Annaliese Griffin

Articles by

Annaliese Griffin

Annaliese Griffin is the editor-in-chief of Brooklyn Based. She has written about food, film, television and, of course, Brooklyn for The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Daily News and more, and was a professor of blogging at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She tries not to let her obsession with procedural dramas get in the way of her work.

04/24/17 11:29am

Just five minutes to smoothie magic with Greenblender.

Last week the internet enjoyed a rare moment of harmony as it gathered together to mock Juicero, the high tech juice company that raised $120 million to hawk $400, wifi-enabled juicers. A meticulously reported Bloomberg story and accompanying video demonstrated that despite its boasts of aircraft-grade aluminum and four tons of pressing power, it was possible to squeeze Juicero juice packs–which you cannot buy without first purchasing the juicer, called The Press–by hand, to pretty much the same effect.

A tech writer friend and I have had an ongoing joke about Juicero since this gushing New York Times profile of founder Doug Evans came out last year, the punchline being, if you’re a certain type of white guy (read: unconventional, but rich, with a charming if slightly sociopathic personality), you can get Silicon Valley dollars like you have an ATM card, no matter how dumb your idea is.

But here’s the rub–I like drinking juice or smoothies for breakfast, and most juicers really are a pain to clean and I get annoyed by my own lack of creativity when it comes to my smoothie game. Surely there must be some kind of juice interruption that actually delivers, without having to purchase a $400 lie.

There is and the company started in Brooklyn, of course.

Greenblender, to use a tired, but useful formulation, is Blue Apron for smoothies. For $49 a week (less if you commit to several months at a time) you get recipes and ingredients for five different smoothies, two servings of each. You just pop them in a blender and voila, breakfast in about five minutes. Technically these are smoothies–no pulp or fiber is removed, it’s all blended all in there, but they’re much more fruit and vegetable foward than your standard smoothie, which is really a milkshake in disguise. Think of Greenblender concoctions more like super juice. You could not squeeze these ingredients with your bare hands and get a drink from your efforts. (more…)

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04/04/17 9:30am

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A few weeks ago a weird thing happened. I had powered my laptop all the way down and when I went to log in I couldn’t. It kept telling me my password was wrong. I was reasonably certain I was remembering and typing it correctly, but no matter how many times I tried I couldn’t get in. So, I logged in as a guest and started the Apple ID reset process and went on with my day. Except a few hours later my phone let me know through the double authentication process that someone was trying to log in to my account in Singapore. Yeah.

Then I read this NYMag story about how a hacker group that calls itself the Turkish Crime Family has demanded $100,000 in iTunes credits from Apple, threatening to randomly wipe the iPhones of users whose iCloud passwords and credentials have been compromised. I know, if this was the plot of an episode of the brief and preposterous run of CSI: Cyber, it would be laughed out of the writers room. The Turkish Crime Family? $100,000? In iTunes credits?

The truth is though, life is usually weirder than the last gasp of a once-great procedural empire that can’t even make it work with the dream team of Patricia Arquette, Ted Danson and James Vanderbeek. Maybe some criminals are just simple folks who can steal iCloud passwords, but lack the piracy skills to steal things one buys on iTunes. Or maybe iTunes credit is like catnip on the deep web. We may never know.

In any case, I got my personal cyber security reasonably locked down in the course of a few hours, mostly because I just can’t even cope with the idea of how annoying and time consuming it would be to fix. Here are my suggestions for a sort of online security spring cleaning. (more…)

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04/02/17 8:03pm

This week I want to talk about just one thing: Taxes. They’re due two weeks from Tuesday on April 18 (here’s the story behind the unusual date). As self-employed person, writing out a big check to the government is never my favorite moment in April, but this year I’m particularly dreading it.

In general, I’m pro tax. I say that as someone who has to save for and write five-figure checks each year. I really feel those dollars, way more than back in my W-2 days. But I’m happy to pay for libraries and public transportation and grants for the arts, even for art I don’t like or understand. I want teachers to get paid more and I want health care for all. Hell, I want six months of leave for new parents and all the social “entitlements.” I want to live in a society that believes that government can and should create a solid structure in which humans flourish.

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03/30/17 10:41am

April, you’re a month of continual torment. We’re all so ready to be outside–to celebrate Prospect Park’s 150th birthday, to stroll through the otherworldly beauty of the cherry blossoms in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during the Sakura Matsuri Festival, and let down our hair and break out our tambourines for Earth Day, which takes on a more serious and urgent mission this year, all hippie jokes aside.

Yet, it is not consistently warm enough to leave the house without a jacket (and a backup scarf), those outside tables that look so appealing at 4pm turn frigid the second the sun goes down, and outdoor movies, concerts and yoga are still a couple months away. Here’s a mix of can’t-miss culture that you can venture outside to enjoy, or simply watch, read or appreciate from the warm comfort of your home. Pro-tip: If you’re hoping to see LCD Soundsystem at Brooklyn Steel, tickets go on sale at noon, Thursday, March 30.

10. 2017, Louis C.K., on Netflix April 4

Louis C.K.: you either love him or…is there anyone left who doesn’t love Louis C.K.? It seems like he’s pretty much conquered the world with his particular brand of self-effacing dude humor. On April 4 his new comedy special 2017 debuts on Netflix, which seems to have stolen the comedy special game from HBO. According to Netflix this time around he’ll be having a fireside chat with America about “religion, eternal love, giving dogs drugs, email fights, teachers and more.”


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9. Prospect Park celebrates 150 years of being green

Brooklyn’s beloved park turns 150 this year and this temperate weather we’ve been having arrives just in time for a full weekend of celebrations including the first roller disco of the season on Friday night at LeFrak Center, an exhibition baseball game following 1860 rules, a Greenmarket grill out and various historical walking, and running, tours of the park. Check out the whole list of events here. (more…)

03/27/17 11:29am
Last spring Matzo Project matzo was in three stores and sold out in a matter of hours. Now they're all over the country, including at Eataly. Photo: Matzo Project

Last spring Matzo Project matzo was in three stores and sold out in a matter of hours. Now they’re all over the country, including at Eataly. Photo: Matzo Project

Passover this year begins on the evening of Monday, April 10 with seder. That’s two weeks away, and whether you’re an Orthodox traditionalist seeking out shmurah matzo for your Passover plate, or looking for a delicious Kosher-but-not-fully-Kosher-for-Passover alternative, you’re in luck. There are better matzo options than the supermarket stuff out there for you.

Brought to the forefront by young Jewish chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi and Michael Solomonov, who wrote the wonderful cookbook Zahav, Jewish cuisine is thriving right now, from dishes like brisket and matzo ball soup that are Eastern European in origin, to the vegetable and spice-heavy cuisine of Israel. Last spring Dan Barber, chef and local food advocate, had a long essay in The New York Times about what goes into making shmurah matzo. Around the same time The Matzo Project released a tiny batch of their delicious matzo to three stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan. It sold out within hours.

New York has seen Mile End Deli, Black Seed Bagel, Frankel’s and Seed and Mill Halvah and Tahini flourish over the past few years. Since their trial run for last Passover, The Matzo Project has blossomed into a full-blown business that has matzo and matzo chips on the shelves of stores in nearly two dozen states, and available for sale online, in plain (yes, there’s salt), everything and cinnamon and sugar. “We have scaled up and we’re ready to take on the pita chip.” says Matzo Project co-founder Ashley Albert.

Staying Kosher, but not Kosher-for-Passover (which would exclude salt and other flavorings), The Matzo Project joins Vermatzah, a Vermont-based matzo company that refers to their product as “eco-kosher” in a market that seems to have been underserved, judging from the enthusiastic reception.

It’s not just that we’ve reached such a fever pitch with food that we’re fascinated by the minutiae of even an item that traditionally has been most remarkable for its blandness. Matzo has the ability to simultaneously function as a delicious cracker at your cocktail party and as a symbol of Jewish history and culinary heritage. Try to achieve that with a box of Triscuits. (more…)

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03/26/17 9:06pm

Apologies for the interruption in #actiontrumpshate service. I’ll admit it, I just could not read another article about politics or look at another photo of Trump in the Oval Office for a few weeks. It made me feel tired and sad and that’s ridiculous because ultimately, I have a home, and I can afford to heat it and feed my family and now we even get to keep our ACA coverage. Letting a tyrant as petty as Trump stop me from sitting on the couch and pontificating to you all on my Apple product is as first world a problem as they come.

Last week we got the best news we’ve had since the election. The Republicans blew it. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. The Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Tom Price all those guys wasted mountains of political capital and still couldn’t come up with a bill that was appealing to much of anyone, that would actually serve the American people or that they could pass.

You know what the best thing about was? They did it to themselves, with a little help from us, the people. Republicans in the House were reluctant to sign on to a piece of legislation that so many constituents had so vocally opposed. Calling, sending postcards, showing up a town meetings, sending faxes, we’re doing it. And this should give us great hope.

What now? We have to keep the pressure on our elected officials, keep standing up and speaking out, and start looking toward the 2018 midterm elections. But most of all, we need to take this opportunity not to gloat, but to re-energize. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been experiencing late winter, Trump-related ennui. There’s a lot to dig into right now, some of it even genuinely progressive, not just playing defense.

Bernie Sanders told a crowd of 1000 at town hall meeting in Vermont this weekend that he has plans to introduce a single-payer bill in the Senate. You get to call your senators’ offices and either voice your support, or your support for strengthening the ACA–by lowering the Medicare eligibility age, by importing drugs from Canada (Sanders and a few other Democratic Senators, including New Jersey dream boat, Cory Booker introduced a bill in February proposing just that). Sanders isn’t likely to succeed with a single payer system at this point, but by pushing to the left measures like lowering the Medicare age and finding ways to resist big pharma and fine tuning the ACA may become more possible.

And yes, the Republicans failed because the ultra-conservative Tea Party types thought the terrible bill that would have stripped tens of millions of people of health insurance and important protections against corporate greed and healthcare chaos was too liberal. There are plenty of moderate Republicans in the House though, who are very relieved that they didn’t have to vote because they know how angry it would have made their constituents, and that’s thanks to the level of political engagement that is the new normal. Let’s keep it rolling, this week and forever. (more…)

03/20/17 1:13pm
The noodles are perfect, the broth is delicious and the ramen bowls are handmade in Greenpoint. Photo: @Takumenlic via Instagram

The noodles are perfect, the broth is delicious and the ramen bowls are handmade in Greenpoint. Photo: @Takumenlic via Instagram

A few weeks ago a friend who lives in Long Island City invited me to come over, mentioning that if we got hungry we could pop around the corner from her house to a Japanese izakaya where we could grab some snacks and sake. I’ll admit it, I was dubious. Long Island City has lots of choices for Asian food, but none that I’ve loved. There’s mediocre Thai in spades, just like the rest of New York City. Mu Ramen has delicious food, but the wait is always a problem and frankly, they’re just not that friendly. Hibino I do like, but I wouldn’t call it an izakaya.

What I was shocked to find, tucked behind the 108th Precinct, less than a block from the Vernon-Jackson stop on the 7 train was a perfect neighborhood restaurant, a place you can indeed pop into for some snacks a beer, but that also feels fancy enough for a special night out. (more…)

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03/14/17 5:24pm

Let me be blunt for a moment. All those delicious Pi Day pies and snow day stews aside, this is the worst time of year for cooking. Late winter and early spring are a challenge in in the kitchen. The chicken pot pies, roasted vegetables and bean soups I was so excited to make in October feel heavy and boring now, and it’s going to be more than a few weeks before the first spring edibles show up at the farmer’s market.

We’re in luck though, fellow cooks. A new book came out today that will help get us all over the hump and into nettle, asparagus and pea season.

Vibrant India, Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn is the first cookbook from Chitra Agrawal, cook, writer and owner of Brooklyn Delhi. She wrote a great guide to eating all over the subcontinent by taking a day trip to Edison and Iselin, N.J. for us a few years back, and if you’ve always wanted to try your hand at cooking South Asian food, but have never quite been able to make sense of all the spice roasting and grinding, this is the book for you.

Agrawal’s recipes are not the heavy butter chicken and saag paneer type fare–which is generally Northern Indian in origin–that often represents Indian cuisine in the U.S. In the foreword she explains that her cooking is very much informed by the vegetarian cuisine of South India, Bangalore specifically, which is based around rice, beans, pulses, fresh vegetables and spices like mustard seed, hing and tumeric.

What does South India have to do with late winter cooking?

Many of the recipes in Vibrant India are variations on rice and dal, which are not just hearty, durable, winter fare, they’re also fragrantly spiced and lush with coconut, ghee and curry leaves. This combination of new flavors and cooking techniques is sure to hold your attention until the farmer’s market is full of ingredients for her spiced spring vegetable and coconut polenta recipe.

I’ve tried to wrap my head around how to build up a pantry of spices and the techniques for cooking Indian dishes at home several times, never with much luck. There are several South Asian cookbooks on my shelf and I’ve never prepared a single dish from any of them. I get overwhelmed by planning what to make, gathering the ingredients and understanding the techniques. This book feels so much more accessible and easy to understand than my past forays into subcontinental cooking. (more…)

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03/02/17 1:23pm

I need to be the adult here and break it to you, someone does. Just because it was 70 last week does not mean that summer starts at the end of the month. We still have a ways to go before the glorious outdoor movies and free concerts of summer are here. Until then, you’ll have to make do with some excellent art, scary theater, absorbing new books and the return of the best show on television.

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10. The Terrifying

Everything about The Terrifying, a new play written and directed by Obie-winner Julia Jarcho sounds, well, terrifying. It’s an intimate theater experience for just 60 guests who are seated on the stage “close enough to hear a faint whisper.” The setting is described as a “creepy little village on the cusp of modernity” and there’s a warning about strong language and sudden loud noises. We’ll be reviewing so check back for the full scoop on just how scary The Terrifying really is. The show runs from March 12-April 2 at the Arbons Arts Center, and tickets are $25.


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9. Art on Paper, March 3-5
As the name would suggest, Art on Paper is a giant show devoted to art committed to paper, like drawings, prints and photos. It’s also home to an incredibly inventive collection of three-dimensional work constructed with paper and some video work as well. The show is held on Pier 36 in Manhattan, March 3-5 (with a preview on March 2), and with participating galleries around the city. A pass costs $25 for a day, $30 for three days, and $40 if you want access during the preview as well. (more…)

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02/28/17 3:49pm

 

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Lent starts tomorrow. I’m not asking you to go to church or subscribe to any particular religious beliefs, or any beliefs at all. Just as the bunnies and eggs of Easter map onto pagan spring fertility rites, we can take other traditions, rituals and celebrations and find inspiration in them.

Lent is traditionally a time spent reflecting on the life and work of Jesus Christ, who, from a certain perspective, was one of the original grassroots organizers. He definitely did not care for the financial services industry. This year it seems fitting to spend it thinking deeply about how our own daily actions fit into our larger communities, into the larger world.

What do I mean?

Many of us exist in this place where we buy our way out of moral dilemmas. This philosophy, which has been a powerful agent of change in the food world, really works best when you’re talking about essentials. We have to eat, so buying food that creates positive change for the environment, for workers, for the larger agricultural economy, is the right thing to do if you can afford it. When it comes to non-essentials, like 90% of the clothing we wear, like conveniences and indulgences, it’s a little less clear. Even if you buy green, organic cotton t-shirts made locally the real question isn’t whether the t-shirt is better than the fast fashion version. The question is, did you really need that t-shirt? What does it mean to be in a position of power where you are able to make that choice? Is this the set of choices that you would like to define your life?

Now, I’m not saying luxuries are bad. I just bought a new dress I didn’t need for a wedding. I love watching procedural dramas, even terrible ones that are basically an advertisement for a police state. I’m thinking about getting up to eat a Thin Mint right now. The Girl Scouts illustrate this perfectly, those cookies are a luxury masquerading as a good deed, right?

In my experience, living in a city, looking for convenience and ways to treat myself as a reward for the work it takes to live in a city (yes, that’s tautological loop), there are two dominant types luxury to think about here: the $20 mani-pedi and the $200 t-shirt; the $4 coffee and the $200 farm-to-table dinner. Amazon Prime might embody both of these and a whole slew of other modern problems as well.

The mani-pedi, at least in New York City, is the perfect example of an affordable luxury that many of us have indulged in, myself included, without really examining what we were participating in. Instead of wondering how the service could be so cheap, we let ourselves believe that those small, mostly Asian women, literally kneeling in front of us and trimming our toenails were being treated at least okay. It turns out that for the most part, no, they are not being treated okay, or really even like humans at all. Cheap things, whether you’re talking about junk food or dresses sewn by children, are rarely actually cheap.

The $200 eco t-shirt has a different set of problems. I’m all for buying nice things and supporting small businesses and if all cotton was grown organically the health of our planet, and textile workers, would improve considerably. But there’s another way to look at this purchase, too. We all have too many things. Even if they spark joy. You are an economic actor and that $200 you spent could have gone elsewhere, to a charity, to making your shopping list even more local and sustainable, to your savings account so that you can work toward quitting your job in a lucrative industry you hate so you can work at something lower-paying that you love. You get the idea.

Buying our way out of moral dilemmas can be a good thing–think back to food, and hey, we do need to wear clothing. But when that becomes our only tool, voting with our dollars, it’s limiting; it reinforces the idea that the most important thing about us is our consumer choices, our money and how we use it.  We are not just the sum of our bank accounts and all the convenience apps on our smartphones; we’re interconnected human beings and we put up a lot of filters between ourselves and others these days in the name of convenience. This Lent challenge is designed to help us reconnect to a sense of shared purpose and intellectual engagement–that we have more important aspects of ourselves to develop and enrich the world with than our sense of personal style.

For Lent, let’s each chose something like the $20 mani-pedi problem–a small luxury that upon deeper reflection makes the world a less kind, just, interesting or vital place when we partake in it, and quit that activity. Other things that you could argue belong here include social media, reality television, fast fashion and almost anything you can do from your phone. Many Catholic grandmas I know used to give up chocolate for Lent. Google “chocolate and slavery” and that choice suddenly has more weight. I vowed never to buy anything again after moving last fall and then fell victim to post-holiday sales. No more shopping until after Lent.

For $200 t-shirt problem, just identify one way that you’re buying your way out of a moral dilemma and really examine it. Yes, those gorgeous sandals are made from local leather by artisans paid a living wage. But, do you actually need them? Is there something more truly liberating you can do with that money? They’ll still be there after Easter Sunday, if you decide you need them. Or, think about the time you spend watching television. Is there something more personally gratifying you can do with that time? I’m by no means an anti-TV activist. But, I do find that reading at night makes me sleep better and makes me feel more alive than watching television, especially my guilty-pleasure cop shows. For Lent I’m going to stop with the social media (that isn’t for work). I waste at least an hour a day scrolling through Facebook and trolling Instagram that could be spent plotting a garden, reading a novel or going for a walk.

Just sit with a question of your choosing, think about what you are making room for in your life, for the six weeks of Lent. As they say in yoga, see what comes up.

Here’s what to do this week to keep defending, and even expanding a more just and peaceful world. (more…)