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Archives for February 2014

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Learning Historic Preservation Techniques in Falmouth Jamaica

While doing research online two years ago, I happened on information about historic preservation and Archeology Awareness Week in Jamaica. My interest piqued, I followed a link to the website for Falmouth Heritage Renewal (FHR), a charitable organization that is involved in historic preservation in Jamaica.

On FHR’s home page was an announcement about a free walking tour of Falmouth. I fired off an email and scheduled a tour that same week, a day after Prince Harry visited.

In a presentation prior to the start of the tour, FHR’s Executive Director, Dr. Ivor Conolley, explained the history of FHR, the projects it had completed as well as those underway. I also found out that FHR provides training, apprenticeship and mentoring programs for youths and adults interested in historic preservation. It also repairs homes for residents who can either donate labor or agree not to sell for a specified time after the work is completed.

I was so impressed by FHR’s work and activism that after the presentation and tour, I heard myself offering to help. Several months later, I was assisting them to organize its first three-day preservation seminar for architects, engineers and other professionals in the building trades.

FHR partnered with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) in the UK, and two architects and an engineer flew to Jamaica to present at the seminar. Along with local preservation professionals, they gave hands on demonstrations of preservation techniques, including a traditional burning of limestone to make lime mortar. The seminar was so well received that participants suggested that FHR make it an annual event.

This year, the seminar will run from today to February 28th. Here are some of the photos from last year’s.

Preparing lime mortar. 

Using lime mortar to repair a damaged stone wall. (Photos from FHR.)

A few of FHR’s projects.

In 1996, the Government of Jamaica declared Falmouth Historic District a National Monument. The historic town celebrates the 245th anniversary of its founding this year.

Linking to Travel Photo Thursday, which Nancie at Budget Travelers Sandbox organizes. Be sure to head over and check out more photos from locations around the world. 

Eating Chinatown NYC’s Cellar Restaurants

I had never heard the term cellar restaurant until Liz of Ahoy New York mentioned it during our walking tour of Little Italy and Chinatown a few weekends ago.

Cellar restaurants are located in the basement of a building. There are two in Manhattan’s Chinatown – Hop Kee at 21 Mott Street and Wo Hop at 17 Mott Street.

Neither was a stop on our tour but I was curious to find out whether there was more to them than their location. After the tour, my friend Joan and I returned to Chinatown. Walking from Canal Street, we arrived first at Hop Kee and decided to try it.

As we descended the steps and entered the restaurant, my eyes landed on a photo of chef and television personality, Anthony Bourdain. Good enough for Bourdain, good enough for me, I thought. My eyes barely scanned the other celebrity photos.

Eating Chinatown NYC's Cellar Restaurants

Entrance to Hop Kee

A handful of people occupied a few of the twenty or so tables and the waiter pointed us in the direction of several empty ones. Vinyl covered chairs matched honey-colored laminate wall panels that likely have been there since the restaurant opened in 1962.

I selected a beef with noodle dish. Joan wasn’t very hungry so she ordered a bowl of soup. That’s when our waiter pointed out the required $8 minimum order per diner and we realized we had overlooked the note on the menu.

It wouldn’t have been a problem but like a lot of restaurants in Chinatown, Hop Kee is a cash-only operation and the closest ATM was at least a ten-minute walk away.

Our waiter didn’t look too happy when we decided on one entree but we couldn’t be sure as he wore the same pained expression the entire time he served us. An older guy, he looked as if he’s been working at the restaurant since it opened.

Even with the minimum, when the entrée was ready, he brought two plates. I wasn’t very impressed with the noodles but the portion was so generous, I took most of it home.

As we left Hop Kee, we noticed a line of people leading from street level down to the entrance to Wo Hop, the other cellar restaurant. One couple we talked with said of the two restaurants, the food at Wo Hop was better.

Wo Hop actually has two restaurants on Mott Street, the cellar restaurant and another one at street level. The female of the couple stressed that the upstairs restaurant was for visitors, the downstairs for those in the know.

After our experience at Hop Kee and the couple’s glowing review of Wo Hop, I jumped at the chance to try Wo Hop the following day when I returned for the Lunar Parade.

There were more wait staff than diners in the restaurant when I arrived. One diner, a female NYC police officer, looked like a regular. She sat in a corner with a good view of the door as well as the other diners, which included a party of six who was carrying on a lively discussion at two tables in the back.

The waiter showed me to a table and quickly brought me a menu. I ordered a small hot and sour soup and beef and broccoli entrée.

Wo Hop has been around for 74 years. A small restaurant, it holds about ten tables. The ceiling is low and most of the walls are covered in photos. Like Hop Kee, you wouldn’t find it on the cover of a restaurant décor magazine. But therein lies their charm.

It certainly wasn’t the food although it could have been my selection so I’m willing to give both another try. Wo Hop did not have a posted per diner minimum and they had an ATM machine.

Both Hop Kee and Wo Hop open late on the weekends and, as Liz mentioned, are favorites of college students and late night crowds. It isn’t difficult to see why with such healthy portions and attractive prices.

Wo Hop, at 17 Mott Street is open weekdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., and to 7 a.m. on weekends. Hop Kee is open till 1:00 a.m. during the week, to 4:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

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A Wine Tasting at Little Italy’s Enoteca DiPalo

A wine tasting was the last thing on my mind when I signed up for Ahoy New York’s Food Tasting and Cultural Walking Tour of Little Italy and Chinatown a few weekends ago.

However, several hours after our tour, my friend, Joan and I were back at DiPalo’s to buy some of the cheeses we had sampled.

A woman was standing at the counter next to us as Joan placed her order. Hearing the type of cheeses we were getting, she told us we needed to get a bottle of wine next door at Enoteca DiPalo (DiPalo’s Wine Bar). There’s a tasting going on now, she added.

Joan and I headed next door as soon as we got our order. About a dozen people were in the narrow space, which had bottles of wines positioned at various angles against an exposed brick wall. (an enoteca is a wine library).

Wine tasting

Enoteca DiPalo

A small group of about seven stood in a loose circle towards the back of the enoteca as if they were at a private tasting. Everyone else milled around, glass in hand.

Enoteca DiPalo, DiPalo’s Selects’ latest venture, opened in 2008. While DiPalo’s Selects carries specialty foods from all of Italy’s twenty regions, Enoteca DiPalo carries wines and spirits. It also offers regular tastings to educate the community on Italian wines.

Sam DiPalo, a descendant of Savino DiPalo, the cheese maker who started DiPalo’s runs the enoteca. Sam spent several years studying Italian wines and food products at Italy’s University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenza.

Wine tasting Enoteca DiPalo

Tabarrini Montefalco Rosso

We tasted Tabarrini’s Montefalco Rosso and Montefalco Sagrandino Colle Grimaldesco 2009. (Sorry, I didn’t make notes but I left with a bottle of the Rosso.)

The woman who’d told us about the tasting had said Giampaolo Tabarrini, the owner of Tabarinni Winery was at the tasting. We soon spotted him. I introduced myself and asked him about his wines. He spoke proudly and passionately about his family’s wines and the olive oil they produce and insisted that we should visit the vineyard. One person at the tasting had been and said it was worth the trip. I have no doubt.

Wine tasting at Enoteca DiPalo

Joan, Giampaolo and me

The Tabarrini family has been making wines for four generations in Montefalco, Umbria. They grow Sagrantino grapes on eleven of their twenty-two acre property and began bottling their wines towards the end of the 1990s. Giampaolo, who was in the US for a series of tastings, said they also make grappa.

Enoteca DiPalo is located at 200 Grand Street, next door to DiPalo’s Specialty Foods. Call 212-680-0545 for information on their next tasting.

I looked for a recipe that could be paired with one of Tabarrini’s wines but they were all in Italian. Here’s one from DiPalo’s. Enjoy!

Spinosi Pasta with Prosciutto and Lemon
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  1. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  2. Generous ½ cup prosciutto that has been cut into strips 1 to 1½-inches long
  3. 3 tablespoons white wine
  4. About 5 ounces Spinosini pasta
  5. ½ to 1 cup pasta cooking liquid
  6. 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  7. 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  8. 1 tablespoon minced Italian parsley
  9. Additional cheese and Italian parsley leaves for garnish
  1. Heat the oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the prosciutto to the skillet and cook until heated through but not browned and crisp. Add the wine and keep warm.
  2. When the water boils, drop in the pasta. Cook 2 minutes. Lift out the pasta and place in the skillet with the prosciutto.
  3. Measure 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Add ½ cup to the skillet, stir gently and cook 1 minute. Add the lemon zest, cheese and parsley. Toss gently and cook 1 minute longer. If the pasta seems dry, add more of the pasta cooking liquid and a dash of olive oil.
  4. Divide between two heated plates. Garnish each serving with additional cheese and parsley leaves.
  1. Makes 2 main dish servings or 4 appetizer servings.

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Valentine’s Day Stories About How They Met

A few days ago, my best friend mentioned that her parents met on a blind date on Valentine’s Day. There were married for forty years until death separated them.

I remember thinking what a sweet love story then immediately it occurred to me how easily we forget that our parents were once young.

I thought I had filed the story away. But as I started outlining the post I originally wanted to write, a new idea popped into my head. Why not interview my friends and relatives about how they met?

I made a list of eight couples and texted each to get their stories. Four of them agreed.

I asked each how they met, how long they’ve been together, how they knew they had found the one, their secret to keeping their love going and how they planned to spend Valentine’s Day. Here are their stories:

When Anna Met Errol

Anna and Errol met in school. Her best friend took classes with Errol and asked him to introduce her to his friend. Errol told her that he wanted to meet her friend.

Anna and Errol started dating casually, sometimes they’d double date with her friend and his. When another of Errol’s friends told him he wanted to date Anna, Errol called Anna right away and they became exclusive.

The two couples married within a week of each other. Almost forty years and two children later, Anna and Errol still hold hands together.

Asked how they plan to spend Valentine’s Day, Anna said they didn’t need a special day to remind them of their love.

A Rasta Luv

Jenniffer: I was twenty-two when Lexie and I met. I was living in the same apartment complex as a friend of his and he

Valentine's Day

Jenniffer & Lexie

would say hello whenever we saw each other.

We were finally introduced at a neighbor’s birthday party and shared a dance. Later, my neighbor invited me to attend a concert with him and his girlfriend. I told him the only way I’d go is if he found me a date, a cute guy, not one of his ugly friends.

Lexie was the date my neighbor found. He was the youngest of his friends, and he looked young even though we are only two years apart.

We didn’t date, really, as I got pregnant shortly after. Lexie is the most attentive man I’ve met. I guess that’s when I really fell in love with him. We were both working low-paying jobs, plus he was going to school but he’d give me all his money so I could take a taxi to work.

And if I took the bus to work, he’d accompany me and make sure I got there okay. He took over the cooking, he even cleaned my shoes in the mornings. He made sure I was taken care of. The boy I met thirty-three years ago turned out to be more of a man than I expected and he still makes me feel like his queen.

How do we keep our love going? Lexie, you should answer this one.

Lexie: You’ve got to love the one you’re with.

Jenniffer: And being honest with each other. I always tell him when he does something I don’t like. I’ve never tried to change him and he’s never tried to change me.

Lexie: Openness and honesty about our feelings. Valentine’s Day? We don’t set aside a day to show each other how we feel.

Jenniffer: Lexie gets up at 5:00am everyday, makes my coffee and puts it on my bedside table. Then he kisses me goodbye and leaves for work. On weekends, if I’m tired he makes our coffee which we have in bed, sometimes makes me breakfast too as after 31 years, I no longer make weekend breakfast.

Lexie: We’re each others’ Valentines.

A Facebook Match Made in Heaven

Valentine's Day

Judith and Winston

On September 24, 2010, I received a friend request from a guy on Facebook. He had the same family name as mine – I thought he might have been a relative so I checked. He wasn’t and I accepted his request.

We had a very good conversation online but I was a bit nervous that this wouldn’t be the case when we would actually meet in person.

It was absolutely extraordinary that our conversation continued seamlessly when we met for dinner a week later. Coincidentally, as well as having the same last name, his previous wife and I share the same first name. His sister and my sister share the same name as well.

We met around 7 pm and didn’t leave the restaurant until 11:30 pm. It was easy just being ourselves. We both have a strong love for reggae music and he wanted to hear the music on my iPod. This started a music sound clash with our iPods.. he would play a song and I would say I can do better than that. We went back and forth until I won. It was a blast!

I drove to work that day and turns out he was also heading back to Brooklyn to see his uncle. I offered to drop him off all the while thinking I must be insane driving this man in my car. When we got to his uncle’s house, we stayed in my car just talking and continued playing music.

I thought to myself, and he did as well, that this must be fate. Gosh, I looked at my watch and realized it was 3:30 a.m. Yes, 3:30 a.m. Work the next morning. Remember those days?

Four years later, we still remember that sound clash and still clash over music. And he’s always making me laugh. I think I fell in love with him when I saw the care he showed his uncle, who’s like a father to him, and the warmth of their relationship.

How do we keep the sparks alive? (Laughs) We argue! No, we don’t need Valentine’s Day to appreciate each other.

A Wrong Number Leads to Love

Bev: I dialed my uncle’s number and a voice I didn’t recognize answered the phone. Excuse me, I said, I think I have the wrong number.

Delroy: And I said, well you called so you can’t hang up now, you have to talk to me.

Bev: We talked for over an hour. And he started calling.

Delroy: I knew from her voice on that first call that she was the one. But two hours drive separated us so I decided to pay her a visit. I would have recognized her in a crowd.

Bev: He asked me to marry him soon after we met. I said no.

Delroy: And I kept asking.

Bev: When he asked for the millionth time on Valentine’s Day, I threw out the first date that came to mind (10/10/10). He smiled from ear to ear and kept smiling like a Cheshire cat.

Delroy (laughing): She didn’t know that the date she said was actually my birthday.

Bev: We couldn’t get that date but we were married a few days later. We’ll be together four years this year.

Delroy: And no, we don’t need a day to recognize how lucky we are to have found each other.

How did you meet your Valentine?