How to Enjoy the Last Few Days of Summer

I see you, girl in brand new trench coat, trying to season jump because you’re ready for fall. Listen, just because you want to show off all those chunky sweaters doesn’t mean summer’s over. Chill, okay? Fall doesn’t technically begin until September 23rd. That’s a whole week away! And have you seen the forecast? Sunny skies and 80-plus degree temps for days. It might as well be August! I’m no fool, though. I know these moments are incredibly short-lived. Cherish them, friends. Remember the carefree days of June, when the season held so much promise? Relive those times with warm-weather treats that’ll have you thinking summer will never end.

1. Ice cream sandwich at Genuine Superette: One of the most memorable desserts I’ve eaten recently–I had it twice in three days–this sandwich from the Little Italy roadside-style take out joint is a feat of engineering. I’ve written about the traditional gelato sandwich before, but this is different somehow. Better. The bread is warm, but the ice cream (from Brooklyn-based OddFellows Ice Cream Co.) stays perfectly cold. The texture of the ice cream–which is slightly creamier than milky gelato–seems to work better with the airiness of the brioche. There are toppings, too! The below had toasted coconut and hot fudge and was paired with a chocolate chunk flavor. My favorite, though, was an extra virgin olive oil ice cream, balsamic caramel and strawberry jam concoction.

genuinesuperette

2. Frozen negroni at Alta Linea: Creating a frozen version of a beloved cocktail can be a dangerous proposition. One misstep and you’re in spring-break-overly-sweet-frozen-margarita territory. The folks behind High Line Hotel courtyard eatery Alta Linea nailed it. With help from kings of the gourmet slushie, Kelvin Slush Co., they created a frozen drink every bit as nuanced as the over-ice original. It’s all there: the bitterness of the Campari, the refreshing crispness of the gin, the slight sweetness of the red vermouth and tang of the freshly squeezed orange juice.

altalinea

3. Oysters at Grand Banks: You only have until the end of October (weather permitting) to sip cocktails and slurp oysters on a gorgeous wooden schooner like you’re inside your very own Grey Goose commercial. Seriously, look at that setup. It’s almost always crowded, but the operation is efficient and the staff, accommodating. Fall sunsets tend to be some of the year’s prettiest, so I’d advise an early evening visit.

Photographed by Doug Lyle Thompson; courtesy of Grand Banks

Photographed by Doug Lyle Thompson; courtesy of Grand Banks

4. Poke at Seamore’s: This airy new Little Italy seafood spot from the guys behind perpetually popular Meatball Shop turns out a refreshing Hawaiian poke (pronounced “okay”) that’s as transportive as it is delicious. Made with a rotating fish–ours was ahi tuna–avocado, peanuts and sesame seeds, tossed with ponzu and served with tortilla chips, this app is quintessential après-beach fare.

seamores

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Best Spots for Backyard Cocktails

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Though I’m fairly confident in my NYC expert status, I do have a blind spot: bars. I’m not a big bar hopper. I’m not always aware of the coolest dive bar with the just-surly-enough bartenders or the latest microbrewery bar with the 3 dozen beer taps. I do love well-made cocktails, though. And, I love drinking them outdoors in snazzy backyards come summertime. It’s a quintessential New York warm weather experience. Below, a list of places to check out.

Weather Up: A moody upscale bar in Prospect Heights with delicious, well-priced cocktails. The drinks take a while (a good sign, I think?), but you can wait in the string bulb-lit, verdant backyard, which has ample seating. Thanks to the vegetation and the Brooklyn humidity, it can get muggy back here. Take advantage of the bug spray at the yard’s entrance!

June: This Cobble Hill newcomer is winning fans all over the city. The thoughtful interior is downright beautiful, the small plates are delicious, and the natural wines are unique. The cocktails, which feature uncommon ingredients (just ask and the waitress will explain), are strong and tasty. Did I mention the prices are reasonable? The backyard, which wasn’t completed when things first started to warm up, is now ready for the spotlight.

Leyenda: Cobble Hill seems like the place to drink this summer. This new bar on Smith Street from cocktail maven Julie Rainer and aptly named partner and rising star Ivy Mix, has all the makings of a summer hotspot: an extensive list of creative Latin American-inspired cocktails and punches, tasty small plates from acclaimed chef Sue Torres, and a bare-bones, but pretty backyard perfect for a friend date.

Blueprint: A cozy, low-key place to grab a backyard cocktail in Park Slope. There’s a varied cocktail list with agreeable prices and small plates for soaking up the booze. A comfortable, dates-heavy garden space makes this a very adult, very 30-something place to imbibe. (Park Slope dope!)

Tooker Alley: They take their drinks very seriously at this Prospect Heights watering hole (binder menu, orchid garnishes), but the bar, especially on weekdays is void of pretension. The retro outdoor space with green plastic chair and twinkling lights amps up the casual factor.

Huckleberry Bar: The lush yard at this East Williamsburg cocktail bar is a haven in a not-very-tree-filled part of Brooklyn. They’ve been open for 8 years, so they’ve had some time to hone their craft. Unlike similar establishments that close their yards before midnight, this yard stays open until 1 a.m.

The Raines Law Room: This Flatiron destination is best avoided on weekends, when waits can be cruel. Weekday evenings, though, it’s great for an expertly made, albeit very pricey, cocktail with a friend or date. The back garden is teeny, but lovely.

Maison Premiere: With unique cocktails and the most extensive $1 oyster happy hour in the city, this Williamsburg bar/restaurant fills up fast on weekday afternoons. Get here early, by 5 p.m., to guarantee a spot. The outdoor space, with its pergolas, greenery and white wrought iron tables and chairs is transportive. (Fair warning: mosquitos abound.)

Lavender Lake: Ah, the Gowanus–the polluted waterway that’s attracting loads of development along its banks (only in New York?). What the area does provide is space, and there’s loads of it at this chill, expansive bar. Come early to snag a table with an umbrella and wile away the afternoon with a refreshing cocktail and some fried brussels sprouts.

Mulberry Project: If Maison Premiere transports you to seaside France, the backyard (named La Isla Escondida) at this Little Italy lounge makes you feel as though you’ve hopped a super quick flight to coastal Mexico. Graphic murals, bright green artificial turf, multicolored tile and straw thatch couple with fuchsia and lime-hued cocktails to create a vibe that’s anywhere but NYC.

Wrought iron chairs and twinkling lights at Weather Up; courtesy of Weather Up, Brooklyn

Wrought iron chairs and twinkling lights at Weather Up; courtesy of Weather Up, Brooklyn

leyenda

Low-key vibe and inventive drinks at Leyenda

A retro feel at Tookey Alley

A throwback feel at Tookey Alley

Courtesy of Maison Premiere

Lush greenery at Maison Premiere; courtesy of Maison Premiere

Courtesy of Mulberry Project

An eternal summer vibe at La Isla Escondida; Courtesy of Mulberry Project

Late Summer Date Idea

I’ve always preferred the astronomical definition of summer, the one where summer doesn’t officially end until the autumnal equinox on September 22nd. This means I can still say “this summer has been lovely so far” and “wow, what a mild summer we’re having.” There are about two weeks left to enjoy the season and cross a few summer-specific activities off the ol’ bucket list.

It’s a time of sublime weather. Mild but still warm days and cool, sweater-required evenings. Why not take advantage with a cute sweets-and-sights date?

This date can be either platonic or romantic. (I opted for the former). Here’s what you do:

Stop by Quality Meats restaurant on 58th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues. Go directly to the bar and order one of their divine ice cream cakes to-go. I’ve tried the Take 6 (a variation on the Take 5 candy bar) and the Pie Flight 2013 (pictured below). They were comprised of ice cream, moist cake, cream and, depending on the flavor, chocolate covered pretzels, fruit, chocolate shavings or a mini pie.

Ask for a few utensils and take the ice cream cakes to the pond at the southeast corner of Central Park (pictured below at dusk), a 5 minute walk away. Evening would probably be best time. Then revel in the deliciousness of your dessert and the magic hour-beauty of the park. Be sure to leave before nightfall when this happens.

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This is Why: A City for All Seasons

It was hot this past weekend in NYC. H-O-T-T hot. What to do on a Sunday afternoon with no plans? A quick trip to the beach, of course. New York City has miles of beaches easily accessed by subway. Pretty incredible for the most urban, most densely populated major city in the U.S.

If we need to make it a quick trip, we head down to the western end of Brighton Beach, a 30 minute ride away on the Q train. It’s fairly quiet, fairly clean, and convenient to tasty Russian food.

If you want to party at the beach, Coney Island is a short walk away. Here, the umbrellas are ruffle-to-ruffle, reggaeton is blasting and vendors are selling everything from homemade churros to flowering mangos on a stick.

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Our chosen spot near the Ocean Parkway entrance

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Large, festive crowds in Coney Island

Summer To-Do List 2013

At the beginning of every summer, I get slightly anxious when I realize how fleeting the warmer months actually are. You can see it in the desperate faces of New Yorkers clamoring for outdoor tables near construction sites and congregating at “rooftop bars” atop two-story buildings. Granted, summer here is not as short as summer, in say, Barrow, Alaska, but often, the really nice temps don’t roll in until June and only stick around until September. It makes me feel as though I have to get the absolute most out of the season. And each year, I make a list to make sure I do.

Behold, the 2013 list:

Randazzo’s Clam Bar and a Brooklyn Cyclones Game

I’ve never been to Randazzo’s, the famous rib-sticking seafood joint, but have always wanted to try it. A few summers ago, we paired an outdoor crab lunch at Clemente’s Maryland Crabhouse in Sheepshead Bay with a Cyclones game, and it was a such great day. Seafood, baseball by the water and post-game fireworks– everything the summer’s meant to be.

View of the parachute drop from MCU Park

View of the parachute drop from MCU Park

Suburban Pool Day

This requires surveying your circle for friends from either Westchester, Long Island or North Jersey and then finding the ones whose parents still belong to their neighborhood pool. My husband and I spent a glorious day at Tarry Crest Swimming & Tennis Club on a grassy knoll, reading magazines, eating homemade oatmeal cookies and enjoying adult swim for perhaps the first time ever. (Sorry, kid-me, adult swim is awesome.)

Picnic in Prospect Park

We live right near Prospect Park, and though we use it for exercise, we often forget to use it for leisure. There’s nothing better than bringing a picnic lunch (here a few great places nearby that offer sandwiches and accoutrements: Bierkraft, BKLYN Larder and Zito’s Sandwich Shoppe), a good book and relaxing on a blanket under a tree on the Long Meadow. There are a TON of kids here ALL OF THE TIME, so if you want a truly quiet spot, you’ll have to search pretty hard on a really nice weekend day. People watching is half the fun, though! And those kids can be adorable. A few weekends ago, we observed as a toddler ran up to a tree, knocked on its bark, politely asked for two ice creams, then handed over some fake cash.

Prospect Park on a recent weekend

Prospect Park on a recent weekend

Met Rooftop

This one has been on the list for many years. My husband and I like to go on a Friday night after work (the museum is open until 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays), get a drink and enjoy the view. Afterward, we roam the Impressionist galleries, which are often blissfully empty that late in the evening. For dinner, make a reservation at Flex Mussels, try Jones Wood Foundry or the very-un-Upper-East-Side Meatball Shop once it opens later this summer.

Tomás Saraceno's Roof Cloud atop the Met last summer

Tomás Saraceno’s Cloud City atop the Met last summer

A Hike in Cold Spring, NY

This hike, known as the Breakneck Ridge Loop (don’t let the name scare you off!) is strenuous, but the views are spectacular. We don’t usually do the full loop, and instead hike up to the second or third clearing, then hike back down. Be warned: there is a very steep rock climb further up, which we have not done. There is a Metro-North Hudson Line train station right in the center of town, and you need to walk about a mile north on 9D for the trail head.  A refreshing beer at a bar on Main Street, after you’ve hydrated, of course, is a just reward. There are also cute cafés and antique shopping if you have the energy.

View from the Breakneck Ridge Loop

View from the Breakneck Ridge Loop

(Image via ScubaBear68, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)

New Jersey Slider Tour

My husband and I have been wanting to do this slider tour since Serious Eats first posted an article about New Jersey’s many sliders back in 2009. We’ve been to the White Manna in Hackensack on our way elsewhere, but would love to try a few others on the list. Plus, the joints have an iconic 1950s aesthetic. I’ve always loved Jersey’s diner tradition. It’s the perfect daytime activity with a few friends and a Zipcar.

White Manna in Hackensack, New Jersey

White Manna in Hackensack, New Jersey

(Image via Liz West, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)

Red Hook Day

A day in Red Hook, Brooklyn feels like a mini-vacation. We’ve spent many a full day here with friends, including my birthday two years ago. Here are a few ideas culled from recent visits: You can start with a good brunch, maybe at stellar neighborhood restaurant Fort Defiance. Or, a casual lunch of Latin American specialties at the Red Hook Ball Fields, featuring nearly a dozen food trucks surrounding an area soccer field. Follow that up with a relaxing few hours on a blanket at Louis Valentino Jr. Park and Pier. Then a coffee and a pastry or three at the famed Baked bakery. And now that it’s well into the afternoon, you can start drinking (responsibly, obvs). How about a pitcher at the blessedly low-key rooftop patio of dive bar and restaurant Rocky Sullivan’s or outside the large glass-plated doors at cocktail den Botanica, or even with a wine tasting at Red Hook Winery. Finish at Rocky’s with a well-priced dinner of all-American specialties, with upscale eclectic cuisine at The Good Fork or with miniature golf and seafood at the sprawling Brooklyn Crab.

A mural in Red Hook

A mural in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Hamptons Day

We’ve been doing a day in the Hamptons for eight summers. Tiana Beach near Hampton Bays (technically part of Southampton) is great because A) It’s closer than driving all the way out to the shmancy part of the Hamptons. B) It’s public. C) It’s pretty. D) There are facilities. Be sure to get there before 2 p.m. on weekends to secure your $20 non-resident parking spot. Bring a picnic lunch and finish the day with dinner at a nearby seafood restaurant like TR Restaurant and Bar or Cowfish.

Oyster Happy Hour

Ah, oysters, the most divisive of all shellfish. People who haven’t tried them often don’t want to because they look, well, like snot. Their texture, if they’re fresh and good, is more slick than slimy and they taste of the ocean: salty, briny, earthy, incredible. An oyster happy hour is one of my favorite indulgences and it seems most apropos to take part in during the summer months. New York magazine did a recent round-up and I’ve been dying to settle into a platter in the lush backyard of Maison Premiere. Here are a few happy hours I’ve enjoyed in the past: The Ten Bells, The Mermaid Inn, Lure Fish Bar, Upstate, Prima.

Oysters on the half-shell

Oysters on the half-shell

(Image via julesjulesjules m, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)

Bike up Hudson to Dinosaur BBQ

Though an outpost of this beloved Syracuse-based BBQ purveyor is opening tomorrow in my neighborhood, nothing beats grabbing a bike (you can either rent one at Pier 84 on W. 44th St. or use a Citi Bike) and pedaling up scenic Hudson River and Riverside Parks, with their pockets of manicured green, art installations and scenic across-river views, to the Harlem, 125th Street location. Grab some hot wings, fried green tomatoes and a sweet tea, and settle in for the afternoon.

Grilling at Brooklyn Bridge Park

My husband and I recently discovered the newly installed picnic tables and charcoal Hibachi-style grills near Pier 5 at this constantly evolving park. Labeled the “Picnic Peninsula,”  these tables, made from salvaged wood and topped with aquamarine umbrellas, would be a perfect place to spend a mild weekend afternoon, perhaps celebrating a friend’s birthday with fresh-grilled burgers and franks. There is a long, snaking line of picnic tables with enough space for many large parties.

Picnic Peninsula at Brooklyn Bridge Park

Picnic Peninsula at Brooklyn Bridge Park

(Image via ceonyc, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)

High Line at Night

As I’ve often said, the High Line is one of my favorite places in New York. Until now, though, I’ve only ever visited in the daytime. I recently saw a photo of a couple strolling the elevated park at night, illuminated by ground-level lighting and the glitter of the surrounding city. I knew I had to make a point to get up there after 9 p.m. The park closes at 11 p.m.–plenty of time to get in some nighttime wandering.

High Line in the evening

High Line in the evening

(Image via Susan NYC, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)

Prospect Park Concert

The Celebrate Brooklyn! series at the Prospect Park Bandshell is one of the mainstays of summer in the city. At most performances, a $3 donation is suggested, but a few are full-on benefit concerts with a $35 and up admissions charge. I don’t love fighting for a small portion of blanket space and getting angry when people block my view, so my friends and I like to sit outside the bandshell and bring a picnic dinner and a few drinks (technically illegal, but shh, don’t tell anyone). There’s a small hill south of the 11th street entrance from which you can see and hear relatively well. Take note: Belle & Sebastian are playing July 11th. I’ll see you there!

Baseball Game

A baseball game is probably on the summer bucket list of nearly everyone in America, and for good reason. Though I could never kill three hours paying attention to a game in the comfort of my own home, there’s just something about being outdoors, surrounded by people, cheering on your favorite, or favorite-for-the day, team. Since the game is long, there is plenty of time for food and drink breaks, and with the up-market concessions now available at both Yankee Stadium and Citi Field, plenty of choices outside of a Nathan’s and a Budweiser, though both are, of course, classics.

Yankee Stadium on game night

Game night at Yankee Stadium

L&B Spumoni Gardens

Summer isn’t complete without a slice of Sicilian pizza and a cup of spumoni at the picnic tables outside this venerable institution. These pizza squares are more pillowy bread than pizza, with a heaping serving of sweet tomato sauce and small clumps of gooey, melty cheese. There’s usually a line, but instead of grabbing the older slices on offer by the cash register, tell them you’re going to wait for the slices coming straight out of the oven. For dessert, try the namesake tri-flavored spumoni, a classic Italian layered dessert which, in this case, features a combination of vanilla, chocolate and pistachio ice creams.

A large square pie at L&B Spumoni Gardens

A large square pie at L&B Spumoni Gardens

(Image via TheGirlsNY, Flickr.com; made available under Creative Commons license)

Sundae at Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain

I adore the sundaes at this throwback ice cream parlor in Brooklyn’s throwback Carroll Gardens neighborhood. A rotating list of massive, not-for-the-calorie-conscious concoctions can be had at the long counter or at one of their cute café tables. The straightforwardly delicious chocolate brownie sundae, with a warm brownie, vanilla ice cream, hot fudge and whipped cream, tastes like childhood, but the Potato Head Sundae (vanilla ice cream, peanut butter, potato chips) I tried a few summers ago is indelibly entrenched as one of my favorites sundaes ever.

New Catch Holland Herring Sandwich at Russ & Daughters

Ah, June, the month of fresh herring. Celebrate the freshest catch from Holland (where this herring merits a nationwide celebration) at Russ & Daughters, either with their annual all-you-can-eat herring festival or by stopping by the shop between June 19th and mid-to-late July for one of my favorite sandwiches ever: a tail-on herring filet topped with chopped onions and pickles in between a potato hot dog bun. Alternatively, visit midtown restaurant Aquavit for a herring smorgasbord.

Me and my husband at last year's herring pairing

Me and my husband at last year’s herring pairing

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