Ashraf, the owner of Le Salon, insists that she puts more thought into the products she uses than most hair stylists. Everything is organic, from the shampoos to the dyes. Ashraf told Manhattan Sideways team member Jon that she does this very deliberately. In an age when everyone is constantly using chemicals in their hair, she believes that it is causing harm, killing hair and hurting everyone’s general health. In order to fight against this trend, “organic is the way to go with both your health and the environment, ” Ashraf said. Ashraf has been a hairstylist for over forty years, working in almost every facet of the hairstyling industry. She emigrated to the United States from Iran in the 1970s, eventually landing in Henri Bendel’s hair salon. After working as a stylist for several years, she was hired by Bendel to travel the world, designing, managing, and running several hair salons. After learning as much as she possibly could, she made the decision in 1990 to come back to Manhattan and open up her own salon on 57th Street, which she later sold. Throughout this journey, Ashraf realized the importance of organic products, taking note to use them exclusively in her next salon. She opened Le Salon in 2007, catering towards people with health issues including alopecia, severe allergies and cancer. She believes that using gentle and organic products on their hair is the best treatment for these clients. Ashraf maintains that her products, all purchased exclusively from England, are of the highest quality.
Initially serving as a resting stop for Scandinavian sailors when they disembarked in lower Manhattan, the Swedish Seaman's Church opened its doors on Water Street in 1873. The neo-Gothic building in which the Church currently resides was constructed in 1921 for "The Bible House" before being sold to the Church of Sweden in 1978. The Church's nautical past is evidenced in the model boats placed among the large collection of Swedish books. With a chapel, a library, and a coffee shop, the Church's doors are always open to Swedes. While tasting their delicious Swedish buns, I chatted with the staff who spoke enthusiastically about the function that the center plays in people's lives. For families, it provides a "wind" of Sweden whenever they miss their homeland. There are also multiple weddings conducted in the chapel each week, and people come from all over to celebrate holidays and shop at their Christmas Bazaar.
Clinton Garden is a striking testament to the power of residential communities in New York. One of the earliest examples of urban agricultural reclamation, the garden was created in 1979 in a lot that had been abandoned for twenty-eight years. Seeing potential in the space and hoping to improve the area around the neighborhood, residents (with the help of Operation Green Thumb, which leased the lot from the city) transformed the VACANT property into a garden using reclaimed and salvaged bricks, concrete, and slate. Finding the gates open on a beautiful spring Saturday, I wandered in and strolled down the paths filled with magnificent flowers and shrubs. I also met committed people tending to their small plots of land, of which there are now over one hundred. I have since been back many times, as I think this is a magnificent retreat on those days that I am in a need of a place to rest while walking the side streets of Manhattan.
Tucked between a Swiss and an Italian restaurant, Scent Elate brings Eastern spirituality to the neighborhood. With the doors swung open, the aromas were an enticing trail that led me into this tiny boutique packed with an array of incense, candles, soaps, oils and lotions. Scent Elate also has books on meditation and yoga scattered among crystals, jewelry, chimes and hanging ornaments. In fact, it might just be "the" place to go when searching for sticks of incense - not only is there a vast selection, but Mo, the owner, makes a special effort to find the perfect scent to enhance each individual customer's environment.
Named after Bible verses in Isaiah (the wolf and the lamb shall feed together), this restaurant opened in Manhattan in 1998, and expanded to Brooklyn the following year. Initially a traditional kosher deli, it later reinvented itself as a steakhouse. The extensive menu ranges from matzo ball soup to salmon burgers, veal Bolognese gnocchi and, of course, includes a variety of steaks and chops. Drawing on influences as diverse as Vietnamese, Tex-Mex, and French-country, Wolf and Lamb adapts its more customary function to a cosmopolitan venue. "Just because you're keeping kosher doesn't mean you have to sacrifice on quality, " shared a waitress. And while we were told that the majority of customers keep kosher regularly, the crowded space was testament to Wolf and Lamb's broad culinary appeal.