Monthly Archives: September 2013

Eating Along The Bronx’s Arthur Avenue

One of New York City’s five boroughs, The Bronx has a number of attractions in its Belmont area that close in proximity to each other: the New York Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo and Arthur Avenue. Particularly, if you enjoy Italian American food, Arthur Avenue is worth stopping by for eating, shopping and just walking around.


Called the Bronx’s “Little Italy,” this main section of Arthur Avenue technically stretches across East 187th Street to Arthur Avenue to Prospect Street. It’s lined with restaurants, eateries, cafes, bakeries, delicatessens and grocery shops. And most of them remain as family-run businesses, as they have been for generations.

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You can get a taste for just about any dish and every essential ingredient: pizzas, pastas, fresh mozzarella, sopressa, proscuitto, pastries, and so on. Every September, a festival called Ferragosto takes place to honor an Italian tradition that recognizes the end of the harvest season and celebrates the fruits of hard labor.

On a recent Sunday, I  jaunted from place to place along Arthur Avenue’s center strip. In combining my picks with others’ recommendations, here are a few venues worth stopping at:


Madonia Brothers Bakery
Along the main part of Arthur Avenue, Madonia is most noted for its bread, having a good thick crust yet a chewy texture. In fact, one of the restaurants I ate at (and will mention later on) gets bread right from this bakery. The olive bread is quite popular and the spread of pastries is lengthy! This third-generation run bakery is also noted for its cannolis, cookies, biscotti, baguettes and bread sticks. I went home with a hefty box.

Dominick’s Bar and Restaurant
At Dominick’s Bar and Restaurant, get ready for the concept of family style. Diners share tables together, so you will eat alongside people you just met. Plus, the day’s menu is heard not seen. Your waiter lists off your choices of what’s available. Although it may seem a bit off to have to go by ear, the big portion dishes are good and filling. If available, I recommend starting off with the antipasti, followed by perhaps the chicken or eggplant parmesan or cheese ravoli. I went with stuffed peppers, but in hindsight, I probably would have ordered what my friends did.


Teitel Brothers
Teitel Brothers Wholesale and Retail Company (as it’s fully known) carries high-volume imported goods such as olive oil, tomatoes, vinegars and the like. One of the store’s top sellers is an extra virgin Sicilian olive oil made by the Don Luigi brand. Also note, when you come here, take a look at the front door step. You’ll see a Star of David in the tiles and recognize that Teitel is not an Italian name. Unfortunately on the Sunday afternoon I was around Arthur Avenue, Teitel Brothers was closed due to observance but I would definitely make a second trip back.


Arthur Avenue Retail Market
A bazaar of sorts, the Arthur Avenue Retail Market contains a deli, gelatto stand, a beer hall, produce stands, and a cigar store where visitors can watch cigars being made and rolled by hand. It’s right next to Madonia, and it’s good for walking through for a quick browse or to pick up something like a sandwich. For some reason, a few vendors were closed that day but I think it’s still worth popping into.

Other suggestions:

Borgatti’s Ravioli & Egg Noodles
Like pasta? Borgatti’s Ravioli & Egg Noodles offers different versions of dried fettucine, ravoli, fresh pasta, dry pasta, sauces, vinegars and various imported products from Italy.

Another Arthur Avenue gem, Emilia’s Restaurant centers on southern Italian cuisine with old family recipes made to order.

Casa Della Mozzarella
On 187th Street, Casa Della Mozzarella is known for serving the freshest mozzarella, such as its highly-rated bocconcini. With cheese choices including from salted or smoked, to small, medium, and large, buying mozzarella and Italian meats from here are worth the cost, and at times wait.

Have you visited Arthur Avenue too? Share your favorites with me.

Flipping through DK Eyewitness Guides’ Revisions

To tweak an old saying, travel pictures are worth a thousand words. As mobile and digital platforms are providing more visual appeal for travelers, guidebooks must adapt to meet their readers’ evolving needs. The latest DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are doing just that.

photo-1On Tuesday night, at City Winery in New York City, DK Publishing marked the series’ 20th anniversary by unveiling 10 bestselling titles, updated for 2014, and new first-ever edition on Russia. The event also marked the company’s redesign relaunch for all their travel guidebooks. These changes consist of a new look for the jacket and clearer details on the inside pages.

DK Eyewitness Guides stay true to being pictorial, yet new adjustments to these books make certain sections easier to follow. While keeping its photo stance, top revisions in design and copy include the following:

–       New itineraries based on length of stay, regional destinations, or theme. City and country guides also have extended itineraries.

–       Listings underwent major changes with descriptions for hotels and restaurants, with simplified categories for prices and cuisine.

–       Overall, maps become more readable, with new bullets, colors and symbols.

photo 12014 titles currently available include Berlin, New York City, Washington, D.C., Paris, Prague, London, Italy, San Francisco, and Rome.

As another milestone for this publishing house, the first Russia edition comes out in timing with next year’s Winter Olympics in the city of Sochi. At the NYC event, a DK representative explained that the Russian guide helps make a trip to this destination, which can be described as not the easiest place to travel to, more “doable.”

RussiaAlso coinciding with current events, an updated guide to Ireland is released in timing with The Gathering Ireland 2013, a yearlong festival celebrating all things Irish.

Future release dates for 2014 series will pick up again in January and continue on through the end of next year.

My Guest Post on Honey Harvest Pairing in Weston, CT

I have to thank my friend Billie Frank for inviting me to contribute a guest post on her and her husband, Steve Collins’ blog, Santa Fe Travelers. My published piece is on Red Bee Apiary, a small bee farm in Weston, Connecticut, that centers on producing single-origin, artisan honeys. Single-origin means that honey comes from only one flower source.

This past Sunday, Red Bee’s founder and owner Marina Marchese organized a small honey tasting in timing with the fall harvest season. As guests like myself tried pairings of her honey brands with specialty foods, we were instructed to first taste each honey separately to be able to distinguish its specific flavor and then share about our thoughts about what we had sampled.

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In accompanying our meal, the staff at Saugatuck Grain & Grape in nearby Westport invented three specialty cocktails featuring honey syrups as one of the main ingredients. Small drink samplings were served, along with explanations on trying to emulate them at home.

You can read my piece by clicking here. Below are additional photos of mine as well.

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What to Do Before and When Visiting the 9/11 Memorial

As we commemorate the now 12 years that have passed since 9/11, I wanted to share my tips for visiting the key signature reminder of that day: the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City. Or, also known as the 9/11 Memorial.

In reflecting on today, I wanted to share my experience in visiting this significant place two years ago, and what you should expect and do if you want to come here.

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Completed a decade after the terrorist attacks impacted countless lives, and changed the physical scope of Lower Manhattan, the 9/11 Memorial can be viewed publicly by time-reserved reservations. I was fortunate enough to obtain a visitor’s pass online about a month after the memorial’s opening in 2011. In early October, I headed downtown with my printed ticket, getting off at the Fulton Street subway stop and making my way to the monument.

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The 9/11 Memorial was designed to remember the names of those two lost their lives on 9/11 at the World Trade Center site, at the Pentagon, and near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and also at the first World Trade Center bombing in February 1993. It consists of two reflective pools, with waterfalls in their centers and surrounded by a layout of bronze panels listing the names of the deceased. The North and South Pools, as they’re called, are placed across from where the original center, or also known as the “Twin Towers,” once stood.

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Names of these carved panels are in categories ranging from the flight numbers of the hijacked planes, to first responders and to what buildings people were in. I lingered for a while over the name Todd Beamer, a passenger on Flight 93 who is now recognized as one of the people on that plane who attempted to gain entry to the cockpit. Another person’s name I recognized was Mychal Judge, the chaplain for the New York City’s fire department.

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Another name to find, at the South Pool, is Welles Remy Crowther. He worked as an equities trader in the South Tower and is credited with helping people get out of the building after it was hit. He used a red bandana, that he carried everywhere with him, to cover his face from the smoke. His bandana is said to be among the artifacts that will be in the upcoming National September 11 Memorial Museum.

There is also a nice pathway where you can walk around the memorial, and when I visited, there were patrolmen who were nice to answer visitors’ questions. One thing to keep in mind here is that this place is for some like a cemetery. It gets very quiet.

Also upon visiting, the security checkpoint area is sort of in comparison like what you might find at the airport. So go in mind with that thinking. It’s best to avoid carrying stuff like large bags with you or leave them at home. Be patient too.


Admission to the 9/11 Memorial is free but you need a visitor’s pass to enter. I recommendation booking your reservations online, so that way you can plan better for when and what day to visit. Although, note you will be charged a $2 nonrefundable service fee per pass. Same-day visit passes are available as on a first-come, first-served basis and don’t carry the service fee, but you have to get them in person at the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site at 20 Vesey Street.

Either way, getting the visitor’s pass is definitely worth it. And your time at the memorial will be well spent!

Going Solo? Why You Shouldn’t Hesitate

Yes, it sucks when you don’t have someone to go somewhere with. Yet, why let it stop you? Like most travelers, wanderers, or out-and-about people I’ve met in person or virtually, overall we don’t. Mainly, it’s all in how you perceive it.

My main argument for going solo is to avoid having what I call your “have not’s” stop you. What do I mean by that? Well, I know there can be countless reasons for letting “have not’s” hesitate or even prevent people from going alone. Probably the top one on everyone’s list is feeling weird if you’re seen there myself. True, it can be awkward when someone spots you and, for some reason, brings up that fact. Still, don’t let that make you miss out on visiting a place or going to an event.

419439_4326150384667_1439813769_nGoing back to not having someone, that’s one point I can understand. It’s hard when none of your friends can’t go, or maybe your relatives won’t, or even when you’re single at times. However, there have been some times when the opposite scenario can also make your plans a bit dicey.

With an ex-boyfriend of mine, I literally had to push him to go with me on a trip down south, even down to booking both of our plane tickets and hotel/rental car reservations on my credit card. And once we were there, he eventually seemed into it. Although our relationship ended for other reasons, I realized that it was a lot to have to push to get him to travel and that I probably would have been better of going more on my own or with my still then-single girlfriends. “Pushing” someone to go places with you can take the fun out of the experience.

And yes money can be an issue as well, yet with some advance planning and leg work, there are few ways to work with that concern. Here are some tips that to venturing out on your own a bit easier:

– Go early. Hit up festivals or museums during the day time or perhaps after they open when crowds might not be as big yet. If you’re also crowd shy, it’s a good way to get in and around your venue.

– If you haven’t heard of Meetup yet, sign up for a free account. It’s a great website where people can start groups centered on common interests by location. Many groups hold “meet ups” at events ranging from festivals to movie nights or locations such as for outdoor or culinary pursuits. With costs, they can vary depending on the group’s host.

– Group bus tours may be cheesy but if you wanted to see a certain place or area in your region at least once in your life, it’s worth giving them a try. After hearing about from friends and seeing their pictures, I booked a reasonably priced bus trip to Arthur Avenue in The Bronx, which is their version of “Little Italy.” I am not an aggressive driver, so the thought of me and my car in New York City is not really a good idea.

– Read up before going. Yes, like a trip, check out directions, location, times and special offerings since they can not only save you time but also save you money. I receive promotional emails from a theater company that give me a discount code on most Broadway productions. I also subscribe to blogs based in my region that cover the foodie scene.

– Also, consider signing up for vendor deals as now more of these companies sell discounted tickets or packages to events or day-trips. Last year, I was able to get a fair price pass to one of the New York City Food & Wine Festival activities. Yeah, I went stag but I enjoyed many chef takes on fried chicken and bumped into Whoopi Goldberg, the event’s host.

Hope you go out and do something similar. Or whatever you want!

Venturing along Iceland’s Snaefellsnes Peninsula

For about two days around Iceland’s West Coast, and before heading back to Reykjavik, our group gradually made its way across Snaefellsnes peninsula, a geological mixture of everything from lava fields to off-colored sandy beaches. Exploring this rugged region makes you think you’ve landed on another planet.


The earthy features here also extend to volcanoes, glaciers, mineral springs, and rock formations, as well as caves and bird colonies. Along this way is the Myrar district, a region of plains and bogs with small lakes.

A number of villages line this region as well. Making quick stops at some of them along the way, we got to explore Búöir, a former fishing village graced by a white sandy embankment adjacent to the Búŏavik Bay. To get to the sand, you walk through a grassy area.

Once there, you will also see lava rock, as the dark and large stones make up the Búŏahraun lava field. The area also has a bit of mysticism to it. New Age followers are said to have been coming here with the notion that this place is best for finding “good vibrations.”


We also spend some time at Arnarstapi, another village that is mainly a summer resort. There are cottages here along with a harbor and seaside cliffs, and a large stone statue that is a monument of a Pagan figure, which “looks out” for this area.


Now vacant, Dritvik bay was once home to a prominent fishing village but now is mostly seen for a valley of lava formations and gorges and pebble-covered beach called Djúpalónssandur. A reminder of Dritvik’s past, the beach has four heavy lifting stones that were used in a game of strength by fisherman.


With each stone differing in weight, they went like this:  Fullsterkur (meaning “full strength”); Hálfsterkur (“half strength”); Hálfdrættingur (“weakling”) and Amlóði (“useless”). Fishermen had to lift at least Hálfdrættingur to hip height to be eligible. The beach also holds the remains of a British trawler called the Epine, which was shipwrecked east of Dritvik in March 1948. Only five out of the 19 crew members were saved.

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Also in Snaefellsnes peninsula, there are sets of waterfalls called Barnafoss and Hraunfossar, which may not be as large as other walls but you can get a good view via a walkway and climbing up and down a rocky section. A major piece in the peninsula is Snaefellsjökull Glacier, found at the very end. A beautiful site, this glacier is a stratovolcano, which means it’s a conical volcano built up by many layers of hardened lava, tephra, pumice, and volcanic ash.


The glacier also has a footnote in literature, described in Jules Verne’s novel, “Journey to the Center of the Earth.” Yes, overall, there is much to see while driving along Snaefellsnes.