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.
Made in Brooklyn
Last Sunday my friend Veronica organized a tour at Industry City Distillery on the western edge of Sunset Park. The area reminded me of both Red Hook and Gowanus, with big warehouse spaces turned into production/artists spaces, and right on the water. Definitely a place I wouldn’t mind spending a Sunday afternoon, especially when vodka-tasting is involved.
Industry City Distillery is unusual in that they use beet sugar to make vodka, which unlike grain and starch, produces no solid waste. Their product launched in April and is already getting a lot of notice in the NY area. (Check out the map of where to buy their vodka, in addition to online.) We toured their facility, which held their fermentation and distillation equipment and the metal shop where they built all their production equipment by hand. They even have a letterpress machine (!) for printing all their labels.
Made in Brooklyn
Josh Bernstein is a Brooklyn-based writer, specializing in all things beer-related, and the author of Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World’s Craft Brewing Revolution. He also leads monthly homebrew tours around Brooklyn and Manhattan. I first heard about them through my friends Barb and Max, who have been on a couple tours through Williamsburg and Park Slope and raved about them. So last Saturday, quite the gorgeous spring day, we went on Josh’s latest tour, this one through Carroll Gardens and Prospect Heights.
Most of the beers we tried were on the lighter side, fitting for spring. I took a handful of photos, but mainly spent the day chatting with the other very friendly people on the tour, sampling the beer, and being bad about jotting down tasting notes of what we were drinking. Which I’m guessing is the point of the tour anyway, to just enjoy being on it.