Saturday, June 10, 2006

Hooked on the Hook

You know you’ve been in New York a long time when every block in Manhattan feels old hat, when you never, and I mean never, need a map anymore, when all the archetypical-seeming folk on the street start to bore you – yeah, yeah, a transgendered albino midget playing a tambourine and riding a three-legged donkey, SO WHAT?

It’s times like these that call for a little “outer-borough” escape, to places that still feel unfamiliar, where the people still feel foreign, and the air and the space just feels different. Luckily, one never seems to run out of these places in a great city like New York. So today after eating my way through the New York Barbecue Block Party with a group of old friends -- where I had a huge slab of brisket that would make the pickiest ‘cue lover moan in happiness – I headed to Red Hook.

I’ve lived on the edge of Red Hook for about five years now and I started taking treks over there well before Time Out New York splashed it all over its cover as the Hot New Place. My now-ex boyfriend, who was an ocean lifeguard, was part amphibian, I’m convinced. Whenever his big, flat toes hadn’t touched saltwater for a day or two he’d start to get a wild look in his eyes – and it was then that I knew it was time to get in the car, drive down the rough, cobblestone streets of Red Hook, walk along the pier, and breathe in the salt air as you listened to the waves lap. There was no Fairway then, there was no Queen Mary Cruise ship, there was no 360 fine dining (though I was among its first patrons). Just empty, echoey streets, a few dirty beer halls for old salts like Sonny’s, and us.

Red Hook is a different place now. There IS a Fairway, there IS fine dining, there ARE cruise ships and hell if there aren’t even cutesy-named bakeshops like Baked, although the boyfriend is no longer.

I caught the Red Hook bug afresh last night when I hit up the bar Moonshine for a $5 bucket of PBRs with friends and the best game of Ms. Pac Man I’ve played since the demise of Sparky’s on Court Street (RIP). On the way home, we stopped at Schnack for sliders and I knew a return trip was in order the next day.

What I was happy to find on my solo meander through Red Hook today is that despite these creeping omens of gentrification that threaten to turn every neighborhood into a proto-Soho, Red Hook retains its air of separateness and specialness – both from New York itself and from the rest of the country. For instance, in New York, there’s no other neighborhood where you could find a humongous grocery store with awesome produce, huge, welcoming aisles, a parking lot for FOUR HUNDRED CARS (photographic evidence to come!), where you can buy toilet paper for rock bottom prices and a block of foie gras for, well, not rock bottom prices. In the rest of America, there’s no other grocery where you can see the Statue of Liberty and the ocean, as well as a pair of cruise ships and a wedding reception on a pier across the way, from the parking lot.

Of course, all my time in Red Hook wasn’t spent at the brand new, love of my life Fairway. I also stopped by the excellent and quirky wine shop, LeNell’s (416 Van Brunt), where LeNell herself greeted me at the door and in her excitement to share her wares nearly dragged me to the back of the shop for a sample of a South African Bukettraube from a vineyard called Cederberg. I had never heard of the winery or the grape, but after she handed me a glass (a real glass), with a heavy pour of the stuff along with a homemade cheesy break ball thing, I was floored. It was heavy and sweet and like nothing else I’d ever tasted, and, as she informed me, there were only 12 bottles left in all of New York. And it was less than $20. Sold!

I also stopped by Steve’s Key Lime Pie, famous city wide for being the only authentic purveyer of Key lime pies in New York. There was a little white terrier guarding the parking lot who ran up to me for a sniff as I walked in, and Steve wrapped up the pie and asked me if I was sure the pie would make it home safely? I assured him it would, as I didn’t live far. It was nice that someone cared so much about my tiny, single-girl pie.

There are lots of times when I feel like I’m going to miss the whole husband, family, kids boat (which departs for New Jersey every night at six, if you must know). But tonight when I got home with my Fairway haul and my treats from LaNell and Steve, I knew that one of the true joys of being single is that I can sit down and actually eat a dinner comprised of foie gras, cornichons, South African wine and my own little real Key lime pie. I have the distinct feeling that if I had a couple tots to worry about it would be Spaghetti-Os and peanut butter all the way. So I’m going to enjoy it while I can.

Here are some images I saw today on my trip to Red Hook. Get down there now before Ikea totally ruins the crusty, salty seafaring pirate vibe!


Anonymous Ian said...

Makes me want to get on my bike and explore Red Hook.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Guy said...

How can a neighborhood feel like a hat? A hat is something you wear on your head. A neighborhood is a place where people live and congregrate, and many have restaurants, bars, and even chinese laundramats. I've never been in a chinese laundrymat that feels like a hat. I'm confused.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Had To Move said...

Please go back on your meds, crabbypants!

12:42 PM  

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