“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!” Long before the character Jack Torrance in the Shining typed this sentence (and typed this sentence) into pop culture infamy, it has been a recurring idea in western literature for centuries. This theme crossed my mind after visiting the opening of Products of the Playful, a tightly organized show by Art + Method, a new gallery in Bushwick, smartly converted from lofty apartment to art/event space.
There is a focused intensity to this group selection, but the variety of processes and spirited experimentation are the overriding characteristics for the work by artists, Kirkland Bray, Adam Frezza & Terri Chiao, Kate Nielsen and Adams Puryear. The show’s title leads with the word “Products”, alluding to the artists’ connection to design and the applied arts. But this term, as used in mathematics, can also express a greater result achieved when multiplying quantities. Fittingly, each artist shows tandem bodies of work, where the interplay of drawing, collage, painting, environmental sculpture and ceramics heighten the senses, both the tactile and visual.
Time was when South Williamsburg, that part closest to the Williamsburg Bridge, was a bit of a sleepy outpost. Sure, there was Dressler, Diner and Marlowe & Sons. And of course, there was always Peter Luger’s. But by the watering hole/restaurant “density standard” of the Northside, that seemed a relative paucity of choices, no matter that the quality of those stalwarts were all well above average. But like so much in Brooklyn’s hottest nabe, a lot is also changing on its Southside and changing fast. In the last 3-4 years, there have been at least 5 or 6 big new apartment buildings erected. And that means a lot of hungry and thirsty new folk in Los Sures.
Thankfully, one of the better new additions to the scene is the excellent bar/cafe, OTB. Occupying a former hardware store right on Broadway between Bedford and Driggs, just next to Motorino Pizzeria’s new location and only a few doors away from the now-shuttered Dressler, OTB is a super comfortable space — dare I day “homey”? — that offers reasonably priced and always tasty food and drink. With a subtle nod to the now-defunct Off Track Betting parlors of New York’s past, there are sly allusions to that peculiar institution, such as an old-fashioned rotary wall phone, heavily padded swivel bar chairs and super comfortable club booths. There are also attractive light fixtures, cool paisley-textured vinyl wallpaper and beautiful oversized photographic prints adorning the walls that feature retro-cool vintage scenes of servicemen at a burlesque show or well-turned out gentry attending a horse race. The food menu is nicely focused with an emphasis on French bistro standards like escargots, frogs’ legs and a killer steak frites, as well as a very juicy grass-fed burger. There is also a good raw bar with ceviche and oysters (the latter on special for a buck each late nights and Mondays) and meaty chicken wings done in a choice of three finger-lickin’ styles. If you’re lucky, you may also run into an occasional special of the tastiest chicken tenders around — much too good for kids and my only caveat is that they should always be on the menu.
As for libation, there is a tight little selection of craft & imported beers on tap such as Captain Lawrence IPA and Radeberger; and a very fine cocktail list with essentials like a traditional rye Old Fashioned and in-house creations like the aptly named and all-too-quaffable Pimm’s Knockout (a particular favorite of the Missus). Best of all, the gracious and friendly staff makes you feel at home the minute you sit down or belly up to the bar. And Wiliamsburg or not, that kind of vibe is hard to come by these days. It all adds up to make OTB an excellent and unpretentiously hip hangout to while away an evening, as well as a welcome addition to a rapidly changing neighborhood. So check it out on your next visit to the Southside and if you haven’t been over that way in a while, you’ll be dumbstruck at how much else has changed.
There will be a whopping 10 regulation-sized shuffleboard courts inside the massive 17,000 square foot space and gourmet food trucks outside to restore vigor to the competitors. And Royal Palms takes their avocation seriously: shuffleboarders (real word? it is now) will have the options of league play, competitive tourneys featuring ranked players or simple pick up games among friends, as well as private parties. All this exuberant high life amidst the spirited competition, swinging music and cocktails is bound to lead to the bonhomie that I’m told only good, honest shuffleboard can produce… as well as lowering the median age for its players by around 35 years. So be sure to check it out when they get the biscuits flying and chalk me up for 10 frames at the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club! If it’s anything like pool, I’ll get better the more beer I have.
This incredibly long paean by Liz Robbins in today’s New York Times about aging former Meatpacking District restaurateur & scenester Florent Morellet. A mercifully short excerpt from this slavering epic:
To which those of us who are not discoing away every night in our luxurious retirement can only say: Fuck You. As if Brooklyn needs any more ultra-rich douchebags coming over from Manhattan to advocate for building luxury skyscrapers (none of them providing affordable housing) in the middle of previously low-rise working and middle class neighborhoods and trying to make their cool little “discovered” corner of Brooklyn more like, you know, Manhattan. Please go away or die already. You say “we have tons of neighborhoods to rebuild”… until we don’t and we are all living somewhere near JFK with jets roaring over our heads every 5 minutes because that’s all we can afford. And did not the editor think to tell Miss Robbins to maybe cut her ode to Mr. Fabulous here by, oh, I don’t know, 15 or so paragraphs? It boils down to a fawning story about a guy who owned a restaurant and is now on his 3rd midlife crisis discovering his personal fountain of youth in Bushwick, not exactly Pulitzer-worthy journalism. Jesus wept, at 3000 words who could possibly make it to the end of this damn thing? I dare you to try to finish it without wanting to throw your computer out the window.
Brooklyn…home to the newest cultural renaissance here in NYC. Visit us and you’ll find a treasure trove of artists, artisans, and craftsmen, all producing some pretty magnificent stuff. And of course, you’ll see beards. Lots of beards. But while many of our beard-wearing brethren here in Brooklyn wouldn’t know a razor if they fell on one, a few of us actually do shave! I remember watching my Dad shave as a kid, fascinated by what I saw as one of the simplest and purest embodiments of maleness. The guy could ski double black diamonds with ease, fix any broken down car by himself, and seemingly attract the attention of any beautiful young woman (often 20 years his junior.) So needless to say, as a kid I paid close attention, and I came to see shaving as a symbol of the conflation of masculinity and refinement. I mean seriously, can you picture James Bond with a beard? Not happening.
Having decided years ago to be a clean-shaven man, I’ve had time to try many different shave creams. It’s a very important part of shaving that is often glossed over, as silly as that may seem. Many people pay attention to what type of razor they use, whether they shave with the grain or against it, etc. But the fact is the shaving cream you choose will make a big difference. Using a good shaving cream will spare you lots of nicks and rashes, and leave you smelling elegant and, dare I say, attractive. For me, the creme de la creme of creams is Musgo Real.
One could say it was too soon to go at 71 but he packed a lot of hard living and a helluva lot of art into those years. Really, who would have thought he’d survive this long? And what he left behind as his legacy sure ain’t too bad for a punk kid from Brooklyn who couldn’t hit it sideways…
A “Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey” utilizing limestone mineral water from Rosendale, NY and blended in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Widow Jane nonetheless exhibits the best qualities of really fine Bourbon: a hot, almost cognac-like nose; a sweet caramel first impression; a hint of charred oak middle; and a lingering warm burnt orange peel finish.
Widow Jane is one of many eclectic and palate-pleasing products offered by the remarkable Cacao Prieto chocolatier and distiller, which is based out of a beautiful old brick building on Conover Street in Red Hook. But along with their amazing rum, we find the latest batch of 7-years-in-American-oak Bourbon absolutely one of the best liquors we’ve tasted lately with no off notes and smooth-sipping sweetness. At about 91 proof, adding a little branch water or an ice cube is quite all right and will open up the subtle flavors that seem to unfold like a long, warm wave over your tongue. It’s a bit too refined and expensive to be a mixing whiskey (around $58 a fifth) so best to just take your time and enjoy it on its on with a good friend or two. There’s enough going on in each sip to satisfy your senses over the long haul, no additives required. If you’re really craving an Old Fashioned or sour, pull out some Jim Beam and save the Widow Jane for another time. She’s worth it.
We highly recommend paying a visit to Cacao Prieto in person to sample their fantastic chocolate, chocalate-based liquors, stellar white rum and to stock up on the Widow Jane whiskeys available. If you can’t make it out to rapidly rebounding Red Hook, you can order this fine Bourbon through Astor Wines, as well as the vendors listed at the Widow Jane site.
We’re very glad to announce the addition of a new contributor to Man’s Fine Life, a gent who goes by the handle Punto Verde. Like tomvox1, he’s yet another Brooklyn hepcat (they’re downright ubiquitous these days… like herpes, only more charming) and PV is also an artist, music lover and all around bon vivant. We’re looking forward to his take on fashion, tunes, vintage contraptions and whatever else catches his fancy. The more the merrier and it’s always good to have another well-rounded gentleman aboard. So let’s raise a stein to Punto Verde!
Mr. Devlin was a pioneer in the Williamsburg food scene, which is to say the whole back-to basics, farm-to-table movement. His excellent restaurant Dressler on Broadway near the Williamsburg Bridge just shut down a few weeks ago due to a failure to come to terms with the landlord on a new lease (i.e. the rent was going up, up, up). It was an absolute shock, like someone abruptly tore away part of the fabric of the neighborhood, and there was a feeling of genuine loss. Not to mention it was always extremely busy with locals & tourists, so it seemed extra hard to fathom.
I never met the man but I’ve eaten at all of his restaurants (DuMont and DuMont Burger are still, I sincerely hope, going strong) and not only was the food great and the experience fun but they played an important part in my wife & I falling in love with this ugly-beautiful part of Brooklyn.
When they write the epitaph of the inevitable decline and loss of identity of Williamsburg caused by ever-escalating real estate prices and uncontrolled development pushing out the middle and artisan class to find cheaper housing and work space elsewhere (as is happening in so much of New York City), the sad and lonely death of Mr. Devlin may well serve as a symbolic turning point: the Beginning of the End.
Our sincere condolences to his family, friends & employees from all the folks here at MFL. May you have the strength to carry on.