Joy’s Best of Brooklyn for February 15, 16, 17

Just call it fun and make something! Like Lego Gadgets. At the Makery Pop Up, students explore STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competencies using traditional design tools in addition to advanced digital fabrication tools. See Saturday for details.

Just call it fun and make something—like these Lego Gadgets!
At the Makery Pop Up (see Saturday, below), all ages have a chance to make cool things using
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) competencies that make use of
traditional design tools and advanced digital fabrication methods.

On this Maritime Sunday, witness the struggles of the Thomas D. Witte tug as it manages a barge into place on the lamentable Newtown Creek. That’s the City’s “Newtown Creek Dock”, tenanted by the mill of the titanic SimsMetal operation.

Could this be the most polluted body of water in the United States?

About that border between Brooklyn and Queens…

Friday Obscura Society: “Up the Creek” a talk with historian Mitch Waxman. Is Newtown Creek, running along the border between Brooklyn and Queens, the most polluted body of water in the United States? Mitch Waxman will lead you through an evening of discussion featuring his research and photographs of this 3.8 mile-long waterway that was named to the Superfund list by the Federal EPA. The NYTimes recently named Mitch as “Your Guide to a Tour of Decay” in part for his passion of documenting the obscure and forgotten area that was once one of the nation’s great manufacturing centers. Part of the Atlas Obscura Speakers series at Observatory, Gowanus. 7pm-9pm.

The Makery's instructors are part of HTINK.*

The Makery’s instructors are part of HTINK.*

Great parent/child activity

Saturday The Makery Pop Up on Bergen Street. Call it a portable digital playground, a 21st century shop class, or Dad’s garage workshop (if dad was an MIT grad). The Makery aims to be a venue where all ages can become Makers using cool, new technologies. Today’s event will have Makers building a Drawing Robot using simple circuits, soldering, 3D design and printing. Through April 30 this pop up space will have weekend and some weeknight sessions offering topics such as DIY Cell Phone Projector and Intro to Soldering, all led by instructors with engineering backgrounds. *Instructors and The Makery team are part of HTINK (pronouced tink) an educational services cooperative focused on spreading technical learning and creative problem solving skills to as many people as possible. BOCOCA.

tedXStream this entire event live

Saturday TEDxManhattan “Changing the Way We Eat.” This year’s conference has a theme that rings loud and clear to us: to explore and bolster sustainable ways of eating and producing food. An interesting mix of speakers include Gary Hirshberg, chairman, Stonyfield Farm, Anna Lappé, founding principal, Small Planet Institute and Small Planet Fund, Bill Yosses, Executive Pastry Chef, The White House, along with film clips and music performances. The disappointing news is that tickets sold out awhile ago, but the entire event is available for livestreaming from 10:30am-6:00pm.

Base Design’s branding for NYCxDesign.

Base Design’s branding for NYCxDesign.

Citywide design event just announced

NYCxDESIGN, a 12-day citywide event to showcase and promote design of all disciplines, chaired by City Council speaker Christine C. Quinn. “We have more designers in New York City than any other U.S. city, but we do a terrible job promoting them in their totality,” she told the NYTimes. The idea behind NYCxDESIGN, planned by Fashion Week founder Fern Mallis, is to make design visible to people who don’t normally think about it. Many types of programs are planned, including exhibitions, installations, trade shows, talks, launches and open studios. All will be culled from design disciplines of graphic, product, architecture, fashion, digital, urban, furniture, plus design thinkers and educators. The BKLYN Designs 2013 exhibition of contemporary furnishings and home accessories at St. Ann’s Warehouse, DUMBO will be an official event of NYCxDESIGN. Check the website to see how you can participate as well as attend events. May 10 thorough May 21.

Portlandia is just Brooklyn spelled differently.

They like their artisanal stuff as much as we do.

2todoNOTEJoy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists. Send items for listings to

My Tasty – Though Hasty – Valentine Comes with a Love Poem (and a Dash of Chagrin)

Chocolove Belgian Chocolate Bars (Oops, Not Made in Brooklyn)SOME YEARS I JUST CAN’T BE THE VALENTINE GIVER I’D LIKE TO BE. Flu, deadlines, house guests, or no excuses, it just happens. So this year, on the way home from the Q train, I’m skidding into Natural Land on Flatbush Avenue to pick up some chocolate I’ve been eyeing from time to time. The flavors sound good and there’s a little notice on the outside of each package: “love poem inside,” it says, and sports an embossed heart-shaped seal as well as a cute little ersatz postmark and flavor-naming stamp. Definitely an effort has been made here, though not as classy as Mast Brothers’ paper wrapping. Still, I think how the oversized, artisanal-style Chocolove bar will look on Sweet Lover’s pillow tonight, Valentine’s Eve. Um mmm, good. Very intentional looking, getting a slight jump on The Day.

Mae West’s husky voice comes to my mind’s ear: “Too much of a good thing is…wonderful.” Full of devotion and other emotion, I buy three. I wonder if each flavor has its own love poem or are they all the same.

Only as I am setting out the chocolate bars on Sweetie Pie’s pillow right under the reading light do I discover the shocking truth! These chocolates were not made in Brooklyn. Boulder, Colorado–whoa, that’s Wa-a-ay Outer Brooklyn. How can a founding team blogger of Brooklyn Artisan have made such a mistake? It may not even be fair-trade cocoa!

If the love poetry is to be read aloud, best to peel open rather than tearing it.

If the love poem is to be shared aloud, best peel rather than rip it open.

Desperately, I turn over each bar: It is the same story.  “Belgian chocolate made from Javanese and African beans,” the Hazelnuts in Milk Chocolate bar confesses. Dark Chocolate bar murmurs, “African cocoa beans.” Coffee Crunch in Dark Chocolate hisses, “Dark semisweet chocolate with roasted coffee bean bits”– no hint of country of origin from this one, no naming of the transport (sailboat or otherwise), no high-minded bearded brothers.

My Sugar Love discovers me thus, with a lapful of rogue chocolate. He is happy! He tears open Coffee Crunch in Dark Chocolate and the outside wrapper falls aside. He offers me a row of squares. I find it is delicious, and he agrees. Crunching this guilty pleasure, I rescue the torn wrapper. It is a little hard to read “Sonet VI” [sic] by Robert Louis Stevenson, but we manage.

“O strange chance more sorrowful than sweet,” the poet wrote, but my minor misadventure has turned out just the opposite: There are worse things than crunchy chocolate crumbs in the bed.

(Photographs by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool)

Thursday’s blogroll, a text-only posting

It is ugly-cold, and I’m pampering the never-ending sniffles by staying inside today. Here’s some of what I’m checking out today, with a nod to my fellow bloggers:

• This chef enjoyed ant larvae tostadas in Mexico City.

• Could you not have spared me that?

• Opinions noted, don’t totally disagree. Funny site, might bookmark.

• Straight out of a seven sisters mag ©1979? The one about a splash of vinegar is new to me.

• A fictionalized patisserie chef falls in love with typography.

• Saw this on Saturday @ New York City Ballet. It’s pretty cool, and BKLYN-based!

• Can’t get enough of this typography.

• Ha Ha Ha.

• Life is a pretty photo shoot part one.

• Life is a pretty photo shoot part two.

• Around the world in 30 blocks (in Outer Brooklyn).

• Garlic, ginger, honey.

Was that feed a fever, starve a cold?

What’s on your blogroll?

Happy 2013 to Brooklyn Artisans (and Small Batch Producers Everywhere!)

To welcome 2013, some dazzle's the thing, so we added this bit of skeumorphic bling.

To welcome 2013, some dazzle’s the thing, so we added this bit of skeuomorphic bling.

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all over the place,

Brooklyn artisans were producing at a furious pace.

The labels were ready, as nice as you please,

Santa’s sack stood open, for packing with ease.

Distribution was simple, down the chimney’s a breeze!

We thank the farm markets, the Smorg’ and the Fleas

For bringing us tasters of pickles and cheese,

And honor all sippers of egg creams and brews

Not to mention our local distillers’ own booze.

We  salute thee, St. Fedex and brave UPS,

Whose overnight services make us feel blessed,

And Avery Labels so our products look dressed!

With letter-press greetings and paperless mail,

Arduinos, 3D printers and the newest craft cocktail,

The New Year’s exciting, but first – time to rest!

Latest word: will be back in action January 3.


Joy’s Best of Brooklyn, December 7, 8, 9, 10

Festival of Lights, photography by Brooklyn Artisan.

Festival of Lights, 2012, photography from the Brooklyn Artisan photo pool.

Eclectic edition, shopping roundup included.
PS: When’s Festivus?

200px-Radio_free_albemuthFriday, Saturday, Sunday: The inaugural weekend of the Philip K. Dick Science Fiction Film Festival. Hollywood’s love affair with sci-fi author Philip K. Dick is well represented by hits such as Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall. This weekend’s festival of screenings, speakers and panel discussions covers some of the best and newest in science fiction, science and the supernatural. Watch documentaries on A.I., virtual reality, galactic superwaves. Observe scientist Ronald Mallett Ph.D. who is working on a real-life time travel machine. The festival opens Friday with an adaptation of Dick’s last novel, Radio Free Albemuth. At indieScreen, Williamsburg. Check the website for schedule.

picklesSaturday, Sunday: Whiskey, Pickles and Jerky Pairing Weekend at Brooklyn Oenology. Pickles + New York State Whiskey = Picklebacks, the now-classic Brooklyn chaser. Composed of 1oz whiskey chased with 1oz pickle brine with jerky garnish for additional oomph. Williamsburg. Saturday, 3pm-midnight. Sunday, 12pm-10pm.

Etsy crafter Jessica Marquez, author of
Stitched Gifts (Chronicle Books), will share her
techniques this weekend at Textile Arts Center.

Saturday, Sunday: Make your own Fabric Books: Hand Bound, Dyed and Stitched, a two-day class at Textile Arts Center. Taught by Etsy member and maker behind Miniature Rhino, Jessica Marquez, and visual artist Rebecca Kelly. Book binding, sewing, embroidery, dyeing and image transfer techniques will be taught and students will make three simple practice books. Park Slope. 11am-5pm each day.

Saturday: Downtown Brooklyn Holiday Trolley. Relive a bit of Brooklyn history by taking a free ride on the hop-on/hop-off old-fashioned trolley as it makes eight stops along a mile-long circular route covering interesting architecture and local lore. Warm up with hot chocolate as guides share stories about Brooklyn’s past and present history. This would be a novel way to get from Brooklyn Heights to BAM or the Brooklyn Flea. Every Saturday through December 22. Brooklyn Heights, Fort Greene. 1pm-7pm.

Saturday: The Art of the Tequila Cocktail, presented by Sycamore. The Cocktail Weenies Mike Mikos and Wil Petre, who also happen to be the expert barmen at Sycamore, will host an evening devoted to everything about tequila cocktails. Demonstrations, recipe booklets, snacks will be part of improving one’s mixology skills. Advance ticket purchase advised. Ditmas Park. 5pm.

beardAllianceSaturday: 3rd annual NYC Beard & Mustache Competition, produced by Gotham City Beard Alliance, an organization to promote tolerance and acceptance of all facial hair. Proceeds of the evening, being held at Warsaw, will go to the NYC chapter of the MS Society. Judging categories include, but are not limited to: Full Beard Styled Moustache–heavy use of styling aids on your moustache permitted; College–18-22 year old competitors or baby faces; Freestyle–anything goes, styling aids ok; Women’s Most Fantastic–creativity. Greenpoint. Registration starts at 6:30pm, doors open at 7pm.

FiveBucksFinal01Sunday: unwind and have a cozy dinner somewhere in the nabe. Try Fort Defiance: Saxelby Cheesemonger Plate, Pickled Beet Salad, Prescription Julep (circa 1857). Red Hook. Dinner 5pm-11pm. Also check out their Buy Now Drink Later Junk Bonds to help them rebuild post-Sandy.

Sunday: Concert & Comedy for Sandy Animals, a benefit for Sean Casey Animal Rescue. Live music, videos, art, raffle and giftbags. Littlefield, Gowanus. 7pm.

Monday, aka third Hanukkah candle: Fourth Annual Latke Festival, sponsored by Great Performances and Edible Brooklyn. Sample creations by notable Brooklyn chefs from BAMcafe, Blue Ribbon Brooklyn, The Farm on Adderley (Spud Maccabee with pickled fennel jam, butternut squash, and crème fraîche), Stone Park Cafe, Berlyn, The Vanderbilt, The Sussman Brothers (latkes with lots of sauces), along with other Outer Brooklyn chefs. Enter your own recipe ahead of time to be part of the latke cook off. Tickets are limited and must be pre-purchased by Monday via the festival website. At BAM, Fort Greene. 6:30pm.


Saturday, Sunday:

  • Housing Works Buy the Bag. Housing Works provides housing resources for New Yorkers living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Their thrift shops are a staple among savvy NYC hunter-gatherer types. What began as an event is now a free-standing store and works like this: spend $25 and receive a bag to fill up with gently-used menswear, womenswear and accessories. Purchase as many bags to fill as you like. Sunset Park. Saturday 12pm-6pm. Sunday 12pm-5pm.


Festivus is celebrated on December 23. There’s plenty of time to prepare.

Joy Makon curates Brooklyn Artisan’s Craft & Design coverage and creates the weekly Best of Brooklyn lists.
Send items for listings to

How to Eat Those Veggies No Matter What

When your power’s out for who knows how long, you start to appreciate some of life’s simpler things. You realize that canning is civilization’s third-greatest invention, right behind 10-speed bicycles and grandma’s knitted sweaters. Artisanal, DIY types might have Ball jars full of home-grown preserves in their well-stocked pantries, but if you’re me you head directly to the canned-green-bean aisle at Key Food.

How to recognize the can opener on your Swiss Army KnifeOpening a can without power is no problem to me these days. When my electric can opener shot craps—it was during the Great New York City Blackout of ’02 or ’03 when it suddenly stopped working—I trashed it and devolved to the manual one with the butterfly handles that turn the circular blade that presses against the gear that presses against the can’s lip.

Then I discovered one on my Swiss Army Knife. Within a few minutes and a couple of failed tries that resulted in minor wounds, I figured out how it works—and simultaneously realized that this is undoubtedly how people did it in the old, old early days of American canning. And now I’m passing on that wisdom to you.

Better pay attention: I hear a nor’easter is headed our way on Thursday.   [Read more…]

A Guys’ Guy’s First Step Down the Slippery Slope to …


Author Phil Scott in disguide as survivalist

“New York Magazine may think artisanal pickles are ‘twee,’ but I don’t. Not one little bit.”
(Photo: Mollie Ann Smith)

I’m a five-foot-eleven-inch, 175-pound manly male, comfortable climbing Kilimanjaro or sleeping on the cold metal floor of a transport headed to or from Afghanistan, comfortable surviving on MREs. I once tried to have The Food Channel removed from my cable package and replaced with The Manly Adventure Channel. Last time I stepped foot in a kitchen was to nuke a couple of hot dogs. Otherwise it’s the room I have to cross through to get from my bedroom to the bathroom. And now because I’m always looking to cut costs, I’m signed up for what could be one of the most complex operations known to cooking kind—canning. And I’m the only guy in the class.

Catherine, who’s teaching the canning class at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, explains that it’s been a part of her life for her whole life. Her grandmother’s last words were, “Well girls, I guess we won’t be canning this year.” At the beginning of the two-hour class she says that anything can be pickled, from green beans to eggs. Yeah, eggs. They taste gross, but they’re still pickleable. That’s probably why they’re usually only found in bars.

Us novices, we’re going to start with green beans. Not a big fan of green beans.

Catherine really emphasizes exactitude. This whole canning business isn’t so much an art as a precise chemistry problem. “Follow directions,” she says. “It’s really easy to get botulism.” For those who haven’t had botulism, or botulitis, or whatever it’s called, the stuff’s pretty toxic. [Read more…]

Understanding the Hollywood Smoke

I WAS REMINDED by John J. Kochevar’s comments in An Artisanal Author Confronts His Pencils of how many traditional skills are fast disappearing these days. Here is another.

Montgomery Clift shows the classic cowboy roll on the set of Red River.

How to Roll a – uh, a Cigarette like a Pro.

The intent here is not to skirt Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to ban public smoking in New York City , but rather to address the high cost of a pack of cigarettes as well as record some ways of working with one’s hands once glamorized by Hollywood. 

Rolling  a smoke is a two-handed operation (see inset). Remove the cigarette rolling paper from its pack. Gently spread the paper horizontally,  and delicately grasp it between the tips of both index fingers and thumbs, roughly at the paper’s midpoint. The gummy strip should run along the top facing you. Carefully—yet  confidently—roll the paper back and forth three or four times with your thumbs and index fingers until it forms a U, with the gummy strip higher than the un-gummy side.

Gently now, gently, very gently, grasp the paper by one end. Remove one hand and take a pinch of tobacco. The tobacco should not be lumpy (and chewing tobacco should not be substituted. Nor should hamster food or your grandmother’s loose black tea—you will be discovered and publicly humiliated). [Read more…]

How to Shave with a Brush and Soap in Today’s World

EVER NOTICE HOW some people can smuggle an AK-47 in their checked luggage but you can’t sneak a can of shaving cream past alert Transportation Security Agents without them tossing that and your toothpaste in a large plastic garbage can? Well, I have. Also, and this is more important, I’m so cheap I won’t even pay attention.

That’s why, after wasting my third can or so in the TSA trash, I’ve taken to shaving with the old-fashioned brush and shaving soap. Not only have I never been wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by alert agents trying to confiscate my beaver-hair shaving brush, but past the initial investment I’m pretty much home free.

Plus – and this is a big plus – I’ve found it gets my day off to the proper artisanal start, taking this time to work with my hands. So here’s how you pull off that close shave the authentic, old-fashioned way.

BB00 96.tif

The man seen shaving here is not Phil Scott, nor does he play him on TV.

1. You’re going to need a shaving brush, a ceramic mug of some sort, and a bar of soap. I prefer a thick china mug with an old Air Force logo, but you can maybe find one with a Brooklyn Dodgers logo or a Yogi Berra quote. Whatever you choose, the majority of the mug must be a light color.

And don’t forget the razor. That’s really the most important part, the razor. I prefer the triple-blade types. Disposables blow. Straight razors are dangerous and scary and you’ll never get one through an airport anyway.

2. Place the soap inside the mug somehow. I prefer to nuke the combination in the microwave (no need to carry this authenticity thing too far) for maybe 20 seconds until the soap gets a little soft, then flatten it with my thumbs into what is called a soap puck. You’ll have to do this each time you add a new bar of soap, which means maybe twice a year. (See, it’s already less expensive than canned shaving cream.)

Even toss in soap scraps from the sink or shower. If your mug’s dark (see no 1. above) it will block the magic hot rays that are supposed to turn the soap into a soft goo. Same with metallic elements, like gold rims. I’m not sure why, just take my word for it.

Now you’re ready to shave! Fill the mug to the top with hot water, and work up a lather with the brush. Brush the lather all over the area destined for shaving. Really work it in there, too – coating those whiskers makes for a smooth shave.

3. It is not strictly necessary to don long pants, a dirty wifebeater, and suspenders that you can drop off your shoulders while you lather up, like in those early episodes of Mad Men. Today you can do this in boxers, briefs, boxer-briefs, or a towel, or less.

4. Scrape all the soap lather off with the razor. And there you have it! You’re done! And your face is smoother than if you’d used shaving cream, or an electric razor.

NOTE: A styptic pencil is what you need to control the bleeding.

Executive Editor Phil Scott has written seven book and numerous articles for national magazines.

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