The Best of Brooklyn is outdoors this weekend, April 20 & 21

“What a strange thing! to be alive beneath cherry blossoms,” Kobayashi Issa.
CherryWatch Blossom Status Map for those of you who really want to know what's in bloom at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, is updated every weekday during the season. (Photograph, taken on Thursday by Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool.)

A cloudy Thursday at the Garden. (Photograph, Brooklyn Artisan Photo Pool.)
CherryWatch Blossom Status Map is for those of us who really want to know what’s in bloom at Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and is updated every weekday during the season.

content_borough_hall_skyscraper_croppedTake a Walk • Downtown Brooklyn Partnership recommends a self-guided Architectural Walking Tour that hits eleven gems from DUMBO to the Barclays Center. Two highlights: 1) near Borough Hall stop to admire the circa 1901 Beaux-Arts style Temple Bar Building; 2) at 365 Jay Street, view the Old Brooklyn Fire Headquarters, described by the NYC Landmarks Commission as one of the city’s best and most striking architectural compositions. With regular stops for snacks, drinks or lunch along the route, this can make an interesting day of discovery. Brooklyn Artisan suggests a start with Juliana’s in DUMBO, an iced coffee from Betty Bakery, and a pop into Ample Hills Creamery to end.

hotSauceExpoCapsaicin Alert • 1st annual NYC Hot Sauce Expo. With a claim that hot sauce production is one of the 10 fastest-growing industries in the U.S., the Hot Sauce Expo promises to have spicy food vendors, live music, fire breathers, eating challenges and contests and lots of tasting opps both local and beyond. Hot Sauce vendors include PuckerButt Pepper Company, Fort Mill, SC; NW Elixirs, Portland, OR; Evil Seed Sauce Company, Jacksonville, FL; lots more. East River State Park, Williamsburg. Saturday and Sunday, 10am-6pm.

Babydoll lambs with mom Ginger—how cute is this? (Photograph, Julie Larsen Maher © WCS)

How cute is this? At the Zoo, newborn Babydoll lambs pose with mom Ginger. (Photograph, Julie Larsen Maher © WCS)

Saturday
Business_Fair_2013

• If you need a reason to go to the park, the Prospect Park Fair, at the Bandshell could be it. Enjoy a great spring day and check out the activities and programs featuring a pop-up Audubon Center, tennis demonstrations, food trucks, and volunteering info. Specials from local businesses include The Great Googa Mooga, Brooklyn Cyclones, New York Guitar Academy, and several others. Sponsored by the Prospect Park Alliance. 11am-3pm.

• Before or after the Prospect Park Fair, you might want to stop by the Prospect Park Zoo and meet Kings County’s cutest duo, two babydoll lambs named Arthur and Brooklyn. Brother and sister, born in March to Ginger, may just unseat baby walrus Mitik as the sweetest faces in the borough.

wyckoff-garden• Maypoles, horse shoes, hydroponic gardens • Wyckoff Farmhouse, NYC’s oldest house, holds a Spring Fling: A Celebration of Spring’s Traditions. English country and contra dances led by renowned caller Tom Amesse, folklore tales by storyteller Robin Bady, carnival games, crafts, and more. Sustainable Flatbush (see Sunday, below) will demonstrate the solar hydroponic garden system being installed on premises, while the the house itself will also be on tour. Flatbush. 1pm-6pm.

Magpies caption goes here

On Church Avenue: Magpies poptarts won’t ruin anyone’s appetite.

Sunday

Meet the neighbors • While shopping at the Church Avenue Street Fair, grab a bite at the Pop-Up Picnic Plaza that includes $1 specials from neighborhood eateries Lark, Am-thai, Shayna’s and more. Belly dancing demos, on-site animal adoptions, a children’s concert, make-up and hair styling discounts, and Magpies homemade poptarts are all part of the fun. Prospect Park South. 12pm-6pm.

sustFlatFor a greener thumb • Grassroots organization Sustainable Flatbush and community-owned Flatbush Food Coop have paired up to sponsor a Spring Plant Swap. Trade perennials and other plants, meet and learn from other gardeners, get help starting your garden. At the Flatbush Food Coop, Ditmas Park. 12pm-3pm.

Earth Day at Brooklyn’s largest park • The Brooklyn Dance Ensemble performs Earth Dances at the Salt Marsh Nature Center. As a perfect backdrop to today’s celebration, these 530 acres of grassland and salt marsh are considered a birdwatcher’s paradise. In NYC, the Salt Marsh Nature Center is protected as a Forever Wild Preserve. In addition to the dance performance, Roman “Red Hawk” Perez will perform Native American drumming and narratives. Marine Park. 2pm.

Familiar turf • Zip through the borough courtesy of the Brooklyn Brewery Mash:

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

Sweets for Your Sweetie

HOW DO I LOVE THEE? LET ME COUNT THE CHOCOLATE-Y WAYS.

Brooklyn bakers and chocolate makers are busy dreaming up all sorts of delights for Valentine’s Day. Here’s just a sampling.

Nunu-chocolates-salt-caramels

Nunu-heart-lollipopNunu Chocolates will package its salt caramels (above) in a heart-shaped box (6 pieces/$14, 12/$24). They are  hand-dipped in dark chocolate with a dusting of fleur de sel on top—I personally find them irresistible any time of year. Or how about giving all your beloveds a heart-shaped dark chocolate lollipop for just $2 a pop?
529 Atlantic Ave., Boerum Hill
917-776-7102

Mast Brothers Chocolate will have Valentine’s truffles and bon bons in its case.

Mast-Bros-Counter

250-MastBrothersValentinesCakeAnd they’re baking an over-the-top Valentine’s Day treat: a chocolate caramel layered cake with King’s County Distillery bourbon, buttercream filling and shaved chocolate on top. Call to reserve your cake; it is available for store pick-up only.
111 North 3rd Street, Williamsburg
718-388-2644

val-heart-cookiesBetty Bakery has hearts galore to choose from: a floral-embossed Victorian Heart—an orange-coffee cookie dipped in white chocolate, a Linzer Heart— sandwiched with raspberry jam, of course, and an Iced Sable Heart—hand-decorated in shades of pink, red and white ($3.95). But wait, there are small heart cookies by the pound ($32) and heart cakes, as well: the Romantic Quilled Heart Cake is an iced chocolate cake with raspberry buttercream, the Giddy Heart Cake is a yellow butter cake with fudgy chocolate ganache, iced in red rolled fondant …All this is making me feel a bit giddy myself. How about a chocolate dipped strawberry ($1.95) as a palate cleanser?
448 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill
718-246-2402

FanyBrownieRobicellisRobicelli’s is offering a special dozen cupcakes in Valentine’s Day flavors—Strawberry Champagne, The Eve (walnut cake with pomegranate cheesecake buttercream), The Ebinger (chocolate, chocolate, chocolate), Creme Brulée—with a personalized card, ribbon wrapping and delivery ($50).Or how about a 4-pack or 12-pack of Robicelli’s Fany Brownies—named after Fany Gerson, aka La Newyorkina, whose kitchen and expensive equipment to make her Mexican ice pops were destroyed by Sandy. Robicelli’s dark chocolate brownie base is “spiked with Mexican cinnamon, swirled with sweet sexy cajeta.” A portion of the profits will go to La Newyorkina. Order cupcakes and brownies by 2 pm Tuesday, February 12, for hand delivery.
Bay Ridge, 917-509-6048
info@robicellis.com

The Owl’s Head / Wine Bar in Bay Ridge is hosting a pop-up dessert event with Robicelli’s on Valentine’s Day. You’ll need to make reservations— call 718-680-2436—for one of two limited reserved seatings: 7 pm  and 9:45 pm. An advance reservation for two people includes three shared Robicelli’s dessert courses and 4 oz drink pairings for each person for $75 (not including tax and tip). Just look at this menu…

First Course: Pear MascarponeTheOwlsHeadWineBar
Mascarpone panna cotta, roasted pear compote, spiced pear chip
Served with: German Gilabert Zero Dosage Cava Brut Nature 2011

Second Course: The Noah
Apple galette, goat cheese mousse, roasted candied bacon, bourbon brown sugar sauce
Served with: Niepoort 2001 Colheita Port

Third Course: Car Bomb
Jameson whiskey, Bailey’s Irish Cream & Guinness stout opera cake, Guinness beer nut praline
Served with: Sixpoint 3beans über-porter

No reservations, no problem. Walk-ins are always welcome for drinks and bites. There should even be some desserts available à la carte. Lovers and lonelyhearts, go have some fun!

The Owl’s Head / Wine Bar
479 74th Street, Bay Ridge
718-680-2436

Cookie Heaven

Day Eleven 12 Tastes of Brooklyn
The window at Betty Bakery one recent December evening. Cookie heaven.

The window at Betty Bakery on Atlantic Avenue one recent December evening.

dec16I WAS INVITED TO MY FIRST COOKIE-EXCHANGE holiday party this year, but alas, now it’s been cancelled and all motivation to cover myself in flour and sugar has gone out the window. Luckily, Brooklyn is rich in cookies—beautiful ones made by hand with the finest ingredients by the most ingeniously creative bakers. Here are just a few to tempt you.

Vintage Santa Postcard Cookies and Holiday Cookie Tin, from Betty Bakery
Bakers and cake designers Ellen Baumwoll and Cheryl Kleinman entice you with their beautiful store window and win you over with their delicious flavors and inventive designs. A large vanilla sablé decorated with a vintage Santa postcard image will be available during the holidays. I have my eye on the Holiday Cookie Tin, filled with 40 chocolate-chocolate trees, small gingerbread men, walnut linzer wreaths, lemon shortbread stars, sugar snowflakes plus a decorated cookie. Or how about gingerbread girls and boys, or some adorable little marzipan penguins and snowmen, or rugelah? Happy times.

Ninjabread and Mustache Cookies, from Butter + Love
We met Alison Walla of Butter + Love at Brooklyn Flea and fell in love with her Mustache gingerbread cookies, which have bits of crystallized ginger rolled into the dough—and her fun Ninjabread cookies, gingery and sweet.

Butter-Love-Ninja-Mustache

The Ninjas were named as one of the “Best Holiday Cookies”  this year by Timeout. We have to agree. And we love the story of how Alison, who came to New York to be a Broadway actress and singer, developed her cookie business.

Macarons, from Vendôme Patisserie
The Parisian pastry house Ladurée is credited with having invented the macaron—two airy almond meringue confections united by cream in the middle. Now we have Brooklyn-based Vendôme Patisserie, whose macarons “are the only ones in New York to rival the French forebear’s…Ladurée and Vendôme touch the hem of heaven,” a New York Times reviewer effuses.

Vendôme Patisserie macarons at Brooklyn Flea

Vendôme’s macaron flavors roll off the tongue: Campari Pamplemousse, Limoncello, Black Truffle and Roasted Chestnut, Kaffir Lime, Champagne Cocktail, and then melt in the mouth. We spied the beautiful red and green tower above at Brooklyn Flea. Vendôme Patisserie doesn’t have its own shop, but you’ll find their macarons at Bacchus Patisserie on Atlantic Avenue, and at the Columbus Circle Holiday Market until, yikes, December 16. Macarons are gluten-free.

Holiday Tea Collection and Whoopie Pies, from One Girl Cookies
The holiday season is always busy for bakers, but One Girl Cookies founder Dawn Castle and co-owner Dave Crofton really have had their hands extra full since last month when their second store, in DUMBO, which had been open just nine months, was damaged by Sandy flooding. One Girl Cookies is back up and running now, turning out their sweets.

Holiday Tea Collection (Photo courtesy One Girl Cookies)

Holiday Tea Collection
(Photo courtesy One Girl Cookies)

The cookies all have names—Lucia, Lana, Sadie. You’ll find descriptions (and can buy them) online.  For their Holiday Tea Collection, the bakers came up with three limited edition tea cookies with flavors inspired by the season: Lena, a rosemary shortbread named after One Girl’s mom; Kris, a chocolate cherry crinkle cookie and Fiona, a “sugar plum” thumbprint cookie filled with plum jam. And for a true Brooklyn experience, how about a Whoopie Pie—cream cheese frosting sandwiched between pumpkin or chocolate cake? You’ll find the recipe in the One Girl Cookies Cookbook, along with 66 others. Maybe I’m feeling a little motivation coming on after all.

What’s your favorite Made in Brooklyn cookie?

Betty Bakery
448 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill
718-246-2402

Butter + Love
Fort Greene
info@butterpluslove.com
Butter + Love Etsy Shop

Vendôme Patisserie
Available at Bacchus Patisserie
411 Atlantic Avenue, Boerum Hill, and at Brooklyn Flea
917-892-2127, 917-602-2251

One Girl Cookies
68 Dean Street, Cobble Hill
212-675-4996
33 Main Street, DUMBO
347-338-1268
Photographs (except One Girl Cookies) by Basia Hellwig. Date stamp typographic design by Joy Makon Design. The font is Industria, by Neville Brody, Linotype, 1989.


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