Heading to New York over Christmas, and looking for something unique? Brooklyn is a fantastically diverse area to explore and experience the relaxed vibe that can exist in New York. Try to make it your base from which to explore uptown and the east village…shopping here is vintage, retro chic with cool children’s shops and small designer spaces. Aoibheann McNamara reports back from this ‘uber cool’ spot, and gives the low-down on the best eateries in the neighbourhood.
Brooklyn is just over the bridge from Manhattan. Artists and creatives have moved here for cheaper rents and as a result, an interesting melting pot of humanity has emerged. Today, it is a hive of cool with an almost sleepy town feel. Here you’ll come across the most unusual stores, which have popped up throughout the neighbourhood… so different to the finish and polish of Manhattan. Brooklyn’s proximity to downtown is just a subway away or a $20 cab ride over the fantastic Brooklyn Bridge. All in all, Brooklyn is more affordable, easier and cooler then uptown. and its leafy residential streets lend a certain ease to your day.
This will be my third time in New York, and my most foodie yet. The sole purpose of the trip was to eat great food, and to see the
autumn leaves in New York City. This is a beautiful time of year to visit, with crisp, cold, bright days. I was staying with a friend in Brooklyn and delighted to be away from the Manhattan madness in favour of the neighbourhood feel of Brooklyn, which is a lot more relaxed with a twoyear- old in tow. The neighbourhood restaurants and cafes are no fuss and inexpensive – just the kind I love.
Having just arrived in New York on a November’s evening, I paid a trip to ‘Eat’ in Green Point. Eat is a simple, paired down place with an Amish meets-Japanese feel and a sense of perfect organic minimalism. A simple black board lists everything that they picked up from the market that day. I started with chickpea and cabbage soup, which was so simple; I doubt even salt had been added. The flavour of the produce just shined though. A side salad of green leaves and daikon was simply dressed and the main dish of corn (aka polenta), red beans and soy was an exercise in minimalism and health. ‘Eat’ would not be for everyone, the seasoning is subtle to say the least, but epitomises the quiet food revolution underway in Green Point… it is as close to the farm as Brooklyn gets. It defines the type of restorative food a generation of Americans need.
The following morning we went to ‘Five Leaves’, again in Green Point, and we were thrust headlong into cool Brooklyn. The place was awash with people in plaid shirts and Malcolm X glasses – uber boho! It defined the essence of the great New York brunch diner old school till and phone, pared-down wood and re-modelled lighting. It served the American breakfasts/brunch/lunch to perfection with classics like ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter and blueberries stacked five high. All the food that floated by looked super, as was the service. They open also for dinner, which I hear is more French-style. I have to admit; I went there every morning of my stay and felt like a Green Point regular as the days went by. I met the owner, who had a wonderful penchant for winking. He’s opening another place soon – the more the merrier I say!
That evening we went to ‘Marlow’s and Son’, which is one of two restaurants with the same owner right beside each other. The second is called ‘Diner’ and is housed in what seems like an old American 1950s trailer with booths. This is where we started for dinner and moved onto Marlow’s for dessert so we could experience both places. There are no menus in either restaurant; the wait staff, who are fantastically informed, memorise the whole menu and write it out on the paper tablecloths. I opted for the all-American hamburger. I’m always in search of the perfect burger – so often bad and so rarely exceptional. The Marlows burger and fries were perfect in every way. We drank Veneto Prosecco with beer bottle tops – very
America-meets-Venice, and we were delighted by the apple turnovers with vanilla bean ice cream. It was contemporary American cooking at its best. The interior, clientele, merchandising and ethos were all pitch perfect, making it perhaps my best NYC dining experience. And from the chats I’ve had with other New York foodies, I’m not alone.
In order to properly celebrate my birthday, which just happened to fall while I was visiting New York, I decided to lunch in Balthazar, an iconic restaurant. It was packed, and completely abuzz when we arrived at 12.45pm. Brilliantly handled by the staff, we were seated to a table with a bottle of Alsace sparkling in front of us. Without dropping names, the restaurant began to fill to the brim with dark-glassed customers; it was like a Vogue Christmas party! But…Balthazar is about this kind of people watching – it certainly isn’t about the food – sun dried tomatoes in a salad, chocolate mousse with milk, not dark chocolate and airplane coffee…so many culinary disasters in one sitting, it was too much to handle. But would I go back? In a flash…this place is all about the theatre, not the food.
Back to the bosom of Brooklyn and to a place called ‘Egg’, which I had been hearing so much about. The ethos of Egg is also very much rooted in the
produce…and it shows. The interior is more industrial then other spaces, but very much with a heart. I had pancakes drowning in Vermont maple syrup with roasted autumn apples and a side of the classic 1980 gratin grapefruit, topped with cinnamon and brown sugar. This was life changingly good.
I was so taken with Brooklyn’s ease and style. Towards the end of my stay, I felt a part of it all and was definitely sad to leave.