Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Urban Oyster Helps to Revitalize Sandy-Ravaged Neighborhood

By Tami Shaloum

NY Water Taxi Whizzes by Lady Liberty
Photo Courtesy of Urban Oyster
On a recent drizzly summer afternoon, WGINY got to sample one of Urban Oyster’s most philanthropic food walking tours. The New York City tour guide company ferried a group on a New York Water Taxi from South Street Seaport to the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook for its Neighborhood Eats: New York Waterfront Tour. The tour is designed to visit small, local businesses that were affected by Superstorm Sandy last fall as a way to revitalize the neighborhood. Because no subways go there directly, the Water Taxi is a great way to get people to this isolated section of Brooklyn. Other ways to get to Red Hook include taking the F/G/D/R trains to 4th Ave.-9th Street, or the 2/3/4/5 to Borough Hall, and then taking the Ikea shuttle, or taking the B61 or B57 bus.

Sipping complimentary glasses of crisp Riesling, courtesy of Red Hook Winery, we zipped through New York Harbor, past the Statue of Liberty and Governor’s Island, and disembarked at the pier in front of Fairway. Before we set out, we were split into two smaller groups (about 16 people each), and given a little history of the area. Much of Red Hook consists of Civil War-era warehouses that have been converted into art spaces. Many of the businesses, at least the ones the tour includes, make products using local or sustainable ingredients. This was evident right at the first place we visited, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. Owner Steve prides himself on using pure, whole ingredients to make the flaky graham-cracker crust and creamy custard-like key lime filling. The only thing more enjoyable than the pies was the awesome view of Manhattan from the friendly and colorful outdoor picnic area.

The next stop was the dual deliciousness of Cacao Prieto, a chocolate factory and whiskey distillery. Prieto uses only single origin, organic chocolate from the Dominican Republic. We were treated to a tour of the factory where the assistant chocolatier explained the process of making their high-end chocolate bars. Tasty samples were, of course, plentiful. Several different whiskies were available to sample as well. There is also an adjacent bar where customers can chill out with a cocktail or two.

The last stop on this mini-tour (the full tour generally visits about seven different establishments) was Brooklyn Crab, a tri-level crab shack that offers up Narragansett lager and fried oysters, along with other fresh seafood. Containing both indoor and outdoor seating, this restaurant has a casual, laid-back vibe, and boasts a pool table, cornhole (bean bag toss), and an 18-hole mini golf course for patrons’ enjoyment. On a warm summer night, one can imagine nothing better than kicking back with a frosty beer and some steamed crabs on the immense outdoor deck.

The Red Hook waterfront still has a long way to go toward full development. It sometimes feels like a small fishing village that is removed from New York City; the only reminder that you are still in the city is the exceptional views of Manhattan from the pier. It certainly has its charms though, and tours like Urban Oyster’s are essential in getting people there to appreciate it.

The Neighborhood Eats: New York Waterfront Tour costs $85 (with a built-in $5 donation to Sandy recovery efforts) and runs every Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 11am and ending at 2:30pm. For information about this and other tours, check out Urban Oyster's website.

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