I feel like I can’t talk about places and things without photographic backup. People, including myself, don’t have time for words anymore. It’s all I can do to scroll through my work RSS feeds during the day while trying to squeeze in a few non-work feeds on the side. Particularly with food blogs, photos and headlines get the point across, and then you move onto the next.
I didn’t even start taking snapshots until 2006 and I’ve been writing on the web since ye olde 1998 so it’s creepy that photos have become so essential so quickly. Yeah, yeah, it’s all about video now…well, that’s never going to happen on my watch.
Maybe I’m regressing (some would say evolving) or maybe it’s just the lazy days of August when all NYC media tries to make you believe that the entire city is summering someplace full of fresh air that’s insanely fun (I’m indifferent to fresh air) but I haven’t been inclined to detail everything I eat and drink digitally.
I didn’t take as single shot at Grand Sichuan last week and only two or three at Boca Junior on Saturday. I did attempt a few pictures of my negroni at newly opened Botanica in Red Hook but flashless photography is futile while drinking outdoors at night.
Yes, there’s already a perfectly established bar with the same name on Houston Street, so that is weird. And yes, old-timer fave, Sunny’s is just down the street. I don’t see why the established and the new can’t coexist. No matter how much gentrification talk gets bandied about, the neighborhood is hardly bursting at the seams. The streets are still dead at night. Three cats prowling around the sidewalk at intervals was about the sum of the foot traffic I witnessed this weekend.
I’ve never felt more like I was in Beijing while ordering a drink at Botanica. Well, there weren’t any mute assistants with bowl haircuts working behind the bar when I was in China, but in both places I experienced pricy cocktails for the environs painstakingly made, i.e. slooowly from a binder of recipes. I’m all for perfection but the trick is making it appear seamless. I tend to be a bit twitchy and nervous as it is; I can’t spare the stress on my heart to be nervous for others too.
Now that I think about it, the awkwardness might’ve been compounded by a lack of bar seating and a big unfilled space between the bar and the row of tables against the wall. It feels strange to be standing eye to eye with a bartender when the room is nearly empty and you’re the only one at the counter. Or maybe it was the quirky African (or was it African-influenced? It was most definitely wasn’t Vampire Weekend, thank God) music playing that threw me off.
Normally, I’m violently opposed to sitting outside but Saturday the temperature was abnormally tolerable while the bar itself was hot and stuffy despite all doors being open and nary a crowd emitting body heat. My only fear was being targeted as a douche for drinking a double-digit-priced cocktail at a candlelit (make that glowing plastic votive thing) sidewalk table on Conover Street. And funny, because I overheard one table trading war stories with another table about the good ol’ days when the area was so scary it was safer to walk in the middle of the street.
The emphasis appears to be on freshly muddled fruit. A row of martini glasses filled with blackberries, cherries, and the like are prominently displayed on the bar (like this). I wasn’t up for a blueberry martini or anything sweet so I went completely bitter and dry with a negroni. Those herbal aperitifs like Campari have only recently begun to grow on me. Maybe it’s an aging thing; James mentioned that his father’s favorite drink is a negroni and the man is twice my age.
Botanica hasn’t hit its stride yet, and one drink was sufficient to get the gist. $10 lighter and seven mosquito bites later, we moved onto Brooklyn Ice House (formerly Pioneer Bar-B-Q). I do prefer beer and Van Halen chased by a free shot.
Botanica * 220 Conover St., Brooklyn, NY