One of the best things about living in New York is that you are constantly discovering new fascinating and bewildering facts about the city. Did you know there are rice paddies on Randall's Island? A still-running 19th-century power plant at Pratt University? A rooftop garden with beehives at the Waldorf Astoria?
The last one I just learned about last month. And luckily, I got to see it first-hand as part of the Urban Agriculture Conference sponsored by The Horticultural Society of New York. A few weeks ago I posted about our trips to Battery Urban Farm and Riverpark Farm; now we'll head up 625 feet over Midtown Manhattan.
Years ago while in culinary school, I spent a summer interning at Food & Wine. Food writing was my dream future career and I was ecstatic to spend a good part of my work days in their test kitchen. Until this week, even after many years of working in the food world on both the cooking and writing sides, it had been the only test kitchen of a major publication that I had seen.
So I was pretty thrilled to join a behind-the-scenes tour that Cookbook Create was organizing for food bloggers in the NY area. Yesterday, a big group of us visited the offices and test kitchens of Bon Appetit, The Daily Meal, and Food52, who graciously hosted us and prepared samples of recipes they've tested for publication. Of course, in addition to peeking inside the beautiful kitchens, it was a great way to learn about how the different publications operate.
Earlier I shared a post on Battery Urban Farm in lower Manhattan, where I went as part of last week's Urban Agriculture Conference. One of our other visits that day was Riverpark Farm, overlooking the East River.
Granted, the East River and the FDR aren't the first locations that come to mind when you think of farms and fresh produce. But Riverpark, opened in 2011 as part of Tom Colicchio's Craft Restaurants group, somehow makes it all work.
What's most impressive about this farm is that it's completely modular, with vegetables and herbs growing inside 7,000 milk crates, all of which can be easily transported. For two years farm was located on a stalled construction site at the Alexandria Center, before finally being able to settle into their new home at the riverfront plaza earlier this month.
Although this blog is dedicated to mapping Brooklyn, occasionally I'll venture across the bridges to report on noteworthy places on the isle of Manhattan (and further afield.) Last week, I attended the Urban Agriculture Conference, which focuses on sustainable farming in urban environments. As part of the 2 1/2-day event, conference goers got a chance to visit some of the farms that are sprouting up around Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. The Brooklyn tour was full by the time I registered, but as it turned out, the Manhattan trip was wildly interesting from beginning to end, starting with at 10am visit to Battery Urban Farm.
Until last week, I had no idea there was a 1-acre farm that sat on the edge of the financial district. It's mainly an educational farm, with site-sponsored programs and plots of land for schools to teach kids about where their food comes from. In addition to the neat rows of lettuces, kale, and radishes for food production, there's also a fun teepee area where kids can play with seeds and plant vegetables of their own choosing. In the spring and fall, the food goes toward school lunches, while in the summer the crops are sold through a farm share.
Fun fact: the farm is shaped like a turkey, as a tribute to Zelda (named after Zelda Fitzgerald), the wild turkey that has been roaming Battery Park for the last decade.
As a culinary school grad, I’ve made countless things from scratch, both sweet and savory. But one thing I had never tried my hand at before was cheese-making. It had always seemed pretty elusive, and books on the subject tend to be filled with diagrams straight out of a high-school chemistry book (not my best subject back in the day.) But I do likeeating cheese. So when the opportunity came to take and review a mozzarella-making class through CourseHorse, a start-up for finding and booking classes all around New York, I was pretty excited.
The class was held at Murray’s Cheese, where I’ve dropped a sizable chunk of change over the years. But the class was the first time I visited the classroom upstairs (it’s pretty spacious with a window that looks over the shop). The tasting portion was already set up when we walked in, with a slate board of various mozzarellas and a glass each of sparkling and red wine behind it.
Manhattan, Restaurants and Cafes
Gotham Bar & Grill is one of those classic New York restaurants where it feels great just to walk into, with its soaring ceilings and polished decor. I had gone there once for dinner last spring and left stuffed and very satisfied (and dreaming of their signature chocolate cake for a week!) So it was great to head back there yesterday for the launch of“Greenmarket to Gotham 2012″, a seasonal lunch that runs for twelve weeks and supports both Greenmarket farms and the Grow to Learn NYC initiative.