The Very Best: New York City

GLOBAL PROVINCE - Home - About This Site - Agile Companies - Annual Reports - Best of Class - Best of theTriangle - Big Ideas - Brain Stem - Business Diary - Dunk's Dictums - Global Wit & Worldly Wisdom - Gods, Heroes, & Legends - Infinite Bookstore - Investor Digest - Letters from the Global Province - Other Global Sites - Poetry & BusinessScenes from the Global ProvinceA Stitch in Time - Two Rivers

Contact us


Click on a topic
Restaurants & Bars · Home, Garden, & Style · Museums · Miscellaneous

We are puzzled as to why we have never gotten around to including Periyali on the Global Province. It is our favorite Greek restaurant in the city, though there are a score of other fine Grecian entries, none of which tumble off of people's lips, but which do offer delightful food. We prefer Periyali for lunch (when the daylight penetrates many of the spaces in the back of the restaurant) or, second best, for any early dinner before it gets too crowded, when it is still pleasant to linger. Down on 20th, off of sixth, it is away from the uptown hubbub. For us musts include Psita Manitaria (oyster mushrooms) and Gigandes Skordalia (giant white beans and garlic sauce). We often have fish but might, for instance, do Kouneli Stifado (Rabbit stewed in tomatoes and wine) now and then. We have been going to the restaurant, almost from its opening, and are pleased, after all these years, to traffic with waiters who have kept us company from the start. The owners have a couple of other restaurants, but this we think, is the jewel in the crown. While Frank Bruni's review for the Times is not particularly astute, he does catch the atmospherics well, noting that it has the same delicious, steady menu that greeted a diner in its early days. He calls it durable: it is. It is a relief to find Manhattan restaurants like this, which are fine, and go on, year after year, under the radar. Periyali. 35 W 20th Street, New York, New York 10011. Tel. (212) 463-7890.

Spring Street Patisserie and Baking
So many of the good bake shops in New York City have gone away. Years ago two chaps of our acquaintance ate their way north from 42d Street, only stopping at the fine shops and consuming one pastry at each. The journey up to the 80's took them several hours, for there was so much to consume. Amidst the graffiti of New York's SoHo reside many fine shops and a collection of decent eateries. We are amused that Spring Street, which houses an awful lot of trash, has an outstanding bakery-patisserie at each end, Keith McNally's Balthazar and Dominque Ansel. A blog called Serious Eats does the best job of capturing some of the magic in the bread of Balthasar, as well as its tarts. Likewise, it waxes about Dominque. It is curious that the Times and other mainstream publications do not do a better job on pastry, since New York's fatties are both a literate and sugar loving bunch. Some visitors go to sit down, but we think the secret at these busy shops is to make off with the breads and pastries to one's own house. Balthazar.80 Spring Street New York 10012. 212-343-1274 Domingue Ansel. 189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson). New York, New York 10012. Tel:(212)-219 -2773

New York's Best Japanese Restaurant
In the shadows of the Waldorf Astoria and Citibank, Restaurant Nippon embraces tradition and the future, becoming the first restaurant--legally--to feature fugu in the United States.  One guest, who loved crab, said he had never had softshell crab anywhere that matched the preparation here.  One Japanese heart attack victim had his food catered from here and sent over to Bellvue while he was in recovery at New York's most famous hospital.  155 E. 52nd St., New York, NY 10022.  Telephone: 212-758-0226.

Danube is a remove or two from both the Hudson and East Rivers.  David Bouley, owner and chef, has long provided some of New York’s better food at his downtown locations.  (See  If anything, we liked this better than his original Bouley, maybe because we found a few more surprises on the menu (vaguely Austrian but not without sashimi should you want it), possibly because we were taken with the grand décor which marvelously fills the gap opened by the disappearance of beautiful hotel dining in New York, and certainly because the space is so ample that you are not bumping elbows with other diners.  It invites one to linger.  Here, even the ladies had desserts, escaping, if only for a couple of hours, the health strictures of the obesity directorate.  Bouley, who plans to open a cooking school and other things in Tribeca, is avoiding the temptation of spreading himself too thin, like other superchefs such as Emeril Legasse and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.   (See
php.)  Danube. 30 Hudson St,   New York 10013 (between Duane and Reade Sts). 212-791-3771.

Apparently Mangia has been around forever, starting out as a sandwich shop in 1981 on 56th Street.  That said, we did not know about it.  But the other morning we had to visit several people at the Toy Building (soon, if you can believe it, to give up its location, perhaps to move to Dallas), and were at loose ends for breakfast.  It’s hard to find good breakfast locations in many parts of town.  Our recommender put us at Mangia on 23rd, where the service was polite and fast, and the coffee, fruit, and other delights were fresh, well-prepared, and properly priced.  The quarters are not fancy, but well designed, modern, well lighted, and comfortable.  Our delightful servers seemed to be young ladies from a variety of Eastern European nations.  The Mangia restaurants (there are several locations) go well into the evening, and they offer a good to-go menu with delivery to areas in reasonable proximity.  We have just had the breakfast, so we are looking forward to veal stew, a grilled tuna sandwich, perhaps some tuscan hummus.  Vaguely, we guess, the food is suppose to be Italian, but we think the owners hail from other parts of Europe. Mangia.  50 West 57th Street. New York 10019. 212-582-5882.  16 West 48th Street.  New York 10017.  212-754-7600.  22 West 23rd Street.  New York 10010.  212-647-0200.  40 Wall Street. New York 1005.  212-425-4040.  (3/9/05)

Top Sushi
Right now Sushi Yasuda is king of the mountain in New York sushi circles.  We have never seen our host, a retired Japanese investment banker and close friend, consume so much food, Western or Japanese, in our thirty year acquaintance.  We both mainly ate sashimi, topped off with a little sushi.  We did not find the art and cutting to be of the highest order, but the fish was top rate, and sometimes a bit unusual.  For instance, the trout hailed from Idaho.  The place is filled with a well-heeled, young yuppie crowd, unusual perhaps because easily half the diners are Asian, decked out in terribly smart and horribly expensive clothes.  As at another one of our recent dining sojourns in New York, our companion with some amazement toted the cost of the clothing on one near lass and it came to $3,000 or more, which let us know that the worldwide financial bubble has not completely deflated yet.  The restaurant has a most pleasing atmosphere:  it does not hold too big a crowd, and the natural wood finish of the place, a distinguishing mark in some of our other favorite Japanese restaurants these days, is soothing to the eye, even in the bright illumination.  If you can, sit up at the sushi bar, which, for a change, is comfortable; we must have put in 3 hours there.  Sushi Yasuda.  204 East 43d Street.  New York, New York 10017.  Telephone:  (212) 972-1717. Website:

A Good Tudor City Joint
You don’t think of restaurants and Tudor City, or even of that many good restaurants right at mid-town.  But here’s one definitely worth your while if you can bear a sometimes loud crowd and a decorator restaurant that is mostly hype and not aesthetic.  The owners have used a name designer but somehow he did not get to show his best.  The bar seems like a den of iniquity, and the tables in the main room are slam up against each other.  So we heard more than we wanted of two inane conversations, one to either side of us.  But co-owner Scott Conant has cooked around, and the food is absolutely smashing.  We tried everything-fish, pasta, fowl:  everything was great, full of taste, often original, and ample.  It’s Italian, but as the late Craig Claiborne used to say, you really can get great Italian on these shores.  We did not do the cheeses, incidentally, since that seemed as if it were gilding the lily twice over, but the restaurant does make a great deal out of them.  The wait staff and maitres are quite pleasant and polite, if not skilled.  Putting the trappings aside, L’Impero is a solid food experience, especially if you have just come in from another city where the top-ranked restaurants are missing body and taste.  L’Impero.  45 Tudor City Place.  New York, New York.  Telephone:  (212) 599-5045

Most Deceptively Simple Restaurant Menu—Craft, NY
The deceptively simple menu at Craft, Tom Colicchio’s newish 19th-Street eatery, is the perfect antidote to 25 years of bilious restaurant prose.  There are no overblown descriptions of ingredients or cooking methods.  Just words like “roasted” or “braised” and a list of the items prepared in that fashion:  Skate.  Red Snapper. Hanger Steak.  Red Cabbage.  Escarole.  And so forth.   Colicchio’s conceit is to take the finest, freshest seasonal ingredients and to cook them simply, but with superb finesse, in ways that bring their natural flavor to unexpected heights. Essentially, the diner designs his own meal, selecting courses and side dishes from nearly 5 dozen enticing possibilities.

The approach succeeds brilliantly.  At lunch on a wet afternoon, Roasted Dourade was fish at its most basic and its most sublime, the skin crisp and golden, the flesh delicate and moist, faintly redolent of lemon and thyme.  Tiny Quail were roasted to perfection, full of dark, intense flavor.  And there were wonderful vegetables: a tangle of pale green fennel bathed in lemon and olive oil; buttery roasted hen of the woods mushrooms; pale batons of sauteed salsify, the season’s most sought after vegetable. The dessert menu continues the conceit, but with more elaborate, even playful, results: we nearly inhaled our order of Doughnuts, six ethereal puffs of fried dough, each about the size of a silver dollar, three bittersweet chocolate, three dusted with cinnamon sugar, tethered to earth only by a drizzle of warm vanilla-scented chocolate sauce.  Pastry chef Karen DeMasco’s sophisticated riff on “PB & J”—grape jelly-flavored pate des fruits and chocolate-peanut butter truffles—was equally irresistible.

Architect Peter Bentel has designed a handsome space that echoes the deconstructivist menu, yet manages to be supremely warm and inviting.  Singular elements, such as an arcing wall of caramel leather, columns of burnished terracotta tiles, and banks of zingy Edison light bulbs, mysteriously work together to create a glowing space that cossets the diner.  Yes, we could almost live at Craft, especially with Chef Tom in the kitchen.  Next best might be his cookbook, Think Like a Chef, which reveals some, but not all, of Colicchio’s culinary secrets.  Contact: Craft, 43 East 19th Street, New York, NY 10003.  Telephone:  212-780-0880. Fax:  212-780-0580.  Website:

Addendum:  On a recent afternoon, returning to Craft, we and a Canadian visitor had a very long lunch including squid, braised lamb, and a raft of vegetables including Jerusalem artichokes. We found a couple of beers on the menu that we had not seen before, one from Japan and one from Australia.  We were only there 2 and ½ hours.  And that’s the point of this new comment:  you’ll want to stay a while.  We don’t know how the crowds are at night, but the count was low for our Wednesday lunch, and the atmosphere was memorable for its tranquility and courtesy.  The two of us had a large commodious table fairly near the bar, with ample space around us.  Enough light penetrated in from the street, but we were not overwhelmed by dazzling display or complicated lighting fixtures.  The conversation had breadth because it was not oppressed by fireworks in the restaurant.  Craft is more than a wonderful eatery:  it is a great place.  And, oh by the way, we much agree with several of our friends who claim that you could make a meal out of the vegetables alone and skip the entrée.

D’Artagnan Survives the Deathblow
D’Artagnan, the Fourth Musketeer, had to brave several dangers for king and France.  But D’Artagnan of New York and New Jersey also faced down a challenge that almost amounted to a deathblow.  Founded by two Columbia University classmates—Ariane Daguin of Gascony and George Faison of Houston—it is a purveyor of pates, specialty meats, and the like, today consisting of 85 employees and revenues in excess of $30 million.  Its midtown restaurant of the same name has attracted quite a following in its own right and features many of the products offered by the parent company.  But in December 1999 its owners received a call from the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta which had traced an outbreak of listeria to D’Artagnan’s products.  Immediately they pulled $1 million of product from retailers’ shelves.  Temporarily they were out of the prepared-foods business, placing them at bankruptcy’s door.  But chefs and shops stuck with them, continuing to buy their rabbit, lamb, quail, etc.  Surely it can be said they survived because they acted quickly and responsibly on the product recall, enhancing their reputation, and because they had previously established such a good relationship with their clientele that their sales did not dry up completely. See Columbia, Fall 2002, pp. 49-51.  D’Artagnan, 152 East 46th Street, New York, NY 10017. Telephone:  (212) 687-0300.   Webiste:  280 Wilson Avenue, Newark, NJ 07205.  Telephone:  (800) 327-8246


Frank Bruni is in love with Scott Conant of Scarpetta.  Perhaps rightly so.  The restaurant is much more pleasant than his previous haunts.  It’s a surprise encounter, down in the meatpacking district, well worth the trip, as long as you have hired a black car, instead of using New York’s increasing knee-crunching cabs.  The front door is anonymous, and the bar up front undistinguished and peopled by the usual sorts.  But if you eat at six, before the noisemakers arrive, you can have an entirely pleasant meal, well lighted from overhead, with generally good service.  There’s plenty of wait staff, and the chap who takes your order is genial and lucid.  Those bearing the food, however, are not only rushed, but they barely speak English, so you cannot begin to grasp their explication of the food set before you.  Bruni moons over the polenta:  “He brings back an appetizer of creamy, cheesy, buttery polenta with morels and preserved truffles that’s one of the best, most decadent things ever to happen to cornmeal.” As well, he gushes about the cod:  “And there’s an entree of black cod with slow-roasted tomatoes and caramelized fennel that I especially admire.” Bruni is a lightweight, but his enthusiasm here is well founded.  We were equally thrilled with the lamb loin served with white beans and pecorino.  The portions are slight, but what else is new?  The wine was just acceptable, and that is not where this restaurant will make its reputation.  Scarpetta is a restaurant that knows most of the moves, even if some of the dining experience eludes it. “Scarpetta, meaning “little shoe”, is often used among native Italians when eating homemade pasta sauces so delightful that every drop must be savored and wiped clean from dinner plates with fresh Italian bread,” but we suspect that sauce is conjured up elsewhere at some other eatery where food and dining progresses at a more stately pace. Scarpetta. 355 West 14th Street.  New York, NY 10014-5001.  (212) 691-0555.  Mon – Thurs: 5:30 – 11pm // Fri & Sat: 5:30 – 12am // Sun: 5:30 – 10:30pm   (06-02-10)

Best Late-Night Drink in New York
We haven't been in One If by Land, Two If by Sea in years, but if it still has a piano player and a few chairs up front, this is the place to have a drink.  The waiters are stylish in tuxes, and the interior view is a warm, large public space that is elegant to the eye. Oddly enough, we found you could skip the meal, and things don't feel half as exotic when you are actually sitting in the dining space.  Take a look at this picture, and you'll see why you must go here.  This is, incidentally, an update of Aaron Burr's stables.  One If by Land, Two If by Sea.  17 Barrow Street, New York, New York 10014.  Telephone: 212-228-0822.  Website:

Best Sunday Night Dining Room on Central Park West
Just steps from Columbus Circle, on the ground floor of the predictably glitzy Trump International Hotel, is a rare find: a beautifully chic restaurant that draws a well-dressed crowd on the Upper West Side, even on a Sunday night.  Nougatine is the casual stepchild of Jean-Georges, the highly acclaimed French restaurant opened in 1997 by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  With its pale taupe, Adam Tihany-designed interior and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park West, the dining room has a luminous, airy feeling amplified by the luxury of actual space between the tables.  The scaled-down but still luxurious menu reflects the innovative culinary philosophy that has been winning Vongerichten four-star reviews for the last fifteen years: he takes exquisitely fresh, seasonal ingredients and cooks them in a way that boosts their natural flavors, often with pure vegetable and fruit essences and the occasional Asian twist.

As the sky turned steel blue and street lights glimmered one autumn evening, we began with an amuse-bouche of stunningly fresh, almost buttery salmon tartare with a tiny puff pastry shell.  It was followed by salad of white asparagus, enoki mushrooms and baby lettuces in an earthy vinaigrette flavored with soy sauce and truffle juice, and then by a succulent poached lobster, its generous chunks bathed in a voluptuous lemon broth and served atop chive-flecked spaetzle and tiny fava beans.  Though Vongerichten is known for top-notch desserts (especially his famed soft, warm chocolate cake), a fresh fig tart did not measure up to the rest of the meal.  Contact: Nougatine, 1 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023.  Telephone: 212-299-3900.  See  

Best Baby Danish
We've almost missed the plane from New York City once or twice.  That's because we just have to stop at William Greenberg Jr.'s place to pick up baby danish, which outshine their larger rivals just as calves' liver puts beef liver to shame.  Naturally, you won't get out of the shop without a pound of mixed cookies and a brownie or two for the trip home.  110 Madison Avenue, New York, New York.  Telephone: 212-744-0304 or 212-861-1340.  Website:

Best Healthful Chinese Restaurant in New York
In Western culture, "food as medicine" is a novel concept that's suddenly getting more attention.  The Chinese, however, have long had a tradition of treating ailments with quasi-medicinal culinary preparations, often involving esoteric ingredients.  The Sweet-n-Tart Cafe in New York's Chinatown is one of the few restaurants in this country where one can sample tong shui--literally "sweet shops"--that are said to nourish and restore balance to the body.  The tiny, downstairs cafe is always crowded with people ordering dishes such as Doubled Boiled Pear with Almond (believed to be good for a cough or irritated throat) and Fresh Walnut Tong Shui, a rich, pleasantly sweet soup that is said to aid the kidneys and lungs.

For Westerners who are interested in trying tong shui, Sweet-n-Tart cafe has one major drawback: the staff speaks little English and is hard-pressed to describe--or prescribe--a particular dish or its benefits.  But the rest of the menu is prepared with a light hand--Shanghai-style dumplings are particularly delicious--and would satisfy almost any health-conscious diner.  The truly adventurous could always just point to the black viscous soup the grandmothers in the corner are slurping (Black Sesame Paste with "Sau Woo").  You may emerge reinvigorated--or not--but you will have had a memorable meal.  Sweet-n-Tart Cafe, 76 Mott Street, New York, New York 10013.  212-334-8088.

Best Jazz at Noon
One of New York City’s unique institutions,“Jazz at Noon,” under the leadership of Les Lieber, takes place every Friday from 12-2 at San Martin’s, a restaurant located at 143 East 49th Street in Manhattan.  Les, who plays a mean alto sax and penny whistle, founded the program 36 years ago to give business people who were also good musicians a place to jam and have some fun.

Here’s the way it works.   A core group of CEOs, doctors, lawyers, advertising executives, etc. show up at noon to start things off with a standard like “All of Me” or “Just Friends” and, during the ensuing two hours, they are joined by other business people/musicians who drop by from all over the United States and other countries.  Finally, the guest artist for the day (top names like Clark Terry are regulars) joins the band for the rest of the session.  In addition to music, what makes “Jazz at Noon” special is the warmth and sharp wit of Les Lieber, who introduces each of the band members with a great deal of humor.  For more information, check out the website,, then call San Martin’s for reservations at 212-332-0888. 

Thanks to our friend Bob Whyte, Chapel Hill venture capitalist and banjo player, for this entry.

Best Home-Design Store on West 39th Street
Ten floors above the grit and bustle of Manhattan's garment district lies the serenely seductive lair of interior designer Vicente Wolf.  In this retail store, which opened last fall, one can stroll through the understated, elegant interiors that have made him the darling of the shelter magazines.  Do-it-yourself types can get the look by purchasing Wolf's own line of furnishings, from simple upholstered chairs and sofas to textured fabrics and wall coverings in disarmingly neutral shades.  These provide the perfect backdrop for the well-edited collection of accessories Wolf has picked up on his world travels.  Each item has been chosen with an unerring eye for the best of class.  Among the temptations were a pair of exquisite 19th-century Indian land deeds, each adorned with a handpainted miniature of the owner, old Japanese sake jars, and handsome Tibetan butter lamps.  Wolf's beautiful silver flatware, "Jasmine," was patterned after the triangular handles of an Indian maharajah's fans.  VW Home is most fun when the ultra-charming, Cuban-born Wolf is in the adjacent design office; he loves chatting up his customers, and why not?  They all adore him.  Contact: VW Home, 333 West 39th Street, New York.  Telephone: 212-224-5000.

Best Source of Fine Exotica for the Home—Soho, NY
Stepping into Sarajo on a wild and windy afternoon, we found ourselves face to face with a life-size 19th-century Mandalay Buddha.  His benign visage bore a trace of a sad smile, his gilded robes were worn,  revealing the dark wood beneath, and, between his elongated thumb and forefinger, he held the seed of wisdom.  Buddha teaches us to be without desire—but we wanted him, badly.

Other exotic treasures included a golden Burmese peacock, inset with mirrors and paste jewels, and a Syrian divan, inlaid with mother of pearl.  A decorative metal panel from India, with silhouettes of elephants, tigers, and  prancing horses illuminated by flickering tea lights, would transform any wall, inside or out.  The upstairs loft, filled with antique Indian saris and silk Turkish robes from the Ottoman courts, is a fabric lover’s  paradise.  Contact:  Sarajo, 130 Greene Street, New York, NY 10012.  Telephone:  212-966-6156.  Fax:  212-274-0462.

Best Sea Shells & Natural Objects—Soho, NY
Evolution, a purveyor of beetles, butterflies and other earthly delights, has long been a favorite Soho destination.  Over the years we’ve seen wonders here, from silvery meteorite fragments to human skulls inlaid with coral and turquoise.  On a recent visit we admired a rare paper nautilus, as well as an Australian trumpet shell as big as a dog.  On the wall were several hand-colored engravings taken from Albertus Seba Cabinet of Natural Curiosities (see Best of Class #253).  The cobra, lizards and gila monsters depicted therein were right at home in this quirky lair.  Contact: Evolution, 120 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012.  Telephone:  212-343-1114.  Fax:  212/343-1815.  Website:

Best Source of Big Garden Ornaments on Lexington Ave.
Through the windows of Lexington Gardens, one first glimpses sumptuous dried flower arrangements.  Hydrangeas, roses and pomegranates spill over the sides of urns, while wreaths in autumnal hues of gold and ruby beckon the passerby.  Inside, one discovers a small but well-chosen trove of over-sized garden ornaments with a seductive patina of age that could give immediate credibility to a new McMansion or instant garden.  A gorgeous 19th-century terracotta urn adorned with acanthus leaves and grinning satyrs ($5,000) almost demands to be placed on a country estate at the terminus of an allee of pear trees—but would also lend regal splendor to a double-height entrance hall.  For homeowners with an Asian bent, a fierce pair of weathered wooden guardian dogs from a temple on the Thai-Burmese border ($9,500) might prevent evil spirits from entering the front door during a down market.  A large antique circular window with a frame of peeling white paint could anchor an empty wall until the Rubens arrives.  Contact: Lexington Gardens, 1011 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10021.  Telephone: 212-861-43990. 

Best Antidote to Pottery Barn's Clutter
If your eyes begin to glaze over at the sight of yet another Pottery Barn catalogue lurking in the mailbox, take heart.  Terence Conran’s new outpost beneath the 59th Street Bridge in New York is the perfect antidote to all the ersatz country furniture and fake kilims that clutter up that other lifestyle merchandiser’s stores.  The absence of clutter is precisely what’s most alluring about this airy, ultra-modern, glassed-in structure, where minimalist pieces of furniture are displayed almost like sculpture.  Our eye was drawn to the sleek, classical lines of the Cicero daybed in soft honey-colored leather (from $2590), which would look nifty in almost library or in front of a pair of French doors opening out to the garden.  A barrel-shaped, 19th-century Ethiopian “throne” in dark wood with diamond cut-outs ($5,400) would be dramatic silhouetted against stark white walls.  The Capuchin zinc-clad dining table ($2,190) was chic, but we were deterred by warnings about the effects of fingerprints on its surface.  Not everyone finds the modernist look appealing, of course, but for a fresh vision of what good design in the home could look like, Conran scores at the top of our list.  (There are no catalogues, alas, but tear sheets for sofas and tables are available.)  Contact: The Terence Conran Shop, 407 East 59th Street, New York, NY 10022.  Telephone: 212-755-9079.  See also

Best Comeback Kid
No, we don't mean Clinton's comback in New Hampshire after da-Flowers episode, which was ludicrous. We are talking about Sir Terence Conran who, as much as anybody, and more than Martha, brought style into the lives of the middle classes in the United Kingdom and the United States.  This includes home furnishings, restaurants, and a host of other ventures.  Virtually belly up at one point, he has been a marvelous Phoenix, getting back on our screen when we visited his London restaurant Bibendum in its early days.  Conran is a revival or a Lazarus worth talking about.  His new Guastavino's, under the Queensboro Bridge in New York, is a giant, magnificent affair.   Read more about him at his extensive website or in his several books:

The Essential House Book
Terence Conran on Design
The Essential Garden Book
Easy Living
Chef's Garden

The Frick Collection
Don't be put off by the Frick's unwieldly website, which is often hard to reach and which includes an over-complex, hard-to-use virtual tour of the collections.  The museum itself is still wonderful relief after you have taken in its overwhelming, over-peopled neighbor, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.  We recommend just hanging about the pool of water, which gives solace in spiritually arid New York.  Others will remark upon the concerts.  Obviously an ambitious management has tried to busy up the place, but it ever retains its charm. The Frick Collection.  1 East 70th St., New York, New York 10021.  Telephone:  212-288-0700.  Website:

Best Bookstores New York City

Despite the decline of the independent bookstore caused by the rise of Barnes and Noble and Amazon, stores still survive and some new ones pop up. 
There is always the veritable and muscular Strand in downtown Manhattan where you will find a Thirkell volume when all else fails.  Some flawed best book lists will capture a few of the oddball shops, while missing the best independents, In Greenwich Village we would point the cultural reader to Three Lives and Company, while Crawford Doyle Booksellers at 81st is a comfortable stop for affluents on the Upper East Side   We will be making many more additions to this list. (11-27-13)

Best Purveyor of Tea in New York's Chinatown
Dr. Andrew Weil often extols the antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering properties of green tea.  Among the bewildering array of purveyors of tea, we often find ourselves returning to the Ten Ren Tea Company on Mott Street in New York, which sells choice green and black teas grown in Taiwan.  Although much has been made of the shop's hospitality and willingness to educate the novice, we find that the staff is usually more brusque than welcoming.  On our last visit they were more interested in the woman who was purchasing a counterfull of one-pound packages of tea (paid for with a stack of well-worn $100 bills, we couldn't help but notice), than in our own paltry order of a pound or two of osmanthus oolong.

Still, the loose tea scooped from the large black canisters behind the counter has never failed to please.  The first grade osmanthus oolong is among the most costly ($125 per pound), but it produces an exquisitely delicate, pale gold brew with a hint of citrus.  The first grade jasmine ($100 per pound) is a lovely tea, fragrant with the scent of the flower.  A good opening strategy is to try one-quarter pound lots of two or three teas in different grades and determine which you prefer.   Then you can decide if you must have the Ginseng Oolong King's Tea at $144 per pound, or whether the fourth grade version at $48 will do.  Be sure to pick up a brewing instruction sheet which provides information about water temperature and steeping times.  Ten Ren Tea Company, 75 Mott Street, New York, New York 10013.   212-349-2180.  Toll Free: 800-292-2049.

Best Dining Culture Bookstore
Nach Waxman’s Kitchen Arts and Letters, a small (900 square feet) bookstore devoted exclusively to food and wine, is the place to go if you are a food person who wants to range beyond mere technique.  One of our colleagues had been there when she was trumpeting her book on mesquite cooking, a treatise which told you about more than smoking meat, setting forth all the whys and wherefores of mesquite.  We talked to Waxman about hard to find kitchenware, and he got back to us with a likely source, since he has an interest in matters that range beyond his exchequer.  Waxman studied anthropology at Cornell, did a bit of graduate work at the University of Chicago and then became a Ph.D. candidate in anthropology at Harvard.  Dropping out, he tried publishing at Macmillan, Harper & Row, and Crown, and dropped out again to open a bookstore.  We learn that he might have done a store on sports books, but a flip of the coin took him down cooks’ alley.  “What I’m interested in are the underpinnings of food—the culture, the biology, the social history, the material that helps us understand our food, where it came from and why things are valued.”  (See Bon Appetit, January 1996, p.14.)  “Books on Indian cookery are a specialty, because Indian cooking is Waxman’s own personal passion….”  See Eating Well, December 1994, pp. 24-28, which is, incidentally, the best article we have read on Waxman.  Waxman is very close to the professional food and food publishing community—the anchor of his business.  Kitchen Arts and Letters. 1435 Lexington Avenue. New York, New York 10028.  Tel: 212-876-5550.  Fax:  212-876-3584.  Email:  Mr. Waxman  wrote us recently to say that, like the English, he has achieved some degree of “splendid isolation,” mercifully free of websites, blogs, and even cell phone traffic.

Fred Sandback
Fred Sandback was a decent guy to be around because he had all the gravitas you could want, but you could ignore him.  As you padded down 11th Street, you might exchange the faintest hellos with him, or not even see each other.  In 2003, at age 59, he did away with himself, and it created sadness even if one did not know him very well.  As it turned out, he was a sculptor of considerable stature, who did the neat trick of not being too obvious.  And he was thoughtful about his art and why he did it, as we learn from some 1975 notes.  Imagine our shock to learn that there had even been a Fred Sandback Museum, sponsored by Dia, for a while in Winchendon, Massachusetts, wherever that is.  It’s a neat trick to cast a long shadow—so silently and unobtrusively—in a New York peopled by such relentless egos.  Two retrospectives of his work appeared at New York galleries late in 2006 and early in 2007.  (4/4/07)

Hostess Gifts
You are in New York and don’t want to buy the usual run of the gauche for your hostess.  Then give a try to Gracious Home (, which has a store on both the East and West sides.  It’s a step up from the houseware-cum-hardware stores you used to find in town, many of which have now gone under.  

We picked up assorted doodads—some unusual soaps, candles, a few how-to books, etc.—which won’t be found in the corner store or back home in Middletown, Ohio.  1Gracious Homes.  992 Broadway at 67th Street, (Telephone:  212-231-7800) or 1220, 1217, & 1201 3d Avenue at 70th Street (Telephone:  212-517-6300).


Home - About This Site - Contact Us

© Copyright 2005

Hit Counter