Saturday, July 13, 2013

Quirky Village Shops

We'd picked up a leaflet on small Village shops, printed as a form of mutual support and a chance to showcase shops which didn't have much publicity. As it's our last day, we resolved to visit (or at least window-shop) in these "mom and pop" stores in the community we've grown to enjoy.

Despite being printed at the beginning of the year, quite a number of the stores featured had gone out of business in the intervening months, including three in a row on 8th Avenue. It's hard to gauge how retailers are faring - everyone is having a sale with "discounts" over 50%, but that could just be the way marketing works.

Fortunately the leaflet had a map and a guide criss-crossing Bleecker Street and some of the loveliest Greenwich Village streets - many settled in the early to mid-nineteenth century and nowadays the location of very desirable and upscale residences.

Lots of different stores - Christopher Street had some fetish shops, and around the corner a Sufi centre. Or vice-versa. 

The Slaughtered Lamb seemed to revel in violent imagery. We had a drink at The Village Tavern instead - a surprise redneck sports bar in the middle of Greenwich Village. 

We've become used to addresses that are "10 1/2" due to buildings being redeveloped as narrower, taller buildings - but this was a new address economy ... 

This was a recommended shoe store, so of course it had a naked mannequin in the window.

 There's lots of construction and renovation work going on, as the only way to get into the neighbourhood would appear to be renovating one of the remaining condemned buildings.

We stopped in at Three Lives & Co, a bookshop with a very good range of highbrow literature, classy non-fiction and local interest books about NYC and Greenwich Village in particular. I'd have liked to bring a boxload home, but I don't have the space in the luggage or on my "to read" shelf at home.

Grahame Fowler is a brit-centric mens' wear store creating designs well suited to English sailing. They have a range of shirts amusingly displayed on a old drycleaners' motorised rack, and you flick a switch to rotate the selection. There were lots of english brogues, and some wonderfully impractical white suede shoes. We bought a few shirts.

Li-lac Chocolates is New York's oldest chocolatier, established in 1923. There were some fun items, like a chocolate basketball and a gay marriage couple a metre tall. We bought some "marzipan acorns" being marzipan half-dipped in chocolate but the other patrons were mostly buying the chocolate pieces in white, milk or dark.

It's wicked to mock the afflicted, but this short person was wearing shorts down to his ankles and it was Just Wrong.

After those stores, and window-shopping at others, we broke for lunch at The Spotted Pig, a Michelin-rated gastropub.

They don't take reservations, but we were lucky and were shown straight to the table. Entirely for tasting purposes we sampled cocktails:

The Harlow (Aperol, St Germain, Dibon Cava, Lemon, Soda)

Garden Vesper (Greenhook Gin, Tito’s Vodka, Lillet Blanc, Rose Water, Cucumber)

At that time of the day they offered "brunch" - I had the Pork Rillette, like a terrine made of pork shoulder and Lynda had the special Pork Caruba, a toasted bun filled with spicy pork and chillies.

The meal was improved with a reasonable and creditable Californian Zinfandel (Foxglove, 2011, Paso Robles) and completed with a shared doughnut with pastry creme and blueberry jam. Extra points for good coffee - a macchiato with nice crema and not swamped with milk.

It seemed a good idea to walk the meal off and we soon built up speed and steady direction.

Garber Hardware on Greenwich Street was established in 1884 and is routinely voted and declared the best hardware store in NYC. Perhaps better for renovators than tourists, but yes it had all the gear and products one could ask. Lynda got some specialist butchers' block oil for my son the butcher.

The Meadow is a shop really really dedicated to salt and chocolate. You can buy Himalayan Salt blocks for cooking, and get your seasoning that way. Apart from that there was imported salt from all over the world, with every imaginable flavouring. I bought some truffle salt and some precious bespoke artisan organic handmade exclusive neverheardofit chocolate for gifts to me and others.

I was impressed by The End of History - a store devoted to glassware and ceramics. Very expensive - one little vase I quite liked was $2250 - but lots of beautiful pieces. They were arranged by colour, which is practical but also makes for a stunning display.

A second-hand store Adelaide was an interesting browse - mid-century and earlier design items including tableware, furniture, bolts of cloth and some mirrors.

We stopped at Debra Moorefield, a local designer shop. Lynda bought a LBD and some costume jewellery while I checked out Perry Street. The street is very attractive and a heritage site, but also features the "stoop" which was used as Carrie Bradshaw's front doorstop in Sex and the City.

While we were wandering to and fro, I took some shots of this part of Christopher Street - sex, drugs and rock'n'roll (if not precisely in that order).

Tonight is our last night, and we've been able to get into Mole restaurant for some inspirational Mexican cuisine. They don't take bookings, and it's Saturday night; but we were on a waitlist and got a table on our second attempt.

The restaurant is dark and cramped, and noisy as can be. Not a place for a Talk, and quite hard to order. The tables were so crammed together that we had to move the table to get in, and when our neighbours wanted to get out. 

I haven't had a gourmet experience with Mexican food, and this is no exception. Quite nice though - we started with a ginger Margarita and chef served up complimentary chips and dip. We both had the tacos with grilled skirt steak, which were tasty and the sides of beans and guacamole did the job. Too much food, butofcourse - emphasized even more when the dessert of Pastel Tres Leches (White cake soaked in a three milk mixture with chantilly cream and shaved chocolate) arrived like a brick. We had the Mexican coffee with Kahlua, but first removed 90% of the whipped cream for our hearts' sake. 

Back home for a quiet end to our holiday, with a lot of packing to do in the morning. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Piccolo Angelo

What a delightful Italian restaurant - one imagines a nonna out the back cooking traditional Italian food and scolding those incapable of cleaning the plate.

We're among them - after a sequence of fine dining, we were surprised by the scale of the food delivered. As we're out of town soon, it was impractical to get a doggy bag, but quite a bit of our fare went back to the kitchen. The menu was very appealing, with another page of daily specials.

The restaurant is tiny, and after a brief wait we were directed to a window table in the corner. We started with a Venetian Volpicella and sparkling water, and a large serve of Italian bread and garlic bread.

The "appetisers" were huge. I had the Antipasti Italiano, which emerged as a full plate of meats, cheese, salad and pickled vegetables including a very nice pickled onion.

Lynda had the Calamari Fra Diavolo, squid in a spicy tomato sauce. It was way too big for an appetiser. Like me, she ate about half before bailing.

The main courses were - alas - even bigger. I had the lamb chops, two inch-thick meaty chops cooked to perfection and in a brandy sauce.

On the side was a lobster cannelloni in a spicy putanesca sauce.

Lynda went with the Chicken Fiorentina, three sizeable chicken pieces in an eggy batter and sauce.  A side salad barely managed to mitigate the serious commitment to meat and sauce.

I pressured for a macchiato - we weren't offered desserts by Nonna as we hadn't finished our mains.

Afterwards, we ducked out of the rain to Hudson Bar and Books for cigars and cocktails. It may have been raining when we finished, but across the road was a short trip.

Excellent Italian meal - perhaps not the finest I've encountered but up there with the best.

Small Shops

Nothing major to do today. We went up to 42nd Street to get a small carry-on suitcase - a long way, but a good price for a Sansomite. On the way I noticed Air France is getting some bad publicity - a banner castigating them for transporting research monkeys.

From there we went to Leonidas Chocolates in Madison Avenue, an outlet for the famous Brussels chocolatier. I was after a particular truffle, the Perle Pistache, which I used to buy from the little shop in Trinity Arcade.

Unfortunately they didn't do that, or indeed any of the "perle" truffles. I hope they're not extinct. The ones on their website aren't green-tinged. However, there were some pistachio chocs for sale, and I picked up some others for Ron (later ron). 

Once more through Times Square to the subway station.

Lynda went to 23rd Street to try to get her hair done, but the hairdresser she wanted can't do it until Sunday. Instead, she went shopping for friends and family. After that we walked around the corner to Magnolia Bakery for cupcakes (not much of a queue, yar mo) and a peek inside a cards and curiosities shop.

I'd hoped the Bookmarc bookshop would have some avant-garde books but the selection wasn't very good. There was a big winking eye though.

Across the road was a nice statue commemorating family.

Lynda bought some tobacco for her son, and the Indian shop owner was delighted to have an Australian couple to chat about the Test Cricket, and how we all like Ashton Agar.

We went to a different wine shop for a change and another cheap bordeaux - a 2006 vintage for $19.99. The Australian wines were much more expensive, and not just the premium brands.

We've picked up a local guide to quirky shops in the West Village, so that'll probably do us for tomorrow. Tonight we're dining at Piccolo Angelo, a hot tip from the apartment owners and said to be the best Italian food in NYC.


I'm not bringing home a whole bunch of shopping bags, because we're already stressed for space in the luggage.

However some are pretty neat, and so I took pictures of them.