With another winter storm approaching, tour guide Adam Davidson offers some suggestions for things to do when the city is newly blanketed in snow.
New York is a great city year-round, but in the winter we all tend to go into a little bit of hibernation. However, even when the weather seems to get the best of us, there are actually new opportunities to enjoy the city. Given the recent weather, I wanted to compile a list of some of my favorite New York opportunities that a Snow Day brings, especially when a snow day for you means a little bit of extra time off.Go to the Park
- The snow seems to stay a little more pristine, the people a little happier, the kids a little more wild in the city's parks. Heck, on an impromptu day off it’s a great place to act like a kid again. Bring your sled, or (clean!) garbage can lid, out to Prospect Park, Central Park, or any open space with a snowy slope for an extra dose of age regression.
Cindy hits the slopes in Prospect Park.
Drink Mulled Wine and Hot Cider
– Nothing like a snow day to make you want a hot drink, and let’s face it, hot alcohol is even better. Mulled Wine, Hot Toddies, and Hot Cider make their appearance all over menus in the winter and these are some of the best days to enjoy them. Even better – get the ingredients to make them yourself at ...Go to Trader Joe's
- It’s no secret that a trip to Trader Joe's, especially the one at Union Square, involves some foresight and a game plan. Yes, the Greek Yogurt, Joes O’s, and Spinach Lasagna at half the price of anywhere else are worth it, but actually having the time to go is another thing. Since people like to stay home on snow days, you can just breeze right through as if this was a normal grocery store, and their subway-adjacent locations are usually a breeze to get to in bad weather. Avoid the Crowds
– Speaking of Trader Joe's, one of my biggest love/hate relationships with New York is the crowds. Snow days are great days to avoid them, so long as your destination is open.Cook
– What’s the good of leisurely stocking up at Trader Joe's if you’re not going to cook something? Use that kitchen-y thing you use to store take-out menus to cook something. It’s a satisfying and creative way to use your extra time at home (you can even try some of the wintertime recipes
we've featured on this blog).
This Lower East Side Frosty may not melt until July.
Build Intersection Snowmen
– Those piles of snow can stay for a while if they are off the foot path. Build a snowman right there on the sidewalk. Heck, build an army of them guarding the intersection. You might be surprised how long they last and defend delight.
– I’m not much of a skier, but there is honestly something pretty wonderful about seeing someone ski down Broadway, or the Brooklyn Heights Promenade
, on fresh snow before the plows do their deed. If you love skiing, or you would like to try it, check out the Winter Jam NYC
in Prospect Park Saturday, February 5, where you can watch skiers and riders, take a lesson, or just tool around in the snow.
The birds, and photographers, gather at the one spot of open water in Prospect Park Lake.
Take Some Pictures
– New York has always been a photogenic city. This is doubly true on a snow day as it seems like someone hit the pause button on street life and covered it with fluffy whiteness. Capturing this can be an adventure in itself, and goes well with any other activity.If you would like to follow this blog, subscribe to our RSS feed or sign up for updates via email in the box above on the right (this is separate from the Urban Oyster email newsletter). For questions or comments about this blog post, please contact Adam Davidson. Photos courtesy Adam Davidson, Andrew Gustafson and Cindy VandenBosch.
I know that Christmas is long over, and I'm sure that after being walloped by snowstorm after snowstorm, most New Yorkers are wishing that winter was over and done with as well. But I promised you more holiday recipes, and this is one that you can enjoy all year round, and hopefully, it will conjure images of warmer climates free of snow shovels, idle plow trucks, and frozen mountains of uncollected trash.
Many people lament the cultural and commercial juggernaut that is Christmas. Before you have even had time to take off your costume and pull down your decorations for Halloween, store shelves are stocked with candy canes and Christmas lights. The Twelve Days of Christmas is now a two-month marathon of shopping and television specials. But if you think America's Christmas season is long, one country may have us beat – Trinidad and Tobago.
Lots of countries celebrate the holiday with great enthusiasm, and they have their own unique customs. But in many ways, Trinidad and Tobago sets itself apart. I will not pretend to be an expert on Trinidadian food and culture – there are many, many better sources of information on the Internet and around New York City. So many that in fact, according to the 2000 US Census
, there were 88,794 people born in Trinidad and Tobago living in the city, making New York technically the largest Trinibagonian city in the world.
As a Trinidadian explained to me recently, they don't celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving, meaning there are no other holidays obstructing the celebration of Christmas, so why not start partying in September? Well, that's not entirely true; due to the country's substantial population of people of South Asian descent, the Muslim holiday of Eid and Hindu Diwali are also widely celebrated in the fall. But the key word is party – unlike our rather sedate family-oriented traditions (office Christmas parties and Santa Con excepted), Trinidadians like to kick back on Christmas. Nothing expresses this attitude better than the country's unique brand of Christmas music. There are actually two kinds – parang, which is related to the folk music of nearby Venezuela, and soca parang, a fusion of parang and calypso that is sung in English. While familiar imagery like Santa and his sleigh abounds, song titles like "Drink Ah Rum"
and lyrics like this suggest a slightly livelier celebration than we are used to in the US:Santa leave the North Pole and come down to TrinidadHe say it too cold in the North PoleSo he couldn't stay, he come down right awayTo have some fun in this land of sea and sun.Soca Santa, don't leave your bag of toysDon't forget you have to share it with every girl and boySoca Santa don't want to ride no sleighIn a big time Toyota gallivanting all day.
Inspired by the Trinidadian love of Christmas, I decided to make a batch of ginger beer, a traditional drink during the holidays. It's easy to make – though it will need to sit for several days – and it packs a lot of flavor without any alcohol. I got the recipe
, a great resource on West Indian cooking. To make this beverage you will need the following ingredients and cooking implements:1 lb fresh ginger1.5 lb sugar1 gallon water20 whole clovesCheese graterWire sieveFunnelOne-gallon glass jug or container
Bangin' out the ging.
Once you have assembled these ingredients, follow this recipe
. Steps 1 and 5 are the most labor intensive – peeling a full pound of ginger took me about a half an hour. After it had steeped for two days, I don't know how long I "pounded out the ging," but I was definitely sweating by the end. It doesn't say how to pound in this recipe, but what I did was place the grated ginger in a wire sieve over a mixing bowl and used the bottom of a Coke bottle and my fists to pound out the juice (as pictured right). This produced a cloudy, greyish-yellow liquid without too much pulp in it. Rather than pour the ginger juice, sugar, water and cloves into several small bottles, as this recipe suggests, I poured it all into a single one-gallon jug (pictured above) and closed it with a cork. With this recipe, the ginger flavor will really knock your socks off, perfect if you're battling a cold. But if you would prefer not to instantly clear your sinuses, I suggest cutting it with seltzer – one-third ginger beer and two-thirds seltzer makes a delicious, refreshing soda. I don't know how long this beverage is supposed to last, but I'm still sipping on it four weeks after Christmas, and it still tastes pretty good.
Normally you would drink this ginger beer with a meal of ham or turkey, pastelles, and for dessert, Trinidadian black cake. My family usually has a pretty traditional Christmas celebration; we gather for a big Christmas dinner (this year we had a ham), but the addition of ginger beer and a little parang for background music made the holiday a bit livelier and more memorable. So I hope you enjoy your homemade ginger beer, and even though Christmas is almost a year away, there are plenty of other Trinidadian holidays
coming up where you can partake, most notably Carnival – Trinidadians love to boast about their Mardi Gras celebrations, which they claim put Rio and New Orleans to shame – and Brooklyn's West Indian Parade, which takes place on Labor Day weekend.
Trini-Paki Boys' daily offerings.
If you want to learn more about Trinidadian food and culture, join us for our Food Cart Tour
of Midtown. One of the featured carts on Wednesdays and Fridays, Trini-Paki Boys, is run by Trinidadian native Fatima and her son Mohammed. As the name suggests, the dishes they serve are part of the island's tradition of fusing African, Caribbean, and South Asian cuisine, which is what makes Trinidadian food so unique and delicious. Visit their cart (located on north side 43rd Street near the corner with Sixth Avenue) for favorites like doubles, roti, curry goat, steamed fish with dumplings and their delectible cow foot soup. I bought the ingredients for my beer at East Williamsburg's Moore Street Market
, which was featured in an earlier blog post
, and where we will be offering a Latin American food and culture tour in the coming months. Finally, if you can't get enough parang, Trinigourmet.com has an extensive article
on it, and WNYC did a piece last year
about it and other Christmas music from around the world.So
enjoy some ginger beer, turn up the parang, and think about the warmer weather ahead.If you have any comments, questions or suggestions for other traditional holiday cuisine, please leave a comment or contact Andrew Gustafson (firstname.lastname@example.org). Special thanks go to Brian Hoffman and Allison Radecki, the tour guides for our Food Cart Tour, for their help with this post. The bottom photo in this post is courtesy Jennifer Strader Photography; all other photos are by Andrew Gustafson unless otherwise noted.