Sunday, September 17, 2017

An Abundant Life - Beautiful Dreamer

Vera Tse is a woman with vision. I met her at the opening night celebration for the wonderful new restaurant Vapiano in New York City that I will be writing about in a future post, and when I heard that she was an architect and a jewelry designer, I asked if I could meet with her at her studio to see her work. She invited me out to Williamsburg one lovely Sunday afternoon, and before going to her studio she suggested we meet at the restaurant Spritzenhaus, which is a beer garden that has outdoor and indoor seating that looks onto the out of doors and McCarren Park across the way through wide open windows that create the feeling that you're not in a city at all. True, we were not in The City proper - we were on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which once upon a time was very quiet and off the beaten track, but on a brilliantly beautiful sunny Sunday, the streets were so packed that it was difficult to walk down them. But the place that Vera had suggested was off the packed and teeming main streets, and though the restaurant was crowded, it had such an open and airy feeling that it didn't seem crowded at all. I love German food, and as I've mentioned before in these pages I'm a foodie who loves to try new places. Vera knows good food and great spaces and so we sat together and talked over one of the most delicious bratwurst sandwiches I've had since I can't remember when. Both the food and the conversation were delightful, because Vera has so much that is interesting to share about her views of life, her experiences, her artwork and her vision, and she is also very community minded and caring of others so our conversation went from one topic to the next very enjoyably. I'd ordered a large stein of delicious Montauk Wave Chaser IPA which kept me occupied for a while, and when we had finished, we made our way to Vera's studio across the street. It was just as lovely as I had expected after having had the opportunity to spend time with the lovely Vera, and her jewelry design was stunning. She had been wearing a necklace and a ring that I was thinking must have been her own designs and they were, and the other pieces she showed me were equally enchanting. I could see in her designs her love for architecture and line and geometry, and then she began explaining the concept behind certain pieces which had already been lovely but became even more so when I had the opportunity to hear about them and try them on and feel what she had designed them to be. Not only are her pieces beautiful and beautifully designed, they are tactile and made so that the wearer can interact with them and see how they feel when they're worn. It becomes an emotional experience that is both uplifting and calming to wear Vera's jewelry, and in this day and age we're living in, I say more power to that. She also is deeply interested in helping to support her local community with her art and her entrepreneurial ideas. The way her mind envisions is beautiful and practical, a true architect and an artist at work.

Vera Tse In Her Studio
Brooklyn, New York

And At Spritzenhaus
33 Nassau Avenue
Brooklyn, New York

Designs That You Can Feel And Touch

Things That Become A Part Of You

 And That Help You Feel


Jannie Susan

Sunday, September 10, 2017

An Abundant Life - Teaching Tastefully

Last week I mentioned some wonderful Food Entrepreneurs who I met at an event at City Opera Thrift Shop and I promised to tell you more about them this week and introduce you to even more. I don't make promises that I can't keep, and so here we are with some new information about Entrepreneur Space and some of the amazing people I met when I took the subway out to Queens one afternoon, shortly after I had found out about the Food-Preneurs that are nurtured and encouraged and supported with hands-on vital experience and training in the food business. As I mentioned last week, Ygael Tresser had given me the contact information for the founders and managers of the space, and when I contacted them they were so friendly and helpful that I honestly was surprised. New York City is a big place, and they must get calls every day from all kinds of people with all kinds of stories, but as soon as they heard that I'd been given their contact information from Ygael and they heard why I was calling, they invited me out to experience an introduction and tour of the site and to attend a food tasting event with some of their Food-Preneurs. I've worked in the food industry on and off in many ways over many years, and one thing I know about is good food. Another is food safety and proper food handling, and when I attended the meeting and tour of the facility, I thought to myself, these people really know what they're doing. Part of The Queens Economic Development Corp, Entrepreneur Space was started by Founder and Consultant Kathrine Gregory to incubate and help people to develop food products. From everything I've see and tasted, they're doing that and a whole lot more. When I was at the City Opera Thrift Shop event, I'd already had a chance to sample some of the delicious foods that some of the Food Entrepreneurs who work out of the space are creating, and so I knew that there were some very talented people working in that space to make and develop wonderful things, but after meeting with Kathrine Gregory and the Entrepreneur Space staff, I found out that the wonderfulness starts at the top. Knowledgable, passionate, encouraging, fun and full of energy, the staff of Entrepreneur Space are a wonderful group to meet, and when you taste some of the foods that are being created and meet some of the Food-Preneurs, the goodness just keeps getting better. Below is just a sampling of the wonderful products that are being incubated, and I'll be writing in future weeks about individual Food-Preneurs who I have met so far. I'm planning on keeping in touch with this wonderful place if they'll let me, because my gourmet food loving heart and community spirit are fulfilled.

Entrepreneur Space
36-46 37th Street
Long Island City, New York

Some Of The Wonderful Food-Preneurs I Met At A Recent Event
All Making Such Delicious Food And Sharing It Delightfully
Listed Here In The Order That I Photographed Them

Constantine Abanda, CEO Ashanty Chocolate
Organic Chocolate and Truffles

Jan Leslie Harding, Vice President and Stephanie Golden, CEO
Biggie's Crack Toffee

Mariana Memoria and Friends
Brigadeiro Bakery

Ron Menin, Owner
Hell's Kitchen Hot Sauce

Ygael Tresser With Fresh Harissa From Food Snob

Foluso Salami, Snackin' African
African Chinchin

Kelli Lipson, Founder & CEO
Spoonable Spirits Boozy Party Treats

Vlad Barkovsky
Hungry Bars Granola Bars and Granola

Greenpoint Muesli Co.

Carolyn K. Potz, Founder & Chef
Munchy Monkey Gluten Free Bakery

Delicious Samples To Savor At Home


Jannie Susan

Sunday, September 3, 2017

An Abundant Life - Tasteful Shopping

I love thrift store shopping. I grew up in a house where almost everything I had was a hand-me-down, and I used to eye my brother's and sister's clothing with the thought of whether or not I'd enjoy wearing it one day. Every now and again I'd be able to buy something new off the rack at a regular store, and though I always enjoyed the feeling of being able to choose what I wanted, nearly every one of those things that I bought was "in" for a season or two and then they were gone with the wind. I still have a few classics I bought when I worked at Lord & Taylor years ago, and a few that I found at a few other places, but the things that have lasted me the best and the longest in quality and style are the things that I've bought at thrift stores. Because my closets have become full of beautiful clothing to wear at a fraction of the cost, in recent years I've been branching out and buying housewares and home furnishings. I had always loved to look at glass and china and the wonderful shelves full of decorative items, but now that I live in a place that really feels like home again, I have been enjoying adding decorative touches to it with the wonderful discoveries I find. In addition to the quality and quantity of the things I can buy there, thrift store shopping is also a way of giving back in some small way. All of the thrift stores I shop at give at least a portion of their proceeds to charitable causes, and some give one hundred percent, so when I go shopping I know that my dollars are not only being well spent on something that I'll enjoy but that I'll enjoy the feeling of knowing that in some way I'm helping some good cause.

City Opera Thrift Shop is a wonderful place to find many wonderful things. The quality of their items is very high end, and the donors and designers who outfit the store are full of great taste and style. I have bought some very precious and delightful pieces there, and whenever I go there is so much to see that is beautiful that it is a constant inspiration. On a recent trip I found a Mission Lamp, something that I'd been wanting for ages but simply could not afford, and on the day I found it, not only was it already marked at a very low ticket price, it was on sale for an extra twenty-five percent off. I have a joke with a friend that the last thing I need is another lamp, but when you find your heart's desire for a song, if you're me you go ahead and carry it singing all the way home. I was so excited with my find that I didn't even care if it was working or not, but the lovely young woman at the cash register offered to test it for me. It was working completely, not a thing wrong with it, and as she packaged it carefully up for me I told her how delighted I was and we started a conversation about my love of thrifting and the blog I write and I offered to write something about City Opera Thrift Shop. She told me that they had an event upcoming, a collaboration for a cooking and cookbook and food event with some people who make different types of food products, and as I am equally a lover of wonderful food as I am a lover of a great thrift store, I put it in my calendar. When the day came I stopped by and started tasting my way through some of the most delicious samples of products that I've had. As I asked each vendor about their products and offered to meet with them to write something about them, each one told me that they all came from the same place, Entrepreneur Space in Queens. I'd never heard of it, and I was so intrigued and captivated by the fact that all these wonderful people were so happily making their delicious products there that I wanted to go out and visit, and Ygael Tresser, a Caterer and Chef Extraordinaire who makes a delectable Harissa under the name of Food Snob, gave me the contact information for the people who are in charge of the space and I called them the next day. That began a new love affair in my life with a space that helps what they call Food-Preneurs, but I'll leave that for next week when I write about Entrepreneur Space, some of the wonderful food products I've discovered there, and the amazing work that they do. For now I'll finish writing here so you can see some of the beauty at City Opera Thrift Shop for yourself, and I'll sign off with a few words to say - buyer enjoy! They've been supporting New York City Opera for over 35 years, and their taste is only the best.

City Opera Thrift Shop
222 East 23rd Street
New York City

The Beautiful Carolyn Potz, Founder and Chef
Of The Delicious Munchy Monkey Bakery
Some of the Most Delightful Gluten Free Cookies I've Had

The Wonderful Ygael Tresser, Caterer and Chef Extraordinaire
With His Delicious Harissa And Tasteful Tips From Food Snob

The Lovely Milene Jardine, Chocolatier
With Her Extraordinary Couture Chocolate Truffles

The Scrumptious Savory Spreads
From The Amazing Ella Nemcova's Regal Vegan

Shopping While Snacking Has Never Been More Glamorous


Jannie Susan

Sunday, August 27, 2017

An Abundant Life - Open Air

One of my favorite things to have happened in recent years is the creation of pedestrian walkways and open air seating spaces in Times Square. I know for anyone in a car or a truck, the idea of closing down parts of Broadway and creating space for people to walk and talk and play and sit and rest and enjoy the area is probably not their favorite topic, but for me as a pedestrian and long time walking traveler in New York City and beyond, having an area closed off to vehicular traffic that is designated for simply enjoying the space is wonderful. Times Square is the center of the universe in some people's eyes, the center of the world in others, and at the very minimum the center of Manhattan. It's where art and culture and tourism, commerce and trade and restaurant businesses meet and mingle, and the sheer numbers of people traveling through the area on a daily and even hourly basis is staggering. Years ago I had the opportunity to work on an Off-Broadway show on 44th Street, and coming out after the show came down at 11:00pm or so was always an amazing thing to do. It doesn't matter what time of day or night it is, Times Square is always hopping. The addition of the open air spaces has brought more people to this crossroads than ever, and though the cabs and cars and trucks have had to find new routes, the flow of people and energy has increased in ways that have created a feeling of community even as the diversity of the people in the area has become greater. In addition to affecting the area around 42nd Street, the new spaces that have been created have encouraged seating and artwork and fun community events like free lemonade, free yoga, gourmet food trucks and Wellness Wednesdays all the way down to Greeley Square on 32nd Street. Planters overflowing with seasonal flowers and foliage and landscaping and artwork abound. In this once congested area people sit and talk and share a meal, and the greatness of the neon lights on Broadway is shown in its full majesty.

A few months ago when I was talking to a friend of a friend at a party, I discovered that I knew someone who had been a part of this wonderful project to create open air spaces in the middle of Times Square. Joe Sopiak, a landscape architect I have known for some years now, was the Senior Design Liaison for the New York City Department of Design and Construction, Infrastructure Division at the time of the project's launch, and was there to see it through to completion. In his words, his role was "to manage for the Division the hiring of the design consultants and manage the design process." He is such a humble person that I would not have found out about his involvement in the project except for our mutual enjoyment and deep love of this great city and wonderful municipal projects, and unless I had asked, I never would have known about his impressive and long history of working on beautiful and important projects in New York City and surrounding states as well as in France and Saudi Arabia for twenty years prior to his work with the New York City Department of General Services which became the New York City Department of Design and Construction, with Quennell Rothschild Associates where he was a Principal and Schnadelback Partnership where he was Head Designer.

I asked him if he would meet with me to walk through the spaces of the Times Square project and talk about the design elements, and he suggested something even better. We started off at Gallagher's Steakhouse, a New York City icon in its own right, and after having one of the best lunches of a lifetime, took a walk down Broadway and through the various places and spaces that make up Times Square. Architectural details that I had not known about were brought to light, helping me understand that great design doesn't shout at you, but gives you a feeling deep inside that brings comfort and enjoyment and delight. Things I'd always only half noticed, but had always had a recognition of interest in, like the paving stones that line the walkways, were explained, and I understood that the reason I'd liked them all along and why they had been reminding me of something was that within the granite at different intervals are reflecting circular pieces of steel that were designed to echo the neon lights and star studded marquees of the famous Broadway theaters. There are also designs and patterns within the paving stones that are reminders of historic paving and street designs, and everything was designed for comfort and usability, while also keeping in mind crowd safety, maneuverability, longevity and flexibilty. Because of all of the careful thought and creative work that was done, this area is now in my eyes better than ever before. My heartfelt thanks goes out to the Sponsors of the overall Times Square Project: The New York City Department of Transportation, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, Chief of Staff Margaret Newman, and First Assistant Commissioner for Public Spaces, Andrew Wiley-Schwartz; those responsible for the management of the design and construction, New York City Department of Design and Construction, Commissioner David Burney, Deputy Commissioner Eric Macfarlane, and Joe Sopiak, Senior Design Liaison for the New York City Department of Design and Construction, Infrastructure Division; the project maintenance partners, The Times Square Alliance, President Tim Tompkins; the designers, Snohetta Architects, Principal Craig Dykers and the design staff of landscape architects and architects, Maura Rockcastle, Claire Fellman, Nick Koster, and Misako Murata; and the construction company, Tully Construction.

Joe Sopiak In Times Square

At Gallagher's Steakhouse

A Man About Town
In Time's Square's Duffy Square
At The Spotlight On Broadway Steel And Granite Map
Visualizing The Density Of The World's Largest Theater District

Specially Designed Paving Stones With Reflective Steel Insets

Patterns Within Patterns
Echoing Paving Stones And Streets Of Years Gone By

Times Square
New York City


Jannie Susan