Neighborhoods NYC ARCHIVES

Documenting the New Towers of Old Hell’s Kitchen

The artist Gwyneth Leech has lived and worked in Hell’s Kitchen for nineteen years. Her installations and paintings record the dynamic changes in the skyline and spirit of her neighborhood. Currently, she is exhibiting works that take a detailed look at local construction sites, and how a new era is being shaped in an old ’hood.

On my way to the studio, I have a choice of coffee places: Empire Coffee and Tea (568 Ninth Avenue) or Corvo (542 Ninth Avenue). I like that they both use plain white cups without logos, which I prefer for drawing on them.

The best construction sites to watch at the moment are in Lower Hell’s Kitchen. I go out with my easel and paints and see how they change, with new shapes, patterns, light effects, and human dramas every day. If you’re out and about in the area, it’s good to know that Hudson Yards Park has a nice new public toilet!

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The construction site that I think is most interesting, though, is on Eleventh Avenue at 59th Street. I was actually on the street, painting, when a couple of tailors who work nearby told me there’d just been a murder there. After that, I found another site to paint for a while.

If you love to make art in this neighborhood, sooner or later you’ll find yourself in Garden Hardware (701 Tenth Avenue). It’s a treasure of a shop, with screws and wires and all kinds of bits and pieces in drawers, and enormous rolls of chicken wire in the basement. I was in there the other week, browsing around, and I ended up leaving with 24 mirror plates in a paper bag.

Photography by Esther Levine
Garden Hardware
701 Tenth Avenue
New York City

Esposito (500 Ninth Avenue) is another old-school institution. The guys who work there wear white jackets, which seems just how it should be. You take a numbered ticket, and they’ll talk with you about anything to do with ham hocks and Christmas turkeys. Nearby is Ninth Avenue International Grocery (543 Ninth Avenue), which has a terrific range of spices and beans and other things in barrels as well as spanakopita, baklava, taramasalata, and hummus. Every inch of space is packed with something interesting to see. There’s even produce hanging from the ceiling.

Photography by Esther Levine
Esposito Meat Market 500 Ninth Avenue New York City

Tulcingo Del Valle (665 Tenth Avenue) is the place to get chicken mole and fish soup, sitting at bright patterned oilcloth tables, and doing some people watching. It’s been in the neighborhood since 2001…and we’ve been going there almost every week since 2001! Lali (630 Tenth Avenue) is another Hell’s Kitchen classic. It’s a Dominican café, with the best pork and rice, and a lunch special that’s different every day. We sit up at the counter, with our backs to the bright lilac wall, and practice our Spanish. When my daughter Megan comes back from college, this is the place she wants to go to first.

Lali, Dominican Restaurant
630 Tenth Avenue
New York City

Now it’s just my younger daughter Grace at home; we seem to spend a lot of time at Pier 84. In the summer the Manhattan Kayak Club organizes free kayaking, or we just visit the dog park — it’s really more of a singles pickup place, but even so, there are dogs, and Grace Loves Dogs, so we like to visit. Afterward, we go to Underwest Donuts (638 West 47th Street), which is inside a car wash. You buy the donuts freshly baked and still warm, and watch the cars while you eat.

If your priority is dog watching — understandable — you should really go to De Witt Clinton Park (West 52nd Street to West 54th Street, Eleventh Avenue to Twelfth Avenue). There’s one section for small dogs and one for big dogs, and Grace knows a lot of them by name. A bit controversial, but just over the street, you can also watch the carriage horses going in and out of their stables (618 West 52nd Street). I find that fascinating.

Carriege Horse Stables
618 West 52nd Street
new York City

During the week, my favorite thing to do is walk from my apartment to Amy’s Bread (672 Ninth Avenue), pick up an Irish breakfast tea and a golden raisin oat bran twist, then sit in the Community Garden and draw. Afterward, I sweep the sidewalk.

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Anyone who lives in the neighborhood can get a key to the garden, but there’s usually a wait for plots. I was on the list for seven years. Being an artist, one tends to be in the studio alone for a big chunk of the day, so it’s interesting to have other things to do, like growing herbs and the odd cherry tomato, and sweeping the sidewalk, where you really experience the community. People see me drawing and get curious. Once a taxi driver offered me money to copy a Rembrandt.

If you volunteer for face painting at a neighborhood fundraiser, then Alcone (322 West 49th Street), which has been around since the Fifties, is the place you should know about. I pride myself on my glittery butterflies, and I always find the perfect colors there that will really stand out on all the different skin tones of the human rainbow of beautiful children I get to use as a canvas.

The Village Voice is exploring one borough per day for the week of April 2, 2018. For full coverage to date, visit our Neighborhoods Week 2018 page.


In Their Own Words: Expats Dish on British Favorite Wagamama’s First NYC Location

It happened last month: Big news for British ex-pats in New York City.

Wagamama — an Anglo-Japanese fusion chain and casual dining phenomenon — opened in NoMad with a fancy, two-story brick, a wrought iron-filled dining room, a tricked-out bar, and the obligatory communal tables.

A quick poll of my fellow British New York transplants revealed what they really think of the chain eatery hopping across the pond. “Wagamama really opened in New York? Really? Well. That is good news.” There you have it: “That is good news.” (As an expat myself, I can vouch that this is what passes for extreme, edge-of-your-seat excitement in Britain… something akin to joy.)

The results of the poll showed reactions ranging from “Now I won’t have to deliberately go to Terminal 5 an hour earlier to eat at Wagamama” to “Knowing I can get ginger chicken makes me feel a little bit better about 2016.”

There’s something about Wagamama that just makes sense if you were brought up in the U.K., where the chain was established in 1992.

We’d never been asked to sit at communal tables like it wasn’t a penance before. We’d never been au fait with Katsu and ginger and soba. We’d never had anyone scribble our order on our placemat like it was no big deal. Suddenly, we were slurping noodles with our friends on a rainy Saturday, feeling as cosmopolitan as all get-out, with Topshop, Miss Selfridge, and Woolworths bags rustling at our feet.

Wagamama was the sophisticated choice for the pre-gaming dinner before office Christmas parties, the obvious candidate for a shy date during university, the scene of my fifteenth birthday party. It was a restaurant where you didn’t really need to bother reading the menu anymore because you always got the same thing anyway.

Short rib ramen
Short rib ramen

Steve Mangleshot, Wagamama’s executive chef, can’t choose just one favorite dish on the menu. “I’d say probably a toss up between the short rib ramen or the firecracker curry,” he reveals.

“No,” says one of my colleagues, formerly from London. “Steak bulgogi.”

“Chili squid,” another friend asserts. “Because of the dipping sauces.”

As for me, it’s noodles all the way.

So, what’s new at Wagamama NYC?

“We’re excited to be here in New York,” says Mangleshot. Watch this space for a Wagamama takeover — unlike another import, The Highlander, there can never “be only one.” In fact, this is the fourth Wagamama in the States, with three other locations in Boston. “We’ve created a stunning restaurant with a full bar and cocktail list,” Mangleshot says. “We’re also debuting an Asian-inspired weekend brunch menu for the first time.”

“Wagamama breakfast ramen?” One of my friends thinks about this for a moment. “Yes, please.”

“You know,” another muses, “I’m not actually convinced Wagamama is the best ramen in the world. No, Seriously. This is New York! There are really great authentic places opening all the time. I ate noodles the other day where they flew the ingredients in from Japan that morning.”

Wagamama is not that. And that’s entirely besides the point. We go to Wagamama because… it’s Wagamama. Even if you can’t book a table and you have to sit next to strangers. If famously British people can get over both of those things, you know it’s got to be worth it.

“Oh, yes. Absolutely worth it,” my friends agree. “We’re going there for lunch today, right?”



A Chat With the Team Behind LaRina Pastificio & Vino’s Thoughtful Italian Fare

There’s something special about a neighborhood restaurant opened by neighborhood people… like friends who walked down Myrtle Avenue one night after work and looked around and thought, “I could add something here.” That’s pretty much how LaRina Pastificio & Vino (387 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-852-0001) came about — albeit imagined by friends with a legacy in the restaurant world. (Don’t miss the Voice’s review of LaRina.)

“I live a block away,” says Giulia Pelliccioni, co-owner of LaRina along with partner Roberto Aita. “I’d seen the space and I loved the garden already, so I couldn’t not try when it was available.”

LaRina is named after Giulia’s grandmother. This pasta-focused Italian eatery has 80 seats, soaring ceilings, and banks of windows, along with a central, open kitchen and an herb-filled patio. That’s not all — there’s a knotted tree that is rooted in the dining room, growing out through the wall towards the sky.

“We make everything ourselves,” says Silvia Barban, chef and another of LaRina’s partners. “Every day, we make fresh pasta, of course, but I like to put my own twist on things.” One of the menu’s highlights is chilled chickpea tagliatelle with calamari and tomato gazpacho. “It’s refreshing for summer, and a little unexpected, no?”

Chickpea tagliatelle
Chickpea tagliatelle

“I want to make the traditional dishes that my grandmother taught me when I was a child, the dishes I love. But I’ve been experimenting too. Right now, I’m interested in working with all kinds of different flours,” says Barban, who trained in Italy under Gualtiero Marchesi (a chef with a strong claim as the father of modern Italian cuisine) before she moved to New York to helm Chelsea Market’s pasta temple, Giovanni Rana.

“Whole-wheat, buckwheat… it’s amazing how much variety you can have,” Barban exclaims. “You should try the smoked spaghetti, with olive oil, chili, garlic, hazelnuts, and Calabrian chilies. It shows the way I think about my cooking tradition. The dish without the smoke is one of my lifetime favorites; it’s what you eat at midnight when you’ve been out drinking! But with the smoke, it’s a different idea. I make the pasta, then I smoke it over hickory wood, then I cook it, so it has a mysterious dark flavor to it.”

With sharing-sized pastas, opportunities for experimentation are built into the menu — which is rounded out by seasonal salads, meats and fish. A market section — “We call it the Laboratory,” Pelliccioni says — has house-made fresh pastas and a selection of other produce for people to take home. “Whatever we’re inspired by,” says Barban. “Right now we’re still very much finding our way — [by] selecting our produce, seeing what works for us.”

“The vibe is a little different to what you might expect,” admits Pelliccioni. “Obviously, it’s Italian. We do pasta, that’s not original for sure. But it’s a different feeling. There’s a lot of care, a lot of thought. It’s got a different spirit. That’s what I hope people get from this.”

Lemon Gigli with Duck Ragu
Lemon Gigli with Duck Ragu

“We’re really proud of our drinks menu too,” adds Barban. “I think it’s very important to the whole enjoyment of the meal. We have a lot of Italian wine, and we did a lot of research, which was fun, and found some natural wines that we love. We also have a big list of vermouth from all over the USA and Italy. I think you should start your meal with a vermouth while you look over the menu — just a little ice and an olive. If you love pasta, then you could do a tasting, or share some dishes with your friends. The lemon Gigli pasta with duck ragu and chicharrones is pretty popular at the moment… and the black pepper ravioli with mushrooms and marscapone.”

“We’re still seeing what this dream really becomes,” says Pelliccioni. “It wasn’t a big plan for us to do this. We’ve both worked with other restaurants a lot, and we’ve worked in other restaurants together, but since we both literally live right on the doorstep, we just felt that we couldn’t not. That’s what makes it truly special. It’s like home.”


Aussie Outpost Ruby’s Brings Its Famed Burgers to Murray Hill

If you like beachy, sun-drenched lunches dreamed up by self-confessed surfer dudes — avocado toasts, kale salads, light pastas, organic banana bread, and the like — but don’t want to stray from Soho, then you’ve probably already discovered Ruby’s (442 Third Avenue; 212-300-4245). But if you’re still waiting on a table at that petite bastion of calm on Mulberry Street, good news: A second branch opened in Murray Hill this summer.

“I’m excited,” says Nick Mathers, partner and co-founder of Ruby’s. “Our landlord owns that building too, and when he heard we were looking for a new place, he suggested it to us. So far, it’s been going pretty smoothly for an opening. Touch wood. There haven’t been a lot of dramas!”

With a menu reminiscent of its Soho sister venue, and with a similarly relaxed vibe, the Murray Hill location has set out to make its own mark. “It’s Ruby’s, but we wanted it to have its own feel,” explains Mathers. “We’re focusing a bit more on the drinks program. We have some cocktails on tap and a really nice wine list. It’s a bit more grown-up.”

Cocktails include the Ruby’s Spritz — a vermouth, prosecco, citrus-scented glass of bubbles — and a summer-greens juice that looks like yoga in a glass but has a glug of sake to bring the edge.

“There’s a crispy rice bowl with grilled haloumi that I love,” says Mathers. “There’s lots of herbs, lemon, tomatoes, topped with a fried egg — all good! And you’re still gong to find some great burgers!”

More than anything else, the burgers put Ruby’s on the map a decade ago, making it a must-try on the New York City meat circuit. Unlike most of its rivals, which focused on meat-only patties, the Ruby’s burger blended beef with balsamic, onions, peppers, and sweet chile sauce. And in addition to melted cheese, you can have your burger topped with pineapple, a slice of beet, a fried egg, and avocado. (These are the toppings you should absolutely get on your next patty, by the way.)

“Back then,” Mathers recalls, “we made a lot of burgers. I had this idea in mind, a memory really, of a burger I had back in Australia, at a deli near Whale Beach. We made hundreds of different versions before we settled on our menu. After that, I could hardly look at a burger because I’d eaten so many. And in those days, we didn’t have a hood in the kitchen, so everyone who walked in the café would walk out smelling of burgers. But, luckily for us, I guess they thought it was worth it!”

Kale Salad
Kale Salad

Ruby’s also made a name for itself serving nut milks, passion fruit preserves, kale salads, and chile-flecked avocado toasts before they became staples for every café with a chalkboard and an Instagram account.

“We were making the things that were really familiar to us from home,” says Mathers. “Flat-white coffee is just how coffee is! My mum always drinks flat whites, so I didn’t think twice when I put it on the menu. There are sausage rolls, Vegemite…things Americans didn’t really know about so much. That wasn’t a calculated thing. We were just making what we knew.”

For Mathers, the journey from the beaches of Sydney to downtown Manhattan was conceived as an elongated layover.

“I was 23. I was on my way to London to see my girlfriend, and I came via New York because I’d always wanted to visit and I had a few friends who lived here — a photographer and a model,” he recalls. “They said if I got a bike and rode around I’d never want to leave. I did get a bike in Central Park, and I rode around the city all day, and then I knew I wanted to be here. Everything just felt right. It was like a dream.”

Mathers’s dream led to a fortuitous introduction to Tim Sykes, a fellow Aussie and future Ruby’s business partner (along with Thomas Lim). “I met a girl in a laundromat who invited me to her birthday party, and that’s where I met Tim,” Mathers says. “The only question in my mind was how to get a visa to stay. That’s where Ruby’s came from. I started it as a coffee shop, then it became a little café, and that’s the story.”

Mathers has used his success with Ruby’s to branch out into other ventures, but this second outpost of the place that started it all is his first foray into expanding a brand.

“I’m excited to be doing it. It feels like coming full circle, really. But one step at a time,” Mathers cautions. “It’s really important that we don’t just plant a Ruby’s somewhere. It has to belong to the place. It needs its own individual twist, its own design, its own menu. That’s what exciting about it to me. Well…that and the burger.”


Dive In to the WhaLES’ Instagram-Ready Fusion Fare on the Lower East Side

“It’s pizza…only instead of bread dough for the base, this is made with rice,” says Andy Kim, the owner and creator of the WhaLES (71 Clinton Street; 646-882-1305), the pun-tastic Korean fusion bar that recently opened on — where else? — the Lower East Side. “There’s a crunchy crust, then beef that’s been marinated with traditional Korean flavors, then mozzarella melted on top. That’s what I’m talking about when I say fusion. It really is fusion. The flavors I grew up with, and the food I love to eat.”

Tucked into what used to be a fried chicken joint, the WhaLES aspires to go beyond bar service, serving up a playful menu that has more than just Instagram appeal.

“I’ve been making this pizza for ten years at home,” says Kim. “I love to eat it. It’s not just fusion for the sake of fusion. You’re having a beer, enjoying the food…. Basically, I created my dream bar.”

Working with chef Toki Numasawa (formerly of Kirakuya), Kim settled on a menu that features Korean fried chicken, a fresh poke salad, and a few more experimental dishes. “Ramen with cheese!” laughs Kim. “Not at all traditional — but so good!”

The WhaLES winks at social media–savvy eaters and trendsetters, its location deliberately nestled in the heart of what’s quickly becoming a new go-to restaurant row.

“I’ve been working in real estate for fifteen years,” says Kim, “I love this neighborhood, and I knew it had great foot traffic and a great scene. I have a friend who runs a restaurant nearby on St. Marks, so I had a sense of what might appeal [to this area]. I thought, ‘This is the time to give this a shot.’ ”

Several weeks in, and business is steady. A few group bookings — including, unexpectedly, a baby shower — have helped spread word of mouth and get the kitchen running smoothly.

“I was a bit surprised,” explains Kim, “because I haven’t done any marketing. But people are coming in anyway, just to see what’s new in the neighborhood. We’ve had people come in for a drink while waiting for a table somewhere else — and [then they] stay or come back another night. Since some of our dishes have been blogged about, people have been coming in specifically to try them, which is so exciting! They’re walking in with curiosity and walking out with happiness.”

During the WhaLES’s early days, the most “Insta-famous dish” on the menu has been their burger: an Asian spice–marinated patty inside a crunchy rice “bun,” topped with a fried egg, and wrapped in edible soy paper.

“I was talking with chef Numasawa about the ramen burger craze…. We agreed that rice would be a really good taste instead,” Kim says of their inspiration for the rice burger. “Then we had to work out how to make it. No matter what we did, the last bite always crumbled away, so we had to think of a way to keep the burger together. Edible soy paper is the solution that some places in Japan use for sushi. I’ve eaten ice creams where there’s edible paper at the bottom of the cone, and that always seemed fun to me.”

Another unique selling point at the WhaLES is their AGWA Bomb, which brings a rare spirit to the fore.

“In Korea, AGWA is a really popular drink,” Kim explains. “It’s made from coca leaves from Bolivia, and it’s [manufactured] in Amsterdam. It’s a great drink — very popular in clubs all around Asia — and I have no idea why it’s not really available a lot in New York.”

What gives the cocktail — a mixture of AGWA and energy drink — its “bomb” namesake is the capsule of lime powder dropped in right before drinking. Suddenly, the drink transforms into a fizzy, bubbling green potion. Just make sure your iPhone is ready in advance.

“I think it’s a great drink for the Lower East Side,” says Kim. “It’s cool, young, fun. Seriously.”


Patsy’s: Home to Three Generations of Fathers — and Frank Sinatra’s Favorite Eats

In the downstairs kitchen at Patsy’s (236 West 56th Street), Joe Scognamillo is tasting red sauce. His son, Salvatore, made it that morning, just as he has done ever since he took charge of the family kitchen in 1984, but Joe still comes in most days to keep an eye on things.

“I’ve been cooking in this kitchen for over seventy years!” Joe explains. “With my father…and now with my son. This sauce is made the exact way my father made it, the way he taught me to make it, the way I taught my son to make it, and that’s the way it’s gonna be. It’s good enough for Sinatra.”

It’s hours before the lunchtime rush and the kitchen is already hard at work. Salvatore Scognamillo (“Call me Sal, everyone does”) portions out veal as bubbling pans of sauce reduce over gas burners. “We make three different kinds of red sauce — minimum,” Sal notes. “People think, ‘Oh, red sauce is all the same,’ and it’s not. One is really fresh, light, not cooked very long. One has pancetta there in the base. It’s important to do it right.”

With just three chefs — son, father, and grandfather — in the restaurant’s entire history, doing it right at Patsy’s means doing it the family way.

Frank, Joe, and Sal Scognamillo
Frank, Joe, and Sal Scognamillo

“It’s a legacy,” says Sal. “When I first took over, my grandfather came after church to inspect the kitchen. All the family was there to greet him, and he just walked past us, down to the kitchen, looked in the fridge and came back out again. I said, ‘Pop, where did you go?’ He said, ‘I was checking you still get the veal from the place I like. Now I see you do, I can hug you.’ ”

Patsy’s was founded by Pasquale “Patsy” Scognamillo in 1944. “He had a reputation in the business before he opened his own place,” Sal explains. “He opened a restaurant on 48th and 8th with a friend, and one of his customers there was Tommy Dorsey, the big-band leader. He told my grandfather, ‘I got this skinny kid from Hoboken. Can you fatten him up for me?’ That was Frank Sinatra.”

After a falling out with that friend, Patsy’s opened on 56th Street. A few years later they expanded, opening a second dining room upstairs that offered more discretion to publicity-shy guests. Where Pasquale Scognamillo went, Sinatra went, too. The intoxicating hint of celebrity along with the elegance of Patsy’s dining, and the comfort of the cuisine, proved an irresistible combination.

“Anyone who was anyone was here,” says Joe.

“I started working here when I was eleven, and I’ll tell you, it was a different age. A more respectful age,” he explains. “People dressed up for dinner. It was an occasion. Food was about dining, not just eating. And it’s a pity that things have changed because it was all so beautiful. Men in suits and ties, women in their best dresses and jewels. That generation is fading away, but we preserve the spirit here.”

Even now, Patsy’s still attracts a clientele of luminaries. “Any night we might have Jennifer Lopez or George Clooney as guests…. You know, he came in here even before he was born!” Joe exclaims. “His mother used to have lunch here with Rosemary Clooney, so that spans a generation — all the way back to the whole Rat Pack all sitting upstairs eating veal Milanese.”

Sinatra liked his veal Milanese paper-thin with a small arugula salad on top. “We still serve it like that to this day,” Joe notes. Next to him in the kitchen, Sal portions out the day’s meat. “Sinatra loved to joke around. Sometimes he’d borrow a waiter’s jacket and he’d go over to the table and take an order and see if they recognized him!”

“One time,” says Sal, “Frank threw a big party upstairs for Jimmy Cagney. When it was time for ‘Happy Birthday,’ there was Dean Martin singing, and Sammy Davis Jr. was doing a soft-shoe shuffle. Can you imagine? That was Frank. If you were his friend then you wanted for nothing.”

“That’s Frank,” says Joe. “That’s just the way he was.”

“Personally, I think we run a good restaurant,” Sal explains. “We really care about what we do, and we make good food, but I think the reason we’re still doing business in a city of 20,000 restaurants is because Sinatra loved eating here and said so a lot, and his friends all came here, too. That’s a blessing.”

Even after his passing, Sinatra still has some influence over who stops by Patsy’s. “A few weeks after Sinatra died, we were closed for the night,” says Sal. “But when there was a knock on the door, my cousin answered it. It was Bono. He said that Frank had told him he had to come here for a good meal. Well, my cousin didn’t know who he was, but we made him some food anyway. I think he thought maybe Bono was something to do with Sonny Bono? Still, he left here full and happy.”

Opening when officially closed is something of a signature move for Patsy’s. One Thanksgiving, when Sinatra was having a career slump and feeling lonely, he called to book dinner for one. Not having the heart to tell Sinatra that the restaurant was closed for the holiday, staff came in, filled out the tables with family and friends, and served dinner anyway.

That kind of celebrity glitter can color any night with its own kind of magic. “We had a young couple from London once, who loved Tony Bennett, and they’d read that he liked to eat here,” says Sal. “They asked my dad if that was true, and, right on cue, Tony Bennett walks through the door. My dad says, ‘Why don’t you ask him yourself?’ ”

Linguine puttanesca
Linguine puttanesca

To eat at Patsy’s is to reach through history and spend an evening in a bygone New York, where the menu reads like a lyric to a song you only half remember. Scallopini. Rollatini. Clams Posillipo. Veal piccata. But this is no monument to nostalgia with more theater than food. This is familiar, warming cooking of the most generous sort. And you’d expect nothing less, really, from a restaurant with a staff list that reads: “Mum, dad, cousins, me, my wife…”

“Both my boys say they’d like to work here one day,” says Sal. “We’ll have to see. I tell them, ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ That’s a rule I live by.”

“I think that sauce needs more salt,” says Joe. Father and son lean over the pot as the rich garlic-tomato steam scents the kitchen in the heart of old Manhattan. All is at it should be at Patsy’s, untouched by time.


Celebrate National Doughnut Day With Breaking Bad–Inspired Methadonuts

June 3 might well be a perfect storm of delicious unhealthiness: the first summer Friday of the truncated work week meets National Doughnut Day. Seems like a good excuse for a beer garden and doughnut mash-up afternoon, right? And Clinton Hall (90 Washington Street; 212-363-6000), the unexpectedly fun Financial District beer garden is bringing it.

“There is nothing better in life than a doughnut. I believe that,” laughs Aristotle Hatzigeorgiou, the owner of the Lure Group, which includes Ambrose Beer & Lobster, Slate, and Governor’s Club.

“So I’m thinking, how could a doughnut be more fun, more interactive? And I remembered Jim Botsacos [the chef who came up with the doughnut recipe] letting me pipe in the fillings, and I thought, that’s some fun everyone could have!”

Which brings us to injectable doughnuts, served warm in a paper bag with syringes sticking out of the top — full of Nutella sauce, raspberry jelly, or salted caramel — ready for you to inject into the light, airy ricotta heart, like the crazy flavor pioneer that you are. Also, blue sugar.

It’s fair to say these are doughnuts with attitude.

“The blue sugar is totally a Breaking Bad thing,” says Hatzigeorgiou. “I am a huge fan! It’s my favorite show. I binge-watch it. It’s epic. And this is an homage. The doughnuts are so good, and so bad at the same time… and the blue sugar looks like crystal meth. The look overall is crazy and intense. We started making the doughnuts about six months ago, and people seem to like them. They’re quite an Instagram hit. I mean, why not have blue sugar? Go for it.”

Since Friday is National Doughnut Day, “Walter White’s Crystal Methadoughnuts” (yes, really) are just $4 a bag instead of the usual $9.

“Picture this,” says Hatzigeorgiou. “You’re in the beer garden, drinking a light Pilsner — like a Radeberger, that’s my favorite — and you’re squirting salted caramel sauce into your doughnut, and the sweetness is perfectly complemented by the beer…then you play giant Jenga, and you’re kicking back with your friends, having a good time. Perfection.”

So that’s that then. Summer Friday. Leaving work early. Beer. Blue injectable doughnuts. And Breaking Bad references galore.


Tikka Masala Poutine Is the Culinary Mash-Up You Didn’t Know You Needed

The first thing that strikes you is the scent: spices, earthy cumin, sweet onions…like a deep, tomato-y steam facial, soaking into a mound of shimmering, salty fries.

This is Poutine, Desi Galli (101 Lexington Avenue; 212-683-2292) style.

“I’m Indian by background, but I was born and raised in Montreal, and I grew up eating a lot of poutine. It’s such an integral part of the food culture there,” says PriaVanda Chouhan, owner of Curry Hill favorite Desi Galli, which opened an East Village outpost (172 Avenue B; 212-475-3374) just over a month ago.

“The great thing about the East Village is how open people are to new ideas. Fusion is one of those controversial food trends, but it can really bring traditional dishes to life, especially when you’re saying something about your own history and culture,” Chouhan explains to the Voice.” That’s what we hoped to do with the Tikka Masala Poutine. I guess you could say it was a recipe looking for the right home.”

Chouhan’s take on the classic French-Canadian dish brings a hefty dose of spice to the party. “I wanted it to be like chicken tikka masala — but vegetarian,” she says. “I went back and forth with the recipe a lot, trying to get the same depth of flavor that you get with meat, and the same thick, creamy texture with the sauce.”

So let’s talk about that sauce: an admittedly unglamorous red-brown gravy, with a velvety texture, and just enough heat to keep things interesting.

“The dish starts with onions and spices,” says Chouhan. “Chili, cumin, of course, salt and pepper, turmeric…I love cooking with turmeric for the color and the flavor, and also because its anti-inflammatory. I like to sneak it in wherever I can. The base is cooked down with tomato paste, then we add cream, and crumble in paneer — which thickens the sauce and makes it really rich and delicious.”

This gleaming gravy is poured over freshly made french fries, “hand cut,” Chouhan notes, a simple, salty foundation for this steaming sauce. Instead of the more traditional cheese topping, a sprinkling of sev — small fragments of noodle made from chickpea flour — adds crunch and texture.

“So far, people seem to be enjoying it,” says Chouhan. “We’ve had fellow Montreal-ers who live in the neighborhood come back for seconds, so that’s a real badge of honor.”

For all your post-beer poutine needs, Desi Galli is open late (until 3 a.m.) on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.


Amorino’s Macarose: A Rose by Any Other Name Wouldn’t Be as Sweet

Mother’s Day is quickly approaching. A bunch of bodega flowers or brunch in the city might suffice for the woman who does everything, but there’s another, sweeter option. Take her for an afternoon stroll toward Amorino, where some unique roses have been cropping up: ones made of gelato and topped with macarons.

“The macaron in gelato thing started in Milan,” explains Anna Borin, Amorino’s U.S. training manager. “The story goes that a young boy was eating a macaron, but he wanted a taste of his mom’s ice cream…and as he went to take a bite, he put his macaron on top, so he had his hands free to hold the cone. Now, it’s become a very normal thing to have a macaron in your gelato — in the middle so that it looks even more like a flower. That’s why it’s called a macarose!”

It’s an Italian and French combo that suits Amorino — a gelato shop started by two Italian friends living in France — which now serves its signature gelato petals all over the world, with four locations in New York. “We make all the macarons in our factory in France, so we can be consistent with our product everywhere,” says Borin.

That consistency extends to the technique with which Amorino’s employees sculpt each of their macaroses.

“Part of my job is teaching people how to make the petals, so that we’re all doing it with the same look,” Borin says. “It takes a little bit of time to perfect, so that you know how much gelato you need and how to sculpt it so that every gelato is the perfect rose.”

It’s tempting to get as many of Amorino’s 23 flavors as you can onto one gelato rose, but Borin suggests restraint. “I think it’s best to pick three or four flavors that will go together,” she says, crafting her own macarose with orange ginger, chocolate, and pistachio sorbet with a raspberry macaron to top it off.

This Mother’s Day is a special one for Borin — it marks her first as a mother. “My mum is going to be visiting from Italy to see my baby, so I’m excited! We’re going to take him in his stroller to the Upper West Side, and eat gelato together!” Borin clarifies: “Well, not my son — no ice cream for him yet! But I’m really looking forward to it. What could be better than that?”


Cheesecake Chocolate Babka — and a Prince Tribute — Coming to Breads Bakery

“I love cheesecake,” says Gadi Peleg, owner of Breads Bakery (18 East 16th Street; 212-633-2253). “I love it plain — classic, nothing better — but sometimes it’s good to showcase something that’s a bit more unusual, you know?”

That’s where Breads Bakery’s “Cheesecake May” comes in. Each week throughout the month, the bakery will feature a new confection. During the third week, keep an eye out for a cheesecake version of their famed chocolate babka.

Yes, that’s right. Cheesecake chocolate babka is happening.

“We started the festival last May, because of the Jewish holiday Shavuot,” explains Peleg. “We always eat cheesecake then. And we wanted to make the holiday more inclusive to everybody. Of course, this year the holiday is in June, but we thought May needed cheesecake more.”

In the first week of Cheesecake May, look for the strawberry cheesecake: a creamy no-bake classic, layered with berry compote and streusel, artfully arranged in a mason jar. Seemingly built for Instagram, this strawberry cheesecake is dominating social media like Taylor Swift holding her kittens. But the countdown is on — by Monday it will be gone.

“People like to have an individual portion, but it’s hard to make a slice look good — especially if it’s to go,” Peleg says of the strawberry cheesecake. “We thought a lot about that, and one of our bakers suggested using mason jars. We always have them around in the kitchen. I think the cheesecake looks beautiful…and it’s practical. You can control the amount of compote you want with each bite better, and if you had the willpower, you could easily screw the lid and save some for later. Still who would do that? Strong people might do that. Nobody I know!”

Meanwhile, preparations for week two of Cheesecake May are already underway. “We’re going to be doing a ‘Purple Rain’ cheesecake tribute to Prince,” says Peleg. “It’s a baked blueberry cheesecake, and it’s great. Trust me. I actually had a sample for breakfast this morning!” The Prince-themed cake will be available in individual slices and a ten-inch cake.

If anything could distract from the imminent arrival of chocolate babka cheesecake, the “Purple Rain” blueberry cheesecake would be it. And yet…we’re already thinking of May 16 when the babka gets a mini-makeover.

“Yes,” Peleg chuckles. “It tastes really good. At least, I think so! I hope people are going to like it. I’m excited to see.”

Preparations for the festival began back in January, when Breads’ team of bakers presented their ideas and did a tasting. “They collaborate with each other and try different ideas…and we all eat a lot of cheesecake!” Peleg reminisces happily.

“Obviously people think of us as a bakery, but we actually sell a lot of cheesecake year-round,” says Peleg. “It’s an important part of what we do. We have a classic New York version that — I’ll say it — I think you could put up against any cheesecake in town. We’re really proud of it. But even so, it’s fun to try new flavors sometimes.”

And if you miss one of Breads’ Cheesecake May confections, don’t fret.

“Although we’re only doing each special cheesecake for one week…to finish the festival in the first week of June, I think we’ll do all the flavors together, so people can have another chance to try one if they want to,” Peleg reassures us. “Or bring a group of friends and share them all!”

These are exciting times, fellow cheesecake and chocolate babka lovers. Very exciting times.