Summer is a particularly fun time to live in Brooklyn. Whether it’s exploring innovative flavors and formats for pie, offering an opportunity to churn ice cream with a bicycle, or serving up a quirky dim sum brunch, these lighthearted shops, restaurants, and bars should be added to your ever-expanding list on how to make the most of our borough’s time to shine.
Join the Pie Corps
When Cheryl Perry and Felipa Lopez became friends ten years ago, they knew they were meant to go into business together. With a shared love of food, they began throwing around ideas on how they could fit in the burgeoning artisanal food scene. They would get together and spend days in the kitchen, baking bread, making sausages, or experimenting with candy making. None of these ventures seemed just right, but thankfully for us, it dawned on them one day to try baking pies. Cheryl, who had been working in the food industry for years as a chef, culinary arts teacher, and food service consultant, had been making a pie a day because “making a good pie is integral to being a good chef.” She discovered that Felipa, who was an acupuncturist that loved to cook, had also been making a pie a day, and the idea for Pie Corps was born.
“I feel like people are trying pie, but aren’t quite getting it yet,” Cheryl suggested to Felipa one day. They were excited by the endless potential for creating new and exciting pies, and liked the idea of not being limited by choosing something that had to be either savory or sweet. Pies could move through the seasons, and be able to reflect what was happening in New York if they used local ingredients. They spent a summer together in Cheryl’s home in Barryville, baking pies and experimenting with ingredients and flavors. The summer resulted in an amazing crust recipe – perfectly flaky with just the right amount of sweetness – and about twenty different fillings. They started to bring their pies to the local farmers’ market to test their popularity, and they ended up being a big hit, which gave them the confidence to bring the business back to the city. Their presence at the farmers’ market had another important effect on Pie Corps. Working side-by-side with the local farmers introduced them to new ideas. Farmers would come to them with produce they had a surplus of. “I have these ingredients I don’t know what to do with. I’ll give them to you, if you give me one of the pies you come up with in return.”
Now, Pie Corps has a plethora of pies that tend to be “sweet with a savory attitude,” or savory options that are conscientious of what’s in season. Their most popular sweet pie is their chocolate pudding pie, which updates a childhood favorite with a top layer of ganache, a drizzle of rosemary caramel, and a sprinkle of sea salt. Other options include an apple whiskey crumb pie with candied pecans, a lemon buttermilk chess pie, and a ricotta cheesecake with candied lemon. A favorite savory pie that has been offered is their fried chicken pie with baked beans and gravy, or a bulgoki style beef pie with turnip kimchi. Other creations have included a caramelized onion and goat cheese pie and a curried potato and peas pie. All of their pies are made with as many local, in-season ingredients as possible, and they take care in using high quality ingredients. An added benefit is that their pies are sugar free; they use evaporate cane juice instead.
It didn’t take long for Pie Corps to expand their offerings beyond traditional pies, coming up with different takes on pie that are as creative as their flavors. Pie pops and pies in mason jars have been popular for weddings, and their bags of Pielettes are a great snack to sample their wares in miniature two-bite pies. After their success at farmers’ markets like the New Amsterdam and Hester Street markets, they began to be approached with wholesale inquiries, which sparked the idea to open up a permanent location of their own. So, this summer, fans can rejoice in the new Pie Corps store opening in Greenpoint on 77 Driggs Avenue, where you’ll be able to find all of your favorite pies, pops, and Pielettes.
Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry for Ice Cream
It’s fitting that the name of an ice cream shop owned by a writer references a poem by Walt Whitman. The poem in question, “Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry” – which is also etched into the railing of the current ferry landing in DUMBO – is Whitman’s love letter to a city in its infancy. 150 years later, Brooklyn has plenty more to be inspired by than farmlands and corrugated cardboard factories, including the Ample Hills Creamery on 623 Vanderbuilt Avenue in Prospect Heights. Brian Smith wrote sci-fi screenplays, not poems, but still lived a life Brooklyn writers ever since Whitman are all too familiar with: enjoying infrequent success, constantly combating anxiety and rejection, and feeling unfulfilled with what it takes to make writing full-time work. So, he got to thinking what he could be doing instead. He wanted something that was still creative, but more hands-on and community-oriented than the lonely and isolated life of a writer. The answer was ice cream.
Smith started with a Cuisinart machine in his kitchen, experimenting with bases and flavor combinations. Coming up with new flavors was a natural fit. “You borrow a little from here. You steal a little from there. It’s just like writing.” As Smith grew more comfortable with the process, he knew he didn’t want to lose this homemade feel to his product once he was making it for the masses, so he decided to boil it down to a science. He enrolled in the Ice Cream Short Course at Penn State’s College of Agricultural Science (the course, which has been around since 1892, has a roster of notable alums like Ben and Jerry’s, Good Humor, and Haagen-Dazs) to study the technical chemistry involved in ice cream-making and manufacturing. Feeling confident, Smith tested the product out of a cart in Prospect Park and was quickly bolstered by its popularity to open up a shop nearby with his wife.
Now, Ample Hills serves a rotating cast of 24 flavors of Smith’s lovingly made small-batch ice cream. Sure to be on the menu is the shop’s most popular flavor, Salted Crack Caramel, which pushes the classic salty-sweet combination to its limit with the addition of a friend’s invented “crack cookies” made of Saltines, butter, sugar, and chocolate. Other standouts are Stout and Pretzels (made with Sixpoint Otis chocolate stout and chocolate-covered pretzels), Black Cow Float (root beer ice cream with a chocolate swirl), A Lovely Day (white chocolate ice cream with rainbow cookies), and Peppermint Pattie (peppermint ice cream with homemade peppermint patties). The freshness of the ingredients elevates the painstaking process to another level; the dairy products are local, all-natural, and from hormone-free animals.
Ice cream always makes summertime extra special, but what about those of you who are lucky enough to have a summer birthday? If you’ve felt stifled by the same-old ice cream cakes and sundae bars for years, try something different this year by having Ample Hills host a make-your-own ice cream party. Guests work together to design their own flavor of ice cream, then take turns churning it with the help of the creamery’s awesome ice cream bicycle, which powers the ice cream maker attached to it. When it’s all set, the party ends with a sundae bar to enjoy eating the finished product. Of course, it’s a wonderful idea for kids (who come up with flavors like gummy worm ice cream), but Ample Hills also offers after-hours adult parties (who come up with flavors like bourbon ice cream). It’s services like this that separate Ample Hills from other ice cream shops as a true community-gathering spot, where you’re encouraged to linger, catching the ice cream drips in between catching up with your friends, sharing a milkshake with your date, or reading a story to your kids.
When Dale Talde, David Massoni, and John Bush converged to create Talde (369 7th Avenue, Park Slope) they had decades of experience between them. Talde, known for his run on Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars as well as his work at Buddakan, had been working in the industry since he was nineteen, inspired by his fond memories of eating delicious potluck meals with his large family. Bush had risen through the ranks of bartending to owning neighborhood-favorite, Thistle Hill Tavern, with Massoni. Massoni had big names on his resumé, like opening Chelsea hotspot Lotus and working with Mario Batali at Esca and Babbo, as well as a year-long stint in Italy. The three of them had been friends for years when Talde finally decided to make moves on opening his own restaurant, a lifelong dream of his. He turned to Massoni and Bush for advice after seeing their success with Thistle Hill, and they realized they made a dream team. “I like to say that Dale’s the talent, Dave’s the brains, and I’m the mouth,” says Bush as we sit at the bar, a quiet finally settling over the restaurant after one of their first brunches is over. Together, they created a vision that was authentically Asian-American, in that it reflected the experience of that particular culture, rather than dumbing down Asian cuisine for a (stereotypically) American palette. Talde says, “I wanted the food to draw on what I ate growing up – my mom’s wonton soup, my aunt’s oxtail stew – my travels, and my American point of view.”
Originally, they were imagining a quick noodle joint that was more of a neighborhood hangout than an upscale restaurant. But when they found the carved mahogany pieces that are featured throughout the room, the image quickly escalated into a sleeker, hipper space. Jazz completes the intimate atmosphere. Nonetheless, friends and family are endlessly streaming in and out, along with patrons who are flocking to Talde thanks to his TV credentials and rave reviews. Not to mention, the food itself is exciting. Take the brunch menu, which includes pretzel pork and chive dumplings, lobster bao buns, everything bagel spring rolls, and Korean chicken wings and waffles with a coconut brown butter syrup. This East-meets-West aesthetic continues in the dinner menu with the Singapore chili soft shell crab banh mi, char siu smoked spare ribs with Thai basil and pears, and a crispy oyster and bacon pad thai. The menu is market-driven and incorporates local ingredients, so it changes throughout the year.
You can tell the difference between walking into a place that’s opened by a businessman who has dropped into a neighborhood because it’s trendy, and walking into a place that’s owned by someone who actually lives nearby. Talde, Massoni, and Bush like being able to see the same faces every day, knowing their customers and the other business owners in the area. “I keep opening up places that I want to go to,” says Massoni. “This is my community, I want to be a part of it.” So, the team has decided that they’re not stopping with Talde. Coming this summer to the vacancy left by Aunt Suzie’s at 247 5th Avenue is Pork Slope, a bar that suits Talde’s original vision. “We want Pork Slope to be the bar that we all grew up in,” says Talde, who goes on to describe a local dive in the neighborhood of Chicago he grew up in, where he’d go for pitchers, beer, wings, and sports. For Bush, it was Max Fish.
The scene will be unpretentious with some flair, focusing more on creating a comfortable place to hang out after work than a pristine gastropub. TVs and pool tables will be present, as will 25 beers on tap, an even more extensive beer list in bottles and cans, and a cocktail list that focuses on dark brown American liquor. But with Talde involved, of course there will be good food, available until 2am. While Talde’s menu is Asian with Southern stylings, Pork Slope will flip the formula upside down and serve classic Americana bar food with a touch of quirkiness. Early talks of the menu include bigger dishes like pulled pork, ribs, and wings, but Talde is most excited about the Chicago style hot dogs and, of all things, the tater tots, which will be fried in pork fat. There will also be food served during the day on weekends, but don’t you call it “brunch.” Talde prefers it to be called hangover food – think breakfast burritos, scrapple, and egg sandwiches. Talde, Massoni, and Bush like to say that they’re creating Pork Slope for themselves, as their own bar to retreat to when their shifts at Talde and Thistle Hill are over, but there’s no doubt in my mind that they’ll be sitting in there alone.