Hold onto your helmets. This week we’re doing a serious ice cream crawl all over greater New York City. If that’s not enough fun, we’re also heading to a jazz weekend that unwraps layers of history in Harlem.
We always recommend using our Google Map, and this week might be tricky to manage without it. Grab your phone, grab your friends and get out there.
-Margot and Tejal
Margot, What’s the Plan?
Most cyclists I know refuel with those little packs of GU, or maybe a banana. But I’m going to make the case for ice cream.
For the third summer in a row, Ample Hills Creamery has challenged customers to visit all of its locations in a program called the Tour de Hills. Hit the nine shops* in one day and you’ll get a deep stack of prizes, joining an elite squad dubbed “Hillionaire Extraordinaires.”
Now, to be honest, you can complete the challenge any way you want — by subway, by car, on foot. But I recently completed the one-day tour by bike with friends, and if you can stomach nine scoops and at least 40 miles (plus any pedaling to and from home), this might be the best day of your entire summer. Or at least, the most memorable.
The bike ride, which includes a ferry ride to and from the newish location in Jersey City, should take at least four hours (but most likely several more, depending on where you live), so start by noon if you want to finish before nightfall.
My crew began our ride at Jacob Riis, since the beach location closes earliest, picking up our punch cards (available at all locations, and to be stamped at each) and picking out our first flavors (Summer of Love, chock-full of cupcake pieces).
Then we biked north, hitting the shops in Gowanus, the DeKalb Market Hall, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Jersey City, Bubby’s, Gotham West Market and Astoria, occasionally making stops in between for some savory bites. We finished, sticky and exhausted, at the original shop in Prospect Heights after dusk (I went with strawberry and vanilla, trying for palate cleansers).
No matter where you cap off your journey, you’ll receive some deep admiration and a free last scoop from the staff, who also give each new Hillionaire Extraordinaire an Ample Hills-branded sticker, pin, tote bag, Frisbee, water bottle, cookbook and $5 toward future trips to Ample Hills.
You’ll have all of that nice merch, but also a story of an excellent summer day spent in New York.
An ice cream purchase is required at each shop (and each has its own exclusive flavor), but if you want to bring a thermos to stash scoops you can’t finish, we won’t tell. There’s also an option to complete the tour over several days of your choosing (as long as you finish before Labor Day, the end of Hillionaires season) for a smaller prize package. * Finally, you don’t have to hit the new Red Hook factory on the tour, but you should visit as soon as you recover — it’s wacky and wonderful, and very Brooklyn. Read more here.
Tejal’s Recommendations for Before You Bike: Gowanus Edition
Runner & Stone is known for its crusty, deeply flavored breads, and it has several delicious, non-brunchy options for the brunch-averse, like the homemade baguette with chicken liver pâté, capers and herbs.
Freek’s Mill’s brunch cocktails are a draw, like the lower alcohol shandy mixed with a house-made soda. The potato hash with duck is an ideal pre-cycling meal, but don’t skip the clafoutis dotted with strawberries. For a more ambitious breakfast of summery lobster rolls or fried clams, you can’t really beat the good vibes and no-frills atmosphere at Littleneck.
Tejal’s Recommendations for After You Bike: Gowanus Edition
It’s hard to imagine a better feast after a long, hot bike ride than the rich, balanced Oaxacan moles at Claro alongside a stack of the warm tortillas made from freshly nixtamalized masa.
Though if you’re meeting up with a big crowd, Threes Brewing has space to accommodate you all, and plenty of great beers on tap. And chances are you haven’t done nearly enough karaoke this summer, so make up for it at Insa, a wonderful Korean restaurant with small rooms for up to 10 people, and bigger ones that fit 20. Feast on the whole fried chickens and bossam.
• If you need to cool off, take a quick dip in the newly painted Douglass and DeGraw Pool, two blocks from Ample Hills in Gowanus. Just change out of that damp suit before you get back on your bike. (Note: The pool closes for cleaning from 3 to 4 p.m.)
• First, here are some free and cheap places to rent a bike (and make sure to inquire about a helmet, lock and lights!). Though this list was published in 2011, most of these shops are still in service. Also, here’s a nervous biker’s guide to New York.
Margot, What’s the Plan?
If the walls at 555 Edgecombe Avenue could talk, they’d probably scat too.
That apartment building was a hot location during the Harlem Renaissance, with jazz greats Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Andy Kirk all living there, along with Lena Horne, Paul Robeson and numerous other African-American luminaries.
Sounds of jazz still emanate from the building on Sunday afternoons. That’s when Marjorie Eliot hosts free public concerts in her third-floor apartment, a tradition she’s kept up every week for 26 years.
A jazz pianist, writer and mother several times over, Ms. Eliot is a fixture of Sugar Hill, her Harlem neighborhood. She plays these shows to honor her sons, one of whom died on a Sunday years ago, while another frequently joins the weekly performances.
On a recent Sunday, I crowded into the small apartment with eager jazzheads, all of us making peace with our own sweat as we hung on every note wafting out of the piano. We accepted sweet granola bars and orange juice passed by one of Ms. Eliot’s friends, sang along when invited and some even teared up during a poignant spoken-word piece composed by Ms. Eliot.
While there’s warmth both spiritual and physical in her home, this weekend Ms. Eliot will bring the show across the street to Manhattan’s oldest house, the Morris-Jumel Mansion. From 2 to 6 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, her band will play and read poetry outside on its tranquil lawn (still free!).
You could set up anywhere on the tree-shaded grass to listen, and picnics are fair game. The mansion, now a museum, is also free this weekend, so investigate its reinterpreted historical rooms and the charming exhibit upstairs of New York-focused Addams Family cartoons (on theme, since the house is said to be haunted).
And if Sugar Hill is far from where you live, make the trek anyway. You’ll be glad you did.
Musicians for the show include Sedric Choukroun on saxophone and flute, Nicholas Mauro and Koichi Yoshihara on trumpet, Clay Herndon on percussion, and Rudel Drears (Ms. Eliot’s son) and Marjorie Eliot on piano. Plan ahead: At noon each day, a docent will lead a free jazz history tour of the neighborhood, departing from the museum. Also, if you want to attend Ms. Eliot’s show on another, non-festival weekend, it starts at 3:30 at 555 Edgecombe Avenue, apartment 3F. Arrive early for a seat (no reservations, just show up), and wait to be buzzed up. Tips are appreciated.
Tejal’s Before and After: Restaurants
Floridita is open 24 hours with a menu of warm Cubanos, oozing with cheese, and piles of rice and beans. It’s an excellent stop for late-night snacks — or pre-emptive hangover cures.
For a delicious version of Dominican mofongo, a dish of fried and mashed plantains, walk north to La Casa del Mofongo, where it’s served with shrimp, chicken, wedges of crisp-edged fried cheese or longaniza sausage.
If a guava shake sounds good, head to Malecon for tropical juices and shakes and big platters of grilled meat and seafood, or just a simple, golden brown roast chicken.
Tejal’s Before and After: Bars
On your way in or out of the neighborhood, stop into Harlem Hops, which opened this summer. The draft menu changes frequently, but always features local beers, and if the elegant, comfortable bar is full, you can spill out to the tables in the back or the little yard.
• If you wander south and west of the mansion, look up to see scores of realistic, large-scale birds painted on facades. The paintings, presented by the Audubon Mural Project, are of climate-threatened species. Register for a guided tour of the murals on Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon, or stroll and see them on your own time. Map here.
• Read this Times article on Edgecombe Avenue, and how Sugar Hill has nurtured black talent over the years.
• “You must take the A train / To go to Sugar Hill way up in Harlem.” Watch the Duke play Billy Strayhorn’s classic.
• Hear a four-minute audio piece on Ms. Eliot’s parlor shows from NPR’s Weekend Edition, or get the full story on the Morris-Jumel Mansion on the ABC Gotham podcast. Spoiler: George Washington slept there (and did some pretty key Revolutionary War planning).
• Great movies in parks tomorrow, too: “The Muppets Take Manhattan” is showing in Central Park, and “Black Panther” plays at both the Hancock Playground in Bed-Stuy and Ferry Point in the Bronx. All free.
• On Sunday at noon, watch the India Day Parade on Madison Avenue between 38th and 26th Streets.
“Thank you for your great report.” — Betty
“I wanted to send an email expressing how much I’ve enjoyed your weekly newsletter this summer! I’m in grad school and after a brutal and long spring semester I was determined to make the most of my summer break and your newsletter has certainly helped!” — Katie
Thank you! Next week we head out of the city for the first time, don’t hate us.
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