Posts Tagged 'Field Trip Friday'

Field Trip Friday: Vitra Design Museum

While living in Lausanne, Switzerland in 2008, OHNY program coordinator, Jailee Rychen, took a trip to the Vitra Design Museum. Located just outside of the Swiss city of Basel in Weil am Rhein, Germany, the museum is situated outside of a major city in a quiet setting that is also the location of the Vitra factory campus.

Vitra Desgin Museum main building

The main building of the museum was design by Frank Gehry and finished in 1989. It was his first building in Europe and its unconventional design became a focus of interest in the international architecture community. The Vitra’s campus includes a number of buildings all designed by the top names in architecture including Zara Hadid, Nicholas Grimshaw, Herzog & De Meuron, etc. The museum offers architectural tours of the entire campus.

Charles Eames Strasse

The museum was founded and is funded by the Vitra Corporation whose intention was to document the history of the company and to showcase its large collection of furniture by designers such as George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames, Alvar Aalto, and Jean Prouvé. The museum is located on Charles Eames Straße.

Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen

Outside of the museum is a sculpture titled Balancing Tolls by Claes Oldenburg & Coosje van Bruggen (1984). The tools are the tools of a furniture maker. This sculpture was given to Willi Fehlbaum, Vitra’s founder, on his 70th birthday.

George Nelson clocks

During Jailee’s visit there was an exhibition of the design of George Nelson who was known for his unique wall clock designs, many of which New York’s might recognize from the MoMA design store or in other design boutiques around the city.

George Nelson Marshmellow Sofa

Another signature design of Nelson’s is his Marshmellow Sofa that comes in a variety of colors from simple white to multicolored.

Vitra Design Museum exterior

The design of Gehry’s building is an artwork and design masterpiece in itself. It is whimsical and daring, like most of Gehry’s other buildings. If you ever find yourself in Basel, Switzerland, it is worth a bus trip to see the Vitra Design Museum and factory campus. Take a take a tour of the architectural marvels and enjoy a museum dedicated masters of design excellence.

Vitra designs are sold in a number is retail locations in New York City. They also have a design store on 29th Ninth Ave.

Vitra Design Museum

Charles-Eames-Str. 1
79576 Weil am Rhein, Germany

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Field Trip Friday: Beecher’s New York and the Grilled Cheese Martini

Earlier this year Beecher’s Handmade Cheese Company opened its doors in the Flatiron District of Manhattan.  On Tuesday, Ted capped his last day as an OHNY intern by braving the rains and heading a few blocks south to check out their new digs, and to try their much hyped Grilled Cheese Martini.

on the corner of Broadway and E20th

Beecher’s New York location is on the corner of Broadway and East 20th Street, a few blocks north of Union Square.  The street level storefront offers countless varieties of cheese and cheese accessories, food and drinks to compliment your cheese of choice, and a casual dining area overlooking their impressive cheese making facility.

so much cheese

we just missed the magic, but clean up is good, too

The hostess, a young Boston transplant, was friendly and knowledgeable, and pointed out some specialty cheeses in the display case.  Beecher’s has a number of award winning varieties, and also carries brands from New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Washington, among other states.

After sampling their Flagship cheese, as well as the Smoked Flagship (delicious, by the way), it was time to leave the go-go-go world of artisan cheese craftsmanship and head down into the shadowy underbelly of Beecher’s, The Cellar, where the Grilled Cheese Martini was waiting.

because hey, it was happy hour!

The Cellar is an intimately lit lounge and bar area below the main store, and is limited to those visitors lucky enough to be of legal drinking age. Sitting areas and comfortable chairs upholstered with cowhide are flanked by cascading arrangements of candles and chain-mail curtains, invoking a sense of romance and decadence.  The effect is so complete you may forget that one mere floor above are stainless steel tanks where cheese curds are made.

After a round of the house wine ($6/glass, happy hour special) and some delicious macaroni and cheese (recommended by the hostess as the do-not-miss plate of the Cellar), it was time to see what all the fuss was about.  Our waiter seemed none too surprised to be asked about the specialty martini (absent on the menu, but plenty mentioned online), and was more than willing to explain the process of infusing vodka with different flavors like lemon, bacon, and in this case, grilled cheese.

Finally, the martini ($15) was served, and it was time to taste.  While not as close in taste to an actual grilled cheese as one might have expected, the drink was still excellent.  Instead of the rich, creamy goodness of its inspiration, this martini boasts notes of basil and vinegar which may sound unappetizing, but worked well.  The general consensus was that the flavor profile was largely reminiscent of a basil, tomato, mozzarella salad.

What makes a grilled cheese sandwich such a classic comfort food is the perfect meeting of melted cheese inside warm crunchy bread… characteristics that are probably nearly impossible to translate into a cocktail.  Despite not making us feel like red-nosed nine-year-olds called in from the snow, the drink is well worth asking for.

And should you make the trip down to Beecher’s New York, and decide that the Grilled Cheese Martini is not for you, fear not, the bar has plenty of whiskey.

Beecher’s New York – 900 Broadway

Field Trip Friday: Brooklyn Grange

Last week our new program coordinator, Jailee Rychen, took an afternoon break from the office world of computers and ringing phones and headed out to Brooklyn Grange, a commercial organic rooftop farm located in Long Island City.

full view of Brooklyn Grange

From below, on the street, a passerby would never suspect that up above fruits and vegetables of all types (including 40 varietals of tomatoes, their biggest crop) are being grown and harvested from the 7th floor rooftop of the building.

a view of the Manhattan skyline from the farm

This is not your average city garden, this is a real farm. The experience of visiting Brooklyn Grange, especially for those who believe that the words “urban” and “farming” were never meant to go together,  will alter anyone’s previous notions of the divide between the urban and the rural.  As the farmers on the rooftop tend to their crops, they can also enjoy magnificent views of the Manhattan skyline.

flowering okra plants

Some interesting facts about the farm:

-It is a full acre (40,000 square feet) in size.

-It is made of 1.2 million pounds of ground soil.

-Underneath the soil is a green roof system that prevents the roots of the plants from penetrating the building and also has a system for catching and re-using access water from heavy rain.

-The farm is located in Queens (despite its name) because the location was determined only after the establishment of an LLC.

-They farm 9 months out of the year and in winter they grow cover crops such as rye, buckwheat and clover.

-They also have a chicken coop.

the chicken coop

Brooklyn Grange is also very dedicated to engaging with the local community and providing educational programs for school children, volunteers and others that are interested in learning about urban food production. They sell their produce to the public at multiple farm stands throughout the city (see their blog for information on specific locations) and supply a number of NYC restaurants. The farm also has a composting program that accepts organic waste scraps from the community; you can drop your waste with them at any of their farm stands.

Managing partner and co-founder of Brooklyn Grange, Anastasia Plakias,  gave Jailee a full tour of the farm (and few nibbles along the way). Being up on the rooftop farm is a peaceful experience in an otherwise chaotic urban landscape. It reminds you that even though we live in NYC, it is still possible to find fresh, local produce that has been cultivated and grown right amongst the concrete and skyscrapers of the city.

Brooklyn Grange is open to the public on Wednesdays from 1pm – 6pm.

Brooklyn Grange

37-18 Northern Boulevard

Long Island City

Field Trip Friday: The Griswold Inn

Should you ever find yourself in Connecticut on a Monday night, it is in your best interest to stop whatever you are doing and head to the small town of Essex.   There, in a centuries-old establishment, you will find one of best traditions in New England alive and well: the sea chantey.

As heralded by the giant flag over their porch, Monday night at the Griswold Inn in Essex is Sea Chantey Night.  Last week OHNY intern Ted headed out to the Gris to celebrate his father’s 60th birthday with some beer and some old sailors’ songs.

If you arrive at 8:30pm on a Monday, the Jovial Crew should be just getting started on their first set in the Tap Room.  Flanked by dozens upon dozens of nautical paintings and led by Cliff Haslam, the Crew usually delivers three sets of chanteys, each more irreverent than the last.

The songs are exactly what you might expect to find in the repertoire of an 19th century mariner.  There are songs to be sung while rigging a ship, boozing on shore, pining for women, and remembering legendary ships of old.

The first set is largely kid-friendly, but after a short intermission the second set starts up and the songs are a bit saltier.  Also, it should be noted, audience participation is not so much encouraged as demanded, and the crowd is always more than willing to join in.

If the infamous Birthday Song at the end of the second set doesn’t offend your delicate sensibilities, you’ll love the third and final set.  Here you’ll be regaled with songs that don’t hesitate to make joyful use of innuendo, euphemism, and puns, and yet others that skip the pageantry altogether and cut right to the chase.

Fun Tip:  Bring an unsuspecting friend on their birthday and don’t warn them about the vulgarity of the Birthday Song.

When you visit, don’t be afraid to take some time between sets to explore the rest of the Gris.  While the upstairs is, in fact, an inn and bed & breakfast, the first floor boasts a vast assemblage of maritime art and historical artifacts.

Amongst the dozens of paintings of ships you’ll find banners and posters from the Prohibition Era warning of the dangers of alcohol, as well as an impressive collection of firearms.


If you’re feeling particularly bold, you might ask one of the waitresses to show you the wine bar room with its moving mural.

The Jovial Crew tries to wrap things up around 11pm, usually closing with a classic like “Rolling Home” or “The Parting Glass.”   Afterwards, as the tabs are settled and the band breaks down their equipment, the lingering crowd often continues the festivities on their own.

Somehow the Jovial Crew manages to be historically authentic without coming off as kitschy.  This weekly event is less a performance or an act than it is a continuation of a proud and storied maritime tradition.  As has always been the case, songs are being constantly tweaked and new verses written, and the fluid art of the sea chantey is kept alive and well.

The Griswold Inn

36 Main Street

Essex, CT 06426

Field Trip Friday: Pleasure Beach

Last year OHNY intern Ted traveled to Bridgeport, Conn. to explore Pleasure Beach, a former seaside attraction and seasonal community. What he found was a glimpse of Bridgeport’s past, and a reminder of its current state of abandonment.

An abandoned sofa sits in the surf on Pleasure Beach

Unless you have a boat, the only way to visit Pleasure Beach today is to hike out across a mile long sand bar that connects the island to the neighboring town of Stratford.  The isthmus was built in the 1950s by the Army Corps of Engineers to help protect the wetlands just north of Long Island Sound.

When you arrive on the island, what you encounter is a ghost town.  Abandoned cottages line an unkempt street that stretches west towards two gigantic radio towers.  Further on, the skyline of Bridgeport can be seen behind tractor trailers and the rush hour traffic of I-95.

Many of the houses had been deserted long ago: wooden boards and planks that once barred the doors and covered the windows had since been ripped off or destroyed.  Plants and graffiti cover everything, what was once clearly a cozy beach neighborhood is now completely empty.

Plants slowly reclaim a porch on Pleasure Beach

Every so often along the street there was a vacant, rubble-strewn lot between the houses.  The trees on these plots were leafless and scorched, casualties of the arson that destroyed whatever house used to stand there.  All over the island there were signs of fire.

In fact, on the morning of our visit there were some freshly burned ruins of a cottage, the charred debris still smoldering and hot.  Elsewhere trees were blackened, and what used to be a grand carousel is now collapsed, reduced to a heap of blackened timber and ornate wooden flourishes.

A burnt tree stands next to the ruins of a cottage

At the far end of the island you find the remnants of its largest and most devastating fire, the swinging bridge fire.  On Father’s Day 1996, a careless motorist tossed a lit cigarette onto the bridge while crossing, igniting the creosote used to waterproof the timber and stranding hundreds of visitors and residents on the island.  Large iron nails stood in long rows along the burnt beams, exposed by the blaze.

When the bridge burned, it was widely assumed that it would be rebuilt quickly.  Unfortunately, the predicted price of a new bridge climbed rapidly into the millions of dollars and Bridgeport, the largest and most impoverished of Connecticut’s cities, was unable to afford it.

The seasonal residents were stalwart, and for a time many returned by boat summer after summer.  At the close of each season they would padlock their doors and board up their windows, their only defense against vandals and looters.  Every year, though, fewer residents would return.

A bicycle stands on the overgrown road

Everywhere you go on the island you can see the telltale signs of a forgotten seaside community.  Paperback books litter a yard, a bicycle stands rusting in the road, a baseball diamond is barely discernible amid heavy vegetation.

Next to the remains of the carousel stands a summer theater, its interior trashed and vandalized but still recognizable.  A visitor pavilion sits in front of a wooden boardwalk, ovens and refrigerators rusting away inside its kitchens.

The interior of the Polka Dot Playhouse

It was clear that the people who once lived here never expected to leave for good.  Inside the cottages beds were made, dishes and glasses lined the shelves, clothes were folded neatly in the bureaus and dressers.  Children’s toys were scattered in yards, fishing gear was stored in garages.

A trundle bed covered with debris

Since our visit to Pleasure Beach, demolition crews were sent to the island to raze the remaining cottages.  None of the nearly four dozen residential buildings remain.  The horses from the old carousel, however, survive.  After the bridge fire, the horses were removed from Pleasure Beach and installed in a new carousel at the Beardsley Zoo, also in Bridgeport.

The land bridge that connects the island to the mainland is now largely a protected habitat. Fences and signs alert pedestrians of the land’s status as a nesting area of the piping plover.  The plover is one of the main concerns to those who would like to rebuild Pleasure Beach.  As an endangered species, piping plovers and their habitats are protected from development under Connecticut law, barring anyone from building a road on the connecting land bridge.

So for now, the island sits vacant in full view of the interstate, the Metro-North line, and the Port Jefferson Ferry, a melancholy reminder of Bridgeport’s grand past.


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