Monday, January 31, 2011

What's a Brooklyn Flea?

If you think the "Brooklyn Flea" is something you need to get tested for or call an exterminator about, then you really need to keep up with your brownstoner reading.  The Brooklyn Flea is a large (mostly) antique flea market held every Saturday and Sunday through March, from 10am to 6pm, inside One Hanson Place, right near Atlantic Terminal.  The market is housed in a beautiful, historic bank building, which was recently converted to condominiums.

At the flea, you can find (somewhat overpriced, but negotiable) vintage clothing, hats, shoes, jewelry and other accessories, toys, books, records and posters, as well as art, home furnishings, used CDs, sunglasses, eyeglasses,  and more.  Looking for something really different? How about a beer making kit, some cowboy boots, cameras that use 35 mm film and have no display screen, or an $80 antique doll lamp?  (Don't forget to haggle, haggle, haggle!)  Want to impress your 20-something boyfriend or girlfriend?  Come to the flea and you may be able to buy your sweetheart a handheld "Space Invaders" video game, or a "Joey" doll, from 90s TV Sitcom Blossom.  Whoa!!

Even if you have no interest in any of the above, at least stop by for the food.  The flea takes places on two floors of the former Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, plus an upstairs mezzanine.  On the lowest level, all the way in the back, is the food room, where you'll find vendors selling gourmet hot dogs, tacos, grilled cheese sandwiches, milkshakes, greek salads and wraps (and even moussaka! but sadly, no gyros...), fresh-sliced panchetta sandwiches, and something called pupusas.  The main floor also has some interesting treats available, including kumquat cupcakes.

When the weather gets warmer, the flea moves outdoors.  Head to Fort Greene for the Saturday market that opens in April, or the new Williamsburg location that will be opening this Spring.  Click here for more info on these locations and an overview of the flea and its vendors and services.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Review of Pancakes at Cafe Luluc.

Type "brunch" and "Brooklyn" into any search engine and you're sure to see Cafe Luluc high on the list of suggestions.  After doing a little research, I found that this small cash only bistro, on Smith Street and Baltic in Cobble Hill, had some highly regarding pancakes, so I decided to check them out.

Three girlfriends and I arrived at Luluc today at around 1pm for Sunday brunch.  Although reviews on both yelp and menu pages warned of long weekend waits, it was only about thirty minutes before we were seated at a quaint booth in the back of the bistro.

Service was quick and the prices, while not inexpensive, were not extremely overpriced for Smith Street eating.  A la carte, one order of two large pancakes topped with fruit (bits of bananas and strawberries) came to $8.50 before tax and tip.

Upon my first bite of the golden goodness that was placed in front of me, I could confirm that these were some of the best pancakes I'd had in quite some time.  They were light and fluffy on the inside, yet surrounded by a crispy crust.  Lightly dusted with powered sugar and served with maple syrup on the side, each morsel was like eating sweet sugared candy bread.  I ate every bit of pancake on my plate and never offered to share the delicious treat I had discovered.  I'll definitely be back here for brunch soon.

(On a side note, at the risk of trashing my own review, I should note that one of my friends ordered some eggs she thought tasted "a little funky," and she soon after was not feeling well... However, I presume the pancakes, which two of us ordered, were made with eggs, and our other friend ordered an egg, spinach and goat cheese quiche, which she rated very highly... So please form your own judgments...)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

It's Sunday and I'm Sick. Where Can I Go?

Although many doctors may take weekends off, many viruses do not.  So what can you do when it's a weekend and you're feeling ill enough to need some medical attention, but believe that your condition is not severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room?

There are a number of "urgent care" and other walk-in medical centers around New York City that operate seven days a week, some are even open 24 hours.  Typically, you can either walk in or schedule an "appointment" shortly before you plan to arrive.  Here are a few options: has a 24 hour urgent care center on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and claims to be "less costly" than a visit to an emergency room.  Travlelmd's doctors treat everything from allergies and asthma to the flu, pneumonia and more.  They also offer specify in services for travelers who are visiting NYC and fall ill, and can provide travel vaccinations.

Bolte Medical Center, located in midtown East, is open 7 days a week.  They "discourage" walk-ins, but do take same-day appointments for anyone "suffering from a sore throat, ear infection, headache, urinary tract infection or other immediate urgent care illness."

DR Walk-In Medical Care, located inside some Manhattan Duane Reade Stores (8 different locations), can also address a variety of medical conditions for walk-in patients, provided the condition is not "life-threatening."

As a disclaimer, I cannot personally vouch for the quality of any of the above medical facilities, and I am providing this information purely for reference.  Please remember to consult your insurance company with regard to any payment questions.

Of course, if you require immediate emergency medical attention, please call 911 or have someone escort you to your nearest hospital ER (if you are unable to get there yourself).

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Review of Artisinal Fromagerie and Bistro.

Last night I used my bloomspot voucher for a four course dinner for two, with wine pairings, at Arisinal Fromagerie and Bistro, located on E. 32nd Street, off of Park Avenue. 

Immediately upon entering Artisinal, my senses were assaulted by a pungent aroma of a variety of cheeses, which may or may not have been mixing in the most pleasing way for me.  However, the cheese scent died down after awhile and I was able to take in the very large crowd dining at the Bistro and the bar (surprisingly for a "fine dining" establishment, there were not very many three-piece-suit types, and even one guy dininig in a t-shirt).  Not a single open table or bar stool was available when I arrived for my 8:15 p.m. reservation, and a couple who walked in shortly after me, without any reservation, was told there was at least a half hour wait for a table, which I took as a good sign. 

My dining companion and I only had to wait ten minutes before we were escorted to our table for two.  Although I felt I was sinking a bit too much into the cushion I was seated upon, the overall arrangemet was nice.  We were close to Artisinal's signature "fromagerie," at which I counted no less than an assortment of 50 cheeses, in addition to some jams, available for purchase as well as consumption in the restaurant.

Consider how surprised I was then, when I learned that our four course menu did not have a single cheese item on it.  Instead, the moment we sat down our waiter began selling us on a fondue or cheese plate; we chose the former, opting for a "classic" swiss fondue with bread and apple slices.  The fondue was tasty for sure, but perhaps the irony of it being so "classic" was that there really was nothing that stood out about it, and the cheese also could have been melted a lot more. 

I don't know what it is with tasting menus and good soup, but much like my experience at Le Souk Harem, the best item on the tasting menu was probably the small pre-first course, an "amuse bouche," which was a tea cup sized foam-covered, thick mushroom soup.  This was followed by an interesting array of cured meats, of which the duck sausage slices were most memorable to my palate. 

The next course, a sauteed skate wing, on a bed of some type of tomatillo, and wrapped in a flaky dough, was very good and easy to eat.   Then came our main course.  We had a choice between a hanger steak or steak au poivre, and my dining companion and I both chose the au poivre steak.  While, considering it's namesake, and based on the watier's description, we both expected some peppercorn, it seemed like the chef had doused our portions of the otherwise delectably cooked ribeye in enough pepper to feed the entire restaurant.  I can say, however, that the accompanying shoe string fries were fairly addictive...

Our final course, dessert, was a chocolate marquise.  While I recognized the extreme deliciousness of this dessert, it was simply too rich for my tastes.  Nevertheless, it was accompanied by one of my favorite legumes, little pieces of hazelnut, and also paired with a sweet zinfandel wine that softened the chocolate overload.  I made it through about half of the marquise before I decided I couldn't take any more of the richness.  I believe my dining companion finished his entirely.

I should mention that each dish, not just the dessert, was appropriately paired with a complementing red or white wine, and sizable glasses of each, for a "tasting" menu.  Overall, I might recommend Artisinal if you can get one of the bloomspot deals, or if you can save money by ordering from their wide range of prix fixe options, but otherwise I can't say I would be very quick to return. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

If You Don't Believe in Same-Sex Marriage, Don't Marry Someone of the Same Sex...

sayeth the great comedian, Wanda Sykes. 

However, if you DO believe that every man and woman (whether born or presenting as that gender or not), has the right to marry whomever he/she wishes, then what are you doing on Tuesday, February 8, otherwise known as Marriage Equality Day 2011

To encourage Albany to legislate ASAP on this issue, Marriage Equality New York ("MENY") will be holding a conference, in Albany, on February 8, with "thousands" of people expected to attend to "meet[ ] with our elected officials and spend[ ] time opening their hearts and minds to the need for marriage equality," (especially those 30 NYS Senators with an anti-equality voting record).  Registration costs only $50 and includes roundtrip transportation from New York City to Albany, and lunch.  (Tip: If you have your own transportation, you can still meet up with MENY and lunch will be provided for only $15). THE LAST DAY TO REGISTER FOR THE NYC BUS TO ALBANY IS TOMORROW, WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 27. 

Why should you care if you're straight and thus have the freedom to marry whomever you choose to love (or even someone you don't love, but who buys you lots of nice things...)?  Well, most likely you have friends, co-workers, or family members who are LGBT, perhaps some of whom have not yet "come out."  Like Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and wife, who married last year outside of New York State, in a form of protest to New York's failure to allow gay couples to marry, do not be afraid to show your solidarity as a "Straight American for Gay Equality".

Still don't think this matters?  Consider this -- homosexuality is NOT unique to "homo" sapiens, despite the shared prefix.  In fact, scientists have confirmed its existence across the animal kingdom.  This is not a nature vs. nurture debate, it's biology!  And even if "sexual preference" is indeed proven someday to be only a "preference," or you just don't believe that it is innate, consider the constituional zone of privacy and the right to keep the government out of our bedrooms, the problems of not being able to qualify for certain tax and health insurance benefits, potentially not being able to decide on a loved one's medical fate (without legal marriage, your partner's parents or next of kin may have the first right to determine whether or not to keep him/her on life support), or a loved one being deported because his/her immigration status expired (whereas a straight couple could easily avoid this by legitimizing their relationship through marriage), and the litany of other reasons why it is simply absurd to challenge marriage equality and utterly incomprehendible why such legislation still has not passed in New York State.  Moreover, studies have shown that being raised by a same-sex couple does not have any detrimental effects on children, which has been a main argument by those seeking to stall marriage equality efforts across the nation.  Rather, these couples/families function as a unit much the same as straight couples/families, despite the obvious differences.

There are over 1,000 state and federal rights being denied to same-sex couples in New York and other states operating under antiquated laws, and the time for change is now.  For more information, including a schedule of events and bus times for MENY's Marriage Equality Day 2011, click here:  Even if you don't have the time or endurance to attend the actual event (I admit I am not personally taking the day off of work, as much as I do support the cause), you can still help by clicking on the link and showing your support with a donation.  You can also register for a scholarship to attend.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Who Says Politics and Drinking Don't Mix?

Looking for a bar to watch tonight's State of the Union address?  Perhaps surprisingly, you are NOT alone in your desire to drown your uber-political nerdiness in your drink alongside likeminded liberals. 

There are three "official" State of the Union Watch Parties in Manhattan tonight:

Mason Jar NYC Bar & Grill Watch Party, from 8pm to 11pm, located at 43 E. 30th Street, between Park and Madison (Hey young professionals, the Manhattan Young Democrats are among the co-sponsors of this watch party).

Riviera Cafe, from 8pm to 11pm, 225 W. 4th Street, near 7th Ave S.

Some guy named Reno's loft, I think..., RSVP for address, somewhere in Tribeca.

WNYC will also be hosting a Watch Party at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, at 44 Charlton Street, at Varick Street.  However, if you haven't already RSVP'd for this party, bring some Benjamins to grease the doorman, as it's sold out!

The NY Chapters of Drinking Liberally will also be co-hosting a Watch Party in Brooklyn, at 112 Bond Street, off of Pacific, from 8pm to 11pm. 

Of course, no SOTU Watch Party would be complete without some drinking games.  L'chaim!

You Were Waking, Day Was Breaking, A Panoply of Song...

Coinciding with the band's tenth anniversary, The Decemberists kicked off their newest tour tonight with a show at New York's Beacon Theater, an opulent concert hall on the Upper West Side.  This most recent tour begins on the heels of the release of their sixth studio album, The King is Dead (I own five out of six...), which seems to recall lead singer Colin Meloy's folky, alternative country roots.  Tonight's show, the first of three at the Beacon Theater, was added after The Decemberists' January 25 and 26 shows sold out.  If you still want to try to score tickets to those shows, check out or, keyword: Decemberists.

I've always found it intriguing that, if the name Colin Meloy (the band's lead singer) was an anagram, you'd almost be able to form the word melancholy, which describes many of The Decemberists' deep ballads to love and loss.  There are several factors that make this band stand out, the most noticeable of which is Colin's characteristic, I'm-an-American-from Oregon-but-I sing-like-a-sad-Briton-voice.  Add some catchy, often relatable lyrics, with a clever tendency for rhyming multisyllabic words, not to mention instruments including xylophone, accordion, harmonica, and bass, besides the usual drums/keyboard/guitar mix, and it's easy to see why they are able to sell out top venues so quickly.

Tonight's show opened with songs from The King is Dead before moving onto older songs that really brought out the energy of the audience, such as the hit, O Valencia, and one of my personal favorites, especially on days when I feel particularly trapped by unrequited love, Engine Driver.  The Decemberists even played more than a handful of songs from their fifth album, Hazards of Love, which they built an entire tour around last year, playing the album the entire way through at every show.  (Hazards of Love is probably their most bizarre album to date, but it's yet another one you won't be able to pull yourself away from, once you give it a chance.)  Colin worked the crowd well, joking with us, responding to audience enthusiasm, and shaking hands with those lucky enough to be seated in the first row.

To my dismay, the band only played one encore.  However, they did encouragingly end with June Hymn, a song from their new album which I had been waiting to hear all night, and which I first discovered on Fordham University's radio station,  (The title of this post comes from June Hymn).

Having already seen The Decemberists perform at The Newport Folk Festival in 2009, and again at The Wellmont Theatre in 2010, I can say with conviction that this particular show, and its panoply of song, was most impressive, and a sure cure for my case of the Mondays.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spotlight on Jake Shimabukuro

If you haven't heard of Jake Shimabukuro yet, you need to check him out.  Even if you missed his stellar recent performance at Brooklyn Bowl, his website notes that you can still catch him Monday morning on Good Day New York, on Fox, at 9:50 a.m., or in the evening on New York Nightly News on NBC, at 7:30 p.m.

This talented ukulele player, born and bred in Hawaii, rose to fame when this video of him playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," or as some now refer to it, "While My Ukulele Gently Weeps," went viral.  Jake's musical magic lies in his ability to take classical guitar music such as the famous Beatles/George Harrison tune and give it new meaning by soulfully plucking and strumming away on his ukulele, no lyrics needed.  His technique is especially unique as, while he is playing the instrument, he often utilizes classical guitar picking, rather than typical uke form.  

At his Brooklyn Bowl show last Thursday, January 20, Jake stated that he had been playing ukulele since he was four years old, taking after his mother, who also played the native Hawaiian instrument.  Besides turning the music of others into ukulele masterpieces, Jake also composes his own songs, and recently released his newest album, Peace Love Ukulele. Peace Love Ukulele contains some of these original compositions, as well as some of the cover songs that contributed to his fame.  

Stand out performances at Thursday's show, besides Weeps, included Hallelujah and Bohemian Rhapsody.  At only $5 per ticket, Brooklyn Bowl was packed with uke fans, and I am certain that none left disappointed.  

To read a full review of Jake's Brooklyn Bowl show from The NY Times, click here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Where to Watch Football in New York if You're Not a New Yorker.

If you're a Jets or Giants fan this football season, you're in luck in New York.  Walk into nearly any bar in the city and, chances are, you won't be picked on for rooting for one of those teams, and will likely find fellow team fans to cheer and jeer with.  But what will you do this Sunday if you're a Steelers fan or worse, a Patriot fan out for revenge?  Don't fret, there's a bar for you!!

Steelers Fans should check out Reservoir Bar on University Place between E. 10th and 11th Streets.  Get there early, this place packs up fast.

Patriots Fans, if you're not too ashamed by now, try The Hairy Monk on 25th and 3rd Ave.

Both of these bars also serve food and I can vouch for each as solid game day choices.

Want more info on where to watch these and other teams?  Check out the following websites:

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Review of Le Souk Harem.

This past Wednesday eve, I had the opportunity to enjoy some dinner and hookah at Moroccan restaurant and lounge, Le Souk Harem with three co-ed friends, thanks to a deal we got on

At first impression, as the hostess led me to find my friends through a stairway adorned with rose petals and candles, I thought this might be a place that caters mostly to couples.  The romantic atmosphere continued as I was led upstairs, where the restaurant opens up into a lounge area, complete with tables all adorned with rose petals and candles.  Suprisingly though, there did not seem to be any couples there at the time, rather mostly young professional-y looking groups of people who probably were all there because they bought the same deal we did.  However, I was definitely impressed by the ambiance at Le Souk.  I was also quite pleased with the service (and I'm not just saying that because of our cute, tattoed, French waiter), although water refills could have come a bit quicker.

Our $30 deal began with a hookah "tasting," but the apple-flavored hookah we chose lasted all four of us throughout our entire dinner.  The hookah was surprisingly smooth, but could have been more flavorful.  About halfway through our meal, we all noticed the strong scent of rose and realized it was coming, not from the petals all around us, but from our neighbor's hookah.  When I asked them about the flavor, we ended up swapping hookahs (each using our own mouthpieces).  The rose flavor was very unlike any hookah flavor I had ever tried before.  If you can imagine deeply inhaling the scent of a rose, but on your tongue, it was kind of like that, in a good way.

My friends and I all agreed that our first course, the Harira Soup, was the highlight of the evening.  It was a warm and flavorfull soup, with chick peas, very thin noodles, and a hint of some spices I could not quite place.  Comments such as "that hit the spot" and "that was delicious" could be heard around the table. 

The main courses were also quite good.  Options included Gratin au Zaalouk (eggplant dish), (chicken stew), Tajine d'Agneau (lamb shank) and Tagine au Pagre Rouge (red snapper dish).  My friends ordered two Tajine ah Poulet and a Tajine d'Agneau, and I ordered the Tagine au Pagre Rouge.  I did not have the pleasure of trying the chicken, but my friend's response to her first bite was, "Mmm, good...perfectly cooked chicken."  My snapper dish was equally tasty, and I was surpised to find that the fish seemed to literally melt in my mouth (after trying unsuccessfully to re-heat scallops for lunch in my work microwave that day, I was prepared for anything).  I only felt that the lamb left a little to be desired, and was too tough-- though the friend that ordered it stated that he thought it was the best dish on the table.  I should also add that all of our meals were accompanied with buttery rice or cous-cous, which were great compliments. 

Other courses included choice of mojito or sangria (we all chose the latter, which was very good and I would definitely recommend), an "assortment of spreads and vines" (hard to tell, but seemed like variations of hummus, definitely a grape leave in the middle) and a round pastry remniscent of baklavah for dessert.  These were decent, but nothing particularly special to say, so I'll move on.

The final part of our meal was a glass of warm morrocan mint tea, which I first declined, but then decided I had to have after tasting it.  The combination of sugar and mint was a great way to end the meal. 

This was a very nice, and not too expensive, way to spend an evening among friends.  Apparently, Le Souk offers fairly decent prix fixe menus all year round, starting at $36 per person, but the addition of the hookah (which on its own costs about $25) and cocktail to our own $30 deal definitely made it more worthwhile. 

There were only a few small downsides.  Around 9:15 or 9:30 p.m. club-style music began blasting through the lounge.  This was about the time that the dinner-goers began to funnel out and the singles began to wander in.  Also, they carded us even for dinner at 7:30 p.m., so this may not be a place for you if you are under 21, or if you want to enjoy a quiet or romantic meal after 9:00 p.m.  The other con is the bathroom size.  In an apparent attempt to keep up with their "we're a sexy lounge/restaurant" theme, there was practically no real lighting in the bathroom, which was really more like a closet than a washroom.  It reminded me of the bathroom my first studio apartment, where you sat on the toilet and your knees touched the sink.  And, it was so over-done on ambience I felt like I should have been having a drunken tryst inside, rather than just using the ladies' room.  But if you can deal with that, I would definitely recommend Le Souk for hookah and food.

Le Souk Harem is located at 510 LaGuardia Place.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

How to Get a Good Deal in New York City.

There are many email listservs out there these days offering discounts to restaurants, bars,  events and even for services such as massages and haircuts in New York City.  In fact, the majority of these are based in national websites that specifically tailor discount offers to the zip code provided by those who sign up for the email list.  Usually there is one or a handful of daily discounts offered in a particular region, and one only has a limited amount of time to purchase the deal.  Some sites also impose other restrictions, such as needing a certain amount of people to sign up before the discount has any value (and if you have already given your credit card information, you are assured that you will not be charged unless the discount is activated).

Recently on these sites I have purchased deals at John's Pizzeria of Bleecker Street ($20 of food for $10), Le Souk Harem (tasting menu, cocktail, hookah for $30), Artisinal (discounted 4 course meal with wine pairings for two), and Club A Steakhouse (discounted 4 course meal with bottle of wine for 2), and a $30 all-access-week pass to Brooklyn Boulders, which includes a belay course and yoga classes.  After you purchase and pay online, you will typically receive a redemption certificate or voucher in your email inbox, which you can they use at your chosen discount location, and many vouchers are good for one year from the date of purchase.

Some examples of these websites are: 

Other similar sites: (toting itself as "free and cheap new york," this site provides a daily 411 on events in the city, and also usually has a good list of deals collected from many of the above sites)  (coupons for restaurants, some have nominal fees) (discounts at participating restaurants, usually involves purchasing a $25 "gift certificate" for $3 or $10) (it's not just for travel! sign up and you'll periodically get specialized savings on events and restaurants in New York) (this one is mostly accessed through your employer.  if your employer does not offer you a plum benefits code, ask! I've gotten great discounts to Broadway theater, among other things, on this site)

Know of any other good ones?  Leave a comment.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I took my pants off on the subway for the first (but probably not the last) time.

On Sunday, January 9, I met up with hundreds of strangers at Foley Square, all with one goal in mind: to take our pants off on the subway.  This annual event, which now takes place in 50 cities in 24 countries, as I was told when I arrived, is a prank/comedy event that involves a whole bunch of "undercover agents," like myself, gathering together to ride the subways in our skivvies.  The only real requirements are that you wear underwear (or something resembling underwear...) and that you act as if you have no idea why anyone else has their pants off, and come up with witty lines when people ask you why you yourself are removing your pants or have no pants on, such as "My pants were getting uncomfortable."  Participants are assigned to a subway line and car, and take turns removing their pants and placing them in a backpack or bag.  Then they take turns exiting the subway car, waiting for another subway to arrive and boarding.  Then they simply ride the subway for awhile, without any pants on, along whatever path they have been assigned, eventually converging on Union Square.

Considering that this was the 10th Anniversary of the No Pants Subway Ride in New York, hosted by the ever more infamous Improv Everywhere group, which boasted 3500 participants this year in the New York ride alone, I was surprised to find that many New Yorkers were still shocked, some appalled, but most amused, by our pantless display.  As predicted, at least a few subway riders asked me why I had no pants on, and I gave my rehearsed answers, "I forgot my pants today," or "It was getting hot so I took my pants off." If this provoked a response of, "Well, why are there so many other people without their pants off?," the natural answer was, of course, "I guess they were also getting hot/forgot their pants," or, "Didn't you hear about the warm weather we're supposed to have today?"  (It was 30-something degrees out, Fahrenheit).  Not everyone was fooled though... One young man did ask me, "So, is today Improv Everywhere's No Pants Subway Ride?"  I stared quizzically at him and responded, "Improv Everywhere? What's that?."

What surprised me the most about this day was not the size of the crowd itself, nor the willingness of participants to remain in their underwear once the event ended, and then to carry on the rest of their evening in such state of (un)dress, nor the announcement that the age of the oldest participant was 76, and the youngest was just shy of one year old.  Rather, I was impressed by the total cooperation we received from the New York City Police Department.  Our fine men and women in blue were there to facilitate throughout the whole process, at each of the six meetup points across Manhattan and the outer boroughs, while we rode the trains, and through the end of the event, ensuring that the ride went smoothly and safely.  All in all, everyone had a good time.

Oh and, Mom and Dad, if you're reading this, don't worry, I wore boy shorts.