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N.Y.'s past comes to life

The past is another country, or so goes the saying. In this wonderful and entertaining guide to what once was, author James Roman captures the heart and soul of an older New York. Museyon, the New York-based independent publisher, is known for its carefully researched and attractively designed books, and this is no exception. Its maps, contemporary photographs, archival prints and engaging text pull the reader in.

In addition to its 25 punchy chapters and nine walking tours, the book has a chronology starting in 1626, when Dutchman Peter Minuit bought Manhattan island from the Lenape (formerly known as Delaware Indians), and ending in 2009, when the wildly popular High Line, New York's elevated park built on an abandoned railroad line, opened. Roman elegantly discusses the time when New York was the capital of the United States and explores the roots of Greenwich Village when it was still a bucolic landscape.

He reminisces about a time in the post-Civil War era when New Yorkers, including the descendants of Cornelius Vanderbilt, built glorious mansions. He talks about the complicated history of Central Park, how its construction involved varying degrees of racism, cronyism, patronage, politicking and "of course, unscrupulous real estate developers." And he writes with great zeal about the speakeasy days, the Harlem Renaissance and the cultural contributions of the Beats.

"Food Lovers' Guide to Seattle"

Globe Pequot Press, $14.95

With a population of more than 600,000, Seattle is big enough to support a vibrant culinary culture but small enough that residents often know local chefs on a first-name basis. "Running into these chefs on the street," observes author Keren Brown, "is as common as running into your next-door neighbor."

Though Seattle is known for its coffee (more than a dozen coffeehouses are described here), foodies appreciate the city's tendency to embrace the homemade and the sustainable. Thus, in this terrific guide (part of a series), you will find not only the most popular restaurants but also the local ice cream shops, bakeries and specialty restaurants that fall under the radar. Brown also notes the scores of farmers markets and food trucks.

She features what she calls landmark eateries, such as Ray's Boathouse Cafe & Catering overlooking Puget Sound. Brown calls it a quintessential Pacific Northwest restaurant with its emphasis on sustainable and local seafood.

The ice cream at the laid-back Bluebird Homemade Ice Cream & Tea Room in the Capitol Hill neighborhood comes from Washington and Oregon cows. Brown also is on the lookout for unique spots, such as the Crumpet Shop at Pike Place Market.

Included are recipes from local chefs and descriptions of kid-friendly restaurants.

"Zagat Long Island Restaurants 2011/12"

Zagat, $14.95

The big news from Long Island, according to Zagat, is the large number of bistros "popping up all over." Also continuing to be popular is the small-plates concept. And this year the upscale North Fork Table & Inn in Southold entered the gourmet food truck craze by opening the Lunch Truck, a takeout spot that sells lobster rolls and "artisan" hot dogs at "gentle" prices.

Another culinary tidbit: Long Island diners are eating out an average of 2.8 times per week but are paying less as more and more diners, even in upscale Long Island, appreciate value and quality.

"Chronicles of Old New York: Exploring Manhattan's Landmark Neighborhoods"

Museyon Guides, $17.95


Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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