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Yesterday I met a friend in China Town for Dim Sum and we ended up on an impromptu foodie tour that took us to sticky garlicy, deep-fried chicken at Cafe Hong Kong and Shiu Mai at Dim Sum Go Go (Michelin-starred, cheap and baby friendly), and eventually back across the Manhattan Bridge (a noisier, grittier experience than the Brooklyn Bridge), via Juniors in downtown Brooklyn for a restorative iced coffee and superb cheesecake.

(My foodie friend, a former personal chef to the stars and weekday culinary explorer, said, ‘American does the best cheesecake in the world. New York does the best cheesecake in America. Juniors does the best cheesecake in New York. You are eating the best baked cheesecake in the world’. I paraphrase as I was too busy eating the lion’s share of the dessert to concentrate 100% on what she was saying).

We walked past the new Citi Bikes, which I haven’t seen in NYC yet as I was away when they launched. I use London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ all the time (named after the foppish Mayor who introduced them). They are a super easy, if not slightly clunky, way to get around esp if you live and work near one of the stations.

They are convenient if you need get from A to B in a Tube dead zone – like Oxford Street to Clerkenwell, where there is no direct tube line – or zooming around the city on a traffic-free Sunday.

Not everyone likes them – there have been some sad deaths in London (although cycling on anything in the UK capital’s narrow streets isn’t known for being safe) – but nothing beats the pure thrill of biking around a city.

Even if a Citi Bike will never look as cool as your owning your own wheels:

Something to save for a baby-free day.

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Saucy

I Iove the way Worcester Sauce comes wrapped up like a Christmas present in the U.S

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In line for Shake Shack in Madison Park – h1b reckons the line is 70 metres long. These burgers better be good. Still its a lovely day to look at the view (Empire State, Mies Van de Roe (sp?) & flatiron) and plenty of blossom

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Salmon paste anyone?

In the spirit of the season, I’ve invited the neighbours around for a Christmas drink on Sunday afternoon.

This is the little I know about them:

  • the basement couple have two mad dogs, who are naughty and require a lot of telling off (“Bad dog! Baaaad!“)
  • the man of the couple directly above us plays fantastic classical piano (the first night the H1B and I stayed here and, ahem, blessed the apartment our passion was accompanied by the crescendo of a Beethoven concerto – at least I think it was Beethoven)
  • the man in the top flat works for a financial company and has just come back from London and his wife is on a long-term work placement in Minnesota (or was it Pennsylvania?)

The key to meeting your neighbours in a big city like New York is to smoke. We’ve had the best conversations with our neighbours when sitting on the stoop having our weekly cigarette and they are coming back from work. (Never say that the H1B and I don’t know how to let our hair down…)

Also, remembering names is useful but not my greatest strength as about two seconds into the conversation I’m trying to imagine more interesting aspects of their lives, such as how they managed to score such an attractive wife or if their apartment is bigger or nicer than ours. (I find a good rummage in the morning post helps to kick-starts the memory.)

The party is about 5pm. I’m thinking of serving mulled wine (festive, easy and all those lovely aromatic spices hide the cheapness of the wine), a few bottles of (better quality) white wine and beer, and non-alcoholic hot cider made from the incredible apple juice sold at the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket (okay, maybe with a splash of schnapps).

Foodwise, some homemade blinis if I can find the buckwheat flour, with sour cream, chives and smoked salmon. The H1B, true to his Calvinist roots, thought “we could just roast a few potatoes for people to pick at”, but I think we could stretch to some sweet potato wedges baked with rosemary, honey and plenty of rock salt.

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The Vesper

One of the enviably cool traits of the native New Yorker is ordering a signature cocktail with added nuances. My friend Katie, for example, swings her long legs onto a bar stool and says to the barman, “a Perfect Manhattan with rye”. I’d like it if she followed the order with “and make it snappy”, but she is not that rude.

My weekend nights are currently filled with the never-ending quest to find my perfect Manhattan drink (a noble task), although despite my best efforts I’m still at the stage of spending ten minutes furrowing my brow at the cocktail menu in the dimmed venue light, trying not to resort to a panicked order of vodka and tonic.

Most bars only put their signature or seasonal cocktails on the menu but the bartenders will have an encyclopedic knowledge of classic concoctions up their rolled-up sleeves. There’s something incredibly natty about ordering off-piste and the bartender giving you a small but knowing nod, as he turns around to start creating his magic.

Some of my favourite bars I’ve found on my, er, journey have been:

  • The Pegu Club — many good ones here – especially the French Pearl with mint, lime, gin and pernod
  • Weather Up (Tribeca) — El Diablo with tequila, ginger syrup, lime, creme de cassis and soda
  • Weather Up (Prospect Heights) — Brooklynite with rum, honey, lime (again!) and Angostura Bitters

I do have a particular taste for the Vesper, however, after Mike Enright at the Zeta Bar in Sydney made me my first one about five years ago.

A Vesper is a gin and vodka martini, which is made with Lillet – a citrusy French aperitif wine from France – instead of Vermouth. It was created by an author, rather than a bartender – Ian Flemming for the James Bond book Casino Royale (note, I have no aspirations to be a Bond girl) in the sixties.

While my quest continues a Vesper is not a bad fall-back at all.

Here’s a video I found on How to Make a Vesper (this, kids, is definitely one you should try at home):

Oh, okaaaey, you just want to see it, don’t you….

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Markets are a distinctly New York experience and none more so than the Green Markets, which are the hippest way to buy food in New York.

Cheaper than most of the astonishingly expensive Manhattan stores, such as Gristedes or Whole Foods (though I found that Amish Market was better value when we lived near Tribeca), you have the bonus of the food being seasonal and local.

Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket

The Green Market Organisation was set up in 1976 as a way for small producers to get their food to the consumer. The first market bought together 12 farmers at a lot at 59th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan although there is no longer an active market at the site (the closest is 59th street and 9th avenue).

The buzz of the stall holders, as well as initiatives to help those less well off (such as the EBT stamps), as well as all the photo-worthy local produce make them well worth a visit as a tourist destination too.

If you go no other time of year, make a visit on the market days prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas when the atmosphere will be genuinely festive. I’m looking forward to the pre-Thanksgiving market at Grand Army Plaza on Wednesday, even though I’m not actually cooking or having people around for dinner!

Brooklyn Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket

Grab yourself a coffee and a pastry and have a wander around. Even it’s a pound of crisp red apples from upstate New York, a cup of hot apple cider or locally produced honey, make sure you buy something – you are supporting the local farmers and small holders and the community.

Now there are 53 markets around the NY area – the biggest market is at Union Square on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a list of the markets with local subway stops and days (go to grownyc.com for full details and information) :

Manhattan:
175th Street Thursday 
106th Street / Stranger’s Gate Saturday 
97th Street Friday
92nd Street  Sunday
82nd Street Saturday
79th Street Sunday 
57th Street  Wednesday & Saturday
Abingdon Square Saturday 
Bowling Green Tuesday & Thursday
City Hall Tuesday & Friday
Columbia Thursday & Sunday
Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Wednesday
Fort Washington Tuesday
Inwood Saturday
Mount Sinai Wednesday
Port Authority Bus Terminal Thursday
Saint Mark’s Church Tuesday
Staten Island Ferry Whitehall Terminal Tuesday & Friday 
Stuyvesant Town Sunday
Tompkins Sunday
Tribeca Wednesday & Saturday
Tucker Square Thursday & Saturday
Union Square Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday
World Financial Center Battery Park City Thursday
Zuccotti Park Tuesday
Fulton Youth of the Future Youthmarket Thursday 
Lower East Side Youthmarket Thursday 

 

Brooklyn:
Bay Ridge Saturday 
Boro Park Thursday 
Brooklyn Borough Hall Tuesday, Thursday, & Saturday 
Carroll Gardens
Sunday 
Cortelyou Rd Sunday 
Fort Greene Park Saturday 
Grand Army Plaza Saturday 
Greenpoint McCarren Park Saturday 
Sunset Park Saturday 
Williamsburg Waterfront Saturday
Windsor Terrace Wednesday
Williamsburg Thursday 
Brownsville Youthmarket Tuesday & Friday 
Cypress Hills Youthmarket Friday
Kensington Youthmarket Saturday 
Lafayette Youthmarket Sunday 

 

Queens:
Astoria Wednesday 
Atlas Park Glendale Saturday
Corona Friday
Douglaston Sunday 
Elmhurst Tuesday
Jackson Heights Sunday 
Socrates Sculpture Park Saturday 
Sunnyside Saturday 
Ridgewood Youthmarket Saturday 

Bronx:
Bronx Borough Hall Tuesday 
Lincoln Hospital Tuesday & Friday
New York Botanical Garden Wednesday
Parkchester Friday 
Poe Park Tuesday
Wholesale Greenmarket
Monday-Saturday, 2-8 AM
Kingsbridge Heights Youthmarket Friday 
Learn It, Grow It, Eat It Youthmarket Wednesday 
Marble Hill Youthmarket Friday 
Riverdale Youthmarket Thursday  

 

Staten Island:
Saint George Saturday
Staten Island Mall Saturday
Stapleton Youthmarket Saturday 

No idea what a rutabaga is - but they sure are popular

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Oven Temperature Conversions

I’ve noticed that American recipes often refer to a “hot oven” or “warm oven”. Call me pedantic (pedantic), but I need something more specific (least I’m left with an undercooked chook). Here’s a good guide to Centigrade, Farenheit and the more vague settings:

Description °F °C
Cool oven 200 °F 90 °C
Very Slow oven 250 °F 120 °C
Slow oven 300–325 °F 150–160 °C
Moderately Slow 325–350 °F 160–180 °C
Moderate oven 350–375 °F 180–190 °C
Moderately Hot 375–400 °F 190–200 °C
Hot oven 400–450 °F 200–230 °C
Very Hot oven 450–500 °F 230–260 °C
Fast oven 450–500 °F 230–260 °

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