Tour de Brooklyn: A Borough Grub Crawl

Last weekend Bon Appetit magazine teamed up with Belvedere Vodka and Chase Sapphire to take a tour of the ever-expanding Brooklyn Food scene. Focusing on three key neighborhoods, Cobble Hill, Williamsburg, and Red Hook, the tours worked to really highlight some of the areas’ best food options, while making it walker-friendly.

I was lucky enough to join Friday’s Cobble Hill grub crawl and started out at Frank Castronovo and Frank Falcinelli’s Italian inspired restaurant Frankies 457 Spuntino. The joint was packed inside, but luckily we ducked out into the garden to sip a berry-ripe lambrusco and nibble on seasonal crostini. The way the tour worked was that they had four groups of people intermittently going to one of the four spots where we stayed for about 45 minutes. Frankies proved a good place to start, but our next stop felt a little awkward.

Dessert before dinner, anyone? Not that I am actually complaining. Given our tour took us to Kim Ima’s brick-and-mortar location of Treats Truck and to a pile of luscious peanut butter and chocolate sandwich cookies, it was a win-win situation. We followed that up with Clover Club and had a lovely punch by cocktail goddess Julie Reiner, who was actually there explaining her drink, giving us a recipe, and then pouring up their house drink comprised of raspberries and Dorothy Parker gin. We ended the night at Seersucker and sampled chef Robert Newton’s sinful fried chicken, fluffy biscuits, pimento cheese, and the Thirsty Owl Riesling that they have on tap. All together, the tour did highlight some of the hottest spots in the neighborhood right now.

On Saturday they covered Williamsburg and smartly chose Rye for cocktails, Maison Premiere for oysters, and Brooklyn Winery for a tour and wine tasting. The other two places I was less impressed with and would have skipped, one of which was Allswell because, frankly, it’s not anything special. Same for the jaunt to the Meatball Shop; while it’s delicious, there’s nothing Brooklyn about it given its two other locations in Manhattan. Sunday’s food crawl took place in Red Hook and did the neighborhood well by hitting up Stumptown Coffee Roasters, trying St. John Frizell’s southern-style Fort Defiance, eating Korean breakfast at The Good Fork, filling up on smoked meat at Mile End, and dancing at the historical bar Sunny’s.

Overall, the folks behind the tour did well to give a broad sampling of the neighborhoods that you can easily walk around in. The only other location I would have included is Prospect Heights where you can easily indulge in seasonal nibbles from The Vanderbilt, cocktails at Weather Up, ramen at Chuko, and oysters at Cornelius—but I guess that’s a good excuse to do that one on my own. 

A Little Snow Never Stopped the Rolling Stones

The snow came down like in Zhivago, a beautifully white biblical level disaster that wiped out streets and most of nightlife. A coincidence– the pleas of two beautiful women–tore me from my home and hearth. Proceeding the girlish pleas, bartender and muse Sara Copeland and photographer/filmmaker/bon vivant H. Spencer Young called me. They had been at the Vanity Fair event at the IAC building. They gushed of Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kehinde Wiliey and the cast of Green Day’s American Idiot braving the elements to be there. Somehow the event was crowded. Afterwards, they joined me by the fire and we smoked cheap cigars and watched Big Love reruns until the call of the wild, wild blizzard and a need for meatballs drove us into the beauty. We walked over to the Meatball Shop devirginizing the snow and throwing balls of fluff at taxi cabs. We ate hardy fare and root beer. It was then that the phone pleas started.

With most promotional units texting that their galas had been canceled the beautiful and adorable Stephanie Nicole Podasca texted me that the NYC Rolling Stones party was still happening at the Belmont Lounge. She was telling me for weeks that this was the best game in town. Beside being cute and adorable and beautiful, she is sharp, smart and ultra hip, in a good way. The phone also rang with my Miami gal pal Donya, in for a couple of days to enjoy the weather, looking for something to do. We all decided to head to the Belmont Lounge to catch a good party while on the way we were catching snowflakes on our tongues.


The Belmont was amazing. Maybe the storm culled out the losers. The crowd was stunning, all dressed like Rolling Stones covers from the ‘60s. It was “Under My Thumb”, “19th Nervous Breakdown” and obscure and familiar cuts offered by DJ Kelle Calco. I told him of my rare, mostly unrecorded Stones collection and my encounters over the centuries with members of the band. I asked him to tell me what’s up with this night.


“We are really psyched that you came by to check out the party and glad you’re truly into the music! I have some pretty cool Keith Richards bootlegs with all kinds of rarities on them, maybe we could do a trade! The story about how the night came into being is actually pretty cool. I had the vision since the summer, just kept telling everyone I met that I was going to start a Rolling Stones dance party. I originally had the feeling it was going to happen in the bar where Keith meets Mick during the ‘Waiting on a Friend’ music video. Turns out that place closed. I was disappointed. One night in December, after a bad date, I went into the Skinny on Orchard Street on a Monday night to get one last drink at 3:30am. This unlikely fellow from Connecticut comes up and says he digs my groove and invited me to a big loft party afterwards, started talking about going with the flow, positive vibes, etc. I didn’t believe him but after talking about all that and having nothing better to do, I just went with it. Sure enough, I show up and it’s happening, and I’m pouring another drink when I realize that I’m in a private gallery of all these rare Stones photographs somewhere around 25th Street or so. Just as I wake up my buddy to tell him how cool this was on the phone, this girl walks up to me and introduces herself. I start telling her how crazy it is to end up there because they’re a big inspiration and trying to start this party. Then she says she just came from a meeting with the owner of Belmont Lounge who said he was looking for something new…and basically that was that, right there in front of some print of Brian Jones at 6am on a Monday night, go figure.”


My crew and I had a blast. Over the years I have learned that on the days when the elements are roaring, the meek shall inherit HBO and microwave popcorn and there is a great party going on somewhere and you need to find it. Stones night at the Belmont is a great party. The players gave me the old, “if not for the snow it would be more crowded” rap but it was crowded enough and it was a great crowd. To say that it looked like a fabulous beer commercial at times might be accurate, with whispy women in whispy outfits and men whose hats were weightier than they are. But it was more than that it had beautiful diversity and infectious spirit. Everybody was buying us beers and making us feel just lovely. Donya, Danny and Lou, the Miami/New York crew had left The Standard to be here. On rough nights the hotel bars and lounges do well as their tourist occupants must not waste a night out, but fear being stranded somewhere in the big city. They stay close to their warm rooms. So it’s tourists hanging with tourists believing they’re having a New York experience. Donya knew better and had a much better time at the Belmont.

The Rolling Stones party manifesto:

“THE NYC ROLLING STONES PARTY IS A DANCE CLUB about Rock N Roll, Love, Light, Laughter, Ecstasy, Inebriation, Grit, and Glamour spreading and celebrating the spirit of a band who laid the bricks of urban bohemia and then proceeded to walk it barefoot. This is a place for souls who know that god still needs guitars and hearts don’t beat to a click track. As one million dreamers tap their toes and tune into Jagger’s lips and lyrics spitting on and all about the streets of New York….the very streets that we’re groovin on tonight…..we will be the faces they dream of, and this, my friend, is where those faces will meet.”

This party has the Uncle stamp of approval. If you need me next Thursday night for an old story, a comforting shoulder or a lustful liaison, I’ll be there.

Photos by H. Spencer Young