tour guide for the day – before I take you around to some of the delights I discovered.  Here, she talks Brooklyn, shows us her latest scoop, and tells us why she thinks the British do it better.

Tomorrow, I’ll introduce you to two Romeos getting fresh and saucy…with formaggio.


friday photo: mario batali on the phone, west village

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friday photo: blurred embrace, soho

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improvised interview (video): taylor and his ukulele, greenwich village

I was instantly enchanted by this 14-year-old hanging out on 8th Street with his ukulele.  Turns out he was keeping watch outside Electric Studios, where a famous recording artist is putting together his latest CD.  I wish I could tell you who it is, but Taylor swore me to secrecy.  Still, he very graciously agreed to my filming him.  Watch as he talks about what drew him to the “uke,” what he likes about New York, and his big dream.  Then listen to him play.  I love the way he can’t keep himself from strumming while he’s talking.

Note: after checking in with the Apple Store, I now know I need to hold the iPhone horizontally to get full picture.  Next time.  Oh, and please leave comments below for Taylor – he’ll be reading!


friday photo: big bear, lower east side

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sneaky slideshow: give these photos a caption

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I love people watching, but I especially love watching people watch people.  I followed this woman walking west on 14th Street, from Union Square to just before she disappeared into Party City between 5th and 6th Avenues.   If I put a soundtrack to it, it would probably be something by Talking Heads like “Stay Up Late.”  With her hair in old-school curlers, feathers for eyelashes, and a Victoria’s Secret shopping bag, she definitely wants us to wonder what she’s up to.  But the people around her truly make the shots.