By Amber Roniger
Tell the truth now, who else is sick of all this la-de-da Fourth ‘a July pressure to have the ultimate barbecue crap? Honestly, the last thing I’m desirous of doing this weekend is being marooned outside at some holy terror steaming meat pit of humidity, while sugar-festooned kids lob burning rockets in my general direction. Big noise go bada-boom, the burnt gunpowder smell, ick… no thank you (except for paid vacation days… prego! Uncie Sam). And so in honor of my refusal to celebrate the Fourth with a bottle of Aunt Sally’s sauce and a Bud (call me un-American, I just don’t care), I give to you, freely, and of my own accord, some of my fav little hot spots (and perhaps a taddy more upscale than at first glance) around the island to snack yummy bites and gulp drinkies that are decidedly un-Fourth! Rocket go ka-blam!
ASPEN RESTAURANT & LOUNGE
Aspen’s décor is about as quantumly-divergent as it gets from clammy summer nights at the pulled pork pit. The interior is modeled after a ski lodge, but shall we say, mon upscale oui? It’s difficult to describe…but something akin to wandering half-lost through a Swarovski crystal elm forest wearing loden Elvin clogs and howling at the powder sugar November moon (and God bless for the fake mounted deer heads)… it’s really that ethereal (swear). I know the moment I float past the bar that I’m in the former Lola’s. Old rooms in New York have such powerful presence that you never, ever forget a great room (depending heavily upon your level of sobriety which fortunately, is not at issue for me).
You don’t have to be no Suzie Chapstick ski bunny to recognize that the Aspen menu is surprisingly lovely and gratefully devoid of any semblance to an actual ski lodge menu, which is always filled with overpriced greasy bar food and sucky beer (unless you’re in a micro hut in Val d’Isère, eating le pain grille francais avec le fromage soaked in Chardonnay). The summer menu is tapas-style (until 4am…word!), the perfect way to order up a mess ‘a plates ‘n share with your gal gaggle (but don’t invite the grabby girlies, or it’ll be slim pickins). Even this veggie is totally psyched at a great selection to munch on. We order the polenta fries chunky gorgonzola sauce (oh God, I found my soul mate), elote grilled corn-on-the cob with lime-chile aioli & Mexican cheese (takes me back to the jazzy streets of Chicago … deliciosa), roasted asparagus extra virgin olive oil, fresh herbs & lime (aligns perfectly with my new green, work-out plan) and hand cut French fries with chipotle ketchup (yah, so kill me, we had two types of frites… what?!). But of all things to love at Aspen, the Gonzo Room hovers head and shoulders above: a private dining room in homage to Hunter S. Thompson, (the “Hunt”), Mr. ultimate electric kool-aid acid test king freak of them all (and role model to millions of kiddies). The G. Room is open late-nights to toast spirits and groove out to groovy spun tunes. And looking to next month, come celebrate Hunter T’s birthday on July 14-21, with Dr. Gonzo (Wild Turkey) Shots and the Raoul Duke cocktail (Wild Turkey, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, fresh lemon juice) yowza.) Yick-a-hee-haw!
DUBLIN 6 WINE AND DINE
Waiting for my (late as usual) friend at Dublin 6′s restaurant bar, I attempt to get a lock on the place. Hmmmmm… definitely falls in the realm of the eclectic. Mulling it over a pinch with the aid of a nice frosty Omagong (note: excellent cerveza selection), we ultimately decide that Dublin is a moody, upscale Irish bar with Spago-calibur chow (executive chef, Donal Crosbie, formerly of Spago)… javol ees that goood. And quite brilliantly, a ‘bar-bar’ is attached adjacent to the restaurant… so Dublin patrons have it all.
My wayward friend finally arrives and we take the party outside for a bit of overcast dusky street scope (yes of course we don shades despite the magic hour). Absolutely ravenous, we point madly at the menu and gesticulate wildly. The waiter seems not to notice our frenzy. Since it’s less calories when you share (duh!), we order up a mess’a golden fried Parmesan sticks (Dublin’s chic answer to mozzarella sticks… we’re moving in together), ahi salad (fishies on the side for my girlie’s consumption, thanks matie), French fries (a badgirl staple… are you sensing a theme here?) and of course, a lovely cool Duvel. Keep in mind we’re saving room for what’s rumored to be the end-all of stupendous cakie-cakes…
At the advice of my sage friend (which more than absolves her tardiness), we order the sticky toffee pudding… and the trio of sorbets as an afterthought. Heaven manifests into being and darkness ceases to exist as the desserts arrive. Now I don’t know how they get off calling this bundle of sugary love ‘pudding,’ ’cause it so clearly is the most deliciously orgasmic delicate crumbly melt-in-my-mouth sticky cake concoction I’ve ever laid taste buds upon. But I’ll excuse the pudding semantics, because it absolutely rocks my world. Even for a writer, it’s almost too otherworldly and fleeting to put on paper. (Angels sing, heavens part.) But mark these words, I would swim no-hands, porpoise style from Alcatraz to the East River for another dish of that bliss-inducing, endorphin-releasing slice ‘o nirvana. Oh yah, and the sorbet is tasty too. (And you know I’m slyly dying to know what in the bejeezus is this ‘black pudding’ stuff with the Irish breakfast.)
Penetrating the bowels of Trinity (I know that’s hot, right?), I feel fully certain that I’m entering the Matrix. Passing through a mammoth steely vault door (sooo turn-of-the-century bondage) in what was once one of New York’s original twin towers into the low-lit bar interior (as if Wall St. isn’t matrixey enough on its own). My arse has not quite graced the stool, when Mr. Pink (shirt) sends a glass of Proseco my way. I won’t bore you with the gory details of his gauche banter, but suffice it to say, (even though it sounds sooo dated) I secretly adore being sent a drinkie without so much as an eyelash flutter. Yes ladies, it should be noted in the ledger (Mr. Pink aside) that this venue is a mantrap (we likie that). Good tidings. I’ll drink to that. The bubbly freely flows as me ‘n my girlie peruse the menu for yummy snackie finger bar food. And I can’t help noting the excellent and extensive beer list with many of my Belgian favs. Major props, beer-sommelier-dudes).
Bloomie (already a regular) seems to enjoy his victuals in the somewhat more “mature” dining room, formerly the vault within the vault (and a protectorate of the sovereign nation of Switzerland) as we scarf down French fries with aioli (really more of the tater-tot variety, but as you know, it’s all good to me), creamy cooling hummus Mediterranean platter with a sidecar of beets (I worship the beet madly, must be a Russian thang), and wild mushroom and spinach empanadas with chimichuri sauce (harder to find than you may think and ever so crispy-tasty). My companion uuuummmmm’s her way ecstatically through the shrimp… musta been pretty stellar. And then, my friends… the much anticipated arrival of the tawdry cheesecake. Which can only be described as: dirty filthy rich creamy delicious dangerous… yes, a dangerous dollop of whipped cheesecake with fresh basil sprinkled on top. Jah, not a typo, b-a-s-i-l. And blood oranges. So divine it’s deranged (I think it’s banned in Utah). Trinity’s unique décor and fab food aside, Bloomie gets a round of applause as he exits the joint (there’s no way in tarnation I fantasized that one). Odd… anyhoo, I wonder if he had the cheesecake.
Had enough of my wordy temptation? Are you mad at me now? Then go on and live a little wild, break away from the old smoke pit routine and jaunt into a few new, very hot spots that have blissfully little in common with the Weber grill.
30 West 22nd Street
DUBLIN 6 WINE AND DINE & DUBLIN 6 BAR
575 Hudson Street
115 Broadway (enter on Cedar)
DOWNTOWN HOMESTYLE COUTURE
By Amber Roniger
In a city where nothing is truly original and you’ll always spot someone wearing your supposed one-of-a-kind design on the 6 train, it warms the heart to think of handmade pieces, singularly unique, that absolutely no one else has. Indeed, jealousy is a dangerous game. Hence the appeal of summer markets, street and crafts fairs where handmade wares are hocked for a haggle and a femmy smile. Makes me not want to shop in stores anymore (at least for the summer…forgive me, Miucci). I just wanna sashay around town and pick up tons ‘a hip duds on seemingly every street corner (especially weekends). Fortunately, a friend, noting my odd fashion ensembles, had the sense enough to clue me into THE MARKET NYC’S YOUNG DESIGNERS MARKET, an off-the-beaten path collection of up and coming designers, many of whom aren’t selling anywhere outside of the Market yet (not even on Inet). There are so many convention-smashing crazy pieces that catch my critical eye, hot young designers selling their own work, and only too happy to yap it up. Must be mighty easy to place a custom order, me thinks. The Market is just downtown homestyle couture like that. So if you want to sport designers on the absolute fringe of the emerging market, ignore the lack of a.c. and come take a gander at the YDM, trunk show prices with no cover admission.
Below I present to you some of my tastiest finds at the rummage bin that is the Young Designers Market:
ZulaSurfing’s jewelry is completely off the chart. I am physically unable to pass Irena Tsafrir’s table by without pausing to gape at the check-it-and-weep-Melania eye-popping rings of gargantuan proportions. Phenomenal raw amethyst, smoky quartz and glass-blown rings literally leave me salivating. Hello shiny, where have you been all my life? Fierce.
Sure, Zula’s other jewelry is gorgeous, especially the amazing Dichroic Glass and Sterling Silver pendants. And I’m especially drawn-in by the Hebrew letters etched in azure blue glass. But I just cannot get over these rings. They haunt me in my sleep. And apparently ZulaSurfing is a newbie to the market, completely ‘undiscovered.’ So sporting those outrageous rings will definitely draw that ‘damn girl, lemme get a load of your bling!’ attention you’re otherwise craving.
Sara Keiser’s LEGS are off the chain (I know, I keep saying everything is ‘off the…’ but seriously, they are). I call them shredded leggings ’cause, well… just look at ‘em. Now I’m going to date myself, or something, but I absolutely love leg warmers. Love ‘em. Love leggings that look like warmers, (love mufflers, for that matter), just love the snow bunny style. Maybe it stems from being a child of the 70′s, or a modern dancer, or an Irene Cara, Flashdance worshipper, or whatever, but I just dig on ‘em. Can’t really defend it much more than that. So I totally flipped over Sara’s wicked creations. She tells me the original pair was fashioned from leftovers after cutting a denim skirt, and being such the creative conservationist, she sewed them into the crazy rock ‘n roll leg-warmers you see before you. Hot as heck (o yah you betcha)!
ARZADESIGN BAGS & WALLETS (www.arzadesign.com)
Genius. So frippin’ clever. Bag and wallets you can wear like a bracelet while you ballyhoo around town. Hassle free and fashionable whenst running the gamut with o-so many shopping bags in tow. Me, the former club-girl, always looking for handy, minimalistic ways to store my wares… sooo taken in by these bags. Equality of form and function (and we love equanimity).
And they’re not just practical (as in the 1980′s buttbag revolution), they’re sooo dang pretty! The metallic sheen makes ‘em shine like bling-blam ice… loud ‘n large, dahling.
ROCKS AND SALT (firstname.lastname@example.org
And speaking of that last-millennium monstrosity formerly known as the buttbag, here are some of ‘em that actually measure up for high fashion. These could be worn with a stylie outfit or sweet suit and not totally ruin them, for chrissakes… nothing less than a small miracle in fannypack dynamics, says I. Props for the high design effect that I always suspected could be artfully applied to the buttbag, but until now had languished in a dearth of hard evidence.
Mali Naveh’s kaffiyeh skirts are so innovative yet simple. I dig hard on the drapey, fluttery, girlie effect the traditional headdress makes masquerading as a skirt. Who knew? I appreciate the sentiment of transforming a distinctly mundane clothing item into ethnic high fashion for the summer. Very girlie… yet kick-you-in-your-Laura-Croft-hide tough at the same time. Moto gusto!
A few more designers of note who totally caught the City Pulse ojo:
See ya’ll down on Mulberry Street!
Young Designers Market
428 Mulberry Street
Weekends this Summer