Happy Thanksgiving from 34th Street!

As I'm actually in town this Thanksgiving--and I don't have to be at feast #1 until 4--I thought I'd go over and take some pix at Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, which ends just down the street from my place. Last time I stayed in town (2001), I noticed how close you could get to the balloon deflation, so I wanted to go take photos. But alas, the NYPD has yet again thwarted me with its annoying over-use of barricades. So...I wandered around and actually had some fun (I must admit, the vibe was pretty great). Here are some of the highlights:

A Japanese anime monster meets its doom!

Is that a beer you're holding, Snoopy?

I can't believe the Smurfs are back. I still remember the aftermath of eating Smurfberry Crunch when I was a kid...

Santa offers a ride to the people on the balcony.

The most popular souvenir of the day was the inflatable Spider-Man sledgehammer. It was so nice to see the giving spirit of Thanksgiving reflected in the children as they beat the crap out of each other...

Where balloons go to die.

The street signs and lamps relax as they wait to take over the streets again...


Can Schman...

I'm lucky enough to be attending two Thanksgiving feasts this year (my stomach's in for one heck of a day!), so I've offered to contribute my super-easy, transportable, and happy-making cranberry sauce. I tend to vary ingredients from year to year, but the constants remain: ginger, orange, and chili.

In case you have yet to make your cranberry sauce...

Cranberry Sauce (2009)

• 12 oz. cranberries (equivalent to a prepackaged bag)
• zest and juice of 3 navel oranges
• 1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
• 3 green cardamom pods
• 1 tsp. French Quatre épices (or a combination of ground cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and black pepper)
• 1 teeny tiny hot chili (or a pinch of cayenne)

Combine everything in a saucepan and cook on medium-low heat, stirring from time to time. Cook until cranberries pop and form a sauce, about 10 minutes.


Sautéed Shrooms

Mushrooms are a wonderful, wonderful thing. I absolutely hated them when I was a kid (for no good reason, if I remember correctly), but now, I'll take 'em in any way, shape, or form. Last week, I decided I wanted to make some sort of simple mushroom sauté I could serve up in multiple ways. So, I picked up a few portobello mushrooms and went to town...and ended up with something that works on crackers, in soup, or as a side.

Sautéed Portobello Mushrooms

• 2 large portabella mushrooms, finely chopped (discard stems)
• 1 large shallot, finely minced
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/4 cup red wine

Heat the oil in a skillet, then sauté the minced shallot until it begins to turn golden. Add the mushrooms, sauté until they just begin to get soft. Add the wine, toss, and cook until most of the liquid evaporates. Serve warm.


Garden 34th Street: It's Alive!!!

It may be mid-November, but my window garden's still thriving (thank you, Southern exposure!). The hours of direct sunlight I get this time of years are few, so the peppers are taking longer and longer to ripen (and there are very few flowers). But finally, this morning, I noticed...ripe Frankenpeppers!!

I wasn't sure if it was a smart idea to try a potentially hot pepper before breakfast, but I did... Hoping this pollination accident would result in the flavor of the biquinho with the hotness of the chili hots, I tread warily, carefully. But alas...the one I picked this morning doesn't have much to it. It's lost its biquinhoness, and just has a little hint of heat at the back of the throat...if you chew on it for a while... Kind of like a not hot chili hot with an interesting shape.

Oh well...perhaps the others will be better! Otherwise, I guess I'll just toss them in salads to add a little pretty to my day! There are worse things...


Again...Why Do People Discard Leek Greens?

I've written about this before, but as leeks are in season, I thought it was time to discuss this subject again.

I purchased a beautiful bunch of leeks at the farmers market last Saturday. As he was taking my money, the vendor asked me if I wanted him to trim off the greens for me. After a quick, panicky "no" from me, he gave me a knowing eye...which made me wonder... Perhaps farmers "kindly" offer to kindly remove the "unusable section" because they know how AWESOMELY GOOD it is? More for them?

More for me...

So, last night I revisited my Sichuan leek green stir fry, this time with the addition of some noodles. People, listen to me, USE THE GREENS! They're absolutely fabulous.

Enough said.


Worth the Splurge: Drinks @ Elizabeth

Although it's Wednesday, I'm still thinking about last Friday's nightcap. I was taken to Elizabeth (on Elizabeth Street, south of Houston), for cocktails concocted by one of NYC's most creative bartenders.

The bar is lined with flasks (the ones from science class) of fresh juice, and the amazing Olga made us drinks unlike anything I've ever had. The flavors were deep, balanced, and fascinating.

Rarely are cocktails worth the crazy NYC prices (Elizabeth's are $13 to $15), but these were so memorable, I'll definitely go back for a special sort of splurge.

Elizabeth is located at 265 Elizabeth, between Houston and Prince.


As Seen on 42nd Street

This truck was parked on 42nd between 8th and 9th, near the Post Office. Not sure I'd want to eat anything they've prepared... Are they experimenting with food, or just angry?


A Scrape with Ticker Tape

I've been in NYC since 1995, and there are (unfortunately) still things I should probably do as part of my "True New Yorker" list. When I read about the Yankees ticker tape parade yesterday, I decided it was time to check off another box. So this morning, Mandy and I braved the wind and the crowds and set off to the "Canyon of Heroes" in Lower Manhattan.

I'm glad I went, but at first...not so much. The morning was yet another example of NYPD crowd control at its finest. Streets leading to Broadway--and the parade--were blocked off, resulting in many, many frustrated people. Apparently poor plebeians can't actually watch a ticker tape parade: unless you're work in one of the offices on Broadway or are a psycho who arrives at 3AM, you're S.O.L. So, as to avoid me punching an officer and landing in jail, we hopped the train to Whitehall Street and ended up with a sort of view of Bowling Green (it would have been fine if the universe instituted a height fairness rule for crowds, but that's never going to happen...). At least we saw a tiny bit, were showered with some paper, and cheered a little, too.

Click on the pics--the detail makes them much more interesting...

Oh, right...we were there to cheer the players. Here's a mystery busload of Yankees. No idea who they are, but YAY!

Who knew they still made those sheets of computer paper with the holes in the sides?! I thought that stuff went out with the 1980s!

The Guido in front of us...

The aftermath.

The coolest part, for me, turned out to be checking out some of the stuff chucked out of windows. Wall Street secrets, anyone? Need official NYC health documents?


Truly Cheap Eats: Noodle-Rama at Sheng Wang

After months of prodding from his sister Jennie, Jimmy and I ventured to Chinatown last night to check out Sheng Wang's handmade Fujianese noodle soups. We zig-zagged our way to a section of Eldridge Street I'm not sure I'd been on before. Tucked behind the Manhattan Bridge, it was like we'd wandered into a festive, colorful back street in China (though we admitted we were glad we went there when it was dark...the daylight may reveal some unhappy realities). As we scanned the storefronts searching for a few words of English, we finally found 27, with the words "Sheng Wang" hidden in the right-hand corner of its very large sign.

We happily skipped down the steps into the beat-up space. There are a few tables, the walls are lined with the menu (in Chinese), and the noodle chefs are in a small kitchen right up front. We were ushered in, asked to share a table with someone else finishing up his soup, and handed take-out menus. After perusing a bit, Jimmy went for the beef hand-pulled noodle soup ($4), I chose the duck soup ($5), and we decided to share "Pain noodles with sesame peanuts sauce" ($1.50).

There were lots of condiments on the table: a big container of chili and Sichuan-style spices in oil (which I could have easily consumed in its entirety), Sriracha sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, and two mystery containers, one with a sherry-like substance, the other with the soy sauce concoction which seems to be decanted into Sriracha containers all over Chinatown.

Jimmy's soup came out first. The beef broth was rich, like an English roast with a little hint of Chinese spice (according to the Wikipedia entry, the Fujianese are all about umami, and Sheng Wang's food has it in spades). He said the beef itself was yummy, the noodles were good (though he preferred our next dish), and was ultimately happy.

The "Pain" noodles came out next (yes, I know they meant plain...). Fabulous. They had a wonderful chew (Jimmy remarked they were better than what you'd get at a high-end Italian restaurant, and I agree), and the sauce was simple, yet nice. Of course, we added some of the Sichuan chili condiment, which brought them up to the "insanely yummy" level.

Last to the table was my duck soup (insert Marx Brothers joke here). Turns out I'd pointed to the version under "Peel Noodle," which was a happy accident. At first I was like, "Crap! I accidentally ordered tripe soup!" But as soon as I took my first bite of the thick, mysterious white slices, I was very, very happy. The peel noodles have an absolutely wonderful consistency and didn't get mushy at all. I think this new-to-me style may be the discovery of the week!

The broth was flavorful and nice, but the duck was just OK (it was really boney and not all that special). There were a few pieces of bok choy, and the whole thing was topped with some sort of pickled vegetable. But the real surprise was hiding at the bottom: a fish ball stuffed with pork. It was an unusual (we don't seem to mix meat and fish in the West), yet yummy combination. Almost a soup version of a Cracker Jack prize!

I think next time I'll go for the peel noodles with beef, though I'm curious about "Fujianese Style." Anyone know what that might mean? Our server spoke no English, so he just shook his head when we asked... The steamed dumplings looked great, and I'm also intrigued by broth buns and Fujianese style wontons. Can't wait to go back! Anyone up for an adventure?

Sheng Wang is at 27 Eldridge Street, just south of Canal.

Today @ Hong Kong Supermarket: Corned Beef Crackers?

Corned Beef Flavored Crackers? Really? I almost want to try them, because in some bizarre world, they might actually be good... But let's be real, they're probably salty and weird. What kind of brain decided this was a good idea? Did someone go to Ireland and say, "Wait a minute, this corned beef stuff is good, but it would be AWESOME as a cracker!" Perhaps this is a mystery we'll never solve...

A bonus photo: A legal warning, just in case you pick up these jellies in lieu of crackers:


Post-Halloween Candy Revelation

When Halloween candy time arrives, I always fight the temptation to pick up a bag of candy corn (preferably the brown variety, which I think tastes better...people think I'm nuts, but whatever).

That's all just changed forever.

I just opened the Autumn Harvest Mix from Alps Sweet Shop in Beacon (thanks, Nancy!). Holy crap. It's not just waxy sugar, it actually tastes like something. The regular and brown candy corn have more depth than the supermarket variety; there are little walnut-shaped pieces that taste like maple sugar candy; the pumpkins and ears of corn are fruity; and last but certainly not least...cinnamon-flavored red candy corn! It's all over for Brach's, people. I've moved on.

(Now it's time to come down from my sugar high!)

Alps Sweet Shop has two locations: 269 Main Street in Beacon and 1054 Main Street in Fishkill. The website, sadly, seems to be down.

Garden: Wrapping It Up

This is it...our little plot at Stony Kill is finished for the season. Saturday was clean-up day, so Nance and I zipped out to help clear stakes and rocks from the field. We harvested what was left of the collard greens, then went on our merry Halloween way.

It sure was a rough season...too much rain, not enough warm, the Late Blight & squash bug disaster... It's almost enough to make one give up (and there sure were more abandoned plots this year than in the past). But while it could have been much better, we did have a lot of success: Our peppers did well (this season's jelly ROCKS), we discovered maxixe, the red cabbage and nasturtiums were the spiciest ever, and we had lots of fun playing with the things that did survive. It seems like years have passed since I sowed seeds in my Manhattan windows, but it was a wonderfully educational summer!

See ya in the spring, little patch of Earth!