Even though Midsummer was a month ago, July feels more like an true midway point in the summer action. This summer has been chock-full of activities and dizzyingly busy with work, so it has felt very whirlwind. Labor Day will be here before we know it, and with it the craziness of moving day (thankfully followed by vacation).
But before looking forward to an escape from the city, I wanted to take a moment to pause and reflect on all of the fun things we’ve been up to around the city so far this summer and share some of my favorite places to check out.
In no particular order…
- Brooklyn Grange – An acre-sized farm atop a warehouse building in Long Island City, this place takes urban planting to a whole new level. Row upon row of vegetables and fruits, seedlings, chickens, an apiary. Volunteers hard at work harvesting and tending. A farm stand selling the produce grown feet away from it. All juxtaposed against the skyline of New York City. It was really tremendous to see. Before exploring the roof, we ate at COFFEED in the bottom floor of the building, which sources some of its greens, honey and other produce from the grange as well. As the name may suggest, it also serves up a mean cup of coffee. A cool way to spend a weekend morning.
- Pickle Shack – This little place in Gowanus partners with both Brooklyn Brine Co. and Dogfish Head to serve up tasty pickled fare from the former and a good selection of craft beers from the latter. It’s an all veggie menu that is both fresh and satisfying. When we visited a couple of weeks ago, Mike had for the second time their fermented tofu bahn mi and I had an over-the-top veggie burger topped with the works: avocado, heirloom tomato, cheddar, house made ketchup. We also shared the fried hop pickles with preserved lemon aioli. They pleased even me, not normally a fan of pickles.
- Videology – Now the story of a couple who watch a lot of Netflix. And one bar that made it a social event. It’s Arrested Development…bingo! Every Wednesday. Go for the bingo, stay for the “Lucille’s lunch” dirty martinis and frozen chocolate-covered bananas. Maybe even rent a DVD or two from this video rental holdout. Get there early to claim a seat!
- Shake Shack (Dumbo) – Newly opened this summer, there is one notable thing that makes this Shake Shack location different (and in my humble opinion better) than all of the others. That is pie. Pie from Four & Twenty Blackbirds, to be precise. The “Brooklyn Pie Oh My” concrete at the Dumbo Shake Shack blends their frozen custard with a seasonal pie flavor from the Gowanus-based pie shop. When I visited on its second day in business the pie of the moment was strawberry balsamic. It was quite delicious. Essentially pie a la mode in a cup, this treat is worth making the trip for, even if you don’t get a burger. Or you could always skip the middleman and visit the Four & Twenty shop itself for a slice of pie and a cup of coffee, a la Special Agent Dale Cooper.
- Xixa – We stopped into this South Williamsburg restaurant briefly last fall for a drink while waiting for a table at neighboring Traif but didn’t stay for very long. It was Saturday night, and the place was packed. I’m glad we went back to eat (this time on a quieter Wednesday night) – the food was outstanding! Highlights include braised duck lettuce wraps, pork belly & cheek carnitas, crispy brussels sprouts with strawberries, and roasted queso fresco burrata served with mangoes, masa cakes and jalapeño honey. Another cool thing they do is mezcal “cocktails,” which are just a mezcal flavor of your choice poured over flavored ice cubes. Lime and watermelon cubes melted to give me a margarita, while a cube of orange bitters, jalapeño and sugar created Mike’s mezcal take on an Old Fashioned.
- Brooklyn Brewery – Despite having lived in Brooklyn for years now, we had never visited the headquarters of this Brooklyn institution. Judging by the makeup of our recent tour group, people come from all over the world to see the space yet we, a mere bus ride away, never crossed it off of our to-do list. Luckily my friend Rose and her husband Nick both wanted to come to BK to check it out, which finally prompted us to go. While waiting for the next available tour time, we sampled some of their brews in the giant tasting room. On the tour we were regaled with some interesting anecdotes from the brewery’s early days, and had our blurry picture taken under the “B” logo. We then ended the day by sitting in the relaxing backyard at Spuyten Duyvil before taking heading back to Crown Heights for dinner on Barboncino’s patio. A splendid day, if you ask me.
- Die Stammkneipe/Der Schwarze Kölner & Beast of Bourbon – DSK in Fort Greene continues to be our favorite German bar around, and this World Cup we did watch the Germany matches against both Ghana and France there. It was a lively atmosphere full of lots of German fans (ex-pats and Americans alike) and fueled by brats, brezels, and bier. However for the final against Argentina, we ventured to the bigger space at Beast of Bourbon in Bed-Stuy. This BBQ joint finally started serving its full menu for lunch and not just dinner, which – paired with one of their frozen whiskey sours or peach bourbon teas – makes a great pre-game meal (provided you are a spectator, not a player).