Saturday, 18 July 2009

New York Gastronome: Brooklyn highlights

Having already dedicated a lengthy post to Manhattan highlights from my recent trip, I just wanted to also share a few quick highlights from Brooklyn...

Bedford Ave subway, Williamsburg

Our local subway station, Bedford Avenue, in Williamsburg. Our beautiful "loftette" was only half a block away and the next stop on the L Train took us straight to the East Village, so everything was very conveniently located.

The loftette

The loftette. I found it through Craigslist - we sublet it for two weeks for a great price. It was small, but it was all we needed, and when CJ came from Canada to stay for the weekend the couch proved to be a comfy bed.

Blackbird ParlourBlackbird Parlour

Just around the corner from the loftette was Blackbird Parlour, a cafe I'd been tipped off about in advance by Lucy from The Design Files. Loved the antiquated look of the place, but after Melbourne standards best-friend-K was pretty seriously disappointed with the unexceptional coffee. The toasted grilled cheese sandwich (with fontina, manouri, radicchio, prosciutto and herbs on sliced pullman, $12) served with red grapes was pretty great though.

Blackbird ParlourGrilled cheese sandwich

Street market in Bedford Avenue on a Saturday afternoon. We'd been told in advance that Williamsburg was hipster central (like Fitzroy, only more so), but we couldn't get over how EVERYONE seemed to be in their twenties or thirties. Are there no old(er) people or children in Williamsburg??


On our first Saturday we went along to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, an alternative festival parade which pays homage to the Coney Island Mardi Gras parades from the early 20th century (or so Wikipedia tells me). It was corny and lots of fun.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade

It was also raining off and on but that didn't dampen the spirits of the thousands of people marching in the parade, in homemade marine-themed costumes. Wikipedia says: The Mermaid parade is well-known for extraordinary marine costumes, and for the occasional partial nudity. (This is not as surprising as it may sound, because it is legal in New York State for women to be topless in public, as long as this is not part of a business venture.) The parade is however very much a family event; it is quite common for at least one little girl's birthday party to march as part of the parade. There are sections in the parade for vehicles of all kinds, for floats, for groups, and for individuals. Mermaids and sea creatures of every shape and size are represented, and the audience is festive and appreciative.

Coney Island Mermaid ParadeConey Island Mermaid Parade
Harvey Keitel at Coney Island Mermaid ParadeConey Island Mermaid Parade

Being an American parade, there were of course several marching bands. This one was marching just ahead of the parade's celebrity monarch - this year Harvey Keitel was crowned King Neptune. He looked a little tired and bemused, poor thing.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade

We liked Five Leaves, a cafe and oyster bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, a lot. Fluffy ricotta pancakes for brunch one morning, and brilliantly smokey eggplant dip and pomegranate martinis one evening.

Five Leaves, GreenpointFive Leaves, Greenpoint

We *loved* staying in Brooklyn (rather than being on the island), but still having Manhattan at our fingertips. Brooklyn just seemed to have a more laid-back cosy neighbourhood vibe, especially on the weekends.

Greenpoint, BrooklynMJ stencil

Melbourne Gastronome reader Priscilla recommended that I check out Diner, down in South Williamsburg one block from the Williamsburg Bridge. Housed in a gorgeous refurbished/dilapidated 1927 dining car, Diner has an emphasis on local produce and has an interesting dinner menu that changes nightly. When we dropped in for lunch I tried one of the specials, the Chilaquiles: fried corn tortillas, shredded chicken and tomatillo salsa verde made into a stew (so that the tortillas softened), then topped with two fried eggs, parmesan and scallions. It's a famous hangover cure and I can certainly see why - loved the spicy tanginess of the salsa.


Reader Joeyegger suggested I check out the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Carroll Gardens generally, and the bar/restaurant Prime Meats specifically. Prime Meats was very 90s - 1890s, that is! The place was gorgously decked out in late 19th century style, with intricate pressed tin ceilings, polished wooden bar and slightly tarnished mirrors.

Prime Meats cocktail listApplejack Sazerac at Prime Meats

The bartenders all wore ties and vests and sported impressive facial hair. We looked over the old-school cocktail list (lots of pre-Prohibition ingredients like bitters and absinthe, mmmmm). I ordered an Applejack Sazerac which came with one single big block of ice chipped with a pick from an even bigger block. Less ice cube surface area means the cocktail stays cold but doesn't dilute as fast. It tasted FABULOUS.

We were also very impressed with the German-influenced food (alas, by the time our main dishes came out it was far too dark for me to take any good flash-free photos). Prime Meats is one of the restaurants embracing the current New York craze for in-house butchering, and the meats did not disappoint. The 12oz grilled prime New York strip steak that I had (30 day dry aged Creekstone Farms Black Angus beef, $19) was particularly juicy. But oddly enough the dish that we all liked best was a rather innocuous salad appetizer, the red cabbage salad with walnuts, parsley, balsamic and walnut oil ($8). So simple, but so so delicious.

Moustache at Prime MeatsRed cabbage salad

On the recommendation of our Prime Meats gorgeous vivacious friendly waitress, we continued our cocktail drinking at another Carroll Gardens cocktail bar, the Clover Club. Loved the extra flask on ice they gave me to top up my Gin Blossom!

Clover Club cocktailFresh strawbs

Saturday afternoon Brooklyn street scene in Carroll Gardens - kids playing in water from fire hydrant and an impromptu volleyball game. :)

Brooklyn street partyBrooklyn street party


Belle@Ooh, Look said...

I’m really enjoying your observations on NYC and Brooklyn, especially life as a ‘local’. Makes me feel like I’ve been there – or at least wish I was!

claire said...

Thanks Belle, glad to know you're enjoying them. :)

del said...

hi claire,
Loving the reviews of NYC,
I'm planning to be there in November this year,
just wondering if you have the email of the person you rented the
brooklyn place, and how much was it?

claire said...

Hi del! Sorry for the late reply.
Details for the loftette are on this site:
It's loft #2, not loft #1. Loft #1 was looked AMAZING, but was way out of our price range.
We negotiated a very generous price for renting the loftette for a 15 day block - suggest you send Jennifer an email asking for a quote for the dates you want - she's very prompt in replying.

Let me know if you choose to stay there! :)