Tag Archives: brooklyn

Word to the Unwise

Before I head out of town for a week of writing, granola crunching and walks in a tick-infested woods, I thought I’d leave all my fellow single NYers with a word of advice via this pitch perfect video. Believe me, after a year of working and hanging out in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, I can confirm every word of this song is true.

So, listen sister:

 

xoxo Downtown

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Sunrise/Sunset at the Rodeo

Despite the peripheral crazies on my job, my immediate co-workers are amazing. Back on one cold December morning, one of them took a picture of the sunrise from our office building rooftop. It was a reminder that we were close to shooting and at the “dawn” of our new project.

Seven months later, during an overnight shoot on a warm summer morning, he went up on our rooftop again to take a picture of the sunrise over Brooklyn. He called it our “light at the end of the tunnel.” Another co-worker remarked that for it to truly come full-circle, we should really take a picture of the setting sun, a full daylight cycle, marking the end of a very wild ride.

Sunset over Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Sunset over Brooklyn

It’s the little things like this that mean the most. We never let a day go by without laughing so hard we were crying, office QOTD’s are written down so we’ll never forget. These are my war buddies and this is what I love about my job, each show is so unique, the dynamics, the energy, the talents, the highs and the lows. Working on a movie is also called a “rodeo.” And, the name is very apropos. Each movie is like an untamed stallion, you start out with a beast, but by sunset, you can anticipate nearly every buck and kick of your trained equine. You’ve mastered it, and now it’s time to let the horse go out into the world, while you saddle up in time for the next sunrise.

–Downtown

Per Se by Day, Tacos by Night

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Bushwick, translated to mean "heavy woods," "town of the woods" or "town in woods."

Bushwick is the new(er) hipster capitol of Brooklyn. Populated by 20-something writers, artists, musicians filmmakers, muses, free spirits, and, until recently, a hipster grifter or two. As yet ungentrified, this neighborhood provides the perfect juxtaposition of irony and a laid back blase attitude common among the suburban-raised, middle-upper middle class Net Generation. They might wear thrift store skinny jeans and old Chuck Taylors, but they accessorize with the latest iPhone and the perfect pair of Ray-Bans or Moscot glasses.

Bushwick and its close brother, Williamsburg, are places I’ve been finding my un-ironic, un-hipster self in more frequently due to my job locale and my group of friends. This is where I also found myself dining one night at the apartment of a friend of a friend. I was told it was a “taco night,” but that the invite was a much coveted one, given the chef and the crowd. The chef is Cameron Wallace, a fellow 20-something who also happens to be the bread baker at the gastronomic heaven, Per Se.

Entrance of Per Se

Entrance to Per Se

 

The day of Taco Night, I was sent a text message with an address. I arrived promptly at 7p, my requested $10 in hand to “tip the chef,” and pushed through the apartment building’s blue door (also the same color as the doors at Per Se) spray painted with the number 855 (a decidedly un-Per Se detail). Our chef de cuisine was en-route, so we sat around drinking PBR or Corona (it was BYOB, can you guess which one I brought?) Chef Cameron arrived shortly after, armed with bags from Whole Foods and a box shipped all the way from San Diego (where Cameron was raised) containing flour tortillas and fire-roasted peppers in olive oil. “I’m taking a short cut today,” Cameron confessed to me, “I’m using store bought flour tortillas. Normally, I make my own, but there wasn’t time.” He continued to explain as he unpacked tins and Tupperware full of half-fried fish and marinated pork, a head of cabbage, and various & sundry spicy sauces and homemade crema. “But, these tortillas are fresh from California, my mom shipped them to me just yesterday.”  

In no more than a 35 sq. foot kitchen, Cameron got to work, frying the fish up again in pots. “I half-fry them in advance,” he explained. “I don’t want them soggy and they need to be eaten hot. But I like to do my prep work.” Cabbage was shredded by our hostess, Mariah, who is a caterer, while Mariah’s sister, Ariana, took out plates and utensils for the twenty guests that packed into the apartment. Everyone taking up the small square footage in the kitchen served a purpose. Mariah as sous chef, Ariana calling in the orders, Cameron cooking and plating, and I, serving. Watching Cameron cook and prep masterfully in such a small space brought to mind the word that hangs over the door in Per Se’s kitchen, “Finesse.” Chef Cameron illustrated every aspect of finesse, with his “refinement and delicacy of performance,” execution and artisanship. Each taco was hand-crafted and made in small batches. The pork had been marinating since early morning. No detail was left untended. 

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Almost looks like Cameron's fish taco

After serving a few tacos, I finally got to taste my own. First, the fish taco. Perfectly fried, but not greasy, you could still taste the fish and how deftly it blended with the cardamom flavor of the lightly drizzled sauce. The cabbage added an extra crunch while the squirt of lime gave the fish a little zing and some chopped cilantro cleansed the palate. It was more than a taco, it was an experience. As I savored the first (and then second) fish taco, I asked Cameron what brought him from bread baking to taco making. “Actually, it’s because I couldn’t find a decent taco in New York. Believe me, I tried. I’ve gone everywhere, but nothing like the ones I grew up with in California.”

Even still, other San Diego and California natives at Taco Night felt Cameron’s tacos take it to a whole new level. After some coaxing, I got the full story out of Cameron. “After I quit my job at different restaurant in New York, I went back to California for six months and studied the tacos I liked,” he told me. “I traveled up and down the coast and as far down as parts of Mexico, just to see how they did it there and where our tacos evolved from, what worked and what was unique to each area.” Just like the discipline at Per Se, there is discipline to Cameron’s tacos. “I combined the best of what I liked,” he said. “What was essentially pleasing to the palate, what textures worked, ingredients, preparation in advance, last minute. Sometimes I have to take out what I love if it doesn’t work within the combination. But I still continue to experiment. That’s why we have taco night.”

There is another method to the Taco Night madness, as I soon learned, between bites of the juicy, spicy pork taco with crema and bits of diced, raw onion. Cameron, as modest as he is about admitting it, also desires to have his own taco stand. “He wants a little place in the East Village, somewhere downtown or in Brooklyn,” Ariana (Cameron’s biggest supporter/Taco Night waitress) told me. “By opening up Taco Night and spreading the word, we’re hoping it will lead to investors for Cameron. It boils down to word of mouth in the end.”  Abra la boca. Spread the word.
–Downtown

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The Borscht Belt

New York has always been known as a melting pot, but sometimes it feels more like a clash of cultures: China takes over Italy (only two real streets of Little Italy remain), Korea sits on the west side of town while India holds it’s own on a few blocks of the east side. And the hipsters have turned most of Greenpoint, Brooklyn into their own personal campus, leaving the Polish to venture farther down the line to parts that have yet to be gentrified and hipsterized. Think this doesn’t exist? Well, let me introduce you to Poland via the G train (Nassau Street stop, to Norman Avenue). This interesting stretch of neighborhood has become my daytime (and sometimes nighttime) home away from home due to my new office location. Coming up out of the subway you’d swear you’re in Eastern Europe. The sights, the smells, the signs. EVERYTHING is written in Polish first, English second. The letter “Y” replaces “I” in most of the words, take for instance the “SYrena Bakery.” And, the name for Laundromat? Well, I’ll just let some of my photos do the talking.

Say that five times fast.

Say that five times fast.

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It’s interesting to work in the middle of a cultural enclave that is still so untouched, but I know it won’t be for long. Each week it seems one more 20-something in skinny jeans, wearing American Apparel tee shirts and a pair of converse are added into the mix. But, by far the most ironic thing about life in “Little Polska” happened when I called to complain about my vegetarian borscht simply being beet juice with the meat physically removed from the soup, the man answering the phone said in a thick Polish accent with a biting tone, ” we’re not promising you ‘designer’ borscht, it tastes like it tastes. What do you think this is, the Upper West Side?”

Btw, gotta love a neighborhood whose restaurants list sauerkraut under vegetables on their menu. -Downtown