Thursday, May 15, 2008

Barfly's Beat: Weather Up and Jakewalk in Brooklyn

Weather Up Brooklyn
by Graeme

It was nearing nine o'clock, and I was topped off on Sicilian cuisine for the first time in over a year, so I was extremely satisfied. A final word then on the authentic ambiance, service, and fare at Ferdinando's: squisito. Thus, our short walk and talk across a couple of blocks, from “Come again,” to “Where to,” settled my constitution. On the corner of Clinton and Union, Fredo hailed a taxi and we motored to Bergen & Vanderbilt, another crossroads, one a fast road, by where Weather Up was situated here or there.

We couldn’t quite locate its brass plate, but so it goes! I’d gotten the tip from my man, Mr. Angus Winchester, forwarded on the note, and Fredo set up the date. Sometimes, that’s how these things work. The finding and keeping, the deal-sealing, that's all part of the precocious puzzle of these most particular pilgrimages.

So we ankled around and about Vanderbilt, and all I heard was, “All right Gee, we’re looking for a church!” Never less than amusingly, we must have walked 100-meters back and forth, to and fro, up and down three or four different cross streets before I started chortling and my charge began moving faster, firing in to some corner joint, a wine bar – me waiting outside trying to catch a light in the wind – but they didn’t know much about the weather. “It’s a good sign,” he opined upon rejoining me, to which I puffed in concurrence, before trying to page Mr. Winchester, until I remembered he was in the air.

After another jaunt, hither and yon, I ducked in to some red brick hang on the other side of Vanderbilt. There’d been nobody about much on the street, but this hold was all flesh and make up. For a minute, I felt overdressed and spotlit, as I catwalked to the bar in my dark grey woollen overcoat – and the by-now revered footwear – I got an answer straight away, “It’s a few doors down, good sir, next to Evelyn Car Service.”

I did my skip, and outside, Fredo is adjusting the driving gloves I gave him back on FA Cup Final day the other year. He’s surrounded by smoking jet particles and the curling scent of hair spray. I don’t stop. No, I smile and go, “Amico. This-a-way!”

Sure enough, just down the doors and windows appeared what looked like an ornamental mausoleum. Inside it felt like a high-end squat somewhere in the subway system. The fellow behind the bar was shaking Boston like he needed an injury to prove his mettle. We eyed the back bar, and there sat the Plymouth Gin. A good start. Along the shelf, Crème de Violette and Luxardo Maraschino. Assured that Fredo would be ordering set an Aviation, I thought I should take something from the five-by-seven inch list, upon which there were eight cocktails, one at $15, the others either $9 or $11.

(Also on there were five wines by the glass, one at $15, the others either $7 or $9; one bottled beer – Coopers Sparkling Ale – and three more on draft). I opted for a La Floridita Daiquiri, and, with no seats open at the bar, I took my cue, and grabbed a pew underneath what appeared to be the fret board of an upright piano.

It took an age to receive our drinks, but as made apparent by the steel stirring spoon straws, the bartender (who turned out to be a James Arnold from Lancashire) was trained by the wee guy with the follicles from Milk & Honey, Mr. Petraske. James had a unique shake, which Fredo calls "the earthquake." Don't try it at home kids - the trauma may bring bodily harm to those not trained in the art of mixology. Once the drinks finally arrived, they were sublime.

Once we'd had a chance to soak in the surroundings – the tables are terrific, the restroom exquisite, and the décor turns this joint into a Victorian place of worship – it was time for another. Encouraged, I took my customary Sazerac, while Fredo opted for the Presbyterian. Again, both were excellent.

Now, normally I prefer to wait a couple of months before checking out a new outlet, but this one, owned by Kathryn Weatherup, one of the original partners of East Side Company Bar, was set to quickly cram. Sure enough, not a second after it was time to go, there were coats thrown on our seat, as we stepped out into the brisk Prospect Heights fold.

At this moment, allow me to indulge you. Fredo wore a brown Knox fedora, a handsome overcoat, a blue blazer with gold buttons, red hounds tooth shirt, his blue Gucci ascot, vintage Brooklyn Dodgers cuff links, and shoes by Ferragamo. Me, I had the lambswool overcoat, the navy Paul Smith suit, the white shirt with gray and turquoise pinstripes by Ben Sherman, tie from Zingaro collection, tie pin courtesy of Vintage Grace, silk pocket square from a French admirer, and Chelsea boots by Kiton. Now back to the review!

We then took advantage of the car service and crossed back to Smith Street to check out another new bar, The JakeWalk. We'd popped in for a pre-opening gawk the previous Thursday, and made acquaintance with the one of the owners, Ms. Michelle Pravda, but by now the word was certainly out around BoCoCa.

So we waited with a couple of mind-numbingly strong something or others for two seats to open up at the bar. Fredo had a port wine Manhattan Cooler, and I the Rum Manhattan (which was far too strong for me, and so we swapped). There were tables freeing up, but the bar is the place to sit, and if you want to sit, you let the hostess know, and she seats you before anybody else. So it goes.

The JakeWalk is a regular-looking hang owned by the same crew who have a cheese store (Stinky) and a wine outlet (Smith & Vine) in the area. Dominated by a gigantic mirror behind the bar, and a featured wall of exposed red brick, it's a simple set-up. There is a small plates menu, a kitchen carvery, and in the restroom, there are colorful stones in the basin.

Once we got seated though, oh my God, did I dig it. Bartenders Mr. Matt DeVries and Mr. Ari Form looked after us very well indeed, making me an exquisite 'Fredo Negroni,' and even setting up an Amaro-tasting for the man to my right, wearing Gucci. So there we were, with pretty glasses of Cynar, Fernet Branca Menta, Amaro Montenegro, and I think a Borelli. I'm just saying, people who run cheese stores and wine cellars should be actively encouraged to open bars. Why? "Would you like to try—"

Weather Up
589 Vanderbilt Ave.
@ Dean
Prospect Heights

The JakeWalk
282 Smith St.
@ Sackett
Carroll Gardens

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