Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Made in Brooklyn Walking Tours

Why would a native New Yorker like myself sign up for a walking tour in her home city? Because there's always a new discovery to be made in one of the five boroughs. Recently, I did a walking tour of Williamsburg  with Dom Gervasi of  Made in Brooklyn Tours. And over the course of three-some hours, Dom introduced our small group to what he called the "maker" movement: innovative locals crafting beer, chocolates, other food items, wooden furniture, textiles and much more.

Pudge Knuckles is definitely a name to remember. (In case you're wondering, the name comes from a moniker used by the owner's dad when he was a boy.) This light filled coffee shop sits oh, so close to the East River. So no surprise that from my table where I sit beside a small wood burning stove, I can crane my neck and gaze at the Empire State Building. The owner, Ivan Greene, is an avid rock climber who fell in love with coffee roasting and this neighborhood. Vegans and carnivores alike will find plenty appealing on the food menu, including a grilled sweet potato sandwich with vegan cheese, and a low-fat cheddar and roast turkey sandwich. Don't miss the pumpkin or caramelized apple pop tarts.



At the Brooklyn Art Library - it's an art house co-op - I found a unique collection of sketch books lining the walls and stacked on tables - there's some 22,000 of these created by individuals around the world. Yes, it's risky putting your vision out there for all to see. The way it works with this Sketchbook Project: You buy one of the blank books with a given theme, and then go all out expressing your self, as the author above did.

You could spend an hour or more exploring the myriad offerings in this shop that also stocks some unique published works: Geometry of Pasta, The Map as Art and Fill in the Blank. Everything in the inventory is vintage, do it yourself and old school inspiration. Such a welcome change from run-of-the-mill chain bookstores.


Of the four Brooklyn-based manufacturers making chocolate bars from the beans, Mast Brothers Chocolates is the largest. Owners Michael and Rick Mast are all about dispelling the mystery of chocolate. A chalk board displays the processing of chocolate from seed (yes, cacao is a seed not a bean) and you can watch chocolate production, including the use of the winnower machine. But most importantly, there's always chocolates to taste.


Set beside a blue stone sidewalk, Nightwood is a furniture and textile shop run by Nadia and Rye. These self-taught owners use mostly wool and cotton in their tapestries and are involved with upcycling (in this case using salvaged wood,including cedar from a water tower, from New Jersey) for the furnishings.



I've never found bagels to be all that surprising. That is, until I walked into The Bagel Store, considered to be the best in Brooklyn. French toast bagel. Bacon/egg/cheese where each is impregnated into the dough itself. Sundried tomato. And, I'm saving the most curious for last: Twinkie bagel. They are each served hot and, by far, the two that are my new faves are the sundried tomato and bacon, egg and cheese. The flavors were subtle but tempting.


Olive oil is not as simple as you might think. In fact, step into appropriately named Olive and you'll see that choosing the right olive oil is as complex as selecting a fine wine. Here I found 12 extra virgin oils, from mild to robust. Some are just weeks old -- you can't get any fresher than this. The owner carries oils from Chile, Australia, California and the Mediterranean countries. But not all at the same time of the year because he's following the crush. You can taste any of the oils which are each completely labeled with the polyphenol content (this reflects its antioxidant status) and crush date.


The Gourmet Guild Williamsburg carries a vast array of artisanal food (and some non-food) products, with 60% of what's lining the shelves made in Brooklyn. Smoked seafood jerky, push-up cake pops, savory cookies, empanadas, as well as gift items such as handmade candles - and this is just a small sampling of what you'll find here. If you're looking for authentic food or gift items, I would definitely make the trip to Brooklyn to check this place out.



24 comments:

Donna Hull said...

The Made in Brooklyn Walking Tours would be something new to do for repeat visitors to NYC. Sounds tasty too.

JTravel said...

Hi Donna, Yes, it would be perfect for that demographic.

HeatherL said...

I love walking tours and would definitely try this one when I'm in Brooklyn. There's always something to learn about your own destination.

Jennifer Margulis said...

This looks like such a great activity. Next time I'm in NYC, I'm going. I love discovering new things in a place I already know! I'm doing a project like that in my home city of Ashland. Too bad we have no walking tours here... http://jennifermargulis.net/blog/2012/09/project-discover-ashland-oregon/

Sheryl said...

I've got to do this. Even though I've lived in NYC, I am totally unfamiliar with Brooklyn (it wasn't a "hot spot" when I lived nearby).

JTravel said...

Hi Heather, Until I took this tour, I hadn't spend enough time in Williamsburg and never knew about any of these venues.

JTravel said...

Hi Jennifer, I had no idea Ashland didn't have any walking tours. I like your Discover Ashland project. It's something I do in New York City as well. Each month or so I try to visit a street or neighborhood I'm unfamiliar with. It always leads to cool discoveries.

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, Since I live in Queens and work in Manhattan, Brooklyn was not a must-visit destination for me. But that's changed.

Alexandra said...

I would love to go to the shop with the different types of olive oil. So fascinating! We lose this kind of diversity when we only shop at the supermarket. I'm all for bringing back local shops. They add such atmosphere to a neighborhood.

Vera Marie said...

Now that's my kind of tour--particularly with chocolate to taste! But the variety of products makes it really enticing. I definitely would do this in NY.

Living Large said...

I frequently take tours of my home city. A native doesn't see it as a tourist.

Alisa Bowman said...

I love walking tours. You get a little exercise and you learn a lot about a place that you otherwise would never have thought to learn.

JTravel said...

Hi Alisa, Absolutely. Walking tours are one of my favorite activities to make discoveries whether I'm traveling or at home.

JTravel said...

Hi Alexandra, So true. With all the CVS, Duane Reades, Starbucks and other chains infiltrating cities around the country, we're losing a lot of neighborhood personality.

JTravel said...

Hi Vera Marie, The chocolate shop was definitely one of the highlights for me.

JTravel said...

Hi Living Large, I agree. You can learn so much on a walking tour in your own backyard. I'm surprised more New Yorkers that I know don't do it.

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

This is really neat. Every town should have one. We have a new micro-brewer in our little town, and they are PACKED every night. We haven't even had a chance to go yet ... it's so successful and crowded these first 2 weeks.

MyKidsEatSquid said...

What a cool idea. Even though we lived in NY for a few years we never spent much time in Brooklyn--this would be a great way to see the area.

Jane Louise Boursaw said...

How fun! I love the idea of continuing to discover your own city in new ways. And being a Michigander, I just find the whole city of New York fascinating. Such varied history with all the different sections.

Kris @ Attainable Sustainable said...

I think it's so refreshing to see your community through new eyes. And that French toast bagel. Oh my word. Sign me up!

JTravel said...

Hi Roxanne, I love visiting breweries. It's always good for neighborhoods to have homegrown businesses.

JTravel said...

Hi MyKidsEatSquid, I'm definitely spend more time in Brooklyn ever since taking this tour. It really opened my eyes to some very cool businesses.

JTravel said...

Hi Jane, Yes, NYC is full of discoveries, even for a native New Yorker like myself.

JTravel said...

Hi Kris, I thought I've seen ever kind of bagel but these were very unique and tasty.