10 Below

Ice-cream is a serious business at 10 Below. Forget massive tubs of colored flavors peering out from deep fridges and the anticipation of cool creamy sweetness scooped into a crunchy cone. At this little nook in the East Village, the freezers are as flat as a crepe maker, the ice-cream is made in front of your eyes, and the experience is more like unemotional performance art. Except that you get to see a show, make friends in the waiting crowd, and score an ice-cream at the end of it.

Hoping for the salted caramel of the east village ice-cream world, my request for the most popular was met with ‘number 4’. Clarifying that this was better than the Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk, and receiving a response of ‘no’, I decided to go with Cookie Monster in deference to my friend John, who built puppets for the endearing show most of his life. It was a good choice. First there was the orchestral chopping of the unsuspecting oreo, then the swooping and slathering of the mixture as it started to freeze, the practiced sliding of the ice-cream into rolls, and the presentation of the final act topped with raspberries and blueberries. The performance made it all worthwhile – that’s why people pay $7 ( before tip and taxes ) for a ticket and the show is a sellout. Oh and yes, the ice-cream was delicious!

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Cool caramel

Sedutto’s has been around for years. Squeezed into the melting intensity of first avenue on the upper east side, this hidden oasis looks more like an aged outlet for hair products than the home of an ice-cream legend. But don’t be fooled, when an ambitious pastry chef left the Waldorf Astoria nearly a hundred years ago, the packaging for his new business was the last thing on his mind. Mr Sedutto was thinking about ice-cream, Italian style, which is now not only being served exclusively on the QE2, but is saving lives in NYC on a daily basis.

Respecting President Reagan’s wisdom by signing into law that July be national ice-cream month, I thought it only proper to pursue the best options at hand. In a week of scorching temperatures and sticky humidity, the idea of 49 flavors in reasonable proximity to my easterly appointments was refreshing. Candied cones in a myriad of sizes and textures – all blessed by Zagat’s seal of distinction – were unnecessary in view of the one choice that stands alone. Salted caramel. Mint chocolate chip and ‘birthday’ did make the top 5 most popular flavors as well, and as a nod to trendiness, there were wine choices in cherry merlot and raspberry chardonnay. But when it comes to tipple time, if I was sailing on the QE2, I’d be looking for a little champagne myself…

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The Fourth

The view to the East River from our apartment window was enviable. Fireworks! The fourth of July! All the fun of the fair from the comfort of home. Speaking of which, what would any national celebration be without Australian lamb…? Actually it wasn’t Australian, but thanks to our Kiwi cousins, it was close enough…

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Chihuly & chipmunks

Art and nature create a spectacular partnership in the much awaited exhibition of Chihuly’s masterpieces at the New York Botanical Gardens. There is no competition between colour and shape, but more a complimenting of beauty with beauty in a lush tranquil landscape. A giant blue thistle bursts joyously in green surrounds, red stalks cluster dramatically, shooting toward blue skies, while a boatload of glistening pods languish near a lively wetland resounding with the sounds of dragonflies and frogs. Glass and garden, environmental artwork, the vision of a one-eyed man, an ex-surfer, with no physical ability to hold a glass blower. Amazing. Chihuly has become a director and the work grows. In the midst of the green oasis that flourishes so close to the busy intensity of Manhattan, it seemed timely to pause in the shade and share a picnic. And to discover something else I’d never seen. Chipmunks and Chihuly on the same day…!

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Lava lush

The barman was on a beach in Thailand a week or so ago when the shop had someone else’s logo in the window, and the Drug Store’s precious elixirs were only available on-line. But in just a few days a vintage neon sign was sent courtesy of e-bay from Texas, menus and mugs were printed, and lemons arrived in a flurry from Florida. Around the corner, jars layered with cake cream and custard were making the same splash. One day the space is empty, the next day there is a sign in the window demanding ‘Don’t call me cupcake’. This is the latest wave of enterprising entrepreneurs in town for the summer season. Welcome to the popup!

Until the Drug Store materialized in Elizabeth Street, the only way to order a detox of filtered water, cold pressed lemon juice, dandelion root, muddled ginger root, and activated charcoal (made from coconut shells) was by text. Good grief. If only I had known. How fortunate then that this trendy tenant provided just the opportunity to experience a whole new taste sensation by opening a storefront, albeit temporary, in the heart of Nolita. On a hot summer’s day just the idea of a cool stopover with lots of lemon and ice was irresistible – and a detox would never go amiss.

According to the PR person, patient and non-plussed at my intrigue, activated charcoal creates an adsorbing effect to toxins. She quoted a famous experiment in France in 1831, when a professor ingested a deadly dose of poison, but lived to tell the tale because he mixed activated charcoal with the strychnine. Apparently the charcoal prevented the poison from being absorbed into the body. While this was not a selling point in itself, tasting charcoal in a controlled environment did have curiosity value. And who can resist a cocktail at 11am? In all honesty, if I was blindfolded I would have believed I was drinking lemonade. However, the concoction did leave a lingering texture in my mouth that had me thinking about the beach all afternoon…

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Art Felt

A bodega, even a pretend one, would not cut it in NYC without a cat. So when English artist Lucy Sparrow started her epic 9 month, 16 hours a day saga to create in felt an entire convenience store, all the hand-sown soup cans, sausages and cigarettes in the world would not have authenticated this essential New York institution like a felt feline. And Blackie was just like the real deal.  There was not a rodent to be seen – well, except for a felt mouse hiding in a felt bucket (next to the felt spillage and the felt mop ). What a feat for felt!

You had to see this bodega to believe it. A felt ATM machine dispensed felt money, a felt mincing machine ground felt burger meat above the felt meat fridge, there were felt facial tissues, felt frozen peas and felt champagne ( French of course ) which was unfortunately sold out. In fact the entire store with all 8,000 pieces was well on it’s way to selling out. Instead of the two to three hundred visitors expected each day, there were two to three thousand. People streamed from the Whitney around the corner to line up in the sun, some fainting in the heat, others stumbling into the shop hoping to buy a real bottle of water. In the end a city hot dog stand had to set up on the sidewalk outside to accommodate the unfelted needs of the crowd.

A self titled feltist, Lucy believes that art should be accessible for everyone. For just $30 or $40 you can pick up a felt chocolate bar or a felt can of Spam and so begin your own art collection. You could even pay with a felted cheque, as an enthusiast apparently did. For me it was the entire concept that was hilarious rather than the need to take something home. Which was where I was headed. After all that feeling, it was a coffee that I really felt like…


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Portrait of a Lady

Brunch at The Morgan Café is always an excellent start, especially for the road weary, who may need sustenance not just for the body, but also for the spirit. After trekking the tourist trail around the world, French toast with berry compote and maple syrup may be just the ticket. And yes, delicious! But there is currently an added treat for travelers in need of a little other-worldly inspiration. Currently at the museum, the muse for Henry James’ novels Portrait of a lady and Washington Square lies as a golden effigy overlooked by her painted self – both artworks by her husband Frank Duveneck. The peacefulness and beauty of the sculpture is breathtaking. Lizzie Boott was an inspiration for Henry as she was for Frank, and so as well for those of us who carry her joy onto the next destination…

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Water Pistol Warriors

The water fountain was the only reprieve. No shooting, water bombs or spraying while waiting to refill. Or at least that was the order than everyone yelled if they were on the receiving end rather than the giving. While tar was melting on tarmacs around the country and the heat wave was baking the Big Apple, dozens of kids in Central Park took to water pistols of every shape and capacity to survive the day. What fun. Welcome to summer!

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Do Dough or Don’t..?

A new bakery in NYC is breaking all records. Since opening in January people have waited up to three hours to get to the front of the queue. The craze is not for a new style of cronut, the deep-fried cream-filled creation of Dominique Ansel, or for the divorce themed cupcakes of Sweet Revenge, this sweet shop has a totally different attraction. Served in cones and cups or blended in milkshakes, choices like Fluffernutter, Gimme S’More and Peanut Butter Snickerdoodle could be classic American ice cream, but instead they are flavours of cookie dough, raw cookie dough.

For the salmonella sensitive, please be assured that the eggs in DO’s recipes are pasturized and the flour heat treated. All 1,200 pounds made every day. The owner herself was apparently in a coma for weeks after a bad reaction to antibiotics, so one imagines the health angle is well covered. So that just leaves the eating. There was no queue when I visited last weekend, which might mean the craze for Do is done, or it could just be that too much dough can do you in…

Photo of DŌ, Cookie Dough Confections - New York, NY, United States. Double scoop of salty n sweet & signature chocolate chip!

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Titanic twist

$2.75 will buy you more than you imagine in NYC. You can travel from one world to another, from the Cloisters to Chinatown, from the Bronx to Broadway, and on the way encounter those unexpected moments that make life in this city so addictive. Now there are even more reasons to get hooked. The Mayor has introduced a whole new network of ferry rides, and the longest, from Wall Street to the Rockaways, is a beauty. Even when the weather is not.

Pier 11, just below Brooklyn Bridge, is the kickoff point for a one hour high speed ride that takes in the Statue of Liberty and a killer view of lower Manhattan, before tacking south for a one stop pause in Brooklyn and hitting the open sea. On Monday the fog was so heavy that the ride became a titanic adventure. Towering freighters appeared out of nowhere, bridges suddenly arched overhead, and visibility turned white, while the fog horn blared long and loudly at anything that might be in the way. Fortunately the warning worked – or didn’t need to – but the magic of the mist conjured up the adventure of the unknown, and when the Rockaways finally appeared out of the fog, it was like discovering a new world.

The ferry has a full bar should the idea of icebergs prove too daunting – although clear skies on another day would provide distracting views of Coney Island, Red Hook, and the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean. Sandy leaves a legacy on the fringes of the shore and the massive building at Sunset park still strides the railway tracks where trains from all over the country deposited their troops on the way to the Second World War. You may be lucky enough – as we were – to have a fellow cyclist point out the highlights along the way, and unless you do as he did and ride the 3 hour journey from beginning to end, you will need another $2.75 to get back to town…

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