Our Sweet New Neighbors! 

Here at Stone Street it seems as we watch the temperature grow, so does our sweet tooth. If you’re a resident at the Seville, Cooper or Charlotte – you’re in luck when you get that sweet craving. Our new neighbors, SUGAR AND PLUMM on the corner of Cornelia and Bleecker Streets, can satisfy your every sugary need. Famed pastry chef Pichet Ong delivers the best desserts we have ever tried. Also, the whimsical interiors compliment the fresh fare and cosmic smells. On your way home stop by and treat yourself!

Murray's Cheese Shop on Bleecker Street - They Know Cheese!! 

Can't think of what to cook for dinner?

Got ya covered...Grab your favorite bottle of red or white, and head on over to Murray's Cheese, a West Village staple on Bleecker and Cornelia Streets. It's wall to wall cheeses from all over the world, catering to any palette.  Not only do they sell cheese, but the "cheese-ologists" behind the counter know all there is to know about their products.  Simply show them your bottle and they'll tell you what cheese would go best with it and virtually build your next meal around their cheese choice!

Stroll down to famous Murray's Cheese shop the next time you're stumped in the kitchen...I promise you won't be disappointed. 

Stone Street checks out Juice Generation on West 4th Street! 

Check out Juice Generation located at 171 West 4th Street, right in between The Charlotte on Christopher Street and The Seville and The Cooper on Cornelia Street.  You can find fresh squeezed juices just about anywhere these days, but I love Juice Generation because all their ingredients are local and organic. One of my favorite drinks is the Lemon Lozenge, served hot, a healthy energizing alternative to coffee or tea.  Make sure to check out the food as well, all choices that leaves you feeling both light and satisfied. Oh and one more thing, there’s a gluten free bakery!

Chez Sardine, Gabe Stulman's "Very Inauthentic Japanese " is the West Village's Newest Must-Eat Spot 

SSPNY Gives Rave Reviews to Gabe Stulman's New Must-Eat Spot Chez Sardine in West Village!

SSPNY checks out restauranteur Gabe Stulman's new Japanese Isakaya, Chez Sardine in the West Village Located on West 10th Street and admits it's an absolute must

If restauranteur Gabe Stulman didn't exist, the West Village would have to invent him. Or at least, they would definitely want to, for neighborhood dining in this part of town would be a far less interesting affair if Stulman hadn't shown up here from Wisconsin in the early-aughts and proceed to launch a string of what have quickly become everyone's favorite local restaurants. Just look at Stulman's track record. Over the past seven or so years, beginning with Little Owl and Market Table and now with his Wisco Group spots, the uniformly excellent Joseph Leonard, Jeffrey's Grocery, Fedora, and Perla, Stulman and his exceptional team of chefs have consistently hit it out the park. All of these places are within a half mile of each other. All feed lively mobs of happy customers night after night after night. All are can't-miss ideas for any occasion involving friends, sweethearts, family, and fun.

SSPNY snags a sushi-counter seat at Chez Sardine to try out a few dishes of Stulman and Chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly's Japanese-ish menu options including the Pork and Unagi Hand Roll from the menu's "snack" section.

No surprise, then, that Stulman's latest effort, the spanking-new Chez Sardine on West 10th Street, is another total winner. Part of it has to do with Stulman and Co.'s trademark blend of casual, homey comfort with a dash or two of romance and surprise. But a bigger part may be Stulman's latest recruit, Chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly, late of Montreal's justifiably legendary Au Pied de Cochon, which by the way also spawned Chef Hugue Dufour of the superb M. Wells Dinette at MoMA PS1. Anyway, I was lucky enough to snag a sushi-counter seat early the other evening and try a few items from Brunet-Benkritly's Japanese-ish Chez Sardine menu. The bottom line: I loved everything I ate, and can't wait to go back for more.

Another outstanding order SSPNY made on Chez Sardine's menu was the Beef Tartare, a generous "Small Plate" with rich, raw, coarsely-ground meat against the piles of fresh horseradish, dabs of biting " lime cream", bitter greens and hunks of buttered bread

There's a number of individual sushi offerings on the Chez Sardine menu, usually with a twist (Hamachi with Chicharron, Sea Urchin with Chopped Beef), and they all sound and look terrific. I went with the Pork and Unagi Hand Roll from the menu's "snack" section and was rewarded with a luscious, four-bite treat, the melty, sweet eel pairing beautifully with the melty, sweet swine, both complemented by the chewy rice and briny nori wrap. Also outstanding was the Beef Tartare, a generous "Small Plate", the rich, raw, coarsely-ground meat holding its own nicely against the piles of fresh horseradish, dabs of biting " lime cream", bitter greens and craggy hunks of buttered bread. But the highlight of the evening was Chez Sardine's menu centerpiece, the Miso-Maple Salmon Head, which is exactly that: half a head, stuffed with garlic, sticky with sweet (but not too-sweet) sauce, grilled to caramelization. It takes some work, this dish, and a willingness to get messy (and, not incidentally, to dig through the inside of a fish head), but there's enough intensely-flavored meat--if you're sharing, make sure you grab the cheek--and fatty skin to make it worth the effort. So thanks again, Mr. Stulman, and welcome to neighborhood, Chef Brunet-Benkritly.

SSPNY lastly orders Chez Sardine's menu centerpiece, the Miso-Maple Salmon Head, which is a half a head, stuffed with garlic, sticky with sweet sauce, grilled to caramelization and perfection.

Chez Sardine is located on West 10th Street just west of Seventh Avenue South, and is open Sunday and Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. and on Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 1:00 a.m. Closed Monday. Lots more info, including a look at the complete Chez Sardine menu, here.

Chez Sardine is located on West 10th Street just west of Seventh Avenue South, and is open Sunday and Tuesday from 5:30 to 11pm and on Wednesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 1am brand new to the West Village

The West Village Gets Another World-Class Bakery with the Opening of Brooklyn-Transplant Bien Cuit  

SSPNY Tries Out the Newest World-Class Bakery to Pop-up in the West Village: Brooklyn Transplant Bien Cuit

SSPNY tries out one of Brooklyn's most popular bakeries, Zachary Golper and Kate Wheatcroft's Bien Cuit, a world-class bakery which first opened on Smith Street in Boerum Hill two years ago and now brand new to the West Village on Christopher Street

I know I just was raving about the amazing Mille-feuille Bakery on LaGuardia Place, that they make what are probably the best croissants in NYC, and how the macarons and the chocolate caramel fondant are pretty incredible. Also: everything else they sell there. But that doesn't mean I wasn't super-excited about the arrival of the spanking-new Bien Cuit on Christopher Street, as one Brooklyn's most popular bakeries gives it a go in the West Village. Because, really, is it possible to have too many world-class baked goodies in one community? The correct answer is: no. No it is not.

SSPNY tries out multiple sweets at this rare destination bakery on Smith Street, which has quickly earned them the love of the Borough of Kings, turning their Christopher Street locale into a rustic cafe with each savory delight, a loaf of their signature Miche bread, and here, a taste of Financier, topped with a pool of licorce-y Sambuca and crunchy chocolate "craquantes"

Zachary Golper and Kate Wheatcroft opened the original Bien Cuit on Smith Street in Boerum Hill about a year and a half ago, and it quickly earned the love of the Borough of Kings, becoming one of those rare destination bakeries that has folks from all over South Brooklyn traveling to try the sweet treats, savory delights, and the couple's signature loaves of Miche bread, a blend of rye and wheat flours fermented for 68 hours until juuuuuust right. Buoyed by their success, Golper and Wheatcroft have taken their magic across the river, transforming the former Corrado space on Christopher into a rustic cafe, with a counter area overflowing with deliciousness and seating for about a baker's dozen. The Bien Cuit crew couldn't be more friendly and excited by their new digs, and their enthusiasm is contagious. Good food and good vibes abound.

SSPNY also tries out the Blue Cheese Quiche which was absolutely first-rate, with mountain gorgonzola and mashed celeriac rich and creamy within a perfectly crisp, buttery shell, and then a Chicken Pot Pie to follow which can only be ordered at the West Village Bien Cuit

I stopped into Golper and Wheatcroft's new space right when it opened and ordered (and devoured) as many different items from the Bien Cuit menu as I could get away with without seeming like a total pig. Bottom line: two savories, two sweets, four big-time winners. The Blue Cheese Quiche was particularly first-rate, the mountain gorgonzola and mashed celeriac rich and creamy within a perfectly crisp, buttery shell. An excellent light lunch or afternoon snack. The Chicken Pot Pie, available only at the West Village Bien Cuit, needed a bit more filling, but the crust was so good, especially the lattice-work "lid", that it'll be a pleasure to try this again and see if they get the balance right. The dense, chunky was superb, and thewas even better. Stop in during your neighborhood rounds this winter, grab a cup of coffee and just about anything from the counter, and you're guaranteed a warming, satisfying experience.

SSPNY lastly tries out the Maple Yam Danish, which we swear was absolutely delicious paired alongside another baked good-- or just a cup of coffee

The West Village Bien Cuit is located on Christopher Street near Waverly Place (next door to Jeffrey's Grocery), and open Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and on Sundays from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00. More info and the complete Bien Cuit West Village menu here.

The West Village's Bien Cuit is located on Christopher Street right near Waverly Place, and next door to Jeffrey's Grocery, open Monday through Saturday from 7am to 9pm and on Sundays from 8am to 9pm.

 

Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe: NYC's Best Croissants--Plus Plenty of Other Delights--Are Right Here in the West Village 

SSPNY Heads to the West Village for Great Treats and NYC's Best Croissants: Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe

SSPNY checks out the small Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe by Parisian owner and baker Olivier Dessynon on LaGuardia Place for hands-down the best croissants in town

Mille-feuille Bakery Cafe, located on an unassuming stretch of LaGuardia Place, is tiny, with limited indoor seating, and a design more utilitarian than cute. It's basically an open kitchen and a big display case, with a four-stool counter to your right. When it's not raining there are several generic tables set up outside, which have mostly lost their appeal now that December's kicking in. In other words, there are no real outward indications that Mille-feuille, and its Parisian transplant/owner/baker Olivier Dessyn, are right now making what are hands-down the best croissants in town. Really: if you're out and about and hungry for a snack or a treat, this is where you need to be.

SSPNY first checks out the Almond Croissant at Mille-Feuille for a perfect blend of chewy, sweet, and nutty, while others swear by there Pistachio Croissant and Dessyn's Pain au Chocolat paired with a cup of coffee, for the best refuel in the city

I've never not been able to NOT get the Almond Croissant at Mille-feuille, because it's so knee-bucklingly good--buttery, flaky, chewy, sweet, and nutty in perfect proportions--but others swear by the Mille-feuille Pistachio Croissant, or Dessyn's Pain au Chocolat, which, like all of his creations, doesn't skimp at all on the filling. Any one of these beauties, plus a cup of coffee, et voila, you have the best re-fuel in the city. And through some sort of baking wizardry, Dessyn's Mille-feuille croissants, though of course best right out of the oven, are almost as heavenly the next morning!

Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe also offers first-rate sandwiches and a no-brainer Ham and Cheese Croissant, as well as a huge selection of Macarons including Salty Caramel, Pistachio, Raspberry, Rose, Espresso, Lemon, Coconut and more, along with desserts, cookies, and other wonderful pastries.

Mille-feuille Bakery Cafe has plenty more going for it as well, from a small, first-rate selection of sandwiches (on just-baked bread, naturally) and the no-brainer Ham and Cheese Croissant, to some excellent Macarons in all of the usual, mostly appealing varieties: Salty Caramel, Pistachio, Raspberry, Rose (um, gross), Espresso, Lemon, Coconut, etc. The desserts, cookies, and pastries are also wonderful here, including the namesake Mille-feuille (with not-quite-a-thousand layers of flaky crust sandwiching a cloud of sweet vanilla cream) and, most especially, the incredible Chocolate Caramel Fondant, with its gooey interior and blob of salted caramel on top. Amazing. All of it.

SSPNY lastly checks out Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe's especially incredible Chocolate Caramel Fondant, which has a gooey interior and glob of salted caramel on top.

Mille-feuille Bakery Cafe is located on LaGuardia Place just south of West 3rd Street, about a block away from Washington Square Park. Mille-feuille is open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., and on weekends from 8:30 a.m. to 7:00. Lots more information, plus a look at the Mille-feuille menu, here. And if you're looking for a extra-special holiday gift, every Saturday Dessyn teaches Macaron-making, a three-hour lesson in which you will bake (and take home) 30 macarons!

Mille-Feuille Bakery Cafe is located on LaGuardia Place just south of West 3rd Street and a block away from Washington Square Park, and every Saturday Dessyn himself teaches a Macaron-making class for a three-hour lesson where you can make and bring home 30 macarons!

 

El Toro Blanco: The Crack Team Behind Soho Favorites Lure and B&B Bring Mexican to the West Village 

SSPNY Tries El Toro Blanco: Elegant & Spanking-New Mexican Restaurant in West Village on Sixth Avenue Between Houston and Bleecker

SSPNY checks out this brand new Mexican restaurant El Toro Blanco by Chefs' John McDonald, Josh Capon, and Scott Linquistin West Village on the side of Sixth Avenue between Houston and Bleecker on the opposite side of Bar Pitti and Da Silvano

It's in kind of a tough location, the elegant, spanking-new West Village Mexican restaurant El Toro Blanco, on the side of Sixth Avenue between Houston and Bleecker that doesn't get a ton of foot traffic, the side opposite the always-packed Bar Pitti (which, by the way, is great), and Da Silvano (which, by the way, is overpriced, and deliberately so, to keep out the riffraff like me). Plus, the neighborhood competition for Mexican is strong, both low-end (the reliable Dos Toros, just up the block) and high (Alex Stupak's excellent Empellon Taqueria, on West 4th). But if anyone can pull it off, it's El Toro Blanco's all-star team of John McDonald and Chef Josh Capon (here with help from Chef Scott Linquist), whose Soho spots Lure Fishbar and Burger and Barrel (home of my personal favorite pre- or post-Angelika meal, the "Bash Style" burger with Tater Tots) are always lively, comfortable, and satisfying.

SSPNY declares El Toro Blanco to be spacious, with great decor and ambiance that gave it a slightly retro and romantically illuminated vibe and 2 small bars, one dedicated to watching the guacamole get made!

Fingers crossed McDonald and Capon can make El Toro Blanco work, because I liked what I saw--and tasted!--when I went the other night to sample the food and check out the scene. El Toro Blanco is a spacious, good-looking restaurant whose decor and ambiance will feel more than a little familiar for fans of Lure and B&B: slightly retro (or, "classic"), romantically illuminated, tastefully appointed (but with a sense of humor... see the bent-nose "stuffed" marlin by the door), with cozy banquets, several distinct seating areas to create intimacy, and two small bars, one of which is dedicated to watching the guacamole get made. There are many occasions for which El Toro Blanco would work: on a date, for a tequila-drenched dinner with some pals, grabbing a bite before a movie at the IFC or the Film Forum. Nice job, design crew!

SSPNY declares El Toro Blanco to be spacious, with great decor and ambiance that gave it a slightly retro and romantically illuminated vibe and 2 small bars, one dedicated to watching the guacamole get made!

As for the food, I tried a few dishes from all over the El Toro Blanco's menu (well, in its lower-priced precincts, anyway; many entrees approach $30 here), and was pleased each time. For my "table snack" I went with Green Chili Queso Fundido, with added Chorizo, of course--note to Capon and Linquist: how about some more more meat for those extra three dollars, please, next time?--which is basically a socially-acceptable excuse to eat a bowl of melty cheese. The heart of the El Toro Blanco menu is devoted to Tacos, with about nine different options, all appealing. I went with, and was rewarded with three fat little beasts overflowing with kicky, chipotle barbecued gulf shrimp, crunchy cumin slaw, roasted tomatoes, and cool avocado. My choice of side was maybe a little disappointing--, the corn nicely sweet and charred but obviously frozen--a more-than-forgivable offense considering our city's recent battle with Sandy. In these weeks and months ahead when all downtown restaurants need your support, El Toro Blanco is worth getting on your list.

SSPNY lastly reviews a slightly disappointing side dish of Elote de Calle, which was a charred and sweetened corn! Still we say it is definitely worth making it on to your list of must try eats in West Village

El Toro Blanco is located on Sixth Avenue between Houston and Bleecker Streets, and is open daily for dinner at 5:30. The full website is still a work in progress, apparently, but you can see the complete El Toro Blanco menu on the Eater post, here.

Aside from the great ambiance at El Toro Blanco, there are also 2 small bars to get drinks from-- one of which is designed mostly for you to watch the guacamole be made at this great little gem on Sixth Avenue between Houston and Bleecker

 

L'Apicio, a Terrific, Grown-up Italian Place Comes to the Bowery, Courtesy of the Much-loved Dell'anima Crew 

SSPNY Introduces Fine Italian Restaurant L'Apicio to the Bowery in East Village: Another Success to Follow the West Village's Dell'anima

SSPNY introduces Italian Restaurant L'Apicio to the East Village Located on First Street Between Bowery and Second Avenue on the Ground Floor of the Bowery Avalon Condominiums

The East Village is certainly no stranger to solid Italian restaurants, and in general that stretch of Bowery right around Houston Street has plenty of fun, quality places to eat, from Hecho en Dumbo to DBGB to The Wren to Mile End Sandwich to Peels to Pulino's. BUT we could always use one more, right?! Enter L'Apicio, open just a couple of weeks now on First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue (in the ground floor of that huge condo, the Bowery Avalon) thanks to the great Gabe Thompson and Joe Campanale of West Village Dell'anima, L'Artusi, and Anfora fame and acclaim. The L'Apicio menu is filled with appealing pastas, polentas, and "piattinos", the servers and staff here are all total pros, the room is dim and pretty, and the food, well... I went on L'Apicio's first Saturday night, sat at the bar, devoured four dishes, loved them all. Really and truly: loved. SSPNY Tries the Charred Octopus on the Small Plates Section of L'Apicio's Menu and Raves About the Perfect Cooking

Take the generously portioned Charred Octopus, from the small plates/starters section of the L'Apicio menu: from my first tender, briney bite I knew I was in good hands here, the cephalopod perfectly cooked, the plump fregola nicely seasoned, the pepperoni pieces adding some bite, the whole plate singing with salt and lemon. This is well-conceived food, prepared with skill and and care by a kitchen that know what it's doing. And my first L'Apicio pasta was even better: chewy Mezzalune pasta pockets stuffed with a sweet cauliflower puree, topped with pinenuts and crunchy, supercharged capers. One of the best dishes I've had this year.

 SSPNY Raves About the Perfectly Cooked Mezzalune Pasta Pockets Stuffed With Sweet Cauliflower, An Absolute Must to Order at East Village's Italian Eatery L'Apicio

And the hits just kept coming at L'Apicio! Every restaurant in town puts a Brussels Sprouts side on the menu this time of year (see also: butternut squash and/or pumpkin) but L'Apicio really does it right, peeling the sprouts down to their individual leaves, frying them up until they're caramelized and as crispy as chips, adding nice-sized strips of chewy speck, then--and this is where this dish REALLY gets elevated above the crowd--infusing it all with mustard. Delicious and hopelessly addictive. Finally, my second L'Apicio pasta was almost as amazing as my first, a pile of thick Agnolotti filled with sweetbreads and mascarpone, dressed with an intense reduction of some sort, the entire thing hearty and satisfying. Equally perfect for a date as well as a crew of fun-loving friends--the prices, while not crazy-low, are doable, and they have a great cocktail program--L'Apicio is a winner.

 SSPNY Orders a Side of the Season Brussel Sprouts on the Addictive Menu, and Offers a Great Date Spot in East Village Along with a Great Cocktail Program

L'Apicio is located on First Street between Bowery and Second Avenue and is open for dinner every day from 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., and until 12:00 midnight on Thursday through Saturday. Brunch coming soon. You can find more info and the complete L'Apicio menu here.

Double-decker delights on West 8th Street: crafty arts and craft beer! 

SSPNY Fun on West 8th Street: Exploring the Textile Arts Center and Growler Station

SSPNY on West 8th Street in front of entrance for Sticky's Fingers Joint, Neta sushi, the Textile Arts Center and the Growler Station near Washington Square Park

It's a block that seems to have everything going for it, that stretch of 8th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, what with Washington Square Park right there, and all those NYU kids spilling from their dorms, and all that money living in those beautiful old apartments all around the area. And yet, somehow, instead of a friendly, trendy, nightlife/neighborhood zone, for more years than I can count it seemed like vacant storefronts and tired eateries and chains were the dominant "theme" of the strip. Fortunately, all of that seems to be changing, with the addition of such first-rate (albeit very different) restaurants like the quick-bite chicken finger spot Sticky's Finger Joint, the high-end sushi temple Neta, and this terrific double-decker storefront of coolness and fun, the Textile Arts Center up top, and the Growler Station below.

SSPNY inside the Textile Arts Center in West Village offering craft classes in block printing, sewing, looming and more...

The Textile Arts Center has been at this West Village location for more than a year now (their Gowanus flagship opened about a year and a half earlier than that), and if you're interested at all in using your hands and your mind to create something from scratch, this is a great place to check out. All of the crafts and classes at the Textile Arts Center are fiber-based (read: made from yarn or cloth or some variation thereof), and the comfortable, wonderfully sun-lit room is filled with state-of-the-art looms, dyers, and sewing equipment. There may be more classes at the Gowanus Textile Arts Center (it's just bigger), but this West Village spot does have plenty of appealing offerings, including Japanese Shibori with Indigo, Block Printing, Introduction to Hand Embroidery and, as part of their Youth After School program, Sewing and Fashion. There are also open studio times available for members. Lots more info on the West Village Textile Arts Center here.

SSPNY looks at state-of-the-art looms inside West Village's Textile Arts Center offering an open studio and Youth After School programs

Below the Textile Arts Center is the Growler Station where they offer a filling station to bring home your choice of over 20 well-curated craft beers on tap.

And after a hard day working the loom upstairs, grab a growler of craft brew to bring home, right below at the Growler Station. For anyone and everyone who likes beer, this place is awesome. At any given time they have 20 or more well-curated craft brews on tap, available to take home in growlers of varying sizes, depending upon your own personal adult-beverage consumption needs. If growlers aren't your thing (though they should be: they're fun, they're resusable, they give you that freshly-tapped taste without having to throw a kegger every night in your living room), there are also lots of rare and excellent bottled beer selections, as well as plenty of snacks and such. And get on the Growler Station email list so you can be invited to brewery parties, where free beer flows like... things that flow freely. More Growler Station facts, including the latest Growler beer menu, here.

SSPNY's Growler Station also offers a rare and excellent bottled beer selection and host free brewery parties on 8th Street.

And, PS, re: 8th Street getting great? That long-empty green-trimmed storefront next door to Textile Arts and Growler Station, right on the corner? That'll be a Stumptown Roasters cafe come early next year!

Next to the Textile Arts Center and Growler Station and going up early next year is Stumptown Roasters cafe on the corner of 8th Street and MacDougal Street

Cafe Blossom Brings Tasty Vegan (Really!) and a Chill Vibe to Carmine Street 

SSPNY West Village Restaurant Review: Cafe Blossom.  Organic Vegan Cuisine on Carmine and Bleecker


I'm not vegetarian, or vegan, or anything-ian. More of a foodivore, really, in that I'll eat anything once and, usually, many, many more times, too.Cafe Blossom Exterior on Carmine St. SSPNY, StoneStreetNY, Luxury NYC Apartments, Stone Street Properties, West Village Luxury Rentals

 

BUT. THAT SAID. Plenty of my pals are of the vegan persuasion, and I love them for it, and while they always assure me rather painfully "oh don't worry I'll find SOMETHING on the menu" whenever I come up with a plan, better not to tempt their inner martyrdom, yes? Same goes for my gluten-free friends. Enter the newish Cafe Blossom, the latest outpost of owner Ronen Seri's burgeoning (blossoming?) vegan empire, open since the spring in prime Carmine territory, and serving some seriously full-flavored food.

Cafe Blossom Tofu Dish SSPNY, StoneStreetNY, Luxury NYC Apartments, Stone Street Properties, West Village Luxury Rentals</h2>

I stopped into Cafe Blossom the other night, looking for an early dinner before seeing something at the nearby IFC Center, and was (mostly) totally won over by the big, balanced flavors here. This is some confident, creative cooking at Cafe Blossom West Village, that doesn't rely on mounds of garlic or burying everything under scallions and chives to get your attention, as I've experienced at other such vegan-y spots. The starters / bar snacks were the real stars of the night, which is a good thing, because with its open frontage and friendly atmosphere, Cafe Blossom would definitely work well as a low-key, drink-and-a-bite sort of place. The Chickpea Fritters, for example: dolloped with sweet, "housemade whisky" barbecue sauce and sitting in schmear of spicy mayo, a nice crispy/soft texture, small but satisfying, with enough depth to keep things interesting.

 Seitan and Mushroom Slider Cafe Blossom SSPNY, StoneStreetNY, Luxury NYC Apartments, Stone Street Properties, West Village Luxury Rentals</h2>

Also good was my Seitan and Mushroom Slider, which, again, impressed with its reliance on drawing out the flavors of its ingredients--caramelized onions, pesto mayo, housemade tomato sauce, and mozzarella were also involved--instead of dumping on something heavy and calling it a day. Slightly less successful was my Miso Mustard Risotto, tricked out with sautéed mushrooms, scallions, white cheese, and (too much?) cashew cream, and a bit one-note, but I can imagine appreciating it more once winter's chill sets in. And because there are two more of these Blossoms in town--the original Blossom in Chelsea, on Ninth Avenue near 21st, and the Upper West Side's Cafe Blossom, on Columbus near 83rd--I now know I can placate my veggie buddies while still enjoying myself in those neighborhoods as well.

Miso Mustard Risotto, Cafe Blossom SSPNY, StoneStreetNY, Luxury NYC Apartments, Stone Street Properties, West Village Luxury Rentals<

The West Village Cafe Blossom is located on Carmine Street between Bleecker and Bedford, and is open every day from 12:00 noon until 3:30 for lunch, and then again from 5:00 until 11:00 at night for dinner. Lots more info, plus the full Cafe Blossom menu, here.

Toxic Beauty: The Art of Frank Moore, now at NYU's Grey Art Gallery in the West Village 

SSPNY Neighborhood Art Gallery: NYU's Grey Art Gallery Features Frank Moore

Skirball Center: NYU's Grey Art Gallery Features Frank Moore, SSPNY, StoneStreetNY, Stone Street Properties Luxury West Village NYC Rental Apartments

Whatever you or I might think of New York University and its seemingly insatiable need for Greenwich Village real estate--the NYU 2031 massive expansion proposal, aka the Sexton Plan, has been non-stop controversial, though the city has approved the latest iteration, and it looks it's a go, for now--one thing is certain: the savvy West Village resident can still find plenty of cultural adventures to be had on the NYU campus. The Skirball Center is perhaps the most obvious NYU venue to find cool, unusual things to do, with such recent offerings as the blow-your-mind Joshua Light Show series, in which the '60s Fillmore East veteran designed a multimedia extravaganza that exploded behind the stage as the likes of downtown musical legends Lou Reed, John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Milford Graves rocked the house up front. For news of future events, you should get on the Skirball e-mailing list, here.

Gulliver Awake, NYU's Grey Art Gallery Features Frank Moore, SSPNY, StoneStreetNY, Stone Street Properties Luxury West Village NYC Rental Apartments

Another first-rate source for getting some culture in the West Village, also courtesy of NYU is The Grey Art Gallery, right across from Washington Square Park (heading east), and home to some terrific exhibitions over the past years, including the current show, Toxic Beauty: The Art of Frank Moore, a career-spanning survey of the New York City artist who, like too many others of his generation, died far too young, of AIDS, in 2002, after being tested HIV positive in 1987. As someone at the forefront of AIDS activism (he was among the first to join Visual Aids, the artistic faction of ACT UP, and spearheaded the design of the now-much-imitated red ribbon as a symbol of the fight), much of Frank Moore's work from the 1980s and '90s is, unsurprisingly, dominated by medical- and disease-based imagery, and it is often quite menacing, powerful stuff.

Indian Lake, NYU's Grey Art Gallery Features Frank Moore, SSPNY, StoneStreetNY, Stone Street Properties Luxury West Village NYC Rental Apartments

But NYU Grey Gallery exhibition's title, Toxic Beauty, gives a hint that, despite the weighty topics--environmental destruction is another common theme; as Moore said of his beloved Indian Lake, "every summer I'd go back and find it a bit deader. Now it's a graveyard."--Moore's work doesn't brood. Nothing about this show asks for your pity. In fact, with its bright color palette, twisted representational style, and considerable sense of humor (though, it should noted, Moore pulls no visual punches when it comes to sex and death), it all feels more vital and alive than a lot of art exhibitions I've seen so far this fall. Highly recommended--go for Moore's amazingly, creatively appropriately frames alone--especially for West Villagers who can just stroll on over to this, your "neighborhood gallery" at NYU.

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Toxic Beauty: The Art of Frank Moore at NYU's Grey Art Gallery info
Toxic Beauty: The Art of Frank Moore will be on display until December 8 at NYU's Grey Art Gallery. The Grey Gallery is located at 100 Washington Square East and is open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; on Wednesdays from 11:00 until 8:00; and on Saturdays from 11:00 until 5:00. Admission is free; donations are appreciated. Toxic Beauty continues at NYU’s Fales Library, but I haven't yet made it to that part of the exhibition. More info here.

Niu Noodle House: does the West Village finally get the first-rate ramen joint it deserves? 

West Village Restaurant Review: Niu Noodle House on Christopher Street and Greenwich Ave

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So the first thing you should know is that I'm a total noodle head, willing and eager to drag my friends all over town in a quest for the city's most sublime bowl of ramen. And while the jury's still out on who's currently slinging NYC's best noodles, my personal Top 5 is pretty solid. In no particular order: Ippudo in the East Village; Jin Ramen up near Columbia in Morningside Heights; Tabata in Hell's Kitchen, right near Port Authority (I know! But it's worth it...); Toto, tucked away among the the office towers of Midtown West; and, especially late at night, Noodle Bar on Orchard.

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Anyway, the point is this: I eat a lot of ramen, and so was pretty excited when Niu Noodle House opened over the summer in a prime West Village spot right near Christopher on Greenwich Avenue. And then... I was less excited, because apparently Chef Lo Lung Kit had to return to China (visa issues), so the place wasn't really ready yet. And then... excited again! Because Chef Kit was back! So opening week there I was, at one of Niu Noodle House's front tables, in full slurping mode. And while the results of my large early supper were somewhat mixed, Niu Noodle House has enough potential where it really counts to be worth rooting for.

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My starters, first Golden Brown Calamari Rings, then Flank Steak with Provolone Dumplings ("fried cheesesteak, yay!") were the weakk link here, but given that the Niu Noodle House just (re)opened, I'm more than willing to give Chef Kit another chance with these. In the end, of course, Niu Noodle House will live and die by its ramen, and, based one bowl, I'd say it has a chance. At Niu Noodle House you choose your broth (I went with the Niu Special Soup) and style of noodle (Thin, please) and, basically, your topping, for which I selected the Char Siu Pork, which wasn't the pork belly they advertised--more like loin?--but was still pretty good, with a pleasant sweet funk to it. In fact, the whole bowl was pretty good: the noodles chewy, the asparagus a nice touch, the heavily wasabi'ed tempura seaweed an even nicer touch. I can easily picture eating this (or similiar... maybe wide noodles next time? maybe the one with beef short ribs?) again, on a chilly night, after a movie at the IFC, nice and close to home.    

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Niu Noodle House info
Niu Noodle House is located on Greenwich Avenue just north of Christopher Street, and is open Sunday through Thursday from 12:00 noon to 11:00 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday from noon until 12:00 midnight. For a look at the complete Niu Noodle House menu, click here.

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