Monday, May 12, 2014

405 years ago, meals in New York City were both simpler and smaller

The highlight of Ship to Shore -- part of Sustainable Seafood Week NYC -- was this Ceviche of Golden Tile Fish, which is long-line caught by New Jersey fishing boats. Village Fishmongers, the supplier, says Golden Tile Fish has little or no mercury.

Freshly shucked oysters and clams also were on the menu, which was inspired by what Manhattan's earliest residents might have been eating in 1609, when Henry Hudson discovered the river that now separates New York and New Jersey.


I've been visiting Manhattan for many decades, but got a fresh perspective on Saturday during a three-hour cruise up and down the East River and into Long Island Sound.

The meal served on board was simple and "local," from within 150 miles of New York City:

Fresh oysters and clams on the half shell, fresh tile fish; artisan bread, butter, nuts and dried fruit, all washed down with a little beer and white wine.

The main sponsor was the American Littoral Society, a shore-conservation and advocacy group based in New Jersey.

Perhaps to emphasize that New Yorkers ate simpler food and smaller portions in the early 1600s, the sponsors ran out of shellfish, ceviche, white wine and nuts.

We filled our plates with briny oysters.

Oysters from Fishers Island, which is at the eastern end of Long Island Sound, were among those served, above and below.

Artisan bread came from Orwasher's Retail Bakery in the Bronx. I found myself eating a lot of bread crusts when the shellfish, ceviche, nuts and wine ran out.

From the river, everything looks different and familiar landmarks suddenly become puzzles. Here is the mighty RFK Bridge, which connects the city to its two major airports.

A NY Waterway ferry in the East River.

The Queensboro Bridge and one of the towers for the cable car linking Manhattan to Roosevelt Island.

Here is one of my hands of bridge.

The Roosevelt Island Lighthouse (and I didn't even know it had one).

Other things we saw

The Upper East Side of Manhattan includes the park-like setting of Gracie Mansion, where the city's mayor traditionally lives; the United Nations and some of the most expensive high-rises in Manhattan.

We also got a good look at Rikers, the island filled with jailbirds, and other East River islands now inhabited mostly by the feathered variety, including cormorants, egrets and gulls.

New York City's islands were once the home to hundreds of thousands of acres of natural oyster beds.

Today, you'll probably find that most oysters gather under the vaulted ceiling of the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant on East 42nd Street.

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