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Spring/summer menu at Merchants River House: As reliably as the appearance of robins and daffodils in Battery Park City, spring means a revised menu at Merchants River House — the restaurant on the esplanade with two outdoor patios and a great view of the Hudson River. The revised menu partially reflects the desire for lighter, warm-weather fare and partially the practicalities of feeding hundreds of people at a time from a small kitchen.
“In winter, when we just have indoor seating, the restaurant seats 125 people,” said Merchants Hospitality Executive Chef Wade Burch. “In summer, that goes up to 300, so I have to put things on the menu that can be prepared quickly.”
A highlight of the new menu is a Chardonnay poached salmon served with mixed greens, radishes, capers, haricots verts and hard-boiled eggs with a tarragon-mustard vinaigrette ($16). It’s similar to a salade niçoise except made with salmon instead of tuna. The salmon is delicate, offset by its spicy accompaniments. Burch said the salmon comes from Scotland and is purchased fresh daily every day but Sunday.
A goat cheese and roasted tomato ravioli new to the menu should please vegetarians. It’s served with wilted spinach, a plum tomato broth and toasted pine nuts ($15). And with a nod toward summer days at the beach, there will be Maryland crab cakes served with angel hair pasta and New Jersey corn and tomatoes ($24.95).
Burch has enlivened the dessert menu with a silky Bailey’s Irish Cream cheese cake drizzled with caramel ($5.75) and a favorite from SouthWest NY, a large wedge of Red Velvet cake with cream cheese frosting ($6.75).
Speaking of SouthWest NY, Abraham Merchant said that he expects his restaurant at the corner of South End Avenue and Albany Street to open in three months. In the meantime, SouthWest NY will deliver from 5 p.m. to midnight daily. Call (212) 945-0538.
Merchants River House is open daily. The kitchen is open Mondays to Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays the kitchen hours are 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The bar remains open until midnight. Call (212) 432-1451 for reservations.
Tribeca Film Festival Drive-in at W.F.C.: Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff launched the Tribeca Film Festival in 2002 to try to help Lower Manhattan recover from 9/11. An enduring part of the festival are the community evenings on the World Financial Center plaza with free movies, free food — usually popcorn and soft drinks — and free entertainment before each film.
This year, the Tribeca Film Festival Drive-in opens on Thursday, April 19 with that classic 1975 thriller, “Jaws” followed by “The Goonies” from 1985 on Friday, April 20 and the world premiere of a baseball documentary called “Knuckleball!” on Saturday, April 21.
The drive-in opens each night at 6 p.m. The entertainment starts at 6:30 p.m. and the films are shown at dusk — roughly 8:15 p.m.
“Jaws” will be preceded by trivia contests to celebrate Universal Studios’ 100th anniversary, live music from Afro-jazz pioneers Nomo, and some special guests from the upcoming New York Downtown Jazz Festival. There will also be live music on the second and third nights of the drive-in. Baseball fans will have a special treat on Saturday when pro knuckleballers R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets, Tim Wakefield, formerly of the Boston Red Sox, and former New York Yankee Jim Bouton are on hand to show their pitching techniques.
Downtown Little League season opener: Another hotly contested season of Downtown Little League softball and baseball games starts on Saturday, April 21 with the requisite trappings — speeches from politicians and a performance by Lower Manhattan’s own community band, the TriBattery Pops, playing the National Anthem and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” The festivities begin at 9 a.m. on the Battery Park City ball fields between West Street and North End Avenue at Murray and Warren Streets. The games start at 11 a.m.
Battery Park City in bloom: In spring, Battery Park City’s gardens burst with color and with exotic blooms from all over the world. An interesting looking plant with flowers that look like white bottle brushes is currently decorating the esplanade near West Thames Street. This plant, called Large Fothergilla (Fothergilla major) or witch alder, is native to the American southeast. Its spiky flowers have no petals. The white blooms are actually a clutch of stamens — the male fertilizing organ of a flower.
The plant was named for John Fothergill (1712-1780) an English physician and plant collector. In the practice of medicine, he was innovative and prescient. He lectured about mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and was one of the first doctors to identify streptococcus as a cause of sore throats.
He was fascinated by botany. In his home at Upton near Stratford, he grew plants from all over the world. He sponsored scientific expeditions to the South Seas and also bankrolled William Bartram, the American botanist and son of the famed botanist John Bartram of Philadelphia. The younger Bartram traveled through the southern United States from 1773 to 1776 and probably came across witch alder at that time.
Fothergill and the Bartrams were Quakers. Fothergill commissioned and paid for a Quaker Bible and founded a Quaker school called Ackworth in West Yorkshire. Battery Park City’s Fothergilla is a lovely tribute to a man who did much good in his 68 years of life, advancing human well-being and knowledge.
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