Foraycation to Williamsburg
It’s been a long time since Therese and I have gone on a foraycation, that sort of trip which is somewhere between a vacation and a staycation. Recently, my stepdaughter and her husband relocated to a new apartment in a stylish building not far from McCarren Park. So two weekends ago, we got a chance to trek out to Williamsburg to visit them and my son-in-law’s mom, who had driven down from Vermont to see the new place and spend the weekend with them.
If you are not from New York City, let me give you a few words on Williamsburg. It is directly east of Manhattan’s East Village, but rather remote when it comes to public transportation (there is only one subway line that goes there from Manhattan, and one that connects it to other parts of Brooklyn). In the 1980s and 1990s, when the East Village (which had been one of the cheapest neighborhoods to live in in Manhattan, and thus was full of artists and musicians living in rundown buildings) started to get gentrified, the artists and musicians left and many of them moved to Williamsburg. At the time, Williamsburg was full of immigrant tenements and warehouses; but over time, the new residents of Williamsburg fixed it up, and in time, funky restaurants and bars full of character opened up.
And as with most neighborhoods that get a reputation for being cutting-edge and hip, little by little people who were not artists and who had a lot more money than them decided Williamsburg would be a cool place for them to live too. But of course they wouldn’t tolerate the edgy living conditions that the artists would. In time, developers tapped the Williamsburg market and started tearing down the tenements and putting in brand new shiny apartment buildings with funky details and state-of-the-art details. This brings us to the present day, where most of the artists and musicians have now moved on to places like Bushwick because they can no longer afford to live in Williamsburg. A lot of the hipness of the neighborhood is still there in the restaurants and bars, and since it is still rather remote from Manhattan, it has retained some of its edgy character.
Therese and I took a cab to Williamsburg from the Financial District (getting there by public transportation would’ve meant taking two subways and then walking a good distance), and got there faster than we expected to. As we walked in early, we saw our daughter slipping out to pick up coffee for herself and her husband. We went upstairs and got a look at their apartment – the building and their apartment are both very very nice. And after chatting for a while and letting the two youngsters get fully caffeinated, it was time to head off to our brunch spot. Our daughter had gone ahead after getting her coffee to put our name in at the restaurant, so that hopefully when we got there, they would have a table ready.
Five Leaves Cafe
The day was warmish, but there was lots of snow on the ground, especially as we walked past McCarren Park. Within about 10 minutes, we arrived at Five Leaves. There were tables set out on the sidewalk, and those were pretty full, but we decided we would be more comfortable inside. The inside was cozy, but the five of us squeezed around a table, and set about exploring the menu.
Five Leaves’ menu, as you would expect of a small restaurant, is rather limited. However, all their offerings sound really good. The add-ons for many of the dishes make them very appealing. For example, their house “Five Leaves” burger comes with pickled beets and harissa mayo. I chose the BLAT – bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato sandwich with cumin lime mayo – on a roll, with the optional fried egg on top, and a complementary side of the house special truffle fries.
Brunch at the Five Leaves
For my drink, I ordered a ginger beer – the more forceful cousin to ginger ale – but it turned out that they were out of ginger beer, so I got a fountain ginger ale instead. My daughter ordered a bloody mary and a house burger, and pronounced them all very good. And her mother-in-law had the lamb pho dip sandwich, and said she enjoyed the sandwich, but didn’t much like the dip – it was too sweet for her taste. As for my sandwich, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The egg and avocado were hard to keep on the roll, but the overall flavor was great (although I didn’t notice the cumin-lime mayo that much). As for the truffle fries, the truffle oil made them taste so good that I was content to enjoy them without ketchup.
After lunch, we went back to the apartment and hung out for a while. Our daughter had some large empty boxes to give to us, so we had ordered a car service to take us home so we would be sure to have storage space to transport the boxes. After a while, we put the boxes on a cart, and left them with the front desk of the building while we went off and played a game of pool in the building’s recreation room.
Playing Pool in the Recreation Room
We played a game of 8 ball – my son-in-law and daughter against me, and I’m glad to say that I was able to make it very competitive, but they sank the 8-ball for the win. Our car service was going to be late, so we still had more time, so we went across the street to check out their favorite local market, the Brooklyn Kitchen.
The Brooklyn Kitchen
As a market, Brooklyn Kitchen is small. I would call it more of gourmet deli. It is certainly stocked with lots of premium, high-end goods, and the prices are a bit high. Nevertheless, if I lived near there, there are some things I would go there to buy. For example, they have a freezer full of ice creams that includes some brands with dairy free varieties. Specifically, I found Van Leeuwen vegan chocolate ice cream there, which I have never see packaged (previously, the only time I have eaten it is at Van Leeuwen’s East Village storefront). So I was thrilled to find that, and gladly bought a pint. I didn’t look at the bill, so I can’t say how much it cost, but I’m sure it was higher than what I usually pay for a pint of frozen dessert.
With our deli goods bagged up, we finally were able to get a large car service to take us home (thanks to our son-in-law). We rode home full of good feelings from our wonderful day visiting family and seeing Williamsburg.