This summer is poised to be an exciting time for food lovers in Brooklyn, but does that really surprise you? Whether you want to eat, drink, or shop, here’s what the innovators of the industry are up to around the borough.
Dean Street is a Place to Call Home
Dean Street (755 Dean St) may have only opened in January, but if you spend just a few minutes at this restaurant and bar in Prospect Heights, you’ll feel like you’ve been going there for years. Maybe it’s the homey atmosphere created by the wooden tables, vases of flowers, and dark brown leather. Despite having completely renovated the building when co-owners John Longo and Rob Gelardi bought the place in the Fall of 2010, they have taken care to infuse the décor with nods to the building’s 120 year old history through exposed brick, Fleur de Lis wallpaper, and copper pipes. Even the smallest details have a retro vibe, from the jukebox in the corner to the reclaimed bowling lanes rescued from an old alley in Brooklyn that are now used as the counters for the café and prep stations.
Or, maybe it’s the community that makes you feel right at home. Longo and Gelardi grew up together in Long Island and now, after having worked their way through the restaurant business as waiters, bartenders, and bar owners, decided to open up a restaurant of their own. They are committed to supporting the local food scene, and have filled their space with professionals that have been working in the industry for years. Chef Mike Franzetti brought his French-Italian taste to the pub-fare of Dean Street from Stuzzechiera in TriBeCa, and has worked at Chestnut, Lupa, Washington Park, and Palladin before that. Their in-house baker, Ann, has worked around Brooklyn and now creates breads, scones, and muffins for the café. On tap at the bar is all local beer, including three types from Kelso, brewed a block away. Their organic ingredients are sourced from no farther than Pennsylvania, including their meat which is free from hormones and antibiotics.
The building has been a beloved neighborhood hang-out through its past three reincarnations as a restaurant since 1990, and its latest iteration as Dean Street stays true to the role this corner has played for decades. Open nearly twenty-four hours a day, it attracts a low-key crowd of locals seeking out its reasonably priced food without sacrificing quality. The day starts at the café at 7am, where patrons can enjoy Stumptown coffee, baked goods, and standard lunch items like salads and burgers starting at noon. Happy hour starts daily at 4pm and lasts until 8pm, where drafts and well drinks are only $4. Dinner begins to be served at 6pm, where you can choose from hearty entrees between $12 and $20 like chicken with mushroom gravy, trout with collard greens and cranberry beans, or beer braised short ribs with polenta. Or, enjoy classic bar snacks with a twist like corn dog poppers, crab cakes with lemon aioli, and fried cauliflower. An especially nice touch is that happy hour starts again at midnight and lasts until 2am with the same deals as the traditional time. Stay until 4am and then head home for a quick nap before starting over again, because that’s about the only thing Dean Street doesn’t offer.
Because Regular Old Booths Are Just So “Manhattan”
Brooklyn is already home to the Brooklyn Flea, Grand Army Plaza Farmers’ Market, and hundreds of independent food entrepreneurs, but what if you wanted to have access to all of these things in one place? While you’re at it, could you throw in an extra dose of creativity and transform an eyesore into an innovative micro-city? These may sound like lofty requests, but the answers to both of these questions lie within UrbanSpace’s latest project, Dekalb Market, coming to downtown Brooklyn at the end of the summer.
Inspired by their previous ventures of Container City, Old Spitalfields Market, and Camden Lock in London, where the organization turned downtrodden areas of the city into bustling marketplaces, UrbanSpace saw potential in the supply of unused shipping containers throughout the city and the space of the former parking structure of the old Ablee Square mall at Flatbush and Dekalb. They have been recruiting favored shops and vendors from around the borough, like SourPuss Pickles, Robicelli’s cupcakes, Dalaga, and 3rd Ward, to set up shop in a container of their own to create a main thoroughfare of retailers as the anchor of the market. Surrounding them will be small-scale restaurants serving takeaway meals, a performance space, and even an incubator farm that will supply the food vendors with ingredients. The entire operation will strive to be as sustainable as possible, using efforts like rainwater collection and green electricity.
Along with being another place to shop and eat, Dekalb Market wants to set itself apart by becoming an educational community center. Not only will the auditorium serve as a venue for local bands, organizations, and events, but they are asking all of their participants to try and create an educational component to their booth. The farm will be at the forefront of this by teaching guests about urban agriculture, providing cooking demos, and hosting various activities for kids. 3rd Ward’s plot will be an interesting experiment on how to bring together design, technology, and farming in new ways. Joe’s Coffee is also getting in on the fun by giving barista classes.
The community was even sourced for the creation of the market. In the Spring, UrbanSpace held a contest to design a container that could be featured in the space. The entries were narrowed down to five finalists by a panel of specialists, including representatives from Etsy, BAM, Cool Hunting, and Good.is, and were then voted on by the public. The winner would receive a container license rent-free for six months, a $3,000 construction budget, a one-year membership to 3rd Ward and the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and free consultation and building materials. After a tight race, the winner ended up being BBox Radio, an independent broadcasting station that would celebrate the creative, entrepreneurial nature of the market and its neighborhood.
All of the efforts of Dekalb Market will be building on their core values of entrepreneurship, quality, community, and sustainability. Brooklyn is already pulsing with these qualities, and this will be an opportunity for its people to learn even more from one another and experience what the city has to offer. The market will essentially represent the rapidly growing desire to do-it-yourself and get back to the land, but its leaders discourage looking back to the previous movement of the sixties and seventies, of which this current push is so reminiscent. Instead, they want to focus on the modernity of this time around, and how the resources and cohesiveness available today are setting us up now for success and a hopeful future. Keep track of the exciting developments at dekalbmarket.com.
When Vanilla Won’t Cut It
“I eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” says Sutheera Denprapa while sitting in her weeks-old ice cream shop and restaurant, Sky Ice, in Park Slope. A few years ago, she turned her love of ice cream into a hobby by making creative new flavors with an old-fashioned machine in her Queens apartment. After taking six months to perfect the recipe, she thought she stumbled onto a hit with her Thai Iced Tea flavor, so she started selling it to restaurants around the neighborhood. When one of her friends raved to her about this great new ice cream she tried, unaware that she was speaking to the creator herself, Denprapa decided it was time to expand. Having worked in Cobble Hill, she was familiar with Park Slope and figured its open-mindedness and kid-friendly vibe would be a good home for her creative pursuits in desserts.
Sky Ice has many things to offer, but it’s best to start with the ice cream. The shop serves sixteen flavors at a time, with about six rotating daily as Denprapa comes up with new ideas. There are always sorbets and vegan options, and everything is made in the tiny kitchen with all organic ingredients, no corn syrup, and no artificial flavoring. The result is smooth and creamy, but very light. For the less adventurous, there are some excellent stand-bys like salted caramel, mango, and coconut pineapple, but what makes this particular ice cream store special is its more exotic flavors, particularly the ones that are inspired by Denprapa’s Thai upbringing. Tropical fruits like lychees, papaya, or even durian –the notoriously stinky spiky thing you can sometimes find on Canal Street- make for a lovely treat, for example. Or, if you’re feeling really brave, why not try some of the savory options? Basil is particularly refreshing, and black sesame seaweed or even mixed vegetable are both surprisingly tasty.
Denprapa’s playfulness with her flavors extends to the rest of the dessert menu, where she offers a number of different variations of ice cream treats beyond the boundaries of a cup or cone. The sushi plate may look like lunch, but it’s created entirely out of sweet ingredients. The “seaweed” is rice paper roll surrounding sweet coconut sticky rice with a center of kiwi, strawberry, and lychee ice cream. A scoop of black sesame ice cream takes the place of wasabi, while a dollop of green tea chocolate sauce is made to look like soy sauce. There’s also the snowman with two scoops of ice cream, coconut flake snow, a face made up of almond slices and chocolate chips, and fruit leather for a scarf. Or, there’s the fish soup, with a scoop of ice cream floating in apple juice with gummy fish swimming around it.
It’s easy to get distracted by the inventiveness of Sky Ice’s dessert, but their dinner menu shouldn’t be ignored. They use rare, imported ingredients and traditional techniques to create healthy twists on Thai favorites. Their non-fry fried rice is all steamed with no oil, and gets its flavor instead from fresh water chestnuts, pineapple, raisins, and peas. They also have a non-fried version of curry puffs, and offer a green curry with rice noodles dish. If you feel inspired to try Thai cooking at home, you can find a small selection of groceries with hard to find ingredients like curry paste, fish sauce, and seaweed.
Check out what today’s flavors are on Facebook (facebook.com/SKYIcenyc), and then stop in the cozy shop on Fifth Avenue and St. Marks Place. Th e funky vintage décor makes a perfect spot to relax for an afternoon during these hot summer days.