Carrying everything from fresh groceries to wine, coffee and tea, to deli sandwiches, Blue Olive Market is a one-stop shop for enjoyable munching. It opened in early 2013, and by the time we got there nearly a month later, it seemed to have already attracted quite the following and was buzzing during each of our visits.
One day, I had the pleasure of sitting down with manager George, an incredibly amiable man ready to talk at length about the business and just what a pleasure it was to be running Blue Olive. "We're a market," he explained, "but we don't do a lot of marketing." Instead, the food speaks for itself. The emphasis is on Greek food and the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, one that is as rich in flavor as it is in health. He is quite proud of their two salad bars. The first is what a New Yorker would expect, whereas the other offers classic Greek salad that simply includes vine-ripe tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, feta cheese, peppers and a drizzle of their in-house olive oil. In keeping with tradition, there is no lettuce combined in this mixture.
Olive oil and citruses rule the day. In fact, Blue Olive presses their own olive oil in Greece and imports it right to their door on 41st. In addition, the market has a number of infused oils, including lavender, thyme and a variety of rich fruit flavors. Customers can use these on their salads, or fill an empty bottle to take home. A hot kitchen serves beautiful lamb shanks, grilled fishes, chicken confit, spanakopita, moussaka, soups and a host of other dishes, complementing the sandwiches fit for Olympus. A bar full of wines and beers tranquilly serves patrons stopping by for an afternoon or evening drink.
The coup de grace, though, is the frozen Greek yogurt. George was contagiously enthusiastic when speaking about his wacky production process. Plain Greek yogurt is taken and blended with a flavor -we chose raspberries on one occasion and "baklava" on another (honey and pistachio nuts) -and then the base yogurt is blasted with liquid nitrogen (-326 degrees!). This process does two things: (1) instantly cools the concoction considerably, leaving no ice crystals behind and producing a luxurious, velvety texture; and (2) as the nitrogen sublimates, it turns to a thick, cold steam that bubbles up and oozes out of the bowl of frozen yogurt, snaking across the counter and looking like a mix between magic spells and a mad scientist's experiment. The outcome is rich, creamy and tart with the delicious flavorings folded in. George is so pleased with the reaction that customers are having and is thrilled with the lines that are forming now that the weather is warming up enough to entice people to want to indulge in frozen yogurt. He recognizes that although this was his original concept, others will soon be attempting to replicate this amazing dessert.
Opened in 1973, the Kitano Hotel received a key from Mayor John Lindsay for being "the first Japanese-owned facility of its kind in New York." From 1991-1995, the hotel closed its doors for a complete overhaul of the exterior and interior. Stepping inside its doors, I could not help but have a feeling of calm settle over me as I received a warm reception from members of the staff. The simply decorated room with high-ceilings, clean lines, a magnificent floral display and beautiful art on the walls, immediately created an international and elegant appeal.Although the main entrance is on Park Avenue, Jazz at Kitano can be accessed either through the lobby or its own doors on 38th. Both the restaurant and hotel feature museum-quality art works including Fernando Botero, Paul Jenkins, Red Grooms, Ed Baynard and photographers Joel Greenberg and Henri Silberman. We found Jenkins' painting hanging above the bar, entitled Phenomena Seen Not Heard (2004), to be particularly stunning. What a wonderful atmosphere for live music and jazz rhythms, which are played almost every night of the week.
As part of the restoration of Grand Central Terminal in the late '90s, Pershing Square Cafe opened under the Park Avenue viaduct. The fare is American and straightforward, with burgers and chicken pot pies, steaks and fish. The pancakes, served all day, are a big crowd pleaser. Up front, commuters sipping coffee, reading, and chatting while awaiting the next train, inhabit a more cafe-esque area. When speaking with the manager one day, he was proud to tell me that both Friends with Benefits and the Avengers were filmed at Pershing.
To spend time inside the Wheeltapper is to take a trip back in time to Ireland, as the pub pays homage to their locomotive system. Numerous pieces of railway equipment adorn the walls and every other possible inch of available space. Even the metal bar stools and wood tables are reminiscent of a long gone Irish era. There are several rooms to meander through and grab a mug of beer. In the back, is a pleasant garden, with heat lamps during the colder months, which is connected to the Fitzpatrick Hotel next door.
Old world finery bedecks the walls and ceilings of this classic steakhouse. As we entered, we were surrounded quickly with pictures of celebrities and notables who had likewise walked this walk. This gave way to fine wines, in turn giving way to a room of intricately carved wooden banisters, warm beige lights, fireplaces and leather chairs. The signature steak is the porterhouse, served on sizzling plates in order for guests to choose the perfect moment to take them off the heat. Upstairs, a walkway curves out over the dining floor downstairs, allowing for bird's-eye views of the goings-on below and leading to a red-velvet-curtained wine room in the back. A definite favorite restaurant for my husband to satisfy his steak craving periodically, he found it particularly interesting when I told him that the owners and Chef Arturo began as servers at Peter Lugers. They formed their team in 2007 and have successfully been serving their own meat, which is dry-aged in house twenty-eight to thirty-two days, at high-powered business lunches and relaxed evening dinners. The trio has also gone on to open Seafire Grill on 48th Street.
In an area that is surrounded by a multitude of places to grab a bite, I found Cipriani Le Specialita to be one of the most desirable. Across from Grand Central Station, the space is tiny, but the menu vast and the food superb. We were lucky enough to be able to grab a small table after lining up and ordering our salad and sandwich. When I stopped by on a different day to grab a quick snack, the person behind the counter reminded me that at 4:00 each afternoon, whatever is remaining in their cases is offered at half price.
New York has more than its fair share of yakitori houses and sushi bars, but this Japanese transplant is concerned with presenting Teishoku, or home-style cooking, to its American diners. Since 1958, Japan has been fortunate enough to have access to this chain's nourishing, traditional fare, where a "healthy body and mind" are top priority. Throughout Asia, there are over three hundred Ootoya restaurants, and as of 2012, New Yorkers can dine in the light, airy interior of their elegant US flagship restaurant on 18th Street or their latest addition on 41st.
When I mentioned to a friend that I was up to 33rd Street, she reacted immediately, "You know that this is the street that Wolfgang's is on, don't you?" I loved the description that she and her husband shared with me. "It is an old world man-cave that has incredible charm and certainly appeals to the serious eater." Situated in the former historic Vanderbilt Hotel with magnificently tiled low vaulted ceilings, my husband and I agree that this is a splendid restaurant to dine.Wolfgang's, located in the sleek New York Times building on West 41st Street, is equally pleasant, but offers an entirely different ambiance. During the daytime, the sunlight streams in through the floor-to-ceiling windows, allowing the steaks to glisten even more as they are being brought to the tables. The businessmen in their suits still dominate during the lunch hour; however, theatergoers and tourists fill the restaurant in the evening.Wolfgang Zwiener spent some forty years digesting the world of steak by working in the iconic restaurant, Peter Luger's. Think of it this way, Wolfgang received a veritable master's degree in meats in Brooklyn, and now has earned his doctorate in his own restaurant, where he has written a top-notch thesis. When others might have chosen to slow down a bit or even to retire, he began opening his own restaurants.Over the years, I have been to the four in Manhattan, with the 33rd Street flagship location being the one where we have chosen to celebrate many special occasions. As noted, it is a favorite of friends of ours, and when I asked them to speak to me further about Wolfgang's, the immediate response was, "Personally, of all the steak houses in New York, this is the one to go to." They went on to describe the menu as not only having excellent steaks, but they also always look forward to ordering seafood, and then brace themselves as the kitchen presents them with a seafood platter appetizer that is "utterly outrageous." There are jumbo shrimp (my number one oxymoron) and lobster with huge pieces to devour, and thrown in for good measure, some oysters and clams. "Even if you leave the steak out of the equation, it makes for an incredible meal." But, who can leave the steak out? According to my husband, a man who is passionate about his meat, Wolfgang gets it right every time whether he decides on a filet or a porterhouse. And I, of course, am all about the side dishes and salads, which Wolfgang continues to deliver.
In a city where cultural fads and neighborhoods change frequently, one necessity has remained the same - men continue to be in need of a haircut. That simple fact has kept Olde Tyme Barbers in business since 1929. Or at least that is how Joe “the Boss” Magnetico explains being successful, despite the way midtown has changed since his grandfather opened his doors.Joe is the third generation of barbers, and his daughter Anne-Marie is the fourth and first female barber in the family. Joe’s grandfather, the original “Joe the Barber,” first opened his shop at the Statler Hilton Hotel. In 1945, his son, Frank Magnetico, moved the barbershop to the current location on 41st Street underneath the Chanin building, a New York City national landmark. This makes Olde Tyme Barbers the oldest retail establishment currently in business on 41st from the East River to the New York Public Library.It is easy to tell that Joe, his family, and his staff take pride in the work that they do and the history they have created. Joe still uses the original chairs from the barbershop his grandfather opened. Sitting behind the cash register, Joe stated, “We’re not a business you can do on the internet.” By this he means that despite the way business and the neighborhood has changed in the past years, Joe and his family have survived for so long by remaining true to their trade. He charges what is fair and treats everyone who comes in with respect. Joe told me, “you have to be able to make relationships in business: it’s how you survive.” This is why Joe’s regulars are so loyal. Generations of men in the same family continue to come from all over the Metropolitan area to get their hair cut by his staff. They have been able to do something special in midtown - to create a neighborhood environment in an area of Manhattan that is not considered a neighborhood anymore.Joe ended our conversation by mentioning that he does not believe that he could open a barber shop in today’s market for the price that he charges on this block. "We are a dying breed in the sense that there is not much room in midtown for small owned businesses." In his opinion, all the chains in midtown do not bring the same sense of community or character to the area like the businesses that use to be there.
A boutique luxury hotel, run by the Spanish company, Eurostars, Dylan brings a European flair to midtown hospitality. The connected Benjamin's Steakhouse, one of the finest in the city, offers breakfast and room service for hotel guests. The building that the hotel occupies was once the Chemists' Club, which played host to a group of chemists meeting for reasons professional and social but ultimately moved further north. The building still bears the Chemists' Club name outside, which adds an air of alchemy to the facade.