The idea for Tangra Summer came about a few months ago. My friend Chitra Agrawal, founder of The ABCD's of Cooking and a cooking teacher who specializes in Indian food, had suggested we team up to create a pop-up dinner to celebrate local food in Brooklyn. A farm-to-table dinner with a twist. Instead of New American cooking, we could combine our respective backgrounds in Indian and Chinese cooking and create a cross-cultural vegetarian dinner highlighting seasonal food in Brooklyn.
It took me about half a second to say yes. And so Tangra was born.
Named after a Calcutta neighborhood home that was the birthplace of Indian-Chinese cuisine, Tangra will be held once a season to celebrate farm fresh produce. Our inaugural dinner, Tangra Summer 2013, will debut August 25th at the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, a Dutch farmhouse that dates back to 1652 and is New York's oldest surviving structure. The dinner will take place inside the historic farmhouse, with dishes served family-style, featuring vegetables grown onsite from head Wyckoff gardener Jason Gaspar and beers from our sponsors Big Alice Brewing out of Long Island City.
On a morning walk through Cobble Hill a few weeks ago, my friend Elizabeth and I stumbled upon this miniature Brooklyn Bridge on Clinton Street. It was just set into the sidewalk around the base of a tree, no sign, no fanfare. I love that someone took the time to craft this little bridge out of wood, wire, and nails, a little tribute to the borough for public enjoyment.
I've been searching but can't find any info behind the origin of this sidewalk bridge. But maybe certain things are best left with a little mystery. At the very least, it reaffirms my belief that sometimes wonderful surprises come from slowing down and noticing the small things that your feet.
Clinton Hill, Restaurants and Cafes
For the last two weeks, my friend Elizabeth and I have been switching up our morning walks from Prospect Park to other neighborhoods. It's exercise and work at the same time. She scopes out sites of architectural or historical significance for her work, I scope out food for mine. With mornings like these, I actually don't hit the snooze button 20 times like I usually do.
Earlier this week, we did a nice little walk through Fort Green and Clinton Hill. One of the stops was the Pratt Power Plant, an amazing old steam-generating power plant from 1877 that's just sitting there and open to the public at Pratt Institute. (Tip: make friends with a historic preservationist. It'll improve your life dramatically.) But more on that later!
Afterwards we ended up at Urban Vintage, a café and vintage furniture shop rolled into one.
Red Hook, Restaurants and Cafes, Shops
A coffee and a breakfast cookie might be the best way to end a long morning walk to Red Hook (exercise- and work-related.)
Baked is one of those places that serves up your childhood dessert favorites — chocolate chip cookies, brownies, blondies, and whoopie pies — in some of the best possible versions. Everything is substantial and goes well with a mug of coffee. Or if it's later in the day, a tall glass of milk.
It's the rare New York food business that survives past its first few years, but this bakery/cafe has been rooted here on Van Brunt Street since 2005. And it was one of the first businesses to reopen after Hurricane Sandy last fall, even with basement damage, becoming a haven for locals and a gathering spot for volunteers in the weeks and months that followed.
Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, Restaurants and Cafes
Here's a gratuitous shot of a bubbly chocolate egg cream to start off your day.
I have a big thing for old-fashioned diners and soda fountains. I don't know if it's the vinyl booths, swirly bar seats, jukebox music, or overall nostalgic atmosphere, but every time I visit one, especially in Brooklyn, I come out feeling happier. Maybe I've just watched Radio Days or Brighton Beach Memoirs too many times.
Yet there aren't too many diners like this left in the borough anymore. Especially ones like Tom's whose decor hasn't really changed since the 1930s when it first opened. (Note: this is not to be confused with the Tom's Restaurant in Manhattan of Seinfeld fame.)
If you haven't been to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during cherry blossom season, go soon!
In Japan, hanami is the tradition of viewing cherry blossoms (sakura) in the spring. With more than 200 cherry trees, the first of which were planted after World War I, the BBG has one of the largest collections of these gorgeous trees outside Japan. (And hey, you won't need to hustle down to Washington D.C. with much of the Northeast and battle it out for hotel rooms!)
Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO, Parks
If you've ever wanted to walk across a bouncy bridge and rest assure it's perfectly safe, here's your chance.
Squibb Park Bridge recently opened as a much-needed (and scenic!) pedestrian link between the Brooklyn Heights and Brooklyn Bridge Park. Whereas before you had walk a steep hill down Columbia Heights,. then dodge traffic across the BQE before finally reaching the park, now you can access it via a 400-foot long zig zagging bridge, just a few steps from the northern end of Brooklyn Heights Promenade
Ovenly is one of those bakeries I wish I had in my own neighborhood. Sure, you can find Ovenly cookies and snacks at gourmet shops and cafés around the city, but there's something about making the trip all the way to Greenpoint's waterfront that makes those sweets you bring back extra special. (And the bakery has a great back story: the founders are two friends who met at a food-focused book club.)
The salted chocolate chip cookies and salted peanut butter cookies get the most props from media and fans, and they are justifiably daydream-worthy. But my favorite, surprisingly, was a small gluten-free pistachio agave cookie that was just packed with nutty goodness. I need this recipe. Though I may have to sit patiently and wait for their cookbook to come out.