Checking Out the High Line

I have to admit, all the hype about the High Line made me a bit dubious about the project. For years, there have been sporadic flurries of stories in the New York media about how the High Line is coming, and now it has more funding, and here’s how its progress is going, and so on. And, of course, there was the celeb involvement, which made my skeptical side think that somehow, despite the High Line being a public park, it would be co-opted by New York’s upper crust. Plus, it starts in the Meatpacking District, and that alone made me think the neighborhood would rub off on the park and tinge it with a bit of pretentiousness and douchebaggery, for lack of a better word.

On Sunday, when we went to check out the High Line, it initially seemed like my skeptical assumptions would turn out to be true.В

For the time being, you can only enter the park at Gansevoort Street, which is a bit of a bummer if you’re walking from uptown, like we were. We ended up walking below the High Line, on the street (what a tease!), until we reached Gansevoort…and saw a mob of people. A huge line of people waiting for wrist bracelets to get in would have stretched into the West Side Highway if it didn’t curve back into the street.В

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At that point, I was tempted to turn around and come back on a weekday morning, but one of the line monitors assured us that the line moved quickly. He was right. About 20 minutes later, we went through a few rows of carrells — similar to the ones at amusement parks — and finally stepped onto the High Line.В

I was pleasantly surprised. Judging from the hordes of people waiting to get in, I expected the park to be jam packed. But it wasn’t. I suppose the High Line’s length allows people to disperse quickly, so I never felt like I was crowded in or jostling to get around people.В

The park design is beautiful, too. There’s something quite gorgeous about the way new plants and quirky-looking flowers are growing amongst the rusty old freight train tracks. Plus, the park’s elevation makes you feel like you’re insulated from Manhattan’s hustle and bustle, but still in the heart of the city.

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I especially loved these lounge chairs. I plan on coming back one weekday to take full advantage of reading and sunbathing:


Despite the park’s beauty, it’s hard not to view it with a grain of cynicism. As one of my friends said, you have to wonder how many other city parks could have benefitted from all the money that flowed into this project…


Back Forty Crab Boil: A Crabby Start to Summer

I’ve been trying not to eat out as often as I used to (like when I still had a steady source of income), but when one of Ryan’s friends invited us to a crab boil at Back Forty, I couldn’t say no. Each Tuesday during the summer, the East Village restaurant holds crab dinners, where diners sit around communal tables and tear into round after round of steamed blue crabs. The cost is a justifiable $40 per person — which includes sides and dessert, though no beer, unfortunately В — and the idea of practically all-you-can-eat seafood seemed too good to pass up.

So on Tuesday night, we arrived at Back Forty for the last seating. Our group was placed around a long table covered with newspaper and scattered with wooden mallets.

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After an appetizer of salt cod hush puppies, a server told us that the crabs, potatoes, and string beans would be served in three rounds. A few minutes later, another server came out carrying two metal buckets overflowing with crabs. He then upended buckets and dumped the crabs right onto the table.

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It was at that moment that I realized I had never eaten crabs with my bare hands before. I also hadn’t considered that a squeamish feeling might come over me when faced with the crabs. I’m a recovering vegetarian, but I’m not at the point where I feel all that comfortable with seafood and meat still looking like, well, the animals themselves.

I was able to push the squeamish thoughts out of my head as I followed the veteran crab eaters’ instructions on taking the crabs apart. I tried not to think about the fact that I was bashing a crab’s head with a wooden mallet, ripping half its body off, snapping the remainder in half, and pulling off its legs one by one. Luckily, the restaurant was too dark for me to get a good look at the eyes, guts and lungs.В

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After all the work dismantling the crab, eating the soft, flavorful meat was a treat. But since there wasn’t much meat in each crab, we had no trouble ripping apart and devouring all three rounds — as you can see from the rather gross-looking photo below.

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Third Big Apple BBQ, First Time Eating It

Somehow, attending the annual Big Apple BBQ has become a tradition for me, even though I didn’t eat meat until this year, and I only eat it in small quantities now. I think I always enjoyed going because it’s one of those New York outdoor events that brings together big groups of people — and BBQ from around the country — at the beginning of summer.

…plus, it always gave me an excuse to inhale a deep fried, Shake Shack shroom burger and black and white shake while everyone around me gorged on meat.

This year, Ryan and I went with a group of friends. As usual, Madison Square Park was packed by noon, and long lines stretched from the various BBQ tents. Each of our friends was dispatched to a different stand with strict orders to bring back two plates of each specialty. I, of course, headed to Shake Shack to get my shroom burger and black and white shake.В

Also as usual, the Shake Shack line took nearly twice as long as the longest BBQ line. By the time I had my order in hand, everyone else had been to their stands and was seated at a picnic table. An array of ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked sausages, and beef brisket sat before us, and we cut everything into small pieces for easy sharing.

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Despite getting Shake Shack, I decided to try everything.

Maybe it’s because I’m finally at the point where eating meat no longer makes me feel nauseous afterwards, but I thought everything tasted great. The brisket and pulled pork were smoky and tender, and the sausage had a bit of a kick. I thought the ribs were a tad dry, but they had a nice flavor. I’ll defer to the meat eaters for the final verdict on everything, though, since six meatless years don’t make me the best BBQ judge. They said: The flavor was pretty good, but everything could use more of it via a bit more sauce.

Oh well. It’s not like anything really went to waste.

Big Apple BBQ