What’s the first thing you do when you open your eyes in the morning?
Though this is kind of sad, the first thing I do is reach for my cell phone (which sits, charging, next to my pillow) and check my email inbox with blurry eyes. It’s probably not the best thing to do the moment I wake up, but it’s an ingrained habit and I find myself unable to fully awake without first browsing through the emails.
But. Sometimes it pays off…because this morning, I woke up to the best news ever.
I got accepted to World Journalism Institute’s NYC Summer Convergence!!!
It’s an 8-week intensive journalism training program that would teach me how to utilize all sorts of nifty multimedia tools, including how to navigate an overwhelmingly secular (and liberal) field as a Christian journalist. I’ll be spending three weeks in NYC—right in the Empire State Building, actually—which means I’m not so sad that this NYC series is going to be over anymore, because in just a month, I’ll be visiting again.
From the look of the curriculum, the first two months of my summer is going to be crazy, but I’ll stress out about it later head in the road. Right now, I’m celebrating with a jiggly dance and a bow-wow song. Well, I’m in school now so I’ll refrain myself, but I’m totally doing it in my head!
Since I’ll be having classes Monday to Saturday, I doubt I’ll ever make it back to Brooklyn, but I want to try because I really liked Brooklyn a lot a lot a lot. Maybe even a tiny bit more so than Manhattan. It might have a little to do with the fact that I spotted tons of cute hipsters that day in Brooklyn.
After our banana cream pie at Pies ‘N’ Thighs, my travelmates and I trekked up to DUMBO from Williamsburg. And that meant we had to walk through a giant stretch of residence that is populated by the Hasidic Jews.
Williamsburg to Hasidic Williamsburg is abrupt. You swing by a corner and start passing families dressed head to toe in black and white. Men wear either black Borsalino hats or kippahs and grow their sideburns out into long, chin-brushing curls. Even the little boys have them!
Women all wear demure dress that goes down to their ankles and scarves over their heads. Tracy, being half-Jewish, told me the women shave their heads, which is why the hair of the bare-headed young women are so strangely black and straight.
It’s always a little intimidating when you step into such a foreign territory, because you don’t know how to act; I’m unfamiliar with the Hasidic culture so I wasn’t sure what would be considered impolite or offensive. But I wasn’t just going to walk through this neighborhood; I knew I wanted to find a bakery because my friend Joanna is obsessed with hamantaschen and I wanted to bring her some. Where better to get a Jewish baked good than here?
Eventually we found a Jewish bakery (it wasn’t so hard!) and walked in. I wasn’t planning to take pictures at first, but the owner of Korn’s bakery was so friendly, helpful and warm. Marilyn asked if we can take pictures, and he said he didn’t mind at all. In fact, he let us take all the pictures we want.
He even gave us a little tour around his bakery, explaining each pastry to us. He told us that he separates pastries with dairy from the ones without, because some sects don’t allow certain combinations of dairy.
(clockwise, from top left): American-Jewish-style Hungarian Seven-Layer cake called dobostorte, bagels, rugelach, and some kind of bell-shaped, frosted pastry whose name I forgot. Anybody know what that is, let me know!
(top to bottom): puff pastry filled with jam and cross-hatched with icing, Passover choux pastry filled with custard.
As we were conversing with the owner (who we found out is a Russian-Jew and spent most of his years in London), a customer walked in to get a cup of coffee and some rugelach. “Why are you taking pictures of the food?” he asked. “You should just take a picture of my beard!”
So given full permission, I took a picture of his impressive beard.
After saying our goodbyes, we walked out of the bakery with heavier bags (remember, I had a dozen bagels on my arm already!). We bought a pack of chocolate rugelach:
And of course I got Joanna two huge-ass hamantaschen (which is unpictured).
It was a tight, chocolate-studded roll of buttery, rich dough. The chocolate inside was, I think, bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate. It wasn’t very sweet at all—I kind of wanted coffee with this!
After about 15 minutes walk, we finally reached our second most anticipated destination of the day (first was The Bagel Store, of course).
Dough. It’s a fabulous donut factory in Bedford Stuyvesant/Clinton Hill. Alda warned us that it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere, and she was right. It wasn’t in the middle of the most exciting commercial region, but dang, New Yorkers really know how to sniff out good food no matter where it is!
The store from outside is obscure, but we knew what we were looking for, so we immediately spotted the lone sign outside that signaled the land of glorious fried carbs.
Dough is…amazing. I know that’s not the most helpful adjective, so let’s allow the pictures to speak for themselves.
It’s freaking hard to choose a donut in this store, because every option looks and sounds tempting.
Dough’s donuts are yeast-risen and baked fresh every day. Their kitchen, where bakers string together rolls of dough into circles and wait for them to rise, is open-to-view for customers.
We decided to share two donuts. Marilyn chose the Blood Orange donut:
And I went with the hibiscus donut.
No words. SO good! I have to say, these donuts are HUGE! Not your average Krispy Kreme size. They are bigger than the palm of my hands.
Blood Orange or Hibiscus? It’s hard to decide which is the better donut. They both share the same tight-crumbed, cakey, non-greasy, incredibly light chew; the difference is in the frosting and topping.
The hibiscus donut is topped with a sticky icing that tastes (if you haven’t tried hibiscus tea yet) sort of like blackcurrant.
It’s really worth checking this place out, even if the neighborhood it’s located in is a quiet residential place.
What’s a concrete in frozen custard terms? It’s a cup of blended custard churned so thick that it’s just basically like frozen cream. We got the Urban LumberShack: vanilla base topped with fresh sliced bananas, bacon peanut brittle and fried Belgian waffles.
Hoo! It’s seriously GOOD. I think I’ve had better frozen custard before (to be revealed in future post), but the toppings were a never-boring contrast of salty bacon-infused buttery roasted peanuts and crunchy, sugar-topped Belgian waffles.
This combination is only available in the Brooklyn Shake Shack. You see, each branch has its own special blend of Concretes.
By the way, I did some research on the Hasidic community when I got back home. It’s really fascinating; the Hasidic people have a very tight-knit community and their lifestyle follows a rigid set of rules, beliefs and traditions. Every Jew I’ve befriended is non-observant (like Tracy and her family), so the only interaction I’ve had with Jewish ancient customs is by reading the bible. Walking in Williamsburg was the first time I actually got to observe it with my own eyes. It was like walking through a live museum.
Oprah did a two-part series on visiting the Hasidic community in Brooklyn. I thought it was interesting enough to share, especially since it’s relevant to this post. The YouTube clip below is about the Hasidic customs…including wig-shopping.
Question of the Day: What is one culture which you really wish you could better understand and learn?