Me leading the Culinary Retail tour with a group shot in front of Lady Liberty in Le Jardin de Luxembourg Park on May 24th, 2023
Well today I lead my tour on the ‘Gourmet Retail Shops and Stores’ in the Saint Germain section of Paris on the Left Bank of the city. This is one of the best and unique shopping areas in Paris with all sorts of quaint and quirky independently owned and operated shops with some of the most innovative concepts that I have seen in a while. I really had to do my homework and learn this neighborhood online as best as I could considering that I had never been to Paris before. It took a lot of time to research these stores and see when they were open. I prayed to God every night that we would have perfect weather for the walking tour and my prayers were answered. It was a gorgeous clear and sunny day and the temperature hovered around 67 degrees. What a day to walk!
We started our day at the Cafe Cercle Luxembourg at 1 Rue Gay Lussac right on the northern section of the Le Jardin de Luxembourg and it had a beautiful view on the park. I had planned something else but was pleasantly surprised by the food and the service. When I asked my professor later on why he chose this place was because “the door was open and we walked inside.” It’s an interesting way to choose a restaurant.
The waiter was not prepared for twelve people to enter the dining room at once considering there was only three small tables in the restaurant but like all the French waiters I met on this trip handled it like a pro. They had an “English Formula” breakfast that consisted of Orange Juice, a Croissant, a Hot Beverage (I chose Hot Chocolate) and two fried eggs with ham. Even though the croissant were slightly better the day before, the breakfast was wonderful and it was a great way to start the tour. The waiter started to kid around with some of the women at the table and it was said by more than one person commented that they liked them speaking English with a French accent.
The inside of Cafe Cercle Luxembourg that morning
the entrance of Cafe Cercle Luxembourg
The start to the perfect “English Breakfast”
The Ham and Eggs were so good that morning
There is nothing like a great breakfast to start the day
After breakfast was over, we walked a few blocks and visited the Pantheon which was right around the corner from the restaurant. This was perfect because most of the stores did not open until 10:30am and it would give us a chance to see more of the city. The Pantheon is located in the center of the “Latin Quarter” of Paris atop the Montagne Sainte-Genevieve in the center of the Place du Pantheon (Wiki/Tour guide).
The Pantheon has originally had been built as a church between 1758 and 1790 and was designed by architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot for King Louis XV of France. The king has hoped to dedicate the church to Saint Genevieve. With the outbreak of the French Revolution, the king did not live long enough to see its completion and over the years it had many uses. It is now used as a mausoleum and religious services. It is also a major tourist attraction (Wiki).
Entering the Pantheon
I was impressed by the architecture and by the statuary all over the building. This was a church that was meant to last the centuries which it has. I wonder if Louis XV ever realized what it’s future would be almost three hundred years in the future. In each of the corners, there are amazing details to the building. Since we had plenty of time, I just walked the entire building and enjoyed it.
The inside of the Pantheon
After we left the building, our professor explained the significance of the building in film as the steps were used in the film “Midnight in Paris” by Woody Allen when Owen Wilson kept being picked up by the carriage. I had not even thought of that.
The ‘Midnight in Paris’ steps at the Pantheon
Then around the corner was the small park and restaurant used in the TV show “Emily in Paris”. I would not have known that since I have never seen the show. What I love about Paris so much is the small parks tucked into neighborhoods and the tiny restaurants and shops that dot them.
You see this only in certain sections of New York City and like Paris, mostly the older sections. It was such a beautiful little park. Right across from the park where the restaurant is located where her chef boyfriend worked. It really is a great little neighborhood.
“Emily in Paris” Park: Place de L’Estrapade
“Emily in Paris” Restaurant: Ristorante Terra Nera
The “Emily in Paris” trailer-you will see these sites
It was then off to La Jardin du Luxembourg to start my “Culinary Gourmet Stops and Store” with my class. I was really nervous. I knew what I wanted to do and the stores and restaurants that I wanted to visit but my professor wanted me to change the tour and flip it so that we started the tour at the gardens and ended at Bon Marche Department Store instead of starting with Breakfast at Bon Marché’s Gourmet Department. I was scared because I had planned and rehearsed the locations that other day (we would get lost twice).
The entrance to the fountains at Le Jardin du Luxembourg
We started the walk in Le Jardin du Luxembourg, which to has to be the most beautiful park in Paris. It is a place that I would want to meet Audrey Hepburn for a stroll. It had been a former estate and palace that was now one of the most beautiful parks in central Paris.
Situated on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, the Luxembourg Gardens, inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence, were created upon the initiative of Queen Marie de Medici in 1612. The gardens, which cover 25 hectares of land, are split into French gardens and English gardens. Between the two, lies a geometric forest and a large pond (Paris Tourism Office).
I can not tell you how in awe at the beauty I was of this park. It was more gorgeous than the pictures I had seen online. The fountains and the statuary and then of course the beautiful palace that was in the middle of the park. This blew Central Park away in a heartbeat and I still consider it one of the most wonderful parks in the world.
The beauty of the park was seen that morning by the palace in the park
The park had such amazing places to take pictures
The park is where I had originally wanted to end the tour with a picnic lunch from two of the cafes I had researched online. This was now the starting point after the wonderful breakfast and the tour of the Pantheon and the “Emily in Paris” sites. It is great when things work out in the end because it left us plenty of time to relax in the park and take our time taking pictures. Everyone in my class was floored by the beauty of the park as well as I was that morning. The pictures online do not do the park justice.
Our starting point in the park that morning was the Statue of Liberty located at the west side of the park. This statue I found out later on in my research is a copy of the original that has since been moved to a museum because of its age and maintenance but the statue has stood in the park since the original was created back in the late 1800’s.
The copy of the original “Liberty Enlightening the World”
This version of the statue was created for the Exposition Universelle of 1900 by sculptor Frederic Bartholdi of the original “Liberty Enlightening the World”-The Statue of Liberty. It was cast in 1889 and he then donated it to the Musee du Luxembourg. In 1906, the statue was placed outside the museum in the La Jardin du Luxembourg where it stood until 2011. In 2012, it was moved to the entrance hall of the Musee d’Orsay after it’s conservation and the statue we saw is a replica (Wiki).
This is where I wanted our group shot to be but we ended up having it at the beginning of the tour. With everyone in awe of the park and the beautiful weather on my side, I knew it would be a successful tour. I only got us lost twice (my Google Maps went down when my Internet service gave) but isn’t that the fun of a city like Paris? To get lost and see other wonderful things? It worked to my advantage as we were able to spend a bit more time at some stores and pass by others that had not been on the list. I learned a lot from the experience.
Our group shot at the Statue of Liberty in La Jardin du Luxembourg
After we left the park and all our picture taking, we started the door. The first time I took the wrong direction is when we left the park. They were landscaping the exit that I had planned right next to the statue and we had to go out of the southern entrance of the park. This is when we got lost for the first time. Google Maps was working fine and I got us on track immediately. We started the tour on the Rue de Fleurus with stops at Cafe Fleurus and Bread & Roses, two wonderful bakery/cafes right next to the park and two wonderful places to go to lunch.
Because it was so early, Cafe Fleurus was just opening up for a late breakfast/early lunch and we were able to take a peek inside this wonderful little cafe. This was one of the two places that I had suggested for lunch that afternoon for a picnic in the park. The food was highly rated on both TripAdvisor and Google and their pictures online were just amazing. The food looked so good and it was a small but very nice looking restaurant.
The Cafe was just getting really busy with people coming in for a late breakfast when we passed by so it was tough to get inside
The second bakery/cafe we stopped by that morning and my second suggestion for lunch for the original tour was Bread & Roses Cafe, another wonderful cafe just down the block from Cafe Fleurus. This delightful cafe was small also and is more for take out. This was another wonderful choice that had been recommended for planning a picnic in the park. I could see why with all the wonderful choices and the mouth watering pastries on display. There was a lot to choose from.
Bread & Roses Cafe at 7 Rue de Fleurus was also opening up for the day but their bakery section is opened early for takeout. Don’t miss their delicious pastries.
I led a quick tour inside the bakery section of the restaurant where the pastries were on full display. I was going to have the group stop but the bakery was getting really busy and I did not want to bug the staff with the lines that were there. Still it is place that I want to revisit again on my next trip to Paris.
The selection at Bread & Roses Cafe and the lines of people buying their delicious food
The selection at Bread & Roses. I was able to sneak a picture in of their savories in between the crowds.
The delicious bakery products were flying out of the store that morning they were so busy.
Even though we had just eaten breakfast and was still stuffed, I wanted to buy a few things here but I figured I would get back at another time. I will have to wait until that next trip to Paris to sample the delicious treats here. The sandwiches looked wonderful and their selection of beverages would have made the perfect lunch in the park.
We went on to our next and most popular location, Bakery Thévenin Saint Placide at 5 Rue Notre Dame des Champs, a excellent bakery at the corner of an intersection of Rue de Rennes and the Rue Notre Dame des Champs right off the Rue de Fleurs. It was a major intersection of many roads and the subway stop and came highly recommended on Google, TripAdvisor and the “Les Frenchies” videos as the “Best in Paris” for their croissants. I swear, no one was lying about that.
Bakery Thévenin Saint Placide at 5 Rue Notre Dame des Champs
When I talked about Bakery Thevenin Saint Placide (there was another branch closer to campus that I ate at the last day in Paris), I explained to everyone that these were voted the best croissant in Paris and that we had to try them. No one seemed to believe me so I said “If anyone wants to try them they are on me.” That got everyone into the store.
The inside of the Bakery Thevenin
I explained to the sales people at the bakery who we were and that we were NYU students on a Culinary Tour. I explained to the three women that I had read that they were the best croissant in Paris. She replied in perfect American English, “They are the best in the whole city. You have to try them.” I proceeded to buy seven of them for everyone who wanted to try them and then all three women started to talk to me in English about the bakery. The croissant (in both locations) were the best that I had when I was in Paris.
The wonderful selection of baked goods at Bakery Thevenin
Everything else in the case looked amazing as well including all the pastries and the sandwiches. One of the women in my group commented she wished we could have had breakfast there. I agreed and said we probably would have loved it. The staff was so excited that we came to visit.
To any doubters, they were the best croissant I ate in Paris!
From here I got us lost for the second time by walking up the Rue de Rennes instead of the Rue Saint Placide and then we had to double back. It is hard to control a crowd of eleven people some of whom are walking so fast ahead that they are missing most of the talk. Even Blaine did not have these problems even with the changes to his program but he did not have as many stops as I did.
We finally turned around and we walked up the Rue Saint Placide to make our next stop, the wonderful little pastry shop L’Etoile du Berger at 56 Rue Saint Placide. Since I had just filled everyone up with croissant at Bakery Thevenin, I just showed everyone the colorful pastries and the merchandising concepts of the patissiers of Paris. Each one of these unique shops beautifully displayed their products so nicely.
The beautifully displayed desserts at L’Etoile du Berger looked mouthwatering
Our next stop was supposed to be Le Cafe Pierre Herme but we had already had been to the other store the previous day and they were so rude to us, I just skipped it. We had already seen their concept anyway and tried the pastries in the other branch. There was nothing wrong with the pastries but the service. Oh God!
Cafe Pierre Herme Paris at 43 Rue Saint Placide we by passed
I made another wrong turn and we missed La Maison du Mochi, a Asian rice inspired dessert concept but we were beginning to run a bit late and we did not want to double back to the store. Maybe the next time I am in Paris.
La Maison de Mochi at 39 Rue du Cherchi-Midi we missed because we were now on a time budget but their reputation was excellent online.
We continued up the road and stopped next at La Meringaie Cherche-Midi at 41 Rue de Cherchi-Midi and I stopped in to talk to the woman working at the counter. I again spoke in French to her asking her if we could come in and look around.
La Meringaie Cherchi-Midi at 41 Rue de Cherchi-Midi
She only spoke French and let us come in. A couple of people came in to look around and I bought a bag of merianges to take out of the store so that we could sample them. I knew it would be tough on her to help us. She looked like she appreciated the sale.
The merianges were packaged so beautifully and there was a variety to choose from. I got a bag with raspberry crystals on them and passed them out to everyone. The group seemed to enjoy them. We would finish munching on them on the boat ride later that afternoon.
The beautifully arranged candies and treats on the shelves of La Meringaie Cherchi-Midi
Our next stop at the end of the block was Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, a high end chocolate shop created by famous French chef Alain Ducasse 47 Rue du Cherchi-Midi. This is an extremely tiny store and we were only able to go in a few at a time but the store could not have been nicer and more generous to us.
Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse at 47 Rue du Cherchi-Midi
I explained to the woman who was working the counter that we were a group of students from NYU and I had not even finished the sentence when she said in perfect English, “Please have everyone come in and try a sample of the chocolates.” What a nice invitation from her and everyone in the group stopped inside and she gave each person a sample cube of the chocolate, which was very generous of the store since one piece is so expensive. They have me as a customer now.
The beautiful display of product at Alain Ducasse
The mild chocolate sample that I tasted was smooth tasting and was delicious. Since everyone got a taste and more people walked in the door after us, she got busy with them and I decided to head to the next store. Still I was able to look over their displays and they treat their product like a jewel in a jewelry shop. With such care and refinement.
The wonderful products at the chocolate shop
After everyone left the store very content after the light snack, we walked to the next store Mille & Un to look at their beautiful displays.
My classmate, Blaine in front of Millet & Un at 32 Rue Saint Placide
the wonderful sandwiches and quiches at Mille & Un
The bakery products like the other stores in the area were very impressive and I could see by this point in the morning, my classmates were getting hungry for more than samples and stopped in to get some baked goods. When I walked in, I was really impressed by the selection of baked goods and the way the products were displayed. I had to hurry everyone along as we had to head to the next store. Everyone was walking out with bags of pastries when we visited the next spot.
The delicious baked goods at Mille & Un
Our next store just down the block was Fruitti by MO and had another wonderful visit. This one was rather strange and proved to me that the Parisians like to test you. I stopped in and the talked to the woman behind the counter. I explained to her in my broken French that I was leading a group of students from NYU on a Culinary Walking Tour and could we come into her shop for a visit. She explained that she did not speak much English and I in return explained the same thing but with French and continued to talk in French.
The fun little dessert shop Fruttini by MO at 24 Rue de Saint Placide
I asked people if they wanted to try a dessert on me and that I wanted to treat who ever wanted to try something for a snack. That in turn had the whole conversation in English from then on. She really tested me but she and her partner were the highlight of the visit. One of the owners who pretended to give me a hard time Marie-Laure Pollet and her partner in the business, Olivia Berdah could not have been nicer to everyone and joined us for dessert and pictures.
Owner Marie-Laure Pollet talking to our class and taking our orders for dessert
The beautiful display of fruit and ices at Frutti by MO
We sampled the Passion Fruit ice, the Banana ice and the Strawberry Fruit ice and they were very cleverly scooped out of the fruit, mixed with the ingredients and then put back very carefully in the fruit shell and frozen and then put on display. It was very different from desserts that I had seen before. The quality and the amount of time these ladies put into their product is just amazing. The displays were so unique.
Where the magic happens at Fruttini by MO
Two of my classmates with co-owner Olivia Berdah after having the Banana Ice dessert
My professor and classmate Blaine sampling the delicious desserts
The owners Marie-Laure Pollet and Olivia Berdah could not have been nicer to us and more generous with their time. They were both the highlight of the tour and I could not have been more appreciate of their kindness.
We had such a great visit with the owners of the store!
After the great visit and enjoying our wonderful desserts with the owners of the store, it was time to go to the last two stores. Our next stop up the block was Maison Paries at 9 Rue Saint Placide and I knew at this point, I was starting to lose the class as they were tiring of seeing so many bakery and pastry shops and wanted to head off to their lunches and take a break.
So we made a quick visit of it and looked at the displays of the store. No one was in the front of the store to talk to so we just popped our heads in the store and went to the last store before we got to The Bon Marche.
The selection of candies at the store
The selection of baked goods at Maison Paries
The wonderful chocolates at Maison Paries
We were beginning to run low on time before we got to The Bon Marche for our tour of the Gourmet Department so we had to bypass our last stop, a wonderful little chocolate shop Les Chocolats Yves Thuriès at 3 Rue Saint Placide.
Our last stop on the walking tour and one of my favorites that I had wanted to see for a long time was The Bon Marche, one of France’s leading department stores and home to one of the best gourmet grocery departments in the industry. La Grande Épicerie de Paris is the food hall at Bon Marche and was specially built to house the all the delicious foods and drinks in the department and on the upper floors all the houseware and decorative items of the store to complete your gourmet kitchen.
This is where I ended the tour for the afternoon. The store was crazy with customers as lunch hour in Paris was in full swing and everyone was coming into the store to buy their lunch for takeout.
I just concentrated on the very front of the store and told my group of the history of the store and how the department store built this particular section of the store because the department had outgrown its original department in the main store. We just walked around the entrance and the bakery and part of the grocery department because I had seen that everyone had had enough of the bakeries, dessert places and chocolate shops and wanted to get on with their lunch as well. I told everyone that this was a wonderful place to eat and they were now on their own for an hour before our boat ride. Everyone scattered to do what they wanted. I went into the store to explore the department more and have my lunch. What an amazing store!
The Bon Marche is nothing like its American counterparts, who got rid of the gourmet departments back in the early 1990’s during the recession. Macy’s and Bloomingdales led the way with their departments starting in the early 1970’s when both stores were renovated and Dayton-Hudson and Marshall Fields also once upon a time had wonderful departments as well. All of this ended in the 1990-1995 recession which between the buyout of American Department Stores by Campeau and the money crunch, the stores closed down departments with marginal profits.
At European stores like Bon Marche, it is part of the culture. This is part of the city grocery shopping experience. This department is not all gourmet foods but fancy grocery items that can be used in everyday cooking. It is a place you can shop for the weeks groceries but you would have to spend a bit more plus it is great for the tourist. Once department was more picturesque than the other.
The Bon Marche Petit Cafe where we ended the tour is perfect for coffee
The Bon Marche Prepared Foods Department where I started to look around for lunch options
The Bon Marche Fruit and Vegetable Department is colorful and well-organized
The Bon Marche Meat Department has its own butchers working cutting the meat in front of you
The Bon Marche Grocery Department
The Pasta Department at Bon Marche is extensive
The Deli Department at Bon Marche where you can get sandwiches
The Bakery Department where I eyed lunch
The Bon Marche Bread Department
The other Prepared Foods Department
The Bon Marche Cheese Department
Buying my lunch at La Cuisine was a tough choice
I had seen Anton Dupont eating the Croque Monsieur in the “Les Frenchies” video and I had to have that for lunch. They also warmed it up for me as well.
“Les Frenchies” Best Sandwiches in the winter-My inspiration for the stop
I went to the Bon Marche Bakery Department for dessert
I wanted the St. Honore dessert but the woman took so long to come over and help that I ran out of time. She insisted that I order it at the Cafe next door and I did not have time for it. Well for the next trip.
After lunch was over, I met the others for the boat ride on the Seine River. I finally decompressed after lunch was over as my tour was finished. I thought that everyone had a nice time and we had a good experience. We walked a lot of neighborhoods and visited a lot of stores and met many great people. We also sampled a lot of good food. I was just surprised that more people did not eat at Bon Marche. Their loss!
We walked around the Saint Germaine section of the city to meet up with everyone else who were eating a small bistro a few blocks away. I could not understand why they would spend that much money on lunch.
We met everyone else at Les Deux Magots who were finishing lunch
After we met everyone else, we walked to the boat ride on the Seine River. I like everyone else was exhausted at this point with getting up every morning and running around. I was coming down from a big high and I was just wiped out.
The Seine River sightseeing cruise down and around the city. We all were ready to fall asleep
Literally we were all blacking out on the cruise. I could see everyone nodding off. I knew I almost fell asleep a few times. If we were all not so nervous about pickpockets, we would have fallen asleep. Either that or had there been chairs, the whole group would have dozed off and missed all the sites we had seen on land. Still, it is an experience to see all of this from the river.
The Seine River is really beautiful
After we got off the cruise, it was time to start the other group’s tour of the Cafes. I have to admit it was not much of a tour. It consisted of them getting a reservation at a restaurant and confirming it. We walked around the Seine River again and passed the Eiffel Tower where we took more pictures.
Me after my tour, lunch and the river cruise. I was less stressed and could enjoy the rest of my trip.
We toured around the Right Bank for the rest of the afternoon and then prepared for dinner which I was not that hungry. We just kept eating. Dinner that night was at a classic French Bistro, Bofinger which was at 7 Rue de la Bastille and had been around since the late 1800’s.
There seemed to be a bit of confusion on the reservation and we ended up having a large table upstairs. Our captain was terrific and spoke great English.
The restaurant starts the meal not with bread but with pretzels that shows it German roots
They had a wonderful Prix Fixe menu and I decided to have the Fish & Chips, which seems to be a big bistro item and I started my meal with Escargots, which I had not had in years and they were excellent. They were loaded with garlic and pesto inside and as the sauce.
The Escargot at Bofinger was excellent
Thank God there was plenty of bread to soak that up. The fish and chips were perfectly cooked and came with a large side of French Fries. For dessert, I had the Floating Islands, which are Meringues in a Vanilla sauce. Some of my counterparts did not get them and didn’t want to eat them. I thought they were good.
The whole meal was wonderful and we had such a good time. The Captain and the back waiters did a good job at our table and the restaurant was not kidding when they said it would fill up. The place was packed by 8:30pm. The Parisians really do eat late in the evening. The restaurant was still going strong when we left at 9:00pm.
I collapsed when we got back to the dorms. It was a long day but a productive one. I could not believe the weather had cooperated so well and we had such a good tour. I was proud of the fact that I led a tour of a city I did not know where I did not know where I was going and it worked out so well. Later when we had the class wrap up at the end of the week, everyone in my class told me how much they enjoyed it and with all the sampling of the items we tried. People were still talking about the desserts at Frutti by MO and the croissants at Bakery Thevenin. I thought they were amazing too.
I do not know where time went. One day I am cutting the lawn in 70-degree weather and the next day it is 32 degrees, and everyone is freezing. The weather has been going up and down like a yoyo and everyone is getting sick right before the holidays. Every other day the weather was changing, and this is the way the temperature would be every day for the month of December. One day it is Spring or Fall and the next everyone is bundling up.
Don’t be fooled by all the pictures and activities. There were a lot of late nights, a lot of driving and a lot of arranging to pull the holidays off this year. Teaching three classes and taking four classes in Grad school on top of volunteer work that I was committed to and getting ready for the holidays and all its expectations I had a lot of nights where I did not go to bed until two in the morning. I would study on busses and in hotel rooms and I never worked like this before in my life. Still it was a Merry Christmas and I consider myself a lucky person to see all these wonderful things.
All I did was run in and out of New York City every week for classes and work. There were so many historical sites that I wanted to visit over the holidays to update previously blogs that every moment of my day was taken up with touring. Still, I enjoyed taking my time to walk to school through Greenwich Village. The residents and merchants here know how to celebrate the holidays.
Christmas in Greenwich Village. I saw this home after class and I knew Santa was on his way
Walking past the train station on the way back to Port Authority was even festive.
With Grad School taking up so much of my time and I just finished all my presentations at Bergen Community College where I work (please see all three Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. projects), it’s now the final project for Grad School and getting ready for the holidays that are taking up my time. It is only two more weeks.
Thanksgiving with my cousins and aunt at the Lambertville Inn
Christmas started for me right after Thanksgiving with my family when the next day we had Christmas Tree delivery for the Hasbrouck Heights Men’s Association. We had 390 Christmas Trees delivery and we emptied the truck in one hour. By 10:30am, we sold our first Christmas tree and by the end of the first weekend, we sold 134 trees and 8 stands. We just missed last year’s numbers. It had rained most of Sunday so we missed that afternoon and evening of that day.
Christmas Tree drop off is right after Thanksgiving at 8:00am the next morning
The guys on the Men’s Association after we finished tagging and unloading the trees
Friday was a busy day selling. It often amazes me how many trees sell that first weekend. Last year we sold out in 11 days and people were disappointed that they had to wait. Many said that this year, they arrived early to get the tree they wanted. Even with the rain on Sunday, we did very well and were anticipating another get year (we sold out by December 9th on the morning shift).
My blog on Christmas tree drop off for the Men’s Association:
I knew it was Christmas when my neighbors set out all their decorations
The next evening after Thanksgiving was the Annual Parade and Tree Lighting ceremony in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights. Since we were opening the tree stand and I was on leave from the fire department this year, I did not go. Instead I stayed at the tree stand that evening and sold trees on my first split shift. We sold 44 trees on the first day of sales.
The Christmas Tree at the Circle in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
The Gazebo at the Firemen’s Circle Memorial in Downtown Hasbrouck Heights, NJ
I have to admit, Thanksgiving weekend and the subsequent week were all about grad school. We would be wrapping up classes in two weeks (classes ended on December 14th) and I had three major papers due, one for each class. With the exception of my Data Analytics class, I had one partner on each paper I really did not know if I could count on so there would be a lot of extra work to do.
Heights Bar & Grill at 163 Boulevard became a place to relax and unwind with a pizza and a drink
Heights Bar & Grill was very festive during the holidays
My post birthday dinner became my pre Christmas/post class dinner
The next weekend was Sinterklaas weekend, and I knew I had to be in Rhinebeck and then Boonton, NJ for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party that I committed to last month. When you’re on all the Executive Boards of these organizations, you have to be there.
Still on the way back and forth to classes starting from mid-November until classes ended, I enjoyed my walks from the Port Authority to the NYU campus in the Village to admire all the decorations, display windows and Christmas tree setups all over the Village. Even before Christmas started, this section of the City is very traditional ‘Old New York’ and when it is all ready for the holidays it puts you in the Christmas spirit.
Christmas in Greenwich Village really kept my spirits up between classes
Selling Christmas trees in New York City was not difference from us but in prices.
The window displays in the Greenwich Village stores and boutiques were really creative. I loved walking all the side streets to discover what shop owner did that was so different from the others and these are some of my favorites. They really cheered me up as the pressure of the assignments built up.
Window display in the Village after they changed from Halloween to Christmas
Window display in the Village
Window display in the Village
Christmas display inside and outside at Greenwich Village store
More Christmas trees for sale on lower Seventh Avenue
The Washington Square Park Christmas tree was so beautiful both during the day and night. It was so nice to pass every evening I was coming back from class. It really put me in the holiday spirit especially when I was stressed out on my last three research papers of the semester. I took the time to just walk around the park and enjoy the cool air.
The Washington Square Park Christmas tree by day
The Washington Square Park Christmas tree at night
In between classes and work, I had to decorate and get my own house ready for the holidays. I have never worked so hard trying to pull off the holidays with so much going on in my life. Still I thought the house looked very nice. I decorated both the living room and dining room and it looked really festive. It was too bad there was no time for entertaining. That and the fact that everyone else was so busy, it made it impossible to do anything.
I keep it simple but elegant in my house
For years, I used to have a Christmas dinner but with everyone’s schedules and COVID still around, I am finding more and more people don’t want to get together. Again my schedule was no better this December. Still I worked my own “Santa” magic with other things I did for friends, neighbors and family.
From December 1st to the 31st, my feet never touched the ground. From unloading trees for the Men’s Association to watching the ball drop to completing three major projects for my job at Bergen Community College to the three major papers at school, my laptop followed me everywhere and was prominent in each of my hotel rooms as a worked on every business trip for my work with this blog. Who says that life is boring? The fun began as it does every year with Sinterklaas weekend in Rhinebeck.
My blog on Sinterklaas/ The Snowflake Festival weekend in Rhinebeck Day Two Hundred and Fifty-Six:
I had to plan Sinterklaas weekend like D-Day. I had a major presentation on the Metaverse when I returned back on the next Monday night so I had to finish the framework for the paper the Friday night before the parade. I was visiting the Culinary Institute of American to interview one of my old chefs at the college but I was not able to get in touch with him.
Still I was able to leave a message for an appointment and then tour the campus. I forgot how beautiful the campus is and I never saw it during Christmas time. I had been on my Externship my first year at the CIA so I never experienced the holidays at the CIA.
Roth Hall decorated for Christmas
The Christmas tree in the outside courtyard
I did not have any plans that Friday evening and I looked at the papers and saw that there was a Snowflake Festival in Downtown Kingston, NY. So that evening after a nice nap at the hotel, I headed there for the evening. It was just what the doctor ordered. It was a cool but not cold evening full of activities and lots of Christmas decorations and a festive environment.
Downtown Kingston, NY the night of the Snowflake Festival
It was a nice evening of Christmas activities, horse drawn carriage rides, visiting the firehouse, beautifully decorated windows of the local merchants and people just having a good time amidst COVID problems and a bad economy. People ‘needed a little Christmas now’ (Please read the blog below on the Snowflake Festival and the Sinterklaas Parade).
The line to see Santa was impossibly long. I think everyone needed him this year.
The Christmas tree in Downtown Kingston, NY
My homebase for the weekend was the Quality Inn Hotel in Hyde Park, which is becoming a tradition with me. I love the location and the comfortable beds. If you get a room facing the field to the right, you can see the stonewall that lines the property. Plus, they have the best fresh waffle station every morning.
The Quality Inn Hyde Park at 4142 Albany Post Road
Sinterklaas morning was a really gloomy day. Even if the weather outside that morning was gloomy, the spirit of Sinterklaas was in full swing inside the Beekman Arms Hotel for the Opening Ceremony.
The Opening Ceremony at Sinterklaas with Founder Jeanne Fleming and the Pocket Lady
The animal being celebrated this year was the porcupine and this was his home in the courtyard in Downtown Rhinebeck. This wise woman told us his tale.
The “Into the Light” show at the local church
The parade is the highlight of the evening and we lucked out that night as the weather broke by the afternoon. The sun started to come out and it was a much nicer evening with a cool but not cold feel and you could see the stars out on this clear evening. The parade is always exciting especially as we walk down the hill into Downtown Rhinebeck.
The parade begins at the Starr Library
The serpents are always a big hit at the parade
The stars always lead the parade down the hill
I marched at the end of the parade so all I saw was everyone’s backs. The crowds were not the same because of the weather that morning but they were still pretty large once we got into the core of downtown. Because of the weather earlier in the day, I could tell we had a more local crowd which was nice because Downtown Rhinebeck can only handle so many people.
All the characters come together at the closing ceremony
I swear that this parade like selling Christmas trees goes by faster and faster every year. I come to Rhinebeck in the Spring and the Summer and it just seems like I am counting the weeks until it starts all over again. After the parade was over, I stopped at Village Pizza for a few slices with the last of the parade stragglers. There were maybe three families eating a late dinner. By the time I warmed up and finished my pizza I walked around the downtown one more time. It was so quiet and peaceful with the exception of the saxaphone player who plays downtown at night. You would have never known there was a parade that night.
My review on TripAdvisor on Village Pizza in Rhinebeck, NY:
After a very sound sleep, I ate breakfast and enjoyed the waffle bar. Then I headed down to Boonton, NJ for the Bergen County Firemen’s Home Association Christmas Party that we were hosting at the home. Again, the year seems to go by fast.
The Executive Board the day of the party (I’m third to the right)
Because of COVID, the party is more subdued and families are still not allowed back with any great crowds. Still we had a DJ and Jerry Naylis’s daughter and granddaughters entertained the residents of the home. We really had a nice afternoon.
The Naylis family entertaining the residents
After the party was over, a few of us went the Columbia Inn for dinner. There was only a small group of us this year because again many of the guys were worried about COVID and large crowds. Still we toasted in the holiday season and after dinner, it was right back home to do my homework for school and classwork for my students. It would be never ending for the next three weeks.
The week between Sinterklaas and the next weekend of the Mills Mansion Party and exploring the decorated mansions to update my blogs for work, classes in both schools took a frenzy of activity on. I had to finish papers on the Metaverse and complete my White Paper on the Travel Industry and we started our paper on Mapping the Rockaways. I don’t think I ever went to bed before 2:00am every night for the next three weeks.
The “Dining on the Metaverse” paper required me to run around and interview chefs on the what their thoughts were on the Metaverse. I first went to the Ivy Inn in Hasbrouck Heights and talked with the Chef/Owner Jack. His thoughts on the Metaverse in dining were pretty strong and I needed a second interview so back to the Culinary Institute of America I went to talk to my former Chef at the college. He just happened to reach out to me that week so I stopped in to see him late on Friday.
The Ivy Inn at 268 Terrace Avenue in Hasbrouck Heights, NJ decorated for the holidays
I had an offer to revisit the Brinckerhoff Homestead the next afternoon before they ran a Afternoon Tea fundraiser to take pictures of the home decorated for Christmas for work and was able to get a last minute invitation acceptance for the Mills Mansion fundraiser, I decided to spend the night again at the Marriott in Fishkill, NY. It would be another long weekend of running around. So I booked a room at the Marriott Courtyard Fishkill, where I had stayed twice before and it would be close to all the sites and headed Upstate.
The Marriott Courtyard Fishkill at 17 Westage Drive & Route 9
I got up to the CIA before 4:30pm and walked around campus and enjoyed the Christmas lights again. The campus was starting to wind down for the holidays as the students would be leaving for break in a week and a half but the restaurants were busy with weekend reservations and by 4:30pm, I stated my interview on “Dining on the Metaverse” with the last chef I had before I graduated in 1998. I had not seen the guy in almost 25 years. Still he was just as nice as he was when I had him as an instructor and we had a good interview for almost two hours.
The campus was at twilight and it showed its true beauty next to the Hudson River.
The Culinary Institute of America at sunset
The Christmas tree lit at the Culinary Institute of America
We had our interview and it was nice talking with a Instructor that I had a lot of respect for years ago. It was nice of him to meet me after almost 25 years.
My TripAdvisor review on my lunch at the Apple Pie Bakery Cafe:
We bullshitted for the first hour and knowing that I had to be at the Mills Mansion by 6:30pm (the party was only going to 8:30pm), we had to get down to business. We spent the next hour talking about the effects of dining on the Metaverse and what it could do to the business in the future. His thoughts were pretty much the same as the Ivy Inn but it was an engaging conversation and I was able to take notes and write that section of the paper before I left for the weekend. Then it was off to the Mills Mansion for the Masquerade Cocktail Party fundraiser. That got my mind off a lot.
I had not been to a fundraiser here for the holidays since 2018 (COVID and work stopped me from going in the past) and it was a last minute thing I was able to attend. The President of the Friends of the Mills Mansion graciously let me come since it was sold out. I did not get there until almost 7:15pm by the time I left the CIA and got to Staatsburg and then had to park all the way down the hill.
The entrance to Staatsburgh, The Mills Mansion at 75 Mills Mansion Drive the night of the party
I was not too keen on wearing a mask since I had to wear glasses but I still had a nice time. The band was excellent and the singer wore an outfit that looked like it was from the early 1920’s. The food was wonderful and they had nice passed appetizers and wine and champagne to drink. The mansion’s Dining Room was decked out with masks and everyone was dressed to the nines. I had not seen people so dressed up in years. It was so impressive to see how elegant the evening was like something out of the mid-1980’s. No one had dressed up this much in years and it made the whole event feel so festive and special.
The band with the singer with the 1920’s outfit
I was able to catch up to people I had not seen in two years (since the last Afternoon Tea lecture in February of 2020 right before the shutdown) and we had a nice time talking about what had been happening over the last two years. It was a nice evening to get my mind off school and work. I slept so soundly that night when I got back to the hotel.
It was a very elegant party that night
The Mill’s would have been proud of this party
The day after the interview and the party, off I went early in the morning to visit the decorated mansions and take the tours. The Brinckerhoff House was my first stop and I would not be there long because they had a fundraiser at 1:00pm and I promised to be there, take the pictures and leave because they would be busy for the rest of the afternoon. The house looked just as pleasant as it did when I visited it over the summer but the nice part was the fireplaces were going giving that house that winter smell of firewood and pine.
The Brinckerhoff House at 68 North Kensington Drive at Christmas
The house was set up and decorated for an Afternoon Tea fundraiser
The Christmas tree at the Brinckerhoff house
I only stayed for about an half hour as volunteers were showing up to assist with the event and then I was off to my next house which was the Vanderbilt Mansion. This was a big weekend for the decorated homes and I figured I should visit them since I would not have time in the future.
The Vanderbilt tour was booked solid as people had the same idea that I had. I got on the 1:00pm tour and off we went to tour the mansion. I had been there many times before but never to see the Christmas decorations. When I had visited back in 2019, they were taking the decorations down when I got there. By the time we left, most everything on one side of the house was gone. Today though, the mansion was in its full glory.
The Vanderbilt Mansion at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park
The house was tastefully but not over-decorated as Fredrick Vanderbilt and his wife never used the home for Christmas. They were in Manhattan for the Christmas and the beginning of the social season that would last from Christmas to about Easter when everyone would head to their Spring homes in the country or in Florida.
The entrance hall to the Vanderbilt Mansion
The Dining Room set for a formal Christmas dinner
The Living Room with the family Christmas tree
The full tour of the mansion was very interesting and you got to hear the stories of Fredrick and the last years of his life. He simplified matters, sold all his other homes and moved here until he passed away. He wife had died and he stopped the social swirl and concentrated on his job with the railroad.
After the tour was over, the tour guide told me that FDR Estate was having a big Open House that day and that I should head over before they closed at 5:00pm. Myself and pretty much everyone on my tour headed over to Springwood, the home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Springwood Mansion at 4097 Albany Post Road in Hyde Park, NY
The first floor was decorated as it would have been for FDR and his family’s last Christmas when he was alive. The decorations were taken from old pictures of the house the year that he passed.
The entrance hall of Springwood decorated for Christmas
The library decorated for FDR’s last Christmas
The Dining Room was set for Christmas supper
The mansion again like the Vanderbilt Mansion was tastefully decorated but not overdone. The library had a tree with decorations and the many presents that the large extended family would have opened that day. The Dining Room was set for the family dinner with a children’s table in the back. It would have been a nice family affair.
We got to tour the rest of the house and head back to the Visitors Center for Hot Chocolate and cookies that they set up in the snack shop. That evening around 6:00pm, the Bard College music department was putting on a recital but I had to leave right after the tour as I had a tone of assignments and homework that I had to do for both colleges. At least I was finally able to see both mansions in their full glory at Christmas.
As I left the Vanderbilt and Roosevelt mansions, I passed Downtown Hyde Park, NY which has a small downtown with about two blocks of historical buildings and admired the lights and how the businesses decorated the lights and buildings. I stopped to take a picture of their Christmas tree which was ablaze with lights on this snowy night. It really did look like Christmas.
Downtown Hyde Park, NY
The Hyde Park, NY Christmas tree a block from downtown
I got home early that night to finish my papers on the Metaverse and my White Page on the visitors we had to our Travel Trends class. It was an uphill battle that night and on Monday for both presentations. We got a “B+” on the Metaverse paper and an “A” on the White Page and in both classes I got an “A”. The Mapping project would go on until December 22nd. It would take five revisions and a lot of late nights. We were able to pull out a “B+” on the Mapping paper of the Rockaways right as my own classes were ending.
That last week of school Monday classes ended and after the Tuesday class my classmates wanted to go for an evening of Karaoke. I had papers to grade when I got home so I declined and took a walk up to see the tree and clear my head before heading home.
Christmas in New York City is always a pleasure and with the City opened back up to tourism, it made it exciting again. The anticipation of Christmas in Manhattan is something to experience if you have never done it before. It all started for me when I declined a karaoke night with my classmates and went to see the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I just needed a walk after my Data Analytics class. It had been a rough semester. Just seeing the tree put me in the Christmas spirit.
The Tree as we call it in Rockefeller Center December 2022
I walked around Midtown along Fifth Avenue, looking at Saks Fifth Avenue’s windows, admiring the lights and looking at the skyline. I forgot how beautiful this area of the City is at night. It was a mild Tuesday night when I was walking around and there were not too many people around. the tourists had not arrived in full swing yet. Being a Tuesday night, it was relaxing being able to walk around the Rockefeller Center area without the crowds.
The side streets were particularly elegant
West 58th Street in its glory
The Plaza Hotel in all its glory that night
I saw this playful sculpture along with others on Fifth Avenue but it was near my old haunt FAO Schwarz
This was the best display window at Bergdorf-Goodman on Fifth Avenue
Still what stood out to me on that glorious evening was the beauty of Midtown Manhattan at night. Even though it was still early in the evening, it might have well been 11:00pm because the streets were so quiet that evening. This is why I love Manhattan.
The beauty of Midtown Manhattan at night
The Plaza Hotel and Bergdorf-Goodman shined that evening
This little trip to Midtown after class really cheered me up. It had been a long semester and I needed this little Christmas break from school. It really put me into the holiday spirit. On my way back to Port Authority to head home, I passed the New York Public Library on my way through Bryant Park to see the Christmas Village
Outside the New York Public Library where the lions were decorated for the holidays.
As the school year ended at Bergen Community College and classes were wrapping up, I was getting tired of giving the traditional quizzes so for Quiz Four I gave all three classes from Bergecco-Parc Consulting Inc. The students were asked by Corporate to arrange the company Christmas Party. They were asked to create the Invitation, the menu with an appetizer, main dish, dessert and a signature drink.
Then were asked to create a Christmas Corporate message and two classes were asked to create an original Christmas song. It is amazing what a group of students can accomplish in an hour. Everyone in all three classes got an “A” and I did not have to drag home quizzes to grade. I will remember this quiz in the future.
The Paramus Business 101 Team’s idea for the Corporate Christmas Event
The Marketing 201 Team’s Ideas for the Corporate Christmas Event
The original Christmas song from the Marketing 201 Team for the Corporate Christmas Party
The ideas that the students came up with in ONE HOUR were just fantastic. This is why I love being a College Professor when you can get this type of creativity out of your students.
This Christmas message won the competition from my Business 101 Lyndhurst Team
As we put the revisions to the Mapping paper for my Data Analytics class and I prepared the final exams for my students and graded my other classes work, I planned another trip to the Hudson River Valley to visit the rest of the decorated mansions on my list and update all my blogs for work. This was a long and very productive weekend. It would be capped off with a last minute Historical Christmas concert at the Bergen County Historical Society. I had not been to one of these in three years.
The Marriott Courtyard Fishkill is where the adventure began. I revisited Staatsburgh (The Mills Mansion) and Wilderstein and then on Saturday I went to the Meiser Homestead in Wappinger Falls for their Holiday Open House. I had to time everything perfectly because I had to be in Manhattan for a Christmas concert at Carnegie Hall at 8:00pm. I timed everything perfectly.
The Marriott Courtyard Fishkill was decorated nicely for Christmas
The Marriott did a nice job decorating the hotel for the holidays
I started my trip on a snowy Friday afternoon (it was funny that the weather was just cloudy down by us) and I made it for my 11:00am appointment to see Staatsburgh. I had been to the Mills Mansion fundraiser the week before but the whole house was not open that evening and I had only been there for an hour. Now I was able to tour the house at my leisure. I was even interviewed for the local papers by a woman who was doing an article on the decorated mansions of the area.
I returned to Staatsburgh on snowy cold afternoon so the mansion was pretty quiet for touring. There were only two people on the walking tour of the mansion that afternoon. The roads up to Hyde Park were not the best.
Staatsburgh-The Mills Mansion at 75 Mills Mansion Drive on that snowy afternoon
It was nice to tour the house in peace and quiet. The party the week before had been a lot of fun but you could not see the rest of the house. All the rooms were so beautifully decorated, and the Dining Room was decorated to the hilt with masks, the theme of the party the week before. Since there was only two of us touring around, I got interviewed by the local paper by a reporter doing the same thing I was doing, visiting these beautiful homes. Visit my blog, VisitingaMuseum.com to see all my stories on my visits to these beautiful mansions.
The article on The Mills Mansion:
Then it was off to Wilderstein
Wilderstein at 330 Morton Road in Rhinebeck, NY on that snowy afternoon
My last stop that evening was to Woodstock, NY. I had planned to come this year for the parade but with my brother coming in for Christmas that changed my plans. I figured this was the last time I was going to be able to come up before the holidays. So I braved the slush and snow and drove the long roads up to Woodstock. It never disappoints me.
The Village Square at Woodstock, NY during the holidays
The Woodstock, NY Christmas tree is always interesting
After dinner, I slept so soundly at the hotel again. The Marriott Courtyard in Fishkill, NY is in the perfect location with Route 84 and the mountains right behind it. Easy to get to the highway home but still the best views when you wake up.
The amazing view from my hotel room at the back of the hotel facing the mountains
I had to rush to go on the 10:30am tour of Locust Grove, the former home of Samuel Morse, that I wanted to photograph before I left for the Meiser Homestead. There was not time to eat this morning. Thank God I had some baked goods in the hotel room.
The Christmas tree in the formal Living Room in the Tower section of the home
The Dining Room at Locust Grove at Christmas
The Billiards Room at Locust Grove at Christmas
I toured the whole house in our private tour at 10:30am. There were so many people on the tour, they called a special docent in to run the tour and we had the house to ourselves. Ehtel lead the tour and we took time to enjoy each room. Then it was off the Meiser Homestead for their Open House.
The Mesier Homestead at 2 Spring Street in Wappingers Falls, NY
The Foyer at the Meiser Homestead decked out for the holidays
The Living Room with the Christmas tree
The Dining Room set for Christmas lunch
Downtown Wappingers Falls during Christmas
The Wappingers Falls Christmas tree in the downtown
After I returned home from the Meiser Homestead Open House, it was change clothes again and into the City I went. I did not have much time to do anything in the evenings when classes were going on at NYU so after the semester was over and my third class was finished for the semester at Bergen Community College, I got a last minute ticket to see NY Pops at Carnegie Hall with singer Ingrid Michaelson. What a concert!
I had not been to Carnegie Hall since 2019 in pre-COVID and this always is a tough concert to buy tickets for but I snagged a Saturday night ticket in Row H on the aisle (I have long legs) and it was fate.
The entrance to Carnegie Hall at 57th and Seventh Avenue on the night of the concert. Our concert is to the left.
The inside of Carnegie Hall decorated for the holidays. The crowds were getting settled into the theater.
The stage at Carnegie Hall decorated for Christmas
The excitement built when I entered the hall and it was all decked out for Christmas. It was a site to see. The surprising part was how casual everyone was dressed for the evening. I was really thrown by this especially at the holidays. My seatmate was also dressed to the nines and she made the same comment. She introduced herself and I thought it was funny that a recently married woman would come to the show by herself but there we were acting like two single people.
The beauty of the stage that night just as the NY Pops members started to come on to the stage
Ingrid Michaelson and her fellow singers on stage
The whole concert was amazing and Ingrid Michaelson was fantastic that evening. What I thought was funny was the end of these concerts end with a sing along with Santa on stage and that did not happen this time. She ended the show with one of her signature songs. Maybe her Friday night concert had that. Even though, the concert was excellent and I shared the two songs below that were my favorite from the show.
This was my favorite song from the concert “Christmas Valentine” a new classic. This was written by both Ingrid Michaelson and Jason Mraz who performed it that night on stage.
The other great song from the concert was “Christmas Time is Here”:
“Christmas Time is Here” by Ingrid Michaelson
Even though it was a almost a two hour concert, it just seemed to end very quickly. After the concert was over, I just exploring the area around Lincoln Center. What a beautiful evening it was right before Christmas. People were talking in the local parks, admiring the Christmas lights in trees all over the neighborhood. Christmas tree stands were running in full force as people were decorating their homes on top of the their busy schedules.
Christmas tree sales by Carnegie Hall
For both lunch and dinner I returned to Amore Pizza cafe at 370 West 59th Street, which is down the road from Carnegie Hall. I swear that their food is the best.
I stopped in for a slice of Meat Lovers Pizza which was more than enough before the show and after the show I was still hungry. I went back and had a Chicken Parmesan Hero, which was good but it had been made from chopped fried chicken breasts instead of a freshly fried breast. It was good but not as good as the pizza was that night. After dinner, I just walked around Midtown and down Fifth Avenue admiring the windows.
The Meat Lovers Pizza at Amore Pizza Cafe is excellent
The weekend was not finished yet as I had an early morning walking tour of the Philipsburg Manor in Sleepy Hollow and then I had a Christmas concert at the Bergen County Historical Society in River Edge. Since I had to extend my leave with the fire department, I missed the first “Santa Around Town” in eighteen years. This on top of the fact that I was supposed to run it. With my work and college schedule, I had to ‘cry uncle’ and give it up which really disappointed me. I had some really good plans for it. In the end only thirteen guys showed up out of fifty and they had a fire call before the event ended. Thank God it was just a block chimney.
I left for the last day walking tour of the Philipsburg Manor before the house closed for the season. I was on the last walking tour of the house. Since the house was not insulated and the weather gets bad for the winter, the house will not open again until April. So I was hoping to get some picture taking in and see the decorations. The house was not decorated for the holidays but still the tour was interesting.
The Philipsburg Manor house 381 North Broadway in Sleepy Hollow, NY
The tour was about an hour and we had indoor and outdoor activities that we got involved with cooking hardtack, touring the house and grounds and helping in the barn beating out the wheat seed. When the actors who worked at the site (who must have been freezing their butts off because it was cold that morning) told us and demonstrated the work that had been done on the estate, this was hard work! This was a working farm and business transport spot, not where a family lived and entertained. When Mr. Philips was on property, he was here for business and nothing else. The staff ran this farm.
Us making Hardtack at the outdoor oven
Our visit to the barn where were loosening the wheat seeds. This poor woman was out there all morning in the cold!
The tour was about an hour and I thought that the house would have had some Dutch Christmas decorations but again the tour guides and historians said that the house for business and visiting not for the day in day out lives of the family. Still it was interesting. After our tour finished, I toured the gift shop and then headed home to get ready for the concert.
The Bergen County Historical Society at New Bridge Landing brought back their indoor concerts for Christmas including opening the Blackhorse Pub (The Campbell-Christie House) for dinner before and after the concerts. It was so nice to come to this again. The crowds were a little light at the second concert at 7:45pm on a Sunday night but it made it more fun that we could still socially distance from each other and there was plenty of space to spread out.
I started the evening early at the pub eating my dinner before the concert. The pub had a limited but very nice menu based on what foods that may have been served at the time period (with a modern twist of course). There was Shepard’s Pie, a Ploughman’s Plate, Onion Pie, Trifle and Dutch Cookies and desserts on the menu..
The Campbell-Christie House at 1209 Main Street in River Edge, NJ at the Bergen County Historical Society
The Campbell-Christie House was used as the “Blackhorse Tavern” for the evening where pub food could be ordered for dinner. It was really beautiful that night with all the tables a glow from the candles and the room decorated with holly, garland and wreaths for the holidays.
The Blackhorse Tavern for dinner
After dinner was over, I had plenty of time to explore the gift shop and wonder around the property to see the other decorations. The other buildings on the property were closed that evening but still decorated so I followed the lantern filled pathway and looked at the decorations.
Before the second concert that evening that I would be attending at 7:45pm I wondered around the museum part of the Steuben House where the concerts were taking place. The exhibits were set up with a holiday/Christmas theme in mind. One display was on a candy maker who once had a store in Downtown Hackensack.
Bogert’s Candy Shop in Downtown Hackensack closed in 1934
Decorating the house both during the Revolutionary War and during the Victorian Age was a very extensive affair of preparing the house for entertainment. Garland, holly and pine would have been important to decorate with but it was the Christmas ornaments of the Victorian age and trimming trees with ornaments that would have made the tree very festive.
There were also displays on entertaining during that time period and soldiers lives while the war was going on and what would be needed. It could be lonely at the holidays.
We started to settle in as the second concert was about to start. The room was decorated for the holidays with a combination of Victorian and Revolutionary decorations.
The ballroom at the Steuben House
We were then treated to a concert by the great Linda Russell whose interpretations of Revolutionary Christmas songs is well known. We had a hour long concert of favorite songs, talks about the times and a history of the music itself. She shared with us her insights towards the holidays of New Jersey versus New England and their Puritan ways. Thank God we knew how to party then too.
Linda Russell (to the far left) and her group entertained us for the evening with songs, talks, a few jokes and a wonderful night of excellent music.
We were entertained for about an hour and got time during the intermission to talk with the musicians who shared their experiences with us and about the musical equipment that they were using that evening. It was an interesting talk and a wonderful concert. I highly recommend visiting the Bergen County Historical Society during this time of the year. They do a nice job with this concert and the site is so beautifully decorated for the Christmas holiday season.
Before my the last day of classes at Bergen Community College on December 22nd, I made one last trip into the City before I left for my mother’s. The house had to get cleaned and the laundry had to get done and I got all my errands done before I left. I just wanted to walk around and get my mind off both colleges. It had been a long semester and I was burnt out. The City could not have been more beautiful.
Christmas on Park Avenue
Park Avenue was lined with Christmas trees lighting up before it got dark
Homes on the Upper East Side were beautifully decorated for the holidays
Homes on the Upper East Side were decorated so nicely and some blocks there seemed to be a competition for whose house was nicer.
I went to Rockefeller Center one more time to see the tree and it was like a madhouse so I just looked at it from across the street and continued walking around the Upper East Side down to the Cornell Club where I relaxed for a bit before I went home. People would start taking their decorations down after the holidays and I wanted to take one more glimpse of the neighborhoods before that happened.
The Empire State Building from the Flatiron District
Christmas Eve morning, I visit the cemeteries and pay my respects to my family before I leave for my mother’s. I think it’s important to pay your respects. After fighting the crowds at Mills Bakery on Christmas Eve morning to get a Seven Layer Cake and breakfast cakes and doughnuts for the next day, I left for Rehoboth Beach. I swear the roads were really quiet and it was the first time that I got down to my mom’s in three and a half hours.
Mills Bakery at 275 Valley Boulevard in Wood Ridge, NJ had the most festive cakes, pies and cookies for the holidays
I had just seen my mother in September after the Firemen’s Convention but this was the first time since 2019 that we had spent Christmas together. COVID has really wreaked havoc on the holidays.
Christmas Eve and Day were spent at my mom’s which we have not done since the pandemic. It kept us away and it was strange not having a family get together for three years. It was nice to get together as a family again. On Christmas Eve, we went to a Chinese restaurant for dinner and the place was a madhouse.
My review on TripAdvisor of Confucius Chinese Restaurant:
Even with all the crowds, it was nice to just sit back and enjoy the meal and not have to do anything. I slept so soundly that night knowing that I did not have to be anywhere for a month.
My mother really decorated the house beautifully.
The House at Christmas.
Jane set the table so elegantly.
Cooking this year like in 2019 is now a family affair. My Mom relinquish some control of the kitchen over the last couple of years as dinner was getting to be too much for her to do alone so we all help now. My brother and I coordinate the schedules and plan the menu with my mom and we each did part of the meal and cooked it. This is what the Team work produced:
The Appetizers and Desserts being prepped for dinner:
Mom should be hired by Nancy Meyers to do visuals for her films.
The Potato Croquettes that I prepared for dinner, the Broccoli Casserole and the homemade Apple Pie my mother prepared for dinner (my mom makes the best pies).
We were all getting ready to cook our portion of Christmas Dinner.
My mother preparing the Sauteed String Beans
Me preparing the Potato Croquettes (which by the way were a big hit I think I look like a French Chef).
My brother getting the Roast carved before the start of dinner.
My Mother with the final Christmas dinner that was the Team effort
Christmas Dinner 2022 and everyone loved it! The dinner was Roast Fresh Park, Potato Croquettes, Apple Sauce, Broccoli Souffle and Sauteed String Beans.
The Desserts were Homemade Apple Pie and a Seven Layer Cake that I brought from Mills Bakery. My brother also made all the Christmas cookies.
My family on Christmas Day after dinner (minus my younger brother and his kids).
We had such a nice time with my mother and her friends at dinner and it was a nice quiet and mellow Christmas. It was what I needed after a long school year.
The day after Christmas while my brother headed to New York City, I took the ferry from Lewes to Cape May to spend the night and admire all the decorations all over town. I only spent one night in Cape May but with how relaxing, beautiful and quiet it was that evening I felt like I had been there for a week. I always say in my blogs that the only town to rival Rhinebeck, NY at Christmas is Cape May, NJ.
I took the ferry the next day from Lewes, DE to Cape May, NJ and thank God the weather was nice. We had really light waves and the trip went by really quick. We got into Cape May in a little over an hour and a half. Since I did not have to check into my hotel and it was getting late, I decided to head over to Sunset Beach and watch the sun set. That really relaxed me. In any weather, I swear the beach is always full of people doing the same thing. It was relatively warm that day and when I got to the park, people were playing miniature golf at the little range they have there. I thought that was amusing.
The sunset was fantastic! The weather had really cleared that evening and the colors were so entrancing.
The sun preparing to set that night
The hues at Sunset Beach make this place very special
I just stayed until it got a bit dark and then I headed to the hotel. I stay at the Chalfonte in the winter time in their Souther Quarters (the regular hotel is not insulted and closed until May) and I always enjoy the rooms with their cheery shabbiness and the way the place is always decorated for the holidays. You have to like these old hotels.
The Southern Quarters at the Chalfonte Hotel at 301 Howard Street
I have been coming to the hotel for Christmas for the last several years and last year when COVID again shut things down for Christmas, I stayed here while visiting my younger brother in Rehoboth Beach when he came for a visit. I love Cape May at Christmastime.
The hotel has that festive home away from home feeling with poinsettias around the hotel, Christmas candies and chocolates at the front door and Christmas lights around the building.
I like the shabby chic of the place
My room was really nice and the bed was so comfortable
The room has just been renovated but still had a water spot on the ceiling. That is the charm of the Chalfonte. It reminds you that it is an old hotel. I ventured out to the downtown and the Washington Mall that evening to see the true magic of what makes Cape May a Christmas town. All the lights, trees and decorations make sure that Santa does not miss this town.
The town square with it’s Christmas tree in the bandstand and white lights all over the little part are whimsical and magically as you walk through them. It always reminds me of “Whoville” in the “Grinch that stole Christmas”.
Cape May Town Square at Christmas
The bandstand and Christmas tree are amazing at night
The Cape May Christmas tree
I spent a good part of the my evening admiring the lights of downtown and of Washington Mall which is the downtown section of Cape May. The whole neighborhood was ablaze with lights, decorations and beautiful Christmas displays in the windows. Cape May knows how to decorate for the holidays.
The Washington Mall at night
The Washington Mall in Cape May decorated for the holidays
Our Lady of the Star Sea Church at 525 Washington Street in Downtown Cape May
After a long walk picture taking everything in the downtown from every angle (I have pictures that I ended up using for other sites), I went back to the room to relax. I just sunk into the pillows and went out like a light. I woke up two hours later and got to bed. I slept so soundly again.
The next morning was rested and ready to go. I had my usual post-Christmas game plan. I started with breakfast at the Mad Batter, a local well known restaurant in Cape May and the food is always excellent. I have eaten here several times and I highly recommend it.
The food and the service are always very good. That morning there seemed to be only one waitress on the floor and I swear that this woman handled the dining room like a pro. The service was flawless and she never panicked.
The Bacon and Cheese Omelet with home fries was outstanding
After breakfast was over, I gathered my things at the hotel and dropped off my keys and then spent the afternoon visiting historical sites. Most everything I was surprised were closed so I took exterior shots to update my blogs.
While walking downtown, I saw that Our Lady of the Star Sea, the Catholic Church in the Washington Mall was having service at 11:00am. Since I did not go to church services on Christmas Eve or Day, I went in for the post-Christmas services. I was surprised how crowded they were that morning. I found out that a young new priest has just come from the seminary and started that day. I found him very inspirational and very enthusiastic.
The church was so beautifully decorated for the holidays
Our Lady Star of the Sea for the Christmas holiday season
After church services were over, I toured around Cape May. I had a noon time appointment at the Physick Mansion to see their Christmas decorations so I stopped at a few of the museum around the downtown area but again all closed.
The Physick Mansion tour at the holidays I have taken many times and it is one of the nicest homes decorated for the holidays. Many people would not have decorated every nook and cranny of the house the way this is but like Locust Grove, it gives you an idea of how the Victorians celebrated the holidays.
The decorations were amazing and the house was decked to the hilt for the Christmas holidays. We got to tour the entire house and every room has such festive garland and Christmas trees. The family seemed to know how to celebrate the holidays.
The Living Room at the Physick Estate
The Dining Room
The Parlor with the ‘Tabletop’ Tree in the corner
We went room by room with the tour guide explaining how the family would prepare for Christmas and the preparations that would have to be done by the staff for guests and for the family dinner. There would be many trips to Philadelphia department stores for gifts for the family. You felt on the tour that the family had just left for the day.
After the tour, I headed over to West Cape May to see the Cape May Lighthouse and was surprised that it was open that day. With everything else being closed, it was a treat to be able to climb it again. The drive in was nice as people decorated their homes nicely and being a warm day around 50 degrees (Christmas just seems to be getting warmer), I drove around for a bit to admire them.
The entrance to the Borough of Cape May Point decked for the holidays
The outdoor Christmas display in West Cape May
The Cape May Lighthouse and grounds were really busy with visitors and being such a warm day many were walking on the beach or admiring the park. Several passed me as I climbed the lighthouse which I had not done in a few years. The view on this clear sunny day was great.
The views from the top were so clear and beautiful and being so clear you could see the entire surrounding community.
The view from the top of the Cape May Lighthouse
After climbing up and back down, I passed more people who I could not believe were complaining on how hard it was to walk it. I got up in about ten minutes with a couple of stops and then was back down again once reaching the top. It is not that hard and is well worth the trip up.
Watching the time, I wanted to visit the farms in the area but Rea Farm was closed for the season so I headed to Beach Plum Farm, which has become quite the tourist stop since my first trip to Cape May. It is such a picturesque farm but it looks very planned. When I first started coming here is was a more local farm. Now it looks like a gourmet shop and it has gotten more expensive.
The entrance to Beach Plum Farm at 140 Stevens Street
I toured around the gift shop and admired the beautiful displays of gourmet foods. The place was almost empty as I could see that they must have had a very good Christmas. There was some serious restocking that needed to be done.
The wonderful gourmet items at Beach Plum Farm
I ended my afternoon feeding the chickens before I left the farm. God they were so excited to see me. I just had a little feed and they ran all around me like groupies. I guess this is how the farm feeds them. It was the best quarter I spent on the trip.
The chickens were a very excited bunch that afternoon
Before I left Cape May that day for home, I visited Sunset Beach one more time to enjoy the weather. The beach was pretty crowded again as everyone waited to see the sun set again on Cape May. Like I said before, you can see this a hundred times but it is never boring.
Sunset Beach on a warmish sunny day attracts a lot of visitors
From Sunset Beach, I headed home. I stopped for a quick slice of pizza on the way and then I had to leave Cape May (until the next time). There was a lot to do and I had places that I wanted to visit before the holidays were over. I could not believe how much work I got done on this two day trip to Cape May. I got to see a lot.
In the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I made another trip around the City. Since I did not have to return to classes until the end of January, I was able to take my time and explore around campus and the Village. Christmas was still in full swing.
Christmas in Greenwich Village
Decorations in one of the pocket parks on Greenwich Street
Homes decked out for the holidays
Townhouses decked out for the holidays
I also made a special trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Christmas tree and decorations before the museum took them down after the Epiphany. I love seeing them every year. It still is a big attraction at the museum and you have to visit it before that first weekend in January is over.
The Metropolitan Museum of at at 1000 Fifth Avenue:
My last holiday event before school started again was Epiphany services at the Reformed Church of Paramus and visiting my father for his birthday. It can be sobering but I try to still celebrate his life and going to this church puts me into the Christmas spirit.
The Paramus Reformed Church in Ridgewood, NJ
Christmas services at the Paramus Reformed Church
The Paramus Reformed Church’s decorations by Route 17 are always tasteful
After services were over, I stayed and joined the other parishioners for Tea and snacks after the service and talked with other parishioners. It was nice to sit back after a long holiday season and just relax. After services were over, I went to pay respects to my father for his birthday (which is the reason why I come here for church as its on the way home). The cemetery was filled to the brim with wreaths and grave blankets so even though it was a cemetery, there was still a festive feel to the fact that so many people paid their respects to their families.
My aunt took me out on the last day of the Epiphany weekend for my combination birthday/Christmas present dinner to the Ivy Inn. What a nice evening we had and it was the perfect way to end the holiday season. The Chef/ Owner was not there that day but we were able to discuss with the staff the paper I wrote on the Metaverse. They seemed amused by it all (see my review on dinner on my TripAdvisor review above by the Metaverse paper story).
The Ivy Inn decorated for Christmas
The beauty of the dining room decorated for the holidays
The delicious salad I started with
The delicious Penne with Sundried Tomatoes and Sweet Sausage that I had that evening
My aunt and I shared this wonderful Zeppoles with Chocolate and Raspberry sauces
It was a magical evening with good food and company in a festive environment. I really needed this with all the running around with school, work, blogging and research that I had done from Thanksgiving to the Epiphany. It was a lot for one person to pull off and somehow I managed it all. I am lucky that I have supportive friends and family.
I had the entire month of January to relax before the whole thing began again for Spring Semester and that is all I wanted to do. It didn’t quite happen that way but I finally got time to myself which I needed.
My work for my blogs took me all over New York and New Jersey, visiting small towns, admiring Christmas decorations and supporting many community events. Please visit my other blogs DiningonaShoeStringin NYC@Wordpress.com, LittleShoponMainStreet@Wordpress.com and VisitingaMuseum.com to see all the updates, more detailed stories on the mansions and events and all my updated pictures.
I got my final grades by the end of the semester and it was straight “A”‘s. This was the first time in my life I ever did that! Don’t even ask me how I pulled this all off!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
The Empire State Building from the NoMAD section of Manhattan just off Broadway
The colorful and mouthwatering selection of donuts is what lured me into this popular and very special dessert shop in Greenwich Village. Just one look in the window wanted to make me walk inside.
The unique logo
Walking into The Donut Pub is like walking into the donut version of “Willy Wonka’s”. There are just so many choices and all those delicious donuts scream “Buy me”! I have only been in The Donut Pub a few times, but I am hooked already. Just looking in the window makes me hungry.
The first time I passed the shop I was just taking a look at what was on display to see what they carried and this delicious and mouthwatering large…
When I was at the Specialty Foods Sumer Fancy Food Show this summer, there were many innovative snack companies that have been created manufacturing and marketing all sorts of chips, crackers and popcorn snacks of all flavors. Even the bigger companies are coming out with more specialty lines when Herr Foods introduced the ‘Good Natured’ line of snacks in 2013.
This selection of various flavored snack foods is a wonderful and diverse selection of tastes and shapes. The two that stood out for me at the show were the ‘Vegables’, which are small crispy triangles with the flavor of spinach, carrots and tomatoes with a slight saltiness and a fantastic crunch.
These delightful snacks have such a colorful appearance and when you bite into them pop in your mouth. Flavored with vegetables, these…
After a two-year hiatus, the Summer Fancy Food Show came back to New York City. It was funny to see it come back the way it did with all the publicly. I even got a special email from one of the women coordinating the event making sure that I am attending the show. They give you such a hassle with the form to sign up for the show. You have to give so much information to get in, but I figure that most people try to get in thinking it is a ‘eat a thon’ event when there is no way of doing that without getting sick.
After coming to this show and many other industry shows like it, you realize that you need to pace yourself when you are sampling items. I learned this since my first show back in 2003 (I can’t believe that I have been coming to this show for almost twenty years) that you need to take your time and come back to the booths for a second time in case you want an extra taste.
If you go down your first aisle and sample everything, you will never make it at this show. You need to look at the booth, see what the vendor is displaying and if it looks interesting and then think about sampling. With the number of cookies, crackers, candy, snack foods, ice cream, pizza and sauces, it can overload your body and you will feel it later in the afternoon. It can be a system overload.
I broke the visit up into the full three days and tried to get to the show all three mornings and afternoons. I found that the show was not as big as the one back in 2019 but things were just getting back up to speed with us trying to put COVID behind us. It was tough because some people still insisted on wearing masks which is tough when you are at a food show. Like everything else, pace yourself.
After three days of sampling and tasting and talking with vendors from all over the world, some looking for distributers and some just looking to get a foothold in the market or just get the word out, there were many food merchants that stood out amongst the others. I wanted to share them with grocery shoppers who will see these products on shelves all over the world.
I was very impressed by the Foreign Pavillon this year. I could not believe that so many people came from abroad for the show because I was not sure what to think after a two-year absence of the show. There was a lot of unique products and some excellent packaging but the one thing that really surprises me is that most of the representatives of these companies are not that social with anyone.
Most sit there and look at their cellphones. In the past if there was a major soccer game going on between two countries represented at the show, you would see a lot of commotion. Since the show was pretty quiet on Sunday and then on Monday morning, the booths were quiet as well. There were still a lot of standouts at the Foreign Pavilions.
In the French Pavillion, some of the best products came from Maison Francis Miot, champion Jam, Candy and Confectionary maker. The products were bar none the best ones I tasted at the show.
Maison Francis Miot products were “Best in Show” to me
I tried their artisan fruit spreads, strawberry and blueberry jams and the Mystere du Chef, a mixture of different fruits. These jams were just spectacular and what intense flavors. They use only the freshest fruits and mixed with cane sugar and then they are cooked in small batches. Trust me, you can taste the complex flavor of the jams when spread on an English muffin.
Their Strawberry jelly is one of the best I have ever tasted
If you thought the jams were amazing, their candies were just as spectacular. They gave me a small goody bag of mini jars of jam, Coucougnettes, a grilled almond that is made by hand and rolled in an almond paste flavored with raspberry and ginger and Fruit Paste tubes, which are fruits cooked in copper bowls, dried and cut up into cubes and candied with cane sugar. Talk about heavenly candies!
The Raspberry Coucougnettes is to the left and the Fruit Cubes to the right have the most intense fruity flavors
When you bite into the Raspberry Coucougnettes, it is like biting into a piece of heaven. You can taste the fresh raspberry in each bite and the cane sugar really brings out the flavor of the candy. The Fruit Cubes were the perfect bite of sweetness where you really could taste the fruit flavors of each one again accented by high quality sugar. There was a lot of care put into these candies. These were some of the best items that I enjoyed at the show.
Another vendor who products I enjoyed was in the Vietnamese Pavillon. The beverage maker, Vinut, has a delicious line of fruit juice beverages. When chilled, these drinks have an amazing flavor.
I tried both the Passion Fruit and the Mango flavors and was most impressed by the Passion Fruit which was sweet and tart at the same time. I also liked the colorfulness of the packaging. The flavors were very bold and when well chilled, the flavors really come out with each sip.
The Passion Fruit Drink by Vinut is wonderful
Another wonderful beverage came from the Korean Pavillon by GEO Enterprise, a distributer of Korean food products. One of the brands that they distribute to the United States is a line of beverages by Smart Framing Creator (SFCBio). This line of Sparkling Fruit Waters has such a refreshing flavor to them. They taste like a fizzy fruit water that bursts in your mouth when you sip them.
I tried both the Sparkling Melon and Sparkling Plum flavors, and both had very interesting tastes. They were refreshing and light, but you could still taste the fruit flavors with each sip. The plum had a nice sweet and tart taste to the flavor. These would be perfect with any Chinese or Asian food meal to accent the rich flavored sauces.
Smart Farmer Creator beverages by SFCBio
There were many American Beverage companies at the show as well sampling their drinks. Several of them stood out amongst the rest for their unique packaging and interesting flavors. I really enjoyed the Mango and the Green Tea that I tried at the show. It was rather unusual that the pearls stayed in form at the bottom of the drink. I loved the exotic flavors that they offered in their selection.
The Lorina Artisanal Lemonade Crafters I have had before but some of the flavors I had not sampled. I have bought the Lemonade many times, but Pink Lemonade had a sweeter and tarter flavor to it. I also like the packaging for these drinks.
The Chi Forest beverages also have many exotic flavors not known to the American palate, but their flavors cater to the growing population wanting to try something new. The Iced Teas are light and really refreshing and the sparkling drinks have a nice bite to them. The White Peach flavor is just wonderful. It is light, sweet and very zesty. I am surprised that these drinks are not more popular with their interesting combination of flavors.
Of the American beverages, one of the standouts is the Hawaiian Iced Tea by NOH Foods. This delicious and refreshing iced tea is flavored with cane sugar, which is the only way sodas should be flavored. There is a big difference between them, and products flavored with high fructose corn syrup. There is a certain sweetness that cane sugar gives to drinks that make them standout and the Hawaiian Iced Teas just have a better-rounded flavor. That and the founder and his son are both really nice and I can tell take a lot of pride in their product.
Hawaiian Iced Tea
One beverage that stood out for both its taste and its packaging was Inner Love’s Foods Lemonblueade.
The small bottle of refreshing juice I realized was also a cleansing drink and a real pick me up. An all-natural version of a power beverage, this sweet drink is full of vitamins and nutrients and whose sweet flavor gives you a burst of energy. I was surprised how this one tiny bottle gave me so much energy for the rest of the visit of the food show.
This refreshing drink is a real pick me up in one gulp
I LOVE the logo for Inner Love Foods products. I think this would make a great tee-shirt
In the Ice Cream Category, the one standout and a place that I love to visit when I am in Rhinebeck, NY is Del’s Dairy Barn, who sell Del’s Ice which is made from milk from the cows on the owner’s farm.
This dense and creamy ice cream is now available in pint commercially and should not be missed. The Lemon Curd and Lavendar Blueberry ice creams are the standouts from Del’s. Any flavor from Del’s is a real treat. If you have time, take a trip up Route 9 in the Hudson River Valley and stop and get a couple of scoops if it is not available in your local grocery (See DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com):
Del’s Packaged Hard Ice Creams are now available in the grocery stores. Still take time out to visit Rhinebeck, NY to their restaurant on Route 9 in the Hudson River Valley.
I thought the Nightingale Ice Cream Sandwiches were also very good and had delicious flavors. The only problem that I had with these wonderful little treats was the sheer cost that they must sell at retail in stores. You are going to have to go to a very high end store to find these. This is the problem I have with gourmet ice cream sandwiches. They taste amazing but with the perceived value and cost, even these unique treats are going to need to find a very well heeled customer.
There were many standouts in the Candy Category some with packaging and some with taste and some with both. It depended on who the product was trying to cater to and the way it was presented.
Toybox Candies I did not get to try as they were not handing out samples and I could not taste them, but the packaging was really colorful, and I could see this product catering to an eager child or the child within us. The products jumped out at you with bright colors and flashy cartoons, and they were the type of candies that young children could buy for themselves with their allowances or give each other as gifts.
Other items for kids that were not in the Candy Category but had creative packaging to make children say “Buy me” was Food Paint. These whimsical packaged toppings are all natural and made with organic fruits and no artificial colors or flavors. Noshi’s Kids Food Paint was one of those items.
These small tubes fit into a child’s hands and come in Sketchup (Ketchup for hamburgers and fries), Raspberry, Grape and Mango fruit purees perfect for pancakes, waffles and for toast and fruit flavors strawberry, peach and blueberry toppings for ice cream.
The Fruit Pures at Noshi Food Paint
When I talked with the owner of the company, he said that he created this when his kids did not like the flavors, colors and tastes of the commercial brands plus they did not want to fuss with the adult brands. I found the packaging fun and playful.
In the Baked Cookie Category, there was many different flavors and textures that stood out amongst the rest. There were soft cookies, hard cookies, vegan cookies and gourmet cookies. I ate my way through dozens of vendors trying all sorts of baked treat loaded with butter and sugar and then others that fit the roll with no eggs and flour.
From the Spanish Pavillon on my last day, I was able to take a sleeve of cookies from Gullon, a Spanish baking company and sample them at home.
I munched through a package of the ‘Dueto’, sandwich cookies with chocolate flavored filling which were delightful. More of a tea cookie then soft cookie you would find in the States, these sugary light cookies are filled with a creamy milk chocolate spread. They are simple and sweet and make a perfect accompaniment with coffee and tea or for a great snack.
The ‘Dueto’ cookies with a chocolaty center are a delightful tea biscuit type cookie
One of the standouts of the show in the Cookie Category was Rule Breaker, a vegan cookie brand that used chickpeas as its main ingredient and there was a lot of all natural ingredients as their flavorings. You could tell though that these were not made out of flour and eggs, but the consistency was they were chewy and sweet and their rather unusual flavors.
I got to see them a third time my last day of the show and they gave me all sorts of samples that I was able to try at home. My standouts are the birthday cake with the sweetness of those sprinkles inside and the Chocolate Chunk Blondies with their chocolaty sweetness with pieces of chocolate inside.
I recommend Rule Breaker for those of you who are gluten intolerant and want a guilty pleasure. These are sweetened with natural ingredients and making treats that don’t leave anyone out. These soft cookies and bites make the perfect treat.
Another product from Hawaii was very impressive as well. The Honolulu Cookie Company. These delicious mini cookie shortbreads are sweet, rich and buttery and have the most amazing snap when you bite into them.
There were two I tried when they were offering me samples, the Pineapple Macadamia made with fresh pineapple juice and the Chocolate Chip Macadamia. Both had the richest flavors and after one or two of them was more than enough to satisfy my sweet tooth. You could really taste the pineapple flavor in the cookies. The packaging is a gift it itself and would make the nicest host present.
Another delicious baker was Bisousweet Confections who make the most delicious Doughnut Muffins. These wonderful, sweet treats are a hybrid between a muffin and a doughnut and have the most amazing consistency.
Bisousweet Confections-Doughnut Muffins
I sampled both their Maple Apple flavor and their seasonal flavor or Pumpkin both which were soft and chewy and had a nice sugary consistency. The flavors were wonderful. I can see that the pumpkin ones will be very popular going into the fall.
One cheerful standout in the cookie category was Smiley Cookie.com, which were freshly baked, hand-iced sugar cookies. The cookies were made fresh daily in their factory and could be adapted at the holidays.
These sweet and crunchy cookies can brighten up anyone’s day. If this treat was given up with a restaurant bill or to a guest leaving a restaurant, it would cheer them up immediately. Not only do they look good it is the most optimistic dessert I saw at the show.
There were plenty of entrée, appetizer, pizza and ethnic items to choose from at the show, but you have to face reality that most of the sauces began to blend into one another and there are only so many dumplings you can eat before they all taste alike.
Still there were many that were a step above the others in quality, flavor and how nicely they cooked up at the show. I had several favorites that I went back to their booths more than once or had to try all the other items in their selection.
Wei-Chuan U.S.A. Inc. out of California had some of the best Chinese appetizers at the show. This is one of the booths that I visited three times to try their products. Their Vegetable & Pork Potstickers cooked up nicely and the filling had so much flavor accented by the soy dipping sauce they had on the side.
The Chicken Egg Rolls were loaded with fresh vegetables and ground chicken that were nicely spiced and fried to perfection. Their Hong Kong Style Cha Shu Buns were my hands down favorite with the sweet pork filling and the soft outside rice bun. They pulled apart so nicely.
An American twist to a French appetizer came from a newer vendor at the show Gougeres Artisanal Cheese Puffs. These soft, pillowy puffy little bites light and chewy when you bit into them, and I liked the Classic Gruyere that I sampled.
I had sampled more than a few when visited the booth with enjoying their sharp cheesy flavor. The owner told me that he made these all the time and that they had been popular at parties, and he decided to open it as a business. He made a good choice.
Holy Perogy offered delicious and perfectly cooked potato dumplings that had been lightly fried out.
They were the perfect size to be eaten as an appetizer or as a side dish. I had sampled the Fried Onion and they had such a nice flavor of the well-spiced potato mix accented by the onions. Needless to say, their booth was very busy and did not get to try the others.
Geefree offered a selection gluten free appetizer that were really wonderful. The mini quiches I sampled were well cooked and had a nice buttery taste to them. The Rice Balls were wonderful and were crisp on the outside and moist and tasty inside.
These delightful little fried circles of Ham & Swiss Cheese deserved a second sampling. They were crispy on the outside and soft and stringy on the inside with the nicest combination of cheese and spices. They tasted like a combination of potato coquette and a stuffed potato patty. It was another very popular booth.
The old packaging for the product that stood out so much at the show
One of the standouts in the Pizza Category was Milton’s Craft Bakers Cauliflower Crust Pizza. There is no other word to describe their pizzas but delicious. I never thought that I would like a crust made out of cauliflower, but it is light and crisp, and the sauce has so much flavor to it. It has the most amazing consistency when baked and has a nice selection of toppings. It was a pizza product that stood out at the show.
This Los Angelos based American company has a complete line of Greek savories and sweets with Baklavas, Rolls and Turkish Bagels. The one product that I sampled and enjoyed was their Pastry with Cheese Filling (The Su Borek). This entree was filled with a tasty cheese filling between the layers of buttery pastry. Each bite has a nice crispiness from the layers of crisp pastry and the light flavor of the cheese filling that bakes up golden brown.
‘Su Borek’, Pastry with Cheese filling
One American favorite, the Hot Dog, was showcased perfectly by the Tandem Foods.
Their hot dogs have a combination of pork, beef, lard and spices where the quality is so different from the average hot dog in size and flavor. I sampled both the plain frankfurters and the Pork and Cheese, and quality of the meat mixture and spiciness showed in the flavor of each bite.
My standout show favorite was the lobster products from Hancock Gourmet Lobster Company, an American company based in Maine. The company uses a combination of fresh sweet lobster and traditional family recipes to create their appetizers, soups, Lobster Sandwiches and pasta entrees.
The vendors were really nice and let me sample their Lobster Grilled Cheese, small bite sized sandwiches filled with chopped lobster and mixed with Cream, Parmesan, Swiss and Romano cheeses tucked into slices of sourdough bread. They were cooked in butter producing a mouthwatering crisp appetizer where you could taste the sweetness of the lobster, the crunchiness of the buttery bread and the combination of cheeses accenting the lobster meat. it was the best appetizer at the show.
The Mini Lobster Grilled Cheese is the perfect treat for a holiday party
They also have an impressive line of products that include Lobster Sandwiches, Lobster Bisque, Lobster Mac & Cheese and Lobster Ravioli each dish filled with locally caught lobster meat.
The standouts in the Candy Division of the show were many. There were so many wonderful candy makers and chocolatiers that were featured at the show. They came from all over the country and the world.
One vendor stood out for both taste, design and packaging were from American made from New Jersey was Biens Chocolate Centerpieces. These are more than just a gift of candy but a work of art and a very special gift to someone.
The centerpiece designs on display were elegant and richly decorated. The chocolate was nicely decorated, and each bite was like heaven. The truffle chocolates had a soft filling and topped with stripes of chocolate.
The Biens Chocolate Centerpieces are just as wonderful to look as to taste.
Another decorative Chocolatier is Mae Fine Foods whose chocolate truffles look almost like jewels in a presentation box. These flavored truffles are a sweet delight inside and out.
I had sampled the Passion Fruit Mango and the White Chocolate Lemon and offered contrasting flavors of both white and milk chocolate. The Passion Fruit and Mango offer a sweet fruity flavor inside each bite of the chocolate. You can taste the tartness of the lemon in the white chocolate.
The chocolate bon bons look as good as they taste
The beauty of the chocolates is in their appearance and packaging. Each of the candies are handmade and individually decorated. The outside looks like a surrealist painting that has been air brushed on. They glow beautifully in the packaging.
Scamps Toffee is a small batch company of delicious toffee products, toppings, chocolate barks and a toffee popcorn that is out of this world. The ladies that run the company gave me all sorts of samples to take home including the Milk Chocolate Toffee, the Dark Chocolate Toffee, the Milk Chocolate Bark and the Toffee Popcorn.
The wonderful candies and toppings from Scamps Toffee
The toffees have such a rich and crunchy texture with the tastes of coffee and caramel with a delicious chocolate topping. I sampled the toppings, and they had such a nice flavor that accented the pretzels that they were sampled with at the booth. The popcorn is topped with a combination of chocolates and caramel that gives it a sweet and crunchy feel and a very nice complexity with each bite. It puts a new spin on traditional caramel corn.
Miss Maude’s Theater Bar was chocolate bar with unique flavors such as Butter Popcorn, Raisins and Chewy Caramel. I was able to sample a few of the flavors and thought it was such a nice concept.
The Miss Maude’s Theater Bars are a real treat for any movie
Another fun treat with the guilty pleasure of fresh fruit and chocolate was Karinat Frozen Fruits from Argentina distributed by Heinlein Foods. These fresh frozen strawberries and raspberries have a wonderful crunch to them and burst with the fruit flavors and semi-sweet chocolate.
Karinat Frozen Fruits
Food stuffs with peanut butter seemed to be very popular at the show this year and I sampled some unique and tasty candy from Parfait Fine Delicacies.
Their peanut butter cups rivaled anything from Reese’s and put a new spin on them but their Riddle Bars with wafers layered with peanut butter and then enrobed in milk chocolate had a nice snap to them when you bit into them.
The Riddle Bars are amazing
Sanders Candy is a very old-line American firm from Michigan whose chocolate, hot fudge and caramel toppings I have tried many times at the food show or have been given as gifts. When I was at the show this year, I was able to sample some of their chocolates.
My fan favorite was the Small Batch Sea Salt Caramels with their rich taste from the dark chocolate and the complex mix of the salt and caramel giving a sweet and savory flavor. Each bite has a nice snap of the chocolate and gooiness of the filling.
The Dark Chocolate Sea Salt caramels are amazing
Kravy Foods “The Good Stuff” was an impressive vendor with lines of candies and snack foods that not only tasted good but had eye-packaging. I was really impressed with this New York City based company with their extensive line of sweets and snacks. Before I left the show on Tuesday, they loaded me down with samples that I could try on my own and I will tell you I impressed by both the quality and taste.
I was munching on the vanilla Choc-Mallows while I was walking around Manhattan and talk about an energy boost. These sweet little marshmallows are dipped in white chocolate and then dipped in colorful sprinkles with a crunchy outside and soft chewy inside. They hold up well in the hot weather and make the perfect pick me up snack.
Kravy’s Hazelnut Popperz
The Hazelnut Popperz are these puffy and crunchy snacks have the taste of milk chocolate enrobed in the savory hazelnuts that tasted like they had been roasted to a crunchy consistency. They are quite addictive.
Kravy’s Falafel Bites
I saved the best for last as these Falafel Bites are salty and garlicy and have such a wonderful crunch that these chips become addictive. I was not able to try all the flavors, but they make a wonderful dipping snack or just enjoy a bag on the go. One thing I can say about Kravy’s products is that they are not boring. Rich flavors and nice packaging are the perfect snack every day.
I never miss a chance to visit the Italian Pavillon to see what was being imported from my ‘Mother Country’ and see the innovations have been created in Europe.
The Granarolo Company has the sharpest line of Cheese Crisps that I tasted at the show.
These circular snacks were extremely pronounced in flavor (they were too sharp to be eaten alone) and would a great snack with wine or a cocktail. I tried both the Classic Cheese and the Pizza flavored, and both could be paired with a red or white wine.
These delightful sharp flavors are the perfect cocktail snack
Another snack with intense flavors was the lines of puffs and crisps were Vegan Rob’s.
The assortment of snacks and the quality are fantastic. Their spicy products the Dragon Puffs and the Dragon Chips had a nice kick to them with a combination of garlic and onion power with sea salt accented them. With each bite, you could experience the spicy flavor and feel the burning sensation in your mouth.
Dragon Crisps that give a spicy sensation to your mouth
The Cheddar Puffs had a nice bite to them and a crisp crackle. The sharpness of the Cheddar Cheese could be tasted as I ate the whole bag at one sitting (small bag). These addictive little puffs are made with Sorghum Grain Meat and Sunflower oil giving them a slightly different consistency than a traditional doodle.
Vegan Rob’s Assorted Puffs delicious flavors
The great flavoring will have you eating the whole bag at one sitting too.
One of my favorite gourmet vendors of the Fancy Food Show is Jody’s Gourmet Popcorn.
I have watched this company grow over the last fifteen years and have been sampling Jody and her husband’s popcorn for years. Their caramel corn, double Cheddar and the Funetti with the festive colors are some of the most delicious popcorns at the show every year.
The secret of Jody’s Gourmet Popcorn is the kernels they use. Each of the pieces have the same appearance to them and the same size. It is the variety of popcorn kernels they use keep it looking consistent with the packaging and the eating. You won’t see small, popped kernels in the bags. Don’t miss their holiday flavor like the Halloween Funetti and the Christmas Candy Corn.
A local popcorn vendor from New Jersey that I enjoyed was Pop Time Popcorn whose flavors are interesting as well.
I really enjoyed the Spicy Dill Pickle with the flavors of dill, vinegar and onion powder to accent the fresh popcorn. Another standout was their White Cheddar with the sharp taste from the cheese. I also like their cheery packaging.
Don’t miss Pop Times wonderful, flavored popcorns especially the Spicy Dill Pickle
One popcorn vendor took flavoring to a new level with the Cookie Pop and Candy Pop Popcorn from Snax-Sational Brands, who use name brand treats to flavor their popcorn.
When the vendor closed on Tuesday for the show, they let us take all the samples we wanted to try at home, and this gave me a chance to really taste their products. Talk about interesting mixes! I sampled the Sour Patch Kids with its super sweet taste with the chewiness of the popcorn, the M & M Minis with the colorful chocolaty M & M flavors, the Twix Bar with the light peanut butter and chocolaty flavor and the Orea Cookie where you could taste the creamy filling.
Don’t miss these interesting flavors at Cookie & Candy Pop
Talk about innovative flavors, engaging packaging and an overall sweet tasting popcorn that is truly melt in your mouth good!
I love Cheese Popcorn and it is always my hands down favorite to order when out and sample when at the shows. It takes a real art to get that sharp cheese flavor right.
Belle’s Gourmet Popcorn did an excellent job with their Extra Cheddar popcorn.
The Belle’s Extra Cheddar was one of the best in the show
Talk about a nice cheesy flavor in each bite and heavy enough coating to lick off your fingers. That is the sign of a good cheese popcorn. Their Extra Buttery and White Cheddar are just as good as well.
One of the closest to homemade popcorns that I tasted at the show was from Pop Zup, who packaged their popcorn like you were going to the movies.
This New Jersey based company has a selection of crisp crackers, bites and breadsticks have an amazing crunch to them and come in various cheese flavors and sweet flavors accented with cinnamon. These crackers and twists are perfect as a snack or with cocktails. My favorites have always been the Sharp Cheddar twists and the Asiago & Cheddar Crisps.
The Asiago & Cheddar Crisps are delicious and have a nice bite to them
When the show was over, I stopped by the booth and Mr. Macy was cleaning up and left a lot of bags of his products out for people to take which they were by the handful. Having met him at the shows since the early 2000’s, I asked if I could take one of the big bags left which he was happy to do. That is a good businessman, and I enjoyed the whole bag on my own. I loved munching through the bag while working at the computer. I love to hear the loud sounds of the crunching.
Koeze Brands has a wonderful product called “Zestos” which are a seasoned tortilla chip with a sweet, salty and spicy taste.
This selection of various flavored snack foods is a wonderful and diverse selection of tastes and shapes. The two that stood out for me at the show were the ‘Vegables’, which are small crispy triangles with the flavor of spinach, carrots and tomatoes with a slight saltiness and a fantastic crunch.
Good Natured Vegables
The other is their ‘White Cheddar Puffs’ that have a sharp cheesy flavor and a nice bite to them. I was able to bring samples home so that I could taste them a second time and the product is delicious.
These sweet and salty chips tasted like they were fresh out of the fryer and then doused with the spices and a bit of honey. They had the most amazing crunch to them that make you want to finish the bag.
The Carolina Ketter Bee Sting Honey Sriracha chips are sweet and savory in flavor
In the Jellies, Jams and Sauces Category, there were many to choose from when I walked the aisles of the show with many standouts both in the sweet and savory areas.
Blueberry Patch out of Georgia sampled their delicious small batch jelly, Blueberry Lemon & Thyme, which the jar said to serve with cheese, but I put it on an English Muffin when I got home and sampled it on toast. The flavor blended together so nicely, and the combination of the blueberries and lemon brought out the sweet tartness of the fruit. I enjoyed the small jar that they gave me every morning. I also recommend it for waffles.
When I tasted this tomato sauce with some ziti, it tasted like a cross between a Vodka Sauce and a Pink Sauce with a combination of organic ingredients. This light tomato sauce has mixture of freshly chopped tomatoes, heavy cream and parmesan cheese with fresh basil and garlic. These small batch sauces taste homemade and not from a jar.
Of all their sauces the Pink Crema Sauce really stood out
Cakes and Cake Mixes were a big part of the show and of the many that I sampled a few stood out. It was not just on taste but on appearance and packaging as well. Just like the cookie and candy category, there are a lot of wonderful products that taste wonderful but to separate yourself out from the rest of the vendors you need to grab the customers attention to get them to buy it.
The German Crumb Cake from Hahn’s Bakery was out of this world.
This buttery soft cake loaded with large crumbs on the top is perfect for breakfast or dessert. It tasted like it had been just made for the show and had cooled from coming out of the oven. I had to try to piece, and they were more than generous with the samples.
The German Crumb Cake at Hahn’s Old-Fashioned Cake Company is delicious
Little Big Farm Foods had several cakes mixes that I tried at the show and there was no one standout in that I enjoyed them all. The consistency and taste of their products was fantastic, and they bake up nicely.
The four that I was most impressed with was the White Chocolate Coconut Brownie Mix, the Lemon Square Mix, the Organic Selections Lemon Square Mix and the one I sampled most was the Apple Cider Doughnut Mix. They had a delicious sweet and sugary flavor to them.
The Apple Cider Doughnut Mix was the best of the four I tried
The last booth on the last day of the show I visited was the Cornell AgriTech booth, which was a display of all the products that came out of the Cornell University Incubator, part of the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station.
They were helping small businesses get their ideas into fruition and then getting them to market so I got to see new products and the people who created them. The one stand out here was a whipped cream with a colored syrup already in the can giving a Sunday a colorful look every time it was squirted out of the can.
It also gave me a chance to talk to other Cornell University Alumni about the show and reminisce about our time on campus. It is funny how when Alumni get together how they talked about freezing their asses off at college. Cornell University is on the snow belt in New York State in a major way.
It was an eye-opening show this year with lots of new products to sample and many old vendors it was nice to see again. The show may not have been as big as the show in 2019 when it seemed endless. After two years of not having a show, it was nice to see what is happening in the industry and the world of Gourmet Foods. It is interesting to see many new products have come out with their creative packaging, wonderful flavors and putting a spin on classics. wonderful foods. It was a pleasure to taste high quality foods made with pride.
Good luck to all the vendors mentioned in this blog and to the hundreds of others I visited in those three days.
Please check out my other blogs on the Intenational Fancy Food Show in New York City:
Day One Hundred and Forty-One: Walking the Fancy Food Show 2019:
I love Toast’em’s. I had never been a big fan of toaster pastries, thinking that items like Pop-Tarts by Kellogg’s were for little kids. Over the last few years, I discovered Toast’ems when I was shopping at the Dollar Tree and needed to bring a snack with me on my walks in Manhattan in the afternoons. These delightful treats carry so well and there is such a variety of flavors to choose from.
The Frosted Strawberry Toast’em’s
You do not even have to heat these pastries as they are good just out of the bag. They have the same consistency as a Pop Tart at half the price and sometimes they have a bonus pack where you get an extra package of pastries for the same price.
The taste is delicious with fillings that include…
I have been in love with Circus Peanuts candies since I started eating. When I was little, we used to go to Joe’s Fruit Farm on Washington Valley Road in Bridgewater, NJ for our local fruits and apple cider. In the store front area of the farm (which was still going strong into 2006) used to have the old ‘penny candy’ jars.
When I was in elementary school, I used to go shopping with my mother there and used to beg for three things: red licorice strings, orange slices and Circus Peanuts. I still remember that little white bag I got filled with two of each (if I was good) and saved the Circus Peanuts for last.
Circus Peanuts by Melster Candies
I love the soft marshmallow consistency of these orange treats and…
It is amazing what three years can bring. Chinatown was all but dead over the last two years for the Chinese New Year celebrations and it was nice to see them come back in a vengeance.
It has been a rough time in Chinatown in Manhattan over the last three years. I wrote about going to the Chinese New Year parade in 2020 and it had been nothing like the parade in 2019. It had been freezing in New York City in 2019 but that had not kept the crowds away on a busy parade afternoon. In 2020, the looming crisis with COVID was spreading through China and people were very wary about coming to Chinatown for the parade. In fact, I did not see too many people of Chinese decadency at the parade two years ago. It looked more like tourists lining the streets.
New Year in 2022 was a different story as the streets were lined with people ready and happy to celebrate the New Year. That bottled up enthusiasm was shown on the streets in the core of Chinatown by hundreds of people having a good time. The morning had started out with a nice crowd that grew as the afternoon wore on. It helped that it was 60 degrees and sunny outside. It was the last day of the ‘Spring Thaw’ and the weather really helped (Sunday would bring snowy weather and 38 degrees).
It also gave me a chance to not just tour the neighborhood to see of any changes in stores and restaurants but sample foods at many of them. I came in with an appetite! There were places that I wanted to revisit but find new ones to try along the way. I arrived at noon time and needed a snack before I started my day.
The Lion Dances outside businesses all over the core of Chinatown were in full swing when I got there with groups of people following the troupes around Mott, Bayard, Canal, Pell, Elizabeth and Mulberry Streets south of Canal Street. Some of the troupes did go north of Canal Street but most businesses are in the core of the neighborhood.
The Lion Dance helps bring good luck in the coming year
Things were just really getting started on Mott Street, the main corridor of Chinatown so I walked down the street to the Bowery to see what was going on. When I arrived at the Bowery, I headed north on the Bowery on the edge of the original Chinatown. This is where I found Bowery Inn Bakery at Bowery. This must be a new bakery because I could not find it on any map.
The Bowery Inn Bakery has a wonderful selection of hot and cold baked goods, and the best part was that they did not take the pastries from the case. They were hot from the warmers behind the case lines. I ordered a Roast Pork Bun ($1.75) and an Almond Bun ($1.50) to get me through the walking around the neighborhood. The staff is really nice there and seemed happy when I wished them a Happy New Year.
I walked all the streets in the neighborhood watching the various clubs wishing all the businesses a Happy New Year. Colorful lions bowed and shook and raised up and down wishing stores and restaurants as prosperous New Year in a city environment that desperately needed it. I have been to Chinatown many times since the holidays, and it has been very quiet down here since the beginning of 2020. All the festivities had been cancelled last year and it had been tough on these businesses. Now it looks like better times will be ahead of us.
Here is a little history of the Lion Dance from when I ran the Chinese New Year celebrations at the Asian Grille back in 2011:
The Lion Dance
The Lion Dance has a very interesting history in Chinese culture. The story is that a monk had a dream which there were many sorrows and evils plaguing the land. The monk prayed and asked the gods how he could prevent these evils from occurring. The gods told him that a lion would protect them and fight back the evils. The Chinese people having never seen a lion, but had heard stories that the lion was the king of all beasts. So the monk combined all the lucky or magical animals he could think of and so made the lion.
The Southern Lion dance is very symbolic. It is usually performed as a ceremony to scare away evil spirits and to summon luck and fortune. The Chinese southern lion exhibits as wide variety of color and has a distinctive head with large eyes (of an eagle), a mirror on the forehead (demons are supposedly scared of their own reflection) and a single horn at the center of the head (the horn of a unicorn mentioned earlier). Lion dance costumes are considered to be spiritually protective when used as they are traditionally blessed before usage.
The Southern Lion Dance was originated from Guangdong, the homeland of the Chinese southern style lion. The Chinese southern horned lions are believed to be Nians (which are a mythical beast). There are many different styles of dance as well as different styles of lion’s heads depending on the region that the group comes from (Wiki).
It was fun following these colorful beasts all along the streets and listen to the drumming of the groups who I am sure had been practicing. While all that was going on, people were letting off New Year’s poppers and the whole street was filled with streamers and confetti and glittering paper. It was so nice to see people having such a good time.
This video from YouTube really captures the festivities in 2022
I started to explore the back streets to see if there were any changes to the fringes of the neighborhood. I have to say that more galleries and stores are starting to open where old warehouses and restaurants used to be as you can see the hipsters moving over here from the East Village, Alphabet City and the Lower East Side. Little by little I am seeing the changes in the neighborhood.
When I walked over to Chrystie Street, and I stopped at Chi Dumpling House for some lunch and then to Tao Hong Bakery for dessert. This little stretch of Chrystie Street by Sara Delano Roosevelt Park has three of the best and most reasonable take-out restaurants in the neighborhood, the other being Wah Fung #1 Fast Food.
Wah Fung #1 Fast Food at 79 Chrystie Street has long lines
The lines for Wah Fung #1 Fast Food at 79 Chrystie Street was about thirty deep when I arrived and is always busy. People are always lined up for their containers of roast pork and duck with white rice and cabbage. You can get a delicious lunch here for around $5.00. It has been on more food blogs than I can name, and I have been here several times for their excellent roast pork and rice (see my reviews on TripAdvisor and DiningonaShoeStringinNYC@Wordpress.com).
The roast pork and roast duck at Wah Fung #1 Fast Food has them lining up everyday
I bypassed the lines at Wah Fung and went to Chi Dumpling House (sometimes called ‘C & L Dumpling House) at 77 Chrystie Street. I was in the mood for steamed dumplings and scallion pancakes.
Chi Dumpling House at 77 Chrystie Street still has the old sign
Even though I was not that hungry I always have room for more dumplings. Both the fried dumplings and steamed pork and chive dumplings ($4.00 now) are worth the wait. These large doughy delights are served with soy and hot oil sauces that bring out their flavor. The Scallion Pancakes are pan-fried to a crisp and are fun to dip into the sauces as well.
The steamed pork and chive dumplings here are excellent!
I took these little delights into the park and enjoyed them along with my scallion pancake while I was watching all these little kids climb over the jungle gym while yelling at one another. It was so nice to see all these families out and about on such a warm afternoon. By the time I finished my lunch, it must have hit 60 degrees and it was a perfectly blue sky.
For dessert, I went to Tao Hong Bakery at 79 Chrystie Street. They have the most reasonable baked goods and drinks and the best place to go when you have eaten at the other two restaurants.
Tao Hong Bakery at 79 Chrystie Street
I love coming here for their egg custards, raisin twists and their cream buns. When they have their lemon pastries, I try to get those too. This time I settled for a raisin twist ($1.25) because there was not much left. People really bought them out. These twists are loaded with butter and juicy raisins and are fun to pull apart.
The Raisin Buns here are the best
After I devoured my lunch, I needed a long walk to digest, and I walked down Chrystie Street and strolled through the park. The one bad thing about Sara Delano Park is that the bathrooms are really disgusting. They really need to clean them better.
I made my way back down Grand Street and walked to the Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre Street. The museum had finally reopened after almost two years and a very devastating fire in their storehouse in 2020. They almost lost their collection.
The Museum of Chinese in America at 215 Centre Street
What I enjoy about this museum is the sheer history of the Chinese immigration to the United States and overt racism that has been felt by the culture since the beginning. I walked through the current exhibition “Responses: Asian American voices in the Tides of Racism” and it is heartbreaking to see what an entire society of Americans are enduring. This pandemic as one scholar noted has brought out the worst in people that has been bubbling up for a long time.
The permanent collection showed the strides though as a culture and the contributions of prominent Americans of Chinese decadency have made to the country. It was interesting to look at pictures over the years of the development of Chinatowns in cities all over the country and the progress in business and the arts that have been made.
The “Responses” exhibition
I took my time and read through the exhibitions, and it was an interesting timeline of history. It showed how generations of hard work and assimilation into the larger culture still holds dialogue. Nothing is clear cut in society. I ended up being there more almost two hours.
After I left the museum, I followed the music back to Mott Street and saw some of the more elaborate dances and saw several clubs competing with one another. There were large crowds all over Mott and Bayard Streets and since the heart of Chinatown was closed to traffic (finally people can walk around the restaurant district), there was plenty of room for people to enjoy the festivities and let off poppers in celebration of the performances.
By 6:00pm though most of the performances were slowing down and all the restaurants on Mott Street and the surrounding side streets were full of people sitting down to dinner. That was so nice to see at a time when so many of these restaurants were struggling over the last two years. It is good that they were packed the way they were pre-pandemic.
For dinner that evening I was not too hungry but when I was walking around following the lion dancers, I looked at the menu and the pictures of the dishes at Shanghai Heping Restaurant at 104 Mott Street on the other side of Canal Street from Chinatown in what had once been Little Italy. There was a picture by the front door of a Fried Duck dish and I had to go to try it.
The food lived up to the picture. The Fried Duck ($23.00) was excellent. The duck was boneless and marinated in soy and what tasted like Peking sauce and then the duck was breaded and pan-fried so that it was crisp on the outside and moist and succulent on the inside. The duck had such a rich taste to it from the flavor of the meat and so moist that it pulled apart.
Don’t miss the Fried Duck at Shanghai Heping Restaurant
Their Shanghai Fried Rice (Sum Gum Fried Rice) was excellent as well
The one thing I liked about Shanghai Heping Restaurant (see my review on TripAdvisor) was that they do not rush you. The restaurant started to fill up again after I got there and since the duck dish took some time to cook, I started to watch other patrons’ food come out and all the dishes looked so interesting and well-prepared, and people took their time to enjoy them. Since the restaurant was not on the other side of Mott Street, there were no hordes of crowds running around the street.
After dinner was over, I walked back into the heart of Chinatown to see the Sanitation Department cleaning the streets of all the confetti and streamers and popper packages. There must have been hundreds of them let off that afternoon to welcome in the New Year. It is so nice to see people back in Chinatown again. Maybe better days are ahead of us.
Gong Hay Fay Choy!
The colorful lanterns add a festive look to the neighborhood
The Ginseng Museum Cafe by CheongKwanJang is a combination small museum of the development of the ginseng root for tea and its history, part cafe for tea and part store. This small store front is packed with information on the history and processing of ginseng.
The Ginseng Museum Cafe at 315 Fifth Avenue
To the right of the store, is the video history of the company and how they process and produce their product which is very interesting. The conditions that the ginseng is processed under may have advanced over the years but not by much. There is still a lot of care that is used to make the tea. There is also a display on the extractions.