I’m getting ready to leave my beloved Brooklyn this Sunday for a six-week research trip to Croatia, my native land. I can’t think of a better way of saying a (temporary) goodbye than writing about the borough I’ve called my home for over a decade.
Last week, in my ode to Brooklyn, I wrote about DanceAfrica at BAM. This week, I thought I’d expand on BAM, Brooklyn’s culture powerhouse that I love dearly and frequent as much as I can. Over the years, I have seen some great theater, music and dance as part of the Next Wave Festival “presenting adventurous art for adventurous audiences… dedicated to emerging artists at the forefront of their disciplines alongside modern masters who continue to innovate”. I particularly love the intimacy of the Harvey Theater, with “its fading grandeur” and an interior with “crumbling columns and water-stained ceilings which today evoke a Greco-Roman ruin” (New York Magazine). BAM Rose Cinemas offers special festivals (often featuring foreign films rarely screened in the US) as well as daily screenings of classics plus first-run and independent films.
I love the fact that, in the middle of a horrid economic downturn, and with big bookstore chains steadily swallowing up small bookshops, an independent book emporium opens in Fort Greene, Greenlight Bookstore. That gives me hope! So I’ve given up on lazily buying books in Barnes & Noble or on Amazon. Instead I head to Greenlight. If they don’t have it, I order my desired read and the book arrives within days. I’m totally determined to support my local bookstore in this way.
Not far from the bookstore is my favorite swath of greenery in entire New York City. Sure, it can’t be compared to Central Park or its Brooklyn counterpart, the more rustic Prospect Park but Fort Greene park is a perfect example of a small urban park that serves its community really well. This landmark, designed by landscape architects Olmsted and Vaux, was Brooklyn’s first designated park, formerly known as Washington Park and first established in 1847. I love spending sunny weekend afternoons in the park, when families, friends, and neighborhood freaks all come out to play and relax. It feels like a village square. In a city of many millions, that’s truly refreshing.
Not all that’s great remains though. It hurts to see old favorites shut down in favor of new spots. Just the other day, I was walking past a liqueur store that was run by a pair of sullen Russians I was very fond of, which now has a “For Rent” sign up. By the time I return from my impending trip to Croatia in late July, I’m sure a new flashy spot will have opened in its place. Not that all is flashy in Brooklyn. Quite the opposite. I recently discovered a new French-Caribbean restaurant on the edge of Prospect Heights, Kaz An Nou, where the decor is simple and homey, and the food inexpensive and flavorful. I loved the poulet a l’estragon, smoked jerk chicken breast with goat cheese, tarragon and honey sauce; and the tarte tatin (upside down apple tart) is still melting in my mouth. Bring your own beer or wine though, as the place doesn’t have a liqueur license.
Thought I’d share another recent food find, a Mexican restaurant in Park Slope that I walked past many times without going in, until the other day. Chiles & Chocolate (54 Seventh Avenue, btw Lincoln & St John’s) looks like a takeout spot at first glance yet a lovely little covered garden hides in the back. This hole-in-the-wall serves great Oaxacan cooking. I loved the tacos dorados rufina, deep-fried with Oaxacan cheese filling. I hear the moles are also pretty fantastic. Definitely a good place to satisfy any craving for Mexican food.