New York

Itís a wonderful town

By Linda Bauer

Sunday, February 2, 2001

New York City's endless attractions afford visitors various entertainment, dining and intellectual opportunities. If you have been to the Big Apple many times and enjoyed the standards such as the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center Statue of Liberty and museums, why not try some of the unusual excursions offered in this major metropolis?

There are literally dozens of tours available throughout the city from Central Park biking, to seaplane adventures, to Harlem spirituals, to backstage at the Lincoln Center and Radio City Music Hall. The real Kramer from the Seinfeld Show hosts one of the, hottest tours, which is sold out each weekend. I had to meet him for breakfast at a coffee shop, and when I asked how I would recognize him, he laughed and said--"what do you mean  I'm Kramer!"  Actually he is tall and slim. just like Cosmo Kramer, but has long curly brown hair cascading to his shoulders instead of straight up, and he sports a trademark backwards baseball cap.  

Kenny was repeatedly recognized by friends and fans at the coffee shop and on the street. His demeanor is a mix of happiness at his good fortune, amazement that he ran for mayor, and down to earth smarts about what he wants from life. He has been a stand-up comic for years and after the success of the show decided to begin the Kramer's Reality Road Show. In fact the episode with Peterman and the bus tour was based on Kenny Kramerís tour.  He takes over 40 guests each week in a bus to see key locations for the show including the Soup Kitchen and Monk's Restaurant, sharing backstage information during the entire trip. Rare video footage, pizza and a surprise dessert are also included. For more information call 1(800) KRAMERS or visit www.kennykramer.com.

The highlight of my week in New York was spent enjoying the Big Apple on several Savory Sojourns, a company founded by actress Marisa Tomei's mother, Addie. As a native New Yorker and a resident of Brooklyn for fifty years, Addie's knowledge and love of the city provides an intensely interesting tour. Formerly an English teacher with New York City Schools she traded in the three R's to spend time on her three V's ‑ vim, vigor and vitality.

A couple of years ago she made the delicious decision to capitalize on her love of food (derived from her Sicilian mother and Tuscan father), a passion for New York, and her teaching expertise to aid visitors in enjoying a culinary walking tour. Some of the jaunts involve groups as small as six or as large as twenty. They also offer hotel accommodations, airport greetings plus multi-lingual guides.  Wine tastings celebrity chef demonstrations, market forays and meals at top restaurants provide numerous opportunities to enjoy the New York food scene with Savory Sojourns.

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes and treat yourself and friends to a gustatory delight. My favorite of the tours was Brooklyn, because of my interest in exploring the borough and a visit to Rustic, a restaurant on Cobble Hill with a Mediterranean flair and a wood-burning fireplace.

Chef Kenneth Johnson delighted our group with an olive cheese and tomato tart, while answering questions with infectious enthusiasm.

The party reconvened to visit the hot new restaurants and shops along Smith Street. Then we took a short walk to Sahadi's, with its fresh spices and barrels of all types of food. The owner Charlie Sahadi spoke to our group about his origins and the history of the emporium. Next a bus ride to the famous River Cafe allowed us a chance to view New York's waterfront, sip iced tea, and contemplate our journey. 

The following day a tour through Chinatown included a wonderful Dim Sum breakfast at Sweet n' Tart, winner of the prestigious Jade Chopsticks Award. Don't miss the paper baked fried rice with chicken, squid and scallops or the orange flavored chili prawns and chicken, but remember that the menu is full of over one hundred other interesting items to tempt your taste buds.  The shops in Chinatown sell exotic teas, meats, lovely porcelain and scarves, so we indulged ourselves while Addie pointed out the best places to shop and gave us a bit of history,

Soon we found ourselves in Little Italy, where our Italian tour guide noted famous sites, showed us the best bakery and treated us to fantastic gelato. We continued to walk it off by visiting SoHo and window shopping where the prices were far higher than all the calories we had consumed! 

The next day Maury Rubin's famous muffins and fruit tarts from City Bakery fueled us. He believes in only the freshest ingredients and flours. This is an excellent philosophy that is shared by the purveyors at our next stop ‑ the Greenmarket at Union Square. Four days each week farmers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania sell their fresh herbs, crops, flowers and meats and cheeses. 

Great prices, free recipes, and plenty of friendly farmers made this a must for any gourmet or, city slicker. Next we took a walk to the T Salon and Emporium and a visit to ABC Carpet and Home which houses six floors of every imaginable home furnishing and accessory. Then we lingered downstairs at Chicama, the Latin American style cuisine of Chef Douglas Rodriguez and his fantastic ceviche.  He concocts delicious dishes and drinks that will revitalize the worn out shopper.

Several of Addie Tomei's other tours to different areas had some spectacular restaurants. Local, just off Broadway and Eighth serves some of the finest fare of all. The Restaurant Above, where Chef Larry Forgione creates Asian influenced dishes on the 21st floor of the Hilton , Times Square was also outstanding. My favorite place for appetizers and to stay is The Drake, where attention to detail and service is key.

Guastavino's is a new venue with two restaurants nestled under the Queensboro, Bridge. The spectacular architecture and adjacent market are worth the trip. If you would like to take one of the customized culinary tours call Savory Sojourns at 1-888-9SAVORY or visit www.savorysojourns.com. For more New York City information call (212) 484-1200 or check www.nycvisit.com.

The Houston Courier
Sunday, February 4, 2001.