A Beginner’s Guide to Brooklyn: Things to Do in Park Slope

Polhemus Place Park Slope

Every winter, as temperatures fall and holiday spirits rise, I go on the hunt for cozy wine bars, rich hot chocolates, and the kind of comfort food that warms the soul. This year is no different except that for the first time, I live in Brooklyn.

Here are a few of my favorite things to do in my new favorite borough.

Where to Shop

Lion in the sun cardLion in the Sun
At this little wonder of a card shop, paper garlands drape the windows, a sprinkle of fake snow settles on the displays and there is so much to discover in such a small space. Holiday cards, hand-painted wrapping paper of all sorts, sizes and colors abound from the best stationary designers in Brooklyn. “Happy Holidays” reads a simple white card embossed with a crimson stamp of Santa’s sleigh riding over an NYC skyline of the Chrysler Building and water towers from Mr. Boddington’s Studio. Others are from The New Yorker Magazine. There are sparklers for that extra dose of festiveness, and the best traditional British Christmas crackers on the East Coast. (232 7th Ave., lioninthesunps.com)

David’s Tea Shop
This recently opened tea haven invites visitors in with a blast of aromatic goodness, a combination of rich seasonal tea blends and the two free sampling teas of the day, Banana Dream Pie (smells like a shot of Southern Comfort) and a full-bodied decaf Earl Grey. After my samples, I find mini tins of Read My Lips, full of dark chocolate, peppermint and pink peppercorns, and North African Mint, which promises to send you on an exotic journey at first sip (three tins for $10). Then I pick up two ounces of the sweet and spicy Mango Diablo for a sun-worshiping friend who would live in the tropics all year ‘round if she could. There is an array of mugs, tea-type stocking stuffers, even agave sticks. David’s tea, too, has Christmas crackers for sale and the prizes inside are all tiny bags of tea. (7th Ave. at 4th St., davidstea.com)

Where to Get Cozy

wolf and deer cocktailsWolf and Deer
The intimate, cave-like interiors at Wolf and Deer offer the perfect respite from the cold. Choose from an array of moderately priced wines like Clos des Andes from Argentina or the Vidigal Douro Red, a 2005 cabernet sauvignon blend from Portugal. A glass of crisp Prosecco is also sure to go nicely with the array of house-made pickles (of which they also offer free samples) or the stacked charcuterie plates with meats from Italy, San Francisco, and New York. (74 5th Ave., wolfanddeerbrooklyn.com)

Shawn’s Wine Shop
Shawn’s is a friendly local shop that is sure to have what you’re looking for, with staff that will go above and beyond to pair you, the drinker or the occasion with the right beverage. You might overhear a staff member describe the flavor profile of a $45 bottle of champagne as “dirty, gritty, mineral-y, beautiful bubbles” and with weekly wine tastings and frequent deals, you’ll find it hard to walk out empty-handed. (141 7th Ave., 718.622.7947)

brook vin
The definition of “brook·vin” as per its website homepage: 1. A wine bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn with a cozy interior and a romantic garden. 2. A great place to enjoy a glass of wine, a bottle, or a half bottle with your friends or loved one. Thanks to an eight-page wine list, you may want that date to be an oenophile, or you could join the crew at brook vin on Saturday, February 23, 2013 from 12:30-2:00pm for their twenty-ninth wine class at which they’ll explore red wines from Spain. Small snacks will be provided along with eight wines at a cost of $50 for the limited 20-seat space. Contact brookvin@gmail.com to sign up. Cozy wine bars get even cozier in late February. (381 7th Ave. between 11th and 12th St., brookvin.com)

Where to Eat

Grilled cheese w/ tomato fennel soupFlatbush Farm
When you suggest that your editor travel a long way on the subway on a Sunday evening, you know the place you suggest for dinner must be something special. Winter at the Farm, where they use only organic farm fresh meat without hormones or antibiotics, is a veritable cornucopia of seasonal dishes, roasted and toasted and crispy to challenge the senses and delight the palate. We started our supper with P.E.I. mussels bathed in white wine and garlic butter (and may have asked our kind bespectacled waiter with suspenders for a straw to slurp up every last bit of juice) followed by a poached egg atop a dandelion corn cake and wild mushrooms. For the main dish, we shared farm pappardelle with tomato sofrito. To keep ourselves hydrated throughout the evening, we sipped on a hangover-free hydroponic red wine. We’ll be going back soon for the pumpkin pie with vanilla ricotta. (76 Saint Marks Ave. at 6th Ave. and Flatbush, flatbushfarm.com)

Franny’s pizza has since closed

chocolate room's hot cocoaThe Chocolate Room
And the children drink hot cocoa “as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars.” Come to The Chocolate Room and you’ll live this line from Chris Van Allsburg’s 1985 classic The Polar Express. Each holiday season, everyone writes a story about the search for the greatest cup of hot cocoa; I cannot recall that I’ve had a cup this good in quite some time. The Chocolate Room’s bittersweet house blend made with Belgian chocolate, Valrhona cocoa powder and whole milk is thick and creamy, leaving a lasting impression on your tongue and most certainly a smile on your face. For something spicy to truly warm you up all over, try the Dark Hot Chocolate with Ancho and Chipotle chilis, cinnamon and cloves. (86th 5th Ave., thechocolateroombrooklyn.com)

View A Beginner’s Guide to Brooklyn: Things to Do in Park Slope in a larger map

Photos:Matthew Rutledge, respective places, roboppy