Spend a Couple Hours »Thompson LES Pool

190 Allen St

We were lucky enough to have friends staying at the sleek Thompson LES Hotel recently and were able to enjoy their balcony pool. Well, truth be told Van enjoyed it most of all.

The place is far friendlier than I expected. Even patient and nice about the kids. Plus there’s wine and cocktails for adults.

Not a bad place to recommend to visiting friends and family. Just be sure to hit them up for pool rights in the warm months!

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Posted on October 21, 2011

Desserts »Bisous Ciao

 20111012-095945.jpg101 Stanton St

French macaroons are having their day in the sun. With all the new spots specializing in them, one might even say the kind of obnoxious phrase “they’re the new cupcakes”.

After sampling Little Oven I stumbled across Bisous Ciao in the lower east side, a formal affair with gallery lighting, black gift boxes and gloved cookie servers who were surely slash models.

It seemed set up to really appeal to the Soho visitor, but I was compelled by the promise of exotic macaroon flavors, most notably Violet, a candy flavor I adore (but is certainly an acquired taste).

In my recent Little Oven review I said it’s what’s inside that counts and Bisous Ciao boasts creamy yumminess.

But I have to say, they fall a little short on the cookie that was too soft and lacked that macaroon flaky crunch.

 

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Posted on October 12, 2011

Desserts »Pig Candy

from Roni-Sue, Essex St Market

Want to make a room of dudes freak out? Put a plate of dark chocolate covered bacon in front of them. Needless to say this treat, which is exactly what it sounds like, was a hit for Dungeons and Dragons snacking.

Of course, I’ve combined Bacon and dessert before (with the amazing Mo’s Bar and that glorious treat that is candy bacon) but Roni-Sue, whose shop I visited at the Essex Market, takes the simplest and most intense approach. “Roni” a lovely lady named Rhonda Kave who calls it Pig Candy.

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Posted on February 21, 2010

Restaurants »Shang

187 Orchard Street

As far as I’m concerned, any place that boasts excellent hot and sour soup is worth visiting and Shang, which I tried out during restaurant week, serves up a spectacular version. While it’s easy to imagine the dissent among local foodies (“There’s nothing here that you can’t get for a fraction of the price in Chinatown!!” they’ll whine) but hey, this soup is really, really excellent and I have to say that I also loved the thick Cantonese Wok Fried Pearl Noodles – both of which were on the tasting menu.

We were less taken with the other items on the menu. The sushi was good, but not amazing, and the shrimp dumplings were a tad bland. For cocktails, I recommend the Diablo for its spicy tequila kick, though it was a touch too sweet.

The ambiance is similar to that of fancy dark hotel, which is not quite my thing, but the staff was not snotty, as one might expect, but really friendly and seemed happy to have us – and I’d be more than happy to return for another bowl of that hot and sour soup.

Click here for the rest of Shang

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Posted on February 14, 2010

Drinks »Milk and Honey

milk and honey logo Here's what I said back on January 5th:
Tales of the ill-kept secret Milk and Honey bar, where at one time you could only enter if you had been given the ever changing phone number by an already trusted regular seemed the stuff of legend and had I not known people who had actually went through the hassle of obtaining the number, I probably would have let the famously exclusive Sasha Petraske hot spot remain off my radar and to do list forever.

See, I am not one for hassle and when I heard that they had changed their policy once again to make it where only members with a special key would be able to enjoy the hallowed dim cocktail walls, I knew that Milk and Honey was just a place I'd never see the inside of.

Fortunately for me, though, good friends are among the few who nabbed a key and they were kind enough to invite us there on Jim's Birthday. In a time when “speak easy” is the trend for drinking, this place trumps them all, as it should since it started the whole thing. The entrance is truly nondescript, even a bit sketchy: an unmarked beaten up thick gray steel door in a quiet apartment building, as you walk in you half expect that there's been some mistake and you'll end up in a stranger's living room past the thick curtains.

In fact, the space is not much larger than a living room and the ambiance is minimal: the lights are very dark, the booths are a bit battered and cozy, the music soft. I can't imagine the place would make any sort of real impression on those expecting a level of fanciness for all the secrecy, particularly if those lights were turned all the way up.

But superfluous decoration is beside the point of Milk and Honey, a bar truly and utterly devoted to the notion of substance over style. The experience here is about a civilized environment in which to enjoy perfect cocktails. Plus these expertly cocktails all cost $9; a price which is a steal compared to the $11-13 that absolutely everyone seems to think they can charge these days.

There are no crowds here and to our surprise, no menus either. You simply tell your kind and knowledgeable waiter what sort of drink you fancy and they come back with a custom made concoction. I opted for bourbon, starting with a frothy ginger spiced highball and moving on to a simplified take on the old fashioned. Jim found happiness in his beloved Chicago fizz.

It's a strange place in theory. In some ways it's a stand against the celebrity obsessed, over hyped bar scene. No name dropping or obnoxious behavior is tolerated, but at the same time, it's become an almost uncomfortably elitist corner of the city (in theory). After such a wonderfully pleasant evening there, however, I stepped outside and decided I may just enjoy being an elitist sometimes, so long as it means secret keys that open doors to places like Milk and Honey.

RUNNERS UP:
Voodoo Rootbeer
Agua Frescas
The Richardson
Lion's Tail
Temple Bar

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Posted on November 2, 2009

Drinks »The Ten Bells

Any place with dollar oysters until seven is good in my book, but The Ten Bells goes one step beyond by offering a civilized old worldy atmosphere and a menu of great French and Belgium beers. I've yet to take advantage of their other menu items, but am eagerly awaiting the day I can get out of work early enough to gorge on beer and oysters again. When it happens, I will cherish it.

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Posted on September 7, 2009

Restaurants »Bacaro

bacaro nycNestled within the no mans land at edge of Chinatown (especially with the sad loss of Good World) the Venetian small plates restaurant Bacaro is truly a hidden neighborhood gem with underground arched hallways and romantic private dining nooks. With real candle and crystal chandeliers, faded brick, rustic table settings, and general castle-like feel, it's a transportative atmosphere that alone is worth a recommendation. Fortunately, the food is equal to the setting.

My sister and brother-in-law did the honors of ordering since they are huge fans and know all the best dishes. The spicy fried meatballs and fried rice balls were excellent and not at all greasy nor too heavy. For pasta we had a great duck ragu with whole wheat pasta and the gnocci which is a favorite of just about anyone who's dined there. Since most dishes are shared it's wise to order a couple of these if you have a larger party.

Jim and I split the daily gelato for dessert, because we can never, ever say no to olive oil ice cream, and wow! It was some of the best I have ever had the pleasure to try. Cocktails here are also good, and more interesting than your standard offerings.

We got here early enough to accommodate a large group, though later in the evening you may have to wait – though there are worse fates than to drink in their airy, grand bar. It would be a perfect spot for romance, especially if you love and know each other well enough to excuse a big belly from all the rich and delicious pastas, fried appetizers, and dessert.?

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Posted on June 8, 2009

Books »Lush Life

richard price lush lifeRichard Price is known for his ear for dialog and realistic portrayals of complex people and communities. In Lush Life, his highly praised eighth novel, he turns his sharp focus on the Lower East Side of the past couple of years, a neighborhood in transition. Price says:

?here are about five worlds down there, and they're oblivious of each other. Well, every once in a while these worlds collide, and when they do it is usually on a street corner at four in the morning. The kids from the projects know that the kids inland have money – put a gun in their face, you can usually score enough cash to buy some Chinese takeout. But the kid whose face you're putting the gun in thinks he's in a movie, he's got his load on, he does the wrong thing – and BOOM, headlines for five days. Then everybody goes back to normal.”

The BOOM incident in this case is a robbery gone bad that echos the LES murder of actress Nicole DuFresne. The subsequent investigation and turmoil that follows fills the pages of this page turning novel. And while I've heard some complaints about the slower second half of the book, which are fair, it's slower parts are still more intriguing than most books out there.

Price was a huge inspiration and later a collaborator on The Wire, and for fans of that show Lush Life will be addition to the pantheon of intelligent crime sagas. For us New Yorkers, it's an intriguing look at our surroundings chock full of recognizable locations (Schiller's Liquor Bar and Milk and Honey,?for example). It's completely deserving of all the praise it's received, and with Price adapting (slowly) his own work for the big screen, this is one of the few page to screen adaptations I'm looking forward to.

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Posted on May 25, 2009

Restaurants »inoteca

inoteca'inoteca, a Lower East Side institution, is always bustling and crowded when I walk by – and now I know what all the fuss is about. Good food, service, and atmosphere at reasonable prices will always win and this place (which has spawned two sister restaurants around town) has such a combination.

We shared a plate of five bruschette and I found the pate and riccota with tomatoes to be exceptional. Jim and I shared a porchetta sandwich, which, though it paled in comparison to the highly (and justifiably) praised Porchetta version, was still great and served on excellent bread with a pile of real fresh grated horseradish (which we initially mistook as a heart clogging pile of cheese).

We also shared my favorite meal of the night, a polenta with poached eggs, charred ramps and parmesan. It was a simple dish that won me over with its fresh ingredients, perfectly cooked eggs, and garlicky greens.

I tried the yummy soda, Chinotto here, but they also serve Italian beers and reportedly boast an impressive list of wines for which they're famous.

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Posted on May 18, 2009

Restaurants »Schiller’s Liquor Bar

Schiller's 131 Rivington, Lower East Side A very pleasant atmosphere and even if it does get a bit crowded, it is a warm happy crowd in flattering lighting. Friendly service and great food at the right price. I recommend the moules frites and the hamburger.

REVIEW

MENU

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Posted on January 30, 2006

Restaurants »Alias

Alias A really nice place to go out with friends without being too pricey.
Comfort food with local ingredients.

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Posted on November 21, 2005

Desserts »Cupcakes at Sugar Sweet Sunshine Bakery

After eating at Kuma Inn, walk over to Sunshine.
They are on the Magnolia side of cupcakes, but less sugary.

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Posted on November 7, 2005

Restaurants »Kuma Inn

kuma inn Up a steep flight of stairs on the Lower East Side.
Come early or make reservations.
You must try the Chinese sausage (pictured).
One of the best meats I have ever tasted.

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Posted on November 7, 2005