Ample Hills Creamery

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Some might be hard-pressed to think of these winter days, with temperatures below freezing and biting winds blowing, as ideal days for ice cream, but our little family begs to differ. Our plans last weekend took us near enough to one of our favorite ice cream shops that I lobbied for a stop, and we walked ten numbing blocks out of the way to Ample Hills Creamery, in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn.

With three locations in Brooklyn, one each in Manhattan and Queens, and pints on the shelves of some local groceries, Ample Hills is a growing presence in New York. They specialize in nostalgic flavors and riffs on the same, creating ice creams that are immensely appealing to children and adults alike. It’s impossible to go wrong when ordering, but if it’s on offer, as it was on Sunday, I nearly always choose Ooey Gooey Butter Cake, a vanilla cream cheese ice cream filled with pleasingly chewy chunks of butter-soaked cake. Their coconut fudge sorbet instantly transports me to the days and weeks after my daughter was born (I was dairy and soy free for several months as we worked through her weight gain and reflux issues), when my big plan to get out of the house every day revolved so often around walking to get ice cream. The two of us spent that summer trekking back and forth along the Brooklyn waterfront to the Ample Hills kiosk at Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Delia tucked in the Ergo or the wrap with a sweaty cheek against my chest and ice cream drips in her thatch of newborn hair more times than I’d like to admit.

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She’s old enough now to get her own ice cream (though still young enough to have me pick the flavor – all the better for finishing off the last bites if necessary!) and Ample Hills is perhaps the most child-friendly scoop shop in New York. Both full-size shops (the remaining three are kiosks, two seasonal) are cheery and decorated with whimsical murals. They include small play spaces for children with mini kitchens and racks of ice cream-themed books, pages a bit sticky from reading alongside melting cones. Best of all are the windows directly into the kitchens, allowing a glimpse of ingredients being stirred, chopped, and churned. It’s fun to imagine eating that exact batch of ice cream on a future visit – all the more reason to come back soon.

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Court Street Grocers

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During the final weeks of my pregnancy, after months of consciously avoiding so many of the foods you’re advised against eating while pregnant, I read an article about the perfect Italian combo sandwich in a food magazine and could suddenly think of little else. Made by a small gourmet market a few neighborhoods away from our new home in Brooklyn, the photo of this sandwich was a bit like a siren call, beckoning me to Court Street Grocers in Carroll Gardens. In the nearly two years since our first visit, their Italian Combo has become our default when we’re craving sandwiches.

The tiny store is nearly always crowded, but here is your game plan: pass the refrigerator case, the selection of prepared goods, and all of the gourmet groceries as you make your way to the kitchen in the back, where a sandwich menu hangs above the counter. Look over the offerings, and debate trying something other than the Italian Combo, just this once. Decide nothing could ever be as perfect as the Italian Combo and order it again, creature of habit that you are. Circle around to the other side of the store, where tables crowd the small room. Jockey for space at one and wait [im]patiently for your sandwich perfection to arrive. It will be worth it.

On our last visit, late on a weekend afternoon, the day had proved so busy and the sandwiches so popular that they had run out of most breads, including the club roll made a few blocks away at a neighborhood bakery and used as a vehicle to deliver the Italian Combo. Our hands forced, we nervously chose sandwiches new to us. We shouldn’t have worried, however – The Delight, a twist on a Reuben with house-corned short ribs, and the Tuna Salad, with oil-packed tuna, pickled red onions and green goddess dressing, were delicious, further confirming that Court Street Grocers is something special indeed.

Insider tip: Live in New York or have a kitchen where you’re staying? Pick up a package or two of the Sun Noodles ramen in the refrigerator case before leaving. With its factory just across the Hudson River in Teterboro, New Jersey, Sun Noodle makes custom noodles for all of the best ramen spots in New York and Los Angeles. Instant ramen like you’ve never had it before, this is a staple in our freezer for quick dinners in a pinch on nights we’re feeling too tired to take on anything more ambitious than boiling water.

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Tompkins Square Park

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For us, a typical weekend day includes a subway journey to a different New York neighborhood.  We start with lunch, peruse a few shops, and then spend a couple hours in the local playground, followed by a subway ride home ideally before dark.  Recently we visited the East Village, starting with lunch at B&H (127 Second Ave.), a tiny Kosher restaurant, famous for its grilled cheese on challah bread, which totally lived up to the hype.  We went to John Derian where I got my heart set on a perfectly proportioned loveseat and multiple Jeanette Farrier quilts.  We popped our heads into Trash and Vaudeville on our way to Mr. Throwback, where my husband felt right at home checking out 90s basketball paraphernalia with Beverley Hills Cop playing in the background.  After walking down St. Marks Place, we went to Tompkins Square Park.  Tompkins Square Park has a rich history and was the highlight of our adventure, offering public zones for basketball, ping pong, skate boarding, and a dog run.  There is also a large enclosed playground, with plenty of space for kids to run and climb, as well as benches for the weary adults.  It’s always a nice opportunity to chat with other parents and to watch my toddler navigate a new social situation and make new friends.

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Caramel Baby & Child

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Left to her own devices, my toddler would leave the apartment looking like Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan. For the holidays, I decided to treat myself to coordinated outfits (of my choosing!) for my two little girls. Fortunately for me, Caramel Baby & Child (1244 Madison Ave) is a short walk across the park to the Upper East Side – and their only retail storefront in North America.  Caramel Baby & Child offers a lovely range of clothing and shoes, with a sophisticated color pallet and silhouettes that are at once modern and nostalgic.  Visiting the shop offers the chance to see the looks pulled together, along with coats, socks and shoes.  The shop also offers carefully curated gifts, accessories, and cards.  While you’re north of 86th, there are several children’s shops worth a peak including Bonpoint (1269 Madison Ave), Jacadi (1242 Madison Ave), babycottons (1236 Madison Ave), Naturino (1184 Madison Avenue) and crewcuts (1190 Madison Ave).

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New York Historical Society

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The New York Historical Society is a surprisingly awesome place to visit with kids.  There’s less mania than the big museums, and we’ve had great luck with their special exhibits, which cater to adults and children alike.  This winter we visited their annual train exhibit as well as Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York and Superheros in Gotham.  The Silicon City exhibit tells the story of New York’s role in the digital revolution, including typewriters and rotary phones for the kids to play with, which made me feel very old!  The Superhero exhibit walked us through the birth of several comic book superheroes – Spider Man, Bat Man, Wonder Woman, Cat Woman, Super Man, Iron Man – displaying original costumes and running movie reels, not to mention the Batmobile in the lobby.  Last year, we checked out Madeline in New York, exhibiting Ludwig Bemelmans’ original drawings from all six Madeline books as well as his drawings of the Ritz Hotel in New York where he lived.  The Madeline books are in heavy rotation in our household, so this was a thrilling afternoon!  There is also a Children’s History Museum in the lower level, including a cozy library containing stories about the history of New York City.  (Toddlers would enjoy the free story time on Sundays starting at 11:30 am.)

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Acorn Toy Shop

 

Acorn Toy Shop

Acorn Toys (323 Atlantic Ave, Brooklyn) is a treasure.  The shop ladies were so utterly gracious as my 3-year-old exclaimed repeatedly, “I want it all!  Let’s take it all!”  I had to agree with her.  This little gem has the loveliest selection of toys, clothing, and decor, special enough to be passed down through generations.  It’s hard to imagine how so many delightful toys are neatly arranged in such a cozy space.

Acorn’s selection is mindful of quality and sustainability, with many lines sourced locally.  There is a tactile quality to the displays, with few toys in packages, available for little hands to explore.  Oddly I wasn’t afraid that my rambunctious toddler would break anything as the shop is thoughtfully arranged, with colorful wooden block sets and handmade puppets within her grasp and delicate felt mobiles safely hanging from the ceiling.

What a treat to browse several clothing lines in one place, including popcorn stitch cardigans by Misha & Puff, pinafores by Soor Ploom, and baby alpaca hats and booties by Oeuf.  I also made a few discoveries, including a vast selection mobiles, linen rompers by Red Creek, cars from Playforever.  Acorn also offers a selection of children’s storybooks, fairy and folk tales, as well as make-believe supplies (masks, princess costs, tents, wooden swords, fairy wings, ironing boards, wooden kitchen supplies and even a wooden cash register!).

If can’t make up your mind while you’re in the shop, take a peak at the website, which is maintained with the complete selection.

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MilkMade Ice Cream

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MilkMade ice cream flavors

 

One might think it a bit silly to trek from our home in the Upper West Side to Brooklyn for ice cream in the middle of winter but after drooling over MilkMade Ice Cream’s tumblr feed for months, it was time to give it a try in real life.  The journey was worth it and surely won’t be our last. MilkMade is a subscription-based ice creamery with two unique flavors introduced and delivered monthly to its members.  Each of the ingredients has a story, and you can follow along as new flavors are developed.

This spring, MilkMade opened its Brooklyn Tasting Room (204 Sackett Street, Brooklyn).  Located in beautiful Cobble Hill, the space is simply adorned with the focus on the ‘scream.  The scoopista generously encouraged us to taste multiple flavors before making a selection.

The flavors were unique, intense, and delicious.  I decided on the #106 Dark N Stormy, a refreshing combination of fresh ginger and rum.  My toddler had the #48 PB N Jupiter, salted peanut butter ice cream with a grape jelly swirl.  My husband had the #22 Scare-Amel Apple, a caramelized apple ice cream.  In his words, “That’s the best I’ve ever had” … and he’s had a lot.

ps Next time, I’m going for it and ordering the tasting flight, consisting of 5-mini scoops to try, micro-brewery style.  Because, why not?

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Whitney Museum of American Art

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We recently took our children to the new Whitney Museum of American Art and we were truly impressed. After spending 50 years in the Upper East Side, the Whitney Museum has recently moved to its new location in the cool and cosmopolitan Meatpacking District. The magnificent new building, designed by architect Renzo Piano, is located between the High Line and the Hudson River.
With scenic views of the city and stunning views of the Hudson, the new space offers an increased collection of contemporary art and scheduled programming.

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Art museums can be intimidating for families, but the new Whitney is a very family-friendly place featuring a new dedicated space for education, the Laurie M.Tisch Education Center, where visitors can enrich their experiences at the Museum enjoying activities and hands-on learning experiences. The Museum also offers a wide variety of programmes for families and children of all ages (family tours, multimedia guides for kids, sensory-friendly guided tours for kids on the autism spectrum, art-making workshops and other special events). They even offer Stroller Tours for families with babies up to 18 months, where ¨crying babies are welcomed! (an excellent initiative for new parents).

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Check out its website, which contains very useful information to make the most of your visit (social narratives, tips, suggestions and guides for teachers, and activities based on the museum´s collection). And, if you can’t visit the museum, you can also check the Whitney´s collection online. Over 21,000 works are available to the public, an incredible tool for parents and teachers!.

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From the outdoor gallery terraces, its excellent collection, great exhibits and innovative children programmes, the new Whitney Museum offers unique opportunities to expose children to art from a very young age and to inspire creative thinking.

If you would like to grab something to eat after your visit, check out the Gansevoort Market or the Chelsea Market, you won´t be disappointed, and don´t forget to go for a stroll on the marvelous High Line!

Location:
Whitney Museum of American Art
99 Gansevoort Street, New York, NY 10014

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Sweet William opens in Manhattan!

One of my very favorite children’s shops from Brooklyn recently opened in Nolita last month — dangerously close to where I live (uh oh). I have always admired Sweet William as it is a store that gets it just right. The space is adorable and the clothes are incredibly well edited, wearable and unique. I assure you, you will want it all. I am especially drawn to the store as a great source for newborn gifts — the teeny tiny outfits from the likes of Ketiketa and Tuss are criminal they are so cute. This is definitely a shop to visit.

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McNally Jackson Bookstore

Make Meaning — Art Space for Kids, young and old

Paint-a-pot… step aside.  I think your days are numbered. Make Meaning recently opened its doors on the Upper West Side and they are definitely on to something!  The gigantic, walk-in creativity center offers a place where parents and their kids can sit together and work side by side on a variety of creative projects — all age appropriate and stuff that you will actually use!

The space currently offers six experiences: soap crafting, candle-making, ceramics, glass, jewelry and paper and they are open to 11pm on some nights!  Not only is it a perfect retreat when it’s too cold or crummy to be outside but what mother doesn’t need some downtime to just zone out and create something for themselves once in a while?

I love the look of the Soapsphere! Kids can choose the color and fragrance of their soap and then throw in a toy surprise for bath-time fun!  And they serve cupcakes!

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Pizza

Pizza places are everywhere in New York so picking a favorite would not only be impossible but simply immoral.  There are zillions of restaurants ranging from the simple traditional New York slice to the thin-crust, brick-oven gourmet type and below are a few of my favorites (with kids AND without).  I am going to keep a running list as I seek out other places in Manhattan and Brooklyn over the next few months but I would love to hear from others what the best kid-friendly pizza place is in YOUR neighborhood.

1) Lombardi’s – (Nolita) For sit down pizza with kids in the downtown area Lombardi’s is famous for their thin-crust, coal oven pizzas with all sorts of toppings. On the weekends the line will literally snake out the door so get there early.

2) For the real deal New York slice there is Joe’s Pizza (Greenwhich Village) which was a big hit back when I was in high school.  Cheap, delicious, hot pizza that is so good you could eat half a pie on your own.  There is no real place to sit down here but there are a few places to stand and scarf down a slice or two and there is a little park across the street with benches if you have a child in tow.  It is a great place to refuel if you want to walk along Bleecker Street up into the West Village.  Joe’s is packed during the lunch hours and late night but it’s always good.

3) L’il Frankies (East Village) — a good standby for an early dinner out with kids.  The oven was handcrafted by a 3rd generation Neapolitan oven builder, brick by brick. It features real lava from Vesuvio and through a unique double dome design, recycles heat to reach near 900 degrees!  There is a great little playground nearby as well to hit before or after (on 1st street and 1st Avenue).

4)  For the adults… One of my favorites is Georgione (Soho) and although it is not a traditional pizza place, the pie here rocks.  I am here at least once a week with friends scarfing one down.  My other favorite for a pizza date night or dinner out with friends is Apizz — Delicious and made in front of your eyes…

Mini Munchers — NYC Restaurant Guide for kids!!

Standing ovation for this one!  Standing Ovation. I have been waiting for someone to come up with an easy to use search guide of places to eat with children in New York and I am so grateful to this mom of two for doing the homework and creating Mini-Munchers.  The New York restaurant scene is not all that child-friendly in general and while some neighborhoods offer better options than others, it’s nice to have a tested resource of places that you can take your clan when you need to eat out.  You can easily search by neighborhood and cuisine and can view the menu on-line.  The site also offers commentary on other perks and offerings for kids (like if they have changing tables, crayons and quick service!).

Purl Soho

This winter I plan to channel some old-world “know-how” into my life and finally learn how to sew and knit… properly.   As a city-kid, “knitting” was never something that hit my radar until recently but I would really love to tap into to this creative zone and learn to make fun things for the kids and for the home.  I have always loved the look of Purl Soho with its walls chock full of colorful yarns, beautiful fabrics and cute-as-a-button trims but I always felt intimidated by my dire lack of craftiness.   The store recently moved to a new huge space on Broome Street and they are now offering classes (yippie!) so I am definitely jumping on board.  If you don’t have a chance to visit the store… do check out their website which is enticing and inspiring.

Also check out this adorable little make-your-own Alphabet Block kit for babies…would be a nice gift for a friend.

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Top of the Rock

If you are looking for that take-your-breath-away New York City view,  Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center is really as good as it gets.  With three levels of wrap-around walking terraces set atop one of the most spectaular Art Deco buildings in the world — it really is a must visit if you are in town, and I found it an especially easy place to take children (kids under five are free!)  After a recent visit  I also thought it was a far superior option to the Empire State Building (which I have heard is kind of a run down mess inside).  It’s kind of nice to have a photo OF the Empire State Building in the background with a view that is equally as nice in a less cramped and hectic setting. One of my favorite parts of the whole visit was the ride in the elevator… that alone was worth the trip (I won’t ruin the surprise as to why but it was way cool!)  And as if it couldn’t get any better… it’s right next door to Rockefeller center where there are tons of places to eat afterwards with kids.  If you are going to do the NYC tourist thing – I say by all means, this is a must for the photo books and kids will dig it.

Area: Midtown Manhattan

(Image from Pure Contemporary)

McNally Jackson Bookstore

I am all about supporting the underdog in this city and the McNally-Jackson Bookstore in Nolita is my very favorite bookstore. Not only is it great for my own browsing but I happen to think they have an incredible children’s book section. You won’t find any junky Dora or Elmo themed reads here and they carry a large selection of titles from abroad. In fact, this is the place we found one of our all time faves from the U.K. (The Runaway Dinner). I always feel smarter just being in the place and the staff is ultra cool to boot (they always have great book suggestions if you are in need of something new to read.) There is also a small café to sit and read a magazine and it’s a nice pit-stop to bring a child to pick out new books. (more…)

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