Archive | June, 2011

Beach Life

22 Jun

As much as my last post sang the praises of Brooklyn, city life can still be a grind. My partner and I had the opportunity to play summer-house as friends very kindly gifted us theirs. For a week we fantasized about the beach and fresh air, until finally the day came when we could leave behind the grit and grime of the city.

Our timing was perfect. While 90c sunshine is great at the beach, it is not quite so much fun when your window ac unit rumbles away struggling to cool off the apartment. After a hurried rush for the train we sat back and gazed out of the window as the city gradually bled away, first through unfamiliar neighbourhoods then into suburbia and finally countryside. We ate a picnic inspired by Paris as I had earlier stopped off at Epicerie Boulud and picked up the holy trinity: Cheese, Salami and Baguette.

One road in, one road out…..

We arrived late so it was only when we awoke the next morning that we could appreciate our luck. The plan was to hit the beach early so using the bikes our thoughtful hosts had left us we followed their advice and made a quick breakfast stop at Mary’s Marvellous. We filled up on a delicious egg and bacon sandwich and pretty good pain au chocolate.

Atlantic beach is miles of uninterrupted sand, with a gentle breeze and the kind of tranquility seldom found. The water was far too cold to swim so we opted instead to walk the tide allowing our feet to be cooled by the large breaks and our minds to be scrubbed by the salty air. A bike tour of the coast road was idyllic until I managed to get a little excited and went over the handle bars, a dust down and with minor scrapes and wounded pride we decided it was a good time to get out of the midday sun and head back to our tranquil paradise.

We could not get the hot tub to work, but who cares, we instead toasted our luck upon having a plunge pool to cool down in. When we could not get the TV to work we instead turned the music up (it took a good 30 minutes to work the stereo out too) and laughed at our Luddite ways. Our time away was too short to let our technological ineptitude spoil the relaxation.

Wild Turkeys

Dinner was Indian from The Hampton Chutney Co who also have a branch in Soho, but while the food was just as tasty I could not imagine myself sat in the city watching an almighty storm blow in. We rushed home just in time to avoid the downpour, and agreed that while we only had half a day left another early trip to the beach via Mary’s was in order.

I do not think I have ever experienced such a quick route to serenity, normally it take at least a day to get into holiday mode but here it just felt so easy. We made our train with minutes to spare and sadly watched as the city leaked back into our world. Stepping off the train in Brooklyn was the reality check you never want, back to normality.

Hence the moral of today’s story is; friends are good, friends with beach houses are better!

*We stayed in Amagansett, (apparently Paul Macartney has a place there too) a beautiful little town past East Hampton on Long Island. There are several places to stay in town all very expensive during peak season,we passed a very lovely looking place on the beach called Ocean Dunes.


I (Heart) Brooklyn

20 Jun
View of the Statue of Liberty from the Brooklyn Bridge

View of the Statue of Liberty from the Brooklyn Bridge

When I say to friends back home that I have moved to New York I almost invariably correct myself and say ‘Brooklyn actually’. It is similar in some ways as when you are in a foreign country and someone asks where you are from, and, instead of stating the actual town or suburb where you live, you defer to the largest city you think they have heard of.

Brooklyn I will admit does not have the cache of Manhattan, but from an ‘insiders’ (I am by no means an insider, legend has it that it takes 10 years before you can call yourself a New Yorker) perspective it is where I want to be.  Manhattan is fantastic if you want sights, museums, culture, food, and shops, they are all there in abundance. But this is true of London, Paris, Sydney, and countless other cities around the world. What makes a place unique and exciting is the new wave of culture that is developing behind the scenes.

Berlin is a classic example whereby an underground scene developed and forced the city to look at itself again to the extent that it is now viewed as one of the coolest cities in Europe. I believe in time Brooklyn will be recognised in the same way, as for all the undoubted glamour of Manhattan the most exciting new developments are coming from Brooklyn.

My mission is to convince as many people as possible to pay this city of Brooklyn the respect it deserves. Yes visit NY and see the Empire State Building, visit the Highline and the glitzy Meatpacking District, soak up the atmosphere of the Village and enjoy the delights of Central Park and the world-class museums of the elegant upper east side, but do not forget to cross the river and see things from the other side.

Head down to Dumbo and get the best perspective going of lower Manhattan. Check out Prospect Park and the Botanic Gardens, equally as impressive as its island cousin (the same architects laid out both parks), head into Williamsburg and see how 15 yrs of gentrification has turned a desolate wasteland of industrial buildings into a hipsters hotspot and even marvel at how they too are now being pushed out by the developers who have reaped the benefits. If you are feeling really adventurous move further east towards Bushwick where a new generation of young creatives are wreaking their own havoc.

So while the t-shirt may still read I LOVE NY  the truth is that BROOKLYN has my heart.

Sweet Saturday

11 Jun

I  haven’t had a Saturday to myself in a while, and having realised that this one was free I planned to do some baking. Inspired by a gift of some chocolate covered toffee from Vermont I had found this recipe but stored it away until now.

A quick run around the block to get some supplies and I was up and 
running. All kitchen experimenting goes smother when you have all your 
ingredients weighed out and ready although in this case the process can be a little off-putting.  
The only thing to do when making these kind of things is to just 
ignore the actual ingredients, think not calories but happiness. Sugar and joy have good exchange rates.

The tricky part of this recipe is to not over cook the sugar, 
but it is one of those things that goes from ready to burnt in seconds.
 With experience you can probably do without a thermometer as your eyes and nose become the best guide, even with my new candy thermometer I took it slightly too far. Oh and it would have helped had I read the instructions explaining that the temperature sensor is not at the tip but two inches up. This miscalculation was all it took to over cook the sugar mixture. Fortunately dipping the whole lot in chocolate did just enough to balance out any bitterness and made for a decent first attempt.

Recipe and method David Liebovitz

225 g toasted almonds or hazelnuts, chopped between ‘fine’ and ‘coarse’

2 tablespoons water

115 g unsalted butter, cut into pieces

a nice, big pinch of salt

200 g granulated sugar

50 g packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

140 g bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped

1. Lightly oil a baking sheet with an unflavored vegetable oil.
2. Sprinkle half the nuts into a rectangle about 8″ x 10″ (20 x 25 cm) on the baking sheet.
3. In a medium heavy-duty saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the water, butter, salt, and both sugars. Cook, stirring as little as possible, until the thermometer reads 300 F degrees. Have the vanilla and baking soda handy.
4. Immediately remove from heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla.
5. Quickly pour the mixture over the nuts on the baking sheet. Try to pour the mixture so it forms a relatively even layer. (If necessary, gently but quickly spread with a spatula, but don’t overwork it.)
5. Strew the chocolate pieces over the top and let stand 2 minutes, then spread in an even layer.