Where Brooklyn At, Where Brooklyn At, Where Brooklyn At?
I’m a city mouse who traded navigating life through the greatest concrete jungle on the planet for 72-and-sunny weather and beach access all year round. Having lived in Manhattan for 9 ½ years from the age of 19, I can honestly say New York runs through my veins like blood, and even though I left it for California dreams, it will always feel like home to me. That east coast hustle—that driving ambition linking all of us cogs in the machine that is New York City, helped define and articulate my goals and passions in life—lessons that still resonate with me. Like an old friend, NYC and me pick up right where we left off and I get to discover all the new and interesting things going on in “my” city. I’m never sure which one of us has changed the most—or for the better, but one thing remains constant— once a New Yorker; always a New Yorker! I’m simply intoxicated by the undeniable energy that exists there. It’s a frequency unique to New York—an influential charisma that hooks me in. Unlike any other and quite arguably the best, I cherish New York and come back as often as I can.
Probably the most remarkable change I’ve noticed in recent years of visiting NYC is the mass migration to Brooklyn. Back-in-the-day Brooklyn used to be “no man’s land.” Black and brown people would beg to differ with that assertion considering that black and brown people have always lived in Brooklyn—giving it that cultural swagger and street-cred that makes it so appealing. The same is true for the Jewish community whose heritage is firmly rooted in the bedrock of Brooklyn. But before the hipster coffee shops, designer clothing stores, and Michelin star restaurants, Brooklyn used to be considered “outer-borough.”—meaning Gypsy cab yes, Yellow cab no—because Yellow cabs didn’t want to go over the bridge.
The gentrified weren’t living in Greenpoint, Red Hook or Bed Stuy and no one went past the Lorimer stop on the L train—provided that it was running at all. Developers of luxury apartments and hip start-up companies looking to erect flagships were busy buying up the last of the Manhattan real estate. Brooklyn’s profitable anatomy hid in plain sight shrouded by stigma. My jaw absolutely dropped the first time I saw the Whole Foods and Apple store on Bedford Ave.—thinking to myself: things sure have changed around these parts.
For a few years now the Brooklyn Renaissance has been in full swing ushering in the bourgeoisie seeking to hold on to some semblance of the New York urban lifestyle. From Babs (Barbra Streisand) to Biggie (The Notorious B.I.G.), Brooklyn has long been the birthplace for many of societies most accomplished contributors and the preeminent ground zero of cool. A manifold of cultures producing art, food, fashion, literature, theater and music across a landscape of neighborhoods marked by distinctive architecture and historical significance, have inspired its new inhabitants tenfold. Though its been spiffed and polished, the bones of the BK still remain. Gone are the days when Biggie rapped asking, “Where Brooklyn at, where Brooklyn at, where Brooklyn at?” Well, it would appear that people know exactly where Brooklyn’s at and can’t seem to get enough of it.
Activities & Entertainment
Take a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge or along the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. While you’re at it, grab an ice cream cone from the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory or a lobster roll from Luke’s Lobster Brooklyn Bridge. Do a little comparison vintage shopping at the Brooklyn Flea and see how it blows many of the vintage shops in Manhattan out of the water. You don’t necessarily need to go to Broadway to see great theater either. Between the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and St. Ann’s Warehouse, you’ll be sure to find a compelling piece of live theater you won’t soon forget. Prospect Park, Fort Greene Park, and the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens provide serine sanctuaries for nature. If you really want to kick it old school, you could take a trip out to Coney Island and ride the Cyclone or immerse yourself in the sea life found at the New York Aquarium. Throw in hip-hop clubs, indie-rock concert venues, and every happening restaurant or bar this side of the east river, and you may not find a reason to leave the borough.
For the artsy fartsy crowd, The Brooklyn Museum is an essential treat. “As the first American art museum to exhibit African objects as artwork,” (Howard Halle, TimeOut) whenever I visit I’m always pleasantly surprised by the collections I see there. Committed to displaying feminist artwork, there are two exhibits currently on display that shouldn’t be missed.
Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern on view until July 23, 2017
O’Keeffe is one of the most recognized names in contemporary American art. Her abstract flower and bone paintings (who some might characterize as colorful Rorschach tests resembling beautiful va-jay-jay’s) have hung along side the likes of Basquiat, Pollock, and Rothko.
“Yet even though her paintings are familiar classics of twentieth century art, and the circumstances of her life are well known, there is still much to discover about how she created her identity beyond the studio. This exhibition takes a new look at how O’Keeffe integrated the modernity of her art and her life, exploring how she used clothing and the way she posed for the camera to shape her public persona. Though she dressed for personal comfort and ease, her wardrobe played a meaningful role in her aesthetic universe; she understood how clothes helped create and reinforce her image as an independent woman and artist,” (Brooklyn Museum).
A fashion maven in her own right, she wore some of the early designs of fashion giants like Salvatore Ferragamo and Cristobal Balenciaga. Her Tunics, denim and linen shirts, flat pointed shoes and dresses with peasant sleeves all reflected the places she lived, traveled to, and drew inspiration from in her work. I particularity liked the 1960s black and white Kimono—an 18th century Japanese pattern that later inspired European Art Nouveau.
Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty on view until May 7, 2017
“Minter’s career has been characterized by controversies over the relationship of her art to feminism, fashion and celebrity. Her work can appear as effortless as a mirror held up to the trappings and entrapments of luxury. Yet, as an artist interested in these vexed cultural intersections, Minter maintains a critical eye on the commercialization of desire and on complex and contradictory views of women. The first retrospective of her work, Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty presents the artist as an interpreter of our deepest impulses, compulsions, and fantasies,” (Brooklyn Museum).
A mouth with lipstick kisses and licks at some type of shimmering glittery substance as the camera captures the movement—like a Xerox copying an image. It is indeed disturbingly beautiful and seductive—the bodily function of licking and using one’s mouth in that fashion. It’s an area of the body that’s filled with bacteria and various degrees of decay, yet we use it to experience intimacy, express love and to receive nourishment. When one thinks about it, the dichotomy is intriguing.
Whether it’s a perfectly good tube of lipstick that’s broken at the base or well manicured feet with electric green polish that are covered in grime, the entire exhibit features videos and photographs that walk a fine line between the gorgeous and the grotesque.
For the vegan readers out there I don’t have to tell you what a difference a decade can make. I can remember the consternation fixed on a waiter’s face, as my vegan friends would attempt to perform a scientific dissection of the menu. Frustrated with trying to gerrymander a decent meal for themselves, they’d inevitably end up pushing a plate of rubbery steamed vegetables around while we all socialized. Now vegans have their own sections on menus—they even have cookies and ice cream thanks to establishments like Greenpoint based Van Leeuwen—and it’s delicious!
Much like the pervasiveness of veganism, which has dramatically broadened consumer choice, a similar trend has occurred with regards to eco-friendly luxury. From clothing and furniture to building materials and cars, high-end sustainability has become sexy and in demand. It’s forced the engineers of industry to factor environmental consciousness into innovation. No hotel has been able to utilize top-of-the-line sustainable resources quite as effectively as 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge. Located along the edge of the east river where the Brooklyn Promenade zigzags, adjacent to the iconic Brooklyn Bridge and sweeping views of the Manhattan skyline, this hotel is a waterfront retreat that invites its guests to commune with nature.
Hotel developer and founder of 1 Hotels Barry Sternlicht assembled a team of local artisans including Moses Nadel (leather works) Uhuru (handmade furniture) and Harrison Green (landscaping) to execute an environmentally sound vision that maintained a superior standard of luxury. Think sumptuous leather not burlap; honey and gray stained reclaimed wood not egg cartons. With an abundance of native plant life, the hotel skillfully brings the outside in. Impressively spearheaded by INC Architecture & Design, from consoles and sofas to potted plants, nothing is out of place—not even a leaf. But at the same time, the hotel feels relaxed and inviting.
My room was a cozy refuge where I could imagine myself becoming a shut-in. A gorgeous slate and marble bathroom and shower with its blackened steel fixtures met Natal mahogany hiding strips of strategically installed track-lighting that made the entire room subtly glow. A patch of green moss with a river rock that read “now,” was positioned next to the sink. Undoubtedly designed to bring guests’ attention to the present moment and increase the cultivation of tranquility—perhaps even a subliminal message reminding guests to take care of the environment.
I loved the charming drinking faucet operated by an industrial working-wheel. I turned it frequently when I needed to refill the green glass carafe they provided. Recycled cardboard hangers hung in a closet made out of wooden slats resembling crates. The custom hemp-blend mattress by Keetsa was so comfortable I struggled to leave it every morning. The room operated on state of the art technology affording me the ability to control everything from a super-synced iPad. However, nothing compared to my million-dollar view of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Skyline. Day and night I meditated on that view—people watching with my morning coffee—the city lights serving as a nightlight during the evening.
The hotel restaurant Neighbors provided farm to hotel suite artisanal goodness from local Brooklyn purveyors. Eager to sit amongst the foliage located in the hotel lobby, I nursed a “Leaves of Grass” cocktail (barley grass infused tequila concoction) while nibbling on heirloom tomato, buffalo mozzarella and caper bruschetta.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge encourages its guests to “gather” in a variety of spaces which include screening and meeting rooms, a gym, 10th Floor Hospitality Bar and Rooftop Pool & Bar that I predict will be the hottest ticket in Brooklyn as the weather starts to warm up. To top it all off, the word exceptional doesn’t begin to describe the level of hospitality the staff showed me. With uncommon alacrity, my every need and desire was taken into consideration and exceedingly satisfied.
1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge raised the bar. I believe in what they are doing—I endorse this way of vacationing and will continue to seek out the 1 Hotel experience as they develop more destination retreats around the world.
According to the National Restaurant Association in 2015 there were 45,681 eating establishments located in New York City employing over a half a million people. Dozens of restaurants throughout the city boast 2 to 3 Michelin stars secured by their world-renowned chefs who’ve used edible ingredients to artistically express themselves and our taste buds thank them for it. I’ve always found that the outer boroughs have been synonymous with international adventure through cuisine. Depending on the train and the direction it’s traveling, your metro card can serve as a passport with pre-approved culinary visas to an array of diverse kitchens from around the globe. That global influence has always inspired famous food chefs—truly emblematic of our melting pot society. Primarily focusing on Brooklyn eats; I scurried to my oldies but goodies, and embraced the newbie’s—eager to add them to my permanent rotation. From Buttermilk Channel in Carroll Gardens to the trusty reliable Egg in Williamsburg, Brooklyn is a food lovers paradise and definitely worth exploration. Below are 4 noteworthy options.
1. All Hands- It was “all hands on deck” at this new American seafood restaurant located in the outskirts of Williamsburg. After enjoying a yummy guava-based margarita, I chomped on Carolina white shrimp dipped in yuzu kosho-cocktail sauce. For entrees my friend and I shared the lobster BLT and the littleneck clam passatelli dish before moving on to the brown-butter financier topped with butter scotch sherry sauce, a scoop of cream cheese sorbet and a coco tuile. The dessert won the night along with the nautically industrial décor.
2. Madiba- Just a block away from the tranquil Fort Greene Park sits the long- standing South African treasure called Madiba—the ancestral clan name of Nelson Mandela. This colorful restaurant serves as a tribute to Mandela offering authentic South African cuisine to those with a taste for adventure. Mozambican prawns flavored with traditional peri-peri sauce, oxtail stew, and an assortment of Durban curries, are just a few of the menu stars to choose from. Madiba is definitely a culinary destination for anyone visiting Brooklyn. I wish they sold peri-peri sauce by the bottle. It’s so delicious and I’m sure they’d make a fortune.
3.Atrium- When you have fish and chips do you appreciate a golden brown, lightly fried piece of fish that flakes away as you pull it apart and dip it into a tangy tarter sauce? Do you like a crisp kale Caesar perfectly dressed with smoky bacon bits? Or how about chicken & waffles? Beneath the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, the Atrium is serving elevated comfort food like a boss. Sleek industrial design with touches of greenery scattered about, the Dumbo eatery is hip and affordable. I liked it so much; I ended up eating there twice over this trip.
4. Augustine- Not located in Brooklyn but downtown inside The Beeckman, Augustine is the quintessential French brasserie of my Parisian dreams. From the archetypal leather booths to the walls lined in antiqued mirrors and imported floral tiles, no detail was spared. My best friend and I met there for brunch and proceeded to devour their delectable beignets served with nutella, apple butter and pastry cream. Warm and sugary, they set us up nicely for the “Eggs Cardinal”— poached eggs, swiss chard and Maine lobster bathed in a savory cardinal sauce. It felt like old times in the Meat Packing sitting at Pastis in the corner booth with a Kir Royale. I can’t wait to come back for dinner. I hear the roasted bone marrow is outstanding.
Regarded as one of the 4 fashion capitals of the world, New York City is home to the coveted cool of everything and anything money can buy. Although the stretch of Manhattan boutiques from 5th Ave to Soho number in the 100s, to overlook Brooklyn haberdasheries would be a colossal mistake. For years I’ve been hitting up stores like The Brooklyn Circus for those vintage pieces in pristine condition or Park Slope’s Fig for those obscure international designer brands that keep the other fashionistas guessing. Hardly subsidiary, Brooklyn has always had a style of it’s own—one that’s arguably informed and inspired the most popular trends of today.
1. Gentry- The house formally known as H.W. Carter & Sons has a new look and location but same ole style bearing. They carry high-end independent labels for those customers looking for tailor made luxury outside the mainstream. I picked up a lovely linen plaid by Gitman Vintage.
2. Bird- From Comme des Garcons to Common Projects, this Williamsburg boutique has been bringing the fashion ruckus for over 15 years now. With multiple locations selling men’s and women’s apparel, owner Jennifer Mankins keeps her flocks of men handsomely outfitted in brands like A.P.C., Saturdays NYC, Our Legacy and Marni amongst many more. Los Angeleno women can squawk for joy because in the last month Bird flew west and made a stylish nest right in the Culver City Platform. Not carrying men’s clothing at the moment, this long-time patron has his feathers crossed.
3. Brooklyn Museum- The Seletti design group has created some of the most incredibly imaginative table art. After seeing the exhibits I wandered into the gift shop and spied the Seletti Toiletpaper Collection of metal plates. Surreal with a flare for the absurd, I bought these plates for some friends that have impeccable taste and a good sense of humor. The Seletti Hybrid Collection is my ultimate favorite.
I guess I can trace it all back to 1998. She was a Queen in white face paint, a red wig and rolled Elizabethan collar and I was a slack-jawed moviegoer transfixed by her formidable talent. With one commanding sentence, “Observe, Lord Burghley, I am married... to England,” she assumed the throne in my heart as my favorite living actress and nearly 20 years later she still reigns. Of course I’m talking about 2-time Oscar winning (and soon to be Tony winner if you ask me) actress Cate Blanchett. Earlier this year Blanchett made her Broadway debut in The Present—an adaptation of Chekhov’s Platonov written by her husband Andrew Upton and produced by the Sydney Theatre Company. I was fortunate enough to be front and center for the last performance on March 19th.
Trapped by circumstance and the sub-textual crisis of existence that seems to bewilder so many of Chekhov’s characters, Blanchett plays Anna Petrovna—a widow celebrating her 40th birthday amongst friends and family. The audience watched her and the other members of the incredible cast (particularly Richard Roxburgh) commit heinous atrocities against one another driven by unresolved past transgressions, their inability to control impulses, and stymied love connections. These characters unhinge and produce fatal wounds that confirm a truth that all human beings swallow everyday—life just isn’t fair.
This isn’t the first time I’ve witness Blanchett unravel before my eyes. Back in 2006 I saw the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Three feet away in an intimate stage setting, I’ll never forget when the hem of her period-gown brushed over the tips of my shoes—her commanding movements encroaching on the proscenium. She was as brilliant in that role as she was in this one. Her ability is unbelievable. Blanchett doesn’t act, she becomes and to witness her metamorphosis on stage goes beyond an unforgettable moment for me the likes of which I can’t adequately describe.
Take Brooklynite Spike Lee’s advice and do the right thing by exploring all the wonderful things the BK has to offer. You will fall in love with New York in a completely different way.