After attending a concert there a good many years ago, this past Sunday I returned to Bargemusic, a chamber music venue located on, yes, a barge, moored just south of the Brooklyn Bridge. We listened to Mahler, Mozart, and Brahms (the electrifying 4th movement of his Piano Quartet No. 1 in G minor had us all on our feet, practically cheering – one audience member had actually shouted out a “Bravo” in the midst of the 4th movement), before heading back out into the August-like heat of the late afternoon to consider our options for the approaching evening.
Hmmm, what to do, where to go, most important – what to eat? Atlantic Avenue for Middle Eastern food? Park Slope for whatever we happened across? Back over to Chinatown? No, nothing doing. Our parking spot was too good. We were hot, and soon to be hungry (though we had quelled my threatening sea-sickness – yes, the barge does unfortunately do some rocking – at intermission with a shared bean and cheese quesadilla from the Calexico Mexican food cart), and it was feeling important to me that we find just the right place to complete our thus far very right day. We walked, we looked at a couple of menus, and I pulled out my phone.
“Are you going to text Zabella?” (He does pay attention, doesn’t he?)
“I am. But she’s at the beach. Don’t think she’s likely to be near her phone.”
Zabella is my work colleague, has lived in Brooklyn, and having many friends there, continues to know the territory. I felt sure that if she responded, she would not lead us astray.
Me: Hi – we’re in DUMBO – do you have any good recommendations for fun dinner place?
(almost instantaneously) Zabella: Yes, Vinegar Hill House. Have fun!!
A quick Google map search informed us that 72 Hudson Avenue was a mere 4ish blocks from where we were parked on Pearl Street. We headed north on Water Street, away from the gourmet chocolate shops and onto blocks containing a renovated loft building here, a vacant warehouse there. When we finally reached Hudson, it seemed quite possible that we had made a wrong turn. Aside from a closed kosher butcher, there wasn’t another retail establishment to be seen.
“Look! A couple! Let’s see where they’re headed!” Vinegar Hill House, as it turned out.
Plaster-exposed walls, cacti-filled shelves, filament-glowing light bulbs, carved wood tables in varying shapes, and a friendly, tall, blond, Brooklyn-cool hostess greeted us. It was just 6 p.m. and approximately 5 tables were occupied. We were seated quickly, and grinned at each other in self-congratulatory satisfaction. A bottle of rosé was promptly ordered, and I relaxed in the comfort of knowing we had found just the right place.
First course: Green Papaya Salad – matchstick pieces of green papaya, rainbow radish, cucumber, peanuts, cilantro, vinegar. Perfection on a 95˚ day.
We opted for the two specials for our second course – walnut and hazelnut encrusted brook trout and a far-too-small plate (in its defense, it was an appetizer special) of homemade pappardelle with artichoke hearts, snails, and lemon. A side dish of roasted asparagus under a blanket of melting Parmesan rounded things out. I think I may safely say that there was not a happier pair in the restaurant, and by this time, the place was overflowing with under-35 Brooklyn folks. They filled the tables, the bar, and the light-strung garden. But we couldn’t give up our table just yet. Despite a general disinclination toward desserts, my “very funny and very smart scientist” friend was swayed. Salted caramel custard was ordered. And consumed in its entirety.
Oh, Zabella – I KNEW we could count on you!