The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

A Non-Toxic Manicure and Thrift Shopping July 23, 2010

Ugh, so sorry I’ve been MIA for the past week. But I’m back, and this will be the first of several backlogged posts.

Saturday was catch-up-on errands day. You see, I had to finally get rid of some old clothes. I cleaned out my closet months ago with the help of a stylist, and even after one trip, there was still an impressive pile on the floor of cast-offs. I poured it all in a couple of reusable bags to take with me.

The whole city was hot, muggy, and inhospitable. My air conditioner labored to keep my room comfortable, and we had all the lights switched off so we didn’t blow a fuse in our old apartment. As I got my stuff together to run out the door, I decided at the last minute to switch bags. “It’s too hot to carry a leather purse,” I complained to Vicki. The idea of having black leather touching my skin, even if it was a thin strap, was gross. I poured everything in a cotton shopping tote, picked up my stuff, and took off for Brooklyn.

I was drenched in sweat by the time I made it to the cool air conditioning of the subway, and drenched again when I emerged into the hot sun and walked two blocks to my destination: Beacon’s Closet. I gratefully pushed open the glass door to the air conditioning.

Beacon’s closet is great, because it’s such an easy process to consign your clothes.

1. Dump your bags full of clothing and accessories with the girls in the back.

2. Either leave and go home, or go shopping on 5th Ave for an hour while they go through your stuff.

3. Pick up your voucher for store credit or cash.

If you decide to just go home, they’ll donate everything they don’t take to charity and you can come back another day for the voucher. If you decide to come back, you can take back all the clothes they don’t want. So easy!

So I left my unwanted stuff with a hipster girl with a brassy blond pixie cut and went to get my nails done. I found a place only a block away and popped in.

Now, a word about getting your nails done: It is not good for you. I mean, it’s great if you want to stop biting your nails (that may or may not be a problem for me) but in reality, a nail salon is a viciously toxic place, with toxins that have been linked to birth deformities, cancer, and liver damage. About this time last year, I made the trek down to Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to get my nails done at a green salon, but lets be honest – it’s just too much to ask me to be on the train for an extra hour for a manicure. (There are other salons who use organic nail polish, but none of them are anywhere near the Upper West Side or even Mid-town.) So I came up with a solution: bring my own stuff!

Priti is a great line of nail polishes and nail polish that…well, I’ll let them explain:

Priti Polishes have been formulated without Toluene, DBP and Formaldehyde, all known carcinogens and does not contain any petroleum ingredients. They are fast drying, chip resistant, and super glossy.

As much as I like O.P.I. and Essie nail polish, I like my health more, and these Priti polishes really do the trick. Oh, and you can find them on Amazon, among other places. I had come prepared with pink nail polish, a top coat, and nail polish remover in my bag, and as I slid into a seat at the table, I took them out and put them on the table. “Can I use my own?” I asked the nail technician. She nodded as she took out her various sterilized tools. Then she took a cotton swap and began to soak it with blue liquid. I slid my nail polish remover forward and indicated it. She paused, quizzically, and with an expression of curiosity unscrewed it and soaked a new cotton swab, then set to work.

While she was  pushing up my cuticles and soaking my fingertips, I was able to study the ingredient list on the “fancy” lotions displayed next to me, so when she reached for a bottle I was prepared to turn down the offer of a hand massage. I can’t say for sure there were toxins in there, but if I need a chemistry teacher to identify it, then I don’t use it. It’s a rule that has served me well.

I could just imagine what the technician was saying to her neighbor as she giggled in Korean. “What is this silly white girl doing? Man, do we get some crazy hippies in Brooklyn.” No matter, the woman getting a pedicure next to me and I had a great discussion of the merits of bringing our own polish, and, God help me, Birkenstocks.

When she was done applying the last layer of polish, she picked up my stuff and settled me in the cancer causing UV nail dryer. When she walked away I subtly turned off the light switch and settled for a blow dry.

All prettied up, I stopped by a smoothie shop. I quizzed the girl behind the counter to establish that no extra sugar is added or syrup, and then ordered a pina colada.

It came in a styrene cup.

ARG! I just can’t win! It was too hot to get mad though, so I stopped outside the door to pet a cute pooch and headed back to Beacon’s Closet. I still had time to kill when I got back in, so against my better judgment I started to peruse.

I actually didn’t think I would find anything. Beacon’s has weird criteria for what clothing they pick. They usually turn down 75% of what I bring them, but they do keep some fairly ugtastic items. I guess I’m just not hipster enough to understand what is “fashionable”.

Despite this, I found several cute items:

One very fashionable (a la Refinery 29) Dooney & Burke long-handled leather purse in perfect condition, $25

One gorgeous maxi dress in bright tropical colors with neckline embelishments, $19

One adorable vintage bow tie for Mike to wear to the Jazz Age Festival on Sunday (post coming!), $9

Even minus the clothing I ended up buying, I netted $14. New clothes, AND money. I should clean out my closet more often!


Here Come the Hipsters! June 28, 2010

I didn’t really know much about hipsters until I moved to New York, but this slick graphic summarizes them quite nicely.

[via Ffffound!]


Get Sophisticated at a Wine Bar June 21, 2010

wine at the Tangled Vine on the Upper West Side in NYCThere’s something that seems so much more natural about wine versus other alcohols. Somehow, when it comes to enjoying an eco-friendly buzz, the harsh burn of vodka – no matter how organic it is – doesn’t compare to the fruity and smoky undertones of a wine from upstate.

As luck would have it, I’ve found myself at four different wine bars over the past month or so.  Perhaps I’m just turning into an old fogey, but suddenly I think I like wine bars way better than fratty sports bars that reek of PBR.

Let’s be clear: I know next to nothing about wines. If you gave me a blind taste test, I could identify Riesling, Chardonnay, and…”Red,” and that’s the extent of my expertise. But who doesn’t want to learn more about wines? A wine bar is the second most fun way to do so, behind visiting the winery itself and before ducking into a knowledgeable wine shop.

Bar #1: The first wine bar I visited was when I first started dating Mike. We spent the day at Brooklyn Botanic gardens, and in between that and going to his friends’ barbeque we stopped at Total Wine Bar on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. It’s a simple layout, with bench seating in the front, and u-shaped bar at the back. It was in the afternoon, so every seat was filled at the bar while the rest of the place was empty. I suspect we would have gotten the full experience if we could have fit in at the bar (where everyone seemed to know each other) and chatted with the sommelier, but alas Mike just got a couple glasses and we were relegated to the loser bench at the front to have a party with ourselves. We finished our glasses and moved on.

Bar #2: About two weeks ago my mind was wandering at work, and I realized something. I texted Mike. “We’ve never gotten drunk together!”

How did that happen? What a change from college, where it seemed guys would only talk to you if you had been prepped with three cups of warm Natty Light. And now here I was, six weeks deep into a new relationship and we hadn’t even had a “What happened last night,” moment. I mean, it’s not like we hadn’t drank together, but we hadn’t been taking shots together either.

I wasn’t sure whether I felt lame (what happened to the party girl??) or proud (I can get a guy to hang out with me when he’s sober!) [Clarification: I have, in fact, dated other guys who not only take me on dates when they are sober, but don’t drink at all. My standards aren’t that low.] Either way, it was time to remedy this lapse. After all, you never really know a person until you’ve seen their drunk side, in my opinion. So we decided to get wasty-face together.

True to form, Mike sent me an email with the link to The Castello Plan, a wine bar only a couple blocks from his apartment. At first I was taken aback, and told him so. “I was thinking some place, with, you know, shots?” But he insisted it is a great place and promised if we started slow we could kick it up a notch later at other nearby bars.

Mike managed to recruit a couple friends to meet us. “Don’t worry,” he said. “All I do is drink with Bobby and Danna. They’ll be the perfect company for the night.”

Game on.

So Mike and I showed up at The Castello Plan at eight on a Friday. His friends were running late so we went ahead and waved a guy over to our table who looked like he worked there. “Hey, my name’s Ben,” he said. “What can I get for you?”

“We’re not sure what we want,” I said. “Can you recommend a red?” (I’ve been really into reds lately.)

“Sure, would you like something really fruity and and full-bodied? Or something lighter?” We asked for lighter, and he left and returned with three bottles and three big glasses. “I’m going to have some with you,” he said. He lined up the bottles in a row. “Fuller to lightest,” he said, indicating left to right. As he set about uncorking the bottles, he started telling us about how he had just shaved his beard off that morning. Random, I know, but he seemed nice (ok, and cute) and I complimented him on his fresh look. He pointed to the large round table in the corner, where an older guy held court telling a story to a rapt audience of five other people. “That’s the borough president,” he said. I was duly impressed.

“You live near here?” he asked Mike. Mike said yes. “And you two..don’t live together?” Ben said, arching his eyebrows, sliding his glass in a circle over the wooden surface of the table to swirl the wine.

“No,” I shook my head, blushing. Mike told me later he was convinced Ben was hitting on me, but I told him he was just making conversation.

Ben poured the three glasses. “This one is medium-bodied, with a fresh berry flavor,” he told us. Mike and I dutifully put our noses in the glass to smell, but Ben had already knocked his wine back. I was surprised by his short description and short work of the wine.

He poured the next glasses, again gave a short description, and then poured it into his mouth. Ok, now I was convinced he had been smoking or drinking beforehand. I shot Mike an amused look. Ben waited for we slow pokes to finish our glasses, poured the third wine with another curt description, and finished it. “The second one,” I said. Mike agreed, and Ben filled our glasses and left us with a delicious bottle.

Soon Bobby and Danna joined us. We ordered food, a cheese and charcuterie platter with high quality sausages like wild boar. Wild boar! Just like Michael Pollan! Mike and I also ordered a duck spread, whose fatty deliciousness melted over the crackly bread and in our mouths. We tried I bite of Bobby and Danna’s sweet potato dish – delicious – and then a dessert of chocolate tulips.

By that time other tables had come and gone as we drank and talked and laughed. We paid our bill and wandered down the street to another bar, the Solo Lounge to get a shot, and then dispersed for the night. I was a little bit disappointed that we didn’t stay out past 2 in the morning on our drunk night, but c’est la vie. Anyway, I can assure you we did reach our goal, because neither of us remember that picture being taken.

Bar #3: Agatha (@alutoborski) tweeted this last week:

This place looks like it’s up @AldenWicker’s alley. Wine + eco + UWS. Trifecta!

I agreed. Agatha, who works with me at Ogilvy, lives on the Upper West Side too, so by the next Thursday we were there.

It’s a fairly large place but was pretty crowded, so the hostess put us at a communal table. The wine list was printed on computer paper and housed in a cheap picture album, but at least it was extensive, going on for pages and pages. I scoured it for a biodynamic wine, but failing to find one by the glass, I settled for an organic red.

We were so close to our neighbors and the the place was so loud that at one point Agatha had to apologize to the older ladies to our left for talking too loudly. Every time someone had to get up, everyone had to climb down from their stool and stand to the side to let them pass.

We ordered a couple light plates, meant to be shared, of asparagus and pea risotto and organic veal meatballs. “If it’s organic, does that mean it’s humanely raised? Or just that it was stuff with organic corn?” I asked Agatha. She is just as into this stuff as I am.

“Who knows,” she said, spooning the last of the risotto onto my plate while I unsuccessfully tried to wave her off. “I feel like none of these labels really mean anything.”

I shrugged and waved down the waiter to refill our glasses. At least the food was delicious. After reading the reviews on Yelp, I concluded that the best experience would be at the bar, where one could have a conversation with the sommelier about wines. The check came and our eyes bugged out a little. I realized it was my organic wine that did it, at $14 a glass. Ouch.

Bar #4:

Friday Mike and I went to Angelika to see MicMacs by the director of Amelie (See it! Adorable!!) And afterward we casted around for someplace to go for dinner. I looked through my long list of saved emails from Tasting Table, Refinery 29, Daily Candy, and Thrillist. (I like email lists, so sue me.) “There’s a pizza place that’s supposed to be good near hear,” I told Mike. “You read my mind. I was just thinking I wanted pizza,” he said. So we walked to Otto Enoteca.

I wasn’t expecting such a fancy place! Dark wood, a fully stocked wine bar, menus printed on heavy stock recycled paper… Turns out it is Mario Batali’s “cheap” place.

It was almost ten, and the hostess said it was a forty minute wait. We balked a bit, but it looked so nice we decided to stay. She gave us a card with an Italian town, and told us to watch the train station-style flipboard at the front. We walked over to the bar and stood there for a moment, wondering what our next step was. A waiter noticed us and informed us that we could get service at one of the communal standing tables, so we set ourselves up at one and immediately had someone ready to take our order.

Mike ordered a bottle of red from Sicily, where his family is from. I menu at Otto Enotecalooked up the reviews on Yelp, and saw several mentions of truffle honey that came with the cheese platter. So I picked out two New York cheeses and Mike picked an Italian one that means “drunk.” After only a couple minutes, our waiter was back with four plates. On one he poured the truffle honey, a deep golden liquid with flecks of dark brown in it. On another he poured the cherry honey with three whole cherries, and on the third he poured honey with small chunks of apricot.

The cherry honey was so tart it was like Starburst candy. The apricot honey was delicious. But the truffle honey. Oh the truffle honey. It was sweet with a smokey, musky undertone. We had barely started when our town came up on the flip board 15 minutes early. A busboy skillfully gathered up our plates, balancing them up his arm, while Mike went to pay the check.

“The service here is out of this world,” he said when he got back. “I went to find our waiter and this guy asked me if I wanted the check, then another guy right behind me just handed it to me. It was amazing.”

We were led to our table through two dining rooms. There were a lot of pretty people there and I felt myself tense up a little. I wore little makeup, and just a simple dress with Jack Rogers and an old Longchamp. But as soon as we got to our table I relaxed as I dove back into the cheeses. Mike and I debated the merits of each pairing of cheese and honey and vowed not to be rushed through our dinner. We wanted to do it truly Italian style: slowly and with relish.

Well, we couldn’t go as slowly as we wanted, as the waiter stopped by often to check on us and as soon as our plates looked empty a busboy appeared to whisk them away and replace them with our four cheese and black pepper pizza. But oh-my-god-was-that-pizza-good. It had a thin, crispy crust with a melange of white cheeses that were just thick and gooey enough, while the pepper gave it a gentle kick.

“This place really is Sicilian,” Mike said as we walked out. The decor and food and ambiance all vividly evoked Italy to him.

That won’t be my last wine bar, for sure. I want to learn more about wines, and Vicki said she’s down for a wine class at Otto. Are there any other wine bars you would recommend in New York?


Blue Marble: Organic, local, grass-fed deliciousness June 10, 2010

organic, grass-fed, Hudson valley dairy ice cream from Blue Marble

“I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!”

That’s what my Nana would say every time I crawled into the front seat of the Buick between her and Papa, and we all set off for the only ice cream shop in Sanford. At the time I thought vanilla, mint chocolate chip, and rocky road were the pinnacle of deliciousness.

Well, we learn a lot as we grow older, don’t we?

Saturday Mike and I did the Atlantic Avenue art walk in Brooklyn. Most of the artists were pretty meh except the talented Donato Giancola, (I bought this print)  but it wasn’t a total bust. We played bocce ball at Floyd’s (I recommend!) and also popped into Blue Marble Ice Cream for  a cold treat.

I fell head over heels for this place, and here’s why:

chocolate, raspberry, butter pecan, culture, and cinnamon are some of the sweet treats at Blue Marble Ice CreamAmazing flavors: Drunk rum raisin, hazelnut, cultured (a yogurt flavor), dreamcicle, peach sorbet, blackberry, butter pecan, and a whole bunch others made me seriously consider asking for three scoops piled in a waffle cone. Mike laughed as I switched from flavor to flavor at least five times while we waited in line. Luckily I came to my senses and just went for the sweet cream, which is so simple yet so. friggin. delicious. This post by Chowhound says they have the best strawberry ice cream ever introduced to man, and the commenters are inclined to agree.

Simple yet perfect toppings: Forget crumbled oreos, Blue Marble goes old school with maple syrup and even balsamic vinaigrette for your strawberry or raspberry ice cream. I was disappointed to learn I couldn’t get local chocolate shop Nunu‘s hot caramel or hot fudge on top of my cone. Probably a good call since no one wants hot caramel dripping all over their hands, so next time I’ll get a cup so I can experience it. Or maybe I’ll get the strawberry with balsamic vinaigrette? Ooooh, or the honey! I don’t knoooooow!

High quality ingredients: Organic? Check. Grass-fed, happy cows? Check.We make our ice cream on a Hudson Valley Farm with premium, grassfed, organic dairy. Local? Check. Artificial colors and flavors? Nope! How could you make this ice cream any better?

Consciously consuming: Until everyone carries around a lunchbox of utensils and dishes, we’ll have to accept that some containers will be bought only to be thrown away after we are done. While we wait for mini picnic pouches to come into style, you can’t get much more responsible than Blue Marble’s compostable, recyclable, and biodegradable supplies, plus three bins in which to place them when you’re done. Nice!

The perfect setting: While you restrain yourself from attempting to shove the entire scoop of ice cream into your mouth in a fit of ecstasy, you’ll enjoy your green surroundings. Salvaged materials, white non-toxic paint on the wooden beams, recycled glass counters, and vintage-y looking touches lend the shop a homey feel, instead of the usual antiseptic linoleum floors and plastic tables at other ice cream shops.

I can’t believe you are still sitting there reading this! Go get some ice cream!



Sometimes Things Get Crazy…But in a Good Way May 21, 2010

I woke up Monday morning, sweaty, tangled in my sheets, the sun pounding my face. I rolled over, cracked my eyes open, and tried to reach my curtains without actually leaving my bed, in the process knocking a silver tray of pens and a stack of unread books (I’ll get to them, I swear) all over the floor and almost ripping down the curtain. I finally succeeded in blocking the sun and I rolled back over to sleep.

“Mew.” A paw sank into my side. I shifted, trying to dislodge it. I heard a pile of clothes go sliding off the end of the bed and onto the floor.

“Mrow.” Now I had two paws in my side, bearing the weight of a chubby tabby. I groaned. “Matteo, you fat slut, get off of me,” I said, swatting at him ineffectually. Cat hair flew into my nostrils. I snorted and then started swatting at my own face.

“MROOOOOWWWW.” Now it was Luca, scooting under the bed and complaining about something. “MEOWWWWWW.”

“What do you want?” I growled. “I don’t feed you. Go bother Vicki.”


I sighed. “Alright you two.” I rolled out of bed and looked at my cell phone. Only 10 more minutes until my alarm for work would go off anyway. I took a fast minute to make the bed and then picked my way around my personal detritus to the corner to step on the scale. First I had to shove the clothing vomit from my hamper out of the way. Oh, and accidentally step on the pointy ends of some heels. THEN, after I cussed up a storm, I stepped on the scale. The two cats watched me from their perch on the bed, with bored, judgmental eyes.

“Sh**…..” I said to them, looking from the number on the scale to the cats. “Well, it’s no wonder after this weekend.”

It was a weekend full of wine, sushi, big breakfasts, cuban food, beer, ice cream sandwiches, lamb, chocolate mousse and chocolate truffles, more wine, cocktails, more sushi, more chocolate and not a lick of exercise. Unless you count walking.

After spending only one hour in my apartment all weekend, my life would seem to be in shambles. I knew there was a pile of week-old dishes waiting for me in the sink, and the floor was unvacuumed. I hate that. You know, when you are walking around barefoot and you pick stuff up on the bottom of your feet? Ew. Gives me the willies.

Oh, but the weekend was worth this huge mess! Not every single thing I did is worthy of a detailed description,  so I’ll just give you the highlights.

Meet Mike. He’s the hot new guy I’ve been seeing for the past new weeks, and I’m just a little bit smitten. He lives in Brooklyn, which is both awesome and annoying. Awesome, because you might have noticed I LOVE Brooklyn. Annoying, because he lives a full hour away from me on the train. I couldn’t live any farther away unless I moved to the Bronx. That’s OK though. Mike is a great tour guide, especially of Prospect Park and the up-and-coming Ditmas park. What it means, though, is that when I go to see him, it’s a commitment. So what did I do? I basically just spent the whole weekend, save Sunday, in Brooklyn. Natch.

Saturday, after a homemade breakfast of turkey bacon, eggs, and a fruit salad macerated in orange juice and vodka (My idea. He didn’t even notice me casually filch the vodka from the top of the fridge and pour it into the bowl.) Mike and I emerged into a perfect day. I mean, it was gorgeous. High of 74, sunny, with a slight breeze.

We decided to go to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, something I’ve wanted to do for a while. But let me cut in here and talk a little about what a great thing it is to have so many green spaces in New York. Friday, as I left work, I was looking at my cellphone, not really paying attention, when I was stopped dead in my tracks. I smelled a garden. Not only the smell of flowers, but the smell of loamy earth and grass and that clean-air smell you just can’t get by spraying Febreeze around the apartment. I looked up from my iPhone and found myself next to a community garden. I must have looked like Ralphie in front of the Red Rider BB Gun Christmas display, with my face pressed against the fence bars, looking at a bench surrounded by flowering plants. I wanted to plunk my butt right down on that bench and just hang out. But I had to tear myself away. I was supposed to meet Mike and I was late. Such is the curse of the New Yorker.

As I told Mike on our amble through the Garden, that you don’t realize how foul NYC air is until you walk past a garden, step into a flower shop, or get deep inside Central park. I used to take the smell of a garden for granted. Not anymore. Nature has proven therapeutic properties, so I’m grateful that NYC takes the cultivation of flowers and public spaces so seriously. Without Riverside, and Central, and Prospect, and all the other parks around the five boroughs, I might just go insane.

So back to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. It’s famous for its cherry trees with their gorgeous blossoms, which had just fell out of season when we went, unfortunately, and its rose garden. I restrained myself, fearing looking like an idiot and boring Mike, but I still regret not putting my nose in every single rose I saw. They smelled delicious, with names like Queen Mary 2, Alberic Barbier, and Abbaye de Cluny.  Anyway, I can’t really adequately describe what a wonderful place the Brooklyn Botanic Garden is, so I’ve not only thrown in some pictures, I’ve quickly cut together a video for you. I hope you it makes you happy while you are stuck inside a cubicle on a rainy day.

After the gardens, Mike and I walked past the huge fountain at Grand Army Plaza fountain, where an Asian bride posed for pictures in her sparkly pink wedding dress, holding bedazzled pink flowers that I’m pretty sure were all fake. To each her own, I guess….

We had lunch at the Cubana Cafe, then a glass of wine at Total Wine Bar, then walked to a barbecue at a Mike’s friend, Rob’s, apartment.

When I think of barbecues, I think of big, shiny metal grills hung with fancy grilling tools, hamburgers and hot dogs, a backyard, kids running between all the grownups, plastic red cups, and then fireflies as the afternoon fades slowly into night. But instead I got a New York barbecue: a little grill with smoking chicken breasts sitting on the back patio overlooking a laundry mat, Shameless Ice Cream Sandwiches from Bierkraft and a small group of close friends. It’s all about the company, and Mike’s friends didn’t disappoint.

Forgive me if I don’t put in many pictures here of Mike’s friends. I’m wary to whip out my camera at every opportunity, because it can get a bit awkward you know?

So one of the things we talked about was bike culture in Brooklyn. Brooklyn, which likes to take every trend to its extreme, and then parody the extreme, naturally has some interesting bicycles running around. There’s the guy with the stilt bike – he attached an whole extra frame to his bike so he’s five feet above the ground. When he wants to stop, he has to find a fence on which to dismount. There’s the unicycle guy – one of Mike’s friends said that when a couple of kids started to make fun of him, he desperately yelled “But it’s good for your core!” Oh, and there’s the intrepid guy that walks his dog on a unicycle. Brave? Or Crazy?

What else can I say about our lovely, lazy Saturday? There wasn’t any crazy bars or parties, or shenanigans. It was just nice and relaxing, and just what I needed.

Sunday I got up early to go to the third installment of my cooking class. We basted lamb with vegetables, steamed mussels (so delicious, and not as scary/hard as you would think) and finished up with a light fluffy mousse augmented with amaretto. Oops, can’t forget the truffles. Man, they were rich. And good!

I met up with my friend Parks, who was in town for a few days for a wedding. Parks is a great guy – he went to Washington and Lee as well, though he graduated much earlier than I. We walked the Highline, drank some beers, and then took a nice afternoon nap in his cousin’s apartment. I never take daytime naps, but this one was lovely. The late afternoon sun was streaming through the windows, and though I’m not usually one for jazz, Parks’ iPod of jazz seemed to be the perfect compliment to my mood. Finally we roused ourselves back up to go to PDT for cocktails.

PDT (Please Don’t Tell) is the worst kept “secret” in New York. I’ve heard of bars that change their number every week, but PDT doesn’t go that far. They take reservations starting at 3, so just make sure to call right away. I mean, they are even on Google Maps, sooo….

Still, it’s an impressive place to take an out-of-towner. Parks and I walked into Crif’s on St. Mark’s, which is a hot dog stand. I told him to wait while I entered a phone booth on the left, picked up the phone and pressed the button. A voice answered, and after telling them my reservation, the door opened and a petite hostess waved us in. She seated us at a little table y the door, the same table I sat with my sister a few months back.

It’s a tiny bar, with taxidermy animals in bow ties perched on the wall. If you go to the bathroom, you can read all their rules, like “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” or “If you came here to hit on strangers, you’re in the wrong place.”

What I go for, though, is the cocktails. The cocktail menus are housed in fine leather folders, and each recipe goes on for several lines. Expect to find absinthe, exotic fruits and syrups, sherry, and essence of flowers. The drinks really are works of art.

Usually I sit at a table, but the first time I went I sat at the bar and I got to watch the bartender craft my White Birch Fizz. I was astounded at the level of care and the variety of tools used to make the delicious fizzy drink. Egg whites, an atomizer, and fine gin came together to make happiness in my mouth.

As Parks and I sat and talked, I had a good view of people coming and going out of the small room, like the leggy girls at the next table, and the investment banker-types in the back corner. It’s a good people-watching place.

Parks and I left, wandered down the street to get more sushi, and then dove into the leftover truffles back at his cousin’s place. Finally, at midnight, I decided it was time to go home. I was just barely tipsy when I threw all my clothes on the floor and fell into bed, and the next thing I knew, I woke up with the sun in my face….


Brooklyn = Where It’s At April 11, 2010

Filed under: events,Food,Places to go — Alden @ 1:37 am
Tags: , , ,

How many times have I talked about Brooklyn? Seriously, everything that I love happens there. From the edgiest parties, to the most forward-thinking urban renewal and gardening projects, to the most memorable shopping experiences, Brooklyn is where you go when you want to get away from the touristy, see-and-be-seen, rejected-at-the-door, mass-produced and massively overpriced crap that is Manhattan. Brooklyn is infamous for hipsters, but there is a softer side to what many call faux-hemian, and underneath the earnestness is a protest against what society forces on us: that we need to go broke on perfect outfits, that we are all striving for a job in finance, and that you don’t count if you don’t own a car. I can get down with that.

It’s Saturday afternoon, and I’ve already taken the 2 down there twice. It’s a long trip – an hour or more – with the 2 stopping at every single station along the way because of construction. It’s painful. But worth it!

Last night I went down to BK to meet up with a college friend for dinner and a party. She brought along her friend Ariel, a pretty aristocrat-cum-hippie with blond dreads and plenty of stories to tell. We had dinner at a little Oaxacan (read: southern Mexico) restaurant called Chiles y Chocolate. Ariel just visited Oaxaca for a wedding, and told us that Chiles and chocolate are what Oaxaca is known for.

The restaurant was a far cry from Don Tequilas in Lexington, where my college friends and I would stuff our faces and then spend the rest of the day moaning over our distended stomachs. (Or if you were member of a certain sorority, nonchalantly purging your stomach of all that cheese and questionable white sauce.) Chiles y Chocolate has seductive lighting, fresh flowers at the tables, and filling food that eschews grease for grease’s sake. I’m told they serve delicious hot chocolate as well, naturally.

We sat in the back outdoors room, with just some draped cloth and tarp between us and the biting wind outside. In the middle of the meal I finally ceded to the chill and pulled my jacket back on. But I enjoyed a glass of Yellowtail chardonnay, which they of course took the trouble of describing for us as buttery and smooth, with notes of blah blah. Or you could get the Turning Leaf, with aromas of fresh citrus-like lemon and lime. Love it. After my meal of shrimp and diced fruit, I felt full yet comfortable. We left the restaurant and walked to the apartment in the Park Slope neighborhood, Ariel walking her bike alongside. Have I told you that I really want a bike? More on that later. After she wrestled the bike into submission under a lock, we got buzzed into the bottom floor of a row house.

It was a typical Brooklyn party: low on fashion, high on unknown and upbeat music. The host mixed us fancy whisky drinks and bonded with me over our love of Hype Machine, which he used as his playlist. I love weird music, by the way. At parties I have trouble concentrating on the conversation sometimes when there is a good song on.

I went home early though, as fun as it was. I had gone out hard and late Thursday night, and by 12:30 my eyelids were sticky and heavy, and I was being a huge bore.

Today I was back in Park Slope with Vicki. It was opening day at Brooklyn Flea, and I was pumped. First we stopped by Beacon’s Closet so I could drop of some clothes for consignment. They took my bag of stuff and told me to come back in an hour. I already had an idea of what they would choose. In there I had a short-sleeved, pink, Members Only jacket and an acid washed denim vest. Both of them were relics of a time when I had some idea of my being a pseudo-hipster, uber fashionable New Yorker. Ha. Now I know better. As much as Sartorialist and LookBook are fun to look at, I’m much better suited to simple yet classic cardigans, oxfords and ballet flats. C’est la vie.

After that, we beat it up to the market, cooing at the adorable boutiques, blossoming pear trees, and delicious-looking fair from the coffee shops and cafes. We stopped on the way to find a bathroom in the mall and Vicki went into the McDonalds to use it there. Oh, man, talkabout depressing. It was a gorgeous day outside, yet that stupid fast food restaurant in a mall was packed with families. I watched in disgust as the chubby mother of a wailing toddler stuffed handfuls of fries in her mouth and slurped a coke while she gossiped with her friend. I finally turned and fled the madness, waiting for Vicki outside.

When we got the market, the placed was packed. I stopped by to say hi to Monkey, who’s lovely jewelry from salvaged records makes me drool everytime. He told me there were close to 10,000 people there for opening day. The sun was so bright I had to squint to see the wares. In between browsing the racks of clothing and flipping through prints, I gobbled up a chicken dog with kimchi topping, a stroop waffle, and an almond and pear torte. Vicki said everytime she would see me I would be munching on something. Well, you know, that’s how I roll.

I also came this close to buying a sweet, old road bike. I’ve been mulling over for a while the idea of biking to work everyday. I’m a block away from Riverside Park, and my work is all the way over on 11th Avenue as well, so I could largely avoid having to deal with the dangers of cycling – getting doored or getting straight up hit by a taxi – by cycling all the way down the West Side on the bike path. Plus my apartment building has bike storage and my work has showers and a storage locker. Could it be any easier? I need to get some exercise somewhere. Cuz what I’m doing right now isn’t working.

The guy at the bicycle stand guided me to a road bike, because he says the one-speed cruisers with leather seats that the hipsters favor aren’t much for commuting. They’re as heavy as they are cute. Vicki finally talked me out of buying anything, pointing out that I should probably get my ducks in a row as far as reserving some space in the basement and figuring out where the bike storage actually is at work first. The fact that she would have to deal with my taking it home on the subway might have had something to do with it as well.

My only purchase was 3 embroidered handkerchiefs at a dollar each. I’ve stopped buying those little tissue packets, because it’s a waste of money and trees. Plus doesn’t using a pretty handkerchief look so much nicer than paper?

We didn’t leave the market until all of the vendors were packing up their stuff at five.  Now, as I write this back in my apartment, the orange sunset is flaring up behind the skyline of water towers and steeples on the Upper West Side. It’s beautiful, but really, if it weren’t for my awesome roommate and the time I’ve spent putting together a beautiful room, not to mention my two closets, I would be down in Park Slope in a second.


I want to Shag again! February 15, 2010

Filed under: events,Food,Places to go — Alden @ 2:22 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I hesitated about whether to post about Shag. After all, it’s an adult shop in Brooklyn. But I can’t keep quiet anymore, because I had the best experience there last night for Valentines Day!

Is your curiosity piqued? “What on earth was Alden doing in an adult shop on Valentine’s Day?? DIRTY!”

Banish those dirty thoughts from your mind right now. Shag isn’t your typical, sleezy store front with flashing neon lights and rows of porn. It’s a brand new shop in Brooklyn that has been hipster-ized.  Like any adult shop, it does have an assortment of toys, including organic lubricants, up-cycled dildos, and some discreet, personal accroutrements cleverly disguised as a rubber ducky or a japanese souvenir. Scott got a kick out of the remote controlled toy that syncs up with your iPhone, heh.

But there is also some distinctly hipster art and Brooklyn interpretation of “adult gifts.” Dioramas involving baby dolls and costumes, Japanese tentacle art (ouch!), cheeky greeting cards, handmade teddies, and even a lending library of romantic novels. Oh, and for those of you who are blushing, you might be interested in the bathing salts and some of the very cute and innocuous jewelry. Love their delicate and feminine brass knuckles!

Shag also plays host to a wide range of workshops, from the benign, to the eyebrow-raising, to the Please-Don’t-Tell-My-Mother variety. On February 2 you could try their “Collage-A-Totebag” series. Or go for broke with a Partner Body Painting workshop on the 27th. No wonder Time Out New York calls it a “community space.” It seems more like a social experiment-cum-art gallery than a porno shop.

Scott and I went for a benign “Aphrodisiacs and Amor” event, with Chef Alex Garcia. It was a bit awkward at first. The event was set to start at 5, but by 5:20 all of the five couples were still awkwardly perusing the shop’s wares (doorknob molds of vaginas anyone?) while they set up downstairs.

Finally we were led down the creepy basement steps into a candlelit room. Chairs scraped and couples giggled nervously as they glanced around.  Yes, there were a couple hipsters there, but also a gay couple, and a perfectly normal pair of lawyers seated next to Scott and I.

They poured the wine, and served the first course. Blindfolds were laid at our places, so Scott and I took turns blindfolding each other and tasting the flavors and textures of the mysterious amuse-bouches set in front of us.

First came a simple plate of two kinds of beets with haricots verts, with things getting more interesting from there. We sampled lobster empanadas died black with squid ink, a cauliflour puree with saffron for its yellow color, pumpkin and apple soup, tender beef with coffee grinds, oysters with chipoltle and peppers, sliced shrimp in celery juice and lemon oil, and tuna tartar.

Each tiny course confounded and delighted us, and one of the lawyers and I had a time puzzling over the ingredients. “It’s an oil! We would whisper, but what kind?” “Is this potato soup??” “No, too sweet….” After each course, Chef Alex would explain his creation, and then the Shag co-owner Samantha would describe the aphrodisiac properties of the ingredients. It was like being on a slightly erotic episode of Top Chef.

Did you know that oysters are full of zinc, an essential mineral for progesterone levels, which in turn controls libido? Cleopatra used to keep her room stocked with mangos, and  Madame du Barry, of King Louis XV fame, served ginger to all of her lovers. Even that smelly garnish garlic has been historically believed to arouse the passion. Scientifically, it increases circulation which can improve sexual performance. Every course involved some ingredient that had been mentioned in the Karma Sutra, or prescribed to men to bring back their libido.

By the third course everyone had dropped the pretense of blindfolds and it had turned into a rollicking dinner party. The wine glasses were kept filled with several varieties of red and white wine, and with all the ingredients with heart-pumping and, ahem, stimulating properties, the conversation was stimulating as well.

We finished our dinner by nibbling on sugar-coated rose petals (who knew you could eat that?) and savoring the rich, chocolaty, pair of truffles tied up in red cellophane. (I’m not saying they were supposed to look like balls, but I’m not denying it either.)

By the time the tenth course came and went, the idea of taking another two hours to go to dinner (this was supposed to be a pre-dinner event after all) was completely out of the question. I cancelled our reservation, promised Chef Alex we would most certainly pay a visit to his famed Upper West Side restaurant Calle Ocho, and Scott and I headed straight back to the apartment to test out the aphrodisiac properties of jalepenos and mangos.

The price for all of this? $65 for the two of us. That. Is. Amazing.