03/27/15 2:00pm
The legendary Brennan and Carr from across the street. (David Chiu)

The legendary Brennan and Carr from across the street. Photo: David Chiu

Ever since childhood–perhaps going back as far back as Blimpie’s and Arby’s–I’ve loved roast beef sandwiches, plain and simple: that tender, succulent medium-rare to (preferably) well-done meat on a roll with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Compared to other deli meats such as ham and turkey, I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than two weeks without downing roast beef for lunch.

I thought I knew everything about roast beef until a few years ago, when I stumbled upon a YouTube video of the Travel Channel series Man v. Food. The show’s premise is that host Adam Richman would visit “big food” eateries across the country and partake in food challenges. In one of his adventures, Richman visited a place in Gravesend, Brooklyn called Brennan and Carr, which has been around since 1938 and is primarily known for its hot roast beef sandwiches. What makes a Brennan and Carr roast beef sandwich unique is that you can request the meat and the bun together to be dipped or covered in a special beef broth. With a reaction similar to the first time I saw a Star Wars action figure at a toy store as a child, I was hooked and decided to dip my toe (sandwich?) into the South Brooklyn restaurant’s signature dish. (more…)

03/27/15 12:00pm

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 10.10.42 AMYesterday as I was spreading cream cheese on the 100th plain bagel of the month, I started to lecture Nate on the benefits of at least trying a different spread. There is butter and jelly, I argued. There is butter with jelly. Peanut butter and jelly, sliced cheese. There are all sorts of new combinations and foods to try. Life is rich and varied and food should be too!

Nate took a bite. “Mommy,” he said thoughtfully. “Is god real?”

So that happened, but it was an interesting time for this question because a small miracle has recently occurred.

My second kid, Mack (pictured on the right), is a terrific eater. I didn’t think it was possible after Nate and his plain-yogurt-only years but then along came Mack and the boy can eat. And the funny thing is he eats perfectly. He prefers eggs (usually “sunnystideup”) to bagels and cantaloupe to cake. He shuns carbs, consuming most fruit, vegetables and healthy proteins like fish and seaweed. Honestly.

Again, I have nothing to do with this little guy’s taste—he is a take-no-prisoners three year old. Mack eats what Mack wants to eat and on his birthday he wanted to eat cucumbers. When Michael explained the real point behind the Super Bowl: chips, pretzels, dips, salsa and Velveeta queso. Mack chimed in, “and carrots!” It’s weird a little.

Anyway, I now have a terrible eater and a perfect eater who only wants to eat whatever the terrible eater is eating. When we sit down to dinner Mack joins in the  “ew gross” chant even though he loves salmon. Usually I give Mack a separate plate in addition to the pasta/hot dogs/mac and cheese plate that I give Nate because he will inevitably ask for whatever he sees on Nate’s plate even if he doesn’t want to eat it. Basically I’m still cooking for a picky eater despite the fact that Mack is not one.

This winter I’ve tried to combine Nate’s core food groups (eggs, bacon, pasta, bread) in new ways. For example, my breakfast pasta. These pizza bagels and my DIY egg muffins. But I’m still not getting veggies or grains into my kids. Plus I’m tired of these same old ingredients. I want to make one creative, interesting, healthy meal for all of us. I want to be inspired. And that’s why I called mommy chef Paula Hankin. (more…)

03/27/15 9:12am
The new film "Cinderella" doesn't break new ground, but princess loving preschoolers will definitely love it.

The new film “Cinderella” doesn’t break new ground, but princess loving preschoolers will definitely love it. Afterwards, treat them to the play at Kings Theater. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

If your child has caught fairy tale fever like mine, here are a few more suggestions to expand your Disney fan’s repertoire.

March 28th & March 29th: The Sleeping Beauty at Puppetworks, 338 Sixth Avenue at 4th Avenue, Park Slope. Showtimes at12:30pm and 2:30pm. Children $9, Adults $10. Reservations can be made at 718-965-3391 or by emailing puppetworks@twcmetrobiz.com.

April 2nd: 7pm; April 3rd: 1:00pm, 7:00pm; April 4th: 11:00am, 3:00pm, 7:00pm; April 5th: 1:00pm, 5:00pm, Disney Live! presents Three Classic Fairy Tales at King’s Theater, 1027 Flatbush Avenue, Flatbush. Tickets range from $23.70- $91.70. Kids under one are free.

Do a home study on The Cinderella Story. Playful Learning has a great post on ways to use different cultural interpretations of the classic fairy tale for an at-home exploration that will result in your child writing their own tale. The princess doesn’t need blonde hair or to wait for her prince to come.

For those of you living under a rock, the live version of “Cinderella” premiered last weekend at movie theaters across the land. Unlike Disney’s classic animated “Cinderella” (1950), this one skipped the makeover portion of the movie and instead peddled the importance of being “kind and brave.” This updated version is just as sexist as the original fairytale, but with gorgeous visuals and sweeping music, it’s a magical retelling without too much fairydust (i.e. CGI).  Also, don’t look for any spicy fight scenes in this flick, as the whole thing is simple syrup.

Parents will love seeing their favorite Downton Abbey characters in costume–Lily James (“Rose”) plays Cinderella, while Sophie McShera (“Daisy”) plays one of the stepsisters. But the real showstopper was Cate Blanchett, who easily stole the show as the evil stepmother. She arrives right after the death of Cinderella’s mother, but none of the very young children around me even blinked at the tragic scene. To find out just how much of the film my 5-year-old son, Lincoln, grasped, I asked him to explain his thoughts on the fairy tale. (more…)

03/27/15 9:00am

March, the month that promised spring and then reneged, has delivered some delicious talking points, from a compendium to the 99 essential restaurants in Brooklyn to John Oliver’s sharp takedown of March Madness. Here are 10 of the month’s most memorable stories to add to your party banter this weekend.

1. Full disclosure: I maniacally love March Madness. A lifelong college basketball fan, I do things like take the first two days of the tournament off of work and eat multiple meals in the same bar so that I don’t miss a single crazy upset. I bite off all my nails, I yell loudly at exciting parts and send my dog into fits of panic, and I once many years ago almost got into it with a smug child who was trash talking when my team was losing (not proud of that, btw). This is embarrassing not just because, in Brooklyn, I’m an overly earnest fan of a very conventional, kind of fratty thing in a land where many seem to believe that the only acceptable sports are bocce and pretending to follow futbol, but also because it is becoming harder and harder to justify supporting the multi-billion-dollar March Madness machine and to excuse the NCAA for its unapologetic profiteering on the backs of the so-called student athletes whose talent and hard work it exploits. John Oliver’s hilarious but sharp and unsparing takedown of the whole business, which aired earlier this month on Last Week Tonight, is required watching if you want to fully grasp just how preposterous the situation is.

One of two rooms in Yenifer’s dungeon. Photo: Heather Dockray

One of two rooms in Yenifer’s dungeon. Photo: Heather Dockray

2. In a city where real estate prices are an evergreen topic of conversation at every dinner party, our story of one Park Slope woman and her unorthodox method for coming up with the monthly rent on her 3-bedroom apartment–running a BDSM dungeon out of it–will at least give you a new and risque point of entry to well-trodden territory. (more…)

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03/26/15 1:20pm
Storytime is just one of the activities kids can look forward to at a Project Playdate. A dance party, open play, arts and crafts, dinner and a movie round out the night. Photo: Chika Ibe

Storytime is just one of the activities kids can look forward to at a Project Playdate Pajama Party. A dance party, open play, arts and crafts, dinner and a movie round out the night. Photo: Chika Ibe

Every weekend I lament the fact that we don’t have a consistent weekend date night sitter. When we do hire a sitter, it’s always for major events like weddings or birthday dinners. My husband and I never just get a casual dinner out on the town without children. So, that’s why I was thrilled to try out Project Playdate’s Pajama Party. This three-hour drop-off party happens every weekend at a different location around the city, and gives enough time for parents to truly have a leisurely night out. The best part? It costs the same as a babysitter: $20/ hour. Plus, the proceeds from the events go to donating supplies to family shelters in New York, so this is another way you can make a difference with your kids.

I signed my 5-year-old son up for the Friday night event at Park Slope Kidville (808 Union St.). The events are geared to kids between 2 and 7 years old, and at drop off my son seemed one of the oldest, with the sweet spot being between three and five. It was 6:30pm on the dot, and my son already seemed a little tired, so I was worried that a three hour party might send him into hysteria (especially since his usual bedtime is 8pm.) But I was willing to take that chance for the opportunity to eat an adult-only meal at Pork Slope, “a roadhouse-inspired” restaurant around the corner on 5th Avenue. We hung up his jacket, took off his shoes, and signed in with Amanda Raposo, the founder of Project Playdate, who immediately made me and my son feel at ease. In the blink of an eye, he ran into a padded gym room where about ten kids were already leaping and rolling on every surface. I peeked in to say goodbye and the babysitters–there was a 1:4 sitter/child ratio–were already swarming around the kids, making sure everyone was safe and having a good time. (more…)

03/26/15 9:00am
Reggie Roc

Brooklyn choreographer Reggie Gray is hoping his new Park Avenue Armory show, FLEXN, will introduce a new audience to street dancing and serve as a platform for social reform. Photos: Maria J. Hackett

When you think of street dance, Park Avenue is not usually the street that comes to mind. But choreographer Reggie “Regg Roc” Gray and director Peter Sellars are making the posh Upper East Side artery the place to see one of the city’s most exciting displays of physical expression with their new show, FLEXN, which opened at the Park Avenue Armory yesterday. For the next 10 days they will attempt to add a different type of cred to a street style phenomenon that up to now has had to rely on venues like subway cars and the steps of Union Square Park in order to attract an audience.

FLEXN centers around a street dance form called “flexing”—or “flexin” or “flexN”—a style pioneered by Gray that combines rhythmic movement and contortion. The form emerged from Jamaican dance halls and Brooklyn reggae clubs that were popular in the ’90s. Evolving over time, flexing hit the streets and began to gain traction around 2005, finding a home in dance circles all over the world.

“Our hope is to put street dance in a different lane,” says Gray. “To get street dance some different respect because the Armory has such a great reputation for displaying beautiful pieces of work. Flexing will be looked at in a different language and in a different artistic perspective.” (more…)

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03/25/15 3:08pm
Local Hair Stylist, Elma Siljkovic, pulls the artwork off of the wall that she won at the event. "Everyone gets to get together and show a part of themselves," she said. Photo: Levi Sharpe

Local hair stylist, Elma Siljkovic, pulls the artwork off of the wall that she won at the event. “Everyone gets to get together and show a part of themselves,” she said. Photo: Levi Sharpe

Neighborhood gem Greenpoint Heights hosted its second Art Show Art Swap this Saturday. The seasonal show invites local artists to display their work and have it randomly exchanged raffle-style with other contributors. Anyone can attend and join in on the festivities, but to receive any art, you have to submit art yourself. There were 25 submissions in all types of mediums including drawing, painting, photography and printmaking.

Paige Young, 30, a bartender at Greenpoint Heights and organizer of the event, said that she initially created the show to give her and her artist friends an incentive to finish work. She also wanted to create a gallery space without the typical pretension associated with the art world. The only rule is to make something sincere and that you’re proud of, she said.

“I was trying to think of a way to have an art show and remove the ego of it,” said Young. “I think it’s really fun. Just let fate steer you to the piece that belongs in your house.” (more…)

03/25/15 11:17am
Noah Baumbach's new film, 'While We're Young,' opens this weekend, providing ample opportunity to ogle Adam Driver. Image: A24 Films

Noah Baumbach’s new film, ‘While We’re Young,’ opens this weekend, providing ample opportunity to ogle Adam Driver. Image: A24 Films

As one of our Ideal Week writers, Alexander Jordan, put it, Neil “fucking” Diamond is playing Barclay’s tomorrow, and tickets are still available to see the man who can make an entire bar sing “Sweet Caroline” (DAH DAH DAHHHH). A far cheaper night of music you know and love will be at The Bell House tonight for our wedding band showcase, words that may trigger your cheesiness meter, except that this is NYC, and the bands we’re featuring are filled with awesome musicians like Joe McGinty, former keyboardist for the Psychedelic Furs and now the piano-playing leader of the city’s most popular tribute band, Loser’s Lounge. The tickets, which include snacks from Red Table Catering, are $12 at the door but you can get em for $5 until 6pm, here.

In strange animal news, that rabbit-hoarding woman in Gowanus is suing to get her 237 syphilitic bunnies back from the ASPCA and Animal Care & Control of NYC. The plight of her animals pales in comparison to the roughly 2.4 million humans who serve time in prison, and there is an event this Saturday that deals seriously with incarceration and its effect upon the psyche, when Orange is the New Black author Piper Kerman speaks with Joe Loya, author of The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell, at the Brooklyn Museum.

Further out into the calendar, RadioLoveFest is returning to BAM in May, and there are already shows with single-digit tickets left, like Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me. So get on it quick if you a public radio lover, then check out all the good times to be had this week that are not in danger of selling out.

Thursday, March 26: Why is Noah Baumbach’s new movie not opening in Brooklyn? It seems a crime not to give his prime audience first dibs on While We’re Young, a movie featuring “Brooklyn hipsters” Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried. The two inject a little verve back into the lives of a middle-aged couple played by Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts, until they realize Driver is using them to bolster his career. Everyone 40 and above will be a little reluctant to watch this, but wisdom and experience seem to win out in the end. As The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane put it, “one of the rare benefits of age” is that “you can start, at last, to tell the difference between a life style and a life.” The film opens Thursday at Regal Cinemas Union Square, then adds screenings at Lincoln Square over the weekend, until it arrives in Brooklyn on April 2 at BAM.—N.D.

Friday, March 27: No great revolution started without a lot of talking about how great the revolution was going to be. Such is the case with this weekend’s Bad Assery: A Women & Comedy Conference, which will not only include lots of discussion about the state of women in comedy, but a lot of laughter as well. Co-hosted by The Bell House, Littlefield, and ?What If!, comedy enthusiasts are invited to come together for three days of events, including panels—like “Breaking Out” with Brooke Van Poppelen—sketch shows and standup from big names like Aparna Nancherla and Michelle Wolf, music, and much more with some of the funniest ladies in the city. For those simply hoping to stop by for a show or two, tickets are $15 for shows and $20 for panels at the door, or if you’re in it for the long haul, purchase $40 1-day passes and $75 three-day passes here. Head to the Bad Assery website for the full schedule.–N.R. (more…)

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03/25/15 10:08am

cathy author headshot black and white-8459 by pete leeYou might be familiar with Taiwan’s most popular food export, bubble tea. To get better acquainted with the East Asian island’s foodways, Cathy Erway’s new cookbook, The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island, presents a more in-depth look at the cuisine and culture of her mother’s home country. The Food of Taiwan covers both homestyle and popular street foods like stinky tofu and tea eggs, and gives special attention to the sweet and tangy sauces and condiments that add to the cuisine’s depth. Erway weaves essays about the people, history, agriculture, tea, and even her experience studying abroad during the political protests of 2004 throughout the cookbook, one of the first to exclusively feature Taiwanese cuisine. Alongside the 100-plus recipes, Pete Lee’s photography of the countryside, bustling night markets, food carts, and the dishes themselves gives the book a documentary quality.

In advance of two parties celebrating her cookbook’s launch this week, we asked Cathy some questions about the book and the process of writing it.

BB: Your first book, The Art of Eating In, was a chronicle of the two years you spent not eating out in restaurants while living in Brooklyn as a young 20-something. How was the shift from memoir writing to cookbook authorship?  

CE: It was really different! The production of so many photos and recipes meant that I felt like a producer of some project with many moving parts in addition to a writer. But I love the narrative aspects of this project, too and put a lot of emphasis on it. (more…)

03/24/15 7:58am
Soapwalla's Rachel Winard is just one of Brooklyn's skincare artisans, who believe beauty comes from all-natural, ethically produced, wholesome products. Photo: Phoenix Botanicals/Soapwalla

Soapwalla’s Rachel Winard is just one of Brooklyn’s skincare artisans, who believe beauty comes from all-natural, ethically produced, wholesome products. Photo: Phoenix Botanicals/Soapwalla

Even if there are a few stubborn patches of snow left, the weather will warm up in New York eventually, and this week’s balmy 50-degree forecast serves as a reminder that soon we will be shedding our sweaters and down coats for less layers— exposing our pasty, damaged, sun-starved skin in the process. Wintertime is brutal on our beauty regimens: bitter cold + radiator heat = SOS signals, but you still have a few weeks to give your body a top-to-bottom tune up—the kind that will make you feel like you just returned from the beaches of Bali, rather than just emerging out of a stifling hibernation hole.

Brooklyn is known for being at the forefront of the maker movement, and that is true even with skincare. Many local lines were started from a personal need for gentler and more humane products, as was the case for Rachel Winard, founder Soapwalla, who has systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). “Soapwalla was born one late night in my apartment kitchen, after months of unsuccessfully hunting for face and body products that wouldn’t aggravate my skin,” she says. Fellow Brooklyn skincare lines share similar origin stories: S.W. Basics was launched by Adina Grigore, who has sensitive skin, because she wanted something uncomplicated (“a skincare hybrid of homemade bread and a green juice”). All her products have less than five ingredients in them, with names you can actually pronounce. And Clara Williams started the brand skinnyskinny more then a decade ago, when she “couldn’t find products that actually worked” that didn’t include harsh ingredients. “People have the idea that gentle is lightweight, but it’s not,” she says. “It just means it’s doing its job the right way.”

So prolific is Brooklyn’s homegrown skincare industry at this point that secondary industries have now cropped up to support it. Twisted Lily is a modern-day apothecary in Boerum Hill, created by Stamatis Birsimijoglou and Eric Weiser, simply to sell these local products, and Emma Graves and Molly Watman founded the Brooklyn Herborium, a holistic spa located in Columbia Waterfront in 2013. In addition to offering services, the spa also sells their botanically based line Between You and The Moon, which Graves formulated in 2008 as a response to the unhealthy products she found when she was pregnant.

Given the abundance of choices, a starting place for your skin spring clean may prove difficult to pinpoint. S.W. Basics’ Adina Grigore offers this advice: “Changes in season can be really hard on the body and skin in general. You’ll be itchy, flaky, dry, and just more symptomatic. The best way to get through this is with extra love: baths, masks, exfoliants, rich moisturizers. You’re supporting your skin through the transition and helping to speed it up a bit.” To help you get started, we’ve sorted out a strategy to beat the winter blues away. Here are some Brooklyn centered beauty suggestions that won’t cost your whole paycheck and what you’ll want to do with them when you get them home. (more…)