Thursday, August 2, 2012


On every trip to New York I try to find something new and inspiring. This usually requires nothing more than turning a corner anywhere in any one of the five buroughs. I'm limiting my finds this month to three because if I don't set a limit I'll never get this post out in time. As it so happens this month the three finds are seemingly food related but the design aspect of all of them is always present.

I know this may seem to some like beating a dead horse. I've highlighted this franchise so often they should give me one or at the least make me an honorary spokesperson but here I go again. Rice to Riches. This time it's not about the delicious rice pudding, although we did try the chocolate chip flirt with some decadent vanilla caramel sauce. It was an Asian version of the Wisconsin turtle sundae; sweet, smooth and a little salty. It wasn't about the signage where "skinny bitches aren't allowed" or where "the premises are only occupied by compulsively obsessed dessert-loving people with no self-control or discipline". This time it's solely architecturally utilitarian. I went with my sister. I couldn't contain myself from sharing the experience with a rice pudding virgin. The weather this trip was hot, humid and just a touch smelly so rather than buying our rice pudding to go we decided to avail ourselves of the air-conditioned interior and seat ourselves at one of the hip disk-shaped tables squeezed into the back of the shop. The seats are a long built-in banquette, which helps on saving valuable floor space, but the ingenuity comes in suspending the tables from the ceiling rather than anchoring them to the floor. It's such a simple idea but how many other places have you seen that utilize this obvious space saving idea? By suspending the table neither of us had to hassle with negotiating our legs around cumbersome table legs. We just slid in and out. No bruised knees, no having to spread our legs around an obstacle course of vertical impediments, just a comfortable seat with plenty of room to stretch out in what was a minimum of space. Genius.

A trail of dust lifts into the air off the dry dirt road snaking down the Mexican coastline. Janis Joplin's whiskeyed voice warbles out the lyrics from Mercedes Benz from an eight track in the back of the 1962 Volkswagen bus. A half dozen deep brown cerveza bottles roll back and forth across the floor as the bus heaves its way over the potholes on that dry dust covered Mexican road.
In New York you don't have to go any further than Elizabeth Street just below Houston (that's pronounced house-ton for all you Texans who think they named it after your second largest city) to relive that hippie road trip. The experience comes complete with the VW bus all decked out as taqueria. Tucked into a former auto repair garage is Tacombi at Fonda Nolita, a Mexican restaurant where you can get horchata, Mexican beers by the dozen, sangria and for those of us with kids aguas frescas. I chose the watermelon with a hint of lime which I was told was made fresh daily.
They recommend you purchase their tacos and quesadillas in groups of three but I was very happy with two. My Alambre del Rey quesadilla, a beef and bacon concoction, was perfect if a little on the mild side. If my Spanish weren't so rusty I might have remembered that the poblano in my pollo poblano taco was a type of chili pepper. This little piece of knowledge might have helped prevent the three-alarm fire that ignited in my mouth with the first bite into this Mexican delight. All things considered it was still worth the two o'clock in the morning Pepto-Bismol run which I consider to be much better than the possible gift of Montezuma's revenge. When what you want is cheap but hip, Tacombi is a great choice.

I try to keep up with a handful of blogs that I find inspiring. I use them for their innovation and ability to unearth stories I might not find on my own. A short time ago, Remodelista ran a post on a space they had discovered in New York, a specialty food shop, cooking school and event space called Haven's Kitchen. I was mesmerized by this space from the first picture in the post. As I read on my interest continued to grow.
I knew I was going to have to seek it out once I got my feet on the ground in the city. Once I got there, there were so many things that captured my interest I immediately got out my camera and started collecting images.The first thing was the design. Under the meticulous eye of creator, Alison Schneider, every detail was attended to. There's a friendly vibe to the interior where a kitchen cleanliness mingles with an industrial rawness making for an unpretentious space you can spend hours in looking at all the great products perfectly lining the wooden and metal shelves.
The next aspect that intrigued me was its location. At 109 West 17th Street it is located almost directly across the street from our old studio location. For as many years as I can remember the original carriage house was shoji screen store. A Japanese gentleman with a huge shock of white hair and a matching mustache was always stationed at the front door. You couldn't help but love the beautiful brickwork of the exterior.
The space also houses a kitchen school teaching healthy cooking skills using local and organic products for the whole family.
You can a class in rustic seasonal desserts, or vegetarian paella and Spanish wines, or how about a class called Steve's ice cram social.
In addition to the classes, once a month they bring in a dream team of chefs to host an evening of inspired cooking with the chefs present for the entire event. This is something you want to book well in advance. It's a very hot ticket.
In addition to all of this, up the curved staircase on the second floor is party space you can rent out for your own private event.
This is an idea that is the full package. Alison has left no omelet unturned in the world of culinary innovation and food preparation.

Tuscan Lemons, 2000
Cy DeCosse, photographer
Represented by Weinstein Gallery, Minneapolis


  1. Thanks for the visit and the lovely post! Come back soon! Xx, Alison

  2. A blogging friend had her car broken into while she was visiting a garden in England. Made me feel so much better about local crime! It's depressing to think that someone would take an object let alone a sign that was "in use" as it were since you were open. I used to have a pair of those squared off vases (2nd photo). Now I'm wishing I had kept them!