Aging Cheapskate’s Guide to NYC Tourist Adventures

Westside Market The best cheap hotel is in Newark, the Robert Treat… Free parking … Free shuttle to Newark Penn Station/Newark Airport … Free wifi … Free (and decent) breakfast … Queen beds, washer/dryers. With reservs about three weeks out, rooms are under $100. Backup hotel is Ramada in Jersey City. Slightly more expensive, $12 a day parking about two blocks away.


For the train to Manhattan (abt 18 minutes, faster than Queens to Manhattan), we got PATH Senior SmartLink cards. From Newark, you can go to the World Trade Center station or (transfer at Journal Sq.) the midtown station at 33rd Street. Each trip is $1 for seniors. OR take NJ Transit trains directly from Newark to New York Penn Station on 34th Street. ($5 off peak each way, $2.25 for seniors). Zabar's

General PATH train info here: Senior cards are here: NJ Transit from Penn Station: Coo Coo app has next train info for PATH and NJT.


In the city, take the subway. Best cell phone app is Embark; free and GPS based. Type in your destination and get the closest subway lines with next arrival times. General subway info here: Geezers, get the half-fare Metro Senior cards: For the Lower East Side and other neighborhoods not served by subway, try Uber cars. No cash, tip included and you can see the driver approach on the iPhone app. Register at


No matter where you are in the city, walking is involved, as are U-turns. Use your compass and remember that streets run South to North, from the Bowery to the Bronx, (so 48th is north of 33rd). Avenues run East to West, (so 8th is West of 5th). Broadway is a diagonal roughly SE to NW. Need a public restroom? Charmin has a good app called SitOrSquat.Becco Some restaurants to try: Also Becco, Hourglass, Heartland; West Bank Café; good schlock, Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House The food halls are chef-based fast food  To find a nearby restaurant (with price points and reviews) you can use the Open Table app or Yelp, although reviews on Yelp can seem hyperbolic.


See a show. Raise your consciousness and help out starving playwrights. Theatre tix: Rush and Lottery tix: Guide to free stuff: Guide to what’s going on: New York Today at


Some stuff we like:

New York Water Taxi

The High Line phase 3

Brooklyn Bridge Walk

Greenwich Village Jazz

Drama Book 250 W. 40th

Gondola Guy                

French bookstore         

Paleo in the City           

Audubon Collection    You can'tAn event sked:


New York City Restaurant Week


New York City Restaurant Week

Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show


St. Patrick’s Day Parade


Tribeca Film Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden


Cinco De Mayo

Dance Parade

Book Expo America


Restaurant Week

Museum Mile Festival

Met Opera in the Parks

Shakespeare in the Park

JVC Jazz Festival

Central Park SummerStage


Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks

New York Restaurant Week

Met Opera in the Parks

Shakespeare in the Park


Central Park SummerStage

Shakespeare in the Park

U.S. Tennis Open prelims … free


West Indian Day Parade and Carnival

Broadway Week …

Brooklyn Book Festival …

Brooklyn Beat Festival …


New Yorker Festival …

New York Wine & Food Festival

Village Halloween Parade

Halloween Extravaganza


New York Comedy Festival

New York Culinary Festival

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Holiday Windows on Fifth Avenue


Holiday Train Show at the NYBG

Christmas and Holiday Concerts and Shows

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

West Village Chorale: Messiah Sing and Caroling Walk


Corrections, Dead Links and Additions to


Giant v. Wegmans

Usually, no comparison. Except lately.

1. Giant’s buffet bar is mediocre but stable. We get the Cobb salad frequently. Wegman’s buffet bar is terrific but wifty. This week, empty steamer trays at seven (7) protein stations, all chicken. All of the Asian chicken missing, for sure.

2. Wegman’s cheese corner is the best, except for my fave, Morbier. I’ve asked a dozen times. but no. Giant’s Di Giorno (sp?) always has it. Advantage Giant.

3. Wegman’s has better staff training. Giant sucks at this.


It’s nice to go away and nice to come home — especially with a great recipe. We ate and drank our way across the East Bay last week, and finished in San Francisco at Ichi. Of all the places we went, I commend to you Gather in Berkeley and Fish in Sausalito.

Besides excellent food from exec chef Sean Baker (we had a terrine and an incredibly light brick-oven pizza), Gather has my favorite resto design: a crescent with the kitchen at the core and the bar in back. Easy for the servers, lots of room for the customers. At Fish, (exec chef Megan Smith), there is the sensible protocol Order At Counter, Take Number, Find Seat, Get Served. So easy, so efficient and well, great fish. Here’s my smoked sturgeon taco:

fish taco

Our favorite restaurant meal came at Ichi, even though Sushi Chef Timmy took the night off. Yet I’m asking you not to go to Ichi. Please. It’s already too crowded. We spent hours at a dive bar down the street drinking margaritas and waiting for a call that our table was ready. It was awful, having to drink tequila and talk to our friends.


Ichi … See how little this place is?

Once we got into Ichi, we waved away the sushi rolls and gorged on nigiri: Tuna Tataki, Aji, Hotaru Ika, Inada, Kamasu, Katsuo, Maguro Zuke, Kona Kampachi, Shima Aji, Umi Masu, Mirugai. Then we thought we finished with unfiltered sake (do it) … but our Chef / Tour Guide Nate Keller kept ordering. An hour later, we staggered out way too full.

Great meal. And yet, some of the best eating of the week came from our BFF Heidi Cotler. It was the San Francisco treat. Not Rice-A-Roni … Cioppino.

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Mother’s Day @ Mangia Qui

mangia mimosas

Tapas and Mimosas

We took Velma to Mangia Qui for the Mother’s Day Brunch, had a lovely time. It’s a charming room and service is very good. It’s been a long time between lox and bagels for us, so Dee and I both had the New Yorker …

mangia nyer

New Yorker

It’s a fluffy omelet with smoked salmon, sour cream and chives and a toasted bagel. Velma had the Italian Breakfast, pecan raisin sweet bread dipped in egg and sauteed, with mascarpone and peppered bacon. Great food.


Finding good stuff you weren’t looking for is a happy deal. (There’s a word for it — serendipitous — but it’s a mouthful.) I began today looking for web art of pasta with mussels because I wanted to say how much better and more interesting spaghetti is with mussels than with clams, and when I made it last Sunday I forgot to take a picture. So I stole this from Food & Wine.

mussels and pasta

Then I went looking for the NYT piece by Mark Bittman that Dee sent me last month, the one that started us on seafood pasta. We made it for dinner one Saturday night. The next week, I wanted to make some for Megan, so on a Wegman’s trip I meant to pick up a couple bags of littleneck clams. We were in a hurry. I didn’t notice at the checkout that I actually was paying for two bags of mussels (they were in the same ice bath the clams had occupied the week before) until the woman in line behind me asked, “Mussels? What are you making?”

“Uh … pasta sauce,” I said, because why not. Mussels could work.

So it turns out that mussels make a much richer sauce than clams. Wow. (Recipe at the end.)

That’s it. That’s what I wanted to say. Except that while looking for the pasta post I found today’s Mark Bittman post about ChopChop, a cooking magazine for kids that sounds interesting. He says some things and quotes some things, the best of which is this:

“Cooking is not so much a matter of right or wrong but of learning what you like.”


Here’s something I liked that you might too:


24 mussels, scrubbed

4 ounces white wine

Salt (probably not much) and pepper to taste

4 ounces pasta

olive oil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste

2 cloves sliced garlic, or to taste

Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


Put the wine and the mussels in a large covered saute pan, steam until they open.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it.

After the mussels open (maybe 5-10 minutes) take them off the heat and let them cool. Throw out any that do not open.

Take the meat out of the mussel shells, strain and reserve the liquid.

Chop the mussels.

Cook the pasta in the boiling salted water.

Add olive oil to the saute pan and cook the red pepper flakes and garlic for about 30 seconds. Add the mussels and continue to cook, stirring, for about a minute.

Add about 1/2 cup of the reserved shellfish liquid.

Drain the pasta when it’s nearly done and stir it into the clams.

Cook, stirring, until the pasta is tender and the mixture is saucy. Add more clam-cooking liquid (or hot water or white wine), if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a little butter if you like.

Garnish with parsley and some mussel shells, and serve.

Container for the Things Contained

If you are lucky enough to have middle-aged kids, you may have noticed some things.

First, they survived your attempts at parenting. I say this as a former winner of the Homer J. Simpson Foundation’s “Father Knows Least” Award.

Next, they still need advice, but don’t want it from you. They may occasionally need money, and do want it from you.

Possibly they don’t like to cook, but they do like to eat. Every couple weeks you make a meatloaf for them or some jambalaya or a boatload of fajita fixings. Nothing regular, nothing planned very well, just a little sumpin sumpin they can have before they have to jump in the car and take their kids to soccer practice or baseball practice or gymnastics or basketball.

Here’s what I’ve noticed about that: You never get the containers back.

Oh, you get containers. If you text your daughter every week in all caps and say PUT CONTAINERS IN YOUR CAR NOW. Here’s what you get:


Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Any Salvation Army Thrift Store clerk would be proud to shelve these babies in the 25 Cents section. On the other hand, the shelves in my fridge have rectangular boxes like

containerthat look like this when filled up.


They are knockoffs of the Cambro boxes you see in a professional kitchen, but (a big but) the lids actually fit. I get them at The Restaurant Store. They are cheap, which is good because it’s not looking like I’m getting any back from my kid any time soon.



Wow … I was in Wegman’s during a strange too-modern conference call on my iphone about good stickiness and page views on the Rock The Capital web site, and I happened on these really cool brown tomatoes.

They had a good heft, and a quality I can only describe as squeezability. Yeah, kinda like a hot date in high school or a good Lancaster County heirloom tomato. They smelled sweet, with an acidic side aspect. No earthy barnyard odor, no hard plastic California impression.

The proprietary name is Kumato.

They are grown in western Europe. Last time I looked, that’s about 3,000 miles away, roughly the same as California. So why do the California tomatoes taste like crap, and these tomatoes are juicy, firm, flavorful examples of veggie love?

Let’s recap. Lemme splain my local food wackiness.

Several years ago, I agreed to be a founding member of Slow Food Harrisburg. I introduced the Grand Local Slow Food Poobah to the culinary program at HACC. Dinners resulted. They were a bit precious. I mean no disrespect here. Slow Food is an okay movement; our friend Nate Keller is on a Slow Food board with Alice Waters in San Francisco, and I respect that. But Nate can source almost any imaginable food for his high-end Gastronaut catering service.

Because. It’s. California.

Slow Food in Pennsylvania, not so good. There are only so many root veggies we can get through the winter with. Tomatoes aren’t among them.

Slow Food started in Italy. This is only a guess, but I doubt there are many chapters in Sweden, fewer in Scandinavia. Slow Food is a bounteous, horn-of-plenty concept. For me, I don’t want to fly to Hawaii for a pineapple. I want it to come to me. Sue me.

The thing is, I want it to come to me in fresh shape, full flavored. As Leon Redbone says, I wanna be seduced. Too much to ask? I don’t think so. Somebody at Giant in Camp Hill should buy a Kumato and eat it … because, to me, local food means not having to drive all the way to Wegman’s.

And yes, I now know what it is like to be a jerk in a grocery store talking on a cell phone about page views, holding a tomato.