By Ernest Barteldes

On its 9th edition, the Dominican Book Fair showcased the work of various authors from the Caribbean nation, who brought (mostly) Spanish –language copies of their books for sale at the outdoor festival, which took place on the weekend of September 25-27 outside the Gregorio Luperon High School in Washington Heights, an area known by some as “the Dominican Center” of New York City.

I’d only heard about the fair last year, but this was the first time I’d actually checked it out. I was surprised to see that the event does not actually take place on school grounds but on a park on the outside, where tents were set up for different publishers and promoters.  There were other vendors that were selling food, souvenirs and other products alongside the literary types.

My main reason for heading up there was to meet with Johanna Madera, the founder of Johanna Vinos Artesanales in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic. I met her by chance two years ago in Santo Domingo when our friend Paola took us to Agora Shopping mall, where small business owners were showcasing various products – including Johanna’s fruit wines.

After a brief chat with her, I decided to browse the fair itself. There were many interesting books – one was ““Historia de la Salsa en la República Dominicana” (History of Salsa in The Dominican Republic), a 400-page book by Eugenio Perez that details  how musicians from his nation contributed to the genre, going from its Cuban roots, New York’s Fania label and beyond.  He was on hand, and we had a short conversation about it – I asked him about his research, and also wondered if he planned to have it translated and published into the American market, and he said that this was “in negotiation.”

Other books  that piqued my interest were a bilingual coffee-table book  that contained  illustrated history of the Island and a conspiracy theory that purported to tell the “truth”  behind the assassination of Trujillo, the cruel dictator that ruled the country with an iron fist over the period of over three decades.

I was really looking forward to buying some books, but was shocked at the prices they were asking – most were priced over $30, and I even found some publishers asking for as much as $ 50. I don’t mean to be disrespectful to any of the authors, but I think that asking for that defeats the purpose of a book fair like this, which should be introducing readers to their work.

Copy of one of Johanna's Wines

Copy of one of Johanna’s Flyers showcasing her wines

After browsing for about 30 minutes, I rejoined Johanna at her stand. I asked her about where the idea of making artisanal wines came from, and she told me that her grandmother used to make wine at home for the family. She’d always wanted to become a doctor, but lacked the resources to do so. She then decided to start the business from scratch, and with its success she’s been able to not only help her family but also fund her own goal – she is currently studying to be a doctor at Universidad Tecnológica del Cibao, UCATECI,.

I stayed at the stand for another thirty minutes and we chatted some more. When it was time to go, I purchased two bottles of her wine – one was made from star fruit (carambola in Spanish), which has a sweet and lightly acidic feel, and also passion fruit (chinola), which is on the sweeter side, pairing well with dessert.

It was a nice way to spend part of an afternoon – I’d never been to Washington Heights before – the only down side was the long train commute, but that was not really an issue – I had a lot to read on the way.


Santo Libre (Dominican Republic Cocktail)


  • Start with a tall ice-filled glass.
  • Combine a couple oz of dark or white rum (such as Brugal Especial Extra Dry) with lemon-lime soda or club soda.
  • Add a squeeze of fresh lime.

By Ernest Barteldes

Although for many Americans the end of summer is marked by Labor Day weekend, I feel the season is only really over with once the Feast of San Gennaro – the weeklong festival that celebrates Saint Januarius, the patron saint of Naples, the city where many Italian immigrants that landed in New York heralded from.

A New York City tradition that has taken place for almost 90 years, it is a joyous occasion that celebrates everything Italian – local restaurants extend their tables to the sidewalks of Mulberry Street while various vendors – sell a variety of items, ranging from religious artifacts to a great variety of foods, including sausages, cannoli and zeppoles.

The festival differs from the many street fairs that populate the streets of Manhattan during the warmer months.  In the case of the latter, it is mostly the same group of vendors that sell things like pashminas or knock-off sunglasses and a variety of foods. Sure, some of those are visible at San Gennaro, but the reality is that the Italian-American festivity is more authentic than most (I mean, Dollar Thai food at the Hungarian Day Festival? Really?)

This year Renata and I waited for the last weekend of the festival to head out there – we decided to go on Friday after work, where we would meet with some friends. We got there earlier than our friends, and enjoyed a drink at the Mulberry Street Bar (also known as Sinatra’s Bar – go ahead, Google it), a mainstay in the neighborhood since 1908. The bar has often been used by Hollywood for movies and TV shows, including Donnie Brasco and Law & Order.  When our friends arrived, we walked around for a while until they found a desirable food cart where they’d purchase their annual sausage, peppers and onions sandwich – a tradition Renata got into even if she traditionally does not eat meat on Fridays (not all of us did – I went for a slice at a favorite joint on Spring Street while another member of or party went for ravioli.

Following that we visited the Church of The Most Sacred Blood, the local shrine that holds the statue of San Gennaro that is used during the annual procession through the neighborhood.  Originally erected by Italian immigrants, it has now little connection with the neighborhood’s former population – they don’t even hold masses in Italian anymore (the only one in Manhattan that I know that still has them is the Church of Our Lady of Pompeii in the West Village). It is a small shrine that is decorated with little opulence.  Its doors are open throughout the festival, and they also provide much-needed restrooms for a nominal charge.

We then headed to Ferrara Bakery, where you can find some of the best Italian Pastries in town. In continuous operation since 1892, it is a local treasure that cannot be missed if you visit Little Italy.  There we bought a few cannoli and other pastries, while outside they had their giant 7-lb cannoli – I am not sure what they do with it exactly, but I am hoping it doesn’t go to waste.

Two of our companions left us after that, so we headed to Mika Japanese restaurant just a few blocks away to sit down for a drink. There we were joined by a co-worker from ASA College (the same one who joined us during our last visit to Fire Island), and after a while we took another walk through the festival and stopped a at one of the restaurants along Mulberry for a final glass of wine. It was then that I realized it was past midnight, so we made our way to the subway, and we all made our ways home.

It was as always a very enjoyable experience – it is just too bad that San Gennaro also marks the beginning of colder days ahead.

Recipe: Frank Sinatra Cocktail

I am not sure where this recipe originated, but it’s basically a martini – but blue, in honor of Ol’ Blue Eyes.  I don’t think Sinatra himself would have appreciated it – he was reportedly a Jack Daniels man.

3 oz dry gin
3/4 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
1 oz sweet and sour mix
Get a martini shaker. Add a few ice cubes, then add all ingredients. Shake for ten seconds and serve in a martini glass or cocktail glass with a lemon twist.

By Ernest Barteldes
Located between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, Governor’s Island was off-limits to the general public for most of New York’s history. Initially a military outpost during the Colonial years, it remained a piece of federal land area strictly used by the military until 1996, when the Coast Guard closed its base there.
The island sat pretty much unused for almost a decade as both city and federal authorities decided what to do with it. Since 2003 it has become a public park open to the public during the summer season extended to September 27th in 2015) , and for the rest of the year its buildings serve as a public school and also as housing for a handful of artists and workers.
It has become a weekend destination for many locals – there are no cars on the island, so folks picnic, bike and relax around its streets.  An artificial ‘beach’ was installed there, initially run by New York Water Taxi, and for a while it was the only place you could buy food or drink. That has been expanded, and now there are two food courts serviced by food trucks and also temporary pop-up restaurants that serve a variety of different kinds of food. They don’t allow you to take alcohol to the grounds (that doesn’t  mean creative types can’t find a way to  sneak something in), but there are areas where you can buy beer, wine or cocktails.
Renata and I try to make it there at least twice during the season, and it’s a joy to do so. First of all, access is incredibly easy for us: we just hop on the Staten Island Ferry and walk over to the next terminal where another ferry will take us on a five-minute ride. On our first visit a few weeks ago, I prepared some finger food and drinks for a picnic, and we just lounged on the grass while I plucked at my ukulele.
View from Governor's Island

View from Governor’s Island

On our second visit following Labor Day weekend we just walked around and enjoyed the weather. We were supposed to attend a concert series in one of the houses but thanks to the lack of signage, we were unable to find the place where it was happening until it was time to leave.  In the meantime, we enjoyed a performance by the West Point bagpipe band, explored Fort Jay and sat on the public rocking chairs inside the structure. We later walked over to one of the food courts and enjoyed a drink and then checked out the kite festival going on that day – there were kites of all kinds, including a life-size horse replica.
Life-size horse kite

Life-size horse kite

We also took in the dramatic views of Lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty, pretending for a minute to take in the tourist experience for a change.  I am still looking forward for at least another visit before the season ends – it would hurt to have to wait all the way to the spring of 2016.
There is no known cocktail named after Governor’s Island, so here goes another classic: The Brooklyn
  • 2 ounces rye or other whiskey
  • 1 ounce dry vermouth
  • 1/4 ounce maraschino liqueur
  • 1/4 ounce Amer Picon, or a few dashes Angostura or orange bitters


Combine ingredients with ice and stir until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.


By Ernest Barteldes

For Labor Day Weekend Renata and I decided to spend two days around Fire Island (we stayed overnight at a budget motel on Long Island), so that meant that all the food shopping for the weekend had to be done ahead of time – and to top it off, I was also covering for a few coworkers at the college where I teach.

We woke up early and headed to Penn Station, where we’d buy the package deal offered by the MTA during the summer season. We decided to visit Kismet on the first day because it was closer to Bay Shore so we’d save time with transportation. After dropping a few items off at our hotel, we walked over to the ferry station, where the boat was already loading.

We hadn’t been to Kismet for a while – on our last visits we mostly spent our days on Cherry Grove and The Fire Island Pines – the latter of which we visited for the first time during a day trip earlier this summer.  I’d heard that a co-worker was going there too, and got in touch with her via e-mail. I wasn’t sure if we were going to meet because I had no clue to which beach she was heading to. That doubt was laid to rest when she sent me a text from Surf’s Out, one of the two restaurants on Kismet’s Bay side.

I always take a cooler with food from home when we go on day trips like that, and this was no exception. The night before leaving I stayed up late and made some egg salad, bread, noodle salad, some fruit and a bottle of pre-made sangria from Trader Joe’s.  Once we got to the dock I found my co-worker and the four of us (she came with her boyfriend) and headed to the sand.

The beach was not as crowded as I’d expected for that day. The crowd was the usual mix of families and mixed groups.  The sand was very high above the water, and it seemed as if we on top of a 5-foot dune over the water. As we picked a place to lay down our towels, we noticed several houses severely damaged by the aftermath of hurricane Sandy.

There is currently a project in the works for an artificial dune to be built on the path of the natural ones flattened by the storm, and as a consequence some of the homes there will have to be demolished – an unfortunate but necessary move to ensure the survival of the island – and the homes across the bay that are protected by it.

Cherry Grove

Cherry Grove

The temperature was comfortable, which made for a nice day in the sun. I brought along my ukulele and played a few tunes, and my co-worker played a few songs from her phone via a small Bluetooth speaker she brought along.  At the end of the afternoon, we picked up our stuff and went for a final drink at the Kismet Inn, one of the oldest establishments in that hamlet. The mostly wooden structure seems almost frozen in time, and is one of the few places I know that still has a working cigarette vending machine. The only thing that seems to connect the place to the 21st Century is an Internet jukebox, which I fed with a few singles in order to listen to some music I was in the mood for.

Fire Island’s ability to resist change is one of the things I love about it. I have been reading my late, great friend Jack Nichols’ Welcome To Fire Island: Visions of Cherry Grove and The Pines, and by reading his narrative and looking at the pictures in the book, I realize that there have been very few changes there. “Tiffany’s” Deli looks the same from the outside, and the Ice Palace is still going strong four decades later – even though the Grove Hotel is going through repairs following a devastating fire early in the spring that also destroyed several other buildings.

Lighthouse Beach

Incidentally, Jack also wrote about how the residents of Cherry Grove have worked to preserve the dunes – their protection to the elements while other communities have been relentless in building summer homes. As a result, guess which part of Fire Island was the least affected by the storm?

We took the ferry as the sun went down, headed to our hotel and checked in. A few minutes later we went out in search for a place to pick up some food. Renata was in the mood for some Chinese food, so we walked over to a local takeout place with reasonable prices (one quart chicken with broccoli: $ 10), I felt like some pizza, and headed to Fratelli’s, one of my favorite Italian restaurants on Long Island.  The front of the shop looks like a regular pizza joint, but if you head to the back there is a romantically lit room where they serve a variety of dishes, and also have a nice wine list to boot.

The next morning I woke up early and went to the nearby Stop and Shop to get supplies for the next day.  I’d put the ice packs into the room freezer the night before, and they were ready to go. We’d also bought some wine at a local store, so we added that to the cold cuts, bread and strawberries I purchased at the supermarket that morning.

We checked out of the hotel and took our hand baggage and cooler to the LIRR station to catch the ferry to Sayville, a nearby town where you take the ferries to Fire Island Pines, Cherry Grove and Sunken Forest.  We grabbed a drink at their local bar and boarded the ferry, where we met our friend Marta. Once on Cherry Grove, Renata and Marta headed to “Tiffany’s” for a cup of coffee before we hit the sand.

The beach was more crowded than during earlier visits. There were a handful of nude folks there, but the majority was dressed. Jack would be saddened to see that nudity no longer abounds on Cherry Grove, but in the generation of social media I think not many people would be up to being full frontal on Twitter.  A few groups were a bit obnoxious, including a couple listening to music on a large Bluetooth speaker that was quite annoying but overall the crowds were pretty respectful of their surroundings.

I was the only one to go into the water in our group, and it felt great. The temperature is the best in late summer, when the water is much warmer and inviting. The undertow was a bit brutal, but I managed fine and returned to our towel after a few minutes. Once the sun started to get cooler, we headed to one of the bars for a quick drink and took the ferry back home.

I still want to go to Fire Island before the end of September, but I feel it’s a bit unlikely even with the extended ferry schedule. It is always a fantastic experience to be there, and every time I look back as the boat makes its way back to the mainland during late summer my heart breaks a little, because it’s a long wait until Memorial Day.


Our cocktail recipe for this week comes from the Kismet Inn —

  • 1 part dark rum
  • 1 part amaretto
  • 2 parts pineapple juice
  • 1 part cream of coconut
  • Splash of milk (optional)
  • Ice

” Blend it all, top your drink with high-proof rum (like Bacardi 151) , and you will be ready to enjoy life as it is enjoyed on Fire Island – drunkenly.”

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | August 28, 2015

The 2015 Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Tompkins Square Sort-of Review

By Ernest Barteldes

I still remember the first time I attended the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival a decade ago. I was there on assignment for the print edition of All about Jazz (now the New York Jazz Record, which I left years ago because of their editorial choices at the time – I have not followed them since, and have not been in touch with their editors either).  I remember hearing Odean Pope Sax Choir, Japanese pianist Hiromi, Geri Allen and others who at the time were pretty much unknown to mainstream jazz audiences.

I have returned to the festival on an annual basis since even under heavy rain – something that often happens in late August and heard folks that were sometimes on the cusp of finding a bigger audience – examples of those include Jose James, Hiromi and Cindy Blackman. Others I saw are no longer with us, and quite a few disappeared without a trace.

That is actually the beauty of the festival – it’s a mix of well-known and obscure names, each equally sharing the spotlight before a mixed audience that might be there out of curiosity or to hear the headliner. After all, how many chances does the average fan have to hear folks like Jeff “Tain” Watts, the late “Fathead” Newman or Esperanza Spalding for free outside of a pricey jazz club?  I mean, I love places like the Jazz Standard, Dizzy’s or Birdland, but most are not affordable for the average non-tourist Joe – so festivals like these are a chance in a million to appreciate great music at no cost – especially when we are talking about marquee names.

I usually try to make all the Charlie Parker shows every year, but this year was kind of busy and I was not able to catch even a single set. I got to Tompkins Square Park and caught what I assume to have been the second half of Michael Mwengo, who was the opening act that day. He was backed by a tight ensemble, and also featured several guests – including a skilled tap dancer.  I wanted to take notes and all, but given that there was no reserved area for the press  – except maybe for the guy reviewing for the NY Times (there was a photo pit) it was just hard to negotiate a space to stand and try to hear the music while listening to some schmuck sitting on a bench to get out of the way because he couldn’t see the show (I ignored him, and then an Italian tourist asked me to move – in his language!)

The show was fun to watch, and I especially liked the finale when he did an extended take on the classic Broadway tune “I’m Getting Married in The Morning” with lots of improvisation and Gospel-inspired backing vocals from his band members.

After a short break, Joe Lovano took the stage to great applause – he was backed by a quartet that included Esperanza Spalding. He didn’t seem to need much introduction. He stood around and waited for everyone to set up and barely gave time to the presenter to say a few words about him. He played a few notes, the band jumped in and the set went on, proving that Lovano deserves the legend label – he just mesmerized everyone with his music.

I listened for a while and then had to leave – it was time to make dinner and get ready for another week of hard work.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | August 22, 2015

Beach Report: Fire Island Pines + Fire Island Sunrise Cocktail

By Ernest Barteldes

Ever since I learned about Fire Island and visit One of the reasons for that is that I’d read a lot about it, and also heard stories from my late friend Jack Nichols, an early gay activist who wrote a book about the village many years ago – I had never chance to read it since it has gone out of print and the only copy I ever got to see was in his private library in Cocoa Beach.

On our last visits to Fire Island, we basically stuck to Cherry Grove – yes, it’s one of the biggest LGBT destinations there, but it’s also one of the most welcoming and fun – there are three reasonably priced bars and the famed Ice Palace at the Grove Hotel, where pool parties and various other performances occur – but given the hour, only those staying there overnight can really enjoy.

One of the reasons we enjoy Cherry Grove is the fact that the beach is under federal jurisdiction, meaning that you are free from all the hang-ups of either municipal or state laws, so folks can relax and pop open a beer or sunbathe au naturel – and no, you don’t see any raging drunks or inappropriate behavior – just people having a good time under the sun.

On our first trip to Fire Island this year, I suggested checking out The Pines, and finally got agreement from Renata and our friend Basia (*), who frequently joins us there. As usual, we left our Staten Island apartment early and headed to the ferry station in Sayville. Once we got there we had to wait a while since unlike destinations like Kismet or Ocean Beach, ferries don’t run as often (or as late) to either Cherry Grove or The Pines – so there is a lot of waiting around. Thankfully, there is a nice little pub there so you can relax with a cold drink while you wait.

Fire Island Pines is not about convenience if you are looking for that – there is a pizza place (I had a taste of a plain slice, which was delicious) and a small convenience store/café that serves a variety of dishes.  For drinks you can stop by the Blue Whale, which has an outdoor bar and also an indoor dance floor where I saw a lot of guys dancing to remixed hits by the likes of Cher, Queen and even Yoko Ono (she has been rediscovered by the club crowd, who have finally given her the recognition she deserves). There is also the Bistro , a restaurant that is only open after a certain hour – all of them concentrated in the same area close to the ferry dock. If you wish to stay overnight, they also have a hotel.

The beach is, like in other parts of Fire Island, extremely clean. From what I was able to observe, there is a mixture of families, couples and singles of all sexual orientations – I saw fewer people in the nude as compared to Cherry Grove, but since this was a single visit this could have been a slower day. The crowd there is also much younger. Since the beach is on federal land, open container laws (if existent) are not enforced, but I didn’t see anyone overindulging and making fools of themselves.

After we’d had enough of the beach, we explored the village and eventually gravitated to the bar, where service was great and prices were reasonable. The bartender – a young shirtless man from Poland – was very attentive, and the atmosphere was great.

We cannot wait to go back there again.

(*) not her real name.

Recipe: Fire Island Cocktail Recipe

Source: Cocktails of New York

  • White rum 1 shot
  • Vodka 1 shot
  • Orange juice 1 shot
  • Sweet and sour 1 shot
  • Cranberry juice splash
  • Orange slice garnish

In an ice-filled Collins glass, pour the alcohols in first. Add the orange juice and sweet and sour. Add with cranberry juice to create a “sunrise” and garnish with an orange slice

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | August 12, 2015

Beach Report: Sandy Hook, NJ + Cocktail recipe: Jersey Squirrel

Sandy Hook Beach

Sandy Hook Beach

By Ernest Barteldes

A Groupon deal convinced Renata and I to check out Sandy Hook, the New Jersey peninsula south of Staten Island (not to be confused with the Connecticut elementary school of the same name).  We’d been pretty regular on Fire Island for the last few years, but this seemed like a good opportunity of getting to know another place to bake under the sun.

Waves Crashing

Waves Crashing

Sandy Hook stands on the grounds of a former military base (there is still an active Coast Guard base there) and even though it is legally part of New Jersey, the land is owned by the federal government and is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.  That means that no New Jersey municipal or state laws apply there – so you can actually drink on the beach without the fear of getting a ticket.  This is also the reason why Gunnison Beach is the sole clothing-optional beach in the state – all other Jersey Shore municipalities controversially put the kibosh on naturism (or even women going topless ) over a decade ago – something that probably won’t change since the law was unsuccessfully challenged in 2011.

There are two ways to access Sandy Hook – most drive and pay the $15 parking fee, but many take advantage of the seasonal ferry service provided by Seastreak from midtown and lower Manhattan – which is what we did. We woke up early on a Sunday morning and made our way to the Wall Street ferry pier, which is walking distance from Whitehall Terminal. The ride was short  – about 40 minutes  – and quite comfortable . Ferries are spacious and air-conditioned and offer free Wi-Fi service, all of which probably accounts for its steep $ 45 round-trip price.

We had bought a Groupon for a $ 25 round-trip, but we failed to notice that the deal was only for the first ride at 8:25 A.M., so our only choice was to pay the $ 20 difference and grumble as we boarded the ferry for the 11:00 ride.

When we arrived, we took a shuttle bus for the beach of our choice – our pick was Beach D, which has showers and more concessions than the other locations. There was a mixed crowd there, which included large families, couples and some young folk. It is quite a walk on the sand towards the water, but we found a nice spot and settled down. Not far from us a group played Latin music (I think they were streaming from Pandora since there were ads between some of the tunes) but it was at an acceptable volume – nothing like the annoying loud folk on Coney Island.

Concession Area, Sandy Hook Beach D

The beach was quite clean – I just thought it was strange that some sections of the beach were cordoned off, but later I found out that was done to protect an endangered species of birds called the piping plover that reproduce there. There are no bars or restaurants there, but several food trucks supply food for those who are either unprepared or who chose not to bring food.  There are also restrooms and showers, but there are no trash cans anywhere, since the National Park Service maintains a carry-out policy for the area.

When we were there, there were three food trucks servicing beachgoers – I am not sure if they are regulars there or if they change them around throughout the season. Since we brought our own food in coolers, we didn’t have a chance to buy anything the trucks – however, they seemed to be doing a steady business.

On the way back the ride was a bit longer as the ferry dropped off passengers on E35th Street before heading to the Wall Street pier. However, it was nice looking at Brooklyn and Queens. Overall it was a nice experience that I hope to repeat in coming seasons. Sure, Fire Island is still our beach destination of choice, but considering that we saved so much more time getting to Sandy Hook; it will certainly be on our list for summers to come.

Cocktail recipe: New Jersey Squirrel

(source: Absolut)

  • Fill a shaker with ice cubes.
  • Add 1 part almond liqueur.
  • Add 2 parts applejack.
  • Add 1 part lemon juice.
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
  • Garnish with lemon.
  • Enjoy

By Ernest Barteldes

The last time I wrote about Staten Island’s South Beach (not to be confused with the tourist attraction in Miami – wouldn’t even be fair to do so) I was less than charitable. I was not complaining about the beach itself back then, but about the jerks who were doing less than their part by leaving tons of trash behind when the beach looked more like a Law and Order crime scene than a beach eight months after the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

Back then, most of the boardwalk was cordoned off and there were these artificial dunes made from whatever trash was cleaned out from the seashore, and there was a weird smell around. My past article  called on authorities to crack down on folks who were taking advantage of the chaos caused by the hurricane’s aftermath to clean up after themselves, and also reflected on the sadness I felt about seeing my local beach in such a bad situation.

A couple of years on, I must say that although South Beach has not yet returned to its previous glory, things are much better. Yes, the dunes are still there but I guess they serve the purpose of protecting the boardwalk and areas around it should another storm like that happen again.  On the plus side, it is still pretty much undiscovered country over there – unlike well-known areas with easy access as Coney Island, no one is there with annoying boom boxes (or Bluetooth speakers) or guys selling beer you will later be ticketed for opening.  It is crowded around the lifeguards, but if you go farther out you can have a little private area with little or no disturbance.

When Renata and I go to South Beach I take a small cooler with a few bottles of beer and water, which we enjoy by discreetly pouring into paper cups – I know it’s illegal, but apparently if you keep to yourself, don’t flash the bottles and most importantly don’t act like an idiot they leave you alone (no one has ever asked me about the content of the cups). We never bring food because there are plenty of places around where you can nosh, going from the high-end South Fin Grill to a simple snack bar on the boardwalk. If you want more variety, just walk a few blocks up Sand Lane and you have various other choices, including Polish and Mexican delis that make food to order.

So if you want to check out our little stretch of sand, don’t come with high expectations –  no, the sand is not that white but it’s pretty clean – no one is leaving trash behind or acting like a fool. Just pray the hipsters stay away   – after all, the Staten Island Ferry does not serve craft beers – for now.

Recipe: Staten Island Ferry Cocktail


2 ounces Malibu rum

2 ounces pineapple juice.


Pour rum and pineapple juice in a highball glass filled 2/3 with ice. Stir.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | July 29, 2015

Weekday Cooking: Simple and Quick without Losing Flavor

By Ernest Barteldes

Renata and I never buy lunch at places near work. Not that there aren’t any good ones around – we both work near Koreatown, so there are a bunch of places to choose from ranging from sandwich joints like Charley’s or Subway to high-end restaurants or Halal stands – the possibilities in the area are pretty limitless if you ask me. But like I have written before, cooking for me is a pleasure, and I also think that it is a completely unnecessary expense if I can make a packed lunch that might just be tastier and more nutritious.

The cost thing is quite obvious – unless you have a slice of pizza, a Happy Meal or some street meat, lunch can be quite costly in the tourist-y neighborhood we work in. I can guarantee that you won’t be able to get a something to eat for less than $6. That might not seem much, but if you calculate that times two between Monday and Friday, that sums up to at least $70 a week for two people. With a fraction of that amount I can make home-cooked meals for the both of us – it just take some effort and organization.

Of course, our daily lunches are not exactly elaborate – I try to keep it as simple as possible, but I am of course concerned with flavor – both Renata and I are big about food that tastes good, so bland flavors are out of the question. Of course, over the years I have accumulated countless recipes and have also adapted many of them to whatever ingredients I might have at home. One of the simplest ones I make is pasta with cauliflower, garlic and anchovies that takes very little time and that is definitely delicious.

I often make that on Friday, since Renata and I observe the Polish tradition of abstaining from meats (except fish) on that day of the week (we also try to have at least one vegetarian day per week – it’s good for us and also for the environment, as I have written before on this space – and it doesn’t have to be something bland at all.

Pasta with cauliflower and anchovies

Serves 2


Three cups of cauliflower cut in florets

One can of anchovy fillets in olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

2-3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

Ground parmesan to taste

½ package rotini or other cut pasta

Olive oil for serving


In a large saucepan bring about a quart of salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and boil until tender. Remove the cauliflower with a slotted spoon and cook pasta using same water until al dente and drain, reserving 1 ½ cups cooking water.  In the meantime, sauté the anchovies with garlic until fish dissolves and garlic is browned. Add cooked cauliflower and basil to anchovy mix and toss.  Add the cauliflower mix to pasta and toss, adding reserved water.  Serve, topped with parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | July 22, 2015

Meatfree Somedays – for Summer

By Ernest Barteldes

As I wrote a few weeks back, during summer I avoid using the oven unless I absolutely have to during summer because it is just unbearable to stand in my kitchen when the mercury hits 90 (or 31 in Celsius). However, that is not the only thing I try not to do – I also avoid making dishes that take too long to cook even if I’m using the stovetop – this might seem something difficult to accomplish, but the truth is that it really isn’t – if you are willing be a bit open-minded.

Vegetarian dishes are among the easiest and fastest to cook – in fact many times the actual cooking time runs below 15 minutes – sure, there might be a lot of slicing and dicing at times, but once the whole dish comes together quite quickly. Sure, meat lovers might question having that hole in their plate (as Paul McCartney himself stated when he and his late wife Linda decided to ‘go veggie’ almost four decades ago), but I am sure that going meat-free could be an option once or twice the week when you don’t want to spend too much time by the stove and still don’t want to order takeout.

A few weeks back Renata and I returned from an afternoon at our local stretch of beach on Staten Island (it’s not the best place, but it sure beats the obnoxious boom boxes on Coney Island). It was a hot and sticky day, but I was definitely prepared: with simple ingredients I whipped up a simple and nutritious meal that only took some angel hair pasta, tofu and a few veggies sautéed in sesame oil – dinner was ready within minutes, accompanied by a simple green salad topped with avocado and blue cheese dressing.

Do you really need anything else?

Vegetable Lo Mein

Vegetables Lo Mein

(4 servings)

Source: The Higher Taste

½ lb. angel hair pasta

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium carrot cut in thin strips

2 cups cauliflower cut into small florets

1 green pepper, thinly sliced

¼ Chinese pea pods, trimmed

½ lb. firm tofu, cubed

3 tablespoons soy sauce (more to taste)

2 tablespoons sesame oil


Cook spaghetti, just until tender, Drain and rinse in cold water. Place in a large bowl, toss with 1 tablespoon oil, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Combine all the vegetables with the tofu and set aside.

In wok heat 2 tablespoons oil and add spaghetti. Stir gently until it is evenly coated. Continue to fry the spaghetti over medium heat until lightly browned (about 5 minutes). Mix in the vegetables and tofu. Stir fry for 5 minutes longer. Add soy sauce, cover, and stem over low heat for 5 minutes. Remove lid, stir in sesame oil and serve hot.

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