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Local Artisans at Work in Red Hook, Brooklyn

Made in Brooklyn Cover Photo

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.

Red Hook - Crane

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.

Jack from Brooklyn Collage

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.

Makers Toolbox Red Hook

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.

Flickinger Glassworks

Flickinger Glassworks

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.

Red Hook Winery

Red Hook Winery

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.

Red Hook- Ivy on Building

Red Hook - Back of Fairway Building

Train Red Hook

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.

Red Hook - Star

Red Hook Waterfront

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.

She Weld Red Hook

Red Hook Blacksmith

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.

{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Sammi Wanderlustin' October 7, 2014, 6:58 pm

    This sounds like such an awesome tour. A real great way to get to know a place. Tho’ I think if I were surrounded by wine barrels I’d end up in a bad way- can’t say no to just another drop of wine!
    Sammi Wanderlustin’ recently posted…Tim Burton Saves the Day in PragueMy Profile

  • Chris Boothman October 7, 2014, 10:56 pm

    This sounds like such a unique and cool tour – right up our alley Dave! Being from northern England, I can definitely appreciate the ‘industrial’ type tours as I took several through the industrial revolution museums back in the homeland. They are a great way to experience history and learn about modern-day cultures that are still prevalent. Thanks for sharing this experience with us and hopefully when we head to Brooklyn next we can perhaps sample this for ourselves!
    Chris Boothman recently posted…The Grand Tour – Explore 20 of Copenhagen’s Finest AttractionsMy Profile

  • Angela October 7, 2014, 11:27 pm

    I need to explore some more distilleries. Posts like this make me want to sample. What a great experience.
    Angela recently posted…2014 Summer HighlightsMy Profile

  • christine October 7, 2014, 11:37 pm

    I live in NY and never been to Red Hook! Good to know there’s something to of there.
    christine recently posted…Prater: amusement park + nightclub = an adults dreamlandMy Profile

  • Beth October 8, 2014, 6:43 pm

    I’m not a big fan of wine, but I’m trying to change that. I think I need to try out more tours like this one to change my mind :)
    Beth recently posted…The Sights and Sounds of SalzburgMy Profile

  • Lauren October 8, 2014, 8:13 pm

    What a great tour! I love seeing the work of local artisans, they are so talented. And getting to try some wine on the trip is awesome too. I’d love to take a tour like this and will have to keep it in mind for the next time I visit NYC/Brooklyn!

  • Megan Claire October 8, 2014, 10:05 pm

    Sounds fascinating! It’s really important to start supporting the work of local artisans, so I was really glad to read this post. Though now my mouth is watering and you’ve inspired a trip to the grocery store for some key lime pie :D!
    Megan Claire recently posted…5 Discoveries Made Travelling Europe in WinterMy Profile

  • Jen October 9, 2014, 5:01 am

    I had no idea that there was a winery in Brooklyn. We took our kids to Manhattan for the first time recently and they loved it! However, this post has convinced me that I should really plan to spend a weekend in Brooklyn sometime soon. Love your photos.
    Jen recently posted…Le Tote ReviewMy Profile

  • Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke) October 9, 2014, 3:07 pm

    I love that old trolley! I’ve seen it. And I’ve been to a Travel Massive event at that winery, and that was a pretty nice spot.

    I had no idea about the glassworks. It’s nice to be able to see something like that without taking an out-of-the-way trip to Corning. :)

    Also, it’s very pleasant to take the water taxi from lower Manhattan to GET to Red Hook . . .
    Harvey (H-Bomb’s Worldwide Karaoke) recently posted…H-Bomb’s Sunday photo, week 49: an elegant arch on the MississippiMy Profile

  • antonette - we12travel October 10, 2014, 5:15 am

    Great post. It doesn’t even really show that you are in one of the biggest cities in the world. Would love to take this tour if we ever make it back to the Big Apple…

  • Chris October 10, 2014, 4:03 pm

    I really liked Brooklyn when I went, even if my stay was very short. I had no idea it hosted all these different kinds of workshops though!

    I love artisan goods, the attention to detail is always so precise.

    Looks like a delicious last stop as well!
    Chris recently posted…Free things to do in WellingtonMy Profile

  • Anda October 10, 2014, 10:00 pm

    Sounds like a very interesting tour and I would like to do if I go back to New York. Somehow every time I get there the time is too short for all the interesting the Big Apple has to offer. The Key Lime Pie shop sounds yummy…

  • Tom October 10, 2014, 11:40 pm

    Great posting, I always love seeing and reading about people following their hearts and passion.

  • Andreia October 11, 2014, 1:39 pm

    That pie really seems the highlight of the day! :)
    Andreia recently posted…PhotoMy Profile

  • Margherita @The Crowded Planet October 11, 2014, 5:15 pm

    What an awesome tour. Shows how Brooklyn is not just a NYC neighbourhood, it’s a destination in its own rights. Those stars on the buildings are amazing and it looks like the cultural scene is second to none. Plus, sorry, did you say frozen key lime pie? Need I say more?
    Margherita @The Crowded Planet recently posted…In the shadow of Stalin’s boots: Budapest Memento ParkMy Profile

  • Corinne October 19, 2014, 12:26 pm

    Dave, This looks like my kind of tour. I’ve never heard of one like this in Brooklyn…maybe next summer!
    Corinne recently posted…Weekend Travel Inspiration – China’s Great WallMy Profile

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