Food treasures in New York City

Buvette: An Unexpected Find

buvette counter

There are more than enough sources for New York restaurant reviews, so it was never my intention to include restaurants in my NY Culinary Finds. But this week I had such a delightful culinary afternoon with friends, I wanted to share it. It was Christmas eve; a rather blustery day; and we decided to play tourists, taking a walking tour of Greenwich Village.

chris park

Christopher Park, just west of Grove Street in Greenwich Village

An hour into the tour, we headed down Grove Street, passing Buvette, a restaurant I remembered from a story in Martha Stewart Living Magazine.  I had tested all the recipes, and ever since then I had wanted to visit. Curiosity, hunger and a need to warm up overtook our desire to see Greenwich Village. We abandoned the group and sought refuge in Buvette. From the moment we walked in, we knew we had made the right decision. Buvette has the look and feel of a small French bistro.

Gastronomo Jamie Leanse made us feel welcome as she prepared our food

Gastronomo Jamie Leanse made us feel welcome as she prepared our food

Chef owner Jody Williams was working at the counter along with other staff, and when 3 seats opened up we jumped at the chance to eat and watch the food being prepared. Buvette is known for its small plates, similar to a Spanish tapas bar.

Our brandade was the perfect small plate

Our brandade was the perfect small plate

We ordered brandade with toast; a special salad that incorporated elements of others on the menu; and Kir Royales to celebrate the season. We wanted to leave room for dessert: a Tart Tatin which we watched being made.

Just baked Tarte Tatin and fresh prosciutto on display at Buvette's

Just baked Tarte Tatin and fresh prosciutto on display at Buvette’s

We enjoyed the food, the ambiance, and the attentive staff so much that we were reluctant to leave.  So if you ever find yourself in the Village or are looking for a low key but enormously satisfying culinary experience, go visit Buvette, It’s located at 42 Grove Street; is open all day but doesn’t take reservations. I hope to return this summer so I can eat in their outdoor garden.

December 28, 2012 Posted by | Food, restaurants | , , | 3 Comments

Cookbook Heaven at Kitchen Arts & Letters


If Meg Ryan had owned a cookbook store in the movie “You’ve Got Mail,” it would have been Kitchen Arts & Letters. Located for the past 28 years at 1435 Lexington Avenue (at 93rd street), KA&L has 13,000 titles — domestic, imported, contemporary as well as out-of-print books. They’re not just cookbooks but also “books on culinary history, molecular gastronomy, restaurant management, food-themed fiction: from a book on the role of food in the plays of Molière to one on the sociology of New England clambakes,” says owner Nach Waxman.

On a recent visit I bought a beautiful culinary wall calendar for a fellow foodie that I gave with a fun, food themed card.


In the sales bin, I found a book about how recipe writing started and the evolution of the cookbook.

recipe book

If you are interested in vintage cookbooks, or ones from a particular era or part of the world you might want to check out the cookbook collections at the Center for Jewish History.  Anyone can register to access books from the collection but they can only be reviewed in the library’s reading room. Another great resource for food-related books and papers is NYU’s Fales Library Food & Cookery Collection, which has more than 50,000 titles of food-related content. The Fales Library is open to NYU students, faculty and staff, as well as qualified researchers and scholars.

December 17, 2012 Posted by | books, Food | , | 2 Comments

Chelsea Market: So Many Culinary Finds

Ninth avenue between 15th-16th streets

You would never know looking at it, that inside the large brick building on Ninth Avenue and 15th Street, is a culinary amusement park. The building began it’s life in the 1890’s as the National Biscuit Company complex, where everything from Saltines to Oreos were baked. But a half a century ago the company moved out. In the 1990’s, the investor Irwin B. Cohen organized a syndicate to buy the principal National Biscuit buildings. It was re-opened as The Chelsea Market; keeping the architectural feel of the original factory with a winding arcade of food stores, restaurants, and specialty shops. Today, if you visit, you’ll find tourists wandering alone or in groups taking photos; chefs and foodies buying specialty items; and neighborhood office workers eating lunch.

I often go to Chelsea Market on my way to or from the High Line, usually with an out-of-town visitor. But mostly, it’s to visit my favorite stores. They have everything I need to create a great meal. Here’s how:

lobster place

Start at The Lobster Place where you can choose fresh fish, salmon

shrimp, crabs, clam , sushi or, of course, lobsters.lobsters

Next, head to Manhattan Fruit Exchange to pick up ingredients for a salad and some vegetables for side dishes. The store not only offers a wide variety of produce but there is so much depth within each category.

So many chile peppers to spice up your dish

So many chile peppers to spice up your dish

Many more mushroom options than in your average supermarket

Many more mushroom options than in your average supermarket

To create an interesting marinade for your fish or vegetables, or a flavorful salad dressing, stop by The Filling Station. This unique store contains flavored dark and white balsamic vinegars like cinnamon pear, dark chocolate, or espresso. My favorite is a white balsamic lemongrass mint.vinegar bottle

The Filling Station also sells flavored extra virgin olive oils, like blood orange or chipotle, as well as different kinds of unrefined, natural flavored salts.

You can taste as many vinegars and oils as you like

So many vinegars and oils to taste

The best part? You can taste any of these before buying, and if you bring your bottle back for a refill, there’s a discount on your next purchase.

If you’re missing the right saute pan, need a vegetable peeler, or just enjoy, as I do, browsing through kitchen equipment, then stop into Bowery Kitchen Supplies. bowery kitchen

The store is a cornucopia of kitchen tools, pots, pans, serving dishes, knives and everything in between. If you’re planning on visiting on a Wednesday or Saturday, then bring along your knives. Margery Cohen, of Samurai Sharpening Service, has a table right outside of Bowery Kitchen, where she’s been sharpening knives since 1997.

Before you leave Chelsea Market you can pick up brownies, cupcakes or cookies for dessert at one of the specialty stores, as well as a bottle of wine. It’s a culinary experience not to be missed.

December 10, 2012 Posted by | Food, stores | , , | Leave a comment

“Lunch Hour” Exhibit at the New York Public Library

At the New York Public Library

A perfect companion piece to the AMNH’s “Global Kitchen” is “Lunch Hour NYC,” an exhibit at the New York Public Library  (Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, Gottesman Exhibition Hall, 42nd and Fifth Avenue). This free exhibit, on view until February 17, 2013, looks back at more than a century of New York lunches.

On view are photographs, cookbooks, recipe cards and products from the working class lunches in the taverns of  lower Manhattan to the power lunches at Sardis; from hot dog pushcarts on Fifth Avenue to Horn and Hardart’s Automat in Times Square. Some of my favorite pieces included:

Creamed spinach recipe from Horn & Hardart's Automat

Creamed spinach recipe from Horn& Hardart’s Automat

Sandwich choices at the Automat

The exhibit is open Monday-Saturday 10am-6pm  (Tuesday evening until 7:30pm).

Lunch boxes

Lunch boxes

Puzzle pieces to practice budgeting your lunch

"Power" lunch menu at the Four Seasons

“Power” lunch menu at the Four Seasons

December 5, 2012 Posted by | exhibit, Food | , | 2 Comments

Finding Ways To Give Back With Food

Culinary “finds” are not just about fun places to visit or interesting stores to shop at. I’m also interested in finding ways to use my culinary knowledge and passion in helping others. I’m continually disturbed by the startling data about hunger in New York City. There are about 1.4 million New Yorkers who need the resources provided by the city’s network of food pantries and soup kitchens.

According to the recently released  Serving under Stress Post-Recession: The State of Food Pantries and Soup Kitchens Today, the network has shrunken, and the economic environment has reduced the amount of financial support from private and public resources. Additionally, the amount of food available for distribution has decreased while the numbers of people needing this food has increased. Forty percent of the people needing food are turned away. Increasingly it’s because there is less food to distribute. Relief efforts from Hurricane Sandy have added to this burden.

Volunteers distributing food in Coney Island

Volunteers distributing food in Coney Island

Not surprisingly, food pantries and soup kitchens have very few paid workers serving clients. They cannot get by without the support of volunteers. For the past three years I’ve served as the volunteer chef for a Thanksgiving dinner Met Council sponsors for residents of three low-income senior housing units. With the help of volunteers, I prepare food for 60 people.

Met Council volunteers preparing food for Thanksgiving dinner

Met Council volunteers preparing food for Thanksgiving dinner

You can make a difference whether you volunteer for one hour or make a weekly commitment. Here are some places and organizations that need your help:

City Harvest

City Meals on Wheels

Food Bank for New York City

Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen

Island Harvest

Met Council

New York City Coalition Against Hunger

December 2, 2012 Posted by | charity, Food, volunteering | | 1 Comment