One of the greatest summer traditions in New York City is the $1 oyster happy hour. Walk down Bedford Ave. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn on a sunny afternoon, and you will pass at least half a dozen bars with chalk boards advertising their oyster specials. Although we are already into August, I went to my first oyster happy hour this summer finally last week. We decided to try out Sel de Mer on Graham since it not only had dollar oysters but half off beer and wine until 7. I started out with the Malbec Rose. It wasn’t fantastic, but it was chilled and felt very summery.
Almost empty at 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, Sel de Mer is a quaint, very nautically themed seafood restaurant. I really liked that they brought us fresh bread and (probably overstated but delicious) salted butter. I saw other customers ordering whole lobsters, fish and chips. The meals looked pretty good, but we were only there for oysters. Between three of us, we managed to consume 18.
Here are the first six. I liked that their vinaigrette was homemade and watermelon flavored. I personally didn’t like the small watermelon chunks on my oysters, but the actual taste was tangy and added to the experience.
I switched from the rose to the Blanc de Blanc, which was a much better choice. What I really love about oyster happy hour is not just the food, but also the whole ritual of it all. Everyone agrees on how many to start with, never enough. Someone squeezes the lemon over them all. Each person has a different way of dressing them and eating them. I would recommending stopping by Sel de Mer for their happy hour if you are in the area. Not only was it not crowded, but the drink specials were good, too. But with so many options for oyster happy hours, there is no excuse not to go!
A little bit of a departure from my normal format, I thought I would write a little bit about the cooking blogs that inspire me. First is Rachel Ray. While a lot of chefs tend to scoff at her, Rachel Ray recipes are the way I learned to cook (thanks to my mom) one summer. I like how easy the site is to search and the concepts behind the recipes from 30-minute meals to budget friendly versions of classics. Sometimes you just don’t have the time and energy to make a big, fancy meal.
Another blog I love, love, love is Crêpes of Wrath. Sydney is a fellow Brooklynite and is constantly posting new recipes and about new bars/restaurants in the area. In addition to having well-written and tasty recipes, each post has a series of pictures outlining the steps. She is where I found the Strawberry Chocolate Chip recipe, which has become infamous among my group of friends.
There is, of course, always plenty of inspiration to be found on Pintrest. Although I haven’t actually made any of these recipes, I enjoy reading the Food in my Beard blog. He does crazy stuff like buffalo chicken pad Thai and Cool Ranch mac and cheese. On occasion, I do fid inspiration in the New York Times dining section, but usually I just find myself skimming it for what is going on in New York. Not strictly for recipes, Marcus Samuelson is a chef I like to follow online.
I hope that inspires some new reading for you. Happy cooking!
Until recently, I had no idea that summer ramen even existed. Luckily, thanks to an email from Tasting Table NYC, I learned about Ganso, a ramen restaurant in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn. I love noodles and soups, so I just had to try this dish. Located next to the Hoyt-Schermerhorn G stop (and about a half dozen others), Ganso is a small restaurant with clean lines and wooden paneling throughout. I sat at the bar (more like a sushi bar than a drinks bar) where I could see the chefs in action.
I started out with a Sapporo, which they have on tap. Although the drink menu is limited to beer and wine, they did seem to have an extensive list of sake. I was hoping for a summery cocktail, but Sapporo is always refreshing.
Here is the summer ramen before I dug in. The noodles were topped with fresh tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, greens, pork slices, and an egg. I really loved all of the bright colors.
After eating my way through the greens, the noodles emerge. I was really reminded of the taste of a seaweed salad. If that is a taste that you like, you will really like this dish. It was very different from ramen soup, not only in that the noodles were cold but I could taste the vinegar and yuzu sauce they were soaking in. Eating the noodles and corn with chopsticks was a bit of a struggle for me, but I managed. This had such a great, unique taste to it that I didn’t even miss the soup-ness of typical ramen. After the meal, the check was delivered on the postcard that you can see at the top of the post.
I felt like the $14 price tag was a bit steep, but it was very filling and a seasonal dish. I don’t know that I loved it enough to order it again, but it was worth the experience. The service was fast and friendly. Next time I am craving ramen, I would visit Ganso again, especially given how convenient it is via subway..
After a lovely train ride, a trip to the grocery store, and a couple of wrong turns, we finally made it to our cabin in the woods. Eric Berelovich found the perfect place outside of Accord, NY. The cabin had plenty of bedrooms, the latest IKEA furniture, but weirdly no curtains on any of the windows. Even though it had a wrap around porch. Regardless, it was plenty of space for our group, especially the kitchen.
Since the grill was out of gas, we decided to make our Fourth of July burgers on the stove top. The kitchen actually was equipped with a grill top, which we used to grill the asparagus. Earlier in the evening, we had caramelized our onions and prepped different dips sauces and veggies to top the burgers. Prepping and chopping everything earlier in the evening really made the difference. As you can see above, we made the burgers diner style, which was so delicious. The trick to diner style is not to pre-form patties. We heated up the pan and greased it with butter. Once hot, the burgers went straight on. They were then seasoned as they were cooked with cheese added last.
We also made a lot of bacon. With the kitchen grill top, we could toast the buns. I was skeptical at first about not using the outdoor grill, but everything turned out perfect and was much easier.
Here is a portion of the condiments we could select. My contribution was chopping the jalapeños
My finished plate. Luckily I remembered to take a picture before I inhaled it. Grilled asparagus and a diner style burger with cheese, pickles, ketchup, caramelized onions, and spicy aioli sauce. It is always fun on a group weekend trip to take a new kitchen for a whirl seeing other cooks’ processes. Thanks to our friend Eric Berelovich, we all had a great time exploring the Hudson Valley.
Even the most die-hard New Yorkers have to admit that getting out of the city at least every once in awhile is a good thing. On weekends in the summer, it seems like there is a mass exodus for the countryside. This past Fourth of July weekend, my friend Sarah and I joined that movement to meet friends of ours update for a #countryweekend (yes, we had an official hashtag. Or at least an ironic hashtag). With the Fourth being on a Friday, no one had an excuse not to take a long weekend. Instead of driving up, we opted to take the Metro North commuter railway. Getting from Greenpoint to Grand Central was easy enough, but with roller bags early in the morning, it was a bit tricky. The tourists created a long line to buy tickets but weren’t using all of the machines. We just grabbed an open one. It was a rainy, somewhat miserable morning but the ride was still beautiful.
Even on such a grey day, there were plenty of interesting things to see. The trick is to make sure you get a seat on the side of the train with the windows facing the river. Otherwise, the view is not quite as interesting as we learned on our way back. Although, I will have to admit that the motion of the train put me to sleep for most of the ride. Overall, a quick, very pleasant journey. Even if I were just going upstate for a day trip, the train is a great way to travel.
We made it to Poughkeepsie! We didn’t stay too long. Our friends came to pick us up from the train station to drive us out to our home for the weekend- a cabin near Accord, New York. As we arrived, the clouds started to disappear and the sun came out. It was turning out to be a very beautiful weekend.
Over the dunes, here is the surf. As much as I love the sand, I’ve always thought the Atlantic was cold, murky. It feels eerie not being able to see what you are stepping on. I don’t think I went in past my knees. The damp, hard sand was the best for spreading out my beach towel to read in the sun. I got a little bit pink, but it was worth it. When the tide changes at Myrtle, “little pools” of water are left on the beach. Taking a walk down the beach, I made sure to splash in a few like we did when we were kids since our favorite part of the day was when we could play in the pools.
While most of North Myrtle was once private residences and smaller rental houses, those have long since been sold. These condos are the new landscape of the beach, but that development all started even before I was born. North Myrtle Beach is the hometown of Vanna White and the miniature golf capitol of the world. It felt strange not playing a round, but it wouldn’t have been the same without my brother and cousins. We would always have to get in at least one game of Hawaiian Rubble, which had a volcano that would “erupt” or Professor Hacker’s Lost World with a wooden train that takes you to the top of the course. I played with the pink ball, my cousins usually insisted on brining their own putters. There are all still there. Not many people were playing on a Wednesday afternoon in the 90 degree heat, but I almost wished I had stopped to go a round. I can’t even remember which one was the last we all played together.
On a slightly less nostalgic note, we did make one of my favorite summertime desserts- strawberry shortcake! My grandmother got fresh strawberries, newly in season, from a roadside stand. The shortcake was made in a nearby somewhat geriatric but popular restaurant, and the Cool Whip was from the BI-LO (which I got lost in, but that’s a different story). Not only is the perfect dessert for this time of the year because the strawberries are in season, but it essential no-bake. If you already have your shortcake prepared, you don’t have to worry about heating up the house with the oven. Delicious!
A few weeks ago, I caught a direct flight from LGA (the gross terminal, which turns out to be all of the airport except the Delta terminal) down to Myrtle Beach. Aside from some weather related delays, which have become the norm for me at this point, it was smooth traveling south. I was staying with my grandmother and aunt in North Myrtle Beach, “home of the shag” as their water tower proclaims. For those of you not familiar with the shag, it is the official dance of beach music and danced with a partner. Growing up, we always went to Myrtle beach once a summer. I was told they would teach me to shag, and I was going to win contests. Despite the confidence in my dancing abilities, I wasn’t ever taught and grew old enough not to have the time or want to drive out to the beach with my family anymore.
This trip, I watched the main drag of North Myrtle through the car window. I couldn’t exactly tell if it was exciting, it was certainly more exciting than being inside, or if it was dilapidated and sad. I made my aunt stop at a souvenir shop so that I could buy an oversized, tacky cat beach towel. The sign on the shop advertised “exotic” body piercing. We stared at the girl in the glass booth. “You ladies lookin’ to get a piercing?” she asked, noticing our necks craning. No, we laughed. “I do mother-daughter piercings all the time, even grandmother-daughter-mother once.” My aunt and I don’t even have our ears pierced.
As strange as the culture in Myrtle Beach might be, the Grand Strand lives up to its name. First you have to climb over the dunes, which always feel too hot, too long with lizards and bugs running across them. Once you get across and over the dunes, the air immediately cools. The sand is powdery and soft at first, hardening where the waves brush against it. Miles of public beach in either direction. This is the sand you can sleep on for hours, dig your toes into, make sandcastle for days. It has always been my standard for, my norm for the best beach sand.