A Glimpse from the Road

Helicopter Tour of Manhattan Zip Aviation Hudson River Financial District Battery Park

Happy Monday, everyone! I finally arrived in NYC this weekend by way of London, Michigan and Chicago.  It’s my first time back to the states since we moved to London this May, and it’s been a jam-packed tour as I try to fit in time with our family and friends.  Amidst the madness, I thought I would organize something really special for Stephen and I to do together once we arrived in NYC, something that would allow us to experience the city we once called home, but in a fresh way.  I captured the image above from the co-pilot’s seat of a helicopter as we hovered over Manhattan’s Battery Park on Saturday morning.  During our 15-minute tour, we spotted our old apartment in FiDi, caught a bird’s-eye view of Lady Liberty, and I marveled at my favorite art deco fixture – the Chrysler building.  The tour was both exhilarating and relaxing.  It was such a unique way to view our favorite city on earth.

Manhattan Freedom Tower Financial District Battery Park City New York City

Below is the aerial view I captured on my iPhone while flying in over Chicago last week.  It’s such a beautiful landing with the city skyline against  the backdrop of Lake Michigan. Chicago’s weather was super frigid and windy, and Steve and I came down with nasty sinus infections from all the flying and changes in weather.  Hallie is on her way to Chicago tomorrow to visit her family for Thanksgiving – make sure you bundle up, Hal!

Flying into Chicago over Lake Michigan

Luckily, NYC is truly the city that never sleeps and when I landed here I was able to access a Citi MD 24-hour clinic where they fixed me up with antibiotics and meds to treat the symptoms.   If you’re ever in a similar jam, I highly recommend them – so fast, efficient and clean!  I’m starting to feel a bit better, and I am so looking forward to exploring my old NYC haunts with my sister Jenna these next couple of days.  I am craving some serious sister time, and she always makes me feel so loved and welcome in her presence and at her beautiful Brooklyn apartment.  I couldn’t be happier – if only I had more time here!  There is no place like NYC, and it’s good to be back.  This was Saturday’s sunrise from our perch at the Mondrian in SoHo.

New York City view from Soho Manhattan Mondrian Hotel

In the in-between moments I am still doing online searches for a London flat. We must move in just a few weeks – but where is yet to be determined!  When I get back, I’ll be hitting the streets again on foot, peeking into homes in sweet neighborhoods just like the Chelsea mews I snapped below.

London Apartment Search Mews Homes Chelsea

Thanksgiving is days away, and I am so looking forward to spending it in Brooklyn this year.  My sister, mom and I usually collaborate in the kitchen (I learn so much from those two)!  Here is a snapshot of the last time we spent Thanksgiving in NYC, aprons and all.

Brooke Jenna Penny Thanksgiving NYC

Safe travels to all of you hitting the road this holiday, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving week ahead!

A Glimpse…

Club Monaco Flower Shop

If I could live in the Club Monaco on 5th Avenue in Flat Iron I would. Equipped with a coffee shop, a Strand bookstore, and a lovely little flower shop by Polux Floriste, it is all I could ever want and more.

Bar Chuko in Brooklyn

A warm and cozy dinner at Bar Chuko was the perfect way to start the weekend. This izakaya (a Japanese after-work eating and drinking establishment) is a new favorite of mine in Brooklyn. The rice cakes with kimchee, pork and mozzarella are unreal.

Up in the Air

The past couple of weeks at work have been quite the marathon! We hosted 6 events in 10 days all across the country and I even took a 24 hour trip to San Francisco! I would say that calls for a coffee the size of my head, don’t you think?

Cafe Pedlar, Brooklyn

My favorite spot for coffee? Cafe Pedlar in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn makes the perfect almond milk latte.

New Vinylux nail polish by Shellac

Every sunday, I like to treat myself to a manicure and pedicure at my local salon. Today I tried this new polish from Shellac called Vinylux, which is supposed to be more durable than regular polish and last for a full week without chipping! We’ll just see about that…

Blue Apron

Blue Apron is a dream come true! I tried this food delivery service for the first time this week and I am in love. Blue Apron delivers three meals a week to your home with fresh (and pre-portioned) ingredients, easy to follow instructions, and as many servings as you need. A wonderful solution for people who love to cook but don’t always have the time to go grocery shopping, I am hooked after only one week!

Take Root

Take Root Interior 1

While taking a leisure stroll through my neighborhood one Sunday afternoon, I happened upon Take Root. Feeling as if I had discovered a well-kept secret, I pulled out my iphone and immediately began searching for any signs of this unique find on the web. My instincts were right. Take Root is a intimate restaurant owned and run solely by Chef Elise Kornack (formerly of Aquavit and The Spotted Pig) and her wife Anna Hieronimus. A tiny gem hidden in the quiet back streets of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Take Root Brooklyn

Take Root located at 187 Sackett Street in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

With only 12 seats in the entire restaurant, Elise and Anna exclusively serve a seasonal tasting menu and host only one seating at 8:00 pm, Thursday – Saturday. The experience I had at Take Root was unlike any other and the food and the service were absolutely impeccable. I believe The New York Times said it best when reviewing Take Root: “It is a rare thing to pay for a meal but feel as if it were a gift.”

Take Root Brooklyn - Interior

The dining room is intimate and casual with tasteful and homey decorative touches.

Upon entering the tiny brooklyn restaurant I felt immediately at home. Anna (sole hostess, waitress, clearer and pourer) greeted us warmly, guided us to our table and casually explained the wine options, which were limited but very well curated. We were never handed menus, wine lists or anything that might distract us from our dining experience.

Take Root Brooklyn - Potato croquette with paddlefish caviar

Potato croquette, homemade yogurt, paddlefish caviar

The first amuse was a delicate potato croquette with paddlefish caviar and was brought to us by the Chef herself. It truly is a rare and special thing to have the Chef at their own restaurant cook for you (alone in the kitchen) but also serve you every single dish.

Take Root Brooklyn - Pickled mussels and mustard seed

Pickled mussels, reduced pickling juice, mustard seed

The second amuse was equally as delicious as the first, and as Chef Elise delivered each beautifully plated dish to our table, she took the time to explain the courses in great detail. Her passion, love and talent for cooking was reflected in every word.

Take Root Brooklyn  - Chicken Liver Mousse with Blueberries

Chicken liver mousse, fire roasted blueberries

As Anna cleared each plate, I began to see how carefully timed and perfectly choreographed the service was. When we finished our chicken liver mousse, the ceramics were taken, but the wooden plate was left behind to gather the crumbs from the house-baked bread and whipped brown butter we devoured next.

Take Root Brooklyn  - Cucumber and Sandita topped with a cold soup of Macadamia nut, olive oil and coriander flower

Lime cured cucumber and sandita melon with a cold soup of macadamia nut, olive oil and coriander flower.

This cold soup of lime cured cucumber and sandita melon with macadamia nut, olive oil and coriander was one of my favorite dishes of the evening. Having never heard of a “sandita” melon, I asked Chef Elise what it was. Without skipping a beat, she plucked the tiniest Sandita melon (also known as mouse melon) from her pocket, held it out between her pointer finger and thumb, and just grinned ear to ear.

Take Root Brooklyn - Eggplant stuffed with assorted mushrooms

Oven roasted fairy tale eggplant stuffed with shiitake, sorrel, and chanterelle mushrooms

I couldn’t help but also notice their perfectly edited music playlist humming in the background. I had to restrain myself from shazaming almost every single unknown track and recognized songs by Joni Mitchell and Foster the People. Echoing a common theme throughout the entire evening, you felt as if each song was hand-picked and chosen especially for you.

Take Root Brooklyn - Peeled cherry tomatoes in a tomato broth

Peeled cherry tomatoes in a tomato broth with garlic and red pepper, topped with chocolate mint

For a simple palate cleanser with few ingredients, this course of hand-peeled cherry tomatoes in a tomato broth was outstanding. I savored each tomato and attempted to spoon out every last drop of perfectly balanced and refreshing broth.

Take Root Brooklyn - Squid and onions with poppy seeds and fennel fronds

My favorite course! Squid and onions cooked with poppy seeds and fennel fronds

The dish of squid with onions was the highlight of my meal. Simple ingredients perfectly cooked with unexpected yet complimentary flavors of poppy seed and fennel. I will return to Take Root for many reasons, but this course alone could bring me back again and again.

Take Root Brooklyn - Oven roasted lamb loin with lentils, black garlic and stone crop

Oven roasted lamb loin with lentils, black garlic and stone crop

As we approached our eighth course of lamb loin with lentils and black garlic, my friend and I looked up at each other in glorious disbelief. Our time spent at Take Root was magical to say the least. Experiencing a 4 star meal in the comfort of what feels like your friend’s Brooklyn apartment was an unexpected surprise that I will never forget.

Take Root Brooklyn 8th Course

A crisp and vegetal granita of early Sansa and Ginger Gold apples.

To cleanse our palates for dessert, we were served an early taste of autumn with this granita of Sansa and Ginger Gold apples.

Take Root Brooklyn - Sesame cake with chocolate ganache

Sesame cake with honey-sweetened sesame custard, chocolate ganache sprinkled with bee pollen and sesame seeds.

The final course of the evening was a sesame cake topped with honey-sweetened sesame custard and chocolate ganache sprinkled with bee pollen and sesame seeds. I devoured every last bit as if I hadn’t just eaten 9 previous courses. It was the perfect finale to a perfect dining experience.

The amount of thought and care that Elise and Anna have put into every detail of their restaurant is inspiring. The elegant decor, the minimalist glassware, the curated wine list (and playlist) and the imaginative cuisine set this dining experience apart from so many others. Personal and intimate, I would recommend Take Root for any (or every) occasion. Their tasting menu changes every 3-4 weeks, and don’t be surprised if you run into me when you visit. I will be keeping a close eye on their changing menus and plan on joining Elise and Anna in their cozy, Brooklyn restaurant as often as possible.

Apartment Hunting in New York

Apartment Hunting in NYC on Videndae.com

This past April I returned home from a long business trip and was rudely greeted at the door by a letter from my landlord; my apartment building had been sold and I had 30 days to move out of my rental. Can you imagine?! This information was completely unexpected and the letter felt like a sick joke. Given my intense work schedule at the time, I really had no idea how I was going to be able to find a new apartment, pack my things and move out within 30 days! My first instinct was to panic, but being the true Virgo that I am, I took a deep breath, grabbed my computer and sat down to plan my exit strategy.

Whenever I plan a move, I like to put a timeline together in order to get a better understanding of how long I have to accomplish everything, and to set expectations and deadlines so I don’t feel completely overwhelmed throughout the process. Planning a move can be extremely exhausting, so the best thing to do is be as proactive as possible and get your game plan down on paper before diving in! Here are my steps to make your next move – into a NYC rental – a bit easier:

1) Determine your move in date

For me, determining this date was easy. I had no choice but to be out of my apartment by April 31st, so I was looking at a May 1st move in. NY apartments are typically advertised 30 days in advance, so I had to begin my search immediately, but if possible, I would recommend starting your apartment hunt at least a month in a half in advance. A short term sublet or crashing with a friend for a few weeks could have bought me a bit of extra time, but I was determined to not to prolong the inevitable.

2) Define your search area

If you have never lived in New York City before or are looking to switch neighborhoods, I encourage you to spend time in each of the neighborhoods you are considering to get a feel for them before committing. Your search will also be much more manageable if you narrow your desired locations down ahead of time. I did this when I was making my move from Manhattan 3 years ago and fell in love with Cobble Hill while walking around different areas of Brooklyn.  Now, I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else!

3) Determine your budget

This was challenging for me since the apartment that I was in was a total gem and was grossly underpriced for the Cobble Hill, Brooklyn neighborhood. I guess I should have seen this coming given a Rag & Bone opened up down the street from me, but alas, I was blindsided and bitter that I had to give up my charming one-bedroom apartment that I paid next to nothing for. To determine my budget, I first looked at the average price in Cobble Hill for a one-bedroom rental (I recommend sites like Zillow and Street Easy); I really wanted to stay in my neighborhood and didn’t want to downsize. Then I took a look at my monthly paycheck and assessed whether or not I could afford to stay in a one-bedroom without spending more than a third of my monthly income. I was pleased to discover that there were decent options for comparable apartments for only a modest increase in rent.

If you are looking to get your own place, keep in mind that NYC tenants typically need to prove they earn a yearly salary of at least 40 times the monthly rent (for a $2,000-a-month unit, you need to earn at least $80,000 a year). This is mathematically equivalent to you spending a maximum of 30% of your annual income on rent, a guideline commonly agreed upon by most experts. If this theoretical rent isn’t something you can afford, then look into getting a roommate, expanding your search radius into neighborhoods that are friendlier on the budget, or ask a family member to be a guarantor on your lease. It is also a good idea to know your Credit Score ahead of time so there are no surprises. If you don’t have good credit, or any at all, you will most likely be required to have a guarantor or pre-pay your rent/security.

You also want to factor in moving expenses in addition to the sometimes-unavoidable brokers fee. Even apartments found on craigslist can come along with a brokers fee of 12-15% of the annual rent- if you don’t have the means to pay this fee, your search may take longer and be more limited. As far as moving expenses go, you should think about whether or not you can afford to hire movers, or whether U-Haul and some loyal friends will do the trick. Don’t forget about packing supplies!

4) Map out your availability for viewings

Make a list of all of the dates and times you can be available for viewings. Flexibility is really key when trying to land your ideal apartment so if you can carve out time during the weekdays, you can beat the crowds and give yourself an advantage. Mapping out your availability will also give you a better perspective on how much time you actually have to find a place amidst any travel and work or personal commitments.

5) Gather all necessary paperwork ahead of time

It definitely depends on the rental property, but whenever viewing apartments you should have the following documents on hand. You don’t want to lose out on your dream apartment because you didn’t have your bank statements printed out ahead of time!

  •  Photo copy of your ID
  • (2) Recent Bank Statements
  • (2) Recent Pay Stubs
  • (2) Recent Tax Return statements
  • Letters of recommendation from past landlords

6) Know your must haves and your deal-breakers

Before seeing any apartments, look around your current place and identify what you love about it and what you would change. This will help you to understand what is most important to you and prioritize viewing apartments accordingly. Do you require laundry in the building? Do you have a pet? Do you have a limit on how many flights of stairs you will climb to get home? Here are the lists that helped to narrow my search options:

  • Must Haves: 1BR, lots of sunlight, separate kitchen (of decent size), hardwood floors, close proximity to subway, top floor
  • Deal Breakers:  Basement level, tiny bathroom, modern high-rise (no character)

7) Scour the Internet + Schedule viewings

My apartment search entailed visiting local real estate agents in my neighborhood along with daily, and sometimes hourly, searches on the websites listed below. I ended up finding my current apartment on Street Easy, so grab your computer, enter your search parameters and dive in!

8) Take pictures and ask questions

When viewing each apartment be sure to take lots of pictures of each space you see and ask any questions you may have. Keep a list of your must-haves and deal-breakers as well as your questions and make sure to check for things like:

  • Check for cracks, or water damage in the ceilings or walls.
  • Check all windows for breezes; do all windows lock? Are there screens?
  • Check the water: turn on all taps; check how hot, how long it takes to get hot, shower pressure; do sinks back up?
  • Check all appliances.
  • Test keys and locks.
  • Check out the fire escape. Locate fire alarms, look for extinguishers in common area.
  • Check for noise from above/below/next door.
  • Where can bikes be securely stored? Do they have to be kept in the unit?
  • Check for general care and upkeep: are old nails, loose screws, window hardware painted over a million times?
  • Is the apartment building on a busy or quiet street?
  • Check the bathroom for mold, leaking, etc.
  • Is it central heat or just a wall unit?
  • Is AC central or wall unit?
  • Is there laundry on premises or nearby?
  • What utilities you will be responsible for?

9) Trust your instincts…know when to pounce or walk away

In general, you do not have a lot of time to decide whether you want an apartment between seeing it and putting down the deposit, so if you really like an apartment and you think it’s “the one” don’t hesitate or you risk losing it to the next applicant. If you are not convinced that an apartment is right for you, trust your instincts and don’t feel pressured by the landlord or your broker.

10) Sign the Lease

Most landlords require first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit (typically one month’s rent) upon signing the lease. Brokers usually require their fee to be paid at this time as well, so you will need to bring certified/cashiers checks in the exact amounts owed to each party to the lease signing. This may seem obvious, but take the time to READ the lease thoroughly before signing.  Its a legal contract, so make sure you know what you are getting into!

You should also review the notes from your visit to the apartment so you can bring up any questions, comments or concerns you may have with the landlord before you sign the lease. Are they going to re-paint the apartment? When will they repair the broken stove? It’s important that you get these questions answered so everything is in working order by the time you move in!

After signing my new lease I felt a huge sense of accomplishment as well as relief. Finding an apartment in New York City is no easy task, so I hope these tips will help ease some of the stress of your next move!