Lauren Levinger launched The Food Life in 2011 as a side project—a creative outlet where she could riff on her obsession with food in the context of the fashion industry in which she worked. “I felt like there was nothing speaking to food and fashion and those things together; they don’t have to be mutually exclusive,” explains Levinger. “The vision was just that food is this great equalizer; it’s fun and approachable.”
It wasn’t long before she realized it was more than just a hobby, and she left her job in PR last year to relaunch the site with an evolved focus. Now, Levinger continues to use original photography and interviews to tell food stories, but from people across all industries rather than just fashion. “It fascinates me that food has such a personal aspect to it—but such a communal aspect too. People love to share food, as well as talk about it,” she says. Being one of those people, she jumped at the chance to work with us on a guide to warming up in New York.
Below, we tag along with Levinger as she escapes from the freezing temperatures to show us her favorite winter spots, dishes, and drinks. From matcha lattes to the perfect chicken soup (spoiler: it’s Estelle’s Chicken Soup from Freds!), here’s where to warm up.
THE SPOT: IVAN RAMEN
THE DISH: TOKYO SHIO RAMEN
I am a true noodle lover and am absolutely obsessed with ramen. I recently bought myself the New York City ramen map so I can try all of the best spots in New York. Ivan Ramen is my favorite neighborhood place for delicious and traditional ramen. I love the “flavor experience” you get from a bowl of Ivan’s shio ramen. The best part about the warming up with a bowl of ramen is that it’s totally acceptable to slurp. In fact, it’s encouraged!
Ivan Ramen, 25 Clinton St, New York, NY 10002, 646.678.3859.
THE SPOT: RUSSIAN TEA ROOM
THE DISH: ROYAL AFTERNOON TEA
I have a long-standing tradition with my mom and grandma of going to high tea when I am home in San Francisco for the holidays. The tradition is one of my favorites, so I decided to replicate it in New York. Not only does The Russian Tea Room have delicious scones, tea sandwiches, and caviar, but it also has a wonderful ambiance. It’s one of the oldest establishments in the city and was founded by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet in 1927. It’s also right across the street from Carnegie Hall, so it’s the perfect place to perch before or after a show.
Russian Tea Room,150 W 57th St, New York, NY 10019, 212.581.7100.
THE SPOT: FREDS AT BARNEYS NEW YORK
THE DISH: ESTELLE’S CHICKEN SOUP
Browsing the clothes at Barneys certainly warms me up, as does the famous chicken soup at Freds. After a long day of shopping, I like to take myself—and all of my new purchases—to lunch! I pair the soup with a crisp glass of Prosecco. The combination of the soup and the bubbly warm me up in the best way!
Freds, 660 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10065, 212.833.2200.
THE SPOT: MISSION CHINESE
THE DISH: THRICE COOKED BACON AND RICE CAKES
There’s nothing like spice when it’s cold outside. When I go to Mission Chinese, I always order the Thrice Cooked Bacon and Rice Cakes. The artisanal bacon is made in Tennessee and cured for a few weeks in brown sugar and salty goodness. The bacon is considered thrice cooked because it is cured, smoked, and then wok fried. The dish has a lot of different flavors: smokey, sweet, spicy, and bitter—it’s really spicy, sometimes numbingly so, but in the very best way!
Mission Chinese, 171 East Broadway, New York, NY 10002, 212.432.0300.
THE SPOT: BEMELMANS BAR AT THE CARLYLE HOTEL
THE DRINK: GIN MARTINI
The Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel’s cozy atmosphere paired with the perfectly stirred gin martini makes it the perfect destination to hide from the cold. Sitting in one of the leather banquets alongside whimsical drawings by artist and author Ludwig Bemelmans brings back memories of bedtime readings of my favorite children’s book, Madeline. If you’re lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of Woody Allen, who sometimes performs with his jazz band at the hotel’s Cafe Carlyle.
Bemelmans Bar in the Carlyle Hotel, 35 E 76th St, New York, NY, 10021, 212.744.1600.
THE SPOT: MATCHABAR
THE DRINK: MATCHA CHAI LATTE
I’ve never been a big coffee drinker. When my friends were ordering lattes and cappuccinos, I would always stick to my tea. When I first tried matcha, I absolutely loved the full-bodied flavor and creamy texture. Plus, it has two-thirds the caffeine of coffee and is generally mellower. The newly opened MatchaBar in Brooklyn has it in every form, just as you would find for coffee-based drinks. You can also pair all the variations with homemade matcha pastries. I like to sit down with my matcha chai latte and biscotti, reply to morning emails, and admire the vintage hand painted wallpaper.
MatchaBar, 93 Wythe Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11249, 718.599.0015.