A Case For the Lowbrow

"Bonjour! Voilà, le French hat; voilà, le french fry!" says Carrie Bradshaw, surprising Mr. Big with a McDonald's dinner.

This is really terrible to admit, but I have a dirty secret: Sometimes I like adding a spot of Coffeemate's hazelnut-flavored coffee creamer to my coffee in the morning, which totally makes me feel like a suburban soccer mom. And it's actually really bad for you–it's not even made from real milk or cream–but I weirdly enjoy how it turns my cup of joe into a dessert-like treat. 

I also love Campbell's Chicken Noodle soup, plain and simple. I keep a stash of them in the pantry for sick days, for when I don't feel like cooking, or for whenever I'm craving a bit of nostalgia. A friend once recommended that I try Progresso instead for the heftier chunks of chicken and vegetables, but I could never. Campbell's soft bloated noodles, swimming in a salty, yellow-tinged broth, touches my heart in a way no other canned soup can.

"A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika," Diana Vreeland said, "We all need a splash of bad taste–it's hearty, it's healthy, it's physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I'm against." I wholeheartedly agree. When things are too curated or hoity-toity, it lacks a certain verve. There's no life-force, no energy, no vibes. It doesn't feel real. That little splash of bad taste is the key ingredient to your special sauce. 

My friend Bill was shocked when I told him that, if I were to eat fast food, I'd indubitably choose McDonald's over In-N-Out.

"I don't get the fuss over In-N-Out," I said, as we were strolling along Santa Monica Boulevard, "I honestly think it's overrated. Their fries are terrible! McDonald's fries taste so much better."

"But In-N-Out uses fresh ingredients," he pointed out.

"OK but, brand-wise, McDonald's is chicer. It's more couture. Trust me."

"But the whole point of In-N-Out is that you can customize your order."

"But their menu is so limited. At McDonald's, I can get a McChicken sandwich–or the Filet O' Fish!"

"I can't believe you're saying this."

"But it's true! If I'm going to be downing thousands of calories, I'm going with McDonald's. It's the Chanel of the fast food world."

 

 

A Poet and Her First Croissant

I moved to Cambridge when I was in my 20s, and I was living with my ex-history professor, who was dangerous and sophisticated. And I encountered a croissant for the first time. I loved it . . . I never knew that you could be alone, that one could walk into a bakery and get a cup of coffee and a croissant and sit down and eat it. It struck me as the height of sophistication.
— Marie Howe, State Poet for New York

Bottega del Vino

 

BOTTEGA DEL VINO

7 East 59th Street bet. Fifth & Madison Avenues
212.223.2724


You can really work up an appetite while shopping—or, in my case, window-shopping. When hunger strikes in the Barneys/Bergdorf territory, I like to waltz into the cozy front room of Bottega del Vino for a panino and a capuccino. The ones here are super special and are a world away from the grill-marked panini you'd find at the typical deli, with their generic fillings, like pesto chicken.

Along with its sister restaurant Via Quadronno, this place shares the most interesting panini combinations I've ever come across. Their "award-winning specialty", as denoted on the menu, is the Non Ti Scordar Di Me, which has a smoky, pungent mix of speck, brie, and påté. If that sounds too complicated, they also offer simpler one-note versions that contain just mortadella or just prosciutto.

Given its location, which is around the corner from Cipriani's and Sirio, you might think it's one of those expensive hoity-toity spots where a plate of tomato, basil, and mozzarella will set you back $38. Quite the contrary. You'll easily be able to get away with a lovely afternoon lunch for under $20—or less. If you're lucky and happen to unleash a little charm around Paolo, who's one of the owners, perhaps you may be surprised with a complimentary tiramisu.

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.