A place where we can go to be alone…

Parks and Rec

So, Staten Island is full of parks. There are so many parks, that every person on Staten Island could go to a park simultaneously and you still wouldn’t see another person while you were there. That might be a slight exaggeration, but there are some of parks where we take River, that we never see anyone else there.

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River checking out the pond. The ducks (and duck poo) is of particular interest to her.

Allison Pond Park is a tiny little park just behind snug harbor. I found out about it because it has a designated off-leash area.  The designated off leash area is OK, it is a pretty large field with a pond (Allison Pond – maybe?) on one side and the old Snug Harbor Cemetery wall on the other. But, even better – there is a hiking trail at the far end of the field. The trail is not marked, but pretty much just goes around a small anterior pond. There is another park behind it (not sure what it is called) but going to the pond and back is about a twenty minute walk. While the hiking trail is not strictly speaking “designated off-leash” the look of pure joy on River’s face as she sprints back to me after running up the hill to follow the trail of some unknown prey is worth the risk. Last fall when I went to the park there was an old Heron or Crane that hung out at the pond and was seemed somewhat crotchety, but I haven’t seen him the last few times I’ve been there. You know who else I haven’t seen when I was there – anybody (except this one trail-running guy who yelled at me for having River off-leash, she barked at him – which is funny, only because she NEVER barks at anyone, unless they are a huge jerk).

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The “anterior” pond has a rickety old dock, this picture was taken moments before River fell off of it.

Little Sri Lanka

Eating/Drinking

It is a well know fact to everyone living on Staten Island that there are more Sri Lankan people living on Staten Island than anywhere else (outside of Sri Lanka). While I have not externally validated that fact in any way, there are quite a few Sri Lankan restaurants here so…. I’m buying it!

Sri Lankan food is pretty similar to Indian food. For more info about Sri Lankan food info – you can read about it here. Or, you can just go to one of these two place which we frequent for our Sri Lankan fix. I am in no way meaning to imply that these are the best places to get Sri Lankan food on Staten Island, they are just the only two places we’ve been (technically there is a third place, but it went out of business ….)

New Asha is a small takeout place. The first time we went in, it was very close to closing time and I went it and the woman who runs the place was so sweet to us. It was kind of like when you get to your parents house after a big dinner and they’ve already put all the food away, but your mom is like no no no, I’ll fix you a plate and she is putting the food on the plate while she says “do you want some of this” and you can’t really say no, because she has already put in on your plate.

The greatest thing about his place, aside from the fact that the food is delicious is that you can go in and say “I’d like a vegetarian plate” and she puts together a HUGE meal for you that costs less than $10. Of the many times that I’ve been there there was only ever one thing on my plate that I didn’t care for – and there was so much other food that I was still over-stuffed even without it.

Friendly tip – this is not the most efficient restaurant – even though all the food is already prepared it can take between 15 and 45 minutes to get your plate (not exaggerating). Either be prepared to wait (and eat a yummy samosa/empanada type snacks while you do), or call ahead!

NYMAG has a cute (accurate) profile of New Asha here and it gets great reviews on yelp

The second place is not as delicious as IMG_1147New Asha, but makes up for it in spades with ambiance.

Lakruwana is a sit-down restaurant on Bay St. The corner it is located on is always busy and dirty and has all sorts of folks hanging out – when you walk in, you are TRANSPORTED to a different place. The ethnic decorations, full of teak wood, Buddhas and banana leaves makes you feel like you are in a temple in a rain forest. We’ve only ever been for the weekend buffet – and I’ve been twice in one weekend and not been bored of the food – even though the buffet never changes. In addition to the most delicious eggplant ever, they have papadums (with several spicy chutneys(?) to go with it). Also – they have a dessert buffet – while typically i think Indian desserts are not so good – Sri Lankan desserts are AMAZING! They are famous for their Mango Mousse, but I prefer their caramel flan type thing with the sour yogurt on top. (I may or may no be salivating right now). I would highly recommend this to a Sri Lankan first timer – for only $12 it really is not that much of an investment and since it is a buffet you will find at least one thing to fill you up (even if it is dessert!) This place is so good – The Village Voice made a comic about it … 

So – basically, if you are on Staten Island there is NO REASON that you should feel like you have to eat Italian (although there is a lot of good Italian eats…future post!)

Staten Island Iced Tea

Random

So, apparently I’m thirsty. with yesterday’s post and now what I’ve got in store for you today …

I’ve had a long day – its hot and the dogs were being …well … dogs, and I’ve got a million things to do and just having a hard time getting things done. So, while we were sitting in the kitchen making dinner – i decided to add a little bourbon to the iced tea. The iced tea is from Trade Joe’s – we may not have a whole foods – but we do at si iced tealeast have a trader Joe’s. I was little more heavy handed that I had anticipated and my tea went from a refreshing “ahhhh” to a burning the back of my throat alchohly “ahhhhhh” so, I added a little bit of agave nectar to bring it down a little bit and then, since Top Tomato was selling limes 10/$1 we have a ton of them around the house so I squeezed half a  lime into the drink as well. When I forced my husband to take a sip – he asked “what is it” to which I naturally responded “Staten Island Iced Tea!” Nothing about the ingredients make it particularly “Staten Island” – so in order to make it authentic – drink it out of a SI Yanks official souvenir cup!

Manhattan Special

Eating/Drinking

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Ok, ok… While strictly speaking not a Staten Island thing, I’d been to, and know other folks who have been to Brooklyn and Manhattan many times, but did not get introduced to Manhattan Special espresso soda until they came to Staten Island.
If you are reading this post and live in Staten Island you clearly know what I’m taking about, if you live in one of the other boroughs you may know what I’m talking about… If you don’t live in nyc, and have not come to visit me yet – you have no idea what I’m talking about and yophoto_pure_espressou are missing out. I am talking about Manhattan Special Espresso Soda – every pizza place or Italian shop worth their canollies stocks this magical drink – that is EXACTLY what it says it is. Espresso Soda – so good – put a scoop of chocolate ice cream in it and heaven. 

Flagship Brewery

Eating/Drinking, Out and About

I cannot believe that I failed to list the Flagship Brewing Co. in my yuppie post, but fortune may have it that I was there on Saturday with Shannon who was visiting Staten Island.
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This was my second time there and I’ll admit, it was a much more pleasant experience than the first. Primarily because there was not a band playing. I know that sounds mean-but the acoustics of that space are not really well suited to live music (or any loud music). The decibel level aside, the space is welcoming and the folks who work there are friendly. If you’ve been to the Brooklyn Brewery tasting room, it is a similar experience. You buy tokens (for $5 each – no volume discounts or $8 for a flight)
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They just serve beer (but you can bring in your own food!). They have take out menus from Pier 76, and it is unclear whether you can bring in food from other restaurants, but I have not asked. Most importantly the beer is mighty tasty! I am especially find of DAM (dark and mild).

Von Briesen Park

Out and About, Parks and Rec

Von Briesen Park is a small-ish park on Staten Island that I visit almost daily. The park is noteworthy for two main things. First, the factor that bring me there almost every day, is that this park is designated as an off-leash dog park before 9am and after 9pm. For more on the difference between dog run and off-leash see here.

River and Roxy Running

River and Roxy Running

Each morning, as early as 7am (or possibly earlier, but  I never there that early) folks arrive with their dogs so they can romp around off leash. There is a set crew of regulars who come nearly every morning – some of them know each other by name (and on facebook) but to me they are known primarily as “Max’s Mommy” or “Roxie’s Daddy”. Some folks, mostly owners of older dogs, come around 8 am walk up to the top of the hill to sit on a bench and “hold court” greeting and monitoring the other folks who walk around the park with their dogs.

 

Bridge in the morning fog

Bridge in the morning fog

The second factor that pulls people to Von Briesen park is the scenic overlook with a view of the Verrazano to East and the Lower Manhattan Skyline to the West.  There is also a regular crew of jogger and walkers who are there in the morning, but throughout the day people come and go, enjoying the views at the top of the hill and the exercise of getting to and fro. von briesen

What’s a Yuppie to do on Staten Island?

Eating/Drinking, Out and About

I always had a suspicion that I might be a Yuppie, but it wasn’t confirmed until I hear myself utter these words upon discovering the lack of a particular amenity on Staten Island

“I don’t know how I’ll survive without a Whole Foods”

It didn’t take long for me to also note there was not a J crew or a Crate and Barrel on the Island either. Among the list of other missing Yuppie essentials were boutique dog shops, CSA’s and an overwhelming choice of independent coffee shops.

Although it took me a while I’ve curated a short (and by no means extensive) list of Yuppie approved places.

  • Honor Wines on Bay St. has an amazing selection of small batch & family owned winery wines, the shop is adorable, but even better the proprietors are knowledgeable, friendly and welcoming. Friday nights they have free tastings.
  • Bean and Leaves Coffee and Tea, while Staten Island has about a thousand Italian bakeries where you can get biscotti and an espresso, it lacks many real Coffee Shops: A Coffee Shop in my mind has Three things
    1. Coffee
    2. A place where you can sit for hours and no one will notice/care
    3. Free wifi
    aside from Starbucks, and the Everything Goes Cafe (which has no place in a post about being a Yuppie – but I will get to eventually) Bean and Leaves is the only place on Staten Island that I have found so far that has all three of these components. And – it is actually a nice place to sit and get some work done, or meet a girlfriend for coffee in the middle of the afternoon.
  • the patio

    the patio

    The Phunky Elephant calls itself a gastropub, how much more Yuppie can you can get than

    that? The owner/chef was a contestant/winner(?) on a food network game show – which is pretty cool. Also, we can walk here from our house, which gives the place about 49 bonus points, and you can have dogs on the patio, which gives it another 49 bonus points which puts it a 98 in my book and I have not even gotten to the food, that atmosphere of the service (which is enough material for a separate post)

  • Although not dog-friendly Vida on Van Duzer (best street name ever) gets a ton of points in my book for being a delicious restaurant with a cozy, eating at a friend’s house atmosphere. They have a ‘yuppie approved’ eclectic menu, great beer selection and out this world coffee. Plus, she always has a vegan option on the menu (maybe the only place in SI that does).
  • The Staten Island Companion Dog Training Club is where we took little River for her puppy kindergarten (and we are starting 1st grade next Thursday there too). They are a fantastic organization and ‘Puppy Kindergarten’ – really? Do i need to explain to you why this makes the ‘yuppie’ list? They also have a little not-for profit shop where they sell the supplies for the dog classes, we get these dried lamb lungs there, that are like puppy crack., Then when we are out about we can tell people that we get the treats through the SICDTC. You know, we have connections…

I know this seems like a short list, and I keep expecting that when i meet new people they are going tell me about this amazing place that taps my Yuppie roots that I have not heard of yet, but not so much. In fact, when I meet people who have lived here for a long time, I find myself telling them about these places. Please don’t think these are the only places on the SI that I go, there are some other great places on Staten Island, specifically restaurants, that are definitely worth going to, I just wouldn’t call them ‘yuppie’ 

SI Dog Runs: Part One of Three

Out and About, Parks and Rec

20140716-131235-47555492.jpg Wolfe Pond is in and of itself a highly accessible multi-use park for people of all ages. There is a beach and playground and a bunch of other amenities that you can read about here on the NYC Parks website, my main interest in the park is that it houses an enclosed dog run. The NYC Parks website also has a great page with a list of all the (3) dog runs on Staten Island and the off leash dog areas (and explains the difference) here.

Like anything in life, there are pros and cons to Wolfe’s Pond Dog Run. And the same factor’s that may be a pro on your list could be a con from a different perspective. I wanted to make this a grid/ven-diagram thing (and still might) but I’ve created a HURAH/NAH WAGGLE/WOOF rating system.

Water Pump: (HURAH/WAGGLE)
Everyone loves access to water. I don’t have to schlep it from my car and River doesn’t die from heat exhaustion. A true win/win

Picnic Tables: (HURAH/WOOF)
It is nice to have a place to sit … however The people put bags on the table, the less well trained dogs then JUMP ON THE TABLES and try to rifle through the bags to the horror of the bag owners and embarrassment (or worse, lack of) to the dog owner.

Wood-chips: (HURAH/WOOF)
The ground is covered in wood-chips, which are great for keeping shoes and paws from getting all muddy (people plus!) but who wants to RUN barefoot on a pile of wood-chips (not my dog).

RIVERUNDERDSHED

If you look closely (click to zoom) you can see River’s tongue hanging out under the shed (closer to the brown dog) taking a break from running.

Trees & Stuff: (HURAH/WOOF)
The shade is a welcome respite, and as I mentioned the tables are handy to sit and chat at, and there is shed too for storing stuff (not sure exactly what – probably extra wood-chips), but they just sort of add obstacles for the dogs to hide under/avoid playing with each other and prohibit RUNNING

Lots of Dogs: (HURAH/WAGGLE/NAH/WOOF)
I know that is a lot of contradicting opinions, but I (we) have mixed feeling about this. When there are so many dogs, you have to be super vigilant about who your dog is playing with and I find that when there is a large group they tend to bunch up and wrestle (which is fine) instead of pair up and chase each other (WHICH IS BETTER!). The other side is that it is great that there is ALWAYS other dogs there, the worst is when you drive 40 minutes and there is no one there for the pooches to play with.

 

My honest opinion about the Wolfe’s Pond Park Dog Run – I like it a lot, and the dog likes it too, although maybe not as much as other dog runs that we have been to.

The Best Part of Staten Island is … leaving?

Uncategorized

Or coming, as the case may be. I am talking about the Staten Island Ferry of Course!  If people know anything about Staten . Most everyone knows the basics ins and out of the Staten Island Ferry, Primarily that is FREE, you get a great view of the Statue of Liberty and of course, most importantly, you can drink beer.

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Baby River on the Ferry

I am here to divulge my secrets about the Staten Island Ferry.

You can bring dogs on the Ferry, when they are tiny little puppies, you can put them in a puppy pouch and do whatever you like with them. When they get bigger/older and refuse to be toted around like a human child the dogs must be muzzled. Also, you need to get on and off the boat using the lower level (where the bicycles go)

 

 

My Mom!

My Mom!

When you get on the boat from Manhattan to come back to Staten Island, all the tourist are clamoring for the upper decks, trying to figure out what side the Statue of Liberty is on (don’t get me wrong – Lady Liberty is Lovely, especially if you can get a pic of her standing next to your Mom who also happens to be wearing a green dress)

but the real photo ops are on the lower level. Next time you are coming home (the later at night the better) go down to the lower level and out to the back of the boat (your companion will think you a wierdo, but do it anyway). Stand with your camera ready and try to keep your keep your mouth from gaping as begin to accelerate away from the Ferry Terminal and the best view with a muzzledowntown skyline (including a view of the Brooklyn Bridge) slowly come into frame, No seriously, i dare you to not feel some sense of awe- it is an inspiring journey and the best part. There are only ever a couple of other people out there.

Finally, if you are like me, you need to fill up with nourishment before a long journey. Instead of filling up on the empty calories of tasteless pizza or stale pretzels from the food vendors in the terminal and if you have a few minutes to spare, stop by the falafel cart on the NE corner just outside the Ferry Terminal. Your tummy will thank you.

The Falafel Cart

The Falafel Cart: Image via google maps

 

There you have it, I hope the next time you have to go into the city you think of the ferry a little more kindly…

 

 

 

A blog is born: The Staten Island Sleepover heads out to see the Staten Island Yankees

Eating/Drinking

A night out on the Island fuels the concept for the Staten Island sleepover blog Although not technically the first Staten Island Sleepover – I am going to blog about it now – because it is fresh in my mind. The first SI Sleepover was with Patrick & Elita (and consisted of lots of hiking) and the second sleepover was with Amy which included fireworks as well as a trip to Brooklyn, Manhattan and an amazing Sri Lankan restaurant. When time permits – I will do a retrospective on those early days, but for now – lets focus on the topic at hand. Primarily  – the Staten Island Yankees. As I understand it  – the Staten Island Yankees are the minor league/ farm team for the New York Yankees. Why they could not have picked a more original name I do not know. Anyway, when our friend Abby graciously agreed to visit us – we knew we had to show her a good time – so a baseball game it was. ballpark My Husband – having lived in Staten Island for several months longer than me – had already been to a couple of games, but this was first for both Abby and I. Here are the highlights 1. The Stadium is cozy  – I don’t know what the capacity is, but it feels very intimate compared to a major league game. There are no nosebleed seats here  – (that also means that every seat is in the ‘getting hit by a ball in the face’ danger zone  – so be vigilant my friends! In fact. funny story- a ball was coming straight for us (so i ducked and covered my face with my hands) and it sort of fell into the lap of the girl sitting in the row behind us – it wasn’t until after much of the excitement died down that we all realized that the ball had bounced off the face of the kid sitting in front of her. The dad realized at the same time and (after grabbing the ice cream bar out of the kids hand) swooped him off and rushed him off to first aid. The kid was fine – and the girl who caught (aka rebounded) the ball gave it to him after he safely returned.  2013-07-27 20.57.15 2. They have small beers, and by small beer –  I mean a normal sized beer, like 12oz and they only cost $4 or $5 depending on which stand you go to (the stand by first base has $4 small bud light – the stand by 3rd Plate has $5 small coors light) And a normal person who is not trying to get crazy wasted can finish a normal (aka ‘small’) beer before it gets warm and gross. 3. The announcer! They don’t have a big budget for big game gimmicks, but what this guy lacks in capitol he makes up for in enthusiasm in spades. For example – he did this thing where he ate a walking taco (basically you open up a bag of fritos and then put your taco toppings in the bag, that way you can eat with a fork while walking or…) while dancing to cotton eyed joe. twice. Also he had a whole support team of ‘cheerleaders’ and ‘spirit girls’ they had dances and they threw t-shirts at the crowd – it was spectacular. They really put on a good show. Which makes me think we should talk about the music. I don’t think a single song they played during the game was produced in the last decade. It must be some sort of licensing issue, but i hope you are in the mood for some Spice Girls or N’Sync! 4. Everybody gets a shoutout! Between almost every inning they would welcome all the groups – you know, pretty normal baseball game stuff – except they welcomed an unbelievable number of groups. And some of them weren’t even groups – it was like welcome Janet! We did some rough math – and based on the number of groups they welcomed and the number of people in attendance there were approximately 4 people per group. Since we were only a group of three- we were not eligible. Maybe next time. 5. Veggie Burgers! As a vegan baseball stadiums are not historically the most food friendly place (yeah Nationals Stadium – I am looking at you and your ‘running out of veggie dogs’!) The first food stand I walked up to had veggie burgers there on the menu – and they were tasty! The french fries were not bad either – oh, and the mustard that comes out of the big industrial mustard containers – its not that plain boring yellow mustard. It is that spicy brown stone ground type of mustard. Way to keep it classy Richmond County Bank Ballpark! 6. Fireworks – check the schedule, but after most evening games they have a fireworks show. After the performance the  SIYs gave (a catastrophic error in the 6th or 7th inning that lost us two runs and ultimately the game) – I wasn’t expecting much from the Fireworks – however we were pleasantly surprised with a well timed, diverse display of loud & shiny fireworks. 7. The View – the seats overlook the water and you can see the Manhattan skyline and the ferry’s going in and out. If you are like me and can only devote about ten percent of your attention to baseball (and most of that ten percent looking out for flyballs – see post #1) then this is a lovely an welcome distraction. Finally – the people at the game just magnificent.  We happened to be in a section where there were a lot of little kids – mostly boyscout troops , and they were equally if not more entertaining than the game itself. Next blog post I will tell you about the most AMAZING bar we found after the game. And next time we have a sleepover guest, I’ll make sure to take more pictures so I can post them!