If You’re In New York…
If you’re in New York City you might start the day downtown. You’ll need coffee and Abraco in the East Village is expert. Try the olive oil cake for breakfast, too. If it’s garden weather, wander north to 9th Street and east to Avenue C and find the La Plaza Cultural Community Garden , a good place for a picnic lunch of Porchetta sandwiches or a sampling of the Dumpling Man’s best, both of which are on the way. Head to SoHo and visit the Japanese store Muji, where you’ll find everything you never knew you needed. It is also on the same block as CB2, where we buy our favorite everyday glassware. While in SoHo, look also for Despaña, a groovy gourmet shop specializing in food and kitchenwares imported from Spain.
At cocktail time, go to the Brandy Library on the west side for a sidecar or a manhattan before diving into handmade pasta and cured meats at Lupa. Or, head up to 14th street to La Nacional for a pan of crispy paella and tapas at the former meeting spot of the Spanish Benevolent Society. In the front there is a rustic, but charming room with about eight big farmhouse tables and chairs. In the back there is a very bare-bones “old man” bar with simple barstools and a few televisions blaring whatever soccer dining game is on that day. The all-Spanish wine list is good and affordable and the good feeling is unavoidable.
For an uptown day, start on the upper east side with breakfast at Café Sabarsky inside the Neue Galerie. They serve at 9 a.m., everyday but Tuesday, and you’ll find Viennese coffee, pastries, sausages, and perfect soft-boiled eggs. You’ll be ready then to spend an hour or two with Klee, Klimt, Kandinsky, and all the Austrians and Germans on display. If it’s a Wednesday or Thursday travel to Lincoln Center on the west side for an open rehearsal of the NY Philharmonic — an excellent treat on a budget (check their online schedule before you go, as they don’t hold them every week). You’ll be a short walk to Zabar’s and Fairway, which are gourmet institutions. Buy a picnic lunch and head to Columbus Circle on the West 59th Street corner of Central Park. Don’t miss the interactive Clo Wine Bar in the Time Warner Center. With nearly 100 wines available by the taste, temperature controlled and self-served from their digital sommelier, it is a serious wine education that’s so cool you will forgive the designers for the wine-geek technology and lack of charm. For a taste of old and grandiose New York, go for dinner at La Grenouille, or for David Pasternak’s pristine seafood at Esca in midtown. —Julie