Opened in 1902 as a Catholic parish church, St. Malachy's earned its fame from fame itself. In 1920, the surrounding Theater District and the church began to welcome crowds of people involved in the entertainment business. That year, the Actor's Chapel was constructed underneath the church. A cycle had begun; as the famous sought out St. Malachy's, St. Malachy's became famous and attracted more famed congregants. Recognizing the unconventional schedules of its congregation, the church started to offer mass at four in the morning.
When an earlier incarnations of Madison Square Garden left the area in 1968, this part of town became dangerous; the church fell to a low point that lasted nearly ten years. It was Father George W. Moore who led an outreach plan that helped bring St. Malachy's back to the surface, ready to serve the needs of its congregants. Now, the church places special focus on the comfort of their aging community. Although St. Malachy's is a Catholic church, all are invited to join and worship among the eclectic assembly.
Alongside numerous restaurants and bars, The Church of St. Mary adds a European influence to the Times Square area. With vaulted ceilings and glorious stained glass windows, the church offers a level of contemplative splendor to an otherwise busy area. When I stepped inside for a few moments on my walk across 46th, I was in absolute awe. I could not wait to watch the reaction of other members of the Manhattan Sideways team when I brought them by a few days later.The 45th Street church was founded in 1868 and built on ground donated by John Jacob Astor, with the understanding that the church would remain “free” - meaning visitors did not have to pay pew rents. Radical in its time, this Episcopal Church could open its services to people from all walks of life while remaining dependent on contributions from wealthy parishioners.In 1893, after one of these contributors, Sara L. Cooke, left the church a large amount of money in her will, the church leaders decided to move to a larger location one block north on West 46th. Built in the French Gothic style, this building was the first church made with an iron skeleton rather than stonework.While walking through this breathtaking piece of architecture, I checked in with one of the Manhattan Sideways photographers, who was looking a little shaken. She told me that the sheer size and beauty had simply taken her breath away. St. Mary’s keeps her doors open everyday so that passersby can share in this experience.
St. George moved to West 54th Street during the Great Depression, after splitting from the main line of the Greek Orthodox Church. The building St. George inhabits has an even longer history. When the congregation moved in, it had already been in use for the better part of a half-century, first as an offshoot of the Narragansett Club, a Democratic organization connected with Machine-controlled Tammany Hall. Later, in the early twentieth century, it housed the Irish-dominated New Amsterdam Council of the Knights of Columbus, as well as a cycling club. When the church moved in, it found itself cohabiting with the Epirus Hellenic Center, an organization dedicated to the promotion of Greek art and culture.Today, No. 307 comfortably houses St. George alone. Its outwardly modest exterior is slender, dwarfed on either side by much taller buildings, with the only decoration being a stained glass window depicting the church's patron saint. This belies the ornate decor of the chapel inside. Iconography is prominent, both on the walls and at the altar.We were warmly greeted by the head pastor, Father Jim Kordaris who arrived at St. George in 2004, at a time when its aging congregants were struggling to put Hell's Kitchen's bad years behind them and come up with funds for repairs for the increasingly decrepit interior. At this point in time, they were able to do little more than "hold on" and keep the place from closing. Father Jim was pleased to tell us that although it took almost five years to make any headway, the church is now moving in a positive direction, with new members and exciting plans for the future. It quickly became apparent to us that this shift was in large part due to his leadership and presence. Father Jim, however, stressed the collective nature of the church's recent revival and growth, insisting that it was "beyond any one person." His faith in St. George's vibrant community foretells great things for the church in the years to come.
Opened in 1992 and originally located on the Upper East Side, Oceana moved to 49th Street in 2009. The Livanos family sowed the seeds for the glorious Oceana long ago when they ran a diner and realized their ambitions to develop it into something more. Having worked hard to make their dreams a reality, Oceana continues to pride itself on the freshness of its food and makes a point to have direct relationships with the fish mongers and farmers. Although some have called Oceana the Mecca of seafood, the restaurant's menu is notably diverse. The executive chef, Ben Pollinger, takes to the broad reaches of American cuisine and mixes elements of different dishes together, often in an unexpected way. The Manhattan Sideways team eagerly sampled a few of the marvelous dishes, including the Copper River Sockeye Salmon Crudo, featuring pickled ramps, parsley oil, and Amagansett sea salt, and the Sea Scallops Ceviche that is topped with peaches, ginger, and cinnamon basil. I was pleasantly surprised by the incredible vegetarian dish that the chef also prepared - Summer Squash & Cranberry Bean Salad, consisting of zucchini, gold bar and pattypan squash, pignoli, purslane and drizzled in lemon vinaigrette. Absolutely delicious.The last member of the Oceana team that we were introduced to was their wine director, Pedro Goncalves. Pedro, who began working at Oceana in 2001, makes a concerted effort to develop drink pairings to accompany the delectable food menu. Standing near the white marble bar, he proudly told us that Oceana has 1100 wine listings and 600 spirits. He went on to report that with forty-seven different gins, Oceana has one of the largest selections of in the city. "There is something to fit every personality," Pedro said.
La Maison du Chocolat is a sophisticated example of a delectable chocolate shop. Everything sold inside its doors is made in Paris, with the exception of the ice cream that includes ingredients from France but is prepared on site. The day that Manhattan Sideways stopped by, we met Brigitte who has been working here since 2010. A knowledgeable chocolate connoisseur, Brigitte shared La Maison's history. We learned that Robert Linxe, the founder was originally from the French Basque Country, but acquired much of his craft while attending school in Switzerland. He went on to run a successful catering service in Paris for twenty years before deciding to pursue his true passion. At the time, chocolate was considered something to be saved strictly for special occasions; as Brigitte told us, people thought Linxe's enthusiasm for a shop devoted to chocolate was "crazy." Nevertheless, Linxe was able to find an auspicious space in Paris with a wine cellar, which he used to make the delicacies and protect them from the damaging effects of the weather. In 1977, Linxe opened the doors and welcomed Paris to his specialty boutique. Within three weeks, all of the chocolate had been sold and Linxe was dubbed the master of ganache. And in 1996, over twenty years later, Nicolas Cloiseau, the highly acclaimed chocolatier and pastry chef joined the business continuing La Maison's coveted reputation.Brigitte stressed that the discussion of chocolate is akin to that of wine; expertise comes from reading on the subject, perhaps taking a course, and most importantly, much experience. Moreover, chocolate and wine may be enjoyed together when paired consciously. Chocolate always goes well with "a nice red wine," Brigitte said. Quickly turning to the particulars, she added that milk chocolate is best paired with white wine and dark chocolate with port. Brigitte continued to enlighten us, saying with detectable fervor, "Good dark chocolate should not be bitter." It takes approximately ten days to dry cocoa beans. Rushing this process, a common crime of many chocolate companies, results in this bitter taste.Brigitte made a point of showing us how to taste chocolate: smell it first and then let it melt in your mouth. After this incredible offering of chocolate wisdom, Brigitte presented us with a plate of small pieces of chocolate arranged deliberately in a circle. Beginning at forty percent, each successive piece around the circle had an increased concentration of pure chocolate. We continued to climb past eighty and concluded with a piece of one hundred percent pure chocolate. At this point, a natural thickness set in and the pieces lost all association with candy. Suddenly, each of us agreed, it felt as though we were appreciating chocolate, not as a beloved dessert or comforting treat, but as a wonder of the earth.