A Timeless Bar on Calyer Street

Photo by Benjamin Lozovsky

Shaved veal tongue with tomatillo salsa, crema fresca, pickled mustard seeds. Photos by Benjamin Lozovsky

Calyer 92 Calyer Street (at Franklin)
(347) 889-6323
Open every day except Tuesday

by Mary Yeung

”We have pig ears,” the chalkboard sign outside of Calyer bar cheerfully announces. Pig ears—who can resist that? Not me. I made a mental note to come back during the weekend.

Calyer, which opened this past summer, is part of a Williamsburg/Greenpoint mini restaurant-empire. It’s brought to you by the folks who own Anella, Jimmy’s Diner, and St. Vitus Bar. Located on the corner of Calyer and Franklin streets, Calyer is small and understated. It reminds me of the bars of yesteryear: quiet, casual, comfortable, and not overly thematic. Just a good old, timeless kind of bar with a mix of antiques and old office furniture. The food, however, is a much more ambitious affair. There are Scotched eggs, skirt steaks, slow cooked oxtail, fried pig ears, pork belly, chicharrones, veal tongue, and grilled chicken liver, all served tapas style and priced from $5 to $15.

It’s remarkable that these ingredients, once associated with impoverished immigrants, are now hotter than Lady Gaga. It wasn’t that long ago that, in order to sample tongue, lungs, and blood, you had to take the 7, 4, or A trains to the outer boroughs. Most Americans consider organ meat, tongue, and feet to be “slave” food, or Third World-country food, not “worthy.” It took a Brit (it always takes a Brit) to elevate this stuff to haute cuisine status. The whole nose-to-tail movement in New York probably started with April Bloomfield, a young British chef who opened Spotted Pig in Greenwich Village in 2004. It was backed by culinary heavyweights like Mario Batali, Jon Bastianich, and Ken Friedman. Bloomfield made chicken liver and veal kidney and sung the praises of pig trotters. The place got rave reviews, making it respectable for everyone to enjoy pig’s foot. A hundred young chefs followed suit. Not only is it fashionable today to consume every inch of an animal, but noble, too (no waste!).

I make fun, but it’s all good. It’s about time we expanded our culinary horizons, whether it’s organ meat or exotic grains from Africa or magical berries from the Rain Forest. In Williamsburg, nose-to-tail eating has been going on for a few years now. One of Fette Sau’s bestsellers is pork cheek, and at Fatty Cue they roast a whole pig on the weekends and proudly display it in front of the bar window. At Betto they roast goats from time to time. And now you can find this kind of serious eating at the edge of Greenpoint and Williamsburg.

The presentation at Calyer is nouvelle cuisine. Every element is carefully and elegantly placed. The cooking style is gastropub, and the flavor profile is Puerto Rico, reflecting the heritage of Chef Gabriel Moya, who grew up there. I liked the boneless oxtail best, shreds of silky meat topped with a mess of thinly sliced fresh leeks and white onions, and flanked by two perfectly cooked broccoli flowers. The meat is very tender and lightly seasoned with an elegant, well-balanced barbecue sauce. The Scotched egg with baccala mousse was perfectly timed, with the yolk oozing out to sauce the small cubes of potatoes.

The pig ears, deep fried, reminded me of fried calamari, but they’re tougher and not nearly as succulent. In most cases, pig ears are best when marinated and braised; it tastes more gelatinous and tender that way, more like pig ears. For dessert I had the guava cake, which was very plain and homey and didn’t quite live up to the creativity of the rest of the menu.

Calyer is for adventurous eaters, yet there are familiar dishes like skirt steak with chimchimi sauce and scallop ceviche to placate the squeamish. The best way to dine here is to bring a small group of foodie friends, order everything on the menu, and wash it all down with the bar’s well-priced Spanish and Portuguese wines, beer, and inventive cocktails, like the Pisco Sour (pisco, lime, and egg white) or the Fall of Man (Reyka vodka with hints of fig, apple cider, and anise).

The menu changes often, so I can’t guarantee they’ll have pig ears or veal tongue when you visit, but you can check their website (calyerbrooklyn.com) to see what’s cooking. Brunch is served on the weekends.


Wok This Way

Won Ton Soup @ The Brooklyn Wok Shop  Photo by Alvaro Saavedra

Won Ton Soup @ The Brooklyn Wok Shop Photo by Alvaro Saavedra

Brooklyn Wok Shop
82 North 10th Street (Bedford & Driggs)
(347) 889-7992
Open every day except Tuesday

by Mary Yeung

When it comes to Chinese food, there are a lot of urban legends. Chinese take-out restaurant chefs get a lot of trash talk from the dining public. They work seven days a week, sixteen hours a day, turning out $3.95 stir-fried veggies and $5.95 orange beef and broccoli, and all they ever get in return are complaints. My favorite one is, “I ordered from this Chinese take-out place five or six times, and I got sick every time!” What kind of idiot would keep going back to the same restaurant that made them sick over and over again?

Making fun of Chinese food has been a favorite American pastime since the dawn of time. For many decades, the running Chinese food joke was, “Am I eating dog, cat, or pork?” Then, in the health-conscious 80s (the Jane Fonda workout video era), the battle cry was changed to “Why is Chinese food so greasy?’ Really? As compared to what? Duck confit? French fries? Meatloaf? Mac & cheese? Eggplant parmigiana? Pork belly? Mashed potatoes made with a stick of butter? Nervous Chinese immigrant chefs responded by offering steamed vegetables, brown rice, and sauce on the side. Now, thirty years later, people are still ordering General Tso chicken (deep fried) and asking why it has too much grease. Today (the age of locavores),  there is an added charge: Chinese restaurants don’t use local ingredients. Huh? Where do people think Chinese chefs get their ingredients from? Xanadu? It just so happens that bok choy, Chinese mustard greens, bitter melons, and long beans are grown in New Jersey. In fact, Chinese take-out joints all along the Eastern Seaboard have saved many New Jersey farms from being turned into suburban sprawl. The meat (pork, beef, and chicken) is your basic American supermarket product. I will concede that the shrimp is probably farm raised in Thailand or Vietnam, which is not nearly as good as American wild shrimp. The sad truth is 90% of the shrimp consumed in America today is imported. So why single out Chinese restaurants?

I’m not saying Chinese take-out chefs should be immune from criticism, but let’s be fair, you’re not going to get acorn-eating, heritage pork raised by disillusioned Wall Street brokers for $8.95. Not going to happen. What these chefs do is noble work. They toil in tiny, hot kitchens, often in under-served neighborhoods so people from all economic levels can enjoy a take-out dinner once or twice a week. For $10.95 you get rice, vegetable, meat, a bag of crispy fried noodles, a boring salad, and even a free Sprite or Poland Spring water! What more do you want from these people? If you want to pick on somebody, at least pick on chefs who are charging fair market prices.

Luckily for us, the next generation of Chinese chefs has arrived for our abusement. Despite the desperate pleadings of their immigrant parents not to get into the “eating bitter” business of restaurant ownership, they are determined to seek the glory of Mario, Jean George, David Chang, and Anita Lo. These people grew up here, went to culinary schools, and interned at the kitchens of celebrated chefs. If they can’t figure out what you want to eat, then they deserve to get their asses kicked.

In Manhattan, Chinese haute cuisine is gaining respect. Look to Red Farm (Joe Ng), Wong (Simpson Wong), and Annisa (Anita Lo); all are doing quite well and charging big Manhattan bucks. Here in Williamsburg, we’re still in the “upgrading” and “specialty” stages. Wild Ginger is vegan, Red Bowl has a stylish modern decor that looks like the inside of a red lacquer jewelry box, M Noodle and M Bistro are considered “hip.” And brand new to the nabe are Vanessa’s Dumpling House and Brooklyn Wok Shop. Vanessa’s Dumpling House is trying to duplicate the success of their super cheap dollar-for-four-dumplings formula (only now it’s $1.25 for four, thanks to Bedford Avenue rent). I admire them for sticking to authentic Chinese recipes. The Peking duck, for example, is Peking duck; the chive and pork dumplings are similar to the ones you would get from a street cart in China.

Brooklyn Wok Shop, however, is determined to bring the much maligned Cantonese-American dishes back into fashion, but this time by using hormone and antibiotic free natural meats and the promise of French technique. And, of course, no MSG. When I visited Brooklyn Wok Shop, they were still in the “soft opening” stage, so the menu was limited. The owners are a young Chinese-American couple, Edric and Melissa Har. Edric is the chef and has worked on the line at Cru and Le Bernadin.

For starters, I ordered the salt and pepper squid ($5.95); it was perfect—crispy on the outside, very tender on the inside, and lightly seasoned with simple salt and pepper. The wonton noodle soup ($12) had a great broth, so you can tell it was made from scratch. Pure broth is hard to find these days, because food scientists have made great strides with flavor enhancers from the days of salty chicken bullion cubes. Many chefs have succumbed to using them, basically because most diners can no longer tell the difference. So I’m happy that Chef Har is making his stand by slow cooking bones and vegetables. The wonton dumplings were good, and without the MSG the flavor is more subtle and delicate. The orange beef was a bit disappointing, though. The beef wasn’t crisp enough, and the broccoli was a bit too vinegary. I hate to admit it, but I kind of miss that sweet, globby orange sauce. The egg tart was a nice ending. Egg tarts are actually not French, but Portuguese in origin. The Portuguese have been doing business in China since the 1700s, and they brought this jewel of a dessert back with them. In the 1940s, Chinese chefs added it to their Dim Sum menu. They fancied it up by adding a flaky French style crust. If you want to try the original egg tart, you can visit a Portuguese bakery on Ferry Street in the Iron Bound district of Newark, New Jersey.

While the food in Brooklyn Wok Shop is decisively Chinese-American, the decor is curiously a mix of many cultures. The ceiling is painted black, which lends the dining room a sense of tranquility. One wall has a panel of chunky woods—an homage to Williamsburg’s reclaimed scrap-wood obsession? Hanging on another wall are 99 bowls—well, actually, more like 199 bowls on the wall. So if North Brooklyn ever experiences a bowl shortage, people will know which shop to raid. The noodle bowl display actually gives the place a Japanese sensibility. There are also a slew of photos behind a large glass frame, showing several generations of the owners’ family: babies, grandmas, uncles, and aunts. It’s a nice Italian touch. Some cynics might scoff and say it’s too sentimental, but I think it’s a poignant reminder that there are real people and families working in these kitchens, feeding you and me.




A Positive Valentine’s Day

Comedian Nancy Redman

Today is Valentine’s Day. I am single and all alone

Nancy Redman—an award-winning comedian. author of the one-woman play: “Clutter: I’m Saving My Life and It’s Killing Me.”

NO! I will not talk like that
I refuse to be negative
I will remain positive all day and keep a journal of my thoughts

I will use cognitive therapy
Every negative thought I get

No matter how relentless and repetitive they are
I will instantly replace with a positive thought

Here I go

10:00 AM
After breakfast
Today is Valentine’s Day
I am single and all alone

Change this thought to

Today is Valentine’s Day
I am grateful for my freedom

11:00 AM
After brunch
Today is Valentine’s Day
I do not have a boyfriend

Change this thought to

Today is Valentine’s Day
I have time to create a relationship with myself

11:16 AM
After fruit snack
Today is Valentine’s Day and I have no one who cares

Change this thought to

The postman smiled warmly

11:17 AM
After second fruit snack
The postman smiled warmly, hmmm…

Change this thought to
I am a love addict and the the postman is not an option

12:00 PM
After lunch
It is 2012
Enough already! I am such a loser
I have been working on myself all my life

Change this thought to
It is 2012

I am a work in progress

12:05 PM
My work is progressing too slow

Change this thought to
The work is in God’s time

12:06 PM
The work is in God’s time
I will be dead soon

Change this thought to
It is never too late to keep improving

1:00 PM
After coffee latte
Today is Valentine’s Day and I did not get chocolates

Change this thought to
I am a big elephant and I do not need chocolates

NO! That is not positive!
Change this thought to
I am a big elephant

NO! That is not positive!
Change this thought to
I have extra weight I am carrying

2:00 PM
After second lunch
I cannot get this weight off

Change this thought to
I am a food addict and I am getting help

5:00 PM
After dinner
Eating alone on Valentine’s Day
I am tired of being a big elephant

Change this thought to
I will soon be a big pig

Change this thought to…

5:02 PM
After low fat yogurt snack
I will eat healthy and lose weight

6:00 PM
After walking one block
I am sweating profusely

Change this thought to
I am grateful my sweat glands are working

7:00 PM
After hair cut
I have too much facial hair and I am sweating profusely

Change thoughts to
I am becoming the man I want to meet

8:00 PM
After soy yogurt snack
Today is Valentine’s Day and I did not receive chocolate kisses

Change this thought to
I do not think love can be found in chocolate kisses — only Bon – Bons

8:30 PM
After second dinner
Watching Family Feud on TV
Today is Valentine’s Day and I did not get one caring phone call

Change this thought to
I did get a Con Edison courtesy call before a disconnect

9:00 PM
After chocolate chip yogurt snack
Today Is Valentine’s Day. The only heart I got was heartburn

Change this thought to
Today is Valentine’s Day and the end of this Valentine’s Day Massacre

Change this thought to
I do not have to go through this till next year!

Become a CUP-aholic

Barista Orion Jenkins prepares a Brazilian blend coffee to go.  Photo by Benjamin Lozovsky

Barista Orion Jenkins prepares a Brazilian blend coffee to go. Photo by Benjamin Lozovsky

78 Norman Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11222

221 Montrose Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11206

by A. P. Smith

As hard as we work, as much as we run around, as fast as the world turns these days, that first coffee in the morning can be a calm in the storm, an almost pious way to begin the day.  For many people, our first interaction of the day is with a local barista. You’re just barely awake, maybe even a little late, it’s cold and the sun is bright and you enter Cup, closing the door behind you.  As your eyes adjust to the light the barista says, “Hey, Andy.”

That’s Cup, a friendly, welcoming coffee shop no bigger than a Brooklyn bedroom, or a single-car garage, which was the location’s previous incarnation.  Co-owners and husband and wife Bianca LeRoux (30) and Jeremy LeRoux (37) converted the pair of single-car garages on Norman Avenue nearly three years ago, first founding Cup, and then Brooklyn Mac next door.

In that time our community has embraced the businesses, part of the first wave of continued developments (e.g. Spritzenhaus, Nights and Weekends) making this neighborhood all the more… neighborly?

“We wanted to be like the Cheers of coffee,” says Bianca LeRoux.  “You know, ‘where everyone knows your name!’”

Having experience in the service industry (Bianca had grown up in restaurants with a chef father while Jeremy had managed a catering company after college), the owners believed that customer service was paramount to their business and maybe even a bit scarce in this city.

“We knew it was easy to be nice,” Bianca explained, holding her wide-eyed three-month-old daughter.  “Just say ‘hello’, say ‘thank you!’  We wanted to be a place where… for that one time, that one moment in New York when you’re not just somebody passing through.”

Even as Bianca and I chatted in the bay window of the coffee shop she very effortlessly said hello to each and every person who came in for coffee or tea.  And in full disclosure, she knew my name long before I could remember hers.  But she’s got an edge in that game: Cup’s loyalty cards are kept behind the counter organized alphabetically by name.  Buy six cups and the seventh is free.

Cup’s coffee is always fresh and delicious, not to mention strong, roasted by self-proclaimed “coffee-geek” Anthony Kurutz at Plowhshares Coffee Roasters in the Ramapo Valley about 30 miles northwest of Manhattan.  A 16oz of the Brazil Daterra Sweet Blue blend costs $2.50 and for food your choices include vegan pastries from Champs Bakery ($3.50) and some of Balthazar’s finest very much non-vegan pastries ($2.50-$3.00).

Also, Cup keeps a sandwich chalkboard on the sidewalk with a new trivia question every day.  A correct answer saves you a quarter on your coffee and questions range from geography, to literature, to pop culture.  What letter is not used in the names of the 50 states?  What does the “F” stand for in F. Scott Fitzgerald?  What was the name of Zach Morris’s band in Saved By The Bell?  Even if I’m passing by in a hurry, I may just pop in to learn the answer.  And, well, even on those days I usually grab a cup to go.  Or at least say hello to my friendly neighborhood barista.

Co-Working at The Yard

Photo by Ashley Corbin-Teich

Photo by Ashley Corbin-Teich

The Yard
33 Nassau Avenue
(718) 782-7900
by A. P. Smith

The Yard is a creative co-working space at 33 Nassau Avenue, on the second floor above Spritzenhaus. With month-to-month private office rentals designed for one to seven people,  The Yard is already the workday home for a number of local entrepreneurs, writers, graphic designs and start-up ventures including Wanderfly, a personalized travel recommendation site, as well as the music aggregator The Hype Machine.

“We have so many talented, creative people here!” says Morris Levy, The Yard’s founder and manager.  Levy is charismatic and charming, a born and raised Brooklynite with a quick vernacular to match.

“This desk here,” Levy says, pointing to the large greeter’s desk in the lobby. “We made this desk using old doors we found here in the space. We used all kinds of found materials during the renovation.”

As much as sustainable and repurposed construction is all the rage these days, Co-working is trending pretty damn hard, too.  Greenpoint Coworking, on N. Henry Street and Norman Avenue, has been open for about a year with dedicated desk space starts at $25/day for non-members and $50/month plus $10/day for members.  And more recently, Bushwick’s creative powerhouse 3rd Ward, on Morgan Avenue, has incorporated co-working memberships with dedicated desk space starting at $299/month.

Firat Parlak, the Creative Director of F&T Creative, rents space at The Yard and says his business, a boutique agency, benefits greatly from working the networking opportunities there.  “There are also lawyers, accountants, writers and many other business,” Parlak says.  “It makes it very convenient for me to work with them.  I can stop by anytime during the day and get a quick consultation!”

As founder Morris Levy guided me on a tour of The Yard, through sunny corridors flanked by private office suites, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the design and composition of the space.  The Yard is a structure within a structure: an exposed brick, wooden beam warehouse shell supporting this very sleek network of whitewall productivity pods and glass-lined conference rooms.  Designed by local architect David Bers, the space does not attempt to be flashy or futuristic, and yet its clean, white aesthetic is exactly that: equal parts Kubrick’s 2001 and, umm… Greenpoint 2016?

“We’re just over 50% capacity now,” Levy says of the 93 individual office suites.  “And that’s considering that we lost two weeks at the holidays and only just opened on November 15th.”

Private Offices, with locking doors, rent for $395/month and include furnishings (desk, chair, lamp), conference room hours, Wi-Fi, unlimited faxing and scanning, generous printer quotas, kitchen space and other perks like free coffee, bicycle parking and discounts with local businesses.

But what you’re really buying — the true value of co-working spaces like The Yard — is the network of local talents working within them.  That said, you may want to shop around and perhaps mingle with some tenants before taking the plunge and moving in.  After all, a co-working space is only as good as its co-workers.