Happy Summer (almost) Coney Island Art Walls

http://www.ninachanel.com/
Nina Chabel Anbney
John Ahearn

I don’t know why but I’ve under visited Coney Island in the past few years. To remedy the situation the other Sunday we woke up and headed straight to the beach during a late Spring heatwave that I think is  a harbinger of a humid Summer season to come.

The beach was packed in that great, characters-of -New-York way. I forgot to bring my sketchbook instead reading the Sunday paper in the sand.

I was particularly energized by the Coney Island Art Walls for the season, presenting a diverse set of local artists. Nina Chanel Abney’s work is a riveting set of political abstraction and figuration. She is one to watch in contemporary art.

Here’s to more Coney Island for the season to come.

To do: Beach lounge and dip your feet into the water! Luna Park. People watch. Coney Island Art walls, walk the boardwalk and peer. Weekend fireworks and Spinners games are next on my list.

Eat: Coney Island Brewery. Hot dogs, duh.

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Swedish Things in The City

Two year’s ago I took a week long trip to Stockholm because (of course) the flight was a great deal. Flying Norwegian, we spent our days just walking the city, stopping for coffee, and enjoying the late setting sun.

I think all the residents of Stockholm were out that week in May, basking in this eternal sun after a long winter, lounging in the many parks that dot this city of islands. I’m not sure I’ve been to such a lush, European city of water and trees before.

Everywhere we went we were greeted by warm, lovely people and distinct art and food. Ever since I’ve harbored a Scandinavian crush.

For a slice of Sweden in New York City, here are a few noteworthy to me:

Coco Balls! I remember eating these both at a cafe for fika, the art of a slow downed coffee break, and at the airport before leaving. They’re chewy, dense, and satisfyingly sweet with coconut on the outside. I have yet to ventured a try at making them myself but the Swedish inspired coffee shop in Brooklyn and Manhattan Swedish coffee shop Konditori. The owner is a swede transplanted to Brooklyn. They stock other fika delights like kanelbulle, too.

Another alluringly but strange snack I enjoyed in Sweden was salty-sweet licorice. I learned it’s quite an acquired taste, though.  Luckily for me (and all you New Yorkers who don’t know it yet) you can find all your licorice delights and more at Sockerbit on Bleeker Street in Manhattan

Even before I went to Sweden, wooden clogs were ever so trendy in New York City. I bought my first pair of many at the Brooklyn Flea by Nina Z, a Swedish expat who brought the well known wooden shoe to Brooklyn in 2008.   I’ve just about worn my pair into the ground. A hint to those who lust after her beautiful clogs: she often has a sale section at the Brooklyn Flea.  I very much love the summer collection styles this year.

I hope to get back to Sweden someday. If not, I’ll be grateful a momentary glimpse at another place, finding the city’s imprint right here in my own.

 

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Smoked Fish at Shelsky’s

Shelsky’s is on a drag of Court Street in Brooklyn that is busy and appealing to browse, a frequent haunt for me off of the F train.  It’s also right around the corner from a great walking strip of antique stories on Atlantic as well as the delights of both Sahadi’s and Damascus for middle eastern prepared foods and pastries.  And it’s easily followed by a long meander to Brooklyn Heights, a favorite neighborhood of mine every since watching Moonstruck in my room as a lonely middle schooler.

Shelsky’s is perfection of smoked fish and cream cheese on an everything bagel or bialy. It is an old school Jewish deli with a modern twist, an engaging palate giving the lox-and-cream-cheese a rebirth.

Much of what’s sold at the deli counter is made in-house or sourced from top Jewish food purveyors across the city. The appetizing shop brings the main stays of the like of the Upper West Side’s glorious Zabar’s, so Brooklynites don’t have to go that far for quality smoked fish.

It’s quite busy at breakfast or brunch during the weekend. I’ve found the best time to find yourself in the beautiful smoked fish heaven is the late afternoon, for that either late lunch or early pre-dinner snack. We always split a sandwich, sitting at the counter in the front.

I use to be a bialy novice before Shelsky’s.  Yet a delightful combination of the Gaspe Nova, Smoked Whitefish Salad, Pickled Herring, and sour pickle, on  bialy convinced me otherwise.

Remember to wash down with a Dr. Brown for that classic New York City Jewish deli flavor experience.

Shelsky’s
141 Court St,
Brooklyn, NY 11201

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Embrace The Pretzel Croissant

I love breakfast. It’s the best meal, hands down. You can eat it early, you can eat it late or you can eat it twice like me most days.

There is a strange promise in being fancy for breakfast every once in awhile. It’s like seizing the day, reminding me of being on vacation. Making any day commuting in Manhattan to feel like a vacation day is a good approach for making my life more enjoyable.  I love to put in a little effort some morning to make it in earlier than usual to stop for a croissant and a cappuccino because Im old enough now to just embrace my love of frivolity without caring.

This week at the office my lovely coworker brought in pastries from The City Bakery to celebrate Mardi Gras. My favorite of the bunch is by far the Pretzel Croissant.Call me an iconoclast but It’s a beautiful, salty thing of butter wrapped into a pretzel homage of sorts. The crispy outside is saltier than a regular croissant. The inside is the familiar buttery goodness. I have a fondness for it’s brown-flecked flakey layers. I enjoy that while saltier it’s still a croissant, through and through.

I like it even more jam, a perfect blend of sweet and salty, eaten at my desk. Those tiny crumbs of course ruin my usual attire of dark on dark.

The City Bakery
3 W 18th St
New York, NY 10011

 

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Feeling like Early Spring in Brooklyn

I started this drawing of brownstone Brooklyn in a sketchbook more than a year ago but only now felt like finishing it  as the temperatures reached a mighty strange 65 degrees this past weekend. Lately we’ve been talking about moving out of Brooklyn, maybe to Queens or even Manhattan (the shock!) This strange and pleasant February weekend outside reminded me how much I like living in this borough, though. So maybe it’s not meant to be yet.

Enjoying a warmer and sunnier borough means spending less money and more time outside around my favorite parts of the city: Prospect Park walks, bike riding to the beach, meandering from brownstone neighborhood to neighborhood, beers outside and in a back yard at my favorite flower shop bar (ah, the backyard life), the waterfront at Brooklyn Bridge and Williamsburg, and food adventures down to Coney Island or Sunset Park or Midwood. Central asian food is next on my list.

I’m feeling overly optimistic (we do have this weird climate-change-weather to blame) that Spring is right around the corner and this will be a pretty good Brooklyn season for me and Brian. And hopefully a good one for everyone.

Brooklyn is mighty fine in the warmer weather.

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Happy Lunar New Year

I recently got back from a wonderful birthday trip to Hong Kong! Which is to say, Happy birthday to me and Happy Lunar New Year, I’m so grateful to spend any time exploring the food and lives of other people around the world, ever slightly unhinging the way you can feel your experience is the central way of life.

Before we took off I started thinking about New York City’s Chinatown, seeing that it was first settled by Cantonese immigrants to the city . It’s the largest Chinatown in the United States, too.

It’s easy to ignore the beautiful, unique nature of Chinatown’s busy, neon signed streets. It’s easy to accept it as a part of Manhattan’s core, not stopping long to appreciate it’s flare for out-of-the-norm. After being in Hong Kong, I’m ever so ready to score it’s back alleys for egg custards and waffles.

e. There has never been quite a time to appreciate an immigrant enclave in New York City that right now, to think that at a time we also excluded Chinese immigrants from coming and settling in the United States. I’m so thankful that it is a part of the fabric of New York City, though, with more Chinatowns in both Brooklyn and Queens growing today.

A local favorite Chinatown favorite is Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles, a staple in my journeys through the neighborhood.

If you’re there at the right time, when the tables aren’t too busy, you can easily watch the chef slap the hand-pulled noodles down in the tiny side kitchen with a loud, sudden whack. The noodles are chewy and fresh. The thicker the cut the better in my book! I prefer them stir fried with vegetables.

Tasty Hand Pulled Noodles
1 Doyers Street
New York, NY 10038

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Pastrami on Rye

katzI’m thankful for Katz’s Delicatessen, perhaps too much.  This love affair started in college during an immigrant’s history class when we took a culinary walking tour of the Lower East Side. After I devoured a knish at Yonah Schimmel’s faster than humanly possible (it was free) we emerged into Katz’s. Then I finally greeted the joy of pastrami on rye under those neon lights, walls plastered with celebrities who’ve dined there.

A jewish deli that’s been around since 1888 is a perfect emblem of New York City’s past and future; it’s the immigrant’s foodways become American, become everyday.

These days I enjoy stopping in for dinner, splitting a pastrami on rye with a plate of pickles with Brian. It’s hard to imagine but I do enjoy that it’s a place simultaneously full of tourists and locals mingling over plates, taking photos near the notorious When Harry Met Sally table.  When you’re out for a few drinks but haven’t had dinner, Katz’s is also there for you.

The small ritual of tasting the pastrami at the busy counter before they make your sandwich is always welcoming. I have never delighted more in the tart, tangy bite of mustard and meat than when at Katz’s. As the meat disappears, I pick up stray pieces of pastrami, dipping them into leftover mustard because I have no shame. Please don’t order the sandwich on white bread with mayo,  embrace the mustard!

In thinking about this love of pastrami the other day I realized I’d never been the other long standing pastrami haven Carnegie Deli.  Since it’s closing in December, uptown we went. We sidestepped the tourist line to sit down, getting the pastrami on rye to go. We ate at almost dark at the edge of Central Park. It was different than Katz’s, I think a bit fatties, but we devoured it all nonetheless.  We made several hungry dog friends that evening. Each bite attracted a new strolling pup.

Later still hungry on a Friday evening,  we wandered into a Momofuku milk bar. We ate both a confetti cookie and a cereal milk soft serve with rainbow sprinkles.

In thinking about pastrami, and these weird and scary times in our country, I find solace in the food of New York City. A love of pastrami is like a love of a diverse city. From the Jewish Deli to the Korean American David Chang’s food empire, all that’s good on our plates seems to come from cultures meeting in cities.

Much of the noise following the election is that our coastal cities, and those cities across the country even, are liberal bastions at odds with the real America of the rural inner America.  I’m not sure why that invalidates cities as real America, though. Real america is also encountering other people, from what they look like, where they’ve come from, how they’re different and similar to us, and what they eat.

New York City, the iconic prototype of the immigrant city, will never stop being an immigrant palate’s delight. And I’m thankful for that! Let’s hope it stays that way. 

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A Personal Geography of a New York City Breakfast

breakfast

 

The night is fading as my preferred time to be awake in the city. The morning has that new feeling of home, both because of age (thirty in three months, how’d I grow up this fast?) as well as the fact that I’m one of the many who work in lower manhattan, repeating those morning rituals on city blocks with strangers. 

There is a real promise in breakfast that I’m beginning to love, from preparing it at home to indulging in a deli sandwich in the park. As I get older, I’m struck about how the city is here for everyone at different points of their lives, at different times of day even, with all our cumulative experiences defining the same place but often never converging. New York might be a place for the night revelers always (I hope so) but the morning is a quiet, other side to the city, a slice of the day that can we enjoyed liked nothing else. 

My personal breakfast geography begins with a simple breakfast at home,usually.  What is better than your apartment, that sanctuary against the city, with the ritual of making a meal and brewing coffee? My kitchen breakfast is toast and coffee eaten with the radio on either in the kitchen standing up (less time) or in the living room, on the couch with a book. The weekend is reserved for to crepes (Brian) pancakes (me), or eggs with arugula and toast (both of us.) During the week, I only make it through one cup of my french press, knowing that by Saturday I’ll be able to drink the entire pot. 

I drink coffee all over the city, from everywhere. I mean it.  I drink coffee from the deli that I can only purchase in quarters pilfered from bedside jean pockets to fancy cups lingered over in coffee shops on my route to work or as a reason for a walk on a Sunday afternoon. While I drink a cup high and low I don’t have a favorite New York City coffee shop, I think the ability to find it everywhere is the most charming. Lately I particularly like to splurge on a cortado from Toby’s Estate, with the hidden Strand in the back, since it’s near to my office and makes me feel a little bit like Aziz Ansari. 

On my way to work, if i’m feeling lucky, I’ll indulge with an everything bagel, not toasted because they’re fresh in the morning. I take mine every time with veggie cream cheese.There are so many bagels and I’m terrible at the game of best-of but I’m a standard girl with Terrace Bagels and Murray’s bagels because they cross paths with my life. If not a bagel, it’s two eggs and cheese with bacon on a roll from whatever deli crosses my path. Currently my deli is called 666 deli! What an omen, I think.

Many days are just bananas from the fruit sellers, an unexpected joy of living in New York City. When you can get fresh fruit all over, such a regular street companion, I tend to stop noticing how frequent fruit sellers are. The local fruit man by work always promises me he’s giving me the only good deal on blueberries and bananas in town. I think he might tell that to every customer, but a girl can dream. 

There is much to be had in the quick, fancy breakfast, too. The pursuit of a perfect chocolate croissant keeps me eying pastry counters, popping into coffee shops to see what they’ve got. All bets are off if they’ve got a a chocolate almond croissant. I’ve recently discovered though that the pretzel croissants at City Bakery are an amazing savory morning twist on the sweet croissant tradition.

On a weekend morning, especially in the summer, I love to split a Breads Bakery babka in Union Square with Brian. Actually, everything at Breads Bakery is out of this world indulgent.

But really, is New York the capital of brunch? If I’m being honest, I like to skip out on brunch. I’ll take a diner truck stop special over most brunches unless it’s Miriam in Park Slope because nothing convinces me like Mediterranean meets middle eastern food to stop and eat saucy eggs. In our corner of the city in Ditmas Park Brooklyn,  I’m less a fan of brunch (too much waiting) than a good coffee shop breakfast. Our local stop is Quathra on the charming strip of Cortelyou, where you can linger with coffee and a plate from their breakfast menu without the rush and crowds of brunch. There back garden is perfect for summer. I’m a waffles or spicy eggs girl there too.  

Anyway, I’m here for breakfast. I like to trace my way around the city in mornings.

 

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Late Summer in the Hudson Valley

Summer is almost gone, only days away from ending! New York City seems to say goodbye around Labor day but I like to stretch it out, languishing in that humidity a little bit more.

This summer was packed with mini-trips for me since I usually skip a vacation in the summer in favor of off-season big ticket travel. This year it was excursions to the beach, events around the city, a weekend to Washington DC, trips up the hudson, and a yearly stay a lake house with my close lady friends in Connecticut.

Saying goodbye to the sun and lounges in the park is a bit hard, but I’m a bit conventional (ahem, basic) when it comes to the leaves changing.  Like a born New Englander, I want all seasons to have an end so I can keep looking forward, it’s that anxious Puritan spirit in me. 

I’ve been reminiscing about a later summer trip around the Hudson a trio of us ladies took. Now that a dear friend of mine lives on the edges of Westchester and Hudson County in the city of Peekskill, I’ve been making more regular trips to explore the  region. All of the stops the trio of us made on a weekend trip would also be great for the fall getaway out of the city. A car is necessary to galavant around  with ease,  but it is easy to make any locale in the general region your base for exploring. 

I’m hoping to make more time to explore the area this coming season, dipping my toes into the Catskills, now that a beautiful Victorian in Peekskill is a frequent friend base!


Our Weekend Itinerary

Peekskill Brewery

You can make it up to Peekskill on the Metronorth easily and the town is accessible by foot. Luckily still, the Peekskill Brewery is right by the train station. We traveled up early on a Friday for a happy hour at the bar.

I’ve been spotting their brews around the city now, too. I’m a fan of their sour draft. Pick up a growler for the weekend!

A general fan of Peekskill,  there are a few great spots to eat in town too.  Check out Birdsall for brunch if you’re headed to that way either to or from NYC.

Vernooy Falls

The hike was a delightful trek up a moderate path to a series of shallow and cool waterfall pools, a carved picturesque scene. The three of us braved the icy mountain water, dipping our bodies in. I pretended the pools has a magical quality to will my body in the cold water. 

We stayed in an airbnb cabin for a night in the Catskills, driving to the falls trail on a Saturday afternoon after we checked-in. It was the highlight of our quick weekend jaunt! 

Phoenicia Diner

We couldn’t turn down stopping in at the a trendy (dare I say…hickster) spot in the Catskills. The wait was around a half hour given the Sunday crowd but we enjoyed the scene, sipping cups of coffee before eating at the bar. The food was a fancier take on the filling diner standards, with nice accents like great jam and a pleasant asthma charm from the place mats to the decor. 

New Paltz

The city of New Paltz served as a charming stop on our ambling drive back home on Sunday. We made a point of asking our waitress at the diner where we could do some quick antique browsing before we headed to New Paltz. She recommended the Antique Barn, which turned out to be a nice area to stop and eat ice cream in the late summer heat heat.  Next time I’m in the area, I’d love to explore Mohonk Mountain.

The Bradley Farm

On the outskirts of New Paltz there is a small farm with a petting zoo of sorts that features a small brewery called Pull Brewing. We stopped in, admiring the ripe tomatoes and tasting all the beers on tap, then enjoyed a draft in the yard.  It was a nice time to have drink and meet goats, a first of its kind imbibing experience. 

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Sushi Yasuda

sushiyasuda

When Brian turned thirty this past January we looked high and low for a few indulgent things to do in New York City. The thing is, so many of the fancy restaurants don’t keep my interest for very long. Give me a plate of dumplings or slice of good pizza and I’ll be more happy than I am with tiny plates of foraged mushrooms at every-other-farm-to-table-restaurant or upscale Italian joint in the city.

Ahem, but sushi, I’m ready to burn a hole in my pocket for sushi.  Elegant fish prepared piece by piece is exactly the kind of thing worthy a big milestone. So after a bit of a research, we decided that Sushi Yasuda was perfect for marking an entire new decade.

sushi_yasuda_one

Sushi Yasuda is one of the top sushi restaurants in Manhattan even if Mr. Yasuda has moved on. It’s tucked away on a nondescript block near Grand Central. The simple layout has an understated elegance, the kind of light and minimal restaurant I’ve already created fantasy narratives about visiting Japanese business travelers stopping in for dinner.

For the full experience, the kind worthy of splurging for because that’s what you’re going to do here, we sat at the bar for the Omakase set where the chef prepares the sushi meal piece by piece for you. There was no set menu or price when took our spot at the warm colored bar. We didn’t even order drinks, instead sipping green tea that is generously refilled by attentive waiters. The only question we were asked was what we didn’t want before the chef began. I decided I didn’t want to try sea urchin, but Brian did, fish being one of the few times he’s more adventurous with food than me. When we weren’t supposed to use soy sauce he let us know, which I loved, because of course we’re woefully unaware Americans. Often he’d set down a trio of fish, my favorite being variations of salmon. He’d note for us if something was flown in from Japan. Each bite was velvety and rich, the right balance of fatty fish to sushi rice’s slight sweetness, with a hint of wasabi underneath.

sushi_yasuda_two

The older Sushi chef had a sweet smile, a bit of a quiet wit. He laughed when he asked us if we were finished after what felt like a million years marked in single pieces of fish. When the bill was paid we left,  it was lightly raining in the city but warm for a January so we decided to stroll across town, thinking we’d probably never dine that well again because to be honest, some roundtrip plane tickets are cheaper.

Sushi Yasuda
204 East 43rd Street
New York, New York 10017
212-972-1001
www.sushiyasuda.com

 

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