The Clean Hippie

Seeking the sustainable life in New York City

Put it on the To Do List: The Hester Street Fair July 27, 2010

Sunday, after having a delicious brunch at the sustainable and organic Community Food and Juice in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side, Vicki (the roomie) and I set out on an adventure all the way down to the Lower East Side. I was actually just there Saturday night with Agatha, my friend from work. But I wasn’t going down there on Sunday for Ommegang beer and gin and tonics. Nope, I was headed down to sample hand crafted macarons, spicy popsicles, and peruse some vintage wares and locally-made crafts.

Allow me this rant first: Sometimes I really hate the MTA. New York’s transportation system is like a five year old’s birthday party run by a drunk grown up: nobody knows what is going on, it’s always a mess, and there ends up being a lot of pissed off people.

I had gone jogging earlier in the morning at 9, and reported back to Vicki that it wasn’t “that bad. It’s doable.” But as we came closer to noon, the heat became close to unbearable. Vicki and I found that the subway 1 line was not stopping at 125th, 116th, 110th, or 103 going downtown. Since we live at 110th, this put us in a predicament. We waited at the bus stop, panting like poodles in the heat. One bus rumbled by, too full to stop. Another pulled over to let over a little old Asian couple, but didn’t allow anyone on. Our trip to the fair seemed like it might be a huge mistake. Vicki suggested we walk east to the AC line, four long blocks West. Peering out from our shady spot under the bus shelter was like gazing from an oasis across a parched desert. But I finally agreed. We passed through a pedestrian fairway with shady trees, and finally managed to get a train going in the right direction, cooling off in the wonderfully icy interior of the subway car. From the Grand St subway stop, the fair was only a few blocks away.

The Hester Street fair is deceptively small. With only a hundred yards of grounds, you would think you would get bored quickly. And yeah, you might if you like to speed shop and you aren’t hungry. But Vicki and I spent nearly an hour as we hopped from booth to booth, gossiping with the vendors, asking them about their foods and crafts, and nibbling on the tasties.

After passing by some cute stationary (which is getting old, I feel like a see at least one – if not three – hand printed stationary table at every fair in New York) we stopped at DBA. I thought DBA only produces beautifully simple biodegradable pens, but upon visiting their site right now, I’ve found all sorts of nice little sustainable things that are “forthcoming,” like a dishrack, an extension cord, and a heater. Ok, sounds boring, but it would be the most stylish extension cord you ever owned, trust me. But right now, besides the matte black pen that uses non-toxic ink and is 98% biodegradable, they also have an “endless notebook” that can

be combined and rearranged to create your perfect little notebook. It’s 100% post-consumer waste and chlorine free. If you don’t have a compost bin, you can just send the pen back, and they’ll take care of it for you!

I scribbled a bit using the pen and chatted with Niamh (pronounced Neev – she’s one of those Irish beauties whose name is crazily spelled) Hughes, the Business Development Manager. She tried on my Kayu glasses, saying she had  been salivating over them for some time. I think they actually looked cuter on her than on I…Obviously, I bought a pack of the pens, happy to support the venture.

Next door: the Macaron Parlour with Simon Tung manning the table. We’re lucky we didn’t come Friday, because the shop had sold out, riding on a wave of customers after a mention in the Daily Candy. But today he had lots of flavors. I tried the lemon macaron, which seems silly in hindsight, with flavors like candied bacon with maple cream cheese, thai chili, and earl grey available. I mean, I’m not saying was disappointed with my choice. I bit in

to the flaky crust which melted away to reveal the ganache filling – tart and tasty. “This is better than Laduree!” I declared. He practically blushed. “No way, that isn’t true. Though Christina [Christina Ha, his business partner] did study under Pierre Herme in Paris.” I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. It sounded impressive, at least.

Vicki ordered the cinnamon pistachio with morello cherries, which I nibbled on as well. Not bad!

Moving on to the next yummy thing, I had a iced lychee white tea, then a delicious waffle with sweet red bean in the center. A bean filling sounds savory, but this one was sweet, almost like a fruit filling. And they were shaped like fish! Charming. I felt bad for the pair manning the griddle, in the 90 degree heat though. Luckily nearby there was a tent whose sole purpose was to cover visitors with a cool mist.

Also, I almost got a ping pong ball the to the face, but luckily one of the players snatched it from the air by my head. Of course, I had no clue until they both started laughing. Typically me.

Vicki and I perused some vintage jewelry and dishes, marveling at an old butter churn and examining old postcards. I gave some serious thought to getting some lovely jars (something I’ve been obsessed with lately) but the swing-top lid was so rusty it was a struggle to get it open and that’s not something I wanted to deal with on a daily basis.

I passed by Laura Fisk’s table and fell in love with her printed cotton accessories. There were classy cobalt blue napkins with ruby pomegranates. “If I had a real house with more than two seats at a table, I would get those,” I told Vicki. Instead I opted for a pretty little apron with an adjustable neck, and cupcakes on the front. I was giddy when Laura yanked on the strings and the apron slid up. “We short people always have to fold it up,” she said. I totally agree. It gets annoying that normal aprons starts right under my boobs. She also had a children’s book, stationary, and some children’s-sized aprons. They’re printed with non-toxic inks as well, though I wish it was organic cotton. Can’t win ’em all!

You can see her stuff at

Of course, it wasn’t all stuffing my face with food and shopping for myself. I shopped for other people too! I bought Mike a very manly belt from Feur Wear made from out-of-commission German fire hoses. That’s Dave, above, posing with the belt. His company, Holstee, is selling the belts for Feur Wear, because they like the German company’s stuff so much and wants to see them in the US. Holstee designs and curates beautifully designed sustainable goods, and you should really give their website a look, because there is some uber-cool stuff on there. It debunks the myth that sustainable design is all hippie skirts and fanciful stationary.

I especially love their manifesto:

“This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love…” And on. (I don’t want to brush up against copyright infringement by reprinting the whole thing here…” You’ll have to check it out for yourself.

Next to Holstee was a table displaying some select stuff from Sustainable NYC: adorable fold-up reusable bags, Toms shoes, soy candles, and upcycled purses. I did not even know this place existed, but now I feel like I have to go there! It’s at Avenue A and 9th St. A bit out of the way for me, but still….

At this point another vendor piped up, saying a huge rain storm was about ten minutes away. To the West the sky was dark and ominous. Vicki wanted to leave right then, but I wanted to stay a little longer.

Finally we stopped at Xoom for some smoothie samples. I wish this smoothie and tea shop wasn’t so far away from me, because if Xoom was on the UWS, it would replace my obsession with Juice Generation, I’m sure. Not only because the smoothies are delicious, but their green creds (to the right) are top notch.

At this point we hurried away from the fair to beat the rain. As fat raindrops spattered the sidewalk, I took one last picture of the bike valet and Vicki and I promised each other we would come back to try everything else. What we didn’t get to sample: the ice cream sandwiches, sassily flavored popsicles, and barbecue. Not to mention the adorable yoga bags I forgot to go back for. Another day, another time…

Vicki set off in a dead run for the subway, with me calling after her. “Wait up!” as I struggled to run in my Jack Rogers. You would think she would melt or something. We waited on the platform for a full twenty minutes, watching train after train go by on the opposite platform. Finally a voice over the intercom. “Wah wah wah Brooklyn bound only wah wah.”

That’s when we saw a sign saying no north-bound trains at that station. Awesome. We emerged, walked ten steps and then the skies let loose. Luckily the Green Market farmers market was right next to use, so we hid under a tent and chatted with the Green Market worker about her time in India while waiting for the downpour to ease. (I love New York!)

When the rain eased up a little, we walked on, stopping at The Pickle Guys for Vicki, and then we hopped a bus and took it up to The Strand. Can you believe I’ve never been to this bookstore before? I could spend hours in there, but I stuck to my shopping list and walked away with Markets of New York City (natch), 101 Things I learned in Culinary School, and Remember Be Here Now, the classic hippie tome about the spiritual life. That and psychedelic drugs, ha.

Finally we hopped on the subway and came home. I cooked some stir fry up for Vicki and Mike, Vicki made mimosas, and it was a good day.


NYC’s Highline to Double in Size June 28, 2010

Filed under: New York,news,Places to go — Alden @ 2:05 am
Tags: , , ,

How many times have I said that I love New York City parks? Even as the MTA struggles to keep service running and reliable, the city continues to shell out for the most beautiful and well-done green spaces. I have no problem with that. Really, what better way to use taxpayer money? (Rhetorical question, let’s not do a political debate here.)

Anyway, case in point: The Highline, a new park that combines an old railroad bed, native plants, and a highly developed post-industrial aesthetic for amazing results. I’ve been there twice, and was hugely impressed with the landscaping, design, and even the art installation at the end. And it’s not even done yet!

From Inhabitat:

The new section, like the existing park, will feature open joints in the concrete to encourage grass to grow in the cracks. At one point in the extension, the concrete will be stripped away to reveal the steel girders supporting the trestle. Greenery along the path will feature mainly plants that grow naturally in Manhattan — it’s hard to call anything in the concrete jungle “native” — but they’ll be interspersed with other flora so that something will be in bloom during the whole growing season.

At one point, the trail will ascend above the rail line into the canopy of sumac trees. In the shade cast by the overhead walkway will go plants that grow naturally in the shade of the City’s skyscrapers. The extension will also feature its own version of Central Park’s Ramble, a stretch of dense trees and shrubs called the Chelsea Thicket. (I foresee lots of native Chelsea wildlife activity behind these trees in that other great New York tradition.)

Also forthcoming are a lounging lawn, a sitting area framed with an empty billboard frame and a 30th Street entrance.

Cue “I love New York” music.


What’s Organic about Organic? Week-Long Kickoff in NYC June 18, 2010

Next week at the Here theater, the who’s who of the food, sustainable, and organic New York movement will be gathered around to screen the new documentary, What’s Organic about Organic? It discusses sustainable and organic agriculture and the myriad of issues that surround food. If you want to learn more about why what you eat is so incredibly important to the future of our country’s safety and happiness, (or you just want a fresh jolt of energy to keep walking past McDonald’s on your way home) you should check out at least one of the days for a panel discussion. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot.

As for the quality of the movie itself? I can’t find any solid reviews except for this very short one that says it doesn’t cover much new ground, though it is pretty interesting. Scroll to the bottom for the trailer and a synopsis.

I bought tickets for Monday through Thursday. I’m not going to watch the movie over and over, but all the speakers sound so amazing, I’m going to try to make as my panel discussions as I can! Unfortunately I’ll be out of town Friday through Sunday, so I’m going to miss the superfun-sounding benefit on Friday with fancy local food. But here for you is a list of the notable attendees and the topics:

(Buy tix here)

Monday, June 21 – 7pm screening
Topic: Bringing organic food to the NYC population, the trend of urban farming and the organic farming model
Jacquie Berger, Executive Director, Just Food, Hilary Baum, Co-Founder of Food Systems NYC and Founder, Baum Forum

Tuesday, June 22 – 7pm screening
Topic: Organic farming as a solution for climate change
Paul Mankiewicz, Executive Director, Gaia Institute, Karen Washington, President, NYC Community Gardens Coalition, Maria-Paolo Sutto, Director, Urban Design Lab of Columbia’s Earth Institute

Wednesday, June 23 – 7pm screening
Topic: Farmers’ markets & direct relationships between people, their food & farmers
Michael Horowitz, Director, Greenmarket Program, GrowNYC, David Hughes, Operations Manager, Greenmarket Program, GrowNYC, Bob Lewis, US Department of Agriculture and Markets

Thursday, June 24 – 7pm screening
Topic: Restaurants and organic farming
Elizabeth Meltz, Director of Sustainability, Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group, Patrick Martins, Co-Founder, Heritage Foods, Jimmy Carbone, Owner, Jimmy’s 43, Carlos Suarez, Owner and Head Chef, Bobo Restaurant, Ian Marvey, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Added Value

Friday, June 25 – 7pm screening
Topic: Reconnecting urban and rural food systems
Scott Chaskey, President, NOFA-NY, Peter Hoffman, Chef, Back Forty and Savoy, Member of Chef’s Collaborative, Adriana Velez, Brooklyn Food Coalition

Friday, June 25 9pm BENEFIT PARTY <– Fun alert!
Benefit Party for NOFA-NY.
Tickets are $20.

Saturday, June 26 – 2pm matinée
Topic: Fun with composting (bring the kids!)
Christine Datz-Romero, Founder & Director, LES Ecology Center

Saturday, June 26 – 7pm screening
Topic: The benefits of a field-to-fork relationship
Joan Gussow, Professor Emerita of Nutrition Education, Columbia University, John Gorzynski, Farmer/Owner, Ornery Farm and “character” in WOAO?, Claudia Keel, Director, Dr. Weston Price Foundation

Sunday, June 27 – 2pm matinee
Topic: The benefits of organic food for child health and development
Annie Novak, farmer and founder of Growing Chefs, Yonnette Fleming, Urban Gardener

Sunday, June 27 – 7pm screening
Topic: Organic nutrition and food retail
Marion Nestle, Professor of Nutrition, New York University, Anne Saxelby, Owner, Saxelby Cheesemongers, Urvashi Rangan, Environmental Health Scientist, Consumer’s Union and “character” in WOAO?, Dennis Derryk, Founder, Corbin Hill Farm, Marty Mesh, Executive Director, Florida Organic Growers and Co-producer, WOAO?

WHAT’S ORGANIC ABOUT “ORGANIC?” rings the alarm for the need to develop an ecological consciousness.  The film illustrates that the organic food debate extends well beyond personal choice and into the realm of social responsibility.

Each of the film’s characters is intimately connected to the organic world; they’re farmers, activists, and scientists.  While many folks can easily endorse “organic,” the characters in the film take the discussion beyond just shopping for another eco-label. As we glimpse into each of their lives, we see how organic agriculture has the potential to solve many of our environmental and health problems.  The film will explore how organic farming can be used as a soil and air protection system, a healthy solution to toxic pollution, and an innovative means to combat global warming.

(Buy tix here)


UGH I’m never taking a Taxi Again. EVER. May 28, 2010

Last weekend I booked a bus down to Baltimore to visit the fam. It was scheduled to leave at 7:15 from Penn Station, so I left work at 6:15, went up to my apartment, and got my stuff together to go.

Usually I’m a pretty on-the-ball sort of gal, but for some reason I found myself being pretty spacey. I poured myself some juice and thoughtfully drank it while looking at the skyline out of my apartment window. I gazed about my room, checking for anything I forgot. I took some time to pet Matteo. I mean, how could I not? He’s so adorable when he dumps himself on the floor and looks at me for a belly rub. By the time I got out the door, it was 6:50. Ack!

The definition of insanity is trying something over and over and expecting to get a different result. Well, obviously I’m insane. I’ve had this idea in my head that taxis are faster. That if I’m late, I should just wave my hand at a cab and go. Why do I think this? Taxis always end up getting snarled in traffic, and because they are snarled in traffic, they end up costing you at least six times as much as taking the subway.

Anyway, taking a taxi seems like it’s so much easier, especially when you have a suitcase, a garment bag, and a big tote to contend with. So I waved my arm at a taxi, dumped my stuff in the back, and climbed in. “33rd and 7th Avenue, please.” I pulled my new sunglasses (post about those coming!) down over my eyes and opened up my kindle on my iPhone to read.

The traffic started almost immediately. Fifteen minutes later and we were still in the 70’s. I tried to be zen and just read, but it was getting close. At the 60’s, it was past 7:00. At Columbus circle, the young Indian driver said, “Can I drop you off at Times Square?”

“Times Square? Uh, that’s nine blocks from my destination. No. You can’t.”

“Well, it’s just that Time’s Square is now closed to traffic, so I will have to go around.”

I looked at him for a moment, supremely annoyed at him and New York City. I was mad at what in the moment I perceived at his idiocy – hello, why not tell me this earlier? I was mad at New York traffic (caused by all the people who were in all the other taxis). And I was mad at NYC for putting in the pedestrian area at Times Square.  And then it clicked. If I had been looking in at my predicament from the outside, I would have clucked and said, “You stupid fossil-fuel burning, environment trasher. You wouldn’t have this problem if you had taken the subway. Serves you right that you have to go around one of the best initiatives New York City has done in a while. Maybe next time you’ll avoid a cab.” In short, I was being a total hypocrite.

I was still annoyed though.

“Let me off here,” I ordered. “No, here. I mean pull over. Like, now.”

The taxi cab driver seemed confused, but managed to make it to the curb. I jumped out to grab my stuff and leaned in to hand him some money.

“Excuse me,” he started.

I looked at him. “Yeah?”

“You, uh, you look,” he gestured at his face, “very pretty with your, uh,”


“Sorry,” he said, withdrawing. I slammed the door and marched away to the subway. I immediately felt bad. That poor guy was just trying to give me a compliment, and here I was, being a typical New York biotch. That is not me.

So I am not going to take a taxi again. I know it’s going to be hard. At three in the morning, after I’ve been drinking and my eyelids are closing, there is nothing I want more than someone to drop  me off at my front door. But taxis not only spew carbon, they honk all the time, they play a game of chicken with pedestrians and cyclists and other taxis, and they make the air in New York taste like grit. Not to mention the unnecessary expense of paying $20 to go fifty blocks when you could pay $2.50.

After I got on the subway and took it three stops to Penn Station, I just barely made my bus, thank goodness. No more taxis for Alden!


A Healthy Addiction: Juice Generation November 16, 2009

Filed under: Food,Places to go — Alden @ 2:30 am
Tags: , , , , , ,


Yes. I have an addiction. It’s an addiction that makes me walk seven blocks out of my way almost every day. I dream of that sweet (but not too sweet!) fruity flavor of crushed ice, mixed with goji berry, acai, coconut, or organic soy milk. I’m like a devotee to Starbucks who gets the shakes after a day of no tall non-fat lattes from Starbucks, even if I make one for myself at home. But this is better. (Worse?)

In fact, I just walked all the way down there for the express purpose of getting a smoothie. I was devastated to find the lights off and door locked. Missed it by five minutes! I made my own smoothie to make up for it, but it’s just not the same…

It’s called Juice Generation. It’s on 104th and Broadway, with other NYC locations at 72nd and Columbus, 9th Ave and 45th, and 7th Ave and 4th Street.  If the guys who work there don’t know my name by now, they certainly know my face. I tend to stop in after yoga, after a workout at the gym, for breakfast, for lunch, for an afternoon snack…really, any route that takes me past that spot will inevitably find me eagerly scanning the menu.

But I’m not ashamed. That’s because many of their ingredients are organic, and Juice Generation sources their apples, wheatgrass and dairy products from local farms. (Can’t say the same for mangosteen, but really? Let’s not be unreasonable.) Also, unlike many smoothie places, they don’t add sugary syrup, just agave nectar.

If I’m feeling a bit too peckish for just 350 calories of the Antioxidant All-star, I’ll grab a Raw Bar or similarly healthy crunchy something to go with it. Perfect!