Category Archives: gotham grub

February New York City Style

Things to note about New York City in February:

snow

  • It snows. Obviously it snows in other months as well but it’s the February snow that always seems to come down in BUCKETS. This is great for making snowmen and finding relative bargains on flights and hotel rooms. It doesn’t do much for flight arrival schedules.
  • February is when City Bakery holds it’s annual Hot Chocolate festival – which I have touched on previously
  • February is also when more dog breeds than you can imagine descend upon Madison Square Garden for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show

Today in NYC history:

  • 70 years ago today: Yankees slugger Joe Dimaggio waives deferment and joins the Army. 3 years later, he returns to baseball.
  • 60 years ago today: New York federal court delays the executions of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in order to give them time for a Supreme Court appeal. Four months later – their appeal having failed – the couple was put to death.

This Month in NYC History:

  • 1653 New Amsterdam becomes a city (later renamed New York City)
  • 1790: Supreme Court convenes in NYC for it’s very first session
  • 1870: First NYC subway line opens (pneumatic powered) and almost 40 years later (1909 to be exact), NYC is also where the first subway car with side doors goes into service
  • 1872: Metropolitan Museum of Art opens (NYC) – and by the way, there’s a fantastic book about the history of the Met called Rogue’s Gallery. Highly recommended.
  • 1901: The New York City Library is established. While I may not care for some of the current renovation ideas, it is a central and vital NYC institution of which the city can be deeply proud.
  • 1913: Grand Central Terminal opens – glorious space and I did manage (belatedly) to wish the old gal Happy Birthday
  • 1930: New York City is the sight of the first red & green traffic lights being installed. Also where the color-blind first fail to see what all the fuss is about.
  • 1985: “New York, New York” became NYC’s official anthem
  • 1993: A car bomb terrorises explodes underneath the World Trade Center, killing seven people and injuring scores more.

Looking Back, Moving Forward

Looking forward to a new year here at Greater Gotham – now that the going global part has settled a bit more. But before we leap forward, let’s take a quick look back at Januarys gone by to see what sorts of things NYers get up to once the New Year’s hangover wears off:

  • Jan 22, 1673: (hey! That’s today!) Postal service between New York & Boston was inaugurated. Which reminds me – did I see that postage was being hiked again? Maybe if they didn’t waste all that money on postal teddy bears, ties and sponsoring cycling teams, they could concentrate on – ya know – the mail. But I digress.
  • Jan 5, 1861: 250 Federal troops are sent from New York to Ft Sumter. That’ll sober ya up, right quick!

BB

  • Jan 3, 1870: Construction begins on Brooklyn Bridge in New York; completed May 24, 1883. And I believe it was not long after that the great and the good of Brooklyn were convinced to give up their independence and become part of NYC. Not sure what was said to whom but I’m not entirely convinced everyone had Brooklyn’s best interest at heart. I can’t recall where I read about it – was it Epic History of New York, by Ellis? It might have been. I’ll have to check. Still, what’s done is done. And for those who believe the past never dies, that old “Welcome to Brooklyn” sign seen in the credits of “Welcome Back Kotter” has been replaced with a new shiny version, declaring once more “Welcome to Brooklyn, Fourth Largest City in America.”
  • Jan 3, 1899: The first known use of the word automobile was seen in an editorial in The New York Times.

lionsAnd that, as they say, is that. I’ll be back soon with some more historical tidbits, a few rants (like about how a library should look like a library and not an airport terminal – I’m looking at YOU New York Public Library!) and some raves (like the penne ala vodka at Gene’s- very much a trip back in history itself) and some musings on the differing response to snow on each side of the Atlantic (like how locals in my neck of the UK do not sweep the sidewalks – in case someone falls after they’ve done so and they get sued for not sweeping them right. Sounds backwards to my New York sensibility).

The City That Never Sleeps

It may not have started with Teddy Roosevelt but the Big Apple’s affinity for the caffeinated nectar of the gods is well illustrated by the fact that one of the city’s favorite sons reportedly drank nearly a gallon of the stuff every day. At least, this is what I understand from the New York Historical Society’s recent piece on the Roosevelt family foray into coffeehouses back in the earliest part of the 20th century.

I remember when Starbucks first opened in New York City – it was a much heralded arrival and all I could think was “Seriously? Do we need MORE caffeine in this city?” We were already gulping down gallons of the stuff (not as much of the Fins, apparently who drink more per capita than anyone and have for years according to those who study these things).

Hell – the deli coffee cup was chosen as one of the great icons of NYC. You know the one. OK, we aren’t the most  caffeinated city in America. If you calculate that by number of coffee shops we don’t even make into the top 12 (the honor of coming first on that list goes – unsurprisingly to Seattle) and if you judge by consumption per capita, we’re still only number 9 (again – guess who is number 1?). But there’s a reason Gotham is 24/7 and one of those reasons is the coffee.

Now that we’re in the coffee mood, you might want to run out and get yourself some. If you’re in New York City, NY Eater has a list of some of the best places to get your fix. Me? I’m not in Gotham at the moment so my fix awaits me in the kitchen.

Gotham Grub Goes Virtual

As I said yesterday, I sometimes get a bit homesick for Manhattan but that when actual visits weren’t possible virtual visits helped a lot. With all the social media material places like the Guggenheim and High Line were posting online – it was easier and easier to keep up, in real time, even when on the other side of the Atlantic. But I didn’t realize – until I went looking – that so many of my favorite Gotham eateries had gone equally full throttle with their online presence. And while a virtual visit to Shake Shack or Katz’s can’t possibly match the joy of going in person, it still brings a certain something to my overall virtual visit to NYC on those days when I want to spend a bit of time there. Here are some of the yummier socially savvy spots I keep up with between actual visits.

Shake Shack:  Now, Shake Shack is a global treat – with locations across the US and around the world, so their social media isn’t specific to New York but the ones I frequented most often were the Upper East Side and the Madison Square Park locations. So how to get my local Shake Shack fix online? One thing that Shake Shack DOES do on a more local online level – and that I think is very smart indeed – is the location specific community page. If you go to the page for the Madison Square Park location – where it all started for these delicious burgers – you’ll see the Shake cam, the featured specials for that location for that day, a peek at how that location fares in the overall Foursquare check-ins, the local weather for that spot and information on the staff, etc.

New York wouldn’t be New York without the Carnegie Deli so no virtual visit to the Big Apple is complete without a quick check of their Twitter and Facebook pages. What is really interesting to me on the Facebook page is reading the reactions to so many different types of people to the Carnegie. It’s NOT your usual restaurant. These are long, communal tables and the wait staff isn’t made up of the chipper young things waiting for their big break (hey, some cliches exist for a reason). It’s an old( 1937) NYC deli and the wait staff are who they are. You want someone to care deeply about your day? You’ve come to the wrong place. This is for GIANT sandwiches of perfectly cooked cold cuts, Dr. Browns sodas and matzo ball soup. One of the Carnegie’s best known and best-loved menu items is their cheesecake – and with good reason. it is EXCELLENT. But for me, the Carnegie is always a savoury trip rather than sweet. If I am in the mood for sweets, I check the next two places.

Crumbs – like Shake Shack – is national and not just New York but it quickly became very much part of my New York when it opened up near me. So many cupcakes are merely a delivery system for icing (and the icing at Crumbs is nothing to sneeze at) but at Crumbs, the cake part of the cupcake is the star of the show for me. Especially the red velvet – OMG! I keep hoping that if I haunt the Crumbs facebook page or the Crumbs twitter feed long enough, I’ll see them announce they are opening in Banbury, UK. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Another Gotham Sweet Spot that defined much of my time on the Upper East Side is Serendipity 3. Now, deciding when to go to Serendipity 3 was often a strategic decision, made after careful consideration of day, time, whether school was in session or not, if it was or wasn’t holiday season. Why? Because while they have a very nice full menu (the foot long hot dog with cheese is a particular favorite of mine), it is an ice cream parlour. An ice cream parlour DRIPPING with girly decor, butterfly shaped mirrors, chandeliers lighting nooks and crannies. An ice cream parlour that has more tourists than the Empire State Building (especially tourists with kids who have just poppped over from Dylan’s Candy Bar and are already on a sugar high). An ice cream parlour where a wait of over an hour is NOT unheard of if you haven’t made a reservation (and making a reservation isn’t all that easy). So why – you might wonder – would anyone put themselves THROUGH that. I can tell you in three words. Frozen Hot Chocolate.  A virtual visit to Serendipity – via their facebook page or twitter feed – might not be as yummy as a real visit but by golly it is quieter and easier to get in. 🙂

Finally – nothing says social media savvy like the famous food trucks of New York City. Their use of Twitter alone is a case study in smart marketing but they are using every channel they have to keep their customers involved,  updated and “in the know.”  And when I say they keep customers involved, I must use the example of Big Gay Ice Cream. Big GayIce Cream doesn’t have customers as much as it seems to have a GINORMOUS extended family which includes relatives that visit from out of town just to see them. They have a storefront now but that is a recent thing – until that point, it was truck 100% and the way to find them (and trust me, the ice cream is so good you WANT to make sure and find them, not leave it up to luck) was to check their truck’s Twitter feed to see where they planned to be, how long they would be there and if they’ve had to move. I will keep up with the feed – despite being too far to get there – because a) they are as entertaining as all get out and b) because they are using this communication tool SO effectively, it’s a joy to watch. Also – did I mention how entertaining they are? Twitter means I know when they might be appearing on TV so I can catch them that way as well.

There are so many food trucks worth checking out if you are in NYC or if you are planning on being in NYC, that they need a post all on their own. But in the meantime, check out the Street Vendor Vendy Awards site (or their twitter feed or facebook page ) and see what catches your eye. The whole street feed scene in NYC is so plugged in, you’d almost think social media was made for them. I’m already planning my food truck tour next time I get back to town and all this access is making it incredibly easy.

 

Behind Normally Closed Doors

I’m very much enjoying exploring me new stomping grounds here in the UK (more on this later) but it does means that I am missing the 2012 edition of Summer Restaurant Week. For those of you who are on the ground to take advantage of it, it’s been extended through September 3 so if you thought you’d missed your chance to try that new pricey place you’d always wanted to try – go for it!  I’m also gonna miss openhousenewyork (OHNY) in Oct 6 but I shall make a point of checking out the event that inspired it – Open House London (Sept 22-23).

It’s not just NYC and London that have this type of event. According to information on the OHNY site, Open House Worldwide is a sort of umbrella network of similar efforts, including (apart from Open House London and OHNY) Open House Dublin, Open House Tel Aviv, Open House Jerusalem, Open House Melbourne, Open House Galway, Open House Barcelona, Open House Slovenia, Open House Chicago, Open House Rome, and Open House Helsinki. New cities seem to be getting added all the time (Perth, Lisbon and Adelaide were just getting underway from a planning standpoint recently) so keep an eye out – you just may get a chance to grab a peek at otherwise hidden local architectural gems near you.

 

 

Hot Chocolate to Combat Snow-Fatigue

I’ve been musing about the snow. Well, musing and whinging. So it was with great joy that I stumbled across the  City Bakery calendar of flavors for the 2011 Hot Chocolate Festival (their annual Feb event). Don’t think there’s enough varieties of hot chocolate to fill a whole month – even if it’s a short month like February. Well behold!

The month kicks off with Banana Peel on Feb 1 – and frankly, I’m a bit hesitant about that but starting on Groundhog’s Day with Cinnamon we have a line-up I can really get behind. Espresso on Feb 3, Tropical on Feb 4 and Caramel on Feb 5. Fabulous.

Nothing can – or will – lift my snow-weary spirits like hot chocolate or cocoa. And while I do prefer to make it myself (and not from an envelope, thank you very much) sit curled up with it under a duvet, I do love City Bakery and I do find that while out and about in the wintery city, the hot chocolate urge can hit and hit hard so – looking forward to February and a month of yummy choices.

New York Food and Dining Twitterverse

I actually have a robust post ready to go but my holiday season “to do” list is kicking my butt so I give you this annotated link round up as an appetizer.

Greater Gotham tells us about a new website that lets New Yorkers talk back to the State Senate – all well and good but do they really want to hear what New Yorkers have to say? Call me a cynic but I don’t think they do

I’ve been spending more time lately on Twitter (both for my own purposes and for researching purposes.  If you find New York a bit to much to wrap your head around or difficult to keep up – Twitter might help (in an information overload kind of way).  So I decided I’d collect groups of  NY-related Twitter feeds you might want to check out. The first group – New York Food and Dining:

NY food truck twitters:
@biggayicecream
@waffletruck
@RickshawTruck
@nyccravings
@schnitzeltruck
@LCBBurgerTruck

NY food-related twitters
@seriouseatsny
@grubstreetny
@eaterny
@MidtownLunch
@CarnegieDeli

The ORT New York Autumn Cocktail Reception was held Tuesday and with the exception of my hair (which I always complain about), everything was fab. It was a great success and this was entirely due to the great crowd that showed up to meet, mingle and make a difference.

Downtown(ish) Saturday Night

Last night was a bit of a stroll down memory lane for me, food wise. I spent many years working in the Flatiron district – my first three jobs out of college and the internship I had my senior year all happened within the confines of that immediate neighborhood.

chat During that time, I had more lunches at Chat & Chew than I – or my waistline – care to recall. It had been ages since I’ve been there but Uncle Red’s Addiction (honey dipped fried chicken) had lost none of its sticky, messy appeal. My dining companion had the ‘Thanksgiving on a Roll’ and spoke highly of it in between mouthfuls. Reveling in the “bad for us but too delicious to be resisted” mode of the evening. We both had dessert. I wish I had the words to describe Vesuvius, the chocolate cheesecake concoction I had. But I can’t. Calling it multi-layered sin on a fork only scratches the surface.

olde_barThen we headed over to Old Town Bar for a chat and a drink – again as I used to do so often during my Flatiron days. There’s something really comforting to sit down a 55 feet of bar and have a drink at a place that has been in the same place, doing the same thing and not changed in any significant way in almost 120 years. You can get a decent drink, hear yourself think as well as hear the person next to you.

The crowd, quite bustling as you would expect on a Saturday night, isn’t the obstacle it might be in other bars because there is space to move. Space is something sorely lacking in more modern watering holes where they’ve crammed in as much – or more – than fire regulations will allow so they can pay the rent and keep the bartenders awash in hair product. I wonder if the luxury of space (and grownup bartenders) is something only bars that own their space can manage? It makes me want to do a “classic bar tour of NYC” post. Obviously a great deal of um – research will need to be done.

But before I do that, a quick link found up since I’ve got food and the city on the brain.

October is a month with an R in it so you know what that means! Oysters!

The 2009 Vendy Award Winners were named yesterday and NewYorkology has the whole story. If you’d rather cut straight to the eats:

  • Country Boys aka the Martinez Taco Truck won best food vendor
  • Wafels & Dinges was named the winner in the dessert category.
  • Biryani Cart won the Grey Poupon People’s Taste Award

Speaking of street food, NYC’s food cart mania in the media isn’t the only frenzy on the Gotham street food scene. The clashes between vendors, in light of the vendrification of the scene, are getting pretty heated as well. Vendrification. Great word. I shall adopt it right now. All credit to BlackBook Mag.

More on the topic of street food is coming.Oh yes. Much more.

2009 Vendy Finalists, Here I Come!

Now and again – my blog’s collide. This is one of those times. Why? Because ladies and gentlemen, the finalists for this year’s Vendy Awards have been announced and as a proud New Yorker, I feel the need to check them out personally.

vendy What’s that? No, not Wendy’s. I said the Vendys. You must have heard of it – it’s been going on for years (well four – but that’s years).  It’s a cook-off to find the best sidewalks chefs in New York City. Yes, I said sidewalk.  That’s right – street food.  Those carts on the corner? Those. Though many are now actually trucks but never mind – they set up shop and serve customers right there on he street so they remain street food. No, these are not dirty water dogs (not that there’s anything wrong with dirty water dogs). The world of New York Street Food is a vast landscape, covering a world of cuisine – including everything from the South American grilled chicken to Sri-Lankan style vegan to dessert.

This year’s finalists include:

  • Traditional Indian offerings from Meru Sikder and his Biryani Cart
  • Middle Eastern fare from Falafel King, Fares “Freddy” Zeidaies
  • Dumplings courtesy of Kenny Lao at Rickshaw Dumpling
  • Jamaican food from Jamaican Dutchy’s O’Neill Reid
  • Mexican from Country Boys/Martinez Taco Truck run by Fernando & Jolanda Martinez*

My goal is to try something from each finalist before THE BIG DAY. I always say that of course and somehow always miss one. But this year – I’m gonna do it! I must say that the Vendy Awards people have made it easier than ever to find and get to know the finalists. I love the maps and the interviews. – looking forward to it all.

That said, I have already experienced the joy of Rickshaw Dumpling. All I have to say about that is — pardon my French – FAN. F*CKING. TASTIC!


* somehow I’ve never tried their stuff despite having been out to the Red Hook Ball Fields a number of times – the Red Hook Ball Fields are worth a post all on their own and will get one shortly. In the meantime, check out Serious Eat’s Red Hook Vendors: A Quick Guide for the Uninitiated. Mouth-wateringly informative.

Wait? How much?

pizzaslice$5 for a single slice of pizza? not unless that slice buys me dinner first. (Straight Out of Brooklyn, the $5 Slice: NYT )