November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment
I love to walk. I head out four or five mornings a week. Which is a good thing, because, if you’ve read previous posts on this blog or my other, Food, Seriously, you’ll know that I also love to eat. Whenever I move to a new city or neighborhood, one of the first things I do is map out a new route. I like having it set – the time, the distance – so that I don’t have to think about those things. My mind is free to wander … wherever.
When I moved to the Lower East Side, I was faced with same challenge, and this time I realized that at least part of my walk could take place along a river, the East River to be exact, and through the East River Park. It runs from Montgomery Street to East 12th Street, along FDR Drive, and like many others in the city, it’s recently been updated, made user friendly.
The park is unbelievably close. I cross over FDR Drive at Delancey Street and walk (quickly) alongside the river. On with way, I pass tennis courts that are busy, even at 7:30 a.m., even when the temperature is 37 degrees; benches installed facing the river like they’re expecting something or someone; a track encircling a soccer field, both of which are in use most mornings; metal tables connected to metal chairs that are mostly empty at this time of day; leafy trees; a baseball diamond; joggers, some leisurely, some running a good clip and checking their watches – a good sign they’re training for Sunday’s ING New York City Marathon; and finally a playground, where I exit the park at East 10th Street. Throughout my walk there is the East River hit by varying angles of the morning light, the odd boat buzzing by, the Domino Sugar Factory back lit like in a movie, and the Williamsburg Bridge.
How fortunate we are to have these beautiful public spaces – rejuvenated by the city for our pleasure.
And this one on the Lower East Side is to me, daily, a marvel.
October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment
There is a new exhibit at the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, “Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” In their review on Saturday, The New York Times called it “stunning.”
Maybe you learned and forgot, or maybe you never learned in the first place, that three of the world’s religions share one source: the herdsman, Abraham. The goal of this exhibit is to remind us of this, or to educate us anew:
Over the millennia, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have each created a rich body of founding texts and interpretive underpinnings for their respective faiths, each of which derives from the teachings of Abraham. This exhibition treats these three great Abrahamic religions, setting forth in splendid and historic detail the complementarities and differences among them, explaining their development, and exploring their lived experience through public and private prayer.
In an age when there is so much talk about Christians versus Muslims versus Jews, and the hijacking of the conversation by extremists, particularly in the case of Islam, this exhibition makes a timely a timely debut. It’s the perfect moment for a history lesson or review. Knowledge, understanding, tolerance … for free. The exhibition runs through February 27, 2011.
I’ve written about the main branch of the New York Public Library previously. Even without this fabulous exhibit, it’s one of the sites that I always recommend to visitors. The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is an architectural wonder; and it backs on to Bryant Park, one of my favorite parks in the city, in every season. I just walked through the park the other day, and right now it is being readied for the holidays. As of October 29th, the ice skating rink called Citi Pond will be open, and the structures that on November 5th will open as the The Holiday Shops are in place.
Go to the Library to brush up on your history and then to the Park to share in the joy of the season.
October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment
Are you old enough, or enough of a movie-buff, to remember the film, Crossing Delancey? The one with Amy Irving and Peter Riegert, where book lover Isabelle Grossman (Irving) meets and falls in lust with the cool downtown author rather than her matchmaker’s choice, Sam Posner (Riegert) who happens to own a pickle shop on Essex Street, south of Delancey. She ends up with the pickle-maker, but not until she’s suffered through a long, played-out drama (of course, there wouldn’t be a movie unless she did).
It wasn’t until I moved to the Lower East Side, and saw the Essex Street storefront of The Pickle Guys – yes, south of Delancey – that I began to understand the movie. Not from the perspective of the 1980’s, but still … the Lower East Side and pickles, there’s a history here. And you can learn about that history by visiting the virtual NY Food Museum’s Pickle Wing which tells you more than you could have ever thought it possible to know about the pickle, including its detailed evolution and time line.
There is a fine art to authentic pickle-making, and pickling anything, if truth be told. Like the breweries and delis, the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century, the pickle shops of the Lower East Side were owned and operated by immigrants, who brought Old World techniques to the preparation of food and beverages. While many of these traditions have been abandoned in favor of industrial methods, processed food, and large corporations, recently there’s been a food revolution of a sorts, whereby old school methods of food production are being reclaimed, revitalizing lost food trades and industries, in the process. And pickled products are becoming big business, via small, artisinal vendors, once again. Just look at Brooklyn Brine Co., owned and operated by three 20- and 30-somethings. As The New York Observer put it:
Formerly the province of grandmothers, and, in New York, the Lower East Side, pickling is experiencing a youthful Renaissance. Jars of various vegetables in liquid are now ubiquitous at greenmarkets and flea markets, in kitchen stores, at butcher shops, sandwich shops and Williams Sonoma. It’s not just earnest, entrepreneurial young outfits like Brooklyn Brine but a resurgence of pickles on restaurant menus all over the city and a rash of amateur canners stuffing farmers’ market booty into Ball jars in their own cramped kitchens, consulting recipes on Epicurious.com or books like Eugenia Bone’s recent Well-Preserved: Recipes and Techniques for Putting Up Small Batches of Seasonal Foods.
If, thus far you’ve missed the rebirth of the pickle, your opportunity to get in-the-know has arrived. This coming Sunday, October 17, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., is The Tenth Annual New York City International Pickle Day. The festival will be held, appropriately, in the Lower East Side parking lot on Broome Street (between Essex and Ludlow), as well as on Broome Street (between Orchard and Ludlow). The Pickle Guys will be there, as will Brooklyn Brine, and a few dozen other vendors.
Mark it on your calendar. It’s bound to be a salty, delicious, fun time.
August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment
Quick, a pop quiz. What museum do you visit if you want to learn about the immigrant experience in New York? No doubt, what immediately comes to mind is Ellis Island. And, the answer is yes, but…
The “but” being that there’s a fantastic museum located in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the first stop after Ellis Island for most recently-landed immigrants in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s called the Tenement Museum, and it’s a must-see.
The tenement is located at 97 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side. Having long been abandoned, it was re-discovered in 1988, completely by accident (isn’t that true of most of the wonderful things in life?), by a female real estate broker (she needed to use the loo and came across a toilet dating back to 1905). Originally built in 1863, it was one of the first multi-family dwellings of its kind. Over 7,000 working class immigrants, representing over 1,700 families, lived in the 22 (and later 20) apartments housed in the tenement, from 1863 until the building was condemned in 1935 due to new tenement housing regulations.
Visits to the Tenement Museum consist of guided tours. You choose from one of the following: Getting By, Piecing It Together, The Moores: An Irish Family in America, Confino Family Living History Program, Immigrant Soles: A Neighborhood Walking Tour, and Next Steps: A Walking Tour. I chose “Getting By.” It is conducted on the second floor of the tenement, in two apartments, one inhabited in the 1870’s – 1890’s by a Jewish family from Germany, and the other by an Italian family, who lived there in the latter part of the tenement’s life, until they were forced to leave when it was condemned.
Our tour guide, Emily, was extremely knowledgeable, and answered our questions with insight and grace, even as we “jumped ahead.” (We were an interested and inquisitive group of Americans, Germans, and Australians.) You can get a glimpse of the tours and an idea of what life was like in terms of bathrooms, light, water, and heat (in 1863 – there was none) on the website. But, did you know that there was a “Great Panic of 1873” greatly resembling the financial meltdown of 2008 (yes, history really does repeat itself), and that social assistance in the 1870’s meant a loaf of bread and some coal? Or that the country instituted immigration restrictions in 1924 based on the new science of eugenics? Neither did I.
Tours cost $20 for adults, $15 for students and seniors. Should you decide to become a member after a tour, not only do you get a tax deduction (the museum is a non-profit organization), but the cost of your ticket is deducted from the membership fee. After that, all subsequent visits are free and you receive 10 percent off all Museum Shop purchases (once you peruse the fabulous shop, you’ll see that this benefit alone is worth the cost).
Yes, there’s The Met and MOMA and the Statue of Liberty … but make some time for Tenement Museum. It’s another reason to visit the Lower East Side.
- Gastronomy: ’97 Orchard’ (online.wsj.com)
- New outdoor exhibit opens at the Tenement Museum (timeoutny.com)
- The Tenement Museum makes one of its tours more kid-friendly (timeoutny.com)
August 8, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’ve just moved to a new neighborhood in New York. For those of you who live here, or even those who have visited, you know this is a change akin to moving to an entirely new city. Just about everything requires modification: where you shop for groceries, not to mention wine, where you take your laundry and dry cleaning, figuring out who’s got the freshest sushi, and the freshest produce.
For me, the new neighborhood is the Lower East Side. It’s Chinatown meets the Tenement Museum the Donut Plant meets Kossar’s Bialys meets meets The Stanton Social. You get the idea. So much to explore, so little time.
Today, I begin with the Hester Street Fair. Located in Seward Park, at the intersection of Essex and Hester, it’s a gem; and, like so much else in this neighborhood, it has a storied history. Established in 1895, it “was once home to New York City’s largest and oldest pushcart markets.”
Here’s what you’ll find at the Hester Street Fair: handmade jewelry and dresses; made-to-order omelets; maracons; antiques; and gourmet pretzels; and more. Go for lunch. There are picnic tables set up under white tents for you to sit and enjoy the food, and the people-watching. The fair is open every Saturday and Sunday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., April through December, no matter the weather. You can get the map and details here.
For once, I’ll let the images speak for themselves. With one exception … the photo of Afrodesiac Worldwide (you’ve got to love the name!) does not do the product justice. There are dresses and tops, all made from African-sourced cotton in factories located in Ghana (prints that fabulous aren’t produced here any longer). And there are earrings, huge, beautiful earrings, made of old, Ghanian brass coins. It’s all art. And, one other call-out, this one from a culinary perspective, the Lemon Coconut Cookie from Sarivole Organic Bakery is soft, chewy, and flavorful. Ah, and I should mention The House of Z: a home for creative indulgence, where Amy and Drew Burchenal have freed themselves to “create with our hearts and souls.” Amy’s black-and-white, color and painted photographs, Drew’s poetry, sea glass and vintage pendant necklaces, are all worth a visit. And, next weekend, I need to get back to sample one of Luke’s Lobster Rolls … but, I digress…