As we walked toward Luna Park, to our right was the beach, and on the edge of the boardwalk were people playing music and dancing. They brought such life to the boardwalk.
On the other side was the amusement park, roller coasters and other rides clicked and clacked well into the night, accompanied by the howls and screams of riders.
Our goal was simple as we strolled down this boardwalk under the moon’s light: to enjoy ourselves and hopefully grab a Nathan’s Famous hot dog. Wherever you are, you hopefully know about Nathan’s. You’ve probably seen them at the grocery store, or stands at the airport or your local mall, or maybe you are lucky enough to have a Nathan’s restaurant near you.
Growing up in New York comes with many advantages, and having family in Brooklyn comes with some legends and lore. There is no greater legend is than that of the Nathan’s hot dog.
Without giving too extensive of a history lesson, Nathan’s was started by Nathan Handwerker in 1916 on Surf Avenue, only a block away from the boardwalk at Coney Island. What you might not know is that Nathan was a Polish immigrant who started this hot dog empire with a mere $400.
While Alissa and I found Nathan’s on the boardwalk, we knew that first Nathan’s has stood proud for over 100 years now. Once arriving to this bustling establishment at 11:00 p.m., we ordered two hot dogs, an order of fries, and a Sprite. It’s convenient that Alissa and I both like Sprite. Splitting a soda on the boardwalk at Coney Island is pretty romantic in itself. Anyway, I inquired about gluten free buns to which I was told, “Sorry, but no.” Then I asked about the gluten status of the fries. The manager told me that “they cut their fries from fresh potatoes. There’s no wheat in them, only potatoes.” That was great to hear.
Upon receiving our food, we then had to find somewhere to sit and eat. Like I have already mentioned, this boardwalk was pretty busy. We found a bench and started to chow down on our hot dogs and fries. We passed the Sprite back and forth, and dug our little red forks into the salty, crinkle cut fries.
Once we finished, we made our way back to the car, which was parked conveniently close to the boardwalk. Upon pulling out, we saw Charles Esten (who plays the brooding crooner Deacon Claybourne on Nashville) signing autographs and taking pictures with loyal fans.
When we started on our way to head back home, we turned onto Surf Avenue, passing the real Nathan’s, the very first Nathan’s restaurant where it all started. It was quite a sight, like the Las Vegas strip with bright lights and sparkling signs. It was more impressive than Vegas though because this, this was history. And not just any history, New York history!
It’s been a while since Kissing Cooks last posted, but if you’ve been following us on Instagram (@kissingcooks) or Facebook, then you know that it’s not for lack of kissing or cooking (or eating or smiling or movie watching or having a ton of fun). It’s summer! Chris and I have been having quite the culinary and romantic adventure with plenty of good eats and even better smooches. Let’s play some ketchup (…or catch up)!
Not to mention, it’s festival season too, which means that we’ll be hitting up as many local events on Long Island as we can possibly stand. We recently made an impromptu and quick stop at the St. Philip & St. James Church carnival, where we shared our very first authentic amusement park ride (Nunley’s Carousel aside). I’ll never forget Pharaoh’s Fury and the ginger ale I tearfully demanded afterward, especially since Chris took such good care of me (since I’m a frequent victim of motion sickness). We’re having the summer of our lives so far, adding new memories and building a stronger bond in our relationship. Taking risks (like a super fast and nauseating ride at a carnival) and trying new things is what makes every day so exciting to share with each other.
In May, we had the most jam-packed and perhaps busiest day of our lives by attending a taping of The Chew, walking through Central Park, visiting Hunter College (Chris is a former student), exploring some exciting fashion by Rei Kawakubo / Comme des Garçons at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ate dinner at Carmine’s, and saw the phenomenal Sara Bareilles in Waitress on Broadway. Weeks later, we’re still listening to and singing along with the unforgettable songs from the sweet, sweet play. Sugar… butter… flour…
The whirlwind epic that is our first summer together doesn’t stop there either! We’ve walked on Short Beach on a hand-holding sort of rainy evening, explored Port Jefferson and Stony Brook village (stopping in Robinson’s Tea Room), had a late night chips-hummus-orange-Italian-ice picnic during a Fourth of July fireworks show, participated in a game of trivia with TriviaNYC at Hinterlands in Brooklyn, and attended Saint James Summer Nights where we had a food truck dinner from Eat Me Drink Me, the mobile epicurean, followed by some fair favorites, churros and Mister Softee, for dessert.
Just last Friday, we decided to use our grocery resources wisely by defrosting some drumsticks, preparing frozen sweet potato fries (Alexia), and roasting some cauliflower for a filling and savory summer dinner before doing some mall shopping. I was given a full, ready-to-eat head of cauliflower by my parents (who recently went on vacation, fearing the cauliflower would meet a moldy fate). Without ever really preparing a cauliflower side before, I did a little Pinterest reading and set forth by chopping it all up.
I love me some cauliflower. Taking cheese out of the equation (I know it seems cruel), vegetables make me so happy. I’m a girl whose eyes widen at the mere mention of eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, broccoli, and artichokes. Some of these veggies haven’t been high on Chris’ must-eat list, but I’ve been plotting to change his mind with flavorful methods of veggie preparation that will make his palate sing. He’ll be the first one to tell you how sweet potatoes have changed the way he meal preps. I did that!
Anyway, when Chris arrived at my apartment, our kitchen waltz was soon underway. Chris deskinned the drumsticks, seasoning them with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder. While cleaning up between tasks, we both prepared the cauliflower similar to the chicken, also coating the florets with gluten free Italian breadcrumbs (Aleia’s) for a little extra kick and crunch.
Alissa of years’ past was not such a hands-on eater. That is to say that I hated (loathed, abhorred, was repulsed by, you get it) ever eating with my hands. What’s ironic is that two of my all-time favorite snacks / lunches are hand-eating foods: grilled cheese and quesadillas. This might have also been because I worked at a bank for so many years, handling cash and coins on a daily basis. Wet wipes were just as present as dollar signs filled the day because a major pet peeve of mine is having sticky or dirty hands. I’ve become less uptight about how my food gets into my mouth because I know that there are always napkins around that will do the job of cleaning my hands and face after a hearty meal, especially pretty ones with designs and phrases (in my apartment, at least). Although I confess, I still use a knife and fork with my pizza.
However, this past middle school-aged Alissa also detested the “barbaric” experience of eating some sort of chicken-on-the-bone part during a family trip to Medieval Times in Florida. For our dinner, with a jousting tournament as entertainment, large portions of chicken were distributed and ne’ery a fork and knife were in sight. Perhaps it was my immaturity that also hindered the overall experience of escape ad fantasy, but now, I’m a big fan of drumsticks. I’m much more informed and excited about food, which is why having a drumsticks dinner (after buying the package with a BOGO Free sale) was such a feasible and welcomed idea.
Now we’re all caught up and you see that Chris and I really are still cooking at home. Promise! Since we are the Kissing Cooks, it will always be the hallmark of our relationship because we love to eat! Cooking is perhaps when we learn most about each other and work best as a team (except for when we’re quizzing each other on movie trivia during long drives all over Long Island). We already have plenty more upcoming events on our calendars, including Alive by the Bay in Bay Shore this week, Alive After Five in Patchogue next week, and the Food Truck Fest in Deer Park next weekend. In addition, Chris and I will be attending the Secaucus Gluten Free & Allergen Friendly Expo in October, an event that I learned about on my very important and useful Find Me Gluten Free app.
You know what we’ve been up to so far. What about you? Where are you having the best food experiences of the summer? Where do you recommend the Kissing Cooks to eat? What are some of your favorite summer foods?
Once or twice a year, Nassau County’s Cradle of Aviation is home to The Chocolate Expo. The name “The Chocolate Expo” is rather misleading, as many of the treats Alissa and I encountered were far from chocolate. While there were many chocolatiers on site, there were many other specialties, including beef jerky, hot sauce, peanut butter, peanut brittle, wine, moonshine, hard cider, cheese, and baked goods.
One of the most special parts about this Chocolate Expo is that it takes place in an aviation museum. The Cradle of Aviation is home to over 75 different air and space crafts, showcasing the history of flight. While Alissa and I didn’t pay too much attention to the exhibits in the museum, it was hard to avoid them as the event took place in the museum itself. You could be enjoying a bite of chocolate, turn around, and then see a lunar module.
Something else that made this event even more special was the fact that there were many vendors with gluten free options, some being exclusively gluten free. Shortly after arriving at the event, Alissa and I came upon a table of gourmet nut butters from the company The Peanut Principle. I really wanted to try one of their nut butters, especially the Honey, I Roasted the Peanuts flavor, but I was afraid that I couldn’t eat the pretzels that they were using to sample the nut butters. I went out on a limb and asked if they served gluten free pretzels to use in order to sample their peanut butter. Not only did they have gluten free pretzels, but they shared with us that they exclusively use gluten free pretzels and that all their nut butters were gluten free! While peanut butter is generally gluten free, they had many flavors that you’d imagine would have wheat, like I Want S’more, a s’more flavored peanut butter, or Dashing Thru the Dough, a cookie dough flavored peanut butter. They found creative and tasty ways to get around using wheat in their peanut butters and were one of my favorite booths.
Another booth we visited was Yankee Folly Cidery, a hard cider company located in New Paltz, New York. When one thinks of hard cider, they might think of brands like Angry Orchard or Redd’s Apple Ale. Yankee Folly is a different kind of hard cider, and instead of being bottled in the style of beer, it’s more of a wine. In fact, I’d say it was closer to a Riesling than to a hard cider. The apple flavor was there, as well as the buzz, but it didn’t have the heaviness of most hard ciders. One of the interesting parts about Yankee Folly Cidery is that I’ve driven past the eponymous road over a dozen times from which they derived their name. Yankee Folly Cidery is located on Yankee Folly Road, which is in between the small town of New Paltz and the Shawangunk Mountains. Many summer days were spent walking through those mountains after a few hours’ drive from Long Island. If you find yourself in New Paltz, either for the rock climbing, hiking, or small town charm, I highly recommend a trip to Yankee Folly Cidery for their fine fares.
If you know Alissa, you know that she is very fond of tea. While I would come to know just how fond of tea Alissa was later on in our relationship, it was on our first date that Alissa and I first drank tea together, sitting on opposite sides of a table at the bowling alley in between frames. It was Lipton’s black tea, and while it was good, it paled in comparison to the company. So, why do I bring this up, besides sharing a moment I look back on fondly? Not only does Alissa like tea, but she really enjoys it with honey. She truly enjoyed when we met Sandy Abrams and got the chance to taste her product, Magnolia House Honey. Her booth was filled with so many different flavors of honey to try and buy, ranging from raspberry, blossom (orange), and even mesquite. My favorite part about this booth was the way their display melded with the museum exhibit. It was fitting that the table displaying their product was housed under a U.S. Air Mail tent. It really enhanced the “Magnolia House” feeling.
I’m going to try to convey this next thought as kindly as possible. Everyone at the event had a gimmick. They had a characteristic about them to attract patrons. In a food event, one of the biggest attractions and gimmicks is bacon. I thought that the world lost its fascination with bacon back in 2014. I was wrong, so wrong. I kid you not, the line for Bacon Bites, chocolate covered bacon, was so long that it made me retract my previous notion. Bacon is still a gimmick that gets people’s attention.
Another gimmick is bro-chef, aka DJ Chef, the “Only Entertainer Who Simultaneously Cooks & DJ’s For Special Events World Wide.” DJ Chef had a team with him to promote his brand, and even though we caught him during his down time eating, he took the time to talk to Alissa and me. He shared with us that he had been on the first season of Cutthroat Kitchen and that he has been DJing just as long as he’s been cooking. It was very cool to meet him and chat for a bit.
The Bearded Baker not only specializes in French macarons, but also proves that you don’t have to start shaving come December. His gimmick is not only that he is a bearded man, but also that since studying chemistry, he has an advantage in bringing the best tasting French macarons to market. Scott, the bearded baker himself, was very cool and joyfully shared his wares. I must admit, there may be a bit of beard envy.
The next booth brought a tear to my eye, and it’s not only because it was for Eagle Rock and Wild Coyote Gourmet Sauces. Back in 2012, my life changed when Hurricane Sandy came through town and washed away most of my apartment’s contents. I came home the day after the hurricane to see everything in my apartment in complete disarray, including the fridge that had fallen over. Inside that fridge, I had a bottle of Eagle Rock and Wild Coyote Chipotle Hot Sauce that I had purchased at a street fair in Bethpage. I lost a lot that day back in 2012, but seeing a glimpse of my past at this event had me welling up. I made sure to bring home a bottle of that chipotle hot sauce, and I hope that I get to finish it this time.
Dragon’s Nest Baked Goods was a fun booth, specializing in gluten free treats. In fact, their motto is “Gluten free. Guilt free.” Their booth featured many baked goods, including cookies, breads, brownies, muffins, cupcakes, and scones. Alissa and I both took home a scone, and the next morning, after a few seconds in the microwave, I dove into a bacon and cheddar scone. The day before the Expo, while in Bay Shore at Local Burger, I had a cheeseburger on a gluten free bun. It is only today as I write this, and after a little research, that I discovered the bun at Local Burger was a freshly baked and delivered Dragon’s Nest product.
I want to take this moment to remind you that while we were walking around this Chocolate Expo, it was in a museum. There was an exhibit that featured three female figures dressed in the garb of the 1940’s. What made this exhibit special is that when I think of women during the 1940’s, Rosie the Riveter and A League of Their Own come to mind. It was this day that I learned a little more about the role of women during World War II. Women were called upon to take up roles as Red Cross Workers, tending to wounded soldiers returning from war, Army Corps Privates, and Air Raid Wardens. It was a prime moment to take a step back and take in a bit of history.
After the expo, Alissa and I took a time machine, back to the 90s. We visited the Nunley’s Carousel, housed adjacent to the museum. It should be noted that Nunley’s wasn’t the first home for this carousel. Having been constructed back in 1912, it first brought joy to world at Canarsie’s Golden City Park in Brooklyn, New York, until 1940 where it found a home at Nunley’s in Baldwin, New York. In 1995, Nunley’s closed their doors and in 2009, the carousel found its home on Museum Row, right next to the Cradle of Aviation.
This was not my first time riding this carousel, having grown up in Nassau County, only a short drive to Baldwin. I have some great memories at Nunley’s. This would be my first time riding it in over 20 years. For $2 apiece, Alissa and I took a ride on that carousel, laughing and enjoying every minute of it.
It was quite the great day, filled with tasty food, plenty of laughs, and we finished with a carousel ride. I would encourage everyone to take a trip to Garden City, New York the next time The Chocolate Expo rides into town. Make sure to check out their website for updates, as well as other locations where the expo appearing. I promise you that you will really make the most of the day if you come to the Cradle of Aviation. Don’t forget to visit the Nunley’s Carousel for some extra history and excitement. That’s all for me this week.