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.

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?

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

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.

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)
Weather Up
Sunburnt Calf
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.

Brooklyn Bolsheviks Are Tough SOBs

I finally caved. Seeing the positives of the Park Slope Food Coop, I decided I’d like to join. Which is easier said than done. You need to attend an orientation before you can join, and you can only register for an orientation online, but every time I went to the site, all the orientation slots were filled and I was told to keep trying.  It felt like Marxist Mean Girls! But like a good proletariat, I persisted, and eventually got a slot for 4PM August 28th. “He who does not work shall not eat!”

While preparing my notebook (made from salvaged recycled paper) to take notes at the orientation, something caught my ear on NPR.  They said hurricane Irene was going to hit New York City around 4PM August 28th! Mayor Bloomberg was telling certain neighborhoods to evacuate, and the subways were shutting down at noon on Saturday. Surely my orientation would be canceled?  I called the Food Coop just to check.  Apparently my orientation is still scheduled for 4PM this Sunday.

Maybe I can canoe home with some organic kale?

New 5 Guys on Flatbush Makes 9 Burger Joints in Park Slope

This burger craze has officially gotten ridiculous.  The Patch reports that another 5 Guys Burgers is opening on Flatbush and &th Ave.  Including the 2 McDonalds, that make 9 restaurants selling exclusively hamburgers in Park Slope, and that isn’t even counting the dozen or so of diners, grills, and restaurants that mainly sell burgers.

I guess the burger Bürgermeister’s believe that they have a few years to clog the arteries of the youth of Park Slope before they start dropping off, or their parents get wise. Mark my words, in response to this I expect a spate vegetarian restaurants opening, either that or Zocor and Lipitor stores will start popping up.

According to my calculations the next burger place should open on the corner of 7th Avenue and Berkeley. The former La Taqueria space is still for rent, I'm talking to you Bobby Flay!

9 Burger Joints…and counting
5 Guys 7th Ave, 5 Guys Flatbush, 67 Burger (opening soon), Cheeburger Cheeburger, Corner Burger, Brooklyn Flipsters, Bare Burger (opening soon), McDonalds 4th Ave, McDonalds 9th St.

Rethinking The Park Slope Food Coop

I have written about the Park Slope Food Coop in the past.  From a strictly economic perspective (not considering the draconian penalties, long lines, or the cult-like demeanor of some members) I decided that the savings gained from shopping at the Coop was not worth the 2 hours and 45 minutes.  But I based this on a” back of the envelope” estimates on how much a family might save every month by shopping at the Coop.

But today the Park Slope Patch had a very nice article comparing the price of 20 items at five Park Slope stores: Back to The Land, Key Food on 5th, Met Food on 7th, the Park Slope Food Coop, and Union Market. Among some no brainers, like don’t buy prosciutto at Met Foods, there was a lot if interesting tidbits, like Back to the Land  is cheaper than Key Food. But most interesting was that the average item at the Food Coop was $1.32 less than Back to the Land, the next cheapest store per item.

Although this was hardly a scientific study, it did give me a metric I did not have before.  With fees and working 71.5 hours a year (2 adults) at minimum wage, the first year at the Food Coop will cost you $768 your first year.  With an average savings of $1.32 an item, if you shop every other week and get 25 items each week, you’d save $858 a year, a net gain of 90 bucks! And you’d get $340 in saving each year after that (once you “pay off” the $250 in fees.)

I’m still not sure I’m ready for the Food Coop (do all members really have to wear matching Nike sneakers, or is that just a rumor?) but knowing the real savings might ease my mind when I’m wearing that day glow Food Coop vest.

My Calculations

Hours/Week number of adults Hours worked per year Min. Wage What it costs you to work at the Food Coop (plus $250 in “fees”)
2.75 2 71.5 $7.25 $518.38
Number of items Average Savings per item # of Shops per year Savings per year
25 1.32 26 $ 858.00
Net gain $ 339.63

Dos and Don’ts of the Young and Childless in Bars.

For some reason the question of “babies in bars” really puts a burr in some people’s knickers, so when the Fort Greene beirgarten Der Schwarze Kölner, started offering playgroups for parents with kids, the NYTimes wrote a piece in “The Local” blog called “The Dos and Don’ts of Babies and Bars.”

After the obligatory barrage of comments saying children don’t belong in bars, I thought, “Why do they care?” What ever happened to live and let live? Is a mothers’ group chatting with their infants really interfering with the hardcore alcoholics slowly killing themselves?  My general attitude is if an establishment wants to be friendly to parents (usually during the dead Noon to 5pm doldrums) it is their prerogative, and would behoove them financially in bedroom communities like Fort Greene and Park Slope.

But since The New York Times brought it up, in their incredibly offensive and condescending way, here is my

Dos and Don’ts of the Young and Childless in Bars.

Try to find an establishment that caters to you: If you are gay or a minority or young or old, make sure you only go to an establishment that caters to your “kind.” Going to a bar that doesn’t might offend the clientelle.

Choose carefully: You do not want to find yourself at a bar that is playing Bryan Adams in a non-ironic way, or find yourself in Jackie’s 5th Amendment a very uncomfortable conversation with a gentleman demanding to know what elementary school you went to, in order to derive your Brooklyn pedigree.

When in doubt, call ahead: While some bars are filled with bitter, bigoted alcoholics, some are local meeting places were people can have a drink and a conversation and you want to avoid those at all costs.

Find your niche: Try not to mix with people who aren’t like you, maybe find a nice ghetto corner set apart from everyone else.

Don’t bring your giant backpack or rolling luggage that you think is appropriate to carry with you all times: Bars are small enough as it is without having to navigate a baggage carousel to get to the bar.  Here’s a hint, if you aren’t at an airport bar, leave the luggage at home.

Plan an exit strategy: Please imbibe as much as you wish, pull a Dylan Thomas for all I care, but if you can’t puke or can’t stand, its time to take it outside.

Any other suggestions? Or do you think the childless should simply keep out of the bars? Please weigh in below.

BTW- I’m guessing its just youth hubris when people write “I work at a bar…and we are all secretly hating you and your kids.” Well, I don’t hate you, because I was you, and in all reality, you will be the one at least considering bringing you child to a bar in 10 years.  Here’s the thing, most people will become parents, and we were all once children, so I don’t know where all the hate comes from.  But when you are 25, you think that is the way life is, and it will always be.