Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Neighborhoods: Brooklyn Flea Market and Other Fort Greene Adventures

When I think of flea markets, I think of a stadium parking lot filled with rows and rows of vendors, like the flea markets of my childhood. So I wasn't expecting the entire Brooklyn Flea Market to fit into the confines of a high school track field. But that made it more neighborhood-y and intimate, I guess. It's definitely worth the trip out, with a nice variety of craft and food vendors, vintage clothing and jewelry dealers and people just cleaning out their attics. I'd say it took us about 40 minutes to walk through the whole thing, and we were mostly just browsing.

I'd never been to Fort Greene before, or at least not intentionally. The market is about a 15 minute walk from the 4/5 Atlantic St. Stop, and I confess I used my Google Maps app on my Blackberry to guide me. I always feel I'm on the verge of getting lost when in the BK. Getting off the subway, I swear I was hit up for money at least a few times in the first few blocks of what I assume is Downtown Brooklyn. It's funny how the neighborhood changes as you walk further north and east. Less scuzzy.

My first impressions of the market: hipster central. Having decided against my straw fedora and ironic tee at home, I felt a little out of place in my girly sundress, but it was cool. Being uninitiated into this flea market business, I haven't mastered the art of finding treasure amidst clutter, but I did buy a pair of earrings (made not by the vendor, it turns out, but by someone in Bali - $30 - not cheap!) and a peanut butter and chocolate whoopie pie (the ones at One Girl Cookies were better). I was glad to find a couple rows of food booths--nice to see locally produced foods. For those who are famished, they can also buy drinks, corn on the cob, sausage and other stuff and sit and eat on the bleachers with the rest of the hipsters.

Here are some photos from our day...vintage kitchen set:

Charlie Brown and Linus - except what's wrong with their coloring?:
Vinyl dealers:
Wow - maybe if you had this sectional and nothing else in your very white living room:
Kinda cool:Pots and pans:
Vintage toys:
Carved right off a pig's leg, for your culinary pleasure:
Tasty gherkins and other pickled products:
More mini cupcakes?
More baked goods:
$70? Seriously?Food and drink!!
Pretty mirrors:
Nice little banquette:
Later, we walked to De Kalb Ave (some strangers told us that's where we'd find the restaurants) and ate at a French cafe called Lou Lou. Cute little garden out back. The kitchen was really backed up that day because it took at least an hour for our food to come out. Food was okay, not great.

Garden view:View from the hatch:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

We're One Year Old Today!

Happy Earth Day! And Happy Birthday to us! One year old. Can you believe it? Does NYC feel more like home a year and 129 posts later? Yes, I can say it does. I know its neighborhoods, its quirks, its activities, what it eats and where it shops a lot better. But we've still got a ways to go. On my wish list for year 2:
  • A home--literally: I have a secret I've kept from all of you. I've been a condo/co-op hunting madwoman. As of yesterday, I have seen almost 80 properties in Manhattan in four months. I haven't blogged about it much because frankly I'm too exhausted when I get home from these open houses and a don't have a lot of energy to write, but I promise to share what I've learned in future posts.
  • A community: I have a patchwork quilt of friendships in this city--a beautiful quilt no doubt with each precious patch from a different part of my life, but a quilt nonetheless. What I'm looking for is a big strong goose down comforter that I can wrap myself up in! Since moving to NYC, I've lost four close friends to relocation, so I always feel I'm starting from scratch with friendships. I'm still dreaming of a "Sex and the City" or "Friends"-type group of close friends but I would settle for a group of people I like hanging out with regularly. So, this year, I pledge to get out there, get more involved and meet more people.
  • Success: The dream that brought me to this city is still unfulfilled. This is another long, difficult journey I've kept from all of you. But maybe I'll find the courage to write about it. Until I reach my goal (or make peace with not reaching it?), I doubt I'll really be able to give my heart to this place.
Just a few thoughts on this anniversary. Now that I look at my list, it seems pretty obvious. Isn't that what everyone wants? But something about NYC makes getting those things harder than it would be elsewhere.

Anyhow, what do you want me to blog about? What do you want to know about my life in the city? About living in NYC in general? Email me or leave me a comment and I'll try my best. Love to all of you.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Stuff I've Learned: A Non-Touristy Food Tour of Manhattan (For AnastasiaC)

One of our readers, AnastasiaC, is planning a trip to NYC in September and wants to know where the locals eat and play. Smart girl. How else are you going to get the real flavor of NYC? Not at the top of the Empire State Building, that's for sure.

So, AnastasiaC, here are some of my favorite NYC eats. Good rule of thumb: if the restaurant is located in Times Square, Herald Square or near a major tourist landmark, it probably isn't very good. You'll have to travel to find some of these places, but you'll taste some of NYC's best food:
  1. Fuel up for your day with a great brunch or breakfast. If it's the weekend, try Sarabeth's at the Whitney Museum (you can see some art afterwards), the classic Odeon or homey Bubby's in Tribeca (save room for pie), Cookshop or Jane, if you can stand waiting in line. Go early to avoid long waits.
  2. Lunch for less at one of the Jean Georges restaurants (only $24 to eat at some of the best restaurants in the city--Perry St is my favorite). Go down home and ethnic by venturing to Chinatown and grab some amazing Vietnamese Banh Mi at Saigon Banh Mi Bakery and hot juicy dumplings at Good Dumpling House. Another day, go to Chelsea Market--a mall full of amazing food and treats. If you're feeling adventurous, Ethiopian at Meskerem or Malaysian at Nyonya in Chinatown.
  3. Sit down for afternoon tea at Alice's Tea Cup (don't skip the scones) in the Upper West Side, Cha-an (try their green tea macarons and earl grey chocolate mochi), or Teany, the Vegetarian tea house in the Lower East Side owned by Moby.
  4. Indulge your sweet tooth with chocolate chip cookies at Jacques Torres (ask for it warm) or Levain Bakery. Chinatown Ice Cream factory for some of the most unique ice cream flavors in town. Chocolate at The Chocolate Bar at Henri Bendel (go shopping afterwards) or Vosges in Soho or Jacques Torres (Love this place). Grab pain au chocolat at Patisserie Claude and macarons at Madeleine Patisserie. Cupcakes at Billy's Bakery in Chelsea (better than Magnolia's, in my opinion, but you might want to stop at the cupcake stand made famous by Sex and the City anyhow--go to the West Village shop for the authentic experience).
  5. Get dressed up and splurge on dinner with a celebrity chef. For big and fabulous: Gramercy Tavern, Eleven Madison Park, Gilt, Megu, Park Avenue Summer, Le Bernardin, Bouley or Daniel. For small and delicious: The Little Owl, WD-50 or Blue Hill or any of the Momofuku restaurants. Or pick any other Frank Bruni three or four star restaurant available on OpenTable.
  6. People watch in the Meatpacking District at Pastis or Spice Market or the too cool Lower East Side at Inoteca or Stanton Social.
  7. Don't miss a shack burger at Shake Shack, a hot dog at Grey's Papaya, pizza at Adrienne's on Stone Street, shabu shabu at Shabu Tatsu, BBQ at Blue Smoke (you can also grab dinner during a jazz show downstairs at the Jazz Standard)
  8. Have a late night bite after cruising in the village at Ukranian restaurant Veselka, have a slice of famous Italian cheesecake at Veniero's or stop into one of the many Japanese restaurants on St. Mark's Place in the East Village.
This is just one Girl Next Door's opinion. If you want others, visit my favorite NYC foodie sites: Eater, Chowhound Manhattan Board, NY Mag's Grub St. Have a great time, AnastasiaC! NYC is the king of food towns!

Monday, April 20, 2009

This NY Moment: First Springlike Weekend

The city came alive this weekend, as evidenced by the gorgeous trees in bloom along the bicycle path in Battery Park, the skateboarders and recumbent bicyclists near the World Financial Center and the tons of people out and about on the lawns, restaurant patios and sailboats.
Not all the trees were in bloom yet, however...Don't worry guys. Your time will come!

Friday, April 17, 2009

On My Mind: Cheating On New York City

Sorry I've been AWOL, folks. I spent a couple weeks in Mexico and Texas, but now I'm back. Mexico was lovely-85 degrees and breezy. Texas was surprisingly cold for April. Here's a souvenir from my trip. I took this shot of the sun rising on my way to the airport on my last day in North Dallas:
It was a striking sight and a rare moment of stillness and beauty. It got me thinking of the things I miss living in NYC. Don't get me wrong. I have family in Dallas and have spent much time there but have always considered the city flat in more ways than one. But this time was different somehow.

I kinda liked driving for miles and seeing cattle poking around on acres of ranchland, or hearing the chickens squawking in the backyard, or going to Walmart and seeing the cornucopia of fresh produce being sold for dollars less per pound than in the City. I liked how slow everything and everyone was, and how people worked with their hands and bodies, tilling the earth or putting up new houses. A life less glamorous? Yes. But simpler and more comfortable, I think.

I know I'm romanticing things, but that's what getting away is for, right? Recharging the batteries that don't get charged at home?

You know by now how I've struggled with feeling at home in New York. But I was thinking maybe I'm trying too hard. It's okay to love some things about this city and not others. What's wrong with appreciating other places? It's ridiculous and unnatural for me to feel I have to pledge some oath of loyalty to New York City. I know New Yorkers who say "Stop complaining. If you don't like it, then leave" or "You just can't cut it here" but that attitude is downright provincial...either said person has never lived anywhere else or is masking his/her own ambivalence about our City. Just a thought. Still, glad to back home.