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Posts Tagged ‘brooklyn’

south portland st brooklyn

One of the delights of visiting and revisiting a city: there are neighborhoods that become yours.

Last month, the hubs and I spent our third weekend in Fort Greene, which has become our favorite pocket of Brooklyn. I’d just spent three days at a conference in midtown and I was ready to get out of the bustle and glitz, to a tangle of quieter streets where people actually live. Coming out of Manhattan, even dragging all my luggage, felt like a much-needed exhale. And coming up out of the subway onto Fulton Street – even into a cold winter wind – felt like coming home.

We rented the top floor of a brownstone near Fort Greene Park, and spent the weekend popping into our favorite places and discovering new ones. It was the kind of travel I adore: the new and novel blended with the comforting and familiar.

We didn’t even discuss where to go for dinner on Friday night, but headed straight to Madiba for bowls of spicy lamb curry with raisin-studded saffron rice. When we told our hostess we were headed to the farmers’ market in the park the next morning, she laughed. “You’re practically natives!” And, indeed, it felt wonderful to stroll the stands and buy a cup of steaming apple cider and a scone the size of my fist. We perched on a bench and sipped our cider, watching dogs and children running in the cold, crisp air.

k-j-ft-greene-park

I’d made a short list of places to revisit, and we hit all of them: Greenlight Bookstore, the winter Brooklyn Flea market, the wonderful Greene Grape and its adjacent wine shop, and the bagel place on Lafayette Avenue. We ate Sunday brunch at Walter’s and strolled up and down the streets we love. But we also visited new coffee shops, turned down unfamiliar corners, ate guacamole and huevos at Pequeña. And we did something I’ve long wanted to do: took the gorgeous walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.

brooklyn bridge cables sky

New York, more than most cities, offers endless new discoveries, and I am surprised and delighted by it every time I visit. But I also love that certain parts of it have become mine, or ours. Fort Greene welcomed us back, and I’m already looking forward to our next trip there.

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central park yellow flowers nyc

Confession: I had a hard time at first coming up with books for this post.

There are a million books set in NYC, but the New York in my head is the New York of TV and movies: Friends, Castle, pretty much every Nora Ephron film ever made. (I once spent an entire solo vacation pretending to be Kathleen Kelly.) Plus, New York is always changing: every book set there captures a slightly different city, filtered through a different historical era or narrator’s perspective.

I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t gather up a handful of books about this beautiful, gritty, bewitching city. So here are my New York favorites for you. Please add yours in the comments!

Children’s Lit/Classics

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith
I loved this book as a child – dreamy Francie, her hardworking mother and exuberant Aunt Sissy, and the hope and heartbreak of growing up in turn-of-the-century Brooklyn.

The Saturdays, Elizabeth Enright
I adore this first book in the Melendy series, about four siblings who live in a big, comfortably shabby brownstone with their father and their housekeeper-general, Cuffy. The siblings take turns exploring the city by themselves on Saturdays, and the sense of wonder and independence is exactly right.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsberg
Claudia and her little brother Jamie run away from home – to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as one does. When I visited the Met for the first time as an adult, I thought about them sneaking through the halls at night and scrounging coins from the fountain.

Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh
Harriet’s childhood was so different from mine: a brownstone with a dumbwaiter! Ole Golly! Tomato sandwiches and chocolate egg creams! It all seemed fantastically exotic to me. But Harriet is a New York girl through and through.

Remember Me to Harold Square, Paula Danziger
This fun middle-grade novel is built around a New York scavenger hunt undertaken by three kids – so it contains lots of city trivia. But it’s fast-paced, funny and highly entertaining.

strand books nyc exterior

Nonfiction/Memoir

Here is New York, E.B. White
White wrote this long essay in 1949, after the city and the world had been transformed by two world wars. But reading it in the wake of 9/11, it still feels eerily relevant. He evokes so well the combination of hope and possibility and fear, the vibrant rhythm of the city streets. (I found my copy at the Strand, pictured above.)

Act One, Moss Hart
An inside look at the mid-century NYC theatre world from one of the great playwrights. Hart’s voice is wry, witty and warm. (I picked this one up at Three Lives & Co. in the West Village.)

My First New York, various authors
New York is beautiful and brutal, and it glitters with possibility. This collection of about 50 essays captures the dazzling range of New York experiences: gorgeous, bewildering, always exciting. (I bought my copy at Shakespeare & Co. on the Upper East Side.)

Eat the City, Robin Shulman
Despite its reputation as a concrete jungle, NYC teems with food production: gardens, breweries, farms. Shulman explores the city’s history through its food producers, past and present. (Another Strand find.)

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, Laurie Colwin
Colwin writes with wit and grace about food, love, and tiny New York apartments. I especially love “Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant.”

Garlic and Sapphires, Ruth Reichl
Reichl visited dozens of restaurants as the New York Times food critic, often in disguise. This is a rarefied New York, but it’s so much fun (and mouthwateringly described).

brooklyn brownstones light

Fiction

Rules of Civility, Amor Towles
A glittering tale of high society, love and ambition in 1930s New York. Gorgeously written.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie Benjamin
A razor-sharp, elegantly written imagining of Truman Capote and the circle of wealthy socialite “swans,” notably Babe Paley, who were his darlings in 1950s NYC.

The View from Penthouse B and The Family Man, Elinor Lipman
Lipman writes witty comedies of manners, and these two novels both draw New York in quick, loving strokes.

Girl in Translation and Mambo in Chinatown, Jean Kwok
Kwok’s novels both feature Chinese-American protagonists struggling to make their way in NYC. She draws the sharp contrasts of New York – enormous privilege next to great poverty; immigrant traditions and the siren call of the new – so well.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Safran Foer
This novel is tragic, moving and sometimes very funny . It is an incredible mosaic of New York: all the lives and the loneliness (and the post-9/11 cocktail of fear, love and loss).

Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
Eilis Lacey emigrates from her small Irish town to Brooklyn in the 1950s, struggling to build a life for herself. This is a lovely evocation of a vanished New York, with a quietly appealing main character.

Bunheads, Sophie Flack
A well-written YA novel about a young ballet dancer in New York – who starts to wonder if the world of ballet is where she truly belongs. Captures the constant possibility that thrums through the city.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are your favorite books about (or set in) NYC?

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brooklyn brownstones light

Recently, the hubs and I hopped down to New York for the weekend. The reason (or excuse)? A college friend of ours was performing in Carmen, and we both were hankering for a getaway. (Not that we really need a reason to head to New York – but it helped galvanize us.)

This trip was a short one – almost exactly 48 hours long – but we packed in a lot of fun and good food.

subway public art nyc

Right after getting off the train, we met our buddy Isaac for lunch at Bareburger in Midtown. I’d been there before, but J never had. Their burgers (beef, bison and other varieties) are so fresh and tasty.

We returned to a neighborhood we love: Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where we stayed a couple of years ago. This time, we rented a charming third-floor walk-up near Fort Greene Park, comfortable and flooded with light.

brooklyn apartment living room

After dropping off our bags, we wandered the neighborhood, popping into a few shops and visiting the Greene Grape, which stocks all kinds of delicious food and drink. Then we tried a restaurant around the corner (recommended by our Airbnb hosts): Madiba.

madiba wall tapestry mandela

Madiba is often used as a name for Nelson Mandela, and fittingly, this restaurant has a funky, welcoming South African vibe. I loved the art prints, textiles, tribal masks and the music. And the food – as you can see from J’s expression – was amazing.

jer bunny chow madiba

We both ordered curry dishes – I had lamb curry with saffron rice, and J opted for the chicken “bunny chow” version in a hollowed-out heel of bread. We split a rich, creamy malva pudding (with apricot jam) for dessert. Every bite was perfection.

malva pudding

After dinner, we caught the subway to Brooklyn Heights, where we saw Theater 2020’s production of A Little Night Music. I don’t have any photos from the show, but it was fantastic – minimally staged in a spare Gothic chapel, and beautifully sung. I’ve been humming “Send in the Clowns” for over a week now. (I particularly loved Charlotte, the scheming wife with a dry wit and impeccable delivery.)

The next morning dawned sunny and cool, and we ended up grabbing breakfast at the Fort Greene Park farmers’ market. Because I could not resist a cherry pie muffin.

cherry pie muffin

Delectable – plus it matches my gloves. (Not pictured: the hot apple cider I bought to go with it. Also wonderful.)

We strolled the neighborhood, and of course we had to visit Greenlight Bookstore. (J kindly indulges my bookstore obsession when we travel.)

greenlight bookstore window brooklyn

Lunch was fish tacos at Cafe Habana – not quite Tex-Mex, but pretty darn close.

We hopped a train into Manhattan after that, and spent the rest of the afternoon strolling the Upper West Side. A Shakespeare exhibit at the NYPL branch at Lincoln Center, a visit to Book Culture on Columbus Avenue, chai lattes from a tiny shop called The Sensuous Bean. I adore the Upper West Side (where I stayed last fall), and it was a brisk but mostly sunny afternoon. Perfect for strolling with my love.

upper west side nyc

Later, we enjoyed dinner at Hourglass Tavern in Hell’s Kitchen – so named because they pride themselves on getting patrons to the theatre on time. We had time to savor our pasta and wine (without feeling rushed), and then headed to our evening at the opera.

diamond horseshoe lights

The Diamond Horseshoe, where this production of Carmen was staged, is a performance space in the basement of the Paramount Hotel on West 46th. It’s a cross between a swanky hotel bar, the opera house from Phantom of the Opera, and a scene straight out of Moulin Rouge – a wild, glitzy mix of opulence and decay. But the opera was excellent. (Though we were partial to the tall Texan playing two different roles – a soldier and a gypsy.)

jer isaac carmen

Sunday morning found us brunching at Walter’s in Fort Greene (another host recommendation and apparently a popular neighborhood spot). I had the huevos rancheros, which were delicious. And the people-watching was so fun. (It always is in New York.)

huevos rancheros walters brooklyn

We caught the subway into Midtown to drop our bags off at Penn Station, then grabbed some chai at Think Coffee and headed for the High Line, which I had visited but J had not. Most of the plants are dormant right now, but it was a gorgeous day and the views are stunning.

high line bridge nyc

After strolling the length of the park, we wandered around Greenwich Village, split a pizza at Ribalta, and hopped back on the subway to catch our train home.

high line selfie nyc

Two days in NYC is never enough, but I’d say we made the most of it. We came home with tired feet, a few new books (of course) and a slew of lovely memories.

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central park rowboats nyc

Ah, New York in the fall. It makes me want to buy school supplies. (And send bouquets of newly sharpened pencils to charming Internet friends.)

Seriously – the hubs and I hopped down to NYC in mid-October for a long weekend, and it was, as always, delightful.

We arrived Friday night and settled into our apartment – a charming retreat (found via Airbnb) in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

living room brooklyn apartment

Our hostess recommended Chavela’s, promising that the Mexican dishes there would meet even our Texan-snob standards. She was right.

chavelas brooklyn interior

Guacamole + sangria + enchiladas = mucho delicioso.

enchiladas chavelas brooklyn

On our way home, we stopped in at Forte, a brand-new cafe (they’d been open three days!) for apple cider and pumpkin cheesecake. Delicious.

katie forte pumpkin cheesecake

Saturday morning found us checking out the Brooklyn Flea – sadly under-attended due to chilly rain. But J did make a new friend.

jer pink elephant brooklyn flea

We dropped in at the Greenlight Bookstore, a favorite discovery on our last trip to Brooklyn, and popped in to see the Greene Grape’s new digs. (And to split a zucchini-cranberry-chocolate-chip muffin. Wow.)

greenlight bookstore brooklyn

We headed to the West Village later, enjoying chai and a lemon scone at Ciao for Now, then wandered the tangled streets for a while. We ended up, not surprisingly, at a bookstore – Three Lives & Co.

three lives and co bookstore nyc

Its cozy space is chock full of fascinating books. I could have browsed for hours.

We then caught the subway up to Lincoln Center, because the on-site library branch had an exhibit I had to see.

count von count sesame street nypl

Blueprints from the original Sesame Street set, sheet music for “Rubber Duckie” and “Bein’ Green”…

rubber duckie sesame street sheet music

…all kinds of cool Henson/Sesame Workshop trivia, and half a dozen of our favorite Muppets (including Super Grover, in the clouds!).

 

super grover sesame street nypl

We left with smiles on our faces (noting on the way out that the exhibit is “brought to you by the letters N, Y, P and L”).

jer cookie monster

After a bit of shopping and wandering in the neighborhood, we walked up to the Upper West Side for dinner at a sidewalk cafe.

piccolo cafe nyc upper west side

I’m still not sure if the maitre’d’s Italian accent was real, but the pasta and wine were delicious.

katie wine piccolo cafe nyc

After dinner, we headed up to West 83rd Street, to a place I’d walked by but never entered.

cafe lalo exterior nyc

For the uninitiated, Cafe Lalo is the setting for an important scene in You’ve Got Mail – when Kathleen Kelly arranges to meet her Internet admirer and is shocked to see her nemesis Joe Fox instead. (The railings outside are the scene of Fox’s mini-freakout before he walks in: “She had to be! She had to be!”)

Our experience wasn’t that dramatic (thank goodness), but the desserts are out of this world.

raspberry delight cafe lalo

Sated and satisfied, we headed back to Brooklyn for a cozy night in.

More New York photos and stories to come.

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As you know, I had a fabulous time “integrating” with nine fabulous women in Brooklyn, a few weeks ago. I’ve been holding that experience close to my heart, and unpacking it bit by bit.

For a Love Thursday and a list post, I wanted to introduce you to the lovelies I met, and point you to some of their blog homes:

1. Jen is the reason we all came together – all of us knew her either via blogland or in real life, though as I read on Emily’s site recently, those distinctions are starting to blur. Anyway, it was so lovely to hug her at last, and her words were pure magic all weekend.

2. Phyllis has been Jen’s friend for years, and runs Voca Femina, an online magazine for women’s voices. She’s a therapist, a life coach and just completely amazing.

3. Amelia was on my flight from DFW to NYC, so we connected in the airport, then roomed together all weekend, and wound up by waiting together at LaGuardia for our return flights. She is so many things…a teacher, a writer, a photographer, a mother of five, a runner, a creative soul and an inspiration. She blogs at Notes From the Edge.

4. Julie is trying to get us all back to Cincinnati, where she lives, for a reunion in October. She made us all beaded bookmarks (or “magic wands” as Crystal calls them) to take home, and she shares my love for chocolate and snail-mail.

5. Crystal went to The Chocolate Room three times in one day – and had a bit of a chocolate hangover the next day. She’s a hoot.

6. Beth also lives in Cincy, and shares my love for Rachel Austin’s paintings, photos of flowers and Wicked. (Here’s a photo from our “cake time” on Monday night – from left, Julie, Crystal, Beth, Jenna and Amelia. What great faces!!)

7. Jenna blogs at The Word Cellar; we’d been Twitter friends for some time before the retreat. She’s even more delightful in person, and a fabulous writer.

8. Sandra was our lone Canadian, a joyful spirit, a sweet heart and a lovely accent.

9. Annette hails from Maryland, and is just full of joy and hope and honesty. I’ll never forget jamming out with her to the Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice” in the kitchen on our last night. (Here she is with Jenna, Phyllis and Jen.)

Happy Love Thursday…go read some of these ladies’ blogs, and have a wonderful day.

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Seen on the side of a building, along 5th or 6th Avenue.

The whole city was blooming. Mmmmmm.

The Chocolate Room is as delectable as it sounds, and (from left) here are Annette, myself,  Amelia, Crystal and Julie, with hot chocolate (both frozen and hot), white chocolate-raspberry ice cream, and all sorts of yumminess.

We spent a great deal of time in this, the kitchen on the “garden floor,” right next to Amelia’s and my room. Felt like old times in the basement kitchen in Oxford.

This is Amelia, my travel buddy, roommate and new dear friend.

I love this silly, happy photo of Jen (“Yoda pigtails” and all) – it embodies the spirit of our time together. Such joy.

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I met these lovelies at the Integrate Retreat last weekend in NYC. Jen (in the front, with the curls) hosted us at the Sofia Inn in Brooklyn, and oh my, the whole weekend was magical. We talked, wrote, laughed, sang, drank tea, ate chocolate, saw Wicked together, did yoga, explored Brooklyn, cried and laughed some more. And that’s just the beginning.

This week I am missing Beth, Sandra, Crystal, Phyllis, Jenna, Annette, Julie, Jen and Amelia. What lovely souls, and what a fabulous time we had together. Until we “reintegrate,” I’ll be thinking of them.

More photos and stories to come…

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