Tyvek

Tyvek /tˈvɛk/ is a brand of flashspun, high-density polyethyelene fibers, a synthetic material; the name is a registered trademark  of DuPont. The material is very strong; it is difficult to tear but can easily be cut with scissors or a knife. Water vapor can pass through Tyvek (highly breathable), but not liquid water, so the material lends itself to a variety of applications: envelopes, car covers, air and water intrusion barriers (housewrap) under house siding, labels, wristbands, mycology, and graphics.  (from wikipedia)

 

I live on a mixed block in Bed-Stuy.  It’s not a picturesque brownstone block.  The buildings here are either brand new with no personality or dilapidated without being charming.  My neighbors are Pratt students, yuppies who haven’t yet had their puppies, young guys with dreads who think they have a band, large Chassidic families, and an alarmingly jolly Texan who I’ve come to like a bit because he’s kind enough to knock and remind me when I’ve left my keys in my door.  There’s a playground next door to me and it’s shared by everyone—the school kids (mostly black) during their recess, Chassidic kids and their moms (and on Saturday night their dads), moms of color with their own kids in strollers, black families who BBQ for special occasions, and guys playing chess.   There’s a guy on my block who plays Soca music loudly during the day and then, in odd moments, vintage Amy Grant.  On his porch he has a huge cardboard cut out of some island destination.  A man on the street told me once that he drinks all the time.  My building super sounds like an extra from the Borat film. He hoses down our walkway everyday in the summer and keeps it clear whenever there is snow and wonders aloud why a woman my age, especially one with plants on her balcony, is single: “You don’t, you don’t, you don’t have anyone?  A man?  But the flowers up there.  Everyone talks how pretty they are.” Sometimes the Chassidic women smile shyly at me.

The Southern girl in me says hi to all of my elderly neighbors (the urban feminist does her best to avoid the invasive gaze of men), and they all say hi back.  Except for my neighbor across the street.  I say hi, she looks through me, or away from me, or around me.  On days when I’m off to campus she is always on her porch, and I can’t help myself from at least mumbling good morning.  The building she lives in, a two-story, single-family dwelling I think it’s called, is falling apart.  From the street you can see rotted wood planks under the eaves of a roof that needs replacing.  There are gaps between the boards.  The one window at the front of the house is covered by a large bush.  Her stoop is painted that same orange you see on construction cones and gates.  She sweeps it everyday.

As far as I can tell, she doesn’t do the stoop visiting that the other folks in my neighborhood seem to enjoy.

For the first two years I lived here, she lived next door to an empty lot.  I don’t know what was there before, but when I got here it was covered in grass, weeds, and bushes. You could see an old tire or three.   For a little while there was an abandoned car.   A wooden gate appeared one morning (and was instantly covered in graffiti).  From my balcony I could see people, men, going in from time to time and looking around. Some sort of small bulldozer came in one day and picked at the ground, gave up and went home.

They cleared the ground in earnest one weekend, and the side of my neighbor’s building was covered in Tyvek. I hadn’t noticed how far back her building went until they put the Tyvek up.  I also hadn’t noticed the chimney.  It’s a big building, and it’s all hers.  You never see anyone else go in or come out.  I know because I’m out here on my balcony all the time.  First thing in the morning, over lunch, late in the afternoon, and in the evenings playing on-line scrabble against my dad.

When I lived in Clinton Hill, just on the edge of Bed-Stuy, I fell in love with the brown lady brownstone owners.  I would see them here and there cleaning their front porches in the morning.  They are women of a certain age—maybe late 50s (it’s hard to tell with black folks)—and they remind me of my Dutch aunts who scrub their stoops every single day, without fail.  The brown lady brownstone owners have flowers and potted plants near the door. And the doors are all gorgeous and gleaming.  Right after my landlord told me I could no longer afford his building, I chatted for a bit with a woman sanding the front door of her brownstone. It seems she is remodeling it herself.

The building in the lot across the street, next door to my neighbor is going up fast.  The men arrive in two small waves—Hispanic men first, sometimes in a large van, and then white men in trucks.  They start early and this week they’ve started laying the brick layer by layer over the Tyvek.  They stand in a row and layer.  You can’t see them from street level, but I’m one floor up, so I can see it all happening.  So can the Chassidic children.  There’s a little guy who sits on his balcony and watches them for long stretches of time.  Sometimes his mother lets him peek in the gate.  Men in full orthodox gear stop by everyday to check the progress.

My neighbor has started sweeping more than her stoop.  She sweeps in front of the gate—on the sidewalk, in the street, around the construction gate.  She’s methodical about it and sweeps around the men as they show up for work.

Last night I heard her voice for the first time in two years: she was yelling at some Chassidic kids who were pushing their toys on her sidewalk.  “Get away. Go away. Get. the. fuck away.”

one.three.twelve: Franny’s

Located at 295 Flatbush Avenue, Franny’s is very popular, so by Saturday at 6:30 the place was already packed.  The friendly hostess told us we’d have to wait 45 minutes for a table, but either the time flew because the place was cozy and the vibe was friendly or we actually only waited around 20 minutes.

Everything you need to know about it can be found on their helpful website. One quirk that might be overlooked is that during the week the restaurant doesn’t open until 5:30.

What we drank

Karen: 2008 Valle dell’ Acate Nero d’Avola Case Ibidini Sicilia
Joan: 2008 Bisson Prosecco dei Colli Trevigiani Liguria
Tricia: Villa di Corlo Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro Amabile
Emilia Romagna

What we ate

Appetizers

Crostino of Wood-Roasted Pancetta & Herb Butter
Controne Bean Salad with Pancetta and Radicchio

Pies
Tomato, Garlic, Oregano and Parmigiano Reggiano
Tomato, Buffalo Mozzarella and Meatball

Pizza Fact

More pizza is consumed during the week of the Super Bowl than any other time of the year.

The reviews

Karen
I often find that high expectations of any experience tend to dampen it, so I was worried about going to Franny’s, about which I’d heard so many raves.  Happily, I need not have worried — this pizza definitely lived up to its reputation.  The 10-to-12-inch pie was a nice size for sharing and we ordered two, though I was so hungry that initially I thought we should each order our own!  The thin, brick oven crust was wonderful — just charred enough for me and crisp around the edges, yet still tender and chewy throughout.  The toppings delivered on taste, yet were delicate enough to match the texture and flavor of the crust.  My favorite was the little meatballs, which tasted fresh and meaty without being overwhelming.  Along with our (tiny) starters, I felt satisfied afterward but not stuffed, as overly greasy or doughy pies can make you feel.  What I realized, however, is that I do think of pizza (as) a robust food, with vibrant colors, textures and tastes — so while I appreciated the subtlety here, I would have liked just a little more of everything: more sauce, more cheese, more herbs, and just more flavor overall.  It was definitely worth waiting for and I would go back in a heartbeat.  All I’d ask for from my compatriots next time is a gentle reminder that I might want to consider whether that second glass of Nero D’Avola would really be in my best interests!

Joan
Having been to Franny’s previously, my expectations were realistically optimistic. The excursion started out auspiciously…..we got a parking space right in front of the restaurant and our wait was shorter than first announced by the hostess. The appetizers were tasty but small and pricy. If we had understood the most basic Italian, we would have realized that our order of crostino was singular for crostini. Really, Franny’s….$5 (or maybe $6) for a slice of toast that was NOT topped with truffles, caviar or precious gems?  Fortunately, the pies were large enough to satisfy our appetites. While I enjoyed both pies, surprisingly (to me) I preferred the one topped with parmigiano reggiano since I’m usually a mozzarella type of gal. Franny’s pies are a little sparse on sauce and toppings but everything is so flavorful that each bite is a treat, including the delicious and perfectly-charred crust. It was a wonderful start to our year-long odyssey.

Tricia
The service here is excellent, and in a busy pizza place, good service is especially important.I wasn’t crazy about the Lambrusco I ordered as it didn’t have the full body I’ve enjoyed when I’ve ordered the wine elsewhere.  I was not at all impressed with the crostino appetizer we ordered.  The pancetta was decent but the preparation wasn’t interesting, and, for the size, it was way overpriced.  I liked the Controne Bean Salad with Pancetta and Radicchio quite a bit and would have happily made a meal of it with a side green salad.  Now to the pizza!  For my taste, I found the crust just a wee bit too thin.  I could do without the charred taste, but it wasn’t a detractor for me.  Both pizzas were good, but I preferred the smoky flavor of the buffalo mozzarella over the tanginess of the cheese in the Parmigiano Reggiano pizza.  The paper thin slices of garlic on the Parmigiano Reggiano pie added a nice zing, but I think the mini meatballs won me over.  A slightly thicker crust would have made a big difference, but I liked that the balance of cheese and sauce meant I could actually taste everything on each slice.  And after dinner I had plenty of room for chocolate cake from a neighborhood place about a block away.

one. three. twelve: a year of Brooklyn pizza

There are few things I like more than visiting with girlfriends over food. Visiting with guyfriends over food is fun too, but it’s just not the same thing. Of all the different kinds of food I like, pizza is near the top of the list. Also near the top of my list are Joan and Karen—two New Yorkers who have helped make my new neighborhood feel like home. After a Saturday listening to the two of them talk about pizza, I realized I had two specialists who share my love of pizza and that I truly live in New York’s pizza borough.

It seemed a great and tasty idea to get to know the borough through its pizza places, so we’ve come up with a plan: 2010 will be the year of Brooklyn Pizza.
Our mission is simple: one borough, three women, twelve pizza joints.

Once a month, we’re going to head out into Brooklyn and decide the difference between pizza worth the wait and pizza that is best forgotten.

My partners in pizza (sorry, couldn’t resist) know Brooklyn. As you can see from their mini pizzaographies (really, sorry, just couldn’t resist), they know from a slice.

The Trio

Karen
I’m a Yoga teacher, social worker and native New Yorker who can remember eating pizza when it was 40 cents a slice! (My elementary school years.) I love the whole gestalt of a good pizza and the flavor of the sauce is key — I’m also not a fan of an overwhelming amount of cheese — but when I think of what I like best the thing that comes to mind first is the crust, I like it well done and crisp. Especially with the brick oven pizza, that nice char is essential!

Joan
I was born and raised in Bklyn and pizza is my favorite food. I ate it everyday for lunch in the 7th and 8th grade (no kidding!) and it’s still the default option when I can’t make up my mind about a meal. But not just any pizza, as I learned by living in the SF Bay area for 8 years. Pineapple and ham toppping? I think not! The ideal slice has thin crust (preferably slightly charred), savory sauce with a hint of oregano and garlic, thin layer of whole milk mozzarella….your basic margherita pizza. I’m looking forward to the 12-month pizza adventure.

Tricia
I moved to Brooklyn this summer and am currently working on two books. I’m a bit of a pizza neophyte. I know when pizza is good, but I don’t have strong opinions about things like crust and cheese. I’ve recently started to appreciate a thinner crust, and I do know that my favorite pizzas have fresh herbs on them and a sauce that’s not too tangy. And,  apropos of nothing, I am the tallest of the trio. When I have on heels I feel like Gulliver among the Lilliputians. This may matter down the road.