Don’t get me wrong. There’s nowhere I’d rather be at this time of year than the Jersey shore, when our area hits its stride and comes to life. With so much going on, why leave?
There are, however, some perfectly respectable reasons, such as a special occasion, a rainy day (not many of those this summer!), or the arrival of autumn (just around the corner). If you’re like me, the occasional trip out of the ’burbs to the city tends to be Manhattan-centric.
New York City, however, isn’t just Manhattan. Next time you cross the Hudson, explore the outer boroughs, especially Brooklyn. This is where youthful innovation happens. If you want cutting edge clothes, music, art, food, and drinks, Brooklyn’s where it’s at.
For me, it’s the food and drink that lure me to the other side of the East River. Just before the start of summer, when I didn’t feel so guilty about leaving the shore, I spent a whole day in Brooklyn’s distinctive neighborhoods to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We were a group of women who had met as graduate students in the food studies program at New York University. Needless to say, this was going to be a foodie adventure.
Bushwick: Beyond the tragically hip neighborhood of Williamsburg lies Bushwick, where the tragically hip who couldn’t find an affordable place in Williamsburg live, eat, party, and ride fixed-gear bikes. There is nothing charming about this neck of the woods. Treeless streets are lined with old brick factories and abandoned lots surrounded by chain link fences. Nevertheless, it serves as a blank canvas for the young and creative to execute their urban vision, and it’s the location of one of the best pizza joints in the city. New to the scene, Roberta’s, uses only the freshest seasonal ingredients, typically sustainably grown, and cooks their pizzas in wood-burning ovens. Cocktails are served in mason jars, and meals are shared at communal tables. This is where our group met for lunch. It’s also where I was interviewed in March on the Heritage Radio Network.
|Photo By Anna E. McBride|
Red Hook: We didn’t have much of a postprandial plan, so we hopped into a friend’s car and decided to explore Brooklyn. The birthday girl wanted to share with us an undiscovered waterfront park behind IKEA, in the isolated and challenged neighborhood of Red Hook, where there’s no subway stop. A car made the trip very easy (and we could listen to classic rock along the way; you can take the girl out of Jersey, but you can’t take Jersey out of the girl!) After lounging in the near-empty park and sighing at the views of the city’s active harbor, we figured it was high time for a cocktail. Back in the car, we headed for Van Brunt Street, the main drag in Red Hook, which has developed into a foodie destination spot over the past few years. At Fort Defiance Café and Bar, at a table by the window, we enjoyed perfectly made cocktails, like the Warwick Bramble, a chilled combo of gin, blackberries, lemon, and local black currant liqueur. No commercially produced mixers in these serious drinks!
|Photo by Kara Newman|
Cobble Hill: The quaint beauty of Cobble Hill is in stark contrast to the urban grimness of Bushwick and Red Hook, but it’s still very much a hot spot in the city. I had a couple of places to check out in the area, both on bustling Smith Street: Stinky Bklyn, a small, dedicated cheese shop that had supplied Cheddars for my talk at Jimmy’s No. 43 in February, and the cool cocktail lounge, the Clover Club, where celebrated Damon Dyer tends bar. He invented the Monte Casino, the citrus-y drink of Chartreuse and Benedictine that was served at my talk at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in May. I bought a small bottle of Peychaud's Bitters for making Sazeracs, the iconic cocktail from New Orleans.
Prospect Heights: A short jog from Prospect Park and the stroller-clogged sidewalks of Park Slope is the laid-back neighborhood of Prospect Heights. A bit more chaotic is Flatbush Avenue, the home of two related food spots: Franny’s, also known for pizza, and Bklyn Larder, Franny’s gourmet retail shop with an emphasis on handcrafted cheeses. As at Stinky, I didn’t buy any cheese (why would I need to when Sickles has all that I want?); instead I walked away with small jars of pickled ramps and ramp butter. (If you are curious about ramps, look out for them next spring at Sickles). Needing to catch a bus back to Jersey (ah, life in the suburbs!), I skipped dinner with the gals at Franny’s. That was okay; it had already been a full, enjoyable day.
On Friday I am returning to Brooklyn, to Williasmburg--this time for music, not food. Come Saturday, I plan to stay on this side of the Hudson until autumn. Until then, you can find me chilling on the shore or selling you the perfect cheeses for summer.
Diana the cheesemonger