The fresh fragrance from two floor-to-ceiling walls of apples wafts out of the doors of Bouley at Home and out onto the streets of the Flat Iron district. Inside, the expansive space flows beyond the walls of apples into the main restaurant - where skilled chefs cook dinner in front of their guests in an exciting and educational dining experience - and through to the Bouley Test Kitchen, Chef David Bouley’s culinary laboratory.
The dining area left the Manhattan Sideways team in awe of its old world elegance, with everything from giant, gold-framed oil paintings to rows of vintage cookbooks facing out onto a cozy sitting area of plush, velvet couches. Further, it was clear from our first whiff of juicy, roast duck that wafted from the dining room’s open kitchen that the staff at Bouley at Home puts just as much care into their food as they do into the décor. “Food can turn life around; food and lifestyle can make you unbreakable,” said world renowned chef David Bouley. Traveling around the world, Chef Bouley has cooked with many of Europe’s most honored chefs and has mastered the art of fine dining, opening numerous critically-acclaimed restaurants in New York.
Chef Bouley cares deeply for the health and happiness of his patrons. When his kitchen began receiving “pages” of requests to accommodate for various autoimmune diseases, Chef Bouley says, “we realized that we needed to learn about the science of cooking and how can we service the people with a meal where they’re not going to have any side effects, where they’re going to have an enjoyable and fun evening.” And so the ‘Chef and Doctor Series’ was born: by working with top health professionals, Chef Bouley explained, he developed a way to “remove the boundaries between what they do and what we do.” Through this initiative, the chefs at Bouley at Home work closely with doctors, collaborating to develop flavorful and healthy meals to serve in the elegant dining space on 21st Street.
The Manhattan Sideways team was served a six-course meal that featured tender halibut, perfectly-roasted peppers with goat cheese and truffles, and, for dessert, a flaky tart-pastry topped with fresh strawberries and served with sweet rhubarb sorbet. As we enjoyed this scrumptious meal, Dr. Aviva Romm shared with us some of her vast knowledge of mindful eating habits to, as she put it, “take back your health.” Dr. Aviva emphasized, “when I began eating healthy, amazing things started happening.” Chef Bouley shares this passion, and his love of healthy cooking is clearly represented in his menu.
For Chef Bouley, great taste goes hand-in-hand with great health, and, beyond offering healthy dining at Bouley at Home, he hopes to teach customers how to cook healthy meals for themselves in their own homes with the personal, hands-on experience of his restaurant and his educational Chef and Doctor series. Chef Bouley smiled, “We know that food can do magic if you just give it some time.”
2010 was a big year for Fany Gerson. A native of Mexico City and a former pastry chef at Eleven Madison Park, she spent the spring and summer launching her business, La Newyorkina, which sells traditional Mexican ice pops and sweets. But as winter approached, business began to slow down, and a good friend of hers suggested that they open a doughnut shop together. Fany was skeptical at first—“Bed-Stuy didn’t seem like the obvious place for gourmet doughnuts”—but in spite of her reservations, she accepted the job. After long discussions with her business partner about textures and flavors, Fany set out to create the perfect old-fashioned doughnut, thick and hearty, but also light. “We wanted a doughnut that would taste good naked, ” she told me “and we knew it was all about the dough, hence the name. ” Finally, after endless tweaking and experimenting, Fany hit on the perfect recipe, and three weeks later, Dough opened its doors in Brooklyn. It was the beginning of a wonderful partnership. Throughout the fall and winter, Fany devoted most of her attention to Dough; as the weather grew warmer and doughnut sales declined, she had time to develop new flavors and recipes for La Newyorkina. But it has not always been easy to balance the two businesses, especially since Dough’s second location opened in the fall of 2014. “That first summer, ” Fany recalled, “the hot weather unexpectedly affected the doughnuts, and I had to adjust my recipe last-minute and work on La Newyorkina at the same time. ” She smiled, and added, “I don’t get a lot of sleep. ”But in spite of the difficulties, it is obvious that Fany loves what she does. She gave me a fascinating tour of Dough’s kitchen, enthusiastically pointing out where the dough rises and how the doughnuts are fried, about one minute on each side. “Most places make their doughnuts in the morning, ” Fany explained, “but we take it a step further. Our doughnuts are fresh and warm whenever you come in. ” Once the doughnuts are fried, they are ready for the final touch—the glaze. I was eager to ask Fany about this stage of the process, since Dough is known for its exotic flavors—some of its best sellers include hibiscus, mocha almond, and dulce de leche. “Inspiration is everywhere, ” Fany told me, “but a lot of my flavors come from my memories of Mexico. ” She invented the hibiscus flavor, for example, on a hot day when she was craving the refreshing hibiscus water that she used to drink back at home. “We needed a colorful doughnut, ” she told me, “but I didn’t want to use coloring. And it occurred to me that hibiscus has a beautiful natural color. ”Some of Fany’s flavors have become so popular that customers complain if she takes them off the menu. “We have a few flavors that rotate, but not many, ” she told me. “We have to give the people what they want, but we also try to keep it interesting. ” Some of Dough’s best-selling staples include salted chocolate caramel, café au lait, and nutella, although Fany’s personal favorite is the cinnamon sugar. “I also like the tart flavors, like passion fruit and tropical chile, ” she told me. “The glaze is a nice contrast to the richness of the doughnut. ”I was surprised to learn that, in addition to producing hundreds or even thousands of doughnuts each day, Dough runs a wholesale operation at night, selling doughnuts to nearby coffee shops and supermarkets. To keep the business running smoothly both during the day and at night, Fany estimates that Dough employs thirty or forty employees total. Dough has been hugely successful, and Fany told me that they will soon be opening another location in Manhattan. “It’s hard, ” she told me, “I’d like to see the business grow, but I’m hesitant to do franchises in other cities. ” Instead, she prefers to keep Dough personal, developing new products and flavors and expanding on a smaller scale. “We’re trying new things every day, ” she told me, “and we’re growing organically. ”After the tour, Fany led me out to Dough’s front counter. “Would you like to try one? ” she asked, and after a moment of deliberation, I chose the dulce de leche doughnut. The smooth caramel flavor of the glaze paired perfectly with the crunchy slivered almonds on top, but the best part, as I expected, was biting into the soft, airy dough, still warm from the oven.
It is not always easy to satisfy a dessert craving and stay healthy. Baked goods are often packed with sugar and other unhealthy ingredients. At Protein Bakery, the Manhattan Sideways team found treats that were both delicious and healthy. Stephen Lincoln, the founder and owner, has designed his recipes to attract health-conscious customers who still want a tasty brownie, blondie or cookie. The black and white patterns on the wallpaper of the bakery help to create a room that looks slightly like an optical illusion, drawing intrigued customers (like members of the Manhattan Sideways team) into the store. Stephen began Protein Bakery in 1999 and opened this location on 19th Street in 2016. When we sat down to speak with him, we learned that while on his journey to lose weight, he found himself constantly looking for a healthy snack to satisfy his hunger. Unable to find one, he decided to create his own. While working as a fitness instructor, following a new fitness regiment, and eating his own healthy snacks, Stephen was proud to reveal that he had lost eighty-two pounds, and has continued to keep the weight off. Baking in the same kitchen since 1999. Stephen uses his own whey protein concentrate, which is "richer and better-tasting than a lot of other commercially-available protein powders. " All of the products used are gluten- and preservative-free. In order to add flavor to his snacks and pack in even more protein, Stephen will sometimes add walnuts, peanuts, and coconut. Though he started off locally, Stephen has expanded his product line and now ships across the world.
It is easy to pass by City Cakes, but if that happens, circle back and find it. The first time I went in, there were several regular customers squished into this tiny basement bakeshop, hotly debating their favorite cookie flavor, with the consensus being oatmeal raisin. I sampled the triple chocolate spice cookie, a sensational blend of chocolates and ground cloves. On a subsequent visit, we learned about the new breakfast cupcake, which was being highly praised and considered remarkable - a pancake-batter cupcake, topped with maple butter crème and fresh bacon bits. Owners Marc Matthias and Benny Rivera started this business as a custom cake studio in 2005. Due to demand, the two expanded the bakery and began selling directly to the public. Benny does the design, while Marc handles the cake construction and marketing. They are a great duo that shoots for non-traditional designs and superb flavors. The cakes are wondrous to look at and taste divine, but to indulge in any of their smaller treats is also heavenly. On any given Friday or Saturday, one can stop by to observe the cake assembly, but while there, it is essential to try something else - be it a classic chocolate chip cookie, a sugardoodle cookie, or a salted caramel cupcake.
While the digital age has allowed us to streamline many services, there are some art forms that must remain analog. One trip to Best Shoe and Bag Original Repair on W21st Street in Chelsea and you’ll be convinced that the time honored art of cobbling is one that can’t be replaced. It’s an art that has been passed down to owner Marcia Sailema from her father, who ran the shop for decades until he retired in 2015. Marcia said that in addition to helping her dad run the family business, she took classes at FIT to sharpen her skills in repairing luxury shoes and bags, which are the businesses specialty. “I learned so much industry vocabulary that I never knew before – like the way that the first part of a shoe design is called the last — and ‘the last comes first! ’” she laughed. She quickly acclimated to the delicate art of making much-loved, long-worn bags and shoes look like new by making delicate leather, paint and stitching matches to designers from Dior to Chanel and in fragile vintage pieces. The intricate work — which Marcia proudly showed us can make a nearly unusable bag or shoe look fresh off the shelf – has led to a loyal customer base. For Marcia, it’s a labor of love. “I really like working on the bags, ” she said, admiring a classic Louis Vuitton monogram bag that she’d recently completed repairs on. “Look at these zippers! ”
Merakia occupies the space that housed Kat & Theo from 2015-2017 - and while the restaurant maintains the same ownership as before, it also has a different mission. The modern Greek steakhouse prides itself on its meats and classic seafood items, while maintaining a classy, hip atmosphere in its cavernous space on 21st Street. “We built a new team… and a new vision, ” managing partner James Paloumbis shared with the Manhattan Sideways team when he spoke of the switch from Kat & Theo. He then went on to highlight Merakia’s differences from other Greek restaurants. “It’s not white and blue like every other place in New York City. Our menu is not the copy paste of any other place. ” The menu is heavy on steaks and seafood, boasting their signature lamb on the spit ("the only restaurant in the city to do so") while, surprisingly, offering some robust meat-free options as well. “Everything is farm to table, we use fresh ingredients, [and] we make everything from scratch on a daily basis. ” James told us that part of his mission is to bring back the adventure of going out to eat, a phenomenon he has noticed declining over the years. “People don’t like to go out anymore just to eat. You can eat at home, you can eat down the street, you can order your meal online. But to get an experience of nice service, some nice flavors, nice music, nice drinks - it’s worth your while to go out again. ” Husband and wife team behind Kat & Theo - Renee and Andreas Typaldos - seem to have orchestrated a smooth transition from their previous restaurant. As their past executive chef, Paras Shah, believed, "there should be a movie written about the couple's romantic backstory and that he “couldn’t have worked for better folks. ” Andy is originally from Greece, and the restaurant was named after his parents, Katerina and Theodosios. Andy came to New York on a scholarship from Columbia and met Renee, who is from the Bronx. He took her out on a first date “with holes in his shoes and with no winter jacket, ” according to Renee. She added, “The romantic, poetic way people get together. ” Today, they are paying homage to Andy's Greek heritage and according to James, “People have to trust their stomachs and their palates with a restaurant, so that’s what we’re trying to do here. Trust us - our food is fresh, our food is made with care, and we love what we do. ”
Calvary-St George’s church moved to Gramercy Park in 1832. It has a strong history of influential members and it was here that Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence was set. In addition to movie nights and summer programs for children, we witnessed a small, delightful concert performance along the sidewalk while walking one day.
Perhaps the attitude of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, ” works well at Society Billiards. They seem to know that sometimes a classic pool hall is just what people need. Extremely spacious and stocked with countless pool tables, anyone looking to get lost in the game will be sure to love this dimly lit, relaxed, yet classy spot.
As we peered behind the counter at Joe, we saw what looked like a machinist’s shop or a technological artist’s studio, and yet the rich aroma of coffee was unmistakable. Joe is a place for serious coffee, and they hope to make serious coffee-drinkers out of their customers. The front of the shop holds a regular coffee bar, with three stools, and a display with some useful coffee tools for at home brewing. The majority of the space, however, is filled by the coffee studio in back where customers can watch the machines whir and the experts work their magic. For those of us not as knowledgeable in the coffee arena, Joe offers regular classes on topics ranging from brewing technique to what they call “coffee theory. ” While they have several locations throughout Manhattan, Joe's on 21st street serves as the “pro shop” and headquarters.