05/22/15 10:30am
Swan Dive, opening on the banks of the beautiful Gowanus Canal, opens to the public on Tuesday. Photo: Swan Dive

Swan Dive, opening on the banks of the beautiful Gowanus Canal, opens to the public on Tuesday. Photo: Swan Dive

One of our favorite times of year is when the weather warms up enough to sip a cold drink, preferably alcoholic, at an outdoor bar. Over the years we’ve shared our appreciation for these al fresco drinking establishments through extensive guides, filled with recommendations for everyone from beer nerds to those seeking room for 10 of your closest friends. This year, we’re just focusing on the brand-new spots we’re excited to hit up all summer. Note–shameless plug–two of these bars are part of our Total Gowanus Immersion June 6. (more…)

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05/19/15 9:00am
Apotheke charcoal soap

Chrissy Fitchl, owner of Apotheke, a line of French-inspired, Brooklyn handmade bath and body products, started making bar soap with activated charcoal a few years ago. The bars, like the one above, quickly garnered attention for both their color and their detoxifying properties. Photo: Apotheke.

I’ve done everything from various facial masks and peels to abstaining from certain foods in the pursuit of spotless skin. I’m willing to try anything once. Most recently that’s meant having my face put into a machine invented by NASA that delved four layers deep into my dermis in order to show me how to best cater to my skincare needs. It told me I have clogged pores in my T-zone and, under my eyes, major dehydration. I’ve tried incorporating a great daily moisturizer and lots of H2O to help with that latter issue. However, for cleaning my face, I’ve decided to turn to something more commonly associated with a barbecue than a beauty routine—charcoal.

Here’s the gist: Activated charcoal (which is different from the kind used for barbecuing) binds to toxins like a magnet, drawing them out and trapping them. It’s made from either peat, coal, wood or coconut shell, and is similar to normal charcoal except it is specifically made for medicinal purposes. It is heated in the presence of a gas to create “pores” so that it can help absorb more impurities, its primary benefit for the skin and body. Basically charcoal has an intense ability to absorb toxins, septic bacteria and harmful substances from the skin’s layers, bringing them to the surface to be eliminated—which has made it a popular ingredient with bath and body product makers in recent years.

“There are a lot of natural ways to pull impurities out,” says Chrissy Fichtl, founder of Apotheke, a natural line of soaps, candles and body products handmade here in Brooklyn. She started using activated charcoal in her skincare products before it became the trendy ingredient it is today. “Charcoal is just our way of doing it quickly and well. When you use charcoal on the skin or hair (externally) there isn’t anything to worry about.” (more…)

05/15/15 9:00am
Mauricio Lorence has lived in Clinton Hill more than half his life. Photo: Gabrielle Sierra

Mauricio Lorence has lived in Clinton Hill more than half his life. Photo: Gabrielle Sierra

Though we’re fans (and publishers) of neighborhood guides and lists of where to eat right now, we also recognize that they tend to follow trends and overlook neighborhood gems. To that end, we’ve started a new series called Neighborhood Expert in which we chat with a longtime local for the scoop on their favorite spots and their take on how the area has changed.

Name: Mauricio Lorence

Neighborhood: Clinton Hill

How long have you been in Clinton Hill?
It is going to be 41 years—it has been a long time. When my family first immigrated to New York from Panama, we lived in Bed-Stuy for two years. And I spent about 20 years in Park Slope. But I moved to Clinton Hill when I was about 29–30 years old. My mother, brother, sister-in-law—we bought a brownstone.

For how much?
Oh, about $40,000. You could have gotten two houses for $20,000 at that time depending on the block; people were giving them away. Now people come by the house or call us up, ask if we are selling. I tell them, if you want it give me $90 million. But the thing is, black and Hispanics in the neighborhood have been encouraged to say no. Otherwise we would all be getting pushed out of the neighborhood. But of course, when we first moved in, it was different times. I remember Myrtle Avenue when no one wanted to walk on it.

Do you think people feel safer now?
They do. The thing is, they feel safer because of the renovations, the changes that have taken place, the fact that there is security around. But the neighborhood declined because people had moved to the suburbs to live. There wasn’t a variety of restaurants and things like that, that you have now around Clinton Hill and Fort Greene.

It has always been a family place though, very family oriented. Before I moved here, I used to come because I had a friend here. We used to go party, it was the 1960s, we would cross over the park and party. There was a church, St. Edwards, and they had dances, and we used to go dancing. I used to walk a lot on Fulton Street, check everything out. I had a job as a proof reader at one point, and we had the late shift which ended at 2am, and when people were leaving, everyone was trying to get taxis back home because there was nothing going on in Clinton Hill and no way to get home.

What about the subway system?
The train stop was there, but it would close. When John Lindsay was mayor the subway stations remained open. But after that they started closing them earlier, and the Clinton/Washington stop would close at about 10–11pm. Everyone knew it was about the neighborhood around the stations. It wasn’t a trendy place so the MTA would do it, close the gates. But once the area started coming back up the subway exits would be open. I remember when the G was not a good train, coming from Queens, that was a bad train.

Do you ever see tension between the old residents and the new? (more…)

05/05/15 12:03pm
The assortment of natural and biodynamic wines and beers consumed before calling the Hangover Club. Photo: Talitha Whidbee

The assortment of natural and biodynamic wines and beers consumed before calling the Hangover Club. Photo: Talitha Whidbee

“Every hangover,” the late David Carr once wrote, “begins with an inventory.” Those first few moments of waking with a nasty headache feels like a slow reboot as you strain to think of the decisions you made the night before. If you can’t remember how you arrived in your bed, you know you’re in for a good one. But whether or not you let it hijack your day depends on how much you’re willing to spend to get rid of it. For a couple hundred dollars, you could call the Hangover Club, an on-call service that delivers a registered nurse to your door who administers an IV infusion that can, in theory, cure your bender.

Though relatively new to New York City, treating hangovers at home or in spas, using an IV cocktail of electrolytes, vitamins, and antioxidants, is a service that exists in many cities, particularly ones like Las Vegas and Miami, where people have an incentive to undo the damage from the night before so they can continue to drink heavily. It was in Miami, in fact, that Hangover Club founder Asa Kitfield first happened upon the idea, while on a bachelor party weekend with friends. Aware that IV therapies had the potential to cure hangovers, he arranged for a friend, who was a nurse, to perk everyone up with an IV solution while in their hotel room. Within two hours his hangover had disappeared, and he brought a business plan back to New York, where he found a partner in Dr. Maurice Beer (yes, that’s his real name) last year. Beer uses IV remedies to treat a variety of ailments in his own Midtown practice, and already, 30% of the Hangover Club’s customer base uses their Megadose Vitamin C Nutridrip purely to boost their energy and immunity.

But can it cure a hangover? Because I hate needles, I declined to test it myself, but instead asked Talitha Whidbee, owner of Vine Wine in Williamsburg, to try it out for me. Whidbee enlisted a friend as well, who would be in attendance at the same dinner party of seven the night before their Hangover Club treatment, where 13 bottles of natural, biodynamic and organic wines, beer and sake would be drunk. Apart from perhaps the sake, none of these contained sulfites, often considered the root of a wine hangover. Both Whidbee and her friend awoke the next morning feeling shitty—proof that sulfites can’t be blamed for all the pain of the morning after–ready for the registered nurse to arrive with the Mega drip, filled with B vitamins, high-dose vitamin C, a pain killer stronger than Aleve, and Glutathione, a “master antioxidant” said Kitfield. (more…)

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04/24/15 1:15pm
Ryan Lammie, an artist and founder of the artist collective Radiant Hall in Pittsburgh, which he calls one of the most supportive arts communities he's been a part of. Photo: Ben Filio

Ryan Lammie, an artist and founder of the artist collective Radiant Hall in Pittsburgh, which he calls one of the most supportive arts communities he’s been a part of. Photo: Ben Filio

When the borough you call home becomes known as one the most expensive places to live in America, it’s natural to look around for better alternatives. For a hot, Internet second, Buffalo—which recently made that list of cities that young college graduates are moving to—looked like a fine choice, so long as you enjoy brutal winters and more economic initiatives than jobs. But there is another metropolis the 25-34 cohort is gravitating toward that is considerably more buzzworthy, filled with James Beard Award-nominated chefs, tech startups, and the cool factor of a soon-to-open Ace Hotel. The city that holds all this promise? Pittsburgh. It claims more brainpower than Silicon Valley, based upon the number of its college-educated residents, and offers good jobs and a low cost of living for its young transplants. Think Portland, Oregon, except half the size, and with higher employment.

To find out how Pittsburgh stacks up as a second chapter for Brooklynites in search of greener pastures, I spoke to seven expats. If they all sound a little boosterish, it’s not a coincidence. Pittsburghers seem to have a hard time finding fault with their city, despite being landlocked and getting twice the amount of snow as New York City (on average). Nearly everyone I interviewed who has relocated there speaks about Steel City as if they were on the payroll of the city’s tourism board.

“For so many years, when you said Pittsburgh, the first image that popped in people’s heads was this gloomy, dreary, smog-filled city, and that’s not who we are anymore,” Alexis Tragos, 32, told me. (more…)

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03/20/15 9:00am
Neighborhood Native Bay Ridge

Sally Ricottone enjoys a slice at Nino’s Pizza, her go to pizzeria in Bay Ridge. Photo: Gabrielle Sierra

Though we’re fans (and publishers) of neighborhood guides and lists of where to eat right now, we also recognize that they tend to follow trends and overlook neighborhood gems. To that end, we’ve started a new series called Neighborhood Expert in which we chat with a longtime local for the scoop on their favorite spots and their take on how the area has changed.

Name: Sally Ricottone

Neighborhood: Bay Ridge

How long have you lived in Bay Ridge?
I actually grew up close by in Bensonhurst, but we always came to Bay Ridge. It was a fun place to go to when we were younger, especially the bars because we would go dancing—all the clubs had dancing. Not like today where people just stand around or sit around just drinking. Anyway, I officially moved to Bay Ridge in 1984 when I got married. We moved to 72nd Street and 3rd Ave., and then after a while, we had the chance to buy something in the neighborhood, a brownstone on Senator Street, which is now a landmarked block. We moved there in 1992. And then in 1995 we moved to New Jersey, but I kept my practice in Bay Ridge (editor’s note: Sally is a therapist.) and spend a few days each week here. So I partied in Bay Ridge, married and had children in Bay Ridge, raised my family in Bay Ridge, and have now been here 20 years working. Those are all very different relationships with the neighborhood.

What has your time in the area been like?
When my husband and I moved here, I was able to get an apartment, a brownstone, for $525 a month and that was the whole second floor. There was this little room out in the hallway and that is where I started my practice. So I was able to start my married life and my professional life right there on 72nd street. I lived right around the corner from T.J. Bentley’s—it was like a supper club. They had Irish music and all the older people would go for that; they had a dance floor in the middle. Now it’s a Spanish place I think. When we moved to Senator Street, the scene over there was different. The gentrification was already sort of starting up higher in the area, and it was our belief that from 75th Street to Senator Street it was going to continue and the value of the house would go up and the area would improve, but then the housing bust took place and everything stopped in Bay Ridge. You started getting the Dollar Stores; all those things we thought were going to happen didn’t quite happen in that part of the neighborhood. (more…)

03/13/15 9:00am
 stretch of houses down Catalpa Avenue, with St. Matthias Roman Catholic church off in the distance. Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

A stretch of houses down Catalpa Avenue, with St. Matthias Roman Catholic church off in the distance. Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

I’d like to preface this piece by assuring you that that this neighborhood guide is not a sly ploy to get anyone to consider leaving Kings County in favor of Queens. This is not the makings of a movement, or an attempt to reposition Ridgewood as the next big thing in real estate. On the contrary,  it is merely a gentle nudge, a reminder that just because you may call Greenpoint or Bed-Stuy home, that doesn’t mean you can’t meander north of Myrtle Avenue. Getting to know a new neighborhood is a luxury that’s afforded to pretty much anyone with a MetroCard, so why not take advantage? Ridgewood, Queens, with its effortlessly tranquil streets and homegrown sensibilities, is an excellent place to begin.

Ridgewood has long been debated territory, with is borders being disputed as far back as the 18th or 19th century. It lies precariously between the borders of Brooklyn and Queens, and often fights for zip code status with nearby Bushwick. Middle Village and Glendale surround Ridgewood to the east and south, and originally, it was the Dutch that settled here, making a living by farming before waves of urbanization began overrunning the area in the early 20th century. Following World War I, the rise of knitting factories and breweries (the remains of which can still be seen strewn across Ridgewood’s west side) attracted a flood of Eastern European immigrants, mostly Germans and Slovenians. Today, the community is an amalgamation of long-time, old-school Eastern European residents, a Hispanic community and younger artist types who are starting to fall under Ridgewood’s spell. Craig Hubert and Chloe Wyma, both journalists in their 20s, have lived in Ridgewood for five and three years, respectively.

“I love how relatively affordable it is (though unfortunately it’s becoming less so), and its sleepy, family-oriented vibe” says Wyma, with Hubert sharing similar sentiments. He notes that the neighborhood’s peacefulness is undoubtedly part of its allure, and that “it even gets eerily quiet at night,” making Ridgewood seem far removed from the city that never sleeps.

(more…)

02/24/15 10:00am
photo (3)

People in India have reaped the health benefits of turmeric for thousands of years, and now Western medicine is following suit. The golden spice, once popular here only in curries, is making its way into everything from healing elixirs to porridge to pots of tea.

The first time I tried adding turmeric to my tea, I couldn’t believe how yellow it was. It looked like the pee of a severely dehydrated person.

After seeing turmeric being added as a health booster in smoothies and tonics at my local health-food store starting a few years ago, and then as a main ingredient in several recipes for everything from cakes to cocktails recently, I started adding a liberal dash of the seasoning from the bottle on my spice rack to my teas in the morning. We all love looking for cure-alls in both our medicine and kitchen cabinets, and as far as health trends go, adding turmeric to my diet was easy to do–aside from a bit of a grit as it goes down and the saturated color I still find slightly off-putting. But we also tend to hyperbolize the health benefits of the dietary darling du jour, which is why, before hopping on the turmeric bandwagon entirely, I decided to separate the fad from the facts.

A native plant from India and part of the ginger root family, turmeric was discovered thousands of years ago and used first as a dyeing agent and later as a seasoning. A quick Google search returned over 17 million online articles extolling its abilities to do everything from reduce inflammation to combat cancer. To get to the root of this health trend, I reached out to both a registered dietitian nutritionist and a doctor of Ayurveda—a system of natural healing that originated in India millennia ago—to figure out just how good turmeric really is for you. While the consensus is that turmeric is a natural antioxidant that has the ability to do a body good, establishing just how good it is has created a gray area in the health industry that contains more than 50 shades.

(more…)

02/13/15 1:29pm
IMG_9769

Marie Brown shows off her favorite Carroll Gardens goodies. She was born in the neighborhood and moved back in 2005 after a 25-year hiatus. Photo: Gabriele Sierra

Though we’re fans (and publishers) of neighborhood guides and lists of where to eat right now, we also recognize that they tend to follow trends and overlook neighborhood gems. To that end, we’ve started a new series called Neighborhood Expert in which we chat with a longtime local for the scoop on their favorite spots and their take on how the area has changed. 

Name: Marie Brown

Neighborhood: Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill

How long have you lived here? Well I was born in this neighborhood 1951 in Long Island hospital. I left the year I got married which was in 1980; it was too expensive already. When the kids were in college I had a conversation with my husband and said, “Would it ever be possible to come back downtown?” and he said, “Yeah, I think we can do this.” So we started on my quest to find a house in this area. We came back in 2005, so it has been another ten years.

What was it like growing up in Cobble Hill/Carroll Gardens? When I grew up here we lived in what is now Cobble Hill, but it was not called Cobble Hill or Carroll Gardens–the divisions were by parishes. There was Sacred Heart parish, which is now Carroll Gardens, and I was in Saint Paul’s parish, which is now Cobble Hill. Each area had a different demographic because Saint Paul’s parish was mostly Puerto Rican and Sacred Heart was all Italian. To be honest the Sacred Heart people had a little attitude about Saint Paul’s people–they felt they were purer or more secluded since there were only two kinds of Italian people in this area. (more…)