01/09/17 10:28am
From the outside, The Islands doesn't look like much, but don't make the mistake of passing it by. Photo: Georgia Kral

From the outside, The Islands doesn’t look like much, but don’t make the mistake of passing it by. Photo: Georgia Kral

In this series, we take you inside the restaurants we keep going back to–neighborhood spots that always deliver on their promise of good food and hospitality, even if they don’t necessarily look like much from the outside.

The facade is unassuming. Located next door to a Key Food and sharing the grocery store’s awning, you may miss it the first time you look for it. But The Islands (803 Washington Ave.) is a Prospect Heights gem: the food is phenomenal and the ambiance unparalleled.

Windowed doors open into a shoebox-sized room. Along one side is the kitchen, big enough for two people, tops. A counter with three stools abuts the prep area and there’s room for maybe five people to pick up food to go or wait to sit at one of the four tables upstairs. To get to the “dining room” guests must climb up a blue ladder and through a hole in the ceiling. No joke. Diners over six feet tall may have a hard time eating in, as the ceilings are quite low upstairs.

But that’s all part of the charm. The Islands is equally known for its unconventional space and its fiery Caribbean dishes.

I’ve visited The Islands many times and each time I tell myself to try something new. But I just can’t. That’s the true test of a dish. Can’t go without it? Crave it? There’s something happening that you can’t control. My order: jerk chicken, curry vegetables and a side of mac and cheese. If I’m dining with more than one person, curry goat or stew peas and dumplings get added to the mix. (more…)

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ladyj1

The true gems in your life deserve something stunning, and Lady J +1 is filled with bold, beautiful gifts. The trendiest indie fashion and accessories boutique in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights is also home to the design studio of Lady J Jewelry Designs. Inside the intimate storefront on Classon Ave. you’ll find a huge selection of award-winning jewelry that is known for its use of striking gemstones like Rutilated Quartz and Super Seven Stone, all designed to look as good as they make you feel.

You can also shop other indie designers and artisans including:

Apparel by Mary Meyer, Eve Gravel, Emilime, Family Affairs and Samantha Pleet
Handbags & clutches from Saint Catello
Ceramics by Jonathan Castro and SKT, palo santo
Candles from Morphologically and LoveNature, and much, much more!

Lady J +1 is located in Prospect Heights/Crown Heights right near Berg’N, and everything in store is shoppable online at ladyjjewelry.com. (This season, you can even select in-store pickup and they will have it gift-packed and ready to go for you!)

Get all your gifts and stuff your stockings, too, at Lady +1, open every day 12pm-7pm, except Mondays. Just don’t wait too long to pick out the perfect gift because they procure limited quantities for the holidays, and it all goes fast.

A few things you’ll find in store and online:

ladyj1_sevensisters_detail

This style of Lady J’s signature Super Seven necklaces is already sold out, but there are more available online. The Super Seven stone is so-named because it contains seven different minerals, including amethyst and smokey quartz, and is known to exhibit the phenomenon of St. Elmo’s Fire, an etheric auric light reminiscent of the “holy light” around church towers and treetops visible due to atmospheric electricity. It produces electromagnetic waves, providing a self-luminous quality, and assists one in “seeing” auras. Plus, it’s gorgeous.

ladyj1_rutilatedquartznecklace

Rutilated Quartz is one of the few gemstones desirable because of its inclusions. This gives it a special allure and desirability as a unique gemstone. This one-of-a kind piece features a fine-silver bevel setting and hangs on a 20” silver chain with a lobster-claw style clasp. Fierce and beautiful at the same time.

ladyj1_virgotop

Inspired by the constellations, this Snake’s Tail top by Eve Gravel is full of geometric connectivity. The button-down top features a loose fit, side front pocket and rolled sleeves. Can be tucked or worn loose, depending on the stars.

11/29/16 11:46am
starhawk and tony

Starhawk (on the left) and his brother Tony Arcuri keep Greenpoint colorful. Photos: Regina Mogilevskaya

Jerry Garcia once nicknamed Starhawk “The Kid.” The co-owner of Greenpoint’s Starhawk Design Studio doesn’t really keep track of time in a conventional sense, but he reckons this was sometime back in the 70’s, when he was touring the country with the Grateful Dead. Though born in Brooklyn, he left home when he was a teenager.

“I always had faith that travel was the right choice,” Starhawk tells me with a gleam in his eye as we stand across from one another in his shop, chatting as customers mill about picking up crystals, smelling incense, and browsing slowly through hangers swimming with tie-dyed shirts, skirts, leggings, arm warmers and socks.

Touring with the Grateful Dead is just one chapter in the dizzying book of Starhawk’s life, which includes stints with Peter Gabriel and Ziggy Marley, residence on the beaches of Hawaii, pop-up tie dye shops from Pennsylvania to California, and plenty of meditation in between.

1

Photos: Regina Mogilevskaya

It all started with a dose of color. “The first thing I ever tried to tie dye was a butterfly on a t-shirt,” says Starhawk. He never studied art of any kind–or attended college–but from a young age he loved gobbling up texts about ancient cultures. He’d always felt a strong kinship with color, and his inspiration sprouted from studying indigenous clothing designs, out of which came a near-obsession with American tie dye techniques. For years, he traveled the country creating and selling his custom-made tie-dye clothing, as means of self expression and to support himself.

How Starhawk ended up Greenpoint after decades of kaleidoscopic nomadism is a story of simple fate. He and his brother, Tom Arcuri–who shared with me that he was in the clothing industry, though not on the design side, for “about 42 short years”–decided to start a business together. In 2015 they had a pop-up shop on Manhattan Avenue for a couple of days, and when they spotted an empty storefront for rent just two blocks from that location, they decided to make Greenpoint a permanent home. (more…)

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11/14/16 10:07am
Green eggs and ham risotto is one of The Good Fork's signature, playful dishes. Photo: ABRAMS

Green eggs and ham risotto is one of The Good Fork’s signature, playful dishes. Photo: ABRAMS

Sometimes, a restaurant and its location are so intertwined that one seemingly can’t exist without the other. This is the case with The Good Fork in Red Hook.

When The Good Fork opened 10 years ago getting to Red Hook was a serious undertaking. The area was a world away from the rest of Brooklyn; cut off by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the Hugh Carey Tunnel, then known as the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. Buses were infrequent, and there was no Uber, or even an IKEA shuttle or water taxi.

But the neighborhood’s unique, remote feeling appealed to some people, among them Sohui Kim and Ben Schneider, a married couple who moved to Coffey Street in the early 2000s. They opened The Good Fork because they wanted to work together (she was a chef and he was an actor and woodworker) and they wanted to entertain more people than they could in their backyard. He built the restaurant in a rowhouse on Van Brunt Street; she created the seasonally-driven, New American and Asian-influenced menu.

Within a month of opening, they had a rave review in The New York Times. The location, surely, was part of the charm.

In Peter Meehan’s review, talk of Red Hook preceded talk of the food: “What Red Hook needed was a place with an accessible menu that neighborhood folks could rely on and bridge and tunnel folks (that’s you, Manhattanites) could use as an anchor for a night out in the neighborhood. What Red Hook needed, it turns out, was the Good Fork.” (more…)

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11/01/16 12:31pm
You can drink this mead on its own, or it makes an amazing cocktail base. Photo: Enlightenment Wines

You can drink this mead on its own, or it makes an amazing cocktail base. Photo: Enlightenment Wines

Just when you thought Bushwick had everything, a new meadery opens its doors. Now all the neighborhood needs is a blacksmith and good roast mutton joint.

Englightment Wines owners Raphel Lyon and Arley Marks teamed up to open Honey’s, a meadery, tasting room and event space dedicated to the ancient libation. Mead has traditionally been known as a sweet, even cloying honey wine, but Lyon has created a menu of bone-dry wines using raw honey, as well as locally-sourced black currants, cherries and maple. They’re delicious on their own and even better when used as a base for Marks’ cocktails.

Arley Marks and Raphael Lyon make mead and mead cocktails in Bushwick. Photo: Enlightenment Wines

Arley Marks and Raphael Lyon make mead and mead cocktails in Bushwick. Photo: Enlightenment Wines

Honey’s is located in an industrial area of Bushwick–not far from where the new Glasslands venue called Elsewhere will soon arrive. They have a license to serve drinks and to sell bottles of mead, designed by Lyon, with the help of friends, to the converted, which range from $25 to $30. (more…)

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10/25/16 8:59am
Photo: New Women's Space

Photo: New Women Space

“I feel different when I’m in a room of all women,” says Melissa Wong, co-founder of New Women Space, sitting with Sandra Hong, her co-founder, in the light-filled East Williamsburg storefront they’ve dedicated to female empowerment.

The 2100-square-foot, bi-level space is calming and minimalist with plants and comfortable couches and sunshine streaming in the floor-to-ceiling windows. New Women Space offers events and workshops, each affordably priced at $10-$50, focusing on a variety of topics ranging from yoga to comedy nights to financial and career advice to collaging and other creative projects. It is, as the founders put it, “a space for women to define.”

The idea of physical spaces specifically for women is having a moment in 2016. The Wing, a women’s only social club and co-working space, is now holding court in the Flatiron District. It may also be all over your Instagram feed, too, thanks to the PR wizardry of co-founders Lauren Kassan, who previously worked for Class Pass and Audrey Gelman, a communications specialist who helped NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer appeal to a broad audience.

In Washington, D.C. and California, there’s the Hera Club, a women’s-only co-working space and business accelerator. The Wing is application-based, and those who are accepted must pay the $185 membership fee, and the Hera Club’s membership plans vary by location, but can run anywhere from $89 per month to nearly $500 depending on the size of the office space required.

There’s a considerably lower barrier to entry at New Women Space. The only application process required is for instructors and potential event organizers. Anyone who wants to attend an event needs only to pay an admission fee that’s often as low as $10. “We are here for women of all experiences,” Wong emphasizes.

New Women Space also defines itself as “gender expansive,” meaning that men, and all gender identities, are allowed at all events unless otherwise specified. “We want men to be a part of the conversation,” says Wong. “But we do want all the content providers/project cultivators to be women since that is the audience we are particularly concerned with providing support for.” (more…)

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10/18/16 10:07am

This matchbox sized storefront sells "big city, small batch" products. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Julia Small O'Kelly will welcome you into smallhome with the stories behind all her treasures. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Julia Small O’Kelly will welcome you into smallhome and share the stories behind all her treasures. Photos: Meredith Craig de Pietro

Walking into smallhome, a matchbox-sized storefront on Metropolitan near the Graham Avenue stop on the L train in Williamsburg, feels like spiriting through a portal to rural America. Cluttered with handcrafted wares that range from white sage body wash to the perfect red plaid handkerchief, the store’s displays feature creative props like a rusted ladder, and assortment of wooden twigs and a vintage wicker chair. Although smallhome is, well, small, you could spend days sorting through the goods, uncovering treasures that you never even knew you wanted (like an astrologically-themed embroidery hoop).

Upon entering, you will probably be warmly welcomed by owner, Julia Small O’Kelly, who will definitely be wearing a work apron, ready to tell you the stories behind her collection. (more…)

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10/11/16 10:34am
Lost man creek

A forest has taken root in Downtown Brooklyn. Photo: Ilana Novick

New Yorkers used to brag about their aversion to nature. Frank O’Hara’s lines from Meditations in an Emergency, “I can’t even enjoy a blade of grass unless I know there’s a subway handy, or a record store or some other sign that people do not totally regret life,” our rallying cry. Somewhere between the deportation of porn theaters and the arrival of rock climbing gyms, however, New Yorkers have become consumed with a desire for greenery and wide open spaces, it seems.

If you long for camping trips in the Adirondacks, but lack the time, or you’d like your foliage with a side of installation art, head to MetroTech Commons for Spencer Finch’s Lost Man Creek in Downtown Brooklyn. (more…)

10/04/16 9:37am
Brooklyn Bazaar

Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

After a year-long hiatus, the Brooklyn Bazaar is finally showing off its swanky new digs in the heart of Greenpoint. The after-hours flea market and concert venue opened its doors to the public on Sept. 9, now fully settled into the Polonaise Terrace on Greenpoint Avenue, a former banquet hall with a glittering art deco vibe, which has been preserved in a way that brings out the best of the Bazaar.

Whereas the Bazaar’s previous home on Banker Street was one big delightful mess of a room, the new location provides a more simultaneously curated and trippy experience, almost like a fun house. The market–home to more than 30 rotating vendors–lives on the first floor in a chandelier-lit ballroom that looks like something out of Anna Karenina. Adjacent to it sits a Brooklyn Star spin-off restaurant, a kaleidoscopic hall covered in mirrors where everyone is in shadow, accented only by the light from red candles and dim light bulbs. Upstairs is the separate concert venue, while downstairs in the basement there’s a galactic scattering of ping-pong tables beneath neon lights, karaoke rooms, a mini golf course, and arcade games. Oh, and there’s a bar on every floor. Scratch that–it’s not like a fun house, it is a fun house.

Here are the coolest things we saw at the Bazaar on a recent weekend visit. (more…)

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10/03/16 10:35am
fidanza saltie

Caroline Fidanza stands in front of Saltie, her seven-year-old sandwich shop on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg. Photo: Georgia Kral

In a neighborhood like Williamsburg, which has arguably experienced more change than any other part of Brooklyn in the past 10 years, finding the familiar can feel like slipping into a snug sweater you thought would never fit again. On one corner, where there was once a modest building there is now an elaborate Whole Foods Market. Across the street, where lines used to form for bagels, people now wait for the latest iPhone, while tapping at their current iPhone.

But just four short blocks east on a busy stretch of Metropolitan Avenue sits a sandwich shop that looks and feels the same as it did when it opened seven years ago.

That place is Saltie, a compact “farm to table” eatery that makes sandwiches loaded with Mediterranean flavors with names like the Scuttlebutt and the Spanish Armada. It’s a neighborhood spot that, according to owner and chef Caroline Fidanza, has thrived in Williamsburg by not changing even as many things around it did.

“We have just tried to continue to be who we are and distinguish ourselves in that way,” she said, in a reflective conversation over unsweetened iced tea on a recent unseasonably warm September day. Fidanza is committed to her craft and business at a time where the restaurant industry, and customer tastes, are changing as much as Brooklyn itself.


“When we opened, it was all about sustainability. People would come in and ask ‘where did you get your eggs from?’ Because they cared, they wanted to know. Now, nobody ever, ever, ever asks anymore.”


We spoke at Saltie, which can seat maybe 10 people comfortably and has famously uncomfortable stools for just four diners. Over the course of 90 minutes, as we chatted about her desire for both change and stability, and about her views on current restaurant trends, more than half the customers chatted with Fidanza as if they’d known her for years, and indeed many of them likely had. (more…)

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