What’s so Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Organic Arugula?

The Park Slope Food Co-op has been a lightning rod for criticism for years, from people complaining about the co-op banning bottled water,  nannies covering members the mandatory work shifts, and most recently, the meeting to decide whether to decide if they should boycott Israeli products.  Because the Israel boycott flap got so much attention, Reuters Chadwick Matlin decided to “live-tweet” the most recent Food Co-op general meeting (which had nothing to do with banning Israeli products.)

Oh how the hilarity ensued. And all the blogs laughed and laughed.  Oh those silly, stupid co-op members/Park Slope residents/Brooklyn resident/Liberals/Democrats etc. (the derision broadened as the comments went on.)

But why is a business that is truly democratic, and gives everyone a chance to speak, including the kooks, subject to such ridicule? (Full disclosure, I was briefly a co-op member, so I am familiar with the fringe element of a number of the members…let’s face it, some of them are genuine squirrel-bait.)

But rather than just take pot shots,  the Atlantic puts it in perspective with the article The More Things Change the More Food Co-ops Stay Mockable, “The temptation to mock is irresistible. We love to laugh at the Park Slope Food Co-op as the ne plus ultra of overwrought political correctness and smug social consciousness. We need that in our disgruntled, cynical lives.”

Maybe the Park Slope Food Co-op is a naive cockeyed optimist who thinks they can change the world, and that might make them seem a little batty.  But I’m sure if someone live tweeted a Reuters board meeting, you’d hear a few things a little more scandalous than people concerned about plastic bags. Chadwick Matlin, are you willing to direct your clever smarm on David Thomson and James Smith?

What the New Whole Foods Won’t Have

I am thrilled that Whole Foods is FINALLY going to open in Gowanus. Regardless of what you think of of Whole Foods, it is a well run business. It’s clean,  they have excellent products, and the employees are friendly, professional, and efficient.

Always the sentimentalist, here are some of the things I will miss by not shopping at some of the other local grocery stores:

Key Food
I’ll miss your produce pre-wrapped in plastic and packed in threes.

Trader Joe’s
I’m not sure what I’ll do without your overly-OVERLY-friendly cashiers.

Fairway
Who wouldn’t miss the byzantine cobble-stoned route that one must drive to get to Fairway.

Met Food
I will miss your friendly cats (but the bugs in the pasta, not so much.)

The Park Slope Food Co-op
I think I’ll miss you most of all, where will I get the over inflated sense of self regard that comes with shopping at the co-op.

What will you miss while shopping at Whole Foods?

Happy Presidents’ Day- How Lincoln Place Got Its Name

There are a number of presidential associations in Park Slope. In 1883  Macomb Place was renamed Garfield Place after the assignation of President James Garfield (who interestingly enough also shared an affinity for lasagna with the cat of the same name), in 1892 President Grover Cleveland, the Justin Bieber of presidents, was besieged by admirers at the Montauk Club and of course there is President Street, the laziest street name ever.

But the most curious presidential connection in Park Slope is Lincoln Place. Lincoln Place seems innocuous enough, what town doesn’t have a street named after one of our greatest and most popular presidents?  The interesting part is why that street’s name was changed.

Degraw Street runs from Red Hook through Cobble Hill and Gowanus and into Park Slope, where at 5th Street it suddenly changes its name to Lincoln Place.  It was renamed in 1873 shortly after Kate Stoddard shot her lover, Charles Goodrich, 3 times in the head in his home at 731 Degraw Street (right across the street from where the Lincoln Playground is now.)  The murder was a tabloid sensation and property owners thought the macabre association would bring down property values and petitioned the name to be changed to Lincoln Place.

To me, t really amazing part about it was the murder took place on March 21, 1873 and the street was renamed by April 15th 1873, only 25 days later! Apparently the city bureaucracy was a bit faster back then.

Grass fed beef patties, wasabi sauce, kale, soy cheese, pickled onions on a gluten-free bun: Pick Your Park Slope Burger

I thought the Park Slope BBQ renaissance was going to stop the burger trend, but now two new burger joints are opening in the Slope, Chez Bibis and Burger Bistro. This brings the grand total of burger-centric restaurants in Park Slope to 11. (And that’s not including restaurants that make great burgers like Dram, Bonnie’s, or Johnny Macks.)

I know the “common wisdom” is that burgers are a child’s favorite food, and Park Slope is the playground mecca of the east coast. But I still don’t see how this neighborhood can support this dizzying array of artery clogging dining establishments. So here are the pros and cons of each burger palace:

Burger Bistro
Pro-The Bay Ridge location is very popular
Con- While both are part of Brooklyn, to much of Park Slope, Bay Ridge may as well be Dubuque, and I’m not talking about the burger restaurant of that name in Carroll Gardens.

Chez Bibis
Pro- Their burger and beer concept will go well with the young urbanites.
Con- Parents might get upset in wrongly assuming it’s a french baby store.

Bare Burger
Pro- Organic beef + PS 321 next door =line out the door
Con- No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.

5 Guys 7th Ave
Pro- Across the street from Methodist Hospital/Free Peanuts
Con- 5 Guys now seem like Old Guys/Peanut allergies are a big concern with the Park Slope parent set

5 Guys Flatbush
Pro- New arena may bring more traffic to the area
Con- New arena traffic may keep locals away from the area

Cheeburger Cheeburger
Pro- Very kid friendly/Name is fun to say
Con- Not even an ironic nod to the health conscious/And does anyone under 40 even get the SNL reference?

67 Burger
Pro-People go eager to try their beer milkshake
Con-People never come back after trying their beer milkshake

Corner Burger
Pro-Middle school only 2 blocks north
Con-McDonalds only 2 blocks south

Brooklyn Flipsters
Pro-A great location
Con-Maybe a not so great location,this place has been at least 5 different restaurants in 7 years

McDonalds
Pro- McDonalds restaurants never go out of business
Con- McDonalds restaurants never go out of business

Maybe the Slope can support all these burger joints, at least until an I-N-Out Burger or Talde opens a burger restaurant and runs them all out of business.

Stop the Half-Spot Hoarder Tyanny!

Forget Babyccinos and bike lanes.  In today’s Brooklyn Paper I finally found a Park Slope controversy I can really sink my teeth into- The Montgomery Place Half-Spot Hoarders!

We’ve all been there, driving in concentric circles, looking for a spot. Up ahead you see what looks like a spot, but like a mirage it disappears as you get closer.  It’s the dreaded half-spot, not big-enough for a car, but an incredible waste of parking real estate.

Apparently at the doormen at 27 Prospect Park West, who park the cars for its tenants, intentionally create un-parkable “half spaces” on Montgomery Place to save spots.  So when a resident drives up, move one car forward and one care backward, and viola, a space appears out of thin air.

As someone who takes his parking very seriously, this kind of behavior infuriates me.  Technically it’s not illegal, but it should be, and a felony at that! Trust me if Dante had a car in Park Slope, he would have reserved a special circle in hell for the half-spot hoarder, right between the blasphemers and the sodomites.

After finding out about this parking fraud, I swallowed my bile in my throat, calmed down and decided to see if it was true.  A quick look at street view on Google maps showed an extraordinarily large amount of “half-spots.”

I urge everyone with SmartCars, Minis, scooters, rickshaws and any vehicle small enough for a half-spot, and park on Montgomery Place. This spot tyranny will not stand. It’s time to take back our spots!

Park Slope is Dead, God Save Park Slope!

The New Yorker recently had a story called “Park Slope is Dead,” which consists mostly of the co-owner of Southpaw, Matt Roff, bitching about how the neighborhood has changed. He is closing his 5th Avenue club Southpaw not for financial reasons but  because Park Slope isn’t what it used to be, yet somehow he neglects to mention the other thriving music venues in the neighborhood (The Bell House, Union Hall, Littlefield.)

Matt says, “My folks came (to Park Slope) in the seventies and it was rough, dude. Just bodegas and stuff, and this wave of ex-hippies buying houses for twenty thousand dollars.” He is just keepin’ it real. Except that it was his parents who were the gentrifiers, at least in the eyes of the people they were pushing out.

Park Slope has become the punchline of jokes about yuppie parents, and overprotected children on a diet of pastured free range chicken and organic kale. The common wisdom among the blogs is that that yuppie families have killed Brooklyn, or at least Park Slope. In the last few years they have forced out the minorities and are destroying the fabric of this neighborhood with their gourmet coffee and cookies, and the neighborhood is now overrun with breeders and their double-wide strollers!

This is, of course, nonsense! Sure, gentrification is going on in Park Slope, but it started in the late ’60s when the middle class were being priced out of Manhattan, and they found they could afford brownstones in the blue collar Park Slope.

The Brooklyn lifers thought the people moving in were nuts, ”I couldn’t understand why a nice couple like that would buy into a neighborhood like this,” said a long time resident when the first “pioneers” moved in in the late ’60s.

But by the early 80’s the “post-pioneers” were complaining about new interlopers moving in and driving up the price of real estate.  They had to create an “other” to blame their problems on,  “lawyers from Manhattan,” ”People don’t know their neighbors. It isn’t families coming in any more.”

Can you believe that, people were complaining that there were not ENOUGH families in Park Slope?  They even had a name for them, “DINKs,” dual income, no kids.

Of course, people who moved in the 80’s complained about the people who were moving in in the ’90s and so on.  The moral of this is unless you were neighbors of Gil Hodges, you should probably not complain about gentrification.

POST SCRIPT- I’d like to correct one misconception in the newyorker article about Park Slope not being cool anymore. It is impossible for Park Slope to not be cool anymore, because PARK SLOPE WAS NEVER COOL!  It was always a bedroom community with a few nice restaurants and bars.  It was never the “It” neighborhood that Williamsburg, Dumbo, and Brooklyn Heights were. It was always the also-ran where you moved because you weren’t cool enough to live in “Greenpoint”.

Vanderbilt Street Would Make the Commodore Proud

About 5 years ago, my wife and I were looking at an apartment for sale on the corner of Vanderbilt Ave and Prospect Place, and the realtor was speaking about the charm of the neighborhood, “Vanderbilt is really up and coming. A liquor store just opened up, and The Bob Law Seafood Cafe is just around the corner!”  I wouldn’t say that stretch of Vanderbilt was desolate, but it hardly seemed up-and-coming. And a new liquor store and Bob Law not withstanding, this did not ease the minds of a young couple, one of whom was 6 months pregnant.

The Vanderbilt stretch of Prospect Height has now up and came. The 5 blocks between Park Place and Pacific can now boast some of the best restaurants and bars in Brooklyn.  Having overlooked its potential years ago, I was certainly lat eto discover all the new restaurants and cocktail lounges popping up, but I have now been making a point to sample them all.

I’m not going to review all of them, as other sites do a better job at that than I, but I have all of these on my to do list and I’ll point out my highlights as I visit:

The Vanderbilt (a gorgeous dining room)
Cornelius (Whiskey AND $1 Blue Points!!!)
Ample Hills Creamery (must go back for the Salted Crack Caramel ice cream)
Chucko
Weather Up
Beast
Soda
Sunburnt Calf
Amorina
606 R & D.

Ho Hos, Ring Dings, Ding Dongs, Lend Me Your Creamy Filling.

I Come to Bury Twinkie the Kid, Not to Praise Him.

With the the announcement of Hostess filing for bankruptcy, a lot of people have been reminiscing about Twinkies. The truth is, I was never a big fan of the cream filled spongecake (and frankly, Twinkie the Kid creeped me out, he seemed like a molester) but the with possible demise of Hostess, I will miss the the Hostess lemon pie, and the little powdered donuts.

Hostess lemon pie filling had the color and consistency of Vaseline, but a perfect sweet and sour balance, at least to the discerning tastebuds of a ten-year-old.

I recently tried a Hostess lemon pie again for the first time in over 20 years. It had the same semi- circle cardboard crust, covered in a thin layer of dried icing that resembled eczema more than sugar. But other than being slightly smaller, it looked as I remembered it. Just as it was when ate these after elementary school, the first bite was always a let down, mostly tasteless crust. But once I got to the filling, the lemon petroleum jelly really took me back. In my mind’s-tongue, I recalled them not being as sweet and the 2012 version, this may be just in my memory, but more likely an byproduct of hostess switching to high fructose corn syrup.

I next tried the little powdered donuts, Donettes, the tube of tiny white fluffy donuts, that never went stale. The powdered sugar was so fine, that inhaling while eating always produced a coughing jag, and always left enough powder on your face to make you look like an 80’s stockbroker.

The new donuts were definitely smaller that the ones of yore, but they were just as artificially fluffy as I remember, and just as dry, so much so that once I finished my coughing jag, I needed to chug a Fresca to wash it down.

As much as I like to wax nostalgic, I have to say I’m glad these tasty yet toxic near foods are not nearly as pervasive today. I don’t want my kids eating these things. And the fact that most parents would never even consider putting Ring Dings, Ding Dongs, or King Dons in their kid’s lunch today, something that was pervasive when I was a kid, I see as a real sign of progress.

Barrio Closing? Park Slope’s Restaurant Bermuda Triangle?

One of my favorite local restaurants seems to be in limbo.  The windows of Barrio have been papered up for the last week.  Rumor is it’s closing, and although some say that they are just “renovating” it seems odd.  If they were renovating you’d think they would have something about it on the door (which they do not.)

Well, I hope they are renovating, they may not be El Buli, but they were a good standby with solid margaritas and a great staff.

What is with that corner?  Restaurants open, seem to be doing fine, then disappear overnight.  Barrio seemed to do a decent business and now might be gone. Catty-corner, Sette, recently shut their doors after 5 years. And I don’t know how long Cheeburger, Cheeburger is going to last with 200+ burger places within 5 blocks, but that location has been at least 6 places in the last 10 years.

I hope Barrio fares better than the USS Cyclops. If not, hopefully they’ll make an “In Search Of” episode about the corner of 7th Avenue and 3rd Street.

Peanuts Special Recalled Due to Possible Salmonella Contamination

ABC is recalling some of its Peanut Christmas and Thanksgiving Specials because of possible salmonella contamination. The New York based network says the specials covered would have been aired during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

A spokesman for the company was quoted as saying, “Wha-wha wha whaw, whaw wha wha wha.”

Salmonella is bacteria resulting in fever, cramps and nostalgia that lasts for several days and can require hospitalization and the learning the true meaning of Christmas.