On the Waterfront: Kayaking in Red Hook

I’ve always been interested in kayaking, but never seemed to find the time or the opportunity to do it, especially since moving to NYC.  Growing up in Massachusetts and living in Connecticut for so many years, I used to enjoy canoeing on small rivers and ponds with my Dad and friends during summers of old. So with summer here again, I started getting the itch to give kayaking a go.  Now, I’m sure kayaking is not typically the first activity that comes to mind to most people when thinking of things to do in NYC.  But bear in mind: NYC is surrounded by water.  All you really need is a seaworthy craft, paddles, and a life vest and the water is your highway. Well, not if you’re a novice like me who’s unfamiliar with the local waters and the potential dangers.  So I starting digging around and found that there are a number of volunteer organizations around NYC that offer free kayaking tours on New York’s waters.  Most of these groups provide everything you need, including the kayak, paddles, life vests, basic instructions and a professional guide to watch over you.

Since I live in Brooklyn, I decided to give Red Hook Boaters a shot.  Red Hook Boaters is an all-volunteer organization devoted to providing safe public access to the waters of Red Hook, “to bring people to the sport of kayaking, and to promote education about, and care for, the coastal environment.”  During the summer months they offer free walk-up kayaking twice a week: Thursday evenings from 6 to 8 pm and Sunday afternoons from 1 to 5 pm (schedule is subject to change). No previous kayaking experience is required. It sounded like the perfect introduction to kayaking in NYC. So on a hot Thursday evening after the 4th of July holiday, I decided to take a “7th inning stretch” with my son to Red Hook to check it out! And I wasn’t disappointed.

Red Hook Boaters located at Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park. The cove provides a great spot for kayaking as well as some amazing views of the Statue of Liberty.

RED HOOK: An Historic Industrial/Shipping Neighborhood Enclave

R-E-D H-O-O-K: this cute array of gigantic childhood “blocks” of boulders can be found right beside the cove at Valentino Jr. Pier. Notice the old red brick warehouses in the background–historic remnants of the once prosperous shipping port.

Red Hook is an eclectic neighborhood located in southwestern Brooklyn.  Its name is derived from its appearance as a tiny geographic “hook” jutting into New York Harbor.  Historically, Red Hook served as a thriving industrial port in the 19th and early 20th C. providing thousands of jobs to primarily Italian and Irish American dockworkers.  According to PBS.org, by the 1950s, Red Hook had over 20,000 residents, many of them longshoremen living in public housing projects built in the 1930s to accommodate the growing number of dockworkers and their families.  The neighborhood also had a tough reputation—with such notorious figures as Al Capone allegedly getting their start there as small-time criminals.  And that rough and tough reputation was evident in the 1954 crime drama classic, On the Waterfront, set in Red Hook, where a young Marlon Brando as a former boxer turned longshoreman takes a stand against a corrupt and powerful union boss. Between the 1960s and ’80s, Red Hook experienced a rapid economic decline precipitated by the loss of its traditional shipping business to New Jersey.  As the economy worsened, local crime increased.  Since the late 1990s, however, the neighborhood has been enjoying a slow but steady recovery as middle class artists and others have migrated to the former industrial shipping enclave attracted by its lower rents and a historic waterfront replete with old warehouses and cobblestone streets dating back to the Civil War era.  Today, it’s an eclectic neighborhood of local artists and artisans as well as an array of businesses.  And for tourists or New Yorkers looking for something different, Red Hook offers a great spot for exploration and recreation, as well as some outstanding views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty in the distance.

View from Louis Valentino Jr. Pier.  Lady Liberty beckons in the distance…

A taste of the artistic graffiti gracing one of the warehouses alongside Louis Valentino Jr. Pier.

Kayaking

Red Hook Boaters is located at Louis Valentino Jr. Pier Park, a tiny cove graced by old brick warehouses on either side with a direct view of Lady Liberty across the water.  My son and I arrived just before 6 pm and a crowd of about a dozen people were already there waiting to kayak.  After filling out the necessary waiver forms and being fitted for our life vests, we were given a brief but informative lesson on how to safely kayak on the local waters.  The instructors then helped everyone climb into their kayaks one at a time and we were off.  Due to the potential dangers of strong currents and boat traffic on the open water, we were told to kayak only around the cove and the pier, which was just fine by us.  And in order to provide the opportunity for others to participate, we were limited to about a 20 minute excursion. That said, the experience and the opportunity to enjoy some outstanding views on the water was priceless!  And if this is your first time or you’re going with kids like I was, you’ll appreciate the chance just to get your feet–and likely you’re clothes–wet!  Advice: definitely wear a bathing suit and keep your camera/phones in a water resistant bag. Paddling around the cove with views of the guiding torch of “The New Colossus” to our west and the Freedom Tower rising from the ashes of Ground Zero to her north, I couldn’t help but think of the countless generations of people that crossed the ancient waters around us to discover a new land in pursuit of new lives and new opportunities… As a New Englander who moved to NYC for a new experience, I can definitely relate to that spirit of adventure and challenge.

On the water! It’s amazing to feel the glide of the water beneath you while taking in some of the dramatic and tranquil views.  A rewarding experience…

After our dalliance with a mere drop in the bucket of the great waters surrounding New York City, we took a couple of hours to explore the surrounding community.  As mentioned above, Red Hook is a really unique, eclectic neighborhood worth an exploration in its own right.

Here are a few suggestions to check out during your visit:

Work up a bit of sweat while kayaking?  You might want to check out this old Red Hook ‘institution’: Sonny’s Bar is a local saloon located inside an 1850’s era tenement apartment on cobblestoned Conover Street, just a short walk from the waterfront and Valentino Jr. Pier.  The old decor inside might remind you of the bar where a conflicted Terry Malloy took Edie on their first date.

Sunny’s Bar: one of the oldest running bars on the Brooklyn waterfront. The 19th C building and cobblestone street takes you back to a different ara.

For a more family-friendly experience with an eye towards the nabe’s maritime history, check out The Waterfront Museum, a free museum housed aboard the 1914 Lehigh Valley Barge #79. The museum is designed to promote NYC’s maritime heritage and an understanding of the importance of the Harbor and the local waterways as highways for commerce, culture, and recreation.  Check the website for details.

View of Lehigh Valley Railroad Barge #79, home of The Waterfront Museum.

‘Potted’ plants aboard the Barge.

After checking out the Museum, take a stroll through a beautiful public garden located right next to the Barge.  In addition to enjoying some amazing views of New York Harbor and the Verrazano Bridge, connecting Brooklyn to Staten Island, this local ‘greenway’ offers a nice spot to sit back, relax and enjoy the colorful flowers. If you didn’t bring lunch or a snack, swing by Fairway, a unique and popular family-owned grocery store chain whose Red Hook store, located in a large old brick warehouse right on the waterfront, of course, boasts one of the largest grocery markets in NYC.  And in the unlikely event you don’t find what you’re looking for at the deli, check out Fairway’s Patio Grill, which serves burgers, dogs, BBQ, and lobster rolls, while offering beautiful views of the harbor.

The public garden invites you…

A close-up of some of the public garden’s flora.

Another popular option for dining is the Red Hook Lobster Pound located on nearby Van Brunt Street, where you can enjoy succulent Maine lobsters and lobster rolls.

Regardless of where you dine, and there are many other options, make sure you save room for dessert at Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies.  If you’re a fan of key lime pie or just want to see what the hype is all about, you definitely can’t miss a sample of the sweet, tart pies Steve’s has to offer.  Simply divine, especially on a hot afternoon or evening in Red Hook.  And if you can’t find it, keep a look out for the signs to show you the way!

At an intersection in Red Hook. Notice the sign pointing towards the key lime pie?

Still heading in the right direction for Steve’s…

Finally! Like an oasis in the desert! Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie. If the are doors open, buy some pie then, ’cause they might be closed if you swing by later. And if you aren’t sold yet, according to my 7 year old son, it’s one of the best pies in the world.

There is so much more to see and enjoy in Red Hook.  I’ve merely scratched the surface here.  I highly recommend you visit Red Hook to see the neighborhood for yourself.

Getting There

If you don’t have a car, Red Hook is accessible by subway (the F and G trains to Carroll Street and you’ll have to walk a bit) and the bus (the B 61).  I recommend using HopStop for determining the best way to get there by bus/train.  There is also a ferry service between Manhattan and Red Hook’s IKEA.

Well, hopefully, I’ve inspired you to take a “7th inning stretch” to try kayaking along Red Hook’s historic waterfront and to further explore some of the jewels of this eclectic Brooklyn neighborhood.

Cheers!

Advertisements

Camping in Brooklyn? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Summer is in full swing.  And one of my favorite summertime ‘7th inning stretches’ is going camping.  I love enjoying the fresh air, the stars above on a clear night, and the crackle and smell of the campfire…

Now, I’m no camping pro, mind you.  I’m more of an ‘occasional’ camping enthusiast whose idea of camping usually consists of driving a car right up to the campsite, sleeping in a large tent with a queen-sized air mattress, and enjoying a few craft beers beside my charcoal lighter fluid-soaked campfire.  So, yeah, it’s not exactly ‘Man v. Wild’.

Anyway, as many of you might know, I’ve been living in Brooklyn for about 3 years. And one of the things I love most about living here is the diversity of activities, sights and experiences. And in 3 years, I’ve barely scratched the surface.  So when I began hearing a wild rumor that there was a campground in Brooklyn, I just had to check it out. Wait! Camping in Brooklyn?!? Fuhgeddaboudit!  Well, upon further research, it’s true!  The NYC borough synonymous with Jackie Robinson, Norman Mailer, Biggie, and Nathan’s hot dogs has an actual campground in its concrete midst.  And, no, wise guy, you’re not camping in the middle of a parking lot or under the overpass of the BQE.  More like camping on an abandoned airstrip.  Seriously.

Floyd Bennett Field–An Urban Campground

On Memorial Day Weekend,  I took a ‘7th inning stretch’ from the Big City to check out the urban campground at historic Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, NY, a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area.  The campground is literally located on an abandoned airfield which was once home to NYC’s first municipal airport.

The Ryan Visitor Center. When Floyd Bennett Field opened in 1931, it served as the Airport’s Terminal. Recent refurbishments capture much of the original artistic designs and features of the Terminal as it appeared in the 1930s. In addition to providing useful park info, visitors will find a collection of galleries dedicated to aviation history.

History

Floyd Bennet Field is located in South Brooklyn, about a stone’s throw from Coney Island, and on the western edge of New York’s Jamaica Bay.  It was dedicated as the City’s first municipal airport over 80 years ago, in 1931.  Although it ultimately proved to be commercially unsuccessful, for about 10 years, the airfield was front and center to the so-called Golden Age of Aviation.  Some of the era’s most colorful aviation pioneers–pilots like the one-eyed Wiley Post, “Wrongway” Corrigan, Jacqueline Cochrane, and Howard Hughes–used Floyd Bennett Field as a staging ground for their various aerial feats.

A few of the famous aviators who frequented Floyd Bennett Field during the Golden Age of Aviation

And yet, for all of its fascinating history, Floyd Bennett Field never quite “took off” as a commercially viable civilian airport.  Between the Great Depression and the lack of an efficient highway connecting it to Manhattan, Floyd Bennett Field’s fate as a commercial airport was sealed.  With the onset of the Second World War, however, the airfield was to serve as an invaluable resource.  In 1941, NYC sold the airfield to the Navy, which used it as a training ground as well as a base for patrolling for U-boats.  In 1971, the Navy de-activated the airfield.  Soon thereafter, the National Park Service made it a part of the Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway NRA), a 26,000 acre stretch of beaches, parks and historic sites extending from parts of NY to NJ.

Today

Today, Gateway NRA offers a variety of nature programs at Floyd Bennett Field including camping, hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and for aviation enthusiasts and history buffs, an aviation museum as well as a guided tour of old Hangar B, where visitors can check out cool vintage aircraft right up close.  In addition to the on-site activities, Floyd Bennett is conveniently located near world-famous Coney Island, the New York Aquarium, and the Rockaways, home to some of the finest beaches in metropolitan NYC.  And for out-of-staters, the campground is accessible to Manhattan via a seasonal ferry located at nearby Jacob Riis Park, which offers limited service to Manhattan.  The campground is definitely an ideal weekend destination for enjoying some diverse exploration of the area.

View from the beach looking across Jamaica Bay. The beach was just a short walk from the campgrounds and Hangar B. Fishermen can be seen standing in the water offshore.

Beach grass on Jamaica Bay. Notice the plane in the upper right. Though Floyd Bennett no longer operates as an airport, you will hear plenty of airplanes from nearby JFK.

Hangar B is the home of the Historical Aircraft Restoration Project (HARP), a US National Park Volunteer aviation group dedicated to locating and restoring historic aircraft, most of which have a connection to Floyd Bennett Field and its history as a former Naval Air Station.  Be sure not to miss one of the informative guided tours of the old, dilapidated Hangar to learn more about the history of the airfield and the diverse collection of ancient aircraft within.  The tour will provide an up close look at old prop planes, bombers, helicopters and a Skyhawk Fighter Jet, to name a few.  There is also a full scale model of the Wright Brothers’ 1903 Flyer.  The tour will really give you a sense of how quickly aviation technology evolved over a relatively short time.

Fairchild PT-26.

Lockheed P-2 Neptune: an anti-submarine patrol bomber

Lockheed P-2 Neptune: an anti-submarine patrol bomber

Camping at Floyd Bennett Field

Okay, enough of the history stuff.  On to the campground!  Despite its urban location, the campground at Floyd Bennett Field is surprisingly rural.  The camping area presently consists of about 40 tent sites, which are fairly spread out, as well as 6 sites for recreational vehicles.  I stayed at the Tamarack Loop.  Tamarack, and the adjacent Goldenrod Loop, consists of a large grassy meadow surrounded by trees and shrubs, creating a very rural feel.  You’d hardly believe that your tent is situated essentially right next to the original air strip from which planes once took flight. Each tent site consists of a picnic table, a grill and a fire ring.  A couple of larger sites also have open-air gazebos offering shade or cover from rain.  Most sites can accommodate up to two tents.  And the Park Service provides a steady supply of free firewood for campers.  Bathrooms, while primitive, are only a short walking distance away from the tents.  Showers?  Well, let’s just say you’ll probably end up roughing it.  If that doesn’t appeal to you, however, showers are apparently available during limited hours to campers for a $10 fee at the nearby Aviator Sports facility.

My tent site upon arrival at the Tamarack Loop.

My campsite is complete! Ready for a campfire and a couple cold brews!

While the location is decidedly rural in appearance, one will not likely confuse Floyd Bennett with a peaceful Vermont forest anytime soon.  Rather than falling asleep to the serenade of crickets, be prepared to be lulled to sleep by the gentle roar of jet engines!  JFK, one of the world’s busiest international airports, is located a mere 11 miles away directly across Jamaica Bay.  (Bear in mind, this is still the City that Never Sleeps…) And don’t forget to pack the bug spray!  The campground is close to the water and the mosquitos are vicious at Floyd Bennett.  That said, it’s camping!  If you want a good night’s sleep, stay at a Holiday Inn Express or something…

‘Primitive’ bathrooms. Note: there is no flushing water inside, and you might want to bring your own TP. A water faucet (not pictured) is located across from the bathrooms. In addition to this facility, portable WC’s were available.

I spent a couple nights at Floyd Bennett and, overall, I really enjoyed the Brooklyn camping experience.  And I would definitely recommend camping enthusiasts check it out, especially if you already live in the NYC area and are thinking about an inexpensive ‘staycation’.  And if you have kids, it’s an affordable and convenient way to take the family camping without leaving the City.  Floyd Bennett also has the advantage of still being ‘under the radar’.  The National Park Service only recently expanded the campground from 4 to 40 sites.  I made reservations for Memorial Day Weekend, and while a lot of people were there, it was definitely not filled to capacity.  For reservations, which are recommended, check out the National Park Service’s website here.

Sunset at the Tamarack Loop at Floyd Bennett Field campground.

For a unique urban camping experience in the heart of Brooklyn, take a ‘7th inning stretch’ and check out Floyd Bennett Field, where roasting s’mores over a campfire is as synonymous with Brooklyn as Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. Okay, maybe that’s a stretch…

An idyllic campfire at dusk…in Brooklyn!

For official information and updates, visit the official NY Harbor Parks’ website and Twitter account, and Gateway NPS’s website and Twitter account.

Cheers!

Gardens of Park Slope: Spring–Early Summer 2012

I’ve lived in Brooklyn nearly 3 years, 2 of which I’ve spent in picturesque Park Slope. Like many, I am fond of the historic brownstones, its proximity to Prospect Park as well as Manhattan, and its eclectic mix of ‘hip’ and family-friendliness. Residents here really care about their nabe–sometimes to a fault–but the passion is often reflected positively in the way they take care of their tree-lined streets and avenues, especially in the warmer months. If you’re in NYC, especially Brooklyn, on a sunny afternoon, Park Slope is an outstanding neighborhood to take a stroll.  There are some great restaurants and pubs in the area, as well as some unique shops worth perusing. And Prospect Park is a destination in and of itself. But often the best part is simply taking a walk up and down some of the most beautiful tree-lined boulevards in all of Brooklyn and enjoying views of stately brownstones and lush gardens with a little people watching along the way.  To learn more about Park Slope, the architecture, and its history, visit the Park Slope Civic Council and the Brooklyn Historic Society.  In the meantime, to inspire you to take a ‘7th Inning Stretch’ and visit, enjoy some photos I took this Spring and Summer of some of the nabe’s beautiful gardens.

A gate blossoms

An oasis shades brick

An exotic Babylonian-like Garden in Brooklyn

Peach colored roses

Hydrandrea at the base of the staircase

Flowers at the corner

Red flower, red brick

Flowering brownstone

Gargoyles standing watch

Spring Allegro

Sunset on the Slope

Which is your favorite?  Cheers!

Two Trophies and a Side of Rice

A ‘7th Inning Stretch’ with Jim Rice and the World Series Trophies

New York City is great!  No, I really mean it.  I’ve lived in Brooklyn for almost 3 years now, and as much as I love New England (and my New England sports), I really enjoy the energy of the City as well as the opportunity to experience so many activities, sites, and events within minutes across the entire NY metropolitan area: world class museums, parks, on and off Broadway shows, live music, and an array of dining options reflecting the City’s diversity.  And in April, I had the good fortune of coming face to face with former Red Sox great and Hall of Famer, Jim Rice, and the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies right here in NYC.

Back in mid-April, in recognition of Fenway’s 100th anniversary festivities, MLB Fan Cave and the Sox, set up a rare opportunity for fans to meet the Red Sox HOF’er and to check out the trophies in Manhattan.  Even Wally The Green Monster made the trip.  I found out about it on the day of the event on Twitter and proceeded to re-arrange my schedule to swing by for a ‘7th inning stretch’ with the Red Sox HOF’er.  No way was I going to miss out!  And as luck would have it, my son and I were both home that day, so fortunately I was able to take him with me to share the experience.

Although I was too young to enjoy Jim Rice’s finest years, I remember seeing him play for the Sox in the late 1980s and appreciate his contributions to the game.  And as an avid fan, it would be really cool to meet a Hall-of-Famer who once played for my favorite team.  I even dug up one of my old Jim Rice baseball cards.

Jim Rice, Topps, 1990

Within 30 minutes, including a few stops on the F train and a few blocks’ walk, we were at MLB Fan Cave, located at 4th Street and Broadway, right in the heart of Greenwich Village.  And being that it’s Manhattan, and not Boston, we had only to wait a couple minutes to meet Jim Ed and the trophies.

My son and I with Jim Rice and the 2004 and 2007 World Series trophies.

It was a real honor to meet Jim Rice and to check out the World Series trophies up close–and to share that experience with my son was priceless.  My little guy wasn’t yet born when the Sox came back to defeat the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and went on to win their first World Series in 86 years.  And he was only 2 1/2 when the Sox swept the Rockies to win the 2007 WS.  So to be able to high five Jim Rice with him while checking out the World Series bling was a bonding experience with my son that I’ll never forget.  And the best part–it happened in NYC!  Thanks Mr. Rice, MLB Fan Cave, the Red Sox, and NYC!  Go Sox!

iCinco de Mayo! Cilantro-Lime Quinoa with Beans

With May upon us, it’s time for a ‘7th inning stretch’ to celebrate Cinco de Mayo!  Every year, especially across the U.S. and parts of Mexico, that means it’s time for a fiesta!  What exactly is all the fuss about?  Though some confuse this holiday with Mexico’s independence (which is on Sept 16), it actually commemorates the victory of a vastly outnumbered Mexican Army force over the French Army, considered the finest army of the time, in the town of Puebla, Mexico on May 5, 1862.  Unfortunately, Mexico’s victory, while both significant and symbolic, was short-lived, as the French would subsequently defeat the Mexican Army and, in 1864, install an Austrian archduke as Mexico’s Emperor, Maximilian I.  (Incidentally, Maximilian’s imperial reign would last only 3 years before he was overthrown by Mexican republican forces.)  Some have argued that Mexico’s victory at Puebla, while a major morale boost for the Mexican Army at the time, may have had significant consequences for the U.S., which was in the midst of a bloody Civil War in 1862.  It has been argued that, had the Mexicans lost the Battle of Puebla, the French might have more actively supplied the Confederacy, thereby further prolonging the American Civil War.  So, Americans and Mexicans together have good reason to celebrate Mexico’s victory.  Today, in Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is primarily celebrated in the Puebla region where the original Battle was won.  In the U.S., it has become a major celebration of Mexican-American heritage (propelled in part by an extensive beer marketing campaign, of course).  All in all, it is yet another great reason to enjoy some fine Mexican cuisine.

In honor of Mexico’s victory, here’s a relatively easy and healthy Mexican-inspired recipe with a unique twist.

Cilantro-Lime infused Quinoa with Black Beans

yield: Makes 4 servings

total cooking and prep time: Less than 1 hr

Quinoa is a so-called “super-grain” from the Andes region of South America.  It’s relatively easy to prepare and said to be packed with proteins.  It can usually be found in the rice aisle in most American supermarkets.  I like to think of quinoa as an alternative to rice or bulgur.   This recipe makes a great stand-alone entrée or side dish.  It also goes great with nachos as a party starter!  It’s vegetarian-friendly and can be vegan-friendly by using vegan butter substitutes.

Verde: Lime, chopped scallions and cilantro.

What you need:

Grated lime zest  of 1 lime

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (or fresh-squeeze 1 or 2 limes)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (or vegan butter substitute)

1 tablespoon olive oil (or vegetable oil)

1 cup quinoa rinsed

2 garlic gloves

1 (14- to 15-ounce) can of  black beans, rinsed and drained

2 medium tomatoes, diced

4 scallions, chopped

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Optional:

2 to 3 avocados

Large (10″) soft tortillas or hard shell tacos

cumin

sour cream

Preparation:

Basic Quinoa Recipe (this basic recipe can be used as a base for many quinoa recipes):

Mince the garlic.  Simmer 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a medium pot and add garlic. After about 1 minute, stir in quinoa and add water (about 2 cups of water for 1 cup of quinoa).  Add a dash of salt, and boil uncovered, until quinoa is almost tender, about 12 to 18 mins.  Occasionally fluff the quinoa with a fork to prevent sticking.  Season as desired.  (I like to add a dash of dried oregano.)  When quinoa is tender and fluffy, remove pot from heat.  Let stand, covered for about 5 mins.

Quinoa simmering in water.

Lime dressing:

While the quinoa is cooking, whisk together lime zest and juice, melted butter, 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.  Let cool.

Diced tomatoes, black beans, lime dressing, cilantro and scallions await mixing with the quinoa.

When the quinoa is dry and fluffy, add the lime dressing and toss until dressing is absorbed, then stir in remaining ingredients (cilantro, scallions, and beans) and salt and pepper to taste.

A vibrant collage of colors! Quinoa mixed with lime dressing, cilantro, beans, and scallions. Ready for serving.

Optional: serve with large 10″ soft shell tortillas, toasted taco shells, or with tortilla chips, as an appetizer.  Spice it up with your favorite hot sauce.

For soft shell tortillas, heat a large skillet and add a touch of oil.  I like to dust the soft tortillas with a dash of ground cumin on both sides to give it some extra flavor.  Place on the skillet for about 20 to 30 seconds on each side or until the tortilla starts to lightly brown and crisp.  Remove and place on a serving tray.

Toasted flour tortillas dusted with cumin.

Add a scoop of quinoa, a dollop of sour cream, and some fresh, sliced avocados.  Wrap up the tortilla and serve warm!

And to properly toast Cinco de Mayo, wash it all down with a cold cerveza of course!  While many may prefer the traditional Corona with lime, I recommend Negra Modelo, Dos Equis Amber, or a Bohemia.

Tortilla with quinoa, freshly sliced avocado, and sour cream. And a glass of Negra Modelo to wash it all down. iDelicioso!

iGracias! Thanks for visiting.

‘A Lyric Little Bandbox’ Turns 100: A Photo Album Tribute

On April 20, 2012, Fenway Park–‘a lyric little bandbox of a ballpark’, as Updike described her in his 1960 classic tribute to the great Ted Williams, “Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu“–turned 100.  Since serving as host to the New York Highlanders one Spring afternoon on April 20, 1912, this Grande Dame of Baseball Ballparks has seen it all.  From the triumphs to the theatrics, from the heroics to the heartaches, from the legends to the rivals… And the roar of the Fenway crowd is only topped by the sound of The Standells singing “Dirty Water” over the loudspeakers after the home team records the final out…

Over the years, I have been blessed to have enjoyed many a great game at this asymmetrical-cut emerald ballpark.   Seeing Pedro toe the rubber when he was at the peak of his game.   And enjoying the at-bats of such sluggers as Mo, Nomar, Papi, Manny and Pedroia.  And having the good fortune to see a young Clay Buchholz pitch a no-hitter on a cool September evening…  Not to mention the countless memories I’ve shared with family and friends at Friendly Fenway, especially taking my son to his first ball game at the Old Ballpark…  Such memories will be forever etched in the ‘Green Fields’ of my Mind.

While the names of the players and managers have changed, and the Park has undergone a few facelifts over the years, the majestic red brick and evergreen walls filled with the echoes of history and the hope of a passionate fanbase remain constant.   Happy 100th, Fenway Park!  Thanks for the memories!

As a tribute to Fenway, I have selected a few photos taken recently to honor the Old Ballpark.

On Yawkey Way, April 14, 2012, Opening Day Weekend.

The iconic Citgo sign. Fans file along Brookline on their way to catch an 'Old Ballgame.' Though not structurally connected to Fenway Park, no gallery of Fenway images is complete without the Citgo sign. Before the Monster Seats were added, on TV, the Citgo sign stood out like a beacon, appearing to hover atop the Green Monster. It remains itself a Boston landmark.

View of the retro-modern Gate B entrance at the corner of Van Ness and Ipswich.

Commemorative red bricks gather 'round Eck's outstretched hands, myself included.

From within the ancient cavernous walls around her, Fenway beckons you to enter her lush, palatial green courtyard...

View of Pesky's Pole from the bleachers during warm-ups. The foul pole is a mere 302 feet from home plate, making it the shortest home-run in baseball if you can hit it. Sox 2B Mark Bellhorn hit the Pole in Game 1 of the 2004 World Series helping the Sox win.

The Lone Red Seat.

View of the seating rows located in the RF Grandstand before the fans file in.

Black & white image of all of the retired Sox numbers along the RF facade (L to R): Ted, Cronin, Doerr, Yaz, Fisk, Pesky, Rice, and, of course, Jackie Robinson whose #42 was retired by MLB. Some day #45 will join the venerable facade...

A favorite Fenway tradition: Here's to one fine century and to another, Fenway!

The 7th Inning Stretch, of course! Across, is the famous Green Monster, standing 37' and 2" high and boasting a manually operated scoreboard. The left field wall wasn't actually painted green until 1947.

Sunlight majestically graces the Green Monster. To the right is the infamous outfield Triangle, and the bullpens can be seen in the foreground, just in front and below the fans, who sit in the bleachers.

The Green Monster at dusk.

Outside, The Teammates at twilight on Van Ness. Red Sox legends, Ted, Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr and Dom DiMaggio, stand tall beside the Park. These four statues honor the enduring friendship they enjoyed throughout their lives. Together, they would lead the Sox to the '46 AL pennant, the team's first since 1918. The Sox would lose the '46 World Series to the Cards in 7 games, however. One of the endearing highlights from Fenway's 100th anniversary ceremonies was seeing elder statesmen, Pesky and Doerr--the only surviving members of the old Quartet--being led onto the fine green grass by recently retired Red Sox heroes, Varitek and Wake.

Evening settles over the Ancient Ballpark with Pesky's Pole in the foreground and the Fisk Foul Pole in the back. The LF foul pole was made famous by Fisk's epic home run to win Game 6 of the '75 World Series, one of Fenway's many classic moments.

Here’s to many more magical Fenway moments! Go Sox!

———————————————-

What are your favorite Fenway moments?  Please share your thoughts and comments.  Thanks for visiting and cheers!

Wraps or Cuban Sandwiches?

No, this is not a competition for the next Top Chef.  This is about Bobby V vs. Ozzie G for MLB’s coveted Mana-Jeer of the Year Award.  It’s the modern wrap vs. the traditional Cuban sandwich.  And the question right now is which skipper will stuff his sandwich (or his foot) in his mouth more often this season: the self-proclaimed inventor of the wrap or Fidel’s former BFF?  And with the blistering pace these guys have already set, it’s really not too early to consider this race a statistical dead-heat.

Ozzie with mouth already open. Courtesy: StarTribune.com (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

Let’s take a look at some of the highlight mana-jeerial moments:

-In Feb., Bobby caused a ‘big bang’ in Yankee universe, or whatever its called, insulting mytique and aura twice: first, by praising Tek on his decorated career for essentially “beating up” A Rod (with his mask on–the horror!); and second, by offering an unsolicited critique of St. Jete’s fabled “flip play” in the ’01 ALDS (blasphemy!).  Tongue in cheek or not, why even go there, Bobby?  Save that stuff for your autobiography or for filling airtime during your future ESPN gig. (Oh, wait!)

Bobby V sizing up his vocal counterpart in Miami?
Courtesy: NYPost.com

Early edge: Bobby.

-In March, Bobby V waved ‘bye bye’ to Ozzie after Castro’s biggest Miami booster was tossed from a ST game for arguing a foul call.  (Really, Ozzie? Was that one of those feeling the affects of a day game coming off a road game thing?)  Of course when Ozzie learned about the wave later, he told the media he would’ve “told [Bobby] to go and [expletive] himself” had he seen it.  ‘Cause, you know, “[t]hat’s the way Ozzie Guillen is,” referring to himself in 3rd person.

Hey, Hey, Good-bye! Courtesy: LarryBrownSports.com

Edge: Ozzie + bonus points for referring to himself in 3rd person.  Then Ozzie went on a roll:

-Before even his infamous praise for Fidel became public, Ozzie proclaimed that he gets drunk after every road game and has had the same routine “25, 28 years.”  Obsessive-compulsive glove adjustments and toe taps between every pitch is so yesterday.  It’s the Land of Oz and we’re just living in it.

Is that a sandwich wrap stuck in your throat, Ozzie?
Courtesy: MORNING JOURNAL/DAVID RICHARD

With those 2 comments, Ozzie surged ahead for the coveted award. But his substantial lead would fizzle faster than Rick Perry’s support for the Republican nomination for President…

-Last Sunday, following the team’s 3rd straight win at home, Bobby V dropped this little nugget on the Knights of the Keyboard: “I don’t think [Youks is] as physically or emotionally into the game as he has been in the past for some reason.”  Ozzie who??  Honestly, whether you really think that or not, Bobby, publicly calling out fan fave Yooouuuuks on it just 1 week into the season?  Can you imagine if this guy was managing Manny?

Result: statistical dead-heat.

For those of you leaning towards Bobby V right now, when an ‘innocuous’ comment threatens to jeopardize the manager’s control of the clubhouse, you do have a point.  For me, I still have to go with the Great and Powerful Oz with the slight edge.  As much as us Sox fans take umbrage with anyone insulting our local heroes and institutions (yes, I’m looking at you, Luke Scott!), declaring so much as admiration for Castro’s beard follicles is not exactly the wisest way to endear oneself to Miami’s politically passionate Cuban-American population.  (Fear the Beard, Ozzie!)

Fidel Castro. Courtesy: Antonio Milena - ABr

I give Ozzie the slight edge because the people he offended literally lost homes and loved ones and hold Castro directly responsible.  They bear deep-seated wounds which understandably do not heal easily, if ever.  So while Bobby, Youks and Pedey might not be singing kumbaya around a campfire together any time soon, I’d like to think the team will get over this and other inevitable Bobby V gaffes and focus on the big picture: winning.  But, hey!  It’s early, Bobby V haters!

Just when you think the race is over, Ozzie, Bobby V might just have a trick up his sleeve. Courtesy: AP Photo/ESPN

In all seriousness, the more I hear these guys talk, the more I ask myself WWTD (Tito)?  For all of his alleged faults (you know, like successfully managing a team to 2 WS championships), Terry Francona sure handled the media like a pro.  He kept most of the BS in-house where it  belongs, publicly protected his players, and kept the focus, not on himself, but on the games.  While we’ll never really know the whole story abut what went down last year, the Sox had a pretty damn good manager in Tito.  Blowhards like Bobby V and Ozzie could learn a thing or 2 from him about media relations.  Unfortunately, they may never learn…

So who do you think will win this year’s Mana-Jeer of the Year Award?

-Bobby Valentine?                                                                                                                                -Ozzie Guillen?                                                                                                                                       -Someone else?

Thanks for visiting and commenting.  Cheers!


Follow me at @7thinnstretches

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.