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Seven Sandwiches of the East Village

The Cambodian Sandwiches, at Num Pang 

Ok, so maybe Num Pang isn’t technically in the East Village (more "Union-Square-area", really), but it is below 14th Street, and east of Fifth Avenue, and it has such a consistently amazing selection of sandwiches, that we had to include it here. We’ve eaten pretty much the entire menu over the last couple of years, and have been blown away every single time by the bold, balanced flavors and spanking-fresh ingredients that go into these beauties. Try the saucy Hoisin Veal Meatball sandwich, or the spicy Grilled Skirt Steak, or the honey glazed Grilled Duroc Pork, or the juicy Peppercorn Catfish, or…  listen: just go, try anything, you’ll love it. On 12th Street between University Place and Fifth Avenue. 

 

The Porchetta, at Porchetta 

Sara Jenkins’s peerless pig-roast sandwich, the eponymous Porchetta, at her bright, tiny little storefront, is a marvel of crackling, juicy, heavily-seasoned–fennel pollen, sage, rosemary, garlic–sweet-meat-ed deliciousness. Required eating. On 7th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A. 

 

The Pork Buns, at any Momofuku 

The bite that started our love affair with all things Momofuku, David Chang’s brilliant pork bun "sandwiches"–on the original menu of his first restaurant, Noodle Bar, and now available at Noodle Bar 2.0, Milk Bar and Ssam–are paragons of powerful flavors, beautifully balanced, made delicious: tender, sweet and fatty pork belly; sweet soy-ish sauce, crunchy pickled cucumbers; a few scallions for some bite; all stuffed into soft, chewy, steamed buns. Perfect. Noodle Bar is on First Avenue between 10th and 11th Streets; Ssam is on the corner of Second Avenue and 12th Street; Milk Bar is around the corner, on 12th Street between Second and Third Avenues.  

 

The Classic Bahn Mi, at Nicky’s Vietnamese 

Sometimes it seems as though you can’t walk a block in this part of town without bumping into a Bahn Mi spot, but for intensity of flavor and insanity of value, we still head over to Nicky’s Vietnamese to get our street-food fix. Nicky’s makes a classic, version of the Bahn Mi which have never seen bettered (well… Ssam’s is pretty good, too, though for about double the price), featuring a perfect balance of creamy pate, salty Vietnamese ham and roasted ground pork beneath a garden of vinegary carrots, cucumbers and cilantro, all on a soft, fresh roll. On Second Street between Avenues A and B. 

 

The Arepas, at Caracas Arepas Bar 

First, get those street-fair, pancake-looking arepas out of your head. These are not those. For a few years now Caracas Arepa Bar–first in their little take-out storefront;  now also in their cozy sit-down restaurant two doors down–has been creating these delightfully crunchy, intensely flavored, consistently delicious Venezuelan corn-cake sandwiches. La Reina Pepiada (chicken with avocado salad), La Pelua (shredded beef with paisa cheese), La Jardinera (eggplant with sundried tomatoes, carmelized onions and guayan?s cheese), De Pabell?n (shredded beef with black beans, sweet plantains and cheese), they’re all stuffed big, terrific tasting, totally satisfying. On 7th Street, just east of First Avenue. 

 

El Cubano, at Carteles 

So many in this town get the Cuban sandwich so wrong. Not Carteles, a bright and festive countertop-ish newcomer with just a few items on the menu, all of them good, especially El Cubano. This is the classic Cuban construction: roast pork, smokey sliced ham, swiss and provolone cheeses, plenty of pickles, "garlicky" mustard, all pressed and warm and melty. With a side of housemade sweet plaintain chips, and bouncy Cuban music blasting from the iPod-playing "boom box" behind the counter, this is a solid quick-bite sandwich, at a great quick-bite spot. On Sixth Street between First Avenue and Avenue A. 

 

This Way and That Way, at This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef

Although we were slightly disappointed by our initial visit during opening week, we still have faith in This Little Piggy because: 1. It’s owned by the Artichoke Pizza guys, who bake one of the best slices in Manhattan; 2. Its specialty is hot roast beef with melted cheese sandwiches, one of the best creations of earth. Available This Way (Hot Roast Beef, on a roll, au jus, with Cheez Whiz) and That Way (Hot Roast Beef, on a hero, with fried onion, melted mozzarella, and gravy), right now these look better than they taste, but we’re thinking that might change. Worth a try. On First Avenue between Ninth and Tenth Streets.                

Get the perfect winter workout and SAVE $40

 

What better way to shake off the winter blahs than with Danielle Green’s awesome High Energy Cardio Sculpt (is there anything it doesn’t do?) Class, every Thursday night at your Waterside Swim and Fitness Club. 

Danielle will really get your blood flowing and your muscles singing with hard-earned pleasure with her proven mix of fun dance beats, smart and effective exercises, and inspirational leadership in front of the class. 

And in case you need more motivation than the promise of "looking good; feeling fantastic", Waterside residents can now SAVE $40 off a one-year Swim and Fitness Club membership just for trying Danielle’s class!    

So get ready to trim and tone your whole package from top to, um, bottom; to pump up your get-up-and-go; and to SAVE $40 with Danielle’s High Energy Cardio Sculpt class, every Thursday from 7:30 to 8:30, only at the Waterside Swim and Fitness Club. Just call 212-340-4225 and sign up today. 

Leonardo Drew and Vic Muniz in Chelsea

 

 

For Waterside residents, all it takes is a quick (or, admittedly, sometimes not-so-quick) bus trip across town, and there you are, in the heart of one of the best, most important, most influential centers of contemporary art in the world, the Chelsea gallery district. Think about it: more than 300 galleries, showing some of the great artists of our time–plus hundreds and hundreds of less well-known artists… although, of course, sometimes deservedly so–right nearby, and it’s all free. We try to get over there every six weeks or so, usually with no agenda, and spend a an hour or so popping in and out of places both big and hyped and small and hidden. We used to take our kids, too, even when they were still in strollers, because in Chelsea there’s almost always enough big sculptural pieces or crazy installations to keep everyone happy. And in the summer there’s a terrific playground and the whole waterfront right across 11th Avenue.  

 

 

 

Anyway, we wound up in Chelsea gallery hopping last weekend and saw one of our favorite shows of the last few years, the often-massive, explosive wooden "wall-sculptures" of Leonardo Drew at Sikkema Jenkins. In fact, we liked it so much we returned again yesterday, fighting the snow to see Drew’s raw, forceful works again before the show closes in early March.  

 

 

Drew assembles bits of craggy trees and roots, splintery blocks and planks and plywood sheets–often charred, always rough-hewn–to create pieces that scan as aerial views of some sort of grim, post-apocalyptic landscape. At the same time–and this is the real genius as far as we’re concerned–as dead and barren as Drew’s work can seem, there’s also a fierce energy at work here, and the bigger pieces can feel like some sort of sharp, horrifying wooden wave about to crash down on top of you. 

 

 

 

Drew is the star of the show here, but in Sikkema’s back gallery there are also several excellent recent pieces by Vic Muniz, who takes his signature technique–creating recognizable images from the complicated collages of everyday objects–down a slightly more macabre than usual route. Here are three medieval-looking skeletons "drawn" from rusted bits of metal detritus and, as usual with Muniz, we’re blown away both by his imagination, and his ability to see the larger whole.

 

 

 

The Leonardo Drew and Vic Muniz exhibitions will be at Sikkema Jenkins until March 6, 2010. The gallery is located at 530 West 22nd Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. Closed Mondays. For more information and images, please see the Sikkema website, here

 

 

Setai Spa special offer for Waterside residents only

 

When we think Spa, we think aaaaahhhh… especially when it looks as lovely and luxurious as the new spa within the Setai Club condominium down on Broad Street. And even MORE especially when we’re offered an exclusive 20% savings just for being a Waterside resident! 

Here’s how the Waterside-only Setai Club Spa sale works: 

1. Chose any of the Setai Spa’s therapies before March 31–the Honey and Citrus Renewal; the Couples Massage; the Gentleman’s Facial, to name just three from the extensive menu–and instantly save 20% off your entire bill!  

2. Make your reservation by calling 212 – 792 – 6193, and mention the code "Waterside Plaza 2010". 

3. Exclusive Waterside BONUS! Setai Spa will also give Waterside residents a FREE Refresher Facial with any 90-minute Sports Massage, or Setai Signature Massage, or Couples Massage. 

 

For lots more information on the Spa at the Setai Club, as well as a look inside the supremely relaxing Aqua Grotto, please click through the Setai Club website, here.  

Two-star Italian alert!

 

Sam Sifton, the still-newish restaurant critic for The New York Times, surprised many restaurant-watchers this week by filing on the 16-year-old Novita, an unassuming Italian trattoria right near Waterside Plaza on 22nd Street between Park and Lexington. Former Times critic Ruth Reichl had bestowed a single star on Novita back in 1994, and that, we all thought, was that. Sifton had other ideas though, and blew the cover off of this Gramercy Park spot by giving Novita a two-star love-fest. "In any other metropolis in North America" Sifton says, "it would be well known among that city?s best places to eat. In many cities, it would sit atop the heap." 

The pasta is the way to go here, it seems. Again, from Sifton: 

"The pastas are just ridiculous: perfectly prepared, full of flavor, a rejoinder to low expectations.

You might try a bright and floral pesto over the long cavatelli pasta known as strozzapreti, or priest chokers, studded with pine nuts and salted with Parmesan. Or a plain penne with roasted tomatoes, basil and mozzarella that tastes of triangular perfection, summer on a midwinter plate. Black spaghettini with mixed seafood and a spicy tomato sauce is worth a mini-fad in itself, with pasta that is toothsome and a sauce made rich with lobster.

Three more: little ears of orecchiette with spicy sausage and broccoli rabe in tomato sauce; papparadelle with lamb ragu and earthy porcini mushrooms; rigatoni with seared tuna, black olives, tomatoes and oregano. These are like postcards from an Italy of the mind, color swatches to recolor your world." 

 

Sounds amazing. And, like we said, it’s just a few blocks away from Waterside, so this "perfect neighborhood trattoria" is, in fact, YOUR neighborhood trattoria. 

For menus and reservations, go here. And Sam Sifton’s complete review is here