Blog Archives

Best Casual Waterfront Dining in NYC

Brooklyn Smorgasburg

Only seven types of velvet cake available this day; I wanted to try their Praline Bourbon.

Only seven types of velvet cake available this day; I wanted to try their Praline Bourbon.

On Saturdays during the warmer months, NYC locals swarm the Smorgasburg held in the Williamsburg neighborhood by the East River State Park just off the ferry landing. Dubbed by the NY Times as “The Woodstock of Eating”, it features more than 100 gourmet booths offering every imaginable type of food. We sampled Texas-style moist beef brisket, Maine lobster rolls, hummus, red velvet cake, and a salted chocolate ice cream sandwich.  All delicious.

Details:  From Manhattan take the East River Ferry @ 34th St, to East River State Park in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The Smorgasburg event has expanded throughout the boroughs on different days with different names.  Can’t vouch for the other locations, but you can find more food on Sundays in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5 (near Manhattan’s NY City Hall); and Long Island City, Queens on Saturdays.  All open 11 AM – 6 PM. Since these events seem a bit transient, Google before you go.

The Frying Pan, Hudson River Park

Historic waterfront dining and bar in NYC, The Frying Pan.This popular local spot started its life as a Lightship in 1929, keeping ships from running into the Frying Pan Shoals (thus its name) 30 miles off Cape Fear, NC. In 1965 she was abandoned in the Chesapeake Bay and apparently sank, spending three years underwater before being rescued.

Today, the Frying Pan is a floating historic lighthouse, permanently docked at Pier 66a in the Hudson River Park, West 26th Street, and 12th Ave. The food is average but I hear the evening bar scene is lively; plan to visit for the history and the incomparable setting.

Only open seasonally, table service is available in the summer months, starting around Memorial Day, 11:30 AM – 11:30 PM.  The best thing to do is follow them on Twitter and/or Instagram to make sure they are open and check the hours. Their Facebook page, Frying Pan-NYC, also has information, but, be forewarned, some of the info on their website is incorrect. Read the rest of this entry

NYC: The Frick Collection

IMG_5852    IMG_5853

Just realized I never actually posted this item I wrote while in NYC last week, just saw it lurking in a draft folder . . .

If you like the mansions in Newport or the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, you will love visiting The Frick.  The wonderful European art on display seems like a bonus.  Located on 5th Avenue, across from Central Park, I don’t know how I never tuned into this beautiful building before.

Finished in 1914, the home was built on property that once housed the Lenox Library, behind the property was a chicken farm.  Henry Frick bequeathed his home and art collection so the public would always have access, and after the death of his wife, it opened to the public in 1935.

Much of the furniture is in place and the art is hung as it would have been in the home, eye level and without barriers.  It’s wonderful and intimate; a very relaxing way to enjoy such beautiful old masters.   Frick like beauty and avoided art that was violent or disturbing, so there is an emphasis on portraits and landscapes.  At the moment there is a major exhibition of Van Dyke’s work.

Of course, visitors can’t take pictures, so you will have to go on-line for details, but I enjoyed the Van Dykes as well as paintings by Vermeer, Degas, Velazquez, Reuben, Taylor, Rembrandt and many, many more.  Not to mention the gorgeous carpets, Limoges enamels, bronzes, porcelains and French furniture.  At the grand stairway, you can look up and see the massive organ installed in the home.  Frick employed his own organist who performed concerts twice a week. There are plans underway to restore the upper floors and eventually allow visitors.

You are truly transported to the Gilded Age during a visit to The Frick.

Details:  A free audio tour is available.  Docents give presentations several times a day about the history of the Fricks and the home, as well as how the collection was put together.  There is also a short movie that explains much of the same information.

The small gift shop has a terrific selection of art books, as well as a nice assortment of specialty items.

The Frick is open six days a week (closed on Mondays), and due to the accessibility of the art, does not allow children under 10.  Hours: Tue – Saturday, 10 AM – 6 PM; Sundays 11 AM – 5 PM.  Adults $20; seniors $15; students $10.  Sunday from 11 AM – 1 PM pay what you wish.

 

 

 

NYC: Rolling on the River(s)

IMG_5894

As we conclude our most recent trip to NYC, I thought I’d finished with anything blog-worthy, and then we went on a brunch cruise around Manhattan with Classic Harbor Line.

There are plenty of ways you can navigate around this amazing island and there are options for every pocket-book. But you do get what you pay for, and today we had a really special experience. IMG_5887

The Classic Harbor Line uses old-world style yachts in the Roaring Twenties-style. For the brunch cruise, the maximum number of guests is 40, and everyone has a window seat.  Their brochure states they are “classically designed for contemporary experiences” and that is very well said.

Our trip was on the Manhattan II, just one year old, but built to resemble a vintage yacht. I’ll let my photos tell that story.

As we cruised up the East River and down the Hudson, we ate. Brunch was a delicious four-course affair, served buffet-style.  First with bagels, lox, pastries and self-made waffles, followed by frittata and incredibly good pork sausage (which we are seriously trying to locate for purchase). Spiral-cut ham, potatoes and salad were followed by a wonderful fruit assortment, puff pastries, small napoleons and cannolis.  A glass of Champagne, Mimosa, or Bloody Mary was included along with soft drinks and coffee; a full bar was also available.

The author & husband, Fred.

The author & husband, Fred.

The crew was amazing.  They could not have been nicer or more helpful. The Captain’s commentary was interesting but not intrusive.  Many of the passengers also asked the knowledgeable crew for more information about what we were seeing.

It didn’t hurt that it turned out to be an incredibly beautiful day.  We ventured outside for some photo-ops, and often pulled back the large sliding picture windows by our comfortable table to snap a good iPhone shot.

The entire 2.75 hour trip was quiet, relaxing, un-hurried, interesting and very scenic. A perfect adventure for all the ages in our group, from 30-something to 85.

Notes:

Classic Harbor Lines is the same company that offers architectural harbor tours narrated by the AIA NY and sailings on majestic schooners. Boats leave from Pier 62 at Chelsea Piers, and Pier 5 at the Brooklyn Bridge Park Marina. Check out the options at: Sail-NYC.com or call 888.215.1739.  You may also be able to find a discount voucher if you search on-line.  BTW, the bathrooms on board are comfortable and pristine.

IMG_5900

 

 

 

 

Lower East Side History Project: Mafia Walking Tour

IMG_5812

 

IMG_5815

This was a great tour.  Led by fourth generation Italian-American, Eric Ferrara, we really gained an insight and understanding into the origins and evolution of the five major New York crime families and the history of New York City’s Little Italy.

Eric founded the Lower East Side History Project and has consulted on several projects including programs for TV’s History Channel, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, the recent Great Gatsby movie and the Mafia Museum. He has written several books including the Manhattan Mafia Guide. Eric has not only researched his topic, he has lived it.  He was clearly very comfortable in the area and able to tell many personal stories about his life and that of his family members.

There are a lot of similar tours available, but what I liked about this tour was the focus on fact versus sensationalism and media-driven urban legends.  Eric set the record straight about many misconceptions and put a face on the daily struggle faced by the vast majority of the men involved with the Cosa Nostra.  We learned about the speakeasies, the social clubs, early investment in the drag clubs of NYC, and the lynching of Italians. Eric had photos and newspaper articles to help tell the story and visualize the past.

I was surprised that what was once known as Little Italy is really now only about four one-street blocks of very tourist-oriented restaurants.  Once a large and thriving section of town, it was eventually cleaned-up by NY Mayor Giuliani and has now become gentrified, with expensive boutiques and new construction. It was sad to learn that much of the area’s original character has been erased.

The tour was interesting, educational and, as a bonus, we found out which were the better area restaurants with the most authentic family history.  We all received an information sheet summarizing key spots visited and follow-up resources.

We ended our two-hour tour in the restaurant area.  Eric stopped to say hi to actor Tony Danza, who was just hanging out, sitting outside by a cannoli vendor, reading a paper.

After the tour we took a break and enjoyed some pizza at the Mulberry Street Bar. This restaurant was the setting for regular scenes on the Sopranos and has appeared in Donny Brasco, Godfather III, and Law & Order.  We made one more quick stop to grab a cannoli (for me) and gelato (for my husband), before we headed back uptown.  Do you think Tony is an investor in that cannoli stand?

Tours are offered twice a week, on Saturdays and Wednesdays at noon and generally last 1.5 hours. For more info, check out:

http://www.leshp.org/index.php/walking-tours/60-mafia-tour

Who's hanging out on Mulberry Street?

Who’s hanging out on Mulberry Street?

IMG_5824 - Copy

Tony Danza.

NYC: Elements

A few interesting scenes from around the city.

Central Park with orchid sculpture in the distance.

Central Park with orchid sculpture in the distance.

Although the bas relief motifs seem like they should be on Communist Party headquarters, this Art Deco loft building was built in 1925. Located in SoHo, the building now houses a variety of companies, including the agency my daughter works for. The images are an interesting collection: weighing metal? fabricating? shaving wood or metal? mixing chemicals? Originally known as the Green Building, I'm still searching for answers about its early use.

Although the bas-relief motifs seem like they should be on Communist Party headquarters, this Art Deco loft building was built in 1925. Located in SoHo, the building now houses a variety of companies, including the agency my daughter works for. The images are an interesting collection: weighing metal? fabricating? shaving wood or metal? mixing chemicals? Originally known as the Green Building, I’m still searching for answers about its early use.

While researching the art on the SOHO building above, I came across a great blog called Ephemeral NY: Chronicling an ever-changing city through faded and forgotten artifacts. Fellow history-lovers will enjoy it: https://ephemeralnewyork.wordpress.com

Love the entry portals to the diamond district.

Love the entry portals to the diamond district.

IMG_5658

The photo is not skewed, this gargoyle is one of two over doorways, Upper East Side.

Current sculpture at Rockefeller Center, "Van Gogh's Ear." Really?

Current sculpture at Rockefeller Center, “Van Gogh’s Ear.” Really?

 

NYC, Riverside

IMG_2259

Yes, we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge.  No, it was not my idea.

For the record, I do not like heights. But on a last-minute trip to NYC to visit our daughter, I got a bit outside my comfort zone.

We began the outing by taking the East River Ferry (@ 34th St), to the East River State Park in the Williamsburg neighborhood in Brooklyn.  Williamsburg is a gentrified area very popular with young families. On Saturdays during the warmer months, locals swarm the “Smorgasburg” held in the park

Only seven types of velvet cake available this day; I wanted to try their Praline Bourbon.

Only seven types of velvet cake available this day; I wanted to try their Praline Bourbon.

just off the ferry landing. Dubbed by the NY Times as “The Woodstock of Eating”, it features more than 100 gourmet booths offering every imaginable type of food. We sampled Texas-style moist beef brisket, Maine lobster rolls, hummus, red velvet cake, and a salted chocolate ice cream sandwich.  All delicious.

Once fortified, we launched an ill-fated search for some great local chocolate bobka.  Despite conflicting info on their website, and failure to get them on the phone, we gave it a try.  We ended up with a nice ride through the Russian Hasidic community (and men with their giant cylindrical fur hats), and ended up at a closed, red-brick warehouse . . . hmmm, no bobka for us.  Good thing we weren’t hungry.

Walking to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Walking to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Our daughter announced she would like to return to Manhattan by way of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. My husband was 100% enthusiastic, so I kept quiet and off we went.

It was actually a lot of fun.  The Bridge is an impressively majestic, historic structure that made me feel pretty safe. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the views north towards the midtown skyline and south towards the new Freedom Tower and the Statue of Liberty were chamber-of-commerce perfect.  I’m happy to say I did it!

 

 

Waterfront Dining Tips

View from the Boat Basin Cafe.

View from the Boat Basin Cafe.

Our daughter is still a Florida gal at heart and doesn’t miss a chance to be around water when possible.  This trip, she took us to the Boat Basin Café on the Hudson (Upper West Side at W 79th St), for a beautiful sunset, drinks and a casual dinner overlooking the marina and river. Don’t get caught walking along the river with an open drink, you will be fined (we weren’t caught).

We had a great late lunch-break from our chores at The Water Club’s Crow’s Nest on the East River at 30th.

The main restaurant has a nice bar and indoor dining, and the Crow’s Nest offers roof-top drinks and lighter fare (classic NY hot dogs, lobster rolls,  salads, etc), paired with a super view across the river and the 59th St Bridge to the north.  Word has it, it’s also a great spot for happy hour. BTW, our city friends tell us, it’s also great because they have parking.

The Water Club; Crow's Nest on top.

The Water Club; Crow’s Nest on top.

 

NYC Notes:

Brooklyn also has a TKTS office for discount tickets.  Just like the office at the South Street Seaport, it opens at 11 AM and also offers tickets to the matinees the following day (the Times Square ticket windows open at 3 and don’t offer next day matinée tickets).  While in Brooklyn, we stopped by for Broadway tickets and literally walked up the window, no wait.

There is no charge to walk or bike across the Bridge. It is about a mile once you are on the Bridge and from the Brooklyn side, a least a mile from downtown to get to the starting point.  On the Manhattan side, the Bridge is close to the subway station.

The Smorgasburg event has expanded throughout the boroughs on different days with different names.  Can’t vouch for the other locations, but you can find more food on Sundays in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Pier 5 (near Manhattan’s NY City Hall); and just this weekend a location opened in Long Island City, Queens on Saturdays.  All open 11 AM – 6 PM.

Fans of the Carnegie Deli will be disappointed they are temporarily closed (since late April) and surprised to find out it’s been reported they’ve been stealing about half the gas they use for cooking and heating – for five years. Apparently, once they pay their fines, they can make repairs and Con Edison will turn on their gas again.

NYC Perspective