Tag Archives: Bay Ridge

To Market…

26 Jun

Grocery stores have become a big controversy in my neighborhood.

Marathoners & Pharmacy

Rents in the city are high and seem to inevitably climb higher. This makes it hard to run small businesses and shops, especially when landlords get greedy. Essential services like grocers, cobblers, bakers and florists are, not so slowly, being replaced by banks and pharmacies.

Bay Ridge Summer Night

The chain of events goes like this: You realize you need your shoe fixed. You start looking around and out of nowhere you realize that, every day for the past five years, you’ve walked past a cobbler on your way to the subway. You bring your shoes to the cobbler and fall in love with the delightful, ancient, Russian man who’s hands are dyed by his trade and move on their own while he sits and gossips and tells tales. He fixes your shoes and you leave, vowing to return as soon as possible. And then you forget.

And then, by the next time you need a pair of shoes fixed, he’s gone; replaced by another CVS or Walgreen’s or Chase or Capital One.

Koi

This is happening endlessly all over the city, not just in Manhattan but also in the outer boroughs. The necessities of life are being replaced by things that no one needs or wants in their neighborhoods, to the detriment of people’s health.

This situation is currently burning through Bay Ridge slowly and deliberately. There’s been huge controversy because one of the last, larger grocery stores is being closed, to be replaced by, yep, another pharmacy. My neighbors are, to say the least, up in arms about this. But, I do not agree with them.

Verrazano Bridge

One of the reasons I wanted to move to Bay Ridge is because it is such a great food neighborhood; and one of the things that makes it so great is its amazing proliferation of small, independent, family-owned ethnic grocery stores. I can think of at least three dozen places to shop for wonderful, fresh, delicious food within a 20 block radius of my apartment.

But this doesn’t seem to be the mindset of my neighbors. “Oh no! Where will we shop now?” None of them seem to be stopping and asking why the grocery stores are fleeing. I mean, there has to be a reason, right? Chain groceries don’t just up and leave for no good reason, do they? No, they do not. And I think I know why.

Stop

Bay Ridge is a car neighborhood. People drive here as if they’re living in suburban Denver or Los Angeles. If you’ve got a car, why on earth would you shop at the cramped, expensive Key Food in Bay Ridge when you can hop in your SUV and drive to Costco or Fairway or the enormous Price Chopper out in Sheepshead Bay?

Cars are also to blame for Bay Ridge not having a greenmarket. The city tried to give us one, but no. “We” told the city “no thanks” because it would take away parking. At a church. On Saturday. Because, so many Catholics go to church on Saturdays, right?

rainy

But one gentleman in the neighborhood has a plan. He has proposed a co-op. Where everyone pools their money and shopping lists and… Drives to big grocery stores and buys Triscuits and beer. Here’s the perfect chance to do something exciting for the neighborhood. We could start a CSA! Or go back to the city and say, “Hey, you know what? We really do want that greenmarket!” But no.

God Sky

It seems shocking to me that between gas at $4.45, the neighborhood’s eye-popping obesity problem and our brush with global warming (tornado in Brooklyn anyone?) my neighbors are sill so reluctant to embrace steps that can improve their health and the health of the neighborhood; like using public transport, walking and supporting small, local, independent grocers.

I’ve never lived in another neighborhood that has two quality fishmongers, two amazing butchers (one of whom is also a sausage maker!) and purveyors of decent, reasonably priced fresh fruits and vegetables every couple of blocks.

Bay Ridge Cabbages

And, as if that’s not enough, the city’s marquee greenmarket sits at the other end of the subway line that runs right through our neighborhood. Four days a week, the region’s very best produce, cheese and meats are available for everyone.

14th Street, Union Square

And then, there’s the yards. So many people have both front and backyards in this neighborhood, but what do they use them for? Parking, of course. What could they use them for? Even though I think this guy went a little overboard, there’s lots to learn from him. With a little knowledge, a little exertion and a little patience, it is possible to grow your own fresh, safe, healthy and delicious greens, beans and tomatoes in your own backyard.

Fire Escape Tomato, 100% Safe

But, I fear I have run overlong on a topic that I find endlessly interesting, but which has, at this point, possibly bored you to tears! So, in return for listening to my rant, I offer you a delicious recipe for a seasonal, healthy, tasty pasta dinner.

Pasta with Beet Greens & Peas

All the ingredients can be purchased at the greenmarket, or, if you’re lucky, pulled from your own backyard.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Pasta with Beet Greens & Peas.

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Salad Days

12 Jun

Do you hear that? That rushing noise?

My View, Under the Tree

That’s the sound of people up and down the East Coast, especially me here in New York City, breathing a sigh of relief that the heat wave is over.

I don’t know what it’s been like where you are, but here? It’s been hot. So hot. In fact, it’s been so hot that yesterday morning when I got up and the radio told me that it was going to be only 86°F and only 56% humidity, I sighed with happiness. So hot that I was happy and excited to go to work on Monday because my office is air conditioned. So hot that all I ate for four days was salad.

The Dog Days

Yes, we’ve got an air conditioner, but neither of us like using it. This may be crazy, but it sure does help with the electric bill. Instead, we like to get creative with our ways to keep cool.

One great way too cool off is to befriend someone with a backyard. For two wonderful summers I would hang out in a friend’s, beer in hand, feet in a kiddie pool full of ice water. It was blissful, and fun. Keeping a bag of frozen peas in the freezer is also handy. One very hot, very unemployed summer, I would sit in front of my fan with a wet towel over my head, frozen peas on the back of my neck, and my feet in a bowl of ice water. Apparently my feet get very hot.

Leaves

But, my all time favorite way to keep cool is to visit the Museum of Natural History. Most of the halls are bathed in a soothing, dusky half-light, and intense air conditioning. Of special note is the Hall of Ocean Life, which, with all the watery (and might I add beautiful) dioramas, can’t help but cool you down. I’m especially fond of the otters, but if you’re in desperate danger of melting, might I suggest you spend some time contemplating the walrus.

The soothing, watery hall is great, but there’s another room at the museum that I feel is the best place, possibly in all of New York city, for halting a core meltdown. Can you guess? Okay, I’ll tell you. As unlikely as it may seem, it’s the Hall of Minerals and Gems.

So Hot

It’s a funny room, like your best friend in 6th grade’s parent’s den. You know, the one with a sunken fire pit and shag carpet on the walls… But you know what? It’s incredibly dark, almost painfully cold and, with all the carpeted levels, it’s even possible to pull up a dark corner and take a nap. I’ve never done it (Who? Me? Napping in a museum? Never!), but I’ve seen others doing it.

But that’s not what we did this weekend. Instead, we pulled up a tree on a bluff overlooking New York Harbor in Owl’s Head Park. There was a very strong sea breeze wafting off the harbor. Under our chosen tree it was at least 20 degrees cooler. It was lovely.

New York Harbor

The park is perfect for watching ships and boats come and go in the harbor. If you’re a fan of tug boats (and really, who isn’t?), this is the park for you. There’s dozens of them pulling and prodding, herding and cajoling the scores of enormous tankers making their way to the Port of New York. I think next time I’ll bring my binoculars, and a picnic.

Owl's Head Park

Sadly, we hadn’t planned that far ahead this time. Seriously, it was too hot to think ahead like that. So after a few hours we headed home for dinner. We whipped up our third, delicious bodega veggie salad of the weekend. On Saturday we made a dilly cucumber number and a zippy, Moroccan-esque carrot ditty (kind of like these pickles, but in a bowl) and on Sunday, a kitchen sink chopped salad.

Zippy Moroccan-esque Carrot Salad

This heat wave came too early. It was too hot to cook, but there were no fresh, seasonal veggies to help make is seem worth it. I don’t mind a stretch of days in the 90s in late July or mid-August, at least then there’s produce in the markets. You really can live on tomatoes alone during those dog days. But early June? No thanks Mother Nature! The peas aren’t even out yet!

Dilly Kirby Ditty Salad

But, we survived, with the help of some salads. I’m sure there are more hot days, and thus, delicious salads to come, but just in case it’s really, really hot out, and you can’t find me in the kitchen, you’ll know where to look.

I’ll be the happy lump under the mica display.

Head below the jump for the recipes for Zippy Moroccan-esque Carrot Salad and Dilly Kirby Ditty Salad.

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The Kids

22 May

I’m a country mouse living in the big city.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Day 1

Each spring, as the blossoms bloom and the most tender vegetables make their appearances at the greenmarket, I curse my decision 10 years ago to move to the asphalt jungle; my fingers begin to itch, they yearn to dig into dark, rich earth, to coax wee seedlings into becoming strong, happy food-giving plants.

Fire Escape Garden '08, We Add the Raddichio

So last year, when we decided to move to Bay Ridge (which in a lot of ways is a bit of the country, or at least the suburbs, in the city), I was determined to have a garden apartment, whether it was actually on the garden level or not. I bought some plants and containers and turned our fire escape into a teeny, tiny, plant-laden patio. One of my neighbors even got into the spirit and gave me some extra pots.

Fire Escape Garden '08, The First Tomato

Things went alright. Even despite being hit by a tornado, and ravaged by winter-fearing squirrels, I got a few peppers, but that’s all. My herbs failed completely, and I only discovered that I had produced one itty bitty tomato as I was pulling the plants out of the ground in October. But you know what? I learned a lot.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Future 'Mater

This year, I’ve gone all organic. I bought my plants at the greenmarket and got some organic soil. I’ve got my liquefied worm poop fertilizer, a kind gift from Abby at Good ‘n Planty. Each pot has a thick layer of broken up styrofoam in its base, recycled from my stand mixer‘s packaging, to promote drainage and to decrease the weight of the pots. I’ve mixed sand and gravel into the soil since things can get a little damp out there on the ole fire escape. I’ve planted only in high containers in an attempt to foil those stupid friggin’ squirrels.

Fire Escape Garden '08, The Second Tomato

And, just because I’m completely obsessive, I’m taking pictures of “the kids” every day so I can monitor their progress. Man, I’d be one scary mother to another if my “kids” were actually real.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Many Future 'Maters

So far, things are going okay. I’m worried about my thyme. It has a fungus. Oddly enough though, the lemon thyme is thriving. I’ve got some beautiful, incredibly happy radicchios from Silver Heights Farms in a pot with lettuces bred for containers that I started from seed. I might split some of them out into bigger containers this weekend. I’ve also just added three heirloom peppers and two kinds of basil from the same farm, and my sage, though growing slowly, seems content.

Fire Escape Garden '08, The Third Tomato

But “the kids” I’m most excited about are my tomatoes. I don’t care what those parenting guides say, I pick favorites.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Clearly I'm Obsessed

They’re just generic patio tomatoes, but they are so happy (they even came with a few worms in the pots). They’re blossoming their patookis’ off and, to my continuing astonishment, have already produced three fruit! The minuscule ‘maters are green, but getting bigger every day. I’m gobsmacked.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Three Kinds Of Peppers, Two Kinds Of Basil

Every morning I wake up, pour a glass of iced tea and head into the dining room to see how “the kids” are doing. Opening the window and leaning over the sash into the crisp morning is one of the most singular joys I’ve experienced in my years of living in New York. I can hear the birds and the neighbors’ dogs and oftentimes, a morning greeting from Fred, but then there’s also the roar of the express bus passing by, or a plane overhead to remind me that I’m still in the city.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Have I Mentioned That the Raddichio Like It Here?

So no cooking this week, just ramblings on future food.

Any other urban/container gardeners out there that would like to share their tips, tricks and stories? Please feel free to leave a comment.

Fire Escape Garden '08, Day 18

P.S. It’s the Brooklyn Bridge’s 125th birthday this weekend! If you’re in town, there’s festivities galore. If you’re out of town, raise a toast to the world’s most iconic bridge on her momentous milestone.

Whoopie!

1 May

Did you know there’s a season for whoopie pies?

Wind

Neither did I until yesterday. A bunch of my co-workers are obsessed with a brand of packaged “cookies” called “cakesters.” I hesitate to give you a link, as I’m afraid it will only fuel the mania, but, since I can hear you asking, here it is.

They’re so obsessed that they went out and bought a case of the ooey, gooey treats. I find this terrifying. Why? Because I cadged one, and seriously people, these aren’t soft, pillowy Oreos. They’re whoopie pies. And whoopie pies are something I hold very (very) dear to my heart.

Reflection

I’ve long suspected (like, since I was in junior high long) that there is a correlation between Oreos and whoopie pies, and this new development, of the “cakester,” serves, to me, as a confirmation. Growing up, the family that lived at the bottom of the hill in our neighborhood was from Lancaster Co. The mom was a champion baker, and her specialty was, of course whoopie pies. I loved (lovedlovedloved) going to their house because she always had some on hand and because they had a gigantic Old English Sheepdog who was the most awesome dog ever.

So, I can understand my co-workers’ obsession with tender chocolate cookies and sweet, fluffy filling. But only to a point. What I can’t get over is their fetishizing of a product filled with chemicals and high-fructose corn syrup, when as well paid, sentient adults they could be fixating on something worthy. Like the whoopie pies, baked fresh in Lancaster Co., and brought to the Union Square greenmarket a block away from our office a few times a week.

Chelsea

I’m passionate about food, something you’re probably aware of. But what you might not know is that I’m also kind of loud. So it’s easy for me to come across as a bit strident and bloviating (known to some as annoying), especially when I insist on say, harranguing every person that walks past my desk with a “cakester.” “Whoopie pies are better you know!”

Luckily, people still like me despite this minor personality quirk and put up with my abuse, but only up to a point. I could tell that it was time to stop talking and start acting on my whoopie pie assertions.

Shadows

So, despite being desperately late to work yesterday, I dashed into the greenmarket, no mean feat as they’ve changed the layout (p.s. I hate it), and found the stand I was looking for. I glanced around. Meats. Check. Scrapple. Check. Stone-ground corn. Check. Lots and lots and lots of plants. Check. Whoopie pies? Uhhhh… So I asked the guy, “Where are the whoopie pies?” “Oh, they’re seasonal, fall and winter only.”

Whaaaaaa? I had no choice but to believe him. I mean, you can’t argue with someone who doesn’t have whoopie pies. So I turned away, and slunk off to the office with my metaphorical tail between my legs. Getting my co-workers off the “cakesters” just may take a bit more effort than I had initially assumed.

Swoon

But, there’s a reason I bring this up, and that’s seasonality. Who knew that there was a season to whoopie pies, and who knows the reason why? At Pegasus, our favorite Greek-Cypriot spot in the neighborhood, the owner make the world’s best avgolemono, but, much like the whoopie pies, only in fall and winter.

The soup I can understand. So much whisking and standing over a hot stove, no one wants to do that in the middle of summer! But whoopie pies? I mean, wouldn’t the machines and stoves do most of the work?

Saint

But really, the point I’m trying to make is that this is a tough season for eating. The weather can’t make up its mind and the culinary standbys of the past season are gone while fresh, new vegetables that make spring so exciting are only just beginning to make an appearance. It was one of these vegetables that I was obsessing over this past Saturday. Asparagus.

As I lay napping on the couch, I dreamed of supping on lightly pan-roasted asparagus topped with a gently poached egg and pillows of lemon and black pepper flecked fresh goat cheese. Then I woke up. At 5.30pm. In Bay Ridge. An hour’s subway ride from Union Square. It was never going to happen. So I rubbed my eyes, shook the cobwebs out of my brain and snapped to attention. If we were going to have a delicious dinner, I needed to act fast.

Shadows

I roused Isaac, slipped on my shoes and dashed out the door. We headed to the fish monger. Isaac had seen that he had halibut fillets earlier in the day, but they were gone, so we settled on flounder and some colossal shrimp. We ran across the street to the Korean market and grabbed leeks, mint and lemons. They had asparagus, but it was flown in from somewhere that wasn’t upstate New York, so I left it there. I can wait for local asparagus.

Copper

The meal was composed entirely on the fly. I made a quick shrimp stock from the shells and then melted the leeks. I decided pretty late in the game that the dish needed bacon. It was a good move.

This meal is seriously delicious. And the leftover sauce was exceptional a few nights later as a post-work dinner with pasta, a dash of sherry vinegar and a flurry of grated cheese.  And, in it’s way, being based on wintered-over leeks and citrus, it is in fact seasonal.

Flounder Smothered in Melted Leeks

I know it’s kind of a cruel turn, to start with whoopie pies and end with flounder, but I hope that, like my co-workers who put up with my occasional tirades and bursts of vulgarity, you’ll forgive me. It is my birthday after all.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Flounder Smothered In Melted Leeks.

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Time

27 Feb

Time seems to be jumping all over me these days.

Snow, Reflection

I start each day fully intending to finish every last thing on my list. And then, by the time I get home, if I’ve got one thing crossed off that list, I’m satisfied. I’m sure every one of you out there is nodding your heads, thinking to yourself, “Yep, Ann, that sounds like life!”

Snow, Shadows

So I hope you’ll all sympathize with me when I admit two things; that a. I never found the time to get a “real” post together this week, and b. I completely and utterly missed the fact that The Granny Cart is now two years old. How did that happen? I have no idea. Time, she’s gotten the better of me.

Directions

It’s kind of embarrassing to follow-up what has to be my favorite post ever (and someone very special feels the same) with such a cop out, but, I just haven’t been able to find the time or intelligence to come up with anything exciting, funny or even resembling English to share with you this week.

Seagulls

So, until I find a moment of stillness in which to cogitate and write, go enjoy this post on My New York chock full of pretty pictures from our recent snowfall.

Sometimes it’s best to let images do the talking.

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