Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Yes, this is New York City
I'm a beach snob. No doubt about it. For over five decades I've spent the summer, or at least a part of it on Nantucket Island. I stayed on Sardinia one August - before it was stylish - enjoyed a year on the Seychelles Island - way, way before the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge just had to have their honeymoon there. For years I've imagined - no, really believed - that when the wind was just right I could smell the ocean from my downtown Manhattan apartment. You realize that the Atlantic Ocean is just a subway ride away to Coney Island, Brighton Beach - or Rockaway. So, this summer, when I've been spending more time than usual in the City - I gave in. I got on the A train and went out to Rockaway Beach. I went with a couple of friends who were interested in Rockaway because of all the recent press about the food scene there. A few very good restaurants (from ALL the City's boroughs) bid, and won the right to lease the concession stands at three different areas of the beach.
We got off the A train at Broad Channel then waited for the shuttle to take us to the 106th street stop - it stops at 86th and 96th streets as well - at Rockaway Beach. We figured that we'd start checking out the concession stands there and then walk down the boardwalk to the others.
We had an hors d'oeuvre of fried, sweet plantains covered with salty cheese, and hibiscus ice tea from Caracas Arepa Bar . The Rockaway branch of the East Village restaurant has a good selection of the same Venezuelan specialities that gave them their well-deserved reputation. One of my friends ordered an exceptionally good iced coffee from Caracas' neighbor Blue Bottle Coffee.
We walked 10 blocks down the boardwalk to the 96th street concession - the largest of the 3. Although we were tempted by all the vendors we all chose the same same fried fish sandwich from Motorboat and the Big Banana. OMG - I don't think I've ever had a fish sandwich that was so delicious. Hmmm - do you think it was just the salt air? I don't think so. It's hard to argue with thick slices of hake that were dipped into a perfect, perfectly light batter then fried to order. The fillets were slapped on a buttery, grilled hot dog bun then topped with shredded romaine lettuce, red cabbage and pickled red onions, and served with tartar sauce loaded with freshly chopped dill. I'm talking beach food SUPREME!!!!! Oh, and I just had to get an order of French fries because I watched the guy putting the potatoes through a slicer then another guy fry them to a crisp and toss them in a bowl with salt - to order. When's the last time you saw someone do that?
I washed it all down with fresh watermelon juice purchased from the taco stand next door.
I took 1/2 hour to lie on the beach and go into the water. Look, I'm not going to compare Rockaway to the beaches that I mentioned above. It was a a great day - delicious and refreshing - and just a subway ride away.
We got back on the subway at 86th street - which seems to be the beach area where surfers hang out - but didn't even check out the food at the concession stand there. Got to save something for the next time.
A week later I met a friend at the 2nd avenue and 14th bustop street where we got on the *select* bus (which makes even fewer stops than the express) and headed down to South Ferry. We didn't get on the Staten Island ferry, which is right there - but instead, went through the glorious Governor's Island ferry terminal and boarded the ferry headed for the island that Native Americans sold to a Dutchman in 1637 for a couple of ax heads and a handful of nails. In 1995 President Clinton designated 22 acres of the island as a national park. In between the island has lived a storied life. Check it out.
My friend and I were headed to Cook Out NYC. This was the 2nd year for this grilled meat (and a few vegetables) and local beer event. Destined to be an annual showcase for New York restaurants - of a certain style - to vie for best burger, or best hot dog in the show with every kind of pork from grilled bacon to sticky ribs in between. Oh, and a kimchi tasting, and a few very peculiar - but surprisingly good - shaved ice preparations.
Jimmy Carbone of Jimmy's No. 43, a basement beer joint on east 7th street in Manhattan, one of the organizers of the grand event - maybe the CHIEF organizer. And, provider of a welcome side dish, salad.
The Shaved Ice Shop can be found every Sunday at the Hester Street Fair or at their shop in Chinatown.
There was much more - all washed down with with a pint of Righteous Ale one of the offerings of Brooklyn's own Sixpoint Brewery. Book this event for next year. But in the meantime take a trip out to Governor's Island, walk the short 2 miles around the island and experience breathtaking City views. Then, have a picnic.
SUSANSIMONSAYS: Here's my feeling - I love to take the Staten Island Ferry. It's a nice ride and you sense that you're going somewhere foreign. Once you get to the island however - you'll need a car to get around. Before 9/11 you could take your car over on the ferry - no longer. The Governor's Island ferry ride is a short one and you barely feel like you've gone anywhere new. But you have - and what's more you can walk everywhere once you've arrived!