Saturday, March 12, 2011

New York City - Culinary Delights from Soho to the Village to the Meatpacking District

I spent the last two days in New York City garnering color and material inspiration for our new Autumn/Winter 2012 modern footwear range at PUMA International. New York is an amazing place to re-charge your creativity, quite simply because you are constantly in sensory overload and there is just so much to take in, from the shops, to the food, to the people watching and the yellow taxicabs whizzing past. My team and I started our day in Soho, and since we conveniently arrived around lunchtime, we headed straight for one of my old favorites, the french bistro Balthazar.

The bakery next door to the restaurant
Balthazar is always jam packed no matter what mealtime it is, and they also have a lovely bakery next door where you can buy fabulous fresh breads, pastries, soups and sandwiches for take-away. Last time I ate here I shared the dining room with Owen Wilson. The actual restaurant itself makes all the typical dishes you would expect of a brasserie, like steak frites, pâte with toast, macaroni and cheese, salade niçoise, mussels and french fries, etc. A few of our favorites here were the french onion soup, tuna tartare and a warm pressed ham and gruyere sandwich with sides of greens and fries.
Onion soup
Tuna tartare
Ham and gruyere with tomato and a side of greens and french fries
After lunch we visited many of the sneaker and high fashion stores in the Soho area on Broadway, Spring, Prince, Houston and West Broadway streets. Some of my favorites are the Prada store (stunningly designed by Rem Koolhaas), Chanel, Big Drop, Anthropologie, Wink, and Top Shop (the only U.S. outpost of this famous UK store). We also passed by the new Dash store, opened by famous proprietors Kim, Khloe and Kourtney Kardashian, and just couldn't help but pop in and see what all the fuss was about. Sadly, the store left us extremely underwhelmed.

Vosges chocolate store
One of my favorite haute chocolatiers in the world is also located on Spring Street and is called Vosges Chocolate. They are renown for their luxury truffles and exotic flavor combinations. Some of their chocolate truffles feature ingredients like bacon, paprika, ginger and wasabi. Yesterday, the store was filled with Easter confections that included rabbits, eggs, and bunnies made out of chocolate, caramel, peanut butter, toffee, hazelnuts and white chocolate, to name a few.

I absolutely adore their regal purple boxes and ribbons and think they make such beautiful gifts. In fact, for my 30th birthday party, I ordered my party favors from Vosges. The team at the Soho store  hand assembled 35 boxes each containing four traditional truffles a few days before the party and shipped them to me in Boston. Each box was in their signature purple hue with a matching purple ribbon and coordinated perfectly with my color scheme for the party. Guests loved them so much that they didn't even wait to get home to eat them!

Beautiful purple ribboned boxes of treats from Vosges

Next we decided to walk from Soho to the West Village so that we could visit the shops on Bleeker Street. On our way we passed the beloved Vesuvio Bakery on 160 Prince Street, whose one of a kind coal ovens first started churning out Italian bread and biscuits in 1920. The Vesuvio Bakery is a Soho institution, and yesterday the windows were filled with all kinds of delicious looking cookies.

The famous Vesuvio Bakery

The quaint tree-lined Bleeker Street features some beautiful boutiques such as Brunello Cucinelli, Marc Jacobs, Intermix, Ralph Lauren, Mulberry and Diptyque candles. However, Bleeker Street is famous the world over for one tiny little corner bakery called Magnolia Bakery that is single-handedly responsible for the cupcake craze we know today. Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City ate a cupcake from here in one episode of the show, and ever since, bus loads of tourists visit this hole-in-the-wall bakery for their sugar fix. While personally, I find the cupcakes a bit dry, they do sell lots of other delicious cakes, brownies, cookies and my absolute favorite: banana pudding. I found the recipe and made this banana pudding for a family holiday one year and everyone loved it. The best part is that it is so easy to make and there is no cooking involved. Here is the recipe from the cookbook More From Magnolia by Allysa Torey.
Cupcakes in the window at Magnolia Bakery

Next we walked to the Meatpacking District and visited our own PUMA Black Station Store, Scoop, DVF, and one of my top 5 stores in the world, Jeffrey, a multi-brand shop featuring perfectly edited designer selections from all the most influential brands in fashion. Every single time I walk into Jefffrey I want one of every item in the store. From bags to shoes to clothing and accessories, this store is what my dream closet would look like.

Incidentally, on the same street there is a fabulously trendy and delicious restaurant called Abe & Arthur's (named after the owners' grandfather's). It is situated on three floors and is always filled with statuesque models and flocks of finance guys. I ate here this summer in August with my dear friend Aruna Seth who was visiting from the UK. We loved the fish tacos, the risotto and a funny dessert of donuts that come with bottles of chocolate, caramel and jelly so that you can inject the donuts yourself with whatever filling you like.
The bar at The Standard Grill with beautiful cherry blossoms
After such a long day of walking around (and in the pouring rain!) we decided we needed a break from all this shopping. It was 4pm and we were parched. A drink was in order. We crossed 14th Street to the Standard Hotel and went and sat in their restaurant, The Standard Grill. The Standard Grill is separated into two spaces, a warm dining room with mahogany leather seats, an open kitchen and a floor made entirely of pennies, as well as a more relaxed bar and lounge area with a light and airy white aesthetic and windows that open during summer.
We sat here in the more relaxed area and had some cold prosecco and a few delicious desserts: three warm chocolate chip cookies bursting with warm, gooey chocolate and accompanied by ice cold milk, as well as a peanut butter cheesecake with a chocolate cookie crust. You can also order delicious cheese plates and cured meats, pictured below.

All in all, despite the lousy weather, we had a wonderful day visiting and eating our way through three of Manhattan's famous neighborhoods. Oh yeah, and in case our boss is reading this, we did a little sneaker/color/material market research along the way.
From the cheese case
Various salumi being sliced for a charcuterie platter
Deliciously warm and gooey chocolate chips cookies with ice cold milk
A sinful peanut butter cheesecake slice
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1 comment:

  1. Alexandra,
    I love this post and New York as well. I wrote an article last year called a New New York and we touched upon some of the same key places. I like your style!
    Warm regards,