Toloache Thompson…Another Hit From Julian Medina

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Toloache Thomson is yet another hit from Super-Chef Julian Medina, the sister restaurant to its uptown sibling and cousin to the Yuerba Buena’s. My bro started with a Sandia Margarita(Tequila , Watermelon lime) and I choose the De la Calle (Tequila, Cucumber , Jalapeno ,and lime). While trying to decide which appi’s to share and our respective entrees we ordered up the Guacamole Frutas (Avocado , pomegranate , onion, mango, apple, Thai basil, Habanero) I thought it was great but not spicy, my Bro liked it as well but found it spicy, what can I say. After much heated debate we decided on the Atun Ceviche (Spicy Yellowtail, bathed in  watermelon and key lime), a Quesadilla (Shrimp, and Pineapple, in a Chile de arbol salsa and cheese) and the Beef Short Rib Tacos with Marrow and  Red Onion Jalapeno chiles. All were exceptional with the Ceviche being my favorite…or was it the Tacos?

For entrees my bro went with a Latin version of the Asian Fusion classic Miso Glazed Black Cod…what you ask is the Latin Twist? Tequila in the glaze and Chipolte in the Black truffle butter…how’s that work for you? I love Paella so I ordered up the Tumbada, a Seafood via Veracruz style Paella with Shrimp, Fish, Clams Octopus, and Chorizo. A great dish and if you like Octopus I highly recommend it. To go with it I ordered a great drink from the Mezcal Cocktail selection made with Pineapple…though I cannot remember it’s name. Possibly because when the check came we were served the chef’s special Herradura Double Barrel Reposada …in a Flute glass. My Brother sipped it, said “Bueno” and then poured it into mine claiming he had to drive. He did…so more for me. It was deep, rich and smokey. If you’re a Scotch drinker try some. Of note, the service was absolutely exceptional by friendly waiters who really cared. On a rating of 1-4 I’d give Toloache Thompson a 5…the service gets an extra bonus star of it’s own.

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Toloache Thompson is located at 205 Thompson Street

Saigon Baguette and Pho Better Soups

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I am always amazed that while in Vietnam I hardly ever saw Bahn Mi sandwiches and back here in NYC shops keep popping up. Saigon Baguette recently opened and is a great new addition to Murry Hill’s up and coming food scene. They offer half a dozen Bahn Mi, Soups, Noodles, Rice Bowls. a number of appi’s and sides. Vietnamese Ice Coffee and a variety of Asian Fruit Flavored Juices to drink.

The first time I came I had the Lemongrass Chic(ken) Bahn Mi and the Beef Pho soup, enjoyed both and with most items on the menu at $8-10 a great deal as well. On my next trip I ordered up the Traditional, which is far from traditional. They use Ground BBQ Pork, Ham and Pate (all sandwiches are topped with pickled julienne carrots cucumber, jalapeno , cilantro, daikon radish and mayo, served on a toasted baguette) vs  in Vietnam where ” traditional” is spam and carrots on a roll”. I also had their Laksa Curry soup. As much as I like their Bahn Mi this is actually my favorite menu item thus far. It’s spicy coconut curry broth is loaded with chicken and noodles plus an egg. It’s going to be one of my Winter standards… it’s one of my favorite soups  in the city.  Add Saigon Baguette to your Best Bahn Mi, Sandwiches, Soups, and Take-Out Lunch spots lists…(of note, there are a few tables available to eat right on the spot)

Saigon Baguette is located at 719 2nd Ave

Third Rail Coffee: Stumptowns and George Howell To Stay, To Go

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After a late lunch and looking for some coffee to pick me up I walked by Third Rail Coffee on 10th Street in the East Village. When I saw that they carried Stumptowns I went right in for some… and then saw the George Howell which  I’ve never seen nor had before. Third Rail Coffee does the usual suspects and offers four (4) pour overs (Chemex) to choose from. I had the George Howell, Reka from Ethiopia described as tasting like Earl Grey, Honeydew, and Clementine. It was so good I drank it without my usual brown sugar and cream.

If you get hungry they have sandwiches and baked goods(muffins, donuts etc) to fill you up. Inside they have seating along the windows and walls as well as a small community table (6) to make some new friends. They have Beans, Press Pots, Cold Press Pots to go as well.

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Third Rail Coffee is located at 159 2nd Ave

Casey Baugh Oil Painting Demo @ Jerry’s International Palette Shop

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Jerry’s International Palette Shop recently opened up just south of Union Square in the East Village. They carry a vast array of Art supplies from all over the world to give you what you need to get your creative juices flowing. One of the things that they are doing that I think is brilliant from a marketing point of view and great as a Artist is having Demo’s of Artists work their magic live. I attended the Casey Baugh demo a few weeks back where he painted a portrait with a live model. I had never been to one before and was curios to see what I would get out of it…turned out quite a bit. I broke my notes into Materials, Process, and a Final Thought.

Materials

Casey’s color palette was comprised of the following oi paints (he uses multiple brands, I believe Charvin being one of them).

White
Kings blue
Indian yellow
Cad Yellow
Transparent Earth Orange
Cad Red
Alizarin Red
Raw umber
Burnt umber
Ivory Black
Cobalt  Blue
Dark Ultramarine Blue

For brushes he prefers them soft-haired and even uses some Make-up brushes. For mediums he uses triple refined turpentine (in a custom mix) since it dries fast. For his canvas he choose a a Raphael Double Primed Canvas mounted on wood(I just purchased a couple to try them out)

Process

Since he had a live and rather beautiful model for the demo he did take a good 15 minutes or so to cast the lighting just right…it was kinda like watching a photo-shoot.

Casey paints in a style known as Alla Prima (wet-on-wet) Which I found rather fascinating. I’m use to coating the canvas with a color, letting it dry. Sketching what I want to paint after laying out a measured grid…and then lay out an initial dark wash. After all that, I start the painting. Casey went right in laying the canvas with a black wash with some blue…and then started working on painting the face. Kinda blew me away.( Of note, my current Art Instructor B told me after I recounted this to her that’s how she paints. So since I will have on-hand guidance I will have to give it a whirl.) after toning the canvas with Ivory black with a little cobalt blue he starting laying out brush strokes to create texture

When asked how he starts he said that first you create Value – (depth ), then Color, and finally the Drawing (the actual subject of the painting). He stated that one needs to practice painting regularly to learn how to work out the problems. Essentially that is what painting is in a sense, constantly problem solving…how is light hitting the subject, how does this color against this one affect the other, etc…

For those of you who paint some helpful hints he shared included were….Keep one soft brush dry, handy for edge work. Push down on brushes that come to points so they splay out…thus getting blended strokes vs “noodle” lines. Take breaks, take breaks and take breaks. Step away from the painting…and do not look at it . Clear your head, then go back in. He doesn’t  have formulas for colors, goes in warm colors first…than adds in cool shadows the nose and the mouth, especially the mouth can be challenging  to paint. He saves the mouth for last…paints around it. The mouth is fluid like …always moving. .Also, the importance of your signature and getting it right …it should enhance not distract from the piece.

For light sources, it’s the edges of the light that you need to concentrate on. While painting look at the subject with your peripheral vision...otherwise we get tunnel vision and our mind insets the opposite color to grey things. Keep your eye in motion, compare vs isolate. You literally need to practice this. Go from tunnel vision to peripheral vision…back and forth.

Final Thought

One final point that Casey made I felt really hit home, and that  was “Painting is the universal language”. Just think about it, you can go to a museum in Barcelona, look at fresco’s on Temples in Vietnam, hit a gallery in Prague and you don’t need to speak the local language to get what the Artist is saying… Pretty amazing when you think about it. Our world is full of Towers of Babel…yet Art knocks down all walls. Just something to think about…

Toby’s Public House Pizza and Brews

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Looking for somewhere new to grab Brick oven Pizza? So was I recently when I came upon Toby’s Public House in Soho recently. Toby’s has a nice sized menu to choose from but it was their Lunch special on the chalk board outside that drew me in. For $15 you get a Caesar or House salad and a choice of three (3)Pizzas… Margarita, Soppressata or Fungi. I choose the House salad that came in a huge bowl comprised of fresh arugula, cherry tomatoes, lots of Pecorino cheese in a Vinaigrette.

The Pizza’s are personal size that come in 6 slices. Though I usually go meat, especially when it’s spicy I went Fungi for a change of pace and was rewarded with some tasty earthy wood fired goodness .Of note I hit mine with some pepper flakes and theirs packed some punch. The balance of the large salad and the personal sized pizza I thought worked great showing today’s sensibilities and balance of food groups making Toby’s a definite spot for lunch as well as a cool spot to get a tasty brick oven pizza and craft beer or wine on tap in the evening.

Of note, the Waitress explained all the ingredients in detail to me, ie Fungi is Mushrooms, Soppressata is…etc which I found interesting since I grew up this stuff, they must get a lot of Tourists. Decor wise the place has thick high top and chair level wood tables, walls adorned with B&W photos and a  L shaped bar with over 20 craft brews on tap to choose from, a number of vino’s and some cool cocktails to keep you busy.

Toby’s is located at 86 Kenmare Street

 

Beer & Buns: Asia Sliders

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As I was heading home after a morning meeting I saw the Beer & Buns sign at the Court Hotel and walked over to check out the menu. I was pleasantly surprised by the unexpected menu of Asian inspired sliders ….which was interesting since I just caught up with a bud recently who likes Asian Fusion and Sliders. I came back later for lunch to do a little research. Upon entering I was expecting a pub like setting, yet found myself in a very cool looking large yet minimalist designed space with  plasma screens, a bar and even a backyard garden.

Beer & Buns menu has a fair amount to choose from including 10 different types of sliders (3 for $12, 5 for $17), Burgers, Salads, Sides and Appetizers. Since I was hungry and not sure how filling the sliders would be I ordered the Coconut Shrimp to start served with pineapple salsa. These were great, if you are nuts for coconut like I am you will enjoy these. Of note, the Salsa was actually a Pineapple flavored duck sauce…good but a little sweet. The Pulled Pork Quesadilla, Lobster Mac and Cheese and Tempura Veggies were tempting as well(of note the latter two were on the sides menu).

 

I decided to go seafood(they have beef, pork, chicken, and vegan options) and ordered the Bangkok Dangerous (Thai style Tom Yom Shrimp on brioche) ,Grouper on Fire -(fried fillet in a spicy chile sauce on an onion bun) and Phuket Fantasy( Crab Cake w/green curry on onion brioche) The Grouper was my favorite followed by the Crab Cake. The Shrimp was good, but it was eclipsed by the Coconut Shrimp appetizer. They have a nice selection of beers to choose from as well as Milk Shakes, soda and ice tea to quench your thirst. Another great addition to the neighborhood.

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Beer & Buns is located in the Court Hotel at 130 East 39th Street

Ethos Gallery 51: A Taste of the Greek Islands in Sutton Place

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I caught up with a couple of friends to check out slightly off the beaten path Ethos Gallery 51. It’s a beautiful space inside with a small curved bar and a beautiful clientele with curves to match. Seating is also available outside which is where my friends and I grabbed a table on a cool and breezy Summer evening. The menu here is fairly large and leans towards seafood. We started with Octapodi Sharas(Grilled Octopus with Onions, Capers, Fava Puree, Lemon and Herbs) and the Horiatiki(a classic Greek Salad{no lettuce} of cucumber, tomato, feta, olives, etc and Melitzana Feta(Eggplant stuffed with Feta, tomato sauce and herbs) All were great especially the Octapodi.

For our main courses we ordered a couple to share. My bud ordered the Greek Sausage which was very good though vastly different then what I expected.  believe this was tamed for American tastes since I was forewarned that it would be very gamy, yet I thought it was delicious loaded with mint. It Came with a side of Taramasalata and Baba Ganoush…both delish. We went back to the sea for our next main the Snapper. It  was fresh out of the ocean and simply prepared with lemon, oil and capers. We also enjoyed some sautéed spinach to keep it green and healthy on the side. We Drank vino and beers from from Greece with our meal as we shared stories from the past, present, life and the crazy state of the worlds current affairs. For desert a plate of Greek treats were served. Add Ethos Gallery 51 to your “Great Greek Spots” list.



Ethos Gallery 51 is located at 905 1st a Avenue

 

Eclair Bakery: Oh Mon Dieu! Delicieux French Pastries

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Decisions, decisions I came to Eclair Bakery for the eclairs highly recommend by a French friend of mine but figured I had to try a croissant  or pastry while I was here. Though a number of items caught my fancy since it was early and I needed breakfast I choose the ham and cheese croissant over the chocolate almond and the raspberry almond versions . It may well be the best I’ve ever had…and I’ve been to France a few times. It was incredibly buttery to the point that under Bloomberg he might have made it illegal…under Del Blasio… He’s probably order 3 more after the first and then hit the eclairs.

As for their namesake they have more flavors of Eclairs then I’ve ever seen…Chocolate, Pistachio, Passion Fruit, Praline….to name a few. I took home a pistachio and a coconut since they are two of my favorite flavors. Along with the large selection of recurring flavors  they have they do weekly specials  as well(see their website for current selections) at the time I was there they had Red Velvet and Cheesecake. For Carrot Cake lovers…their version is quite good and the macrons looked rather tasty as well. Of note, they have a very good cup of coffee to enjoy with your pastry(ies). Needless to say “Je reiendrai pour plus d‘…hopefully Google Translate got that right:)

Eclair Bakery is located at 305 East 53rd

Dacia Gallery presents Nikolina Kovalenko’s Masquerade

 

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I attended Nikolina Kovalenko’s Masquerade opening last week at Dacia Gallery and her works were both beautiful and thought provoking.  I met Nikolina at a gallery in the East Village for a photography show recently where she was the Sales Consultant. When I found that she was an Artist and a rather talented one I asked her to add me to her Gallery Opening invite list . Her new solo show Masquerade (July 18-August 30th) is a series of oil paintings primarily of portraits and figures based upon the “masks” that most people wear in life. The following are my favorite pieces from the show and my interpretations of them. Of note, while I couldn’t stay long and hear Nikolina speak I did get to hear her give a tour early on of her pieces so I may have been influenced and enlightened a bit by what she shared.

After the Interview -This one represents Girl Power, but instead of using comic book Pop Art archetypes Nikolina used girls smoking cigars and wearing fedoras like guys living it up. It’s based if I remember correctly by some people reactions to finding out that she travels solo sometimes and were surprised that as a women she would(which I find odd since I know a lot of women that do) engage in something they viewed as dangerous.

The Artist - It  didn’t hit me at first but this is a self portrait. She has done a number of other like works with people’s “professions” sprouting out of their heads.

Shopping for a Face – Simply shows how people are constantly looking to buy new clothing, jewelry, cosmetics, etc to change their look so people judge them by their looks versus their personality and intellect.

Red Mirror – I like this one aesthetically,  as for its meaning to me it’s women stealing looks from one another instead of just being themselves due to the onslaught of advertising created by  a certain few that determine what is beautiful and in style of the moment.

Rubik’s Cube – This one is conceptually my favorite,  a woman getting caught up trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube with major problems all around her. It shows how we fixate and get caught up on our own stupid problems that in most cases we could simply stop worrying about, put it down and deal with real people and issues.

Fishing for a Date – This one in a nutshell is a graphic representation of dating in NY and it really made me think especially of On-Line dating

What I found rather interesting is that with all the commentary in these pieces on how we judge others, how we want to be seen by others, etc these works come from an Artist that looks more like the beautiful models that pose for the ads and magazine shoots showing how we should ideally look and yet it is she who is actually wielding the brush telling the story that like the quote goes “beauty is only skin deep”. I look forward to seeing more of this up and coming Artists work.



Dacia Gallery is located at 53 Stanton Street (Open Wed -Sunday)

Best Coffee by Grand Central

Perk Kafe 2Beans

Up until very recently there were few good options to get a good cup of Joe, an Espresso or an Iced Coffee by Grand Central. Now all of a sudden it’s not where can I go for a decent cup it’s which one and why? Since I work frequently out of Coffee Bars most of these places have seating and WIFI and due to my sweet tooth most have very good baked treats. Here my top choices…

2Beans – As the name implies it’s not only about the coffee here (Lavazza), but about the cocoa bean as well. They have an amazing selection of chocolate from all over the world. They also have very good Gelato and pastries. The upstairs is a great spot to get away or have a meeting.

Aroma - They serve a piece of chocolate with their morning brew and have good sandwiches and pastries.

Cafe Grumpy – One of my new faves for their hot coffee, bags of beans to go, and their Iced Brew. Awesome Banana Bread with Cardamon and Black Pepper.

FIKA – Good coffee and very good pastries,especially the muffins. I like this location, but like the one on 41st west of Bryant Park even better.

Financier – Good solid cup of Coffee and Espresso, very good pastries especially like their large sized Pistachio Macrons and that you get a mini financier pastry with your coffee

Gregory’s – Really like the Pour-Overs here as well as the drip. Great Banana Bread, Muffins and Cookies.

Joe – Another great spot for bags of beans, coffee hot or cold and some tasty treats, especially the Ring Dings…

Le Colombe at Zuckers – Why all Bagel Joints don’t have great coffee like Le Colombe served here is beyond me. Great Bagels and spreads and some nice spins on classic treats like Red Velvet Twinkies

Perk Kafe serving Stumpton’s – While it’s a handful of blocks away from Grand Central, it’s close enough to make this list especially since they serve Stumpton’s which is one of my favorites. They also have awesome Chocolate Almond Croissants that they get from a spot in Soho and great Banana Bread