Thursday, June 28, 2012

Strangely New York: We Have the Best Summer Travel Bargains

Climbing the Swiss Alps aboard the New York City subway system
By Mitch Broder

While others were spending thousands to vacation in the Rockies, I was spending $2.25 to vacation in the Alps.

It was a surprise vacation, which made it all the merrier. I simply boarded the Times Square Shuttle and I was just feet from happy hikers. Two of the hikers were hiking right onto the subway seats. I think that's allowed whenever a mountain range uses mass transit.

Get lost in a trip to Switzerland aboard these New in New York billboards on the subway

I believe that the shuttle takeover was Switzerland's neutral way of enticing me to go to the Alps. But I like that they came to me. I enjoyed the fresh Alpine air during my entire trip across 42nd Street. Naturally, I snapped a couple of pictures to share with less-fortunate friends.

Find yourself transported to Switzerland with this Strangely New York subway billboards

Switzerland has left the benches, but my vast train-trotting experience tells me that some other destination will be arriving soon on Track 3. My advice is to be prepared. Always carry a loaded MetroCard. And wear comfortable clothes. Your vacation can take as long as two minutes.

Subliminal messages painted by the MTA on the platform of a New York Subway reads Go Forth

Needless to say, the MTA wants me to travel. Why else it would it paint subliminal messages all over its subway stations? But it would surely prefer that I spend my tourism dollars in New York, which is why I applaud it for bringing the rest of the world here, where I can afford it.

Watch yourself so you don't get trampled by these Strangely New York billboards promoting Switzerland on your subeway ride

Have a nice time, and don't get trampled.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

New in New York: At Say Cheese, You Don't Have to Be Grilled

Say Cheese makes people of all ages happy when they are dining in New York
By Mitch Broder

Stella Ballarini wants to make you a grilled cheese sandwich just like your mom’s, assuming your mom made hers with truffles or candied bacon.

And with sourdough or Tuscan. And with Gruyère or Gouda. And with a side of tomato soup with parmesan crostini.

All right, Stella wants to make you a grilled cheese sandwich not like your mom’s, which is probably for the best, because you can’t compete with Mom. She wants to make you a grilled cheese sandwich just like your mom’s if your mom threw parties for the Emmy Awards and Tommy Hilfiger.

The sign for Say Cheese makes this new in New York restaurant stand out from the street
Stella runs Scoozi Events, a boutique party-thrower. She has thrown parties for clients also including Bloomingdale’s and Mattel. And now she’s throwing a party for you, at a little shop next to Scoozi that specializes in grilled-cheese sandwiches, which is why it’s called Say Cheese.

Here a grilled cheese sandwich means Swiss, Gruyère, and Apple Compote on Tuscan Bread; or Gruyère and Candied Bacon on Peasant Bread; or Swiss, Parmesan, and Truffle on Tuscan Peasant Bread. Here a grilled cheese sandwich runs from $6.50 to $9.50. Or $2 more if you add maple bacon.

Here a simple grilled cheese sandwich is Mascarpone and Nutella. Here your mom’s grilled cheese sandwich is White American on Potato Bread. Here there are also a Pork Belly Slider with Candied Watermelon Rind, Gourmet Mac & Cheese, and, surprisingly, Tater Tots. Though you can add truffle sauce.

Stella is not the first to glorify the grilled cheese. A dozen years ago I wrote of a place on the Lower East Side called Grilled Cheese NYC. It enticed you to create your own sandwich by choosing one ingredient each from a list of cheeses, a list of vegetables, and a list of spreads. And a list of two breads.

Its cheeses included Dill Havarti and Jalapeño Yogurt. (There was no American.) Its spreads included Basil and Black Olive Pesto. To help you, it had a blackboard with a full-color sandwich schematic. (I am uneasy with such restaurants, which explains why Grilled Cheese NYC is gone.)

By contrast, Say Cheese has already created its sandwiches, potentially reducing your decision workload by hours. You pick one sandwich from a handful, leaving you time to admire the nostalgic décor or to patronize the family’s third business, Zoë Ballarini’s Girl Scout Cookie Stand.

When dining in New York at Say Cheese, step right up to the counter and place your order

I picked the special, which was Honey Goat Cheese and Blackberries on Semolina-with-Golden-Raisins-and-Fennel Bread. It would have taken me days to create it. I had it with Watermelon Mojito, which contained watermelon, lime juice, mint, agave nectar, and lemon juice. It would have taken me months to create that.

Grilled cheese is complimented by a S'mores treat at Say Cheese a place for dining in New YorkThe sandwich came in a black skillet and was crunchy, creamy, and fruity. The mojito came in a tin cup and was fruity, minty, and agavy. These were a grilled cheese and a fruit drink, but they were flavor festivals, as was the dessert of graham-cracker-dusted toasted marshmallows on a pipette of chocolate, which I would never even have thought to create.

Stella loves making stuff like this, which is the main reason she opened Say Cheese. Basically, she was looking for a good time. “It’s something relatively simple to do, which is just what I wanted,” she says, “because what we do next door is so high-end and so labor-intensive.”

Her main challenge is the customer estimate of sandwich arrival time. Plainly put, Say Cheese is not as quick as Mom. “People get impatient,” Stella says. “People expect grilled cheese to be fast because it sounds like a fast food. But good grilled cheese takes a little while.”

When dining in New York there are so many choices, Say Cheese makes your choice easy.

Slow down at Say Cheese, 142 West 83rd Street, between Columbus and Amsterdam avenues, in New York City.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Vintage New York Presents: Pick Your Papa (or, Dig Your Daddy)

Your mouth will water when you're dining in New York at Pop Pop Burgers
By Mitch Broder

POP Burgers come two for $9.25, but you can't put a price on Pop. This explains why there's a Father's Day but no Father Burger's Day.

In any case, Father's Day is Sunday, and Vintage New York acknowledges it in the same way that it acknowledged Mother's Day: with a parental tour. This time, it takes you through the city to visit celebrated Pops and Papas, along with a Daddy and a Pa, but, ironically, no Fathers.

There are apparently more Mamas than Papas here, which is to be expected, since, after all, the first word in Manhattan is Ma. But the second first word in Manhattan is Man, and Papa does come in second, which is better than coming in after Sons and Daughters, who will still get a post of their own.

For now, though, cruise this gallery of City Pops. Let me know if I missed one. But please don't tell Daddy.

Cheesesteaks aren't the first thing you think of when you think about dining in New York, but they might be next time you visit Pop's of Brooklyn

The parental tours were born on Eighth Street, where fate, not along ago, placed Pop's of Brooklyn directly across from the unrelated Mom's Cooking. Pop's is Poppish and Mom's is Mommish, but both serve you good food, which is what any good parent should do, even if the food is cheesesteaks. As for Pop Burger, it's unrelated to Poppy's, the deli on Avenue A, and to Poppy, the boutique on Mott Street. But it has three locations, including the one at the top, which is on 58th Street, and which, besides POP Burgers, has Popcorn Shrimp, POP Corn on the Cob, and — needless to say — pop.

Dining in New York doesn't have to be a cosmopolitan experience, when you have Mom's Cooking.

Diners are a staple of dining in New York and Big Daddy's is the place for diner food.

Big Daddy's is one of those new diners that try to look like old diners, which can be irritating. But at least its hot dogs are famous. It has three locations, including this one, on Second Avenue at 83rd Street, none of which should be confused with Daddy-O, the bar on Bedford Street.

You know dining in New York is not complete without dessert at Beard Papa's where you'll get your fill of cream puffs

Beard Papa could be a lush, but he's definitely a cream puff. In fact, he's a Fresh'n Natural cream puff. This store, on Broadway near 77th Street, was his first in this country. He's not the same as Papa John, who's also all over the country but is a pizza pie, not a cream puff, and looks nothing like Beard Papa.

Pizza is a staple of Dining in New York so how could we leave out Papa John's?
Papa John.

Eruopa a father from Europe of course is yet another patriarchal spot for dining in New York

A Europa, of course, is a father from Europe. This Europa might be from Italy, but then, most Pas can make pasta.

Try Gray's Papaya when dining in New York
The Mother's Day tour included Momoya, so the Father's Day tour should include Gray's Papaya. Shouldn't it?

Tempted once again at Beard Papa's to finish off our Father's Day tribute to Papa's of New York City

Happy Father's Day to all fathers who are fondant of their kids.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Strangely New York: Slim Down for Summer in Just One Shirt!

Slim down with these tshirts from Modern Gift in the West Village
By Mitch Broder

Summer's coming in two weeks, and now you don't have to stop it!

You can have the body you want — right over the body you have!

No machines! No classes! No diets! No pills! No surgery below the neck!

Now you can be instantly perfect!

Just stick your head through a hole!

More slimming t-shirts from Modern Gifts in the West Village of New York City, no crunches needed

That's all it takes, with just one visit to Modern Gift in the West Village, now conveniently stocked with the finest in silk-screened physiques! Look up, choose your dream figure, pay twenty bucks, and slip it on! No one will know your secret! At least that's what you think!

Not to leave the guys out, Modern Gift in the West Village of New York City has a nice selection of washboard abs.

And yet all of these unsettling torso shirts are flying out the door, according to Tashi Wangchuk, the owner of Modern Gift. People love them, he says. He acknowledges that he's not sure why. But he doesn't question the shirts' appeal. He just keeps hanging them up.

Modern Gift in the West Village of New York City has been around for 15 years
Modern Gift is one of those souvenir shops that New Yorkers hardly notice. Tashi says it's been there for about 15 years. He bought it about a year ago and has continued selling the souvenir mugs, piggy banks, golf balls, and playing cards. But now he has a signature item.

Become a lingerie or bikini model in seconds at Modern Gift in the West Village of New York

The shirts appear to be mostly for women, or for men who want to be women. They can all become swimsuit models, lingerie models, or, oddly, cowgirls.

Tashi also sell shirts bearing the likes of Muddy Waters, John Coltrane, and Johnny Cash.

But while those guys may be able to play music, they'll clearly never be queen of the beach.

There is undoubtedly a bikini to fit all styles at Modern Gift in the West Village in New York City

Cover up at Modern Gift, 180 Bleecker Street, in New York City.