The Little Next Door

THE LITTLE NEXT DOOR
8142 West 3rd Street
323.951.1010


As a creature of comfort, I rarely delineate from my trusted stand-bys–one of which is having breakfast at Joan's On Third. In my humble opinion, Joan's consistently makes the best eggs in town. There, they've mastered three basic egg-cooking techniques to perfection: Their soft-boiled eggs always have a warm, yolky center; their scrambled eggs are always scrambled into creamy-soft, fluffy folds; and their omelettes would make Chef André Soltner proud. Despite the number of breakfasts I've cooked over the years, I still feel iffy about how my eggs turn out. I don't know how their kitchen manages to churn out perfection day after day.

This past Sunday, when my boyfriend and I arrived at Joan's for breakfast, we saw that it was closed for the Easter holiday. Quel dommage! Our attention then turned to a small, ivy-covered patio with café tables and rattan bistro chairs next door, which is literally called The Little Next Door. (I've passed this French restaurant numerous times on the way to Joan's and paid no attention to it previously. In fact, I believe it was my friend Bill who once told me this place was nothing to write home about. When it comes to restaurants, I always ask Bill for his two cents.)

We started off with a warm pain au chocolat as we decided what to order. (If you don't already know this, it must be said that you should always judge a café/restaurant/bakery by its pain au chocolat or croissant–especially if it's "French".) Thankfully, theirs was a promising sign. 

My boyfriend ordered his usual omelette; I went with "Two Eggs Your Style, served with bacon and potatoes". Whence dining at an unfamiliar establishment, I tend to order my eggs over-easy because, in my opinion, it's a foolproof method of cooking eggs. (Sunny-side up can be tricky if the whites aren't cooked through on top.) Given the interesting variety of eggs Benedict on offer, it might sound like I ordered the most boring thing on the menu, but the aforementioned "potatoes" weren't your run-of-the-mill hash browns... Imagine my delight when I was surprised with a serving of pommes dauphinoise, the Queen of Side Dishes: thinly sliced potatoes cooked in milk, butter and cream underneath a bubbling blanket of grated Gruyère!

My eggs were good–because, like I said, it's pretty hard to screw up eggs cooked over-easy–but the pommes dauphinoise is truly what took this breakfast to the brink of divine. 

Lady M Cake Boutique

 

LADY M CAKE BOUTIQUE

41 East 78th Street bet. Park and Madison Avenues
212.452.2222

The Plaza Food Hall
1 West 59th Street
646.755.3225


My first encounter with Lady M occurred at Takashimaya, the elegant Japanese department store on Fifth Avenue whose doors sadly closed in 2010. There were many afternoons where I would tuck into the hidden tea salon downstairs and treat myself to a cup of frothy matcha green tea and a slice of Lady M's signature mille-feuille cake, which was then a secret enjoyed only by true insiders. At the time, the confections were baked by one baker in Japan and flown to New York. The price tag for a whole mille-feuille cake back then was a hefty $90. Today, it's $75. (Still hefty, I know.)

Thankfully, just because Takashimaya vanished did not mean that we had to bid adieu to Lady M's gorgeous creations, as its own retail space soon appeared on the Upper East Side—a white lacquered box filled with baked jewels. The mille-feuille (which means "thousand layers"), of course, is a must: twenty delicate layers of crepes filled with an airy almond custard cream and finished with a caramelized burnt sugar top. It will quite possibly be the lightest "decadent dessert" you will ever try.

I also adore their pristine cheesecake, which is topped with a glossy white blanket of sour cream and named gåteau nuage, or "cloud cake", for a reason. However, if it's grandeur you're after, go for the banana mille-feuille, which is an architectural stunner of flaky puff pastry, whipped cream, layers of vanilla sponge cake, ripe bananas, and a kiss of triple sec.

*Lady M Confections is also found at The Plaza Food Hall and a selection of goodies is available for shipping online.

It's Raining Gems! Hallelujah!

Here, I have on Pomellato's Capri earrings with chrysoprase, blue sapphires, and rose gold.

After a coffee chat with a friend uptown at Bel Ami Cafe yesterday morning, it started to rain. I suspected that it was the beginnings of the Nor'easter. The rain wasn't a shower or even a drizzle, but rather large, heavy, semi-frozen plops that seemed to sit for just a second before splattering. I hurried down Madison Avenue, clutching my wool jacket closed tighter and ducking my head as though that would help. Here's what New Yorkers without umbrellas do when it rains: We periodically pop into a store or a cafe along the way until we make it to our final destination. For me, the nearest shelter happened to be the Pomellato boutique, which also happens to be my favorite jeweler. 

It didn't take long before I found myself having a seat and trying on trays and trays of beautiful jewelry. Colorful, glossy, shiny, sparkly...Like a little magpie, I bit. Oh, sure, this something I'd do on any old day: Walk into my favorite jewelry store, try on jewelry, figure out which one to go home with--or, in my case, dream about for years to come. It was the best cheap thrill a girl could ask for! 

The manager noticed that I was wearing a Pomellato ring. "We could have that polished for you," he offered, "It would be no charge to you and, in two weeks, it will come back looking brand new." I looked down at my ring. The stones needed to be properly cleaned and the gold mounting was scratched up with dings from years of wear. I wriggled it off my finger and laid it down on the tray.

I had a million dollar experience for all but $0. Paper bag princess moment? I think yes.


Backstory

I had first come across their Pomellato jewelry a dozen years ago when I was a make-up artist. One of my clients was a very fashionable French woman named Delphine. While I was applying her blush and pulling the brush towards her cheekbones, I caught a glimpse of her lapis lazuli earrings, a dark matte-blue stone with a touch of sparkle from the diamond pavé details. I couldn't stop admiring them. They were eye-catching yet understated enough for everyday wear. I asked her about them, hoping that they were costume pieces that I could afford. "These are by Pomellato," she told me, "I bought them in Italy." It was a name that I never forgot. 

Cortado with Orange Blossom & Chocolate Pound Cake

ABRAÇO EXPRESSO
6 East 7th Street near First Avenue
212.388.9731


A cortado, according to the barista at Abraço, is a short cappuccino. The ratio of steamed milk to espresso is 1:1, and it's sometimes topped off with microfoam. The first time I had one was last Christmas at the home of my friends Michael and Tricia in Houston. Michael is an expert at making them, so his lucky wife Tricia gets a freshly made cortado every morning!

Since then, I honestly hadn't thought about it until I saw it scribbled on the mirrored menu at Abraço. I ordered one out of nostalgia's sake and also tried a thick slice of the orange blossom & chocolate pound cake. It's fragrant with the perfume of orange blossom and studded with rich bits of dark chocolate and crushed almonds, semi-sweet and dense with just the right amount of texture and crumble. After tweeting and Instagramming the above photo, though, everyone told me that the olive oil cake is where it's at, so, duly noted. 

The Smile

 
Transient

THE SMILE

26 Bond Street bet. Bowery and Lafayette Streets
646.329.5836
 


The Smile is a hipster's haven on Bond Street. Seriously. Upon entering, you'll immediately notice that everyone inside is stylishly disheveled. If you wear skinny jeans, a drapey t-shirt, an oversized cardigan, and a pair of ankle boots, you'll fit right in. (But don't forget the bedhead!) This rustic cafe-slash-restaurant is quaint and cozy, which is great for those late afternoons where you want to catch up with a friend over a pot of Mariages Freres' beautifully perfumed Marco Polo tea. Breakfast here is really nice, too. You've gotta try their steel-cut oatmeal cooked in coconut milk. It's lush and filling, and nice and warm in the tummy. There's a wooden bench outside—NoHo's version of Balthazar's bench, if you will. It's a great perch for people-watching, though, here, it's more quality versus quantity.