Marcel Proust wrote that “The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”.
While I will be the first in line to board a plane to some far off exotic location, I have to agree that there is something wonderful about looking around at the “everyday ordinary” and finding new delight. It saves a lot of plane fare & jet lag too!
Since December 8th, 2009 (the day I drove into town with dog and a whole mess of hopes and dreams) I have been so busy with planning my next great global adventure that I have blindly walked by some real treasures right under my nose. I have even ventured out to other parts of Brooklyn to find some new culinary or cultural experience. Even walking the dog, I often keep my nose buried in my iphone and have missed out on all that passes by on my own streets.
So this weekend, rather than run off to the Hamptons (because no one invited me to be honest) or off to the Hudson Valley to explore farmlands (which is sooo next weekend) I stayed home and explored everything up one side of Court St and down again the other on Smith St. I went into every Italian food shop I passed, chatted up the butchers, sat on the front bench and gossiped with the sweet little old ladies who used to skip down these streets 50, 60 yrs ago. I went into the churches (thank god no lightning bolts came down on me), antique stores, produce stalls, flower shops, pastry stores, coffee shops and I even got a tour of an old Italian Supper Club (can’t write about it though or well ya know…)
So here it is…my BEST of MY BROOKLYN! (Includes Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, a sprinkle of Brooklyn Heights and a dash of Red Hook).
We will start with coffee and end our evening with a nightcap with a whole mess of yummy bites and sips in between.
1. Coffee – At 502 Henry St resides the best Cafe Latte in the hood made by the friendliest staff. Perhaps one explains the other. NAIDRES (www.naidres.com) has a full menu of delishness from breakfast through lunch but I come for the latte and the $1 dog bone treat that has white frosting and sprinkles. Sula loves Naidres too now.
2. To Market To Market – After breakfast we shop for fresh fruit and veggies and nothing compares to K&Y FRUIT & VEGGIE INC. at 291 Court St. Ok, so the name might have you thinking of other kinds of shops, but one look at the amazing selection of beautiful local fresh fruit spilling onto the sidewalk and all thoughts of lubrication leave the mind. Better than the quality of their produce are the amazing prices. They also carry more unusual tropical fruits, exotic mushrooms, loads of fresh herbs and for some reason a bizarre collection of Asian prepared sauces.
3. Lunch – Sula & I head over to 264 Clinton St beside Cobble Hill Park. TED & HONEY (www.tedandhoney.com), a cafe with an adorable red facade, dishes up the bestest lunch in the hood for a Southern girl. Get the house smoked pulled pork sandwich with their own barbecue sauce, homemade pickles and southern slaw! Get it “to go” along with an Arnold Palmer (1/2 iced tea, 1/2 lemonade for all ya’ll non Southerners) and sit in the park gobbling it up. Sula waits for bits of slaw and sauce to fall and then licks my pork perfumed fingers.
4. Stock the Bar – Over to 268 Smith Street where SMITH & VINE (www.smithandvine.com) have the best wine deals in town. A large center island boasts great wines NOT over $15. The staff was all either born in a vineyard or have been studying wine since the sippy cup. You say dim sum, they say 11 great names that would be perfect in red, white or rose. They have dog treats (gotta keep Sula interested) and funny stories of shoppers thinking they are wine crackers.
5. Say Cheez – Just across the street from SMITH & VINE is STINKY BRKLYN (www.stinkybklyn.com) Same owners, same great service but here is where to find the best cheese in the hood. Yes, here too, the staff were born out of a parmesan wheel. They have great gourmet goodies to go along with the cheeses like jams, quinces, crackers, mustards etc… They have weekly cheese classes (most paired with wine) and host an annual cheese eating contest. What’s not to love here! Is that cheesy?
6. A long afternoon walk finds us in Red Hook and a bit peckish. Lucky for us, we can get BAKED! 359 Van Brunt has the best BAKED (www.baked.com) goods going. What kind of shop were you thinking it was? Their brownies are dee-vine. The chocolate banana is dreamy and the peanut butter chocolate will make you cry. YUM. I love the decor of the store too which basically takes it over the top for me. Eye Candy & tummy candy.
7. Provisions – Whether for a Sunday picnic or Sunday roast, Paisano Italian Market, 162 Smith St (lospaisanosmeatmarket.com) is the place to shop. 45 years and still going strong! The best selection of meats in the hood. Everything from rattlesnake (not kidding) to age dried beef tenderloin. You must buy some of the grilled olives, the prosciutto di Parma and the Parmigiano Reggiano for the perfect picnic. The staff is full of knowledge and flirts. I always leave with a spring in my step and inspiration for a new recipe. They carry it all from homemade pastas, sauces, Italian specialties, breads, marinades, spices to even prepared dinners delivered to your dining table.
8. Happy Hour – Our busy afternoon called for a little nap and now its happy hour! Brand new to the hood, BROKEN ENGLISH, has a wonderful walk up window raw bar. A glass of Prosecco and 1/2 dozen fresh shucked oysters is the perfect start to the evening.
9. Dinner – THE RIVER DELI, Jouralemon St in Brooklyn Heights. Take a long stroll or take a cab but don’t miss dinner in this great little restaurant. A Sardinian husband and wife team are putting out the best Sardinian food I have had since being there. The fresh catch has not disappointed and the bruschetta are great for sharing. All Italian wine list with some very nice Vermentinos. Ask for a window seat and the tiramisu!
10. Music & Dancing – Gotta work some of that pasta off, so over to BAR TABAC (www.bartabac.com) for live music and a livelier crowd! Never a dull minute here at the corner of Smith & Dean Streets. With serious whirling dervish fans it is also the “coolest” spot in the hood on a hot summers day. Bartenders are all delightful and this place definitely has the best vibe going for a little late night shake shake your booty. My favorite is the band on Sunday nights but you should hear them all for yourself. They also throw the best Bastille Day party outside of France.
11. Nightcap – Almost time to put the dancing shoes to bed and give Sula that last walk. I offer you two nightcap spots depending on your mood. CLOVER CLUB (www.cloverclub.com) is the place to go for an artisanal drinks like punches, collins, swizzles, royals, juleps or mashes. Ya know, drinks that walked right out of Mad Men. The bartenders are dressed the part and are always ready to make you a custom cocktail that matches your mood or personality. OR there is BGH (BAR GREAT HARRY) www.bargreatharry.com. A true beer bar with daily changing beers on tap and specials. It’s the bar you don’t really want to see in the light of day but always has an interesting crowd. You pick your poison!
*Disclaimer: Yes there are LOADS more great foodie finds in the hood. I need something to write about tomorrow ok! So, if you got left out, maybe its ’cause you are getting a whole blog to yourself, wink wink.
Know a great spot I overlooked? Shout it out!