Passing through Brooklyn

My mother always says we should not plan a trip to NY in the winter…just in case it snows.  Up until this point it never has, so I figure, what’s the likelihood?  It won’t snow.  I am a bit of a denier and a wishful thinker.  I deny the possibility of snow actually happening and wishfully think that the weather will be cooperative.  I guess I should learn to be practical and realistic (and pack according to the weather forecast)…because it did snow.  From now on, we might just be taking trips in the summer.  In the past it was all very hypothetical.  Now it has been a reality.  Driving 35 miles an hour up the New Jersey Turnpike gives my mother quite the case for trips in the summer, especially since she does the driving when we travel together.

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I am glad it snowed though.  I saw a side of Brooklyn I would not have seen otherwise.  It showed how people cared and helped one another.  Seeing people stop to help shovel the snow from around cars or helping each other walk across the snowy, slushy roads was unexpected.  My aunt had three different men stop and offer to shovel her car out for her (shoot, when I shoveled the side-walk and stairs, I was totally hoping some man would offer to help me!  No such luck.).  This was my first time staying in Brooklyn and I fell in love, with capital letters.  It was everything:  the food, the streets, the sites, the shops, the people…crashing in an apartment rather than staying at a hotel.  Brooklyn is pretty fabulous and I cannot wait to go back (’cause I know we did not even begin to explore it).

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Now mind you, we were only in Brooklyn for three days.  But here are my recommendations from those days…

What to Do in Brooklyn:

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Prospect Park:  One could meander through this park for hours on end.  So beautiful and peaceful and vast.  Designed by the architects responsible for Central Park, it is an amazing 585 acre park.

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Mast Brothers Chocolate:  My grandmother always made sure to add in something educational whenever we traveled with her.  Usually it meant finding a museum wherever we went, no matter how small of a town.  I forgot how much depth is given a trip when you learn, not just see.  On the list of things to do while in Brooklyn was to take a tour through the Williamsburg factory of Mast Brothers Chocolate.  How little I knew about the complexities of chocolate and all that goes into crafting it.  I don’t even know where to begin in singing their praises.  Just starting with the space alone…beautiful (like dreamy beautiful).  You could feel the passion that everyone had for making chocolate.  You could see the genuine camaraderie of those making and doing something they believed in.  Gosh, there is nothing more inspiring than to talk with people so passionate about what they are doing and how they are doing it and with such a level of integrity to the ingredients they are using.  Most of their bars only have two ingredients:  cacao and cane sugar.  It is all about the cacao and its true flavor.  To see something being done well, really well…hard not to respect and admire that.

We bought six bars to do our own little chocolate tasting.  Having seen the chocolate in different parts of the process (and sampled some in those different stages), it was fun to taste the finished product, understanding just a bit of what went into making it and why it tasted the way it did.  Now to buy and taste the rest of the bars….

Where to Eat in Brooklyn:

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Tip of the Tongue:  Always on the lookout for a fabulous croissant and a delicious latte, this was the perfect stop for me, as it hit both.  Totally meant to go back the next day, but unfortunately we got distracted.  Honestly, this was the only latte I had while in New York that I would go back for another, let alone recommend (don’t get me wrong…I have a list of other places to try.  This was the only delicious one I had on this trip).  LOVED Tip of the Tongue and so glad that my cousin recommended it!  Their chili was pretty darn good too, just so you know!

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Gandhi Indian Restaurant:  Totally the hole in the wall kind of place you would expect in New York.  For those who know me, Indian food is the one food I don’t like.  I mean I dread eating Indian.  But I LOVED my meal here!  I don’t know if it was because I was starving or exhausted, or both, but so good!  I left happy and full and ready to eat Indian again.  (I say that with hesitation because I don’t want my sisters to get the wrong idea.  Don’t want them to get too excited that I have been converted.)  Definite recommendations:  Garlic Naan and Aloo Motor Gobi (I know it is like the most basic thing you can get but I liked it.)

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Juventino:  In a world of food that is supposed to be bright and bold, it is refreshing to eat something that is subtle, and therefore makes you pause.  That forces you to think and focus.  It does not tell you exactly what it is.  You have to discover the layers and the flavors.  You have to remember where or when you have tasted that before.  Memories are stirred.  Emotions awakened….

Maybe it was the minimal level of salt.  Although salt does brighten flavors, it can often mask them.  I grew up with a mother who barely seasoned with salt.  As a young girl baking at my grandmother’s, I omitted the salt from a recipe.  My mother did not use salt, so of course I was not going to either.  I learned my lesson with that one and what she really meant when she said she did not use salt.  It was not until recently that I have come to understand salt and its flavor, its value, and its appeal.  But I often feel it is much like today’s culture.  It gives immediate gratification.  But does that immediate gratification in the end, harm or help the dish?  Everyone has their own philosophy of food.  What makes it good, what makes it bad.  For me, I want something interesting.  Something that excites me and makes me take notice.

Juventino’s food definitely was not one of bright, bold notes.  But it was interesting and made me stop to think.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable meal.  The atmosphere sets the tone, the menu heightens the anticipation, the service connects you, the food delights, and the company completes it all.  Our dinner shared at Juventino was one of those meals.  A three hour dinner shared with family, friends, and new acquaintances.  One with excitement, conversation, and the continual passing of plates.  It was a meal that filled me with joy and pleasure.  It was not just the food but the experience.  Definite recommendations:  Everything I ordered!  Sopa de Calabaza (butternut squash soup, spanish paprika, duck prosciutto and red onion), Lengua y Papas (grass-fed beef tongue with a potato hash and chile ancho mole), Pan con Chorizo (biscuit, adobo bechamel, ground Berkshire pork shoulder), and Lomo de Cordero con Huacatay (rack of lamb, winter vegetable ‘risotto’, farmstead cheese and mint pesto).  Just so you know my sister and I split all of these and we definitely had help from others at the table.  The lamb was for sure the best part!

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l’albero dei gelati:  Another one on the list of places I fell for….  I don’t know if I have ever stepped into a place and felt such a sense of sweetness and love.  Crazy right?!  But that is the true feeling it gave off.  There were so many aspects of this place that were just so sweet and beautiful and made me fall for it.  Walking in, there is information about the farms they source from, cards from little kids on the wall, paper decorations and dried flowers hanging everywhere, cookbooks on every table…it almost felt like home (well, not quite my home, but someone’s).  You really got a sense of the heart and mind of those behind it.  Pure, welcoming, lovely, and straightforward.  And all very Italian.  Gosh, the sopressata was good!  We went back later in the day to get more, along with some ciabatta and cookies, for breakfast the next morning.  Which made the perfect breakfast with some tea and fruit and felt oh so European while in a Brooklyn apartment.

Where to Shop in Brooklyn:

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Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co.:  So this was the biggest surprise of the trip.  Walking up to the store, I was a bit confused why my aunt so wanted to go in.  How glad am I that she did!  Turns out that the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co is not a comic book store (my very wrong assumption), but a volunteer run store with all the proceeds going to support 826NYC, a nonprofit writing center in Brooklyn.  Everything was so well done and so witty.  I cannot even begin to do it justice, so I am not going to even try.  You just have to stop in and check it out yourself.  And just so you know, that shelf there in the picture, it leads to the secret writing center.  Plus, if you are so inclined, there is a devillainizing chamber.  I was deemed a “nasty” villain.

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Goorin Bros.:  I know this is a chain and is all over the country.  But, with that said, I felt they had a beautiful shop and loved looking at all the hats.  Honestly, I just love any well curated shop that feels masculine and is full of tweed and herringbone and the like.

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Poppy:  For sure the best clothing store we popped into.  They did a great job of having a good mix of interesting gift items and clothing.  I guess I judge a store on whether it tempts me enough to walk out with a bag in my hand, and this one did.

Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store:  Again, a really well curated shop.  Very well stocked with tons of brands and lines I love and lots of new ones.  Plus, I appreciated how many items were from Brooklyn.  Made shopping for gifts to bring home that much easier.  Definitely could not leave here without buying something either.

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Petrossian:  And last but not least…what is a trip to New York without stopping at Petrossian for tea and croissants (or caviar if you are in the mood).  You can read more about it here.