Category Archives: New York City

Fall Dining: Marta and White Street

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Halfway through October! Seems a good time to take stock of the autumn arrivals to New York City’s dining scene. After four visits — out of an eventual 93 — I can report that I still adore Lower East Side newcomer Dirty French. Only Dirty French regret so far: not yet having tried either of the for-two entrees, the chicken with crepes or the côte de boeuf. On the latter, a cadre of friends have expressed interest, so we’ll make that happen in November, when the cold rains come. On the chicken with crepes side, if you want in, hit me up and let’s get this done.

September saw several other heavyweight openings, none bigger than Danny Meyer’s East 29th Street newcomer Marta and the return of Chef Floyd Cardoz at Tribeca’s White Street. Here now, the exclusive LS.com report on both.

MARTA

I’ve been to Marta twice now, both for lunch. The restaurant, the latest from Danny Meyer, is situated in the lobby of the Martha Washington Hotel on East 29th Street — and, wouldn’t you know, it feels like you’re dining in a hotel lobby, albeit one with two huge wood-fired pizza ovens at the rear. And pizza is very much the thing here. But not just any old pizza. No, chef Nick Anderer (also of Maialino) and his team are aspiring to Roman-style thin crust pizza. Or, as Meyer likes it, Thin and Crispy!

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The menu divides the pizzas into two classes, Rosse and Bianche, and switches out seasonal ingredients on the regular. The two pizzas we consumed in my first visit, above top, squash blossoms and zucchini, a truly excellent pie; above bottom, tomatoes and corn, which tasted of the season but had so much on the crust that one couldn’t accurately describe it as Thin and Crispy. Both pizzas are now off Marta’s menu.

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Second visit, we again went one rosse, one blanche, this time opting for, above top, the Salsiccia (mozzarella, pork sausage, crimini), a solid take; above bottom, the Patate Alla Carbonara (potatoes, guanciale, black pepper, pecorino, egg). This second pizza appears to have emerged as Marta’s signature pie — check out Eater’s photoessay on its creation with Chef Anderer. It’s definitely cool that it tastes like carbonara on a pizza. But that’s a lotta toppings for any crust to support, and the middle of our pie was defiantly soggy.

Which is my only issue with Marta — that in piling up the pizzas with toppings makes for pizza that is quite delicious but not always thin and crispy. Also note that it’d be easy to have a great meal at Marta without ordering pizza at all. There are some very good salads, including the lovely Marta Salad seen at the very top of this post. And rabbit meatballs, because you’re not a new restaurant in fall 2014 in New York City if you don’t have rabbit on the menu, #factsonly. Like all Danny Meyer restaurants, the service is crisp, professional, and friendly. This is always harder than it seems.

Final pro-tip: haven’t yet been to breakfast here, but I’m reliably told it’s out-of-the-park fantastic. Which makes perfect sense if you know how good the breakfast at Maialino is.

WHITE STREET

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Service was the big problem at Floyd Cardoz’s new restaurant, White Street, on West Broadway above Franklin in Tribeca. From a sheer looks perspective, the place is spectacular. And on the rainy Monday night we were there, nearly ever table was filled with your typical cross-section of fancy Tribecaites. Wouldn’t expect more or less from a restaurant co-owned by Dan Abrams and Dave Zinczenko, among other dudes.

Cardoz worked with Danny Meyer for years, first at the long-shuttered Madison Square Park Indian restaurant Tabla, and lately of North End Grill in Battery Park City. Here, he’s saddled with a less experienced service team, and it shows. Wrong dishes brought our table, confusion over our wine order, and the like diminished our enjoyment of a more straightforward menu from Cardoz than one might expect (including, the night we were there, white truffles over gnocchi, above). I’ll let the kinks get ironed out for a spell before giving it another go.

RIP Zelda

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There are many magical things about living in downtown Manhattan, but today there’s one less. Zelda, the wild turkey of Battery Park, has died.

The news hit the Curbed tipline today courtesy of the good people at The Battery Conservancy, the group which first spotted and named Zelda back in 2003. (The genesis of the name, per DNAInfo: “The conservancy named Zelda after the wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, because she, too, was found wandering the park, supposedly after a nervous breakdown.”) It rocketed around a group of Curbed writers including myself, Joey Arak, and Sara Polsky, all of whom had served time on the Zelda beat at one time or another.

Curbed caught Zelda fever early on. Joey Arak’s headline on a post about another wild turkey up in Morningside Heights, “Turkey Trots Around Like He Owns the Freakin’ Place” became a favorite Curbed headline trope, appearing on Curbed each time another reader sent in another Zelda sighting. The bird became a fascination for other local NYC media outlets, too, like Gothamist and DNAInfo.

Even as fears grew over recent years that Zelda’s lifespan would naturally come to an end sooner or later. But then Zelda survived Sandy, and seemed indestructible.

Alas, she wasn’t. A car hit Zelda near Pier 11 last week, as she strolled along like she owned the freakin’ place. RIP.

Find Your Beach

I was sitting at a sports bar on Third Avenue near 38th Street on Saturday afternoon, a bar I’d never been to before that Harryh recently discovered as part of his residency in Midtown East. Harry and Lindsey were there to watch the Flordia Gators. I was too, though despite my burgeoning fandom I still can’t hold a candle to either of them, especially given what a crappy football game it was. So I was finishing up a club sandwich — the food at this sports bar was better than it had to be, a trend in more bars around the city — and scrolling through Twitter when I saw “Zadie Smith” and “gentrification” and clicked, and I was down a wonderful rabbit hole for the next 15 minutes.

Smith’s essay, Find Your Beach, published in the New York Review of Books, is really about work and money in New York City — a topic of endless fascination, even moreso when in the hands of a virtuoso writer like Zadie Smith. Like this, from near the end:

Under the protection of a university I live on one of the most privileged strips of built-up beach in the world, among people who believe they have no limits and who push me, by their very proximity, into the same useful delusion, now and then.

It is such a good town in which to work and work.

Smith’s essay brought to my mind Henry Miller’s Tropic of Capricorn, which to me is the ur-text on New York City and money and work. Miller captures a similar ambivalence as in Smith’s essay, albeit with a rather different stylistic form. I pulled the book off my shelf last night and found this passage that still resonates with me:

Again the night, the incalculably barren, cold, mechanical night of New York in which there is no peace, no refuge, no intimacy… To have money in the pocket in the midst of white, neutral energy, to walk meaningless and unfecundated through the bright glitter of the calcimined streets, to think aloud in full solitude on the edge of madness, to be of a city, a great city, to be of the last moment of time in the greatest city in the world and feel no part of it, is to become oneself a city, a world of dead stone, of waste light, of unintelligible motion, of imponderables and incalculables, of the secret perfection of all that is minus. To walk in money through the night crowd, protected by money, lulled by money, dulled by money, the crowd itself a money, the breath money, no least single object anywhere that is not money, money, money everywhere and still not enough, and then no money or a little money or less money or more money, but money, always money, and if you have money or you don’t have money it is the money that counts and money makes money, but what makes money make money?

Monday morning. Back to work.

Tuesday’s List, Mostly Restaurants Edition

DAILY BLOGGING
Harder than it looks. Fell off the wagon hard last week in the depths of Eater bug-crushing. Still trying to find a rhythm to this practice. Typing this while on a conference call (suboptimal).

URBANSPACE
They’re the main competitors to the Smorgasburg team, and far lesser known from a brand perspective despite having been at it for a whole lot longer. (This NYTimes story comparing the two is a nice balanced read.) UrbanSpace opened a two-block stretch called UrbanSpace Garment District a block from the Vox NY office in mid-September, and it’s been nothing short of a miracle for midtown lunching. If you work nearby, because you read this blog, I share with you a top-secret research document created by the 10th Floor of Vox Media that may well change your life as it has changed ours.

ALDO SOHM WINE BAR
AKA, How to Up Your Midtown Game for Fall. Across the courtyard from Le Bernardin, its longtime sommelier (and great guy) Aldo Sohm gets his own wine bar. The space is midtown to the core — high ceilings, cool metallic finishes, everyone in suits. But the seating options are nicely varied: there’s a large central sofa that wraps around the middle of the room; high boys on the sides, and a wine table/bar at the back of the room. Night we were there, Eric Ripert was roaming the room, greeting the crowd. That’s because there’s a small menu, too; the $6/per chicken drumsticks, coq au vin style, highly recommended.

BIRDS & BUBBLES
Is Sarah Simmons’ new eatery, tucked into the subterranean space that used to be Grotto on Eldridge Street on the Lower East Side. We’ve known Sarah since before she started CityGrit, so can’t possibly be even-handed about this, but our group dinner at Birds & Bubbles a few weeks back blew our group away. Nothing remained in the two fried chicken baskets. The challenge here will be overcoming the space, which breaks Ben Leventhal’s rule of subterranean dining (namely, that people don’t want to do it, for some unnatural spidey-sense reason). Perhaps, like Lure, Birds & Bubbles can break the mold.

ATERA
Ryan Sutton gave it four stars today on Eater; I’ve never eaten here and can’t imagine wanting to, despite the convenient Tribeca location. (Okay, maybe the Lounge Burger for $20. Maybe.)

MICHELIN STARS
It’s reckoning day in the world of NYC restaurants, as establishments find out their Michelin stars, or lack thereof. Amazing to me how huge a deal this remains in the industry (and, sure, the media). That said, surveying this year’s list, I’m on board with Blanca’s elevation to two, very happy to see a group of places I love get one (La Vara, Betony, Pok Pok, The River Cafe), and on board with the Sushi Nakazawa shutout (am I the only Eater staffer ever not to love my meal there?).

IPHONE 6
Don’t own it yet. Calm down, people who keep seeing me and asking me if I’ve upgraded yet since my public proclamation to do so. It’s standard operating procedure to wait a month to ensure against (a) critical early hardware problems; (b) critical early software problems. I’m targeting a trip to the West Coast in mid-October as ideal upgrade time. Stand by. Meantime, full credit to Fred Wilson for this. Intrigued to see the outcome.

190 Bowery

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[Photo by Nathan Kensinger for Curbed]

It was only a matter of time after the property hit the market in August, but yesterday came the news: photographer Jay Maisel has sold 190 Bowery, the iconic former bank building at the corner of Spring Street which he famously purchased in 1966 for $102,000. The buyer, fittingly, is crazed developer Aby Rosen, who if you don’t know, taste this quotage from the Times on the 190 Bowery deal:

“The building is in terrible shape. There’s no heat, Jay lives in just a small area of the building, another winter is coming, and it was time,” said Mr. Rosen, who spent six months cajoling Mr. Maisel into selling the home. “When you own a property for that long, and you are not a real estate professional, it takes a lot of convincing.”

190 Bowery is known by many as the famous street art building, as seen in the above photo and again in the photo essay that Nathan Kensigner shot for Curbed last month chronicling the death throes of The Bouwerie. For some of us who love the internet and its creators, though, the building’s iconic status was marred by Maisel’s severely misguided 2011 lawsuit against Waxy.org’s Andy Baio for remixing the cover art to Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, which Maisel shot. (Eternal credit to the unnamed street artist who later plastered Baio’s remixed album art all over 190 Bowery.)

Personally, 190 Bowery never fascinated me as much as its neighbor to the west, 11 Spring Street, another former street art shrine better known back in the day for the eerie white candles that lit up each window at night (to say nothing of its past as an Ice House). 11 Spring fascinated me so in the early days of Curbed that a neighbor to the building, an art gallerist who’d just moved in across the street, struck up an email correspondence with me, offering to be Curbed’s daily eyes and ears on the 11 Spring beat. Which is how I became friends with Ms. Jen Bekman, who now runs 20×200.

The candle mystery long since solved, 11 Spring went under the knife in the latter part of last decade, having passed into and then out of the hands of Lachlan Murdoch before emerging as — but of course — luxury condos. The same fate appears to be in store for 190 Bowery. And with it goes a bit more of the magic of this once-magical corner of Nolita. Quoth the Rosen, Winter is coming.

Quinciple

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In the scheme of services I love in New York City, Quinciple is the one I love the most.

I owe Eater’s Amanda Kludt for the recommendation, about a year ago. At the time, Linds and I had tried out Blue Apron and initially enjoyed it. All the ingredients you need to cook three meals a week, delivered to your apartment in a box, with recipes! But over a few months, the sheer paint-by-numbers approach of each recipe — to the point Blue Apron includes a small pat of butter when the recipe calls for butter — started to bore us. And we experienced this problem.

Which is when Amanda recommended Quinciple. Glorious Quinciple.

Quinciple is roughly the same concept as Blue Apron, with a few upgrades. It’s a box of food, mostly the kind of things you’d find at a farmers’ market if you really knew how to shop a farmers’ market. There’s lots of seasonal fruit and vegetables (this week: pears, tomatoes, honey nut squash, mustard greens, multicolor string beans, among others). There’s always a fresh loaf of some kind of interesting bread, and a hunk of farmhouse cheese. There’s one protein a week — squid a few weeks back, grass-fed pork chops, and this week, sweet Italian ground pork. And often a pint of farm-fresh milk or eggs. It’s not everything you need to cook a bunch of great meals, but it’s most things you need. That’s a photo of most of the contents from our box this week at the top of this post.

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Even better, perhaps, is the media provided with each box. There’s a clear, well designed guide to each week’s products, and three recipe cards (this week’s set, above). As a fan of high quality media, I honestly have no idea how the Quinciple team pulls off this feat each week, but the recipe cards are all fantastic and worth saving, and the ingredient guides have made me a better consumer of food.

For now, Quinciple’s just a New York City thing, offering delivery in areas of Manhattan on Monday and Thursday, and in parts of Brooklyn and at selected places for pickup. Each week’s box costs $49.

But this month, Quinciple’s running a first box free promotion. Give it a go.

Monday’s List

LEFSETZ
Is the best blogger working today, inside or outside the music industry. He’s the master of a type of ruthlessly judgmental quick-hit post that takes on anything and anyone, which, in the spirit of stealing from the best, I hereby undertake in this space now.

IPHONE 6
Of course I’m upgrading (6, not 6 Plus). Upgrading every year to the new iPhone is one of the few no-brainer decisions available in this modern age. If you’re not upgrading every year because you’re waiting until you’re eligible for an upgrade from your carrier, I submit that you’re choosing one of the strangest ways possible to save a couple hundred bucks. The new phones are always better, always faster, and if you spend more than a few minutes a day on yours, you’re robbing yourself by not upgrading. Two friends over at our apartment last week forced us to dig an iPhone 4 cable out of the drawer for them. How debasing.

ANDROID
Nope. No chance. I got a free Samsung phone for participating in Guest of a Guest’s questionnaire/photoshoot You Should Know Powered by Samsung Galaxy. Nice looking phone. Feels good in the hand. But the software. It’s still terrible. Feels like everything’s on a lag. The finesse just isn’t there. Talked about this with a friend who’s a major CTO this weekend. Asked him if he’d consider swapping his iPhone for Android. Answer: “No way. No chance.” Yup.

AT&T
I’ve had it since the first iPhone, and I’m not thinking of changing carriers. Lefsetz thinks this makes me one of the stupider people in America. Maybe? Or maybe just the fact that we make so few phone calls these days means only data and data speed really matter?

ROGER GODDELL
Of course should go. Will he? I suggest that he will, because with the NFL facing a threat to its very existence over the coming decades, Goddell has shown that he is not up to the task. I suspect the owners know this and that despite their public defenses of the man, they will act accordingly. To make it interesting, harryh and I made a bet a few days ago about whether Goddell will be the person to hand the Lombardi Trophy to the Super Bowl champs in February 2015. I have $100 that says he won’t be.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Looked like absolute crap in week one. Looked totally dominant in week two. Lesson: who the hell knows? Though among Pats fans, feels like everyone’s in the mood for fatalism this year.

RUSNY CASTILLO
How to keep interest in your last-place baseball team this late in the season? If you’re the Red Sox, make a surprise $72 million signing of a Cuban outfielder who’s never played a game in the major leagues, then send him quickly up through your farm system over the past few weeks before unveiling him in the majors tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. Somehow Larry Lucchino wins again.

OAKLAND A’S
Are the team I’m rooting for in the postseason. Wouldn’t hate to see Baltimore or K.C. win, either. As always, fuck the National League.

ROOT & BONE
Is the new East Village restaurant that captured some buzz this summer because its chef came from Yardbird, the fantastically awesome fried-chicken-and-southern-cuisine restaurant in South Beach, Miami. Finally made it to brunch here a few weekends back. Maybe because I’ve been to Yardbird, maybe because I’ve spent more time dining in the South as of late, but — pass. Liked the vibe of the room but the food didn’t do it for me. When the cornbread is a miss, where you gonna go from there? And this, by the way, is patently absurd. The fried chicken tastes of dill. Dill!

TRIBECA
Is more Tribeca than ever.

MARK BITTMAN
Is responsible for three-quarters of the meals we put on our tables. (Well, Mark and Quinciple. Quinciple, about which I’ll have more to say on another day.) This time of year, we’ll do like Mark and make this recipe at least half a dozen times in the next two weeks. Enjoy.

Crown Heights Crawl

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It seems like about half of REC — our Vox lingo for the Curbed, Eater, and Racked teams — lives in Crown Heights. “Crown Heights is amazing!” they say. “Crown Heights is the best!” they say. “Everyone should come visit Crown Heights!” they say. So finally we did, embarking on a Vox crawl of Crown Heights on Wednesday night, led by Jackie Goldstein, who can be seen flashing some kind of gang sign in the above photo.

My previous Crown Heights experience involved several trips to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden — Barclays Center doesn’t count, right? — but I’d never explored the neighborhood or its up-and-coming main drag, Franklin Avenue. That strip would be the focus of our crawl, which started with a stroll up Franklin Avenue after disembarking at the Franklin Ave. stop on the 2. Turning left on Bergen, we started the night, appropriately, at Berg’n.

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Berg’n, of course, is the new beer-hall-cum-food-court from Jonathan Butler, aka Mr. Brownstoner. I’ve known Jon since he launched Brownstoner way back in 2004 and we met to trade Secrets of Real Estate Blogging, long before he co-created the Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg, and myriad other ways to procure beer and fine eats while outdoors in NYC. Jon was in the house this night, hanging with his family and having kindly set aside a few long tables in the middle of the room for our 20-strong crew. While our team got settled in — that’s us in the middle of the above photo — Jon gave me the tour.

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The place is indeed ginormous. There’s food from usual suspects Mighty Quinn’s, Asia Dog, Pizza Moto, and Ramen Burger; a coffee stand appropriately hipster’d up; and a pleasant outdoor space, above. There’s also a private room that Jon says they open up on crowded nights (it’s also got one of the joint’s two drop-down projectors for US Open viewing and the like).

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At least I finally got the name. And I got to try my first Ramen Burger, putting me only about three years behind the trend. The night’s biggest surprise? I really liked it. Expect the unexpected in Crown Heights.

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Leaving Berg’n, our crawl headed back down Franklin Ave. to The Crown Inn, a dark-wooded bar that opened four or five years back, apparently, and where we skipped the generic outdoor space and opted for the back inner recess. My only existing photograph from this establishment is above, and captures the magic that had overtaken Team Crawl by this point in the evening.

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Our final stop on this admittedly kind of wimpy, three-stops-only crawl was at Franklin Park, apparently THE Crown Heights go-to. Spread out in the spacious beer garden, with the right amount of people to make the place feel alive but not too many to overwhelm, I got it. We got it. Sort of?

Or at least a tiny corner thereof, even that which we didn’t get to fully explore. Newcomer Pacifico’s Fine Foods, helmed by former Back Forty shef Shanna Pacifico and current member of Eater’s Brooklyn Heatmap, looked gorgeous when we strolled by. I’ll stop in, just as soon as I check out this Bay Ridge neighborhood all the kids are talking about.

Matt Harvey: “He’s seen the inside of one of those new glass boxes recently—and loves the view. ‘That’s a beautiful building. I could just sit there and watch traffic all day. Who wouldn’t want an apartment like that?’”