Monday, May 12, 2014

Williamsburg, aka Hipster Central, Brooklyn

After a fantastic few days in Manhattan it was time to venture into new territory - across the East River to Brooklyn.

There we were meeting up with my dear friend Richard and staying in a wonderful AirBandB find in Williamsburg near Bedford Avenue - a hot spot in this oh so happening area. Our host, Paul left a lovely basket of cereal, chocolate, coffee and snacks for us as well as almond milk in the fridge and permission to eat and drink what we liked from the fridge and pantry.
Richard and I enjoying the view of Manhattan

On our first night in Brooklyn we decided to check out "Champs" an amazing vegan diner - it was such fun - great atmosphere and food. A blast from the past.

Here's where we stayed:

I highly recommend you check out AirBandB - Richard said the previous place he stayed was also fabulous! His host Donald showed him around the neighbourhood.

On Saturdays down by the water where we were last night - near B......street is something called "Smorgasburg" - a cornucopia of food offerings - many vegan including the famous "Dun-well Donuts" - which lived up to the hype - F had a chocolate peanut butter pretzel one and I am ashamed to say I forget what I had save to say it was delicious! I also got yet more tea from Bellocq - Queen's Blend - with lovely roses and Hindu Holiday a spice filled rooiboos chai.  We also had yummy tempeh dish..further down the street on Sundays is a flea market which also has some artisans - I bought a very cute mug there from SKT ceramics...

If you're interested and you should be - head up to Greenpoint to visit the Dun-well Donuts shop and also have pizza at Paulie G's - I had the InagoddadaVegan one - with fennel sausage...even better the next day! Also check out Achillelle's Heel bar...

I really enjoyed the area - shopping at Meg - one of my faves here in Toronto, checking out the coffee shops, Mast Brothers chocolate - FREE SAMPLES! - pretending to be sophisticated and enjoying an absinthe cocktail at La Maison Premier, eating at Wild Ginger, Egg and more. We found a tea place on our last day called Tea Bar - must remember that for when we return.

I also got the opportunity to dine at Franchia in Manhattan on Saturday night as we were meeting up with Monique and Norma to go to the Kitano Hotel to hear Denny Zeitlin, Buster Williams and our favourite drummer Matt Wilson - fantastic, hot show! I just love watching Matt Wilson play.

Richard and I also got discount tickets at the Tkts booth in Seaport - much less busy that Times Square if you don't mind going off the beaten path to see Pippin thanks to the very helpful young information man outside the ticket booth. How can you go wrong with Bob Fosse choreography, Annie Potts, a great cast and a cirque du soleil influenced background?

Sadly our sojourn had to come to an end but I'm so glad I checked out Williamsburg - next time I could explore more the was just fun to walk around and check out all the shops. By the way there is a great kitchen ware store called "Whisk" on Bedford.

On Saturday, with the unexpected access to a vehicle we decided to check out a veg restaurant we were curious about in Markham called "Wu Tai". After being stuck in traffic and having to do a detour we had about half an hour before we had to return to Toronto to go and see Denzal Sinclaire and Kurt Elling in concert at Koerner Hall.

The staff were so lovely and accommodating, the venue is very glamourous and the food delicious - we will be back when we can have a more relaxed dining experience. In the meantime, we are enjoying the leftovers!

Yesterday we had the privilege of celebrating not only Mother's Day but Sophie's dedication (she is my great niece) or as my friend Richard calls it - "Gals Are Great Day" so no one feels left out. I am really mom to two furry someones - Lester and Billie. Here's a photo of Meredith and Sophie and also one with Meredith's mom - my sister in law Becky - she is on the left.

Friday, May 9, 2014

New York, New York, it's a hell of a town...

Well, more of heaven really if you love theatre, art, jazz, shopping, food...I could go on. Central Park was filled with blossoms - see photo to the left, a gorgeous cherry tree in full blossom - Fraser had to take a photo because my outfit matched! Yes, I am all about matching the flora wherever I go..

Our first night there (staying at Riverside Tower again) we had dinner at Candle 79 - delicious!

We had fiddleheads and morels as a starter as well as Spinach Ravioli....

 Fraser had a crepe, I forget what I had - but it was a special - I really need to be journalling these things!
 For dessert a chocolate peanut butter concoction.....

On Tuesday we decided to check out "Smalls" a funky little jazz club in Greenwich Village. We chose to eat dinner at "The Hummous Place" - which I believe has 3 or 4 locations - it was yummy. We forgot to take pictures - but had natch, hummous and I think a few appetiziers. Our friend Monique had a delicious cocktail with anise in it.

"Smalls" is kind of like visiting someone's rec room  - it's very cozy. The band was great - the Enzo Carpentieri quartet - particularly the guitarist Yotam Silberstein and the cocktails were amazing as was our bartender. One of the wonderful finds at the club was artist Robert Kendall who paints the band as they are playing - he was waiting to paint a big band that came on later in the evening. Monique bought one of his works which featured her friend Lew Tabackin...check him out at - the gallery doesn't begin to do justice to seeing his work in person - you can see one of his works to the right...

One of the not so pleasant things was the drummer's yappy girlfriend and her friends in front of us, fortunately she became absorbed in using her ipad. The two showed up the next night at the Jazz Standard but were seated far far away from us.

On Wednesday - one of the most torrential rains I've ever experienced - we were excited to go and see "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill" with Audra McDonald (4 time Tony winner). Lunch was at Cafe Blossom...I had a fettucine dish and Fraser the salad special...

Now onto the play..

We were astounded from the first note - it was shiver-time, spooky how phenomenally well she captured Miss Billie - if you are in NYC and a Billie fan - you must go and see this production. Audra captured the essence of Lady Day - recounting the people and places and incidents in her life - from the highest of heights to the lowest of lows - racism, prison, bad choice of men but great choice of musical partners. Stunning.

Later on that evening we caught Hillary Kole at Iridium - we shared a tiny table with her a few years back when we were fortunate enough to catch Blossom Dearie. She is an amazing performer - I think she should do a show at the Jazz Bistro..anyone listening. She is charming, talented and nice. Rex Reed says so.

What a difference a day makes - after a long, rainy day - surprisingly we were able to get a cab to the theatre on Wednesday, but it was a matinee - the sun came out so we decided to venture down to the Lower East Side to shop at Moo Shoes and go to the Tenement Museum.

We had brunch at Peacefood Cafe - one of my favourite spots - again, we forgot to take pictures because we were enjoying ourselves too much - I'm pretty sure there was a fantastic salad and also vegetable biscuits which were so good we had to get some to go..Monique got a maple scone which was also great.

While down on the Lower East Side and having another great tour of a tenement - this time the "Hard Times" tour we went in search of Lula's Apothecary - the clerk in Moo Shoes gave us some great suggestions on places to eat - especially in Brooklyn where he lives. One of them was Champs..more on that later...

En route we went to McSorley's Bar - one of the oldest in New York for a refreshing beer. It was fitting because like going to the Tenement Museum it felt like we were time travelling.

No signage we had to hunt the East Village. It's between Avenue A and B, 516 E 6th Street. There was scaffolding in front of the building, but seeing many people with ice cream cones on the street was a dead giveaway. We tried the peanut butter and chocolate chip - OMG, plus strawberry and some other delicious flavour which I now forgot..d'oh. Journal. Journal!

We happened upon a lovely little community garden down the block, open to the public...

 That's Monique and I enjoying our ice cream - it's made with cashews so that's why it tastes so rich and delicious.
There is a contribution box at the front if you want to support their efforts...

We also visited the exterior of this building that Charlie Parker lived in..and paid our respects to Bird. That night we saw the fabulous Clayton Brothers at the Jazz Standard.

On Friday lunch at Candle on Amsterdam - again scrumptious...

 I think this was tofu and kale salada and the dish below sauteed vegetables iwth artichoke. We also had a potato and leek? soup.
 Strolling over to Central Park we came upon another community garden - it was incredible!

I can't imagine the work that went into this garden - many dedicated volunteers - there are also vegetable garden plots here.  Next up, we take our leave of Manhattan and travel across the Brooklyn Bridge to Williamsburg for our next adventure....