BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a senior science writer for Climate Central in New York and a journalist who has covered fracking and the environment in Colorado and New Mexico since 2001. 

The Geometry of the Sydney Opera House

As the main tourist attraction in Sydney and one of the most iconic symbols of Australia, the Sydney Opera House speaks for itself. During our Australia trip last month, Jacob and I mostly avoided major tourist attractions in favor of seeing Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra on their own terms.

But, just like a first visit to New York City in incomplete without at least a brief visit to the Empire State Building, Rockefeller Center or the World Trade Center, a first visit to Sydney would be incomplete without at least a stroll by the Opera House if for no other reason than to admire the geometry of the building's roof. These images are the best I could muster with my iPhone SE:

© Bobby Magill

©  Bobby Magill

© Bobby Magill

© Bobby Magill

© Bobby Magill

©  Bobby Magill

© Bobby Magill

Seen from the Sydney Harbor Bridge.  © Bobby Magill

Exploring NYC Through 52 Cuisines: Kosher Barbecue in Crown Heights, Brooklyn

I grew up in the South, so I love BBQ by default. It is, after all, religion unto itself. In a perfect world, I'd be vegetarian, but I'm not because there's barbecue. Suggest to a Southerner that your barbecue recipe more authentic or delicious than theirs, or the planet would be better off if we'd all just give up eating brisket, well, them's fightin' words.

Barbecue traditions span the continent, and word of amazing kosher barbecue drew us to Brooklyn, where Izzy's Smokehouse peddles serious addictions in Crown Heights.

Jacob and I trekked one hour and 40 minutes on the subway from Marble Hill to northern Brooklyn to eat barbecue with our friend David, who lives in a truly fascinating part of New York City (what part isn't fascinating?). Crown heights is replete with Jewish yeshivas and trendy bagel shops and odd body-shaping practices and Caribbean delis and Trinidadian roti restaurants. There is much to explore, but with the balmy winter suddenly turning frigid, barbecue was our main reason for riding the 4 Train all the way to its eastern terminus today. 

Let's get this out of the way: Izzy's has by far the most tender and delicious barbecue I can recall eating, at least since I moved from South Carolina 15 years ago.  

My family lives in Texas, where barbecue, like a country twang, is in people's DNA. I've eaten a lot of barbecue Austin and San Antonio and Midland and Big Spring. All of it has been tasty at best, not the stuff of legend, though it's natural for Texans to boast otherwise regardless of the evidence. I'm paying the Great State another visit in a few months, so Texas, I challenge you to serve up some 'cue more outrageously tender and tangy than the sliced wonders Izzy's put on my plate today. Are you up to the challenge? My money says Izzy's wins the bet. 

Who knew barbecue was a thing in New York City? BBQ joints are popping up all over the place. There's Mighty Quinn's in the East Village and scattered about Manhattan. Hill Country over on 26th St. There's even a barbecue joint inside the Whole Foods on Bowery. And there are many, many more. Izzy's opened in Crown Heights last summer. 

At Izzy's, the three of us split a 1/2 pound order of brisket and a 1/2 pound order of smoked turkey, which tasted deep fried to me. However they prepared it, both meats damn near melted in my mouth. The brisket wasn't even overly fatty. It's a good thing this kosher 'cue was extraordinarily tasty, because Izzy's isn't exactly a cheap date. Our pound of meat cost $32.50 and change, plus more than three hours of roundtrip transit time from home. 

Smoked turkey and brisket with sauce. What more could you want? 

It really was that good. That's the thing about good barbecue: The lengths you'll go to find it may be immense and unreasonable and insane, but like a good whisky, it's addicting and amazing and you care about little else than the preciously ephemeral flavor of that damn good food in front of you. 

The brisket and turkey came with pickled red cabbage and sweet pickles. It was as good as it looks. 

Izzy's is tiny, little more than a hole in the wall on Troy Avenue. I'll admit it's a little odd seeing a skull of a longhorn in Brooklyn. But that's why we love New York City. 

Yeah, these are New York City prices. But, for crying out loud, it's barbecue. Just do it. 



Exploring NYC Through 52 Cuisines in 52 Weeks: Bangladeshi Food in the Bronx

There are many ways to explore the city. Some choose stick to their own neighborhood and daily route to work. Others stray far and wide, exploring the subway system or specific neighborhoods as they look for architectural wonders or obscure artifacts of history. 

In 2016, my goal is to explore New York City and its neighborhoods through its food, mainly ethnic cuisine. Where else can you find Egyptian, French and Greek restaurants on the same block? 

So long as we live in New York City this year, I plan to visit at least one new international restaurant each week — or 52 cuisines in 52 weeks. It could be the Dominican bakery around the corner from my apartment in Marble Hill, a unique Halal food stand in Midtown, a quick workday lunch at a Caribbean place I just learned about on Houston Street or a Georgian restaurant in a distant Brooklyn neighborhood.

We kicked this project off today with a long hike through the Bronx. 

Week 1: Bangladeshi Food in Parkchester and Pastries in the Bronx's Little Italy

Our one-way hike from Marble Hill to Neerob in Parkchester. 

Our one-way hike from Marble Hill to Neerob in Parkchester. 

The goal for today was Neerob, a Bangladeshi restaurant in Parkchester praised in the New York Times in 2011 for being one of the only places in the city where true Bangladeshi food is served. We decided to walk from Marble Hill to Parkchester in the east Bronx through the Bronx's Little Italy, hiking along Kingsbridge Road, Fordham Road, Arthur Avenue, and eventually below the Bronx Zoo and over to Unionport Road and Starling Ave. — a 5.2 mile hike. 

Gino's Pastry Shop om 187th St. in the Bronx's Little Italy. 

Gino's Pastry Shop om 187th St. in the Bronx's Little Italy. 

The first stop was the less famous but much larger Little Italy along Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, one of the largest Italian neighborhoods in the city with one of the region's highest concentrations of Italian meat markets, bakeries and shops. 

That's where we found Gino's Pastry Shop, where I ate a pastry called sfogliatella, or "lobster tail," a pastry with resembling a lobster tail made with thin leaves of pastry. 

Sfogliatella at Gino's. 

Sfogliatella at Gino's. 

Pastries in the case at Gino's. 

Pastries in the case at Gino's. 

Delicious. Jacob ate a cannoli, and soon we found ourselves wandering through the bustling Arthur Ave. Market, which is replete with vendors hawking olive oil, fresh vegetables, pizza and  "This is the Bronx" hats and T-shirts, each of which is probably aimed at tourists. 

From there, we wandered through the central Bronx and over to Parkchester, a planned development of uniform housing towers built by Met Life just before World War II. Neerob is in a Bangladeshi district just a couple of blocks away from the housing towers.

Neerob on Starling Ave. in the eastern Bronx. The food is good enough to ignore the B rating from the health department. 

Neerob on Starling Ave. in the eastern Bronx. The food is good enough to ignore the B rating from the health department. 

As we walked into the restaurant, there were cases of mostly unlabeled food on the right, and seating in an adjacent room on the left. Is there table service? Do we order at the counter? And what exactly were they serving? Except for the clearly-labeled biryanis, or rice dishes, in the case, we couldn't tell for sure. That's what stands out about this place: You're supposed to know what the food in the display case is, and you shouldn't need labels or a menu to help you identify it. Its deliciousness is supposed to be self evident. 

And it was. We were seated, and we ordered from a takeout menu, and when we got our food, the flavor was as bursting as we'd expected. 

Chicken biryani in the case near the entrance at Neerob. 

Chicken biryani in the case near the entrance at Neerob. 

Jacob ordered goat curry, and I had channa dal and chicken korma with garlic naan and mango lassi, an Indian yogurt drink. 

Each dish was rich and spicy, and totally unlike any korma or dal I've had at any Indian restaurant in town. Most customers in the restaurant ate with their hands, but as the only obvious Westerners in the restaurant, we were given utensils. 

Delicious. Of course. Some of the best South Asian food I've had in NYC so far. 

Chana dal on the right, naan on the left. 

Chana dal on the right, naan on the left. 

Goat curry on the right, chicken korma on the left. 

Goat curry on the right, chicken korma on the left. 

The menu. 

The real treat, aside from the food, was visiting this part of the Bronx, which is so far removed from the typical tourist track that you'll be unlikely to ever see one here, a trait it shares with Marble Hill and much of far Uptown Manhattan. 

A Bangladeshi newspaper for sale outside Neerob. 

A Bangladeshi clothing store on Starling Ave. down the street from Neerob. 

The Bangla Bazaar is a stretch of several blocks of Starling Ave., a strip of Bangladeshi-owned businesses. 

The Bangla Bazaar is a stretch of several blocks of Starling Ave., a strip of Bangladeshi-owned businesses. 

Talking Moose Hunting in 'the Province'

We cycled 68 miles on Thursday between Cape Sable Island and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, where we stayed at a campground outside town. Pulling out of camp this morning, a woman checking out our bikes told us a story of her recent trip to "the Province," by which she meant Newfoundland (pronounced Newfin-LAND), a moose-riddled odyssey through the isolated wilderness to play baseball. She wondered what would happen if we ran into a moose on our recumbents, and she was certain the outcome would be grim. I was, too. 

Before departure from Cape Sable Island, where we stayed at a tiny B&B in Clark's Harbor.  

Before departure from Cape Sable Island, where we stayed at a tiny B&B in Clark's Harbor.  

Into Yarmouth we rode on a narrow, busy and shoulder-free highway looking for breakfast, when Jacob's intensifying Achilles' tendonitis finally got the best of him. To this point, we'd ridden 134 miles in less than 48 hours. The pain was too great for him to continue, so we decided to bag the bike tour. No healing can be accomplished by aggravating it further 

Jacob checking the map before our last push into Yarmouth. 

Jacob checking the map before our last push into Yarmouth. 

This left us in a bit of a bind. Unable to bike back to where we parked the car two cycling days behind us, and unable to complete the loop around southern Nova Scotia, we needed other transportation back to the tiny town where we parked the car. There is no public transport between Yarmouth and Shelburne. Enterprise Rent A Car, the only car rental game in town, was booked up for days. (They called this morning telling me they couldn't honor the online reservation I'd made.) There is a shuttle service between Yarmouth and Halifax, but it leaves tomorrow. We reserved hitchhiking as a last-ditch option. So, like a good New Yorker, I called a taxi. 

Two hours and $140 Loonies later, I was driving my Subaru out of Shelburne and headed back to Yarmouth to pick up Jacob and the bikes. On the way to Shelburne, the cab driver, who was very proud to inform me he'd just switched to drinking Miller beer after 30 years of never deviating from his habit of drinking the same Keith's beer, told me of his upcoming moose hunt in NewfinLAND. With a spot-on Scotsman's accent, he pined for "the Province" where he'd spend weeks seeking his prized moose.

"What does moose taste like?" I asked. 

 "Ever eaten deer?"

"Best cut of meat I've ever had," I said, thinking of grilled Moffat County venicen I ate in a friend's backyard in western Colorado a few years back.  

"Moose is better, no restaurant serves it," he said, adding that his year sitting behind a steering wheel in Yarmouth is aimed at two things: Paying off his Dodge car and shooting that NewfinLAND moose. 

Loading up the bikes in Yarmouth.  

Loading up the bikes in Yarmouth.  

Back in Yarmouth, Jacob and I loaded up the bikes, filled up on Tim Hortons and hit the road up the coast, where we visited Smuggler's Cove, and I'm learning the virtues of Keith's beer, which the can claims to be an IPA, but tastes more like Bud Light.  

Now... time for the scenic route home via, well, we're not sure yet. We've got some time yet to kill. See ya back in the States, eh? 

 

Greetings from Cape Sable Island: Nova Scotia Bike Tour Day 1

Our recumbent cycling trek around Nova Scotia has gotten off with some fits and starts, but after several days of dealing with some technical issues and unrelated complications, we're now one day in and 59.4 miles down the road. 

Storm light over Shelburne, NS, on Tuesday night.  

Storm light over Shelburne, NS, on Tuesday night.  

We left New York on Saturday morning, drove to Portland, Maine, where we stayed with family, and then drove to Halifax on Sunday, just in time for the city's busking festival.  

How do you like your poutine? Halifax.  

How do you like your poutine? Halifax.  

Halifax is a beautiful and booming small city, but we quickly hit the road on Monday for Lunenburg, a UNESCO world heritage site and small historic town down the coast from Halifax. We camped on the edge of town, ate local Indian food and tasted locally distilled vodka and gin.

 

Even the local stray cat population knows where to find the good stuff in Lunenburg.  

Even the local stray cat population knows where to find the good stuff in Lunenburg.  

The Blue Nose II schooner in Lunenburg. 

The Blue Nose II schooner in Lunenburg. 

The Dory Shop in Lunenburg.  

The Dory Shop in Lunenburg.  

From Lunenburg, we drove to Shelburne, where we stayed in a local hotel and ate at restaurant where we discussed the finer points of the virtues of donairs, the local cuisine, with the waitstaff of a local restaurant. Donairs are made of spicy beef and a sweet mayonnaise. 

 

Shelburne was founded by English loyalists during the Revolution, and the town is quite proud of it. There are more Union Jacks flying here than maple leaves.  

Shelburne was founded by English loyalists during the Revolution, and the town is quite proud of it. There are more Union Jacks flying here than maple leaves.  

Storm light in Shelburne.  

Storm light in Shelburne.  

Shelburne.  

Shelburne.  

Finally sick of riding in the car, we wrapped up the business we needed to take care of and struck out on two wheels on Wednesday morning. The plan is to leave the car in Shelburne, then head along the Nova Scotia coast through Yarmouth and eventually to Annapolis Royal and the Bay of Fundy coast, where we'll turn south, cross back to the South Shore and return to Shelburne, where we'll retrieve the car and make our way back to New York City.  

 

Jacob, parking the bikes for breakfast this morning at a Shelburne cafe. total mileage at this point: 0.8.

Jacob, parking the bikes for breakfast this morning at a Shelburne cafe. total mileage at this point: 0.8.

The rural marshlands we rode through south of Shelburne.  

The rural marshlands we rode through south of Shelburne.  

We ran into another bike tourist from Montreal, and we ended up leapfrogging him several times on the route toward Barrington. We ate dinner with him at a pizza joint in Barrington Passage, where Jacob and I filled up on snacks at the Sobeys grocery store and the headed south toward Cape Sable Island. 

We ran into another bike tourist from Montreal, and we ended up leapfrogging him several times on the route toward Barrington. We ate dinner with him at a pizza joint in Barrington Passage, where Jacob and I filled up on snacks at the Sobeys grocery store and the headed south toward Cape Sable Island. 

Total mileage for the first day on the road: 59.4. The idea was to do an easy first day, but services were nearly nonexistent along the entire route, and there are no places to camp until Yarmouth, another 50 miles down the highway. So, we worked AirBNB magic and ended up near the very southern tip of Nova Scotia — Cape Sable Island.  

No short ride tomorrow, either. 50 miles or so gets us to a campground near Yarmouth. Or, who knows? Maybe we'll ride 100 tomorrow.  

Finally, several generalizations about Canada: Everybody is insanely friendly; even when people are grumpy, they're nice. Unlike in NYC, litter is usually minimal, but you can follow the Tim Hortons cups scattered on the highway to find the nearest location. Canadian towns don't sprawl like US towns do. Yes, they have their commercial strips, but in Nova Scotia, there isn't much in between. Better fill up with gas and water or snacks while you can, in other words. And, everything is expensive. So expensive. But the quality of life? Pretty stellar up north, it seems. 

An Uptown View

I live high above northern Manhattan, where we get to see a lot of the city and some of the Palisades and Englewood Cliffs area of New Jersey. This is the view from our terrace.

Looking south into the heart of Manhattan. © Bobby Magill

The George Washington Bridge on the right takes I-95 from New Jersey into Manhattan and toward New England. © Bobby Magill

Sunset over New Jersey. © Bobby Magill

Columbia University's football stadium lit up at dusk. © Bobby Magill

Manhattan before dark on a hazy evening. The Citicorp, Chrysler, 432 Park, Met Life, Empire State, Bank of America and 1 World Trade Center buildings are all visible over the Harlem River and Washington Heights. © Bobby Magill.