Catch It: Lido and BIXI Restaurant & Bar

Why not steal away into the Italian restaurant Lido on Frederick Douglass Boulevard at 117th Street. My friend Tashna and I met for lunch last Friday, where we enjoyed each moment of conversing about our families, our careers, and our new beginnings. 

At Lido, there is a casual elegance throughout the restaurant. Between appetizers of a delicious arugula pear salad and later, tasty dishes of spaghetti and roasted veal meatballs, and tender steak panini, we spoke to Susannah Koteen, the lovely proprietor. We complimented her on our delicious cuisine and the fantastic service. Ms. Koteen mentioned they also have another restaurant and bar next door. 

After our meal, she and her husband Mark escorted us to BIXI, a Pan-Asian restaurant and bar at 116th Street, and Susannah introduced us to her partner Kwame at BIXI. Kwame was behind the bar and greeted us with the same quiet grace and elegant charm you feel when you enter BIXI and Lido. 

Tashna and I sat at the bar, drinking cocktails, chatting with the owners about their treasured businesses in Upper Manhattan, and the mixture of the sweet sound of sophistication in the Harlem Hamlet, with an easy-breezy flow of summertime groove.

Catch it at http://www.LidoHarlem.com and http://www.BIXIHarlem.com

Posted in Bars, Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Harlem, Italian Cuisine, Mediterranean, Pan-Asian, Restaurants, Upper West Side | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Catch It: Birch Coffee

As always happens when walking in Manhattan, my spirit reminds me why having drip brew from Birch Coffee makes me smile. It’s a fun vibe there. I entered their location in the West Village on 7th Avenue, indulging in the Cool Jazz music, the relaxed ambiance, and the friendly baristas. I ordered a croissant to go with my delicious coffee. I left with an easy step drinking my coffee while gazing at the sunny blue sky.

Catch it at http://birchcoffee.com

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Catch it: Susan Lee’s Food Journey in Lower Manhattan

My joy of walking always brings an unexpected adventure where I am learning something new, meeting another on their journey of changing a course, taking a chance, like deciding to be a Candidate for City Council in Lower Manhattan’s First District. That would be Susan Lee.

Several weeks ago, I met Ms. Lee. At the same time, she passed out campaign flyers, speaking with neighbors, bystanders in her community of big and small businesses, and generations of families who still reside in Lower Manhattan. As we were chatting, I was curious about her take on the thriving restaurants in the neighborhood, and here is our conversation.

WDM: What do you like about living in Lower Manhattan?

SUSAN LEE: It is a unique district where each neighborhood has its own distinct characteristics. It’s a mini melting pot! I can walk around the district and feel the immersion of culture and heritage without having to leave the country. I love Lower Manhattan!  

And the food! We have some really great restaurants in the district, such as a delicious babka from Moishe’s Bakery, and Spanish food from El Castillo de Madison in the Lower East Side, yummy brunch from Citizens of Bleecker at Washington Square, Wonton Noodle from Noodletown in Chinatown, Italian from Attraversa, and Sushi from Sushi of Gari in Tribeca, and a French bistro called Le Parisienne in FiDi.  

WDM: What was your go-to restaurant with friends before COVID-19?

LEE: My go-to restaurant before COVID-19 is Pings on Mott Street in Chinatown. My family celebrates every holiday and birthday there. It’s our go-to spot because the food is amazing, the staff is very friendly, and they are always willing to accommodate my last-minute reservations.

I came to the United States when I was six years old. My family came from Hong Kong, and Pings cooking is following that tradition. Whenever I go there, it brings back fond memories of my travels to Hong Kong. I especially love their live seafood tanks at the front of the restaurant. You can go up to the tanks and examine the freshness of the seafood. After you decide what you would like to eat from the tanks, the staff brings it to you for approval before taking it to the kitchen for preparation. Fresh seafood is a must at Ping’s. My other go-to dish there is their salted baked whole chicken which you need to reserve in advance. It is so yummy!  

WDM: What is your favorite restaurant now?

LEE: This question is a tough one; it’s like asking a mom which child is her favorite. To be fair, I am a creature of habit. I like routines and having go-to spots in my neighborhood is such a blessing. For Japanese, I love Takahachi. For Italian, I love Max. For Mexican, I go to Tanjin. We love to go to 1803 for drinks. For breakfast, it’s Bubby’s. For Hong Kong Style Breakfast, we love going to Kong Shik Tong. And for Japanese pastries, Takahachi Bakery. I probably go to one of these at least once a week.   

WDM: What makes Tribeca vibe great for dining?

LEE: My husband and I love outdoor dining. It affords us the opportunity to people watch. One time, we saw this celebrity couple walking with their kid and dog like everyone else. People from all walks of life are coming and going, doing their thing.  

Now that I am campaign full-time, I don’t really have much time to cook. I am so lucky because we have all these amazing restaurants in our neighborhood. But it’s also sad to see some of our neighborhood gems closed due to the pandemic. With an increase in vaccination, I hope more residents will begin to feel comfortable dining out and enjoying this wonderful neighborhood.  

WDM: What are two comfort foods do you keep in your kitchen?

LEE: Cookies and tea. I was probably a cookie monster in my former life. I have a stash of Girl Scout cookies in my pantry. I’ll have some Thin Mints with a cup of Earl Grey. Although my husband just corrected me and said neither qualifies as food!  

WDM: It takes courage to run for New York City Council. How do you plan to celebrate your accomplishment after the Primary Election on June 22, 2021?

LEE: I am going to take my team out to dinner! They worked so hard on this campaign, and I am nothing without their love and support. I would love to take them to Hop Lee Restaurant on Mott Street. After that, I would sleep for a couple of days! I haven’t had a day off since I launched my campaign in December!

Thank you, Candidate, Ms. Susan Lee, and catch more about her plan of “Common Sense Leadership,” at http://www.susanleenyc.com.

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Catch It: Ole & Steen

The mystery of love is like being in love with Cinnamon swirl at Ole & Steen.

Yesterday, I stopped in their Bryant Park location and purchased a sumptuous Cinnamon swirl and coffee. I sat in a comfortable chair, looking onto the contemporary lighting, and delectable pastries such as Rhubard crescent, Chocolate rye, and Carrot bun.

Ole & Steen has the flair of effortless elegance from the busy Manhattan streets and gifts of the sun on my Cinnamon bun.

Catch it if you can at https://oleandsteen.us 

Posted in Bakeries, Bryant Park, Cafes, Chocolate, Midtown | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Catch It: BennieGirl

I started running when I was a teenager with my Mom in Atlanta, Georgia. She was my inspiration to exercise for fun, and running became that for me. Years later, walking in Central Park is my workout routine. But sometimes when I’m not motivated, I exercise at home, and that’s why I like BennieGirl.

Ms. Benita Perkins created a positive way to stay on track for a healthy and wellness lifestyle. I admire Ms. Perkins’ entrepreneurial spirit and determination for remaining rooted in all things healthy, happy, and wise.

For my interview below, you will gain knowledge about her tools to stay on track, keep in motion, and have fun at the same time.

What do you advise for new beginners to stick to a plan to exercise?

Do activities that you can measure improvement. Improvements will indicate that your workouts count and will motivate you to continue. For example, if you’ve committed to start an exercise program, (first Yea!):

  • Start with a 1/2 1-mile walk. You can start with a block if you need to.
  • Time yourself.
  • Maintain that pace for one week.
  • Week 2 walk faster and try to take 45 seconds – one minute, off your fastest time in the prior week. Follow the same goal in weeks three and four.
  • Increase distance after a few weeks of sustained faster time and start the process again.

Is there one routine that you abide by every day for beauty and strength?

  • I try to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • I have the good fortune of living on the 3rd floor of a walk-up apartment building and working on the 3rd floor for my current contract. Walking those steps several times a day has made me stronger, and I see the results in firmer buttocks!

What obstacles do some women give regarding why they don’t exercise?

  • The most popular obstacles are time and motivation. With a demanding job and or kids, time can be difficult. Try to sneak in RAF, random acts of fitness. That includes taking stairs, walking the dog, chasing or playing tag with kids, walking to places to run errands, parking at the back of parking lot to walk further, etc.
  • Motivation is more challenging to tackle. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Your international brand is educating women the tools of a healthy lifestyle from high-risk communities, to women who are looked down upon for being overweight, and women who are deemed as fit, and are passionate about maintaining it. How do you stay focus as an entrepreneur, a Mom, and a motivator?

  • My biggest motivation is improving the quality of life for those whose plates might have been burden with the products of inequality. I strongly believe in ‘talk the talk, walk the walk.I try to express and exemplify the importance of exercise and time for self-care with my own family as well as women I meet.

Are your Zumba classes the secret to your healthy glow?

  • My healthy glow is from enjoying the opportunity to exercise and sharing that joy with others. It truly is a medicine that cures a lot of ailments.

 

Catch it if you can at www.healthyheritagelifestyle.com, and https://benniegirl.wordpress.com,

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Catch It: Castell Rooftop Lounge

Out of the blue, my friend Jeannie telephoned me to meet with her friends at Castell Rooftop Lounge for cocktails at 260 40th Street, New York, NY 10018. It was a beautiful Friday, a lovely evening with a dear friend who introduced me to her friends Monica and Miguel. We celebrated Jeannie’s success by being honored for an upcoming award on June 14th.

What fun relaxing and connecting over refreshing drinks and appetizers in a comfortable space of cascading charm at the Midtown Manhattan Castell Rooftop Lounge.

Catch it if you can at https://www.castellnyc.com and https://www.scipleaders.org

 

Posted in Bars, Lounge, Midtown, Rooftop Lounge, Small Plates | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Catch It: Poetry by Maggie Smith

With Sunday approaching for Mother’s Day, a lovely poem by Maggie Smith.

A TRUTH THAT TELLS YOU

I wish for you a small, portable truth you can take
anywhere-no foreign adaptors needed,
no translation required and nothing lost in it.

Once, looking at a map, my daughter said,
A river is a line the world drew for us. I wish for you
a truth that stays true across any line drawn

by the world or its people, a truth that tells you
wherever you arrive, you are welcome.

Maggie Smith

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Catch It: Michel Cluizel a French-Style Café

At daybreak this past Monday, I received a telephone call from my friend Liz in Stockholm, Sweden. She was with friends in her quaint home and mentioned her parents were visiting New York City in May. “Could you meet up with them for lunch or hot chocolate?” she asked.

“Of course,” I replied and looked at the time. “Is this your parents’ first trip to New York?”

“Yes,” Liz said, “And I’m sorry to call you so early.”

“I was thinking of walking this morning anyway, so I’m glad you telephoned.” I said, “And I have the perfect place to take your parents.”

We chatted for a couple more minutes and scheduled to talk later during the week.

I walked four miles in Central Park. Upon returning home, I made breakfast and worked on my manuscript. 

By eleven o’clock that morning, I was at the Science, Industry and Business Library on Madison Avenue and 34th Street. Then around two o’clock in the afternoon, I decided to take a break from research and writing and headed to Michel Cluizel at 199 Madison Avenue (Corner of 35th Street, New York, NY 10036) for a lovely cup of hot chocolate.

Catch it if you can at www.cluizel.us

Posted in Authentic French, Bakeries, Cafes, Chocolate Bar, Hot Chocolate, Madison Avenue | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Catch It: Dr Smood

Like most travelers, I make time for quiet time, such as last Friday; I sat in a comfortable grey chair at Dr Smood (485 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10017) with a Jade Green tea, Avocado Toast, and my book: North Pole by Michael Bravo.

Dr Smood is an organic café with stillness, along with a friendly staff, and tasty food. Whenever I am not meeting friends for lunch, I find an unengaged table and order coffee or tea with pen and paper in hand to write. Its essence is similar to the words by Michael Bravo, “The Pole Star is different from all other stars because it is, relatively speaking, fixed, whereas all other stars appear to rotate around the Pole Star in the course of a night.”

And thus, I set foot into a neighborhood star, Dr Smood for the pleasure of good food, good company, and the mystery of a traveler.

Catch it if you can at https://www.drsmood.com

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Catch It: Tramonti Pizza

One of the greatest joys of being a writer is meeting new people who like sharing their stories with my readers. Especially, when I meet an entrepreneur who has a passion for doing what he or she loves, and has made a life and gives what one can like words of inspiration.

Several weeks ago, I interviewed Chef Giovanni Vittorio Tagliafierro of Tramonti Pizza located at 130 Saint Mark’s Place, New York, NY 10009. The restaurant is in a quiet neighborhood in Lower Manhattan with a mixture of trendy streets and sidewalks of charming cafes and bakeries. 

There is a historical and humble presence when one enters Tramonti Pizza with its warm-hearted, welcoming décor and family pictorials on the walls. The restaurant is not only known for its sumptuous food but the atmosphere of home. Chef Giovanni has abundant energy as he moves throughout his establishment with a cheerful and caring way.  

Right before we sat down to talk a regular customer came into the Italian restaurant to pick-up his order. And while he was waiting, I asked the gentleman, “What do you like about Tramonti?”

“It’s delicious. It’s good. It’s our favorite place in the neighborhood for my wife and me. We come at least twice a week.”

“Oh great,” I said. “I am here to interview Chef Giovanni.”

“Use my name.” He said, “I am Matt, and we love Tramonti.”

Chef Giovanni laughed, and so our interview began with light music in the background, a wood-burning oven, and his best mate Luca, at the front desk while customers flowed in between.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WOOD-FIRED OVENS?

Tramonti is a valley between the mountains along the Amalfi coast, and “Tra” in Italian means, “in between,” “monti” in Italian means, “mountains.” Growing up in Tramonti, my family had three to five wood fire ovens because they were making everything there, not only just the bread. It was the cooking; the heat of the house, the stove is like the fireplace. So the real business was in Southern Italy, my family had the Pizzeria in Tramonti from about 1885 over 100 years ago. My great-great-grandfather Vittorio opened a small cantina. Cantina is the location where you sell the wine. He had a sub wood fire and made pizzas for the customers. Tramonti is known as the land of the pizza maker. Of the 4,000 residents that live in Tramonti, there are over 2000 pizzeria restaurants spread out all across Northern Italy and in a couple of cities in Europe. We opened our family pizzeria in October 1964. My mother is the boss with my two brothers, and the restaurant seats more than 200 people.

WHAT AGE DID YOU BECOME A CHEF?

Last summer in July was the 50th anniversary of my first pizza. It was July 22, 1968. I was in the kitchen, and my grandfather Giovanni who had been in WWI, asked me, ‘can you make pizza for nonno?’ Grandfather in Italian is nonno, and I said, ‘no, I can’t, I don’t know how to make pizza.’ He said, ‘you are six years old…come on. How you don’t know to make pizza yet?’ ‘I said, ‘no not my fault nonno,’ So my grandfather took my hand and said ‘today, you gonna learn from me and you going to make pizza for nonno.’ I was six years and two months when I made my first pizza. My nonno said it was the best pizza he ever had in his life. But I’m not sure. (We both laugh).

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS BEING HERE IN EAST VILLAGE?

I didn’t know about East Village. I found this by chance because the place was available and it already had a wood fire oven. I had seen many people walking here, young people, it was not expensive for me, and I say ‘Why not opened an Embassy of Tramonti’. In New York, we are the Embassy of Tramonti. Many people come here from Tramonti. A couple of days ago, I had a family from Asbury Park, New Jersey, that is considered the little Tramonti in America; they saw this place on the internet, and they decided to come. They asked me to help them do some research to find their relatives in Tramonti and using Facebook, we found their family.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PIZZA OF THE AMALFI COAST AND TRAMONTI?

What we try to do here is not only to bring the Amalfi style of food but the Tramonti food, because it is all about the food. No town in the Amalfi Coast can compare with Tramonti. Tramonti is the town of the food, the village of the pizza. Everything started there. The products come from Tramonti. Tramonti is the culinary capital of the Amalfi Coast.

IS PREPARING A DISH LIKE STARTING A BUSINESS?

The food is more passion than business—much more because if you see my products, I import them straight from Tramonti, and they are much more expensive. If it were only business, it would be different. I am going to find products here, that is cheap. I try to import products from Tramonti like the mozzarella and the sauce. I need the quality, and without that, I can call it anything. That’s why I say we are an Embassy; I am always in contact with Tramonti.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE WHO WANTED TO BECOME A CHEF?

You need patience and passion, because if they think: I am going to be a chef, and make lots of money, eat very well, cook for myself, family and customers, but if you don’t have the passion for the food, it can be just a job, and you will be like any other chef. Passion is love. Passion is when you see your customer, and you see how happy they are on their faces; how happy they are after they have tried your dishes. That makes me entirely happy—absolutely, delighted.

WHAT IS THE SECRET TO YOUR DESSERT “CHOCOLATE EGGPLANT”?

It’s popular because nobody does it. In New York, people are looking for something new. It is something entirely new. In the mind of people, a dessert with eggplant is unusual. I always tell people when they ask for the most traditional dessert, I say to them, we have one.  It’s not easy. It’s a long process. We are talking about three or four centuries of the recipe for our Chocolate Eggplant.

FINALLY, TRAMONTI PIZZERIA IS A ROMANTIC HIDEAWAY IN THE EAST VILLAGE.

Thank you. My idea was to cook and serve the people. Talk to the people. We like people to enjoy our restaurant, and we smile at their joy.

||

My pizza was sublime, and my dessert was delicious, and all the while we talked, as customers entered, they seemed comfortable and happy. Tramonti Pizza is merely a family affair.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Catch it at https://www.tramontipizzanyc.com

Posted in Historical Sites, Italian Cuisine, Lower Manhattan, Mediterranean, Pizza Destination, Restaurants, Valentine's Day | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment