Every year like clockwork Spring arrives, and the neighborhood trees bloom in floating clouds of white and pale pink blossoms. Hurricane Sandy knocked out a few prize specimens last fall, but for the most part young trees have already been planted to replace them.
The West Village is beautiful even in the dead of winter, mostly 19th century masonry and a few brick-&-glass monstrosities built before the neighborhood acquired official historic status. The zoning change made it exceedingly difficult to build anything out of character. But developers and architects with high-end pedigrees soon set their sights on the West Side Highway, along the Hudson River, heralding a new wave of modernism. The Richard Meier buildings were among the first to sprout; Barry Diller’s IAC building followed soon after. The new Whitney Museum by Renzo Piano is the latest: it is expected to be amazing, and also to send property values in West Chelsea rocketing from already astronomical orbits. I like modern architecture. I am especially enamored with Shigeru Ban’s Metal Shutter Houses. I just do not want to see all of the antique masonry, plaster walls, working fireplaces and tiny gardens buried under a blizzard of luxury condos.
But this post is not about that. It’s about Spring. In the West Village. And the extent to which its charms can be captured by Your Humble Monarch on her trusty iPhone.
Pics and pith below the fold.
This is one of the Richard Meier buildings on Perry Street and the West Side Highway. The smallest of the three, it is jokingly referred to among the tenants as “the poor persons’ tower.” Hahaha barf.
I have a fondness for the gardens at St. Luke in the Fields. They are beautifully tended and open to the public. The church has an old bell tower it is raising funds to restore, but I am waffling on whether to contribute to the fundraiser. There is already a cacophony of bells every Sunday morning just when I am trying to get some extra sleep. Perhaps they should just count their “blessings” that I am willing to trade off enjoying their lovely garden in exchange for refraining from mooning parishioners from across Hudson Street. For now.
It’s almost like landscape photography! Except instead of bucolic fields or dramatic rolling hills in the distance, it’s… cyclone fencing! In the foreground!
Close to the ground are perennials, ablaze in color.
Sunday brunch at Perry St. was unusually busy, but we made our way toward a small opening at the bar where there appeared to be two seats unoccupied. A small group was preparing to leave. (For foodies: Perry St. is a Jean-Georges restaurant, but an unusual one in that it functions as a neighborhood hangout as much as a “destination.”) The menu prices at Perry St. are a little above the neighborhood average, but if you’re an unrepentant food snob (*ahem*) it’s the best brunch deal in town: $28 for three courses, including a starter, an entree and dessert. Of course the booze can set you back a few bucks, but there are some very good, reasonably priced wines by the glass, and the signature cocktails are bursting with exotic flavors and fresh squeezed juices. They also serve homemade non-alcoholic sodas, like Cherry Yuzu and Lemon Thyme. OMFG yum.
“Excuse me,” I said to the gentleman at the bar with his back turned to me. He was casually resting his arm on the back of an empty chair. “Is this seat taken?”
Hugh Jackman turned around, smiled and said, “No no no, it’s all yours.” He placed his empty espresso cup on the bar, and left with his wife and some friends.
As soon as he was out the door the bartender and I made embarrassing and dramatic swooning gestures at each other.
Why the hell not?
I asked the bartender for the recipe:
- Clementine juice.
- Lime juice.
- A “touch” of elderflower cordial.
- Shaken up over ice with vodka, and strained.
As you can see, she left a lot of room for experimentation with proportions. Also: what the fuck is “elderflower cordial”? But if you can figure that one out, I do not see how you can go wrong combining these ingredients in any proportions.
Oh! I almost forgot: garnish with a slice of Clementine, through which you may or may not want to insert a drinking straw.
Then came pea soup. I do not, in general, enjoy pea soup. I do not, in general, enjoy peas, except in that Italian sauce, the name of which escapes me. But this pea soup? Jeezus. I could eat this pea soup every day — with a Clementine Fizz — and die happy.
I was offered a choice of homemade sorbet flavors for dessert. (There was also a molten chocolate cake a la mode, but… FFS.) I chose rhubarb and pineapple, which arrived with a homespun sugar wafer on a dusting of semi-sweet chocolate cookie crumbs.
Just kill me.
After brunch, My Amazing Lover™ and I walked up Perry Street to Sant Ambroeus for coffee, but once we got there we decided we didn’t want coffee after all. The weather and the walk were…well, perfect. On the way back to the Palace we took a little detour through Abingdon Square, where the Greenmarket comes every Saturday.
Lest you lose yourself for a moment and imagine you’re in some freakin’ Disney fairyland, there is always someone or something to remind you that you are, in fact, in New York Fuckin’ City.
Sign at Molly’s Cupcakes, Bleecker Street:
will be given an espresso
and a free puppy.
I would not doubt for one moment that Molly’s Cupcakes is serious. At least about the espresso, anyway.
Although I am apparently given to acting like a deranged teenager when I run into Hugh Jackman (he lives in one of the Meier buildings), I am generally not impressed with celebrity. Not because I’m unappreciative of acting talent or whatnot, but because in my experience a lot of these people are really fucking boring. Yesterday I had lunch next to someone who turned out to be the actress Maura Tierney. As I often do in the presence of people who have some measure of mainstream fame, at first I assumed I knew her from somewhere in real life. I almost asked her if she works at a neighborhood restaurant, but I learned the hard way that this line of questioning doesn’t usually go over too well with les artistes. When we were both chatting up the bartender, I mentioned that I thought I recognized her from somewhere. “Are you an actress?” “Yes, I’m an actress.” And she went right back to reading her book. See? Boring.
On the walk there, I’m pretty sure I passed Brad Pitt on 10th Street. He was half-smiling, and nodding pleasantly and discretely at passersby who seemed to recognize him. And why wouldn’t he? The West Village is fucking beautiful.
Soon the white petals will fall from the trees like snow. Others will then blossom in pink, followed in turn by pink snow, and after that all the trees will wear their summer greens.
I never tire of it. After all these years I am still madly in love with the city.