Now that the spring has finally sprung after a very unforgiving winter, I wanted to share a hidden gem on Hudson Street: the Gardens at Saint Luke in the Fields. Without even getting in your car or crossing a bridge, you can escape the chaos of the city in just a few subways stops. Read a book on a bench or stroll through the flagstone paths and take in the numerous varieties of blooming flowers and dozens of migrating birds and butterflies. On the grounds of the Church of St. Luke of the Fields, this verdant garden complex encompassing two-thirds of an acre is enclosed by a high redbrick wall. Open to the public all day long, it’s a great spot for a picnic either with or without kids. If you have a teenager, you know that many of them are budding foodies—mine for one is looking forward to bringing her picnic basket filled with avocado toast and chia seeds and some complex juice concoction to this urban hideaway. If urban gardens in springtime are your thing, be sure to head to the other side of the Village to explore some of the community gardens in the East Village, 39 green oases from 14th Street down to Houston that have been maintained for decades by attentive locals. It’s the ultimate non-tourist weekend activity. After being cooped up all winter, the spring vibe surely won’t disappoint. If dreaming of spring also conjures up images of suburban porches, just head to far west Chelsea where you can check out famed Danny Meyer’s brand new digs and his first stand alone bar. (In "Big Deal" read about Meyer's refreshed restaurant at the new Whitney Museum opening in a little over a month from now.) Porchlight, which opened earlier this month, is a southern style watering hole with a cool laid-back warmth. The cocktail menu is simple–twelve craft cocktails, all $14 each–many with whiskey, though the two I tried were unexpectedly light and refreshing (a welcome surprise for someone like me who rarely drinks anything but red wine). The bar menu is a modern twist on southern leaning fare ranging from smoked swordfish and fried frog legs to my personal favorite, avocado and crab toast. And yes, Porchlight has an actual (indoor) porch complete with wooden rocking chairs, giving us urbanites a chance to experience that springtime tradition right here at home. Who needs grass when you can sip a Gun Metal Blue cocktail while gazing out on 11th Avenue?
If you’re looking for lunch after the museum trip, take a stroll down 92nd Street to Bar Roma a great new Italian bistro that opened a few months ago. The baby sister restaurant of Via Quadrono and Bottega del Vino, it remains a serene neighborhood secret. Bar Roma’s allure is as much about the ambiance as it is about the food. Stepping into this quaint little spot is like being transported to a trattoria in Rome—my other favorite city— cozy wooden tables, terracotta walls, a curved wood ceiling, and warm and attentive service. The food, like the staff, is right out of Italy. The wine and cheese selection is uniquely Italian. The chilled asparagus salad and freshly-made tomato and basil penne (cooked perfectly al dente) make for a deliciously light lunch. The braised ossobuco and lamb meatballs are more hearty dishes, perfect for a snowy winter day alongside a glass of the Altemura Primitivo. Note also that the portion size is also authentically European, giving you a perfect excuse to order an extra pasta dish for the table to share!