Friday, October 10, 2014

Chelsea Nabe Food 'n' Foraging Cheat Sheet

Tea and bickies (as we say downunder) at Port's Tea & Coffee 

West Chelsea



(plus some extra places a bit further afield)

West Chelsea (16th-30th streets between 8th and 11th Aves in my book), has a surprising concentration of good, inexpensive eats, especially as you drift west towards the Hudson, and especially on 9th Avenue. As rampant generification of this nabe takes hold, I maintain this page as a kind of neighborhood rescue service: quite often, mediocrity gets more traffic because people keep going to the same places old they know. It takes a lot for a new place to gain momentum - it can go out of business before it even gets started. Having worked in food,  I know that if you don't patronize a good place, one day it won't be there - Duane Reade is a such a crappy place to have a nice meal ...

So without further ado, below is the content of an occasional missive I send to a list of neighbors who live a 0.1 mile radius from my digs in Chelsea (to be on my list email me at galfromdownunder at gmail dot com).

  • Sure bet places are marked ***
  • Must-eats are shown in orange. 

(I'm sorry it's such a big scrolling tome, but Blogger doesn't make it easy to make jump links in a post). So here's what to eat (and more) in Chelsea in the order of when a civilized Chelsean rises:


Cafe Champignon (Euro) 7th Ave between 21st and 22nd Sts. This would have to be the best non-diner breakfast deal in Chelsea - 3 eggs any style for $6 and well executed yoghurt granola parfait $6.50 (with nice, lighter yogurt rather than greek). Order MINI smoked salmon bagel on its own for lox fix. Ambience + (for carrara marble tables), Value +++

Cafeteria (Open 24 hours! Featured in Sex in the City), SW cnr 7th Ave & 17th St. I mention only because this is NYC, and you might want to go to a place that was on a soap opera. I can't remember what I ate, but it was quite a creative menu.  Just get there early because everyone wants to be seen iphoning themselves at this celeb hangout. And bizarrely, it's open 24 hours. CROWDED. 

Hotel Americano, (BEST GREEN SMOOTHIE, Sylish hotel restaurant), mid-block on 27th bet. 9th and 10th. At $8 a glass, the killer green smoothie is not exactly cheap, but very choosy. Feel like you're in Barcelona as you bask in the architecturally striking ambience designed by Mexican starchitecto Enrique Norton of ten arquitectos.  Ambience +++

La Bergamote (BEST DANISH, French Patisserie) NW cnr 9th and 21st. Lightest, flakiest most custardy Danishes; Financiers, and the Harney & Son's Paris Tea with a bit of milk and sweetener. Rest of menu a tad steep.  Ambience ++ Euro)

Le Grainne (BEST CREPES, French Bistro) cnr 21st and 9th Ave. Get there by 10.30am latest or you will be waiting an hour.  Best crepes: Ratatouille ($10 - cheapest), Orange Caramel. The American breakfast is a buffet on a plate - bacon, eggs, salad, fruit salad, toast for $14-ish. Hallo, at last there's a restaurant that understands we don't want to choose between fruit salad and salad and eggs, we want them ALL, OK? The goat cheese crouton salad is divine ($14)

Park Restaurant (IMPRESSIVE AMBIENCE, Modern American bistro) cnr 10th Ave and 19th St. Housed in a converted parking station. Order fruit/yogurt/granola parfait for $7. Free, albeit cloyingly sweet banana bread with butter. You need to reserve in summer, they don't take walk-ins til 1pm, winter is not a problem.

*** Sullivan St Bakery (OUSTANDING EGG PANINI). This is my all time fave regular Sat/Sun AM haunt since it opened. The egg panini (best are proscuitto + sundried tomato, or vegetarian) is crisp and light, with the unmistakeable texture of really good organic eggs. It does an excellent yogurt granola parfait with fresh fruit ($6.50), not least because of its exquisite, nuggety house baked granola. I will see you there this Saturday (and next and ...)

Trestle on Tenth (CUTE) cnr 24th and 10th Ave. Good but expensive fruit/yogurt/granola parfait ($9), great blueberry waffles (brunch only! This place puts a hard line between b'fast and brunch!), great greenmarket omelette made on whites.

Westville (COMFORT FOOD) 17th St close to 8th Ave. Insanely popular locavore-like eatery knows what people want and gives them plenty of it. Like a waffle plate AND scrambled eggs AND fruit for  $14. When will restaurants wake up to the fact that people want it all. It's locavore fave includes Warning: Extremely NOISY and crowded at all times.


Banana Leaf (SRI LANKAN, 227 W28th bet 7th & 8th): The thing to have at this extremely authentic place in a rather desolate part of Chelsea backing the FIT, is the lampris, This is an assortment of curries, condiments and half a boiled egg wrapped and steamed in a banana leaf ($14-16). Extremely tasty and not too spicy. And of course, order a lassi. Admire the flocked paintings, colored lights etc. So nice to not be in hipsterville everywhere we go these days!  

Bocca di Bacco (BEST MEATBALLS, GRILLED OCTOPUS, and GRILLED VEGGIE SALAD (in a parmesan bowl), SW cnr 9th and 20th St. The utterly mouth-watering $10 12 meatball fix with rich tomato sauce, plus a side of spinach is a perfect meal - assuming you're not opposed to veal. Plus you get a little plate of delicious chopped garlic and tomates with bread on the house that is extremely tasty. The octopus is the most tender I have ever had. Bocca puree their minestrone which is unfortunately a bit weird for yours truly. Apart from these items, this restaurant is fairly and squarely outside the cheap 'n' choosy realm!

BUMMER! CLOSED as of 11/14! Cafe Zemi (BEST ALL ROUND CHEAP 'n' CHOOSY) 9th Ave between 18th and 19th St. Order the ***shrimp or tofu pad thai, moo shoo chicken, crispy shrimp and apple salad (dressing on side) ***, cobb salad, catfish wrap, stir fry ginger fish, crispy duck - the dudes out back really know how to COOK! For light snack order cold sesame noodles+ baby back ribs (mustard on side). Ambience mediocre, but unbeatable happy hour(s). Empress Tea with lychee, fresh mint, lemon, soda and gin is divine, assuming you're a drinker. I'm not, and I can't remember what happened next when I let my head go and went for it. Unfortunately, the non-alco version is the same price, so head to Coba next block down for a better option (see below). Uncrowded. Food +++, Value +++
Sad news: formerly the go-to of practically everyone in our building; it's an unfortunately mediocre Hot Sichuan place 

Chop-Shop (PORK BUNS, Asian Fusion) Tenth Ave, between 24th and 25th Street. Only order pork buns if Momofuku or Malaysia are too much of a schlep. Rest of menu small portions and hit/miss. 

*** Coba (BEST VIETNAMESE) 9th Ave between 17th and 18th St. Order the eggplant appetizer, crispy tofu, Bun Coba bowl, Claypot Ginger Chicken, Fish ban mi (but get them to hollow out the bread and add a ton more cilantro). Also their simple yet divine salad, simple but divine root vegetable soup, anything chicken or beef over noodles. Kumquat Lemonade $3. NOTE: The owners use to run Omai just a block up, which has a similar, perhaps slightly fancier menu, slightly fancier decor, and better for a date night. Probably because they were started by the same owner,

The Commons (128  7th Ave bet 18th and 18th St). You know when you're hankering for some real turkey off the bone (not that Boar's Head deli stuff), with cranberry sauce (not mustard), and it's nowhere near Thanksgiving?  Feast your eyes on this:  "THANKSGIVING SANDWICH: Roasted turkey, gravy and stuffing with a cranberry and apple chutney on toasted white bread." The owners knows we like the dark meet too - none of this deli turkey or dry, rubbery breast meat.

BUMMER! CLOSED as of 12/14!  *** Cola's (BEST LASAGNE and PAPPARDELLE, Italian provincial) 8th Ave at 18th St. Order the lasagne or house standard pappardelle. This pappardelle is as good as I've had in Italy. If adverse to veal, or if a vegetarian, order pappardelle with the mushroom asparagus artichoke sauce (ie the sauce that comes with the whole wheat penne) - it will be $2 extra for the home made papardelle BUT SO WORTH IT. Seafood spaghetti excellent. Bean and pasta soup excellent when they deign to have it on the menu. Great bread with ricotta olive oil dip. Waiters have been there forever.

Empire Diner (not to be confused by Empire Cake). Revamped subway-car-meets-Airstream-trailer aesthetic, with food by celebrity Food Network/Chopped chef Amanda Freitag, it now serves really upscale comfort food, that is great value for the diner-plus prices, I can utterly recommend the Matzoh Ball Soup ($9) ( if you like wasabi-flavored matzoh balls),  gravalax, really excellent Fish & Chips.  The entire menu is excellent - the chef is not super cheap, but super choosy!

CLOSING Spring 2015! Read about dat  La Luncheonette (DUCK CONFIT SALAD, SALAD NICOISE), NOTE! NE cnr 18th St and 10th Ave. Closing down in Spring 2015 due to condomania... This long standing restaurant has an excellent and reasonably priced salad nicoise ($12), leek and lentil salad ($7.50) and a good tart tartin when not over caramelized - inspect it before you order, ($8).  The Duck confit was a great deal once upon a time, but now at $18 it's up there ... the butter from upstate, however, is superb. 

Le Grainne (BEST LATE NITE, French Bistro), cnr 21st and 9th Ave. Order the crepes or fabulous goat cheese crouton salad, or a big bowl of soup $7. They pour a drizzle of oil in a lot of soups - ask your waiter to tell them not to! Cooking to 11.30pm!

Old Homestead Steakhouse (56 9th Ave, bet 14th and 15th). BEST FRENCH ONION SOUP ($9). Say no more. Oh, sit up front and eat it so you don't feel like a cheapskate - which is easy to feel in this restaurant of starched collars, tablecloths and olde-worlde service that reminds you of Delmonico's (In the FiDi), or Peter Luger, and the like ... and of course, feel free to join the platoons of suited men sit down to a $100 rib-eye or wagyu carcass - but those items are not the subject of this blog. Hand on, if you want a cheapish and very choosy  OUTSTANDING HAMBURGER, order the $27 16-oz'er and share it with a fellowess carnivore. It really is one of the best burgers you will ever, ever eat. 

Papa Kebab (TURKISH), 17th St close to 9th Ave. Chelsea badly needed a Turkish and this one is the real deal. Order what you usually order when you need your Turkish fix. I like the excellent lentil soup ($6), salmon wrap ($10), eggplant soslu (like a tapenade) and falafel plate/wrap etc - all  decent portions and moderate pricing if you stick to the left side of the menu. All served with reallly good pita bread if you're not gluten-free/low carb this week. 

Trestle on Tenth (SOUTHERN inspired), cnr 24th and 10th Ave. They do this killer pork loin thing that's neither cheap nor choosy but must be mentioned and if not vegetarian, eaten ... 

Westville (COMFORT FOOD) 17th St close to 8th Ave. Insanely popular eatery know what people want and give them plenty of it. A popular 4-imaginative-sides-for-$14 plate with choices like butternut squash puree, plantains and cotija, kale something or other, brussel sprouts - you get the idea. Extremely noisy and crowded but thankfully, light and breezy decor. The lamburger is apparently excellent. Also see under Dessert below. 


Amy's bread (north side of 23rd St between 7th ad 8th Ave) gets a mention for its CHOCOLATE CHERRY BREAD ROLL. All the yum and less guilt than a brownie. Can't remember if it's $1.95 or $2.95 but it probably fluctuates depending on the two key expensive key ingredients: cherries and dark chocolate. The Monkey Cake is amazing (banana, pineapple coconut, the kitchen sink, excellent cream cheese frosting - $5/slice)

Big Booty Bakery (north side of 23rd St between 7th ad 8th Ave) for BEST RED VELVET CUPCAKE $2.75. With a Columbian heritage, there's dulce de leche in a lot of things here which make them scrumptious - apart from the fact they are scratched baked - and you can taste the difference. Apparently Kate Winslet is often seen popping in for a Red Velvet fix. The Yucca bread rolls are also great, but a little pricey at $2.50 each.

*** Bocca di Bacco (SW cnr 9th and 20th St. This is probably the best Italian Ricotta cheese cake ($8) I have tasted anywhere, at anytime. They use the right ricotta so it's creamy (and not grainy like at my otherwise fave Italian place, Cola's). I recommend you make a beeline here after whatever dinner you went to in this blog, and order that. Order two. 

*** Empire Cake (8th Ave between 15th & 16th Sts, not to be confused with Empire Diner) Standout item is the PASSIONFRUIT SNACK CAKE $3.50:  White chocolate and coconut coated "twinkie" with passionfruit cream filling. Forget the chocolate whatever, this is a truly outstanding creation. I take EVERYONE there who visits, and who is not on a sugar alert

Grey Dog (242 West 16th St Bet 7th & 8th). Rustic hipster ambience - feel like you're in Chico California. Standout item are the STRAWBERRY RHUBARB, PEACH or BLUBERRY LATTICE TOPPED SLICES ($5, share it) that hook you in as you order your kale-salad-skip-the-dressing. Hungry? The veggie flat hits the spot - grilled veggies in a pita wrap!

L'Arte del Gelato (Chelsea Market also on the Highline) does GELATO as good as (or better) than I had in Italy. Pistachio, vanilla, straight chocolate are still the simplest and the best. Read my Ciclismo Classico blog post about what makes gelato gelato by someone who knows, Carla Gambescia of Via Vanti!  Price of pints drops 20% after 5pm. Or maybe that's just in winter. Considering 1 cone is $4.50 and a pint is $10, taking a pint home is worth it. 

*** Le Grainne (cnr 21st and 9th Ave) and La Lunchonette (NW cnr 18th st and 10th Ave) vie for BEST TART TARTIN $8: Le Grainne's was a teensy bit better last time; La Luncheonette's was a little darker. A serious, non-traditionally executed contender for this, my favorite dessert, appears at Sullivan St Bakery using honeycrisp apples ... but only intermittently. It's my benchmark dessert, much like I judge Pad Thai or Pad Woon Sen in Thai restaurants.

Pagoto jolly green truck for ORGANIC ICE CREAM. Parked mostly on 10th Ave and 23rd St until 10pm each night starting April 1 the organic hard chocolate and caramel pecan ice cream ($4-$5) are the best I've had in this city, but they MUST be really hard, so check the temperature with them FIRST. New for 2013, a pretty good, mildly tart soft frozen yogurt. A Greek man and his son really know their cold stuff. Do not confuse it with the Mr Softee truck lurking around the corner trying to drive them off the block and into the Hudson river. Update 2014 - new owners? "Organic" has been removed from the sign and the ice cream is just not the same. 

Sarabeth's (Chelsea Market) for BEST RASPBERRY BREAD PUDDING $4.50: Don't eat it with a friend unless they are getting their own. You will say, "let's split it" and regret that you did. You will snatch it away from under his/her suspended fork and run to the nearest exit. Probably even better slightly warm.

Stone St Coffee Company  (BIG MACARON, CELEB BANANA BREAD) 9th Ave between 18th and 19th St. This coffee window which is a front for a speakeasy by night sells a giant chocolate macaron which is pretty damn indulgent, $3. The $3 ultra rich Banana Bread is also a hit, made by Sex in the City star Mario Cantone, apparently. It may help you learn your lines! 

Three Tarts Update 2014 - moved.(NE cnr 20th and 9th) for a bunch of micro desserts priced 80c to $3:  chocolate ganache lovelies, marscapone mini cheese cakes, apple tart, lemon tart, and little bucket of Economy Crunch. I videoblogged the Three Tarts here - now a wholesale operation. 

Westville (17th St close to 8th Ave) for FRUIT PIE A LA MODE. As I said before, insanely popular eatery know what people want and give them plenty of it. Home made blueberry or apple pie a la mode for $8 when you just feel like a fruit pie fix and Sara Lee doesn't cut it. There's also a molten chocolate thing that rivals the $4 cookie and $6 chocolate thingo at Sullivan St Bakery up the road. Extremely NOISY and crowded so get your butt on a chair at blue rinse hour if that bothers you.

16 Handles (FROZEN YOGURT) NE cnr 8th and 18th St. For something that feels distinctly less au natural, try this pull-your-own soft serve yoghurt chain, add sprinkles and pay by weight. Try the Birthday Cake flavor! I always add the crushed hazelnuts. 


I'm not actually a coffee drinker (what?) so this section is mainly about hot chocolate and teas

La Grainne (French Bistro), cnr 21st and 9th Ave. For me, this go-to-for-everything French bistro serves the best traditional cocoa in Manhattan. That is, not a thick guilt-laden triple bypass but an elegant, thinner, slightly bitter, deep, deep dark cocoa called Chocolate Chaud. Order the small at $3.75. In the large size they sometimes get the proportions all wrong and it's too milky.  Have it with their tart tartin (best in Chelsea), chestnut crepe, caramel orange crepe ... 

L.A. Burdicks (Chocolate cafe), cnr 20th and 6th Ave. This New Hampshire import deserves to be patronized often because it's tiny little small-town, gingham table clothed space is open 7 days a week at insane hours (like til 9m Sundays?). Serious hot chocolate in single or multiple origin for connoisseurs - the standard house dark is all you need. Also do a great Chai Tea Latte if you're unchocolating, and a wonderful sliced apple tart. The rest of the cakes are really a bit on the heavy, sickly side for yours truly.

Ninth Street Expresso next to the fountain at Chelsea Market. How on earth do that make that large decaf mocha on soy ($4.50) so so so so CREAMY?

Ports Coffee and Tea on 23rd between 7th and 8th: This place serves (or use to serve) three really excellent cookies you must try unless sugar is against your religion - a raspberry hazelnut thumbprint, a fennel and raisin, and a soft ginger and applesauce. $2 each, and pictured above. The coffee is the famous Stumptown from Brooklyn. They use the outrageously indulgent Mast Bros chocolate in their mochas and hot chocs. Well, indulgent if you consider Mast Bros chocolate retails for $7.50+ a bar, compared to my standing favorite - Trader Joe's 85% Tumaco Dark Chocolate Lover's Bar for $1.49.


This gets a separate category on its on its own because when you need your GC fix ...

Chelsea Market Baskets, Chelsea Market 15th and 10th Ave. This food and gift emporium serves a sensational grilled cheese with caramelized onion sandwich served right now, for $6.50 only at lunchtime during the week. It's really a ton of calories but you'll burn it off when you die. I tried to approximate it at home by buying a bottle of their caramelized onions and using lowfat cheese and healthy bread. Um, wonder why it didn't thrill... Sadly no longer.

Lucy's Whey at the other end of Chelsea Market also do a nice chewy grilled cheese panini with fig jam. It takes a while to prep but this is artisanal country!

Melt on 26th and 5th Ave with an amazing Truffle oil grilled cheese and excellent tomato soup to dip it in.


Big Booty Bakery (PAN DE YUCCA, EMPANADAS) North side of 23rd St between 7th ad 8th Ave) gets another mention for their unique gluten free pan de yucca bread rolls which have to be tasted to be believed. Somewhat steep and $2.75 each, but it's a palate and bite sensation. 

*** Company (Gourmet TOASTS, PIZZA, SOUP) 9th Ave bet 24th and 25th. Incomparable eggplant puree toast $4, Canellini bean toast ($5 - has bacon)*** . Ribollita soup $8. That's assuming you can get a place at the bar, because you'll never get a spot otherwise, unless you go at blue rinse (5pm?) hour. For lovers of bountiful greens that are traffic-light green rather than khaki-green, ***Stracciatella and Popeye pizzas*** are the best. Salads are exquisite (the beet and watercress in particular) but at $11 for that one, very, very small for what you pay.

New York Burger Company (BURGER) SE cnr 23rd and 10th Ave. If I can't elbow a hipster off the end of the bar at Company, even with the help of affable bartender Walter, I'll head to this less-hip but decent franchaise for their Shake-Shack comparative mini burger, $3.50. Failing that, maybe cereal over the sink?

Pita City (BEST LENTIL SOUP), 7th Ave bet 21st and 22nd. Hands down the best Shorbat Adas  around and an extremely cheap'n'choosy meal at $$3 for the small and $4 for the large or there abouts. This place also does $$ juices with up to 6 ingredients and $2.25 wheatgrass shots.

Stella Pizza (110 9th Ave, at 17th St). Slices that are two cuts above your cheese-pepperoni-red-sauce hole in wall. They'll make a custom slice for you - and my fave is ricotta, spinach, broccoli, peppers and fresh tomatoes (I know, I know, that's not real pizza - that's a salad on a slice). They make their own sage sausage too. It's that kind of place.

*** Sullivan St Bakery (GOURMET SLICES - just wish they'd heat them up) Next door to sister restaurant Company. Delectable albeit generally "room temperature" slices which would be so much better warmed up - come on guys, most like it hot - what price a toaster oven? (I confess I still jump the C/E train to Canal for Grandaisy Bakery's killer pumpkin squash slice in Tribeca when I gotta have it hot). Back to Sullivan St Bakery: Great Olive Oil cake, insane chocolate cake cookie ($4), champagne grape bread ... and excellent though spendy sandwiches ($9+) - extremely dangerous place if trying to watching carbs. Good Rooibos Chai tea, great fresh juices ...

Tebaya - moved to the Village somewhere - (TEBA FRIED CHICKEN WINGS). As of 2013, this hole in the wall I blogged about in appears to have moved out of the nabe to 181 W. 4th Street (b/w 6th and 7th Ave). But I believe you can get delivery. Read my post about these addictive Japanese Chicken wings

Tuck Shop (PORK AND SAGE SAUSAGE ROLL and HIPSTER PIES) Now at Chelsea Market. The Tuck Shop's rendition of this classic Aussie school lunch staple - the sausage roll - is decidedly gourmet, with sage and way better pork than I recall from my read, rite, rithmetic days. Read, salivate and then go seek it out! Uh, there's also kale salad to counter the guilt nicely.


Some suggestions for a blow out (and even then, we're taking value for experience). Also see "lunch/dinner above. They're aren't so shabby either. 

Buddakan (BEST IMPRESS THE VISITING NIECES AND NEPHEWS PLACE), SW cnr 16th ST & 9th Ave, which I've talked about before. Despite their main room being reminiscent of the mansion in the orgy scene of Eyes Wide Shut (sans the naked bodies) it's a sensational and curiously attitude-free zone on the edge of Meatpacking. One can only imagine that the owner, Stephen Starr, has told his staff that the #1 rule if making money (and thus being paid) is to make people welcome. What a unique concept! I suspect the very dark lighting helps melt the nylon parkas, baseball caps and Talbots blazers into the shadows, but generally people like to dress up and it's worth it. It's the one place I'd bother wearing my impossibly high, gold tie-up fake loobs (bought second? third? fourth? hand from New and Almost New in the East Village). Monumental, surreal, and great, fairly reasonable food to boot. Don't order the chow fun though, it's too soggy. We Chinese know these things. It should be one of the 88 Ways I Know I'm Chinese.

Blossom (VEGETARIAN): West side of 9th Ave between 21st and 22nd: Voted best vegetarian in Manhattan, this burgeoning vegan/vegetarian empire has a bakery and take out (Blossom du Jour) right here in Chelsea and uptown too. The Port Wine Seitan is their "I can't believe it's not Rib Eye" signature dish and should be eaten to be believed. I like the tofu dish too. $20+ a main, so definitely treatsville!

Bombay Talkie: (INDIAN) West side of 9th Ave between 21st and 22nd: Somewhat expensive but luscious, velvety Indian - how could ground cashews and cream be anything but? My faves: a super green ***Palak Paneer*** , Malai kofta, Mango Lassie, and Makmal Kebab are the best. The rest of the menu apart from these dishes is very spicy. The food is so rich you're actually thankful for the smallish portions. Dang it, the relentless rent onslaught drove this terrific place away, I need to find out where... Where, oh where did you go, Bombay Talkie? I miss your incomparable Palak Paneer! 

Moriomoto: (Iron Chef Japanese): "The place with the wall made of plastic bottles." Do as I say: Order the Sea Bass ($29?), marvel at how on earth they can get a piece of food to taste that amazing, and then leave (like, go to Empire Cake for that passionfruit snack cake I talked about above). Seriously, it's that amazing, you don't want to taint it with an appetizer or dessert. Except for that passionfruit snack cake at Empire Cake ...

--- and if you don't drink, they'll make you a refreshing ginger mocktail.
Salinas: (TAPAS/SPANISH): A real date place. Word on the block is neighbor Nicole Kidman was seen tucking into a giant perfectly chargrilled octopus tentacle ... but I embellish. The womb-like interior reeks luxe with taste: where so many restaurants rely on a cavernous space to make a statement, this place is tight, padded, even pokey - and fantastic. Armfuls of roses divide the main room. Stereo system overhead is so perfectly turned, you can always hear yourself. Cosy up in the padded front section and feel like you're somewhere even cooler than NYC. The green chickpeas and artichoke tapas are affordable 
--- and if you don't drink, they'll make you a refreshing ginger mocktail.


BEYOND THE NABE (less cheap but very choosy)

Just a Citibike spin or a couple of subway stops away are a few places I go out of the nabe for: 

Bistro Cassis (FRENCH, 225 Columbus at 70th St): "A date place" says my friend Richard. You feel like you're in Paris. Excellent classic French bistro food, not cheap (mains in mid 20's) but worth it.

Grandaisy Bakery (PIZZA, 250 West Broadway, Tribeca, a blog south from the Canal St Subway station): I said it further up - killer pumpkin squash slice ($3.50) and El Greco sandwich ($8). Descended from Sullivan St Bakery, but they heat their slices rather than tell you to eat 'em room temperature. Really, really worth the subway ride.

Haveli (INDIAN, 100 2nd Ave between 5th and 6th). This is the best Indian I've encountered outside Curry Hill. If you happen to be in Curry Hill, I like Tiffin Wallah

Henry's (MODERN AMERICAN/LOCAVORE)2745 Broadway @105th): This is is bit of a schlep from Chelsea, but thanks to the electric subway ... I like their Square Meal ($19), sadly only available weekdays and not being a lunching lady, I hardly get up there during the week. I quote from their menu:

Square Meal ~ n. ~ a substantial, satisfying and balanced meal
HENRY's Signature Lunch - Four Courses, One Plate
Soup, Salad, Half Sandwich/Entree and a Bite of Dessert, 
with choices that change daily!
Your complete lunch dining experience served on a large square plate.
The Square Meal is a substantial, satisfying and balanced meal all 
served to you at once. You can linger over lunch, enjoy the 
nutritious flavors and get on with the afternoon at your leisure!

I videoblogged about Henry's here for Momentum Magazine. 

Oscar's Place (BELGIAN/BRIT) 466 Hudson St at Barrow, 10-15 min walk from Apple Store in Chelsea): fantastic Brit/Belgian nook with a charming server from Ecuador. Order the luscious prune-infused  Flemish Beef Stew ($23), but all the food is good. The fries are AMAZING! 

*** Pangea Restaurant (MODERN AMERICAN/LOCAVORE) 128 2nd Ave between 11th & 12th): I don't know why this place is never full (thank god it isn't) but the food is truly outstanding ("full of flavor! as the server will enthuse). I love the veggie assiago ($14) which is basically a grilled veggie plate. Very locavore like food. Very gay too - no wonder the food is good. It's nice to know you can go anytime and basically you will get a table and not leave with numb 'drums. 

*** Ramen Setagaya (RAMEN) 24 St Marks Place NYC): Do me a favor - unless you're a vegetarian and + doing lo carb and +gluten free (in which case walk right away), order the Gyolo Ramen with extra broccoli ($11 + $1) - it comes with this tower of chopped garlic in the middle which will alarm you until you stir it in and then you will be hooked. This is all you need to order. Trust me. And really, you don't need to line up for 2 hours on a Tuesday afternoon at 3pm to get into Ippudo. This will do me anytime. 

Spring St Natural (HEALTHY/LOCAVORE) 62 Spring St at Lafayette, Soho: Every time I find myself in Soho (not too often these days - it's one giant pushing shoving shopping mall) I'm always looking for a NEW place to eat and dammit if I keep ending up here. Anyone health nut who's picky about their food is a true pain in the A if they can't find something to eat here. Selections range from something a diehard buddha would eat (macrobiotic plate) to  a full on seared side of dead animal with mash and veggies. It's kind of like the entire Moosewood cookbook, with added meat.
They use to do a fantastic Caeser with Grilled Calamari ($16) with these giant luscious tubes of calamari, then someone changed it to the ho-hum kind of calamari. But maybe that's changed back...
Two big plusses: the free serve-yourself kuchika (twig) tea at the back, and the free bread which includes a lovely pumpkin bread (the only other place that does that is the Park).
A perceived minus: the toilet facilities downstairs are appallingly inadequate for such a big restaurant as as a result, don't look too clean. Don't think too hard about this if you want to eat here.
WILL SOMEONE POINT ME TO ANOTHER PLACE I CAN GO IN SOHO (and I don't mean I want to break the bank and my eardums at Balthazar either). Meanwhile, I will always end up here.



And now a few other cheap 'n' choosy nooks in the nabe you should know about: 


Callan-Lourde Clinic (LGBT and everyone else too) 356 West 18th St at 9th Ave: A really friendly clinic that has a pharmacy and dentistry within. It started out serving the LGBT community 40 years ago but doesn't seem to discriminate against anyone who isn't. It has sliding scale fees so if you're between jobs your co-payment can be as little as $20 and up, depending on your income. It has a walking blood draw service starting 8am every week morning, so if you need to get a blood draw it's very convenient. The pharmacy has special prices on a lot of drugs - you may find it cheaper to get them there. 

Chelsea Royal Care Pharmacy (OLD SKOOL PHARMACY) 9th between 19th and 20th is actually a really great pharmacy (despite its ADHD website). Apparently they deal in the more hardcore onconcology and HIV-related drugs for way less money than the big pharmacies - they even cut me a super deal on a prescription when between freelance gigs sans insurance. Run by a Russian pharmacist called Aleksandr, who is a notary public and charges $2 for that service. There's even a color copier, saving you a trip to Staples. People on Yelp really like them

Chelsea Dental Arts (PAINLESS DENTIST), NE cnr 9th ave and 23rd St. Affable Russian dentist Alexander Galperin is a really nice dude; he got a bunch of his Yelp reviews got taken down for no good reason, but fortunately, my review remained.


Sleep No More If you haven't yet spooked yourself at the wacky "immersion theater" show playing at the McKittrick Hotel, read my take on my ChelseaGallerista blog $75/head.


If you want something unique and original that is a zillion miles away from the Same Old Inc, I use to shop at Lingo NYC on 19th St at 8th Ave. I think I have about eight things from there and I get compliments all the time. For the originality it offers, the prices are reasonable.
For cheap and not so choosy, you have to head to say, TJ Maxx on 6th Ave and 20th St. You can find a semi-precious gem but it takes some digging, and you will stumble across the second-rate lines some designer labels have the audacity to make specifically for the outlet market. They think we can't tell the difference ...

Two other chic stores opened up in Aug 2012, signalling the rapid gentrification (and generification) of Chelsea: Steve Alan on Tenth between 18th and 19th Streets for stylish gear generally under $400, and Muleh (hailing from DC) for really fancy threads (think Vivienne Westwood) including some nice sticks of furniture and lighting, Tenth Ave between 21st and 22nd.

Housing Works on 17th: you never know what you could pick up at this somewhat picked-over thrift store. I got two pairs of jeans with tags still on that were marketd $197 down to $15

TJ Maxx on 6th Ave and 20th: I actually find the odd nice thing here, but it's not often a bargain. The "Runway" section might have say, an Alexander McQueen something or other for $300 down to $199 or a James Perse pima cotton shirt for $50, or a Kate Spade cardi for $250 down to $140 or Elie Tahari bits and pieces. The nicest stuff isn't cheap, but you never know. More pedestrian but less stressful trawling racks than Century 21.


So there you have it. Scroll down through my previous posts for other suggestions not mentioned here. And remember, as my mother said, if you don't support good things in your nabe, one day they just won't be there.

Do you have any suggestions to add? Feel free to post them below or email

Friday, January 13, 2012

<$3: The Tuck Shop - A $3 sausage roll that rocks PLUS It's Tim Tam Time!

Landing the most scrumptious sausage roll at the Tuck Shop NY

The Tuck Shop Revisited for Tim Tams, Mint Slice, and a runny meat pie

The Tuck Shop featured in my "Best Job In The World" application
The Tuck Shop? Never 'eard of it!


HOW DO you make a sausage roll? Put it on a hill and push it.

That's the very clean joke about this snack from my kindergarden days, when the local Aussie "tuck shop" or school canteen dispensed greasy, fatty pies, pasties and sausage rolls to a nutritionally unenlightened public.

Oh how we loved that crap.

The pie - something that has never taken off in the USA except in the form of a 'pot pie' - was a pastry case filled with drippy, peppery mince in a brown gravy strong on Worcestershire sauce. How did you eat it? Peel off the pastry lid and eat that first. The using your index fingers, scoop out the filling and suck it off your fingers, ouching at the temperature. Finally, hoe into the pastry base.

The pastie (pronounced parse-tee) - no doubt a Brit hangover from a convict heritage - resembled the modern empanada with a bland stew as a filling. The healthier of the three, due to the presence of a 1/4" cube each of carrot, potato and celery.

The sausage roll - not my favorite snack due to its unabashed greasiness - was basically a cylinder of salty, peppery pork mince wrapped in flaky pastry and served hot. To eat it, you peel off the pastry first, then eat the denuded pork cylinder.
The sausage roll that rocks - sage and flesh of ex-pig. Vegetarians look away - to the chick pea version.
Fast forward 30 years to my talk at the 5 Borough Bike Club in NY, and the organizer Barry Hartglass has sourced a platter of Aussie food (sans the Fosters) in honor of my Aussiedom. Where from? The Tuck Shop, a dingo burrow on the lower east side of Manhattan.

The pork and sage sausage rolls, a gourmet interpretation of the original log of saturated fat, left a taste in my mouth that had me salivating at the memory for a whole year before I was finally able to return to NY and visit the source. I think I scarfed three in quick succession before, during and after my talk. No wonder no one could understand what I was blathering let along decipher my accent. It was juicy and tender, light and fragrant, savory and scrumptious all at once.

And here I now stood, in the Tuck Shop itself, purse poised in anticipation.

But which roll? There was a chick pea one too, for those who refuse to eat the flesh of dead animal.

"I think you're after the original," said Neil, the Oirish co-owner who opened the business because "there was already enough Irish bars." The reprise did not disappoint. In a bulimic moment I also scarfed the chick pea version, then a lamb and vegetable pie ($5), then a vanilla slice ($4), all washed down with a perfect none-too-sweet home made ginger beer ($2). All shared - but not exactly half-half - with a friend.

The best part? A mere $3 investment for the signature dish. A couple of regulars sat at the bar, one brandishing the SPEND LESS edition of the New York Magazine.

"So how is the recession affecting the Tuck Shop?"

"Business is booming," said Neil, who is resisting raising the price of that nirvanic sausage roll in the name of lowering the nation's obesity level.

The Tim Tam run.

Later, I re-visited the store and stocked up on packets of Tim Tams and Mint Slice, the Aussie interpretation of a luxe, chocolate covered cookie. Called 'chocolate biscuits' Downunder, they bear no relation to the doughy, anaemic white flour biscuit Upover, and impress overseas guests to high heaven in the same way that packets of odd little Japanese wrapped sweets impress Gaijins.

Tim Tams are the King of Affordable Treats downunder. It's a chocolate cookie sandwich with a distinctive break an flavor that's evident from the moment your front incisors shatter the thin, chocolate shell, descend through the sublayers of crisp chocolate cookie before reaching the core, a thick layer that is at once truffle, fudge and ganache, yet none of these. The taste is distinctive - honey, chocolate, vanilla, burned sugar, yet not too sweet ... who knows what it is? It should absolutely be eaten from the refrigerator, to fully experience the unique 'break' (distinctly different from the ho-hum Oreo) and subdued sweetness that  chilling it affords.

I admit as an Aussie I was a little disturbed to see the American Pepperidge Farms logo on the packets, it being the new distributor in the USA. My first thought was, oh no, I bet they're now loaded with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (trans fat) or high fructose corn syrup, truly evil mainstays of most processed food in the USA. In Australia, we use plain old sugar - we grow a lot of it. But Niall assured me it was the original recipe, just re-branded.

But rather than have it stand like another soldier in the ranks of Pepperidge products, why not be clever and leave the USA branding off, promote it as an exotic downunder Aussie treat capitalizing on its heritage of addiction and rake in the cash. Why not take a leaf from another iconic Aussie treat, Homer Hudson ice cream. The brand imagery stayed folksy and funky when in reality, it was a big, bland Unilever stoking the freezers behind the scenes. If Pepperidge would pick the brains of Tim Tam's Antipodean Addicts downunder they would uncover a gold mine of marketing strategy.

Because Tim Tams are no ordinary cookie. They are that strange and elusive combination of a premium, yet affordable supermarket aisle product, and ironically something you never actually tire of, like fresh squeezed orange juice. It is well known that sitting down with a packet of Tim Tams in front of a television is dangerous - you will systematically demolish the entire packet then go looking for more. Just read some of the rapturous remarks about this Aussie diet destroyer on the Saatchi Lovemarks site.

I haven't ranted on about Mint Slice to the same degree, because they have a stronger, sweeter, richer taste - you simply can't eat as many and so rank lower on the addiction scale.

OK, back to the hot stuff.

So how do you make a sausage rock? Roll on to the Tuck Shop!

Above: Owner Lincoln with my Bike Friday tikit - which slotted neatly under a bar stool ...

Monday, January 2, 2012

60cents-$5 Microdesserts @ Three Tarts, NY

$5 Chai Greek Yogurt Cup trying not to eat it too fast ...

My folding bike experiment, tikit on Trial, included this visit to the Three Tarts:

I visit the Three Tarts almost as often as the bathroom but I can assure you there's no direct causality ...

The antithesis of supersize me, ThreeTarts is 'microsize me' with its tiny, utterly original, coin-sized cookies, tarts, muffins and parfaits, meticulously baked and priced to empty the small change in your pocket.

You will find concoctions here that you will find nowhere else. Here are the absolute standout numbers in my book:

1. The Chocolate Lovely - two superfine, super thin, super dark (almost black) chocolate cookies with a dark ganache filling. There is a delayed reaction as the chocolate hits your palate then creeps slowly over it, intensifying as it goes. Wow. What a way to spend 60 cents. Shape changes from bat to penguin to megaphone depending on the whim of the Japanese patisserie meister. You'll probably eat two.

2. Greek yoghurt cup. This breakfast/lunch/dessert is a total knockout. Creamy Greek yoghurt topped with pistacho, pumpkin seed and walnut something or other and bottomed with a sweet and spicy chai syrup something or other. Phenomenal combination. Not a single person who has tried it at my insistence has reacted with anything other than 'oh wow.' $5 but worth every spoonful.

3. The fig, caramelized onion and goat's cheese tartlet. An unbelieveable taste combination. The sweet of the fig, the salt of the cheese, the sweet and salt of the onions, and the buttery crispness of the short biscuit base. $3.80.

4. My everyday favorite (and because I couldn't afford to eat 2. and 3. every meal although I could give it a damn good swing) is the little apple tart. A tiny, poker-chip sized tart with high sides filled with good old fashioned, perfectly spiced fresh apple puree. Three little bites of heaven. $1.55

5. Outstanding biscotti - Just the right amount of nut, sweet, break and crumble. 60 cents.

6. The hot chocolate - very good, and on par with the well priced (under $4.50, NOT the exorbitant $8 kind) rich hot chocolates offered by the likes Amy's and Fairway. It's basically solid chocolate melted into hot milk.

Then there are other items like the jewel panacottas, the delicate marshmallows and more regular trufffles. The banana and green tea ice cream sandwiches were my initial favorite but I find the cake sides are a bit too cakey for me, and the wrapping unwieldy. $4.50

The co-owner told me that when they first opened, the owner of the equally impressive (for different things) La Bergamot came over and said, "I consider this war" on account of the truffles that both establishments offer.

My reaction: "Did you lean over and say 'and we're about to make a killing'?"

This is the indulgence food of a modern age: highly creative, right-sized and right-priced.

The Three Tarts
164 9th Ave
(between 19th St & 20th St)
New York, NY 10011
(212) 462-4392

Friday, December 10, 2010

Free Monday Nights: Howard Williams Jazz Orchestra, The Garage NYC

Monday is apparently muso's night off, and here in Manhattan some of the best Broadway musicians get together and jam "for fun". The 16-piece (looks a lot bigger from the wings!) Howard Williams Orchestra plays Monday nites 7-10pm at The Garage - a really cool and jazzy multi-tiered space.

Roger, whose brother pays the double bass in the band, says it has been a tradition at the space for 15 years.

"My brother carpools in from Philly, every Monday. If musicians can't make it, they have to find a stand in."

So fun it may be, but this is serious. I'm not actually a fan of this kind of jazz, but hearing and seeing it live like this has a presence and power that is hard to convey. I've been quite a few times, so I take that back - I guess I am a fan.

There is food, but the menu is somewhat pricey unless you stick to a fairly quesadilla or salad for around $10-15.

There's no cover, but please support musicians and businesses like this by being a good consumer and tipper if you visit.
99 7th Ave SOUTH (not 7th Ave), near Christopher St, with a subway stop a block away.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pretty much free yoga in Chelsea and beyond

Free yoga on Pier 64 offered by Chelsea Piers Fitness Center.
Yoga in NYC doesn't come cheap. Classes hover around $18 unless you buy some kind of package. But here are some options in Chelsea and a little further, that can tide you over 'til you get that Wall Street job and can afford a membership at Equinox and wherever else you please ...

Free summer yoga at Pier 64, offered by Chelsea Piers Fitness Center
August/Sept only, before the snow comes in ...

Donation only Community Class at Laughing Lotus, 19th and 6th Ave, M-F, 2.30pm-3.45pm. Ongoing.
For Summer only, Lotus also offer a free Wed 7-8pm class on a grassy knoll near 15th and the West Side Highway.

Easy Yoga with the Galfromdownunder, Chelsea Rec Center, 25th bet 9th and 10th Ave. Tuesdays 6-7pm.
Ongoing. Yes folks, this is my completely free, 'tude free class, part of Boomberg's ShapeUpNYC initiative - you don't have to be a center member to attend, make sure you tell them that if the front desk gives you grief.

Easy Senior Yoga with the Galfromdownunder, Hudson Guild Community Center, 9th Ave at 17th St, Manhattan. Tuesdays 11am-noon.
Ongoing. My completely free, 'tude free Senior class - you have to be 55+ to gain admission to the center.

The Sivinanda Yoga Center ,  24th between 7th and 8th Ave,  has relatively affordable $10-12 classes daily. None of the teachers are paid - it is karma or "selfless yoga. Wonderful, donationa-appreciated Kirtans (meditation, chanting, discourse) Wed and Sunday - a real, 'tude-free oasis in the Manhattan maelstrom.

Yoga to the People: The original donate-what-you-can-but-$10-is-nice yoga studio, with several locations. The one with 3 floors in the village does get mighty crowded ...

Are there more?

Monday, January 25, 2010

$10 seats: World Class dance diversity at the JOYCE THEATER, Chelsea, Manhattan

The Joyce, a neighborhood dance theater in Chelsea, Manhattan,  reminds me of Dr Who's Tardis: a modest, low key, retro frontage that opens up into a giant internal world of global dance entertainment. It's not that the theater is huge - the tremendous variety of shows simply makes it seem that way.

In recent times they've started offering $10 seats, thereby putting world class dance within reach of a huge and recession-strapped audience. And if you've never been to a dance performance and experienced the psychological boost it gives you, you're in for a treat.

$10 buys you seats in the very front row, "the bleeding nose seats", where, unless you're tall or sneak a cushion inside, you will possibly see the show from the dancer's ankles up. But choreographers make sire a lot of action happens above the ankles, so for the amazing price, it's a no-brainer.

I might be the only person on the world that believes watching dance actually has a positive physical effect on your body - even though you're just sitting in a seat. Having spent an hour or more immersed in  a display of the human body moving with levity and grace, you actually float up out of your seat and walk different. I remember watching mogul skiing championships on TV for hours, then experiencing a boost in confidence when I stepped onto skis (and I'm no skier). So you can consider the $10 like a visit to a dance-exercise class. Well, an adjunct at least.

I absolutely love the retro neon sign, which I sincerely hope they never, ever 'update'.  It's even maintained its retro lettering for each show - I happened to stroll past when the sign guy was hanging the letters up for the next act:

Photo by Andrew Collins at this link

One area that could really do with a bit of revamping, is their downstairs bar area. It seems like a dead end, so people tend to congregate upstairs. My 72 year old mother enunciated the problem: "Teal, ugh, they need to repaint it and maybe put some mirrors on the back wall." I thought of initiating a Joyce community initiative to help refurb it - in fact, a stroll around the streets of Manhattan often reveals enough discarded designer object d'art to redo the dingiest dive ...

From my Galfromdownunder Uncut blog, May, 2009: 

Last night we scored $19 frontish-row tickets to the most amazing, trippy, surreal, illusionist dance performance I've seen since Philippe Genty - MOMIX's 'Botanica' at the Joyce Theater. OK, I saw PG a looooong time ago. Perhaps this stuff is now par for the course...

"It's like Circ du Soleil before the latter went all commercial," said mum. Google MOMIX and you'll see it's commandeered by a truly Dali-esque character-choreographer, Moses Pendleton.

It opens with a stunning multimedia closeup of a rose that recedes slowly into deep space. Then this ghostly 30' (40?) tall plant costume wafts on stage, opening and closing like a giant jellyfish on a stalk. Three maidens in white virginal dresses rise from the billowing sheeted floor to frolic with its fuzzy tentacles.

Then there's an eye-popping blackout scene where only the bobbing and twisting lace-covered arms and shins of dances are illuminated in glowing green light, resembling caffeinated glowworms going troppo in a dark cave.

A gal did this amazing spinning thing with a hoop of floor-length beaded strands on her head. Mum dryly remarked "now if we tried that spinning beaded lampshade trick we'd end up with it wrapped around our necks."

Her favorite was the gal who did a conceptually simple but stunning piece where she writhed in a skincolored bodysuit on a tinted, tilted mirror surface - a 'hall of mirrors' idea pushed to the max.

A jaw dropper was this enormous, rubbery and anatomically-correct Triceratops skeleton ridden slo-mo-rodeo style by a semi-naked goddess, while in the background a bunch of rock-like creatures engulfed and cavorted with naked bodies. The museum of Natural History oughta get this act into their lobby to jazz up their dinosaur bones exhibit ... in short, A MUST SEE. Our cheapseats were quite acceptable, as some of the scenes best viewed from further back appeared on video simulcast on a giant screen at the back ...

Momix are coming back mid 2010. I'm so there!

Joyce Theater

175 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10011-1694
(212) 242-0800

Friday, January 15, 2010

$3.50: MUJI's minimalist metrosexual toothbrush

TWO MONTHS after returning from my whirlwind bike+bullet train visit to Japan, I'm still turning Japanese. I'm cooking up a nabe storm in my Kyoto nabemono, I'm drinking sencha+matcha at all the wrong moments (like before going to bed) and I'm leafing luxuriantly through the copy of The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox by Kenji Ekuan "one of Japan's foremost industrial designers".

Ekuan-san romances the minimalist, orderly tension of the bento box with such a lyrical reverence I wouldn't be surprised if he had something to do with the design of this toothbrush.

This is just toothbrush. Thank god.  It's not an mp3 player to groove along to while you floss. It's not a vibrating wand with meat-seeking infra-red technology to hunt and destroy trapped flesh of dead animal from your fajita binge. It's not an exercise in Pantone mayhem and ergonomic design overkill that typifies the average Oral-Turbo-ABC.

It's actually even less than your average, ugly, overwrought toothbrush. It's a barely-there, colorless handle, smooth and minimally sculpted, with no weird kinks and bends, ending in a brush that can actually duck behind the molars in the balcony seats. In fact, the bristles themselves are "rounded" to further reach those spots where floss fears to thread, although Muji also sells a slightly cheaper, "flat bristle" version - why, I have no idea.

The complete absence of color is restful. Perhaps it really is designed for die-hard metrosexual bachelors, who have no need for a pink or other colored version sitting in the rack to know which is theirs.

Radical idea: Imagine using merely the dictionary definition as a design brief?

toothbrush |ˈtoōθˌbrə | noun
a small brush with a long handle used for cleaning the teeth.

Before spotting this piece of marvellously modest Muji minimalism, both Stateside and Tokyo-side, I went to the usual place - a drugstore - to buy a toothbrush.  I was bailed up for several minutes trying to reconcile the bewildering array of contorted, technicolor offerings. Like these:

I mean, holy cavity, what is that? I feel like it came from the 8-and-under section of Toys'R'Us, like the bristles are going to give me blue or purple teeth, and how much extra am I paying for some fancy die-cutting machine to sculpt all those graphical swooshes and dots? Have you not heard of "blue and green should not be seen, without a color in between?"

Now don't get me wrong - I am as much a lover of color and and bling and out'n'out maximalism when done right. But the Sagrada Familia these ain't.

In my FastCompany blog I wrote about Feldenkreis and the perils of escalation - otherwise known as "overkill". The product of overkill is ugliness. An overloaded piece of "pizza sushi", as my Japanese friend calls it - groaning under the weight of avocado, fish roe, mayonnaise, mango, tempura - is flavor ugliness. A boss that says "and if you do it again," after you've said "It will never happen again, boss", is personality ugliness. An overproduced studio track is ... Barry Manilow (no personal offence to Bazza, he's a good guy). OK, make that Celine Dion.

No doubt the manufacturer of the above blingy brushes will insist that focus groups like them. Well, when you force people in a fluorescent-lit, carpeted-partition room on a Tuesday night to focus on a bunch of objects on a white table, they'll eventually end up growing on you like a wart. How many of you have flicked though the unfathomable dross in an airplane duty-free catalog;then, for god's sake, ended up actually buying some bling at 30,000 feet in a frenzy of boredom?

Visual and aural escalation creates an environment of cacophany, causing dizziness, confusion, irritation and stress, ultimately leading to the consumption of happy pills, alcohol, therapy and television shopping. Include in this, road rage, stripmalls edged with awful neon lighting, Build-A-Bear - you get the idea.

Overwrought technicolor toothbrushes like this must be stopped.

Thank Buddha I can gaze through the barely-there, unobtrusive handle of my Muji toothbrush, and feel a sense of calm and clarity wash over me like ripples over pond of fat koi. Throw away your meds, buy a Muji toothbrush and notice a visible difference to your life in just three gargles.

Now about escalated dental floss - that's another 20 minutes in the aisle ... don't get me started.

toothbrush |ˈtoōθˌbrə | noun
a small brush with a long handle used for cleaning the teeth.