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Brooklyn Gal

Bye Bye Bird-ie

Local boutique closes shop

With the world turned upside down right now, retail is obviously having a tough time, especially the indie boutiques where we here at the Brooklyn Gal draw much of our style inspiration.

The other day, while out taking a mental health walk, we noticed that the Park Slope branch of longtime trendsetter Bird was all papered up, with a lovely good-bye note plastered on the window. Luckily, this offshoot is the only casualty; Bird’s other shops in Cobble Hill, Fort Greene and Williamsburg are poised to reopen (at least to our knowledge) post-Corona, while the online store is still humming along.

In some ways, it’s the end of an era. But isn’t everything these days?

We must admit that Bird’s closing makes us a bit nostalgic. Many years ago, when its first branch opened in its former location, on Seventh Avenue, in the South Slope, Bird was truly a revelation. At last, a Brooklyn boutique stocked with indie designers, cool clothes that you weren’t likely to see anywhere, especially department stores. The vibe was friendly yet hip, the staff super helpful. And the selection made our hearts go pitter-pat—this, we realized, was what fashion dreams were made of. Even then, the prices were aspirational, meaning that we lusted more than purchased, but never mind: Bird, way back when, raised the style bar, especially for the neighborhood.

Lately, we’ve looked to Bird for that fashion shot in the arm, but it hasn’t totally delivered. While the selection doesn’t always wow, with many of the items too boxy (looking at you, Black Crane), pricey or just not us, we still remain loyal to this Brooklyn outfit. After all, one of these days, when the Brooklyn Gal can actually walk through the doors, we know that we’ll be swept off our feet by some must-have dress or jumpsuit from Alex Mill, Ganni, Mara Hoffman, Rachel Comey, or some amazing new designer we’ve never, ever heard of.

It’s in the cards, just like spring.

 

Brooklyn Gal is Back

Kick up your heels! The Brooklyn Gal is back in town!

Okay, it’s been a dog’s age since the Brooklyn Gal last posted. We could blame it on corporate ennui. We could say that we’ve been hard at work on our novel, a blockbuster sure to sell like hotcakes. We could come up a zillion reasons why we’ve been so darned distracted, but really, who cares? The Brooklyn Gal is back, so stay tuned!

 

Old New York, New York

Just the other day, the Brooklyn Gal met a friend at The Bar Room at Temple Court, the glamorous watering hole inside The Beekman hotel in Lower Manhattan. We sidled up to the long sweeping bar, settled into the luxe bottle-green cushioned barstools and soaked up the old-timey atmosphere. An eerie portrait of Edgar Allan Poe stared at us from across the room—eek!—and as we quickly turned away, the soaring nine-story atrium, outfitted with Victorian-era wrought iron railings, caught our eye. Up, up, up, we gazed, awed by the intricate details. By the time our handcrafted cocktails arrived, served in vintage-y barware, but of course, we felt as if we had entered a gilt-edged time tunnel. Hello, Old New York.

Once we started traveling down retro road, well, there was no stopping us. We found ourselves thinking of all the glorious buildings around town that truly embody centuries past, from the Park Avenue Armory, a gorgeous Gilded Age beauty, to the Stockholm export, Fotografiska, a stunning new photography museum, set in a meticulously renovated Renaissance Revival building. And then our minds wandered closer to home: to the majestic Brooklyn Public Library, a neighborhood fixture since 1896, and to our beloved Montauk Club, a private club since 1889, designed by the illustrious Francis H. Kimball, where the Brooklyn Gal got married.

We could wax nostalgic about every Old New York building that captures our imagination, but alas, that would take an eternity.

 

Who’s Your Goddess?

A strange thing happened the other night in Nyack, New York: the Brooklyn Gal got into the goddess groove.

We’ve never considered ourselves, well, particularly mystic or otherworldly, we’ve never studied ancient myths, Greek or otherwise, with scholarly intensity, we’ve never even hummed Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” that Stevie Nicks’ chestnut, inspired by the Welch lunar goddess. And yet, there we were, on a crisp fall night, whirling around a yoga studio-turned-party room, hands joined with men and women of all stripes, celebrating the release of photographer Lisa Levart’s glorious new book, Goddess on Earth, Portraits of the Divine Feminine (LUSH Press).

A visual feast printed in Verona, Italy, Lisa’s hardcover volume features women ages 8 to 99, from doctors, designers and psychiatrists to renowned actresses Karen Allen, Olympia Dukakis, Lisa Gay Hamilton and best-selling authors Isabel Allende, Madhur Jaffrey and Rose Styron. Each woman is powerful and awe inspiring in their everyday life; each transformed, as if by magic, into a strong, beautiful goddess of their choice by Lisa’s lens.

Whether Celtic or Roman, African or Egyptian, the goddesses’ stories transcend the ages, and so do Lisa’s exuberant, life-embracing photos. Her book may be called Goddess on Earth but these images are most definitely celestial.

 

 

Fashion on Fifth

For the past few weeks we’ve made detours to Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets just to peer in the window of Cozbi and check on its progress. To date all we saw were the vague signs of a Park Slope boutique unfolding, namely, a papered-up glass window and the moniker Cozbi stenciled on the front, with the alluring promise of ‘homemade goodness.’

We had heard of Cozbi, of course and knew that the designer behind it, Cozbi A. Cabrera, also ran a cute shop in Carroll Gardens where she sold her Brooklyn-made women’s frocks, children’s clothing and handmade dolls. We always meant to visit her original shop but somehow never made it during business hours.

On a whim we just took another stroll to Fifth and behold: plenty of progress! The window, now unsheathed, features eyelet dress and other summery temptations and beyond, racks of colorful cottony clothing and boxes waiting to be unpacked.

Our guess is that the Slope opening is just days, maybe moments away so we won’t have to travel more than a few blocks to explore Cozbi’s lovely designs firsthand.

Welcome to the neighborhood!

 

 

 

 

 

Edible Brooklyn| Spring 2011

Mastering the Art of Mexican Cooking

A Park Slope chef from Mexico City has penned a Latin answer to the Julia Child classic.

By Randi Gollin

It’s not that Roberto Santibañez aspires to be a 21st-century Julia Child—Julie Powell of Julie & Julia fame more or less has that ground covered. But with his just-released cookbook, Truly Mexican (John Wiley & Sons), the highly acclaimed chef/owner of Park Slope’s popular restaurant Fonda hopes to channel what Child did for French cuisine and eliminate the intimidation factor that often stands between American home cooks and great Mexican fare.

Child led that charge by hoisting beehived and be-Jelloed homemakers over cultural hurdles with her own culinary bible, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Correspondingly, Santibañez, who hails from Mexico City, aims for his vivid tome to educate enthusiasts on how to cook authentic carnitas, enchiladas, tostadas and taquitos—all illuminated by his lessons on authentic, transcendent sauces. Instead of veering into well-trod topics like Mexico’s diverse regional cuisines and rich history, covered by the influential likes of Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless, he focuses on the salsas, guacamoles, adobes, moles and pipiánes that form the backbone of Mexican flavors, offering step-by-step directives that are certain to vanquish that no-can-do mindset and replace it with a hearty sí se puede!

In much the same spirit as that famous big-boned dame, Santibañez aims to infuse a soupçon of much-needed levity into the making of a truly Mexican meal. Fittingly, he credits his fascination with Child in equal measure to her endearing flaws and accomplishments. He admires the way she taught America tech niques for dishes they loved to eat, but didn’t know how to cook.“She did so beautifully, saying ‘don’t be scared—grab the chicken and cook it this way.’ And she sometimes got it wrong and she would laugh about it—it was fantastic.”

Coincidentally, Santibañez also trained at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the storied culinary school where the indomitable icon herself first embraced the joys of cooking à la française, whisking her way into epicurean history. He found many French cooking methods to be a revelation, worlds away from those he grew up watching over his grandmother’s shoulder as she stirred her cazuela. He was amazed to learn that the addition or subtraction of a few ingredients could convert one so-called Mother sauce, say, béarnaise, into a Maltese.

In Truly Mexican, Santibañez hands readers the Mother-sauce keys to the cuisine of his homeland. Instead of scattering recipes for, say, moles, throughout the book, he presents them together—and reveals—eureka!—how alike they can be. “I’m just trying to [show] people, oh my God, the basic techniques give you all these possibilities,” he explains. “We Mexicans have made it seem, because of our historical

facts and geographical diversity, much more complicated than it really is. Once you understand it, it’s so much simpler.”

Brooklynite bookmaster J. J. Goode, who’s currently collaborating on cookbooks with such culinary nobility as April Bloomfield, Zak Pelaccio and Aarón Sanchez, himself took on the project as a Mexican cooking neophyte, but came away with a new skill set, inhibitions long forgotten. “Mexican food is so popular, but people still do not cook it at home at all. And it’s really, really doable,” he insists. “I’d say it’s even easier than French food, even peasant French food—easier than beef Bourguignon, for sure.”

Goode joined Santibañez and Shelley Wiseman, the chef ’s longtime friend and the book’s recipe developer, countless times in one or the other’s home kitchen, and that’s where the knowledge in Santibañez’s head and hands literally got translated onto the page. “You get the best information when you’re cooking with someone,” says Goode. “Roberto’s very laid-back in the kitchen, and Shelley has her stopwatch and she’s saying, ‘Roberto, when did you add the water?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t know, Shelley, I just added it.’ It was like Abbott and Costello,” he laughs. “But it’s great to have that precision. You know chefs—‘it’s done when it’s done.’ And home cooks are like, ‘OK, what the hell does that mean?’”

Such exactitude has its rewards, as evidenced in recipes like “Pork in Adobo D.F.” (an abbreviation for Distrito Federal, or Mexico City). The five-ingredient adobo—a boldly flavored, blender-whirred puree of dried chiles, garlic, spices and vinegar—is laced with cinnamon, preferably canela (Mexican cinnamon), and as the pork shoulder chunks simmer, the sauce becomes spectacularly silky.

“I always speak about the platform of flavors, colors, textures that make cuisines what they are,” explains Santibañez. “We use many similar ingredients to China and India, but our food tastes distinct.” Mexicans, he points out, roast tomatoes, garlic and tomatillos, without one drop of oil, in the toaster oven or pan, until charred. And they toast chiles on a griddle, comal or heavy skillet, until blistered—core precepts passed down through the generations. “All these little factors give us these flavors that are particularly Mexican.”

Goode found such fundamentals an eye-opener—and exceptionally easy to master in his own kitchen. “I make stuff all the time now and it’s amazing how good it can turn out!” he raves, sounding a little surprised himself.

Somewhere up in food heaven, Julia Child must be smiling.

(Click on link to see story on Edible Brooklyn’s site. BOOKlyn | Spring 2011)

 

Funky, Funky – Yet Chic!

Spring fever has hit! We here at the Brooklyn Gal have been busy window shopping at some of our favorite Brooklyn boutiques, searching for stylish, quasi-budget friendly finds to pine for. What have we found? Well, it looks like hippiesh cloth handbags are definitely having their fashion moment. And we want in!

Whether  you opt for a colorful beauty like the madcap patchwork leather-strapped fair-trade tote at Diana Kane, the recycled, organically dyed ikat JadeTRIBE hobo trimmed with bohemian shell-flecked fringe at Kaight or the Thomas IV canteen handbag made from ethnic materials and luscious leather at Bird, you’re certain to add a much-needed bright spot to your wardrobe.

We think they’re the perfect spring-fling addition – especially if you tend to dress in an all-black urban uniform six days out of seven (we’re just sayin’…)

 

Village Triangle

There they were, their somber faces staring out at us from shadowy black-and-white photos in Monday’s edition of The New York Times: four of the six immigrant victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, finally identified after dying in obscurity ten decades ago. March 25th marks the 100-year anniversary of the tragic Greenwich Village factory fire that claimed the lives of 146 men and women and prompted the creation of empowering organizations like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

We here at the Brooklyn Gal have always been fascinated by old-timey New York City so we were quite moved by this haunting NYT article. And we tip our hats to Michael Hirsch, an amateur genealogist, historian and co-producer of HBO’s upcoming documentary Triangle: Remembering the Fire, who tenaciously researched sundry documents, including census records, death certificates and ethnic publications to solve this longtime puzzle of lost identity.

Sure, we wonder what the fashions on the street were like back in 1911 – perhaps bustle– or hobble-skirts, crisp shirtwaists, like those churned out by the Triangle and sturdy black lace-up granny boots – but what we really ask ourselves is what would have become of these oppressed workers (and their descendants) had they been given the chance to live full, happy lives?

So as we walk the city blocks in the weeks to come, we vow to say a silent prayer for the recently named men and women and the other victims, too, all of whom lost their lives trying to scrape a living together in the promised land of downtown Manhattan.

 

The Lock of Love

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner the Brooklyn Gal’s thoughts naturally turn toward…gold lockets. Corny, we know, but we’ve always had a thing for delicate little hearts engraved with curlicue patterns or studded with diamond specks. And when they open and close with a tiny clasp, with enough room for a dime-sized photo, heck, our hearts just go pitter-pat.

We’ve come across some irresistible lockets lately while browsing online, like a Victorian sapphire and pearl beauty from Doyle & Doyle, a haven of vintage wonders, a charmer from Flotsam & Jetsam at the ever-adorable Catbird in Williamsburg and a lovely rose gold number from Yayoi Forest at Steven Alan. Nonetheless, we’re still smitten with the one locket that got away, or rather, the one we failed to buy one early fall day.

It was, without a doubt, a real sweetheart, and we spied it while browsing in Assembly New York, one of the coolest boutiques on the LES. The salesperson told us that it was a relic from WWII, and, like many of its ilk, had once contained a lock of hair inside, a token from a girl back home to her soldier at the front. Fittingly, such WWII trinkets were called sweetheart lockets (and yes, there were pins too) and they usually bore U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy insignias.

We here at the BG have always had a weakness for treasures with a backstory. Should we ever venture upon such a find again we will not hesitate to snap it up. Unless, of course, our amour gets there first!

 

Feels Like Old Times

Gibson gal of yore

Years ago, in the 1990s, when you bought something vintage, be it clothing or jewelry, it was usually an item that was decades old and if not valuable, at least terribly unique or kooky or maybe even collectible. Nowadays, sad to say, it seems that anything more than five seasons old is called vintage. We here at the Brooklyn Gal think that’s a crying shame.

The thing is, we’ve always been attracted to vintage, in the truest sense of the word. We’d like to think it has something to do with our past lives. Perhaps we were Gibson Girls who turned heads with our poufy pompadours or fabulous flappers who danced our way through the roaring ’20s or Bohemians who rubbed elbows with famous artists and writers during the heyday of the Bloomsbury Group. Whoever we were, we hope that we were über-stylish and that we had the good sense to hold onto our favorite things for posterity.

We thought of all of these things just the other day when we wandered into Pippin Vintage Jewelry in Chelsea. As we browsed through this treasure trove literally stuffed with dazzling finds, we realized that we’ve not only become jaded by new-school “vintage” – we’ve also become accustomed to high-end vintage jewelry that costs an arm and a leg (which we have been lucky enough to receive as gifts from favorite haunts like Aaron Faber and Doyle & Doyle).

A favorite from our jewelry box

But Pippin was something different. While there were plenty of items, like marvelous cameos, that rightfully cost a mint, there were also tons of incredible pendants, strands of pearls and funky clip-on earrings of the costume jewelry variety from countless eras past. And, hello, these pieces were totally affordable, like 25 or 35 bucks. If we wanted, say, a funky necklace from the 1950s with tons of character or a cloisonné bracelet watch to take a simple black dress up a notch, we need look no further.

Pippin was, without a doubt, a revelation. It made us believe in power of vintage – as in real vintage – all over again. We can’t wait to go back again!