Wondering what to do for Father’s Day?
Brooklyn’s Sip Fine Wine offers these words of wisdom.
The holidays are over. The winter feels as though it will last forever. You long for an escape from the cold but you can’t leave the city.
In Manhattan, City Bakery has the solution. Every February, when the weather is at its bleakest, they host a Hot Chocolate Festival. Now in its 21st year, the Festival celebrates the rich, creamy drink by featuring a different special flavor every day of the month. This year, the flavors range from Bourbon (February 8) to Vietnamese Cinnamon (February 10) to Creamy Stout (February 15th).
Today, I’m being a bit of a purist, with Darkest Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate (so thick you can eat it with a spoon) topped with one of City Bakery’s home made marshmallows. And suddenly, February doesn’t seem long enough.
FreshDirect, New York’s premiere online grocery service, made its first deliveries to Roosevelt Island in Manhattan in 2002. Over the years it has expanded into other sections of the city (even New Jersey) and has won legions of detractors and admirers.
While critics have blasted the company for “overpackaging” (FreshDirect responded by reducing the amount of packing materials they use) and branded those who use it as “lazy,” I’ve been a satisfied customer since first they began serving my neighborhood.
While I find myself in local grocery stores nearly every day, I’ve come to rely on the FreshDirect team to deliver those items that — while cost-effective — are simply too heavy to me to schlepp home: cases of beverages, bags of kitty litter and huge containers of laundry detergent. I also scan their weekly newsletter to check out the latest offerings and bargains.
This week, however, some of the items currently featured on their Web site under the heading “Healthy Living For Less” don’t seem like such a bargain to me.
All over America, at this very moment, people are peeling, chopping, roasting and baking, busily preparing traditional Thanksgiving meals. But one person in Brooklyn is seeking an alternative to expending all that time, effort and money via a Freecycle Thanksgiving.
Freecycle, if you are not familiar with it, is a simple, rather noble concept: those who have things they can’t use give them freely, as gifts, to those who need them. The object is to reduce waste, save valuable resources and ease the burden on landfills.
Freecycle members contact each other online using message boards operated by the Freecycle Network. While most members post messages describing the items they want to give away, a few request items they want but don’t have.
This “wanted” listing, posted the evening before Thanksgiving, struck me as particularly ambitious and audacious, and I can’t help wondering what type of response it will generate.
In any case, however you choose to celebrate the day, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.
Western Beef is a New York-based chain of warehouse style supermarkets. Despite the word “Western” in the name, and the cactus in its logo, this store is very much Eastern and urban; the highest concentration of Western Beefs is in the Bronx, with Queens running a close second.
The company, whose origins go back to the early 1900s, uses the slogan “We Know the Neighborhood.” They explain that
Through diligent demographic research and paying close attention to our customers, we have determined each neighborhood’s specific needs, by learning about the local population’s ethnicity and product demands.
In other words, the stores, many of which are located in areas with sizable immigrant populations, sell merchandise selected to appeal to the nearby shoppers. I bought these unusual soup mixes, manufactured by Grace Foods, in the Western Beef store on Brooklyn’s East New York Avenue, a largely Caribbean neighborhood.
You know how they say, “If you see something, say something”? I did it.
Today I saw something – a sign – that made me very suspicious. So I walked over and looked closely at the notice that was posted outside an Au Bon Pain coffee shop. Then I went in and questioned the staff. Yep, they said, it was for real. Free iced coffee, no purchase required.
I poured a cup for myself and I walked out feeling a bit uneasy, even though the man at the cash register assured me that they wouldn’t have me arrested for stealing the drink.
I was enjoying the refreshing drink when I rounded the corner and saw a group of Homeland Security officers who were patrolling the area. I heard one man tell the others that he was about to take a break and go buy a cup of coffee. I had to say something! I ran over and told the Homeland Security officers about the deal.
He thanked me for the tip, entered the shop (without his bomb-sniffing dog) and got a free iced coffee, too.
Great Wall is the largest Asian supermarket chain in the Eastern United States, with branches in Georgia, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virgina. Styled after major American food chains, Great Wall offers locally-produced groceries as well as those imported from all over Asia, with an emphasis on freshness, cleanliness and customer service.
These stores combine many of the features of traditional Asian markets (seasonal produce, medicinal herbs, live fish swimming in tanks, butchers ready to cut meat to order) with American tastings, discount cards, weekly circulars and sales.
There are always some things, however, that may seem strange to Westerners. I found this item in a refrigerated case at the Great Wall store on Northern Boulevard in Flushing.
The metal signs were propped up on the sidewalk. The flags and banners were hung from the awning. The street was closed, the carnival attractions arrived and the tables and chairs were assembled outside the front door. Most importantly, the yayas (grandmothers) were cooking. And cooking. And cooking.
It was time once again for the festival run in Downtown Brooklyn by Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Now in its 32nd year, the annual week-long event is one of the biggest fund raisers for the church that has stood here since 1916.
The cathedral is more than just a place of worship; for nearly 100 years, it has served as the center of Greek life in Brooklyn. Many parishioners cheerfully put their business affairs aside for the week and devote their labors to ensure the festival’s success. The attractions include a “white elephant” sale and gift shop, music, kiddie rides and, of course, the food. The barbeques for gyros, souvlaki and grilled octopus were set up in the street, the trays filled with moussaka, pasticio, dolmades, spanakopita, keftedes and pastries — all based on old family recipes — were on the tables under the tent.
The music played, the kids giggled and ran, the younger people manned the grills, the yayas kept an eye on the money box while serving heaping helpings of everything and the men, just as they do in Greece, sat together swapping stories, making plans and watching the passing scene. Oopa!
Whole Foods is an international chain of upscale supermarkets. Located in affluent areas and focusing on natural and organic items, the stores sell premium goods at premium prices; in fact, wags have dubbed the chain “whole paycheck.”
Whole Foods currently has five stores in New York City, all of them in Manhattan. The store in Union Square includes a message board where management replies to a selection of customer-submitted “rants and raves.” On a recent visit, I was struck by a complaint regarding the prepared foods section.
Go ahead, call me a wimp. A wuss. A spoiled city-dweller who couldn’t survive outside of my urban comfort zone. I admit it; it’s true.
While visiting a Chinese supermarket in Flushing, I saw some small, dark chickens for sale. They were so dark, in fact, that they were black. When I asked why the chickens were so dusky, I was told that the birds were silkie chickens, a breed that has naturally black flesh and skin. “Chickens come in different colors,” explained the poultry man, “just like people.”
I learned that the black chickens are considered a delicacy in China, so I bought one and brought it home, hoping to whip up a special meal. Of course, I could have prepared it like any other chicken, but an online search revealed a few recipes designed specifically for the silkie chicken.
I went back to the shops, assembled the ingredients, brought them home and began to prepare Chef Chai Chaowasaree’s Silkie Chicken Soup. I washed the chicken, leaving it whole, chopped the herbs and other ingredients, dropped everything into a large, black pot, turned on the flame and popped the lid on top.
Soon my home began to fill with delicious aromas, and I returned to the kitchen to take a peek inside the fragrantly steaming pot.
I lifted the lid and saw, to my horror, a pair of glassy eyes staring back at me. I clapped the lid back onto the pot and ran from the room.
As I later learned, although silkie chickens are cleaned before they are sold, the head and feet are not removed; instead, the butcher folds them back and tucks them deep inside the cavity. While I rinsed the raw chicken off in the sink (something I’ve done countless times), it never occurred to me to look inside the chicken before cooking to see whether any body parts were hidden there. Apparently, my chicken’s head had become un-tucked during cooking and was now bobbing around in the bubbling pot.
I didn’t know what to do with the half-cooked soup on the stove. I know that all sorts of things happen in restaurant kitchens, but I just couldn’t contemplate eating the little chicken that had stared at me from the big black pot. I was, frankly, just too chicken.
I decided that the best strategy would be to cool the whole pot down, then dispose of the contents. I emptied half the refrigerator to fit the still-bubbling pot inside, closed the door, and went out.
I returned a few hours later, looked into the pot again, and found that the chicken’s head was now surrounded by large yellow blobs of congealed fat, and that its eyes and beak had turned white. Yum.
I took a photo before the mess went into the trash and that night I dined on a simple, cold vegetable salad.
Chef Chai Chaowasaree says extracting the full benefit from a black chicken requires long, slow cooking. His method is similar to poaching, letting the chicken sit immersed in liquid over very low heat. “You don’t want to rush the heat, you want all the nutrition to come out slowly, slowly, slowly.”
He makes soup using ginseng, ginger and garlic, also believed to have healing qualities and which lend the broth a peppery flavor. Don’t bother peeling the ginseng or ginger, he says, and use whole heads of garlic, leaving the paper skins in place.
1 silkie chicken (about 2 pounds), whole or halved
3 thumb-sized pieces ginseng root
6-1/4 cups water
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, smashed
2 large heads garlic, halved
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
Salt or soy sauce to taste
5 dried figs
Sliced green onion for garnish
Cut chicken in half if necessary to fit pot; otherwise leave whole. Soak ginseng in water 1 hour.
Place ginseng and its soaking water in pot; add chicken, ginger, garlic, pepper and salt. Bring to a boil and skim impurities. Reduce heat to a very low simmer (no bubbling at all) and cook until chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender, 2 to 4 hours. Or cook in a crock pot on low heat, about 6 hours. In last hour of cooking, add figs.
Strain soup and debone chicken if desired, or serve with root pieces. Garnish with green onion.
From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 2002.
It is time once again for the Christmas Fair at the Danish Seamen’s Church in Brooklyn Heights. The enormously popular annual holiday celebration features Danish arts, crafts, culture, food and drink.
Some people come to the fair to buy Bing & Grondahl porcelain or Dansko clogs at bargain prices, or to stock up on Danish treats like salted licorice or blue cheese. For many of those who flock to the little church tucked in the old brownstone house, however, the highlight of the fair is the smörgåsbord.
Over the years, the sale of these traditional Scandinavian open faced sandwiches has grown so popular that the church can longer accommodate the crowds. These days, the smörgåsbord is held a block away at the historic Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church, where crowds from far and near buy platters full and happily wash them down with icy cold Danish beer.
Christmas Fair at “Little Denmark in the Big Apple”
Danish Seaman’s Church (Den Danske Sømandskirke)
Zion German Evangelical Lutheran Church
Nordic Recipe Archive: Smörgåsbord
Royal Copenhagen: Bing & Grondahl
More from the archives.
It was a cloudy day at Coney Island and all the benches were filled, but that didn’t stop these determined picnickers.
They knew how to make their own sunshine; they just plopped down on the boardwalk next to the school bus parking lot and munched on hot dogs and fries wrapped in the distinctive, bright yellow of Nathan’s Famous.
It began a few decades ago but until recently, the vendors who sell food at the Red Hook Ball Fields were known only to a select and enthusiastic crowd.
Once upon a time, a group of Latin American immigrants formed a soccer league and began playing regularly on the public sports fields in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Park. Located in a swath of open space between gritty warehouses, docks and a vast public housing project, the 59-acre park featured an abundance of room to run and the isolation to make plenty of noise.
There were only two drawbacks to the location: it was a long walk from the closest subway station, and there were no shops or restaurants nearby where the players could buy refreshments. In response to the lack of available food and drink, a few of the league wives brought grills to the matches and began cooking on the spot for their hungry broods.
Soon, the women were cooking at the fields every summer weekend, selling their regional and family specialities to the enthusiastic athletes and specatators. As the league grew, and other nationalities joined the matches, the variety of dishes sold at the field also expanded. Today, the Red Hook Ball Fields offer soccer, baseball, running and the finest of South and Central American home cooking.
When artists and hipsters began to move into the empty industrial spaces of Red Hook, they also “discovered” the vendors under the tents at the Ball Fields. Word spread rapidly, and in the last two years nearly every major local magazine and newspaper has run at least one feature on what New York Magazine described as the city’s “ad hoc Latin American food court.”
In fact, there are two groups of vendors at the Red Hook Ball Fields: the much-lauded, organized cooks near the soccer fields and the less noted vendors across Columbia Street near the baseball fields. Both locations offer home made Latin American specialties, but the newcomers rarely visit the baseball field vendors; as a result, the lines are much shorter there, but there is also far less likelihood of finding a printed menu or a vendor who speaks perfect English.
Lately, the vendors at the Ball Fields have run up against the bureaucrats at the Parks Department and the Department of Health. As a result, many foodies believe that this could be the last summer that the delectable Mexican, Central American, South American and Caribbean treats will be sold under the tarps and tents at Red Hook. Activist and organizer Cesar Fuentes is doing all he can to fight City Hall, but the outcome of his efforts won’t be known for months.
So, quick, lest they disappear, come down to the ‘Hook and dig into the Columbian empanadas, Ecuadorian ceviche, Salvadoran pupusas, Mexican huaraches, Honduran tacos, Chilean tuna stew and more, along with gallons of fruit waters and mountains of succulent, freshly-cut mango, pineapple, coconut and papaya.
You’ll run out of room in your tummy before you run short of cash; most of the delicious offerings cost less than $5.00 each. While you munch away, don’t forget to watch a game or two.
It’s My Park: Red Hook Food Vendors Video
NY Magazine: The Last Summer of the Red Hook Park Vendors?
Eater: Red Hook Vendors Have 10 Days to Address Health Dept.
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook, the Drama Continues
NY Parks Dept: Red Hook Park
NY Magazine: Tour Red Hook Ball Fields With Chef Aaron Sanchez
Time Out New York: On the Hook
NY Times: A Latin Fiesta, Near the B.Q.E.
NY Times: Stuffing Tortillas and Parkgoers, Dawn to Dusk
NY Magazine: Mmmm, the Red Hook Ball Fields
NY Times: A Potted Palm Grows in Brooklyn
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook Soccer Fields
The Porkchop Express: Red Hook Soccer Fields Map
Gothamist: Soccer, Swimming Y Salsa
Gothamist: Soccer Mamacitas
Ed Levine Eats: Chuck Schumer Makes Goat Tacos Good Politics
onNYTurf: Red Hook Soccer Fields Map (w/subway lines)
NY Sun: On the Red Hook Waterfront
Village Voice: Plotzing for Masa (Not Matzo)
Deep in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, across from a tile factory and hard by an auto body shop, an eye catching sign stands at the corner of 21st Street and 3rd Avenue.
Adorned with images of a ram, a swordfish and a rooster, in three languages it advertises the Al-Noor Halal Live Poultry Market.
Intrigued by the sign, I ducked around the corner to visit the store. All I’ll say is that for a person like me (accustomed to meat that comes from a white-coated, genial butcher standing behind a gleaming, sanitized counter), slaughterhouses are not suitable for casual visits.
Its heyday as a center of Italian-American life passed long ago. While tourists still flock to this section of lower Manhattan to eat spaghetti and buy souvenirs, several other neighborhoods in New York eagerly proclaim themselves as the real Little Italy.
But authentic or not, today this block had something no other neighborhood could claim — a pasta eating contest.
Presented by the Little Italy Merchants Association and sponsored by Tuttorosso tomatoes and Rienzi Pasta, the event known as the Fifth Annual Tuttorosso Pasta Eating Competition was held on Mulberry Street.
The participants, all male, work in shops and kitchens around Mulberry and Grand Streets. They gathered at a long table on the sidewalk in front of Sal Anthony’s S.P.Q.R. Ristorante. There, the contestants donned white aprons, sat down and — for eight long minutes — devoured bowl after bowl of carefully-measured spaghetti and marinara sauce.
Some barely spilled a drop of sauce, tightly clutching their forks until the end, while others threw decorum to the wind and dug in with both hands. The winner, Fabrizio Rinaldi, a waiter at Il Cortile, earned a cash prize of $250, a shiny gold trophy, a handshake from a politician and a fleeting, messy moment of glory.
Little Italy Online: 5th Annual Pasta Competition
Association of Independent Competitive Eaters
NY Post: Lotsa Pasta
Sorrento Cheese Summer in Little Italy Festival
Little Italy Neighbors Association
Wikipedia: Little Italy
Sorrento Cheese & Italian street festivals
Menu Pages: Sal Anthony’s S.P.Q.R. Ristorante
The smoke was billowing, the sauce was bubbling. The beer was chilling, the beans were heating, the slaw was cooling and the dogs were licking their chops.
It was a great day for eaters, a nightmare of a day for vegetarians and cardiologists. It was the 2007 edition of the Big Apple Bar*BQ & Block Party.
For the fifth year in a row, barbeque experts from around the USA gathered in Madison Square Park to cook, sell their tastiest creations and preach the gospel of the grill.
Although some folks decried the BBQ’s lack of a representative from Kansas City, the fest included pitmasters from Alabama, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virigina, Boston and even Manhattan, dishing up tons of ribs, sausages, pulled pork, chicken, Brunswick Stew, beans, pickles, cole slaw, apple turnovers and blueberry pie.
And for dieters, it was a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day.
Tonight, a minor commotion occurred outside the Burger King on 14th Street. A statuesque woman emerged from the restaurant and was immediately surrounded by people screaming, shouting and begging for autographs.
Leaning against the front window, New York Liberty Guard Loree Moore graciously signed napkins, menus and scraps of paper and posed for photos with her fans.
A star athlete eating burgers? Aren’t they restricted to diets of filtered water, vitamins, protein powders and tofu? Moore laughed, shook her head, and said that she eats what she likes and she prefers burgers.
Hmmm. A scandal-free professional basketball player and role model who loves burgers? Sounds like an endorsement deal just waiting to happen. Burger King, are you listening?
This section of the Lower East Side, Eldridge Street between Canal and Division, was once the home of a thriving community of Eastern European Jews. In 1887, they constructed the jewel of their block – the Eldridge Street Synagogue, an imposing Moorish-style building with a vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, ornate brass fixtures, hand-painted murals and a velvet-lined ark.
Over time, the center of New York Jewish life moved elsewhere and the area began to fill with immigrants from other areas, primarily China. The Synagogue’s congregation dwindled, the operating budget became smaller and the building fell into disrepair. As a tiny group of worshippers hung on, the roof caved in, the walls crumbled and the entire structure neared collapse. Then, in the late 1980s, historians and community activitists “discovered” the building and formed the Eldridge Street Project, Inc., determined to restore and preserve this landmark.
Today, with the restoration project well underway, the Eldridge Street Project is sponsoring the 4th Annual Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Block Party. This unique event celebrates the evolving culture and traditions of this densely-packed community with nods to both its Jewish heritage and its Chinese present.
The block party features the language, arts, music, dance and foods of both cultures, including mah jong lessons, a Chinese calligrapher and a Jewish scribe, arts and crafts, performances in Yiddish and Chinese, and, of course, delicious home made kosher egg rolls (a fried variation of the classic Chinese spring roll which contains no egg) and egg creams (a traditional New York soda fountain drink which contains no egg).
How to Make an Egg Cream according to Fox’s U-Bet Chocolate Syrup
1. Take a tall, chilled, straight-sided, 8 oz. glass.
2. Spoon 1 inch of U-Bet Chocolate Syrup into glass.
3. Add 1 inch whole milk.
4. Tilt the glass and spray seltzer (from a pressurized cylinder only) off a spoon to make a big chocolate head.
5. Stir, drink, enjoy.