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Brooklyn adventure: Sunset Park

February 8, 2012
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I had a multi-tasking adventure day recently.  I have a voucher for a fabric store and wanted to check out their wares before I purchased anything online, so I asked my driving teacher Alex to drop me off at their warehouse after our practice turns, parallel parking, etc.  When we pulled up to the address, I think he was a little hesitant to let me out of the car, asking “Are you sure it’s 43rd street in Brooklyn, not Manhattan?” but the location was correct!

Tucked in this industrial area was a little office where I perused sample books, feeling the textures of fabrics for a new project I’m considering (more on that later…).  After I snapped a few pics as I floated out of that ghostlike building, I headed up the hill towards my next Brooklyn adventure destination – Sunset Park.

I meandered upon a beautiful park overlooking the water and the city, which I later found out is called Sunset Park 🙂  It would be a perfect spot for a picnic, to read on a bench, or just take in the view, but on this particular day the wintry winds were blowing straight up from the water, chilling me to the bone, so I continued on towards Eighth Avenue, the location of Brooklyn’s Chinatown.

Passing through the residential side streets of the area was very lovely, and I imagined a vibrant and diverse street scene on the stoops in the summer here.  There is a nice mix of Hispanic and Asian influences, that complimented, rather than competed, with each other.  One commonality I discovered in my short time in the hood was a love of fried chicken, particularly dear to this Kentuckian’s heart…

The signage was really nice on the streets in Sunset Park and was one of my favorite parts of the stroll.  I thought I would share a few good ones with you…

I caught the sweet duo above just after they had been throwing poppers on the sidewalk and giggling together, making the sign’s message all the more poignant!

Upon a recommendation from a friend, I stopped into Xing Xing’s, a mom and pop type establishment.  The menu is entirely handwritten in Chinese on neon orange poster boards on the walls and windows.  I tried to order something called little dragon dumplings that my friend had raved about, but the proprietress did not understand the request.  So I ended up with a massive plate of steamed pork dumplings and a clear soup instead!  The dumplings were pretty tasty, definitely a more rugged taste than the edamame dumplings I often get at the Rickshaw Dumpling truck for lunch, but they were a third of the price – when she rang me up after I ate a few of the pork pockets, I was shocked that my lunch had only cost $3!

I continued on down the road, picking up a delicious bubble tea from the sweet gals at Kung Fu, and wandering into random shops whenever something struck my fancy.

Here is a choice shot from the herb store…  Not sure when you would need a dried lizard, but now I know where to get one!

My grandma and I love all the fun things you can pick up in Chinatown, so I loaded up with mobiles, knick knacks, unusual fruits and veggies that you can’t find in the grocery store, and baked goods.  I went crazy in Xin Fa bakery, picking up a loaf of bread and a few pastries, including something called liquid gold, which was the favorite pastry of the girl who waited on me!  I ended up with a heavy load of red plastic bags and was glad to find the subway as the sun was starting to set, lighting up the overground tracks as I waited for the N train to take me home…

Here is a picture of my bounty, clockwise in a spiral from the brown dot, which happened to be a dried date: dried date (hard as a rock), dehydrated persimmon, milk coconut pastry, loquat hard candy in a cute tin, wooden comb, dragon pendant, assortment of unusual bananas, flowering bok choy variety, two paper dragon decorations, ginseng chips (can be used for tea, or chewed like a bitter hard candy for energy), black sesame bread, and money envelopes for new year’s gifts.  Other than the ginseng, none of the individual items below cost more than $3…

Being Chinese New Year, and Year of the Dragon at that, I expected a little more excitement along my path.  I did see the remnants of celebration, with silly string embedded in the sidewalk in random patterns, and found a fair amount of dragon related money envelopes, and hanging tokens.  I think because I started from the sleepy 40’s and walked down towards the subway station, the energy of the place built up in a different way than most people would experience it if they came to visit.  I enjoyed my adventure, and the many instances of language barrier that presented itself along the way!  Many times I found myself sheepishly smiling as shopkeepers and fellow patrons laughed at my questions about how to use a certain product, or what it was to begin with, how much it cost, or what their favorite dish or tea was.  Similarly I smiled when they didn’t understand my questions at all!  Maybe because I am so familiar with Manhattan’s Chinatown, I left Sunset Park feeling like something was missing (maybe a trip to the arcade on Mott for some picture stickers, or the smiling old man who sells mini pancakes on Grand and Bowery, or seeing all the same waiters at Nam Son…).  Maybe after a few visits, I will find those favorite spots on the long stretch of Eighth Avenue that will become essential parts of my visit.  The sweet lady who helped me pick the bananas at her fruit stand on 57th and 8th is definitely a start!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Sass permalink
    February 11, 2012 10:53 am

    oh, i love this and the pics are great!
    keep bringing us to other parts of BK, mama G…

  2. March 2, 2012 7:34 am

    thanks! we will have to go on a bike adventure together soon!

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