Lower East Side #10 – East River Park

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment

New York City's East River Park in Manhattan's...

Image via Wikipedia

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.


“Three Faiths” – A New Exhibit at the New York Public Library

October 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Photo: New York Public Library

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.

Lower East Side #8 – 10th Annual NYC International Pickle Day

October 11, 2010 § Leave a comment


Lower East Side Visitor Center


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.


Alan Kaufman, Owner of the Pickle Guys


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.


Photo: The Atlantic, "Where Pickles Change by the Season"


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.

Lower East Side #3 – The Tenement Museum

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

97 Orchard Street, Lower East Side

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.

Tenement Museum "Getting By" Tour

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.

Lower East Side #1 – The Hester Street Fair

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.

Photo: HesterStreetFair.com

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 omeletsmaracons; 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…


Fragrant Spices at the Hester Street Fair

Sarivole Organic Bakery

Afrodesiac Worldwide – Dresses

Afrodesiac Worldwide – Clutch

Afrodesiac Worldwide – Earrings

The House of Z: a home for creative indulgence

The House of Z, Poetry Books

The House of Z, Vintage Pendant Necklaces

Hudson River Park

July 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Christopher Street Pier, Hudson River Park - Photo: Hubert J. Steed, Pbase.com

When it comes to New York City’s green spaces, Central Park gets most of the attention.  Given its size, not to mention its history and the number of events taking place on a daily basis, this is understandable.  However, once you make your way past the “grande dame” of NYC parks, you’ll find there are many others that, while smaller in scale, boast their own charms – Riverside Park, Bryant Park, Madison Square Park, The High Line.

I recently made my first visit to another one of these, the newly rejuvenated and expanded Hudson River Park.  Trust me, if you’ve not been, you’ve got to go.

Running along the Hudson, between Battery Park in lower Manhattan and West 59th Street, the park and estuarine sanctuary covers 550 acres and offers a wide range of sites, activities, and flora and fauna.  Joggers and cyclists get their daily fix, to be sure, but there’s more.  There are basketball courts, tennis courts, and dog runs, not to mention snack stands, places to get a tan, and spots to go kayaking.  There’s the Chelsea Waterslide, the Chelsea Piers, and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.  In other words, there truly is something for everyone.

Hop on one of the cross-town buses and make a day of it.  The Hudson River Park beckons on hot, steamy summer days … days just like today, actually.


Bryant Park and the New York Public Library

September 27, 2009 § Leave a comment

This is another favorite slice of the city.  It’s in between things  – just east of Times Square, just south of the serious shopping on 5th Avenue, just north of the Empire State Building – and, therefore, easy to overlook.

But you shouldn’t.

There are two great sights seated in one large, stunning city block.   Occupying 40th to 42nd Streets between 5th and 6th Avenues, and surrounded by a bevy of noteworthy architectual masterpieces, like the American Radiator Building (now, the Bryant Park Hotel) constructed of dark brick and topped with gold, and 500 5th Avenue (at the northwest corner of 5th and 42nd), an Art Deco skyscraper designed in 1930, the New York Public Library and Bryant Park are certainly worth a visit.

New York Public Library (“Main Branch”)

First, the Midtown location of the New York Public Library (5th Avenue and 42nd Street).  Did you see Sex and the City: The Movie?  Do you remember Carrie running down the curved stone staircase after Big said he wasn’t sure he could marry her?  That is the library.  Flanked by a pair of imposing carved lions, the New York Public Library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is a Beaux-Arts masterpiece.  In a word, it is “grand.”  One needs only to take in the shape and vastness of the space, and the use of marble, to appreciate how visually stunning the building is.  And one needs only to climb one of the wide, marble staircases to the heart of the library, the Rose Main Reading Room, to wish there was some research to do.  Long, oak reading tables are lit by brass lamps.  A mural of the sky adorns the ceiling.  And everywhere … books and wood.  The scent of a library.

Bryant Park

Now the park, which has a rich history data back to 1686, and today is a central part of Manhattan life.  There are so many things about Bryant ParkWiFi “Hot Spot” that make it unique and unmissable.  Yes, this is the park where “Good Morning America” holds its summer concert series.  And, yes, this is where the designers and stars congregate have congregated twice each year under the “tent” for Fashion Week.  But it’s also the spot where Monday nights in June, July, and August there is an outdoor movie under the stars (the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival), and weather permitting, year-round you will find the Reading Room which offers a wide variety of books, periodicals, and newspapers, and runs a children’s reading program.   And where the Holiday  Season translates into an outdoor skating rink and a holiday shopping bazaar.  Bryant Park is even a – yes, if you go to the park with your laptop, the Internet is free.  And there is that vast, green lawn …  inviting outdoor space prized by any good New Yorker.

If you want to do like the natives do, time your visit so that you can buy lunch at Zeytinz Fine Food Marketplace on 40th Street.  It doesn’t matter what you are in the mood for, they have it (burritos, salads, sandwiches, sushi, pizza).  Or if you know you want a salad, try Pax around the corner on 6th Avenue.  Food in hand, cross 40th Street and into the park,  grab a table (if you’re lucky) or a stair or piece of grass on that vast green lawn, and enjoy the fine weather.  Or, if more refined dining suits your taste,  make a lunch or dinner reservation at the Bryant Park Grill.  It is located directly behind the library near 40th Street.  There is an outdoor patio and rooftop for dining in the warmer months, and a fashionable dining room and indoor bar for the rest.   From mid-April to November the Grill also runs the Bryant Park Cafe, which offers casual-American fare on a fabulous outdoor patio.  It is also a great spot for after-work drinks. Reservations are not required.

And, other than your food and drink, it’s all free!

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing the Sightseeing category at The Epicurean.