Coney Island, New York City

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Coney Island was one of those places that was never on my “must see” lists, until I saw a few photos of it in winter not long before we left for our winter trip. There’s something about an abandoned amusement park with an empty ferris wheel in the middle of winter that I find so beautiful – I’m no photographer, but I have always loved carrying a camera around to capture the moments that strike me, so once I saw those pictures, I knew I had to get there while we were in New York.

Coney Island is a residential area in Brooklyn, by the water, and filled with fun things designed to attract families – amusement park rides and an aquarium, a beautiful beach area and good food. But I couldn’t help feeling, as I walked through the neighbourhood on a cold January day, that the area was struggling. I know Coney Island’s heydays are in the past now, but I really got the sense that the area had been neglected and was forgotten about. Maybe that was just because it was winter and there weren’t many people around, but that was just the vibe I got. Pity, because it’s actually a really beautiful area and a lovely way to spend the morning 🙂

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Photo Journal: Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge at sundown

Here’s a secret admission for you – I totally didn’t plan to be crossing the bridge at dusk. I’d intended on crossing in daylight, to get some cool photos. But I got distracted by pie. It wasn’t my fault – it was Four & Twenty Blackbirds’ and their sugary goodies.

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But, turns out that it was all for the best (pie usually is), and I got the most gorgeous shots on our way back to Manhattan… Also, if you head over there and want to walk it, the entry to the walk way on the Brooklyn side is the corner Adams and Tillary. Wish someone had told us that. Would have saved about 2km walking to find the entrance. Probably lucky – I had some pie to walk off.

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Eat here: Four & Twenty Blackbirds, Brooklyn NYC

Four & Twenty Blackbirds
439 3rd Ave, Brooklyn, New York
http://birdsblack.com

While I was looking at things to do in Brooklyn for this trip, Four & Twenty Blackbirds popped up a few times on websites, blogs and what not. Their instagram is full of gorgeous pictures of amazing pies, with some pretty cool and crazy flavours; among today’s options were sweet potato & apple, and cranberry & sage.

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I chose a slice of black bottom oat pie (all slices USD$5.50 each, whole pies also available) which was pretty darn perfect. Golden, crisp, flaky crust, baked to perfection, with a chocolate cake/brownie-type bottom and the most incredible baked oat filling.. It was sweet and a little buttery, crunchy sugary oats on top, it was sooo good!!

Also grabbed an earl grey tea for me and a latte for husband – USD$12.00 all up for the lot, which was pretty reasonable for such a big piece of pie in such a lovely little hipster establishment! I’m also finding that a good cup of tea is next to impossible to find in this country, so I’m happy to pay a little more for tea that tastes like tea and not like sugary milk. Apparently the coffee was very good, too. More than worth the trip out there, perfect spot for afternoon tea after a long day on your feet!

Four & Twenty Blackbirds on Urbanspoon

Cook this: Chocolate bourbon pecan pie

Not that anyone’s counting, but we’re off in 4 sleeps for our USAdventure! That means we miss Christmas at home with our families. Which in turn meant that we got to celebrate two early Christmases with them, which naturally involved a lot of very delicious food (both my mum and mum-in-law are pretty amazing when it comes to putting on a Christmas feast!).

My contribution was chocolate bourbon pecan pie. Not a traditional Aussie Christmas dish at all, but instead I figured I’d do something a little more representative of the country I’ll be spending Christmas in. Also, the recipe I found in one of my cook books was for straight pecan pie, but I felt like the addition of bourbon and dark chocolate could only be a good thing.

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Ingredients
– pastry – either store bought shortcrust, or you can use this recipe; just replace the salt with 1 tbsp caster sugar, and double the recipe!
– 3 tbsp plain flour
– 150g brown sugar
– 2 large eggs
– 200g golden syrup
– 200 g dark chocolate, melted and cooled
– 30g butter, melted and cooled
– 2 tbsp vanilla extract
– 3 tbsp bourbon
– pinch of salt
– 300g pecan halves – half crushed into smaller pieces, half left whole

Method
1. Make the pastry as per the instructions in this recipe (steps 1 and 2), replacing the salt with sugar as above, and preheat the oven to 180°C.
2. Grease a 9 inch pie dish and roll out the pastry to line it. Prick a few holes in the bottom with a knife or fork, line it with baking paper, fill with pie weights/rice/dried beans and bake for 15min or until the edges start to turn golden.
3. To make the filling which the crust is blind baking, combine the flour and sugar in a large bowl.
4. Whisk in the eggs, golden syrup, chocolate, butter, vanilla, bourbon and salt.
5. Mix in the crushed pecans.
6. Remove the pie from the oven and pour in the filling. Arrange or sprinkle the pecan halves on top.
7. Turn the temperature up to 200°C and bake for 10min, then lower the temperature back down to 170°C and bake for a further 45min or until set.8. Rest in tin until cool enough to handle, then transfer to a wire rack.

Turned out I was actually right about the chocolate and bourbon – it worked magnificently! Dad helped out further by making some vanilla bean ice cream, which perfectly balanced out the richness of the pie. I’m looking forward to eating much more pie now over in the States – I’ve heard that Four & Twenty Blackbirds in Brooklyn and Bang Bang Pie Shop in Chicago are pretty solid options – any other suggestions??