Saturday, August 8, 2009

Going Back to School

I've written several posts about great free seminars around town - places that offer worthwhile one-night workshops or classes, but for those of you who are looking for a little more (such as homework, grades and even a degree), then read on. SUNY, CUNY or state schools are the way to go for serious learning with out shoveling out serious cash. Being a NY State resident allows you to attend these state schools for about a quarter of the price you would pay at a non-state school.

For the past five years I've taken various design courses through the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.). While not as fancy a name as Pratt, Parsons, SVA or NYU I've taken similar design courses through F.I.T. at a fraction of the cost. I've taken both semester-long, for-credit courses as well as non-credit, continuing-education courses through F.I.T. Usually one course will cost somewhere between $200 - $300. The semester-long, for-credit courses are your best deal, offering 15 full classes, graded assignments and final projects.

They have an array of class schedules (both for the credit and non-credit classes), enabling you to work a full time job and attend night classes. Conceivably you could slowly earn a degree if you took enough of the credit classes. The non-credit courses can be packaged and combined allowing you to earn various professional certifications.

There are also many other state schools around town, though I have only attended courses at F.I.T. The teachers are great and very knowledgeable and it has always been a good investment of my $250. F.I.T. is located on 7th Ave. between 28th and 26th streets.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Around the World without Leaving Manhattan

Of course New York has its high end gourmet restaurants with celebrity chefs, but what really makes this city the food capital of the world is that it offers hundreds of ethnic cuisines from around the world. The fact that it is not uncommon enjoy Moroccan, Ukranian and Peruvian dishes - all within a 2-block radius - makes dining in New York unparalleled.

Although not exhaustive and in no particular order, below is my list of some of my favorite ethnic eats:

RESTAURANT: Zum Schneider
ADDRESS: On the corner of 7th Street and Ave. C
NOTES: Tastiest, heartiest German food I've found. Pair with a good beer.

ADDRESS: 1239 Amsterdam Ave at 121st Street
NOTES: Though not a vegetarian restaurant, their vegetable-special dishes - such as chick peas simmered in butter and garlic, or pumpkin with rosemary and berbere - are delicious! Be sure to go with clean hands.

RESTAURANT: The Hummus Place
ADDRESS: St. Marks Place between 1st and Ave. A, and other locations.
NOTES: Simple, healthy, inexpensive and tasty. The hummus is excellent. Try a side of the health salad with your hummus dish and wash it down with a cold glass of their lemonade with fresh mint.

ADDRESS: 14 Stuyvesant St (which is really 9th Street at 3rd Ave)
NOTES: Good value - quality Japanese food at reasonable prices.

JAPANESE (for Sushi)
ADDRESS: 3rd Ave, between 34th and 35th Street
NOTES: Excellent sushi you can afford. Why pay more at Nobu?

ADDRESS: 47 Bond Street, between Lafayette and Bowery
NOTES: Though not on the cheap end, Il Buco has the best Italian food I've tried in the City. Atmosphere is also excellent. Good place to take your date.

ITALIAN (on the cheaper end)
ADDRESS: 130 Mulberry Street at Hester, in Little Italy
NOTES: Better than many of the other restaurants in Little Italy, nice outdoor seating and good prices.

ADDRESS: 6th Street between 2nd Ave and 1st Ave
NOTES: Nestled among the Indian restaurants of "Brick Lane," Zerza has delicious Moroccan fare, a cross of something between French and Middle Eastern.

ADDRESS: 34th Street between 2nd Ave. and 3rd Ave.
NOTES: Big servings, good prices and tasty (if greasy) food. Great takeout food for a party.

Below are my three picks for Indian. Also for more info on Indian, read post "Curry Hill vs. Brick Lane"

ADDRESS: 6th Street at 1st Ave.

ADDRESS: 6th Street between 2nd Ave and 1st Ave (closer to 1st Ave.)

ADDRESS: 27th and Lexington

RESTAURANT: Caracas Arepa Bar
ADDRESS: 7th Street between 1st Ave. and Ave. A
NOTES: The place is SMALL, so crowds are always a problem, but it is worth the wait for these delicious arepas. And it is so cheap too!

RESTAURANT: Shanghai Cuisine
ADDRESS: 89 Bayard Street at Mullberry
NOTES: For good Chinese, of course head down to Chinatown. Try their soup dumplings. Yum!

CHINESE (for Dim Sum)
RESTAURANT: The Golden Unicorn
ADDRESS: 18 East Broadway, at Catherine Street
NOTES: If you live in New York and have not tried a weekend brunch at a dim sum joint, I shake my head at you. Go now. Try The Golden Unicorn. If you don't speak Chinese there is a bit of a language barrier, but don't let that stop you. Just point to trays as they roll by and ask to see what's inside before you accept.

RESTAURANT: Mexicana Mama
ADDRESS: Hudson Street at 10th Street
NOTES: Some of the freshest and most flavorful Mexican dishes I've tried. Try their Tostada de Ave as an appetizer.

RESTAURANT: Rosa Mexicana
ADDRESS: 18th Street between 5th Ave and Broadway, and other locations
NOTES: Not the cheapest, but certainly delicious!

ADDRESS: 2nd Ave. at 9th Street
NOTES: Try their pierogis (boiled, not fried!)

ADDRESS: 85 Baxter Street, in Chinatown
NOTES: Hard to find, and minimal atmosphere, but very good (and cheap) authentic Vietnamese food.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Have I Got A Bridge to Sell You!

It may not be as well known as its older sister, the Brooklyn Bridge, but the Manhattan Bridge also offers great city views and an interesting 15 minute walk-across. In fact, one could argue that the Manhattan Bridge can boast the superior view because it offers the walker a stunning view of the Brooklyn Bridge against downtown Manhattan.

Walking across this bridge last week the thing that I found the most exciting is the birds-eye views of Chinatown and the Lower East Side before the bridge even rises above the the East River. The Manhattan Bridge picks up relatively far inland - at Bowery and Canal in the heart of Chinatown. This makes for some great voyeuristic sightseeing as you get to peer into the windows, rooftops and colorful streets of Chinatown below.

Continuing on you are then treated to the aforementioned views of lower Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridge as you stand above the East River. On the Brooklyn side you get the parallel pleasure of peering down over DUMBO. Note the difference in character of the neighborhoods on each side of the water.

The one downside that I must mention is the constant noise of car traffic and subway trains that share the bridge with pedestrians. Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge, where there is a bike and foot path above the cars, on the Manhattan Bridge the cars, subway and walkers traverse in relatively close quarters on the same level. So bring earplugs if you must, but don't miss this bridge less traveled.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Highline

PHOTO BY Lindsay Kurz

Bursting on to the scene at the turn of the century (that's the recent turn of the century, folks) the Meatpacking District was just too cool. With trendy clothing boutiques and faux dive bars popping up next door to every meat packaging house left, the turn around was so quick one wondered whether the lingering smell of beef carcasses was supposed to be part of the ambiance.

The Meatpacking District today is still, of course, cool, but not like it was seven or eight years ago. The darling of the neighborhood, the Chelsea Market is still visited but it is not talked about as much as it once was. Evidence of this slowdown in hype is the simple fact that the meatpacking operations were not completely "gentrified-out," as you will notice if ever you visit the area in the early mornings and stumble across the refrigerated vans unloading their goods.

However, this summer the Meatpacking District is cool again. With the opening of the much-anticipated (semi-urban-legend) Highline last month, the buzz is again re-focused on this neighborhood. (On the opening weekend in June the queue to see the Highline stretched around the block).

In keeping with the neighborhood's self image, the Highline is an exhibit in sleek lines, steel and concrete and a capricious pattern of gardens. Not wanting to be mistaken as trying to hard, the garden colors are variations on lavender, sage and white, making the statement that its design does not need to rely on flashy, overly-saturated flowers for effect. The vegetation almost feels alpine, with aspen trees and grasses, - giving the effect of a Colorado ski resort in the springtime.

The Highline currently stretches from Gansevoort street to 20th Street (above 10th Ave.) Along the way the elevated path swerves left and right and even meanders through a newly constructed apartment building. With views of the Hudson River to the west and the neighborhood streets below, you'll have to admit that indeed, this is cool.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Art of the Book

A peek into the studios at The Center for Book ArtsThe storefront of Printed Matter, Inc.

I love books. And I also love art. And, like peanut butter and chocolate, when books and art cross it makes for something even better! Think illuminated manuscripts, graphic novels, illustrated diaries, sketchbooks. . . there is something very appealing about the the combination of the written word and graphics. As well as I like the succinct presentation of art in a bound codex, allowing the viewer/reader to flip through pages, discovering multiple levels of art within one piece.

In today's post I am happy to introduce two places in Manhattan each centering around book arts. The first is The Center for Book Arts. The Center for Book Arts is a multi-purpose book artist's studio, education center, exhibition space and center for resources on everything related to bookmaking. They have classes in bookbinding, printing, letterpress, paper making, paper marbling, leather tooling, typography, collage making, paper cutting, illumination, and so much more. They also host lectures on book-related topics, hold book-related events or invite guest artists in to share their work.

Artists can rent studio space at the center, giving them access to all the printing and book binding equipment and supplies. There is a small gallery at the Center, with a fascinating rotating exhibit of book art. A visit to the Center offers a glimpse at the current exhibit, a small book shop offering rare and limited edition handmade art and poetry books, and a peek into the bustling studios and workshops where artists and students are busy cutting papers, stitching bindings and manning the letterpresses. Classes can run a bit on the expensive side, but it is worth checking out the schedule of events if you have any interest in learning anything related to bookmaking. The Center for Book Arts is located at 28 West 27th street, between Broadway and 6th Ave.

The other place I recently discovered is Printed Matter, Inc. This is an unusual shop on the far west side that sells rare, limited-edition and handmade books. It describes itself as being "the largest non-profit organization dedicated to publications made by artists." 'Odd' and 'fascinating' are two very appropriate words that come to my mind to describe this shop. Visit this shop to see the variety of ways printed matter can be presented, to inspire you to print and bind your own writing or to just buy an offbeat publication. Printed Matter, Inc. is located at 195 10th Ave. between 21st and 22nd Streets.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Hidden Parks of Manhattan: Ford Foundation Building

Midtown is a busy place. So finding a refuge from the crowds, noise and traffic is a happy blessing. Though Midtown does not seem to have as many corner parks as say, the West Village, they do exist - they're just harder to find.

One green oasis in Midtown that I just discovered is the Ford Foundation Building, located between 1st and 2nd Avenues and 42nd and 43rd streets. It's actually a beautifully lush garden and pond enclosed within the indoor atrium of the building. The striking thing is that the building is so tall that the courtyard walls rise magnificently upward from the garden. The garden and pond receive its water supply from rooftop rainwater and collected steam from within the glassed-in atrium. Built in the sixties, the building is headquarters for the Ford Foundation, an organization that funds all sorts of charities and grants around the world.

So whether you're looking for a quiet place to relax or if you're simply passing by the area, stop and take a peek inside this unusual building.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sweet Cuppin' Cakes

With the explosion of various chic cupcake bakeries around town I imagine you're expecting the post where I publish my informal results of a cupcake competition. Is it Billy's or Magnolia? Crumbs or Cupcake Factory? (Yes, inevitably that post too come, . . . but at the moment I am still eating myself around town. I must carefully weigh all the options, you see).

However, if you prefer to skip this tired competition all together and instead think you can make a cupcake as good as from any of these trendy cupcakeries, then I suggest you head to N.Y. Cake & Baking Dist. shop to stock up on baking supplies. The shop is filled with cake tins, decorative paper cupcake cups, frosted flowers, baking tools, candles, cake toppers, frosting dyes and glitter, silver gilded almonds, sprinkles, cake stands, wedding cake supplies and so much more. Even if you are not a seasoned baker, browsing the aisles of this shop might just inspire you to go home, remove the handbags and winter hats from your storage closet, ahem, I mean oven, and bake a cake or two.

N.Y. Cake & Baking Dist. is located at 56 West 22nd Street, between 5th and 6th Aves. The service is very rude, but you might have to put up with it as this may be the only baking store in Manhattan that is this good.

Just a word of warning - remember, you live in NYC, . . . your kitchen is TINY and you already use your oven as a storage closet. Don't buy too many baking supplies!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Flower District

Today's highlight is the Flower District. Running between 6th and 7th Avenues on 28th street, the Flower District is a visual delight of exotic flowers, plants and floral and garden supplies. Even if you don't intend to buy, just walking along the street is like walking through a greenhouse. But if you do plan to pick up some greenery, prices are good, especially for the dried flowers and decorative/floral supplies (vases, ribbon, props, etc.). Here are a few of my favorite stores along the street:

For Fresh Flowers:
- Fischer & Page, Ltd.
- Tropical Foliage - United Wholesale Florist, Ltd.
- G. Page

For Potted Plants:
- International Garden Inc. (this is on 6th Ave. between 27th and 28th streets)
- Paradise Plant, Inc.
- Noble Planta

For Floral/Garden/Decorative Supplies:

- B&H Florist's Supply (great prices for ribbons and vases!)
- Jamali Garden Supplies

For Silk or Dried Flowers
- Dry & Silk Flowers, Inc.
- Center for Floral Design
- Silk Gardens and Trees
- Pany Silk Flowers

For Tree Branches:
- U.S. Evergreen Wholesale Florist (this is on 6th Ave. between 27th and 28th streets)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Try Tai Chi. Why Not?

Today I tried the free Tai Chi class held at Bryant Park. Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, from 7:30-8:30am, (April - Oct) there is a free and open Tai Chi class given by the Tai Chi Chuan Center. Though early in the morning, it felt refreshing to be awake, stretching and moving in the cool morning air at the Park. At 7:30 the Park is still and fairly quiet, but by the end of the class the Park is flooded with the usual Midtown crowds rushing to work.

The class was fairly basic and is accessible to all skill levels and ages. There were about 25 students this morning. The founder of Tai Chi Chuan Center, Master C.K. Chu leads the class and 2-3 other assistant instructors move around the open air "classroom" correcting postures and positions.

The class is held, rain or shine, at the Fountain Terrace (at the west end of the park).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The People's Museum

At top left: Adriana Lara's "Installation (Banana Peel)" exhibit on display at The New Museum as part of the current show "The Generational: Younger than Jesus." A museum employee is instructed to eat a banana each day, then discard the peel on the floor of the exhibit for people to look at and think about.

At bottom right: "Lov'Orchid Coupelle Objet," created by master glass makers at Daum. Materials: lead crystal glass. On display currently at Bergdorf Goodman in their 7th Floor Gallery (Home Dept.).

New York can boast it has a good number of renown modern art museums - from The MoMA to The New Museum. But what I truly think is impressive is the high number of world class "commercial art" museums New York has. When I say commercial art I mean art that is chosen and displayed on the basis of popular demand, a truly democratic method of curating an exhibit by letting the people decide what is exhibited. And how do the people decide? With their pocket books, (which is a very truthful way of determining what people actually value and what inspires them, and not just what they might say that they value or appreciate in art- for sake of sounding sophisticated). I am talking about what is more commonly referred to as "stores."

From Bergdorf Goodman and Tiffany's to Pearl River Market and the various import jewelry stores south of Herald Sq. area, - these are the true museums of art. These museums hold objects that are relevant to people's lives, exquisite, beautiful and far more interesting than say a pile of torn up pizza boxes you could see on the floor of The New Museum. Who decided that a pile of pizza boxes was worthy of a place in a guarded museum and that you should pay $12 for the privilege of viewing it? This decision was made in an extremely narrow top down manner, by one person, or a small group of museum directors. A select few individuals have the power to shape what society should view as "art." The rest of us are expected to be in awe at such "thought-provoking," pieces and anyone who thinks otherwise must be ignorant or too simple-minded.

But do you really consider such pieces art? I believe that if the masses truly did believe this was art then Bergdorf Goodman would be selling torn up pizza boxes instead of delicately crafted necklaces or handmade china. It strikes me as ironic that art is commonly thought of as an expression of individualism and often meant to make a viewer reflect and think, and yet the world of modern art has quite the opposite effect - "art" is filtered through a select few museum directors and then the people flock like sheep to art museums and nod introspectively at twisted pieces of metal wires that are displayed under hushed museum lighting. If there is anyone at all deserving of the title of artist it is not the person who crumpled up the wires, but the material science engineer who originally figured out how to create a metal suitable for wires.

If people value democracy and openness in thought, why, of all places, should it not extend to the modern art world? Why is the art world still so controlled by dictatorships? Think beyond what you are supposed to view as art museums and realize that every store is too a museum. Every store is an art museum curated by the power of the people. True, democracy is not perfect, but as history bears out, decisions made by the people and for the people seem to create a much more diverse, rich and creative society than the ones controlled by a dictatorship.