The inspirational journal of rising NYC jewelry designer, entrepreneur, violinist, and pastry chef, Yumi Chen.

NYC Jewelry Designer, Violinist, Pastry Chef, Small Business Owner, Free-Spirit, Positive Thinker!

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Archive for November, 2008

Forget Roman Holiday, It’s A New York Holiday!

Thursday, November 27th, 2008


The holiday season is officially upon us. Pumpkin and apple pies are looming from every bakery window and market table, lights and garlands sparkle across streets and throughout apartments, and an undeniable sign of the holiday season in New York is the opening of the Union Square Holiday Market! With hundreds of independent designers and a maze of booths tucked under charming candy-cane striped tents, this market is bustling with not only happy shoppers, but lots and lots of holiday cheer. I can wholeheartedly attest to the spirited presence of the Union Square Holiday Market because I am there most days, smiling from behind my very own booth, amidst all the other hat- and mitten-clad salespeople.

This is my first year holding a booth at the Union Square Holiday Market and, yes, it is is everything I thought it would be and more. By that I mean that, yes, it’s cold; yes, it was a lot of work rushing to get the booth ready and the collection stocked up; yes, it’s a constant sea of people and it will only get more crowded, but most importantly: yes, it is a blast! I love the holidays!
Don’t take my word for it, come down and visit me and see for yourself! The market runs until Christmas Eve and my booth is set up on the east side of Union Square, along the 15th street pathway. Bring your mittens, but don’t worry about the scarf – I have some pretty and colorful floral pashmina scarves that will keep you toasty warm!

My Art of Happiness

Monday, November 24th, 2008


I am a genuinely happy person- I think that much is evident in my posts! But I, like everyone, have those days when things just aren’t going right. It’s very easy, especially in a city of over nine million people, to get easily frustrated or overwhelmed. I see it in people on the street, I see it in the wonderful and talented people who I employ and am employed by and I see it in myself.

The real danger lies in the cyclical effect of anger and upset: if someone who works for me is struggling, then they can’t focus on their job and our product may suffer, or I may not be able to perform in a way that my clientele expects. This is the most upsetting to me because in many circumstances, the conditions are out of my control.

So how does one cope? I suppose everyone has his or her own method, but for me, I just cross my fingers, eat cupcakes and hope for a miracle. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but that is all I can do each day; if I stop to consider the hows and ifs and whys, then I would be so overwhelmed I would totally just collapse. I have to know that things are out of my hands sometimes and believe that they will work themselves out.

Now, I get that this approach may not work for everyone! I think it is of paramount importance to have someone or something to turn to when that wave of frustration, that feeling of wanting to give up, washes over you. We all have someone, a friend or a family member, who knows just the right thing to say, who is our rock in a hard place. I turn to them. And I trust that they would turn to me if ever they needed a rock in return. No one gets through life alone, the good parts or the bad. I think it’s helpful to remember that.

Yumi Philosophy 101:

Cupcakes = Happiness = Positive Thinking = Miracles

A Big Pizza Pie, That’s Amore…

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008


Practically every neighborhood in New York is bursting with pizza shops offering quick, cheap slices. They’re not always fresh and don’t necessarily taste great, and yet they are a staple in the hustle and bustle of this city. Unfortunately, this means that New Yorkers are apt to forget the true culinary possibilities in a good pizza pie (when was the last time you went out to dinner, to sit down, and indulge in a hand-crafted pie?).

I love pizza as much as the next New Yorker- it’s a kind of comfort food for me. I had been hearing some buzz about a little place out in Carroll Gardens named Lucali, and so decided to go check it out for myself.

The ‘buzzers’ weren’t kidding: this is some of the best pizza I’ve tasted this side of Naples. And, yes, you’ll wait for it, but it’s well worth it. The pizza itself comes out surprisingly quick (some of the Parmigiano Regianno not entirely melted, shaved across the top as a finishing touch that adds a perfect touch of saltiness to the sweetness of the tomato and fresh mozzerella) and you will wait to get a table. Not to worry, though, there are benches set out in front of the intimate restaurant for this very purpose, and the neighbors with whom you are sharing the sidewalk are happy to strike up conversation.

The dark and moody room, accented by tall white candles on the wooden tables, was once the site of a neighborhood candy store which Carroll Gardens native Mark Iacono rescued from its commercial fate by stepping in to open this pizza haven two years ago. Now, Iacono runs the show from the back of the room: the kitchen, essentially, which has no formal division from the dining room. Watching Iacono and his two or three assistants work at the marble counter, slicing fresh mushrooms and scattering basil, makes you feel like you’re sitting in someone’s home, at the kitchen table, as they craft thin-crust pizzas for you which come out of the rustic wood-burning oven slightly, and pleasantly, charred.

There is no menu; a chalkboard on the brick wall details the choices. Lucali makes a large pizza pie, for $24, with a variety of fresh vegetables offered as toppings for $3 to $8 per pie. Or you can get a four-cheese calzone. In true Italian fashion, it’s as simple as that.

The restaurant, which is open from 6 pm until the pizza dough runs out, is BYO and is open six days a week (excepting Tuesdays when they are only open for take-out).
Carroll Gardens is fast becoming a destination for ‘ex-pat Manhattanites’, but be glad you don’t live in the neighborhood yet or you would likely find yourself spending all your spare time at Lucali.