01/06/16 1:05pm

Happy New Year, Brooklyn Based readers! We’re excited to be back to our regularly scheduled Ideal Week, now that the holidays have passed. We get it though–between Sober January, the credit card statement that just landed in your inbox, the deep chill that is visiting us from points north and the all around quietness of January, this might be one of the best weeks of the year to come straight home from work and curl up on the couch, eat soup and watch The Americans, or Transparent or Making a Murderer. That said, Brooklyn never closes, and there’s plenty to do outside of your apartment–and, if you’re feeling like keeping your wallet in your pocket, it’s actually a great time to go out. There are lots of free events on the list this week, made even cheaper if you’re not adding a couple of beers to the evening.

taketwoThursday, Jan. 7 Ever walked away from a situation and wished you could have handled it differently? If you’re human, the answer is probably yes. That collective regret is the basis for Take Two Storytelling, a new-ish monthly show where performers tell two versions of the same story, the first the way it actually happened, followed by their revised, fantasy version. Hosted by Elana Lancaster and Harvey Katz, this month’s storytellers include seven-time Moth StorySLAM winner Sandi Marx, Drawn Out creator Nisse Greenberg, local storyteller Jean Le Bec, MTV contributing writer Cassie J Sneider, and a story from Mr. Katz himself. Admission is free, doors open at 7:30pm, this month’s show is at C’mon Everybody, a sweet Bed-Stuy venue that is worth a trip in and of itself (the Diablo Guapo, made with tequila, pomegranate-beet juice, ginger beer and agave sounds like a serious remedy to winter). (more…)

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08/03/15 10:07am
A takeout smorgasboard from Taqueria Milear: Sopes, fresh chips, chorizo torta, taco with homemade torillas, watermelon juice, and guacamole.

We sampled a takeout smorgasbord from Taqueria Milear: Sopes, fresh chips, chorizo torta, taco with homemade toritillas, fresh watermelon juice, and guacamole. Photo: Brendan Spiegel

Nostrand Avenue in Crown Heights seems poised to become Brooklyn’s next gentrification hotspot, with hip new places like Two Saints and Colina Cuervo recently opening alongside the many longstanding Caribbean eateries lining this busy boulevard. Nothing against those newcomers, but with so many super-trendy spots already crowding Crown Heights, it would also be nice to see more new restaurants that are decidedly affordable, totally non-pretentious, and definitely delicious.

Enter Taqueria Milear, which opened on Nostrand this spring. This narrow, family-owned spot is pint-sized (there’s just a small counter and 12 seats), but it stands out for serving authentic Mexican cuisine that’s a step above most neighborhood taquerias, without being a step up in price. Delectable homemade tortillas–warm, thick slabs of cornmeal that will bear the weight of any saucy taco–are one of the main reasons Taqueria Milear is worth traveling for. Even super-sloppy tacos, like picadillo, beef stew with carrots, onions and peas, won’t make these bad boys fall apart. There are also more familiar taco options like chorizo and al pastor (spicy marinated pork with pineapple), and all are topped with onions, cilantro and cactus. An important note: For some reason, they don’t automatically serve everything with their homemade tortillas, but reserve them for those in the know. You have to request the homemade ones, and they’re a well-worth-it 50 cents extra. (more…)

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02/26/15 9:00am
A quartet plays one of Groupmuse's signature house parties in Crown Heights. Photo: Thomas Grenier

A quartet plays one of Groupmuse’s signature house parties in Crown Heights. Photo: Thomas Grenier

It’s probably not a stretch to say that the very mention of classical music is enough to conjure images of grey-haired couples filing into a concert hall. For those not exposed to this music at home or in school, or for us cheapskates who can’t imagine spending wads of cash on tickets at Carnegie Hall, it’s easy to feel that this world is just not made for us. But what if you could hear the works of Shubert or Beethoven played in your friend’s apartment, or the home of a stranger, for a small donation? And by played, I mean live, by a real musician, not just on someone’s shabby chic record player.

If this sounds a little far-fetched, you probably haven’t heard about Groupmuse yet. Founded in 2013 by Sam Bodkin as a way to “sneak classical music back into the diets of young culture seekers,” the site connects classical music fans, and those curious about the genre, to professional musicians and apartment dwellers with the space to host chamber music concerts that anyone can attend. There are so many Groupmuses happening in New York right now, that on any given night you can find a free concert house party to crash. Gatherings last long after the evening’s music has finished, and each event is BYOB.

“Music has an inherent social quality: You are obliged to engage with the scene, if you are listening to live music,” says Bodkin. And classical music, he says, has a similar social scene. “It’s just antithetical to youth values. People often have an associative problem with it.”

(more…)

10/21/14 11:00am
Squash and turnip pierogies at Korzo come filled with either wild mushrooms or herbed sheep's cheese. Photo: Jillian Capewell

Squash and turnip pierogies at Korzo come filled with either wild mushrooms or herbed sheep’s cheese. Photo: Jillian Capewell

It arrives earlier and with more abundance each year—pumpkin-spice season. Flavoring everything, from cookies, to cream cheese, to local beer, to much-maligned-as-of-late pumpkin spice lattes that have become a sure sign of sweater-weather, pumpkin, the faker the better it seems, has become shorthand for fall.

While we love actual pumpkin, in soup, curry, pie and even ice cream, like Hay Rosie’s Pumpkinapalooza, the focus on its most sickeningly sweet iteration, amidst the bounty of fall fruits and vegetables, is culinary tunnel vision. Here’s a whole menu of pumpkin spice-free, but fall-ready flavors from around Brooklyn. (more…)

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09/22/14 10:00am
Ital Kitchen in Crown Heights (Photos: Ital Kitchen)

Ital Kitchen in Crown Heights. Photo: Ital Kitchen

The Crown Heights restaurant scene these days seems to be a constant tug-of-war between the slew of trendy New American hotspots and the many longstanding Caribbean hole-in-the-walls (spoiler alert: there’s a lot more of the former opening, and a lot of the latter closing). But in all the ballyhoo about the rapidly changing face of Franklin Avenue and the surrounding area, a unique new eatery that effectively bridges the gap between these two faces of Crown Heights has gone largely unnoticed.

Ital Kitchen opened on Union Street last fall, just off of busy Franklin Ave., but I’ve yet to see a single review of this place published anywhere, despite unanimously positive shout-outs from customers on Yelp. On that site, chef/owner Michael Gordon summarizes his culinary philosophy as “obfuscation should be a crime in the kitchen” and that thinking is on display at this tiny, 16-seat eatery. It’s a sit-down setting with a beautiful ambiance, unlike many of the area’s no-frills Caribbean spots, but in contrast to many of the new restaurants here, there are no gimmicks, trends, or culinary tricks: just heart-warming food in a heart-warming setting. (more…)

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06/20/14 10:08am

 

The Imperial Apartments on Bedford Avenue were built in 1892. Photo: Jim Henderson

The Imperial Apartments on Bedford Avenue were built in 1892. Photo: Jim Henderson

There’s no doubt that Crown Heights is one of Brooklyn’s most rapidly changing neighborhoods. It seems like every week we hear about a new restaurant, bar or shop that’s opening in the area, and the variety of row houses and expansive pre-war apartment buildings, as well as convenient access to several train lines, are drawing new residents in droves. 

Once called Crow Hill, Crown Heights is bordered by Bed-Stuy to the north, where Atlantic Avenue forms the boundary between the two neighborhoods. To the south, Empire Boulevard separates the neighborhood from Prospect-Lefferts Gardens and East Flatbush. Prospect Park and Washington Avenue (though some argue that Franklin Avenue is actually the boundary) form the western border, shared with Prospect Heights. And to the east, of East New York and Ralph Avenues lies Brownsville.

While Eastern Parkway is the main transit hub for cars and for the 2, 3, 4 and 5 train lines, Franklin Avenue is the neighborhood’s up-and-coming main drag, home to an ever-expanding selection of shops and restaurants, and Nostrand is the busiest commercial strip, lined with long-time stores and services.  (more…)

06/09/14 10:17am

An inventive, and oversized, tuna roll at Silver Rice. (Photo: Silver Rice)

An inventive, and oversized, tuna roll at Silver Rice. Photo: Silver Rice

The thing about sushi restaurants in NYC is that it seems like there’s never any in-between. Either you’re shelling out Nobu-level moolah for the real deal bluefin, or you’re slumming it at the neighborhood sushi spot, and never really sure what kind of fish is actually rolling your way. Only a handful of spots reliably bridge that gap between the corner booth at Blue Ribbon and a blue-plate special.

One new spot stepping up to the plate with interesting but affordable sushi is Silver Rice in Crown Heights. This sliver of a space serves up no-cheating classics like a California chock full of real crab meat, heavy on the rice (white or flax seed) and light on the seaweed, and at very decent prices ($4.95-$6.50 a roll), especially considering the giant size of each roll. On the less traditional side, their slightly more expensive ($7.95-$9.75) special rolls range from a fish-free macrobiotic roll (a pâté made of beet, cashews, ginger and agave, rolled up with avocado and kale) to a delicious tuna tartare, the ample serving of fish spiced up by pickled daikon and scallions. A flavor-happy salmon roll piles on jalapeno, kelp, and a honey-ginger vinaigrette, while the nanoharia features broccoli rabe, omelet slices, and a spicy karachi mustard. There’s also a special roll each day, and I particularly enjoyed biting into a crunchy roll of avocado, asparagus, salmon and cucumber sprinkled with crispy bits of tempura. (more…)

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04/14/14 9:00am

Over the past few years Franklin Avenue in Crown Heights has seen lots of change, as Caribbean restaurants and discount stores have been replaced by farm-to-table eateries, cocktail bars, and trendy sandwich shops. So it was a bit surprising when the owner of one of those trendy sandwich shops–Glady’s, which opened last spring with grilled halloumi and pea shoot-topped ciabattas–announced they were switching focus and now serving exclusively…wait for it…Caribbean food. Hmm. Just when you think you understand gentrification. Well I don’t know what to think about this one.

Glady’s owner Michael Jacober says he was looking for something new to inspire him and spent a month in Jamaica sampling food and seeking to understand authentic local cuisine. Inspired by both the islands and the neighborhood around him, he shut down Glady’s for the month and brought it back with an interior that’s been spruced up by a few Island-y touches and a menu that’s all Jamaican.

dark and slushie

The Dark and Slushie, one of many rum-centric options at the new Glady’s. Photo: Brendan Spiegel

So what does Glady’s take on Jamaican food look like? Well, first of all there are still fancy cocktails, although the focus is now on all things rum, including several dozen available by the glass, five rum flights, and a “dark and slushie”–Gosling’s black rum frozen up with ginger and lime.

Meals start with complementary small bites of mango and cucumber pickle, and the the menu is straightforward, featuring a selection of jerk entrees–pork, chicken and even seitan–all quite reasonably priced at $7 to $9 per half-pound (a very ample serving, more than enough for one). Jerk lobster, plucked live from the tank in the dining room, goes for $28. There’s also stewed oxtail, curry goat and peppered shrimp, plus traditional sides like yams, plantains and “festival”–fried cornbread fritters.

photo (9)

Peas and rice, jerk pork and complimentary pickle dishes at Glady’s. Photo: Brendan Spiegel

All of my first bites were delicious. The wood-fired jerk pork is perfectly charred on the outside, juicy and tender throughout. A sticky serving of rice and peas is steeped in coconut milk for a deep, rich flavor–topped with the tableside jerk sauce, it’s as tasty as any you’ll find in Crown Heights. Plus, for dessert they brought by another complimentary small bite of coconut ice cream.

Glady’s also offers take-out, and those who were sad to see their cheesy sandwiches go away will be glad to hear they’ve annexed a small place next door, where they plan to bring back some of their beloved meals-on-bread this summer.

So what is one to think of the new Glady’s? On the one hand, for those of us concerned about being “good gentrifiers,” it seems somehow not quite right to choose this spot as the place to get your Caribbean food fix when there are already so many longstanding neighborhood joints to choose from. On the other hand, Glady’s is comfortable, friendly and affordable–and seems to be striving to serve Crown Heights’ diverse clientele. Plus, I mean, where else are you gonna get a dark and slushie?

788 Franklin Avenue, at Lincoln Place; 718-622-0249; gladysnyc.com

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01/16/14 8:24am

EMPNYC110

Weeksville Heritage Center is once again in the public eye, with its new Education and Cultural Arts Center and as part of an exhibit about Brooklyn’s abolitionist movement. Photo: WHC

Almost 200 years before DIY became the most overused abbreviation in Brooklyn and the borough saw its first influx of startups and freelancers, there was a community of African-American artisans, entrepreneurs and free thinkers who carved a place out for themselves in an area between present-day Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.

Weeksville, one of New York’s first free black communities, was established in 1838. Its residents were farmers, craftsman, artists and musicians (kind of like current-day Brooklyn). They were described as being “nattily attired,” by the New York Times, and played an integral part in Brooklyn’s abolitionist movement. The village became a destination for free blacks trying to escape more oppressive areas of the country (mainly in the South and surrounding slave states like New Jersey) in lieu of emigrating to Africa, Canada or the Caribbean. Weekville’s efforts to end slavery are being recognized as part of Brooklyn Abolitionist/In Pursuit of Freedom, a new exhibit at Brooklyn Historical Society that opened yesterday.

Timothy Simons, chairman of Weeksville Heritage Center, is working hard to preserve the once-forgotten colony’s legacy. “It’s a hidden gem,” he says. “Many of the people in Weeksville were entrepreneurs, were self-sufficient individuals and were African Americans, which is critical given the historical context of the African-American community that has developed in the media today. There’s a lot more for people to learn about Weeksville. It’s critically important that it is not forgotten because of the history that it tells.” (more…)

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12/04/13 8:54am
Sun December 8, 2013
2x1-google-glasses-documentary

Catch the premiere of a new documentary that uses Google Glass to get a behind the scenes look at Crown Heights’ Hasidic and Caribbean communities on Dec. 8 at Mister Rogers. Photo: Project 2×1

Getting to know your neighbors takes on an entirely different meaning in the new short documentary 2×1. The film, which was shot in part using Google Glass, captures the daily activities, rituals and routines of members of Crown Heights’ Hasidic and West Indian communities, literally through the eyes of the people who participated. The film offers an intimate look at these two very distinct cultures, highlighting both their similarities and differences–watch the trailer here to get an idea. Its filmmakers will screen the doc, which derives its title from the two mile by one mile area in Crown Heights where it was shot, for the first time this Sunday at Mister Rogers at 8pm. A Q&A with the director, Hannah Roodman, and her team, as well as some of the film’s subjects, will follow. It’s free, and the doors open at 7pm.