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.
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.
Boerum Hill, Shops
I first tried macarons from Vendôme Patisserie last spring. My friend Barb and I were meeting up with her husband Max after a morning at Dekalb Market, and he had somehow taken a very long detour somewhere in Boerum Hill. When he finally showed up, it turned out he had stumbled into a macaron shop and had spent some time carefully picking out a sampling to try.
Macarons? Well okay, that's easily forgivable. We got some coffee, found some benches in a community garden nearby, sliced up each macaron with a little plastic knife, and savored every bite.. So. Worth. The Wait.
Boerum Hill, Shops, Design
Growing up, I loved visiting Vermont. Not so much for the skiing, but for all the general stores. Every time I went on a road trip with friends or family, we'd always stop at a roadside general store that sold an assortment of nice things: candy in glass jars, flannel shirts of all colors, tools of all stripes, apothecary items, and cider made right down the road. Maybe the general stores were aimed at tourists, but I didn't care. There weren't really any places like that in the Boston suburbs where I grew up, at least not by the 1990s.
Dry Goods on Atlantic Ave is a modern day interpretation of an old-fashioned general store. It's a fun place, with the slightly cluttered but carefully curated feel of many Brooklyn shops. A good portion of the products are imported from Europe, from brands and makers that have been around for generations. Scattered throughout the mix are a few vintage collectables from the shop's owners.
Made in Brooklyn, Park Slope, Shops
Last week, in need of a mid-afternoon jolt, I wandered over to Union Market to get a cup of coffee. But when walking by the frozen dessert section, I spotted something way better: Vietnamese coffee ice cream.
Phin and Phebes is a small-batch ice cream company that originated in Brooklyn. Jess Eddy and Crista Freeman started the company a little over three years ago, testing new ice cream flavors in their home kitchen. Now the ice cream is made upstate, using milk sourced from a dairy cooperative of family-run farms in Lewis and Jefferson Counties. Oh, and the hand-drawn packaging is pretty great too. What's not to love?
Park Slope, Shops
For most of my life, I've been a toffee-holic. Whereas many people are content to limit their toffee eating to the holiday season, I would happily indulge in it year-round. It might have something to do with the fact that Chinese families love gifting tins of Almond Roca for any and every holiday, including birthdays, graduations, and Chinese New Year. More often than not, there was a tin of Almond Roca sitting around the house. I have many fond memories of watching TGIF or Nick at Nite after dinner and chomping on almond buttery toffee for dessert.
And then I found out there was more to toffee than just Almond Roca. Like See's Toffee-ettes, which are even more dangerously addictive. Or homemade toffee. And last month, while at Blue Apron Foods in Park Slope, I came across a display for Lush English Toffee, based out of New York. Which, of course, I had to buy and try.
Park Slope, Shops
Have you ever tried Cheerwine? I look my first sip a few weeks ago, after spying it at Blue Apron Foods in Park Slope.
Despite the name, there’s no alcohol here, just a bright (one could also say, cheerful) burgundy color reminiscent of cherries. This extra-fizzy, cherry-flavored soda from North Carolina, has a long history; the same family has been overseeing its production since 1917. The kind that comes in a retro bottle, like the one above, uses cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, which is probably why it tastes about 10 times better than Cherry Coke. Available only in the Southeast until just a few years ago, various versions of the soda pop can now be bought online.