Tell me about Columbia. Are there places around there where you liked to go and that you still return to?
It was a very different city to me than it is now. I live on the other side of the city, and I almost never go up that far anymore, but there is a great place near Columbia called the Hungarian Pastry Shop. My mother actually went to Barnard College, and she told me about it. There's this delicious pastry called a rigo janci. It's a rich, rich chocolate thing. When I was in school, I went there all the time to drink coffee and eat sweets and study. It's really funky and looks like it hasn't changed much since 1975. There are always adorable girls working there and people reading and a lot of college students. I would mostly just sit in the café and read, and friends would come in, and people would talk to you while you'd try to get some work done. I really like that place. It's across the street from Saint John the Divine, where I actually once was almost arrested.
Okay, we'll get to the arrest in a minute. What makes the city so special to you?
I've always felt more comfortable in New York than in California. But it's funny, because my feeling about New York is actually that it's a tough place to live. Things move so quickly and it can be very dirty and crowded and rough, but what is so amazing about New York is that you can go into a little restaurant or a little shop or a little bookstore, and all of a sudden, you're in a completely different place. I think people create these environments in New York - these very specific, eccentric environments. If you know of these little secret spots, you can take a turn into one of them, and all of a sudden, it's calm and quiet. If you know enough places like that, New York becomes a much more bearable place to live.
Tell me about some of these escapes. Let's start with food.
I love this restaurant called Prune. It's in the East Village, and it's just a teeny restaurant with incredibly good, unpretentious food, and the people who work there are lovely. A lot of people know about it - it's not my secret. You have to wait an hour for brunch, but every meal is delicious. They have this liver dish that's really delicious. Across the street from Prune is Russ & Daughters. It's like an old market on the Lower East Side, and it has incredibly delicious smoked fish, salmon, herring, beautiful pickles, and beautiful dried fruit. It kind of feels like it could be 1945 in there. There's another one I like, Café Sabarsky - it's in the Neue Galerie, which is a beautiful old building done in the style of turn-of-the-century Austria. I went there on my birthday and had breakfast at the café, which has all Viennese food, like sausages and warm potato salad and delicious coffee. Everything is so thoughtful, and even the coffee cups look like beautiful Viennese antiques.
Sounds like Breakfast at Tiffany's. Where do you shop?
I like a shop in NoLita called Mayle, which is just a small boutique shop. Usually the designer Jane Mayle is there, and she makes really beautiful clothes. Right near there is A Détacher. A designer opened the store, and it's a small shop with really beautiful and interesting clothes. I think it's hard to find Jane Mayle or A Détacher at other places. It's part of what I like about New York. You couldn't go to just any city and find that shop. You have to go to New York.