Telepan Local, a 2014 restaurant favorite! Photo credit: Nadine Anderson
I came to a huge Brooklyn realization this year: I don’t go to Williamsburg. It’s not that I dislike Williamsburg–I actually like the neighborhood very much–it’s just so far! Sure, for Manhattanites, it’s a quick ride on the L train. But from Bay Ridge… The fastest way for me to get to Williamsburg is to go through Manhattan. Did you hear that? I have to go to another borough to get to a different part of my own borough. Ridiculous, I know.
So why has this discovery become so apparent now? Well as I sit down to write my 2015 restaurant bucket list, I of course reflect on the 2014 list. No, wait…don’t click that link. It’s embarrassing really. It’s not like I didn’t eat out this year; oh I ate out plenty. But from my bucket list, I only managed a mere 5 of the 10 restaurants. Don’t worry I have excuses.
If heaven looks anything like Brooklyn Eats, I no longer have a fear of dying. Over 100 Brooklyn food artisans filled every inch of the massive East Williamsburg warehouse space on Flushing Avenue. It was like Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg combined, double the size and all free. Organized by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, I was surprised to learn Brooklyn Eats has been around since 1997. How could I have not known about this magical day of Brooklyn food? The show has grown each year from the original 20 borough-based restaurants to what it is today. This was the first year Brooklyn Eat was open to the public. The show was rebranded to focus on Brooklyn made products. The vendor guidelines? Brooklyn-based food manufacturers and businesses that are involved in packaging and distributing at least one made-in-Brooklyn product.
We’ve already established I’m a huge fan of Long Island wines. All New York wines. And while the trip isn’t that far mile-wise (hey, we’re all part of the same island) a two-hour trip can easily double or triple come summer. All Hampton goers, heading out to their beach houses, crowd the LIE so much you’re left with miles of parking lot. And once you finally make it to your destination, things don’t improve that much. Tasting rooms are overflowing. While the wine will never run out, the intimacy is lost. My husband and I are pretty firm about our North Fork expeditions. Summer weekday day trips only. Otherwise, we avoid the area like a plague between May and October. While the Hampton’s crowd may calm down post Labor Day, the harvest season is just ramping up. So you can imagine how excited I get when Brooklyn Uncorked rolls around each year. Rather than schlepping up to the North Fork, traveling from winery to winery, the North Fork comes here. Dozens of wineries, all under one roof, for one fantastic evening.
Yeah, this one’s pretty easy. Beer gets a bit more difficult with so many fantastic microbreweries all across the country. But, wine, I got that one covered. Practically the only wine we have (unless presented as a gift) is from New York. Earlier this month I pointed out my favorite Long Island wineries. Unfortunately I haven’t had time recently to go to the Finger Lakes or Hudson Valley. Both are a bit of a trek (5 and 2 hours respectively) but even worse, pretty difficult to get to without a car.
There used to be a wine bar in Manhattan, Vintage New York. Not only was the place right around the corner from my office and had happy hour specials, but it served only New York wines (and some pretty tasty food!). I was amazed to find their prices were similar to what I was used to seeing at the vineyards themselves, so no crazy “travel to NYC” surcharges. Sadly that place is gone. I heard rumors of financial struggles, owner disagreements,who knows what really happened. All I know is I was walking by one day and it was gone. And I mean gone, gone. The corner building had been knocked down as well. A very sad day for me. That is until a few years ago I discovered Brooklyn Oenology that not only sells only NY wines, spirits and beers, but makes their own wine as well!
The New York Locavore Challenge ingredient of the day is Locally Roasted Coffee. I had some trouble choosing my 5 non-local ingredients for the challenge (which in all honesty varied a bit week to week), but coffee was one I had some gripes with. Obviously there aren’t any coffee trees here in Brooklyn (shame…), but there are a number of local coffee roasters. So is it a local ingredient? It’s kind of like supporting a local bakery. All of their grains might not be sourced locally, but it’s much better to buy their bread than the mass produced supermarket brands. Or when I get my salsa from the Brooklyn Salsa company. I know all their ingredients aren’t local, but it’s better than buying from a national manufacturer.
There’s a lot of loop holes, per se, in localism. When I eat at a local mom and pop restaurant, I know not all of their ingredients are sourced locally, but I’d rather eat there than a larger food chain. At least the revenue stays locally in the community. So in short, yes, I consider my coffee local. If I were able to bring some Kona beans home from Hawaii on my own, that would be even better, but I still have another 3 years before I go back there (I might start a daily countdown soon…).