Monthly Archives: January 2009

Local Duo, Sparkly Fin, (sort of) Release First Album! Local Duo, Sparkly Fin, (sort of) Release First Album!

They are really releasing an album but they are only sort of local.  1/2 of the group Sparkly Fin live in Clinton Hill.  This half of the group is named Emily, who provides the vocals, and she decided to stay in the hood after graduating from Pratt this past May.  The other half is tastefully called Joseph, who lives in Baltimore, and he provides all other instrumentation.  This week (1/27/09) they are releasing their first album, High Pive.

Sparkly Fin fit nicely into the cotillion of contemporary bands who embrace the electro-acoustic spectrum with heart and soul.  Their myspace page used to proclaim that sounded like “Kate Bush kissing a pinball machine.”  While I agree with their self-diagnosis, I will offer my own egregious (yet loving) analogy: Otis Redding making out with M. I. A. at a bris hosted for any male offspring of Thom Yorke.  What I’m saying, in lay terms, is that they are very sensitive to their tone, which usually doesn’t get such attention in predominantly electronic music.  Also, they have an undeniably eclectic pop sensibility that contains sincerity as well as irony in a seemingly unpretentious way.  This sets them apart from the ideas that usually seem to spring out of the invisible retinues that follow around many a BK band.  Plain and simple, it’s electro-pop music that is built to last.  As a final addendum, they encourage dancing.

To celebrate the release they are going to be having an intimate performance this coming Saturday (1/31/09) at Emily’s apartment on Atlantic at 10pm.   Email the band for address/directions.

If you missed any of the hyperlinks:

The Pratt Steam Whistles

Even though I moved here over two years ago, I still think of myself as the new kid – and I’m still learning the neighborhood and its history.

And that history is in more places than you’d think.  Take the steam whistles at Pratt – this was the first New Year’s Eve I saw them, and I got a huge kick out of sounding a couple of them.  A couple days later, though, I wondered where those whistles had come from.  As it turns out, one of them had quite a history before Pratt’s Chief Engineer Conrad Milster got his hands on it; it was the steam whistle for the ocean liner S.S. Normandie..

In her day, the Normandie was the largest and fastest ship in the world, and still holds the record for the most powerful steam-powered passenger ship ever built.  The French build her to take advantage of American tourism – the financial boom of the 1920’s gave more Americans than ever the money to afford luxury travel, and European countries were building lavish transatlantic cruise ships to cater to the craze.  On her maiden voyage transatlantic voyage in 1935, the Normandie proved sailed from Normandy, France to New York City in only four days, setting a new record for fastest transatlantic voyage.

But the Normandie wasn’t just fast – she was gorgeous.  Passengers enjoyed an outdoor and indoor pool, chapel, theater, moviehouse, and even a garden.  Some rooms even came with private dining rooms and music rooms complete with baby grand pianos.  French artist Jean de Brunhoff, creator of Babar the elephant, was personally commissioned for a series of Babar murals in the childrens’ areas.  The first class dining hall – almost the length of a football field – seated 700 diners and was lit with lamps encased in huge glass pillars, earning the Normandie the nickname “Ship of Light”. The luxury attracted passengers like Ernest Hemingway, Noël Coward, Fred Astaire, Walt Disney, James Stewart, and even the von Trapp family Singers.

Sadly, the Normandie’s life on the sea was short –World War II caught her in New York, and the U.S. Navy took her over as a troopship.  While she was being refitted for combat, sparks from a welding torch set fire to a stack of life preservers in the first-class dining hall.  The ship’s sprinkler system had been disconnected, and firefighters were unable to contain the blaze.  She finally capsized and sank onto her side in the Hudson, remaining there until she was sold for salvage in 1946.

Some of the interior décor had been saved and sold at a special auction beforehand, though – the lighted pillars, some of the furniture, and several statues and other art pieces which decorated the ship.  Another bit of the Normandie is elsewhere in Brooklyn; the church doors of Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Catholic Church, in Brooklyn Heights, used to be the doors to the first class dining room.

And the whistle ended up here in Clinton Hill, sounding off again every New Year’s Eve.

Karaoke Thank-You!

A special thanks to all who came out for CHB-CHC Karaoke Night last night!  We have some talented folks in the neighborhood.

Special thanks to Mirrors Owner Michelle for welcoming us!

CHC and I agreed that we need to do it again, maybe next month.  Stay tuned!

Bati — Delicious New Ethiopian Restaurant Open in Fort Greene

My husband and I just got back from dinner at Bati Ethiopian Restaurant, in Fort Greene, and loved the whole experience – food, ambience, and service. Bati’s atmosphere is inviting and cozy—dark wood, white brick walls, bright Ethiopian-themed artwork, and the service was very friendly, attentive and quick. The menu offers beef, free-range poultry, and a large variety of vegetarian dishes. (Note: All the vegetarian dishes are vegan as well.) We ate the Doro Wett (chicken stew) and a combination of vegetarian dishes, which were all fresh, delicious and hearty, with generous portions.

The Bati Platter

The Bati Platter

Even though it was busy, owner Hibist Legesse made time to talk with me about her restaurant. (Meseret Kibret is also a partner in the restaurant).

Why “Bati”? Bati, the name of the restaurant, refers to a region in North Central Ethiopia known for its sprawling market, to the famous Ethiopian song “Ere Bati Bati”, and to “bati”, a type of music originating in the highlands of Ethiopia.

Why Fort Greene?
Hibist, originally from Ethiopia, moved to the US in her teens. Trips to BAM when she was living with her family in Harlem sparked an attraction to the Fort Greene area, and she has dreamed of opening a restaurant here ever since.

Can you describe the food?
Traditional Ethiopian with a focus on nutrition and health. For example, by adding extra teff (type of flour) to the injera (spongy flatbread), we’re increasing the fiber and iron content of the bread. You can see the difference — the injera is a darker color. And by featuring healthy ingredients, such as flaxseed. We also plan to expand our vegetarian options.

Do you have a signature dish?
The Ye Telba Fitfit is a special dish, made with lightly roasted freshly ground flaxseed in house dressing mixed with injera. It is packed with anti-oxidants and very good for you.

Who’s cooking in the kitchen? There are a number of chefs in the kitchen, all Ethiopian, and all, as is traditional in Ethiopia, female. This tradition is changing though, with many young men now learning to cook as well.

The basics:

Address: 747 Fulton Street at South Portland (right next to Provisions), Fort Greene
Phone: 718-797-9696
Hours: Open every day

Starting this week (week of Jan 26th): Lunch 12-5pm; Dinner 5pm-Midnight

Takeout available; currently no delivery

BYOB until further notice (which is not a problem with Provisions right next door and Greene Grape a few doors down)

Welcome to the neighborhood! We will be coming back very soon!

Welcome, New Contributors!

Each contributor will be posting under his or her handle.  Here’s a quick roundup of our new contributors, with bios.  There’s at least one more to come, but I didn’t want to delay.

Hats off to them for helping out!

adamreadwrite, our new eyes and ears on the neighborhood’s East Side: Long story short: grew up in Baltimore and went to school at the University of Mary Washington in Virginia.  After graduating in May, (that would put me at 22 fragile years young) he accepted a job at Young Audiences New York, based in Midtown Manhattan, where he schedules arts programming for NYC public schools.  His entrance into the working world started on July 1st, 2008 and he punctually arrived at his Clinton Hill residence on June 30th.  Adam’s musical tastes run from Charles Ives to Arthur Russell to Flying Lotus and he’s having trouble tearing himself away from Roberto Bolaño’s new book 2666.  He’s said too much.  Brevity should not be expected from him, in a good way.

mayven, writing on local politics and the G+L scene: lived in CH since 2003 (in brooklyn since 1992 and in NYC since 1983)

Suzanne, covering restaurants and other local happenings:
Suzanne has lived in Clinton Hill since early 2007. She is a curriculum developer and painter.

Kim on Clinton, writing about neighborhood history: After 12 years on the Lower East Side, Kim moved to Clinton Hill in September of 2006 – and within two weeks was wondering why in the hell she waited so long.  In addition to being an armchair history buff, she is also madly in love with the Farmer’s Market and the knitting group that meets every Wednesday, and is looking forward to digging up more nuggets about the past.

Waverly Mama, covering the local parenting beat:
Waverly Mama has lived in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill for the past five years, and has been mother to a little boy since New Year’s Day 2008.  She is a doula and licensed massage therapist, and editor of The New York Guide to a Healthy Birth, published by Choices in Childbirth.

Stephanie, writing neighbor profiles, covering local politics and discovering unusual bits of history: She’s lived in Ft. Greene and Clinton Hill for over five years and loves the area. She has a day job at a German bank in Midtown and spends her free time volunteering, pursuing a path towards Anusara yoga teaching, serving on the boards of two nonprofits, and working on freelance writing and translation projects.

Karaoke Night!

We’re teaming up with our pal Clinton Hill Chill to throw a neighborhood karaoke night next Wednesday.  We tried to get this together before Christmas, but things were just too busy.  We decided to set it up for January to give everyone something fun to do on a blustery night!


Notorious, the movie based on the life of the Notorious BIG / Biggie Small and filmed in the neighborhood, opened last Friday.  The Times offers an interesting article on the film, with some rich history about Biggie’s life and the neighborhood.

Biggie grew up on St. James Place, and there is some differences of opinion on whether or not the area was called Clinton Hill back then.  (The Times seems to think it wasn’t.)  My research suggests that Clinton Hill is NOT a new-fangled real estate broker creation, and St. James Place is firmly within the borders of Clinton Hill. Long-time residents, please chime in!  Did you refer to the area as Bed-Stuy?

I was in college when Biggie was killed, and had no idea he was just 24 when he died.

Has anyone seen the movie yet?  I hope to this weekend.