Archive for the ‘out & about’ Category

Today we met up with some friends at Smorgasburg, the artisanal food fair at the site of the Brooklyn Flea Market. My plan: to eat, drink and be merry.  Their plan: to gaze in wonder at my belly and the fact that I’m not due till November.

Because of my incredible size Alex and I drove there which meant dealing with the traffic cops who suddenly decided to redirect the bridge and tunnel traffic as per their whims (seriously on the way back we were re-routed away from the Holland Tunnel three times for no good reason), and the adventure of driving through the hipster “slums” of Williamsburg before you hit the fancy-pants redeveloped waterfront. The best way to describe hipster “slums” is to imagine The Wire country of Baltimore but the products being pushed on every street corner are ironic hats, orthopedic foot wear and vintage plastic glasses frames that would have got you beaten up in grade school but are now the bleeding edge of hipster fashion.

Any way back to Smorgasburg the food is good. Some of it very good and some of it okay and a little too fancy for its own good. I didn’t really pay that much attention to the names of the stalls – it was hot, and we were eating as we walked which meant I was focused on staying upright. The best thing I ate was a roast pork belly roll and it was so good I had two. It was simple and delicious. The roll contained fat and crackling as well as the meat. If I go again then I’ll just eat that over and over again. Perhaps they do a bulk discount. The Bite Sized Kitchen did meat on a stick which was also tasty, the kimchi pork buns from We Rub You were disappointing (not spicy enough and meat cut too thin), and we also had grilled sweetcorn covered with peach butter and salt that was okay (bit of sweetcorn purist and if the produce is at its peak it doesn’t need to be slathered with anything). For desert we split a mint biscuit mochi that again was just okay, and our friends went crazy for (like everyone else) frozen banana. Literally a frozen banana shoved through a meat grinder (or something similar) to produce an frozen banana “ice-cream” but only made with bananas. Absolutely genius as the mark-up must be phenomenal. I am trying to figure out how to make these at home.

Drinks wise you have every iteration of lemonade and ice-tea going. Since I’ve started making my own watermelon juice I can’t part with $5 for something I make at home for  significantly less (it’s the same with ice-tea and lemonade). We settled on a pineapple, mint and spring water concoction that was delicious and I will now be making at home, and selling on a street corner near you.

I am really glad we went, and would happily go again but my main criticisms is that everything seemed to cost $5 and up, and the portion sizes were on the small size (perhaps artisanal is the new tall?). I’m not just saying that because I am 7 months pregnant with the appetite of a small army. The quality of the produce is excellent but I think they could increased the portion size or have some ‘Two pork buns for $7″ style offers without hurting their margins too much.

Alex took a few photos and they are up on his Flickr site.

A couple of weekends ago we visited the High Line, and walked the extension that had only just opened so it was even more packed than normal. The High Line is an abandoned elevated railway that runs up the West Side, and is in the process of being converted into a park. It’s now one of my favorite green spaces in the city, and its proximity to fantastic restaurants and the Chelsea Food Market makes it a great way to spend a few hours. Walking, eating and great coffee – my favorite things.

The park now runs from Gansevoort Street (in the Meatpacking District), through Chelsea and up to 30th Street. It’s a gorgeous urban space that channels the abandoned railway line vibe with all the wild flowers and plants; and integrating the tracks into the architecture. There is plenty of seating so you can hang out or sunbathe, and vendors from Chelsea Market have little stands selling coffee (in the fall and winter), and ice-cream/ice-pops and cool drinks in the summer. The extension means that the High Line now boasts an achingly contemporary bird feeder/houses, a lawn and tree top walk.

We’ve taken friends and family here at all times of the year, and in the fall/winter when I was shuttling between doctors appointments I’d walk down from Columbus Circle and break my journey at Chelsea Market to pick up a coffee and then find a seat on the High Line. What can I say I really like to walk.

So on our last visit we had brunch at Barbuto, which is one of our favorite eateries in the city and even though there was much on the menu that I couldn’t eat (it was all  cured meats and runny eggs) I was perfectly happy noshing on Jonathan Waxman’s famous roast chicken and a couple of veggie sides whilst Alex had the carbonara.  Then we tackled the crowds and strollers, and hit the High Line. We walked the full length, and then double backed on ourselves breaking our constitutional at Chelsea Market where we enjoyed the AC, had crepes from Bar Suzette  and cooling drinks. It was the perfect afternoon!

Alex took some photos and a video of the talking water fountain.

Last weekend Alex and I went to visit Stone Barns Center For Food & Agriculture. We’d eaten at Blue Hills at Stone Barns for our anniversary, but since our reservation was so late in the evening we hadn’t had a chance to explore the grounds. Now, I have a bit of a reputation for not liking the great outdoors. This is somewhat true. Years spent freezing my ass off on geology field trips have left me a little wary of non-urban environments. There were no spring breaks in Cancun for me I spent the bulk of my university vacations in a caravan (trailer) in the Lake District or Wales. By day I would be cold and wet trying to identify outcrops and not drop my compass-clinometer because my hands were numb, and by night I would be cold and damp trying to stay warm in the pub and dry my socks under the hand drier in the bathroom. So after that experience you can see why hiking was not going to be a top of my to-do list. It’s probably good thing that Twitter wasn’t around back then as my mum would have been calling out the Air Rescue based on my desperate tweets. Actually having a snarky outlet might have made the experience more bearable: “It’s still raining & mostly granite here.”, “Huge surprise we found more feldspar.” & “Jurassic Park totally miss sold geology.”.

I digress. Stone Barns is an awesome place to visit. Not only is it a proper farm but it has a cafe where they actively encourage you to buy a latte to wander around with. I am totally down with trees and shit if I have access to coffee. We signed up for the ‘Insiders Tour’ which was about 90 minutes long, and took you around the kitchen of Blue Hills, vegetable garden, bee hives, sheep, chickens, pigs and greenhouses. Our tour guide was friendly and knowledgeable, an ex-vegetarian who had come around to eating meat as she saw it was being raised ethically here.  The animals on the farm are magnificent. They lead happy, healthy lives prior to slaughter -as it should be but mostly isn’t which is very sad not only for the animals but for us as we are eating inferior products. This is a great post (not preachy) about why we should source heritage turkeys.

I took a few photos and the Berkshire piglets were particularly glorious. We are planning on going back in December for a farmers’ market and I can’t wait!

I love lattes, flat whites, cappuccinos, french press and drip. Straight-up without any flavoring because nothing beats the taste of coffee with milk. Perfectly happy to make it at home but I also appreciate a decent coffee shop. In fact that morning coffee (with the occasional almond croissant) over the summer was one of the only things that helped me hold my shit together for as long as I did.  I found a lot of comfort in my secular java ritual: the friendly faces at La Colombe, the extra shot in their iced coffee, the calm before the storm and gripping the coffee cup as if it was a lucky talisman.

So it is fair to say that I am a slave to overpriced coffee with steam milk. When I was staying with my mum for my exams this year I got her to drive to the nearest Starbucks so I could buy two flat whites to bring home and fuel me through my revision.  That sounds really bad doesn’t it? Forcing my poor mother to drive me 20 minutes to get coffee but I swear those flat whites were the key to me acing my Pompeii exam (not the hours I spent memorizing gobbet pictures), and hopefully the next house she buys she’ll take distance-to-the-nearest-coffee-shop into consideration.

When I was walking back to the station after my lunch date I passed the Nespresso Cafe/Store on Spring Street. I’ve never really paid much attention to it as it sells those pod style coffee machines but I noticed that its cafe area was jam packed, and as I was ogling those inside (always on the look out for my next celeb sighting) I noticed the menu board and the prices. A latte in this place will set you back $6.50. I am sorry how much? And does that even include tax, and I’ll need to leave a tip AND is the coffee any good? Why would anyone pay $6.50 for a latte when there are half a dozen other cafes where you can get one for almost half of that price. The mind boggles (even for this java junkie) and I am guessing that this means the economic crisis is over.

The weather is freaking me out at the moment. I am dealing with mild tempts again and not pleasantly chilly ones. November is around the corner I should not be able to wear sandals out of the flat. It’s just not right. The weather app on my iPhone claims that tomorrow the temps will dramatically fall into line again but until then I am “forced” to suck up the sunshine.

Before I met my friend for a mojito fueled lunch I took a stroll along the High Line in Chelsea. I love the High Line. It’s an abandoned railway track that has been converted into a park, and what makes it all the more cool is that it is an elevated track so you get views on top of greenery.

The High Line: Tracks & Grass

The High Line: Flowers #2

The High Line: Flowers #2

The High Line: Flowers #3

The High Line: Flowers #1

The High Line: A View

During the long weekend we ate near the Flat Iron building, and that gave me an opportunity to re-visit Antony Gormley’s Event Horizon installation this time with camera.  I am fairly picky when it comes to art (Greco-Roman is my thing with a few modern artists like Grant Wood thrown into the mix) but I have weakness when it comes to street art. Be it triumphal arches, statues, graffiti or painted apples, pigs, cows or elephants dotted about the city I can’t get enough. I absolutely love Event Horizon. The eerie lone figures dotted about on roof tops remind me of the many sci-fi films I’ve watched – where the hero stands on the roof top to assess the destruction.

My photos are up on Flickr but here are a few to set the mood:

[Drafted whilst I was on the train yesterday but needed to tweak at my desktop and insert a few snaps.]

I am currently sat on the Adirondike AmTrak watching the countryside “whiz” by as it makes its way home to NYC. All I can think is that all these pretty trees and hills (and lakes for all I know) are playing havoc with my 3G connection.  Eleven hours on a train is a good opportunity for reflection.  The last two weeks have been busier than usual, though given that the usual is normally chained to my desk study any trips out side of the flat are the height of excitement.

Things kicked off two Wednesdays ago when I found out (via Twitter) that some of the Comedy Store Players were in town for a one off gig for NY BritWeek. The Players are an improv group from the Comedy Store in London (hence their name The Comedy Store Players – doh!) and I first saw them there seventeen years ago. SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO! Oh my how some of them have aged, how old did it make me feel when they were still using the same material from the 90s, and even though it is improv there is a strict format that they follow. All that being said it was a fun evening and made all the more exciting by two special cameo appearances: Eddie Izzard and Mike Myers. These new additions threw the rhythm off which jazzed things up a bit. Izzard though king of improv standup was a little off kilter working with a group but Myers was really the best if the bunch, and I wouldn’t mind seeing him doing his on stchick some time (despite how much Wayan’s World etc annoys me).

There was no rest for the wicked because then morning after the improv night I was out of the flat by 7am in order to get a Royal Pains event at Greenly Square (interesting observation Greenly Square is actually a triangle). To mark the second season of Royal Pains USA Network organized a shirt exchange in the city (again I found out about this event via Twitter). Your donation of a gently used shirt (which goes to HELP USA) triggered USA Network to make a $10 donation to Doctors Without Borders AND you receive a $50 Lacoste gift card. Call to action was as easy as pie and well worth the hour wait (I just need to win my pedometer challenge so that I can make up the difference for a shirt). Plus, whilst I was waiting I got to see the three leads milling about – all before I had my coffee.

Then on Friday night we start our blitz on the World Science Festival. Over the course of three days we saw the ‘Science of Star Trek’ panel,  watched the Mathemagician do tricks with the golden ratio, saw lots of things being smashed thanks to liquid nitrogen, swung by a NASATweetup, and went ‘Back to the Big Band: Inside the Large Hadron Collider’. The StarTrek panel was fun but could have done with a Q & A session but the LHC panel was amazing (even if they didn’t touch upon FlashForward). The moderator knew his stuff (or enough to bluff his way) and was able to involve all the panel through out (Star Trek had been stilted in parts and one participant didn’t say a peep for the first hour). It was a thought provoking weekend and made me want to brush up on my physics.

So you think I’d rest there but oh no on Monday night I head out to a White Collar (yes, another USA Network show) panel at the Paley Center for Media. Because of this bloody pedometer challenge I walked from SoHo to 52nd Street – only 6,000 steps (v. disappointed). The panel was short but sweet (saw a few clips for season two) and Willie Garson is pure gold! So entertaining.

Then on Thursday we took the train up to Montreal for the F1 race and now we are slowly making our way home, and our adventures in Montreal can be a post for another day.