Month: June, 2007

Flag Day fireboats

Thursday, June 14th, 2007 | All Things, Events, NYC History

Spent my lunch break at South Street Seaport for the FDNY Flag Day celebrations.

By the time CS and I arrived, we had just missed the bagpipe processional and the “Blessing of the Fleet” by Fire Department chaplain Monsignor John Delendick. The blessing is a centuries-old tradition originating in southern European, predominantly Catholic, fishing communities, to ensure a safe and bountiful season for the men at sea. The Fire Department began performing this yearly ritual over its fleet after the September 11, 2001 attacks. That day, the fireboats evacuated hundreds of people from Manhattan to New Jersey, then worked for days pumping seawater to fight the fires at the World Trade Center after a downtown water main went out. The FDNY Marine Division, now in its 130th year, is comprised of eight ships, which together cover 560 miles of the city’s waterfront, making it the largest division of its kind in the world.

Flag Day procession

The highlight of the afternoon: the Fireboats “Water Salute”. We gathered at Pier 17 among firemen, clergy, locals and tourists to watch as the marine fleet made its way from the Brooklyn Bridge to the seaport to give a Flag Day salute, spectacularly shooting streams of red, white and blue water 300 feet into the overcast sky.

Flag Day fireboats

Flag Day fireboats

Flag Day fireboats

Accompanying the procession was the retired John J. Harvey. The fireboat, which voluntarily returned to service for 72 hours after September 11, spends most days resting in a berth on the lower Hudson, at Pier 66 Maritime, which is also home to the National Register-listed Lightship #115 “Frying Pan”, which I visited last summer.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta:

Nicholas Scoppetta

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All bananas, all the time

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007 | All Things, Books

At DiSalvio Playground on Spring and Mulberry:


Housing Works Bookstore and Café hosted the release party for the Summer 2007 issue of Alimentum, a New York-based literary magazine focused exclusively on food and eating. 32 writers and poets contributed to this fourth issue, which featured a special section devoted entirely to bananas.

Housing Works Bookstore bar

Alimentum publisher Paulette Licitra, who launched the journal with her husband Peter Selgin, was at the event to introduce the readings by tonight’s featured writers: Joanne Jacobson, Diana Abu-Jabar, Robin Hirsch and Gary Allen.

I most enjoyed Abu-Jabar’s story: a selection from her third work, The Language of Baklava, a culinary memoir of growing up in a bi-cultural Jordanian-American household — vignettes interspersed with recipes rich in memory. Through the frustrations and challenges Abu-Jabar encounters while navigating the murky waters of cultural identity, one constant remains: her love and appreciation for food. The format reminded me a bit of one of my favorite food story collections, Home Cooking, by the dear, departed Laurie Colwin.

Hirsch, who is part-owner of the Cornelia Street Café, read a story of restaurateur “Mr. S” who falls in love with his dishwasher — an excerpt presumably taken from the current issue of Alimentum, and not from Hirsch’s own memoir, Last Dance at the Hotel Kempinski.

Allen, educator, author and food history editor for Leite’s Culinaria, closed out the reading program with an amusing banana-themed story about his travels through the tropics, proving that there can be too much of a good thing. It was a perfect segue into the reception, featuring – what else? – banana splits.

Housing Works banana splits

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Shaken and stirred

Tuesday, June 12th, 2007 | All Things, Events

Our event this evening, which originally had been slated for the W New York – The Court, was moved at the last minute a few doors west to the Audrey Lounge & Café at the W New York — The Tuscany. Yes: there are actually two W Hotels on 39th Street between Lexington and Park — a situation I imagine lends itself to occasional confusion. (I once experienced a similar mix-up over the two H&Ms on West 34th Street. Sorry, Aunt L!) The sister properties (formerly the Doral Court and the Doral Tuscany) were acquired by W Hotels in 1996, and reopened under their current names after The Rockwell Group‘s extensive three-year, multi-million-dollar renovation.

Audrey Bar

J and I were at the hotel for a Bacardi mixology workshop led by renowned sommelier/”cocktail stylist” Jerri Banks. Among her many wine consulting credits, Banks has created original specialty drinks for Indian-fusion lounge Taj, the Meatpacking District’s (now closed) Fressen, and Drew Nieporent‘s (also closed) Cinnabar. Hey, NYC is a tough restaurant town. Banks is also the consulting beverage director for the Upper West Side’s newest “wine and spirits boutique,” Pour.

We shook off the rains from outside and were welcomed with cool glasses of Bacardi Limón, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup and club soda over ice – now that’s quality lemonade!

Audrey Bar

After some light bites, it was time for our informal cocktail class to begin. Our group gathered around the glowing bar, where Banks demonstrated a pair of her summery rum concoctions as two assistants shook and stirred rounds of the same for the rest of us.

Her “Sun Tonic” (Bacardi Limón, fresh lemon juice, grated fresh ginger and simple syrup, garnished with a lemon pinwheel) was a crowd favorite with its spicy, sweet and tart notes. The “Peach Red Cobbler” (Bacardi Peach Red, fresh lemon juice, POM Wonderful, simple syrup and muddled seedless grapes, garnished with slices of fresh peaches, nectarines or apricots, blackberries and star fruit) was described by Banks as an “inside-out sangria,” for reasons we didn’t quite comprehend. It was tasty, too, but seemed perhaps just a bit too complicated for the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer.

Banks talked us through her recipes, emphasizing fresh ingredients and a proper balance of drink components: neither too sweet, nor overly alcoholic. J agreed, the results spoke for themselves: very refreshing!

W Tuscany

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