Friday, January 28, 2011

Bringing Pickle Back

I'm a sucker under peer pressure. Really, the after-school specials of the 90s were lost on me. I can be talked into just about anything if "everybody else is doing it." Blame it on indecisiveness or a lifetime fear of being pegged the party pooper, I'm usually eager to just go with whatever a more opinionated person wants. Luckily, this gets me into a lot more good than it does bad.

Perfect example: Pickle back Sunday

The Jets made it to the playoffs this season so, of course, I spent my last two Sabbaths watching the games/day drinking. As soon as I got to Whiskey Brooklyn, the bar where about 10 of my friends were gathered, I was offered a spicy pickle back.

"A what?"

Pickle back: a shot of Jameson chased immediately by a shot of pickle juice.

"Eh, I'm good. I don't really drink Whiskey." (I, somehow, after 4 years at a #1 party school can't really hold my own around liquor)

"Yeah, but you drink pickle backs. Trust me," my friend signaled for the waitress. "You have to. We're all doing it together."

As soon as she uttered the magic words I was in. Only a party pooper would decline a group shot. Within seconds, a full tray of shot glasses- half brown, half ninja-turtle green- hit the table. We toasted to the Jets and down that pickle back went- a shot of whiskey followed by a shot of pickle juice.

The salty pickle juice (and really, it's exactly that- the brine from a jar of pickles) masked the Jameson completely. And this particular pickle back, since we ordered it "spicy", packed a sinus-clearing punch. The Tampa girl in me made a quick association. It kinda tastes like a Cuban sandwich. (Gross sounding, I know; But, in the moment, pretty delicious).

My alcohol enthusiastic group of friends aren't the first to throw these back. In fact, after a little Googling, I learned whiskey and pickle juice is basically the new whiskey and Coke. It all started at Bushwich Country Club, a hipstery dive bar in Brooklyn. McClure of the famous McClure's Gourmet Pickles (all the rage among NYC foodies) was storing some of his stock in the bar's basement. One fateful night a daring bartender took a swish of pickle juice after a shot of whiskey. The pickle back was born, and I'm grateful for it.

This unlikely combo became the official beverage of my playoffs (seriously). And although the Jets lost last Sunday, the discovery of the pickle back made us all winners....that is, until Monday morning.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

She get it from her Grandma....

We got there around 10:00pm Saturday- tucked into a line about 25 people deep outside Public Assembly, a mini-warehouse turned bar/music venue in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The bouncer nodded for my ID and asked what we were there for.

"Uh, the neighborhood watch meeting," my boyfriend* tried to keep a straight face as he responded. It was the secret code we were given in the secret email that revealed the secret location. The bouncer waived us in.

It was dark. Music was blaring. At least 200 people were gathered around an empty stage. A countdown flashed on a black screen. We had about 15 minutes left.

We were all excited. We knew what we were there for. It wasn't a neighborhood watch meeting- whatever that is. The countdown ran out to zero. The crowd- now pushing 300- roared like it was New Year's Eve.

A late twenty-something British man walked on stage in a trench coat. He told us we weren't safe. He told us the streets of Brooklyn were crawling with thieves. Then he started to unbutton his trench coat. "But you're not really here for a watch meeting." The crowd cheered. "You're here to change your life." The crowd cheered. "Do you want me to change your life?" The crowd lost it. He ripped off his coat and finally revealed what we were all waiting for.

"You're here to play Underground Rebel Bingo!"

We were.

We were holding magic markers and bingo cards. There was a bingo machine on stage. We wanted prizes.

But it wasn't your Grandma's bingo.

Two girls- one dressed in not much more than a corset, the other with a diamond-studded bra hanging out of her dress, both in neon wigs- bounced up on stage. They started to fondle the bingo balls and call out letters and numbers with rhymes too raunchy to repeat. The rules: If you win, scream bingo, fight through the crowd, launch yourself on stage and hug the announcer. If you call a false bingo you get ridiculed by the entire audience. The prizes: an iPod speaker that looks like a guitar amp and a giant panda bear suit.

Rumor has it, Underground Rebel Bingo started in a church basement in London. After it became wildly popular with the Brits, the man in the trench coat decided to ship it to Brooklyn.

A rave-like Bingo with a secret location and panda-themed prizes- my prediction is that it will catch on fast with the hipsters out here. BINGO!

*Still deciding how to introduce him/refer to the new him on the blog. But yeah, boyfriend.

NOTE: Picture stolen from the New York Times coverage of another Rebel Bingo night.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hungry Bear

Remember that Sex and the City episode when everyone gave Miranda crap about moving out of Manhattan to Brooklyn? The girls were horrified. A cabbie wouldn't even drive her there.

I watched that show religiously (because I'm a warm-blooded American woman) and therefore arrived in New York with that same Manhattan-or-bust prejudice tucked in the back of my brain.

No matter how abusively high the rent, I was determined to find a home in Manhattan- downtown Manhattan if I could help it. Lucky for me, I landed in the East Village first. Now I live in the West Village (a couple streets down from Carrie Bradshaw's stoop, actually). Long story short, I've remained a total Manhattan elitist. It takes a lot to get me out of my superior borough. At least, it used to.

Turns out (brace yourself) there are two things that can get Vanessa out of Manhattan often: a cute boy and good brunch.

No real shocker there, but let's focus on the brunch.

Where: Enids in Greenpoint, Brooklyn
Commute from the West Village: About 30 minutes by L-train and bus
What I ordered: The Hungry Bear

I was sold on the dish before I read the description. If my appetite in the late morning (after a drink or four the night before) had an Indian name it would absolutely be "Hungry Bear." This $11.00 dish, voted most popular by Yelpers, includes a homemade biscuit sandwich stacked with sausage and a poached egg, smothered in gravy and sprinkled with paprika. I chose "cheesy grits" as a side. The egg was plump then oozy, pairing perfectly with the sausage and almost frothy gravy. The cheesy grits were creamy and layered with just enough saltiness. And best of all, we were able to order our own French-pressed coffee. It was exactly what any hungry bear or girl needs around noon on a damp January Sunday- the kind of start to the day that makes you wanna get right back in bed, but in a good way.

And it's not the first blogable restaurant I've visited in Brooklyn, the latest borough that cute boy I mentioned has inspired me to explore. Restaurants there (in Greenpoint and Williamsburg, at least) seem to have few things in common: they're cheaper, more casual and slightly less full of it than their Manhattan counterparts, but just as yummy.

I'll eat there. I might date a boy who lives there. But, move in to another borough?? That would take a bit of a Manhattan miracle

Monday, January 3, 2011

r.i.p christmas tree

It's the most wonderful time of the year-- and it's over.

Walking through my neighborhood Saturday morning after New Year's Eve, I couldn't help but find it all a little depressing. Mangled New Years hats floating in puddles of brown slush leftover from the blizzard, balding Christmas Trees abandoned on curbs, a barista at the coffee shop nearby ripping down paper snowflakes that floated in the window all month-- by next week even the after-Christmas sales will expire.

Sure, New York is cluttered, inconvenient and basically cracked out during the holidays, but wrapped in lights, it's all pretty magical.

So now we've just got plain ol' winter to deal with. No sparkle. No Sinatra's Christmas album at the grocery store. No gingerbread lattes at Starbucks. Just a city that gets dark around 4pm and cold, well, until April.

To protect against the post-Christmas blues, I decided to make a list of all the positive things that will happen during the next few frigid months:

1. With tourists cleared out, I can get a cab in midtown again.
2. No more whiney saxophone versions of (once enjoyable) Christmas songs playing on my coworkers CD player.
3. Martin Luther King Jr. Day off...because your boss sorta has to.
4. Upgrading to a bigger bedroom when my roommate moves out that features- wait for it- a real closet! (I've hardly survived 2 years without a proper one).
5. Valentines Day...because I'm a cheeseball
6. Snow days/ Snow ball fights
7. Weather related excuses to skip the gym (it's blizzarding) and drink hot cocoa (it's delicious).

With two winters behind me, I'm hoping 3 times a charm and a lady.

Merry Winter!