Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Day One Hundred and Fifteen: Visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Garden on Rose Night June 14th, 2018

Every year the Brooklyn Botanical Garden opens its doors to the membership for the Annual Rose Night in June. This is when the roses are at their peak of bloom and members and their friends and family come to enjoy a private evening.

I have to admit that the weather has played a big role in the way flowers have bloomed this year. Plants have either opened too early or too late. The crocuses opened about three weeks too early and they sat in snow. The tulips opened on time and then were hit with three days of 80 degree weather, which just burnt them out. The daffodils had a good but quick season due to the hot and cold weather. Daffodil Hill and the dogwood trees in the garden were spectacular. What vibrant colors and what a beautiful display that night.

Rose Night was tough. Normally it is a week earlier as most roses come out on the first week of June but for some reason they moved it to the second week and a lot of the roses had already lost their petals. The weather had been a big factor as it rained so much in late May and early June.

Still many of the roses were still coming out and the gardens were awash in colors. So many types of roses were blooming that they almost time themselves. The gardens were full of colors of red, pink, yellow and even green. The overhead trellises were lined in whites, yellows and pinks. Some had aromatic smells while other smelled line a plain flower.

It was nice to walk along the paths and spot the names of the roses. Everything is marked so you get to see when the flowers were grafted and developed. Things are timed so intricately in the garden so they all bloom in certain intervals. Some of the beds were beyond peak while others were just bursting out after a long winter’s nap. You will walk in amazement down the paths to see so much.

Brooklyn Botanical Garden Rose Night.jpg

Rose Garden at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden

It was a beautiful sunny Spring evening and the garden was packed with families picnicking on the lawns all over the gardens, having dinner at the Magnolia Cafe near the middle of the gardens where a special menu was laid out. Others like myself were listening to music in the area by the gift shop or ordering Rose Sangria from the bar which was made with infused rose petals (and is delicious).

The musicians were playing show tunes and the gardens hired a wonderful singer for the night. She was doing all the old Cole Porter songs while I was listening to her and the band. It was nice to just relax with a drink and listen to the band with the other members. Some take it really seriously and dress to the hilt in blazers and hats. I sometimes feel a little under-dressed for the occasion.

I took a long walk around the gardens. A lot is being renovated with the new watershed system that the gardens are setting up which will be opened later this Summer. All the daffodils, dogwoods and tulips are long gone making way for summer flowers to enter the beds. There will be a lot more to see later in the season.

There will be other members nights of picnicking on the lawns and movies to see and walking tours to show it all off.

This is the reason why being a member of the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens is so important if you live in the New York area. There are loads of wonderful events to get involved with on a monthly basis.

Places to visit:

The Brooklyn Botanical Garden

990 Washington Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11225

(718) 623-7200

http://www.bbg.org

Open: Mondays: (Closed)/Tuesday-Friday: 8:00am-6:00pm/Saturday & Sunday: 10:00am-6:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d103900-Reviews-Brooklyn_Botanic_Garden-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

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Day Eighty-Five: Back to Coney Island for the Annual Sandcastle Building Contest and Walking Surf Avenue August 19, 2017

I had a busy day running around Newark and then Brooklyn visiting both the Newark Museum and Coney Island. I love how everything gets planned on the same day. Everyone is preparing for the Solar Eclipse on Monday, so both the Newark Museum and the American Museum of Natural History are getting ready for the viewings. So I stopped at the Newark Museum first today to see what they were planning knowing that New York was going to be very busy.

The Newark Museum is running a series of members mornings with a early morning tour of the museum and a light breakfast that seems to be catching on with the membership. We had a early morning tour of the kinetic sculpture of Uram Choe, a Korean artist who specializes in metal working sculptures that move on motion. His one piece upstairs in the Asian galleries opens up like the sun would in the morning and his downstairs on the second floor piece is a serpent eating itself, which is based on an old legend.

Uram Choe

Uram Choe’s work at the Newark Museum

Mr. Choe’s is from an architect background and each piece moves on a series of motors based on motion. Every piece is placed with such detail and the way it moves is so intricate. The Newark Museum (See TripAdvisor review) is going though a major renovation where they will be opening the original entrance to the museum in the Fall after twenty years and hopefully a new beginning for a museum with a major identity crisis.

Newark Museum.jpg

The Newark Museum

The museum has such amazing works to see in a beautiful setting but the problem is that Newark still has a negative  image to most suburbanites. No one I know wants to go there and that is a real problem for the city.  The museum in a great area of the downtown that is being rebuilt and refigured with all sorts of new housing and lofts but it will take time to shake the riots of the 60’s from peoples minds.

They just opened the new American Indian exhibition and refigured the American Art wing to reflect the development of the United States from Native American time to the present. Their Asian and African galleries are very detailed but the biggest problem they have is the imagine of an ‘African’ museum which they can’t seem to shake. It is such a gem and try not to miss going there.

We had a long talk in the gallery about the artist and about the development of Korean Art from Ancient times until today and then the museum had a beautiful Continental breakfast on the top floor of the Ballentine House. This was Mrs. Ballentine’s daughter’s section of the house that was built in the late 1890’s when they moved in after her husband’s death. The room, now used as the trustees room, is a look back on the Gilded Age and the invention of electricity in modern homes. It really showed me the treasure trove of artifacts that exist in this small museum.

Ballentine House.jpg

Ballentine House

After the tour, there was a quick tour of the museum and then a train ride to Manhattan and then a long subway ride on a beautiful clear sunny day to Coney Island. The whole thing took about two hours and I got there by three o’clock.

The Annual Sandcastle Building Contest I thought would be much bigger than it was. Only about twenty people were competing in it. Several mounds of  sand in one section of the beach outside of Luna Park were used but still the imagination of the work was spellbound.

Most of the works that I saw were some form of castle which seemed to be the object that everyone based their idea on but some people were a little more creative. There were gorillas, octopuses, people crawling out of the sea and one artist even dug out a complete hole and had the imagine of a women lying in the sea. There were some pretty interesting ideas at play. I am not sure who won that afternoon but the prize was $500.00.

Coney Island Sand Castle Contest 2017.jpg

Coney Island Sand Castle Contest 2017

Some of the professional artists did works to welcome everyone to the contest and their detail work was interesting as you see in the picture above. This was not done by a group of ten year olds.

I walked along the beach to relax my feet and as I walked I could not believe how empty the beaches were for a Saturday afternoon in August. By the water it was full but towards the back by the boardwalk it was empty. Not the Coney Island of yesteryear when every spot was full. I guess its just not that place anymore.

After a long walk along the beach, I dried off and walked the boardwalk to the end to Seagate, a private community at the end of the boardwalk. Along the way, I passed by the Coney Island Houses, one of the more dangerous housing complexes in Brooklyn. I don’t know whose brilliant idea it was to build low income housing along the shore front but that made no sense to me.

It looked like the complex was having a barbecue, that is until two guys went after each other in the basketball court area as the DJ was announcing a kids dance. She was beside herself to tell them to calm down. Then you had two groups of people trying to calm the situation down. It was not a pleasant scene.

I got to the end of the boardwalk and decided I wanted to see all of Surf Avenue to see the real changes on the island since the closing of the amusement area. I agree with an article I read years ago, it still is like a war zone.

They built all this public housing outside Seagate and as you walk along Surf Avenue until you get to about where the rehab center is, it just looks like Beirut. The whole area is full of rundown looking public housing and the street itself is a shell of the once glorious resort if it ever  was that. If there are ever going to get this island back into shape, the city seriously needs to rethink this part of the island.

I walked the entire length of Surf Avenue down to Brighton Beach and really looked at the stretch of the island facing the shore. By Brighton Beach, the area got so much nicer and more built up. Even in some of the pockets before the amusement area, they are building new condos along the boardwalk in between the projects. Even still, even when you reach Nathan’s, there is just too much wasted opportunity along the shore front.

I turned around and walked up Stillwell Avenue by the subway spot and there they are starting to knock down the block and replacing it with low rise apartment buildings. This is where all the hipster people must be living. It looks like more of this area is about to come down.

For dinner, I went to Totonno’s Pizzaria Napolitano at 1524 Neptune Avenue between 15th and 16th Streets (See TripAdvisor review). This place is harder to get into than any trendy restaurant in Manhattan. They only make so much dough and as a matter of fact the smaller pizzas sold out before I got there and it was 4:30pm when I ate my lunch/dinner. The place was busy the entire time I got there. The only bad thing about the restaurant is the seating. They need to reconfigure their tables to accommodate more people. You can’t seat a single person like myself at a six top table.

Totonna Pizza II.jpg

Totonna’s Pizza

The menu is so simple. Either you get a small or large pizza with a choice of ten toppings for $2.50 extra. The drinks were pricey with a bottle of Coke being $2.50. The pizza was $20.50 for the large or $18.50 for the small. The place is cash only.

The pizza was wonderful and with the size and the quality of ingredients, well worth the money.  You get a large pizza that is a large pizza with fresh tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, which gives it a different flavor from the shredded processed cheese most places use giving it a creamy flavor. The whole thing was topped with fresh basil and I added sausage to it. Cooking it in a coal brick stove gave it a nice smoky flavor. Needless to say, the owner could not believe I ate almost the entire pie at one sitting.

Tononna Pizza

Totonna’s Cheese Pizza

I met Louise Ciminieri, the current owner and the granddaughter of the original owner. She told me how the business passed down from her grandfather to her uncle and then to her. Her uncle had a habit of only making so much dough and after it was gone, the restaurant closed for the day. A little strange for a business to make money.

Louise Cimineri.jpg

Louise Ciminieri of Totonno’s Pizza

She could not have been nicer or more welcoming to me and seemed to get a kick at the fact that I made such a fuss in meeting her. I told her of all the reviews online and the fact that my own mom had eaten here probably when he uncle first owned the business. She has not changed the place much over the years and she explained how the neighborhood has changed so much since they opened. What was once an Italian neighborhood is now all car repair places.

After dinner, I took once last walk around Surf Avenue and then headed back to Manhattan where I ended up spending the rest of the evening at an outdoor concert in Bryant Park. It was nice to just relax and listen to the music.

It was a beautiful night and a great way to end the trip to Coney Island.

The Coney Island Sand Castle Building Contest is held each August.

 

Places to Visit:

Newark Museum/Ballentine House

49 Washington Avenue

Newark, NJ  07102

(973) 596-6550

https://www.newarkmuseum.org/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g46671-d217958-Reviews-Newark_Museum-Newark_New_Jersey.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/1818

 

Coney Island Beach

Surf Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d106173-Reviews-Coney_Island-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

Totonno’s Pizza

1524 Neptune Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11224

(718) 372-8606

https://www.totonnosconeyisland.com/

Open: Thursday-Sunday

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d459062-Reviews-Totonno_Pizzeria_Napolitano-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Day Eighty: Walking Red Hook, Brooklyn with F.I.T. walking tours July 22, 2017

I gave up a day in Manhattan Valley and took one of the walking ‘trends tours’ with the Fashion Institute of Technology. These theme tours cover neighborhoods that are considered ‘up and coming’ or are already there but at the cutting edge at this point.

What is all really means is that the artists are still struggling, the buildings are not shiny and perfect and the stores and restaurants are in their first generation in the neighborhood mixing with the older neighborhood spots. Red Hook reminded me a small urban neighborhood isolated from the rest of ‘stroller Brooklyn’ closer to Prospect Park.

The tour was lead by Deborah Geiger, the Director of Content from Envirosell. Deborah Geiger, who you will note on ‘MywalkinManhattan.com Day Forty-Seven Touring Bushwick’ (July 9, 2016), lead the tour of Bushwick last summer.

I teased Deborah this time wondering where ‘they were’  for this group. She wondered what I was talking about and I said on every tour I go on for school there is always one pain in the ass who either gets tired, can’t keep up with the tour, their hot or its not what they thought it was when they signed up.

They whine the whole time and want the complete attention of the tour guide the whole time. We had one this time again and thank God this one left the group as soon as we got to Red Hook. He lasted about twenty minutes into the tour and decided to leave. I wish more of them would do this so they don’t wreak it for the rest of us. I really think the college should explain to these people that every tour is different and the fact that it is ‘a walking tour’.

We started our tour for the day at the lobby of FIT, so we had time to see the new “Force of Nature” exhibition at the The Museum at FIT (See TripAdvisor review and my blog “VisitingaMuseum.com”). Don’t miss this as the clothes are interesting and they mounted the exhibition with interesting clothes through the ages.

The Museum at FIT

The Museum at FIT

Then it was a short trip by subway to the tip of Manhattan by the South Street Seaport where we took the IKEA Water Taxi to Red Hook docking by the giant IKEA store on the base of Red Hook. That was fun and what a beautiful day it was to travel by boat.

Red Hook.jpg

Red Hook

The ride via New York Water Taxi is complimentary on weekends with the thanks from IKEA. It is a nice way to travel between spots especially on a warm, sunny day.

Museum at FIT II

‘Clothing through the Ages’ exhibition

The trip took only twenty minutes but what a beautiful trip. We got the most picturesque view of lower Manhattan and of the Statue of Liberty. The view of all the buildings is spectacular. This is New York City the way people imagine it all over the world.

Red Hook Trip IV

Talk about Street Art: Me on a side street with “The Shining”

We landed at the slip where IKEA is located and walked around the harbor area to Van Brunt Street, the main artery of Red Hook, for a quick snack at Baked, 359 Van Brunt Street (See review on TripAdvisor).

Baked.jpg

Baked Red Hook

It is one of those coffee shops that every neighborhood should have with cool seating, interesting music and the most delicious baked goods. I had the most amazing cinnamon rolls that I have ever had. This giant delight was filled with loads of cinnamon and had the thickest icing. It was a treat. We gobbled our treats down and then headed off to the Van Brunt Stillhouse at 6 Bay Street for a tasting.

The Van Brunt Stillhouse is an artisan distillery that produces high quality whiskey and rum. The owner had been in television and decided to make a career change. He had been dabbling in this for a long time and decided to make it a career. We had a tour of the small Stillhouse with its barreling all around us and a funky tasting room. We were allowed to taste the aged whiskey and get a good mouth feel of the product. After one shot, that was more than enough for me.

We moved on to more touring as we walked to the water to the former warehouses housing the Red Hook Winery at 175 Van Dyke Street for a tour of the facility. The Winery is really interesting as it is housed in an old shipping facility that has been converted into a wedding venue and an art gallery. If you get a chance to visit the winery, it is really interesting. Its not your normal winery as it has three different owners with three different philosophies.

They buy their grapes from the North Fork of Long Island and Upstate New York and created their own wines and blends. The collection is rounded off  by other high quality New York wines. Our tour guide showed us the barreling method they use and that they still use their feet to crush grapes for the wine. I thought that was an interesting fact. We toured their ‘racking’ method of wine by rotating the barrels and sampling.

The front of the winery is used for tastings and for socializing. The place was mobbed by the time we got there and it was definitely a younger crowd. I was surprised as I thought the next generation was not interesting in these things. People were tasting wines, conversing about them and looking over the selection. It is an impressive room done in light stained colors and surrounded by the selection of wines.

Our next stop on the tour was Cacao Prieto at 218 Conner Street. This is the most unusual factory tour that we tour. When you enter the back of the factory, there is a tree growing in the middle of the building. We all got a kick out that. The guide let us see the small factory with its showroom up front and production areas off to the side. The whole set up is really nice and the chocolate bars are so beautifully designed.

Our next part of the tour lead us Van Brunt Street to the Peninsula Art Space at 352 Van Brunt Street. We walked through the exhibition of ‘Grand Ole Opera’, an exhibition by Brent and Willie Stewart. The Tennessee born artists exhibition is their institutional debut in the United States, also serves as a venue for a related series of noise, metal and rock concerts, staged within a revival tent.

“Within the exhibition itself, cinematic tableaus reveal a truck turned to AM radio; bizarre trailer-homes containing surreal sculptural landscapes. a perpetually-burning sun projected under a revival ten, which doubles as a stage; the “murder bar”, a nomadic functioning biker bar from the Deth Killers of Bushwick and Romulus and Remus, who nursed at the wolf’s breast and founded ancient Rome, found in a bar-fight”. (Catalogue Pioneer Works)

It was an interesting experience walking through 70’s recreational vehicles and watching B movies on the screen. It was a real ‘red-neck’ experience. The gallery even has a court yard to walk around where more of the exhibition was housed.

After that it was a tour of the Peninsula Art Space at 352 Van Brunt Street for a look at their latest exhibition. While looking at the work of a local artist (interesting perspective of the neighborhood in his paintings), we had a lively debate on the gentrification of the neighborhood and the one the gallery representative lived in, Bed-Sty.  We debated the attributes about living above and below Gates Street where all the projects are located. She was amazed that I knew so much but I do read these articles.

Peninsula Gallery.jpg

Art at the Peninsula Gallery

Our last stop closer to the border of the neighborhood was the Raaka Chocolate Factory at 64 Seabring Street off Van Brunt Street. This is the most interesting candy factory where the owner just fell into the field when travelling abroad and found the cocoa beans.

Raaka Chocolate.jpg

Raaka Chocolate Company

The factory has created a top of the line assortment of dark chocolate bars that are beautifully packaged. I do have a thing about $10.00 chocolate bars but these are a once in a while treat and the best part is they let you sample all the bars. The best was the lavender and the ghost pepper, which took time to linger on your taste buds when you bit into it. Like most of the factories we visited, we got a sample to the small cottage industries that are developing in this section of Brooklyn. I can go back for a more formal tour and tasting in the future.

We took a pit stop at Dolce Brooklyn for homemade gelato at 305 Van Brunt Street. This store has the most amazing homemade ice creams and gelato (See TripAdvisor review). I had the most delicious home trio of Strawberry Mint, Blueberry Lavender and Raspberry Mint. God , were these refreshing on a hot, humid day.

Red Hook Trip II

Me enjoying the Gelato at Dolce Brooklyn (see review on TripAdvisor)

There was a tangy-tartness to the flavors and they really do quench your taste buds. We were talking to the owner, who is French and he and the lady working the counter explained how his wife had gone to Italy to learn how to make proper gelato. I thought that was going to the extremes but it was well worth it in quality. The shop should not be missed on a hot day and it is one of those stores every neighborhood should have with its cool seating and relaxing atmosphere.

On our way back down Van Brunt Street, we stopped to go through some of the local stores and I got separated from the group. With only fifteen minutes left on the tour and totally starved (that was the only bad part of the tour is that we did not have time to stop for lunch), I figured the rest of the group was heading back to the ferry to go to Manhattan.

I decided to get some lunch and stopped at Marc’s Pizza at 326 Van Brunt Street (See review on TripAdvisor) for a slice of pizza and a potato croquette. The food is very good and you will love the atmosphere. The owner is a real character. Over the cash register there is a sign that shows a gun and it reads “We don’t call 911!”. The owner says he asks nicely the first time and then people stop (if you know what I mean). It’s not something you want to test. The pizza is great though and he gives you a nice size slice and his sauce has a lot flavor. The potato croquette is great as well. It’s a nice place for a quick lunch.

Mark's Red Hook.jpg

Mark’s Red Hook Pizza

I walked around the bottom part of Van Brunt Street, looking at the shops and galleries. I stopped in Foxy & Winston at their gift selection. Not only does the owner have a nice of stuffed animals and stationary but she has the nicest dog to pet. He is so friendly that he distracted me from the group as they left without me. It was no matter it is a nice store that should be visited. I wanted to stay behind to explore some more.

My last stop on the tour was the Rood Gallery at 373 Van Brunt Street.  I was attracted by the display in her windows of these little clay creatures by artist Peter Opheim. He makes the most unusual little clay monsters or characters, I don’t know how to describe them. They look like Japanese Pokémon. It was funny that I mentioned that to gallery owner, Samar Maziad. She told me that when Japanese tourist visit the gallery they will buy a few because they think the same thing. The only problem is that they are not cheap. They come with a small painting and certificate and beautifully boxed in a collection but at the same time are several thousand dollars. Their better to look at and admire.

I ended my tour walking around the waterfront at the Pier 44 Waterfront Garden and then walked back to the Erie Basin Park where IKEA was located and where the ferry is located. What a view of the Manhattan skyline! It must be something when its dark outside. These parks are a very nice place to just sit and relax and admire the view.

Still for all its charm and small town feel, Red Hook was still under water when Hurricane Sandy hit and it below sea level. Not an environment that I want to live in. You debate all of this in an up and coming neighborhood but still Red Hook, Brooklyn does have its charm to it. It was a engaging tour and I give tour guide Deborah Geiger credit again for a great touring experience. Its nice when your can meet shop owners and manufacturers who are working to create a real neighborhood.

These ‘trend’ walking tours are taken through the Fashion Institute of Technology Continue Education program and are well worth the price ($45.00). You can visit any part of the city on your own but to really see the neighborhood and experience meeting the business owners and seeing the out of the way places you might miss on your own, they are a lot of fun. You can access all tours on the college website.

I am also an Alumnus of The Fashion Institute of Technology (Class of 93) and a Lifetime member of the FIT Alumni Association.

Places to Visit:

The Museum at FIT

Fashion Institute of Technology

227 West 27th Street

New York, NY  10001

(212) 217-4558

https://www.fitnyc.edu/museum/

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60763-d548861-Reviews-The_Museum_at_FIT-New_York_City_New_York.html?m=19905

My review on VisitingaMuseum.com:

https://wordpress.com/post/visitingamuseum.com/483

 

Foxy & Winston

392 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(718) 928-4855

http://foxyandwinston.com/

(now closed)

 

Rood Gallery

373 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY 11231

http://www.roodgallery.com/home

Open: By Appointment

 

Van Brunt Stillhouse

6 Bay Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(718) 852-6402

Open: Monday-Wednesday Closed/Thursday & Friday 4:00pm-9:00pm/Saturday 2:00pm-9:00pm/Sunday 2:00pm-8:00pm

https://www.vanbruntstillhouse.com/

 

Red Hook Winery

175 Van Dyke Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(347) 689-2432

The Red Hook Winery

Open: Sunday-Saturday 12:00pm-6:00pm

 

Cocao Prieto

218 Conover Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(347) 225-0130

https://www.cacaoprieto.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm

 

Peninsula Art Space

352 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(917) 399-5221

http://www.peninsulaartspace.com/

Open: Saturday-Sunday 12:00pm-7:00pm or By Appointment

 

Raaka Chocolate Factory

64 Seabring Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(855) 255-3354

https://www.raakachocolate.com/pages/tours-and-classes

Open: Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 12:00pm-6:00pm

Review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60827-d7294173-Reviews-Raaka_Chocolate-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Places to Eat:

 

Baked

359 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(718) 222-0345

https://bakednyc.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 7:00am-7:00pm/Saturday-Sunday 8:00am-7:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d840326-Reviews-Baked-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Dolce Brooklyn

305 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(718) 855-0680

https://www.dolcebrooklyn.com/

Open: Tuesday-Thursday 2:00pm-9:00pm/Friday-Saturday 12:00pm-9:00pm/Sunday 12:00pm-9:00pm/Monday Closed

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g60827-d10810453-r522110776-Dolce_Brooklyn-Brooklyn_New_York.html

 

Marc’s Pizza

326 Van Brunt Street

Brooklyn, NY  11231

(718) 624-0690

https://www.markspizzabrooklyn.com/

Open: Sunday 11:00am-10:00pm/Monday-Saturday 10:00am-11:00pm

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d4915667-Reviews-Mark_s_Pizza-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

 

Red Hook Trip V

Me in Red Hook with the whole ‘The Shining’ painting-Cool!

 

Day Forty-Seven: July 9, 2016 Walking Tour with Deborah Geiger and F.I.T. through Bushwick,Brooklyn

Bushwick Picture
Our tour group picture with Deborah Geiger, tour guide extraordinare.

As part of my exploration of the city, I took a break from my usual walk of Manhattan and went on a walking tour of one of the city’s most up and coming neighborhoods, Bushwick in northeastern Brooklyn. When I started working in the city in 1990, you would not be caught dead in Bushwick let alone be dead if you went there. It had the highest amount of crime, child mortality, AIDS, drug and gang problems in the whole city and sensible people stayed away. With Greenpoint and Williamsburg now gentrified and everyone pushing east and south, the northern parts of Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, East Greenpoint and finally to Bushwick.

I took the tour through the Fashion Institute of Technology (I am an Alumnus Class of ’93) in their ‘Hot Topics’ Talks and Tours program and we had an excellent tour guide, Deborah Geiger who is the Director of Content for Envirosell, a consumer shopping behaviorist, who just happens to live in the neighborhood as well. This was her third time moving their since 2001 and she said she has seen the neighborhood quickly change.

I had been Bushwick once years ago when writing my novel, “Firehouse 101” (IUniverse.com 2005), when the protagonist’s neighbor goes there for a late night party and he thinks she is out of her mind.  While the neighborhood is still a little sketchy, like all places in New York City, it’s best to look over your shoulder every once in a while and still keep the eyes in the back of your head.

Our trip started at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I got there so early that I was able to tour the ‘Uniformity’ exhibition at the Fashion Institute Museum. This little museum is a true gem and my three years there as a student I never once went inside. The school did a nice job with displaying the history of the uniform and the role it played in corporate, government and school structure. I was most impressed with the airline uniforms for stewards and the original McDonald’s uniform. It is a small but very detailed exhibition and should not be missed if you are in the area (located in the Shirley Goodman Building on the FIT campus).

We took the A Train to the L Train when we transferred at Union Square. I swear to God when you travel on the L Train it is like being on a college campus. Everyone looks like they are in their 20’s or else trying too hard to be a ‘hipster’. I have been on the L train a few times and it is like they cloned the some guy  and kept manufacturing him. Everyone has the same beard and glasses. At least it is so hot outside that the knit hats are put away (or Thank God that trend is over). The herd seems to get on and off at Bedford Avenue, the heart of Williamsburg. As you go further west, it starts to change again and more diverse once you hit East Williamsburg and Bushwick.

We got off at the Bushwick Avenue and Montrose Stop just above Flushing Avenue which according to the New York Times Real Estate section is the border between East Williamsburg and Bushwick. I guess there is a debate on where Bushwick really starts. We started our tour walking up Bushwick Avenue to  Meserole Avenue to look at the street art and the new breweries and clubs opening up along the street. It is amazing what these entrepreneurs are doing with these old factory buildings.

Our first stop  the tour was the City of Saints Coffee Roasters at 297 Meresole Avenue. The City of Saints has three locations, here in Bushwick, one in the Village and the other in Hoboken, NJ. This is the main processing plant for the coffee. We were met by Jim Osborn, the head roaster and a partner in the business. He explained to us the whole procedure of how they find the beans in Central America and Africa, how they work with the exporters and then how they are received. We then discussed the process of how the beans are roasted, tested and blended to make the perfect coffee flavor. We then had a tasting of some of the blends and even though I am not much of a coffee drinker the way they mixed the beans in some of the coffees was very impressive.

What I like the most about the store was the artwork and the way the store was set up. The graffiti art was interesting and the open air café really welcomed in the community. You got to see how the whole process was done while enjoying the atmosphere of a coffee shop in Bushwick.

City of Saints Roasters

City of Saint Coffee Shop in Bushwick, Brooklyn

We toured around the neighborhood walking down Johnson Avenue to Varick Avenue then down Ingraham Avenue then back to Morgan Avenue on to Bogart Street to see street art that is on walls around the neighborhood. Some of the street art is interesting but most will be gone as it gets painted on top of by other artists.

Our next stop was the Odetta Gallery at 226 Cook Street. This small gallery faced outside walls filled with more art. It really fit into the neighborhood. The owner of the gallery was explaining how she opened the gallery in Bushwick  to be in the middle of the art explosion in this section of Brooklyn and the center of art innovation.

Odetta Gallery

Odetta Gallery

Her current exhibition was by artist Kurt Steger whose exhibition ‘Scribing the Void’ with original musical composition  by RSM was on display. The work was very original in that the piece on display was the outline of a rock in Central Park which I thought was a very original idea. What Mr. Steger did over a series of days (he had to work quickly in the park) was take an outline of a rock formation near the middle of the park and then recreate the outline in a pattern in a series of pieces put together in one form. The music came about based on the outline of the piece formation of the rock. The two interplay with each other in the exhibition.

Kurt Steger Scribing the Wall.jpg

Kurt Steger’s “Scribing the Wall” at the Odetta Gallery

Mr. Steger came to the gallery to talk to our group and that was a real treat as it is always nice to get the artists perspective on their work.  I had a nice conversation with him on where the idea for the project came from and some of the art he created. I thought  it was interesting when he told me that he created a 9/11 structure that was used as a healing tool by people affected by the tragedy.

He would do readings by the sculpture to help with the healing process. The piece was  eventually bought by a hospital to use for that purpose. His work really transcends the overall look to it. His outlook on his work and its meaning was insightful. He and the gallery owner were looking to sell this particular piece to one of the museums that faced Central Park. He was fascinating to talk to that afternoon.

Mr. Steger is originally from California and has lived in Brooklyn for years. He and his wife, Meg Hitchcock have recently moved their studios to the Hudson River Valley. His works are intended to heal our inner nature (Kurt Steger Bio).

Our next part of the tour took us around the industrial part of East Williamsburg to our next stop to the Brazilian bakery ‘My Sweet’, where the owner Paula Barbosa created her small candy and sweet shop at 630 Flushing Avenue. She is known for her delightful little treat, Brigedeiro, which is a type of Brazilian truffle made with condensed milk, cocoa and butter and slow cooked. These little treats are cooled, rolled into balls and then rolled in nuts or sprinkles. Each is made by hand with much care and each looks like a little jewel. She also has a line of flavored homemade popsicles and Brigedeiro bark made with a combination of the mix with cookies. The prices reflect the work going into them as each Brigedeiro is $2.00, the popsicles are $4.00 and the bark is $3.00 per bag.

My Sweet Bakery

My Sweet Bakery Bushwick

She got into the business when she was giving them away as gifts and people started asking for them. She then took them to a food fair and got a wonderful write-up from the New York Times and the business just took off. She said she was getting calls from people and could not fill the orders fast enough. Now in a three-man team she turns out these special treats to her customers. I wolfed down a bag of her ‘bark’ in about 15 minutes with the help of many of our touring group. A little expensive but well worth it to visit this quirky little shop in the middle of what looks like a happening area. Plus Paula is charming, welcoming and a pleasure to talk to about her product.

We double backed on Grattan Street to Bogart Street and passed the famous pizzeria Roberta’s. I have been wanting to try their pizza for a long time but good luck snagging a table.  The tour guide said it is tough to get into on a weekend. So our trip took us up the road to ‘Syndicated’, a unique restaurant concept at 40 Bogart Street. It is a bar, restaurant and movie theater rolled into one. The front of the building houses the restaurant and bar and the back section is a very nicely decorated theater concept.

Under the direction of Chef Bret Maeris and Managing Partner Tim Chung, they opened this year a very unique watering hole for the neighborhood. Wanting to keep with the tradition of a small independent theater in a neighborhood sorely lacking a movie theater, for $3.00 you can see a movie and order small plates too much on while watching the film. Dennis explained that they are trying to cater to the Millennium crowd while not alienating the older clientele in the area. They had a  Keanu Reeves retrospect recently that was very popular. Like Tim explained to us, the current audience were kids when these movies came out and are nostalgic for them. It is pricey with entrees starting  between $13-$18 but worth it to try for the experience.

Syndicated Theater Bushwick

Syndicated Theater

Tim explained to our group that they are trying to fill a need in the neighborhood. There has to be more entertainment in Bushwick besides bars, so they filled it by adding the theater. The goal is to expand the Bushwick Film Festival and have more places to show movies. Add in people’s love for solid American food and you have a very entertaining concept. The menu includes classics such as fried chicken, burgers, fish and chips and grilled cheese. Great comfort foods for an evening out.

We finally crossed over the border of Flushing Avenue to official Bushwick and turned onto Wyckoff Avenue into an area called ‘JeffTown’ by our tour guide named such because of the subway stop at Jefferson Street. This is where you start to see the more residential side of the neighborhood and the more trendy coffee shops, restaurants and stores. This is the Bushwick that I imagined.

We took a quick tour through the Brooklyn Pop-Up Market at 49 Wyckoff Avenue and explored where small business owners are opening their businesses for the first time to test the waters. It is a unique building of small stores, interesting concepts and people trying to create businesses for the first time. It is worth the trip just to see some of the new food concepts that are opening and interesting gift stores.

Brooklyn Pop Up Shop.jpg

Brooklyn Pop-Up Market

As we turned the corner on Troutman Street, we passed an artist who was commissioned to do a painting on the side of the building and he stopped and graciously stopped to explain the project to us. Debbie, our tour guide explained to us that some ‘street art’ just appears and then is painted over and over again and sometimes the owners commission it. How long this painting would last, who knows? In a neighborhood where ‘taggers’ rein you never know.

Our tour was supposed to end at Union Pizza Works at 423 Troutman Street, a neighborhood pizzeria but everyone had other plans that evening. We took the above group picture in front of a mural on Irving Street and then took a quick walk to the end of our tour at Maria Hernandez Park in the heart of Bushwick. This is where the neighborhood comes alive. We all said our goodbyes here with hugs and pictures.

After everyone left,  I have to be honest, I did not want to go back to some of the restaurants I passed with the $17 pizzas and $12 hamburgers. I wanted to see what the neighborhood was really all about and you see that in true Bushwick with the residents who have been here for years. I entered the yet to be gentrified east side of Bushwick where the Spanish population dominates and ate locally.

Amanda's Kitchen

Amanda’s Kitchen Bushwick

I grabbed some baked goods at Gaby’s Bakery at 238 Knickbocker Avenue on the other side of Maria Hernandez Park and then picked up empanadas’ at Amanda’s Kitchen at 264 Suydam Street and sat in the park and watched the world go by which is something that a $12 hamburger with people who are trying too hard to be hip can’t accomplish. Here was the true Bushwick with everyone intermingling and trying to figure it all out. Even Amanda herself seemed pretty proud when I ordered from her with my broken Spanish. She seemed impressed that I tried so hard.

Gaby's Bakery

Gaby’s Bakery Bushwick

After devouring the Mexican pastries and meat pies, I joined the neighborhood block party that was going on between Knickbocker Avenue and Irving Avenue on Suydam Street. I saw families going about life without a care in the world. Maybe things will change for them in a few years as the gentrification of the area continues and their buildings become more desirable being on the park. For now, they were having a good time just barbecuing, playing games and gossiping with their neighbors.

Isn’t that what life in Brooklyn is all about anyway?

This tour was taken through The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Hot Topics ‘Talks & Tours’ program and was conducted by Deborah Geiger, our tour guide, who is the Director of Content for Envirosell, a consumer shopping behaviorist.

Places to visit:

City of Saints Roasters

297 Meserole Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(929) 900-5282

https://www.cityofsaintscoffee.com/

Open: Monday-Friday 7:00am-6:00pm Saturday-Sunday 9:00am-6:00pm

Odetta Gallery

226 Cook Avenue

Brooklyn, NY 11206

(203) 598-1517

http://www.odettagallery.com/

Open: Friday-Sunday 1:00pm-6:00pm/Closed the rest of the week

Syndicated

40 Bogart Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(718) 386-3399

https://syndicatedbk.com/

Open: Monday-Thursday 5:00pm-12:00am/Friday 5:00pm-2:00am/Saturday 3:00pm-2:00am/Sunday 3:00pm-12:00pm

Brooklyn Pop-Up Market

49 Wyckoff Avenue

Brooklym. NY  11327

(347) 560-6737

https://www.facebook.com/events/291975887940198/

 

Places to eat:

Gaby’s Bakery

238 Knickerbocker Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11237

(718) 418-8821

https://gabysbakery.com/

Amanda’s Kitchen

264 Suydam Street

Brooklyn, NY  11237

((347) 488-6297

My review on TripAdvisor:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g60827-d5031796-Reviews-Amanda_Kitchen-Brooklyn_New_York.html?m=19905

My Sweet Bakery

630 Flushing Avenue

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(347) 946-7460

info@mysweet.com

Open: Sunday Closed Monday-Friday 10:00am-5:00pm/Saturday 12:00pm-3:00pm

Roberta’s Pizza

261 Moore Street

Brooklyn, NY  11206

(718) 447-1118

http://www.robertaspizza.com

 

Open: Monday-Friday 11:00am-12:00am/Saturday & Sunday 10:00am-12:00am

Union Pizza Works

423 Troutman Street

Brooklyn, NY  11237

(718) 628-1927

http://www.unionpizzaworks.com/

Open: Sunday-Thursday 12:00pm-11:30pm/Friday & Saturday 12:pm-12:00am