The first time I saw Vosges Haut-Chocolat I thought it was a beautifully sweet looking place. I am a chocolate lover, and the SoHo shop reminded me of a lovely combination of places I'd loved since I was a child and teenager in Boston, and some of the best chocolatiers I'd visited in Belgium and France. I thought from the name that Vosges was from Europe, but although it is reminiscent of some of the finest old world makers it is rooted securely in the new. Originally from Chicago, Vosges uses only the finest sustainably sourced chocolate, and the founder, Katrina Markoff, is always creating something special and something new to delight. When I found myself at one of their summer Fridays several weeks ago, at an afternoon special event that pairs chocolate with a special cocktail, wine, craft beer or spirit, the pairing was with a Mai Tai, one of my favorites of all specialty drinks since the time I fell in love with Hawaii while visiting a friend years ago. Paired with delectable chocolate, the afternoon's treat was so memorable that it brought my old loves back and created new ones. On that same day I tried the special limited edition Collezione Gianduia, a blend of the finest I.G.P. certified Piemonte hazelnuts and premium chocolate that was one of the most amazing creations I've ever had. Katrina Markoff, the Chocolatier Extraordinaire and Genius Creator of Vosges Haut-Chocolat is always creating something new and inviting us in for tastes and events of all kinds. Go - that's all - just go.
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.
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.
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.