Pete Seeger & The Great Pumpkin

Kinda love my photo of the always amazing and generous Pete Seeger at last week's Beacon Sloop Club Pumpkin Festival. I had to share it...


Wait, What? Grand Sichuan 24th Street Gets A New Sign

Recently noticed that my favorite Grand Sichuan location on 24th Street and 9th Avenue has a new--very different--awning! All else in the window looks the same, and it's still listed as one of the locations on Grand Sichuan's website, but methinks I'll have to go do some dinner reconnaissance, just to be sure. Anyone want to join me?


KKNY In London Part III: On The Merits Of Pub Grub

The Cittie of Yorke. There's been a pub on this site since 1430.
I've been defending British food for the better part of the last twenty years. While I may admit it may not be the world's most transcendent cuisine (and many people say it's just plain boring), I think it can be absolutely wonderful. In particular, I love pub grub--from a Ploughman's Lunch (which can range from simple cheese, bread, and a little salad, to the much more complex gastropub combo with sliced meats, a cold pie, or other adornments) to a Steak & Kidney Pie, when it's done well, it's a very happy thing.

During my recent London adventure, most of my meals out were in pubs, as part of my goal during the week was to visit as many historic establishments as I could. (Turns out my old watering hole, The Prince Alfred, is considered by many to be one of the finest examples of Victorian-era pubs out there. It is indeed stunning, and my naïve self back in the day just thought all pubs were that beautiful...) I can't really tell if the gastropub revolution has helped up the quality of British food in general (I'm sure there are still stinkers, but that's the case with any type of food anywhere), but what I ate was not only consistently good, but fairly inexpensive.

Ye Olde Mitre. The pub apparently dates to 1547, but was rebuilt circa 1772.

So to put it simply: First of all, when you head to the UK, don't be afraid of the pub food, and if you order a pie or the like, I'm fairly certain you'll be happy. And secondly, it seems that if you stick to traditional pub grub (gastropubs are another story), you can eat fairly cheaply, which totally floats my boat. I mean, check out Ye Olde Mitre's menu. It's one of the city's oldest establishments (and the coziest we visited), so there's no excuse not to pop in for a truly cheap eat and a little historical character!

My absolute favorite go-to dish is Steak & Ale Pie (or variants thereof), which is surprisingly hard to find in New York's pubs and taverns. A rich stew topped by flaky puff pastry, a well-done version (like the amazing one I had at The George Inn in Southwark last week) is beautifully aromatic, cozy and crunchy, and is a wonderful, wonderful thing. After watching The Hairy Bikers video below, I realize that I have absolutely no excuse not to make it myself....and I plan to do so as soon as the weather gets a bit more chilly...

The Cittie of Yorke, 22 High Holborn, London WC1V 6BN.
The George Inn, The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High Street, Southwark, London SE1 1NH. 
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, 145 Fleet Street, London EC4A 2BU.
Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, 1 Ely Court, Ely Place side of 8 Hatton Garden, London EC1N 6SJ. 
The Prince Alfred, 5A Formosa Street, London W9 1EE.


KKNY In London: Best Pub Name Contest Winner

Just in case you're wondering, a bung hole is the hole through which you fill a cask...


KKNY In London Part II: Good Eats

By no means did I even come close to scratching the surface of what's on offer in London restaurants these days, but I must say, I ate well. I've long been a defender of British cooking (more on that in a later post), but a city as eclectic as London is going to feature some spectacular grub. Here are my highlights:

Best traditional British: I had an absolutely wonderful meal at the George Inn in Southwark, which dates to the 17th century and is London's last remaining galleried inn. We started with a cheese board from Neal's Yard Dairy (up-and-running when I was there in the early 90s), which featured a nice combination of stinky, blue (probably Stilton), and English cheddar. I moved on to the best steak and ale pie I think I've ever had--if I could teleport myself there regularly for one of these, I would be a very happy camper indeed.

Wildest eat: While revisiting Camden Town and its markets, I took advantage of the unusual wild game offerings at one stand in the Camden Lock Market and ordered a giraffe burger (yes, the long-necked spotted animal from Africa). It really was unlike anything I'd ever had. A little sweet, it seemed to fall somewhere on the scale between dark turkey (it was lean), horse, and antelope (which they also had). The two of us who partook were both happy, so no regrets here!

Chinese surprise: I fondly remember some insane hot and sour soup I had in London's Chinatown back in the day (I swear it made me high...), so deciding to pop in to a random restaurant there for lunch was not a difficult choice. We ended up in Dumplings' Legend...and we had the best soup dumplings I've ever eaten. Go and order the Spicy Pork Siu Loung Bao, and you won't be sorry.

Tasty curry: Of course, food hailing from India and its environs was great when I was living there--one of my main eats back in the day were the giant 90p samosas you could buy just about anywhere. In addition to discovering the Indian community in Southall (one giant grocery store put Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights to shame), we had a wonderful meal on the Bangladeshi and artist-filled Brick Lane neighborhood at Eastern Eye Balti House. Meeting friends who'd enjoyed the place previously, the huge, inexpensive menu was filled with tons of curries I'd never heard of before, and each one was more complex and rich than the next. I'm going to have to do some serious researching to find something similar in NYC...

Market I'd like to revisit: Borough Market in Southwark. I was meeting my friends for dinner at the George Inn right after exploring this market (so I only bought some figs and a Pimm's Cup), but I'd definitely like to go back and pick up some things for a feast. There was a beautiful selection of just about everything, and I think it's the kind of year-round market New York could easily support. C'mon, city planners!

Biggest American surprise: While wandering the Sunday UpMarket off Brick Lane, I happened upon a stall selling Whoopie Pies! Turns out Kookybakes is run by an expat from Colorado, and he's been selling his twist on American fare in London for a few years now. I'm admittedly a Whoopie Pie purist, but I couldn't resist his truly unique takes on the classic, so picked up two--one Maltesers and one pistachio with sour cherry filling--both of which were definitely their own, unique thing, and nicely tasty to boot.

KKNY In London Part I: The Return

While everybody knows that I absolutely adore my fabulous metropolis of New York, most of you probably aren't aware that my first city was actually London, where I lived for a short while back in the early 1990s. I'd visited again briefly in the late 90s, but other than flying over the city in 2003, haven't been back. My time in London has always been very special to me, and the city holds a very special place in my heart.

Last week, I finally returned.

I have to admit, I was nervous. I knew that like any cosmopolitan city, my London that was no longer is. The cities we love grow and chance with the times--and as difficult as that may be, that's part of what makes them great.

After wandering a bit, I put my fears aside--London seems better than ever. While there's only so much one can experience in a week (the city's size seems to have doubled since I lived there), it seems that it's more cosmopolitan and eclectic than ever. Obviously it's not perfect (see the riots a few months ago), but to me, it's as livable for me as New York. If anyone offered me a gig over there, I doubt I'd hesitate to make the leap.

There's more to come on my adventure, so stay tuned...