One time in grad school for dramatic writing, a teacher tore into me and called the play I was working on “sophomoric” and “juvenile.” Classmates called me afterwards to console me, and though I’m pretty much over it, sometimes I look back at that moment and wonder if she was right. In all of my efforts to be taken seriously, perhaps I was at my best when I made the Janet Jackson Breast Cupcake? Or Condoleeza Rice Pudding with Berries of Mass Destruction?
Take, for example, the dinner I had last week with friends in Brooklyn. I couldn’t get over the fact that two of the friends I was eating with were named Cara and Dara and we were eating at a restaurant called La Vara. Cara and Dara at La Vara. I told everyone I knew; I Tweeted about it. I told the waitress and the chef. At a certain point, you’d think I would’ve gotten over it, but no sirree. I find the title of this post endlessly amusing. In fact, I could just end it here but then you wouldn’t get to see the absolutely amazing food that we ate.
Wandering around Williamsburg last week, my nose (or “schnozz,” if you prefer) led me down a street to a place that looked like a warehouse. The warehouse was actually home to Mast Brothers chocolate, one of the most revered chocolate companies in the country. You may recognize their chocolate bars as the ones with wrapping so pretty, you want to wallpaper your house with them. Also their bars are the ones so expensive, you won’t be able to put your children through college if you buy one. Turns out all their chocolate is made right here in this spot where I was standing. Naturally, I went inside.
The first time that I went to Roberta’s in Bushwick it was in the middle of winter and they seated us next to a swinging door which produced an arctic blast anytime a server or a customer swung it open. We sat in our winter coats, shivering, and huddling around a heater in between courses. It was a memorable, if not quite ideal, dining experience.
Things were warmer and better at Roberta’s last week, when I ate lunch there before appearing on Michael Harlan Turkell’s Heritage Radio Network show, “The Food Seen” (which is recorded on the Roberta’s complex).
It’s impossible to write about Williamsburg without using the word “hipster.” I’ll do my best.
On Saturday, I joined my friends Patty and Lauren and their gorgeous new baby Audra for a trip to the land of the bespeckled and heavily tattooed to consume hand-crafted foods along the water. This event, known as Smorgasburg, was something that just started as I left for L.A. last year. It’s got a lot to recommend it: fall weather, beautiful views, and some of the best food you can eat outside of a restaurant in New York.
Last week I decided to take a field trip to Williamsburg.
While working on my book, I did take a weekly sojourn to Park Slope, my old stomping grounds, to grab sushi at Taro and to do work at Gorilla, but I did that because it was comfortable and familiar (and I think Taro has the best, most reasonably priced sushi lunch deal in New York); I also like working at Gorilla, it’s a nice change of pace from my daily West Village routine. But Williamsburg? Williamsburg I know very little about.
It took two trains to meet my friend Cole for lunch in Williamsburg–a D to Grand Street and then a J to Marcy Ave.–and for some, that might be a long way to go for a lunch time meal. Not me: especially when that lunch time meal is comprised of fried chicken and pie.
The Brooklyn question is a question that still permeates my life, even after living here for three years. Usually, it’s the worst in winter when our heat goes out and getting into the city is a nightmare; that’s when I begin my ritual rant about “looking on Craigslist for Manhattan apartments when our lease is up in the fall.”
But then Spring comes and I fall in love with Brooklyn all over again. Walking down Union Street, here in Park Slope, on a beautiful Spring day towards Prospect Park, I wonder why in the world I’d ever want to leave this. Here’s all the charm of a small neighborhood and it’s just one bridge away from the world’s greatest city. Who would ever want to leave?
Here’s some unsolicited advice, reader: if you want to enjoy a nice dinner out, don’t plan it. I think the unhappiest experiences people have eating out are cases where it’s overplanned–the expectations are so high that something’s bound to disappoint. But when you wander out of your apartment, as Craig and I did last week to enjoy the nice weather, and you stumble upon the well-regarded Park Slope restaurant Applewood on 7th Ave. and 11th Street, you’d do well to embrace this as an opportunity for a positive dining experience.