10 / 11 / 2013 Source:
Ditmas Park Celebrates Neighborhood Eats
Ditmas Park Celebrates Neighborhood Eats During "Cortelyou at Twilight"
By Hannah Palmer Egan
Oct. 11 2013
Outside, dusk falls over pillared Victorian houses and spotted sycamores, their leaves starting to curl and drop with the season, but inside the bar, everything's awash in a yellow glow and flickering candlelight. Three men walk in.
"Yes," they say.
"Well then let's get you Twilighted." He fills each glass with a black and nutty hoppy brew, which the men accept and then return to their conversation.
If the scene sounds like it could have gone down in 1890, it probably could have, and this is not some freaky, Vampire-themed pre-Halloween bar crawl, either. We're in the Sycamore bar in Ditmas Park, and the year is exactly ... yesterday evening.
At the first-ever "Cortelyou at Twilight" fall celebration, sponsored by the Flatbush Development Corp, stores along Cortelyou Road between 17th Street and Coney Island Avenue stayed open late and offered discounts. Restaurants served complimentary snacks--roasted cauliflower with sweet-pickled onions at Farm on Adderley, punchim chocolate balls at Mimi's Hummus, and creamed mushroom crostini at The Castello Plan were highlights--and the residents of Ditmas Park, which feels like the most diverse small town you've ever been to, came out to wander and enjoy their neighborhood.
Proceeds from each $20 ticket benefited PS 139 and PS 217 and their Garden to Café programs, which serve and teach kids about locally-grown food.
10 / 11 / 2013 Source:
Cortelyou at Twilight Welcomes You to the Neighborhood
Cortelyou at Twilight Welcomes You to the Neighborhood
By Helen Klein
Friday, October 11th, 2013
For those who live in Victorian Flatbush, Cortelyou Road has long served as the neighborhood’s Main Street.
It is, however, a thoroughfare in transition, as the gentrification of the community has resulted in the gradual opening of a bevy of new businesses, many of which participated in a premiere event that was meant to showcase everything the strip has to offer.
Maria Newsom-Fahey and son William were all smiles as they prepared to sample a samosa at Picket Fence.
Cortelyou at Twilight, which debuted along the strip east of Coney Island Avenue on Thursday, October 10, and sponsored by the Flatbush Development Corporation, Brooklyn Hearth Realty and the city’s Department of Small Business Services, offered event-goers an opportunity to sample the offerings of many of the street’s restaurants, with ticket revenues going to the Garden to Café programs at P.S. 139, on Cortelyou, and P.S. 217, on nearby Newkirk Avenue.
At the same time, shops along the strip were open, giving event-goers an opportunity to browse their wares.
The Farm on Adderley sat guests down to a plate of roasted cauliflower salad with pickled onions and toasted hazelnuts.
Tastings ranged from a selection of soups ladled out by Catskill Bagel, to roasted cauliflower with pickled onions and hazelnuts at the Farm on Adderley, to intensely flavored samosas offered by Picket Fence, not off their menu but to gauge the interest of area residents who have come to the eatery for years to savor its American-style comfort food. Sycamore provided long-stemmed roses alongside goblets of Mendocino Black I.P.A., an ale-style beer brewed in California, while down at Bar Chord, warm cups of spiced rum mulled with cinnamon went down smoothly, to be capped off with tea biscuit-cocoa-and-coconut balls from Mimi’s Hummus.
The response to the evening was enthusiastic. “There are a lot of different restaurants,” noted Claudette, who hails from Queens, but who came with her friend Ann, who lives near Cortelyou. “Now, we know we can go one place, one day and another place, another day. We will definitely come back.”
Fay Maeda toasted the evening’s festivities at Sycamore.
Fay Maeda, who was enjoying the offerings at Sycamore, said she had just moved to the neighborhood and had decided to check out Cortelyou at Twilight, because she “thought it was a cool, convenient way to get to know the different places.”
For Maria-Newsom Fahey, the co-president of the parents association at P.S. 217, the event was wonderful in more ways than one. She said she appreciated that fundraising for the school was being done by FDC. “For the community to help local schools is really phenomenal. It really takes a village to support these schools,” she stressed.
Mara Dubovici concurred. With a daughter at P.S. 217, she said, “It’s nice to see not just the school trying but the whole neighborhood.”
But, she added, it’s not just the school that benefits. “Everybody has something to gain,” Dubovici stressed, “the businesses, the schools, the residents, as we taste a little bit of the neighborhood.”
10 / 19 / 2011 Source:
BEST OF NYC: STOOPS TO CONQUER
Best of NYC
Growing up here, Ditmas Park was “all the way out in Brooklyn,” a tough place to entice friends to make the trek, let alone brand-new companions.
Over the past five years, though, my home for the last two decades has become remarkably hip—in the good sense of the word. Brand-name and aspiring musicians, journalists, and writers live here, some cheek-to-jowl in the apartments crawling with barbers, butchers, and bakers, the Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Jews, Tibetans, Eastern Europeans, Caribbeans, and Mexicans, the lesbians, bankers, stroller moms, borough historians, political-forum regulars. Others live in detached homes that make you feel far from Flatbush Avenue, Prospect Park, the whole surrounding city.
Coney Island Avenue crawls with mosques; Ocean Avenue three blocks over with shuls. Newkirk Avenue has a storefront mosque catty-corner from a storefront church. The Mormons, for reasons I’ve never quite understood, have a lovely church on the corner of a tree-lined residential block.
The place teems and twitches. West from Dahill Road, which breaks my grid from the numbered streets and avenues that span from Park Slope to Bay Ridge, and South from Avenue J (on the same grid as mine), the Orthodox Jews are moving slowly, block by block, toward Ditmas—and its fancy English names briefly replace the numbered streets. (East 13th for a few blocks is elevated to Argyle Road, East 14th is Westminster, and so on.)
When an up-and-coming Jewish family makes it to one of the Victorians, they often brick up the beautiful porches and replace them with a second-story outside space, a nouveaux-riche or at least pretty-well-off affectation like a face closing up. Back on Coney, the halal stands are actually halal not Manhattan–style with hot dogs on the menu. The Jewish–eats place, Famous Pita, at Coney and Newkirk in the heart of the little subcontinent, is popping at 2 a.m. and serving more or less the same food as the Middle-Eastern places with no crossover in customers but no friction either.
Where the East Village or Williamsburg have a character that’s guaranteed for just a year—the span of a residential lease—the mix of houses, co-ops, and market and subsidized-rental apartments in Ditmas Park has kept any one economic, demographic, or other sort of group from overwhelming the neighborhood. It’s the most diverse neighborhood in America, at least by one reading of the census data, and it feels that way.
After taking my once-a-decade sabbatical from the city (I spent a magic-ticket year in Michigan on a fellowship), I came home to find that the truly young and hip had finally arrived here. They’re almost all single or committed but not terribly—which is what it is to be young, if you’re lucky—and they wear costumes and peacock and have the disposable time and income to get drunk and high and lively and low and not fret too much about the ’morrow.
They look past me the way you look at a tree without really taking it in, just registering “tree.” They register “old.” I am 33 and happily agree with them. The guys who own the hip new bar and restaurant—progress!— are my age, and they complain about the kids today. I sympathize, but I’m glad they’re here. The other kids—the ones who walking home from Erasmus High School at 3 or so—I’m glad they’re here, too. When I started drinking here at 15, the hippest bar (they would all serve, so that wasn’t an issue) was the one that didn’t have the postman there, and the walk-in pizzeria, San Remo’s, was the closest thing to a sit-down restaurant.
We talk about Ditmas Park, about Brooklyn, about New York as though it were one thing, or anything. But again, it teems. People come in as artists on the cusp or the fringe and wake up a few years later as sales-force members or as stars. And they swear, too, that they know the city. And none of us do. Half the mystery is that we each build a map of where things are, then were and ought to still be. So that shoddy new “luxury” co-op is still the stoop where I alternated obscene and poetic mutterings in the thwarted hopes of becoming a man. That building I live in is where, as a boy, I hit all the buzzers to get in and then took to the rooftop to look out over the far Brooklyn skyline.
Joseph O’Neill began his acclaimed Netherland while living next door to my parents. (They live a block away from me.) He and his wife, Vogue editor Sally Singer, “slummed” in a Victorian near-mansion after many years at the Chelsea Hotel. As I recall, she bought a VW bus and had some guy drive it across the country to inoculate herself against the contagions of Archie Bunker–ness, which the wind sometimes carries south from Queens.
They moved back to the hotel—a symbol of bohemianism that years ago had already been squeezed dry of the actual quality—after about three years, and his book about Brooklyn, published after he’d left for richer climes, caught the borough’s wave. President Obama was spotted reading it, the signifier-in-chief finding a tidy representation of his preferred symbol-set to tilt toward the cameras. Anyway, they were lousy neighbors, and they didn’t seem to much appreciate the neighborhood, though he certainly did nicely cashing in on it. I have a copy of the novel but haven’t read it. I’d be crushed if it were any good at all. But I know his New York is every bit as real as mine, every bit as good. And the neighborhood survived his brief stay here, just like it will mine.
5 / 22 / 2011 Source:
QATHRA CAFE IN DITMAS PARK TAKES TITLE OF BEST COFFEE SHOP IN NYC
Best of New York: Qathra Cafe in Ditmas Park takes the title of best coffee shop in New York City
By Jacob E. Osterhout and Amanda P. Sidman
Like an oasis in the desert, Qathra (pronounced KAH-tra), in Ditmas Park, offers coffee lovers a respite from the harsh and chaotic world outside. The Egyptian cafe, which opened last September, serves a wide variety of African blends in a comfortable, if not beautiful, environment. On a sunny day, the back patio provides a serene setting to sip an Ethiopian blend ($2 for 16 ounces) made from fair-trade beans, and enjoy the fresh baked pastries, all while admiring a stunning mural painted by Filipino artist Cece Carpio. The parsley, scallion and cilantro grown in the cafe's garden go directly into Qathra's salads, and the sound of water flowing from the fountain out back creates a serene environment rarely found within the five boroughs.
5 / 6 / 2011 Source:
10 OF THE BEST B&Bs IN NEW YORK
New York City Guide
HotelChatter.com editor Juliana Shallcross selects the top 10 B&Bs in New York
No matter how bad you are with directions, you can't miss the Rugby Gardens, a three-story Victorian home with a color-blocked exterior of mustard yellow, brick red and aqua blue. Located on a tree-lined street in Brooklyn's Ditmas Park, the B&B has just two guestrooms and one shared bathroom but can accommodate up to five guests. The owners, Sue Fishkin & Michael Hurwitz, encourage guests to take their shoes off and offer a basket of slippers next to the stairs to ensure that you do.
3 / 11 / 2011 Source:
DITMAS PARK KEEPS GETTING REDISCOVERED
MARCH 12, 2011
Ditmas Park Keeps Getting Rediscovered
By JOSEPH DE AVILA
Brooklyn's Ditmas Park has seen a wave of new residents arrive in recent years, with newcomers drawn by the area's burgeoning food scene, picturesque homes and bucolic suburban qualities. Large free-standing homes with driveways, garages and even pools offer more space for a fraction of the price seen in Park Slope or other parts of Brownstone Brooklyn.
The new arrivals are just the latest generation to appreciate Ditmas Park, said Hal Lehrman, a broker and who has lived in the neighborhood for more than 20 years. "It's not a renaissance," Mr. Lehrman said. "People seem to keep rediscovering the neighborhood, but it's been there."
There are only a few retail and entertainment options in Ditmas Park since the area is still primarily residential. But Cortelyou Road, one of the main drags in the neighborhood, has basic necessities like grocery stories and pharmacies and a number of new restaurants.
Ditmas Part sits south of Prospect Park and just north of Midwood, Brooklyn. The neighborhood derives its name from the Van Ditmarsen family, one of the early Dutch farming families who settled in the area in the late 17th century.
Suburban development in the area began to take off at the start of the 20th century, thanks to transportation improvements connecting Brooklyn to Manhattan, the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge and the construction of Prospect Park.
Around that time, developers began building free-standing, two-story houses with attics. The facades of the houses commonly used shingles and clapboard and some also use brick. While there are some co-ops in the area and a handful of new condos, the houses are still the most sought-after properties in the neighborhood.
No two houses are quite alike, Mr. Lehrman said. On Westminster Road, there is a five-bedroom, 3½-bathroom home on the market for $1.299 million. The three-story Victorian home built in 1904 still has many original details, like the woodwork and stained-glass windows. It also has a free-standing garage and a pool.
In Ditmas Park's historic district, there is a five-bedroom, 2½-bathroom house for sale at $1.299 million. Some of the original details in the home include a wood-burning fireplace, window benches and coffered ceilings. There is also a covered driveway and a garage.
Of the 92 residences currently listed for sale on real-estate site StreetEasy.com, the median asking price is $452,500, or $373 a square foot. In neighboring Kensington, it is $297 a square foot, and in Park Slope, it is $667, according to StreetEasy. The big homes in Ditmas Park, however, often start at around $1 million.
The area's co-ops also offer inexpensive housing options. On Newkirk Avenue, there is a one-bedroom unit in a building constructed around the 1950s for sale at $275,000 and listed by Mr. Lehrman. The unit has a renovated kitchen, oak floors and a separate office. The building has laundry room, bike storage and a garden.
Near the boarder of Midwood and Ditmas park, there is a new condo development on Ocean Avenue called the Waterfalls on Ocean. About 40% of the 64 units in the building are sold and residents can move in beginning in about 60 days, said Andrew Booth of Corcoran Group.
The condos have been drawing a mix of people in search of starter apartments and other residents in the neighborhood looking to downsize, Mr. Booth said.
The facility has a private playground, a lounge area for hosting parties, a fitness center and parking. Each unit has private outdoor space, oak floors and granite and stainless steel in the kitchen. All the one-bedrooms are sold. Two-bedrooms start at $379,000 and three-bedrooms at $410,000.
Schools: Ditmas Park schools are in District 22. Schools in the area include P.S. 139 Alexine A. Fenty, P.S. 245 and P.S. 217 Colonel David Marcus School. Brooklyn College Academy, a middle and high school, and Brooklyn Dreams Charter School are also in the area.
In 2010, 60.1% of District 22 students in grades three through eight received a proficient score on the math exam, and 49.6 % of students received a proficient score on the English Language Arts exam. In 2006, the results were 66.4% for math and 60.5% for reading.
Private schools in the area include Brooklyn Seventh Day Adventist School (nursery school to eighth grade), Elemental Arts Montessori and Cortelyou Early Childhood Centers.
Parks: The nearest park is Prospect Park, the second largest in the city at 585 acres. In its early days, the area was the site of the Battle of Brooklyn, one of the first major skirmishes during the Revolutionary War.
Landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux of Central Park fame designed the diamond-shaped green space in 1866.
The neighborhood is close to the southern section of the park, which has a 60-acre lake with a big population of largemouth bass available for catch-and-release fishing. When it gets warm, there are also electric boat tours.
Prospect Park's Parade Ground is also close and features a football field, baseball fields, a soccer field and basketball and volleyball courts.
Entertainment: At nearby Brooklyn College there is the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, which features dance, music and theater. During the summer, Prospect Park also hosts the "Celebrate Brooklyn! Performing Arts Festival," which has concerts, films and dance performances.
Shopping: While primarily a residential neighborhood, basic retail options are available in Ditmas Park like hardware stores and pharmacies. For groceries, there is the Flatbush Food Coop. On Campus Road near Brooklyn College, there is the independent book store Shakespeare & Co. And at Sycamore, a bar and floral shop, you can both pick up a bouquet and have a drink.
Dining: In recent years, Ditmas Park has developed a reputation for food. The Farm on Adderley is a popular brunch destination.
Mimi's Hummus serves Mediterranean food, Café Madeline is coffee shop with breakfast and lunch options and Ox Cart Tavern serves new American fare. Try a glass of wine at the Castello Plan.
3 / 11 / 2011 Source:
March 11, 2011
By CONSTANCE ROSENBLUM
BACK in 1979, when Bennett Fischer moved to New York for a college internship in theater, he educated himself about the city in an energetic way
“I had a bike,” recalled Mr. Fischer, who was living in a studio in Brooklyn Heights at the time, “and I used to strap a copy of the A.I.A. Guide to the bike rack and ride around exploring different neighborhoods.” When the architectural guide led him to an area of single-family houses south of Prospect Park in Brooklyn, he immediately fell in love.
“All those old houses, and the sense of being in a real neighborhood,” he said. “I had no idea what the future would hold. But I decided that if I stayed in Brooklyn and bought a house, I would do it there.”
In those years the neighborhood was considered part of Flatbush; later it would be called Ditmas Park West. The houses, built around the turn of the century, were less elaborate than their Victorian sisters but were nonetheless graceful single-family homes with their share of frills. “To me they looked great,” Mr. Fischer said.
His wife, Gretchen, who was sitting opposite him in their living room as he told this story, gave Mr. Fischer a nanosecond to savor his trip down memory lane. Then she chimed in: “He was 21. What did he know?”
Yet she too became a convert. Shortly after the couple married in 1987, they rented a house nearby in Kensington, with the hope of eventually buying a place. By the time the family had grown to include three daughters — Emma, now 22; Catey, 20, and Lily, 15 — Ms. Fischer was as enamored as her husband of Ditmas Park West.
“I knew I wanted to be in this neighborhood and especially in this house,” she said. “I used to pass it when I walked Emma and Catey to school. And after I dropped them off, I’d wander around the streets pushing Lily in the stroller.”
The house she had set her sights on, a two-family structure on Rugby Road dating from the early 20th century, had much to recommend it. Dormers and gables festooned the facade, the three stories were generously proportioned, and porches on the first and second floors faced a good-sized front lawn. When the place came on the market in 1997, they bought it for $230,000.
For a couple facing three college tuitions and earning relatively modest salaries — Ms. Fischer is a freelance bookkeeper and her husband is a special-education teacher — a particular attraction was the fact that the house could generate income. Today, the first-floor apartment is home to Ms. Fischer’s younger brother, his wife and their 7-year-old son, and while the families are close, Ms. Fischer suspects that her brother would welcome even greater closeness. The dumbwaiter between the units remains intact, “and my brother has this fantasy,” she said, “fantasy being the key word, that I’ll make dinner every night and send it down to him.”
Another financial issue involved renovations. The house needed considerable work, including a new roof and new wiring. Ms. Fischer cheerfully admits that in many respects the kitchen is little changed from its early-20th-century incarnation, with the exhaust pipe for the original stove still in place, not to mention the cracked linoleum.
“A friend who’s an artist says the kitchen is a work of art and I should never change it,” Ms. Fischer said. “I say to her, ‘Oh, please.’ ”
Still, the house was not without decorative details. The downstairs fireplaces, once fueled by coal, are framed by columns and topped with mirrors. The sideboard in the dining room is among the many built-ins. The walls are edged with bright white molding, and Mr. Fischer swears he will one day open up the walls between the living and dining rooms to liberate the pocket doors. Pebbly stained-glass windows depicting golden urns draped with ribbons and holding crimson flowers march along the stairwell.
A curved ceiling tops the spacious front hall, and a coffered ceiling adds a touch of class to the dining room. “But none of it is first-class stuff,” Mr. Fischer said. “It’s mostly thin veneer. I’ve done a lot of work on this house, and there’s an enormous amount of junk.”
Each daughter has put her stamp on her bedroom. Emma, newly graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design, has a loom, along with a length of fabric she wove from wool and silk that she spun herself. Catey’s room is painted pink with pink dots, and Lily’s, the smallest — “I got the last choice” — has an Alice in Wonderland theme, with John Tenniel’s drawing of the Cheshire Cat on her pillowcases and, soon, a mural of the caterpillar atop the mushroom on her wall. A miniature couch nestles under the eave, next to the window. Wally, the family dog — “sort of a black Lab and bred to be annoying,” as Mr. Fischer describes him — can often be found on the upstairs porch, smiling at passers-by.
The backyard, once a dustbowl, was transformed by Ms. Fischer’s sister, Julie Cummings, a landscape designer, and features a low stone wall that is ideal for sitting on at parties. But from the street, the house looks much as it always did, and the Fischers are charmed by the fact that people who remember its earlier years stop by to admire the place and to reminisce.
One day when Mr. Fischer was raking leaves out front, an elderly woman told him that her aunt once owned the house, adding that when she was a girl, she used to live upstairs. By then the Fischers had restored the front porch, complete with reproductions of the original columns and railing, and the visitor confirmed that the porch looked exactly as it had in her day.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, when many city streets were swarming with law enforcement officials, an F.B.I. agent named Dennis McGowan told the Fischers that he, too, had once lived in the house and that his uncle, a fire chief, had lived downstairs.
Mr. Fischer was not surprised. In the basement, he had found an old-fashioned firefighter’s coat made of waxed canvas. “People still call this the McGowan house,” he told the visitor. “And we still get mail for you.”
1 / 5 / 2011 Source:
THE 11 TO WATCH IN SOUTHERN BROOKLYN
The 11 to watch in Southern Brooklyn
Many people make resolutions. Others make predictions. But we at Courier-Life make lists of the people who will make news in the new year. So without further ado, here are our 11 to watch in ’11.
9. Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan
What new culinary feats can hungry Brooklynites expect from Cortelyou Road’s cutting-edge Filipino fusion restaurant Purple Yam? Besa and Dorotan fled SoHo to open shop in Ditmas Park in 2009. They’ve already started cooking classes and a guest chef series, and 2011 will see excursions into the foods of India and Trinidad, as well as a cooking class with the joint’s own Korean-born chef, Haegeen Kim.
Purple Yam [1314 Cortelyou Rd. between Rugby and Argyle roads in Ditmas Park, (718) 940-8188].
8. Jan Rosenberg
A Cortelyou Road broker since 2005, Rosenberg — who brought in such white-hot retailers as Toy Space and T.B. Ackerson — wants to extend Victorian Flatbush’s cool zone north and south, to Newkirk Avenue and Church Avenue. And, she says, entrepreneurs who can’t find affordable space elsewhere are champing at the bit. How about a café on Newkirk Avenue? If Rosenberg has her way, it could be right around the corner.
12 / 28 / 2010 Source:
INEXPENSIVE RESTAURANTS THAT STOOD OUT IN 2010
Inexpensive Restaurants That Stood Out in 2010
The best of the casual restaurants reviewed this year proved that delicious doesn’t have to mean expensive.
CASTELLO PLAN Quirky and wonderful wines are paired with delicious small plates, cured meats and cheeses at this wine bar. Relax in the dark dining room, or on the side deck when warm weather returns, grazing until late at night. (Betsy Andrews) 1213 Cortelyou Road (Argyle Road), Ditmas Park, Brooklyn; (718) 856-8888, thecastelloplan.com.
Photo Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times
7 / 19 / 2010 Source:
THE CASTELLO PLAN IN BROOKLYN
Dining Briefs - Recently Opened
1213 Cortelyou Road (Argyle Road), Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, (718) 856-8888; thecastelloplan.com.
Jacques Cortelyou, the 17th-century creator of Manhattan’s first map, called the Castello Plan, was also a real estate developer. He would be pleased with the attractive dining scene that has evolved along the street bearing his name. One of Cortelyou Road’s most appealing additions is this wine bar named after his famous survey.
The menu guides you through a series of delicious small plates. Start with a bright seasonal salad: sweet, chive-strewn potatoes ($5); cucumbers in crème-fraîche dill dressing ($5); or shredded cabbage, tossed in sesame oil and pickled ginger ($7).
A meander through the very good Italian charcuterie includes fiery coppa, earthy wild boar cacciatorini and a fennel-enriched soppressata (1 for $6; 3 for $15; 5 for $24).
Except for the lusty rabbit and truffled yam open-faced sandwich ($12), most of the entrees are petite and carefully composed: a stack of duck confit with tart apples would be an improvement on Thanksgiving’s main course ($11); a “cake” of chilled crab meat is nearly overwhelmed by its sweet-salty tobiko topping ($9).
Even better are the crostini ($7 each), particularly the fat smoked sprats and boiled quail eggs on toasts slathered in turmeric mayonnaise. Greasy, bold and comforting, it is great food for the quirky, fun wine list on which a dangerously quaffable txakoli and an oaky, chilled blend of carignan and grenache share billing with an Austrian rosé that is steely and as green as wheat-grass juice.
Because desserts like chocolate bark or sweet potato pie (all $5) are hard to swallow on a 90-degree evening, linger instead over cheese (3 for $15; 5 for $24; 7 for $32) in the wood-paneled dining room or on the pergola-covered deck.
With only a few hints to the meaning of its name and no old-timey cocktails, the Castello Plan is less self-consciously a throwback than other Brooklyn boîtes. It is a relaxed fit for a neighborhood of Victorian mansions where there already is plenty of history.
6 / 17 / 2010 Source:
COOL WINE HAUNTS
The Castello Plan
6 / 17 / 2010 Source:
DRINKING AND HAPPY HOUR EVENTS
6 / 11 / 2010 Source:
SUMMER SATURDAYS: DITMAS PARK
Summer Saturdays: Ditmas Park
By Jessica Dailey
Ditmas Park may not seem like a place to get excited about. You may not even know where to find it on a map. But we assure you that the small neighborhood in Flatbush is an ideal place to spend a summer Saturday in Brooklyn. Step off the Q train at Beverly Road and you'll wonder if you're in South Brooklyn or the Virginia suburbs. Instead of the usual brownstones, Ditmas Park is made up of historic Victorian homes with perfectly manicured lawns and towering elm trees. Most of the homes were built at the beginning of the 20th century, many by prominent architects like John Petit and Benjamin Driesler. For a long time, the neighborhood lacked desirable restaurants and retail variety, but an influx of young creative types is changing that. Cortelyou Road, which many consider the heart of Ditmas Park, now offers several highly reviewed restaurants, bars, and coffee shops.
Start your day off at the eastern end of Courtelyou with an early lunch (or brunch, if you get there before 11 a.m.) at The Farm on Adderley. The restaurant opened in 2006 and quickly became a destination. With the exception of some grains from South Carolina, coffee from Massachusetts, and soy and dairy from Vermont, the menu is created from locally-sourced products from eastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York. If it's not too hot out, ask for a table in the garden, where you'll feel like you're sitting on a private porch deck instead of outside a restaurant. The portobello sandwich served on a baguette with mozzarella, arugula, red onions, and a tangy sundried tomato pesto is divine. The large cut fries with curry mayo are dangerously good, so if you're looking for a healthier, but equally delicious, side, opt for the sauteed sugar snap peas with guanciale (fancy bacon) & spring onion.
Hop across the road for some shopping at Market, which — surprise! — is a market, a tiny, upscale one at that. But don't be intimidate by the small space. The managers are super friendly. "If you have any questions, just ask," said one of the women behind the counter a seconds minutes after we walked in. "We're just gossiping about that show 'Hoarders.' Have you seen it? It's crazy!" The store offers treats made by a multitude of local purveyors: chocolate bars from Mast Brothers, pickles from both Brooklyn Brine and McClure's, and salsa from the Brooklyn Salsa Company, just to name a few.
Then head over to Vox Pop, the community owned coffee shop/art gallery/bookstore, where you can buy work from local artists and browse a small collection of staff-picked books. The business recently opened back up on May 1, after being seized by the state (for the second time) for unpaid taxes by the previous management. In less than a month, current manager Debi Ryan was able to raise the $15,000 the state asked for as a down payment with the help of the neighborhood. "Its very fulfiliing to know that we have a space in the community and that the community is 100 percent involved," says Ms. Ryan. From the art shows and open mic nights to the food they sell, Ms. Ryan says the shop is completely integrated with the community. She raves about the baked goods made by a local pastry chef that the shop now sells. "They are absolutely sublime. And she lives just two blocks away!" Enjoy one of the delectable sweets in the outside seating area, the only one in the neighborhood in front of a business, prime space for people watching.
Spend a couple hours of your afternoon strolling through the neighborhood, a landmarked historic district, admiring the Victorian homes and the architectural diversity. You'll find Colonial Revivals, Tudors, Federal-style, Japanese, and even Swiss Chalet-styles, most with wide and inviting porches. We had to resist the urge to climb onto several porch swings and hammocks. If you walk south from Cortelyou, you'll come across Newkirk Avenue, where you can visit author and artist Kris Waldherr in her studio and gallery, which she opens to the public every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. But if you walk north from Cortelyou, you'll find the prettier houses of the neighborhood. With quiet streets that have Anglophile names like Westminster, Stratford, and Marlborough, it's easy to feel transported to the colonial south.
When hunger strikes, head back to Cortelyou. For a rustic, homespun meal, stop by The Castello Plan, a tapas and wine bar by the same owners as Market (which is right next door). They serve up elegant small plates like sunflower potatoes with chives and dill and duck confit with granny smith apples. If you're in the mood for Asian cuisine, chef and owner Romy Dorotan of Purple Yam makes delicious Filipino-inspired dishes. The New York Times restaurant critic raved about the sisig, a meat salad of chopped pig cheeks, ears, and snout served in a chili lime dressing, and the Village Voice praised the tender chicken adobo stew.
Sycamore — flower shop by day, bar by night — is the place to go for after dinner drinks (or all night long drinks, if you prefer). Owned by the same folks as The Farm on Adderley, Sycamore has a warm ambiance and a large back garden with a bar where they feature a different brewery on tap each week. Saturday, June 12 will be Avery Brewing Company from Colorado. They boast an impressive bourbon menu and they feature a whiskey of the day, always a good conversation starter. If that doesn't work, woo your date with the $10 beer and bouquet deal. Who could resist that? Plus, every Saturday at 9 p.m., a different band takes to the stage in Sycamore's basement. This Saturday, it's Yoni Gordon and The Goods, a local band that blends pop, punk, and reggaeton.
If you'd like more variety from in your live entertainment, then Vox Pop is where you'll want to hangout. Don't fret — the jack-of-all-trades coffee shop offers beer and wine. For four hours, Vox Pop brings a different band or musician on stage every hour. The party starts this Saturday at 8 p.m with pop/electronica from Xiomara Medina, and that last performer of the night will be Dan Coyle, starting at 11 p.m. "We're just plain fun here," says Ms. Ryan. "Whether it's your first time or your millionth time, you're going to feel welcome and connected to the community."
5 / 24 / 2010 Source:
A SPRING AWAKENING, WITH WINE, IN DITMAS PARK
Ditmas Parkers have been enjoying something of a food renaissance in recent years, and one conspicuous contributor has been Mimi’s Hummus. This hound-endorsed Middle Eastern spot branched out in February with the gourmet grocery Market next door, and a few weeks later one of Mimi’s owners opened the Castello Plan, a wine bar two doors away.
The newest addition to the block is shaping up as a cozy hangout for drinks and small plates that lean Mediterranean with hints of Eastern Europe. Westminstress recommends stewed mushrooms (with sour cream and dill), a beet salad with pickles and farmer’s cheese, potato salad with sunflower oil, and rabbit and duck bruschette. gnosh recounts a lovely brunch highlighted by an apricot mimosa and scallion grilled cheese with butter-poached egg. The wine list is idiosyncratic and well chosen, hounds say, featuring small producers from Morocco, Uruguay, and Croatia, among other places.
Some hounds find the portions skimpy, though Westminstress thinks they’ve grown a bit since the place opened. “Worth trying, for sure,” says chorosch, “but if you go hungry you will most likely spend more than you were planning.”
About that name: Ditmas Park’s growing restaurant row is centered on Cortelyou Road, named after the Dutch surveyor Jacques Cortelyou, creator of a 17th-century map of lower Manhattan known as—you got it—the Castello Plan.
The Castello Plan [Ditmas Park]
4 / 29 / 2010 Source:
DITMAS PARK WALK
This quiet Brooklyn nabe is full of Victorian charm and foodie finds.
By Leah Faye Cooper
Start: 317 Rugby Rd between Beverley and Cortelyou Rds, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
A 30-minute ride on the Q from Union Square lands you on bustling Cortelyou Road, Ditmas Park’s main drag of shops, restaurants and grocers. But to really get to know this historic neighborhood, you’ll have to head to its quieter parts. For a glimpse of the Victorian homes for which the area is known for, pop by brightly hued Rugby Gardens (317 Rugby Rd between Beverley and Cortelyou Rds), whose paint job could be characterized as something out of Candy Land rather than Brooklyn’s past. Open since 2005, it’s one of seven B&Bs in the neighborhood. A quick loop back to Cortelyou Road via E 13th Street reveals even more houses primed for real-estalking, most of which were built in the early 1900s.
Options for a midday snack abound in this rapidly growing foodie mecca, thanks to places like Mimi’s Hummus (1209 Cortelyou Rd between Argyle and Westminster Rds; 718-284-4444, mimishummus.com), the much-buzzed-about eatery where pillowy pitas are served with either traditional hummus ($8) or a tasty variation, like one studded with ground beef and pine nuts ($9). Head next door to the restaurant’s spin-off food shop, appropriately called Market (1211 Cortelyou Rd between Argyle and Westminster Rds, 718-284-4446), to pick up locally made bites like Mast Brothers dark chocolate bars ($9) confected in Williamsburg. Consider snagging a bag of Stumptown Coffee ($11)—a rare find in this neck of the woods.
Glass jars filled with natural herbs, teas and seasoning blends line the walls of the dimly lit Sacred Vibes Apothecary (376 Argyle Rd at Cortelyou Rd; 718-284-2890, sacredvibeshealing.com). Those who call ahead can schedule a private consultation ($80 per hour) with owner and master herbalist Karen Rose, who regularly whips up individualized herbal treatments for everything from the common cold to diabetes. For a soothing souvenir, take home one of Sacred’s organic teas, like the acne-fighting Beautiful Skin blend ($6.75/oz), packed with cleansing herbs like calendula, burdock root and spearmint.
Look for a small blue sign that points you to Kris Waldherr Art and Words (1501 Newkirk Ave at Marlborough Rd; 347-406-5811, artandwords.com). Waldherr—an author, illustrator and designer—turns her studio into an open gallery on Fridays (5–8pm) and Saturdays (1–5pm), when she also hosts tarot salons, publishing workshops and art-themed activities for kids (suggested donation $5). Passersby are welcome to stop in during open gallery hours and peruse Waldherr’s book art and photography exhibits free of charge. While the focus here is on literature and illustration, Waldherr boasts some techie cred, too: Ask her about Goddess Tarot, the application she developed for the iPhone.
Stroll to Ditmas Park’s burgeoning restaurant row for a traditional Filipino meal at newcomer Purple Yam (1314 Cortelyou Rd between Argyle and Rugby Rds; 718-940-8188, purpleyamnyc.com). Many of the diners live within walking distance, but oxtail braised in a thick peanut sauce ($17) and chicken adobo ($16) lure the Manhattan crowd that once dined on these same dishes at Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan’s former Soho establishment, Cendrillon.
Save your sweet tooth for a glass of Sauterns ($11) at newly opened The Castello Plan (1213 Cortelyou Rd between Argyle and Westminster Rds; 718-856-8888, thecastelloplan.com). Named for a map of lower Manhattan drawn by surveyor Jacques Cortelyou in 1660, the candlelit wine bar completes the trio of spots owned by the duo behind Mimi’s Hummus and Market. Take advantage of the agreeable spring weather and sip your vino in the open-air garden.
Regardless of what night it is, there’s likely something going on at Vox Pop (1022 Cortelyou Rd at Stratford Rd; 718-940-2084, voxpopcafe.com), the coffeehouse that quadruples as a bookstore, performance space and art gallery. Staying true to its Latin moniker, which means “voice of the people,” the place commonly hosts debates on topics such as health care, fair-trade laws, and independent books and films. Don’t be deterred by the leftist democracy-or-death vibe: The free live jazz, stand-up comedy shows and open mike nights would even be enticing to an Ann Coulter fan.
On your way back to the Q, pick up a custom bouquet of gorgeously fresh buds ($8–$30) at Sycamore (1118 Cortelyou Rd between Stratford and Westminster Rds; 347-240-5850, sycamorebrooklyn.com), a hybrid flower shop and bar that has one of the largest American whiskey selections in the city. Try the Ditmas Park Julep ($8), sweetened with honey liqueur, muddled mint and candied ginger. Kick your feet up on the sprawling back porch, where you can sip your tipple alfresco—you’ll need it for the long haul home.
4 / 23 / 2010 Source:
WHY I LOVE LIVING IN MIDWOOD
Why I love living in Midwood
By Rick Pulos
The hustle and bustle of New York City can take its toll on native New Yorkers and transplants alike. We all seem to invariably find our own reasons that inspire us to stay here to live and raise our families, whether it’s the diversity of the arts, the recreational activities at our parks or simply the multitude of different people with whom we are constantly discovering and interacting.
Many may not know the fascinating history of the Midwood Park neighborhood and its adjacent communities such as Ditmas Park and Fiske Terrace — all of which are commonly referred to as Victorian Flatbush, a reference to the Victorian architecture that dominates our wonderful tree-lined streets.
As a result, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has awarded the area with historic district designation.
Today, Midwood Park is an excellent place to take a stroll with a significant other as the sun sets behind massive trees, or take your dog for a walk (clean up though!), or even just have a quick jog for yourself with your favorite tunes from your MP3 player acting as your soundtrack.
I find myself in awe of the atmosphere in Midwood Park, not just for its aesthetic beauty but for its positioning within a diverse population. No matter where you are in the neighborhood, you are always steps away on all sides to the best that Brooklyn offers. I come across all sorts of languages — Spanish, Yiddish, Italian, Indian, etc — and a plethora of intersecting cultures. There is a great feeling of family and a strong sense of pride in all of Victorian Flatbush. I encourage all of you to discover this gem in Brooklyn and take a walk through history. You will definitely find serenity for yourself in Midwood Park.
4 / 19 / 2010 Source:
A TOUR OF DITMAS PARK WITH THE NATIONAL
By Nick Haramis
Ditmas Park was just another peaceful Brooklyn hideaway until indie rockers Matt Berninger, Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Bryan and Scott Devendorf stormed the block. Now The National pretty much runs this town.
“For a long time, we weren’t sure what kind of band we were, or even wanted to be,” says Matt Berninger, the soup-soaked baritone of Brooklyn-based band the National. “But on this record we knew we wanted to get away from the confessional-man vibe that people have come to expect from us.” As if in disbelief, Berninger’s baby daughter Isla bursts into laughter. That confessional-man vibe has, after all, served the National well, drawing in fans, critics and their musical peers, such as Michael Stipe, St. Vincent and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.
Still, on their fifth album, this month’s High Violet, the quintet is trying something new. Seated on a couch in the den of guitarist Aaron Dessner’s house in Ditmas Park, an idyllic neighborhood where mature trees tower over Victorian houses and drowsy streets, Berninger says, “It’s grimmer and meaner than our other records. It’s about not knowing where you really fit in.” When Dessner’s girlfriend enters the room—a hipster Julia Child wielding a platter of homemade pastries— it’s difficult to imagine that much of the darkness comes from the bandmates’ private lives.
Four of the group’s five members, including guitarist Bryce Dessner, Aaron’s twin brother, and brothers Bryan and Scott Devendorf, the band’s drummer and bassist, respectively, live in the neighborhood. (Berninger lives with Isla and his wife in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights.) The album was recorded in Aaron’s backyard, where the group built a private studio and hammered out all of their new songs while collaborating with neighbors like singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens.
Despite Brooklyn’s strong sense of community, Berninger isn’t sure if the band’s inspiration comes from the actual borough. “I don’t know how much of the music scene here has to do with Brooklyn, other than the fact that there are so many venues and places to grow and learn and perform in front of a crowd,” he says. “There’s a big difference between writing music in your garage and standing up in front of a hostile room of people who don’t give a shit about you, and doing that over and over again until someone, somewhere, finally starts to care. If we weren’t in New York, music might have turned into a dad-rock hobby, something to do on weekends. But here, there’s always new and exciting stuff you want
The Castello Plan
“It used to be quite rough up here. I had a car service driver who was taking me home one night aft er rehearsal, and he was like, ‘I moved to America 12 years ago and lived in this neighborhood. I heard gunshots all night long.’Have you seen Th e Squid and the Whale? When Jeff Daniels leaves Park Slope, he moves to the other side of the park, which is here, and it’s scary.” —Bryan Devandorf
Usually, they come here to play their first gigs ever, and we’re the only people in the room. We saw a band called Buke and Gass a while back, and we signed them to our label, Brassland Records, the next week. They have an album coming out this spring.” —Aaron Dessner
“Life here is much diff erent than when we’re on tour, when we stay up really late and drink a lot. We went on tour with R.E.M. last summer and Michael Stipe kind of adopted us. In almost every town, we’d get a call: ‘Meet Michael at this restaurant at 2 a.m. Th ey’re keeping it open for you.’ My brother and I are the healthy ones in the group, so even if we’re living on a bus we go running each morning. Sometimes Bryan is just going to bed when we’re heading out the door.” —Bryce Dessner
The Farm on Adderley
4 / 14 / 2010 Source:
YOUR NEW FAVORITE BAR
The Castello Plan
4 / 11 / 2010 Source:
DELICIOUSNESS BLOCK BY BLOCK
French Fries, The Farm on Adderley
1108 Cortelyou Rd., nr. Stratford Rd.
4 / 5 / 2010 Source:
THREE NEW WINE BARS
Three New Wine Bars Bring Vino Back Down to Earth
By Kristen V. Brown
Wine may be a sometimes daunting beverage, but three brand new Brooklyn wine bars are here to get even the most intimidated novice over their fears.
Meet The Castello Plan in Ditmas Park, The Bodega in Bushwick and La Casita, a wine bar-yarn shop in Cobble Hill. These three newbies join favorites like Park Slope’s Brookvin as vanguards of a new brand of wine bars that break down the haughtiness of wine and make it as accessible as a $3 Bud.
“Wines have a real snobbery. We wanted to start getting out of the wine-speak, which turns people off, and show people that wine can be really exciting,” said Ben Warren, co-owner of The Bodega. Warren focuses on wines that are organic, holistic and sometimes a little out there, like his 2008 La Mothe ($9), a funky, apple-y wine that he describes “as the craziest white wine I’ve ever had.”
There may be crazy wines, but you’ll find no lifted pinkies here. Warren, an amateur wine enthusiast turned pro, doles out generous tastings from behind the bar himself, encouraging folks to try before they buy. He’s been known to go on and on about the unique qualities of each particular bar, justifying it simply, “Wine can be just as nerdy as beer.”
At the Castello Plan, too, owner Benjamin Heemskerk instructs his staff to have customers sample two, three, even four wines until they find the one they like.
“Everyone’s taste is different,” said Heemskerk. “We have stuff on the menu that I don’t even like, even though I know it’s ‘good’ wine. There’s nothing more intimidating than promising to pay for $35 for a bottle wine and then finding out you hate it. That’s why I want people to taste.”
La Casita has none of the usual wine bar fixtures. Walk into the homey, slightly cluttered storefront and find customers lounging comfortably, knitting away. The walls are stacked with bright yarns and owners Jennifer Lopez and Amanda Greenhagen dart between sales, advising knitters and dishing out vino and empanadas in a tiny bar tucked in the back.
“We wanted to be accessible, to have something for everyone. We want people to be able to work on a project, have a glass of wine, relax,” said Greenhagen. The shop even stocks a wine made by a customer in South Africa, the 2004 Lievland Wine Estate Field Blend – the priciest offering at $9.
La Casita and The Bodega in particular focus primarily on wines from the Spanish-speaking world – particularly because it allows them feature more affordable offerings. At each, every glass is under $10, with many offerings in the $7 range. While that’s not exactly dirt cheap, by focusing all their effort on more inexpensive offerings, each has managed to craft a wine list with a lot more bang for buck.
The Castello Plan is a bit more upscale – with glasses ranging from $7 to $14, bottles well into the hundreds and beautifully curated cheese boards that would make any cheese lover’s heart skip a beat. All the same, Heemskerk takes extra care in selecting his $7 offerings, ensuring they rival every other wine on the list.
Cheers to that.
The Castello Plan [1213 Cortelyou Rd. at Argyle Road in Ditmas Park, (718) 856-8888]
3 / 24 / 2010 Source:
Purple Yam is the latest can’t-miss in Ditmas
By Linnea Covington
The fairy godmother of Soho’s defunct Cendrillon has jiggled her wand and landed in a quaint space in the newest hot neighborhood in Brooklyn: Ditmas Park. But owner Amy Besa, with husband Romy Dorotan, didn’t leave it all behind to open their latest venture, Purple Yam. They brought over many of the menu items from the last restaurant, as well as a legion of loyal customers.
On a recent Thursday, Besa held court in the packed space, greeting people like old friends. Even though my date and I had to wait 15 minutes for a table, we spent it comfortably at the sparse bar, sipping on a drinkable bottle of Masia de Bielsa garnacha ($25).
When we did finally manage to snag one of the small wooden tables, we were salivating from the rich smells wafting from the open kitchen across from us, and the sight of a mysterious array of foods on our neighbor’s table.
All the dishes are fairly small, so the best way to order is get a bunch and share. First on the list, homemade kimchi of the day ($3), which turned out to be baby radish. The nicely bundled lump of spicy, crunchy kimchi is the work of cook, waitress and decorating collaborator Haegeen Kim, who handles the Korean aspect of Purple Yam’s Filipino pan-Asian creations. She also cooks up the saucy Korean meatballs ($9), which come nestled on half of a tiny, elongated purple yam roll. The open face “sandwich” resembles a bahn mi, especially since on the other side of the roll are cucumber, shredded carrots, onion and lettuce. It also comes with a side of kimchi and a sweet and spicy gochujang sauce.
Everything on the menu sounds impressive, and I wish I had opted for the lechon kawali ($18), deep-fried pork belly with a tangy pickled papaya, instead of the dull tocino sliders ($6).The latter came with two sugar-achuete-cured pork and pickled persimmon stuffed rolls, and while the ingredients were good on their own, the thick and slightly sticky purple yam bread overpowered the sweet and peppery pork.
Hands down, the best part of the meal was the goat curry, a remnant from Cendrillon. The tiny, tender chunks of meat had a coating of smooth curry so fragrant that the taste hit my palate before the food landed in my mouth. Accompanying this dish was a side of spicy mango and tomatillo chutney that brought out the rich curry even more.
Although the plates were small, everything turned out surprisingly satiating. And even though we were full, I found myself planning my next meal before our dessert order of buko pie ($6) ever arrived.
When it did finally make it to our table, the warm, tiny pie looked too perfect to eat. We managed anyway. As the mild scoop of ice cream melted on top of the flaky crust, we each grabbed a fork and plunged into the young coconut-stuffed shell, which was lined with a layer of purple yam custard. The cool, creamy ice cream, made with macapuno, a Philippine variety of coconut palm that has a soft, jelly-like center, blended well with the warm dessert, which ended up being much lighter a dish then it appeared. Despite the size, we managed to finish each bite. Even though the thought of eating more was ridiculous, when the friendly waiter plopped down an aromatic dish of sisig ($12), made with chopped-up pig parts, lime and chilies, for the women next to us, I wanted to order my own. Instead I left, completely entranced and with a newfound love for this restaurant.
3 / 20 / 2010 Source:
You know the expression "the proof is in the pudding"? Well, at Purple Yam you might say the proof is in the halo halo—the Filipino answer to an ice cream sundae, which is served in a tall, thin glass dish to show off layers of sweet beans, palm seed, cocogel (what?), agar agar (huh?), coconut sport (who?), jackfruit (really?), and flan, with a pretty lavender scoop of purple-yam ice cream on top. When the waiter plops one of these frozen confections on the table next to yours before turning to take your order, you realize that no matter how many times you read over the menu and no matter how many questions you ask, you're going to have to do some tasting to understand what Chef Romy Dorotan's Filipino-meets-pan-Asian cooking is all about.
Purple Yam is open for dinner every night, and for those who can't make the trek to Ditmas Park on a school night, it's also open from noon to 3:30 on Saturdays and Sundays. The brunch menu offers eggs with glossy garlic rice and out-of-the-ordinary breakfast meats like tocino ("sugar-achuete cured pork," $10) and beef ("air-dried beef," $11), washed down with strong cups of coffee and spicy cardamom chai lattes. We went straight to the kimchi and scallion pancake ($6)—a standout version of the egg-based Korean street food, flecked with spicy pickled vegetables and served alongside a thick sesame oil and scallion dipping sauce. Our server recommended pairing it with the buko (young coconut juice, $3), which was served cold in a wine glass with soft coconut shavings. My dining companion took a swig and declared that it tasted like Fritos, without the salt. I wouldn't go so far to compare this refreshing and delicately creamy beverage to junk food, but to be fair, it didn't not taste like Fritos. (And who doesn't love Fritos?)
Another must-try is the juicy chicken adobo ($12 on the lunch menu, $16 at dinnertime), served in a clay pot with a braising liquid of garlicky vinegar and soy sauce. Vegetarians will find solace in the lunchtime selection of bright and healthful noodle bowls, such as the vegetable jap chae ($8)—a broth-free tangle of golden, translucent sweet potato noodles with shredded carrots, sauteed spinach, and deeply flavorful shiitake and woodear mushrooms.
If the halo halo seems too adventurous a dessert, the satisfying buko pie a la mode ($6) is reminiscent of Mom's apple pie, if your mama were into subtly sweet young coconut and ice cream flavored with macapuno (a Philippine variety of the coconut palm). Can something be considered a comfort food if you're eating it for the first time? Purple Yam has proof that it can.
3 / 15 / 2010 Source:
BEST OF NEW YORK: BEST HUMMUS
1209 Cortelyou Rd., nr. Westminster Rd., Ditmas Park; 718-284-4444
The great Israeli hummus boom of the last five years or so has opened New York’s eyes to the richly decadent potential of what was once viewed as hippie-commune health food. We’ve had great, creamy, oil-dappled versions at Hummus Place, Taïm, Hoomoos Asli, and the late Hadom, but we’ll still happily trek out to central Brooklyn for a bowl of Mimi Kitani’s luscious chickpea purée, served up in five distinctive versions, all accompanied by hot, fluffy pitas that disappear too fast. For its exquisite balance of delicate seasoning and sheer heft, the meat rendition is our favorite, garnished with cinnamon-spiced ground beef and a smattering of pine nuts.
3 / 15 / 2010 Source:
BEST OF THE BOROS: BEAUTY IN BROOKLYN
BEST HOMEMADE LOTIONS AND POTIONS
This quiet spot bills itself as the only bulk medicinal herb store in the borough. Karen Rose, owner and master herbalist, sells over 150 kinds of herbs, soaps, face toners, masks, floral waters, culinary spices, elixirs and teas which are all organic and many fair trade. Rose offers consultations, which cost $100 per hour and leads seasonal classes throughout the year.
3 / 15 / 2010 Source:
BEST OF THE BOROS: FOOD IN BROOKLYN
BEST ASIAN-FUSION FOOD
This Ditmas Park temple of Filipino and South East Asian cuisine specializes in family-style spreads and dishes such as kimchi, air-cured beef and savory avocado ice cream.
3 / 3 / 2010 Source:
MIMIS HUMMUS OPENS A MARKET NEXT DOOR
By Florence Fabricant
Mimi’s Hummus is one of the restaurants that have given Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, some allure for diners. Now its owner, Avi Shuker, has added something for shoppers, a beautifully curated little food shop next door. The store, all done in pale wood, is crammed floor to ceiling with products and ingredients, many destined for the Middle Eastern table.
Some items, including various olives, spice mixes and a few pastries like sesame sandwich cookies, are made by Mimi’s. Others are from local purveyors, like Mast Brothers chocolate, Brooklyn Brine pickles and Hot Bread kitchen flatbreads. Imported labneh in oil, pomegranate molasses, Spanish quince paste and cheeses and various kinds of dried beans and lentils are also sold, as is fresh bread from Balthazar and Royal Crown.
Market, 1211 Cortelyou Road (Argyle Road), Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, (718) 284-4446.
3 / 2 / 2010 Source:
THE EVER EVOLVING CORTELYOU ROAD
Mimi's Hummus and The Castello Plan: The Ever-Evolving Cortelyou Road
By Carey Jones
It might be unfair to call Ditmas Park an unlikely dining destination, but only in the last few years did this Brooklyn neighborhood sprout the kind of restaurant row that got Manhattanites ("Ditmas where?") hopping on the Q train. First came The Farm on Adderley, bringing seasonal, New American food to Cortelyou Road; last year, the loosely Filipino Purple Yam. And, perhaps our favorite of all, Mimi's Hummus.
The Mimi's team has already expanded next door with a smartly assembled market (audaciously named Market) of fresh breads, cheeses, and pantry staples, a spot for a fresh pastry or an Illy espresso. And one of Mimi's owners, Avi Shuker, opened long-awaited wine bar The Castello Plan with partner Benjamin Heemskerk just this weekend.
Locavore, contemporary Asian, strong coffee, small plates—throw in a speakeasy-style cocktail bar and Cortelyou's got the Brooklyn boxed set.
The Castello Plan is named for the original 17th-century map of lower Manhattan, penned by Dutch surveyor Jacques Cortelyou, the namesake, of course, of Cortelyou Road. (Still with us?) Equal parts nautical and urban, exposed brick and darkly varnished wood, it's a gorgeous, dimly-lit space with high tables and a few set-off nooks for couples or parties to duck out of the already formidable din. As muted and elegant as Mimi's is lively and cheery. Lengthy, far-reaching wine list, by the glass and by the bottle. Gracious service. It's a lovely spot for a drink and a few bites, either before or after a meal.
But if dinner's in your plan, duck two doors down to Mimi's—whose hummus really is worth crossing boroughs for.
The Castello Plan
With twelve small plates plus a spread of cured meats and cheeses, there's plenty on chef Natasha Pogrebinsky's menu to pair with any of the 100+ wine selections or ten Belgian beers. True to cartography theme, the wine list is printed on the backs of sepia-toned regional maps, and ventures considerably beyond California and the Continent. Most glasses fall into the $7-12 range. Asked for a crisp, drinkable white, Heemskerk uncorked a 2007 Menetou-Salon from Domaine Jean-Max Roger ($12/glass), a slightly mineral, nicely dry Sauvignon blanc with real notes of apple and grapefruit, from a Loire Valley appellation quite near Sancerre. We loved it with the tangy, mild Cana de Cabra. The cheeses available (3 for $12), though numbering only eight, ranges from the blu di bufala, a pungent and somewhat uncommon aged blue cheese of water buffalo milk, to an oaky, smoky Spanish queso ahumado de Pria. Along those smoky lines, we loved the smoked herring-like sprats ($6), with tumeric mayonnaise and paprika salt.
For a cleaner bite, there's an elegant, if pricey cured salmon ($8) with black tobiko. And for something more substantial, we all enjoyed the rabbit stew ($15), lean meat cooked until tender with okra and potato in a ginger-carrot jus. But this is a wine bar, not a full-on restaurant; portions are dainty, and even before drinks, the bill mounts quickly. Stop in for a glass or a bottle; talk over your choices with a staff on top of their wine list. But if you're really looking to eat up, you need only wander next door, to...
It only takes a sniff, upon cracking open the door of tiny Mimi's, to understand why we sent you there. Cumin and garlic and cinnamon, meat stewing and pita baking, mushrooms simmering and onions browning—it all hits you in one deep, rapturous breath. Though the menu is simple, hummus and eggs, soups and small plates, very little we tried fell short of spectacular.
These aren't the sort of bites you chew contentedly; they're the sort that forever change your notions of what certain dishes should taste like. A single meal at Mimi's shoved a few of my former favorite restaurants a notch or two down.
A basket of fluffy pita, white, wheat, or a mix of the two, may arrive at the table a few minutes before your dish. In such situations, I do try to wait for the rest of the food; no use in polishing off such a perfect hummus delivery vehicle. But if you can hold off when this pita's within arm's reach, you are a stronger person than I. This is fantastic pita, with a beautiful golden burnish, easy to devour on its own. Tear apart the pillowy layers and steam will pour out and tickle your fingers.
But it's soon eclipsed by the hummus—so smooth as to seem more like a buttery chickpea custard than anything that was once, in fact, just chickpeas. It melts on the tongue. Nothing grainy, nothing starchy. Simply put, some of the finest hummus I've ever had.
It serves as the base for five different plates, which range from tasty to mind-blowing. Though lemon and garlic considerably enlivened a chickpea-topped masabache hummus ($8), we found the chickpeas themselves a bit too tough; they were one of the few imperfect things on the table. (A stir in silky hummus solved the problem.)
The mushroom hummus ($8), on the other hand. Mushrooms stewed and softened in olive oil with the sweetness of onion and gentle heat of cumin—and so much more than the sum of those parts. I'd never heard anyone groan with pleasure over mushrooms before, but a bite of this dish sent our table into fits of eye-rolling and heart-clutching, like a bachelorette party diving into a molten chocolate cake. It simply ends up on your fork, on the pita, and in your mouth, until it's gone, and you wish it wasn't, and you might order a second plate, because eight dollars is nothing in the afterglow of this happiness.
And though hummus may be a perfect vegetarian protein, there's no reason for the omnivores among us not to crown it with meat. That meat hummus ($9), ground beef with cinnamon and pine nuts, loosely recalls the Moroccan flavors of a pastilla, savory, sweet, and cinnamon-laced all at once. It's a bite so aggressive that it doesn't get lost in a blanket of hummus—though a forkful on its own may be even more fun.
One shakshuka ($9.50), an egg-topped tomato stew, makes it onto the dinner menu, but two more show up at brunch, including one with braised Swiss chard and, our favorite, the Shakshuka margez ($11, pictured above), with long fingers of gamey, tender lamb sausage, plenty of salt, and an elusive, lingering heat. As the dangerously warm cast-iron skillet keeps heating the stew, the tomatoes around the edges cook down until sweet and caramelized; swipe that up with pita for a particularly tasty bite.
Don't expect baba ganoush from the eggplant "caviar" ($5)—the smooth, pulpy eggplant dip is far more sweet than smoky. It cradles a well of honey that's best paired with the more substantial wheat pita.
What makes this beet salad ($5) different from any other beet salad? one of my dining companions pondered. It's good enough to invoke that sort of quasi-religious musing. Nothing short of a perfect salad, tender beets with a wash of citrus, perhaps a sprinkle of cumin, a shower of parsley.
And adding to our growing sense that the kitchen could do no wrong, special meatballs ($13) were as delicious as they were unusual—lamb and bulgur wheat that falls apart at the poke of a fork. Loosely packed, they were juicy enough without the lemony broth, but even better with it, dissolving into a gently spiced, sloppy sort of soup.
Five of us left stuffed and dizzily happy for less than $15/person—after tax and tip. The space may be small, and the wine list limited, but if you're considering a ratio of pennies to deliciousness, I'm hard-pressed to think of a better spot.
As we ambled out the door, one of our party lingered by the window of a real estate storefront next door, glancing over the listings. "Thinking of moving in?" I teased. And that's what Mimi's does. It's not just a perfect neighborhood restaurant. It's one that, for at least a few post-hummus seconds, makes you consider whether you, too, shouldn't be in that neighborhood.
2 / 22 / 2010 Source:
OFF THE MENU: THE CASTELLO PLAN
By Florence Fabricant
Mimi’s Hummus, the popular Middle Eastern restaurant, continues to expand its enclave in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. It recently opened a well-edited food shop, Market, next door and on Friday it will open the Castello Plan, a wine bar with more than 120 selections, and light food. It’s a handsome room done in reclaimed wood, bare brick and iron.
The wine bar’s name is that of a 17th-century map of Lower Manhattan drawn by Jacques Cortelyou, a surveyor. So what does this have to do with Ditmas Park? Mimi’s and its fiefdom are on Cortelyou Road.
The Castello Plan, 1213 Cortelyou Road (Argyle Road), (781) 856-8888.
2 / 12 / 2010 Source:
SAVING A PLACE TO BUMP INTO PEOPLE
By Diane Cardwell
On Wednesday afternoon, as the snowstorm rested between squalls, all seemed as it should at Bread Stuy, a coffeehouse on Lewis Avenue in Brooklyn.
The small wooden tables were occupied by patrons in earphones tapping away at laptops, as a line formed for lattes, panini and fresh-baked pastries. Beneath the warm orange glow of the walls and a heat lamp, one of the owners, Hillary Porter, quietly directed workers from a banquette while her 16-month-old daughter, Maclemore, slept on her lap.
Just one week earlier, the place was less welcoming, with its gates drawn and a bright red “Seized” sticker slapped on the front door, courtesy of federal marshals. In business since 2004, Ms. Porter and her husband, Lloyd, both 39, ran into tax trouble starting in 2008 as they lost customers to the recession, they said, and the government would not let them reopen until they had paid $10,000 in penalties.
But their neighbors rallied, giving money and throwing three fund-raisers that yielded enough for the shop to reopen.
That urgent, emotional response, from customers and fellow business owners along the strip in Stuyvesant Heights, surprised even the Porters. There are several nearby spots offering specialty coffees and baked goods, and though the couple is active in the neighborhood, playing Mr. and Mrs. Claus at Christmas each year, other merchants lead community efforts, too.
Somehow, after less than six years in operation, Bread Stuy — like other coffeehouses in other places — has come to embody the aspirations of a gentrifying neighborhood now threatened by the downturn. Locals see it as a linchpin in their fragile economy.
Jonathan Landau, who lives near the shop and held one of the fund-raisers, said he moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant two years ago from the Upper West Side because he was looking for the sense of community he found here, with the “Sesame Street”-like brownstone stoop culture and ethos of neighbors helping neighbors.
“A coffee shop like Bread-Stuy offers a space where that can quote-unquote brew,” Mr. Landau said with a chuckle. He added that he also liked the respite it offered from the “bodegas and Chinese joints selling junk food.”
Like the town tavern of old or the soda fountain of the 1950s, a coffeehouse helps build a sense of community, serving as a rare public space where people can bump into each other, share affinities or enjoy their “solitude in company,” as Mark Pendergrast, who wrote a history of coffee, “Uncommon Grounds,” put it in an interview.
“Human beings are social creatures, and we’ve become less and less social,” he said. “We spend more and more time in front of our computers or our televisions, and we go to our work and we come home.”
So the coffeehouse — a so-called third place, beyond home and work, that the sociologist Ray Oldenburg has posited is crucial to developing a sense of place, civic engagement and democracy — offers an ever-dwindling opportunity “to share an experience in public,” Mr. Pendergrast said.
Coffee shops have become driving forces in gentrifying areas, with merchant groups and development advocates looking to establish cafes to seed other types of mom-and-pop activity.
In Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, a politically engaged coffeehouse called Vox Pop caused a minor sensation when it opened on Cortelyou Road in 2004, quickly becoming a symbol for what some saw as the neighborhood’s new cachet. It, too, has struggled financially in recent years, and it has managed to survive in part by selling shares to customers.
Jan Rosenberg, a sociologist and real estate agent who has been active in spurring commercial development in the neighborhood, helped lure an outlet of the small chain Connecticut Muffin nearby. Now she is looking for a cafe for Newkirk Avenue a few blocks away.
“It brings a flock of people to a street — everyone likes a good cup of coffee — and it gives them a chance to sit down and bump into each other,” Ms. Rosenberg said. “It’s simple, really, but if you don’t have that and you’re always getting the train to go to work and getting your coffee there, you don’t have those bump-into-someone experiences, and that’s important in a city neighborhood.”
It is a role that Bread Stuy, which took over and expanded a coffee shop run by another owner, has clearly come to play on Lewis Avenue.
“It’s no longer just a place for people to go in and drink their coffee — it’s part of the fabric of the community,” said Crystal Bobb-Semple, whose Brownstone Books, opened in 2000, sits a few doors away. “It’s all about creating a better neighborhood.”
While they are not yet on secure footing, the Porters say they are grateful that they are able to continue playing a role in that process. Having run through their savings and being unable to leverage their home, they thought they would simply have to move back to Oakland, Calif., where they lived before coming to New York in 2000.
But the generosity of the neighborhood — one woman gave Mr. Porter $25 on the street “for milk and Pampers,” he said, reducing him to tears — has given the couple new resolve. “Every day, I am making coffee with a purpose,” he said. “Like, ‘I am going to make the best cup of coffee in America.’ We’re going to make this happen.”
1 / 14 / 2010 Source:
RESTAURANT REVIEW: PURPLE YAM
A Soho transplant brings Filipino food to Ditmas Park.
By Jay Cheshes
1314 Cortelyou Rd between Argyle and Rugby Rds, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn (718-940-8188). Subway: Q to Cortelyou Rd. Mon–Fri 5:30–10:30pm; Sat noon–3:30pm, 5:30–11pm; Sun noon–3:30pm, 5:30–10pm. Average main course: $15.
Despite the ubiquity of sushi spots and Chinese joints, some Asian cuisines are still under the radar in New York. Top chefs like Jean-Georges Vongerichten have long embraced Thai flavors, and Vietnamese is enjoying a citywide renaissance thanks to Michael “Bao” Huynh, but the cooking of the Philippine archipelago has never made major inroads beyond immigrant enclaves. This despite the best efforts of Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan, who for 15 years brought their native cooking to a gentrified corner of Manhattan.
The couple ran Cendrillon in Soho until last spring, when it became an early victim of the recession. The restaurant distinguished itself with its mix of Filipino classics and modern fusion. Purple Yam, its Brooklyn redux, is more traditional than its precursor. A few regional detours and multinational mash-ups endure—including a bland minipizza topped with mozzarella and a sort of wild-boar bolognese, and a pork slider on a mealy purple-yam roll—but it’s the by-the-books Flipino dishes that truly shine.
That pizza and slider were the only real clunkers of a recent family-style feast. By 8pm during that visit, there was a standing-room-only bottleneck that both the guests and amiable waitstaff took in stride.
Dorotan and Besa have settled into a neighborhood that’s clearly grateful to have them. Purple Yam, which is in the heart of Ditmas Park’s new restaurant row—the Farm on Adderley and Picket Fence are on the same street—is a sleek slice of Soho transplanted to a part of Brooklyn where ethnic eats abound, but boutique dining options are still limited.
Even if you live nowhere near Ditmas, Purple Yam’s best dishes are worth an excursion. Filipino artist Perry Mamaril (also a former Cendrillon sous chef) helped transform a former 99¢ store into an Asian retreat, with a bamboo light fixture that glows gold behind the bar. The restaurant’s superior chicken adobo, the national dish of the Philippines, features on-the-bone nuggets braised in a soy-vinegar mixture cooked down to a syrup. The dish is simple and remarkably rich, with a buttery finish that comes from the last-minute addition of coconut milk.
Crispy fried pork belly (lechon kawali), another exceptional signature, predates the citywide mania for the oversold cut. Spoon-tender oxtail with baby eggplants and long beans in a thick peanut gravy (kare kare) is the best sort of Filipino home cooking, as is the fiery goat curry, featuring earthy chopped meat in a velvety coconut-milk-enriched gravy, with delicate rice crêpes for wrapping it up.
For Filipino-food novices, the desserts will be as intriguing as they are unfamiliar. The champorrado—essentially chocolate rice pudding—is a breakfast dish, repurposed here with Belgian chocolate and strong coffee ice cream. The more unusual yet delicious buko pie features a flaky crust filled with custard made from macapuno (a waterless coconut filled with gelatinous flesh).
None of the fare coming out of the kitchen—from the kare kare to the macapuno to the funky fermented shrimp paste (bagoong alamang)—seems to be tempered to win over nonnative palates. Could this be the year New Yorkers finally give the cuisine its due? It’s clearly scoring points in Brooklyn.
Drink this: Filipino cuisine is beer-drinking food. The San Miguel ($6), a light indigenous brew, does a fine job of extinguishing the hot-chili fires.
Eat this: Chicken adobo, pork belly, oxtail kare kare, goat curry, buko pie.
Sit here: The tables that line the wall across from the bar can be a bit cramped, but until the garden opens this spring, you’ll have to squeeze in.
Conversation piece: Memories of Philippine Kitchens, the 2006 cookbook written by the owners of Purple Yam, features food stories from across the Philippines and more than 100 recipes (including many of the dishes they serve at the restaurant).
1 / 10 / 2010 Source:
COMFORT FOOD FOR THE FAMILY CROWD
At theTable | Picket Fence
Comfort Food for the Family Crowd
By ALAN FEUER
This cozy local standby — “Comfortable Food,” its awning says — sits in a tiny storefront at 1310 Cortelyou Road in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, a neighborhood that has been saddled recently with the modifier “slowly gentrifying” because of its influx of economically unchallenged residents. Serving brunch, burgers and a decent-looking meatloaf, it attracts a family crowd, including two sisters who grew up around the corner on Rugby Road. One of them was accompanied by her 2-year-old daughter.
IN THE SEATS Sophia Francis, co-owner of the Cortelyou Early Childhood Center (a family business located down the block); her toddler daughter, Christina; and the elder Francis sibling, Donette, an English professor at Binghamton University specializing in African-American and Caribbean literature.
ON THE PLATES For Sophia, a half-pound turkey burger on whole wheat toast with a side of French-fried sweet potatoes ($10); for Donette, the buttery-crusted chicken pot pie with mushrooms and your basic fancy lettuce ($15.) Christina was interested almost exclusively in the fries.
WHY THEY CAME Convenience: The sisters were born and raised and still live in Ditmas Park (Donette, quite the Brooklyn hardcore, commutes to work in Binghamton, about 180 miles away). Also, community: The sisters like to keep things in the neighborhood.
WHAT THEY TALKED ABOUT “We were actually just discussing a proposal for a charter school in the community that’s due in Albany on Monday,” Sophia said. Donette, the wordsmith of the two, added between a bite, “I’m her editor.” The school is to be called the Una Clarke School, in honor of the area’s former councilwoman, and if its charter is accepted by the state, it will educate 282 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. “It’s a good proposal,” Donette said. “I mean, it’s much improved from the first go-round. I plan to work on it for the next eight hours. That’s why she’s buying me lunch.”
1 / 5 / 2010 Source:
MIMIS HUMMUS WILL OPEN MARKET JAN. 25
Mimi's Hummus Will Open Its Market on Jan. 25, With a Bar to Follow
While eating at Mimi's Hummus on New Year's Eve, one-fourth of Fork in the Road heard owner Avi Shuker mention in passing that the market he's opening next door to his Ditmas Park restaurant would be opening at the beginning of the year. A follow-up call to Shuker confirmed that the market, to be called, appropriately, Market, will open its doors on January 25.
"We're going to have cheese, olives, meats, coffee, chocolate, and specialty deli products," Shuker says. He's calling the store a "modern Middle Eastern local market," explaining that while many of its products will be Middle Eastern, he's sourcing its meats and cheeses from local companies. The 50 or 60 products available will also include jam, maple syrup, and couscous -- but sadly for hummus freaks, while there will be tahini and "probably chickpeas," Shuker says that the store won't be selling any food from Mimi's menu.
Market shares a space with Shuker's wine bar, which he says is set to open by the end of February. The bar will be called the Castello Plan, after the 17th-century map of Lower Manhattan designed by Jacques Cortelyou, a surveyor and the namesake of the road that Mimi's and is brethren call home.
1 / 1 / 2010 Source:
A NATURAL HEALER
By Chana Garcia
The shelves at Sacred Vibes Apothecary hold a bounty of medicinal roots and herbs. On one wall, the names of spices and botanicals sound like Harry Potter potion ingredients: wormwood, shepherd’s purse, myrrh gum, and mugwort. Another wall is stocked with specially crafted elixirs and tinctures designed to reduce stress, curb insomnia, and increase passion.
It’s the work of proprietor and master herbalist Karen Rose, whose mission is to inspire more people to embrace curative plants. At her Brooklyn, New York, boutique there’s a constant flow of neighborhood residents interested in and curious about her dizzying selection of oddly named aromatics and colorful resins. Ask Rose about almost any plant or root and she can discuss its composition and full spectrum of therapeutic properties from memory.
“Herbs have many healing indicators,” notes Rose. “You can use basil in your cooking, but it’s also uplifting and can be used to combat mild depression. Calendula is used as a skin softener, and you can give babies a bath in it. It’s also good for lymphatic congestion. Several herbs can be taken to lessen anxiety and high blood pressure, or to relieve constipation. The key is to find out what works with your body.”
What has become her life’s work was a natural calling for this South American native, who first studied business at the University of Phoenix and graduated in 1999. In 2001 she enrolled in classes at the Educational Center for Botanical Medicine in Phoenix. “I grew up in Guyana, in the country, where we didn’t have doctors,” Rose explains. “The doctor came once a month, so if you had a sore throat, you went to your grandmother or the village elders, who said, ‘Go pick that plant out back and bring it to me.’ And they would prepare it in a tea or include it in a balm. I think people are looking for the remedies of their grandmothers. They want to revisit those traditions.”
After receiving her certification, Rose began developing a clientele. This past May, she opened Sacred Vibes (www.sacredvibeshealing.com), a full-service apothecary that includes personal consultations, custom-made bath products, and weekend classes that connect herbs to physical and emotional benefits. Rose is quick to point out that she is not a physician and encourages her clients to maintain their schedule of regular checkups with their doctor. Her therapies, she urges, work best for day-to-day maintenance and a sense of well being. Many of these botanicals can also be used to affect your environment and relax the body after a stressful workday. Popular products such as lavender, rose, and chamomile can scent a room or bed sheets, be used for a soothing bath, or made into a calming tea. At the heart of those traditions, says Rose, is reconnecting with nature and plants, a practice she says can be as simple as cultivating herbs or brewing your own healing tonics. “You can grow peppermint in your yard or your apartment,” she notes, “and if you’re having stomach problems, you can snip a couple of leaves to make tea. It’s a great way to restore yourself.”
Photo by Lonnie C. Major
12 / 30 / 2009 Source:
RESTAURANT REVIEW: PURPLE YAM
By SAM SIFTON
ROMY DOROTAN, the chef and an owner of Purple Yam, stood at the bar of his restaurant, looking out at Cortelyou Road in the rain. It was just after Christmas, and there were still holiday songs playing on the stereo behind him. It was early afternoon and the place smelled of fresh flowers, vinegar and fried pork. He looked a bit like a ship’s captain: formidable, intimidating, kind.
There was a long brick wall behind him reminiscent of the one that dominated his last restaurant, Cendrillon, in SoHo, for more than a decade. Mr. Dorotan and his wife, Amy Besa, closed it in March. They moved to Brooklyn, to Ditmas Park, a neighborhood of Victorian houses and discount stores, to start again.
There was a family eating lunch at one of the booths in the back of the restaurant, across from its partly open kitchen, under a bead-board ceiling.
Purple Yam serves lunch on weekends only. It makes the most of the opportunity. There was a spread on the table: eggs, garlic-fried rice and tocino, the sweetened cured pork known sometimes as Filipino bacon; thin rice noodles with chicken, pork and swirls of vegetable; Balinese fried chicken and a purée of taro and sweet potato as rich as softened butter. The kids were drinking mango juice. The adults were drinking chai lattes.
Mr. Dorotan turned and regarded these people as an artist might a sketch. He went into the kitchen. A few moments later, he emerged with a small bowl of sambal, a kind of Malaysian ketchup, that he had cooked thick with coconut milk, brightened with lime. “This is for the chicken,” he said, and returned to his post by the window.
The chicken had been served with two dipping sauces already: one sour and soylike, the other with the peppery kick of a traditional American hot sauce. These were excellent. The sambal number, however, provoked happy gibberish from those who ate it over the chicken, who spooned it into their mouths like fiery yogurt.
Mr. Dorotan remained expressionless. He trimmed a few poinsettias at the bar, then returned to the kitchen. The dinner rush would be coming in less than six hours. He had work to do.
Purple Yam is not precisely Filipino. Mr. Dorotan’s vision is too wide for such easy characterization. At Cendrillon, he used the Philippines as a point of reference for his cooking — Malay by nature, Chinese and Hispanic by curious nurture — and added European flavors to it. At Purple Yam, the menu has those old favorites but also looks widely across Asia for inspiration, most notably toward Korea, the cuisine of which provides both kimchi and flavored sojus, a mean bibimbap and a spicy tofu soup.
As at Cendrillon, the result is more than the sum of its parts. Purple Yam is a perfect neighborhood restaurant.
True to its aesthetic, the menu is resistant to easy division into appetizers and main courses. There are kimchis and chutneys to order. There are vegetables and side dishes. There is pig — almost every part of it. And there are Cendrillon classics, ranging from a sublime chicken adobo to a faintly ridiculous wild-boar pizza.
Ms. Besa can be found most evenings at the restaurant’s door, in front of the crowded dining room, making small talk with her guests and, when necessary, apologizing for the long waits for a table or for food. There are date-night renters at the bar, kids from Ocean Avenue flats sharing an entree and a beer; local home-owning families eating out with neighbors; Filipinos who’ve driven in from other parts of bedroom Brooklyn; a few bewildered travelers off the Q train.
The menu is studded with the sort of offerings that inspire craving. (Cravings are a key component to a successful neighborhood restaurant.)
There is that chicken adobo, for instance. Adobo is a national dish of the Philippines, with probably as many recipes for it as there are islands in the archipelago. Some are soupy braises of chicken or pork in soy sauce and vinegar. Others are cooked down until almost dry.
This is Purple Yam’s version: the chicken braised in rice vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and Thai chili pepper, and served in a vastly reduced pool of that liquid, now cut through and softened with coconut milk. Eat it with a bowl of fried rice anointed with bagoong, a kind of fermented shrimp paste, and it’s possible to imagine it on the level of a neighborhood staple, up there with pizza or rotisserie chicken.
Other necessities include those glassy rice noodles with chicken and pork, a plate of oxtails stewed in tomatoes and peanuts and another of deep-fried pork belly with pickled papaya. There ought to be sisig on your table as well, the restaurant’s fantastic, crisp meat salad: chopped pig snout, ears and jowls, crisp and fatty at once, in a slightly fiery lime dressing. (Go on: try it.)
You’ll want some kimchi. Maybe a salad of jicama and green papaya, too. In a depressing nod to market trends, there are “sliders” on the menu, Korean-style meatballs in small buns flavored with purple yams. (These aren’t necessary. Nor are the restaurant’s Chinese-style ribs.) There is slow-cooked duck leg, almost a confit, wrapped in banana leaves.
And there are marvelous desserts: rice pudding flavored with coffee and chocolate; flan rich with the nutty flavor of pandan. Best of all, there is halo halo, the Philippines’ answer to an ice cream sundae: a parfait glass of sweet beans, palm seeds, all manner of coconut products and jackfruit, topped with flan and purple yam ice cream. The combination is hilarious, like an umbrella drink gone mad, and extremely delicious.
Years ago, well before Cendrillon, Mr. Dorotan lived in Key West. There is something of that place in his restaurant, even now.
Key West is where the American experiment sees its glorious proof: the poor living amid the wealthy; the gay amid the straight; the eccentric amid the strait-laced. Democrats eat side by side with Republicans in the Conch Republic, Latinos by whites by blacks by Asians. All humans swoon in the presence of a glorious sunset. (And a lot of alcohol.)
At Purple Yam, a similar effect is achieved with adobo and halo halo. That is something worth experiencing, even if you’re not moving in down the block.
1314 Cortelyou Road (Rugby Road), Ditmas Park, Brooklyn; (718) 940-8188. www.cendrillon.com.
ATMOSPHERE Loftlike and welcoming, crowded, warm.
SOUND LEVEL It sounds like a nice party.
RECOMMENDED DISHES Kimchi, chicken adobo, pork belly, sisig, duck, noodles, halo halo.
WINE LIST There are wonderful flavored sojus, a kind of Korean vodka, as well as a moderate wine list and a number of decent bottled beers.
PRICE RANGE Dinner courses run $6 to $18, with side dishes $3 to $3.50 more; brunch is $6 to $16.
HOURS Monday to Friday, 5:30 to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., 5:30 to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30 to 3:30 p.m., 5:30 to 10 p.m.
RESERVATIONS Calling a few days ahead is a wise investment of time, particularly if you’re traveling more than a block or two.
CREDIT CARDS All major cards.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS Restaurant is all on one level.
WHAT THE STARS MEAN Ratings range from zero to four stars and reflect the reviewer’s reaction to food, ambience and service, with price taken into consideration. Menu listings and prices are subject to change.
Photo: Piotr Redlinski for The New York Times
12 / 30 / 2009 Source:
BRIGHT SPOTS IN A YEAR FOR THRIFT
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
SOMETIMES the bill can help make a dining experience enjoyable. Here are some of the best affordable places from the Dining Briefs and $25 and Under columns this year, with the reviewer’s name in parentheses.
MIMI’S HUMMUS This sunny cafe serves dishes — not just hummus — that bear traces of the chef’s family history in Israel, Morocco and the Kurdish region of Iraq. (Ligaya Mishan) 1209 Cortelyou Road (Westminster Road), Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, (718) 284-4444.
12 / 13 / 2009 Source:
THE HOT LIST
Fifty of the City's Tastiest Soups
11 / 13 / 2009 Source:
MOVED FOR THE SPACE; STAYED FOR THE FOOD
Living In | Ditmas Park, Brooklyn
The house that Michael and Lori Hiller planned to buy in South Park Slope, Brooklyn, was a good size for the neighborhood, and on a pleasant block. But then a problem developed with the building’s certificate of occupancy.
Since Mrs. Hiller had been the bigger fan of Park Slope, it was Mr. Hiller who had more zest for a new search. He found himself smitten by Ditmas Park, a leafy area of Victorian houses, south of Prospect Park. Eventually, he struck gold, with a 4,000-square-foot six-bedroom house with a finished basement, a backyard and a four-car driveway.
The Hillers saw it on a Sunday, made an offer on Tuesday, and were in contract by week’s end. They paid $1.26 million — $10,000 less than they had planned to pay for the house in Park Slope, which was about half the size.
A year and a half later, Mr. Hiller said, they are thrilled, partly for the reasons people have always liked Ditmas Park: the grand Victorians, the trees, the big yards and the suburban atmosphere. “It’s just such a great thing to come home and see your kids outside playing,” he said.
But some of what keeps the Hillers excited about the neighborhood is new. In recent years, a string of popular restaurants have opened on Cortelyou Road, the main business district. These places, among them the Farm on Adderley, Mimi’s Hummus and a pioneering cafe called Vox Pop, have drawn visitors to what Time Out New York calls one of the city’s best neighborhoods for food.
And not only prepared foods, it turns out: the Flatbush Food Co-op, a fixture on Cortelyou, is thriving after its 2008 move into a larger space, and a Sunday farmers’ market is also doing well.
Brokers say that word of mouth has made a difference. “They read about it and they say, ‘Well, where is that neighborhood?’ ” said Mary Kay Gallagher, a broker who specializes in the area’s Victorian houses, and who sold the Hillers their house. “And then they go on the Internet, and they find me.”
Web surfers also find a dedicated blog, ditmaspark.blogspot.com, and an Internet group, the Flatbush Family Network, for area parents.
One result of all the change has been a reinvigorated co-op market, according to Jan Rosenberg, a real estate broker at Brooklyn Hearth Realty.
Stefanie Zadravec, a playwright, moved with her husband, Michael McWatters, a freelance Web designer, to a large two-bedroom on Argyle Road days after giving birth to twins. The giant houses are out of their price range, she said, but are wonderful to look at.
She had lived in Chelsea, in Manhattan, since 1991, but says her family’s new place is bigger than they ever could have afforded there. Also, out on the street, she is constantly running into friends. “They’re the kind of people I had stopped meeting in Manhattan,” Ms. Zadravec said.
Through all the change, residents say, the vibes remain positive. “The older residents of the neighborhood are very excited about the young people who have moved into the neighborhood,” said Alvin M. Berk, the chairman of Community Board 14, which covers the area. “It brings the neighborhood vitality. Everybody loves looking at beautiful babies in a baby carriage.”
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
Ditmas Park is a relatively narrow landmark district bounded by Dorchester Road to the north, Ocean Avenue to the east, Newkirk Avenue to the south and East 16th Street to the west. Yet when most nonpurists refer to Ditmas Park, they are talking about a wider chunk of Victorian Flatbush — stretching north to Beverley Road, west to Coney Island Avenue and east to Ocean Avenue — that includes the subsections Ditmas Park West, Beverley Square East and Beverley Square West.
What these sections all have in common, besides the loosely applied Ditmas Park name, is Cortelyou Road.
“One of the exciting things for me about Cortelyou developing is that it holds together a lot,” said Ms. Rosenberg, also a founder of the civic group Friends of Cortelyou. “People think of it as the heart of the neighborhood.”
Many of the area’s co-op buildings are concentrated in the blocks immediately south of Cortelyou. The grander houses, mostly single-family, with five or six bedrooms, stretch to the north and south on streets with Anglophile names like Marlborough, Argyle and Westminster. Much of the area was rezoned this summer, Mr. Berk said, to curb out-of-scale construction that had begun to creep up on the area’s western edge near Coney Island Avenue.
In the interior are a few new buildings, but most of the co-op and rental buildings are decades old, some prewar. The blocks full of houses, with their front porches, large yards and driveways, could easily be mistaken for some other, less urban place. Ms. Rosenberg, who has shown the neighborhood to countless newcomers, has heard comparisons to Pittsburgh or Minneapolis.
“What they’re saying is, ‘Gee, it doesn’t really feel like New York,’ ” she said. “And it doesn’t. For a lot of people it feels like home.”
WHAT YOU’LL PAY
When Ms. Gallagher used to talk about Victorian house prices early this decade, she spoke of the approach to the million-dollar mark. That barrier has long since been leapfrogged, and prices for Victorians are now routinely $900,000 and up, she said.
Still, Aviva Sucher, a broker at Brooklyn Dwellings, says that in the softer economy, there are relative bargains.
“There are houses as low as $800,000,” she said. “We haven’t seen these kinds of numbers in, I’d say, well over 10 years. Right now, there are very well-priced homes for buyers who would not have been able to come into the area.”
For co-ops, Ms. Rosenberg said buyers should expect to pay $250,000 to $320,000 for a one-bedroom — occasionally less. Two-bedrooms, she said, range from around $300,000 to $450,000 for very large units like Ms. Zadravec’s, which also includes an office. There are almost no three-bedroom co-ops, Ms. Rosenberg said, and few condos of any size.
Rentals can be hard to come by. Units in detached houses are priced unpredictably, with some sprawling apartments over $2,000 a month, and tighter attic spaces well below that. In apartment buildings, one-bedrooms rent for around $1,400, while two-bedrooms are in the $1,700 range.
There are two public elementary schools. Public School 139, on Rugby Road just north of Cortelyou, has around 1,100 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade. It received an A on its most recent city progress report, with 68.1 percent of students meeting standards in English language arts and 88.8 percent in math. P.S. 217 on Newkirk Avenue also serves prekindergarten through fifth grade, and has around 1,200 students. It, too, got an A on its progress report, with 76.9 percent of students meeting standards in language arts and 94.1 percent in math.
Mr. Berk said both schools had so far been able to accommodate their swelling numbers, although P.S. 217 had to build an annex. Both, he said, have active parents’ associations.
The neighborhood’s middle-schoolers attend Junior High School 62, which has around 1,100 students, on Cortelyou Road in nearby Kensington. The school received an A on its city progress report, with 59.1 percent testing at or above grade level in language arts, and 70.3 percent in math.
A nearby high school, Midwood High, is a few blocks south of the neighborhood at Brooklyn College. The former Erasmus Hall High School, which was broken up into four smaller schools in 1994, is a few blocks north of the neighborhood on Flatbush Avenue.
WHAT TO DO
Neighborhood life is sedate and suburban. The Parade Grounds at the southern tip of Prospect Park are within walking distance, as is the park’s running and cycling loop. At night, the restaurants on Cortelyou — and off, in the case of Pomme de Terre, a newer place on Newkirk Avenue — are popular destinations. Residents trade gossip on just-opened and soon-to-open restaurants and bars, and on Sundays head to the farmers’ market and playground.
It gives Cortelyou Road a “village square feel on Sunday morning,” Mr. Berk said. “People get together and meet each other and buy rutabaga."
By JAKE MOONEY
11 / 2 / 2009 Source:
THE FEED OPENINGS: PURPLE YAM
In addition to Manhattan Inn opening this week, the following restaurants and bars are expected to open no later than November 11. Always call ahead before heading out, since openings can sometimes be delayed.
Purple Yam Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan made their reputation serving expertly prepared Filipino food at their now shuttered Soho restaurant, Cendrillon. Ditmas Park residents are the lucky recipients of their next project, a bamboo-accented Pan-Asian eatery serving small plates. Fans of the original can look forward to old favorites like pork adobo, alongside new additions such as homemade kimchi and a variety of noodles, including Korea’s japchae and the Phillipine’s pancit bihon (rice noodles cooked with pork, chicken, vegetables and stock). A selection of Asian beers, shochu and sake will be available to pair with the food. 1314 Cortelyou Rd between Argyle and Rugby Rds, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn (718-940-8188)
10 / 22 / 2009 Source:
BEST FOOD IN DITMAS PARK, BROOKLYN
By Rachel Wharton
Bahar Shishkebab House
Torteria Del Valle
Bukhari Restaurant & Sweets
10 / 22 / 2009 Source:
PIONEERING CHEF: DITMAS PARK
Amy Besa, co-owner, food director of the forthcoming Purple Yam. You closed your Soho restaurant, Cendrillon, to open Purple Yam. Why the move?
Amy Besa, co-owner, food director of the forthcoming Purple Yam.
You closed your Soho restaurant, Cendrillon, to open Purple Yam. Why the move?
So is Ditmas Park your version of Soho circa ’95?
Will your food be influenced by the West Indian community?
Where do you eat in the area?
Any minute the traders will start moving in.
Photo: Allison Michael Orenstein
Purple Yam, 1314 Cortelyou Rd between Argyle and Rugby Rds, Ditmas Park, Brooklyn (718-940-8188). Projected opening: Early November
9 / 2 / 2009 Source:
AMBITIONS AND PRICES TO SUIT THE MOMENT
By Glenn Collins
Edging warily toward the anniversary of the great economic implosion, New York is still hungry and still dining out.
The slump was not the end of days. Restaurateurs and customers alike are navigating a post-traumatic landscape that — though littered with broken dreams and empty rooms — is abundant with unexpected opportunities, entrepreneurial surprises and not a few thriving kitchens.
Across the boroughs, eager yet economically humbled diners are meeting equally chastened restaurant operators — and everyone is ordering from the city’s rebalanced carte du jour.
The new rule is simple: “Customers want excellence and indulgence at a really low price,” said Ed Brown, a 46-year-old chef, who instead of sulking in the $2 million dining room of his high-end restaurant Eighty One, on West 81st Street, aggressively reinvented everything from its menus to its cost structure. Average check costs are now $29 lower there. He recently unveiled a grill room offering salads, chicken wings and a $9 chuck-and-brisket hamburger. And moving it forward, he and Jeffrey Chodorow will open Ed’s Chowder House this month, evoking the Jersey Shore in what had been Mr. Chodorow’s more expensive steakhouse, Center Cut.
Yet the storm has not passed, as was clear with the recent closings of Café des Artistes, the John Dory and Elettaria. Yet there will still be an impressive number of premieres, even if fall-opening ambitions are undeniably lower than they were last year, judging by a surfeit of spinoffs, re-dos and in-the-pipeline rev-ups.
Some openings — like that of the $7 million SD26, the lower-key successor to the restaurateur Tony May’s austere San Domenico — are downright buzzy. Can a season really be such a drag if Danny Meyer (Maialino in the Gramercy Park Hotel) and Jean-Georges Vongerichten (in the Mark Hotel) are branching out again?
And while the chic Town shut down, the blazing chef David Chang will be planting his Momofuku flag in its Chambers Hotel space, with a Southeast Asian newbie.
Lively neighborhoods get livelier: Williamsburg will see Saltie’s sandwich shop, from Caroline Fidanza of Diner and Marlow & Sons, St. Anselm from the folks who own the bar Spuyten Duyvil, and the long-awaited Fatty ’Cue from Zakary Pelaccio of Fatty Crab.
And recession successes doggedly extend their brands: the multiple-Baoguette mini-empire of the chef Michael Huynh will expand to Obao Noodles and Grill on East 53rd Street and B Clinton on Clinton Street. Keith McNally, the 58-year-old proprietor of Balthazar, Pastis and Minetta Tavern, is focusing on Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria, which he expects to open at the corner of Houston Street and the Bowery in December. But he said he’d been planning for the restaurant for four or five years and casual, cheaper dining trends had nothing to do with his choice of style.
“The fact that it’s the hot thing right now,” he said of the pizzas he’d be serving, “would really put me right off it.”
Beyond the cut-and-thrust of the restaurant fray, there is evidence to suggest a triumph of survival in New York. The city’s leisure and hospitality workers have fared much better in the city’s economic mix than financial and professional-service workers, said Michael L. Dolfman, the regional commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics in New York. Although the city’s food and drinking places shed more than 10,000 out of some 200,000 workers after the jolt to the economy last fall, employment was back to 200,000 by May — and up 4,000 more by July. “If higher-end restaurants may be suffering, the lower-end restaurants may be seeing an increase in demand — and employment,” Dr. Dolfman said.
Visitors from abroad, who have done their bit in the past for the city’s restaurants, are still coming, according to one of the best barometers of foreign tourism, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which this year has welcomed 10 percent more visitors from abroad than in the comparable months of 2008, according to Harold Holzer, a senior vice president.
And recession or not, entrepreneurs just can’t stop themselves.
“This is a great time to look for growth,” said Burak Karacam, the owner of Pera Mediterranean Brasserie, a 150-seat Turkish restaurant at 303 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, “because landlords are offering more creative deal structures.” Mr. Karacam, a former Harvard-trained investment banker, is negotiating for two new locations to establish more casual Pera extensions.
Although rent increases have driven some restaurants out of business, some lease-hunters are stunned to find affordable spaces.
“Landlords are a little chastened,” said Stuart Morden, a senior managing director at the brokerage Newmark Retail LLC. They realize, he said, that “to wait for the economy to turn around is folly.” Mr. Morden said that many landlords are now offering rent abatements. The landlord of Eighty One, the Excelsior Hotel, is one of them, Mr. Brown said.
And restaurateurs are showing that they are willing to move on to find deals, or customers. “Rents can be affordable citywide,” Mr. Morden said, “so no neighborhood can be ruled out, as far as good restaurants are concerned.”
Ergo: the Bowery footprint is extended as Travertine locates at Kenmare Street and the Bowery. Or consider the odyssey of the neo-Philippine restaurant Cendrillon.
After its 10-year-lease in SoHo ran out, the landlord wanted to triple the rent, said Amy Besa, 59, an owner. “But a lot of our Manhattan customers had moved to Brooklyn,” she said.
And so she and her husband, the chef Romy Dorotan, will open the new Purple Yam in a few weeks at 1314 Cortelyou Road in vibrant Ditmas Park, near their home. They are busily testing pan-Asian extensions to their menu. Their new lease — $5,000 including rent, real estate taxes, and water and sewer fees — is about a third of what they were paying in SoHo.
“On nights and weekends, SoHo could be a ghost town,” Ms. Besa said, “but now we’re in a real neighborhood again.”
In the new crisis-versus-opportunity showdown, one operator’s nightmare can be another restaurateur’s future. When Al Bustan Restaurant, a 20-year-old Lebanese stalwart on Third Avenue in Manhattan, faced a $10,000 rent increase, its owner quickly found a space three blocks away at 319 East 53rd Street.
“It was going to be a steakhouse, and they spent a lot of money on it,” said Elias Ghafary, the owner of Al Bustan. “It was ready to open. But a steakhouse wasn’t suitable for us, so we’re renovating and will open after Labor Day.”
Often, in this wickedly fickle downturn, even high-end reservations have been no problem. Although there are always exceptions. (Lots of luck landing a great slot at Corton.)
And while Ken Friedman and his partner, the chef April Bloomfield, just shut the John Dory, their well-regarded seafood restaurant near the meatpacking district, they are now hoisting their standard at the Breslin Bar and Dining Room in the Ace Hotel on West 29th Street.
But the agita of the finance-challenged remains.
“The banks have pulled in their lines of credit and are giving zero money to restaurants,” said Faye Fisher, a vice president at Advance Restaurant Finance, one of the few companies in New York making restaurant loans. “Even when this recession is all over, banks won’t turn around and give money — for years.”
So now, “the money is out there, but it is all based on relationships — people you’ve known for years,” said Tracy Nieporent, director of marketing and a partner in the Myriad Restaurant Group, which runs Nobu and Corton.
Yet even if future New York restaurants have more plebeian build-outs, restaurateurs, like theater folk, are likely to keep angling for the next runaway hit.
“This,” Mr. Nieporent said, “is the business we’ve chosen, as they say in ‘The Godfather.’ ”
In this picture Romy Dorotan, Photography by Michael Nagle for The New York Times
8 / 23 / 2009 Source:
What our critics are most eager for this fall.
8 / 2 / 2009 Source:
HUMMUS OF CHAMPIONS
By Robin Raisfeld & Rob Patronite
Amazing some might say sad the way today’s elite athletes are turning into food snobs. If you saw the so-called Sports Sunday section in the Times the other day, you know what we mean. On page one: an on-the-road piece about a chef for a Tour de France team from Colorado. Inside, an account of Los Angeles Angel Vladimir Guerrero’s mother, who, on game days, cooks Dominican for her son the gastronome and his fussy colleagues. And that’s not all: Another mouthwatering story, entitled From Israel to the NBA, but Missing the Hummus, told the tale of six-foot-nine, 225-pound Omri Casspi, the first Israeli to play in the NBA, who, although excited to join the Sacramento Kings, wondered whether moving to the United States would mean he might starve to death. “[Good] Hoom-us,” he said, when asked what he’d miss most about leaving Tel Aviv. “You don’t have that here.”
That may be true of the California capital, but if Casspi is ever traded to the Knicks, the Underground Gourmet will not hesitate to direct him to Mimi’s Hummus in Ditmas Park. The high-ceilinged space is cramped but cute, even stylish, you might say. A perforated wooden scrim of sorts nicely frames the open kitchen, and the sweet-natured servers prove equally adroit at maneuvering around the tightly packed tables and pronouncing the trickiest of Semitic-language words (zhoug, for instance the fragrant Yemenite hot sauce). For that, credit goes to Israeli chef-owner Mimi Kitani, who mines her Iraqi and Moroccan heritage for unusual specials and puts her own expertly spiced spin on the cuisine’s classics. Her hummuses (hummi?) are thick and rich, glossed with oil, scattered with parsley, and served with a basket of hot, puffy pitas. You can’t go wrong, whether you choose the one crowned with a scoop of favas or the cumin-scented mushroom version, or the even more substantial meat hummus, distinguished by a layer of cinnamon-scented ground beef flecked with pine nuts. In short, Mimi’s hummus is Omri Casspi proof.
And yet, there’s more to Mimi’s than mashed chickpeas. Take, for instance, the cauliflower salad sweetly caramelized florets flavored with homemade tahini. It’s the best thing to happen to cauliflower since Dévi’s cracklike Manchurian version. The rice-stuffed grape leaves, too, have much to offer, flavorwise, albeit in small, nugget-shaped packages. Crunchy Israeli salad, the thick spice-dusted yogurt cheese called labneh, and a sprightly tabbouleh are textbook renditions, but palates accustomed to smoky baba ghannouj might be taken aback by the flavor profile of a honey-enhanced eggplant “caviar”, and a similarly sweet note characterizes the megadara, a mix of lentils, raisins, and bulgur. The ground-lamb pie, though, baked in a skillet, studded with pine nuts, and frosted like a cake with a layer of tahini, is an unequivocal success, and the tart tomato-and-onion salad that comes with it a refreshing foil. Counterintuitive as it might seem to order hot soup in August, the kuba, a lemony broth floating slivered beets and farina-dumpling pockets stuffed with beef, is worth breaking into a sweat over.
With only eight tables, Mimi’s tends to get crowded at dinner, which is a good excuse for planning a day trip. For that matter, so is brunch. Kitani has been experimenting with brunch specials, and though some hew closely to the American party line (chewy semolina pancakes with strawberries and cream), others are more Middle Eastern in scope. Of those, we like eiji, a toothsome frittata of sorts, permeated with cilantro and parsley and capped with a spoonful of labneh. While the restaurant awaits its liquor license, you can quench your thirst with a freshly squeezed lemonade or some mint-and-sage tea, which goes quite nicely with punchi, a trio of coconut-chocolate balls that taste like raw cookie dough. The sportswriters have yet to cover the saga of the expat athlete in punchi withdrawal, but when they do, we’ll send him to Mimi’s for a fix.
7 / 12 / 2009 Source:
EAT CHEAP 2009
A roster of maximum deliciousness and minimal wallet stress.
By Robin Raisfeld & Rob Patronite
On these pages, you’ll find our ninth annual roundup of new restaurants that prove that savory (spicy lamb pie), toothsome (buttery hot biscuits), addictive (rich chocolate pudding) foods need not be pricey—and that the city’s cheap-eats universe is ever expanding. And speaking of universes: See our definitive, comprehensive primer to arguably the biggest bang in New York food this year, the Neapolitan-pizza revolution.
4 / 1 / 2009 Source:
DIPPING INTO AN ISRAELI TREND
By LIGAYA MISHAN
3 / 5 / 2009 Source:
CENDRILLON OWNERS WILL TRY NEW RESTAURANT IN DITMAS PARK
Soho s Cendrillon gave up the ghost this weekend, but the owners have not abandoned plans to open a new Filipino-accented restaurant called Purple Yam in Ditmas Park by April, according to their website. With exposed brick in the dining room recalling the old Soho spot, plus a garden with bamboo lights, the space adds credence to Marty Markowitz s notion that Cortelyou Road is the new Smith Street. More details on the eclectic menu after the jump.
2 / 18 / 2009 Source:
DITMAS PARK STAKES CLAIM AS BROOKLYN FOOD CAPITAL
In his recent State of the Borough address, Brooklyn cheerleader-in-chief Marty Markowitz called Cortelyou Road "the new Smith Street." He's not too far off: The Farm on Adderley, Pomme de Terre, Sycamore, and Picket Fence are in the neighborhood. We’re glad Marty’s up to speed. We called Ditmas Park the "new center of the food universe" all the way back in 2006.
12 / 28 / 2008 Source:
BARGAIN OF THE WEEK
Beer and a bouquet: $10
Brooklyn’s three-month-old Sycamore (1118 Cortelyou Rd., nr. Westminster Rd., Ditmas Park; 347-240-5850) is a flower shop by day, a bar by night—so it’s only natural that it offers the city’s first beer-and-a-bouquet deal. For $10, you get a pint of the night’s special draft, usually a Goose Island Honkers ale or a Genesee Cream Ale, and a tidy bunch of whatever’s freshest: anemones, freesia, and ranunculus, and sprigs of heather, thistle, or rosemary. It’s the best-smelling bar you’ve ever been to.
12 / 16 / 2008 Source:
LEAVING YOUR HEART IN DITMAS PARK
By Jen Carlson
12 / 14 / 2008 Source:
REASONS TO LOVE NEW YORK
Because Ditmas Park Is the New San Francisco
By Tim Murphy
What New Yorker with a repressed slacker-hippie side hasn’t fantasized about ditching Gotham for calmer, quainter San Francisco? Some locals have been satisfying that yen by simply moving to Ditmas Park, the Victorian-packed enclave south of Prospect Park. It isn’t just that the West Coast metropolis and the west-of-Flatbush hamlet share an abundance of turn-of-the-century painted ladies (which in Ditmas now fetch up to $1.8 million and reach their height of Gothic-Oriental grandness on both sides of stately Albemarle Road). You can also see similarities in the restaurant scene: The reigning culinary draw, the Farm on Adderley (1108 Cortelyou Rd.; 718-287-3101), references Chez Panisse (okay, that’s in Berkeley, not Frisco) in its strident locavorism and mismatched plates. And Ditmas’s tiny, cozy Cinco de Mayo (1202 Cortelyou Rd.; 718-693-1022) can hold its own in the Mexican brunch department against the Mission District’s Pancho Villa Taqueria (although the latter’s burritos are admittedly better). Then there are the political echoes, with the Beat- beloved City Lights bookstore and Café Trieste intertwining at Vox Pop (1022 Cortelyou Rd.; 718-940-2084), where, on a recent Sunday, you could order a Cesar Chavez personal pizza, buy lefty tracts, and listen to a live drum circle from a group called Manhattan Samba. “The vibe there’s very San Francisco,” says local Joshua Levy, managing editor of change.org, a “social-action blog network” based in, naturally, S.F. “It’s a bunch of communists hanging out and drinking Fair Trade coffee while reading conspiracy books,” he half-jokes. Not that every Ditmas denizen embraces the comparison. Political-contribution records show that chunks of Ditmas actually lean red, notes Liena Zagare, who writes the popular Ditmas Park Blog. And Mary Kay Gallagher, a longtime Ditmas Realtor, points out that those Bay Area Victorians are mostly stuck together. “Ours are detached,” she says. “That means a driveway and a garage and a backyard.” But is it big enough to leave your heart in? Photo: Hannah Whitaker
What New Yorker with a repressed slacker-hippie side hasn’t fantasized about ditching Gotham for calmer, quainter San Francisco? Some locals have been satisfying that yen by simply moving to Ditmas Park, the Victorian-packed enclave south of Prospect Park. It isn’t just that the West Coast metropolis and the west-of-Flatbush hamlet share an abundance of turn-of-the-century painted ladies (which in Ditmas now fetch up to $1.8 million and reach their height of Gothic-Oriental grandness on both sides of stately Albemarle Road). You can also see similarities in the restaurant scene: The reigning culinary draw, the Farm on Adderley (1108 Cortelyou Rd.; 718-287-3101), references Chez Panisse (okay, that’s in Berkeley, not Frisco) in its strident locavorism and mismatched plates. And Ditmas’s tiny, cozy Cinco de Mayo (1202 Cortelyou Rd.; 718-693-1022) can hold its own in the Mexican brunch department against the Mission District’s Pancho Villa Taqueria (although the latter’s burritos are admittedly better). Then there are the political echoes, with the Beat- beloved City Lights bookstore and Café Trieste intertwining at Vox Pop (1022 Cortelyou Rd.; 718-940-2084), where, on a recent Sunday, you could order a Cesar Chavez personal pizza, buy lefty tracts, and listen to a live drum circle from a group called Manhattan Samba. “The vibe there’s very San Francisco,” says local Joshua Levy, managing editor of change.org, a “social-action blog network” based in, naturally, S.F. “It’s a bunch of communists hanging out and drinking Fair Trade coffee while reading conspiracy books,” he half-jokes. Not that every Ditmas denizen embraces the comparison. Political-contribution records show that chunks of Ditmas actually lean red, notes Liena Zagare, who writes the popular Ditmas Park Blog. And Mary Kay Gallagher, a longtime Ditmas Realtor, points out that those Bay Area Victorians are mostly stuck together. “Ours are detached,” she says. “That means a driveway and a garage and a backyard.” But is it big enough to leave your heart in?
Photo: Hannah Whitaker
10 / 15 / 2008 Source:
GENTRIFICATION FROM THE INSIDE OUT
By Jan Rosenberg
9 / 22 / 2008 Source:
OUTER BROUGHS: MOMOS AND MORE AT TOP CAFE TIBET
By MARK AKODA
9 / 20 / 2008 Source:
OPENINGS ROUNDUP: SYCAMORE, BOKA, DOUBLE CROWN
By John del Signore
9 / 16 / 2008 Source:
Finally, Cortelyou Road has a place to get a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers and a double shot of bourbon.
9 / 9 / 2008 Source:
BROOKLYN, THE BOROUGH: CAN THE Q BE THE NEXT L?
By Nicole Brydson
8 / 19 / 2008 Source:
DITMAS PARK GETTING A NEW BAR AND A FLORIST IN ONE
By Alexandra Vallis
7 / 9 / 2008 Source:
RESTLESS PIONEERS, SEEDING BROOKLYN
By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.
In this picture: Paul and Jim Mamary, Photography by Andrew Henderson for The New York Times
6 / 21 / 2008 Source:
BROOKLYNS UPSCALE INNS OFFER PLACES FOR A RELATIVE ESCAPE OR A LOCAL ESCAPE
By DENISE ROMANO
5 / 27 / 2008 Source:
BROOKLYNS POMME DE TERRE IS TOP TIER
By DANIELLE FREEMAN
5 / 8 / 2008 Source:
NEW YORK REAL ESTATE: FLATBUSH
Good luck trying to get a straight answer on where Flatbush is. Encompassing 11 neighborhood associations, all of which can claim some stake in this emerging community, the boundaries are amorphous--something in which local civic leaders seem to take pride, given the great diversity that exists here.
8 / 8 / 2007 Source:
HEALTH FOOD WAR BREWS IN DITMAS PARK
There’s a war going down in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, and the winner, so far, is the neighborhood. For years, the Flatbush Food Coop has pretty much had the run of the area, and neighbors, even those who were members, often grumbled at their prices. But earlier this year, the Natural Frontier market opened down the block, garnering kudos for their extremely competitive prices. Now Flatbush Food has fought back, taking over the just-vacated Associated Supermarket across Cortelyou Road. Not that they want you to think of it that way.
11 / 24 / 2006 Source:
THE BEST BALUSTERS ON THE BLOCK
By FRANCIS MORRONE
10 / 13 / 2006 Source:
GENERATONS OF DYNAMISM IN FLATBUSH
By FRANCIS MORRONE
9 / 29 / 2006 Source:
DITMAS PARK: NEW CENTER OF THE FOOD UNIVERSE
Brooklyn's Ditmas Park, known primarily for its immense Victorian houses, may never be as hip as Red Hook. But, in a sea change reminiscent of Red Hook's Van Brunt Street, a cluster of new food ventures are springing up there along Courtelyou Road. The strip began its upswing last year with Picket Fence, whose kitchen we've praised as "disarmingly daring." This past summer, the Farm on Adderley, an equally ambitious restaurant with a first-class bar, opened. (They just began serving inventive brunch items on Sundays.)
6 / 5 / 2005 Source:
A COMMERCIAL STRIP GAINING IN CHARM
By CLAIRE WILSON
"People are finding their way here from around New York City and beyond," she said. "It's what we've been working for for several years."
In the picture (left): SMALL-TOWN ALLURE Two brothers whose family has owned the San Remo pizzeria since 1976 are buying an adjacent structure to convert it to a restaurant and bar – Photography by Angela Jimenez for The New York Times
In the picture (right): A NEW FACE At Vox Pop, a cafe/bookstore/publishing company, an owner, Holley Anderson, wearing the blue shawl, holds her newborn son as she sits with customers – Photography by Angela Jimenez for The New York Times
©2013. BROOKYLN HEARTH REALTY LTD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.