The New Corner Grocers

Day Ten 12 Tastes of Brooklyn
salumi-platter-brooklyn-winery

Charcuterie and cheese plates, often with products from small local grocers, are offered up at Brooklyn’s wine and brew bars. This one at Brooklyn Winery.

dec15WITH SO MANY ARTISANAL FOOD MAKERS in Brooklyn, it’s good to also find some wonderful small grocery stores where you can buy their small-batch products. These are the anti-supermarket—you really want to call them shops because they often conjure up the feeling of a village shop where customers and proprietor greet each other by name. The selections in these diminutive stores are carefully chosen (dare I say curated?) from producers that the proprietors often know personally. They’ve tasted the cheese, or the salumi, or the sauces or pickles and they like them! And they want you to have them (for a price). I was on the hunt, recently, for salumi and cheeses and meze for a holiday gathering.

d-coluccioI’d already bagged my baba ganoush at Sahadi’s and some soppressata and Italian cheese from D. Coluccio & Sons (above), a store and importing/wholesale business that’s been around for half a century. (Like Sahadi’s, it has been an anchor in its neighborhood bringing hard-to-find artisanal and specialty products to a discriminating audience.) Now I’m ready to explore some of the small grocers.

Beth Lewand and Chris Gray opened Eastern District two years ago to bring their favorite beers and cheeses to Greenpoint. The shelves are stocked with plenty of local products, but the store sources farther afield too. The cheese selection will keep you there for half an hour trying to decide.

Mmmm....what to take? Great choices at Eastern District.

Mmmm….what to take? Great choices at Eastern District.

Salumi comes from such respected producers as Olympic Provisions in Seattle, Creminelli in Salt Lake City and Charlito’s Cocina in Queens. I sampled Charlito’s salumi earlier this summer at Smorgasburg. Charlito (Charles Samuel Wekselbaum), who was raised in a Cuban-American household, draws on the curing traditions of Spain and uses 100% pasture-raised heritage breed pork. (Check out his fig salumi, too.) Each week, there’s a different cheese/beer pairing at Eastern District, with rotating beers on tap (and growlers to take some home).

When you open the door of Bedford Cheese Shop, the pungent aromas of cheese hit you. This is a good thing. The cheese descriptions are witty, the staff helpful (they’ll always offer tastes). Salumi comes from small-batch producers.

Brooklyn Cheese Shop, established in 2003

Bedford Cheese Shop, established in 2003

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The whole shop is inviting, with shelves stocked with the best of Brooklyn and beyond. At a second branch on Irving Place in Manhattan, Bedford Cheese now offers classes. Next up, on December 19: whiskey styles and their cheese counterparts.

A.L.C. Italian Grocery is a gem of a store in Bay Ridge that has been open less than two months. Owner Louis Coluccio grew up in the specialty food business (he is one of the sons in D. Coluccio & Sons). Now, for his own store, he aims to combine “the best of Italian products and the best of local products,” he told us when we visited last week.

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The selection is meticulous and beautifully displayed. You’ll find Parmacotto Salumeria Rosi and smoked pancetta from Leoncini (both Italian) as well as Brooklyn Cured and Mosefund Farm meats.

Italian and Brooklyn products share the shelves at A.L.C. Italian Grocery.

Italian and Brooklyn products share the shelves at A.L.C. Italian Grocery.

Tastings happen often, sometimes twice a week; today was prosciutto—“Genuine prosciutto is made of only four ingredients: hand-selected legs of premier pigs, salt, air and skill.” A.L.C. Grocery is also working on some evening classes at the shop with select producers, which they hope to announce in early January.

Eastern District
1053 Manhattan Avenue, Greenpoint
718-349-1432

D. Coluccio & Sons, Inc.
1214 60th Street, Borough Park
718-436-6700

Bedford Cheese Shop
229 Bedford Avenue, Williamsburg
718-599-7588

A.L.C. Italian Grocery
8613 3rd Avenue, Bay Ridge
718-836-3200

Photographs by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is American Typewriter, by Joel Kaden and Tony Stan, ITC, 1974.

 

12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: Not Your Grandmother’s Dumbo

Day Ten  12 Views of Brooklyn
From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who's Who

From the Brooklyn Roasting Phog. See Who’s Who

dec15IT’S FUN TO MONITOR THE REAL-ESTATE MONIKERS for neighborhoods – especially the Edsels among them, like the failed attempt to brand WesChe. It conjured up English dog breeds or stinky cheese rather than the intended Chelsea-beyond-Tenth-Avenue. Some say it all started in the late ’60s with WestBeth, the early West-of-Bethune Street loft conversion for artists’ residential use. But it came to sound like a Laugh-In rerun, as if Dan Rowan has crossed the East River into Outer Brooklyn and is trying to orient himself with a broker’s map. Rowan: Wait, Soho, isn’t that in England? Dick Martin: No, it’s SOuth of HOuston. Rowan: Houston, isn’t that in Texas? Martin: No, say HOWston, don’t say HEWston. R: Well, then, for NoHo, shouldn’t that be NoHow? M: No way. R: Tribeca, was that a Native tribe like our Canarsie and Gowanus? M: No, TriBeCA is the Triangle Below Canal. And besides, Gowanus wasn’t a tribe, it was the name of the sachem of the Canarsees, the local group of the Lenape. (Long pause.) R: You Manhattanites make up stuff just to confuse people. In Brooklyn, our neighborhood names have history and dignity: Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Vinegar Hill, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Crown Heights. M: With all those hills and heights, you Brooklyns must (rolling eyes) really like being high. Maybe that explains why you have a neighborhood called – heh heh –Dumbo. R: That’s an acronym for Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass, a historic district that recognizes Brooklyn’s hard-working industrial past. Martin, holding hands beside his head and flapping them like wings, annoyingly: Nothing to do with Walt Disney’s 1941 movie? Rowan stares, shakes head and exits stage left to the R train, proud to be a bridge-and-tunnel person.

The Comforts of Tea

Day Nine 12 Sips of Brooklyn
Michael Shannon of Bellocq Tea Atelier

Michael Shannon of Bellocq Tea Atelier brewing tea so visitors can taste.

dec14TAXONOMY, CLADISTICS, SYSTEMATICS, PHYLOGENETICS—so many ways to group and divide living things. Darwin famously sundered the world into “lumpers and splitters”: those who are happy with the general gist, and those who are obsessed with specifics.

The tea trade is one where splitters can run riot: green or black, white or yellow, oolong or pu-erh—all the varieties of Camellia sinensis that have descended through 3,000 years of recorded history. But even within those broad categories, there are nuances piled on subtleties, geography and climate, blends and additives, methods and styles of preparation. Japan and China have elaborate and precise rituals of preparing and serving tea that can last for hours. Even the pragmatic English have woven the drink into their culture and mythology.

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Bellocq Christmas blend in its silver plate caddy

Visit Bellocq in Greenpoint during their limited shop hours and you immediately recognize that here be tea splitters. The neat rows of silver containers with the bold yellow and white labels signal that tea is taken very seriously in these precincts. Yes, you think, this is what a tea shop should be. It is a transport to a quiet and calm that seems centuries and leagues away from the busy streets of North Brooklyn 2012.

It can be a bit daunting. I admit I remain a bit of a lumper and my knowledge of tea is an inch deep and an inch wide, but I stand in awe of the level of awareness and sophistication about the product that is evident at an emporium like Bellocq.

On the day we visited, co-owner Michael Shannon presided in an unhurried manner that was helpful and deeply informative. He brewed tea and explored the intricacies of sourcing teas to avoid the hucksters and scams that abound in that market. He methodically poured samples while revealing a refined sense of the aesthetics of his product. He cracked open canisters to appreciate the aromas while speaking in the same calm fashion about the frenzy the business endured when it was recently cited in O, The Oprah Magazine as one of Oprah’s favorite things. An hour at Bellocq is as warming and refreshing to the spirit as the product they sell.

P-and-S-Teas-1197PS Coffee Tea N Spices in Park Slope is a different cup of tea. This store might appeal more to the lumpers among us. Stacks of boxes, cans and jars filled with teas and tisanes and infusions jostle for attention with spices and coffees. Here you feel awed less by the depth of tea esoterica and more by the breadth of stock in a little space. When asked how many teas the store carries, the manager responds, “Two hundred”, which I suspect is a conservative guesstimate. This is a diverse collection, with the old-fashioned packaging of Ty-phoo hard by the elegant boxes of Republic of Tea.tea-pot-p-and-s-1201 I am certain you can find your heart’s desire, a tea for every condition of the spirit. But I like it because most of the time I remain a lumper: “Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”

Bellocq Tea Atelier
104 West Street, Greenpoint

800-495-5416

PS Coffee Tea N Spices
368 5th Avenue, Park Slope
718-768-5561

Photographs by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Rockwell, by Morris Fuller Benton and Frank Pierpont, Monotype, 1934.

Flavors from Afar, Right Next Door

Day Nine 12 Tastes of Brooklyn
sahadis1816

Sahadi’s has been on Atlantic Avenue for 64 years.

dec14SO MANY OF THE TASTES OF BROOKLYN—and we haven’t even scratched the surface here—have arrived with the waves of immigrants that grew the city into what it is today. Irish and Germans escaping famine or revolution at home—along with Brits and more than a few New England merchants and makers—had already made Brooklyn the third largest city in the U.S. by 1860. Then in the late 1880s came Russian Jews, Italians, Poles and Scandinavians, exploding the population and adding to its diversity again. By then, Brooklyn manufactured more goods than almost anywhere in the nation. The Great Migration brought Southern Blacks; Puerto Ricans arrived to work in the needle trades and cigar factories. Today, there are vital Caribbean and African-American and Chinese and Arab and Italian communities, just to mention a few. So you know where to go—right?— to get the very best patties or black cake or sufganiyot or sweet potato pie or dim sum or baba ganoush. Just head to a neighborhood and ask a local.

tower-of-takeout

Tower of Takeout: makings of a party for less than $20

As times and economics change, ethnic enclaves blossom in a neighborhood and then fade and reappear in new neighborhoods. And always, they bring with them, and leave behind, the tastes of home—grocery stores, restaurants, food trucks. In more than a few cases, the grocers, of necessity, become importers—how else to get the beloved artisanal ingredients their customers need to make the handcrafted recipes that have been passed from generation to generation?

Sahadi’s Importing Co., with its retail grocery on Atlantic Avenue and a warehouse in Sunset Park, is just such a place. Charlie Sahadi’s father, Wade, came from Lebanon in 1919 to work in his uncle’s food business, established in 1895 in Little Syria (or Little Lebanon—Syria and Lebanon were part of the same country at the time) in lower Manhattan. In 1941 Wade decided to start his own business in Brooklyn, moving to the Atlantic Avenue location in 1948. “So I can’t take any credit,” says Charlie, far too modestly.  “I was four at the time. But my brother and I, and now my children also, have kept it going. We’re in our 64th year.” Much of the Atlantic Avenue Arab-American community has moved to Bay Ridge or beyond now, and a thriving Sahadi’s welcomes crowds of multi-ethnic lovers of nuts, dried fruits, spices, olives, cheeses, breads, prepared foods (see above), olive oils and shelves and shelves of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern delicacies.

sahadis-olives-bab-ganoush1854

Olives and baba ganoush from Sahadi’s, in bowls by potter Claire Weissberg of Claireware.

This is the perfect place to go foraging if you’re pulling together drinks and bites for a crowd. The tower of takeout pictured above—from bottom: baba ganoush, Mediterranean olives, tabouleh, hummus, Moroccan picholine olives—came to all of $17.65. The baba ganoush is made with nothing but eggplant, tahini, garlic and lemon juice; the hummus with chick peas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice and water, the chef tells me. Yes, they have chefs because the food is prepared in their kitchens. The tabouleh is more parsley than bulgur, as it should be, and comes out of the kitchen bright green, freshly made.

Since I recently visited Claire Weissberg of Claireware: Urban Folk Pottery in her studio in Gowanus and purchased two beautiful little bowls, seen above, with olives and baba ganoush, I’m ready for my crowds. Well, I may need a few more bowls.

Sahadi’s
187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn Heights
718-624-4550

Claireware
543 Union Street, Gowanus
718-875-3977 (call before making the trip)

Photographs by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Rockwell, by Morris Fuller Benton and Frank Pierpont, Monotype, 1934.

12 DAYS OF BROOKLYN: Reflecting on the Gowanus

Day Nine • 12 Views of Brooklyn
Painting by Ella Yang. See Who's Who

Painting by Ella Yang. See Who’s Who

 

dec14TWO KEY WORDS ASSOCIATED WITH THE GOWANUS  CREEK CANAL are “toxic” and “sky.” Extra emphasis on the first came with reports of the woman’s body pulled out of the canal on Tuesday and immediately whisked off to Methodist Hospital, no more said about her condition. News accounts recapped the well-deserved EPA Superfund rating of one of the nation’s most extensively contaminated water bodies. True, all true, enough to make you gag . But the – literally – upside of our canal is the amount of open sky over both the waterway and the low-rise, mostly industrial buildings that line it. That is just how the light over the old downtown (in what we call Outer Brooklyn) Gansevoort Meatpacking District  used to be, before high-rise development began to – again, literally – cast its shadows over what had become a “hot” area. The eternal urban tradeoff. While the debate over canal clean-up continues, it’s good to take some time before change comes to Gowanus to admire the big sky and its reflections. The landmarked Carroll Street bridge is a possible vantage. Help in seeing what you’re looking at comes from Ella Yang, whose painting is surely one of the most appealing representations of a Gowanus water scene since Henry Gritten‘s in 1851.

Distilled in Brooklyn

Day Eight 12 Sips of Brooklyn

kingscountybourbon

dec13 date stamp by Joy Makon Design

TODAY’S SIP TAKES TO HEART THE WORDS of the incomparable Ogden Nash: “Candy is dandy, but Liquor is quicker.” Instead of words, words, words, though, let’s cut to the headline: Brooklyn Brews Booze.

Kings County Bourbon (top) is distilled in the 113-year old Paymaster Building of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Check out Brooklyn Artisan‘s earlier coverage on a tour of the distillery. Kings County, one of the first small-batch distillers in the state, brews its mash with Scottish barley for authenticity, along with American corn. For true Brooklyn cred, the distillery has added corn picked from a small crop grown in the yard of the distillery into their batches. Best served neat—water breaks things!

dark-brew

Widow Jane Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (above, left) is the most recent offering from Cacao Prieto in Red Hook. Released in October 2012 at a party there, Widow Jane is made with water brought from the limestone mine in upstate New York that provided stone for the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building.

Industry City No. 2 Vodka (above, center) is produced in Sunset Park, where Industry City Distilling creates its sugar beet vodka. They document their progress in building a larger plant on their nicely designed, fun web site, which has videos, photos of the distillers and details about the distilling process. Wonder what happened to No. 1?

77 Whiskey, from Brueckelen Distillery (above, right) in Sunset Park is made from New York State wheat. The distillers were the subject of a beautiful Made by Hand video a couple of years ago.

gins

New York Distilling is making gin (above, left) in Williamsburg, including a version named in tribute to Algonquin Round Table denizen Dorothy Parker, who definitely knew gin. They also have a full service bar cum tasting room next to the distillery called The Shanty.

Brueckelen also makes Glorious Gin (above, center) with New York Wheat, keeping it in the family.

 Brooklyn Gin, despite its name (above, right), is actually fabricated in Warwick, New York, which makes it part of that region we like to call Outer Brooklyn. But we take the name as a gin-soaked compliment.

Kings County Distillery
63 Flushing Avenue, Navy Yard

Industry City Distilling
33 35th Street, Sunset Park
917-727-5309

Breuckelen Distilling
77 19th Street, Sunset Park

347-725-4985

Cacao Prieto
218 Conover Street, Red Hook
347-225-0130

New York Distilling Company
79 Richardson Street, Williamsburg
718-412-0874

Brooklyn Distilling Company
Warwick, New York

Many of these drinks are available for consumption at fine Brooklyn booze halls like:

The Drink
228 Washington Avenue, Williamsburg
718-782-8463

Fort Defiance
365 Van Brunt Street, Red Hook
347-453-6672

Photographs by Bruce Campbell. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Shelley Allegro, by Matthew Carter, Linotype, 1972.

Pies, Glorious Pies

Day Eight 12 Tastes of Brooklyn
Felipa-Lopez-Pie-Corps819

We visited Felipa Lopez, co-owner of Pie Corps, selling pies at New Amsterdam Market this fall.

dec13 date stamp by Joy Makon DesignSAVORY PIES BRING YOU A WHOLE NUTRITIOUS MEAL in one perfect packet, which could come in mighty handy as the house fills up with guests and you have more meals than just that one Big Holiday Dinner to plan. Turkey, sweet potato and rosemary pie, lamb curry and pea, stout-braised beef, winter greens with white bean, feta and walnut—is your mouth watering yet?—Moroccan beef with chick pea and almond, red wine mushroom pie: Cheryl Perry and Felipa Lopez of Pie Corps hand make them all in their Greenpoint bakery. Specially for the holidays—still my beating Québec ex-pat heart—they are baking tourtières as well. And just as English miners carried Cornish pasties for a perfect portable lunch, we now have Pie Corps’ hand pies. Plus, of course, those irresistible bite-size Pie Pops—maple bacon, pear or apple cinnamon.

Pie pops are fun to eat!

Pie pops are fun to eat!

Carefully sourced ingredients and creative combos are their trademarks. The pies are all made with organic flour milled in Lancaster, PA, butter from a Vermont cooperative of dairy farmers and fresh produce and meat from their farmer friends all around New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. You’ll find the pies at New Amsterdam Market on Sundays, or at their newly opened shop on Driggs Avenue in Greenpoint, where you can grab yourself a cup of Brooklyn Roasting Company coffee as well.  Yes, Pie Corps also makes sweet pies—gingerbread custard among them!

And for DIYers, it has just started giving monthly baking classes: January 23 is “Savory Winter Pies,” $65. (At press time, one or two spots are still open in the December 18th class, too.) Hand pies, $6; savory 10-inch pies, $40; sweet 10-inch, $35.

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Add lime slices and whipped cream to your pie, if you like. (Photo courtesy Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies)

Speaking of sweet, we head over to Red Hook, where, hallelujah, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies is back in production again, after some serious flooding  by Sandy. Baker/owner Steve Tarpin, who grew up in Florida, makes the pies by hand in small batches using 100 percent pure fresh butter for the graham-cracker crust and freshly squeezed key lime juice. Reconstituted juice may be OK “if you’re stripping paint or removing rust, but not not in a food product,” he insists. The key lime (citrus aurantiifolia) is much smaller than the familiar “Persian” lime, about the size of a ping pong or golf ball; he points out it’s not exclusive to the Florida Keys (it’s native to Southeast Asia), but was brought to the Keys and naturalized.

In addition to the elegant and aromatic key lime pies, you’ll want to try a Steve’s Authentic exclusive, the Swingle—a Belgian chocolate–dipped frozen tart on a stick. Wow. Steve delivers his pies around town, including to Union Markets in Brooklyn. Or he’ll sell you one at company headquarters on Pier 41. Walk-in hours vary throughout the week but with more certainty Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and weekends, 11 am–5 pm (at least). Call ahead to be sure. 10-inch pie, $28; 8-inch, $18; 4-inch tart, $5; Swingle, $6.

Pie Corps
77 Driggs Avenue, Greenpoint
917-721-3052 / 917-582-2769

Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies
204 Van Dyke Street, Pier 41, Red Hook
888-450-5463, 718-858-5333

Photographs by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Shelley Allegro, by Matthew Carter, Linotype, 1972.

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