Jul 19, 2011

A fun new twist on Manhattan sightseeing

Getting the yen to spend a week or so in NYC this autumn, and while doing a little research I've discovered a new way to see the place.

New York Water Taxi and Bike and Roll NYC have joined forces to let you bike across the Brooklyn Bridge and take a Water Taxi back. The companies describe it as "part instant adventure and one part jaw-dropping views. It’s easy, safe and fun, and you don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to do the ride--all levels of riders can enjoy this excursion."

The package includes an 8-hour bike rental, a Water Taxi hop-on/hop-off pass, a four-color route map indicating sights along the route, and a helmet and bike lock.

Highlights include a close glimpse of the Statue of Liberty as you cruise by on the return trip.

  • Excursions available at two Bike and Roll locations: Pier 84 (West 43rd Street) or Battery Park (just west of Pier A). 
  • Pick up your bike as early as 9 a.m. and get a nice early start.
  • Get the return water taxi ride at Fulton Ferry Landing at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. It will take you to Manhattan's South Street Seaport, Battery Park, or Pier 84/Weswt 44th Street. 
  • Price: $49/adults, $29/kids
For more info, visit the Water Taxi website.

Jul 13, 2011

Food cost: healthy vs. junk

New research from the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) points to an interesting geographic variation in the relative price of healthy foods, which may give some Americans “an economic incentive to consume a less healthful diet.”

The study started with seven healthy food groups. Then, using data from the Quarterly Food-at-Home Price Database, it compared prices for 100 grams of healthy groups with prices of less healthy alternatives:
  • Whole-grain products were compared with refined-grain counterparts
  • Dark green and orange vegetables were compared with starchy vegetables
  • Whole fruit was compared with commercially prepared sweet snacks
  • Low-fat milk was compared with whole and 2% milk, and with carbonated nonalcoholic beverages
  • Bottled water was compared with carbonated nonalcoholic beverages
  • Fruit juice was compared with noncarbonated nonalcoholic caloric beverages (fruit drinks)
What the study found

Well…it’s complicated:

1. Some healthy foods were more expensive than less healthy foods, but in other cases, healthier options were less expensive.
  • Whole grains were more expensive than reined grains across the United States, with prices ranging from 23 percent higher (San Francisco) to more than 60 percent higher (nonmetro Pennsylvania and New York) than for reined grains.
  • Fresh and frozen dark green vegetables were more expensive than starchy vegetables in all markets (prices ranging from 20 to 80 percent higher than starchy vegetables), but orange vegetables (e.g., carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash) were less expensive than starchy vegetables in some markets, including metro New York, San Francisco, and Florida.
  • Low-fat milk (skim and 1%) was between 10-20 percent less expensive than whole and 2% milk in most markets.
  • Low-fat milk was more expensive than nonalcoholic carbonated beverages in some markets, but less expensive in others.
  • Bottled water is the same price or less expensive than soda in all but one market (urban New York), with a price ranging from 6 percent (Boston) to over 33 percent (San Francisco) lower than the price for soda.
2. Prices of healthy foods vary widely across the United States.
  • Whole grains, dark green and orange vegetables, low-fat milk, and fruit juice demonstrate the largest geographic price variation.
  • The geographic variation in the price of whole fruit when compared with sweet or savory commercially prepared snacks is generally smaller than that of other comparisons. On a per-gram basis, whole fruit is 60-70 percent less expensive in all markets.
Download the entire study, “Geographic Differences in the Relative Price of Healthy Foods.”

Jul 6, 2011

Best Beers in America for 2011

Since 2003 the American Homebrewers Association has polled readers of its members’ journal, Zymurgy, to get a list of their 20 favorite beers. The only rule for including the beer is that it must be commercially available somewhere in the USA. AHA compiled the results to arrive at a list ranking the most popular beers. In other words, the beer in the #1 position was included on the most lists.

There were an amazing number of ties, but who cares? This list is a minefield of beers worth trying. I’ve never had the #1 beer, Pliny the Elder, but summer’s a good time to try it. If I can find it, that is.

Here’s the list:

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3 (tie). Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
3 (tie). Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
5. Bell’s Hopslam
6. Stone Arrogant Bastard
7. Sierra Nevada Celebration
8 (tie). Sierra Nevada Torpedo
8 (tie). Stone Ruination
10. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
11. Stone Sublimely Self Righteous
12. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine
13. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
14 (tie). Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter
14 (tie). Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
16 (tie). Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
16 (tie). New Glarus Belgian Red
18. North Coast Old Rasputin
19. Bell’s Expedition Stout
20 (tie). Deschutes The Abyss
20 (tie). Left Hand Milk Stout
20 (tie). Odell IPA
20 (tie). Samuel Adams Noble Pils
20 (tie). Surly Furious
20 (tie). Troegs Nugget Nectar
26 (tie). Rogue Dead Guy Ale
26 (tie). Samuel Adams Boston Lager
28. Anchor Steam
29 (tie). Bear Republic Racer 5
29 (tie). Ommegang Three Philosophers
29 (tie). Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
29 (tie). Three Floyds Alpha King
29 (tie). Three Floyds Dark Lord
34 (tie). Avery Maharaja
34 (tie). Dogfish Head Indian Brown
34 (tie). Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
34 (tie). Three Floyds Gumballhead
38 (tie). Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA
38 (tie). Lost Abbey Angel’s Share
38 (tie). New Belgium La Folie
38 (tie). New Belgium Ranger
38 (tie). Oskar Blues Old Chub
43 (tie). Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
43 (tie). Great Divide Yeti
43 (tie). New Belgium 1554
43 (tie). Russian River Blind Pig
43 (tie). Ska Modus Hoperandi
48 (tie). Alesmith Speedway Stout
48 (tie). Dark Horse Crooked Tree
48 (tie). Green Flash West Coast IPA
48 (tie). Summit EPA
48 (tie). Victory Prima Pils

Other rankings:
  • Best Brewery: Delaware’s Dogfish Head Craft Brewery had the largest total # of votes received by readers.
  • Best Portfolio: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, with 28 beers entered into voting by readers.
  • Top Import: Rodenbach Grand Cru, from Belgium.
  • Best “Spirit of Homebrew” (brewery’s total # of votes divided by annual barrel production, giving very small breweries a chance to shine): Alpine Beer Company in Alpine, California.

Jul 1, 2011

4th of July watermelon ideas

From the National Watermelon Promotion Board come some fun and colorful ideas to brighten up your Fourth of July celebration. For more information about watermelons, including recipes and health/nutrition data, visit

Red, White & Blue Watermelon Sundaes
Serves 4
4 cups watermelon balls
2 cups fresh blueberries
4 dollops prepared whipped topping
Red, white and blue star sprinkles

Gently mix together the watermelon and blueberries. Divide among 4 bowls or cups. Top each with a dollop of whipped topping and decorate with red ,white and blue sprinkles. Serve immediately.

Watermelon Almond Tart
Serves 6-8
1 cup sliced almonds
1 seedless watermelon sliced into 3-5" pieces, rind removed
1 cup low- or no-fat vanilla flavored yogurt
1 cup blueberries
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup

In a non-stick sauté pan over medium heat, toast the almonds while constantly stirring to prevent burning. When they are golden, remove them to a heatproof tray or foil to cool. Cut the watermelon slice into 6 to 8 pie-shaped wedges. Dip the back (curved) side of each slice in the yogurt and then the almonds, re-assembling the pieces on a serving platter as you complete each piece. When finished, it will look like a piecrust of almonds around the watermelon slices. Frost the top of the reassembled watermelon with the remaining yogurt and decorate the top with the berries. Drizzle the chocolate syrup over the top. Serve cold.

Patriotic Petit Fours (in top photo)
Makes 12
12 1-inch cubes of seedless watermelon
1 cup cream cheese frosting
12 red and/or blue candied almonds
Red, white and blue star-shaped sprinkles

Arrange watermelon cubes on a serving platter. Place the frosting in a Ziploc bag and trim off a bit of one bottom corner. Decoratively pipe the frosting onto each watermelon cube. Place an almond at the top of the frosting on each petit four. Decorate with sprinkles and serve on red, white and blue table decor.