Happy Birthday, Manhattan!

“And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes– a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and the greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder. ” —The Great Gatsby

Today is the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s landing on the island of Manhattan! Of course, the Lanape peoples were here long before him—so “birthday” is a bit of a misnomer, but it’s an incredible anniversary nonetheless.

There’s an exhibit entitled “Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City” on display at the Museum of the City through October 12th, showing the island as it would have looked 400 years ago, and recalling how a crew of Dutch and English sailors happened upon “Mannahatta” while searching for treasures of the Orient. This wonderful Fitzgerald text was hanging in the museum, by the way. And we wondered how many imaginations it has filled with dreams of discovering this island.

We had a chance to visit the museum and to see the exhibit a few weeks ago on a balmy, Wednesday evening when we went for their Speakeasy event. The museum hosted a party celebrating the history of the jazz age and the Speakeasy (there were 32,000 in the city between 1926 and 1932) every Wednesday night in August, and we went to the final night—there was live jazz, Charleston dancing (with a somewhat inadequate lesson but we tried to recall what we’d learned on Governor’s island), a talk on the era, and cocktails on the museum’s patio. Our admission meant one free drink and access to the first and second floor galleries. The museum itself is quite lovely—a massive Georgian-Colonial style building facing the park—and though its collections are small, it was wonderful to wander it at night with jazz in the background.

On our way to the museum, by the way, we stopped at Shake Shack for a quick dinner (or rather, Aron met me a the park and I walked over from the office). We tried a new burger (for us): the absolutely insane Double Shack Stack, recommended on Serious Eats.

It’s so insane (at a height of at least 7 inches), that Aron and I knew better than to each have our own—and so we split one. I grabbed some photos from their blog and posted them below to give you an idea of the insanity.

The Shack Stack—now called the Double Shack Stack—consists of two cheeseburgers wrapped around a ‘shroom burger (a breaded, deep-fried patty of portabello with muenster) topped with lettuce, tomato, and Shack Sauce. Essentially a heart attach in a bun. As Robyn on Serious Eats writes: “[S]plit it with a friend and you’re in Awesome Town.” We’re going to try not to go to Awesome Town again for a long time—not because we don’t want to—but because we don’t want to die of a premature coronary.

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