Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Simple sushi at Choshi

Originally uploaded by lools.

When I need to get my weekly sushi fix, I head straight to Choshi, just a block away from my workplace in Gramercy/Flatiron. There are many, many places you can get sushi in Manhattan but I like Choshi so much because it's unpretentious and very reliable.

The decor is simple - the thatched walls and wooden tables, as though inside a hut, creates a homely feel. When I go alone, I sit by the sushi bar and watch in awe as the Japanese chefs delicately slice sashimi and make the rolls. They also have outdoor seating which is great during summer.

Choshi's menu is diverse and you can find almost anything and more you'd expect to find at a sushi joint. I love the veggie lunch platter (assorted combo of rolls) which comes with miso soup and a salad. If I'm ravenous, I'll order the veggie gyoza as an appetizer as well. It's definitely the best gyoza I've had on the East Coast. Sometimes at dinner, I treat myself to lychees and ice cream for dessert ;)

77 Irving Place (at 19th Street)
212 420 1419

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Cafeteria in Chelsea

Originally uploaded by lools.

What I love most about Cafeteria is the dependable fare available 24/7, 365 days of the year. I'm not sure many other high quality eateries in Manhattan can make that claim.

Cafeteria's vanilla, chocolate and baby blue colour combination is very sophisticated and lends the place a stylish charm. Breakfast is served right upto 5 p.m, a huge bonus, especially if you're the sleeping in type. Lots of different options to choose from including eggs, soups, salads, burgers and desserts. The veggie burger is particularly yummy and comes with nicely roasted potato wedges. Just perfect with a glass of mimosa at brunch.

119 Seventh Ave.
New York, NY 10011
Tel: (212) 414-1717

Weekend escape to AC, NJ

Originally uploaded by lools.

We got away from Manhattan for the first time this weekend since arriving here almost four months ago. It was quite an exhilirating feeling to get behind the wheels (something we haven't done for a while!) and race down the New Jersey Turnpike and the Atlantic City Expressway all the way to Atlantic City.

125 miles from New York, AC is located on the New Jersey coastline and offers non-stop gaming action, golf and fishing, luxurious casino resorts and white sandy beaches. It doesn't have the high-octane energy and rush of Las Vegas but is actually quite a bit like Reno except for the boardwalk and the ocean views.

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is the newest and nicest attraction in the city and can easily rival places like the Bellagio or the Venetian in Vegas. Borgata excellent restaurants, irresistible spa services and lots of different games. All the right ingredients in our books for a fun-filled and indulgent weekend.

While we did not escape for a quiet weekend in the countryside, it was liberating nonetheless to leave the city and experience life outside Manhattan, if only for a few days!

Friday, November 26, 2004

Dosas with a twist at Hampton Chutney Co.

Anila, Anaka, Amrita & Noah at Hampton'sChutney Co.
Originally uploaded by lools.

I love Manhattan! Where else in the world can one find a crispy dosa with avocado, fresh tomato, arugula and jack cheese? I can see you rolling your eyes but I assure you that this dosa that I had at Hampton Chutney Co.was just divine.

We met several members of the Ramabadran clan for brunch this afternoon at this unique Soho joint where the atmosphere is very calming and devotional Indian chants play in the background. Amrita & Noah had flown in from California the previous night and Anila took the Chinatown bus from Boston to Manhattan yesterday.

It was great to catch up with our cousins over dosas that came with the most unusual fillings including - hold your breath - grilled chicken, smoked turkey and eggs! Surprisingly, we were all in an adventurous mood. Not a single one of us ordered the Classic Masala Dosa. We each ordered a different chutney along with the dosas so we could try them all. The pumpkin chutney and the cilantro chutney were spectacular. We could taste the freshness of the ingredients and the perfect proportions of spices.

Hampton Chutney company was started by an American couple who met at the kitchens of the Siddha Yoga Meditation ashram in Ganeshpuri, India. They were both doing seva - selfless service - in the ashram kitchen, where devotees from all over India and around the world cooked for hundreds or thousands of people. They came back to the U.S. and first opened a dosa restaurant in upstate New York and then one in the heart of downtown Manhattan in the hip Soho district.

Though I loved the vegetarian dosa I had, I did walk away feeling a bit weird - the non-veg options seemed a bit of out character with the rest of the vibe. I always thought that a vegetarian diet went hand in hand with yoga and a more tapasic lifestyle. I guess I'm wrong!

American pie for breakfast!

Originally uploaded by lools.

If you gorged on Thanksgiving treats last night, chances are you had some form of pie for dessert and I'd guess that it was probably either pumpkin, mince or apple unless you live in the South in which case it must have be PE-can or Pe-CAN depending on your accent. Ever since Abraham Lincoln declared the first national Thanksgiving in 1863, pie became the preferred dessert of the day.

Apple pie is one of the most popular pies baked at home in the United States. Even though we say "as American as apple pie", the apple is not a New World Fruit but was actually brought to America by the early European settlers. But then the colonies mastered apple production so much that by the mid-18th century they were exporting apples back across the Atlantic!

For our friends' Thanksgiving celebration dinner, I baked apple pie last night using a recipe that features in the Top Ten in Jamie Oliver's new cookbook. I continue to be amazed by the simplicty of Jamie's recipes. The crust came out thick and crunchy while the raisins and powdered ginger gave a nice kick to the well-baked apples for the filling.

The best part of baking is, of course, leftovers, of which I have plenty. We found ourselves nibbling sugary crust early this morning. Have to be careful though otherwise the proverbial five pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas will definitely creep in before the 2005 is here!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Cooking in the rain!

Originally uploaded by lools.

It's been raining heavily in Manhattan since this afternoon. Sixth Avenue is jammed and I can hardly see the Empire State Building. What perfect conditions to avoid the cacophony outdoors and start Thanksgiving preparations at home. Besides, I'd rather be cooking than doing anything else on a cold, rainy day ;)

But we're not actually hosting family or friends tomorrow for a big meal so there's no cooking that needs to be done. I turn on Food TV and watch Paul Dean's Home Cooking show instead.

Paula's Oven Roasted Red Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic sounds like just the dish I'd make if I were actually in the kitchen today:

1 1/2 pounds small new red potatoes (about 15), scrubbed and dried
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 to 6 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Pare a narrow strip of peel from the middle of each potato. In a large bowl mix the oil, garlic, and rosemary; add the potatoes and toss well. Transfer the potatoes to a shallow baking pan and roast until potatoes are tender when tested with the tip of a knife. Serve hot.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Ruby Foo's Times Square

Originally uploaded by lools.

You can't escape the sensory overload in Manhattan. Lately, I've been getting a good dosage of bright neon lights and loud chatter at restaurants as well! Tonight I brought it upon myself by choosing to have dinner with some friends at Ruby Foo's, one of the most popular restaurants in the city. I just couldn't help it as I've been here before and the Pan-Asian food (with Thai, Japanese and Chinese fusion selections) is just delicious.

I must warn you though that you will feel like you're at the Chinese Pavillion at the Epcot Center. Bright orange and jet black oversized lanterns evoking those in "The Forbidden City" hang over the Shanghai-style dining room. The open bar area is quite modern in styling while the far end of the room is more traditional and has an exquisite gold statue of Buddha that keeps a watchful eye on all the guests. The place is mostly filled with tourists but there are quite a few pre or post-theatre Manhattanites tucked away in corners, thoroughly enjoying the Asian delicacies although they would not be caught dead seen in an over-the-top establishment like this!

The food here is consistently excellent. There are many options for vegetarians. The spinach and mushroom dumplings melt in the mouth. The spicy eggplant is succulent and very aromatic thanks to the sweet basil used in the dish. The assorted mushroom fried rice has interestiing flavour combinations going on with the soft mushrooms, the crunchy celery and the sharp red onion tidbits. My favourite dish though is the fried asparagus and sun-dried tomato sushi. Sounds a bit off-putting but it's so tasty once you give it a chance - soft on the outside and real crunchy on the inside.

Ruby Foo's also has plenty of choice when it comes to dessert and after-dinner drinks and teas. Try the Bento Box (comes with assorted treats) or the Thai Mocha and Chocolate Sundae!

1626 Broadway
New York, NY
Cross Street: 50th Street
Phone: (212) 489-5600

Monday, November 22, 2004

A tres funky subterranean bar

Originally uploaded by lools.

Only in New York will an Italian lounge and bar be serving hookahs in five delicious flavours and serving drinks with names like Mozart Martini and Altamira. Talk about a fusion of different cultures! Welcome to La Caverna, a hip hangout modeled after Roman caves during the era surrounding 1500 BC.

The ambience at La Caverna is very unusual and unlike any other bar in the city. Sip on cocktails and soak in the feeling of being transported to La Grotte de Lascaux in France. The Italian designers who visualized the space did a fine job creating stalagmites and stalactites and even cave paintings that lend the restaurant a surreal feeling. The dimly lit scene lends a mysterious aura.

I thoroughly enjoyed chilling out at La Caverna over the weekend with my friend, Aylin, and the Turkish mafia from the Cathedral-equivalent of Istanbul. The food was very ordinary and quite greasy. But the friendly staff cheerfully accomodated our boisterous group which more than made up for the less than memorable food.

I suspect that snuggling up in one of the large peach colored leather couches would actually be quite a delightful way to unwind with a loved one after a hectic work day...

122-124 Rivington Street

Sunday, November 21, 2004

MoMa reopens

Girl before a mirror, Pablo Picasso at MoMa
Originally uploaded by lools.

The 630,000 square foot space of The Museum of Modern Art reopened in midtown Manhattan yesterday upon completetion of a massive renovation project that cost over $800 million. Japanese architect, Yoshio Taniguchi, has done a spectacular job with the new space that is truly a tribute to some of the best contemporary art in the world today.

We spent a few hours this afternoon strolling around the fifth floor of the museum where the paintings are housed. We did not even attempt to take in much else of the massive collection of architecture, photography and scultpure on the other floors. I want to savour each floor bit by bit on every visit. Thanks to GS's generous contributions over the years, we are very lucky to get in for free every time though I don't think that $20 per person is too much of a price to pay for all the fabulous art on display.

I was totally awed by the number of Picasso paintings on display. Having personally seen his work at other museums like the Musee Nacional Picasso Paris and Museo Nacional Centre de Arte Reina Sofia Madrid, I was impressed by how much of his work MoMA owns. It was awesome to see "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" in all its original beauty in addition to many other of his wonderful paintings. We stood mesmerized by Les Demoiselles painting imagining all the homework and study that Picasso completed before he started this fabulous creation. It's such an enriching experience to see the brushstrokes and detail from up-close.

Other paintings that one may easily recognize are Van Gogh's "Starry Night", Chagal's "I and the Village" and Monet's massive "Waterlilies". Even though I've seen quite a bit of the fifth floor, I plan to rent an audio guide when I return. At just $5 a visit, this is a great way to learn much more about every piece of art.

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019-5497

Cooking for Mr. Latte

Originally uploaded by lools.

I picked up Amanda Hesser's recent book at JFK en route to SFO a few months back. The title drew me in and the sub-head "A food lover's courtship, with recipes" hooked me.

This is a tale about food and romance in New York City. Amanda is a New York Times food writer whose courtship with Tad Friend (also a writer), the famous Mr. Latte, is portrayed throughout the pages of the book. As she describes the various stages of their relationship - from their first date to the proposal and wedding - she generously shares recipes from the meals at every occasion. Amanda is a hard-core (if sometimes snobbish) foodie raised on french cooking traditions and thus has quite a few interesting tips for readers on various aspects of cooking and preparing meals for loved ones. Her recipes are supposed to work really well though I haven't tried any of them as yet.

Be forewarned though that this book is not for everyone. There's been a huge anti-Amanda sentiment that seems to have accompanied the release of her book. She is criticized for living too much in an ivory tower and heavily name-dropping Manhattan restaurant names. Some reviewers feel her book is extremely shallow and irrelevant to someone say in Fargo, North Dakota. There's also been much written about what a boring character Mr. Latte is and how Amanda's portrayal of him is bland and lacking emotion.

I'd say that if you're into cooking and know something about Manhattan and the food scene here, give this book a shot. You'll recognize names like Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel and Pearl Oyster Bar. You may be tempted by recipes such as "Potatoes with Smoked Paprika" and "Beet and Ginger Soup with Cucucmber". Don't expect too much from the romantic tale though as Amanda hasn't done a good job at all on that front.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Italian tapas in the East Village

Originally uploaded by lools.

When you're in a low-key mood to nibble on excellent regional Italian fare, head to Perbacco in the East Village. Located on East 4th Street between Avenues A and B, this cozy, dimly lit, brick walled eatery has a unique take on tapas, Italian style.

Choose from delicacies like fish carpaccio, potato and cheese croquettes, bite-size chunks of parmesan and goat cheese wrapped with thin slices of zucchini strips. There's also a wide choice of Italian entrees including a delicious gorgonzola ravioli in sage sauce that is divine. The friendly Italian staff can suggest appropriate wine pairings from the all-Italian wine list, a pleasant surprise in Manhattan. Try the old world Nero D'Avola if you're looking for something full bodied.

234 E. 4th St. (East Village)

Thursday, November 18, 2004

The Naked Chef's off-screen charms

Jamie signs my copy of his latest book
Originally uploaded by lools.

The fourth floor of Barnes and Noble in Union Square was already packed at 5:30, a full hour and a half in advance of Jamie Oliver's scheduled appearance at 7 p.m. The room reverberated with the sounds of excited chatter. A fairly youngish crowd (mostly in their 20s and 30s) pored over "Jamies's Dinners" in eager anticipation.

He arrived at 7 p.m sharp to boisterous cheers and loud clapping. I was completely amazed by the palpable excitement all around. After a quick introducton by the publisher, Jamie took the stage.

He looked like a regular bloke (his favourite word), showered and shaved as though after a rugby game, but was oozing his quintessential British charm. If he's appealed to you on screen, you'll so be in love with him in person. He has a very approachable personality (despite all the fame) and a brilliant sense of humour. Totally adorable.

He told us how he came about the idea for his latest book and then explained the concept behind some of the chapters. He spoke passionately about Cheeky Chops, the charity he started, and the trials and tribulations of Fifteen, his restaurant in Westland Place, London. He expressed his deep concerns about child obesity and the prevelance of junk food in school cafeterias. Jamie shared with us an interesting statistic that the U.K government allocates 46p per meal for criminals in the prison systems and 36p per student in the school systems. How warped is that!

We saw just how die-hard some of his fans are when it was time for questions. One woman stood up and went on for two minutes on how much she adored Jamie even before getting to her question. She even gifted him something and got a big bear hug in return to jealous "awwwwww...s" from the crowd. Another fan asked Jamie what time he shopped at his favourite outdoors market in London and which butcher he bought his sausage from. Apparently she had been going there every weekend this past summer in the hopes of running into him! The funniest question was asked by a thirteen year old boy who wondered how Jamie's hair was so "cool". That really made the crowd burst out in laughter!

The highlight of the evening for me was actually not getting the book signed by The Naked Chef, but meeting his mate, Andy. He lived up to his reputation of being a real lady's man and even personalized his autograph for me! We chatted a bit about their trip to the U.S. and Jamie's plans to do something in New York. A Jamie Oliver restaurant in Manhattan - how delightful that would be!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Demystifying writing

Originally uploaded by lools.

Writing can be somewhat of a mysterious process. Writer's block can be a real deterrent that really sucks the fun out of self-expression.My whole attitude to writing has changed dramatically after a very empowering, intensive course that I took this past Sunday offered by Gotham Writers' Workshop, New York's most comprehensive writing class. You can take a course that runs 10-weeks, one-day or even online.

I was like an enthusiastic eight-grader, lapping up every word that the instructor uttered. An attractive thirty year old young woman with a calm demeanour and a sparkling smile led us through important elements of nonfiction writing. She had a straightforward style and easy manner which helped in keeping us engaged throughout the seven hours. She was an expert at positive criticism, encouraging and building on our strengths while showing areas for improvement.

Opportunities for nonfiction writers are everywhere - magazine, newspapers, books, the Internet. The best part about nonfiction writing is that is becoming increasingly creative and diverse embracing many different subjects and styles. We learnt how to successfully pitch stories to editors of local newspapers and magazines and how to get published. Of course, with all the best blogging tools easily accessible, who needs the media, right?

If you're looking to kick-start your writing process or just for a few tips and tricks, Gothams' is definitely worth checking out.

Friday, November 12, 2004

A Tour of Spain

Originally uploaded by lools.

Did you know that Spain has more land planted to grape vines than any other country? Or that Rioja is one of Spain's best known wine regions? And that goat's milk cheese is best paired with white wine? These were some of my learnings from a wine class cum charity that we attended last night with my friend, Prashant. This class was a great sampler of different Spanish wines and cheeses.

From the time I visited Andalucia four years ago for my honeymoon, my love for all things Spanish (and vegetarian, of course!) has been growing steadily. I've learnt Spanish over the years and am fairly decent at conversation now. I love tapas and try to serve it at every opportunity. And now I'm really into Spanish wine and cheese in a big way. So this charity event was a great way to contribute to a good cause while learning something new about a subject close to my heart.

I was thrilled to discover a few delicious white and red wines and cheeses at the event yesterday that I'd like to recommend to you:

Txomin Etxanziz, Getariako Txakolina, Basque Region, Spain, 2003, $15 - a bit of a mouthful to say but a lovely white wine that actually tastes a bit like champagne. A perfect drink with appetizers, especially in the summer.

Bodegas Lan, Crianza, Rioja, Spain, 1999, $10 - a young red wine full of fruit. Goes well with pasta or ratatouille.

Urgelia - this creamy Spanish cheese is a member of the washed rind (a.k.a. stinky) cheese family, but it's mild and subtle and just delicious.

Zamorano - a wonderful cheese from Sheep's milk that is great for snacking and can be enjoyed with a glass of full-bodied wine.

All these wines and cheeses are moderately priced and easily available at upscale grocery stores. The best way to locate wines online is Wine Searcher. Check it out!

At the very least, I hope I've inspired you to try out a new Spanish wine or cheese the next time you're at the store.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


36'' Pizza from Pinch!
Originally uploaded by lools.

Think of a three feet long pizza. Now think of different toppings every six inches. Imagine the possibilities. This is the creed of pizza from PINCH, Pizza by the Inch, located in Gramercy Park.

I love ordering pizzas from Pinch, especially when we host poker parties at home. I usually get two of the 36" long versions and go crazy with the toppings. It's such a showstopper and everyone just loves the unusual toppings. I order a different one for every six inch. Pinch has an awesome variety to select from:

Cheese - Ricotta, Pecorino, Goat Cheese, Gorgonzola, Extra Mozzarella

Meat - Pepperoni, Hot Sausage, Sweet Sausage, Beef Sausage, Pancetta

Vegetable - Mushrooms, Roasted Peppers, Grilled Onion, Grilled Eggplant, Roasted Garlic, Fresh Tomato, Roasted Squash, Spinach, Brocolli

Savory - Pesto, Olives, Anchovies, Capers, Chillis in Oil, Sundried Tomato, Chicken Cracklings, Breadcrumbs & Olive Oil

I can't comment on the meats but my top recommendations for vegetarians are grilled onions, roasted garlic and olives. Each of these toppings has an amazingly delicious flavour that goes so well with the thin crust bread.

Believe it or not, the Pinch guys break out the ruler for Mocha Tiramisu and Apple Cobler as well. I haven't yet ordered dessert by the inch but might give it a shot next time around. Yum!

416 Park Avenue South (near 29th)

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Fond(ue) Memories

Originally uploaded by lools.

I've always considered fondue the ultimate social magnet. Bring together good friends, plenty of grated cheese, a few caraffes of the best wine and lots of cubed bread and veggies. What a fine recipe for elegant entertaining at home!

I had some of my girlfriends over for cheese and chocolate fondue last night. We got to know each other better and bonded over a delicious blend of gruyere, emmental and parmesan. This was followed by dark chocolate and orange fondue with plenty of the pound cake I told you I baked yesterday. I always thought that cooking was the way to a man's heart but I'm fast discovering that it's a great way to forge new ties with my girlfriends as well. I especially love the intimate atmosphere created over a pot of melting indulgences. The spirit of "letting go" easily carries over from the meal to the conversation. After all, why hold back on speaking one's heart when not holding back on all the cheese and chocolate?

I'm finding that my wonderful girlfriends are making my transition to the hectic Manhattan life so much easier. Whether it's advice on what kind of winter coat I should invest in or a sympathetic ear when someone was terribly rude, I've been able to survive this edgy city so far thanks to all the kindness and warmth of my wonderful girlfriends. So thanks to all you without whom I'd be on the way to JFK catching the next flight to SFO.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Simply Pound Cake

Originally uploaded by lools.

Even though I love to cook, baking has always intimidated me. There seems to be much more science involved in whipping up a meringue pie than churning out a rigatoni with eggplant! Of late, I've been having intense sweet cravings at all odd hours of the day but have been disappointed to not find a delicious homemade cookie or leftover pie lying around.

I decided to be adventurous and try my hand at baking this evening. I was encouraged by a very simple recipe for pound cake that I came across in The Fondue Cookbook. Those of you interested in the origin of words will be tickled to know that pound cake originated in North Europe and is so named because the original recipe called for an equal weight of the ingredients!

Here's the easy recipe in case you feel like giving it a shot as well:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
4 eggs

1. Lightly grease and flour a 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 3 inch loaf pan. Sift the flour and baking powder together and set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg. Add 1 tablespoon of flour if the mixture starts to curdle. I used my CuisinArt food processor for this and it worked just wonderfully.
3. Fold in the flour and pour into the load pan. Bake in a preheated oven, at 350F, for about 45 minutes until golden. To test if the ckae is done, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. The cake is ready if the toothpick comes out clean.
4. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan; then turn onto a wire rack to cool completely before serving.

I followed instructions to the tee and I'm thrilled to say that my first baking experiment in years turned out ok. Now I'm really looking forward to making more sweet treats to survive the winter.

Saturday, November 06, 2004


Originally uploaded by lools.

Every time I see dogs being walked around Manhattan, I'm reminded of the joys of being a dog owner. What I love most about dogs is their capacity for unlimited, unconditional love and totaly loyalty. Dogs have such a special way in which they make you feel like the most important person in their world.

Even though I grew up in big cities like Bangalore and Bombay, we always had dogs at home even when we didn't have backyards. I'll admit that they were small to midsized breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Terriers and Lhasa Apsos, but nonethless I believe that a home without a dog is incomplete.

Manhattan is an incredibly dog-friendly city which makes it even sadder that we don't have a dog. Harsha subscribes to the school of thought that people without yards should never have dogs, ever. I'm trying to convince him otherwise but it's going to take a while..

In the meanwhile, I get my doggie fixes in Manhattan by logging on to Urbanhound, the city dog's ultimate survival guide. This website is unbelievably rich in content and of the most useful sites I've ever come across - if only I could actually use it!

From a comprehensive list of dog runs around town to guidance on finding a Burberry coat for your pooch (sigh), Urbanhound has it all. I was most fascinated to learn from the website that more and more Americans are commissioning professional potraits of their pets these days. There is even a specialized breed of photographers who make their living taking pictures of pets all day long!

Now if I can only find the perfect excuse to sneak a dog into our apartment and look after it forever...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Shopping made easy

Originally uploaded by lools.

Given our extremely stressful lives jam-packed with work and social commitments, there's no time left to do anything else, especially on work days. This can be really frustrating given that the holidays are just around the corner and it's time to start collecting gifts for close family and friends back home. My friend, Shivani, and her cousin, Nitika, made shopping fun and easy for their buddies tonight by organizing a lovely Shopping Party!

I was introduced to three designers at the event:

SUMRITA - a collection of handbags, stoles and pillowcases. Featured in numerous magazines in India including Cosmopolitan. Her bags have also been used in Ralph Lauren's fashion shows in Europe.

RISSY LYN- customized frames for every occasion. She has made frames for Sarah Jessica Parker and was recently featured in InStyle Home Magazine.

CHRISTINA DESIGNS-the latest jewelry trends with semi-precious stones, all handmade.

My favourite items on sale were not the designer pieces (though they were exquisite) but a line of hand-made soaps called Don't Be a DirtBag! I even met and chatted with the founder of this brand of soap. Jim lives in Brooklyn and handcrafts the soap at his home studio. He makes all the soaps with natural oils of Olive, Coconut and Palm for the base. Then he creates unique variations by adding special ingredients like Avocado, Shea Butter, French Roast Coffee, Dandelion Leaf and even Yerba Mate! I can't stand to drink Yerba Mate but was convinced by Jim that this herb restores youthful hair color, retards aging and reduces the effects of stress. Clearly, these soaps are meant to treat the face, the body as well as the soul!

Shivani didn't want us to shop on an empty stomach after a long day at work so she had arranged for fine wine and finger foods which were yummy!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Tea Rooms in Manhattan

Originally uploaded by lools.

A cup of hot tea has firmly established itself as my antidote to the stressful Manhattan life. I read somewhere recently that according to ancient Chinese legend, the first cup of tea was produced in 2737 B.C., when the leaves of a black tea shrub haphazardly fell into the boiling water of Emperor Shen Nung, the father of Chinese medicine. Ever since, tea has been used to treat various ailments. Tea also has any number of psychological benefits that have increased its popularity in our day and age.

I usually have on stock my favourites like Rishi's Organic Earl Grey, The Republic of Tea's Vanilla Almond, Tazo's Wild Orange Herb and good old Taj Mahal. My moods dictate my choice of teas at different times of the day. But of late, I've become a little more adventurous and have started discovering new teas and delightful places to enjoy tea in Manhattan.

My fascination with tea rooms began when I had afternoon tea at the Plaza Hotel's Palm Court Tea Room celebrating a friend's baby shower. Every day at 4pm, people line up and wait to be seated at this cafe/restaurant which has a distinctly British ambience. Along with different selections of fine tea, one can order scones and little sandwiches which literally melt in one's mouth. I was quite charmed by the concept of a tea room (and a little surprised that I hadn't ever been to one before!)and so began to find more such places.

I did some research on Google and found a comprehensive list of tea rooms in Manhattan.. It's a long list and I'm looking forward to visiting many of the tea rooms listed. So far I've been only to Chocolate Bar in the West Village. They have highly indulgent chocolate flavoured teas that smell just divine. And their chocolate bon bons that have classic as well as seasonal flavours are to die for. Imagine the powerful combination of chocolate and tea. How can this not be uplifting and good for the soul?

Next up, I'm hoping to visit a much talked about Japanese Tea Room in the Upper West Side. This place is set-up to be a real sanctuary in the midst of the urban jungle we live in. Hopefully I can enjoy a fine cup of tea while being shielded from the sirens. Stay tuned!