One morning at the McGolrick Park Farmer’s Market last Fall, I had the opportunity to taste a spirit I didn’t know much about. Though, coming from a half-Italian family, I was not a complete stranger to amaro. And living in a bar culture like Brooklyn’s, the spirit turns up every now and then too.
But both encounters were prohibitive. Being a kid at family parties, trying something red in color, you want it to taste a certain way (like Dr. Pepper). Amaro got quickly filed under “gross” and “adult,” which I filed under “boring.” And today, going to a fancy bar, the prospect of a sixteen dollar cocktail sometimes has me looking for the beer list, specifically “cans.”
So, running into the Greenpoint-made amaro brand St. Agrestis on that Sunday in the park cut through my personal red tape.
First off, the label is eye-catching: a simple blue print of a woman holding a branch in one hand, and a small medicine bottle in the other. Then there’s the name. How, after twelve years of Catholic school, did I not know of a St. Agrestis (it turns out St. Agrestis is not real!)? Then there’s the color. It’s a deep shade of red, not quite letting you see all the way through the bottle, but sort of half-way through.
The whole package was intriguing, as was the flavor. Which is on the right side of bitter, and the right side of sweet— it sort of approaches both, and pulls away just before either becomes too much. In any case, I felt it was cause enough to buy a bottle and to later follow up with its maker, Louis Catizone, to find out how this mysterious alcool is made. Continue reading →
I had a friend in high school who in the early 90’s introduced me to what I’ll lamely call here ‘Texas music.’ To me that signifies a big sound with a lot of chaos, bass that sounds like guitars, and guitars that sound like bass, and heavy but not in any way burdensome drums. And probably some vocals buried in there somewhere, too. That all somehow comes together at the end, no matter how many loose ends it took to get there.
The Butthole Surfers were a name I knew through skate magazines, but it was really when this friend let a Nirvana/Jesus Lizard split-single play through that my concept of music at that moment instantly flipped (it would’ve been more appropriate if it’d been a 45 instead of a CD). Just as I was hearing a Nirvana that was rougher and less produced than Nevermind (but more structurally sound than Bleach), I was hit right in the face with “Puss”.
A quick walk along the southwest corner of McGolrick Park in the last few weeks reveals it has been getting something of a facelift.
At some point in early July, a sign appeared on the fencing outside of the McGolrick Park dog run, announcing renovation and that the run would be closed from July 12th – Aug. 1st. It came as somewhat of a surprise to the dog owners who frequented the park. Soon, enough secondhand information (and in some cases third and fourth) began to filter its way down from parks department employees; there would be a transition from dirt to gravel, that the trees would be preserved, and there would be a pavilion to provide shade for owners.
The talk, coupled with the sign, elicited a chorus of mixed replies: some owners praised the idea of gravel, noting it would clean their dog’s paws and possibly help with the endless amounts of broken glass that seemed to rise, Poltergeist-like, out of the mud after every heavy rain. Others were more wary, saying the mulched and dirt-y run provided pets a little relief from the concrete of the city, and the switch to gravel would take that cushioning away. Also, there was speculation about dust—an oft-heard complaint about the newer dog runs in Cooper Park and Bushwick Inlet. Continue reading →
I recently had the chance to get burgers and beer with Greenpoint resident En Tsao, in the backyard of Williamsburg establishment The Meat Hook. En is the brains and the creative force behind Even Keel Soap.
Even Keel’s products, in the face of a market flooded with all kinds of natural, organic, and locally sourced ingredients remain unique and fresh.
Part of it has to do with design, a lot of has to do with the quality, and all of it has to do with En. She utilizes just about every aspect of her experience and past insights to make something very personable and true to her spirit. Continue reading →
It’s hard getting to the beginning of anything, but with Troost (1011 Manhattan Ave) in Greenpoint, it might help to keep in mind a street sign in Kansas City: Troost Ave. “I just liked the way it looked,” the owner, John Ortiz says, one evening during a sit down at Goldie’s, on what we both agree is the “other side” of Greenpoint. Troost opened its doors in 2011. It started as a café, beer and wine bar. But it’s grown since then to include a full bar and live music. But John is specific. It is “not a music venue. It’s a bar that has music.” It having music occupies a lot of the conversation.
“It’s interesting,” he says, “to see artists respond when you put limitations on them.” The limitations are familiar to anyone who attends shows or is a musician in New York. They come down to two things: noise and space. “It’s almost always worked out. One or two cases, maybe.” One aspect that keeps things going is a good relationship with the neighbors. “They all have my number. They’re great. Sometimes I get a text saying, ‘hey, last night was a little loud,’ but for the most part, the relationship is really good.” Another is just figuring out who could and should play. Who does the approaching? “It’s pretty much word of mouth, musicians putting me in touch with other musicians,” he says. Continue reading →