>> Thursday, October 06, 2011

What my sister wanted to do for my Mom's birthday was have her come up to visit my sister in Brooklyn, and then have a bunch of other family members show up, sort of unexpected-like. Or maybe the biggest part of the surprise was that the Significant Other and I would be up there; my sister had this idea that the SO and I could be sitting around at some neighborhood bar and they could come upon us and everybody would be feigning surprise except Mom, who would be genuinely surprised. I was pretty sure Mom, the SO and I would all accidentally run into each other in the airport parking lot, but that didn't happen and the surprise occurred as intended in a little woody place with great beer called Putnam's; excellent beer selection, great cheese board.

This is the first time I've been to Brooklyn. Truth is, this was the first time I'd been to New York City that wasn't a drive-through or layover. I've seen JFK airport, in other words, and it's nice, but I don't think that counts as experiencing New York in any meaningful way even if there's a nice food court in the JetBlue concourse. Anyway, it was a good trip, a lot of great food and the time spent with family was nice, and we walked around a lot and rode the Staten Island Ferry. I think my sister was getting edgy that she wasn't showing the out-of-towners a good enough time, which was silly; I mean, (a) she's a great hostess and (b) the main point of the whole visit was family and (c) I think we were all the type of people who would really rather admire a bunch of beautiful old brick buildings and stuff our guts with a variety of nomifilicious food than suffer the obligatory tourist show-and-tell. We'd walk around and the SO would stop every fifteen feet or so to take a picture of a hundred-year-old townhome and I didn't mind, would have been doing the same thing, really, if I'd felt like trundling the camera through the rain (which there was a lot of); I was lazy.

We got a place through Airbnb, another new experience. This is one of those funny Internet things: name notwithstanding, it's not really about bed and breakfasts so much as it's about people renting their extra bedrooms to complete strangers and this website processing the credit card payments for them. I don't know how to process whether this is the neatest thing ever or an obvious calamity waiting to happen; the SO and I got an awesome place to stay at a reasonable price, walking distance to everything we were doing and a gracious host; on the other hand, this kind of thing is just completely predictable and inevitable when you have a service that facilitates random strangers making arrangements to stay with each other via the vast anonymous realm of cyberspace. Most people, happy-to-say, really are basically decent, but there's this small-but-significant population of assholes--you know, the people who ruin it for everybody else, the people who are the reason we can't have nice things, the rotten apples--and horror stories are pretty much inevitable. You know, first it will be cases like the one at that last link where some guest burns the house down, and then eventually it'll be Ma and Pa Bender putting up a listing, wait and see; there are more guests than hosts, so there's more assholes, though the ratio's the same either way. Anyway, the guy we stayed with was really nice and I'm here writing a blog post, so you know we weren't letting a room from Herman Mudgett or anything like that, and the only thing we did to him was lock him out of his home by mistake, and we let him back in and apologized and everything; I think we were good guests. Mostly, aside from that one thing.

When I think about it, I guess you could stay in a regular bed-and-breakfast and the proprietor could be a deranged freak. Mudgett/Holmes was running a full-fledged hotel with his gas chambers, torture cells and crematorium. Would've been hell on his Yelp ratings if he were around to try that crap these days, but, you know. I'm not sure murderous hoteliers could care less if they get a crap review on Yelp, or maybe they'd just respond on Twitter.

Anyway. I digress.

I am trying to remember all the places we ate, and what we ate, as that seems like it would actually be useful to Giant Midgets visitors.

After meeting at Putnam's, we went down to Madiba, a South African place on Dekalb; I had a lamb dish, pap & vleis (the lamb was excellent, but I have to admit I might be unenthusiastic about pap, a cornmeal dish patty with an apt name).

We went into the city proper for brunch at Le Parisien on Sunday, which was excellent; I had the gravlax eggs Benedict and can vouch for that, but everybody seemed happy with what they ordered; thirteen bucks for brunch gets you a nice plate and a beverage (beverage choices include mimosas and sangria).

Monday brunch was Nutella on a thin baguette slice for the SO and a tasty breakfast burrito for me at Catherine's Caffe in Brooklyn; they served what was probably the best moccaccino I've had the pleasure of in quite a while, very good, indeed. That afternoon we met family again and we all walked through the cold and the rain--there was a lot of cold and rain while we were in New York, almost nothing but until the day we left--to the Blue Ribbon in Brooklyn; I can't remember what everybody else ate, but the hanger steak was (washed down with a Glenlivet on the rocks, because that really is the best beverage--or at least the most decadent--to accompany a good steak) delicious and I enjoyed the matzo ball soup I ordered as an appetizer, though that was surely enhanced by the fact that I was cold and soaked to the skin by the time we got there (I mention this for accuracy, not pity: no one to blame but myself, but an umbrella was inconvenient and, more importantly, I'd chosen my shirt poorly that morning, eschewing the heavy, lined, practically-a-jacket shirt I brought for something less).

Tuesday, the SO, my Mom, and my sister had a brunch at Olea Taverna, and I'm suddenly noticing that I ate more lamb than I might have realized, not that there's anything wrong with that: I had their Green Eggs and Lamb, not so much for the admitted cuteness of the dish's name, but because I do like lamb and it isn't anything I ever get at home for whatever reason. A pear cocktail called a Darron Stephens wasn't as good as it sounded. The SO's tuna sandwich looked excellent and I can't remember what anybody else ordered. We walked around a bit and stopped in at the Gorilla Coffee on Fifth, which was well-reviewed on the Internets but underwhelmed me a little (sorry). Then, that evening, the SO and I met the UCF's Nathan (and his Anonymous GF) and John The Scientist; we did not order Domino's nor were we treated to stinky tofu, but instead ended up at a swell little place called Chez Lola where I had a steak fondue and we shared a great cheese plate.

Wednesday, I ate a doughnut from Dunkin' Donuts. It was Boston creme and had chocolate on it. Oh, and cookies, they had cookies on the airplane. This is a swell thing about JetBlue, is that it's maybe more expensive than you might pay if you shopped around for a seat on one of Those Other Airlines, but they give you cookies on the plane ride, and I like cookies.

The tongue's a bit in cheek in mentioning the doughnut and cookies; obviously, I'd hope. But, yeah, the food is delicious in Brooklyn and we were constantly walking past places that we all thought looked incredible and frequently smelled incredible.

Plus, it's just a beautiful neighborhood. Here's where I wish I'd dragged the camera along, but I guess it's easy enough for you to go to Google Maps' Street View and get the virtual effect if you want it badly enough. I could see living there, actually, though I can't imagine working in New York, for various reasons (however convenient and awesome the subway might be), and so it's not something that's ever too likely to happen. (Well, besides which, so long as I'm practicing law I'll be in North Carolina, because I think comity's a hassle I don't want to futz with at this point and a Bar Exam's a hellish drag I will never, ever, ever deal with ever again, never, am I clear?) But as a fantasy, hey, living in a century-old townhome and strolling down to the corner pub with a laptop and eating a different kind of food every single night, walking down these tall avenues in this ancient neighborhood, well that's a swell dream, yeah?

So that's what I was doing this past weekend and first part of the week. A good trip and a good time.


Warner Friday, October 7, 2011 at 12:17:00 PM EDT  

Lived in Brooklyn twice, the second time for 20 years almost to the month. Owned a three story brownstone built in 1881 in Park Slope.

PS 39 just down the block, where my son went 1-6 with a library across the street and an Episcopalian Church around the corner.

Father in Law came for first visit, and informed us he used to room up the block or on the next one, he met my wife's mother in the library and they got married in the Church. They moved to Westchester before her brother was old enough for school.

I bought on the leading edge of gentrification and put 19 years of sweat into rebuilding the house.

Nathan Saturday, October 8, 2011 at 9:44:00 AM EDT  

I'm hoping Michelle uses your dining pilgrimage as the theme for next week's photo challenge. I'm the only one who's got a chance!

r*bird,  Monday, October 10, 2011 at 7:39:00 PM EDT  

It was awesome to see you and show you around, bro! I see this was centered mostly around food, but I have to give a shout out to the Night Whizzer. I hope you and the SO come back soon!!!

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