Archive | December, 2006

Water Water Everywhere

28 Dec

Chelsea Water Towers

Those wooden tanks dotting the roofs of buildings all over New York City, as ubiquitous to the skyline as the Empire State Building, actually serve a purpose other than providing a dramatic arc for Law & Order plots.

Most buildings over 6 stories tall have one. Why? Because, we built this city on rock (no roll).

The bedrock is really, really hard meaning we can’t drill for water, and so our water comes from Upstate, through water tunnels. Without any assistance, the water will rise up to the 6th story, but no higher and since lots of buildings here are taller than that, it makes more sense to pump the water up to a tank on the roof once, than to pump the water numerous times to numerous places each time someone opens a tap or spigot. And so, we have water tanks.

Most are still made of wood, mainly by the Rosenwach Tank company, but some are made of metal, and I think there was (is?) even one made of resin.

Whatever the material, I really like them. They remind me of the past, which in a city that changes as rapidly as this one can, is comforting.

Decision 2006: The Great De-Beet

27 Dec

I promised you a borscht-off, and a borscht-off you shall have!

(Insert Rocky music here).

In this coooorner we have the undisputed, never defeated, world famous Christmas Borscht from VESELKA!

Veselka Christmas Borscht

And in this cooooorner we have the newly discovered upstart with the impeccable pedigree, Clear Borscht with Mushroom Uszka from POLONIA!

Polonia Clear Borscht with Mushroom Uszka

Now that you’ve met the soups, it’s only fair to introduce you to the judges which are me and the boy. We feel we make excellent judges for The Great De-Beet because we love beets, borscht, mushrooms and soup. Nuff said. Let’s get down to the judging.

Point No. 1 ~ Prettiness.

I was taken by the shapeliness of Polonia’s uszka and their plump, sensuous nature and turned off by the slight film of oily-ness floating on the surface of the soup. The boy was taken by the gorgeous, deep, intense ruby-red color of Veselka’s broth and how clear it was; you could see all the chunky-bits hiding shyly beneath the surface. I grudgingly agreed.

Point No. 1 winner? VESELKA.


Point No. 2 ~ Aroma.

It’s funny, having the two borschts right next to each other brought out aspects of the Veselka borscht I had never noticed before, like it’s overwhelming perfume of beef stock. Polonia’s soup smelled mysterious, exotic, earthy, sweet and redolent of unseen spices.

Point No. 2 winner? POLONIA.


Point No. 3 ~ Taste (broth only).

Just as the two soups had wildly different aromas, their flavors were polar opposites as well. Veselka’s is a manly broth; salty, beefy, spicy, chunky, garlicky, vinegary and well, delicious. Polonia’s is utterly feminine; sweet, beety, earthy, subtle and well, also delicious.

Point No. 3 winner? A TIE. I preferred Polonia’s, the boy, Veselka’s.


Point No. 4 ~ The Dumplings.


Polonia's Mushroom Uszka


Veselka's Mushroom Uszka

The pictures do not lie. This decision was as easy to make in person as it is to make over the Internet.

Point No. 4 winner? No contest. POLONIA.


Point No. 5 ~ Ease Of Procurement.


Walked in waited for 5 minutes next to about 10 Polish men of every generation doing shots of vodka at 1 in the afternoon. The lady behind the counter told me she didn’t have any borscht to sell me as I hadn’t ordered it a month (!) in advance and that she might have some for me on Sunday (this was on Saturday just before we headed Upstate to celebrate Christmas with my family). I guess I put on a pretty good pout when I told her I wasn’t going to be around tomorrow because she agreed to sell me a small container. It was $4.50.


Walked up to the branch on 2nd Ave and E. 9th St, decided it might be more prudent to get the borscht from Little Veselka at 1st Ave and E. 1st St as it’s closer to home and would be warmer. Walked over there, walked up to the window, placed my order, paid $4.25, got the soup, walked away.

Point No. 5 winner? Hands down. Veselka. (But if you like a little color, go with Polonia).

And In Conclusion?

Yep, we have a tie!

If I were the only judge Polonia would be our winner. I preferred the broth and the uszka and I love the, *ahem* charm, associated with a trip to Polonia.

But, this was a team effort and while the boy preferred Polonia’s uszka, the wait made him cranky and he vastly preferred Veselka’s broth.

So, I say unto you, there are no borscht losers!

Unless you really hate beets.

Veselka on Urbanspoon

A Simple Pasta For An Un-Silent Night

21 Dec

It’s that time of year.

Nothing is quiet. Nothing is calm. Round yon corner hides your mother-in-law. Holy terror toddler screaming for TMX Elmo. “Cook” in light-warp-speeeed! Eaaat in light-warp-speed.

Granted, I have no mother-in-law, nor a screaming toddler in my own apartment (thank god), my shopping is done and all I have to do is show up at my mom’s house on Saturday, but in New York City, we live in very close proximity to others, and walking around, I can feel the rising tidal wave of panic as last minute shoppers and menu planners scurry about.

But listen up! Allow my voice to be heard over your increasingly shrill inner monologue.

You still have to eat.

So my offering to you is this simple, festive, nurturing pasta that I dreamed up a few weeks ago on a night where I got out of work late, hungry and un-inspired.

Linguini With Treviso Radicchio

You need: Spinach flavored linguine, two heads of Treviso radicchio (the larger, elongated red variety), some garlic, some mint, olive oil, butter, a little stock (if you have it) and some leftover red wine (or a glug from the bottle you’re drinking from).

Sweat the garlic in some olive oil. Cut the radicchio into ribbons, wash and then braise, with the garlic, in enough red wine and stock to cover until tender, about 10 minutes. Cook the linguine. When nearly done, drain and transfer immediately to the radicchio. Toss to coat. Season with salt & pepper and finish with a knob of butter. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with a liberal amount of chopped mint. Dig in. (I’d imagine a light blizzard of grated cheese would taste divine on this as well).

Linguini With Treviso Radicchio

Sit back, relax. Allow the panic to ebb. And if the red wine isn’t helping you ignore the sugar-rushing, Elmo-crazed children in your life, might I recommend switching immediately to the good stuff.

Happy holidays everybody, happy holidays!

Lights In The Alley

20 Dec

Jersey Street

There’s a few interesting things about this picture, the beautiful reflections being only one of them. This building sits near the intersection of Lafayette St and Jersey St, a tiny alley in NoLita. And yes, I do see that the street sign just at the bottom of the photo says Crosby Ave. Why? You’ve got me, I haven’t a clue.

Some of you might actually know this block without even knowing it. For fans of Sex & The City, this is the very same alley in which Carrie was mugged and her Manolo’s stolen.

For another cool view of this building, click here.

Here Be Dragons

18 Dec

Dragon Stoop

These two noble beasts guard a lovely stoop on East 2nd Street in the Village.  For years I used to walk past them every single day on my way to work, and somehow I adopted the somewhat odd habit of squeezing their bulbous noses.

I got laid off from that job years ago, but I still walk by these guys on mornings that I can drag my lazy butt to the gym.  I love the elegant curves of their bodies.

I can’t help but think that at some point in time they’ve lost their wings.