New York City is one of my favorite places to visit. Every time we are there, I try to find someplace in the City we haven’t been before. Brandon and I visited for a conference last week, but we only had one rainy Friday to explore. For this trip, I referenced a unique book I picked up a couple of months ago at the New York Public Library gift shop.
A Book Lover’s Guide to New York
By Cleo Le-Tan, with illustrations by Pierre Le-Tan
Rizzoli New York, 2019
The book is laid out in a great way - by New York City neighborhood. Our last trip was spent primarily in SoHo, so this time we started in the East Village and ended up in the West Village. It was my first time in this area, so I really had no idea how gritty the East Village would be. I also didn’t realize that while Brandon and I might be out and about around 10 am on a Friday, most of the East Village doesn’t wake up and unlock their shop doors until noon. Needless to say, there are several bookstores we had to miss. We wandered down a rather grimy St. Mark’s Place, the street where Eliza Hamilton moved (penniless!) after Alexander went and got himself shot. St. Mark’s Place is also where Trotsky lived for a time, and where W.H. Auden wrote much of his poetry. This street has quite the storied history, from Alexander Hamilton all the way to punk rock.
I swung on to my old guitar
Grabbed hold of a subway car
After rocking, reeling, rolling ride
I landed up on the downtown side
- Lyrics to Talkin’ New York by Bob Dylan
Our first stop in the West Village was both a musical and literary landmark. Bob Dylan was awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature. (Dylan also has a new book reviewed over at.) I love that A Book Lover’s Guide to New York made sure to point out Cafe Wha?, where 19-year-old Bob Dylan played his first set in New York City, marking the beginning of a remarkable career. As Dylan fans, this was a required Village stop for us.
Right across the street is Minetta Tavern, a French tavern where Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound hung out in the late 1930s and where the Beat poets often gathered in later years. It was even mentioned in the tv show Mad Men as the place to go for after-work drinks. Notably, the Stonewall Inn, where the gay rights movement started in 1969, is around the corner.
Also nearby is Three Lives & Company, a well curated and independent corner bookshop with an attentive staff. They even helped us rainproof our purchases! The shelves are full of classics and new releases. They also place a lot of special orders — I overheard a couple of phone calls from people in other states. Another customer walked in, asked for help finding a book, and then happily asked, “What else do you think I should read?” The response was “Tell me about your favorites.” I think I’d love to work there. I came home with The Portable Dorothy Parker (which at almost 700 pages isn’t overly portable) and a small book of essays on the beauty of browsing physical shops in an online world. We also brought home a signed copy of Liberation Day by one of our favorite writers,.
We wandered the West Village all morning, wrapping up at Bookmarc, owned by Marc Jacobs. If you’re familiar with Taschen, Bookmarc is a similar store, focusing on large-format books about fashion, art, and music.
Our day ended after exploring Nolita and SoHo. One of my favorite bookstores, on the edge of SoHo, is McNally Jackson. I love their wine and cocktail section! I ended up purchasing three books: The New Rules of Cheese by Anne Saxelby, Anthony Bourdain’s posthumous World Travel, and Godforsaken Grapes by. (I subscribe to Jason's newsletter, .)
I have a list of places to visit on our next trip, including Bemelmans Bar in the Hotel Carlyle, where the murals are painted by artist and author, Ludwig Bemelmans. He created the Madeleine books and wrote the newly reissued Hotel Splendide (I’m halfway through it!).
I found all of this, and so much more, in A Book Lover’s Guide to New York. I carried it around all day, and have completely marked it up with folded pages, details on store hours ,and notes on shops that are temporarily or permanently closed. I wish the publisher would issue an updated version. I know 2019 wasn’t that long ago, but the pandemic years in between had an unfortunate impact on a lot of small businesses, including independent booksellers. My only other wish is that there were maps of the routes through each neighborhood, as some of us have no idea how close 10th Avenue might be to Avenue A. When using this book, Google your destinations ahead of time to know when, and if, they are open. If you’re heading to NYC, you’re a literary geek, and you want to find bookstores and literary landmarks, this is the book to buy.
Drink Pairing: Heaven’s Door Highway 61 Blend
~$50-65 (depending on location)
by Heaven’s Door Distillery
Heaven’s Door is a partnership between Bob Dylan, Marc Bushala of Angel’s Envy, and Master Blender Ryan Perry.
I wanted to create a collection of American Whiskey that, in their own way, tell a story. I’ve been traveling for decades, and I’ve been able to try some of the best whiskey spirits that the world has to offer. This is great Whiskey.
- Bob Dylan
I have several wine reviews queued up, I promise, but since we had a small Bob Dylan pilgrimage on this trip to NYC, it seemed appropriate to review one of his whiskey blends.
I have two versions of Heaven’s Door whiskey. The Highway 61 blend, which I deem affordable, is what I’m reviewing today. My 2020 Bootleg Series vol II (~$500) … well, you’ll have to give me an amazing reason to open it. The right occasion just hasn’t happened yet.
Occasionally a whiskey distillery will partner with restaurants or stores to create a unique blend. Once bottled, the blend is sold in that location for as long as the supply of their customization lasts. The Highway 61 blend was offered to several places, and I happen to have the Total Wine & Spirits blend. It’s bottle number 33 of only 480.
On the nose (yes, it’s just like wine), I found lots of spices and some campfire marshmallow. It smells like how you picture autumn. The Total Wine & Spirits blend is 90% of two different batches of bourbon and 10% rye whiskey. I might have adjusted that for more rye, but I happen to be partial to rye whiskey. On the palate, I tasted a lot of cinnamon and other baking spices. It was a lot lighter than I had expected — this is, after all, 93.6 proof alcohol.* I enjoyed it with one of my large, square, slow-melting ice cubes.**
Since I’ve opened the bottle, I’m going to try this in a Manhattan. I think it will bring a great mix to the drink, with just the hint of rye whiskey. I’ll let you know how that turns out in the chat.
My review, both for being good and because I love Bob Dylan:
*Heaven’s Door Highway 61 is 46.8% AbV. Remember, I prefer wines that are around 13.5% AbV!
**A better whiskey drinker than I would have opted for it neat (no ice or water) or with just a drop of water. I am a wimp.
As I mentioned, I have several wine reviews queued up for publication, so those will be happening soon, and I just finished a book with a fantastic twist ending that I can’t wait to tell you about. I have so much to share that I wish I could post everyday! But that would eventually overwhelm both of us.
Have a wonderful week!
Thanks for the plug, Michelle! Also, thanks the reminder; I haven’t been to New York in several years now and need to plan a trip!
This is our favorite blog so far. Bob Dylan is one of our favorites.