Bao Haus is a small Taiwanese fast eatery with steamed buns on a busy strip of East 14th. Since I work uptown, always commuting back to Brooklyn, Union square is my nexus for after work eating. I like to combine two bao with taro fries and a Taiwanese soda for cheap dinner bliss.
Turns out, it’s the first Fodor’s guide to Brooklyn. A much debated borough as of late for all sorts of important but complicated reasons–the guidebook mentions gentrification in albeit a brief section in the beginning–it is still strangely pleasant to have a travel guide to somewhere you already live, even if things close and change faster than I can count.
Luckily the guide has recommendations and tid-bits about the farther into Brooklyn neighborhoods of Kensington, Midwood, and Ditmas Park which happen to be where I live (in the intersection of them all.) Still, there is much to the borough I’d want to add, especially even more of those neighborhoods and places off the beaten path from most new denizens. Perhaps the next edition can expand even more into far reaches of the borough.
But illustrations in the guide were a big selling point for me. I’m a sucker for illustrated New York City and all the illustrations, including my favorite the chapter neighborhood maps, were created by a local illustrator Claudia Pearson.
Pearson made a quick video tutorial about her process for creating illustrated neighborhood maps which is super helpful for all the self-taught artists and drawers like me:
Pearson is known not only for local illustrations but also drawings of food. She sells most weekends at the Brooklyn Flea. I proudly haul my gym clothing around in her tote.
I particularly like the work she’s down for Sustainable NYC and Grow NYC.
Sometimes I eat something to immediately think: I need to make a version of this at home. It’s how I have some of my favorite recipes: lemon focaccia from France, an oven adaptation of tandoori chicken from New York’s ubiquitous Indian restaurants, noodles bowls based of Boston’s Bon Me food truck.
And now I really want to bake myself a birthday cake based on this dreaming princess cupcake I had at Little Cupcake Bakery last week. First, there is the meringue frosting that gets me. Next, there is just a little raspberry in the middle. Then, one of my absolute favorite flavors present with an almond vanilla cake.
It’s a simple combination yet I think it would make a killer double layer cake too, perhaps with a lemon almond cake to just get wild for my January birthday! I’ll see you in winter, dreaming princess birthday cake.
I could eat pizza everyday in New York City though I try not to for the sake of variety. In my quest pizza, I keep coming back to Emily in Clinton Hill though. They’ve got those artisan styled pizzas with great toppings, a kind of new-Brooklyn-style-pie. The Colony has honey on it which is fast becoming my favorite pizza addition.
A few weeks ago when I was at the Jewish Museum’s pay-what-you-wish Thursday night hours, I was struck by a lobby corner exhibit of portraits done in a bold, textured style though each was quite small. They reminded me of Alice Neel or Lucian Freud. All of the portraits were of women.
The artist for the current exhibit, on view until Oct. 2015, is London-based painter Chantal Joffe. Each of the paintings is a portrait of a 20th Century Jewish woman—such as Diane Arbus, Gertrude A. Stein, Alice B. Toklas, Susan Sontag, and Hannah Arendt—focusing on their influence on art, literature, politics. and culture. Joffee studied for months before painting, accumulating research from their lives.
I was instantly enamored with the style and scope of Joffe’s work, reading more about her career and work first in the gift shop and then online. Joffe is known for her use of photography as an starting point, painting very large and alternately small canvases, and of course for painting almost only women.
“My early paintings used pornographic imagery, partly because I was interested in the politics surrounding pornography, but also because I wanted to paint nudes, and through pornography I had an endless supply of images of naked women. At the time I used to think I was bringing these women back to life. The photograph had killed their soul, and they died when the magazine was discarded. I saw my paintings as resurrecting them.
Since having a child, my paintings are more personal. I wanted to convey some of that physical intensity that comes with having a baby. The anxiety and emotions are so visceral.”
A few weekends back to celebrate we made the trip from Brooklyn to the Bronx for the Frida Kahlo Casa Azul exhibit at The New York Botanical Gardens, a replica of the artist’s home in Mexico City. I’ve always loved Frida Kahlo, a bad ass feminist artist, so it was a perfect time to travel to a part of New York City I’ve never explored. The exhibit was colorful and spirited, cementing my desire to make a trip to the real thing in Mexico City someday.
It was the first time I had even been to botanical gardens, too. I didn’t get to see enough of the grounds because of the August heat but I did get lost in the wooded area a bit, finding the Bronx River. I’ll definitely be back for the fall colors.
Afterwards, in that combination of summer humidity meets late afternoon hunger, we ate thin pizza and calamari on Arthur Ave at delicious classic Neopolitan Zero Otto Nove. I need to venture back up to the Italian enclave of the Belmont section of the Bronx because many stores (naturally) were closed on Sunday when we made the adventure. Next time: Addeo and Sons!
I love playing tourist in New York despite living here all the time. Strangely, I had never been on a boat in the Hudson or East River before this secretly planned trip. We embraced the tourist gaze by taking trip on a Circle Line Cruise around the entire perimeter of Manhattan, going all the way up to the Harlem River and under the recently opened High Bridge and the immensely epic George Washington Bridge (and the little red light house.)
Other highlights on the cruise include: riding out into the harbor with sail boats and the wind, draw bridges on the east river with signs for all the underwater cables and their deathly warning for anchoring, glimpsing a vast subway rail yard at the top of Manhattan, those intrepid kids that mooned us near Roberto Clemente Park with such grace.
It was a surprisingly great change of pace, sparking the nyc-by-boat bug in me. We took another trip, this time by a sail boat, just last night.
Tip: As a local going tourist, ditch the upper deck where everyone fights for a good seat and stand at the front of the boat which opens after the trip starts. You can’t hear the narration as well but your views are better. You may even get splashed.
A few weekends ago now I biked out to Dead Horse Bay for the first time. The delightfully gruesomely titled bay at the edge of Brooklyn and Queens gets its name from the former animal rendering plants that made up the area. Later, parts of the bay were used for landfill. When a cap of the landfill burst, the beach became littered with mid-century bottles, leather soles, horse bones, and pieces of ceramic tiles among remnants of industry.
It’s a sort of living testament to the detritus of late capitalism. That’s what makes it so interesting too, a gross at times interactive historical look at things sold and bought in the past century.
It’s also fascinating to observe how items were made before and how that tells a story about their survival. Plastic is almost altogether missing from the beach but glass is plentiful. The prescene of leather soles must be because rubber soles weren’t yet the standard, but I’m not positive why they survive.
I collected an assortment of small glass bottles, many medicinal looking, that I learned how to date based on markings on the bottom. If you’re looking for a bizarrely engrossing activity, look no further than dating vintage bottles. My special favorite is a small bottle that turns out is a glass baby doll bottle. Others come from as far as Illinois glass factories.
Another favorite find are cold cream jars that are milk glass white, many featuring interesting architectural details. Cold cream boomed in the later half of the 20th century as a must have cosmetic. The Ponds and Avon brands jar I collected are perfect for bathroom organizing and even making candles (like my very wonderfully industrious friend Katie taught me.)
Next time I’m going to bring a bigger bag to pack up even more of those 1940’s cold cream jars.
Go to Dead Horse Bay! Location
Hours: all year long.
Directions: take the 2 train and switch to the Q35, getting off before the Gil Hodges bridge. Or ride your bike! The entrance is right before the bridge.
Albertine is a French & English bookstore with a exquisite reading room in the French Embassy. It opened last fall with the design firm Pentagram creating the branding.
The bookstore is tucked inside the French Embassy on 5th Ave overlooking Central Park. The building itself is famous: the Payne Whitney, one of the few Guilded-Age architectural buildings left in the city and built by Stanford and White.
Albertine is full of large fabric-covered lamps making you feel you’ve entered someone’s private home library meets Parisian salon. The best part is the upstairs reading room that has one of the best ceilings to lounge under on comfy leather couches.
The store was conceived by “Cultural Services of the French Embassy” to offer “the largest selection of French literature in the United States, with (get ready to swoon) more than 14,000 titles from 30 French-speaking countries.” (TimeOut)
English and french books are peppered throughout. The reading room upstairs has an extensive collection of French children’s books and graphic novels which peak the illustration lovers attention. There are cookbooks, art books, and even daily french periodicals, too.