BlackBook Exclusive: Bridges & Powerlines, ‘Park Slope’

Admit it: not living in Brooklyn means your entire sense of the place derives from New York Times trend pieces and HBO comedies. Happily, a more nuanced study of the borough arrives on May 21, courtesy of Bridges & Powerlines. Their Better EP contains five tracks evoking neighborhoods from Green Point to East New York. And we’re delighted to premiere “Park Slope” right now.

This isn’t a song about stroller-pushing yoga instructors, thank god—rather a charging bit of power-pop cut with the nervy indie rock of the now sacred 1990s. And in fact the quaint locale only serves as a backdrop of sorts, as it would in real life, for bracingly emotional realities: hospitals, war, faiths lost and found.

Because this stuff promises to be even more ferociously tuneful in a live setting, please note: Bridges & Powerlines will be headlining a show at Mercury Lounge on April 18. It’ll be like Brooklyn in Manhattan!

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This Week’s NYC Happenings: Sea Witch, Family Recipe, Veg Food Festival

THURSDAY: NYC Beer Week Chugs Along
NYC Beer Week is underway, with 300 hopped-up events spread across the city. Catch choice pints at the Williamsburg Cask Beer Festival at d.b.a., Funky Jewbelation Thursday night at Barcade, and the Sunday afternoon closing bash at La Birreria. On Thursday night let one-buck oysters, DJ Teeth, and rare drafts from Smuttynose lure you to neighborhood fave Sea Witch in the South Slope.

Beer and oysters at Sea Witch (703 Fifth Ave., Park Slope) kick off at 7pm on Thursday the 28th. To learn more about the bar, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

WEDNESDAY: Sake Goodness
Chef Akiko Thurnauer has been turning out creative Japanese to rave reviews at Family Recipe for over a year now. This Wednesday, join two experts as they pair eight sakes with selections from the winter menu.

The Midwinter Sake Social at Family Recipe (231 Eldridge St., Lower East Side) runs from 8pm to 11pm Wednesday the 27th. Advance tickets are $48. To learn more about the restaurant, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

Vegetarian cuisine has come a long way from mock fish and carrot bacon. Check out the fruits of the movement this weekend at the Vegetarian Food Festival, when the likes of The Butcher’s Daughter and Beyond Sushi join the third-annual event at the Metropolitan Pavilion.

The NYC Vegetarian Food Festival at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 W. 18th St., Chelsea) starts 10am on both Saturday and Sunday, March 2nd and 3rd. General admission tickets are $5. To learn more about the event space, check out the listing at BlackBook Guides.

A Little Spice Comes to Brooklyn: Q&A With Piquant Chef Patrick Allouache

On the bustling Flatbush Avenue in Park Slope, the restaurant Piquant has quietly been serving up pan-Latin and Southwestern cuisine for a few years. Oddly enough, I went on a blind date there right when it opened, but that was another time and another chef. Now the lounge-like eatery welcomes Patrick Allouache to the kitchen. Haling from France, Allouache worked at the Paris brasserie Charlot Roi des Coquillages and helmed New York restaurants Brasserie Pigalle and the now-closed L’Orto, where he earned a Michelin star. With Piquant, the French chef is adding food from his homeland and mixing it with the Latin American flavors the Brooklyn joint has become known for. I contacted Allouache to find out what he has in store for Piquant, and how a French-Latin mash-up really works.

Why did you choose to take over as chef here? 
I was looking for new challenge. I spent most of my career in upscale and traditional French restaurants in both Paris and New York, including Brasserie Pigalle, though I was also executive chef at L’Orto, a restaurant that combined fine French and Italian food. So running a restaurant that sought to unite Latin and French cuisines was too exciting of an opportunity to pass up.    

What do you hope to bring to Piquant?
Creativity, fresh ingredients, and new energy. I want to embrace a new style of fine dining that’s French meets pan-Latin, with Spanish influences, too.

Do you think French and Latin American food go well together? Why or why not?
Of course, food has no borders.

How is the menu at Piquant going to change?
I want it to be more reflective of a fine dining experience, which I think the neighborhood will embrace. The food will be fresh, hearty without being heavy, and very unique.

Do you have a signature dish?
There are two that I’m especially proud of: the Foie Gras Quesadilla and the Chilean Sea Bass in a chorizo broth. I’m actually from the Southwest of France, which is the foie gras capital of the world, so I knew I wanted to use that ingredient. Since we’re doing Latin-inspired food, it was only natural to add foie gras to a quesadilla with huitlacoche and zucchini blossoms. I also took inspiration from the classic croque monsieur sandwich and added aged gruyere cheese to the quesadilla. As for the Chilean Sea Bass in a chorizo broth, that came about because I wanted to add spice to a fish dish. I then added huitlacoche, zucchini blossoms, and the black olive tapenade to tie all the flavors together.

What dish should I really get excited about? All of them! But aside from the aforementioned signature dishes, I’m also very excited about the Roasted Halibut with a langoustine “con carne” style. That dish was inspired by the chili con carne one my cooks made for family meal. 

Bring on the Meat: New Places to Pig Out

In the last month, it’s been a sausage fest in New York, and the latest joint to make the scene is San Francisco transplant Rosamunde in Williamsburg. This rustic shop just opened a week ago on the bustling Bedford Avenue, and already it’s become a hot spot. Maybe this is due to Rosamunde’s laidback staff and lack of hipster bartenders. Maybe they are stoned (they’re from California!). Or maybe the meat is so good that everyone is just high off of sausage. I like this option the best, but if you want to check it out for yourself, go to their official opening party on Saturday from 6 to 9 PM. There you can get sausages like the spicy pork Italian, wild boar with apple, or chicken habanero, which is smoked with tequila.

You can also fill up on sausage at the newly opened Die Koelner Bierhalle in Park Slope. This biergarten serves up some mean German fare, including a traditional bratwurst with sauerkraut, bauenwurst, currywurst, kielbasa, and the wurst of them all, wiesswurst, which comes pressed into a soft pretzel with sweet mustard. Also in the German sausage category, Radegast Hall & Biergarten has a whole griddle full of meat links, and, if you don’t know what they are, just point to what looks good. For a more high-class sausage, Daniel Boulud’s DBGB in the East Village offers excellent homemade ones.  Is there a missing link? Feel free to chime in on more great sausage spots?

New York Openings: Granduca di Sicilia, Dizzy’s on 5th, Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya

Granduca di Sicilia (Flatiron) – Sicilian villa restaurant imports brick oven pizzas and fresh seafood.

Dizzy’s on 5th (Park Slope) – This fine diner grabs a prime corner in brunch domination.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Izakaya (LES) – Blue Ribbon’s greatest hits: brunches, fried chicken, and über-fresh sushi.

New York Opening: Talde

Park Slope, Brooklyn is a lovely, if simplistically-named neighborhood. There’s a park, there’s a slope, there are about 8 billion kids under the age of ten, and there are countless businesses that cater to them and their families. There aren’t very many truly exciting restaurants, at least compared to Manhattan, but that’s starting to change, if the opening of Talde on Seventh Avenue near the F train stop is any indication. Top Chef All-Star Dale Talde‘s new restaurant – which he opened with partners David Massoni and John Bush of nearby Thistle Hill Tavern – began welcoming diners on Sunday, and judging from the crowds that have flocked to the place since then, the sleek Asian-American restaurant has already won the neighborhood’s heart. 

Ironically, Talde is located just around the corner from Seventh Avenue’s only other truly fine-dining restaurant, Applewood, which recently got dissed by New York‘s Adam Platt, but is still pretty great. For its part, Talde is going to keep it (somewhat) simple, with dishes like Korean fried chicken and barbecued pork shoulder. But there’s clearly a fanciness here that’s been missed in the area, and the gorgeous space, with huge picture windows, plenty of dark wood and brass, and a strikingly handsome bar with all my favorite spirits and beers, beckons passersby with good food and a hip, comfortable atmosphere. I live around the corner and I’ll admit I’ve been peeking through the windows for months, waiting for the big news. I predict that Talde will quickly become a neighborhood staple, with locals happily skipping the trip into Manhattan (and saving an hour of babysitting fees in the process) to dine in this hot spot. 

But will it draw Manhattanites to Brooklyn? It might, if they knew how easy it was to get there. Just jump on an F train, marvel at the fact that you can see the Statue of Liberty from the windows along the way, hop out at Seventh Avenue, and walk two blocks from the station. It’s just 20 minutes from West 4th Street, maybe 30 door-to-door, max.  If there’s a wait and the bar is packed, pop into nearby Beer Table for a brew and marvel at how nice the Slope has gotten in recent years. You could live here, right? Well, maybe when you have kids. 

Gowanus is the New Park Slope (With Used Condoms)!

Stereotypes often exist for a reason, especially when it comes to broad-stroke descriptions of neighborhoods. There are a lot of scary folk near Bed-Stuy. Tapered denim has overtaken Williamsburg. Young married couples aren’t using condoms in Park Slope, which is notorious for its sea of strollers and lesbians. You know where they are using condoms? In Gowanus, that’s where. And each day, on my walk to and from the subway, I’m reminded of it.

If there were tracks to separate idyllic Park Slope from its ugly orphan equivalent in Gowanus, they’d cut somewhere across Fourth Avenue. Above: cutesy gardens with homemade signs; vegan dishes served by biodegradable waiters; vintage clothing for every shape and obesity. Below, on Razor Blade Row: used condoms; broken glass bottles; one resolute hooker without teeth who just won’t leave. Ah, home.

In light of recent articles in The New York Times and on New York‘s “Daily Intelligencer,” both of which address the apathy with which Park Slope haters now drip, I’ve decided to shed light on the hamlet of Gowanus.

Nestled among an industrial wasteland that consists of some sort of seedy textile operation, a once thriving box factory, and a whole pack of friendly attacks dogs contained by barbed wire, lies Gowanus. There is nary a kid in sight. There are few restaurants, and only one decent bar (but it serves popcorn, and you can bring your own burger meat and the tenders will cook it). There are plently of colorful locals that give me nightmares as I rest my head on my pillow at night. There’s even a canal to separate us from the yuppie assholes over in Carroll Gardens (and we love it, even if it’s more diseased than Jerri Blank’s ovaries).