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Author Archives: Alden
First off, I’m leaving for Ocean City, NJ today to visit Katherine, so I won’t be posting for a few days. Check back Monday!
I was bopping around on some design website, and saw this picture.
“Hmmm,” I thought to myself, “That looks familiar.” Indeed, it looks like my bedroom!
Yup, that bedroom must be in this apartment building somewhere, or at least built at the same time, 100 years ago. Um, if they don’t compare favorably, please keep in mind that I’m 23 and renting, mmk?
This thickly accented speaker, Slavoj Zizek, makes a long, convoluted argument that buying Toms, buying Fair Trade Coffee, buying organic is really just hypocrisy. We are “helping with the one hand what we ruined with the left hand.” In short, whenever we buy something that donates to a cause, we are still supporting the economic structures which gave rise to poverty, bad working conditions, and ecological degradation.
My response is two-fold: Yes, I agree that you can’t buy your way out of the mess we are in. Going out and shopping all the time for organic, fair-trade clothing that you don’t need is not the answer to poverty, environmental degradation, and disease. But if you need shoes, why not buy from Toms? If you must get a new, clean t-shirt, why not make it organic?
Anyway, take a look, and tell me what you think:
After my lovely farmers market cooking class on Sunday, I had the afternoon to waste and it occurred to me it was a perfect opportunity to check out the Green Depot.
And…. there goes my budget for the month. How could I get so excited about a place that sells paint, cleaning supplies, building supplies, and baby stuff? I don’t know, but I did.
I needed to figure out why I keep killing my herbs, so I bought a guide called Organic Crops in Pots. I wanted to learn more about running our itty-bitty household in a green way, so I bought make your place, an adorable, bite-size, hand-written treasure trove of recipes for face-wash, cleaners, salves, and even natural pain relief. I wanted to find a better way to mark my herbs (once I succeed in raising them) than plastic spoons, so I bought adorable up-cycled markers made from vintage silverware. I wanted to be able to keep the outlet in my room off as much as possible, save energy, and get off the coal-powered grid just a bit, so I bought a solar-powered battery pack that will charge up during the day, and charge up my phone at night as I sleep. I wanted to figure out what to do about my brand new organic white sheets, which are rapidly becoming a casualty of hot NYC nights. (Read: I sweat a lot. TMI? Whatever.) so I bought Oxy-boost for my laundry, in lieu of bleach. I wanted to tackle our pre-war bathroom without using that caustic stuff, Comet, so I had a long discussion with Patricia and she recommended Green Depot’s own bathroom cleaner, whose bottle I can refill over and over because they have it “on tap.” Finally, I wanted to figure out what to do about all the food scraps we toss in the garbage every week. So I picked up a guide to composting in NYC, and will be carefully considering my options in the next month. (Compost in the apartment? Drop it off at a garden? Give up?) In case I decide to go forward with it, they have the most classic and un-hippie-like compost pales in silver and white.I walked away with a $147 bill, I’m not kidding. The most expensive item by far was the solar-powered charger, at $55. Was it worth it? Ehhhh, maybe. If I turn off my electricity except when I’m running the air conditioning or my hair dryer, I could probably make up the difference within a few months. Also, it’s just cool.
When I left, I walked west from Green Depot’s spot on Bowery, and found myself smack dab in the middle of the Soho shopping district, where every store front is filled with dresses, purses, and shoes. “Don’t look don’t look don’t look don’t look,” I told myself. “Just make it through without stepping in a store.”
I made it through okay. But what does it say about my priorities that I will pay $150 for herb-growing supplies, solar-powered chargers, and green cleaning supplies, but not a cute dress? (Which, by the way, I have far too many of.) I think it says my priorities are firmly in the right place.
As you know, I’ve had several forays into farmers market cooking. It is usually sporadic, however, and often involves potatoes. They keep well and need nothing more than olive oil. But lately I’ve been seriously lagging, mostly because all the farmers markets close at five. Five! Unless I make it there on Saturday or Sunday, well, than it’s off to Whole Foods, or – even lazier – my corner grocery store for pesticide laden produce from California.
I’m a bad person. I know!
Anyway, in an attempt to redeem myself I signed up for a cooking class with the owner of Home Cooking NYC, Jennifer Clair. The menu was composed almost entirely of farmers market goodies, save the lemon, sugar, salt, and flour. Hmm, maybe the butter too. But really, it was a very small percentage wasn’t fresh from the stalls.
Jennifer is extremely knowledgeable. In contrast to my last cooking class, which was long on knife technique and short on instruction on high quality ingredients, Jennifer was all about getting the best stuff. She talked about the meaty wonderfullness of heirloom tomatoes, the robust flavor of fresh garlic, the dense nutritional value of farro (an “uber grain” she called it), the merits of salt, and the demerits of processed food, how to store various fresh herbs, and the importance of choosing sustainable fish and humanely raised meat.
In short, she imparted a gold mine of information about how to cook and eat healthfully. She agrees with Michael Pollan on many points, including the fact that Americans devote a too small percentage of their budget to food. “I spend most of my money on food,” she said. As someone who enjoys paying $4 for an heirloom tomato so she can bite into like an apple, she was definitely telling the truth.
So what goodies did she demonstrate? Check out these photos of the fresh ingredients before they were whipped into munch-worthy shape by Jennifer:
Fresh Tomato, Fennel and Corn Relish over tilapia fish. Lightly floured and tossed in a non-stick pan with olive oil, tilapia is an easy cook – it holds together well and is always a good choice for the cook who is conscientious of depleted fish stocks.
Roasted Ratatouille with eggplant, zucchini, onion, garlic, bell peppers, thyme, tomatoes, basil, and – a untraditional addition which really amped up the flavor – kalamata olives, all spooned over farro. A great choice for this time of year, ratatouille brings together a bounty harvest of mid-summer flavors. It may be a “peasant dish” but it tastes like royalty.
Magret duck with a summer fruit compote. Seeing that the Columbia farmers market near me has no chicken, but has duck, I was grateful for this recipe. It combines savory duck, with sweet fruit in a way I didn’t think possible. It wasn’t quite as good as the duck from Bobo in the West Village, but that is a really, really high bar. You can also try the compote over chicken or pork, or mix it up with other fruit, even apples. Tasty!
The empanada and the peach pie met, fell in love, and had a little bastard child called “hand pie.” It’s got it’s momma’s good looks and it’s daddy’s money, and it’s flaky, buttery crust encases a sweet fruit filling that will knock you out. Did I mention it was yummy?
The end result was a family-style lunch that was just the right amount of filling, and good conversation with other aware foodies from NYC and Connecticut.
If you’re wondering why I didn’t reproduce her recipes here, well, a. it doesn’t do them justice, and b. I don’t want to steal her thunder! I highly recommend Jennifer’s classes. Find more here, including private lessons in the home and lessons in her home kitchen in the Hudson Valley.
P.S. It’s National Farmers Market Week!
Woah woah there, hold the hugs. You’re going to make me cry. Step back a little bit. Let me just collect myself.
Ok, listen, it’s not as bad as all that. Haven’t I told you before that I hate my job? Oh? I haven’t? Well it seems like I told everybody. Everyday I arrived at 9:00, booted up my insanely slow, company-issued lap top, checked my mail, and then started working with spread sheets. I did work that only eight people in the whole world cared about.
I could feel my soul slowly draining out through my black high heels. I would replenish it on weekends with my friends, with work-outs and yoga, with laughter and art and reading, only to have it drain away again from 9 to 7 everyday. My favorite part of the workday was jogging or biking before it even started. It was a rare lunch stolen away from the desk. It was whispered conversations with my friend on the floor below about our weekends. It was having the time to write and blog about living well, my passions.
The job wasn’t challenging (ok, I guess it was, since I obviously wasn’t able to master it), it definitely wasn’t inspiring, and it wasn’t what I worked four years for in college. I listened to my supervisor tell me that to get to her position I had to come in early and leave late, I listened to other associates tell me I had to learn how to suck up to our passive-aggressive client whose main goal seemed to be to spread misery around and stonewall any attempt and doing vaguely creative work, and I thought, “For what? I don’t want to be in your position in three years, in ten years. That isn’t life and it’s not happiness.”
Like any other person, I was scared. I was scared to admit I had failed at choosing the right thing. I was scared to say “This isn’t success. This isn’t happiness. This is not my dream.” I was scared to quit without having a solid plan. I’m lucky that someone forced me out the door, instead of letting me stay.
So today is different. I woke up at 6. My new supervisor had told me to come in early, so I skipped my workout and just biked to work. Before I went to my desk, though, I went to the roof. It was still cool outside. I sat and I meditated, feeling the cool breeze across my face and thinking about anything but work. I felt the sun come out from behind the clouds and warm my face. And then I slowly unfurled my legs after fifteen minutes and walked down to my desk. It was only two hours later when my boss called me down to a conference room and told me that he was letting me go.
I managed to keep my face fairly expressionless until my boss left. It’s hard when someone tells you that you aren’t good enough, even if it’s at something you hate. After he left, I teared up a little and the HR lady looked at me with such pity. “I’m so sorry,” she said.
“Don’t,” I choked out. “Just don’t.” I took a deep breath. “This is good,” I told her. She looked confused. “This is good. This job wasn’t for me.” She nodded, and told me that they would give me three days pay, which is something they don’t usually do. I didn’t ask why. She tried to console me by saying that other places were surely hiring.
And she’s right. I had interviews at other agencies before I took this miserable job. But I’m not going to sell my soul again. This is going to take courage, because once I publish this post it’s out there for everyone to see. Grey won’t come knocking now. But I’m going to say it: No more working for clients on stuff I don’t believe in. No more meaningless work. No more, no more, no more. I would work for an agency doing work they believed in for companies that want to improve the world. I would do PR for a company that is trying to educate consumers about how to truly live better lives. But I won’t do what I’ve been doing for the past eight months again.
I went upstairs to gather up my stuff. It’s a good thing I carry two reusable, fold-up bags with me at all times, because now I had something to put all my things in. I untacked the little card from Holstee and read it again. I placed it on the desk. I underlined some things.
This is your life. Do what you love, and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, then quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching tv.
If you are looking for the love of your life, stop. They will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love. Stop over analyzing, life is simple. All emotions are beautiful. When you eat, appreciate every last bite.
Open your mind, arms, and heart to new things and people, we are united in our differences. Ask the next person you see what their passion is. And share your inspiring dream with them.
Travel often; getting lost will help you find yourself. Some opportunities only come once, seize them.
Life is about the people you meet, and the things you create with them so go out and start creating.
Life is short. Live your dream, and wear your passion.
I tucked it in my bag. I walked over to say good bye to the one person on my team who I think would understand. She is always so cheerful, she just wants to make people happy.
“I haven’t done it yet,” she said when she saw me, “I’ve just been so busy – ”
“Hey,” I stopped her, “I’m leaving.”
She grabbed me and pulled me outside of the doors. “What? Why?”
“I’m not good at this job,” I told her.
“Don’t say that,” she said.
“No, this is good that I’m leaving. I was a journalism major!”
“Oh girl, yeah, this is not for you,” she said. “You need to find a place that is a little bit less…..”
“Soul-sucking?” I offered.
“Yes!” She laughed. “I saw Matrix this weekend, and I thought…I thought, ‘Oh my God, something that is how I feel.”
She gave me a hug. “Go find something that you like.”
So I grabbed my bike out of the garage, hung my bags on the handle bars, and biked uptown to the apartment. I turned on the CD that my friend Parks made me before I left for South America. I’ve been trying to work my way through it. Cat Steven’s voice drifted out as I made a list:
1. Do some yoga
2. Write a plan for my cool new website that I’ve been wanting to do for 10 months.
3. Go to the farmers market
4. Call Katherine and tell her I’m coming to the beach early.
6. Have lunch with Jake [my friend I've been blowing off for months now because of my job.]
7. Sign up for some classes: photography, drawing, graphic design, sewing, anything.
8. Talk to my friends in Europe and see if they want a visit.
I leaned back to think some more. and I started listening to the lyrics of the song playing.
if you want to sing out
And if you want to be free
‘Cause there’s a million things to be.
You know that there are.
And if you want to live high
And if you want to live low
‘Cause there’s a million ways to go.
You know that there are.
You can do what you want.
The opportunity’s on.
And if you find a new way
you can do it today.
You can make it all true.
And you can make it undo
you only need to know.
if you want to say yes
And if you want to say no
Cause there’s a million ways to go.
You know that there are.
And if you want to be me
And if you want to be you
Cause thee’s a million things to do.
You know that there are.
I offered up a little thank you to Parks, wherever he is at the moment, for making me this CD. He knows what it’s like to wonder where you are going, and if you are making the right decisions.
I’m only 23, I’m lucky I’ve figured this out so early. I just wished I had been fired at the beginning of the summer so I could have taken advantage!
So please excuse me, I’m all written out right now. I have a lot of things to do today, and I can’t wait to get started.
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain
I’ve always heard that making sushi is really, really hard. That unless you have tons of practice, your rolls turn out messy and unappetizing and you might as just give up and order some take out. Well, I’m here to report that it is not as bad as all that.
I’ve been adding some random stuff to my Amazon wishlist. Things like heart-shaped ice cube trays, books that look interesting but aren’t must-reads, and a sushi mat. Oops, I accidentally added this little sushi-rolling doodad to my cart, and it showed up at my door along with an organic cookbook a few weeks ago.
Mike loves sushi, and when yesterday morning I casually suggested we could make sushi for dinner, his eyes lit up. I mean, Mike is a super-positive guy, but more in a “I’ll do anything once” sort of way – when I suggest going to a good restaurant, or biking out to Coney Island, he smiles and says, “Sure! Sounds fun!” No, this time, it was different. He pounced on that idea like spaz-attack cat Luca pounces on a laser pointer. (Ever seen that? It’s pretty funny. But I digress.) There was no reneging on this idea.
We stopped at Whole Foods on the way home and picked up the ingredients. I already had sesame seeds, wasabi powder, sugar, soy sauce, and nori, so we chose a tuna steak and salmon, some sushi rice, rice vinegar, some cheap caviar (or roe, as they call it in sushi restaurants, and it was 11 bucks y’all, don’t get excited) a couple avocados, and convinced the lady at the sushi counter to part with a little bit of spicy sauce.
A google search found this stellar all things sushi website with detailed instruction on every step.
We rinsed, soaked, and cooked the rice, mixed in the vinegar, sugar, and salt, sliced up the fish and avocado, spread the rice on the nori, and used the mat to roll it all up in different variations.
The result was delicioso. (Sorry, I don’t know the Japanese word for “awesomeness in my mouth”) Yes, my rolls were a bit fat. “I don’t know if this is going to fit in my mouth,” Mike said as he contemplated my overly rice-y roll. “I’m not going to say it,” I said, but then couldn’t help my self and yelled “That’s what she said!!!!” as he placed it in his mouth. Then I started laughing so hard, because he looked like a chipmunk. Sorry, no pics of that, which is unfortunate, really. Luckily Mike was able to chew it and swallow it, as hard as I was making it for him.
Also, we had a lot of sushi. FYI, three cups of uncooked rice is excessive for two people, as is a pound of fish. Who knew?
But overall, it was super fun. We took turns spreading the rice, and choosing our own favorite garnishes. One hiccup was that Mike forgot to keep track of which rolls were heavy on the wasabi, which was an unpleasant surprise for me. And no, I did not get sick, thanks for asking! Now if you will excuse me, I need to go eat my leftovers!
I’m an avid user and reviewer of Yelp, so I decided to highlight some of my reviews of organic, local, and sustainable eats in NYC and Brooklyn. This is by no means comprehensive though! On my to-do list: The Good Fork, ABC Restaurant, Xoom, and so. many. others. Good sustainable food is everywhere, you just need to know where to look!
As a huge local food fan, I’m always excited to hear about a restaurant with a relationship with the farmers. You won’t see a Cisco food truck outside of this place. Every dish is lovingly crafted from artisinal cheeses, locally-grown produce, and delicious humanly raised meats. It makes it all the better than the owner, Carlos Suarez, quit finance (“a lack of values” he said) to open this restaurant.
We arrived just a few minutes later for our 7:45 reservation, and an older gentleman led us up the painted wood stairs lined with flickering candles to a romantic dining room. The handcrafted quality of the restaurant shines through even in the decor. Fashioned from what was obviously a townhouse at some point, the dining room is romantically lit, with bookshelves stocked with old tomes, heavy draperies, and candles everywhere.
We hit a hiccup when our waiter forgot to provide us with a wine list, but he apologized when he realized 10 minutes later and was quickly back to take our order of an artisinal and biodynamic malbec. There was also a short list of cocktails, bottled and draft beers, and aperitifs. I hardly noticed the less than stellar service because he was so friendly, and even made me laugh a few times.
We provided the waiter with a coupon from Blackboard eats, and received in return a plate of fig leaf wraps with brown rice and a sweet sauce, and three “shooters” of pepper and zucchini infused non-alcoholic drink. They have a long list of canapes that comes in singles for about $3 a piece, so you can mix and match.
The star of the night was the duck breast with chorizo that my boyfriend ordered – it was an eyes-rolling-back-my-head moment. My brook trout wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, unfortunately. And at one point I had to pull a small bone out of my mouth. Yuck.
However, you must order something from the dessert menu. We had a trio of ice cream sandwich sliders: gingerbread-oatmeal-raisin cookies with a mildly fruity ice cream, chocolate with what I think was a cookies and cream ice cream, and and a classic chocolate chip ice cream sandwich. We made a huge mess, but since they put down paper on the tables instead of white cloth, I didn’t feel so bad.
As we left we noticed that the downstairs bar was booming. And it looks like you can order some food at the stand up tables by the window as well.
A word on the prices – they are very reasonable. I was suprised that the bill wasn’t more, given that we ordered so much, and the quality of the restaurant. Add in the fact that all ingredients are local and organic, well it’s practically a steal. I’m not saying it’s cheap, but the value is definitely there.
All in all I would definitely come back here, but it hasn’t quite made my list of favorites.
Oh man does my boyfriend know me well. I’m a huge local/organic/sustainable food buff, and at his suggestion we came to The Farm on Adderly for a casual after work dinner.
We ate inside, since there was a short wait for the garden out back. The tables are well spaced so you aren’t elbowing your neighbor, and the whole space has a cozy feel.
When the waiter (friendly, knowledgeable, and prompt) described their steak special of the night, I wondered to myself if the meat was grass-fed or local. Imagine my delight when I spied the footnote on the menu: “All the meat on the menu has been sourced locally, is pasture-raised and humanely cared for.” Score!
The menu itself is short and sweet, with an assortment of cheeses, not more than five salads, and some entrees. But the beer and wine menu looked extensive. We ordered cocktails – he got the cucumber lemonade and I ordered the grapefruit Blue Ridge Parkway (a reference to a scenic drive through the Appalachians.)
For non-alcoholic beverages, they had some interesting choices, including Fentiman’s Brewed Cola, Zico Coconut Water, Fever Tree Tonic, and even homemade kombucha. This place is a hippie paradise. At the bottom, as if they are ashamed to admit it, there is diet coke too.
I ordered the special, which was… hmmm… what did they call it… a crepette I think? It was a meat dish with tripe. The waiter was nice enough to warn me about the tripe, but really, you can’t even tell it’s there. It wasn’t the best meat dish I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t bad either, and was very filling.
My bf ordered the butcher’s meatballs, which he reported being quite satisfied with. We took a glance at the dessert menu, just to see what was on there. Mistake. I had to shove it away so I wouldn’t be tempted by all the delicious confections on there, including banana chocolate upside down cake. Another time, for sure.
Neighborhood: Morningside Heights
I had heard such wonderful things about this place, and after coming here both for dinner and brunch, I’ve gotten a 360 view.
They have a wonderful selection of organic and local beers to start off with. I didn’t try the cocktails, but they were tempting, to say the least. In fact, they have a lot of local and sustainable fair on the menu, which is always very nice.
I had a delicious salmon and fried potato salad over a bed of parsley, which just blew my mind. I’m not a huge salad person, but I left feeling very full.
I came here a few days later for brunch. We managed to snag a table in the shade outside (the wait for an indoor table looked long) but not all tables are shaded, so watch out on a hot summer day.
We saw several B.E.L.T.s walk by (bacon lettuce tomato and egg on sourdough, yum!) But I opted for a more traditional house-made apple sausage and eggs with carrot hashbrowns. Filling and delicious. My friend had the blueberry pancakes, which came with a syrup that tasted like brown sugar and butter. So decadent, and so good!
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
My friend and I were lured here by the promise of organic and biodynamic wines. The menu was full of organic wines by the glass as promised, but I had a hard time ferreting out a biodynamic wine. Too bad. If you are looking for an extensive wine list, you’ve got it here. It goes on for pages and pages.
I know this might not matter, but I noticed the menus are cheap photo albums with printed paper slid into the plastic pockets. Small things like that really factor into my experience. That, along with the unfinished awning out front, gave me the feeling that they weren’t quite finished putting the place together.
The food (all meant to be shared) was delicious, and the service good. We ordered the organic veal meatballs and asparagus and peas risotto. I could have licked the plate!
My one big complaint was the tight space. It was a crowded Thursday night, so we sat at a high communal table with five others. In order to leave, everyone on one side of the table had to climb down from their stool to let the person pass.
It was super loud in there, but my friend and I had to strike a careful balance between speaking loud enough to here each other, and not offending our neighbors, who we knocked elbows with the whole meal.
I’ll probably go back for a casual glass of wine and some plates with a friend since it’s in my ‘hood, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for a romantic date, and I wouldn’t go out of my way for it.
I am so happy this is right around the corner from my boyfriend’s place, because we both agree we’ll be going back soon!When the sommelier came over, he inquired after my preferences, and then went to get three bottles and three glasses. “I think I’ll taste some with you,” he told us.
Each glass he would give an abbreviated, broad description, (“full, fruity, bold) which was nice because it’s a proven scientific fact that you cannot detect five different notes in every wine, no matter how romantic it sounds. Then while my boyfriend and I followed protocol (swirl, smell, taste) he would knock it back like a frat boy taking a shot. We suspected he might be drunk, or maybe he didn’t even work there and was just hanging out. Doesn’t matter because we were super happy with the wine he helped us choose. He also pointed at the Brooklyn borough president who was schmoozing at a nearby table.
When our friends joined us, we ordered two appetizer plates, and an assortment of cheeses and prosciutto. The wooden platter of prosciutto and cheeses was amazing, but the duck really took the award for the night. I’ve never had such a sumptuous mouth-feel before. We tasted our friends’ sweet potato dish, it was hard to refrain from stealing their plate and eating the rest! Dessert was amazing too: bite-sized chocolate tulips. I would give you a fuller description, but by this point my faculties were severely impaired.
I also liked their presentation: vintage-looking silver and raw cut wood platters. We all had such a great time, I couldn’t imagine a nicer night.
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
As far as smoothie places go, this is the best.My reasons? Voila:
1. They use fresh, local-when-possible, organic ingredients.
2. They have delicious smoothies with ingredients like acai, goji berry, ginger, or just your regular strawberries and banana, plus boosters.
3. They use recycled plastic cups that – unlike Jamba Juice’s – don’t leach chemicals into your yummy smoothie.
4. Their sandwiches are fresh-made, and delicious, especially when grilled and cheesy-melty.
5. If you need a snack, they have crazy healthy raw food bars, trail mix, and protein muffins.
6. The people who work there are always friendly and helpful. They deserve all the tips they get and more!
7. In the winter, you can get a hot drink like their cold-busting ginger and orange juice drink. Peps you right up.
8. Everything always looks hyper-sterilized and organized.
This place costs me seven extra blocks of walking before work, but it’s totally worth it. I love starting my day with a smoothie or (if I’m hungover) a muffin.
Sunday, after having a delicious brunch at the sustainable and organic Community Food and Juice in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side, Vicki (the roomie) and I set out on an adventure all the way down to the Lower East Side. I was actually just there Saturday night with Agatha, my friend from work. But I wasn’t going down there on Sunday for Ommegang beer and gin and tonics. Nope, I was headed down to sample hand crafted macarons, spicy popsicles, and peruse some vintage wares and locally-made crafts.
Allow me this rant first: Sometimes I really hate the MTA. New York’s transportation system is like a five year old’s birthday party run by a drunk grown up: nobody knows what is going on, it’s always a mess, and there ends up being a lot of pissed off people.
I had gone jogging earlier in the morning at 9, and reported back to Vicki that it wasn’t “that bad. It’s doable.” But as we came closer to noon, the heat became close to unbearable. Vicki and I found that the subway 1 line was not stopping at 125th, 116th, 110th, or 103 going downtown. Since we live at 110th, this put us in a predicament. We waited at the bus stop, panting like poodles in the heat. One bus rumbled by, too full to stop. Another pulled over to let over a little old Asian couple, but didn’t allow anyone on. Our trip to the fair seemed like it might be a huge mistake. Vicki suggested we walk east to the AC line, four long blocks West. Peering out from our shady spot under the bus shelter was like gazing from an oasis across a parched desert. But I finally agreed. We passed through a pedestrian fairway with shady trees, and finally managed to get a train going in the right direction, cooling off in the wonderfully icy interior of the subway car. From the Grand St subway stop, the fair was only a few blocks away.
The Hester Street fair is deceptively small. With only a hundred yards of grounds, you would think you would get bored quickly. And yeah, you might if you like to speed shop and you aren’t hungry. But Vicki and I spent nearly an hour as we hopped from booth to booth, gossiping with the vendors, asking them about their foods and crafts, and nibbling on the tasties.
After passing by some cute stationary (which is getting old, I feel like a see at least one – if not three – hand printed stationary table at every fair in New York) we stopped at DBA. I thought DBA only produces beautifully simple biodegradable pens, but upon visiting their site right now, I’ve found all sorts of nice little sustainable things that are “forthcoming,” like a dishrack, an extension cord, and a heater. Ok, sounds boring, but it would be the most stylish extension cord you ever owned, trust me. But right now, besides the matte black pen that uses non-toxic ink and is 98% biodegradable, they also have an “endless notebook” that can
be combined and rearranged to create your perfect little notebook. It’s 100% post-consumer waste and chlorine free. If you don’t have a compost bin, you can just send the pen back, and they’ll take care of it for you!
I scribbled a bit using the pen and chatted with Niamh (pronounced Neev – she’s one of those Irish beauties whose name is crazily spelled) Hughes, the Business Development Manager. She tried on my Kayu glasses, saying she had been salivating over them for some time. I think they actually looked cuter on her than on I…Obviously, I bought a pack of the pens, happy to support the venture.
Next door: the Macaron Parlour with Simon Tung manning the table. We’re lucky we didn’t come Friday, because the shop had sold out, riding on a wave of customers after a mention in the Daily Candy. But today he had lots of flavors. I tried the lemon macaron, which seems silly in hindsight, with flavors like candied bacon with maple cream cheese, thai chili, and earl grey available. I mean, I’m not saying was disappointed with my choice. I bit in
to the flaky crust which melted away to reveal the ganache filling – tart and tasty. “This is better than Laduree!” I declared. He practically blushed. “No way, that isn’t true. Though Christina [Christina Ha, his business partner] did study under Pierre Herme in Paris.” I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. It sounded impressive, at least.
Vicki ordered the cinnamon pistachio with morello cherries, which I nibbled on as well. Not bad!
Moving on to the next yummy thing, I had a iced lychee white tea, then a delicious waffle with sweet red bean in the center. A bean filling sounds savory, but this one was sweet, almost like a fruit filling. And they were shaped like fish! Charming. I felt bad for the pair manning the griddle, in the 90 degree heat though. Luckily nearby there was a tent whose sole purpose was to cover visitors with a cool mist.
Also, I almost got a ping pong ball the to the face, but luckily one of the players snatched it from the air by my head. Of course, I had no clue until they both started laughing. Typically me.
Vicki and I perused some vintage jewelry and dishes, marveling at an old butter churn and examining old postcards. I gave some serious thought to getting some lovely jars (something I’ve been obsessed with lately) but the swing-top lid was so rusty it was a struggle to get it open and that’s not something I wanted to deal with on a daily basis.
I passed by Laura Fisk’s table and fell in love with her printed cotton accessories. There were classy cobalt blue napkins with ruby pomegranates. “If I had a real house with more than two seats at a table, I would get those,” I told Vicki. Instead I opted for a pretty little apron with an adjustable neck, and cupcakes on the front. I was giddy when Laura yanked on the strings and the apron slid up. “We short people always have to fold it up,” she said. I totally agree. It gets annoying that normal aprons starts right under my boobs. She also had a children’s book, stationary, and some children’s-sized aprons. They’re printed with non-toxic inks as well, though I wish it was organic cotton. Can’t win ‘em all!
You can see her stuff at fiskandfern.com.
Of course, it wasn’t all stuffing my face with food and shopping for myself. I shopped for other people too! I bought Mike a very manly belt from Feur Wear made from out-of-commission German fire hoses. That’s Dave, above, posing with the belt. His company, Holstee, is selling the belts for Feur Wear, because they like the German company’s stuff so much and wants to see them in the US. Holstee designs and curates beautifully designed sustainable goods, and you should really give their website a look, because there is some uber-cool stuff on there. It debunks the myth that sustainable design is all hippie skirts and fanciful stationary.
I especially love their manifesto:
“This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love…” And on. (I don’t want to brush up against copyright infringement by reprinting the whole thing here…” You’ll have to check it out for yourself.
Next to Holstee was a table displaying some select stuff from Sustainable NYC: adorable fold-up reusable bags, Toms shoes, soy candles, and upcycled purses. I did not even know this place existed, but now I feel like I have to go there! It’s at Avenue A and 9th St. A bit out of the way for me, but still….
At this point another vendor piped up, saying a huge rain storm was about ten minutes away. To the West the sky was dark and ominous. Vicki wanted to leave right then, but I wanted to stay a little longer.
Finally we stopped at Xoom for some smoothie samples. I wish this smoothie and tea shop wasn’t so far away from me, because if Xoom was on the UWS, it would replace my obsession with Juice Generation, I’m sure. Not only because the smoothies are delicious, but their green creds (to the right) are top notch.
At this point we hurried away from the fair to beat the rain. As fat raindrops spattered the sidewalk, I took one last picture of the bike valet and Vicki and I promised each other we would come back to try everything else. What we didn’t get to sample: the ice cream sandwiches, sassily flavored popsicles, and barbecue. Not to mention the adorable yoga bags I forgot to go back for. Another day, another time…
Vicki set off in a dead run for the subway, with me calling after her. “Wait up!” as I struggled to run in my Jack Rogers. You would think she would melt or something. We waited on the platform for a full twenty minutes, watching train after train go by on the opposite platform. Finally a voice over the intercom. “Wah wah wah Brooklyn bound only wah wah.”
That’s when we saw a sign saying no north-bound trains at that station. Awesome. We emerged, walked ten steps and then the skies let loose. Luckily the Green Market farmers market was right next to use, so we hid under a tent and chatted with the Green Market worker about her time in India while waiting for the downpour to ease. (I love New York!)
When the rain eased up a little, we walked on, stopping at The Pickle Guys for Vicki, and then we hopped a bus and took it up to The Strand. Can you believe I’ve never been to this bookstore before? I could spend hours in there, but I stuck to my shopping list and walked away with Markets of New York City (natch), 101 Things I learned in Culinary School, and Remember Be Here Now, the classic hippie tome about the spiritual life. That and psychedelic drugs, ha.
Finally we hopped on the subway and came home. I cooked some stir fry up for Vicki and Mike, Vicki made mimosas, and it was a good day.
Bring a parasol to keep the hot sun at bay.
Invest in some dance classes before hand or show up before 12 to get a free one so you can take full advantage of the brass band
…Or just wing it.
Don’t wander too far away from the dance floor, you don’t want to miss the beautiful singing.
Red lipstick is key.
Accessories make the outfit.
Guys look hot in suspenders, hats, and bow ties.
Don’t be afraid to show off your best assets…
Bring some blankets on which to stretch out
Kids are more than welcome!
Peach is perfect.
Bring a camera so you can capture the beauty….