Like A Parking Meter: This New Coffee Shop Charges By The Hour, Not The Cup

Ever wonder what it’s like to chug a latte like it’s a frat-supplied keg of Budweiser? Now you’ll get your chance at a new coffee shop in Germany – where you’re charged by the hour, not the cup, and the brew is all-you-can-drink. At the cleverly-named Slow Time Café, an hour in the shop costs you around $6.45, and every half-hour after is $3.88 – making four hours a hefty $29.73. But, if you are someone who is extremely adept at downing three cappuccinos in under 30 minutes, the $2.59, first half-hour charge is unbeatable.

Inspired by cafes in Russia, Slow Time is stocked with books, board games, and cozy slippers – and all the clocks inside are purposely set at different times – ensuring that people get too comfortable warming their feet and playing Yahtzee to realize they just spent $150 on the experience.

Will this business model be applied to wine bars and breweries? We can only hope, folks. We can only hope.

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Today: Sugar and Plumm Opens Second, Mini Location Downtown

Upper West Side’s whimsical bistro/bakery/café Sugar and Plumm opens a second location today in the West Village that’s truly the sweeter baby sister getting all the attention. Smaller-sized and with less of a bistro bent, this new downtown spot is more of a carry-out operation, making it that much easier to justify “just running in for something real quick" – that something being a flaky chocolate croissant, banana chocolate macaron, or towering brownie sundae. And if you too enjoy some attention, grab one of the few stools in the front, and give passersby a fine view of you shoveling dollops of whipped cream.

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Cake In A Cup: Happening At The New Bee’s Knees Baking Co.

Cake in a cup. More specifically, layered cakes in cups filled with ingredients like salted caramel, milk chocolate ganache, peanut butter mousse, and raspberry honey jam – even bourbon cake. Which is fitting considering the individualized cup portions are bourbon glass-sized, and slightly intoxicating (I’m looking at you, honey bourbon cake).  So of course, these cake cups are becoming a thing in the West Village, where they’re being sold at the recently-opened Bee’s Knees Baking Co. And with appearances at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, The Jade Hotel, and hundreds of weddings, the Bee’s Knees cake cup phenomenon is turning cupcakes on its head, and off its frosted, regal throne.

Opening on 12/12/12, as Bee’s Knees did, comes with a good deal of expectations. Both a doomed and auspicious day, Bee’s Knee’s has since emerged victorious, with customers rushing in at 8am for their Gorilla Coffee (only place in NYC to serve the Brooklyn-based brew) and croissants, and midday to lounge at the communal wooden table by the long front windows for some free Wi-Fi and chocolate PB cake cups.

Every day, around six or seven fixed and rotating flavors are offered, such as red velvet, lemon raspberry, carrot, PB & J, and even coconut grapefruit all baked fresh by chef Billy Mayer in a kitchen on Bowery. The most popular cup: the chocolate salted caramel – layered with chocolate cake, a thick ring of salted caramel, and roasted pecans and chocolate cake crumble on top.

So how did the cake cup idea arise? Switzerland-born co-owner Marco Stucky (pictured below) has the answer: “Americans love variety and options like nothing else,” he said. “So we wanted to come up with a cake that was as multilayered in flavor and as individualized as possible.”

Since opening, Stucky has not only lost 30 pounds from running around the shop, but has also become somewhat of the neighborhood talk show host; regulars know and love him for his easy conversation, passion for Bee’s treats, and his ability to remember your name. If you’re lucky – he’ll throw a couple of free, shot-sized samples in there to hold you over after lunch.

But Stucky isn’t the only European native in the shop. The coffee machines themselves, handpicked by Gorilla Coffee, are handmade and straight from Florence, Italy and Germany. “These are all top-of-the-line,” Stucky said. “Gorilla wanted to make sure we have the quality standards they have.”

And to test this, the drink to get is their signature Hot Nasir (named after a loyal regular, lucky guy), which blends hot caramel with a shot of espresso. Pair that with the chocolate salted caramel and, well, your morning becomes “the bee’s knees.”

Marco Stucky

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A Parisian Lunch in the West Village

Former Bagatelle partner Angelo Peruzzi opened up La Villette about three months ago, just in time to be hit by Hurricane Sandy. Now, the French brasserie has gotten into the swing of things and is kicking off their new lunch menu this week. The goal, said Peruzzi, is to bring the café culture to the corner of Downing and 6th Avenue, which once housed the restaurant 10 Downing. After Peruzzi took over this past summer, he tapped into his carpentry knowledge and gutted the place to create a café and brasserie in the classic French style.

Now, the space sports antiqued mirrors welded together to create a modern-meets-old wall piece, burgundy banquettes, and a pewter bar made from one solid piece by an artist from Seattle. The now exposed floor-to-ceiling windows are also a nice addition, and let in plenty of daylight for La Villette’s new lunch, and soon-to-be breakfast service. 

As far as the new midday menu is concerned, chef Christophe Bonnegrace has concocted a $19 prix fixe that includes coffee, your choice of appetizers like the house vegetable soup, salad, or the soup de jour, and an entrée. On a cold winter day, we chose to warm the belly with their hearty coq au vin and the piping hot hachis parmentier, otherwise known as French shepherd’s pie.

They also offer a $12 sandwich menu with classic options including croque monsieur or madame, jambon beurre cornichon (ham, butter, and pickles), and tomato with mozzarella. Each creation is served on a baguette made from dough they import from Paris and bake in house. For those of you who can take a nap after lunch, the chef’s burger for $16 is a decedent option, as its lamb and beef patty comes with your choice of cheese and topped with foie gras. Bon appétit indeed.

New West Village Bakery Brings Back The Charm

Spending the morning at a little corner café with a good book and steaming coffee sounds like weekend bliss – until you look around and realize your escape looks like more like a laptop-scattered, Facebook-festered battlefield than the picture of neighborhood quaint. But on the corner of Waverly Pl. and Christopher St. sits a newcomer who offers that 19th-century charm: Bien Cuit, flanked with whitewashed wooden tables, long, front windows, buttery ham and cheese, and chocolate croissants – and no connection to technology. And since we know Bien’s Wi-Fi-less days are temporary and numbered (sigh), it makes a day spent there even more pressing.

If you’re a Brooklyn resident, you’ve probably heard of the café before, most likely linked with words like “the bread,” “pastries,” “like Paris,” and “addiction.” With its first location in Cobble Hill, the owners seek to maintain the same vibe as Bien’s BK counterpart.  However, when placed in the West Village, the café-bakery takes on a whole different feel, more European, as if a page from a Bronte book was brought to life.

Though the menu teems with savory-sweet breakfast pastries like almond paste-poppy seed tebirke, maple yam Danish, and almond croissants,  the desserts and sandwiches hit the flavor extremes, with options like banana chocolate bourbon tart, and porcini and parsnip and roast beef sandwiches. And perhaps the best part is that everything, including the bread, is homemade and baked on-site at the Cobble Hill location, so every sandwich is guaranteed to have that fresh bread. Plus, since all the goodies are delivered fresh from across the river twice a day daily, they’ll most likely always have your favorites there waiting for you. But then again, as word gets out (whoops!), they’ll run out. So moral of the story: Go.

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Los Angeles Opening: Ammo at the Hammer Museum

Though the name sounds like a ’70s progressive rock band, Ammo at the Hammer is the Hammer Museum’s latest addition: a cafe.

The first outpost of Amy Sweeney’s legendarily hip Highland Avenue restaurant, this Ammo offers seasonal sandwiches, market salads, and a generous happy hour – all of which can be enjoyed in the museum’s bright, tree-lined courtyard, which the café spills into. Perfectly in synch with the museum’s new Hammer Contemporary Collection (Kara Walker, Ed Ruscha, Barbara Kruger, etc), the Ammo is styled by LA design collective Commune, and is open for lunch, brunch, through happy hour now, with extended hours expected by December. 

 

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Our Man in Miami: From Haiti to Betty Page with Kimberly Green

That snap you’re looking at is of me and Kimberly Green, top gun at the Green Family Foundation (GFF). A couple weeks back we had the pleasure – and the privilege – of being shot by Francesco Lo Castro as part of an upcoming mural and portrait project the ace visualist is doing at Butter Gallery in concert with this year’s Basel. Kimberly’s a busy gal. In addition to a wide range of work in Miami, GFF is extensively involved in all kinds of great good efforts throughout Haiti – and they have been for well over a decade. That means Kimberly’s either there – or elsewhere – more than she is in her own hometown. So when she does manage to swing through we make a point of doing or seeing something spectacular. The last go ‘round it was the Lo Castro shoot, which was double-plus fun and then some.

This trip happened to coincide with the opening of an exhibit at Miami International Airport entitled “Hands of Haiti.” Set in the recently built South Terminal Gallery and put on by the Haitian Cultural Arts Alliance (HCAA), the show features sixty incredibly striking works, all of which were rendered under a barrage of post-quake hardships. The soundtrack consisted of various cuts culled from The Haiti Box; that set of early Alan Lomax recordings that Kimberly executive produced in conjunction with the Association for Cultural Equity. Hearing those circa ‘30s field recordings alone is a bewitching experience; to hear them in the grandeur of MIA’s newest wing amid an exquisite collection of woven vodou flags, Jacmel Carnival masks and other indigenous wonders was sublime.

After hitting the exhibit we decided to grab a bite at Van Dyke so Kimberly could fill me in on the latest in Haiti. Turns out she’d also just met with Miami Beach Cinematheque op Ed Christen, who reps the fabled Bunny Yeager. And he’d dropped off a stack of vintage Betty Page photographs for Kimberly to consider purchasing for the art-soaked home she calls Disgraceland. So while giddily browsing through some very vintage images over the chilled glasses of Prosecco sent by manager Matt Bracher, we got down to what’s up.

Okay, you just got back from Haiti, again, where you held another weekend of Sinema Amba Zetwal (Cinema Under the Stars). Care to fill in the folks? I’d love to. Last weekend was the final two screenings in the tour we’ve been on since February. I work with an organization called Fast Forward, which puts together outdoor screenings of Haitian-made documentaries, and we followed the fault line of the earthquake. The tour was called Food for Souls, because everyone was bringing rice and water and what have you, but no one was really taking care of the cultural core of the people. We had between three and ten thousand people at every screening, all of whom got to hear some of Haiti’s best musicians in addition to seeing a wide variety of film shorts covering everything from gender equity to environmentalism to the “remembrance” pieces Alan Lomax shot back in the ‘30s. The previous screenings were held out in the country, but this last event was held in Petionville, which is where most of Haiti’s private sector is based. So it was nice to be able to show the shorts to those who are in country and spearheading the efforts to rebuild.

Sinema is actually in cahoots with a few of those concerns, isn’t it? Yes, we’re sponsored by Brana, makers of Prestige beer, which is the Haitian beer. Brana also does a fortified milk for children, and we’ve been distributing that at all the events. We also work with Voila, which is one of two Haitian cell phone companies, and Partners in Health, which was founded by Dr. Paul Farmer, who is now the U.N.’s Deputy Envoy to Haiti. At all of our screenings they provide HIV and TB testing, as well as clinic referrals. Then there’s Earthspark International, an American organization that’s bringing renewable energy stores to the country.

Since we just came from catching that airport exhibit which GFF soundtracked, let’s tell everyone what’s what with Alan Lomax’s field recordings. My friend Warren Russell Smith came to me with the project a couple years ago and I immediately jumped at the chance to get involved. It’s a collection of field recordings Lomax made in Haiti back in the ‘30s, and because the sound quality wasn’t as good as some of his later work, they’d been sitting dormant in the Library of Congress ever since. We remastered them and released the set as The Haiti Box back in November of last year; then the earthquake happened, and we decided to use the set as both a fundraising tool and a sort of cultural repatriation. Now we’re working in conjunction with Haiti’s Ministry of Culture and Communications and the Ministry of Education, and we’re creating a full-length documentary along with a series of 12 shorts that will be used as a supplementary educational program throughout the entire school system.

That’s terrific! Aren’t you also involved with former President Clinton and all he’s doing down there? Yes, I’ve been working with the Clinton Global Initiative for many years, but two years ago he founded the Haiti Action Network, which brings together private and public partnership. And recently I was appointed co-chair of HAN’s Cultural Committee. We’re working now to restore monuments and historic buildings. And we’ve also been asked to curate an exhibit in November at the Clinton Library in Little Rock that will feature archival footage from Lomax as well as current documentaries made by Tatiana Magloire of Fast Forward. I’m really excited about this!

I bet! That’s beyond cool. Okay, we’re sitting here on Lincoln Road at Van Dyke Café, and it turns out your father [Steven J. Green] owns the building. What’s that all about? (Laughs) Well, my dad, who’s former Ambassador to Singapore under Clinton, runs Greenstreet Partners, which is an international real estate development company, and he bought the building a few years ago. He says he may have overpaid a little, but he’s a Miami Breach native, and he feels like this is owning a part of our town’s history. He also bought that fabulous Morris Lapidus building where our Foundation is located.

We can’t end this chat without mentioning this incredible Bunny Yeager photos that are sitting in front of us. Man, these are some killer images! Aren’t they? Ed Christen brought them to me; he’s apparently repping Bunny Yeager, and these are outtakes from a few of the series she did with Betty Page. I really dig the shots from the old Lion Country Safari. And I’m thinkin’ they’ll look great in Disgraceland! The demure shots though remind me of the photos I have of my mom [Dorothea Green] back when she was Miss New York and in Miami Beach for the Miss Universe Pageant. That’s where she met my dad, by the way, who was then an aide to Mayor Chuck Hall. They’ve been happily ever after ever since.