Junior’s Birthday Cake

November 3, 2015

There I was, minding my own business in Downtown Brooklyn, when I was approached by a member of the NYPD.

“Hey!,” yelled the cop.

“Yes?”

“Do you like cheesecake?”

“Huh?”

“DO YOU LIKE CHEESECAKE?”

Despite momentarily wondering whether “cheesecake” might be a code word for some type of illegal activity, I admitted that I did, in fact, like cheesecake.

With that, the officer told me that to celebrate its 65th birthday, today Junior’s restaurant was selling cheesecake for 65 cents a slice.

To Brooklynites, there is no question about where Junior’s is located, what it serves or why a 65 cent slice of their cheesecake is worthy of a proclamation.

Junior’s restaurant was founded by Harry Rosen on the corner of Flatbush Avenue Extension and DeKalb Avenue on November 3, 1950. Rosen said that if his was going to be a great restaurant, he had to have a great cheesecake. He and his pastry chef began tinkering with formulas for the rich sweet until they found what they considered to be the perfect recipe. The pubic agreed and Junior’s cheesecakes have gone on to worldwide acclaim.

Junior’s is now in the hands of third-generation owner Alan Rosen. The little corner restaurant with the scrumptious dessert has become a local landmark. There are branches in Manhattan at Grand Central and Times Square and a location within the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut. There is a mail order business (said to sell over one million cakes per year), several cookbooks and scores of awards naming theirs the best cheesecake in the city. And a single wedge of Junior’s classic cheesecake sells for $6.95.

To celebrate its 65th anniversary, the restaurant announced that it was selling slices of its famous original New York plain cheesecake for just 65 cents—one per customer—only at the original Brooklyn location on Tuesday.

The line began forming before the sun rose. Celebratory signs and balloons were fastened to the restaurant’s famed orange exterior, crowd control barriers erected, security guards posted at the front door, a squadron of police officers stationed at the curb. Behind closed doors, thousands of cheesecakes were baked, sliced, packaged and bagged for the waiting crowd.

By the time doors opened at 6:30 a.m., the queue stretched down the block and around the corner. Some passersby called out that people had to be crazy to stand outside like that “just for a piece of cheesecake.” But they were wrong. It wasn’t “just cheesecake”—it was Junior’s.

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The crowd waits

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The deal

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One slice per customer

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Security guard keeps order

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The hard working countermen

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The cake

Welcome to Junior’s! Remembering Brooklyn With Recipes and Memories from Its Favorite Restaurant
Junior’s Cheesecake Cookbook
Junior’s Dessert Cookbook
Junior’s Home Cooking
Junior’s Restaurant
Brooklyn Eagle: Junior’s fans come in droves with loose change
NY Daily News: Slices of famous cheesecake for 65 cents
PIX11: Junior’s Cheesecake celebrates 65th anniversary
Foxwoods Casino


Selling the Bear Necessities

August 17, 2015

PinkyOtto, a women’s clothing store with several locations in New York City, is advertised as “a fun-filled, charming place for stylish girls.”

Their whimsical window displays include mannequins topped with teddy bear heads. These fashion figures are in the Flatiron District store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.

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PinkyOtto
Teddy Bears


A Neighborhood Tragedy

August 11, 2015

I was surprised to see the pastry shop closed, and at first I thought that some kind of itinerant florist was selling bouquets in front of their lowered metal gate.

Then I noticed a sign taped to the gate and crossed the street to read it. That was how I learned that Muyassar Moustapha, the man who ran the shop with his brothers, had been killed by a speeding motorist.

Oriental Pastry, along with the family that operates it, has been a Brooklyn fixture for decades. Walking through its doors is akin to taking a trip into the past or a foreign land, with heaps of spices and dried fruits spilling from bins and barrels, a small glass case filled with fragrant, freshly baked sweet and savory pastries, a revolving selection of purring resident cats, and friendly, caring proprietors.

As I gazed at the bouquets arrayed on the sidewalk, two neighborhood boys, both about 10 years old, came over to talk. They asked whether I’d known the man who died. Yes, I had.

Tremulously, one boy worried aloud about what would happen to the cats that lived in the store. They’ll be OK, I told the boys. They’ll still have good lives. But they’ll remember Mr. Moustapha, and they’ll miss him— just as we all will.

Flowers in front of the shop.

The sign.

Gothamist: Owner Of Oriental Pastry In Cobble Hill Reportedly Killed By Driver
Gothamist: Cobble Hill Mourns
Patch: Brooklyn Pedestrian Struck, Killed by Mercedes-Benz
NY Daily News: Man, 66, Mowed Down
Yelp: Oriental Pastry & Grocery


That Didn’t Take Long

April 13, 2015

Well, that didn’t take long. On April 3, Hillary Clinton announced that she would be locating her presidential campaign headquarters at 1 Pierrepont Plaza in Brooklyn.

Today, vendors were selling t-shirts with the slogan “Brooklyn Loves Hillary” on Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

Politics may sometimes be slow, but capitalism and consumerism move quickly — at least, that’s how it works in Brooklyn.

Hello Brooklyn shirt.

Brooklyn Loves Hillary shirt.

Time: Hillary Clinton Leases Office Space in Brooklyn
LA Times: Hillary Clinton bases campaign headquarters in Brooklyn
Hillary Clinton campaign headquarters to be based in Brooklyn


Marathon Meal

October 31, 2014

I get all the exercise I need by jumping to conclusions, climbing the walls, bending over backwards, sticking my neck out, pulling out all the stops, and pushing my luck.

It’s an old joke. And while I don’t avoid all forms of exercise, I am not, by any means, a marathon runner. So when a stranger offered me a VIP ticket to the New York City Marathon Eve Dinner, I didn’t know what to expect.

The dinner, held in an enormous white tent erected inside Central Park, was open only to ticket holders. My VIP ticket meant that I was able to walk past the long line of runners waiting in the chilly night air.

As it turns out, the Marathon Eve Dinner is a beloved tradition of the race that was first organized in 1970 by Fred Lebow and Vincent Chiappetta, co-presidents of the New York Road Runners Club. That year, one hundred and twenty-seven men ran around Central Park and 55 crossed the finish line.

Today, New York’s is the largest marathon in the world, with over 50,000 participants from around the world. The current course goes through all five of the city’s boroughs, where an estimated two million spectators line the streets, highways, and bridges that are closed for the race.

Because authorities say that a large intake of carbohydrate rich foods before a marathon can increase stamina and enhance performance, the night’s menu featured salad, two pasta dishes, and beer—all with unlimited refills.

While they listened to speeches, watched presentations and ate and drank, the polyglot crowd laughed, exchanged tips, recounted past races, and formed friendships. And then, quickly, the beer and spaghetti-filled runners withdrew to their hotel rooms, eager to get some sleep and make it to the starting line early in the morning.

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VIP ticket

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Inside the tent

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Distributing dishes and utensils

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Aproned server

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Filling dishes

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Making their way to tables

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Diners in action

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The meal

New York Marathon
TCS New York City Marathon Eve Dinner
Runner’s World: How to Carb-Load for Marathon Week


Emily With a Ukulele Bag Lives in Brooklyn Heights

October 27, 2014

It is just an ordinary Brooklyn bodega near a subway station in Brooklyn Heights.

But today, as I passed the store, I noticed a sheet of paper taped to the front window. I read what it said, then sought out a worker and asked him for an explanation. This is what he told me:

A Chinese guy sees this girl, he talks to her. He knows she live around here. He look for her but he can’t find her. So he write that … poem. He put it on the ATM, on the front, in the back. He put it many places. He thinks maybe she see it.

He didn’t put his phone number on it.

He put it on the ATM.

So what happened?

She see it. She take from ATM machine. 

Was this today?

No, no, one week ago. 

And?

I don’t see her again. I never see him. But I think he love her. 

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Sign in the window

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The poem


I Shudder to Think …

August 30, 2014

I was walking along 15th Street when something caught my eye — a spot of bright blue that seemed out of place on the sidewalk in front of a toy store.

I stepped closer to investigate. A blue bowl and a basket that were labelled with small paper tags.

However, the words I read gave me pause. I know that orange juice is made from oranges, and apple juice contains nothing but apples.  But what is the stuff in that blue bowl, and how was it made?

I shudder to think.

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A spot of blue on the sidewalk

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A closer investigation

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What is in that bowl?

Kidding Around


Father’s Day is Coming

June 14, 2014

Wondering what to do for Father’s Day?

Brooklyn’s Sip Fine Wine offers these words of wisdom.

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Sip Fine Wine
New York Magazine: Sip Fine Wine


A Small Protest

March 13, 2013

Graffiti inside a bathroom stall in a Brooklyn grocery store.

Feed all people
Free the wage slaves
Question the system

The response.

And protest by
writing on a bathroom
stall instead of
actually doing something.

 

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The 21st Annual Hot Chocolate Festival

February 21, 2013

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.

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The City Bakery
The City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival


Look, It’s The Misha Fruits Truck!

July 12, 2012

It’s just an old delivery truck that is used to transport fruit to the shops of New York City. But when the Misha Fruits driver is at work, people notice.

That’s because most of the vehicle is covered with an elaborate display of graffiti-style artwork.

The front of the truck is emblazoned with the name of the company, partially hidden by enormous oranges and grapes the size of a man’s head. The right side shows a green monster (perhaps it is a bit of mold) and a colorful, stylized word which is, to me, indecipherable.

The truck’s rear is painted with an humongous, glistening cherry and the word “fruit.” And the left side is shows a panorama of the sun setting behind a bustling city where the houses are shaped like pieces of fruit.

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The truck is parked on Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

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The writing, and the creature shown, are mysterious.

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The cherry looks delicious.

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I want to live in an lemon-shaped house.

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Another view of the fruity cityscape.


A Windfall

May 26, 2011

For months, I’ve heard friends discussing what they’d do with the income tax refunds they expected to receive.

One announced that his refund was going to be used to fix his leaky roof. Others said that they used the check sent by the IRS to repair a truck, pay off credit card debt, purchase a new refrigerator, television, computer, clothing. Some preferred to use the money on less practical items: a tropical vacation, tickets to a Broadway show, an excursion to a spa.

But now that my tax refund has arrived, and I have my windfall in hand, I’m not sure how to spend it all. Any suggestions?

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My windfall


This is a sale?

March 22, 2011

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.

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Healthy Living for Less page

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Not such a deal

FreshDirect
New York Times: FreshDirect Expands Brooklyn Delivery Service


Happy Freecycle Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

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.

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The notice on the Freecycle Web site

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A closer view of the post

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Freecycle Brooklyn


Canon Expo 2010

September 2, 2010

Canon Expo is held once every five years to showcase the wide range of advanced imaging technologies from the Japan-based corporation’s divisions: Vision, Consumer and Home Office, Office Equipment Print Production and Graphic Arts, Professional Photography, Video and Projection, Broadcast and Communications and Healthcare Technologies.

The exhibit filled 150,000 square feet of the Jacob K. Javits Center on Manhattan’s West Side. Sections of the Expo were designed to replicate art galleries, research laboratories, theaters, printing plants, offices, stages, call centers, photographic studios, medical facilities, a football stadium, fashion shows, printing plants, a skating rink, stadiums and tourist attractions — the types of environments in which Canon products are frequently used.

Canon displayed items that are currently for sale as well as models and prototypes of gear that may be available in the future. One of the most interesting gadgets exhibited was the Cross Media Station, a device still in the planning stages. Simply by placing still or video cameras atop the Station, a user could wirelessly download, view and transmit images — even from multiple devices — while simultaneously recharging them. The designers of the Station were present to answer questions (via a translator) and aid with the demonstration.

A fascinating area dubbed the Canon Gallery displayed outstanding photos as well as the work of the Tsuzuri Project, joint effort of Canon and the Kyoto Culture Association. The Tsuzuri Project is designed to preserve Japan’s cultural heritage by employing the most advanced technology to create and print full-sized high-resolution digital images of screens, paintings and other precious fragile cultural artifacts. The near-perfect replicas are donated to the owners of the original works, who put them on display while placing the treasures themselves in a safe, controlled environments where they can be preserved for future generations.

In another section, physicians (yes, real, licensed ophthalmologists) operated equipment that scans the eye and instantly provides information about whether a patient has, or is developing, a range of serious medical conditions including diabetes, hypertension, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

I was delighted by the opportunity to use Canon’s professional-grade cameras and join the pack on mock-ups of a TV stage and a fashion show (first lesson: those professional cameras and lenses weigh a ton!), and I consulted with the product and technical geniuses about my next camera purchase. One of the most important features? It must be lightweight.

Towards the end of the day, a Canon rep who was answering my questions took me aside and, sotto voce, said, “I’m not supposed to talk about this, but …” He then told me about a camera that Canon is currently developing, noting that it will address just about everything on my “most-wanted feature list” and will be (almost) within my budget. I’m going to start putting my pennies aside for the camera that cannot say its name.

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The Expo’s slogan displayed on a wall

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Entering the Canon Expo

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Printing books on demand

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Attendees used HDTV cameras on the set

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In the Canon Gallery

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At the sports stadium

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A professional explains his techniques

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Model at the fashion show

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Model shot with Canon EOS 7D

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On the runway

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Model shot with the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Canon Expo 2010
PC Magazine: Canon Shows Off Concept Cameras at Expo
The Tsuzuri Project (Cultural Heritage Inheritance Project)
Canon Unveils The Future Of Imaging At Canon EXPO 2010 New York
MarketWatch: Canon Unveils the Future of Imaging


I Bought it at Western Beef

July 10, 2010

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.

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Logo on Western Beef shopping bag

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Fish Tea Soup Mix

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Pumpkin Beef Soup Mix

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Cock Soup Mix

Western Beef
Grace Foods


I Had to Notify Homeland Security …

May 25, 2010

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.

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Au Bon Pain


At Great Wall

April 2, 2010

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.

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Looking into the refrigerator case

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A closer view of the label: Pork Blood

Great Wall


Father’s Kingdom Plates

October 15, 2009

These memorable dishes are for sale in a discount store on Harlem’s 125th Street. Only $9.99 for a set of four. According to the package, they are called Father’s Kingdom plates and they come complete with wall hooks.

No, I didn’t buy them.

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Leaning right and left

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Assorted designs


If You Are.

August 28, 2009

This sign is posted in the window of Sunset Tattoos in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

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Sunset Tattoos


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