When I first discovered Mastersmiths, I assumed that it was a shop specializing in kitchen knives. After speaking with Bill Malloy on the phone, however, he invited me in to discover what Mastersmiths was really about. Living directly across the street, Bill is happy to make appointments with those who are either collectors or simply interested in learning about a shop that specializes exclusively in custom-made knives and swords.
What an adventure it was to spend time with Bill as he told us that his fascination with blades was honed early. "Most kids my age were into guns and knives," he said, but with time, his boyhood interest grew into a real passion. Having worked in retail for most of his life - Bill began his career in the assistant buyer's program at Bloomingdales in his early twenties, and worked his way through the menswear industry before retiring in 2004. At that time, he was finally able to turn what had merely been a hobby for decades, into a retail business.
Almost all of the knives are custom-made, and Bill has collected them from around the world. He keeps about 300 blades in the store, and has a detailed index online. Bill's wife is responsible for a lot of the photography on the site, where multiple photographs of each item offer customers who are shopping remotely as detailed a description as possible. Nevertheless, Bill remarked, "the advantage of having a physical store is that people can come in and actually hold the product, getting to know the weight and feel of it before buying."
Among his most cherished possessions, Bill took out of the case an intricately detailed mosaic Damascus steel blade, Euro-katana swords, and another extraordinary blade that was more than 400 years old. With knife prices ranging from $700 to $10,000, I was mesmerized by the collection that he has amassed. When asked who his typical customers are, Bill informed us "most people buy the knives as investments. The industry is a lot like the art world. Depending on how famous the maker is, the value goes up when they pass away."
Beautifully decorated for the holiday season, Bistro Vendome was still abuzz with chatter when the Manhattan Sideways team stopped by at the tail end of lunch hour to meet with the delightful owner, Virginie Petiteau. Although she and her husband Pascal, who is the executive chef, hail from Brittany, France, they met in New York, where they both worked at Jubilee, a French restaurant on First Avenue. After fifteen years there, Virginie said they felt ready to open their own place. She told us that it was great to already have a base of customers in the area that knew and supported them when they opened Bistro Vendome in 2010. And she was pleased to tell us that they have maintained a loyal clientele ever since. As Virginie put it: "Some people who come here saw me when I was pregnant, and now my daughter is fourteen. "Pascal started working at high-end French restaurants in France at an early age. After coming to New York, he decided to focus on more casual French food. In 2014, he was inducted as Master Chef in Mątres Cuisiniers de France, a prestigious organization aiming "to preserve and spread the French culinary arts, encourage training in cuisine, and assist professional development. " An unusual occurrence continued to happen as we resumed our walking on 58th, as so many other businesses told us that they eat at Bistro Vendome on a regular basis because the food was as traditionally French as one could hope for in Manhattan.
Trendy, immense, packed at any hour and serving intriguing Pan-Asian food, Tao has been a sensation on 58th since opening its doors in 2000. Stepping inside, one cannot help but immediately feel transported to a different world. The interior design is exceptionally meticulous with beautiful calligraphy scrolls adorning the high ceilings, and a sixteen foot massive Buddha sculpture taking center stage down below. Despite the frenetic atmosphere, I have found Tao to be a fun restaurant to dine with friends and to enjoy an excellent meal.