Most of New York's best chocolate shops are either European imports (Maison du Chocolat, Richart) or Manhattan natives (Li-Lac, Black Hound). But the city's newest den of confectionery, EL EDEN, hails from Astoria, Queens. Now, its cheery East Village outpost is attracting chocolate connoisseurs from all corners of the metropolis with a line of sublime Belgian-chocolate truffles in flavors like pistachio marzipan, pumpkin praline, tiramisu, rosewater Zinfandel, and white cranberry. Our pick, the box of 50 truffles for $55. 443 East 6th St., New York, NY 10009; 212-979-9291; www.eledenchocolates.com.
— Melissa Clark
What, I asked myself, could make it worthwhile to trek to the East Village and be crammed into a noisy sliver of a funky cafe? The answer came as I sampled the first courses at Prune, where a singularly good-natured staff delivers (albeit slowly) the remarkable artisanal cookery of chef-owner Gabrielle Hamilton. Remarkable, because though most dishes show inventive touches, their flavors are comfortingly familiar, as though remembered from childhood.
Yet nowhere in my childhood was braised tongue set beside grilled octopus and united by a parsley sauce, nor were grilled head-on shrimp sparked with anchovy butter. And never were sweetbreads presented in such large golden nuggets, succulently topped with bacon and capers. I regret not having been with others who would dig into roasted marrow bones, the portion being too huge for me. Great main courses include codfish simmered in olive oil with cockles, nicely moist roasted capon with garlic croutons, and a simple, traditional rack of lamb. Only pork cooked in milk, though pleasant at first bite, cloys after three. Lovely seasonal vegetables and sprightly salads round out the choices, as do the warm chocolate cake and pistachio pithiviers with buttermilk ice cream. $70. 54 East First St., New York, NY 10003; 212-677-6221.
— Mimi Sheraton
Nom De Plume
Luxurious French-inspired PAPIVORE is something to write home about. This charming West Village stationer is the exclusive New York City carrier of Marie Papier, a handmade Parisian paper stock, which comes in a variety of brilliant colors. The shop customizes letterheads, invitations, and business cards, and if requested will use a hot-foil hand stamp that prints letters in tinted foil. 117 Perry St., New York, NY 10014; 212-627-6055; www.papivore.com.
— Elizabeth Wallace
All Things Deco
Gérard Widdershoven has devoted his career to collecting the best examples of the Art Deco movement, and indeed, the finest furnishings of the period greet you as you enter his store, MAISON GERARD. In business for over 25 years, Widdershoven is one of the definitive dealers in the period who, long before others, recognized the expertise and value of the Modernist aesthetic.
Following on the heels of Art Nouveau, Art Deco challenged, simplified, and stylized the forms prevalent in its predecessor, using an eclectic range of sources including Egyptian and tribal art, Surrealism, Futurism, Constructivism, and Neoclassicism. The style was further informed by superlative craftsmanship that incorporated exotic woods and luxury materials like shagreen and ivory. Ultimately, the meticulous skill required and expense of materials rendered the style incompatible with industrialized production, thus making Art Deco relatively short-lived. Which, of course, is why Maison Gérard is so special. 53 East 10th St., New York, NY 10003; 212-674-7611. www.maisongerard.com.
— M.L. Latiolais
The design aesthetic of CLODAGH is what each and every one of us needs to study, understand, and incorporate into our lives considerably sooner than later. Arriving in the open and liberating expanse of the showroom, you are presented with the power of Total Design, which also happens to be the name of owner Clodagh's exceptionally fine first book (Clarkson N. Potter). Gaze around the glowingly lit floor at the furniture, which is all about organic shapes and clean, strong lines. Clodagh's focus is design that embraces all the senses as they relate to the elements around us.
Irish-born Clodagh (she only uses one name) began her career in fashion, then made the transition to architectural design. Her style is serene and Zen-like, drawing deeply on the concepts of feng shui. She's intent on teaching her customers to understand the flow of chi, or life's energy. Says Clodagh: "A home cannot be truly beautiful unless it functions in harmony with who we are." Not surprisingly, Clodagh is currently designing some of the world's best spas. 670 Broadway, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10012; 212-780-5300; www.clodagh.com.
This spacious, pristine but relaxed store will inspire you to redecorate your home. In addition to glassware, sculpture, and whimsical housewares, the stock includes "primitive modern" furniture gathered from all over the world. Recent highlights included a Paola Lenti felt sofa ($2,520 per section), a dreamy leather-covered coffee table ($660), and a zinc-topped picnic table with hand-stitched leather benches ($9,000). 68 Gansevoort St., New York, NY 10014; 212-645-2216.
Best Of Biedermeier
The highly respected KARL KEMP & ASSOC., LTD. ANTIQUES has a superb collection of Empire furnishings, but especially—and impressively—Austrian and Prussian Biedermeier. Some rare and noteworthy pieces in the gallery during a recent visit were early-19th-century Neoclassical secretaries and tall case clocks. One can also find an occasional 20th-century piece acquired for reasons of surpassing quality, style, or provenance.
Kemp prides himself on the excellent condition of each piece, and guarantees its authenticity. Helping to further our appreciation of the Neoclassical style, Kemp has coauthored a book entitled The World of Biedermeier (Thames & Hudson). If you have always yearned for Biedermeier, educate yourself at this shop. $ 36 East 10th St., New York, NY 10003; 212-254-1877; www.karlkemp.com.
Once in a great while I find a restaurant I consider not writing about, anxious to keep it for myself. Jarnac, in Greenwich Village, is a perfect case in point. Named for a town in the French Cognac region, this tiny corner bistro exudes the snug intimacy one hopes for in the Village. Maryann Terillo, the chef, has been missed since she closed her popular Café de la Gare. Now her richly flavored cookery is back, with partner Tony Powe hospitably running the glowing dining room.
From satiny duck rillettes to grilled sardines astringent with preserved lemon, from house-cured gravlax with red beet and onion salad to gently garlicked frogs' legs, I have never had an appetizer here I did not love. The same goes for walnut-buttered roasted baby chicken, braised lamb shank, various stews with richly flavored grains, Moroccan specials, and with luck, a sumptuous sirloin steak spiced with the exotic mix, zatar, nestled beside golden, turmeric-mellowed potatoes. I also like the famed house cassoulet, with its pork and duck confit, although I am probably alone in wishing that the sausage were coarser and fattier. I find no fault with the fruit tarts, the German chocolate cake, or the careful cheese assortment. $80. 328 West 12th St., New York, NY 10014; 212-924-3413.
For all the delectable curiosities on Mario Batali's menu at BABBO—the spicy tripe, the calves' brains, the fennel pollen tortelloni—the single best thing to order might just be the most familiar: pappardelle Bolognese. The seemingly simple ragù of long-simmered pork and veal, flavored with tomatoes and sage, has a complexity unmatched by any other in town. Period. $18. 110 Waverly Pl., New York, NY 10011; 212-777-0303.
Village Restaurant Round-Up
Greenwich Village, my home for the past 56 years, recently has gained a lion's share of very good, intriguing eateries. There is the sparkling little MIRCHI, (29 Seventh Ave. South, New York, NY 10014; 212-414-0931), where sprightly Indian street foods, along with fiery curries and chopped grilled meats designated as tak-a-tak, are turned out at modest prices.
More elegant and eclectic are the subtle culinary pleasures at BLUE HILL (75 Washington Place, New York, NY 10011; 212-539-1776). Try chef Dan Barber's frothy soups, gossamer fish appetizers, exquisitely prepared salmon, and roast duck, chicken, or lamb. And save room for dessert.
Go before 7:30 in the evening to VILLAGE (62 West 9th St., New York, NY 10011; 212-505-3355) and avoid head-splitting noise while indulging in some of the most authoritative food in the city, prepared by Steven Lyle, formerly of Odeon. Try the olive-oil-marinated Icelandic herring, crab-and-avocado cocktail, and any of the roasts, steaks, and burgers.
Our newest attraction is MERGE (142 West 10th St., New York, NY 10014, 212-691-7757), where Sam DeMarco's inventions are well-realized by Joe Mallol. His is the best thin-crust pizza I know, and the spicy grilled shrimp, crisply fried oysters with wasabi mayonnaise, and cornmeal-breaded catfish are equally irresistible. Alas, the Sunday "Soprano Style" dinner reminds us how Italian red-sauce cookery got a bad name.
French Country Pioneers
What Julia Child did for French cuisine in America, Pierre LeVec and Pierre Moulin did for decorating in the French Country style. LES PIERRE ANTIQUES is where the Pierre Deux movement began over 30 years ago on one of Greenwich Village's most historic streets. Eclectic yet cohesive, the aesthetic is comfortable, gracious, imaginative, charming, and above all, genuine.
Here's the source for French Country farm tables, buffets, armoires, commodes, seating, side tables, and country-style iron chandeliers. Manager Ron Knox (the two Pierres have departed this earth) happily shares his vast knowledge of the periods and historical influences of every handpicked piece. 369 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10014; 212-243-7740.
Bleecker St. Antiquaires
An anchor of antiquarians for nearly a third of a century, NIALL SMITH is held in highest regard for its large-scale English and Irish furniture. Note: Smith's Aladdin's palace of a warehouse is the envy of Sotheby's and Christie's English experts; if you don't see exactly what you're looking for on the premises—ask. $ 344 Bleecker St., New York, NY 10014; 212-255-0660. Or 96 Grand St., New York, NY 10013; 212-941-7354.
Gym junkies bored with Stairmaster workouts will do backflips for Pilates pro Brooke Siler. Her certified re:AB studio teaches the system of stretching and strengthening pioneered by Joseph Pilates in the early 1900s. Siler, who studied with a protégé of Pilates', says it improves posture and muscle tone.
Siler recommends a private session with one of re:AB's 11 instructors before joining a group. Initial visit, $80. 33 Bleecker St., Suite 2C, New York, NY 10012; 212-420-9111; www.reabnyc.com.
Long a fan of the more elegantly rendered Austro-German cooking, I have missed that element in New York since Luchow's demise. What has arrived is a modern Austrian interpretation, lightened and stylized, yet true to its roots. Kurt Gutenbrunner at Wallsé turns out engaging examples in a designy black-and-white setting recalling Josef Hoffman and the Viennese Jungendstil school.
Dishes such as cold red pepper-shrimp soup and avocado with Maine crabmeat owe nothing to Austria yet are seasoned and garnished in a way that makes them at home with other starters such as sautéed rabbit with spaetzle and wild mushrooms or smoked trout and eel on apple-watercress salad.
Among main courses, dishes the Hapsburgs would have cherished include grilled sturgeon and sauerkraut; braised beef (Wiener rostbraten) with green beans, bacon, and kohlrabi gratin; paprika-zapped Hungarian beef goulash; and grilled venison with wild mushrooms. Perhaps not so the classic boiled beef (tafelspitz), here too thinly sliced. Surely those royal palates would appreciate quark cheese dumplings with apricots or the thin crópes (palatschinken), folded around cherries and vanilla ice cream and doused with bitter-chocolate sauce. $90. 344 West 11th St., New York, NY 10014; 212-352-2300.
Diane Von Furstenberg
What's a good fashion investment? Some might say such a thing doesn't exist, but a dress by Diane von Furstenberg comes pretty close. The designer, who appeared on a 1976 cover of Newsweek modeling her famous wrap dress, has reinvented herself for the new millennium, with slinky silk jersey styles including, yes, a wrap. Plus a line of accessories (plaid sandals, $145, and straw tote, $90). All displayed in her first-ever store. $90-$1,000. 385 West 12th St., New York, NY 10014; 646-486-4800.
— Julia Szabo
Ground-Zero For Burgundy
Don't be fooled by the shop that looks like an insurance office. While a comely, limited selection of bottles stack the shelves at the BURGUNDY WINE COMPANY, around the corner are 7,000 square feet of storage space. Wine can be delivered in minutes. Be prepared for hard-to-find producers and vintages. A 1937 Volnay from Camille Giroud? Absolutely. A La Tâche from Domain de la Romanée-Conti? Found. Leave time to chat—the owners are full of wine tales. 323 West 11th St., New York, NY 10014; 212-691-9092; www.burgundywinecompany.com.
— Alice Feiring
$ Establishment accepts no charge/credit cards or accepts cards other than the American Express Card.