The Bay Ridge restaurant scene is much like a revolving door. Mediocre pubs and bars magically pop up and mysteriously disappear a few months later, going out as quietly as they went in. A bright new sign hangs above the vacant storefront promising a new and better restaurant. What bothers me most is seeing a new place open and unsuccessfully racking my brain for the memory of what sat there just 6 weeks earlier. Then there are the places that come and stay, breathing new life into the current food scene, something different from just another pub. I’m hoping Brooklyn Beet Company is a keeper.
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.
I first tasted Brooklyn Commune’s food at a benefit event. Surrounded by elegant, over-thought dishes, Brooklyn Commune stood apart with shots of tomato soup accompanied by bites of bacon grilled cheese sandwiches. The soup was essential to cut the chill of the cold rainy day and the crisp, buttery sandwich bite melted in my mouth. How had I never heard of this place? Where was it located? Park Slope or Cobble Hill—it had to be one of those. But no, it was a neighborhood foreign to me, Windsor Terrace, down by the southern tip of Prospect Park. I was absolutely determined to find a reason to explore my newly discovered neighborhood, and more importantly, see what else Brooklyn Commune had in store for me. If a sip of soup and bite of sandwich could pack so much flavor, just imagine what was bursting from the walls of a whole restaurant.
My first trip to Rosewater was uneventful. There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with it, there just wasn’t anything memorable about it. We did a chef’s tasting menu a few years back for my birthday. It was a great value—Five courses for $60 and add the (I think necessary) wine pairing for just $26 more. Five courses and wine for under $100 a person. You can’t get much better than that. At most restaurants, especially in Manhattan, I find you can barely clear 3 courses, paired with water, for that price. I remember enjoying the food but the next week, even the next day, I couldn’t recall any specifics.
I judge a meal based on experience and how it lingers over time. There are meals I’ll remember for a life time. My first dinner at Blue Hill where my husband told the waiter to “challenge us”. The rich, yet feather light gnocchi at One if by Land, Two if by Sea. The tiny bistro in Quimper, France where language was a barrier but the waiter’s oinks (yes, oinks, not a typo) communicated the pork loin was his favorite dish on the menu. But my dinner at Rosewater lacked staying power. After walking out of the restaurant, it seemed to evaporate from my memory. With so many other restaurants to try in Brooklyn alone, I wasn’t overly anxious to return. Though it happened we were in the area for brunch and figured, why not? I’ve never been so happy to give a restaurant a second chance.
My first visit to Brooklyn Farmacy was a bit stressful. Later, when I consulted with friends, colleagues, the random subway rider, they all already seemed to know what I didn’t. The story would start like this. “I finally went to Brooklyn Farmacy.” Good so far. Then the bomb, “…On a Sunday afternoon.” That’s when the looks would start. Shock, horror, disgust. Apparently I was the only one in Brooklyn, maybe the whole tri-state area, who didn’t know that Brooklyn Farmacy’s throw back soda shop/diner setting unofficially transformed into a playground on the weekend. Once you got past the kids running around, no parents in sight, the occasional crying because the wrong ice cream topping was selected and weeding through the endless sea of strollers, things were great. Just blocking out those experiences added a bit of stress.