Saturday, August 20, 2011

NEW YORK CITY, ROUND 2 Day 2 - Downtown

Treats galore...

That’s the beauty of New York City--in seven subway stops you can be in a whole new world.  Uptown has got class, downtown’s got style, it’s all good.
Being an author, I’m partial to great bookstores.  Lucky for us, today’s wanderings bring us to one of the all-time greats:  
Strand Book Store
828 Broadway (at 12th Street)
New York, NY  10003
212-473-1452
Run by the Bass family since 1927, this literary monument is the only surviving establishment from New York’s legendary 19th century Book Row.  The sign says the three jam-packed floors house eighteen miles of books, and I believe them. It’s nothing less than a book-geek’s dream. Wander as long as you like, but don’t miss the astounding 3rd floor rare book collection.  I spent my time there with my mouth hanging open, both in awe of a rare volume of 15th century French poetry and inhaling the soul-feeding scent of real, honest-to-goodness unKindle-ized literature.
Just up the block on 13th Street waits our caffeine for the day:
Joe The Art of Coffee
9 East 13th Street
New York, NY 10011
212-924-7400
With more of a clean industrial look than the standard funky java joint, this place prides itself rightly on straight-up good coffee.  Urban, clean, functional, this shop feels like it tailors to the serious coffee fiend.  It takes a lot to impress me with a chai--it’s tea, after all--but the chai latte I had here ranks up in one of the best of my travels.


Up and over a bit on 15th street, our fiber fix awaits:
Lion Brand Yarn Studio
34W 15th Street
New York, NY  10011
212-243-9070
As we crossed the street toward this yarn icon, my friend gasped, “I feel like I’m going to Mecca.”  Indeed, you can’t have been knitting for more than two weeks and not know Lion Brand.  Their logo reminds you the company has been the passion of the Blumenthal family since 1878, but this new studio opened in 2008 as the hands-on retail embodiment of one of fiber’s most recognized brands.  
Manager Patty Lyons says “It’s a ‘studio,’ not a ‘store’ because of the entire experience goes so much farther than a single purchase.”  She’s right. How can you not love a store with a “sampling wall”--spools of yarn and needles just begging you to come play?  Nearly five thousand students think she’s right, too--the studio’s three classrooms host over 90 specialty workshops, from beginning courses to university-level teaching.  If you can’t find something that appeals to you in the nearly 4,000 patterns available through the Lion’s carefully tended on-line offerings, you need more help that I can give.  
It’s an artful mix of the e- and catalogue presence we all love from Lion with the hands on touch-the-stuff experience we crave.  The uber-friendly staff know their fiber arts.  I loved that they double-checked the dye lot of my purchase before they rang me up--it’s always nice to have someone looking out for me like that.


If you’re like me, you’ll drool over the South Bay Shawlette (pattern #90489AD) even if you don’t crochet.  Done up in LB Collection Silk Mohair, this piece was almost enough to make me consider taking up crochet.  It’s hard to find a summer-friendly shawl, and this fits the bill, especially in such a striking color.



Another summer find is the hip Tiger Lilly Tank (pattern #L0191), a gem to whip up for just over $20 worth of yarn!  Knit up in LB Cotton Bamboo, the tailored look, artful details, and crossed back straps pack a lot of style into a simple piece.




You can never have enough good scarves, and our Knit Along from Lion Brand is a delightful Angora Lace Scarf (#L0306)  done up in the exclusive LB Collection Angora Merino.   Like all the LBCollection yarns, the store is the only place you can get your mitts on this truly luscious fiber (you could have heard my sighs clear to New Jersey!).  A nearly seasonless scarf that hugs your neck with that level of lushness is a treasure indeed.

Each of these projects is taken from Lion’s free on-line pattern collection, by the way, so you owe it to yourself to click on over and opt-in to their pattern registry.
As you leave, don’t forget to enjoy their often-stunning front window display, and give a salute to the Lion in the second floor window.  That cat’s a legend.
Take a breath and loosen your waistband, now, I’m about to introduce you to the most amazing treat I’ve had so far this year:
City Bakery
3 W. 18th Street #1
New York, NY  10011
212-366-1414
To quote Monopoly, “Do not stop, do not pass Go, do not collect $200” until you head straight into this place and order the hot chocolate and pretzel croissant.  Seriously.  It looks magical even before you sip--they ladle it out of a crock that looks like something from Harry Potter.  And then, well, beverage bliss on a higher plane of consciousness comes close to describing the experience. My friends and I sighed so loud people stared.  Ah, but then we did the ultimate.  Pop the top off of that paper cup, dunk the odd-looking pretzel croissant into the hot chocolate, bring it to your mouth...and just about die of happiness.  Hands down the best goodie of the year.  

And a perfect way to end an afternoon of adventure.
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