Thursday, December 08, 2016

A Bit Of A Stroll

It turns out that there was more than enough stuff just on the block of Court Street between Schermerhorn and State to address at one time so I guess it will take me yet another day to actually make it to Atlantic Avenue.

We start my trip on the west side of Court Street just around the corner from the block on which I live. Only two establishments, but they take up the whole block. When I moved here there was a closed down and boarded up porno theater that was overrun with rats. Then there was Queen, a venerable Italian restaurant that got bought out and relocated just a block away. Still one of the best Italian restaurants in the city. Family owned and managed. They build me a dynamite Rob Roy and their pasta is made to order. But, that is another story. Then there was a dive bar on the corner of Court and State called, I believe Julio II. I am not really sure because I only went in their a couple of times. It was primarily Hispanic and I was not. Pretty much a beer and a shot place. I vaguely remember the bartender being behind Plexiglas, but I am pretty sure I am just imagining that. I never went in there when I was sober. There may have been some other stuff on the block, but if there was I don't

Anyway, they tore down the whole block and replaced it with a Barnes & Noble and a United Artists multiplex theater. Of course there was the usual gnashing of teeth and neighborhood reviews that delayed the completion of this development. I guess some people actually preferred the closed-down porno theater and the rats. I did miss Queen, though. It was dark wood and somehow more comforting than the new version. Although now that my memory of that place has dimmed I like the new one every bit as much.



I pop into Barne's & Noble on occasion but, I confess, I buy most of my books from Amazon. Mostly downloaded to my Kindle. And I rarely go to a movie at the multiplex although we did go to see Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find Them the other day. There were about 6 of us in the whole theater at a 12:30 PM showing. But we had to select our seats when we bought our tickets. Assigned seating. But the seating chart was wrong. Anyway, we just sat where we wanted.

Okay, onto my side of the street. Next to the bank that used to be a bakery and pizza place (well, I guess you bake pizzas) is a cleaners where I seldom go since I stopped working and wearing suits and dress shirts and a Verizon store where I do buy my phone upgrades.


The most important place, for me at least, is one door down.


Zap Liquors. Who needs a wine cellar when this place is a five-minute walk away. They always have a nice selection of wines ranging in price from under $10 to, well, out of my range. Decent selections of spirits as well. I probably visit them a couple of times a week and don't even want to know how much I spend in a year. The staff are like old friends (gosh, I wonder why) and are quite knowledgeable about their wines. Sometimes they have wine tastings but I hate to go to those. I always feel obligated to buy a bottle of whatever they are pushing.

I have never been into the next four places, but it is comforting to know that they are there if I ever feel the need. Although ever feeling the need for a bubble tea is unlikely. They all seem to do a lively business. I think they get a lot of before and after the movie business and a lot of lunch business from people who work in the neighborhood.





The Stolle Bakery used to be the Szechuan Cusine. It was a very good and inexpensive Chinese restaurant with a hidden surprise. Tucked in the back was a little bar where I used to hang out with a bunch of guys and we discussed sports, local affairs, the usual stuff. Not many people knew about it and it was always the same little crowd. The bar had a bit of a Tiki feel to it, although I was probably one of the only people who drank Tiki drinks. The main bartender, Lily, was a former actress in Chinese movies and she always dressed like she was on the set. A great place. Then it just disappeared. It was there when I left to go to Mexico and when I returned it was gone and there was just a hole in the ground. The owner of the place decided to build an apartment building and rent out the ground floor. Can't blame him. As he explained to me "Less headaches, more money." Still, I miss the place and the crowd in the back never really regrouped.

Well, that is one more little stretch of my neighborhood. I will try to get us up to Atlantic Avenue tomorrow.

Monday, December 05, 2016

Well, You Know How Things Go

My next post about my neighborhood and Atlantic Avenue will have to wait. The Mysterious Chinese Woman took me out for dinner last night. And a wonderful dinner it was at Convivium Osteria.


Had a great dinner and, when they didn't have the bottle of Cava that I ordered, they gave me a more expensive one at the same price. Food was delicious and the service was great. Not on Atlantic Avenue, but just a few blocks off.

Stopped at The Brazen Head, on Atlantic Avenue, on the way home and had a couple of Martinis. Booker gin, straight up, not too dry, and with just one olive. I am fussy. Turned out the bartenderess went to school with the son of one of my best friends. Now considering that my friend lives in Minneapolis and his son went to Southwest, also in Minneapolis, I thought this was an amazing coincidence. I ran cross country back then and Southwest always had one of the best teams. Still do. She also ran cross country. A very fun evening.


Interestingly, after going to the Brazen Head in Dublin I ran into an old friend who I hadn't seen for years at a bus stop as I was waiting to catch a bus to go back to my hotel.

Anyway, I woke up this morning feeling chipper and was going to go to the gym. But then I saw a glass of wine that I had intended to drink before going to bed last night and didn't, so I did. Then, for some reason, I thought a bit of Absinthe would be a good idea. So this is what you will have to deal with.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Getting To Atlantic

Atlantic Avenue, depending upon how I choose to get to it, is either two short blocks or one longer block and two short blocks from where I live. Two short blocks if I just head up Boerum/Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard, but that is the less interesting route. Although Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard (I prefer that name, it sounds more exotic) is pretty this time of year when they light it up. If you come into Brooklyn by way of the Brooklyn Bridge and keep going straight this is what you will be on. A nice stretch with multiple lanes and a wide median with plantings that change depending upon the season. 


Well, that is what it is until it hits Atlantic Avenue. Then it narrows down and ends, rather ingloriously, a few blocks later at an iron works. Not quite the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, but a lot closer.


Anyway, I prefer walking down Schermerhorn, also known as The Street No One Can Pronounce Or Spell, to Court Street and then south for two blocks to Atlantic.

I live on the corner of Schermerhorn and Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard. I have been here thirty years now and can't imagine living anywhere else. Well, I can, but I wouldn't want to. That is because I often imagine myself living in a small apartment with peeling pea soup green wallpaper in..., well never mind. I don't even know why I often imagine such a thing.


And right across the street from me is the Transit Museum. We were going to go there yesterday but even when it just opened it was getting crowded. They said Tuesdays at 1:00 PM was the best time. We will see. They have a Coney Island exhibit now and I want to see that. I am a big fan of Coney Island, especially the bars. But that is another story.


Anyway, as I walk down Schermerhorn I pass an interesting place. It is owned by a Chinese fraternal society of some kind. The people who live there pretty much keep to themselves but I wave to a few of them who smile and wave back. Some of them collect cans for pocket change and are very industrious about it. I still remember when they were taking them out of a trashcan at a Greek Festival down the street and could not be chased away for love nor money.


This is the Greek Church just down the block where they have the festival. It is a week-long block party that seems to get bigger every year. Sadly, it has now become like a mini street fair. It used to be more authentic with a lamb roasting in the back and a lot of homemade goodies like moussaka and stuff. Slot machines and poker, if you know where to look. They still have some of the homemade goodies and gyros plus Greek beer and wine. They never have retsina though. A pity.



Next door to the church is a tobacco shop that has quite a selection of cigars and pipe tobacco, snuff, and pipes (some not for tobacco products). They don't sell cigarettes, though. Nicky, the owner, said it is too much of a hassle and he doesn't have enough room to stock them. Back in the day I would buy the occasional cigar from him, but I have given them up. I can't help but inhale when I smoke them.


At the corner now there is a bank. Bank branches have popped up everywhere. A pity, there once was a real nice bakery there that also sold excellent pizzas. But, as I have said, everything changes.


And across the street from that, also relatively new, is a Paris Baguette Cafe. That used to be part of the Bruno's Hardware store next to it, if I remember correctly. Then it was a flower shop for awhile. The upstairs used to be just for storage, but now it is apartments.


Not sure what the function of that structure next to it serves. It is always locked but is another entrance to the transit museum. Maybe, back in the day, that museum was an actual subway stop.

Anyway, that is my block. Next I will show you the two blocks of Court Street that I walk down to get to Atlantic Avenue, and then the real adventure, such that it is, will begin.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Atlantic Avenue

Atlantic Avenue, a scant two short blocks from where I live, is probably one of the most diverse avenues in the United States, if not in the world. At one end is the Brooklyn Bridge Park and miles away at the other end, as it crosses the Van Wyck Expressway, it morphs into 94th Avenue. But my stretch is anchored by two bars, Montero's Bar & Grill and Hank's Saloon. In between you have everything. More bars than you can shake a stick at, restaurants of every kind, from Middle Eastern to French, to soul food, to..., well, you name it. And you can find food stores ranging from your typical New York deli to Trader Joe's to Sahadi's Middle Eastern Grocery, a sprawling store that stocks just about every exotic ingredient that you could imagine. And if they don't have it, there are another half-dozen Middle Eastern stores that do. You have stores to serve your every need. And everyone lives in harmony in this stew of diversity.

I have decided to restart my blog that formerly chronicled my journey through a thousand bars in a single year to document this, to me, most fascinating of places before it irrevocably changes. As the neighborhood gentrifies, as so many do, many of the old places are leaving or changing beyond recognition. Change is inevitable. Atlantic Avenue, when I moved to Brooklyn, was a stretch you might not feel comfortable strolling about after dark. Some of the bars were downright dangerous. Now the danger is getting nicked fourteen bucks or more for a cocktail prepared by a mixologist who uses more ingredients than a chef uses for most meals, and bars that look like chemistry sets cluttered with bottles of special house bitters and who knows what else.

Now don't get me wrong, I can dump down a  Dolores Del Rio (Jalapeño Infused Blanco Tequila, Aperol, Passion Fruit, Lime Juice) at the Long Island Bar as well as anyone. But I also remember when the Long Island Bar was pretty much a beer and a shot place. I want to document my stretch of Atlantic Avenue as it is now, before it changes even more. And maybe throw in a memory or two of what it was like.

I hope you will enjoy this trip as much as you enjoyed the last one. I am sure I will have as much fun. And I encourage anyone who has their own memories of, or thoughts about Atlantic Avenue to share them.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Early Labor Day Barbecue

Well, not too early, just a day. It was a combination Labor Day and birthday barbecue. A birthday for a sister-in-law and a niece. I fired up my Napoleon Smoker, a gift from the Mysterious Chinese Woman and her family, but I suspect a gift with an ulterior motive. My old smoker just wasn't big enough to smoke everything they wanted to eat. They are a voracious bunch.

My Napoleon Smoker


I did a couple of racks of spareribs, a boneless leg of lamb, a duck, and a chicken. The boneless leg of lamb I just used a liberal amount of Trader Joe's South African Smoke Seasoning Blend. I use this stuff a lot. Lot's of flavor but not too much heat. I also sprinkled on a fair amount of Kosher salt.

I brined both the duck and the chicken. The duck I brined in apple juice, Kosher salt, and garlic. The Chicken I brined in orange juice, Kosher salt, and honey ginger tea. The honey ginger tea is thick with shredded ginger and is meant to be added to hot water to make, well, honey ginger tea. But it also works well in this brine.

Honey Ginger Tea


I brine them overnight and then before I put the chicken and the duck on the grill I slather them with more of the stuff as a glaze.

Pre-Smoking



Post-Smoking


I make my own barbecue rub and have a variety of recipes but most are a variation on a theme. I removed the membrane from the spare ribs and rubbed them down the day before and and then let them sit in the fridge overnight. Took them out early enough to come to room temperature (well, close) and then put in the smoker.

Before Smoking


After Smoking


I was pleased with the way that everything came out and, considering the gusto with which everything was consumed I think everyone was pleased. It makes me happy to smoke for an appreciative family. And the mother-in-law contributed with dishes of her own, lobster, shrimp, noodles, vegetables, soup, so we had plenty to eat and a great day. Oh, and a delicious salad from a sister-in-law and a couple of ice-cream cakes. Champagne and raspberry wine as well. A great feast.






Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Grand Army

A new place opened up not too far from me on State Street and Hicks. I have been there twice and it is quite nice.


Beers are a bit on the pricey side and you don't get a pint like in most places. But they have a decent beer selection. Next time I will post it but didn't get a clear picture. But, as you can see, I enjoyed my beer.


They have $1 oysters during happy hour, something of a trend around the neighborhood and one that I am happy to see. And they serve them with an interesting selection of sauces. I could use a bit of just plan horseradish, though. But these were quite good. I liked the chipotle the best.


I slurcked them right down. Not sure what kind they were. Bit of an unusual shape, elongated. But they were very good and decent sized. No complaints from me.


For dinner I had the smoked octopus and it was excellent. I would return just for that, but next time I am going for the steak tartar. If they prepare that as well as the octopus it will be dynamite.





I can't remember for sure what the Mysterious Chinese Woman had but I am guessing it was the striped bass. They don't have a real extensive menu, but what they have, at least what I had, was really good. And she really liked whatever it was she had.


 I apologize for the quality of the pictures. I forgot my camera and so the pictures were taken with a new iPhone and I don't think I had the settings correct. But you can see more by clicking the link.

Grand Army

Stay tuned, I plan on posting more frequently, but certainly not as frequently as I once did.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Birthday Party For Arden

Went to a fun birthday party for my friend Arden. He is one of the many regulars from Pete's Waterfront Ale House who are kind of like an eleventh lost tribe. We tend to congregate wherever a former Pete's bartender is working or for special occasions. This was both and we congregated at the Hop Shop on Columbia Street in Brooklyn.


The Hop Shop is kind of waterfront if you consider the water to be the East River and the front to be across the street from a container terminal.


But hey, who goes to a bar for the view in Brooklyn? Well, maybe if you go to Ruby's in Coney Island. This is the view I was most interested in.


I started out with a Fire Island Sea Salt Ale. Not too strong (5.2% ABV) and a fairly hoppy IPA. Dry and crisp but I didn't notice any salt. And I sometimes put salt in my beer, especially 3.2 beer. Not bad. That was followed by a Sly Fox Saison that had more of a kick (6.9% ABV). A very good hot-weather beer. But enough about the beer, this was about Arden, the birthday boy.


Quite a crowd turned out because Arden is a crowd favorite. And quite an accomplished photographer. I have been going to Pete's Waterfront Ale House since it was across the street from where it was before it closed. Arden has been going there when it was down the block, just Pete's, and was an ice-cream place.


And no birthday party is complete with out cake or, in this case, cakes.


So for Arden this was great, two of his favorite things, cakes and taking pictures of cakes. Just doesn't get any better.


And food. The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I were heading out to dinner so I limited myself to a small Sloppy Joe and an excellent deviled egg brought by a former Pete's Waterfront Ale House cook. Just the deviled eggs. Not sure who brought the Sloppy Joes.


The Mysterious Chinese Woman had two pieces of cake. You can't stop her, you can only hope to contain her. She wouldn't let me take a picture of her eating it, but this is her with our friend Susan.


And here is Arden with more of his admirers.


The Hop Shop doesn't have a kitchen, yet. They are in the process of putting one in. It does have a nice little outdoor area, though. I will probably re-visit when they start having food.


After the party was over The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I headed to a very nice restaurant that could easily become one of my favorites.


La Cigogne is an Alsatian restaurant and Alsace is known for their storks as well as for their food and wine. La Cigogne means stork in French but, disappointingly, there was no stork on the menu. I had a delicious beef stew over spaetzle but ended up taking most of it home. A couple of beers, the Sloppy Joe, as small as it was, and deviled egg kind of filled me up. The Mysterious Chinese Woman had no problem polishing off her pistachio coated salmon though. I don't know how she manages to do it. She only had one beer, but I don't really know what she ate at the birthday party other than the cake.

We had a nice time at the party, the meal at La Cigogne was very good, and even the Knicks game I recorded was okay. Only second-tier and newer players played, but Porzingus looked pretty good, twelve points, three rebounds and two blocks in eighteen minutes. Good free-throw shooter as well, which is somewhat unusual for a big man, for some reason. The game was worth watching just to see Clyde in a polo-shirt instead of one of his more flamboyant outfits.