New York, New York…it’s a wonderful town…(for some)

Manhattan View 1 jpgOlivespastavino is in New York City with The Man. The Man doesn’t go much on New York although he seems to be warming to it slightly. He doesn’t like the noise, the subway, the lumpy sidewalks (pavements for those who don’t understand the lingo)…AND…he especially cannot abide the tipping culture. He has moaned constantly about having to give between 15% and 20% on top of any restaurant bill.

It was beginning to get us all down and restricting us from going out for coffee or to eat because he was being such a ‘grumpy old man’ but, then we were saved by ‘The General Greene’ where the service was good, the food delicious and the guy behind the bar is from Liverpool and extremely helpful and liked proper football. So it was decided by The Man that perhaps tipping was okay in this establishment.

I hope we don’t get bored only visiting the one place over the next week or so…

But wait! The Man is going to watch baseball for a few days, a little mini tour; New York, Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia…

Hoorah! (in the words of my friend Linda from Tuscany) we can visit a different bar and restaurant every day whilst The Man is away.

PS…why is it I’m always walking the dog in the rain? This morning (Monday 20th) Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn – taken by The Man who was also there, shivering and enjoying himself in his own inimitable way….

FGPark
My raincoat hood would not stay put as it had no fastenings, hence I had to tie my scarf around my neck on the outside of the coat in a not very NYC style…(good job the rest of the population were sensibly inside!

Eating Out in Brooklyn

pasta

‘You can eat out every day in Brooklyn for a year and still have plenty of places left to go…  some of the best restaurants in New York are here.’ that’s what one taxi driver told me. During my stay in Park Slope I did my best to try as many of the restaurants as I could. It’s common to eat out and popular to have a take-out. My daughter told me that home cooking is not a priority in New York.

This blog isn’t about reviewing restaurants but I just wanted to give you a little taste (excuse the pun) of my gastronomic experiences. I have included links to some of the cafés, bars and restaurants I enjoyed.

Roasted Carrot Salad

Roasted Carrot Salad

I had some wonderful pasta with rocket pesto, fresh tomatoes and zucchini at Rucola, a fabulous Italian restaurant on the corner of Dean Street and Bond, to start we had roasted carrot salad, unusual and delizioso (delicious obvs). Slow cooked barbecue pork is popular on many of the menus, often served in a sandwich and of course all sandwiches come with fries, and the fries are fantastic, there are mostly roughly cut and thin, perhaps a little heavy on the salt but I don’t mind that. Salads are abundant and you can mostly get a base variety of lettuce and then add what you like to the top, Building on Bond made a mean salad, Bob’s Cob being one of them.

Of course, hamburgers are plentiful and there are $5 hot-dog stands on every corner of Manhattan. Food from street vendors is popular and people pick up a pretzel or a doughnut on their way to work. Speaking of doughnuts I had them twice for breakfast, best  I’ve ever tasted, honestly…

Delicious caramelized onion soup at Café Colette in Williamsburg, an area of Brooklyn. This café was buzzing one Monday lunchtime. Alchemy bar and restaurant in Park Slope Brooklyn was just round the corner from our house so a favourite haunt with the family. Roast chicken was a popular choice for us but also the mussels went down pretty well!

It was wonderful to stroll down 5th avenue Brooklyn, (not to be confused with 5th Avenue Manhattan) and stop at one of several coffee shops to choose a coffee from the enormous list of options. Straight coffee, soya latte, cappuccino, mocha, espresso, skinny latte, chai latte, etc., and of course everything comes in small, regular or large AND you can have any of them iced! Best to make up your mind before you get to the shop then you don’t stand staring at the menu boards for ages. Of course, coffee must be accompanied by a little something; croissant, muffin, Danish, cookie, turnover…oh it goes on and on and so have the pounds! Mercifully, as I also did a lot of walking whilst staying in America I have managed not to pile on too much weight.

One more little point…Before leaving I did have to pay a visit to the amazing deli, Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue to purchase a few double choc malt balls to bring back to Italy…didn’t buy nearly enough though…
choc balls

Next time I visit NYC, first thing on my list is a trip to the famous deli Dean & Deluca’s in Manhattan …I just don’t know how I managed to miss it this time round. Guess I was a little busy becoming a Nonna (Grandmother) and that truly was the best experience for me during my stay.

Book for a menu..great idea

Book for a menu..great idea

Coffee and Pecan Bun ...yum!

Coffee and Pecan Bun …yum!

Rucola

Rucola

Cafe Colette

Cafe Colette

Sitting on the Stoop (The steps up to the front door)

joenwills

Not long left for me now in Brooklyn but there is still time to do the New York thing.

Sit on the stoop. It’s cool to sit on the stoop when the weather is good. Some read the paper in the sun, drink coffee, play guitar or just chill out and watch the people on the sidewalk strolling around the neighbourhood or hurrying to work.  There’s a buzz in the atmosphere and the wonderful warm April weather causes everyone to be friendly and chatty.  White and pink blossoms are out on all the trees and the new leaves are shooting, I think this is possibly one of the best times of year to be here so aren’t I lucky?

stoopguitar

People have Stoop Sales, where they put items out on the steps and either sit there all day trying to sell them or they put out an honesty box. Occasionally, items are just left

Stoopsale

for people to help themselves, a charity begins at home situation. There are signs on some of the stoops…NO SITTING…NO SMOKING… NO ALCOHOL. In fact it’s illegal in America to drink alcohol in the streets or parks so no champagne picnic for us in Prospect Park!stoopsignstoopclad

stoopB

365stoopempty

Anyone for Walkies? Brooklynites Love Pooches

Walkies?

Walkies?

It seems to me that in Brooklyn one in ten people own a dog. This means that walking down the street you meet every known variety of pooch. Little ones, medium size and great big things, hairy mutts, smooth coated, well behaved, bouncy, aggressive and passive. The varieties of breed, character, size and shape are endless.

Waiting on the Stoop

Waiting on the Stoop

We have a dog in this house and she needs her walkies like every other four-legged friend. So off we go in the mornings, poop bag (or three) in the pocket and walk 20 minutes to the park. You have to be in the park between seven and nine in the morning if you want to let your dog off the leash, notice the American leash… not lead, I’m getting very good at the local lingo. On the way to the park we meet other people walking or jogging with their little canine companions by their sides and then once we arrive, well, it’s doggy mayhem! There are hundreds of dogs, honestly! Well fifty at least at one time. There is one area in the park which is big, square and sandy, it looks like a doggy football pitch with no goals. Dog owners stand around here with coffee ‘to go’ in their fists chatting to other doggie owners about, dog behaviour, dog habits, dog excrement, dog foibles, etc., (May be I’m being harsh, perhaps they’re discussing politics and world news). Meanwhile, the dogs race around, sniff each other (as they do) charge at each other, bark, howl and go about their daily business and have the occasional scrap. I hurry quickly past this area, slalom around the joggers and head for a quieter corner if I can find one.

Big Dog

Big Dog

Little Dog

Little Dog

Tree Meeting

Tree Meeting

Our dog likes us to throw a ball for her, which she returns to our feet, when she feels like it and allows us to throw it again. Lots of the other owners throw balls for their dogs too and the most amazing thing is, that on the whole, the dogs stick to their own balls, if you get my meaning! There is no doggy thieving or attempt to score or take possession of a different ball, not so far as I’ve witnessed.

It is not unusual to hire a dog-walker. You can see them everywhere, walking the dogs (obviously). You just know they are dog-walkers and not owners because often they hold a big bunch of keys and sometimes the dogs are a little reluctant to walk. We saw a bull dog living up to his name, sitting stubbornly on the pavement and refusing to move at all. It’s a serious business dog walking, financially rewarding and there are plenty of punters here in Brooklyn who make use of the service. The duty walker comes in, takes your dog out for half an hour, and leaves them back home again. They write a little report for the owner with the time of the walk and any relevant information, for example: –

‘1.30pm. We had a lovely happy walk for half an hour. Five pees and a poop. She picked up a piece of bread on the road and ate it, (naughty thing!) but otherwise she walked well on the leash and was very well behaved. One treat given.’

Gotta go, it’s time to take the dog around a block or two. We have to stop at every tree and every earthy, interesting patch, so it takes a while.

Whoops, don’t forget the poop bag!

Okay, this is MY tree guys.

Okay, this is MY tree guys.

An Unusually Quiet Corner of Prospect Park

An Unusually Quiet Corner of Prospect Park

Brooklyn New York

Matches

Olivespastavino is on holiday. I’m taking a break, how lucky am I? I’m in New York for three weeks, blogging from the other side of the Atlantic, how cool is that?
I was able to fly direct from Rome to JFK with Alitalia and the experience wasn’t too bad. I have to admit that I was a little concerned, knowing that Alitalia have been in a bit of financial trouble in the last few years but generally it was all good. The aeroplane was modern and comfortable, the food was passable and the crew, although not falling over themselves to help, were polite. I was in the happy situation of having three seats to myself even though the plane was pretty full.

The weather here was not kind to me on arrival, windy, wet, misty and miserable, but I’ve been promised a good weekend. As I’m staying with family the initial impact of a cold miserable day in Brooklyn wasn’t so bad. Seeing my daughter and son-in-law for the first time in several months was far more important to me.

No sightseeing has been possible yet but we’ve been out to DUMBO (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass). Close to the river and tantalisingly within reach of Manhattan, sadly the mist took away the expected view of the city but the excitement and buzz of this magnificent place was tangible. Cobbled streets by the waterfront, conjure up images of an old New York I have only seen in films. We took coffee in West Elm Market, a fabulous home and garden shop full of items created from recycled materials. I loved everything.  I wanted to buy it all! Thankfully the size of my purse and my suitcase restricted me from being over indulgent in this respect so I had to be satisfied with a box of matches. Strange but practical purchase. Must be something to do with jet lag.

There is a big Italian influence in New York, I’ve been here for less than two days but already I can sense it in the coffee shops, the streets and the ice-cream! I’m staying in Brooklyn and Little Italy is a thirty-minute train ride from here so I’m planning a visit soon, unless the imminent arrival of my first grandchild interferes with arrangements!

Saturday morning. Brooklyn NYC 13th April 2013.