I once started out to walk around the world, but ended up in Brooklyn,
that Bridge was too much for me.
– Lawrence Ferlinghetti, American poet and painter, A Coney Island of the Mind
Greetings from Brooklyn! When I arrived Saturday morning, it was 18 degrees and snowing lightly. It had snowed the night before, and as I was driven from JFK to my sister’s and my new friend’s place in Brooklyn, I marveled at the pristine layer of snow that endowed the cityscape with a quietude and pureness. I was reminded of Peter’s world in Brooklyn from A Snowy Day.Last week, I had pulled out my 1988 army-surplus-store, army-issue Alaskan arctic parka (from my Jesuit Volunteer Corp. days in Alaska) to wear, fortified by long underwear. But when it came time to start packing, I realized it was too bulky to take and pack (as my business travels were to take me to Dallas and Austin, as well), and I needed a more functional and business-looking coat that would keep me warm and allow me to enter a business event and still feel presentable. I escaped having to attempt styling a chic look with my arctic parka and got a city parka. I needed it. The temps never rose past 21 degrees that day and the wind blew with such force, which made for quite the hike from our friend Mason’s apartment in the Cobble Hill district of Brooklyn to the Brooklyn Parkway Waterfront by way of the shoreline. I breathed through my mouth because my nose stung when I breathed normally. If only my boots were waterproof in the slushy snow, as my ski socks kept my feet warm so long as they were dry!
The Idiotarod shopping cart races
All that said, it was the perfect weekend to be in Brooklyn. On Saturday, the annual Idiotarod shopping cart race took off shortly after noon, near the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Favorite entrants were the Cart full of Mitt Romney’s Binders Full of Women. The most expansive entrant was the multi-piece speakeasy, complete with piano, bar and gaming table attended by champagne-sipping, gangster-clad men and women. The Pac-Man crew made their outfits out of brightly colored nylon laundry bags and their cart was re-envisioned as the Pac-Man who demonstrated eating fellow crew members dressed as a banana and a cherry. Such an 80s thing. Arriving late but just in time were the Medieval knights in their very detailed chain-mail suits of armor and their just-as-elaborately-constructed catapult, and the Charlie Sheen characters, who dressed their shopping cart with Charlie Sheen movie posters, such as Wall Street, Major League, and Platoon. There were not as many entrants this year, but with the temps as they were, can you blame them? Once they took off, we escaped the outdoors at an equally quick clip.
Mason had introduced us to the Chocolate Room on Court Street when we were there in September, so it was only fitting that we retired to this mecca for chocoholics for something to warm our tummies and de-ice our extremities. This time, we tried their seasonal dark spicy hot chocolate (imagine Ancho chili, Chipotle chili, cloves, and cinnamon mixed with Belgian chocolate and Valhrona cocoa powder). You can order your own online, but if you’re in Brooklyn, it is a must-see.
The Brooklyn Museum: Mummies, European painters, feminist art abounds
Satiated, warm, and dry, my sister and I set out for the architecturally beautiful Brooklyn Museum. I’d heard about the museum’s world-renowned Egyptian collection, but that was the extent of my knowledge. I wish we had scheduled the entire day because we only saw half of the museum in a hurried three hours. We were greeted by Auguste Rodin sculpture when we entered the building. Surrounding the Beaux-Arts Court, which is equally architecturally stunning, were European works of art, including paintings by Pissarro, Monet, Manet, Kandinsky, and Goya. My two favorites were by Russian artist Vasily Vereshchagin, who painted these two enormous canvases, “A Resting Place of Prisoners” and “The Road of the War Prisoners” (both 1878-1879). The “battle painter,” who had participated in military campaigns as a decorated soldier, painted realistic scenes from many wars. The paintings at the Brooklyn Museum are from the Russo-Turkish War (1877-88). They were very haunting, and he captured both the indifference of the bitter cold and the horrors of death and war without employing a heavy hand.
The Egyptian collection comprises more than 1,200 artifacts, including sculpture, relief, paintings, pottery, and papyri, across seven galleries. The collection tells the story of Egyptian art from its earliest known origins (circa 3500 B.C.E.) until the Roman era when Egypt was folded into their empire (30 B.C.E.–395 C.E.). While everything was breathtaking and in need of more leisurely time to examine all the details, the most stunning gallery for me was the mummy chamber, which included four mummies, detailed exhibits on the process of mummification, and a very long scroll on the Book of the Dead. The layout of the galleries reminded me of the rooms upon rooms that archeologists found when they discovered the mummies. This collection alone is priceless as a destination point.
Heidi was familiar with The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago, which is a permanent exhibit at the museum. This installation artwork is by the feminist artist who collaborated with other artists to assemble her vision of a dinner party with 39 place settings, complete with personalized banner and dinner plate, for both mythical and historical women. There are quite a few plates that overtly depict the female vulva, which take issue with the phallic symbols that have been abundant in art history. She started the project in 1974, and it premiered at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1979. It’s an amazing exhibit that all women and especially girls should see to appreciate her contribution to women and art, and to learn about the many important but often forgotten women in history.
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge under a full moon
The Brooklyn gods were smiling upon Heidi and me Sunday morning, as we were determined to walk that bridge. It was something I was advised to do when I was in New York in 2008, and I vowed to do it the next time I was in town. Tragically, last September, Heidi and I walked the Manhattan Bridge by accident, but it guaranteed that we had to return to Brooklyn again. And so we did, and so the wind and freezing temperatures of Saturday did not deter us.
It was 31 degrees, sunny with no wind – a perfect day to traipse across this beautiful bridge and enjoy the skyline. We spent the day at the Museum of Modern Art (more on that in the next blog entry) and then after returning to a few local haunts (In God We Trust and End of Century), we decided to walk the bridge back to Brooklyn at night. It was seven in the evening when we began our walk with the full moon and the city lights as accessories to this glorious old bridge. It was really invigorating.
Dinner at Talde
How to celebrate another wonderful day? Saturday evening, Heidi and I had the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had, along with a well-paired Cabernet Sauvignon at Pork Slope, a roadhouse-inspired bar by Top Chef alum Dale Talde and his partners that takes its name from its neighborhood of Park Slope. Talde actually has three restaurants in Park Slope (Thistle Hill Tavern serves casual seasonal tavern fare and handcrafted cocktails). So we met Mason at Talde‘s namesake restaurant, a casual Asian-American restaurant and bar. Talde was previously a sous chef at Buddakan, where David and I dined and swooned over the food back in 2008 in the Chelsea district.
So forgive me my inclination to tell you all what we had for dinner. For appetizers, we had kale salad with hazelnut ponzu and persimmon, green mango salad with crushed peanuts and Thai chili, and Hawaiian bread buns with Filipino pork sausage (of course) and pickled shallots and garlic vinegar mayo. Our noodle selection was crispy oyster and bacon pad thai, and our side dish was roasted cauliflower. Our main entrees were smoked charred sui pork shoulder with peanuts and autumn pears and wok-charred Black Angus rib eye, to go along with our sangiovese. For dessert, we had chocolate bar cookies and, couldn’t resist, Talde’s version of Halo-Halo, a Filipino dessert that is made of shaved ice and the various versions have different ingredients such as creamed corn, shredded cantaloupe, and condensed sweetened milk. Talde’s version had Cap’n Crunch, which I was not all that keen on, but it goes with the tradition of making the dessert your own with different ingredients. It was an unbelievably satisfying meal. And one that I will definitely take David to, as he is a big Top Chef fan and a foodie. If you’re ever in Brooklyn, I highly recommend Talde.
We are now in Manhattan, and though I love Manhattan, there is nothing like Brooklyn. I remember telling friends when I returned home in September that I would move to Brooklyn in a heartbeat. Oh, they said, the humid summers and frigid winters will change your mind. Well, the frigid winters didn’t sway me. I guess I’ll have to come back in the summer to test the other half of their hypothesis. Game on!