Twice a year the Hummus Whisperer and I are freed by our spouses to ride with the winds between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan while enjoying culinary freedom. This time our tour included a neighborhood in Brooklyn, a romantic deserted island, a burrito, and a whole lot of butt texting. All photos and texting courtesy of an Iphone 5 fresh off a broken lock button, which meant butt calling and but texting galore before I realized that the top button no longer does it job. I would call people while talking to them.. “Excuse me… oh its you”.. “What?”
We parked near the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge as always, and this time we opted to stay relatively close for a breakfast snack and explore the area of Boerum Hill. Walking on Smith st reminded me how much I miss that area. I dont know if it was a hangover symptom but you can actually hear birds singing in some of the relatively quiet and tree lined side streets. Smith st. has some of the best concentration of fine dining/bars/food stores in Brooklyn. It was slightly truer before Michelin Starred Saul moved to the Brooklyn Museum.
Our first food stop was Shelsky’s, a mini Russ and Daughter’s with an attitude if you will. The plain bagel with cream cheese and a silky smooth Gaspe Nova was just what we ordered! Great loxy flavor without the R&D pain (I’m talking about both Russ & Daughters and the lox our R&D dep’t consumes).
After our little picnic in Brooklyn Borough Hall, we picked up a bike and crossed Brooklyn Bridge which was relatively quiet at 10 am. Plenty of bike lane wary tourists still but not wall to wall zoo as before.
On the Manhattan side not too far from the bridge I noticed a large Asian group practicing Falun Dafa (or Falun Gong) meditation. This practice which disciplines Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance, got so popular in china in the 90’s that it was quickly banned by the government as it was seen as a threat. I was told by a Chinese woman that a million Chinese followers have either died or imprisoned over the years and the rest of the world cant do much about it. Seeing this group was a sharp reminder that we take our freedom for granted.
Riding in Chinatown is not the most pleasant ride, but always interesting. There arent too many neighborhoods out there where you get a sense of community like here. At some point on Hester street we saw people dancing in a park. Where else do you see that at 10 am? HW and I debated whether to show them a few moves of our own but we had an appointment with dumplings, Prosperity Dumplings. Four meaty, greasy (in a good way) pork and chive dumplings for a buck. You cant get a better deal than this in NYC – its not economically feasible. Last week I tried the recently opened Mimi Cheng’s dumplings in East Village which is getting some press and lines out the door. While they were good, for $8 per 6, I would take Prosperity any day.
We continued to ride to the East Village for a desperately needed thirst quencher and its pretty clear where we are headed since we get this drink on every one of those rides. The Grasshopper at Liquiteria, a popular neighborhood fresh juice joint. They used to make it fresh on the spot but now you can find it in the fridge on the left. Try it with some Gray Goose for a much smoother Citibike ride
We now head North to the romantic portion of the trip to 60th, riding entirely on 1st ave which has a great bike lane btw. Both of us making it to Roosevelt Island for the very first time. I always thought I would make it with Mrs Ziggy one day, never with the romantically challenged Hummus Whisperer. It took us about 30 minutes of aimless walking and some bus shuttle hopping to nowhere to realize that god invented Google for a reason. Apparently we need to head to one of the ends, the closest one. So we head south and now I see what the hoopla is all about. Nice park along the water, another park, NYC’s only monument ruin (an old smallpox hospital), and right on the tip, FDR Four Freedoms Park. This is got to be one of New Yorks most stunning parks, and what a setting. FDR’s huge bust overlooking the island brought me back to my old FDR high school in Brooklyn where I learned how to write properly (you guessed it, the school is now closed!)
We headed back to the mothership island, and straight to a game I call Amazing Citibike Race. Its where we realize that the area around us is suddenly short on bikes and we have to scramble. For 15 minutes we had to scramble and run around while constantly checking the bike app. We split, we texted (both real and butt) and at some point some running was even involved, until we got the bikes.
We cruised 2nd ave all the way back downtown. I must say the east side (2nd and 1st) is much friendlier for bikers than the west side (8th,9th). Our best eating is still to come. Well, we haven’t eaten much as you can see and I’m approaching the elusive 1000 word mark (what the hell did I write about). We nixed the two Ivan Ramens and opted for an infamous burrito, and one particular place in Brooklyn that I feel embarrassed for visiting for the first time.
The chicken Burrito at Missions Cantina was a burrito revelation. I’ve had some crafty burritos over the years but this one may have topped them all. The main difference.. no rice. The lack of rice meant less heaviness (a welcome plus in the summer) letting the rest of the ingredients shine. And the toasty flour tortilla is crispy, thin but holds its own for pleasant mess-free eating. I want to come back for the wings and tacos.
You know that the burrito was good when the ride across Manhattan bridge becomes a little more difficult. I felt like telling everyone passing me “dude, I had a burrito.. without rice, more beans”. Manhattan Bridge is a solid alternative to Brooklyn if you don’t want to share the lane with pedestrians taking selfies of themselves getting hit by bikes.
Pok Pok, the Hummus Whisperer’s favorite restaurant in NYC was our last stop. Although I’ve been a big fan of Andy Ricker, I somehow never made it before. The new location in Red Hook looks like a simple diner, but the food is anything but. We only had room for 2 dishes and one of them had to be the wings I kept hearing about. Very solid meaty delicious wings that were plenty sweet and plenty of spice. I liked the Cha Ca La Vong even more (below). Catfish marinated and fried to flaky perfection with all sorts of herb action, rice vermicelli and tangy pineapple-y sauce. Now I really cant wait to come back for more. Great finish to a wonderful day