05/25/17 10:50am

It’s that time of year again, when you want to drink your favorite cocktail, spritzer or beer outside. Here’s a selection of some of our favorite places in Brooklyn (and a couple in Queens) for sips in the sunshine.

Coming Soon

Parklife in progress: the brand-new bar and restaurant will be open year-round with indoor seating for 20 and a 4,000-square-foot lot for outdoor eating and drinking. Photo: Parklife

Parklife
Coming soon to 636 Degraw St.
Gowanus
When Julie Kim and Scott Koshnoodi were forced to relocate their beloved Gowanus venue Littlefield because the landlord wouldn’t renew its lease, they not only found a great warehouse around the corner, they got a lot of open space to work with—4,000 square feet to be precise, directly in back of the new Littlefield. When it opens in June, Parklife will become a year-round bar and restaurant featuring Mexican food from the geniuses working the kitchen at El Atoradero in Prospect Heights. Parklife will be most pleasant, of course, in summer, seated at one of the 12 communal tables outside or on a lawn chair, sipping one of their new signature cocktails like a mezcal, jalapeno syrup and citrus blend called Summer Friends or the Fake It Till Ya Make it—a frozen spin on the classic Penicillin cocktail with blended scotch whiskey, lemon ginger honey syrup and a single-malt scotch. The anticipated opening of the new Littlefield is next week, Parklife should follow the second week of June. –Nicole Davis


Rooftops

Rooftop Reds
Brooklyn Navy Yard, Building #275
Open Wednesday through Sunday

Take a friend, or a date, to Rooftop Reds in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and your cred for knowing the most interesting places for a drink will go through the roof–pretty literally. This rooftop spot is a little walk into the Navy Yard, up a few flights of stairs, to a heavenly roof topped with grape vines, hammocks and tables for drinking wine. (That is one caveat to this experience, if you don’t like wine, there’s not a lot here for you, other than the spectacular view of the river and Manhattan.) Order a flight of rosé and then continue with a bottle of whichever one you liked the most. New this year they’ve started a reservation service–you can do it online, even just minutes before you show up, so that when you go through the security booth at the Sand and Navy St. entrance, your name will pop right up and you can enter with zero hassle. –Annaliese Griffin

The view from the Westlight. Photo: @thewilliamvale

Westlight at William Vale
111 N. 12th St. 
Williamsburg

Yes, Westlight was featured in the new season of Master of None, so you know it’s hip. But beyond that, the cocktails are large and stiff, the small plates (under the auspices of Chef Andrew Carmellini) yummy and the views incomparable. Located on top of the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg, this spot is the tallest in the area. –Georgia Kral


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05/18/17 10:22am

Before there was a shitty Warrant song called “Cherry Pie” there was Twin Peaks, but literally just by a few months, April 8, 1990 was the first air date of Twin Peaks. “Cherry Pie” was released in September of 1990. I never owned the Warrant cassette tape, but I did watch Twin Peaks. I had two jobs and was in high school, so Friday was my night off. I used to buy a six pack of beer and stay home on Fridays to watch it. Cheers was the most watched show at the time, so nothing could be as far away as Twin Peaks, geographically, thematically and visually. I still remember how freaked out I was when Bob appeared and crawled over the sofa, at the screen, at me. David Lynch’s strange dream translated so well to television.

In 2001 I lived in Portland, Oregon, a short-lived west coast experiment. Two things happened there that impressed me. I understood Twin Peaks, set and filmed in Washington State, and the film River’s Edge, set and filmed in Northern California, more deeply. The infinite importance of location, that Northwest isolation and mist, revealed itself.

I also taught myself how to make pies. Because I had time on my hands, and hell, if Twin Peaks and River’s Edge taught me anything it was that idle hands were the devil’s playthings. (more…)

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05/15/17 9:15pm

Photo: Georgia Kral

We sat closely together at a round table, tucked into the corner of the restaurant on a blustery fall evening. I don’t recall what we talked about, but I know what we ate: burrata, all luscious, creamy and oozing out onto the accompanying pane carasau–Sardinian flatbread–basil and tomato; pappardelle intermingling with mushrooms, garlic and Parmigiano; thick-cut lasagna, its shape more rectangular than square.

I do remember when he pulled out a small box. It contained the ring we’d designed together some months earlier; my sapphire engagement ring, a symbol of our commitment, as delightful and unique as the plates we were devouring.

Yes, this is a story about love and pasta, and a romance oft rekindled at this special restaurant. It’s called River Deli.

Located on one of the most idyllic corners in New York City, the Sardinian restaurant isn’t a deli at all. It’s a trattoria styled for families and lovers, friends and acquaintances. The food is better than good and it’s extremely affordable. You won’t find anything like it in Brooklyn Heights or anywhere else in the city for that matter. (more…)

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05/01/17 9:43am

Photo: Georgia Kral

The roar of the J/M train created a cacophonous riot overhead as I approached the unassuming spot on Broadway near the BQE. But inside the train felt very far away, or maybe I just instantly forgot about everything that came before once I saw the plates being delivered to tables.

There were sopes piled high with meat, shredded lettuce and crema; burritos painted with salsa and more crema; fajitas sizzling from direct cast-iron heat. And there was tequila.

It may be easy to categorize Mexico 2000 as just another Mexican restaurant, but the spot should actually be your new favorite in Brooklyn. Here’s why:

  • There’s a big backyard with comfortable wooden tables, umbrellas and bulb lights strung overhead at night.
  • Delicious and affordable pan-Mexican food.
  • Affordable prices.
  • Free tequila on your birthday (and Cinco de Mayo! This week!)

Sergio Romero, a former server at Delmonico’s Restaurant in Lower Manhattan, opened Mexico 2000 two years ago with Adrian Mejia, the owner of the Mexico 2000 Grocery, located just two doors up the block. The Puebla, Mexico native worked both front and back of the house in the early days. (more…)

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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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04/20/17 10:54am

We interviewed former New Yorkers about their lives upstate, and we also asked them to share their favorite spots, so you can enjoy them next time you visit–or when you relocate, too.

Glasses at the Suarez Family Brewery. Photo; Suarez Family Brewery via Instagram

Glasses at the Suarez Family Brewery. Photo; Suarez Family Brewery via Instagram

Sarah Suarez

1. Suarez Family Brewery in Livingston: Nick’s brother Dan and his wife Taylor opened their brewery in the summer of 2016. They have a tasting room where we love to hang out on our days off—Dan even decided to open the tasting room on Wednesdays for Nick.

2. Montgomery Place Orchards: This is my favorite farm stand and one of our purveyors for the restaurant. They are a family run farm with the most perfect selection. They grow a huge variety of heirloom apples, as well as oodles of other fruit and vegetables. When I stop by for my weekly visits from June-November I always end up eating something on the way home, whether it’s a whole pint of black caps or a couple warm apple cider donuts.

3. Saugerties Lighthouse: I love coming here with my dog Scout. There is a nice walk from the parking lot that takes you through a beautiful marshy area and then out to the lighthouse on the Hudson. You can bring a picnic or wade in the water. We actually did a special event with some friends at the lighthouse last fall and took a sailboat ride there, then had dinner at dusk. It was pretty magical. (more…)

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04/17/17 10:54am
Photo: Georgia Kral

Photo: Faun

If you’re a wine drinker then you’ve probably heard some bottles described as “natural wines.” On menus around town from casual pizza spots to special occasion restaurants, natural wines have become wine directors’ darlings, as well as favorites with diners. Here’s what you need to know.

But what is natural wine?

It’s debatable, really. In the past 10 years, just what is natural wine has been a heated topic in certain circles. We like what Eric Asimov, The New York Times wine writer, has to say about it: “I have always considered the lack of a definition of natural wine to be a great strength … It’s an ideal, rather than a set of rules.”

Those underlying ideals include making wine with as little intervention from the winemakers as possible. That means limiting the addition of preservatives (sulfur) and flavors, and allowing each harvest–which, as with all crops, changes from year to year based on any number of factors–to sing its own tune. Many big name wines, whether you’re talking Yellow Tail or Veuve Clicquot, are made to be consistent year to year. Each bottle tastes the same. Natural wine vintages can vary wildly, and that is considered a desirable reflection of the growing season.

Natural winemakers also let the naturally-occurring yeasts act as the agents of fermentation, rather than adding other yeasts.

“You can’t be a natural winemaker if you’re using cultivated yeasts,” said Mike Fadem, co-owner of Ops in Bushwick, which pours from a constantly rotating list of natural wines. “If you’re letting it happen on its own naturally people are afraid it’s less control, or you’re less likely to get the exact same thing every year.”

But not knowing exactly what you’re going to get is part of the excitement, he added.

(more…)

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04/10/17 10:24am
Elsens Photo: Georgia Kral

Melissa and Emily Elsen grew up in a family food business. Photo: Georgia Kral

In the restaurant industry, partners are essential. One person can’t go it alone for reasons financial, emotional, practical and logistical. But like in any business, having a partner you can trust–and see eye-to-eye with–is crucial to success and often difficult to find. So what happens when you start a business with someone who knows you better than pretty much anyone, who you probably got sent to your room for smacking at some point, and who remembers every moment of every awkward phase you’ve even gone through?

Food businesses owned by sibling partners have a particular style. They choose to run their projects with a family-first ethos where respect for each other, collective decision-making, brutal honesty and reasonable expectations are the guiding principles. In addition to great food, of course. (more…)

04/03/17 10:31am

For those of us who admit to being more than a little food-focused (or slightly gluttonous, whichever), this was a much-anticipated weekend, and we’re very lucky that Smorgasburg isn’t picky about the weather. The lauded food market returned to East River State Park and took up residence in Prospect Park this weekend, despite a somewhat chilly and grey start on Saturday. This year, the market opens with a decent shaking up to its usual program–from mom-and-pop shops cooking up traditional Haitian food to Chinese dumplings with eclectic fillings inspired by the diversity of Queens. Below we’ve highlighted a couple of vendors to look out for, so ready your utensils! (And yes, there’s a spaghetti donut. We tried it. It’s fine.)

Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

Photo: Regina Mogilevskaya

John’s Juices

Ok, so you’re totally over walking around Smorgasburg sipping coconut water from a coconut–but how about slurping fresh juice straight from a dragon fruit? Or a pineapple? John DeWindt and his partner August Major take fresh fruit juice to a whole new level using a nifty machine they spotted and picked up in Japan. It grinds the juice inside the fruit, so all you have to do is mix in a little agave, ginger, or seltzer, stick in a straw, and you’re done! It’s a pretty flawless summer treat. (more…)

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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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