A local’s guide to Brooklyn – New York, New York.

Brits love New York – by which really we mean Manhattan.

Few of us venture over to Brooklyn though, the Shoreditch’y, Hoxton’y part of the Big Apple, which is a shame as it’s home to a gobsmacking amount of trendy little shops, cafes, restaurants and bars. And it’s all a short, easy subway ride away – or just take a stroll over the Brooklyn Bridge. Plus you get great views of the skyscrapery Manhattan skyline.

So here, foodie resident Erika Rose – founder of Musette Bakery – takes us for a stroll round her ‘hood.

Erika Rose - and may I say, never have wiser words been spoken Ms Child

Born and raised in upstate New York, Erika moved to the hustle and bustle of Manhattan at 17, and spent the next 7 years at university and law school there, before moving across the pond to London to practice law.  After four inspiring –  and delicious – years eating her way through Europe, she found her way back to New York, settling in Brooklyn in 2011 to pursue her dream of baking for a living.  She now runs Musette Bakery, co-founded with her brother, which aims to bring home-made baked goods to athletes and spectators.  She lives in Park Slope, where she is carrying on a love affair with brownstones.

Complete this sentence: Brooklyn rocks because….

To me, Brooklyn rocks because it combines the best of what I loved in London with what I love in New York.  I can live on a tree-lined street with a quiet backyard, have a neighbo(u)rhood and a park next door, and yet still have access to Manhattan when I want to experience the energy and noise that bring so many to the city.  People in Brooklyn are creative and unique, the food is astounding, and yet it’s still a bit of an escape for those of us who don’t necessarily want to live in a cramped space in the center of everything.

Don't be a dumbo - cross the bridge!

For the geographically challenged Brit reading this, how long does it take to get from central Manhattan to Brooklyn on the subway? What are the main trendy drags in Brooklyn for shops, cafes, bars etc.

It depends on where in Brooklyn you’re going: it can take as little as 5 minutes or as long as an hour.  Brooklyn is quite vast – if you annexed it from New York City, it would be the 4th largest city in America!  You can easily get to downtown Brooklyn in 10 minutes or so from lower Manhattan, and get a great view of the city from Brooklyn Bridge Park.  It’s a good start.  And, depending on the neighbo(u)rhood, there are many different main drag options.

Locally, I walk down to 5th Avenue in Park Slope, but I often find myself hopping on my bike to Court and Smith Streets, and Atlantic Aveune, where there are a whole host of antique and clothing stores, including Steven Alan and Jonathan Adler.  You could spend the whole day walking these streets, and would manage to wander through four neighborhoods in the process (Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights).  Red Hook has Van Brunt Street.  Fort Greene has Fulton Street.  And, Williamsburg has Bedford Avenue (Williamsburg also has the added benefit of being only a few stops from Union Square in Manhattan, so it’s an easy afternoon trek if you want to get a feel for the hipper side of Brooklyn in a short amount of time).  Each of these neighborhoods is close enough to Manhattan to make a quick trip, and each have something unique to offer.

Where should I be drinking right now?

My newest discovery is The Ides, a rooftop bar with a stunning view of Manhattan, in the trendy Wythe Hotel – I’m excited to try their restaurant, Reynard’s as soon as I can.  Radegast Hall and Biergarten in Williamsburg has high ceilings, great lighting, and is an all-around top place for a drink, especially with a group.  I’m also a huge fan of everything at Roberta’s, especially in the summer and fall, when you can hang out in their back garden.  Their gin & juice is downright addictive.  And the Clover Club is hands down my favorite local spot, with creative drinks and an amazing old-school atmosphere.  And for those in the mood for a non-alcoholic drink, the Tootsie Pop Float at the Brooklyn Farmacy, an old-school soda shop, hits the spot.

What are your favourite weekend brunch spots?

My local standby is always Buttermilk Channel – their cheddar waffles and buttermilk pancakes are enough to make my weekend.  I love the biscuits at Egg, the pies at Bubby’s, the chilaquiles at Vinegar Hill House, and the brioche french toast at Applewood.  And if I want to get outside and try a bit of everything I head to Smorgasburg, a collection of some of Brooklyn’s best food stands that pops up every Saturday on a pier overlooking the East River.

Lobster roll with a view, at Smorgasbord

Favourite evening restaurants?

I like to joke that my second home is Prime Meats, and it’s not far from the truth.  As someone in an episode of Portlandia might say, the dream of the 1890s is alive and well inside Prime Meats.  The German-centric menu is incredible, the bar is gorgeous (so is the daily punch offering), and you feel a bit transported every time you step inside.  Their sister restaurant next door, Frankies, serves excellent Italian fare.  Now that summer has arrived, my second home has turned holiday beach home at Littleneck in Gowanus, where I can be found gobbling up oysters, lobster and clam rolls at an astounding rate.  For fresh, farm-to-table offerings, I love Seersucker.  And locally in Park Slope you can’t go wrong with Al di La, a Venetian staple in the neighborhood, and Talde, an Asian-American restaurant run by a former Top Chef contestant, and featuring my current favorite menu item in Brooklyn: Hawaiian bread buns.  These buns are not to believed.

Any cool shops near you?

Yes, plenty!  Get your records, antiques, and coffee all in one place at Black Gold, clothes from Bird, Stuart & Wright and Kill Devil Hill, anything and everything from the Brooklyn Flea on the weekends, vintage furniture from Re Pop, chocolate from Mast Brothers, bread from Bien Cuit, ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery, and birthday cake truffles from Momofuku Milk Bar.

Ample Hills Creamery

Best place for a slice of pizza?

Hands down, no arguments allowed, best pizza in the WORLD (a lofty claim, I know) is L&B Spumoni Gardens, in my mother’s old Brooklyn neighborhood of Bensonhurst.  It’s more than worth the trek for this thick, crusty Sicilian-style pizza, whose secret is in the unconventional method –  they put cheese on before tomato sauce, so the cheese and dough sort of melt into each other to form perfection).  And save room for spumoni.

What’s the most random / coolest thing about your neighbourhood?

It’s a little thing, but every night my neighborhood lights up with the comforting glow of gas-lit streetlamps.  The streets are transported in time, everything looks as though it’s in a movie, and it never ceases to make me feel lucky to live where I do.

Brooklyn - brownstones and street lamps

For a tourist, apart from eating, shopping and drinking are there any sights to see in Brooklyn?

One of the biggest reasons I chose to live where I do was its proximity to Prospect Park, and I’d recommend it to anyone who comes to visit Brooklyn.  It’s reminiscent of Central Park (and, like Central Park, houses a zoo), but smaller and not as crowded/touristy.  It’s also home to the beautiful Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  The arch at Grand Army Plaza (see photo below) is sort of like a mini version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and is a fitting entryway into this beautiful piece of Brooklyn.  If you have the time, I’d see a film or live performance at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, America’s oldest performing arts center.  Walk over the Brooklyn Bridge for stunning views of lower Manhattan.  Stroll through Greenwood Cemetery and pay a visit to the likes of Basquiat and Bernstein.  And for cycling enthusiasts, there’s a real hidden gem at Floyd Bennett Field, which is a former airport that now hosts a weekly cycling series every Tuesday on the airfield.  High winds and cracked pavement?  No problem.  Tour de France, eat your heart out!

The arch at Grand Army Plaza

Snowy Prospect Park

Thanks Erika! www.musettebakery.com

All photos are copyright of Erika Rose 2012.

www.visitbrooklyn.org , www.nycgo.com



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