A few components help me connect with destinations new and familiar. History assists in understanding that a place owes its existence to inhabitants past and reminds one that everything is constantly evolving in some respect. The food and drink produced and served in a city or region reflect the local tastes and preferences. And the creative force of the area’s artisans is indicative of the level of specialized skill and pride of work at hand. Although I have spent many years living in Brooklyn (until my recent African sojourns), I always welcome an opportunity to improve my connection with the borough. I recently took a Red Hook tour with Made in Brooklyn Tours and was able to do so on a sunny fall afternoon.
The tour started at a spot familiar to most New Yorkers – the pier behind the Ikea. Dom, who heads Made in Brooklyn Tours, explained the history of the surrounding area, from the cranes to the development of the waterfront over the centuries.
Our first stop was a distillery in the heart of Red Hook. Jack from Brooklyn crafts his award-winning Sorel liqueur in the neighborhood and had some of his signature product ready for a little bit of day drinking (it was past noon, no problem!) when we arrived. Sorel is an artisanal drink made from a variety of natural ingredients, including hibiscus, Indonesian nutmeg and Nigerian ginger. Jack took time to show us the barrels of these fragrant elements of his creation, told us his personal story, then poured some Sorel for us to sample. The aromas and tastes of the components arrive smoothly in each sip, and a glass of Sorel on the rocks sounds just about right on a summer afternoon.
Next, we headed back towards the water and visited a building housing New York Printing & Graphics and Makers Toolbox. Sue from Makers Toolbox displayed some of the fun, hand-made toys for children she creates.
Located on Pier 41, Flickinger Glassworks has spent over thirty years bending glass into stunning pieces. The kilns and molds are skillfully employed to produce works that adorn buildings in New York and also function as tableware and light fixtures. Anyone who has set foot in Grand Central Terminal has seen their craftsmanship, as Flickinger restored the face of the iconic clock above the information booth in the center of the building.
Dom must have perused this blog before he planned the stops, as we found ourselves at The Red Hook Winery a few minutes later. Superstorm Sandy hit this vintner very hard, but the team bounced back and is producing an array of excellent New York wines. We tasted a few very smooth reds – a 2008 cabernet, a 2010 cabernet franc and a 2010 cabernet franc/merlot blend from Macari Vineyard. The winery then gave us a tour of their operations and I was reminded how happy I am when surrounded by wine barrels.
Our walk took us past shorefront buildings and the old train below. The seats and exterior of the train are a fun throwback and I imagined the car filled with men reading newspapers and cigarette smoke drifting through the windows.
I also learned why those black stars line so many older buildings in Red Hook. Long before they featured in home decoration, the star-shaped pieces were installed as tie rod anchor plates. They support the building’s structural integrity in the event of an earthquake. And the design is sharp to boot.
We then visited the workshop of Marsha Trattner. I could have spent an hour or two photographing just the equipment and tools. Even more impressive were the finished products on hand, such as the bowl below. The care and expertise employed by Marsha was evident and very admirable. She shares her knowledge by offering classes to anyone interested in trying their hand at metalworking.
I had burned a few calories by this point, so I was relieved that our last stop was Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies. Many friends have combined a day of Ikea or Fairway shopping with a visit to Steve’s, either for a few pies or a Classic. The Classic is the type of frozen treat that I will happily devour mid-winter. A mini key lime pie on a popsicle stick, dipped in dark chocolate then frozen.
A nice end to an afternoon of Red Hook.
If you’d like to learn more about Made in Brooklyn Tours and the neighborhoods they cover, please head over to their website and keep up with their news and developments on Facebook and Twitter. I strongly support tourism that highlights local creative processes and products, so I recommend joining one of their tours if you have the opportunity.
Disclosure: Made in Brooklyn Tours provided this tour on a complimentary basis. However, I retain full editorial control over all content published on Cook Sip Go and any opinions are my own.