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Editorials New York City

Shooting Iconic Food of NYC for Lonely Planet Traveller, November Issue

October 13, 2013

In the first week of August, I got an email from the Photo Researcher of Lonely Planet Traveller magazine in the UK, asking me If I was available for a shoot. ‘We would like to do a New York story with a focus on iconic NY food and classic NY city scenes…It is for our November issue, so the turn around would need to be quite quick’. 

Of course I didn’t want to miss that opportunity. Even though I was quite busy with a different project, I loved the idea of eating my way through NYC…

Yes, I’ve been living in New York for 12 years now, but there is always something new to discover. And even though I knew the majority of the iconic food locations, I didn’t try the food in all of them. That was the perfect excuse and opportunity.

I’m kidding.

I love shooting my city and I’m honored to work with a great magazine, such as the Lonely Planet Traveller. It was an intense week of shooting in which I’ve been eating all kinds of foods I usually don’t eat and searching rooftops and views of New York, that I have always wanted to shoot.

In case you are traveling to New York soon and want some recommendations and locations (and you didn’t have a chance to get the magazine) here are some suggestions:

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory: When you get to Dumbo in Brooklyn and head toward the East River, you might see long lines of people standing outside what used to be a fireboat house back in the 20’s. Don’t get intimidated as these long lines will lead you to one of the mythological ice cream places in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory. Forget about rocky road, salted caramel or chili flavors. The factory has just eight classic all natural flavors: Vanilla, chocolate, vanilla chocolate chunk, strawberry, chocolate-chocolate chunk, peaches and cream, butter pecan and coffee. The cones are wrapped with a paper cone of the American flag and Patriotism never tasted so good.

Gray’s Papaya Hot Dogs: The combination of greasy hot dog and a papaya drink, is apparently a success combination for 41 years now in New York City. Mr. Gray, who first opened Gray’s Papaya in 1973, succeeded in making his hot dogs into a brand name in Manhattan. There are two locations in the city; one in the West Village and the second one in the Upper West Side (on 72nd and Broadway) which is opened for 24 hours and draws in the masses.  Gray’s does classic NYC frank: all-beef in a natural casing, which is grilled and served on a toasted bun with sauerkraut and spicy brown mustard. It has the best price in the city.

Zucker’s Bagels: New York city is well known for its bagels. The combination of bagel, cream cheese and lox (thinly sliced smoked salmon) is a well known trademark here. It goes back to the early 1900 when Jewish immigrants in the Lower East Side used to sell the bagels from pushcarts. Few years later, the pushcarts in New York sell hotdogs, pretzels or halal food, and the bagel and lox is well sold in delis and special bakeries such as Zucker’s. During my shoot in the Midtown East Location, I had the honor to meet Matt Pomerantz, the owner and founder of Zucker’s, the authentic NYC hand-rolled, kettle-boiled bagel. He opened his first shop in 1994 after quitting his job in Wall Street to pursue the family business, a love of bagels and great food. He named Zucker’s after his mother, Roslyn Marilyn Zucker Pomerantz.

Dun-well Doughnuts: It’s an improbable fact that Homer Simpson is the inspiration behind a vegan doughnut shop in New York, but it is a fact, nonetheless. Watching an episode of The Simpsons one night, Christopher Hollowell badly craved a doughnut but he couldn’t find a vegan version anywhere in New York. He called his best friend and fellow vegan Dan Dunbar, and together they hatched a plan to open the city’s first dairy-free doughnut shop. They chose the bohemian, hipsterish location in Montrose Ave in Brooklyn and together they make more than 200 flavors in rotation, from traditional varieties such as glazed, chocolate and jam-filled to inventive concoctions such as root beer, tangerine basil and black liquorice. And I didn’t even mention the great coffee.

Roberta’s Pizza: ‘If you want to find the best pizza in New York, you should head to Bushwick and try out Roberta’s’ That’s what one of my friends told when I was asking around for the best pizza in town. Sometimes it is better to ask a man about a pizza. I was happy to discover that Roberta’s is in Bushwick, as recently this neighborhood is getting my attention due to the big graffiti scene there. When I got to Roberta’s, I have realized I passed through their door few times before, without knowing that behind the red curtain, there is one of the best pizza in town. The restaurant is located in what used to be a car garage and now it has a garden and a greenhouse which produces some of the restaurant’s herbs and vegetables. Indoors you can find the kitchen with the smoky, wood-fired brick oven which produces the divine pizza. Some of the slices you should try are The Bee Sting, a tomato, mozzarella and sopressata (Italian dry salami) chilli and honey or Carlos Danger, a parmigiano, squash, fresnos (chilli peppers), onion and chilli oil. That was my fave.

Katz’s Deli: I’m sure you are all familiar with the episode in “When Harry met Sally” when Meg Ryan’s faked an orgasm… Well, that was in Katz’s Deli, and Sally ordered the pastrami on rye. Katz’s opened 125 years ago in the Jewish area of the Lower East Side. ‘It was established on Ludlow Street in New York’s Lower East Side by the Iceland brothers. Upon the arrival of Willy Katz in 1903, the name of the store was changed from Iceland Brothers to Iceland & Katz. Willy’s cousin Benny joined him in 1910, buying out the Iceland brothers to officially form Katz’s delicatessen. Their landsman Harry Tarowsky bought into the partnership in April 1917. A move to the present side of the street was necessitated during this time by the construction of the subway system, although the entry remained on Ludlow street. The vacant lot on Houston (named after a Dutch emigrant of the same name) Street was home to barrels of meat and pickles until the present storefront facade was added in the period 1946-49’. The pastrami is cured the same way, using the same secret ingredients and is still cut by hand to order. Even the original storefront sign remained back from the 40’s and the archaic ticketing system; a ticket is given on arrival, food gets charged to it and a fine of $50 is charged if it is lost! This has been one of the most iconic locations in the Lower East Side and quite crowded most of the time.

Lady M Cheese Cake: One of the best things in this shooting assignment was to discover new places and try out the food. I first saw the Lady M Cheese Cake boutique during one of my lunch breaks in Bryant Park. I was taking a class at ICP on 43rd and 6th and lunch breaks are spent in Bryant Park. I have noticed the white-only interior and the colorful crafted cakes waiting for me to eat them. I was so happy to discover that Lady M Cheese Cake was on the list so I could have a closer look at the beautiful cakes and fanciful desserts that were presented like jewelry behind the counter glass. If you make it to one of Lady M Cheese Cake boutiques (there are two locations in the city, one in Bryant Park and one in the Upper East Side) I highly recommend and urge you to try the signature Mille Crepe; more than 20 crepes layered with pastry cream with gatueau fromage.

Clover Club Cocktail Bar: Named after a famous, late 19th century men’s club, the Clover Club in Cobble Hill Brooklyn serves fizzes, sours, juleps, royales and crystal bowls of punch atop its mahogany bar. The back of the bar is designed as a Victorian era saloon and it usually hosts private parties. One of the reasons to head to Clover Club is the head bartender, Tom Macy, who is well trained and experienced in making creative cocktails using fresh juices, house-made syrups and seasonal ingredients. The Clover Club Cocktail is a mix of gin, fresh lemon juice, house-made raspberry syrup and an egg-white mix to turn it from a fruity gin drink to something more grown up.

New York City

24 Hours in New York; My Favorite Spots in my City

January 11, 2013

New York, Manhattan, Photography

As someone who travels for work, I write mostly about places I visit and less about the place where I live, New York. Therefore, when Carla, a great professional photographer in Paris, asked me to blog about New York and be a guest on her blog, I immediately say Yes.

Not only does New York never sleep, it barely reclines. (which suits well my personality). That doesn’t mean you can’t kick back and relax; there are plenty places for that. But if you visit New York, here’s a word to the wise: Pack your most comfortable shoes; Because Manhattanites may not nap much, but they sure do walk a lot.

I am very inspired by New York. I always tell people to carry their cameras. The streets are so dynamic, you can never know when and where you can get your best shot.

Here are some of my favorite things to do in Manhattan and some photogenic locations you want to consider.

6 AM: Grab your running shoes and head to Central Park. Start from Columbus Circle on 59th street and head east and north. Jog around the reservoir (named after Jackie Kennedy Onasis who used to live right by) and then jog back. Grab a coffee to go in one of the two cute little cafes at the entrance to the park.

8 AM: If you are up for a breakfast, my favorite place in my neighborhood is La Pain Quotidien Bakery on 58th street and 7th Ave. Even though it is a Belgium brand (don’t tell anyone) I still love the Parisian atmosphere it has.

11 AM: Head downtown to SoHo area where most of the stores won’t be open before 11 o’clock. Visit the Prada’s flagship store (575 Broadway) designed by Rem Koolhaas and for a minute you can confused it to the Tate Modern than a fancy retail store. Walk around the cobble stone streets and visit Taschen book store, (107 Greene street), Vosges Chocolate (which flavors are inspired by Travel locations) Kate Spade colorful boutique and I’m sure you will find so many more stores.

1 PM: Lunch time. Walk East toward Nolita (North of Little Italy) and make sure you get a table in Cafe Gitane, a French-Morrocan cafes. (242 Mott street). This is one of my favorite places in the city. Don’t miss their cuscus dish. Delish.

New York, Manhattan, Photography

3PM: Walk down to the Lower East Side for a creamy dip from Il Laboratorio del Gelato (95 Orchard st.) and try out their honey lavender and black mission fig flavors. Lower East Side has become quite trendy in the last couple of years, crowded with new restaurants, bars, and gallery spaces alongside original stores with some immigrant touch

4PM: Get energized in China Town with a real Chinese massage. (107 Mott st) I’ve been going there for years. A little China town in Manhattan.

6PM: It’s Gallery time. Head West to Chelsea area and cruise with your drink from one gallery opening to another. Thursday is the day! Make sure to check some good ones along Gallery Line.

8PM: Don’t miss the Highline. New York elevated park. I love this place. so many shooting opportunities for Fashion and Architecture lovers. The highline starts from 30th street all the way to 14th. Get off at 14th. It’s the heart of the Meat Packing Area, where boutique hotels, high end fashion boutiques and best chefs restaurants are all centered in one area. Grab dinner or a drink in Spice MarketFig&Olive, or the Standard Grill and for a second think you are in a ‘Sex and the City’ scene.

New York, Manhattan, Photography

10PM and on it’s Party time: Dream Downtown Hotel and its PHD roof lounge has one of the most spectacular night time view. Drinks are a bit over priced but the view is for free.

2AM: Shopping after a long night of drinking can be dangerous to your credit cards, which is why Apple store on 5th Ave and 59th street is open around the clock. This is the time to shop if you want to avoid the crowd.

4AM: End your journey at the Juvenex Spa (25 west 32nd street) the only 24 hour spa in Manhattan. Try the Spa Foot Rejuvenation treatment because after a day like this you must give priority to your feet

New York City

Today, 11 years ago…

December 30, 2012

Today, 11 years ago, I came to New York.

It was not my first time (I was 20 years old, right after my army service) nor the second time (a trip with my sister after her travels in South America). It was the third time (I was 26 years old and a bit) but this time was not for a visit. This time was to stay.
I remember landing on the evening of December 30th at JFK airport with two suitcases, a camera and a few books. As much as I played it cool and calm, and obviously very excited for one of the greatest adventures of my life, I was also anxious as hell.

I also remember the brief conversation I had with a guy who was sitting next to me on the plane. (after all, it is a common thing we open our hearts to those sitting next to us on the flight, right?) He gave me some basic tips of ‘how to survive the brutal winter in the city’ and one address where I should buy my first NY coat (Paragon).

Today, but 11 years ago, when the immigration officer asked me what was the purpose of my visit, I wanted to tell him that ‘First, I’ll take Manhattan’ but I quickly realized that immigration officers don’t always get my jokes.
I remember on that cold evening of December 30th, I took the Super Shuttle blue van from JFK and handed the driver a note with an address I have never been in. It was somewhere in Kips Bay on the East Side of the city. The taxi winded through Manhattan to get the passengers to their destinations and at some point it crossed the Theater District, just when the crowds spilled out from the theaters to the cold streets. I remember I was so dazzled by all the lights and the flashy signs, that I promised myself not to live in such a busy bustling area.

Well, so I promised! Who knew that a month and a half later I would find a cute apartment in Midtown Manhattan just a few blocks away from the Theater District? And how naive I was to think there are places in Manhattan that are not crowded.

Today, but 11 years ago the days were post-September 11 and the streets of Manhattan were still covered with gray dust. Garbage and debris were everywhere. The walls in Grand Central station were covered with pictures of missing people and those who were lost. Three plus months after the Twin Towers fell down, people were still hoping to find survivors. In those days post September 11 every New Yorker who heard I am an Israeli looked at me with sympathy and tiredness in his eyes as saying ‘Now I really understand what you the Israelis are going through…’

I think the New Yorkers saw a sense of security in me, security that came with my life experience…I really felt safe in Manhattan those days post September 11… but my safety feeling was easily replaced by a chilling discomfort, when I happened to wander into a pro-Palestine demonstration near the UN.

Today, but 11 years ago I was a typical version of a good and naive girl who thought that living abroad is a very brave and courageous thing to do. Since then a lot of things happened. Maybe tons. The naivety slowly faded away and with it I realized that the words ‘Brave’ and ‘Courage’ have so many other meanings.

When I came to New York City a good friend of mine told me that ‘New York sucks you in Sivan, and you can’t really resist its current…just go with the flow..’ and as a swimmer, I know how it works; Just jump into the water and swim.

Since that day, this sentence echoes in my mind me every morning when I wake up. And it doesn’t really matter if I go to swim or not.

Today. But 11 years ago.  

Every morning when I come home from the pool, I walk through Columbus Circle and look up at the digital clock of CNN. I check the time, the current temperature and the date.

These daily habits have become part of my life. They make me laugh.

Every year, on the 30th of December, when I look at the date on the digital clock at Columbus Circle I call my sister or my parents to announce the number of years I have been living in New York City. It also became a habit.

Every year, on the 30th of December I look back at the year that has passed and measure all the things I have done. At the same time I also define my goals for the New Year ahead. New Year resolutions they call it here.

Every December 30th. Every year.

Wishing everyone a happy New Year and great New Year’s resolutions. May all your dreams come true



…this is my New York through the years…

New York, ManhattanNew York, Manhattan