just returned from a
visit to New York City, and we must admit that things are bustling
there. The tourist trade seems to have recovered. Thanks to the weak
dollar Europeans seem to be shopping again. We did some shopping
ourselves. We loaded up on chili and curry powders at Aphrodisia in the
Village, we bought some books at the Lenox Hill Bookstore, we
found a new annular hat at Boyd's, and we got our building supplies at
Home Front, a 7/24 hardware store and lumber yard not far from the
Empire State Building.
First, we'll talk about the bookstore. There used to be a really nice
little bookstore on Madison Avenue. Not the one owned by the IBM
heiress by the Whitney, but the other one. It always had an interesting
collection of literature and art books. Even when we didn't buy
anything, the place always got us thinking. When it closed, we stuck
with the Borders
on 57th and the Barnes
and Noble on Union Square.
Madison Avenue has been changing. It has always been upmarket, but it
is going international. This means it is getting more and more mall
like over the years as upmarket global vendors leave Fifth Avenue and
move north and east. So, we've been spending more and more time over on
Lexington Avenue, and the Lenox Hill Bookstore is our latest find. It's
a homey little place crammed full of books, including a lot of good
reading. They tend to stock fewer authors, but more titles from those
that they do. The art book collection was full of interesting stuff,
not just coffee table gifts. This is a sign that they know their
customers. We bought a few things for the flight home and some
As for HomeFront, the hardware store and lumber yard, we stayed for
part of a trip at a relative's apartment, and there were a few deferred
maintenance items, as they say in
commercial aviation. We needed to buy a light switch, a door knob and
mechanism, tapes, glues, a screwdriver and some other goodies. We have
heard that there is a new Home Depot on 14th Street, but our favorite
hardware store is on 29th Street off Third Avenue. They are open seven
days a week, twenty four hours a day, and they stock a broad supply of
electrical, mechanical and plumbing items. They also sell glass,
lumber, steel plates, cleaning supplies and the like. It's a big place
for Manhattan, with three floors and a basement, and the staff knows
We had a less satisfactory experience at Magnolia
Bakery. They still have the buzz, and the lines run around the
corner, but the quality of the cakes has been slipping over the past
year or two. Has this trend reversed? We couldn't find out. We ordered
German chocolate cake, but our box contained spice cake. We wound up
doing a forced march to Buttercup
Shop where the German chocolate cake is still excellent.
Since we are on the subject of cakes and confections, we should note
Maison du Chocolat is in
excellent form, and that our current favorite hot chocolate is Caracas.
We visited a number of our favorite restaurants including some old
favorites like the Union
Oyster Bar, Wallse
and the Tabla
Bread Bar. All were at the top of
their form. The knockerle dessert at Wallse has really grown, and there
is a rumor that the chef at Tabla may be producing a cookbook some time
in late 2005. We can hardly wait.
On a side note, we often go over upcoming Claypool comics while having
dinner with one of our Claypool friends. Comic book original artwork is
oversized, so it is hard to be discreet. One of the folks working
at the Tabla Bread Bar noticed that one of us was in the business and
dropped by to say hello. It turns out he was Daniel Miller whose Creased
original graphic novel is soon coming out from Image comics. We haven't a clue
about the book, but it shows that the comic book business isn't quite
We liked Savoy
so much on our last
trip to New York that we went back twice on this trip. The big hit was
the roasted cauliflower with hen of the woods mushrooms seasoned with a
bit of five spice powder. We also loved the fava bean fritters. That,
and everything else.
October, as it turned out, was New York State Wine Month, so we had a
number of good glasses of New York State wine at our first meal. New
York State wines are quite good, and a lot of them haven't bought in to
the Robert Parker fruit bomb 20% alcohol thing, so you can still drink
them with a meal. At our second meal, all the New York State wines were
gone, even though it was still New York State Wine Month. The reason:
lack of demand, and a variety of issues revolving around restaurant
We tried two new restaurants. Spice
Market, Jean Georges Vongerichten's new place in the trendy meat
packing district, and Tia
little tapas bar in trendy Chelsea. Spice Market was a bust with bad
service and mediocre Thai food. We were distinctly unimpressed. Tia
Pol, in contrast, with its imaginative little Spanish dishes and well
chosen wine list, excelled. It might be a hole in the wall, but the
food was excellent, and they had a great neighborhood attitude.
The Lower East Side has been getting trendy, like so many other New
York City neighborhoods, so we decided to check it out. We remember Katz's "Send a Salami to Your Boy
in the Army" promotion from the 1960s, but there have been a lot of
changes since then. Katz's is still there, and you can now send a
salami to Iraq. Walking around, we could not help but notice that the
entire neighborhood, once the epitome of an overcrowded slum, has been
This is happening one store front at a time.
In some neighborhoods gentrification comes in like a juggernaut. Entire
blocks are rebuilt, store fronts are remodeled, traffic is rerouted,
and if you didn't have a GPS you'd swear that you were somewhere else.
On the Lower East Side the overall fabric seems intact, but here and
there you will notice a boarded up store front or an empty shop with a
building permit posted. That ratty looking place across the street is
now selling designer clothing, and the designer is working at the shop.
The menus in the window now feature foie gras.
It seems that the Lower East Side was always about retail, despite the
"I can get it for you wholesale" bravado. It was a neighborhood of
small shop keepers and pushcarts. We didn't see any pushcarts, but the
small shop keepers were there in force. Still, we couldn't help
thinking about a 1939 article in Fortune magazine about the New York
City pushcarts. Apparently shop keepers used to fight to get the
pushcarts on THEIR side of the street since they encouraged foot
traffic and often meant 50% more business. Now, we gather, that shop
keepers want the pushcarts elsewhere.
We'll keep checking out the Lower East Side and see what develops.
Towards the end of our trip, we checked out the new Time Warner Center
at Columbus Circle. The subway station and new escalators are great,
but inside, it's a mall. That's right, it's just a big shopping mall.
There was really not much reason to look around, since we knew what we
would find, so we left. We really have nothing against malls, except
that they lack serendipity. Maybe we should be thinking of it as the
Suburban Embassy to New York City.
So, that was our trip to New York. We'd like to thank San Juan Airlines
for making this all much more convenient with their $49 (each way) air
taxi from Port Angeles to Boeing Field. At $98 a pop for the two of us
it was only a little bit more expensive than the cab from Newark.