JAMS Provides Long-Time Fans And New Ones with Lots of Reasons to Return

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Top left: Jams’ familiar logo is back; Top right: Michael Kelly is a passionate advocate for Jams’ (and Barbuto’s) wine program; Center: Charming Fabrizio’s Italian accent makes even non-Italian wines taste better; Bottom left: A pleasure to drink Jams’ co-founder Mel Master’s Tortoise Creek wines at Jams; Bottom right: Jams’ wine list features what is perhaps a first: the wine’s importer/distributor

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Top left: Legendary chef Jonathan Waxman expedites Jams’ kitchen; Top right: Don’t miss the gnocchi with summer vegetables; Center: Jams’ AvroKo design uses space beautifully as well as efficiently; Bottom left: Shaved vegetable salad and squash blossom pesto pizza; Bottom right: Jams’ dining room

After Karen first moved to New York City in 1983, she discovered Jonathan Waxman and Mel Master‘s hot spot JAMS (Jonathan’s And Melvyn’S), and was an instant fan.  Her good fortune of working on Wall Street in the go-go era of the 1980s turned out to be able to accompany clients on expense accounts to some of the city’s hottest restaurants, so she’d know which places were worth returning to for drinks and bites at the bar on her own nickel.

JAMS brought her back time and time again — as much for the vibe as for the food, and certainly for the pleasure of talking at the bar with bartender Lucky, who turned out to be a neighbor in the same up-and-coming Brooklyn neighborhood.

So it was with excitement that Karen “returned” to the newly-opened JAMS at The 1 Hotel Central Park last night, reinvented a mile south and a few avenues west of its former location (now occupied by the first veg restaurant to earn a two-star review from The New York Times: Candle 79).  Andrew was an enthusiastic “first-timer” and witness to a dining room full of guests whose median age suggested that many might also have been at JAMS’ original incarnation.

We both left with reasons to want to return.

As we combed the wine list, we immediately noticed a very useful feature we don’t believe we’ve seen before on any other list:  the names of the wines’ importers/distributors.  It was so striking that we asked our waiter Fabrizio (he of the one of the most charming Italian accents we’ve ever heard) about it, and who was professional enough to send over passionate wine director Michael Kelly, who told us he’d collaborated with Jonathan on both JAMS’ and Barbuto‘s wine lists.  Michael also believed the feature to be a wine-list first, and both a nice shortcut for wine-knowledgeable diners when ordering and guide for newbies to discover new wines they might be likely to enjoy in the future.  We wholeheartedly agree.

The menu itself was filled with more dishes we hoped to try than appetite to get to them all, so we settled on a lovely shaved vegetable plate with pine nuts and apple cider vinegar and a charred-edged pizzette with pesto, goat cheese, mozzarella, squash blossoms, and cherry tomatoes to start, followed by risotto with wild mushrooms, burrata, and argula pesto (a dish far more delicious than it photographs) and sauteed gnocchi with summer vegetables.  The latter two left our plates covered with so much delicious sauce that we sulked aloud that JAMS didn’t offer bread service, which would have helped to ensure that they didn’t go to waste.  Minutes later, Fabrizio returned from the kitchen with two beautiful warm rolls that did the trick, and as Jonathan passed our table, he seemed pleased with our unmistakable demonstration of culinary admiration.

Like the original JAMS (which was said to be Andy Warhol‘s favorite New York restaurant), JAMS 2.0 is already pulling in its share of star power.  We’d had the pleasure of last seeing multitalented actor Peter Gallagher backstage with our mutual friends Rikki Klieman and Bill Bratton after we joined them for Peter’s show at The Regency in mid-November 2012.  While we’d loved him on Broadway (having first met him backstage following “The Country Girl”) and on film (“sex, lies and videotape,” “While You Were Sleeping,” et al), we were surprised to really love his performance as a crooner in the intimate venue of Feinstein’s.  But then his daughter Kathryn Gallagher took the stage during his show, and wowed us.  So when Peter was seated two tables away last night at JAMS, Karen got up to say hello and Peter introduced her to his wife Paula Harwood, and the couple proudly mentioned that talented Kathryn would be making her Broadway debut next month in Spring Awakening.” 

But that didn’t turn out to be the only familiar face in the dining room.  Michael Kelly mentioned that JAMS cofounder-turned-winemaker Mel Master himself (whom we’d met a decade or two ago at a dinner party at the home of mutual friends Loren and James) happened to be in, so we were able to reconnect to compliment him on his sustainable Tortoise Creek wines that we’ve enjoyed frequently in the years since, most recently as our go-to wine whenever we visit Candle 79 or one of the Candle Cafes.

Because that’s the JAMS Karen remembers from the 1980s:  a place you could walk into without knowing a soul other than the person you came with, and could leave with a happy palate and a pocket full of business cards of new acquaintances.  The restaurant’s friendly vibes continue.

And as for those dishes we wanted to taste but didn’t get to order last night at JAMS….Well, we’re glad to have yet another reason to return.

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JAMS is at 1414 Avenue of the Americas at 58th Street, at The 1 Hotel Central Park.  212.751.2700.  1hotel.com

Dear Jon & Vinny’s: Thanks for Making Breakfast Delicious AND Fun!

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At Jon & Vinny’s in Los Angeles: Kenter Canyon stone ground porridge, toasted almonds, Gaviota strawberries, orange blossom honey (with almond milk)

We’ve been sweeping the country — from Camden, Maine, to Venice, California — in recent weeks, in search of creative chefs and cuisine, and insights into KITCHEN CREATIVITY.

Having just returned from Los Angeles, we’re still excited about the restaurants we visited there (which included Crossroads, Gjelina, Ink, Jon & Vinny’s, Odys + Penelope, Pizzeria Mozza, Plant Food + Wine, Rustic Canyon, Spago, and Sycamore Kitchen).

Special thanks to the entire team at Jon & Vinny’s — headed by chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo — for making our breakfast (which included the Kenter Canyon stone-ground porridge made from bulgur and wheat pictured above and breakfast pizza) there both delicious AND fun!

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Jon & Vinny’s is at 412 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036.  323.334.3369. Website:  jonandvinnys.com

BYOB Italian “Sunday Suppers” at The Leopard at des Artistes A Welcome Home for Wine Lovers

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The famed murals painted by Howard Chandler Christy that graced the walls  of Cafe des Artistes remain intact at The Leopard at des Artistes, providing a beautiful backdrop for enjoying BYOB “Sunday Suppers”

“‘BRING YOUR OWN BOTTLE’ ITALIAN SUNDAY SUPPER AT THE LEOPARD.  UNCOMPLICATED AND DELICIOUS. WE DO THE COOKING, YOU BRING THE WINE.
–The Leopard’s website

Other wine lovers in New York City have expressed the same frustration we’ve often felt trying to sort out restaurants’ policies regarding guests’ bringing their own wine (or BYOB).  Some restaurants (e.g., Babbo) forbid it, fairly pointing out their carefully curated wine lists and cellars by their expert sommeliers.  Others do what they can to discourage it, such as through corkage fees of $75 (e.g., Felidia) to $150 (e.g., Per Se) or more per bottle.

Others do allow it, and even waive the corkage fee on particular nights of the week that tend to be slower in order to drive business.  However, it’s so agonizing to try to determine which restaurants allow it — and when, and at what price, and with what caveats (e.g., number of bottles per table) — that we tend to over-rely on a small number of restaurants that allow it regularly with low if any corkage fees and few if any restrictions.

So last night, we were delighted to rediscover the joys of dining at One West 67th Street at a wonderful new — to us — place to BYOB free on Sunday nights:  The Leopard at des Artistes.

Located in the former home of Cafe des Artistes (which closed six years ago), the beautiful murals and romantic ambiance of the original remain — as does the warm service.

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Upper Left: The Leopard’s elegantly romantic ambiance; Upper Right: Standout eggplant appetizer (top) and gnudi (bottom); Center: BYOB — and your own wine-loving friends; Bottom Left: The awning at One West 67th Street; Bottom Right: Foregoing BYOB doesn’t mean going thirsty at The Leopard

While you’re lucky to get a few extra tumblers and a corkscrew tossed your way at some informal restaurants that allow BYOB, The Leopard at des Artistes offers excellent wine service along with no corkage on Sunday nights.

Our table brought a couple of bottles of Champagne (including a bottle of La Caravelle Rosé Champagne that was gifted to Karen on her birthday), which our servers kept well chilled throughout the night, pouring it incrementally in order to maintain its optimum temperature.  Our friends — Michael Gelb, author of the international bestseller How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci and the new Creativity on Demand, and his wife mezzo-soprano Deborah Domanski — brought an amazing 2010 Castello di Ama San Lorenzo Chianti Classico that was decanted for us and served in lovely glassware.

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Upper Left: Honeydew melon green salad; Upper Right: Can’t get enough of these murals; Center: La Caravelle Rose Champagne; Bottom Left: Pasta courses benefited from a side order of mushrooms to enhance their red wine-friendliness; Bottom Right: Wine lovers Andrew Dornenburg, Deborah Domanski, Michael Gelb, and Karen Page

While the BYOB policy, lovely ambiance, and excellent service would have been enough to bring us back on a Sunday night had the food been merely good, we were pleasantly surprised to find most of the dishes quite good to excellent. We understand there’s a new chef at the stoves — Michele Brogioni — who previously earned a Michelin star at Il Falconiere in Italy.

We’d heard advance raves about the gnudi — buffalo ricotta gnocchi, in butter and Parmigiano-Reggiano sauce, on organic sautéed spinach ($16) — which we really enjoyed.  But our hands-down favorite dish at The Leopard was another appetizer:  a timballo made with eggplant and smoked buffalo mozzarella with spicy tomato sauce ($14).

We enjoyed both of our generously-portioned pasta dishes — a farro penne made with grilled zucchini, roasted plum tomatoes, and organic basil ($22), along with a rigatoni “alla Norma” in tomato sauce with sautéed eggplant and aged ricotta cheese ($20).  Springing for the side dish of sautéed mixed wild mushrooms ($10) to top them with made them both an even better pairing with our wine.

The restaurant’s website had promised its “Sunday Supper” to be “uncomplicated and delicious.”  We’re thrilled for us — and for our fellow wine lovers — that The Leopard truly under-promised and over-delivered, providing us with a delicious new option for Sunday night BYOB dining.

NYC BYOB Restaurants

What are your favorite BYOB restaurants in and around Manhattan?  Let us know in the comments, or by shooting us a message.  We’ll be updating our list in a future blog post.

A few of our favorites, along with others recommended to us by our wine-loving friends:

Amali, Upper East Side — Free corkage for exceptional bottles of wine
AOC, East Village — Free corkage Monday through Thursday
Balvanera, SoHo — Free corkage on Monday night
Campagna at Bedford Post Inn, Bedford, NY — Free corkage on Wednesday night
Colicchio & Sons, Chelsea — Free corkage on Sunday night
Flinders Lane, East Village — Free corkage on Monday night
Home, West Village — Free corkage on Monday night
I Coppi de Matilda, East Village — Free corkage on Tuesday & Wednesday night
Kellari Taverna, Midtown West — Free corkage on Sunday & Monday night
La Palapa, East Village — Free corkage on Monday night
La Sirene, SoHo — $1 corkage on Monday & Tuesday night
Le Village, East Village — Free corkage nightly (1 bottle per 2 guests)
Left Bank, West Village — Free corkage on Sunday & Monday nights
The Leopard at des Artistes, Upper West Side — Free corkage on Sunday nights
NoHo Star, NoHo — $3 for 1st bottle, $10 per additional bottle
Patroon, Midtown East — Free corkage on Friday night (up to 3 bottles per table)
Pho Bang, Chinatown — Free corkage nightly
Riverpark, Murray Hill — Free corkage on Monday night
Tribeca Grill, Tribeca — Free corkage on Sunday & Monday nights (1 bottle per 2 guests)
Virginia’s, East Village — Free corkage on Monday nights

Note:  As BYOB policies can change, it’s best to contact the restaurant to confirm its current policy and any restrictions.

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The Leopard at des Artistes is at One West 67th Street between Central Park West and Broadway.  212.787.8767. theleopardnyc.com

Randall Grahm Envisions The Future of Wine (Including 10,000 New Grape Varieties) — And Launches An Indiegogo Crowd-Funding Campaign to Create It

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Winemaker Randall Grahm, with some of his wines poured during last night’s  dinner

Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm says a biodynamic approach to winemaking affects not only the wine, but also winemakers themselves, giving them ‘the ability to see the natural world with more sensitive eyes and the gradual cultivation of powerful intuition.'”
–Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, The Washington Post (July 18, 2007)

We love wine, which won’t come as a surprise to readers of our books WHAT TO DRINK WITH WHAT YOU EAT (who made it one of the top 10 bestselling wine books on Amazon.com) or THE FOOD LOVER’S GUIDE TO WINE.

We also love San Juan Bautista, which was long one of Andrew’s parents’ favorite places on earth — and where we co-hosted a surprise 50th wedding anniversary party for them in 1999, just a year before losing Andrew’s mother (and, a few years later, his father).

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“…Henceforth, let it be known to all citizens of [San Juan Bautista] that by vote of the council, we do hereby proclaim Sunday, August 22, 1999, as ‘Bob and Pat Dornenburg Day’ and wish them many more decades of happiness together.”  Signed by the Mayor and Deputy City Clerk of San Juan Bautista

And we’ve long loved the “soulful, distinctive, and original” spirit behind Bonny Doon Vineyard and its wines — from its Vin Gris de Cigare rosé to its Le Cigare Volant Reserve, a Rhone red blend crafted in California that in the winemaker’s own words “suggests a Burgundian take on Châteauneuf.”

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So when we learned that celebrated winemaker Randall Grahm, who founded Bonny Doon more than three decades ago in 1983, had announced an ambitious crowd-funding campaign last week for The Popelouchum Project — which translates as “village” or “paradise,” fittingly, as it seeks to create the first-ever New World Grand Cru wine —  and saw on its Indiegogo page that it combined all three of these loves, we were in.

Last night, we had the opportunity to join a private dining roomful of fellow wine lovers (who included filmmaker Amy Atkins — who made the video on The Popelouchum Project that appears below — and her husband journalist Forrest Sawyer, City Winery founder Michael Dorf, author Adam Gopnik and his wife Martha Parker, Tasting Table‘s Kat Kinsman, NYU’s Marion Nestle, and wine importer / distributor Michael Skurnik) to learn even more from Grahm himself over dinner at Blue Hill in Manhattan, before thanking Chef Dan Barber personally for our wonderful feast.

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Bonny Doon’s founder winemaker Randall Grahm

“Music is the space between the notes.”
–Claude Debussy

“‘Rossese is a wine made by empty spaces,’ says the thoughtful Filippo Rondelli of Terre Bianche.”
–Andrew Jefford, in Decanter (April 27, 2015)

Grahm is most excited about wine grapes’ potential to serve as conduits for terroir, which he suggests — like music — can “fill the space” between the notes of the grapes themselves.  He’s long fantasized about making a Burgundian-style wine right in California, and automatically assumed at first that he’d have to fashion it from Pinot Noir.  But he’s also fascinated with underappreciated grapes like Italy’s Rossese and France’s Tiburon (which he was tickled to learn are genetically the same grape), both of which produce intensely aromatic light-bodied wines with pronounced notes of herbs (or garrigue, as it is known in Provence) and minerality.

Such grapes — and/or 10,000 others — could allow the terroir of the land he prizes in “cool” (it was the site of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” after all) San Juan Bautista to shine through.  And he wants to dedicate the rest of his life (which, with his mother Ruthie Grahm still very active in her 90s, could well be decades) to creating those grapes, and identifying ones perfectly suited for this place, in order to create a new American “Grahm Cru” wine.

Hundreds of wine lovers (including us) have already chipped in to help make Grahm’s audacious vision for the future of wine a reality.  You can be an important part of creating it, too — and have one of those 10,000 new grape varieties named after you, or receive another of several fun rewards in store for donors.  Check out Amy Atkins’ video (featuring lovely music courtesy of Will Ackerman‘s Windham Hill) below, then head to Indiegogo to “join the party”!

“Join me on a journey of discovery to change the way we grow grapes, to change the way we think about vineyards, to perhaps discover an entirely new vinous expression, and to maybe even get a unique grape variety named after yourself! … I’m looking to change the wine industry in a big way. It is part of my life’s work to continue to push the boundaries of this very conservative business. I want to create 10,000 new grape varieties over the next 10 years, and to plant a uniquely heterodox vineyard – each vine genetically distinctive from the other — in the hopes of revealing a new Grand Cru in the New World. I am seeking funds to help start breeding these new grapes at ‘Popelouchum,’ and to potentially leave a rich legacy for the next generation of grape growers and wine drinkers.”
Winemaker Randall Grahm

“Check out what is planning on doing. A visionary!! And, you can get involved….”
–Sommelier Rajat Parr, via Twitter (July 25, 2015)

“Ambitious Winemaker Aims to Create First New World Grand Cru.”
–Food writer Carolyn Jung, via Twitter (July 22, 2015)

“Help make it happen for POPELOUCHUM VINEYARD: 10,000 GRAPES FOR A NEW WIN.”
–Wine writer W.R. Tish, via Twitter (July 21, 2015)

“ICYMI is raising $$ to breed 10,000 varieties.”
–Wine writer Jon Bonne, via Twitter (July 21, 2015)

“The madcap launching a mad ambitious project to find CA terroir’s ? Made for crowdfunding!”
–Food writer and restaurateur Pim Techamuanvivit, via Twitter (July 21, 2015)

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Randall Grahm‘s website for his book Been Doon So Long is at beendoonsolong.com.

Bonny Doon Vineyard is at bonnydoonvineyard.com.

The Popelouchum Vineyard Project‘s crowdfunding page is at indiegogo.com.

July Joy: Union Square Greenmarket

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The produce at the Union Square Greeenmarket in Manhattan is so beautiful this week that we urge you not to waste the opportunity by sitting inside reading our blog or anything else.

Instead, get out there and enjoy the sights and smells — and get cooking!

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Union Square Greenmarket is located just southeast of 17th Street and Broadway, and at grownyc.org.

“Be Here Now”: It’s Happening Today

“Life is too fragile.”  —Chef Eli Kulp in a May 5th Tweet

Seize the day:

MeatlessMondayLogoHorizontalMonday, July 20th, at 12 noon ETMeatless Monday and the Natural Gourmet Institute are co-hosting a lunchtime Twitter chat today.  The focus is on “Recipe Conversion 101:  Embracing Plant-Based Foods.”  Follow MM and NGI, and search #AskMeatlessMonday.

EliKulpChefsJacketMonday, July 20th, at 7:30 pm ETDel Posto is hosting a benefit for Eli Kulp, the Philadelphia chef (Fork, High Street on Market) named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 2014 “Best New Chefs” in the midst of opening a new restaurant in Greenwich Village who was paralyzed in a May 12th Amtrak train crash, to assist with his medical bills.

Participating restaurants include Ai Fiori, Anfora, Casa Lever, David Burke Group, DBGB, Del Posto, The Gander, High Street on Hudson, Josh DeChellis, L’Artusi, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Nobu 57, Osteria Philadelphia, Santina, and Tarallucci e Vino.

The event is being supported by Friends of Eli Kulp including Mark Ladner, Jeff Katz, Elizabeth Meltz, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, Joe Campanale, Katherine & Gabe Thompson, David Rabin, Matthew Rudofker, PJ Calapa, Josh DeChellis, Ellen Yin, Adil Avunduk, Chiara Sassoli, Zac Young, Rich Torrisi, Mario Carbone, Jeff Zalaznick, Brad Daniels, Alison Seibert, Diane Briskin, Ariel Moses, Mark Briskin, Taryn Briskin, Damian Irizarry, Jamie Greenhouse, and Jesse Schenker.

To purchase tickets, click here.

EatUpRestaurantWeekLogoMonday, July 20th, is also the kick-off of New York City Restaurant Week, which is currently scheduled to run through August 14th.  You can enjoy a $25 lunch and $38 dinner at dozens of participating restaurants — including Ai Fiori, Bar Boulud, Boulud Sud, Cafe Boulud, Casa Mono, db bistro moderne, DBGB, Empellon Taqueria, Felidia, Michael’s, Morimoto, Narcissa, The Peacock, Perry Street, Riverpark, Root & Bone, Telepan, and more — which you can reserve here.

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Meatless Monday is at meatlessmonday.com.

Natural Gourmet Institute is at naturalgourmetinstitute.com.

Del Posto is at delposto.com.

The Friends of Eli Kulp Benefit is at eventbrite.com.

NYC Restaurant Week is at NYCgo.com.

Are You Cooking with Authentic French Shallots? How You Can Tell

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One of the most memorable Tarte Tatins we’ve ever tasted, this Shallot Tarte Tatin was made by Chef David Mawhinney of Haven’s Kitchen from real French shallots — and underscored their tender sweetness

Are you cooking with authentic French shallots?

We didn’t know the answer to that question until we attended a June 30th cooking demonstration and three-course lunch at Haven’s Kitchen in New York City hosted by Pierre Gelebart of  France’s Echalotes Traditionnelles.

Turns out that “shallots” can be grown in the traditional way — from a multiplied shallot bulb, on a single bulbous plant — or from seed, the way onions are grown.  The former results in a hard end on the shallot you hold in your hand, which is where it was separated from the bulbous plant, while the end of the latter has soft “whiskers” like a scallion (note the scallion on the left in the photo below).

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The shallot on the left? Grown from seed, it’s not a genuine French shallot, which you can tell by the soft “whiskers” on its end.   The authentic one on the right has a hard bump (or “scar”) on its end, and was grown on a bulbous plant.

Because France produces 80 percent of all the traditional shallots in Europe, it’s obviously interested in getting the word out to consumers who might not be aware of the differences.  Indeed, over the past five years, less expensive, industrially-produced, seed-grown shallots have captured 10-15 percent of the market in France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Traditional French Shallots vs. Seed-Grown “Shallots”

Planted vs. Sowed

Hard “Scar” vs. Soft “Whiskers”

Elongated & Asymmetrical vs. Plumper & Uniform

Melting Texture  vs. Firm Texture (when cooked)

“Traditional shallots are firm, with a uniform color;
they appear both shiny and dry.”

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Chef David Mawhinney of Haven’s Kitchen in New York City prepared a three-course lunch for our table of journalists, with each course showcasing authentic shallots — raw (in a salad), sauteed (in the entree), and caramelized (in dessert).  It was so impressive that we had to look up his culinary pedigree, which we were not surprised to learn included stints in the kitchens of Per Se and Lincoln.

In the middle photo above, you can see a cross-section of a sliced authentic shallot, which will have two or three inner sections.  (Seed-grown shallots will have more concentric circles, like an onion.)

Tips for Cooking Authentic French Shallots:

– Cut shallots, then rinse, and dry before cooking for a milder flavor.

– Avoid browning shallots, which can make them taste bitter.

– Cook shallots in their skins by brushing unpeeled shallots with olive oil before wrapping in aluminum foil and cooking for an hour at 350 degrees.

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Left: Pierre Gelebart of Echalotes Traditionnelles shows us authentic French shallots; Center: Vegetables — including real French shallots — cooked en papillote; Right: Slices of shallot Tarte Tatin are served

Why should you care?  Echalotes Traditionnelles reports, “Great chefs, when asked to compare the two, came back with a final judgment: the traditional shallot is finer, more subtle, and holds up better.”  While this event did not include a comparative tasting of the two, we found ourselves with renewed enthusiasm for real French shallots’ delicate flavor — whether raw, sauteed or caramelized, with the latter two also evoking extraordinary richness.

And now that we know the difference, we’re planning to look for “Traditional Shallots” on the label when shopping for shallots, which are available at better food stores, including Whole Foods.

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Echalotes Traditionnelles of France is online at echalotetraditionnelle.com.

Haven’s Kitchen is a recreational cooking school, café and event space located in a carriage house at 109 West 17th Street (bet. Sixth and Seventh Avenues) in New York City, and at havenskitchen.com.