Taste WG — Epic Eating and Drinking to Build Community

All Photos by NC Debord

Ice cold wine from Brooklyn Oenology. Photos by NC Debord

“Eat my b#@#s,” urged the black t-shirts with bright white lettering worn by the beefy guys working the Meat Ball Shop table. Okay, we’re not in Kansas anymore…. The 4th annual Taste Williamsburg-Greenpoint Food Fest took place last Sunday at the East River State Park. Over 40 local businesses—restaurants, wine shops, artisanal food producers—showed their flags and cooking chops.

Oysters on the half shell from Maison Premiere.

There were lobster rolls from Extra Fancy, roasted oysters from Hotel Delmano, fresh oysters on the half shell from Maison Premiere, chilled corn chowder from Parish Hall, sliders from Pies n’Thighs, tender brisket from Delaney BBQ, Indonesian Rendang green curry from Selamat Pagi, Rendang red curry from Mamak (food truck), reddish BBQ ribs from Fatty ‘Cue, Nordic potato salad with a light blond aioli foam from Aska, skate salad from Juliette, a pretty lime curd with berries from Gwynnett St., chili-lime chicken wings from Station, artisanal pizza from Adelina’s, delicate green salad from The Elm, tacos from Mesa Coyoacan, sausages from Rosamunde. Van Leeuwen was there with a delightful plum sorbet, and Phin & Phebes gave us samplings of Vietnamese coffee, peanut-y pretzels, and ginger ice cream. All were super lush and creamy. There was plenty to drink too; natural wines from the Natural Wine Company, specialty wines from Brooklyn Oenology, whiskey from Jameson’s, awesome Ginger Ale from Bruce Cost and strong coffee from Oslo.

Lime Curd with Berries from Gwynett St.

It was great to see so many wonderful restaurants all in one place; Fat Goose, Teddy’s Bar and Grill, Café Colette, Two Door Tavern, Anella, Sindicato De Cocineros, Bakeri, Sweetwater, Nita Nita, Donna, Le Gamin, Brooklyn Star, Dumont, and Zona Rosa, just to name a few, all there to feed the hungry crowd. It was truly an epic tasting event. Bummer, it was impossible to sample every dish. I’ll just have to visit the restaurants on my own.

All proceeds benefit the Northside Town Hall Community and Cultural Center.

Assemblyman Lentol addresses the Taste WG crowd.

Shepherd’s Pie from Spike Hill.

Tacos from Mesa Coyoacan.

Taste Talks Cookoff Event

Chef South Africa

South African chef, Hugo Uys, plating mini ostrich burgers. Photos by Mary Yeung

Chef April Bloomfield offers guests char-grilled beef hearts.

The sun was shining, it was around 70 degrees, and there was a steady gentle breeze. What could make it an even better late summer afternoon? How about an all-star cookoff by the East River with April Bloomfield and friends?

The  two-day chat n’chew event, Taste Talks, was organized by the Northside Media Group (publisher of the L Magazine) and curated by Chef Bloomfield. She assembled a group of stellar chefs and paired them up to create some very interesting dishes.

Bloomfield, the queen of nose-to-tail dining, teamed up with Nate Smith (Allswell) and served char-grilled beef heart and preserved lemon relish; Sean Rembold  (Reynards) and Chris Bear (Grizzly Bear) offered Kentucky Mutton burgoo with corn bread; John Stage (Dinosaur BBQ) and Jon Feldman (Stumptown Coffee) offered brown sugar and coffee-rubbed pulled pork shoulder sliders with red eye gravy barbecue sauce and whiskey pickles; Carolyn Bane (Pies n’Thighs) and Caroline Fidanza (Saltie) plated ancho and coriander smoked chicken thigh skewers, while Tom Mylan and Brent Young (Meat Hook) and Francis Mallmann gave out ribeye with chimmichurri and chapa bread.

So much meat, so little time.

South African chef Hugo Uys and Sommelier Darren Humphrey paired up to showcase South African cuisine and wine.  Uys’s booth featured mini ostrich burgers with black cherry chutney and Cape Malay seasoned frites. My taste card suggested that I get a glass of South African wine in the next booth. I had a choice of Zafeiraka, Laurent Miquel Syrah or the dry Pinotage. For me, a glass of Pinotage and I was very happy. Other drink options at the fest included Strongbow hard cider, Kings Ridge Riesling or Owen Row Sauvignon Blanc.

Still got room! So I helped myself to some grilled beef tongue with pearl couscous and mathura by Eli Sussman (Mile End Deli) and Dave 1 (Chromeo); smoked Texas beef tenderloin with summer corn succotash from Jeremy McMillan (Bedford Post Inn) and Elizabeth Karmel (Hill Country), the Mediterranean-inspired wood grilled yellow fin tuna collar whipped up by Joe Pasqualetto (Rucola) and Brian Leth (Vinegar Hill House), and the ‘Cue smoked bacon with Mast Brothers mole and salsa verde by Nicholas Kayser (Fatty ‘Cue) and Rick and Michael Mast (Mast brothers Chocolate)… Lord have mercy!

There were plenty of picnic tables under big tents, and buckets of Orangina, Acqua Panna and Pellegrino for everyone. This is dining outdoors on steroids.

The line for Van Leeuwen Ice cream was as long as the Mississippi River, but was worth it for me because Chef Dan Barber’s (Blue Hills at Stone Barns) sweet corn ice cream reminded me of my Dad, who taught me how to make a sweet corn pudding when I was seven-years-old. He mixed fresh milk, corn starch, sugar, cooked it slow and low on the stove top, then added some fresh yellow corn kernels, and patiently stirred and stirred. Food—it brings up such sweet memories.



Rooftop Dining—7 Closer to Heaven

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Another summer has come to an end, and while the sky is still  blue and the air still warm and lovely, claim your piece of the Brooklyn sky. It’s yours for the price of a craft beer or a fancy cocktail. I counted at least seven rooftop drinking and dining venues in Williamsburg: The Ides, Juliette, Bia67, L’isola, Zona Rosa, Berry Park, and Night of Joy. That means on any given night, whether you’re in the mood for French, Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican, or American fare, you can drink and dine on a breezy rooftop under the starz.

1 The Ides at the Wythe Hotel
If you have ever driven across the Midwest, you may have come across hand-written signs that read “Mystery Spot—one mile.” As a city girl, I always wanted to visit one, but whomever was driving me at the time wouldn’t make the detour. Plaintively, they would explain that Mystery Spots were just depression-era tourist traps built for gullible five-year-olds. For five bucks you get to see balls roll uphill and water spurt sideways, but these are just optical illusions, designed to separate your wallet from your back pocket.

When the Ides first opened, I thought of it as Williamsburg’s new Mystery Spot. There was talk of long lines, pricey cocktails, snooty gatekeepers, and an amazing view of the New York skyline. Frankly, the hype freaked me out.

I’m a proud local and I ain’t standing on no line to check out a Manhattan view I can see for free at the state park just steps away. And I can mix my own expensive cocktails, thank you very much! But the five-year-old in me wanted to see the Mystery Spot, needed to see the Mystery Spot, HAD TO SEE THE MYSTERY SPOT! So there I was, in my best Forever 21 party shirt, clutching a bag that looks and smells like real leather, waiting online in the swanky lobby of the Wythe Hotel. We chatted up the friendly gatekeeper, and within minutes we were escorted to the elevator and ascended to the exalted sixth-floor bar.

Well, it is an impressive space. It has that Ayn Rand/The Fountainhead vibe going on. The gigantic casement windows cast dramatic geometric shadows on the interior walls. It reminds me of all those 1940s, black-and-white corporate morality-tale movies, where heroic architecture played a major role.

Standing there at the bar, with a stunning Manhattan skyline as the backdrop, you feel rich and successful. You do! You’re expecting Leo DiCaprio in his Wolf of Wall Street suit to suddenly walk into the room. Maybe he’ll cozy up next to you and offer to buy you an $11 Dark and Stormy just because you’re carrying a vegan leather bag. But of course, that’s never gonna happen. This is Williamsburg, and nobody is wearing a suit. Expensive black jeans with stylish tears at the knees, yes; Brooks Brothers suits, no.

The optical illusion passes quickly, and I pay for my own drink. The prices are not too bad for a hotel bar. Cocktails run from $11 to $13, and craft beer starts at $6; teetotalers can order a Mexican Coke. (There is no food service at the bar.) I got a Reissdorf Kolsch, a pale German beer with a crisp hop finish. It was perfect for late summer. I took my drink out to the spacious and minimalist balcony.

As the sun dipped into the Manhattan skyline, Duran Duran belted out “my success, my Chinese rug, and crashing my car…” The Ides is my first Mystery Spot—and I liked it.
80 Wythe Avenue

2 Bia67
Bia is a handsome rustic bar, with brick walls, high ceilings, skylights, and a roof deck, beneath the Williamsburg Bridge. This is not a rooftop to get away from the city, but to be part of it. First, get your drink and food from the friendly bartender, then climb the steep staircases to the roof. When you emerge from the dark bar and step into the waning sunshine, you’re a little disoriented by a kaleidoscope of
competing images. Look southward and you’ll see a hodgepodge of buildings of different heights, from different periods: modern, gray towers butting up against old row houses with green awnings and red brick. Turn your head north and you’ll see graffitied walls and heavy-duty construction machinery. Walk around to a hidden corner, and there it is! A full few of the Williamsburg Bridge!

Look up, and a jet plane is slicing across the darkening sky. The deck is furnished with mix-and-match furniture: a few picnic tables, some patio chairs, and side tables. There are hanging plants, potted herbs, and cartoonish, modern-art murals.

There’s no theme to the space, but after a beer or two, you’ll think, yeah, I get it. This is a collage of the city, and I’m part of the collage. It’s living art. Oh, and here comes the sound of the J train rumbling through. You take the piping hot food out of the brown paper bag; you’re chowing down perfectly grilled corn with scallion oil, a spicy Bánh mì, and a rich oxtail stew with slippery wet noodles, and you’re like, Okay, this is good.

You’re happy with the authentic Vietnamese home cooking: comfort food that is freshly made and offered at reasonable prices. The Kostritzer, a German black lager recommended by the bartender, is fantastic: rich, dark, and so very smooth! Oh yeah, you’ll be back to check out the cocktails and the coconut
chicken curry.
67 South 6th Street

3 L’isola
L’isola’s spacious rooftop has long communal tables that can accommodate large groups, a great place for family gatherings or a reunion with old friends. There is a full menu, with pizza, pasta, meaty mains, and appetizers. I would characterize this food as contemporary, traditional Italian, meaning familiar dishes are lightened up with lots of fresh herbs, which are grown all around the rooftop. I spied rosemary, basil, and dill, as well as peppers and cherry tomatoes. The thin-crust, wood-oven pizza is just the way it should be, a little charred at the bottom, with fresh toppings and well-balanced flavors. There are so many to choose from, including the Margaritas Vongole e’ Pancetta (clams, pancetta, arugula, roasted garlic, and smoked mozzarella) and my fave, the Funghi e’ Salsiccia (mushrooms, ground sausage, and caramelized onions); there are even gluten-free pizzas and pastas. Prices are quite reasonable; small 12” pizzas are $9 to $14, and large 16″ pizzas are $16 to $20. There also many pasta dishes, like gnocchi, ravioli, and penne. Salad lovers can enjoy goat cheese with marinated olives over crisp fennel. Dessert is not their strong suit. The Italian cheesecake was dry, and the tiramisu tasted dull. Order the gelato and you’ll be okay. There are three stories to the restaurant, but everyone was on the roof. Lunch is a good buy; select pastas are only $10. Wine, beer, Italian sodas, and coffee are available. The service is friendly, and the waiters are polite and don’t push you to order more drinks every five minutes.
128 Metropolitan Avenue

4 Zona Rosa
Zona Rosa is the new kid on the block. It opened in August and was an instant hit. The rooftop bar is packed with diners every night, downing margaritas and sampling all kinds of tacos. The space has a past life as 3rd Ward’s Goods, a hamburger joint with a gleaming silver Airstream trailer as the ultimate hipster trophy kitchen. The trailer is still there, but now the restaurant attached to it seats about 130 people. It’s brought to you by the owners of Mesa Coyoacan (Graham Avenue), and Chef Ivan Garcia, also of Mesa Coyoacan, is the chef here. Come for the Mexican street food inspired by popular dishes from Zona Rosa, a tourist district in Mexico City with a historical bohemian vibe. There are three-tiered taco towers, a ceviche bar, and more ambitious fare, such as grilled sea bass and Barbacoa estilo Oaxaca (pit style BBQ), for dinner. I sampled the baby octopus ceviche ($14) and the beef cheek tacos ($11); both dishes were very tasty and nicely presented, but the portions are small, proof positive that tourist pricing has crossed over to the other side of the BQE. But hey, somebody has got to pay for that stylish designer
build out.
571 Lorimer Street

5 Juliette
In the mood for French bistro fare? How about duck confit? Escargot? Buckwheat crepes? Juliette has been around for so long that it’s almost an institution. A little bit of Paris in Hipsterville. A good place to stop off while shopping on Bedford. Go up to the roof deck on weekdays for a Juliette
spritz (Aperol, orange juice, and Blanc de Blanc) and some salmon tartare. On weekends, food is served only in the bistro and the adjoining garden room, and the roof decks are just for drinking (cocktails, wine, beer, and margaritas). According to our server, the kitchen simply cannot handle the volume upstairs for their popular weekend brunch. The open-air terrace is cheerfully casual, with bright yellow tables, yellow sunbrellas, and red metal chairs that are not very comfortable. I like to sit by the railing and watch shoppers dash across the street. I also enjoy tourists looking up and snapping my picture. I feel like a movie star, even though, deep down, I’m aware that

it’s all about the funky terrace. Brunch runs from $10 to $15; dinner, $20 to $30; and for lunch you can get a grass-fed burger or a croque-madame for $14.
135 North 5th Street

6 Berry Park
The Berry Park bar is spacious. You can watch soccer on a giant screen downstairs or go up to the rooftop deck and grab a beer, cocktail, pickle backs, or one of those boozy, icy slush drinks and enjoy the NYC skyline in the distance. People love to come here for the sunset. It’s a very friendly, casual place. Brunch is served only on weekends; dinner is served throughout the week. It’s known for something called Frickles—deep fried pickles. The $12 hamburger comes with a boatload of fries. You can share the three-dip platter and its heap of hot pita chips with your drinking buddies. The food potions are huge. Most of it is your basic, traditional, all-American bar food. Though there is a kale omelet with goat cheese and grass-fed burgers.

4 Berry Street
7 Night of Joy
Night of Joy sounds a little like a bordello. But it’s not; more like a moody literary salon from young Hemingway’s Paris days. Antique velvet sofas and haunting wallpaper make this one of the most romantic bars in the neighborhood. No food, but lots of interesting herb-infused cocktails—beet and
dill vodka, orange blossom rum lemonade, jalapeno and black currant tequila. Love potions for the literary set? The rooftop is decorated with lanterns and whimsical graffiti. The illuminated windows from tenement houses nearby should inspire a novel or two. Open from 5pm to 4pm every night.         667 Lorimer Street


Potlikker: Royal Spin on Comfort Food

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Chef Liza Queen presides in her kitchen at Potlikker.

338 Bedford Ave.
(718) 388-9808


By Mary Yeung

The name of the restaurant says it all. It is the name of the liquid left over from greens you boiled. The broth tastes different every time, depending on what you throw in the pot. The term comes from the South, and so the food at Potlikker has Southern roots. But this is Southern food seen through the prism of new Brooklyn, where farm raised heritage pork and fresh local ingredients are prized. In other words, Potlikker serves haute comfort food, with prices to match.

As a young chef who cooked in Greenpoint back in 2005, Liza Queen was one of the pioneers who helped North Brooklyn develop into a culinary destination. Back then, she had a scrappy little restaurant way up on the north end on Franklin Street, with an unforgettable regal name. She served whimsical American comfort food and garnered a lot of media attention. A Southern food eatery on a desolated street on the edge of industrial Greenpoint. Really? I was one of those foodies who made the pilgrimage to Queen’s Hideaway. Back then, I thought the food was uneven, some dishes worked and some didn’t, but I was impressed with her inventiveness.

Brick chicken.

Boiled peanuts as freebie starters, all kinds of interesting root vegetables as sides, an unexpected poached egg here, a little crispy oyster there, and home pickled vegetables, too. Eating at the Queen’s Hideaway was always an adventure. People rhapsodized about their experiences on their blogs; blueberry pies cooling on the window ledge, a clunky smoker in the backyard, mason jars filled with backyard weeds on communal tables, and those haunting blue walls. You have to remember, back in 2005, before the term “Brooklyn rustic” was thrown around like confetti at a Wall Street parade, New Yorkers were excited about such things.

But in 2008, the Queen abruptly shut her doors. Rumor has it that the rent skyrocketed. By attracting all those foodies to Greenpoint, she made Franklin Street hip and priced herself out of a restaurant. The minute she closed her doors, a high-end restaurant (Anelle) took her place.

Queen took a cooking gig in Vietnam with some old friends. She spent the next two years cooking American food for ex-pats and locals there who craved a taste of American food: hamburgers and pizza, mainly. But she survived and thrived on the local fare of dumplings, BBQ pork, and papaya salads.

Now the Queen is back and she’s not hiding anymore. She opened Potlikker on bustling Bedford Avenue last spring. She’s doing her own thing again, frying oysters, puffing up Dutch pancakes, pressing brick chicken, and serving beer and wine. We noticed some Asian ingredients have crept into her dishes. There are ginger and black sesame seeds in a refreshing salad composed of Asian pear, cucumber, and radish. The Brick Chicken is paired with a generous serving of sticky rice. But the taste profile of her menu is still unmistakably American: peaches roasted in duck fat, fried oysters, and brined pork chops.

Start your meal with a pillowy Dutch pancake; it’s so light and fluffy it makes everything on it taste great. We had it with fried oysters, sour and hot peppers, goat cheese, and bacon. Then move on to the fresh shelled chick peas with escarole and pasta sheets in a cacciota broth with a breaded, deepfried poached egg. The fresh beans are tender and don’t taste caky like the dried variety. The pasta sheets were a bit on the grainy side, but that means it’s healthy, right? The broth is very light and tasted of salt and herbs. I’m crazy about the fried egg on top with the crispy panko crust. Deep frying a soft poached egg to perfection, now that’s hard to do. I could eat a dozen of these. My dining companion ordered the house-made bratwurst and declared it outstanding. He hails from Chicago and knows his sausage. This one was fresh and juicy and beautifully seasoned. It came with a roasted pineapple, some kind of soggy pretzel pastry, and shards of amber hard candy for contrasting texture. The sweetness of the pineapple played up the saltiness of the pork. According to our server, the secret to its savoriness is the pork. The pig was raised and lightly smoked in Tennessee before it was made into sausages at the restaurant.

Panna cotta with strawberries.


For the main, we chose the Brick Chicken ($24), one of their signature dishes. Two pieces of chicken, lightly crusted and very tender and moist on the inside. It was served with sticky rice, asparagus, and a dill avgolemono sauce. This famous Greek sauce was silky and lemony with an intense chicken flavor. It elevated every element on the plate. If you have a bad day at the office, this dish will hug and cuddle you for the rest of the night.

For dessert, I loved the vanilla pot au creme with huckleberry coulis and lemon peel cookie. It was a lot of milky goodness for $8. The tart berry coulis beautifully livens up the luscious vanilla cream. The chocolate tart, made with Mast Brothers chocolate, is rich and decadent, and the salty pretzel streusel and boozy, bourbon caramel sauce make it even more titillating. Because these desserts weren’t very sweet, I didn’t feel heavy and guilty afterward.

For lunch, there is a fried oyster sandwich for $13, and a Reuben sandwich made of corned beef tongue and gruyere on a sourdough Pullman bread for $14. Buttermilk biscuits and lemon curd and more Dutch pancakes with Earl Grey dulce de leche for $6, plus an array of egg dishes available
for weekend brunch.

The interior at Potlikker, like the cooking, is much more polished than the Queen’s old Greenpoint haunt. The lines are clean and modern. The walls are professionally painted, but bare. There are lamps with white fabric shades and a curvy eating bar where you can watch the cooks prepare your food in a wide open kitchen. The only hint of Southern country flair is in the chairs and tables; they’re patio green. Of course, the focus here is not the decor or the rock music, but the food, which is inventive and intriguing. Liza Queen is a gutsy chef. You will want to eat what she feels like cooking on any given day.


The Virgin Chase: You Can Trust These Olives

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O Live Brooklyn, 60 Broadway (718) 384-0304 olivebrooklyn.com

By Mary Yeung

Americans have always had a love affair with the olive tree. While visiting the Italian Alps back in 1788, Thomas Jefferson grew very fond of this squatty, ancient plant and declared that “the olive is surely the richest gift of heaven.” When our first foodie president came back to America, he appointed himself the father of the first American olive colony and ordered olive tree seedlings. They arrived in Charleston in 1791.

Today, America’s “olive colony” resides mainly in Northern California, where it is producing some very fine olive oils indeed. The keen interest in the health benefit of olive oil worldwide has enticed many farmers into joining the so-called “Liquid Gold Rush.” There are now more than 50 olive oil producers in California, and farmers in Texas, Georgia, and Arizona are also diving into the gourmet oil business. Claiming that his state has a climate comparable to Spain, a farmer in Arizona has planted 43,000 olive trees near Phoenix.

What’s fueling the olive oil fever? A 2007 article in The New Yorker magazine may have opened the door for more domestic oil production. In “Slippery Business,” by Tom Mueller, the story revealed that two-thirds of the oil from Europe labeled Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) was adulterated with inferior oils. Some were colored with added chlorophyll and beta carotene to give it that enchanting greenish golden hue. Recent chemical tests conducted by the Olive Center in Davis, California, did not fare much better. Some European producers have challenged these findings, but the simple fact that Italy sells three times as much “Made in Italy” EVOO each year than it produces, tells the tale. It has been said that selling fake olive oil is as profitable as trafficking cocaine.

One way to avoid getting fake oil is to shop at places like O Live, a specialty olive oil store located at 60 Broadway (diagonally across from Marlow & Sons). The husband and wife team of Greg Bernarducci and Elizabeth Weiss opened the store in the fall of 2012, specializing in true extra virgin olive oils and carrying about 15 varietals from around the world. O Live also has many infused oils that are flavored with blood orange, lemon, garlic, rosemary, and other aromatic herbs. The oils are stored in airtight metal drums, and you are encouraged to taste them before you buy. “I know my oils are pure because I get them from a reputable supplier—Veronica Food Co. They are passionate about their products. They visit the farmers and build special relationships with them,” Bernarducci says.

Before becoming an olive oil merchant, Bernarducci worked as a cable television producer. A couple of years ago, he went to California, where he visited an olive oil shop and tasted some locally grown oils. “I was shocked to discover how good they were. They were so fresh, so grassy and peppery. I’ve never tasted oil like that,” he says. Intrigued, he read up on the subject and was smitten by the romance of it all. He had found his calling. Now he wants to sell good oil and educate the public about its health benefits. Since opening the shop, he and his wife have conducted olive oil seminars, tasting sessions, and food and wine pairings.

Greg Bernarducci and Elizabeth Weiss, proprietors of O Live, bring real “liquid gold” and balsamics to Williamsburg.  PHOTOS BY BEN ROSENZWEIG

How to buy good olive oil? These days, says Bernarducci, it’s best to check with trusted food sites to get the latest updates. Tom Mueller runs a website called Truth in Olive Oil, where he lists suppliers and shops he trusts. Since olive oil should not sit on the shelf for more than a year, check the harvest date whenever possible; the fresher the oil, the better it will taste, and the better it will be for your health. Heat and sunlight will quickly degrade olive oil, so make sure your oil comes in a can or in dark bottles. Contrary to common belief, the color of the oil has very little to do with quality, and not all EVOO congeals in the refrigerator. For products like olive oil and honey, where adulteration is rampant, it is best to check with informed and unbiased food blogs before making a purchase. Otherwise, you’ll be wasting good money on cheap oil and honey-flavored corn syrup.

At O Live, information about each oil is clearly displayed on the drums. You’ll learn the different varietals. Mission originated in the U.S., Picual and Arbequina are from Spain, Koroneiki is from Greece, Chemlali is from Tunisia, Souri is from Lebanon, Maalot is from Israel, and Leccino, Pendolino, and Coratina are from Italy. Bernarducci changes up his oils every few months, so his foodie customers can sample new oils from different parts of the world. Bernarducci said he has sampled some very fine oils from Chile and Australia, as well. Also listed is the percentage of oleic acid (it lowers bad cholesterol and blood pressure) and polyphenols (fights inflammation), and the flavor profile and harvest date. Because olive oil has a cooking range of 365– 410F, Bernarducci can even advise you on which oil is appropriate for cooking and which ones should only be used as dips or salad dressings.

Bernarducci says he opened his shop in Williamsburg because there are so many chefs and foodies living and visiting here. In addition to olive oil, it also carries balsamic vinegars, natural olive oil beauty products made by local cosmetologists, olive oil salsas and condiments, and Mediterranean spices. They even sell beautiful salad bowls made from the wood of olive trees. Somewhere, Thomas Jefferson is beaming like a proud daddy.

Zizi Limona—Middle Eastern Cuisine—Beyond Falafel

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By Mary Yeung, Photos by Todd Barndollar

A few days after I had lunch at Zizi Limona, I found myself telling all my friends about it. I haven’t been so excited about a new restaurant for a long while, but Zizi Limona really meets my criteria for what good Middle Eastern food should be. Colorful dishes that are smoky and tangy, with layers and layers of exotic flavors. You can taste the cumin, peppers, tahini, mint, dates, preserved lemon, and toasted olive oil, and, occasionally, even basil and Thai fish sauce will make an unexpected appearance. The flavors are intense and complex, but never muddled or overwhelming.

“When you walk into the kitchen, it smells just like my grandma’s, but when you taste it, it’s different, something new and modern,” says Sharon Hoota, who co-owns the restaurant with Yigal Ashkenazi. Hoota met Ashkenazi a few years ago, while managing the wildly popular Israeli chain, Hummus Place, before they teamed up to open their own place at 129 Havemeyer Street.

Ashkenazi says it was their determination “not to open a cookie cutter American Middle Eastern eatery” that led them to create Zizi Limona. “We wanted to take Middle Eastern food to another level. We want to serve food that reflects modern Israeli life. Israel is a young country; we have people coming from all parts of the globe, bringing with them their own food cultures. We want to incorporate that into our menu.”

The partners found a kindred spirit in Nir Mesika, a young chef whose grandfather baked for the king of Morocco. Born in Israel, Mesika grew up on his Moroccan mother’s home cooking. He studied at the Bishulim Culinary Institute and worked at the famed Catit restaurant under the tutelage of Chef Meir Adoni. He even operated his own restaurant in Milan before coming to America.

The restaurant’s signature dish is the Moroccan Oxtail Tanzia, a braised oxtail served on a bed of cracked white wheat, with caramelized carrots, rosemary, and shishito peppers. Five hours of slow cooking in the oven is what gives the sweet beef its alluring tenderness. It’s a dish that won the heart of a New York Times restaurant critic. The crowd favorite is the Crazy Baba, a baba ghanoush dish with an Italian twist. Mesika’s eggplant is infused with feta cheese and basil, and whipped into a soft pudding. It’s as green as jade and smooth as velvet, yet it manages to retain its Middle Eastern characteristics. Another standout offering is Bureka, a filo dough pastry stuffed with braised oxtail, a dish that originated with the Ottoman Turks. Grilled chicken, fish, and skirt steaks served with lentils and roasted vegetables are also on the dinner menu ($12 to $25).

The beer and wine list is short, but diverse, curated from around the globe. Ashkenazi highly recommends the Massaya, a mellow red wine from Lebanon that has been aged in French oak barrels. Of course, you’ll want to sample the desserts; after all, they’re made by the grandson of a royal baker. Everybody loves the elaborate semolina cake, all jazzed up with ice cream, halava, cardamom syrup, and date honey. Or you can choose the light and flaky baklava.

Lunch is a great time to eat here, as the prices are quite reasonable for simpler dishes cooked with the same finesse. A small plate of falafels is only $5, but oh, what falafels. The chickpea balls, served with a mild curry tahini sauce, are laced with strands of vivid greens, giving them a delicate crust and a pleasing lightness. It’s definitely not something you can get from a street cart. Fatush ($10) is a tasty salad of cherry tomatoes, charred onions, roasted pepper, olive tapenade, bulgar, feta cheese, and za’atar spice. Embedded in the salad are tiny shards of fried pita croutons, making a healthful salad as addictive as snack food. Not in the mood for pita bread? There’s a roasted eggplant and cured egg croissant sandwich. Need a blast of omega 3? Try the Gravlax Limona, a house cured salmon served with fried cauliflower. The $7 house wine, Vranec, is a bold red from Macedonia.

If, on a lazy Sunday, you decide you’re a bit bored with the usual bacon and scrambled eggs routine, you can head to Zizi Limona for their Shakshuka, a popular Israeli breakfast dish. You’ll find sunny side up eggs simmering in an intense tomato sauce seasoned with cumin and tahini sauce.

The décor is urban rustic, with the front painted a muted country green and an interior with mix-and-match furniture and a small bar. Not a whole lot of Middle Eastern bric-a-brac, just a handsome floor to ceiling shelf dedicated to gourmet products you can take home: Turkish coffee, rosewater, date honey, za’atar, and a really good olive oil from Greece—all products used by the chef. So now you can add a little Middle Eastern flair to your home cooking. Watch the cooks work their magic through the semi-open kitchen. Maybe we all can learn a thing or two.

Zizi Limona
129 Havemeyer Street
(347) 763-1463

Zizi Limona

Community Markets, a Growing Trend

courtesy Community Farmers Market

courtesy Community Farmers Market

By Mary Yeung

So many fall apples overflowing at the green markets. Honey Crisp, Winesap, Russet, Gala and Orins, enough apples to make apple butter, hard apple cider, apple pie, even parsnip and apple soup. Ginger Gold, Fortune and Winesap are considered heirloom varieties, while Northern Spy and Jonathan are New York natives, discovered in the 1800‘s. They are good for eating and baking. Mutsu, originally from Japan, are now thriving in upstate New York. The wide selection of apples have inspired me to think outside of the box. Tired of using the same old Golden Delicious in a pie? Try Jonagold instead, you’ll taste the difference in sweetness and texture.

Going to the green market on the weekend has never been easier. This year, Community Farmers Markets, has opened two new green markets in the nabe, one on the south side of picturesque McGolrick Park (Russell St.) in Greenpoint and another at the spunky Cooper Park (Maspeth Ave.) in East Williamsburg. There, you’ll find an array of farm produce along with enough artisanal food to make your weekend just that much more yummy.

At McGolrick Park, I was surprised to find Ben Flanner, president of Brooklyn Grange, manning the booth himself. Brooklyn Grange is the celebrated rooftop farm located on top of a giant warehouse in Long Island City. Short of growing the kale yourself, you can’t get fruit and vegetables more local than that. Ben was cheerfully dripping drops of Propolis tincture on the backs of our hands so we could taste the potency of this cocktail mixer. He was also selling ground cherries and Tulsi Tea alongside all the beautiful vegetables he grows.

Another interesting vendor is Brooklyn Cured, a two-year-old sausage company from Brooklyn native Scott Bridi. He ran the Gramercy Tavern’s charcuterie program for two years and worked for Marlow and Daughter’s Butcher Shop for a year before striking out on his own. He grew up in Bensonhurst and worked at hipster joints around town; the perfect guy to bridge the divide between the Natives and the Hipsters. Brooklyn Cured carries andouille sausage, merguez (lamb), chicken chorizo, wild boar with porcini mushroom sausage among other exotic seasoned meats.

After strong cocktails and fatty sausages, you’ll need dessert, right? Get a pie from Pie Lady & Son. On the day I was there, the Pie Lady’s son was hawking his mom’s pies. How sweet is that? The company is from Rockland County and has been in business since 1996. The pies are delicious, not too sweet and light on the cinnamon — the apple really holds its shape. You can choose from a variety of pies, apple crumb, apple cranberry, apple pear walnut… They’re $15 for a 7“ pie and $22 for a 10“ pie.

Another pie company is Pie Corps, which sells pot pies, empanadas, and quiches. Soon, they will open a savory and sweet pie shop at 77 Driggs Ave, so watch for their grand opening .

An unexpected vendor was Orwasher Bakery, a bread baker founded in Manhattan in 1916. They have a bread shop on the Upper East Side where they are famous for their sour dough, challah and whole grain breads. They also do a wine bread — Pain de Champagne, oh la la. I used to make the trek up to 78th St. (near 2nd Ave.) just to get a loaf of sour dough. Now, one of my favorite breads is just a hop and a skip away.

At another table, I ran into Nicole Reed, Community Farmers Markets’ Communication Director. She was talking up Mortgage Apple Cakes from New Jersey. The company was started by Angela Logan, who was trying to save her house from foreclosure by baking and selling lots of cake. (It worked!) Nicole spent the next fifteen minutes introducing me to all the vendors.

At Cooper Park, the atmosphere was bright and festive. There was this great little 3-piece band, called the Slide Blues (after the slide trombone guy). There is nothing like live music to make you hungry and open your wallet. Here, I found Horman’s Best Pickles, from Glen Cove, Long Island. If you like things pickled, this is the place; they have kosher dill, brown mustard, honey mustard, spicy sour, bread & butter and red flannel pickles and peppers. The owner, Nick Horman, was a philosophy major in college, but his family has been in the pickling business for three generations. So he too started his own pickling company eight years ago, because philosophy don’t pay the rent (unless you are Chopra Deepak). Anyway, I, for one, feel very privileged to have my pickles cured by a Long Island philosopher. After consuming a quart of bread and butter pickles, you’ll need coffee. Pick up some certified organic beans from Tierra Farm which hails from Columbia County. Then visit Garden of Eve Farm from River Head Long Island for your organic fruits and vegetables. You can also pick up concord grapes and buckwheat honey from Migliorelli Farm, Tivoli, New York.

The McCarren Park Market, operated by GrowNY, is where I kept running into old friends I had not seen for a while, so that is the added bonus of shopping there. You’ll find cheese, bread, fresh fish, wine, apple cider and sunflowers as big as a dinner plate. Vegetables come in a riot of colors, golden beets, white eggplants and purple potatoes. You’re just in awe of what comes out of the earth. At Salento Farm (Connecticut), I found a professional jet pilot turned farmer who grows only garlic and eggplants and then turns the German red rocambole garlic into aromatic spices that are perfect for seasoning his pickled eggplant products.

Across from him is Osczepnski Farm, where you can pick up tri-color heirloom tomatoes and purslane and all kinds of fresh herbs and greens. If you have a sunny window, it’s never too late to grow a mini-herb farm in your kitchen.

If you have a EBT card, you can swipe it at the EBT station and exchange it for tokens so you can shop for fresh produce. Good to know that so many food stamp dollars are going back to support our local farmers.

GrowNY started the green market movement back in 1976 as a way to get fresh produce to city folk and help struggling upstate farmers stay on their land. Today, it is the best thing about living in New York. They have expanded to include farmers in the tri-state area, which is good for the consumers because we get more choices. This green market is more than just about the food, it is teaching us a way of life, you’ll also learn about composting, recycling, wind power and local sourcing.

Community Farmers Markets, which operates the McGolrick Park and Cooper Park markets started in Ossing, New York in 1991 by Miriam Haas; who wanted to bring fresh produce from environmentally-conscious farmers to her community. Today it runs 18 markets in the tri-state area. There are three in Brooklyn. We’re lucky to have two of them in our neighborhood. These markets will help local food artisans test out the market. So bring your kids, bring your dogs, taste some pie and let these vendors tell you their stories. Support your local green markets, so they will be around for a long time. This year, the Community Farmers Markets will stay open until November 18th, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Send us your photos of street scenes at the farmers markets at McCarren, McGolrick, and Cooper Park,  at info@thewgnews.com

“Belvedere” Real Estate Developer’s Path to Yoga and Wellness

Mariola Zaremba, creator of Awakening, left a successful real estate business to dedicate her life to the business of holistic healing. Photo by Ben Rosenzweig

Mariola Zaremba, creator of Awakening, left a successful real estate business to dedicate her life to the business of holistic healing. Photo by Ben Rosenzweig

By Mary Yeung

Early this summer, a new wellness center called Awakening opened at 605-607 Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint. It is the brainchild of real estate developer, certified yoga teacher, and licensed esthetician Mariola Zaremba. She and her instructor partners have created a full-service center that offers spa treatments, exercise and meditation classes, and life coaching.

Zaremba, who’s 46, is a walking advertisement for Awakening. She has radiant skin and boundless energy. She also has a compelling life story to tell. Twenty-one years ago, she immigrated to the U.S. from Poland and settled in Greenpoint. Shortly after she arrived, she ended her first marriage and became a single mother of a one-year-old baby boy. To support herself, she worked as a home health care attendant and a waitress. “I have a masters degree in Special Education from a University in Poland, but I needed to make a living right away.” A couple of years later, her entrepreneurial spirit led her to open an employment agency, and later, an importing and exporting business. “I was exporting construction materials to Europe,” she says.

In 2002, she realized that real estate prices in Greenpoint were rising, so she teamed up with a friend, Chris Rostek, and started a real estate development business. They tore down old buildings and replaced them with modern condos they called Belvedere buildings, which residents watched pop up over the years with some amusement, as the buildings featured the same name, with increasing roman numbers. They worked together for three years before parting ways, but both wanted to retain the Belvedere brand. Today, Rostek is the head of Belvedere Bridge Enterprises (comprising the odd numbered buildings), while Zaremba owns Belvedere Partners, Inc. (the even numbered buildings). “Belvedere means ‘Beautiful View’ in Italian, but it is also the name of a very famous historical building in Warsaw,” Zaremba explains.

After forming her own company, Zaremba developed 10 Belvedere buildings in Williamsburg and Greenpoint. The latest are Eco-Belvedere and Eco-Belvedere 1, a conjoined building that includes sustainable materials, water conservation facilities, a green roof, and an interior painted with VOC paint. Zaremba housed the Awakening Wellness Center on the ground floor and in the basement. “Eco Belvedere was awarded a Silver LEED certification,” says Zaremba. “We are the first company to build eco-friendly buildings in North Brooklyn.” But this was her last real estate project. She wants to focus on the Wellness Center.

One of the catalysts for Awakening happened in 2006. “I was diagnosed with melanoma,” she says. Suddenly, she had to slow down and take care of herself. She took up yoga and frequented spas wherever she traveled for business or pleasure. She took stock of her life. “Even before the illness, I felt I was missing something. My business was doing well, I’m married, and I have two beautiful sons, but the real estate business was very stressful. I felt I needed something more spiritual,” she says. “I have a lot of fire in my soul, and I’m in a business that generates a lot of anxiety. Yoga helps me relax and feel more grounded.”

Although she is completely healthy now, Zaremba’s brush with skin cancer gave her the idea of opening a wellness center for the community. Awakening has two spacious exercise and meditation areas, several well-designed massage rooms, healing rooms, a steam room, and an organic cafe where anyone can drop in and get a salad, fresh squeezed juice, smoothies, and sandwiches. It’s healthy and tasty food prepared by Chef Kyle Lowe.

Zaremba says she wants her wellness center to serve people from all walks of life. “Businesses are so segregated in Greenpoint,” she says. “There are places that cater just to hipsters, places just for the Polish. I want to welcome everyone: hipsters, locals, business people, artists, the young, and the old. I designed the center so everyone will feel comfortable here. This is a great place to meet your neighbors.” she says.

At Awakening you can get spa treatments like massages, facials, and steam baths; exercise and meditation classes, including yoga, tai chi, dance, and Pilates; and life coaching for weight management, substance abuse, and goal setting. Other exotic treatments include Vishesh and Shirodara treatments, Ayurvedic Face Treatments, Marma Chikitsa, and Garshana Abyangha. For those in search of a more mystical experience, Awakening also offers shamanic healing sessions with shamanic master Phillia Kim Dawn. “It’s a 5,000-year-old Peruvian practice,” Zaremba explains.

Zaremba says her own daily regimen includes Tibetan ritual yogic exercise. She takes probiotic supplements and juice, all on an empty stomach, to start the day. She drinks fresh juice to get vitamins instead of using vitamin pills. She also does cleanses. She says that since she started taking care of her body, she has lost weight and has more clarity in her thinking.

One of Awakening’s signature services is the full-body massage, performed by Ira Macner, who trained at the Swedish Institute and teaches at the Finger Lakes School of Massage in Mt. Kisco. “We combine many techniques in our massages,” says Zaremba. “They’re customized to your needs.”

A professional massage is one of those treatments that is very difficult to duplicate at home. At Awakening, you’re treated to candlelight, new age music, hot towels, and aromatherapy. Spending an hour with Macner is like taking a mini-vacation. You emerge from the experience feeling loved and re-invigorated.

Since its opening, Awakening has attracted many clients who are visiting a wellness center for the first time. “They tell me, ‘I never knew what I was missing all these years,’” says Zaremba. She touches on a story about a friend from Germany who had just gone through a bad break up and was emotionally and physically a mess. Zaremba designed a wellness program to help her heal. She was put on a juice cleansing treatment for 10 days, undertook an exercise regimen, received an anti-cellulite treatment, and underwent sound therapy involving crystal balls, gongs, and chanting. She also received shamanic healing, nutritional counseling, and massage. She went back to Germany and has since taken up yoga training. Zaremba believes that with so much stress in modern life, everyone could use a little holistic healing.

Awakening will offer weekend retreats in the spring. The center can be rented for bridal showers, community meetings, and wellness parties. Prices for spa services and exercise classes are quite reasonable. There are free trials, drop-in and membership classes, and special events and programs for children.

“Everything I’ve learned from my life has brought me here, from Special Ed teacher, to health-care attendant, waitress, and real estate developer. I’ve come full circle.” Zaremba believes that providing a sanctuary for people to heal their bodies and spirits is the most fulfilling work of her life. “I have found my calling,” she says.

Check awakeningny.com for class schedules and upcoming events.



Eating Around: Good Dining Before the Crowds

Bedford Baking Studio: Bleu Cheese and Ricotta Date Borek (at right) and a vegan Shorty Figgy Cookie (at left). Photo by Allen Ying

Goodies at Bedford Baking Studio, a vegan Shorty Figgy Cookie (at left), and a Bleu Cheese and Ricotta Date Borek. Photo by Allen Ying

By Mary Yeung

This summer I learned the secret to good dining in North Brooklyn is to do the early bird thing and beat the summer crowd. I know, I know, early bird sounds kind of old-fashioned and suburban, like something your grandparents would do. But early bird dining in Williamsburg often means before 1:00 for brunch or before 8:30 for dinner, so it’s very do-able. Early in the evening, the wait staffs are in a better mood, the chefs are still paying attention to the seasoning, and you and your friends have the whole damn backyard to yourself.

Earlier this month, I finally got around to revisiting that El Diablo taco truck in the backyard of Union Pool. The first time I went, it was so crowded I couldn’t get a table outside, and so didn’t enjoy the food that much. This time, I went a little early, like before 8:00, and scored a nice long picnic table in the spacious patio. I loved the neon light blinking against the darkening sky. That touch of cheesy glamour made everything very surreal and festive. The grilled corn on the cob was perfectly cooked. It was dressed up Mexican style, with lime mayo and cotija cheeses, and spiced up with chili. The tacos were decent, too. I had the chicken and the al Pastor, and washed it all down with a cold bottle of Mexican coke. The whole meal cost less than $15. That is what summer dining is all about—casual, cheap, and festive. Bring lots of friends, the type who enjoy things a little funky and don’t get too put off by the less than stellar beer drinker bathrooms. The easy-on-the-wallet drink prices keep this bar very busy late into the night. 484 Union Avenue

Some people think Cafe de la Esquina a little too touristy for real Brooklynites, but I always have a very good time there. I like to go early, before 1:00, for weekend brunch. Waffles are my favorite dish here; they’re homemade, topped with fresh mixed berries and a large scoop of caramel goo; you know, that thick, creamy stuff that comes straight from a jar. Not a bad deal for $9. The iced coffee is a little watered down, but there are plenty of margaritas, sangrias, and other fruity cocktails, especially if you go with the Mexican dishes like fish taco, ceviche, mole enchilada, or the guacamole and chips with a big jar of house canned salsa. It’s smoky and spicy with enough tang to wake up anyone’s palate. Unless you’re sharing the quac and chip dish with a large crowd, there will be plenty of salsa left over, so just put a lid on the glass jar and take it home. The backyard is very relaxing, with a couple of tall trees, campy religious figurines, fire-engine red metal chairs, and colorful sunbrellas. When the weather gets stormy, retreat to the posh “diner,” with plush leather booths, glamorous painted mirrors, and classy curios (antique birdcages) with allusions to great literature—Great Expectations? A MidSummer’s Night’s Dream? There is also a selection of the latest fashion magazines on the rack, so while you’re waiting for your food you can ignore your boyfriend and check out the expensive designer garb like a spoiled princess—plush seats, diverting decor, decent Mexican food—I’ll say that’s a pretty sweet life.  225 Wythe Avenue

I heard about No Name Bar’s noodle dishes and had to check them out. Once again, I went for a late afternoon snack to avoid the juiced-up revelers. The sunken backyard was lovely; there’s a falling rain waterfall that reminds you of the South China Sea in some old Hollywood movies, a big old tree providing much-needed shade, and lots of mixed and matched furniture. Rustic, slightly buggy, but super charming. Three young ladies in short dresses were sitting on a back porch swing, giggling and having the time of their lives. We got the bartender to take our noodle orders upstairs and handed our order ticket to the cooks downstairs. Ten minutes later, we got some kick-ass noodles. The noodles ($12) were fresh, broad. and toothsome, dressed with crumbly ground lamb and spiced up with smoky cumin. It smelled wonderful. I squeezed some Sriracha on the whole mess and scarfed it all down in record time. If you’re a big fan of authentic ethnic noodles from hole-in-the-wall joints in Flushing or Sunset Park, you’ll enjoy the food at the No Name Bar. Other choices include chili sesame noodles, hard boiled quail eggs, and veggie cup-a-soup noodles. The soup noodles have a dark, mysterious herbal taste, so if you’re a bit out of sorts or need something for your hangover, they will hit the spot. 597 Manhattan Avenue

Bedford Baking Studio at 347 Bedford Avenue. Photo by Allen Ying

On a lazy Sunday afternoon, I dropped by the very new Bedford Baking Studio. This place is truly quirky; the food and the decor are imbued with the owner’s passion and personality. Tolga is a friendly guy who bakes boreks, muffins, and all kinds of sweet and savory pies with a Turkish twist. I enjoyed the bleu cheese and ricotta pie ($4.50)—think spinach pie, only filled with sharp cheeses. For a sweet finish I went for the apricot loaf, which has an old-fashioned denseness, but is very buttery and not too sweet. Many pastries are tinged with rose water, dates, and pomegranate flavors. The Crop to Cup iced coffee ($2.50) was very strong, richly flavored, and not at all bitter.  Tolga is a people person, so he encouraged his patrons to mingle, and we ended up talking to two lovely ladies about Middle East politics, British and French quirks, and just about everything under the sun. If you’re looking for a little company, a Turkish twist on pastries, interesting milk puddings, and healthy whole grain salads, check out the Bedford Baking Studio. 347 Bedford Avenue

There are still a couple of weeks of warm weather left. Go out and eat something wonderful under the stars!


Best Way to Chill: Ice cream, frozen yogurt, alcohol (a marriage made in Brooklyn)

Woman enjoy Cereal Milk ice-cream from Momofuku.

The Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream from Uncle Louie G’s ice cream shop which now has two locations locally.

By Mary Yeung

Americans sure eat a lot of frozen desserts, in fact, about $27 billion worth in 2011. That’s about 20 quarts per capita annually, or four times the European average. Boston has the highest consumption rate. All those young people in Ivy League colleges take a lot of ice cream breaks between studies, which may explain the current state of our government—so many captains of industry and heads of state used to spend time in Harvard square chilling out with a cone. Maybe brain freeze is not as innocuous as we thought.

But New Yorkers shouldn’t get too cocky, because the Big Apple also has a long and proud history when in comes to frozen treats. America’s first ice cream parlor was built in 1776 at Park Row in Manhattan, now part of Chinatown. In 1903, Italo Marchiony, a downtown restaurateur, patented a gadget for making edible waffle cups. The ubiquitous Midwestern Good Humor brand once had a manufacturing plant in Brooklyn. In the 1960s, a Polish immigrant from Da Bronx made a premium ice cream called Häagen Dazs for gourmet shops that catered to the rich, and in 1983 he sold Häagen Dazs to Pillsbury for a big chunk of change. Häagen Dazs (still all natural) is now sold in fifty countries. Talk about attaining the American dream! Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, established in 1978, was the brainchild of two hippy-dippy guys who grew up on Long Island. They mixed politics and philanthropy with business (remember the Peace Pop and Rain Forest Crunch?) and got a lot of free press. We all know how sweet that story turned out. Very few people are aware of this, but New York also started the first-ever frozen yogurt franchise—Everything Yogurt—back in the late 70s. By the mid 80s, it was in hundreds of malls.

At Pagoto, you can have your wine and eat it too—the Chocolate Cabernet ice cream has a 5% alcohol content. Photos by Allen Ying

Today, the frozen dessert business is more exciting and competitive than ever. On the weekends, ice cream and frozen yogurt trucks are everywhere in Williamsburg. There is the mellow-yellow Van Leeuwen truck on Bedford Avenue, the Cool Haus Truck ($10 double-decked ice cream sandwiches from L.A.!) parked on Metropolitan or Bedford avenues, and a Yogo truck can be seen roaming around like a lost child, not to mention all the brick-and-mortar sweet shops dotting the neighborhood. You want ice cream? You’ve come to the right place.

Uncle Louie G’s appeared on the Brooklyn scene in 1998 and became an immediate hit. The Italian ice was intensely flavorful and very natural-tasting. It started in Park Slope and spread from there. Today, the 46 flavors of ice cream and 40 flavors of Italian ice are made in Staten Island. I’m glad they’re keeping the jobs within the five boroughs (we need more manufacturing here). My favorites are Lick Me Lemon ice and Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream. The lemon ice is very vivid, with a clean lemon flavor. The Strawberry Cheesecake is super silky with a bit of bright strawberry syrup, a hint of cream cheese, and a lot of vanilla. All the flavors mingle together beautifully. You don’t get those grainy chunks of old cheesecake you sometimes see in other brands. I also appreciate their inventive, bad-ass Brooklyn names: It’s a Crime Lime, Mucho Mango, Wassup Watermelon, Rocky Road Rage, Bada Bing Cherry Vanilla, and Killer Kiwi. And just when you think it’s getting a little too sinister for your blood, they sucker punch you with the oh-so-innocent Coney Island Cotton Candy. And you just melt.
341 Graham Avenue and 674 Manhattan Avenue.

If you want sophistication in an ice cream, Van Leeuwen is your sweet spot. I feel like I should be wearing a pretty summer dress when I’m ordering an Earl Grey ice cream. It tastes so ethereal and dreamy. And their Minty Chip is very refreshing, with a real mint flavor, light on the sugar, and bits of contrasting bitter chocolate. It reminds you of a cool summer breeze. One of their newer flavors is the Palm Sugar ice cream. It’s incredibly sweet, with a rich caramel flavor. Palm sugar has a lower glycemic index than cane sugar and honey (but with the same calorie count as cane sugar), so it’s being marketed like agave syrup, as a healthier natural sweetener. But like agave, it invites controversy. So wait for further research before you spend the big bucks. Meanwhile, enjoy palm sugar for its unique malty sweetness.
632 Manhattan Avenue.

Woman enjoys Cereal Milk ice-cream from Momofuku.

The first frozen-yogurt franchise was started by two New Yorkers, and at least one of them was from Brooklyn. Everything Yogurt had its first store on Wall Street. In the day, if you wanted to charge big bucks for a frozen treat you had to sell it in Manhattan. Williamsburg will soon open 16 Handles, a franchised yogurt chain started in the East Village and a big hit in Manhattan. The yogurt tastes great (I like the original plain with berry toppings), and they kept the tart flavor and all the good-for-you pro-biotic stuff intact. For people with control issues, this is a godsend. You get to pull the handles yourself and take as much as you want. You pay by weight and can spend $3 or $12; it’s all up to you. With toppings from fresh cut fruits to chewy, starchy mochi balls, this place will test your mettle.
141 North 7th Street.

Like weird and kooky flavors? Visit the Momofuku Milk Bar. They have cereal milk—soft serve ice cream that tastes like… cereal milk–flavored ice cream. Duh! It’s topped with crunchy candied corn flakes and tastes like British (Horlick) Ovaltine. I love it. I also tried something called Strawberry Sesame yogurt. It wasn’t good; simply put, strawberry and sesame don’t go together. But those mad cooks at Milk are willing to go where no humans have gone before, and once in a while, they concoct something truly unique and revelatory, but the strawberry-sesame yogurt is not one of them.
382 Metropolitan Avenue.

Pagoto (Greek for ice cream) is an organic ice cream shop that serves ice cream flavored with wine. Oh yeah, I’m with you, baby, I’m totally there. The Chocolate Cabernet was boo-ze-licious! Luscious cream infused with a fruity wine and studded with chunks of dark chocolate. I also liked the mango sorbet—very fruity, but the coconut ice cream tasted slightly off; I’m guessing it’s the preservatives in the shredded coconut flakes. $3.99 for a scoop of regular ice cream. $4.99 for the wine-flavored ice cream.
201 Bedford Avenue.

Frankie Galland eats a dish of Earl Grey ice cream at Van Leeuwen.

I’m not a big fan of Baskin-Robbins ice cream in the States. A few years ago, while visiting relatives in Toronto, my uncle asked me if I wanted to go to Baskin-Robbins. Not wanting to sound like a snooty New Yorker, I said “Sure!” And guess what? The ice cream tasted great in Canada, like Breyers before they added that horrible tara gum crap. Once again, an iconic American product tastes better in somebody else’s country (like Coca-Cola tastes better in Mexico because they don’t use corn syrup). What are we doing to our food? Talented Americans invent great products that the whole world loves, and then some bean-counter/food engineer with no taste buds comes along and mucks them up! It’s unpatriotic! Having said that, Baskin-Robbins is very reasonably priced: only $2.29 a scoop and $1.89 for a kid-sized scoop. If you have a family, that means something. I like the butter pecan best. The mint tasted artificial, and the peanut butter and chocolate is too muddy and gummy.
643 Manhattan Avenue.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Company makes their ice cream in Greenpoint. You can get it directly in their factory/café on Commercial Street (near Manhattan Avenue). Short of making it yourself, you can’t get ice cream fresher than this. They’re like the Brooks Brothers of ice cream and don’t mess around with novelty flavors, only the classics—Chocolate, Vanilla, Butter Pecan, Strawberry, Coffee, Peaches and Cream. Like gelato, the ice cream is eggless. Take a trek over there, and get yourself an old-fashioned sundae or a banana boat.
$4 a scoop.
97 Commercial Street.

Feeling nostalgic for old school Williamsburg? After 30-some years, Fortunato Brothers Café and Pasticceria is an institution that serves gelato, strong espresso, and cannoli. I love the splashy art on the wall and the fabulous display of specialty cakes and colorful marzipan. This corner of Williamsburg really transports you back to a different place and time.
289 Manhattan Avenue.

Remember snow cones? They were hugely popular in inner city neighborhoods. Men with sun-baked faces would cart around large blocks of ice all day long. They shave and shave and then douse the chunky “snow” with neon-colored syrup—hot pink, electric blue, granny smith green. Oh how I miss that chemical-induced summer daze. Newly opened in the mini-mall at Bedford Avenue and North 5th Street is Handsome Dan, a candy and sno-cone shop (manned by Handsome Dan). Gone are the blocks of ice and neon-colored syrups. Modern Dan uses a handy-dandy snow-making machine and creates his own natural syrups with sugar, water, and fresh fruits. It’s all Lo Cal and lactose free, a refreshing summer treat.
218 Bedford Avenue, Mini Mall.

Please, somebody, send me a pair of Spanx!