Ponty Bistro: From Gramercy to Harlem.


Always working in fine dining, Cisse and his cousin/partner Cheileh Cisse wanted to open another restaurant. Since they both lived in Harlem, they felt that would be the perfect location for the next restaurant, and on August 4th 2014 Ponty Bistro Harlem opened it’s doors at 2375 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.

Owner and chef “Cisse” along with his cousin moved to Harlem 20 years ago from Senegal, and in 2008 opened Ponty Bistro Gramercy at 218 3rd Ave East 19th street.

Cisse told me that opening a restaurant has always been their dream, and it’s “the only thing we know how to do.” And they do it quite well. While talking with Cisse, I got a sense of the very passionate nature that Cisse channels into his cooking, having worked  as a chef for the famous French restaurant Daniel in midtown Manhattan.


(Katherine moved to Harlem four years ago, here enjoying a drink waiting for dinner)

Cisse describes his fare as “French/African fusion, citing that Ponty Bistro Gramercy  has been very successful for the past nine years. When I asked about the decor, Cisse told me that their vision for the restaurant was to have it very chic and very nice foreveryone. “Wants everyone to come in and have fun with us.”


(“Cisse”owner and chef)

This culinary duo built the restaurant from scratch, and on their best selling dishes, like the crispy tuna and the steak artichoke salad.  also specialty drinks such as the “Senegalese punch”, and the “Biss martini”


(The Crispy Tuna with Artichoke salad)

Before I left Ponty Bistro, Cisse invited back in the kitchen where I got a look at the master at his craft working hard in the kitchen to produce the best possible meal for each and every customer.

Astor Row Café: Uniting the Community as a Family.

On March 1st 2012 Emmanuel (“Manny”) Pena moved to Harlem, and immediately started on opening Astor Row Café, at 404 Lenox Ave on 131st Street. This location which was vacant for four years, was not his first choice, but turned out to be a perfect location. Named after the historic 28 Harlem landmark houses in a “row” on that block, the Café was originally to be just a tea house, but transformed into so much more. Manny in his passion, worked 18 hours a day, doing the construction all by himself, from March 6th to April 21st and opened the café on Earth Day April 22, 2012 (The day after hurricane Sandy). Manny said “I wanted to open a place that is safe and laid back for everyone.” That concept led to the motto “be nice or go home”, which is also the password for the free Wi-Fi in the Café.


Manny Pena believes that Astor Row Café is more than a coffee shop, but by working as community can make a difference for everyone in the neighborhood, such as the free promotion of local artists, and family values. Manny feels that people need to “become more human” and needs to refrain from letting technology take over their lives.KIMG1062

What started out as a coffee-tea house, he started to serve food in the Café. When I asked how that came about he told me that “I started cooking for my kids”, so he began selling cup-cakes, than omelets, and after that whatever his customers wanted, salads, sandwiches, burgers, and breakfast. In all of the food, they use 90% organic and sustainable ingredients.

  (Manny making me my favorite latte, he always remembers how I like it. Perfect!)

As for the décor, Manny started out with a very downtown trendy look, (“I wanted one big beam from the ceiling, with everything else centered around it”) comfortable plush booths, funky art décor chairs and tables, but in the last year and a half has made it more of an industrial look.

( Chelsea Goding and Neil from the Harlem Art’s Festival)

I asked why he changed to a more ridged uncomfortable setting, he told me that “I listened to the business” and went from a seating of 33-56 to a seating of 50-70. Making all the wood fixtures in the café by hand, all the wood used was taken from a barn in Monticello Virginia, and an old trout factory, which is all “American Oak wood.”

Downstairs in the basement, Manny has created what he calls the “Nursery” were he supports about 50 local artists, giving workshops like, glass, metal wielding, ceramic, and wood shops.

When I asked “Manny” what he was most proud of, he answered “the community that we were able to build.” Manny created a “go-fund” for a disabled customer whose wheelchair broke, and raised $5,000 to get him a new one. On Thanksgiving Manny gave away 1,000 meals to the local homeless, aids patients, and battered woman shelters. Manny is not only a pleasure to know, but also is very in touch with his customers. You can find him often playing ball with his customers children outside in front of the Café, or walking around the shop holding customers babies as if they were his own kids.

(Barista’s Betty Etheredge and Junior Lopez)

Astor Row Café has used a number of coffee providers, such as Irving Farm, Stump town and La Colome, but about two years ago they started blending/Roasting their own coffee, after careful studying and experimenting with the many aspects of the process to create their own perfect blend.

                                                             (Be Nice or Go Home!)

Pompette Wines: Has the Spirits of Harlem.

On April 28th 2015 at 4PM, Pompette wines opened its doors on 131st Street off of Lenox Ave.

Managing partner Mozel Watson, who was born and raised on Lenox Ave along with partner Jeffery Tilly, who used to sell wine to Mozel when he worked for a wine shop in Brooklyn, has opened a very customer friendly neighborhood wine shop that features small organic vineyards.KIMG1034

When I asked Mozel how he’s impacting the neighborhood, he said “educating Harlem about wine”. Mozel also told me that he feels a need to give back to the community, so he will soon be selling t-shirts in the shop to raise funds for local Harlem schools to buy computers, books, and help pay for local programs. On his recent collaboration with Harlem Shake, the “Wine and Burger Fest, he told me that “it was a lot of fun”, and “everyone learned from the wine pairings.”

KIMG1033Having ten years in the wine industry Mozel has the right idea on educating harlemites on the correct wine pairings with food. I asked Mozel what is his favorite wine in the shop and he told me, “Champagne overall” but prefers red wine due to its complexity.

KIMG1044The top three white wines he sells: 1) Balance, a South African Chenin Blanc (2014) for $12.00. 2) Vino/Sweet Wine from Italy which (“fly’s off the shelves”) at $17.00. 3) Passages a South African Chardonnay (2014) for $11.00.
The three top red wines: 1) Dolcemente (Cantina Gabrielle) a semi-sweet Cabernet Sauvignon & Cesanese (2014). 2) Oldenburg vineyards (2011) (Mozel’s personal favorite) South African Shiraz at $30.00. 3) Clos De La Cerisaie-Anjou Rouge from France, (2011) at a price point of $18.00.

High End Wines:
Chardonnay-Chateau Montelena (2012) $51.00
Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) $150.00
Stags Leap Chardonnay (2012) $50.00
Armand De Brignac Champagne (France) $300.00

Worthy Mention: STOBI Zilavka (2014) pronounced Zhi-luv-ka. $15.00 a (“dry white wine with a controlled origin”) from Tikves, Macedonia.
Pompette offers free delivery for a two bottle minimum (and the only wine shop in Harlem that delivers) from 3-8PM. Wine Tastings: Thurs-Sat from 6-8PM. In April Pompette will be having their one year anniversary wine tasting party. (Date:TBA).

T-cell lymphoid leukemia.

T-cell leukemia is classified, as a type of  lymphoid leukemia that interact with T cells. Four main types exist in this nomenclature, along with sub-types. Acute myeloid leukemia, Acute lymphocytic leukemia, Chronic lymphocytic leukemia, and Chronic myeloid leukemia. T-cell lymphoma and T-cell leukemia are difficult to distinguish from each other and often classified or grouped together.

Some of the sub-types of T-cells are: Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) which also has four sub-types and fast growing, Lymphoma being the most common blood cancer is sub-classified as: Adult T-cell lymphoma (lymph system cancer), acute, chronic and smoldering, caused by the human T-cell leukemia virus or (HTLV1) a retrovirus.


Large granular lymphocytic leukemia, the cause which is unknown, (LGLL) is much more common in woman. T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), which is most common in older men, however woman may also develop this carcinogenic condition. Sezary syndrome, a type of mycosis fungoides, which takes years to develop and, is slow growing that occurs in the skin. This T-cell lymphoma is only located on the skin and large amounts of lymphoma cells is present in the blood.

Patients who contract T-cell leukemia can encounter some of the following symptoms: Swollen lymph nodes, fatigue and itching of the skin, but sometimes none of these symptoms are seen in patients. While leukemia may be caused by an inherited genetic mutation, it can also be caused by environmental effects such as radiation and chemical exposure as well as smoking, which are some of the risk factors, but in most cases patients who contract leukemia the cause is unknown.