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Brooklyn Gal

Who’s Your Goddess?

A strange thing happened the other night in Nyack, New York: the Brooklyn Gal got into the goddess groove.

We’ve never considered ourselves, well, particularly mystic or otherworldly, we’ve never studied ancient myths, Greek or otherwise, with scholarly intensity, we’ve never even hummed Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon,” that Stevie Nicks’ chestnut, inspired by the Welch lunar goddess. And yet, there we were, on a crisp fall night, whirling around a yoga studio-turned-party room, hands joined with men and women of all stripes, celebrating the release of photographer Lisa Levart’s glorious new book, Goddess on Earth, Portraits of the Divine Feminine (LUSH Press).

A visual feast printed in Verona, Italy, Lisa’s hardcover volume features women ages 8 to 99, from doctors, designers and psychiatrists to renowned actresses Karen Allen, Olympia Dukakis, Lisa Gay Hamilton and best-selling authors Isabel Allende, Madhur Jaffrey and Rose Styron. Each woman is powerful and awe inspiring in their everyday life; each transformed, as if by magic, into a strong, beautiful goddess of their choice by Lisa’s lens.

Whether Celtic or Roman, African or Egyptian, the goddesses’ stories transcend the ages, and so do Lisa’s exuberant, life-embracing photos. Her book may be called Goddess on Earth but these images are most definitely celestial.



Fashion on Fifth

For the past few weeks we’ve made detours to Fifth Avenue between Third and Fourth Streets just to peer in the window of Cozbi and check on its progress. To date all we saw were the vague signs of a Park Slope boutique unfolding, namely, a papered-up glass window and the moniker Cozbi stenciled on the front, with the alluring promise of ‘homemade goodness.’

We had heard of Cozbi, of course and knew that the designer behind it, Cozbi A. Cabrera, also ran a cute shop in Carroll Gardens where she sold her Brooklyn-made women’s frocks, children’s clothing and handmade dolls. We always meant to visit her original shop but somehow never made it during business hours.

On a whim we just took another stroll to Fifth and behold: plenty of progress! The window, now unsheathed, features eyelet dress and other summery temptations and beyond, racks of colorful cottony clothing and boxes waiting to be unpacked.

Our guess is that the Slope opening is just days, maybe moments away so we won’t have to travel more than a few blocks to explore Cozbi’s lovely designs firsthand.

Welcome to the neighborhood!






Edible Brooklyn| Spring 2011

Mastering the Art of Mexican Cooking

A Park Slope chef from Mexico City has penned a Latin answer to the Julia Child classic.

By Randi Gollin

It’s not that Roberto Santibañez aspires to be a 21st-century Julia Child—Julie Powell of Julie & Julia fame more or less has that ground covered. But with his just-released cookbook, Truly Mexican (John Wiley & Sons), the highly acclaimed chef/owner of Park Slope’s popular restaurant Fonda hopes to channel what Child did for French cuisine and eliminate the intimidation factor that often stands between American home cooks and great Mexican fare.

Child led that charge by hoisting beehived and be-Jelloed homemakers over cultural hurdles with her own culinary bible, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Correspondingly, Santibañez, who hails from Mexico City, aims for his vivid tome to educate enthusiasts on how to cook authentic carnitas, enchiladas, tostadas and taquitos—all illuminated by his lessons on authentic, transcendent sauces. Instead of veering into well-trod topics like Mexico’s diverse regional cuisines and rich history, covered by the influential likes of Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless, he focuses on the salsas, guacamoles, adobes, moles and pipiánes that form the backbone of Mexican flavors, offering step-by-step directives that are certain to vanquish that no-can-do mindset and replace it with a hearty sí se puede!

In much the same spirit as that famous big-boned dame, Santibañez aims to infuse a soupçon of much-needed levity into the making of a truly Mexican meal. Fittingly, he credits his fascination with Child in equal measure to her endearing flaws and accomplishments. He admires the way she taught America tech niques for dishes they loved to eat, but didn’t know how to cook.“She did so beautifully, saying ‘don’t be scared—grab the chicken and cook it this way.’ And she sometimes got it wrong and she would laugh about it—it was fantastic.”

Coincidentally, Santibañez also trained at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the storied culinary school where the indomitable icon herself first embraced the joys of cooking à la française, whisking her way into epicurean history. He found many French cooking methods to be a revelation, worlds away from those he grew up watching over his grandmother’s shoulder as she stirred her cazuela. He was amazed to learn that the addition or subtraction of a few ingredients could convert one so-called Mother sauce, say, béarnaise, into a Maltese.

In Truly Mexican, Santibañez hands readers the Mother-sauce keys to the cuisine of his homeland. Instead of scattering recipes for, say, moles, throughout the book, he presents them together—and reveals—eureka!—how alike they can be. “I’m just trying to [show] people, oh my God, the basic techniques give you all these possibilities,” he explains. “We Mexicans have made it seem, because of our historical

facts and geographical diversity, much more complicated than it really is. Once you understand it, it’s so much simpler.”

Brooklynite bookmaster J. J. Goode, who’s currently collaborating on cookbooks with such culinary nobility as April Bloomfield, Zak Pelaccio and Aarón Sanchez, himself took on the project as a Mexican cooking neophyte, but came away with a new skill set, inhibitions long forgotten. “Mexican food is so popular, but people still do not cook it at home at all. And it’s really, really doable,” he insists. “I’d say it’s even easier than French food, even peasant French food—easier than beef Bourguignon, for sure.”

Goode joined Santibañez and Shelley Wiseman, the chef ’s longtime friend and the book’s recipe developer, countless times in one or the other’s home kitchen, and that’s where the knowledge in Santibañez’s head and hands literally got translated onto the page. “You get the best information when you’re cooking with someone,” says Goode. “Roberto’s very laid-back in the kitchen, and Shelley has her stopwatch and she’s saying, ‘Roberto, when did you add the water?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t know, Shelley, I just added it.’ It was like Abbott and Costello,” he laughs. “But it’s great to have that precision. You know chefs—‘it’s done when it’s done.’ And home cooks are like, ‘OK, what the hell does that mean?’”

Such exactitude has its rewards, as evidenced in recipes like “Pork in Adobo D.F.” (an abbreviation for Distrito Federal, or Mexico City). The five-ingredient adobo—a boldly flavored, blender-whirred puree of dried chiles, garlic, spices and vinegar—is laced with cinnamon, preferably canela (Mexican cinnamon), and as the pork shoulder chunks simmer, the sauce becomes spectacularly silky.

“I always speak about the platform of flavors, colors, textures that make cuisines what they are,” explains Santibañez. “We use many similar ingredients to China and India, but our food tastes distinct.” Mexicans, he points out, roast tomatoes, garlic and tomatillos, without one drop of oil, in the toaster oven or pan, until charred. And they toast chiles on a griddle, comal or heavy skillet, until blistered—core precepts passed down through the generations. “All these little factors give us these flavors that are particularly Mexican.”

Goode found such fundamentals an eye-opener—and exceptionally easy to master in his own kitchen. “I make stuff all the time now and it’s amazing how good it can turn out!” he raves, sounding a little surprised himself.

Somewhere up in food heaven, Julia Child must be smiling.

(Click on link to see story on Edible Brooklyn’s site. BOOKlyn | Spring 2011)


Funky, Funky – Yet Chic!

Spring fever has hit! We here at the Brooklyn Gal have been busy window shopping at some of our favorite Brooklyn boutiques, searching for stylish, quasi-budget friendly finds to pine for. What have we found? Well, it looks like hippiesh cloth handbags are definitely having their fashion moment. And we want in!

Whether  you opt for a colorful beauty like the madcap patchwork leather-strapped fair-trade tote at Diana Kane, the recycled, organically dyed ikat JadeTRIBE hobo trimmed with bohemian shell-flecked fringe at Kaight or the Thomas IV canteen handbag made from ethnic materials and luscious leather at Bird, you’re certain to add a much-needed bright spot to your wardrobe.

We think they’re the perfect spring-fling addition – especially if you tend to dress in an all-black urban uniform six days out of seven (we’re just sayin’…)


Village Triangle

There they were, their somber faces staring out at us from shadowy black-and-white photos in Monday’s edition of The New York Times: four of the six immigrant victims of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, finally identified after dying in obscurity ten decades ago. March 25th marks the 100-year anniversary of the tragic Greenwich Village factory fire that claimed the lives of 146 men and women and prompted the creation of empowering organizations like the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.

We here at the Brooklyn Gal have always been fascinated by old-timey New York City so we were quite moved by this haunting NYT article. And we tip our hats to Michael Hirsch, an amateur genealogist, historian and co-producer of HBO’s upcoming documentary Triangle: Remembering the Fire, who tenaciously researched sundry documents, including census records, death certificates and ethnic publications to solve this longtime puzzle of lost identity.

Sure, we wonder what the fashions on the street were like back in 1911 – perhaps bustle- or hobble-skirts, crisp shirtwaists, like those churned out by the Triangle and sturdy black lace-up granny boots – but what we really ask ourselves is what would have become of these oppressed workers (and their descendants) had they been given the chance to live full, happy lives?

So as we walk the city blocks in the weeks to come, we vow to say a silent prayer for the recently named men and women and the other victims, too, all of whom lost their lives trying to scrape a living together in the promised land of downtown Manhattan.


The Lock of Love

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner the Brooklyn Gal’s thoughts naturally turn toward…gold lockets. Corny, we know, but we’ve always had a thing for delicate little hearts engraved with curlicue patterns or studded with diamond specks. And when they open and close with a tiny clasp, with enough room for a dime-sized photo, heck, our hearts just go pitter-pat.

We’ve come across some irresistible lockets lately while browsing online, like a Victorian sapphire and pearl beauty from Doyle & Doyle, a haven of vintage wonders, a charmer from Flotsam & Jetsam at the ever-adorable Catbird in Williamsburg and a lovely rose gold number from Yayoi Forest at Steven Alan. Nonetheless, we’re still smitten with the one locket that got away, or rather, the one we failed to buy one early fall day.

It was, without a doubt, a real sweetheart, and we spied it while browsing in Assembly New York, one of the coolest boutiques on the LES. The salesperson told us that it was a relic from WWII, and, like many of its ilk, had once contained a lock of hair inside, a token from a girl back home to her soldier at the front. Fittingly, such WWII trinkets were called sweetheart lockets (and yes, there were pins too) and they usually bore U.S. Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy insignias.

We here at the BG have always had a weakness for treasures with a backstory. Should we ever venture upon such a find again we will not hesitate to snap it up. Unless, of course, our amour gets there first!


Feels Like Old Times

Gibson gal of yore

Years ago, in the 1990s, when you bought something vintage, be it clothing or jewelry, it was usually an item that was decades old and if not valuable, at least terribly unique or kooky or maybe even collectible. Nowadays, sad to say, it seems that anything more than five seasons old is called vintage. We here at the Brooklyn Gal think that’s a crying shame.

The thing is, we’ve always been attracted to vintage, in the truest sense of the word. We’d like to think it has something to do with our past lives. Perhaps we were Gibson Girls who turned heads with our poufy pompadours or fabulous flappers who danced our way through the roaring ’20s or Bohemians who rubbed elbows with famous artists and writers during the heyday of the Bloomsbury Group. Whoever we were, we hope that we were über-stylish and that we had the good sense to hold onto our favorite things for posterity.

We thought of all of these things just the other day when we wandered into Pippin Vintage Jewelry in Chelsea. As we browsed through this treasure trove literally stuffed with dazzling finds, we realized that we’ve not only become jaded by new-school “vintage” – we’ve also become accustomed to high-end vintage jewelry that costs an arm and a leg (which we have been lucky enough to receive as gifts from favorite haunts like Aaron Faber and Doyle & Doyle).

A favorite from our jewelry box

But Pippin was something different. While there were plenty of items, like marvelous cameos, that rightfully cost a mint, there were also tons of incredible pendants, strands of pearls and funky clip-on earrings of the costume jewelry variety from countless eras past. And, hello, these pieces were totally affordable, like 25 or 35 bucks. If we wanted, say, a funky necklace from the 1950s with tons of character or a cloisonné bracelet watch to take a simple black dress up a notch, we need look no further.

Pippin was, without a doubt, a revelation. It made us believe in power of vintage – as in real vintage – all over again. We can’t wait to go back again!


Bitchin’ Kitchen

Pot Luck!

Just the other day the Brooklyn Gal hauled butt to Williamsburg to check out a few cool kitchen shops. Or, rather, our foodie pal Jo, aka Plumandradish, a former Brooklynite visiting from the Windy City, hauled both of our butts to Billyburg, in her cute little Mini Cooper.

It was a cold day, and the streets felt rather bleak and looked kinda monotone (er, gray), but our afternoon immediately brightened upon entering The Brooklyn Kitchen, a vast industrial-ish space set in the shadows of the Williamsburg Bridge and packed with all sorts of primo comestibles, bakeware, cookware, barware, and sundry other goodies.

We loved perusing the local and artisanal chocolates (we especially heart Mast Brothers‘ tempting bars wrapped in delightful, suitable-for-framing paper) and the lovely larder must-haves like Baldwin Extracts’ pricey vanilla, concocted with aged bourbon and perfect for that winter bake-off. And items like Pommaireware’s cute-as-a-button clay pig-faced cookie jars handmade in Chile and old-fashioned  Haeger Stoneware pie plates made us desirous of a humongous country kitchen, far, far away from King’s County.

We may consider ourselves pescatarian, but we confess: even the butcher counter, run by The Meat Hook and well-stocked with prime cuts of beef, charcuterie, gourmet sausage and the like, seemed sort of, well, enticing.

Who knows, maybe one day we’ll cross that bridge, too. Just don’t expect us to work up an appetite for pig head or (gasp!) head cheese.


Oh, Woe is our Closet

Yup, it’s the heart of winter, that grim time of year with no holiday on the horizon. It’s that moment in time when we here at the Brooklyn Gal sometimes come down with a case of the wardrobe doldrums. Another black and gray outfit? Must we?

Making the task of getting dressed even more challenging: a hodgepodge of items that we once could not live without and now have difficulty parting with, all hogging room in a sliver-sized space.

The dilemma? How, pray tell, does one just toss a bottle green Gary Graham dress into the giveaway pile? Once a slim column of sleek chic, said jersey dress is now a tie-dyed mess thanks to a handwashing mishap (the label said dryclean only – we thought we knew better). And what of that Aoyama Itchome silk dress with gold studs that we were so, so happy to snatch up for a song last winter at Callalilai on Atlantic Avenue? It was just the cutest thing on the hangar but once we got it home, poof! it instantly lost its magical appeal.

The solution of course? Push these distracting items to the very back of our closet and start cruising the sale racks. Even better perhaps: start dreaming about spring.


If Santa Shopped Local

She's a beauty! Jas MB black quilted convertible bag at Barneys Co-op

If Santa left his gift buying till the eleventh hour, where oh where would he shop? At some of the Brooklyn Gal’s favorite stores and boutiques in (drumroll…) Brooklyn!

We bet that he would have no trouble at all fitting a Jas MB black quilted handbag with handles and a detachable shoulder strap from Barneys Co-op in his own satchel. Bonus: it’s on sale!

A cute Whit polka dot dress from Bird (great for transitioning into spring) or even Rachel Comey’s penpal-heeled booties are also compact enough to snag and add to the bulging bag.

If time allows, maybe he can swoop by Zoë in Dumbo and peruse the comfy T-shirts and sweaters, which we are always short of.

Or if Old Nick happened to win the lottery (we can dream, can’t we?) we bet that anything he might scoop up at Eva Gentry would make his elf very happy indeed.

And of course if Santa just decided to keep it small, the Brooklyn Gal would love to read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Triology (psst: it’s all boxed and ready to go at Barnes & Noble) or just The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to start…