My Upper West Side, Bite by Bite

By: Liora Yalof

I am a lifelong Manhattanite, and for most of my years, I called the Upper East Side home. After the kids had left, ready for a change, my husband and I packed up our belongings, said goodbye to our neighbors, and jumped in a cab across the park. Though our new apartment was less than a mile away; the Upper West Side felt like a whole new world. Arty, laid back and understated, I fell in love with its unique character and charm. Pre-war buildings, tree lined streets and of course Central Park.  Whether you are on the UWS visiting the Museum of Natural History, shopping at iconic Zabar's (I go there regularly to stock up on Eschire French butter) or catching a show at Lincoln Center, you have to eat. Join me on an eating tour of my favorite spots on the Upper West Side.  


Barney Greengrass:  Some may argue that Russ and Daughters or Sables serves the best appetizing in NY, but excuse my “chutzpah“—they’re wrong. Breakfast at Barney Greengrass, the legendary appetizing store serving NYers for over 100 years, is a quintessential New York experience. Picture old school style all the way. Formica tables, white counters along with tight quarters only add to the charm of the place. All the classics that one would expect are on the menu – the sturgeon sandwich, lox scrambled eggs with onions or bagels with lox and cream cheese. It’s the quality of the ingredients that make this place the perfect spot to grab a nosh. If you don't have time to sit and schmooze, take out is available. Other family favorites for smoked delicacies are Zabar's and Murray's Sturgeon Shop.

Red Farm: Dim sum and then some— this is some of the best, most creative Chinese in the city in my book. Dumplings reign at RedFarm, you could make a meal out of just the soup dumplings, shrimp and snow pea leaf, five flavor chicken and the Pac-Man, an homage to the video game and oh so fun. You must have a Katz’s pastrami egg roll on the table, a riff on the famous deli sandwich served with hot mustard on the side. Go with a friend or two-- the menu is designed to share. My must orders include the crunchy vegetable fried rice, snow peas leaves and the three-chili chicken. You are bound to see owner Ed Schoenfeld making the rounds at lunch or dinner, a true NY legend in the restaurant world. Red Farm is just steps from the Beacon Theater, perfect before a show.

White Gold Butchers: Ken Friedman and April Bloomfield of the West Village’s Spotted Pig knew that the UWS needed a good butcher and a neighborhood joint. A restaurant in a butcher shop, White Gold Butchers (similar to Dickson’s in Chelsea Market) sells only meat from local family run farms. The menu is small but packs a big punch. Dinner options vary based on seasonal ingredients. WGB is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Clay: This tiny restaurant has the certain sophistication, in the food, and décor that I admire. Located in the heart of Harlem, Clay serves up a deceptively simple farm to table fare. They have an excellent selection of cocktails – I highly recommend the Lazy Bird. Come here for dinner or brunch – an under the radar spot that will not leave you disappointed. 

Motorino: Pizza lovers popped champagne at the news that Motorino was opening on Columbus Ave.  To me, this is the best pizza on the UWS, and some of the best in the city. Be warned; there are only a few tables, so you will most likely have to wait at peak times. Start with the excellent fennel salad or Caesar kale before moving on to one or two pies. Devoted fans of the LES or Brooklyn outposts may debate which pie is the best—my vote goes to the classic margarita, brussel sprout or if you’re a meat lover the soppressata piccante. Have room? The tiramisu is out of this world. 

Jin Ramen: On a cold night, Jin Ramen is my go to. The menu offers an assortment of Ramen including a vegetarian option. The noodles are delicious, and the wait staff is friendly. It’s a small place so go early.

Sushi: Our family goes to Sushi of Gari once a week. Yes, the menu is pricey, but Sushi of Gari is worth it. Order Gari’s Omakase, with surprising combinations of flavors, sauces and the freshest fish. Or order sushi a la carte and make sure to get the red snapper with salad, salmon with sautéed tomatoes, and tuna with tofu. Throw in a spicy scallop handroll and excellent crab shumai to make the meal complete. For no frills, cheap and super-fresh sushi head to Yasaka on 72nd street. The restaurant is dark and unimpressive - but the sushi will impress even the biggest snob.

Bakeries: Does Levain, have the best cookie in the city? To me, and its legions of fans the answer is yes, this is the ultimate cookie. The lines are long, and the wait can be challenging, but it’s all worth it. Levain has only four flavors—dark chocolate chocolate chip, dark chocolate peanut butter chip, oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip walnut—all massive, dense, and gooey. There’s a brand new, bigger location on Amsterdam so hopefully, one won’t have to wait that long for perfection.  If you are looking for Babka or Hamentashen, Breads Bakery is the place to go. Maison Kayser is dangerous! I can eat the white chocolate brioche in one seating.  Eric Kayser is known to be one of the best bakers in Paris. I go here for a taste of Paris when it’s a bleak NY day--the artisanal loaves of bread and pastries are magical. 

Italian Cuisine: Every time I dine at Sirenetta, which is often, I leave happy. The ambiance is rustic, simple and casual. The salads are incredible, especially the kale, one of the best I’ve had. Then move on to delicious pasta or pizzas, I like the mushroom, but hear the fennel sausage is a popular choice. Sirenetta means “Little Mermaid, “and it’s from the folks of the uber, popular seafood spot, The Mermaid Inn, right next door. Gennaro’s is another local favorite. Everything on the menu is good. Bring cash: they don't take credit cards.

On My Radar: JG Melon is set to open up on Amsterdam next week. If it’s anything like its Upper East Side sibling, the crowds will come for their famous burger and the most addictive cottage fries. I’ve heard great things about Marlow Bistro, located on 110th street, with a modern Mediterranean menu.  

Homegrown NY: Finding your Zen in Putnam County

The drive along country roads to Chuang Yen Monastery took us through historic Brewster into downtown Carmel where flags blowing in the wind stirred feelings of Patriotism in wake of the Orlando shootings. A contemplative walk through the gardens at Chuang Yen Monastery were just what our sadden spirits needed. After, we traveled on to Cold Spring, a small town on the Hudson known for its charming boutiques and restaurants as well as one of the best hikes in New York State. An easy day trip from NYC by car or Metro North and easily combined with the nearby Storm King Art Center put this itinerary on your summer or fall to do list.


Morning Contemplation: Most people come to Chuang Yen Monastery to see the largest indoor Buddha in the Western Hemisphere, yet there’s so much more at this active monastery-- a place for introspection and reflection set on 225 acres in Kent, NY that includes Seven Jewels Lake, walking paths, rock gardens, plus Chinese pavilions and gazebos. People stroll around quietly; there is an aura of calm with the scent of flowers and incense filling the air. You can’t help but feel at peace. 

The Main Draw: The Bodhi Path, the “path to awakening” lined with 18 statues of Arahants, Buddha’s disciples, leads you impressively to The Great Buddha Hall and the 37 foot tall Buddha Vairocana, resting majestically on a lotus flower surrounded by 10,000 tiny Buddha’s. Spend some time reading the story of Siddhartha Gautama (the enlightened one) and the origins of Buddhism illustrated on the walls of the hall. A sign upon entering states: “please enjoy the power and magic of peace”; a perfect welcome to a special place. 

Dine with the Monks: A vegetarian buffet lunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays in the Dining Hall from 12-1 pm. The monastery also functions as a place for religious services and festivals, community learning and events such as dharma talks and meditation classes. See the upcoming schedule here. 

Afternoon: A short 15-20 minute drive down RT. 301 leads you to the charming and historic town of Cold Spring, located on the banks of the Hudson River.  It’s easy to spend a few hours lingering on Main Street filled with antique shops, restaurants and boutiques before heading down to the river park for a walk along the banks of the Hudson. 

Shop: You’d expect to find a store like Burkelman on the streets of Sag Harbor or on Abbot Kinney in LA, an unexpected find in Cold Spring, showcasing a well-curated collection of home décor and accessories plus luxurious textiles. We left with some of their wonderful Ethiopian bath sheets which are also available online on their extensive website.  Other worthy stops include the Cold Spring General Store for local, artisanal products, Old Souls for outdoor enthusiasts and the stunning Cold Spring Apothecary, selling natural wellness products handmade in small batches in their lab in nearby Beacon. (The apothecary also offers salon, facials and massage services.) 

Eat: Folks line up for brunch at Hudson Hil’s, popular for using local ingredients and their hikers lunches to go. Head to the Foundry for a slice of local color and old time charm, try their excellent pancakes at breakfast or homemade soups and salads at lunch. Brasserie Le Bouchon and Cathryn’s Tuscan Grill are the tops in Cold Spring for dinner, though both are also good lunch choices with outdoor seating on a nice day. 

Sweets:  Don’t miss sitting on the porch overlooking the Hudson at Moo Moo’s Creamery where the 16 daily flavors are homemade using the highest quality ingredients. 

Hike: Breakneck Ridge is a legendary Hudson hike, drawing tons of visitors to Cold Spring each year. This is a difficult hike; a short and steep scramble that offers incredible views at the top. (Don’t be deterred though by its difficulty rating, there is a path along the outside if you don’t want to rock scramble!) 

Local Attractions: One mile south of Cold Spring, explore the house and gardens at Boscobel, a restored 19thcentury Federal home. Four miles south, visit Manitoga, the house, studio and 75-acre estate of industrial designer Russel Wright. Itching to get out on the water—rent a kayak, canoe or paddle-board at Hudson River Expeditions

HOMEGROWN NY: HEAD TO THE WHITNEY AND CHELSEA MARKET

The Whitney, opened for a little more than a year has truly become a world class cultural destination attracting locals and tourists in droves. The Highline is in full bloom and with a new food court within Chelsea Market there’s an even bigger buzz to this ever popular NY attraction. With the weather heating up it’s a perfect time to head to the revitalized Meat Packing District for a leisurely walk and to view the new show celebrating portraits at the Whitney. 


Eat: Just a few blocks from the Whitney, on Hudson Street, are two new spots perfect for breakfast and lunch before or after a museum visit. Popular juice bar and vegan café, The Butcher’s Daughter just opened its second NY location in a beautiful, airy, light filled space that offers many of the same healthy choices as its Nolita sister with some new menu items such as wood oven pizzas. They love it in Philly and so far NY has embraced High Street on Hudson, a neighborhood newcomer known for its house made bread and pastries and excellent breakfast sandwiches. Lunchtime offers creative salads and sandwiches. This is an all day restaurant—a quick look at the dinner menu was enough to inspire a visit in the near future. 

At The Whitney: We suggest you go soon to the Whitney’s new show Human Interests: Portraits from the Whitney’s Collection even though it is running until February 2017. This approachable, engaging and intriguing show is alive with personality and relevance and one you’ll want to see more than once. Spread across two floors the 200 works, a mix of paintings, photographs and drawings all from the Whitney’s own collections are divided into thematic sections ranging from the early 1900s to today. Portraits have always been an integral part of the Whitney, reflecting its founder, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s love for the art form. Don’t miss her prominent portrait, scandalous for the time, and fittingly included in the show. We highly recommend you join a docent tour or get the headsets in order to gain greater understanding and meaning. Another reason to go soon—Urs Fischer’s larger than life size wax candle sculpture of artist Julian Schnabel is burning and melting, lit each morning and extinguished each evening, a metaphor perhaps for our age of celebrity and the universal quest for fifteen minutes of fame.

Regulars: If you live in New York, consider becoming a Whitney member. The perks include immediate access, insider events, a reciprocal admission program at museums worldwide plus a neighborhood discount program at local restaurants and at the museums gift shop and its excellent restaurant, Untitled.

New at the Market: We’ve been fans of Chelsea Market since the early days when you could actually move through the interior without having to navigate through crowds of tourists. It’s worth braving the crowds, and now more than ever with exciting new vendors set up in a newly designed light filled space close to the Ninth avenue entrance. If you haven’t been in awhile you’re in for a treat! 

Calling all hummus lovers—just last week Dizengoff opened, another Philly import,  from star chef Michael Solomonov of Zahav fame. This is his hummus temple offering each day a few varieties of hummus and vegetable “salatim” (we loved the raw kohlrabi) served with fresh baked pita, chopped salad and Israeli pickles.  The selections change each week; in addition to the traditional tehina hummus you might find avocado peanut, lamb neck or romanesco with pine nut. (Follow Dizengoff on Instagram to see the daily menu.) Early birds can try the newly trendy shakshuka, served only at breakfast from 10-11:30. We are already addicted to Seed and Mill’s tahini. Once you try their fresh tahini, ground on site at Chelsea Market, you'll find it hard to return to your supermarket brand. (We also bought the green tahini, delicious drizzled on roasted vegetables.) Started by three health minded friends, Seed and Mill also sells small batch artisanal sesame halva in unexpected flavors. Don’t leave without trying the goat’s milk soft serve ice cream from the Village’s Victory Garden served with a choice of a drizzle of tahini or some sprinkled halva—we’ve already been back twice! 

Filling out the new food court are Davidovich Bagels, Filaga serving Sicilian pizza, Berlin Currywurst from Los Angeles, Cappone’s Salumeria and Lil-Lac Chocolate. Other newer spots to check out at Chelsea Market are Very Fresh Noodles and Creamline from Ronnybrook Farms for burgers, fried chicken and great milkshakes.

Moving Day: The Gansevoort Market is moving to a new home, opening sometime this summer, on 14th Street with some returning vendors and new additions such as Big Gay Ice Cream and Luke’s Lobster. The old space on Gansevoort will be the new home for Keith McNally’s beloved French Bistro Pastis closed since 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOMEGROWN NY- Two New Artisan FOOD HALLs

We have good news for commuters, concertgoers and sports fans, plus anyone else wandering in the culinary wasteland near Grand Central or Penn Station. Two of New York’s newest food halls--Urbanspace Vanderbilt and The Pennsy are exciting additions in neighborhoods greatly lacking good restaurant options. Both offer a one stop dining smorgasbord and just might make you look forward to your next commute.


Trending: New York has seen an explosion of gourmet food halls in the last few years bearing no resemblance to the sad mall and airport food courts we all grew up going to. This latest NY craze has given us some incredible indoor spots such as: Hudson Eats, Gotham Market West, The Plaza Food Hall and City Kitchen near Times Square. Grabbing a quick bite has never been so much fun! And with Anthony Bourdain opening a massive food hall in the next year or so this is a trend that is not fading any time soon. 

Grand Market: Urbanspace Vanderbilt is home to over 20 vendors in a cool industrial 12,000 square foot space, located just a block away from Grand Central.  (The entrance is on the corner of 45th and Vanderbilt.) This is the first permanent space from Urban Space-- the team behind popular, seasonal Madison Square Eats and the Union Square Holiday Market. Grab a coffee at Tobey’s Estate, a gyro at Amali or some ramen at Ippudo’s Kuro-Obi. There’s also Red Hook Lobster Pound, Mimi’s Hummus and Two Tablespoons for veggie and gluten free dishes. Two of the biggest draws are Roberta’s Pizzas and Delaney Chicken. Word has caught on and it’s packed with lunchtime crowds, try and go ‘off-peak’.

Penn Plaza: The Pennsy’s website asks the question: “What happens when 4 Chefs, a Butcher and a Caterer walk into a bar?” The answer is the brand new Pennsy, an 8,000 sq. foot gourmet food court on the same block as Madison Square Garden and Penn Station. There’s lounge seating, high tops and communal tables where you can sample food from chefs Mario Batali, Marc Forgione and Franklin Becker. Popular food truck Cinnamon Snail will appeal to all our vegan friends who wont indulge in the steak sandwiches from famous butcher Pat LaFrieda’s first freestanding storefront. There’s a full bar to grab a drink before a Knicks or Rangers game, and come warmer weather The Pennsy will open a large outdoor seating area.