Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | November 16, 2015

No Recipes this Weekend – Let’s talk about Paris

By Ernest Barteldes

Today I was going to write about this great exhibit I saw at the Transit Museum in Brooklyn, but after the recent ISIS attacks in Egypt (the Russian jet that was apparently blown out of the air by a bomb), Beirut and more recently Paris last I find myself too angry to focus on entertainment.  Sure, we all need an escape from all the bad news around us, and although this blog was created to serve this purpose I just cannot put my blinders on and power through.

But unlike most people I am not just angry at the terrorists.  Sure, I hope we could rid ourselves of those crazies like anyone else, but I am also angry at everyone else who is using the deaths of innocent people to further whatever social or political agenda they might want to further, such as gun nuts who think that they could have stopped the terrorists carrying automatic weapons with whatever handgun they might have had on them. Those fools have spent way too much time watching Die Hard and James Bond movies – sure, they might have gotten lucky with one terrorist, but the true outcome would be that more innocent people would have been killed if they tried to play action hero.

However, I am mad at every single person who owns gas-guzzling cars and who demand cheap gas at the pump. No, I am not pointing my finger at farmers who need to fuel their trucks in order to get food to our tables, but those fools who think they are entitled to whatever power they can get just because they can – guess what, this forces the government to either make deals with countries that hate the hell of out us because we don’t get their oppressive ways. On the same note, I am angry at successive administrations who have done nothing to rid ourselves of our dependency of foreign oil – and those who mock those of us who think alternative forms of energy are some kind of psychedelic fantasy.

I am also pissed at the major news networks that ignore everything else going on in the world to give us minute-by-minute updates of what is going on at the site of the tragedy hoping for some kind of a last-minute scoop. Do you really think that audiences are going to waste time with your interviews with someone who was peeing in a restroom a block from the shots and heard something? Give me a fucking break. I understand you want your ratings and all, but there are thousands of events going on that deserve your attention. Anderson Cooper, do you really need to spend hour after hour reporting from Paris interviewing the same folks over and over without any logical answer?

I had recently moved to New York when 9-11 happened, and cringed at opportunists like Rudy Giuliani, George Bush and their ilk use the attacks to further whatever sick shit they had in their heads, and later I almost puked when I heard Donald Trump go out and make absurd claims about the 2nd Amendment.

Don’t get me wrong – I want these extremists gone as much as everyone does. On the same hand, I just cannot stand the fact that so many are using recent events to try and make this something else.

Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | October 31, 2015

New Orleans Food plus Chicken Sauce Piquant

by Ernest Barteldes

I have only been to New Orleans once – I was motivated to do it in 2008 after interviewing a string of musicians from the area who kept encouraging me to visit their cities because I would never find better music or food in America. One of my interviewees (I think it was saxophonist Donald Harrison) mentioned that the city had so much in common with Salvador in Brazil after he’d been there, so that piqued my curiosity enough for Renata and I to take a long weekend to finally check it out.

Of course I was immensely impressed by the music I heard just by walking into a bar – I mean, I am a good enough bassist, but those guys “playing for tips” were infinitely better than I was at the time. Music was part of their blood – whatever natural talent I might have means nothing compared to that. When sat down to eat, I realized I was somewhere between Heaven and Hell — in a good way.

Before I ever went there, the food of the area always fascinated me – I remember reading a recipe for Jambalaya on the long-deleted English Teaching Forum an trying it out and attempting to perfect it, and when I tasted it in Louisiana I realized I had been doing a very shitty job trying.

What I realized about Southern food was it wasn’t about the technique. Instead, it was about the feeling you put into the cooking. I remember being “challenged” by a show promoter who said she’d learned to cook in a restaurant in New Orleans and she was “definitely better” than I was. I never even bothered to take on her idiotic wager – just making it personal would have been a mistake.

I have been thinking of heading to New Orleans again, but the opportunity has not come since that first time – life tends to get in the way, and so do airport taxes. A flight to Miami tends to be more expensive than another one to say, Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic because American airports tend to charge airlines fees that completely nuts compared to terminals around the world. The way I found that out was when I saw the breakdown of the cost of a flight I took to Poland last year – a good chunck of the cost of my ticket was basically the fees charged by JFK on my return flight.  No wonder a flight between Krakow and Warsaw costs about a fraction of what one to La Guardia to Cleveland (which is about the same distance) goes for.

Back to topic, I honestly feel that New Orleans food is the ultimate comfort food.  Whatever dish you have, it just takes you to this wonderful place. Sure, most of the dishes are not exactly healthy – a recent survey revealed that Louisiana was among the unhealthiest states in the Union (Vermont was the healthiest) but sometime you do need that moment when food sings to you.

Recipe: Chicken Sauce Piquant

source: The Best of Everything, Cook’s Magazine.


  • 2 -3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 lbs cut up chicken pieces
  • 3 tablespoons creole seasoning
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup celery, chopped
  • 3 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup bacon grease
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • kosher salt and black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup green onion, sliced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • hot cooked rice


  1. Dredge chicken pieces in Creole seasonings and 1/2 cup flour and brown in the oil, preferably in a cast iron pan.
  2. Remove chicken and set aside.
  3. Keep the heat going under your frying pan and add the bacon grease.
  4. When grease is hot, slowly whisk in the flour.
  5. Stir constantly until the roux turns the color of caramel, the darker the better. About 30 minutes.
  6. Carefully add the onion, bell pepper, celery and stir, about 5 minutes until all is incorporated and vegetables are soft.
  7. Reduce heat to medium.
  8. Page 2 of 2Bayou Style Chicken Sauce Piquante (cont.)
  9. Directions
  10. Add Chicken broth, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper; cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  11. Add the chicken and cook until the chicken is done.
  12. Taste and reseason.
  13. Add green onion and parsley.
  14. Cover, reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice.
  15. nstantly until the roux turns the color of caramel, the darker the better. About 30 minutes.
  16. Carefully add the onion, bell pepper, celery and stir, about 5 minutes until all is incorporated and vegetables are soft.
  17. Reduce heat to medium. Add Chicken broth, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper; cover and cook for 10 minutes.add the chicken and cook until the chicken is done.Taste and reseason.  Add green onion and parsley.Cover, reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Serve over hot cooked rice.
Posted by: Ernest Barteldes | October 16, 2015

The Statue of Liberty Cruise + Lady Liberty Cocktail

Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

By Ernest Barteldes

Last October 5th marked my 15th anniversary of living in New York City. It is the longest I’ve lived anywhere – I recall moving around a lot when I was a kid, and that tendency stayed with me for the longest time until I got on that flight out of Brazil after prospects for a one-year contract to teach in South Korea did not work out as originally planned.

Though I did go to the Statue of Liberty during a visit in ever since I relocated here I have mostly avoided tourist-y stuff. I can’t remember the last time I walked through Times Square, and during my daily crossings on the Staten Island Ferry I pretty much ignore the scenery that so many people travel from afar to see (if you happen to see me there, I’ll be reading or listening to music).

However, I do enjoy exploring the city I call home and doing things most locals I know would probably twist their noses at. On my New York anniversary weekend, Renata and I took the Water Taxi Statue of Liberty Cruise, a one hour long outing that kicks off at the South Street Seaport and then towards the iconic statue. The cruise doesn’t actually take you to the island itself but instead circles around to give you a chance to get a decent shot and then returns back to the starting point.

Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan

It was actually Renata that found this one – it was a Groupon offer for a half-price ride, and I agreed to buy it on the spot. As it goes with offers like that, we kind of forgot about it until the last minute, and we finally made plans to go.

We arrived quite early and picked up our tickets for the 7:45 cruise on one of the yellow Water Taxi boats. We killed time at a nearby pub and had a glass of wine, and at the appointed time we headed to the boat, which was the same kind used for the IKEA crossing and other commuter boat runs. We found a seat in the front and waited until the tour began.

As the ferry made its way, we sailed through Lower Manhattan, sailed by the Staten Island Ferry and got a close-up view of One World Trade Center and Battery Park.  A guide talked about the historical significance of each location and chatted on the microphone with several tourists (it seems Renata and I were the only locals on board). When we reached the statue, the ferry lingered as people took their shots to the soundtrack of cheesy patriotic tunes like Neil Diamond’s “America” or Lee Greenwood’s “I’m Proud to be an American.”

I am not sure how long we sat there, but after a while we started heading back. The guide started an impromptu quiz on information on the Statue – I answered one of the questions (“Why is the statue green?” – “Oxidation”) and in just a few minutes we were back at the pier to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York.”

I chatted a little with the guide, who told me he’d had the gig for a while. He was a slender man with a shock of graying hair and thick-framed glasses. He had a ready smile and seemed to be really friendly.

We left the boat and walked back to our own ferry back to Staten Island. We once again sailed by the Statue of Liberty, and realized we’d had the opportunity to check out this city we live in with fresh eyes – those of someone with much less time to admire it than we all do.

The Statue of Liberty Cocktail Recipe

Source: Dirty’s Cocktail Recipes

1/3 oz grenadine

1/3 oz white crème de cacao

1/3 oz blue curaçao

1/8 oz 151 rum

First you pour grenadine into a shot glass then follow by gently layering, in sequence, white crème de cacao, blue curaçao and rum. Using a match {DO NOT USE A LIGHTER to avoid lighter fluid contamination}, carefully light the cocktail in the shot glass. Hold the burning red, white, and blue shot/torch high, like the Statue of Liberty. Sing the first few bars of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” blow out the flame then drink.

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

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