Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Neighborhood

This is the view from my window in my new(ish) apartment. I've lived here over two months now, so I can't say that it's, *that* new, but whatever. Jeeves lived on the Upper East Side for 8 years (with a one year break in there when he lived in New Haven). I joined him there in January. We knew we weren't going to stay there when his lease expired in May. UES is really not nearly as cool as they make it seem on Gossip Girl. Case in point - whenever the Gossip Girl kids go out on the town, they leave the UES. And that is because the UES is boring. There's not much in the way of interesting food, the bars are pretty terrible and fratty, and there's only one subway line that runs through it. On a positive note, we were very close to the Central Park, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And by the by, we almost never went to either of those places. I don't mean to totally rag on the UES. When Jeeves and I first started dating, I kind of loved it there. And we had a great local bistro called Jacques. And on the rare occasion we could get someone to come visit us, we'd go to the Heidelberg, one of the last remnants of old Yorkville. And then there was the Two Little Red Hens Bakery. But when we wanted to go out with friends, we always left. And the other thing about the UES is how damn far it was from just about everything we wanted to do. We frequently took cabs because unless we left the apartment 45 minutes to an hour before we had to be somewhere, we'd be late.

When I moved in to the city in January, I started to notice things about the UES that I really didn't like. The grocery stores were terrible. In most areas in Manhattan you can find a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe's, and if you're very lucky - a Fairway. But not so on the UES. A super crummy D'Agostino and an okayish Food Emporium were the best we could do. Blerg. And it seemed so crowded in the subway - I later learned that the 4/5/6 line is the second most crowded subway line in the city after the L train. And every block looked the same up there - walking was so boring, and there just was no cohesive neighborhood feel. And every single store was a big chain. Where were all these independent stores I had heard about? Why was there three Duane Reades and a CVS within 2 blocks of each other? These feelings about NYC only got worse when, less than a month after I had moved in, we discovered we had bed bugs thanks to an old man in our building who likes to bring things in off the street. If you thought I was feeling a little down on the city before, man you ain't seen nothing after that nightmare. I missed Jersey so very much. But that is a story for another time. Jeeves and I decided that while you cannot run away from bed bugs, we would do everything our pest control guy said to do, and we would also start looking for a new home a little faster. After all, even if we got rid of our bugs, we knew the old man downstairs wouldn't stop bringing stuff in off the street and it would only be a matter of time before we had them again.

But where to? One place that we both loved was Tribeca, and the real estate crash suddenly made it seem like we could maybe afford it. I personally find talking about my experience with brokers and what not rather dull. So I will just say that we looked a lot in Tribeca, but the stuff we could afford that was really in the heart of the neighborhood was.... meh. One apartment was as dark as a dungeon, and another had a sad little kitchen with an electric range. We also looked at a few spots in the Village (a 6th floor walk-up that was teeny tiny, another place over a restaurant), Union Square, Gramercy Park, and NoLIta. We bother really liked NoLIta, but nothing we saw there was right for us. When we did find the "right" spot in Tribeca, they told us right before signing the lease that they technically don't allow cats, but we could probably sneak one it. No thanks.

One day after that debacle when I was feeling especially hopeless and tired (having bed bugs pretty much ruins sleep for you), Jeeves found an ad on Craigslist. A couple who had recently bought a place in Brooklyn wanted to break their lease on a lovely apartment with lots of closet space in a doorman building near Tribeca. Their landlord said they could break the lease if they found new tenants. It was actually in a building that we had looked longingly at from the street, but we had been told there were no vacancies.
The apartment was everything we wanted.

Naturally because we had to complicate things, we looked at an apartment in the
Dumbo neighborhood in Brooklyn. I love Dumbo - I think it's one of the prettiest neighborhoods in the entire city. And the apartment.... well, it was enormous - 1000 sq ft with beautiful sliding windows, hardwood floors, basement storage, and the most ridiculous kitchen I have seen in a New York apartment. But after a lot of soul searching, we realized Dumbo wasn't right for us, at least not now. No major grocery stores, a long walk to a pharmacy, a ten minute walk to a subway line that frequently has problems. If our goal was to live in a place where we wouldn't be out of the way, then Dumbo was not the place for us.

So, we went with the apartment on the edge of Tribeca. It's really on the edge of Tribeca, Chinatown, Civic Center, and Soho. At first I thought not being squarely in Tribeca might suck. On the contrary, it's been so great to just walk out the door and stroll to the Uniqlo in Soho, or grab a cheap dinner at Joe's in Chinatown. And we're so close to every subway!
But what I am really loving about my new neighborhood (and really, I do feel like my neighborhood is Tribeca, since that is where I spend the majority of my time) is that it feels like a neighborhood. I don't know if it's the fact that the architecture is all low rise so I can still see the sky, or that I can't wait until Tribeca Citizen posts the happenings at the Community Board meeting, or that there are so many little independent stores, but also a nice big Barnes & Noble, and Whole Foods. Maybe it's that the people in the pet food store where I shop all know me. But I do know that I am enjoying my new home.

Friday, June 18, 2010

More veggies than you can shake a stick at

I moved into the city in January. It's been a bit of a transition for me. But one of the things I was most excited about when I moved in was joining a CSA. "CSA" stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, a group of people get together and decide they will pay an area farmer up front for produce that the farmer will then provide through the season. Every week, you pick up your share, and the farmer provides whatever is fresh and in season that week.

When my dad got sick last year, I started to get really serious about eating more vegetables. I decided to take the Bittman challenge and not eat meat during the day at all. Unlike Bittman, who is a "Vegan before 6," the best I can do is be a "Vegetarian before 6." That part is easy. The part that is tough for me is the no dairy. I really, really like a yogurt or a yogurt smoothie in the morning. And I really, really want cheese at lunch.

Anyway, I digress. I have a friend who signed up for the Paisley Farms CSA for a winter share last year. It sounded amazing. So when they announced they would have a pick up site right near me for their summer share, I wrote out my check and eagerly waited for June 9th to role around. The first week went fine - we got radishes, green leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, rapini, mizzuna, turnips, and maybe something else that I can't remember now. I met my site coordinator, and he told me he was going to be away on vacation for a couple of weeks, but someone would fill in for him.

This week, I dragged myself up the stairs (elevator is broken at the pick-up site, otherwise there would be no Megs slogging up 5 flights of stairs), walked over to the veggie bins, only to discover.... a single head of lettuce and one bag of dried black beans. What? Yeah. A gentleman who got there a few minutes before me was in the same boat. All the other beautiful veg were gone! No kale for me! No cucumbers!!!! The ditz who was running the show couldn't understand what had happened. But as she explained it, the list she had was for 11 people, and they had only gotten 7 of each thing. So me and my new tall friend were SOL.

I wrote a somewhat snotty e-mail to the farm, wanting to know how they intended to rectify the situation. The next day I got a phone call from the farmer, Mike. Mike assured me that there are only 7 people on the list for the site, that they had provided enough for us, PLUS two extra servings in an attempt to encourage other people at the office to sign up. His best guess was that the girl covering for our coordinator just let her office mates go nuts or something. He then offered to drop my share off at my apartment building the next day.

Today when I got home, I found three boxes waiting for me. They had sent me a double share with stuff that was different (and in my opinion, way cooler) than what I had missed at the site - fresh garlic! And two beautiful potted basil plants. And kale, radishes, romaine, red leaf lettuce, MORE dried black beans, cooking greens (I think it's tatsoi, but I'm not sure), beets(!), turnips, zucchini, and cucumbers. Amazing!

I'm going on vacation to LA next week, and Jeeves has already left on our vacation, so there's no way I can eat all this stuff myself. But I suspect that some friends and family will be very excited when I roll in with all this produce. Hooray for my CSA!

The Return

I'm trying out this writing thing again. It's been one of those weeks.

Dear friend G, who regular readers from this blog many years ago will remember, started her own blog about food. And things got tough at the new job, where I work with another old friend. And that friend said to me, "well, as someone once said, 'work is for sucker.'" I missed my blog.

I won't be able to blog at work, sadly - it's just too chaotic there. But I hope that now that I have good internet connectivity at home, I'll be able to make this a habit again.