Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Best of NYC Summer 2012

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone! This truly is the best time of the year in NYC. There are so many FUN and FREE activities happening all over the city, where do you start? Lucky for you, I’ve taken the guess work out of it, posting this carefully curated list of my own personal favorite, tried-and-true, classic summer pastimes, as well as a slew of sizzling hot new offerings, ripe for picking this summer only. Enjoy!

EAT, SHOP, EXPLORE:
East River Ferry: to/from Long Island City, Williamsburg, DUMBO, and South Street Seaport
Smorgasburg (Sat 11 – 6) & Brooklyn Flea (Sun 10 – 5), Williamsburg waterfront + ferry to Photoville
New Amsterdam Market – Sundays, 11 – 4
Dekalb Market – Daily, 8 – 8ish
Hester Nights – Thursdays, 4–9pm, thru 10/25, 851 Sixth Ave @ 30th St
Hester Street Fair, Saturdays, 10 – 6
The High Line & Chelsea Market
Eagle Street Rooftop Farm
Edible Manhattan and Urban Oyster food & drink tours/events
Taco crawl in Jackson Heights, Queens or Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Eat and shop Astoria, Queens
Field trip to Hoboken, NJ

ART:
Photoville, BK Bridge Park, 6/22 – 7/1
Keith Haring @ Brooklyn Museum (thru 7/8)
+ BK Botanic Garden: W – Sun, 11 – 6, + late summer hours Th & Sat
The Cloisters: Tues – Sun, 9:30 am – 5 pm
Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations at The Met (thru Aug 19)
+ Cloud City & rooftop cocktails
Bike ride, picnic, and Interactive Sculpture Park on Governor’s Island
River to River Festival, 6/17 – 7/15

MUSIC:
FREE:
Hot Sardines – 6/20, 6pm, Bryant Park, Fountain Terrace
Nellie McKay – 7/11, 7 pm, Madison Square Park
The New York Philharmonic – 7/13, Great Lawn, Central Park
Orchestre Poly-Rythmo – 7/22, SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park
Little Dragon/Frankie Rose/Voices of Black – 8/1, 7 pm, Prospect Park Bandshell
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings – 8/18, 5 pm, Williamsburg Park

Norah Jones – 7/3, 6 pm, SummerStage, Rumsey Playfield, Central Park, $50
Jane’s Addiction & Die Antwoord – 8/17, 6:45pm, Williamsburg Park, $50

OUTDOORSY/NATURE:

Monet’s Gardens @ NY Botanical Gardens (with Mastercard Priceless offer)
Explore The Bronx’s City Island
Ferry to Jacob Riis/Fort Tilden and/or Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
BEACHES, BEACHES, BEACHES: Rockaway, Coney Island, Long Beach, Montauk, Fire Island, and more!
McCarren Park Pool – reopening in June 2012 after a 28 year closure and $50 million dollar renovation

AL FRESCO FILM:
6/28 – Taxi Driver, Tompkins Square Park
7/5 – Exit Through the Gift Shop, Tompkins Square Park
7/9 – Side by Side, Elevated Acre, 55 Water St, off Old Slip
7/12 – Fantastic Mr. Fox, Tompkins Square Park
7/16 – Roman Holiday, Bryant Park
7/18 – Raising Arizona, McCarren Park
7/28 – The Muppet Movie Sing-A-Long, Prospect Park Bandshell
8/21 – Do The Right Thing, Sheep Meadow, Central Park
8/23 – The Big Lebowksi, Sheep Meadow, Central Park

For even more movie listings, check out:

Watch It Outdoor Movie Guide 2012
Time Out NY Movies in the Park 2012
Nitehawk Cinema, Williamsburg
Rooftop Films

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Eye For Style’s Escape to Brooklyn

As soon as it appeared in my inbox, I knew this adventure would be right up my alley. The folks at Urban Oyster Tours had kindly invited me for lunch and a 3-hour tour of Brooklyn, to explore where its culinary and agricultural worlds collide. Frankly, they had me at hello with talk of ‘experiencing the entire farm-to-table journey of my food’ and seduced with promises of taking me straight to the heart of Brooklyn’s most unique food destinations, to sample and speak with the creative entrepreneurs behind them. Twist my arm? Not likely.

To my surprise, not only was the tour destined to be chock full of local artisanal eats, but we had multiple guides for the day – Bob Lewis (local historian, founder of NYC Greenmarkets, and Special Assistant at NY State Agriculture & Markets), David Naczycz and Cindy VandenBosch (founders of Urban Oyster), and Caylin Sanders (founder of local travel web portal, EscapeMaker.com). Each were a veritable wealth of information about Brooklyn’s myriad riches – its food and architecture; neighborhoods, people, and cultural traditions; agriculture and urban planning initiatives – past and present.

We met up at Skylight One Hanson, one jaw-dropping landmark of art deco magnificence, perhaps better known as the former Williamsburg Savings Bank, and current winter home of the Brooklyn Flea, which now serves as a prime events location for hire year round. As we jitneyed to our first destination via “The Good Bus”, we got the scoop on what Urban Oyster is all about:

“The name comes from the legend that New York Harbor once contained half the world’s oysters. Over time though, most of the beds died off due to pollution and over-consumption”, David explained. “Like oysters, the neighborhoods of New York are treasured resources that require nurturing in order to survive and flourish. We seek to reveal the hidden pearls of this great city – the neighborhoods, people, and businesses that are uniquely New York. We aim to connect people to these special places through their stories and history, in an effort to support and value local production, consumption, cultural diversity, historic preservation, and sustainability for the benefit of generations to come.”

Given my unbridled obsession with NYC local food & drink culture, coupled with my family’s business of historic preservation, such excursions are tailor-made for culinary architecture geeks like me. I ventured repeatedly to Smorgasburg and New Amsterdam Market last summer, both weekend outdoor markets where you can snap up local artisanal goods, fresh produce & ingredients, and literally sample everything under the sun, as you chat directly with the people who make the things you’re eating, in picturesque locales along either side of the East River.

And Urban Oyster Tours are another opportunity to do the exact same thing. They take you straight to the cooks’ kitchen and give you a comprehensive history lesson ‘mise en place’. They offer a variety of expertly crafted outings – “Eat Like a Local” through Boerum Hill; “Mom & Pop Shops” in Cobble Hill; “Food Carts” of Lower Manhattan; “Immigrant Foodways” in Williamsburg; and their most popular “Brewed in Brooklyn” and “Craft Beer Crawl” which combine a lesson in local beer making techniques with the best part – tasting! Sip your IPA, on the site it was made, while you chat up the brewer? That’s refreshingly rare.

You can get on board with regularly scheduled tours or arrange a private tour of your own. Either or, it’s an entertaining way to show your out-of-town guests how the natives do it, and for locals, it’s a delicious opportunity to broaden one’s horizons and learn more about the vast expanse of your own backyard. It’s so easy to become a creature of habit in your own city and re-visit the same old haunts time after time, but these tours can provide a fresh perspective to the same old stomping grounds, pointing out places you might otherwise miss.

If you’ve lived in the NYC during the last 5 years and have even a mild interest in food culture, chances are you’ve participated in the endless debate as to which borough is the true epicenter of culinary arts – Manhattan or Brooklyn? Manhattan certainly makes a compelling case for itself, as farm-to-table restaurants from celebrity chefs like Dan Barber, Dan Kluger, David Bouley, and Mike Price steadily increase in popularity and rooftop farm initiatives gain steam. Brooklyn is a venerable mecca for foodies in its own right though, and many would simply argue it’s the borough that represents the best of NYC food culture, period.

It’s certainly where the small batch, artisanal, locally made, grown, and sourced movement has sunk its deepest roots at present. While Manhattan is the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street, Brooklyn is at the epicenter of another social revolution – locavorism – and is pro-actively re-positioning itself as THE food and agro-tourism destination you must visit. Great strides are being made in just about every neighborhood enclave to return to their roots of food cultivation and production. There’s been a virtual explosion of urban gardening and community revitalization projects, such as The Brooklyn Grange, Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, and Added Value, all of whom are committed to getting people re-invested in their communities and the joys of volunteerism. We’re witnessing a revival of the love affair between foodies and farmers, and the people who make speciality foods are being recognized for their important contributions to the social fabric of the city’s culture again. We’re finding ways to revamp cultural traditions of the past, with a fresh twist that suits our modern lifestyles.

The first stop on our BK Foodways tour was Moore Street Market, one of the few remaining public markets designed during the LaGuardia era as a sanitary alternative to the pushcart vending culture prevalent during the early turn of the century. Our guides provided us with a comprehensive history of the market, complete with historic photographs and fascinating anecdotes, painting a picture of then and now, as well as briefing us on the upcoming urban planning improvements, including a landscaped outdoor public plaza on Humboldt Street, scheduled for completion in Summer 2013. We walked around the market’s interior, meeting several of the long time vendors who treated us to homemade horchata, corn pupusas, and a special tea remedy, made from ingredients native to her family’s homeland in Pueblo, Mexico.

Then, it was off to Roberta’s Pizza for lunch. Housed in an unassuming cinder block structure, with zero curb appeal in an industrial section of East Williamburg, we entered to discover an enormous wood-burning oven as the centerpiece of their open kitchen, which we later learned literally took the slow boat from Italy to Brooklyn. The place is super rustic, with long picnic tables and benches; a small wood bar with a bevy of local beers and a clever cocktail menu scrawled on the chalkboard overhead; and an enclosed outdoor patio heated by a wood-burning furnace, that stares directly into the Heritage Radio Network station which broadcasts 24/7. The crowd is very, well, Brooklyn – local locals, each with their own signature mustache or coiffed beard, complimenting their casual vintage wear and quirky-rimmed glasses. I watched the process as they hand fired our pizzas to bubbly perfection, then topped with veg grown in their roof top garden (or at the nearby BK Grange) and meats sourced at the local butcher shop. We sat down to the communal table, first devouring the fresh margherita, then several more mouthwatering kale and homemade Berkshire sausage pies. A heaven you’d never know existed…

Then, we traveled to over to Brooklyn Winery, a beautiful space in the heart of Williamsburg, utilizing re-purposed wood, recycled furniture, found objects and memorabilia to create one warm, inviting place to imbibe away the hours and socialize with other connoisseurs. We were privileged to receive a glimpse behind the scenes, touring the space where they age their varietals in barrels stacked ceiling high. Their one-and-only winemaker, Conor McCormack, happened to be on site bottling and corking a few cases of a new Cab Sav, so we got to watch and then taste it, as we chatted with him in the intimate event space upstairs. The duo owners, Brian Leventhal and John Stires, who left unfulfilling, but lucrative positions in finance to follow their passion for wine and create a space that they themselves would want to hang out in with their friends, also mingled with us. We asked all kinds of questions, and they answered every single one, from where they got the furniture, to the grapes; how they design their labels and acquired such a desirable location; to the types of events they have on offer and their vision for the future. Ridiculously centrally located near Bedford Avenue on N 8th Street, with a spectacularly unique wine menu and lots of comfortably designed nooks to chill in, this is the place you want to spend a mellow Friday night, come for a workshop or a tasting, or host an intimate shindig of your own.

Finally, it was over to Brooklyn Farmacy in Carroll Gardens, a lovingly restored, 1920’s era soda fountain. Brought back to life by brother and sister team, Peter Freeman and Gia Giasullo, for a Discovery Channel reality TV renovation series, it’s a quintessential old gem that makes you think you’ve stepped back in time. Children came in with their parents to have a scoop of ice cream at the counter after school, grandparents read books to grandkids off the shelves of their library, and a group played board games on the big table in the back room. We were treated to traditional chocolate and vanilla egg creams, as the owners shared priceless stories about the history of the space, the condition they found it in, and how they went to great lengths to make it their own while attempting to remain true to the neighborhood. This joint manages to strike the perfect balance between family-friendly cute and edgy Brooklyn “Jerk”. You can buy more than 2 dozen locally made products from different BK artisans, proudly displayed in the Farmacy’s original wooden built ins. Lucky for you out-of-towners, these delicacies can be purchased online at With Love, From Brooklyn and NY Mouth.

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As the tour came to a close, I had a very heartwarming feeling that history has not been lost, but in fact, there are many people committed to preserving the stories and places that make these diverse neighborhoods truly one-of-a-kind. The culinary traditions of the past are alive and well for the current generations to appreciate, if you put yourself in capable hands and know where to look. As the afternoon sun began to dip behind the trees, I sat outside on the Farmacy’s bench chatting with a few old men from the ‘hood about how life used to be and how things haved changed. I commiserated, with an understanding nod and an appreciation for their perspective, but also with joy in my heart that pearls like these still exist for me and hopefully, my children to experience. It may not be like it used to, but perhaps there’s still hope, that eventually we can make city living even better for the future.

**

Want to learn more about Urban Oyster Tours straight from the founders?
Sample goodies from these very same artisans yourself?
Get ideas for local culinary tours and travel destinations?

Head to: Escapemaker.com’s Local Food & Travel Expo
Saturday, April 14 from 12 – 5 pm
@ Skylight One Hanson

And be sure to check out all these places and more on my “Best of Culinary Brooklyn” Eye For Style map!

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Shop, Eat, Drink in Spring!

Spring has officially sprung and the weather is already unseasonably warm, so locals and tourists alike are itching to soak up all the outdoor activities on tap throughout the city. There are several festivals kicking off the season this very weekend and dozens more opening just a few short weeks from now. Lucky for you, I’ve compiled a handy dandy list for the best places to crawl, eat, nosh, and repeat ad infinitum, that are guaranteed to put a spring in your step…

Shop, Drop, & Drink

Saturday April 7, 2012

Williamburg, Brooklyn

Nearly 50 businesses will offer special sales and discounts to celebrate the arrival of spring with an all-day mobile shopping event. Contemporary stores like Bird, Life:Curated, Jumelle, In God We Trust, and beloved vintage boutiques like Horizon’s Vintage, Malin Landaeus, and Antoinette will ALL offer single-day sales and special offerings all the live long day.

Event-goers can unlock immediate discounts – like a free tote from Catbird or a mini-sundae from Momofuku Milk Bar – by simply by using the free Domino Smart Guide app, taking a picture of the item they’re interested in, and posting it to their Facebook wall. The app’s map is the perfect way to hone in on exactly where all the participants are located and what kind of perks they’re offering for the event.

Mobile art truck sensation Art Attack will also be roaming through Williamsburg selling inexpensive pieces by local artists. Crawlers can track the truck by following @RabbitArtAttack on Twitter.

If you’re unfamiliar with the ‘Burg, or just want to broaden your horizons and plug in to what’s new in the ‘hood, this is a great way to spend a leisurely Saturday, checking out and supporting the wide array of small businesses throughout in the area in one fell swoop.

 

Smorgasburg

Opening Day: April 7, 2012

Every Saturday, 11am – 6pm, thru 
November 2012

East River Waterfront, b/w North 6 + 7 Sts, Williamburg, Brooklyn

Brooklyn’s favorite all-food market, returns for the 2012 season, promising a veritable food bonanza with a healthy mix of delicious Flea veterans and talented newcomers. Go grab that nosh you’ve been dreaming about since November and discover some new favorites before the other cool kids do.

If you want a refresher course on what to expect, check out Eye For Style’s “best of the fest” recommendations here.

Dekalb Market

Spring Weekender Opening

April 7 + 8, 2012 from 10 am  – 6 pm

138 Willoughby Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Dekalb Market is launching as a multi-purpose cultural destination featuring a new outdoor event space with a full season of free, curated music, art, food, film and eclectic experiences in the heart of Downtown Brooklyn.

Housed in a collection of salvaged shipping containers, the market aims to unite Brooklyn’s creative entrepreneurs in a community setting that include an incubator farm, events and performance venue, and a collection of eateries and work-sell spaces.

Dekalb Market 2012 will include: Dance parties, free open-air markets, unique foodie events, bike in and rooftop movie nights, lobster boils, interior design shows, roller derbies and an ongoing series of special live music performances. All of this alongside the new permanent Dekalb Market Beer & Wine Garden, featuring local craft beer, wine and sangria, the ideal spot to hang out with friends, relax in the sun and take a break from shopping, set against the gritty-cool urban backdrop of downtown Brooklyn.

Open seven days a week, locals and visitors can now spend a leisurely morning, afternoon or evening while enjoying over 60+ local food vendors and on site retail shops.

THE SPRING WEEKENDER opening days extravaganza will be host to myriad activities including: a curated flower and garden market; cooking, farming, gardening, and crafting classes & workshops for adults and children; a market wide Easter egg hunt; DJ sets and live music from local bands; locally brewed beer & wine garden; and more!
 

COMING SOON:

 
Hester Street Fair

Hester @ Essex Street, Lower East Side

Opening Day: Saturday, April 28

Every Saturday, 12 – 6 pm thru October 2012

 

New Amsterdam Market

South Street between Beekman Street and Peck Slip


Opening Day: Sunday, April 29

Every Sunday, 11am – 4pm thru December 2012

 
 
 
 
 
Frieze Art Fair New York

Randall’s Island

May 4 – 7, 2012

12 – 7 pm

Frieze New York presents the most forward-thinking galleries from around the globe, bringing an international focus to the dynamic contemporary art scene in New York.

Frieze Projects will showcase work by over 1,000 of the world’s leading artists, and Frieze Talks will host a program of debates, panel discussions, and keynote lectures, housed in a bespoke temporary structure designed by New York-based SO-IL architects and located in the unique setting of Randall’s Island Park, overlooking the East River.

Frieze New York 2012 will also offer a choice of eating and drinking options, from Frankie’s Spuntino, Sant Ambroeus, The Fat Radish, Roberta’s, The Standard Biergarten, and Intelligentsia Coffee.

 
 

Madison Square Eats Spring 2012

Daily, May 4 – June 1

Worth Square, just west of MSP @ 24th & 5th Ave.

For Eye For Style’s recommendations on how to spend a leisurely day relishing the bounty of MSE3, Eataly, AND Madison Square Park, click here immediately.

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Best of Local Holiday Shopping in NYC & Brooklyn

More than ever, I think it’s really important to support local artists, craftsman, and designers during the holiday season. Visiting independent holiday markets and pop-up shops is not only fun, it’s a sure fire way to find gifts that are are completely unique, and so much more personally tailored to your loved one’s tastes and interests. No big box retailer in the mall, selling mass-produced crap from China, can compete with that!

Some of the very best local holiday markets are happening this weekend, so I’ve compiled a handy-dandy list of my favorite events to make your shopping a little less stressful, and a little more festive. Fingers crossed, you’ll get all those purchases out of the way in one fell swoop, so you can move on to the most enjoyable activities – cooking and spending time with the people you adore!

 

The Brooklyn Flea

Skylight One Hanson @ Ashland Pl., Ft. Greene

12/16, 2 – 9; 12/17 + 18, 10 – 5; 12/21 + 22, 2 – 9

If you can’t tick everything off your list at this one location, you’re officially a glutton for Christmas shopping punishment. If you like feeding all your birds with one seed, and getting the madness over with in one easy rip, head to The Flea immediately. This event is really the best of both worlds, merging the food purveyors from Saturday’s Smorgasburg, with the clothing, craft, and vintage treasure vendors of Sunday’s BK Flea. Thankfully, they are all co-mingling under one spectacular roof for the winter, at the architectural gem that is Skylight One Hanson, formerly the Williamsburg Savings Bank. It’s worth a visit just to see the gorgeous landmark’s interior, but with 100+ vendors lining the former teller windows on the ground floor, secret rooms on the upstairs mezzanine, and the original bank vault on the lower level brimming with an impressive food court and seating area, this is as good as local holiday shopping experiences are likely to get.

Best plan of attack? Start your shopping day here with a little coffee, breakfast noshing, and browsing. Do a full lap around to check out all that’s on offer, before heading back to your favorite vendors for those all too perfect gifts for you-know-exactly-who. Once you’ve had your fill, make your way over for the evening festivities at:

 

The Brooklyn Night Bazaar

149 Kent Ave, between N 5th & N 6th, Williamsburg

12/15 – 12/17, 5 pm – 1 am

This triple threat, grub-shop-party event pops up in a huge warehouse space this weekend only. The 3-day event, designed specially by JDS Architects, is guaranteed to be one happening spot, bursting at the seams with shopping, food, music, film, and art installations. Many of the food vendors are familiar faces from Smorgasburg, but seeing as Brooklyn has no shortage of culinary talent, dozens of other esteemed BK food scene luminaries will also be on hand to sweeten the pot, along side several local wineries and breweries. 60+ artist merchants will be peddling their crafty wares, as a handful of musical acts take to the stage, including DJ James Murphy (DFA/LCD Soundsystem) and The Hold Steady. Admission to TBNB is free, food is modestly priced, while tickets for the live performances can be purchased separately for $10 – $22. For a complete line-up of participating talent, and to purchase tickets, visit: http://bkbazaar.com

 

While you’re shop-crawling around Williamsburg, drop by Artists & Fleas Designer and Vintage Market (70 N 7th Street, every Sat & Sun, 10 am – 7 pm) to visit some of my very favorite artist merchants in the NYC area, housed all in one convenient indoor location, year-round since 2003. Affordable and cool gifts abound here: jewelry galore, chunky knit accessories, funky vintage & modern threads, one-of-a-kind handmade journals, decorative art, and much more.

If making the trip out to Brooklyn just isn’t your thing, you’re in luck because they’re bringing 30+ of their most stylish vendors to the heart of Manhattan for:

The Artists & Fleas Holiday Pop-Up Shop @ Chelsea Market

10th Avenue @ 15th Street

12/15 – 12/31, 10:30 am – 7:30 pm

Located in a never before seen, 4000 sq. ft. industrial space in Chelsea Market, this pop-up is a perfect destination for all your holiday shopping needs. You’ll undoubtedly find a cornucopia of handmade goodies by A&F’s cream of the crop. The full-time tenants of Chelsea Market, formerly the Nabisco Biscuit Co. Headquarters, have tons on offer as well – Morroccan home decor, kitchenware, gourmet food products, books, and more. Take a load off and stop for: a coffee at Ninth Street Espresso; a creamy cold treat from Arte Del Gelato or Ronnybrook Farms; a wicked hot chocolate a la Jacques Torres; baked goods from Amy’s Bread or Eleni’s. Choose from: Thai or Italian; California cuisine or NY farm-to-table; sushi from the seafood market or charcuterie from Dickson’s Farmstand; or a soup/salad combo from Hale & Hearty. The options are endless. The building is conveniently nestled directly beneath The High Line, along the picturesque Hudson River waterfront, and at the crossroads of the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, and West Village shopping districts, making it a must stroll destination area.

So, after you’ve enjoyed the Artists & Fleas pop-up, had a bite in Chelsea Market, taken a jaunt along The High Line and through the fashionable MPD, make your way east a few blocks to round out your shopping adventures with a visit to:

 

The Union Square Holiday Market

14th Street between Broadway and University Place

11/24 – 12/24; M-F: 11-8; Sat: 10-9; Sun: 10-6

This has been my go-to holiday shopping destination for the last several years running, despite the fact that it can be a claustrophobic zoo, packed with wide-eyed tourists all day long. Nevertheless, I do enjoy meandering through the maze of red & white, candy cane striped tents, browsing and sampling, and intermittenly stopping for a hot chocolate or apple cider to warm up. I confess that this year, the market feels as if it’s lost a bit of its magic. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been to it several times before, and there aren’t as many new vendors participating. Cool pop-ups have been increasingly the rage throughout 2011, so organizers really have to up-the-ante to keep things interesting, especially for resident shoppers. A lot of this year’s fine artists in particular look rather identical to each other, though I do dig the NYC cityscape themed art that seems to adorn every canvas, leather clutch, tote bag, t-shirt, greeting card, or surface that one can manage to print a digital image on.

I do have a few absolute favorite vendors that I consider to be real stand outs, who lure me back again and again to buy items that have become a part of my personal holiday traditions.

My favorite gift vendors are: COPA Soaps’ intoxicating essential oil infused, heaven-scented bars of skin softening, shea-buttery magic that smell good enough to eat; Nirvanna Designs’ warm and stylish line of crochet/knit hats, gloves, and outerwear, made with high quality wools and lined with super soft fleece; DeLong Ceramics’ decorative tiles and hanging ornaments featuring the iconic landmarks of NYC/BK; Edie Art’s whimsical, colorful paintings depicting the magic of child’s play against the backdrop of NY cityscapes; Shaya’s stunning line of simple, geometric, handmade jewelry that artfully mixes elements of sterling silver, gold, and copper.

My favorite food vendors are: Brooklyn Salsa Co.’s line-up of palate-pleasing, kick ass salsas, consciously prepared utilizing a rather unique combination of sophisicated flavor profiles, with local sustainable ingredients, each cleverly named to represent 1 of the 5 boroughs; Spices and Tease’s beautiful rainbow of exotic, ethnic spices and nose tantalizing herb/flower/tea blends; No Chewing Allowed’s exquisite, melt on your tongue, premium French truffles and steamy hot chocolate.

If you’re still craving more shopping after all that, I should probably take your credit card away from you (or ask you to be my sugar daddy). That said, should you be interested in visiting other local holiday markets, in more neighborhoods throughout the city, I suggest you check out Destination Guides’ equally comprehensive list.

May you find the perfect gift for everyone on your list and have a blast doing so. Wishing you and yours a most happy holiday season and a grand New Year of the Dragon 2012!

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The Best of Smorgasburg 2011

This Saturday, November 19, is the last day to experience Smorgasburg under open skies along the picturesque Williamsburg waterfront before the fest, named Top Artisanal Food Market in America by Bon Appétit, moves indoors to its equally stunning winter location at Skylight One Hanson. This season’s finale market, expected to draw the best of the best artisanal vendors of the year, is the perfect opportunity to place your orders for Thanksgiving, and pick up some less well known specialty products direct from local Brooklyn purveyors that are guaranteed to impress your guests and tantalize their taste buds. Don’t miss it!

You Are Here

I must confess, Smorgasburg quickly became my favorite (not so) guilty pleasure this past summer. I went back for more a total of 4 times, and never ate the same thing twice. The rotating roster of different vendors makes it a unique experience every weekend, and a terrific way to sample a variety of notable, up-and-coming BK eateries, all in one convenient spot.

Once I’ve had my fill, I love to take the East River Ferry back home. You can hop on board right next to the market. It’s a wonderful way to cap off a Saturday afternoon, with a bit of fresh air on the water, and gorgeous sunset views of the Manhattan and Brooklyn waterfronts. For a mere $4, it’s a must!

So, if you’ve still not ventured over to the market yet and want to make a bee line for the best eats on hand this weekend, be sure to check out my personal picks for “The Best of Smorgasburg”:

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Best vendor: Sunday Gravy

Sunday Gravy won my heart from the get-go with their out-of-this-world, slow braised, tomato meat sauce. Using a combination of both pork and beef, this thick-as-thieves homemade gravy is divine served in a hollowed out sandwich roll, or poured liberally over pasta. I fell head over heels though, after my first bite of their roasted vegetable sandwich. Fresh tomatoes, zucchini, and squash are marinated in balsamic vinegar, heaped on rustic bread, slathered with tangy goat cheese, and topped with micro greens. I loved every morsel! Steven Smith and family are simply the nicest vendors in the market. They proudly hand out samples and are more than happy to lovingly chat about their saucy gravy. My hands down favorite at Smorg!

Best sandwich: 18NY

I8NY really won me over with their crispy chicken, fried green tomato, salsa verde sandwich, though their watermelon, eggplant, mozzarella sammie is a sure-fire winner too. Most recently, their lamb sausage with rosemary, pickled swiss chard, and yogurt creation has captured my attention. Will Griffin and Jon Meyer epitomize the DIY, local/seasonal, Brooklyn food scene and I can’t wait to see what other sandwich and side combinations they think of next.

Best meaty treat: Mighty Quinn’s

The smell in the air wafting from Hugh Mangum’s stand makes Mighty Quinn’s such a popular attraction that I wasn’t actually able to get to the front of the line before he ran out of ribs and brisket – on 3 separate visits to Smorgasburg. That’s a very good sign, so on my last venture, I made sure to get in line early, determined to get a taste of this meaty magic. I was not disappointed. I opted for the brisket sandwich – a literal mountain of thick sliced beef, slow cooked for over 20 hours, slathered in bbq sauce. Hugh cooks the brisket off site, wraps it for transport, sealing in all the juices, and slices it right before your eyes, just seconds before it’s piled on a slightly sweet country white roll (delivered fresh to their kitchen from a secret source in Philly), and topped with pickled onions and a dash of coarse sea salt. It’s an eye-popping amount of beef, a mouth-watering taste of real southern barbeque, and completely worth waiting in the longest line at Smorg. DO IT.

An honorable mention must go to: Asia DogWhen I found out what was in a hot dog at the age of 10, I stopped eating them then and there. Until I met Asia Dog some 25 years later. Their grass-fed, nitrate-free, organic beef dogs sounded safe enough to warrant a try, and the unusual Asian toppings are a real selling point. I especially love “The Sidney” topped with mango chutney, cucumber, and peanuts, as well as “The Mel & Steve” topped with purple cabbage sesame slaw. “The Wangding”, a dog topped with bbq pork belly in plum sauce, is kind of meat overkill, but worth a taste when you’re in the mood to throw caution to the wind. Word to the wise: don’t pass up their limeade. It’s the perfect tart and bubbly beverage companion with a dog or two.

Best veggie treat: Skytown

It’s pretty simple. They use really fresh seasonal ingredients, procured at the local farmers market, and they make amazingly flavorful salads. In the sea of meat and sweets that is Smorgasburg, it’s a pleasure to mix it up with a little something green from Skytown. I can’t explain it exactly, but there’s clearly love in these salads. They just feel good to eat. Love doesn’t come cheap at Skytown, but if you’re craving some vegetables, especially a really tasty and satisfying kale salad, this is a no brainer.

Best sweet treat: Dough + Blue Bottle

These might just be the best yeast doughnuts in the land. I hate to be a traitor, Doughnut Plant, but Dough gives you a serious run for your money! I particularly like their citrus-y flavors – passion fruit topped with cacao nibs, lemon poppy seed, and my absolute favorite, blood orange. Nothing else compares. The great thing about these doughnuts is that they’re not overly sweet. The café au lait topped with almonds, and the chocolate topped with cacao nibs, are flawless. Go for the coconut or dulce de leche, if you’ve got an aching sweet tooth. While they have a super eye-catching hot pink color, the hibiscus falls a little flat for me, and the berry tastes like your average jelly doughnut. Their doughnut holes, simply dusted with cinnamon and powdered sugar, make for a delightful snack, especially when paired with a cup of Blue Bottle’s chickory coffee (conveniently located at the stand to their left). Don’t let the line stop you. It moves fast and they will sell out. I always get in their line first, grab my doughnuts for tomorrow’s breakfast and take them home with me. The biggest challenge? Waiting until morning to eat them! I admit, I’ve failed on more than one occasion, but hey, they make a great dessert too.

Honorable mentions to: S’more Bakery for their incredibly ooey-gooey handmade vanilla bean marshmallow, cinnamon clover-honey graham cracker, chocolate ganache S’moregasm; The Good Batch’s array of ice cream sandwiches and whoopie pies on a stroopwafel; and the seasonal fruit popsicle masters, People’s Pops!

Best drink: Float

Float serves up the absolutely prettiest, most inventive drinks I stumbled across at Smorg. Their combination of sparkling sodas and fruit juices, fresh muddled herbs, a frothy dollop of ice cream or sorbet on top, AND a pretzel rod, make for one extremely very refreshing and attractive beverage. My favorite is probably the watermelon mint float, though the blueberry hibiscus, and bloody mary were both phenomenal.

Honorable mention to: Brooklyn Soda Works for their grapefruit, jalapeno, honey and pomegranate, pear, cinnamon sodas!

Best thing in a jar: Maiden Preserves and Granola Labs

I found it near impossible to stop sampling all the different flavors that Maiden Preserves and Granola Lab had on offer, and even more impossible to pick a favorite, so I propose a tie between the two. Maiden Preserves are the most delicious jams I’ve had in recent memory. With flavors like rhubarb, lemon vanilla bean, strawberry verbena, and orange bourbon, can you blame me for being indecisive? I love their big wallop of fruity flavor, chased with the perfect hint of herb, spice, or booze; and the gorgeous natural color you can see right through the traditional glass jar they come packaged in, wrapped simply with twine and a homemade label. Maiden Preserves make breakfast sing. Your morning will burn that much brighter and your toast will thank you.

Granola Lab’s variations also make choosing a favorite incredibly challenging. With flavor combos like coffee, chocolate, hazelnut; orange, pecan, maple; and tamarind, walnut, banana; there’s no wrong choice here. Alex Crosier makes small batches of granola that have maximum crunch and texture, bursting with layers of flavor and spice. It’s the best granola I’ve ever had, and I don’t say that lightly, as one of my all-time favorite breakfasts is granola over Greek yogurt, topped with seasonal fruit. (It’s second only to Nancy Silverton’s legendary La Brea Bakery granola, maybe.) I look forward to nibbling my way through a bag of each of her “quasi-science” flavor experiments in the months to come.

Honorable mention to: McClure’s Pickles for the prettiest jar of pickled veggies and seriously kick-ass bloody mary mix I’ve ever tasted!

Best thing in a bottleMorris Kitchen

Morris Kitchen’s ginger syrup is to die for. Upon first glance, I kind of questioned why someone would make just this one product, but I was intrigued and immediately had to try it. As soon as I did – sweet spicy taste explosion! My wheels started spinning about all the ways I’d want to use it – over ice cream, in cocktails, soda, straight from the bottle! Major cool points could be scored at a dinner party or given as a gift. You don’t find a product like this very often. You have to admire someone who specializes in just one rather unusual ingredient and Kari Morris pulls it off expertly. I look forward to sampling her new apple cider syrup and any other variety she dreams up next.

Honorable mention to: Brooklyn Bitters for their line-up of stimulating flavors, including mission fig, sriracha, meyon lemon, and rhubarb, which undoubtedly contributes a nice complexity and kick to any classic, artisanal cocktail. And do be sure to check out their website, for great drink recipes utilizing their unique little tonics.

Now, if I’ve done my job right, your appetite has officially been whet and you can’t wait to eat your heart out at Smorgasburg this weekend. Luckily, it’s only a hop, skip, and jump away on the L train or East River Ferry. So, save lots of room in that belly and go relish the best of culinary Brooklyn. Enjoy, food lovers!

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Hungry for more? Check out my food photography portfolios on eyeforstyle.net and dripbook.

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Filed under Cocktails, Culture, Events, Food, New York City, Photography

Celebrating Sakura Matsuri

Sakura Matsuri is a yearly “rite of spring” event at Brooklyn Botanic Gardens celebrating the revered cherry blossom and the diversity of Japanese culture, with over 60 events and performances all weekend long. Visitors can sample a wide variety of traditional Japanese music and dance including: taiko drumming, butoh performances, and flower hat dancing, or the more contemporary fare of today’s techno DJ, anime, and manga culture. There are dozens of all-ages presentations, ceremonies, and workshops to participate in, including ikebana flower arranging, tea ceremonies, cosplay photo shoots, and more.

Avid photographers, pro and amateur alike, will undoubtedly eat this event up with a spoon as people-watching is truly at it’s best here. It’s a unique mix of stroller toting urban families, excited little kids running wild, couples enjoying a romantic day out, young goth/lolita Cosplayers having tea parties and snapping pictures on their mobile devices, and Japanese performers dressed head-to-toe in traditional garb. Certainly a lot to take in! In spite all the activity, you may opt to just come and enjoy the gardens by spreading your blanket on the lawn, breathing in the sweet fresh air, and daydreaming amidst the beautifully lush greenery and happy people. When you’re ready for a stroll, head to the floral gardens, greenhouses, and bonsai exhibits to revel in the fact that spring has finally sprung!

Brooklyn Botanic Gardens
900 Washington Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
May 1 – 2, 2010
10 am – 6 pm

Here’s a gallery of my favorite photos of the day. For more of my portrait and event photography, please visit my website: eyeforstyle.net.

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Filed under Art, Culture, Events, Music, New York City, Photography