Victory for the Plough :: Tilling the social soil

St. Patrick’s Day “Parade Throw Noodles”
March 13, 2011, 6:58 am
Filed under: Foodie

Wow, after all the madness of Mardi Gras, who knew New Orleans could rally so quickly for St. Patrick’s? Today was the “largest St. Patrick’s parade in the South” through the Irish Channel, right up the street from me. In addition to the usual beads and trinkets, parade goers are pelted with produce, (primarily cabbage), cereal and soap! I caught two cabbages and created a new variation on my newly discovered love of cabbage & noodles for dinner tonight. Voila! My first original recipe post.

Irish Channel Parade Throw Noodles
(20 minute prep, 20 minute cooking)

2 cabbages, cored, slivered & chopped (till looks a little longer but same width as egg noodle)
1 large white onion, slivered & chopped (same as above but thinner width)
1 carrot, chopped into 1/4 inch slices
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
2 green onions, chopped
8 slices regular cut bacon
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp chopped parsley
2 tsp black pepper
1 package cooked egg noodles (boiled in lightly salted water, set aside in a large bowl until the end)
2 tblsp sour cream
salt to taste

(1) Fry bacon slices over medium high heat until crisp in a large skillet. Remove, pat dry with paper towels and then chop or crumble. Set aside.

(2) Saute onions (both green and white!) in 3 tsp of the resulting bacon grease over medium heat, scraping up any bacon browning on the pan, for 4-5 minutes.

(3) Add cabbage, carrot, paprika, black pepper, salt to the onions in skillet and saute for 10 minutes, or until cabbage is softened but not overcooked.

(4) Add chopped bacon and parsley. Saute a final 2-3 minutes.

(5) Pour cabbage/bacon saute mixture to a large bowl of (the already boiled) egg noodles.

(6) Add sour cream and mix until dish reaches a uniform consistency.

(7) Salt and pepper to taste, serve while warm.

YUM! There ya have it. Parade throw noodles.


Outside Insider Guide to NYC
April 1, 2010, 10:12 pm
Filed under: Travel & Adventure | Tags: , , , , ,

I grew up in New York City, oh yes, that majestic and legendary chaotically romantic cosmopolitan captured in films, songs and world wide imagination. My family moved to the Big Apple during the summer of 1983 at the tender age of 5 after living in the Deep South and Midwest. I grew up in the City That Never Sleeps through the worst years it ever knew, yet deep desperation breeds quiet brilliance and from incredible crises rises unbelievable opportunity. I witnessed the rise of a new culture in front of my eyes. Hip Hop grew up with me on the streets of Queens..indeed, I am part of the first fully Hip Hop Generation. I am, for all intensive purposes, forever indelibly a New Yorker.

I left “the City” in 1995 for college upstate and have not returned to live in NYC since. Of course, while it will always be “home” and many people I love with all my heart will be there for the rest of my life, these days I feel I’m on the outside looking in. September 11, 2001 permanently changed the nation most certainly, but changed New York most profoundly. Times Square Disneyland? Wow, first time I saw that, I felt Hells Kitchen freezing over. The gentrification and “box storification” of my hometown has been kind of incredible to watch over the last 15 years. While it makes me nostalgic and sad for the good ol’ days — back when CBGBs, the Wetlands and Limelight were still open, when you could get a slice, a soda and take a subway anywhere in the city for less than $2 and the World Trade Center towers still stood — glimmers of the NYC I grew up in still exist. So here’s my guide to the NYC I know, love and will remember and cherish… forever.


Met Museum
Metropolitan Museum of Art
(Upper East Side)

Clearly not a secret, but this is one of my hands down most favorite places on Earth. It’s where I became inspired by art and really have had some serious mental breakthroughs. ‘Nuff said? Also, note that admission prices are RECOMMENDED! That’s for out-of-town tourists to suck up and pay to help keep the museum running. Of course, if you’ve got the bank, it’s a worthy cause. However, as a tween and teenager, I regularly went there for $1 as one of my favorite cheap and fun things to do. I once paid a penny when I was hella broke and didn’t even have a dollar! I am especially fond of their Asian Art, Impressionists (amazing Monets & Van Goghs) and Modern Art areas. The sculpture courtyard is one of the most beautiful and peaceful places on the planet when sparsely populated (which is admittedly rare).

Also, I LOVE the American Museum of Natural History – their Gems and Minerals room literally changed my view of the world – and the Hayden Planetarium of today is super modern and cool (though definitely not the one I grew up with). The Guggenheim is really cool to look at, and the Museum of Modern Art has great modern art. However, the Met takes the cake for me as my favorite museum of all time. And yah, as a bit of a museum addict, that says A LOT.

Cathedral of St. John The Divine
Cathedral of St. John the Divine (Harlem)

Largest Cathedral and Anglican church in the world – and 4th largest Christian church overall! Seems there was a fire in 2001, I haven’t been there since ’99 – and renovations are still underway. Sure it’s still dope though. Wonderful sculpture garden with peace fountain and AMAZING stained glass. A total real NY-ers hidden gem. It’s a trek uptown but nice to get away from the hordes. Speaking of some of the changes in NYC in the last couple of decades, you may have seen those American Express ads featuring Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children Zone. So from what I understand, and for better or worse depending on who you ask, Harlem most definitely isn’t what I remember growing up and is probably worth taking a stroll around while you’re up there.

Staten Island Ferry
Staten Island Ferry (Wall Street)

FREE boat ride across the Hudson and back with magnificent views of the NY skyline and Statue of Liberty. Did I mention it’s FREE? Oh yah, and by the way, you don’t have to pay…just get on the boat, go across and come back. Lots of great photography of the skyline is possible and on a sunny day is quite a lovely excursion for locals and tourists alike. No need to visit Staten Island itself, trust me, unless you want to visit the landfill or mall.

TKTS booth

Theater Development Fund’s TKTS Discount Ticket Booth
(Times Square and South Street Seaport)
While this is a spiffed up, sparkly new TKTS booth, basic premise remains same as in the days of yore. This is THE way to see Broadway shows for cheap. A great day in NYC is to go to South Street Seaport (a worthy destination in itself to see the tall ships docked there and smell of fish market – ha) and get your TKTS, then head up to the show later on in the evening! The line at the Seaport is usually shorter – however – clearly, the TKTS booth in Times Square is also a destination in and of itself. As a nerdy AND artsy teenager, seeing Broadway shows was one of the ways I spent the $ I made from tutoring. Knicks games were the other.

Central Park
Central Park (Uhm. Central Park?)

Obviously, no trip to NY is complete without a walk in the park. God, writing this is making me hella crave a trip home. I LOVE this park as much as any New Yorker…my favorite spots are: Belvedere Castle, the Boathouse (especially in summer when you can take a boat onto the water), the Carousel, Wollman Ice Skating Rink, the Zoo, Strawberry Fields, Alice in Wonderland sculpture and Bow Bridge. I have fond recollections of climbing on the shimmery Manhattan schist rocks as a kid. Sigh. One freakin incredible treasure trove of childhood memories, that park ’tis. Sigh. Definitely one thing that is all it’s cracked up to be, and has yet to change significantly since I was a young’un.

Grand Central Station
Grand Central Station (Midtown)

Grand Central has come a long way, baby (as has Times Square and most if NYC as a whole discussed already) from the seedy place it was when I was a kid in the ’80s. However, even back then I remember being in awe of beauty in the architecture of the main terminal. I ate at one of the fancy restaurants there a few years ago when I was in town for a conference on one of the terraces – that was cool but uber expensive (it was also the first time I ever stayed in a hotel in Manhattan – wow, now that was a trip!) Getting a drink at one of the bars is a fun thing to do – tremendous fun between staring at the ceiling and people watching. I think there’s a SF Ferry Building type gourmet market going on there now too.

Greenwich Village Cube
Walking Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy and Chinatown (Lower East Side)

It’s really incredible just to walk around this area and is probably still one of my most cherished and time honored activities when I’m back home. Spin the cube on Astor Place while marveling at not one, two but three Starbucks within eye-shot of each other. Be sure to get on Mulberry Street, eat a cannoli or something else equally yummy at one of the Italian bakeries along with a capuccino, check out Chinatown, the dim sum is fabulous as expected. Shopping in SoHo is out of this world. OK, god, I can’t even begin to wax poetic about all my memories and mortal significance of the Village so I won’t try. Just go, walk around, let your senses lead you and see what unfolds.

Nuyorican Cafe
Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe (Lower East Side)

It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention this landmark institution. It’s up there with CBGB (yes that one), Limelight and Wetlands Preserve as the most exciting places to go at night when I was younger – the exception being that this place is still open.

Webster Hall
Webster Hall (East Village)

I went through a short phase of going to Webster Hall to dance with my best friend Monika while home for breaks during college. I’m sure it’s still a fun place to dance, just can’t vouch for it since it’s been a solid 10 years and isn’t a place I was at while particularly sober… however, looks like it’s free for ladies on certain nights so may be worth checking out to see if there is any music goin’ to get your booty shakin’ if you’re lacking a Y chromosome like me.


NYC Pizza
NYC PIZZA (Citywide)

Now, I am not gonna cite one pizzeria here as being the best because there are basically a few tricks of the trade to follow and then you can be guaranteed if you order just a plain ol’ cheese slice it will likely be a far cry for what passes for pizza in most parts of this country! Drooling just thinking about a hot, gooey cheese slice with yummy crisp crust and perfectly proportioned zesty sauce. Mmmmm…..
– Rule #1: Do not go to a pizzeria that cites “Ray” in any way or is a chain store name you recognize (ie: Sbarro)
– Rule #2: Be on the lookout for a line, and little to no seating.
– Rule #3: The more of a hole in the wall it seems, combined with Rule #2, increases the odds that it’s bomb pizza.
– Rule #4: A plain cheese slice, even in this economy, at said pizzeria, should not cost more than $4. It goes without saying, you should be able to buy a SLICE, not a whole pie.

H & H Bagels
H & H Bagels Midtown/East Side (Upper East Side)

So, unlike pizza, I will name drop on bagels. H & H Bagels are just far superior and the reason I am a supreme bagel snob. Perfect ratio of slightly crisp outside to doughy goodness inside, and they make them fresh so you can ask what’s still warm. There is usually something straight out of the oven, and I’m telling you, order something if it’s hot as it will be the best bagel to have ever touched your lips.

McSorley’s Ale House (East Village)

The place where they serve you two beers at a time. From their website sums it up better than I could: “McSorley’s Old Ale House has been a gathering place, a watering hole, the subject of art and literature and even a supreme court controversy. Established in 1854 – McSorley’s can boast of being New York City’s oldest continuously operated saloon. Everyone from Abe Lincoln to John Lennon have passed thru Mcsorley’s swinging doors. Woody Guthrie inspired the union movement from a table in the front – guitar in hand, while civil rights attorney’s Faith Seidenberg and Karen DeCrow had to take their case to the Supreme Court to gain access. Women were finally allowed access to McSorleyÕs in 1970! So belly up. Enter the sawdust strewn floors and history patched walls for a trip back through time.”

Blue Ribbon Brasserie
Blue Ribbon Brasserie (SoHo)

This is my favorite restaurant in NYC and is not a place I went to (or family could afford) as a kid. It is pricey but delectable. If you feel like splurging, this is a great place to do so. It’s also open until 4am with their full menu – which word has that makes them the “it” spot for all of NY’s best chefs to grub at when they finish closing at their own restaurants. I dream about eating at Blue Ribbon. And I live in gastronomic paradise aka Bay Area!

Hijiki Burger
Dojo Restaurant (East Village)

So, I can’t say Dojo is gourmet or foodie heaven. However, as a cash strapped youngun with vegetarian BFFs, this was a go-to spot for eats while chillin in the Village. Back then, we could sit there and people watch for two hours over a $4 hijiki tofu burger that was being split three ways. Staff used to be very accommodating, but I think they are more popular now. Of course, now I’d get my own delicious hijiki tofu burger and a salad with the super yum ginger carrot dressing – it is a nice place to sit down and chill for a bit when you’re walking around as I suggest above. Healthy, cheap and you will be sitting in the midst of my adolescent memories.

Jackson Diner
Jackson Diner or Indian Taj (Jackson Heights – Queens!)

If you like Indian food, then Jackson Heights is a must-do. Also, just in terms of bearing witness to NY’s incredible cultural diversity, checking our Jackson Heights and nearby Astoria will give you a great sense of the beauty in magnificent diversity that is Queens!

…and if you don’t want Indian but still wanna check out Jackson Heights area…

Arunee Thai
Arunee Thai Cuisine (Jackson Heights – Queens!)

Good god, the Thai food here is mind blowing good and cheap. I took my mom here for mother’s day in 2003 or something and she talks about it regularly. Being that I’ve become disturbingly used to superb Asian/Southeast Asian food here in the Bay, I’d say this place ranks up there with the best of what we got here in the Bay – but for far lower and affordable prices.