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Driver Charged With Homicide in Deaths of Park Slope Toddlers

The driver who killed two children in Park Slope in March has been charged with two counts each of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, and three charges of assault. 

Dorothy Bruns, a 44-year-old woman from Staten Island, was arrested this morning in connection with the incident on March 5, when she drove her Volvo through a red light at the corner of 5th Avenue and 9th Street. She hit four pedestrians crossing the street. Two of them, four-year-old Abigail Blumenstein and one-year-old Joshua Lew, died at the scene. The two women hit, Ruthie Ann Miles and Lauren Lew, were seriously injured but survived.

The deaths sent shock waves through the Park Slope community, yet many transit advocates doubted whether Bruns would ever be charged with a felony, given the city’s long history of not pressing charges against people who kill with their cars

The news of the arrest was met with tepid relief from transit advocates. “It’s encouraging to see that the city is seeking justice for Abigail and Joshua,” executive director of Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely White told the Voice in a statement. “Now prosecutors must ensure that every negligent or reckless driver who kills or injures a New Yorker is brought to justice — not just when the victim is a child in Park Slope.” 

On Tuesday, the organization held a vigil for Carlos Vasquez, a cyclist killed by a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx. It was the latest in a slate of people killed by drivers in the borough. 

The morning after the Park Slope killings, hundreds of people gathered at the Park Slope YMCA, where Mayor Bill de Blasio regularly exercises, to convey the urgency of making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The organizer of that rally, Doug Gordon (no relation to this reporter), spoke to the mayor for approximately ten minutes outside the YMCA. But as months went by without any updates on the case, a familiar angst set in that Bruns would get off with a slap on the wrist. 

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“It’s certainly a positive development in the sense that prosecutors are taking what Ms. Bruns did seriously,” Gordon told the Voice on Thursday morning after news of the arrest broke, “but as a parent I imagine it would be cold comfort.” Following his chat with de Blasio in March, Gordon had told the Voice, “I don’t want the cops to arrest my children’s killer. I want my children to not be killed.” 

Steely White echoed this sentiment, adding that the arrest is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done, particularly when it comes to restricting driving privileges for known dangerous drivers, as Bruns was, before they kill. “Our elected representatives must enact policies that prevent known deadly drivers from getting behind the wheel, and implement smart street designs to protect pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers alike. Vision Zero means stopping tragedies before they occur.” 

Gordon similarly concluded, “I hope we don’t lose sight of what’s more important, and that’s preventing these kinds of tragedies in the first place.”

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Not Just Another ‘Accident’

At 8:30 a.m. on a mild and sunny Tuesday, a crowd of roughly a hundred people gathered outside the YMCA in Park Slope. They were mostly from the neighborhood: young and old, men and women, and children, some with dogs; many of the adults holding cups of coffee, pushing strollers, or both. Others held signs. They were waiting for Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Most of them seemed to be parents, partly because it was Park Slope, but also because every parent who heard the news yesterday lost their breath, if only just for a second, but likely for much longer. Around noon Monday, on the corner of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue, half a block from the YMCA, a driver burst through a red light and drove into a crowd of people, killing two small children and injuring their mothers. A local resident later discovered that the driver has been cited for running red lights four times and speeding in school zones four times in the past two years.

The details of the crash — the words the mothers reportedly cried out as they lay on the pavement, the photos of a Brooklyn street in broad daylight covered in blood — only furthered the community’s sense that this could not go down as just another “accident.”

Doug Gordon, a safe streets advocate who lives in Park Slope (and no relation to this reporter), took to Twitter immediately after the news of the crash to point out that this exact intersection has long been a source of danger. He called for the rally outside the YMCA, where de Blasio exercises most mornings, to demand an immediate redesign of Ninth Street to improve intersection safety.

As the crowd gathered behind the barricades set up by the NYPD, Gordon rattled off a list of crashes in the neighborhood. September 2016, Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street. He swung around and pointed to the nearby intersection. December 2016, Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street. His arm moved slightly. April 2013, Fifth Avenue and Ninth Street. Same place. Same intersection as yesterday. February 2004, Third Avenue and Ninth Street, an intersection called “dangerous” in a city study: children killed, nothing done. He went on. His arm kept swiveling.

It’s easy — easier, perhaps — to say this was different. Nothing could have prevented this. Street design cannot save anyone from a driver like that. It was just an accident. Thoughts and prayers to the families of this horrible tragedy.

But they weren’t thoughts or prayers: They were children with names — Abigail Blumenstein and Josh Lew — and they had futures beyond that crosswalk. Futures that were taken and will remain taken, even after the crowd outside the YMCA goes on with its day and the photographers scuttle off to the next tragedy that couldn’t have been avoided.

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Gordon and the neighborhood parents who showed up at the YMCA conceded it was an accident that was hard to predict, to a degree. “We don’t know what could have prevented it,” he announced to the gathered crowd. They’re not sure a safer intersection design, with center pedestrian islands, protected bike lanes, and small bollards would have saved those children.

“But that’s just an excuse,” Gordon continued. “We’re not doing anything.” Last year, the Department of Transportation told Gordon that protected bike lanes could not be installed along Ninth Street from Third Avenue to Prospect Park West because of the “necessity of maintaining turning lanes” and a lack of “sufficient width,” even though Ninth Street, a two-lane road with existing bike and parking lanes, is one of the widest streets in the neighborhood.

Candles, flowers, and teddy bears laid in remembrance of two children, aged 1 and 4, who were killed at the corner of Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn where a driver struck them after running a red light.

While bike lanes don’t obviously have anything to do with a car ignoring a red light and plowing through a crosswalk, Gordon and other advocates argue that wide streets like Ninth Street and Fifth Avenue allow cars to go much too fast for a neighborhood with lots of foot traffic and busy crosswalks. Giving cars less space will force drivers to go slower, as they do on adjacent streets. As one sign read: “Can’t Stop Human Error, But We Can Make Streets Safer.”

Heather Boyer, a 48-year-old mother of two who lives around the corner from the accident site, echoed these points and wants to see de Blasio take “real initiative” in redesigning city intersections for people, not cars. She also called for Albany to suspend licenses of drivers who get multiple violations in a short period of time.

At about 8:45 a.m., de Blasio rounded the corner in a gray hoodie. The NYPD had been keeping a sidewalk path open between the protesters and the media. De Blasio walked down the concrete aisle, nodding to a few people on either side. The crowd, previously buzzing from Gordon’s speech, grew suddenly quiet. The TV camerapeople ran and photographers snapped, but the gathered protesters remained still.

Then came a male voice, directed at de Blasio: “DO SOMETHING.”

“We need you to do something, mayor!” came another.

“Help us!”

These first few cries were demands, but they also registered distinctive notes of anguish, of immense pain. A few feet away stood women holding portraits of their own children who had been killed by reckless drivers in previous accidents. Now, the neighborhood had two more mothers who might one day also hold portraits, maybe at a rally just like this one, lamenting the creation of more mothers with portraits.

Marsha Landen (left) and Amy Cohen (right) hold photos of their children, Joie Sellers and Sammy Cohen Eckstein, who were killed by drivers in previous traffic accidents.

Then, partly to create order but also to unify the message, three men started a “Safe streets now!” chant, and the rest of the crowd joined in.

De Blasio then approached Gordon, who had organized the rally via Facebook and Twitter. Camera crews flooded around them. Reporters craned their necks and held out microphones as far as their arms could reach. De Blasio and Gordon were not projecting their voices for the crowd. They were not giving speeches. For the moment, they were visibly, deeply shaken parents, absorbing what some might call an unspeakable tragedy, except it is very much being spoken about.

The two spoke for approximately ten minutes, Gordon making clear why he was there — to call on the Department of Transportation to move quickly on street redesigns without drawn-out community board hearings, to advocate with Albany for more license suspensions for drivers with repeated violations, and to install more speed cameras — while de Blasio vowed to step up traffic enforcement. After about ten minutes, they shook hands.

Later, Gordon gave de Blasio “a lot of credit” for coming to face the community. He could have, Gordon noted, simply not gone to the gym today, or merely waved on his way in. Nevertheless, Gordon didn’t get the guarantee of safer streets that he wanted from the mayor.

“I don’t want the cops to arrest my children’s killer,” Gordon said. “I want my children to not be killed.”

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Favorite Dishes #50: Fonda’s Oaxacan Black Mole Enchiladas

Mole is so much more than a sauce; it’s an obsession. I speak from personal experience. While mole assumes countless forms, chef Roberto Santibañez at Fonda (434 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn; 718-369-3144) excels at the chocolate-imbued negro style typical to the Oaxacan region of Mexico. Because it’s most familiar to American eaters, the dish needs special attention to stand out in a crowded field. His enchiladas de mole negro Oaxagueño kick the competition to the curb.

To set the mole standard, Santibañez starts by stone-grinding a proprietary blend of cacao, nuts, chiles, and herbs until the resulting sauce attains a lush viscosity. Its unctuous, roasted flavors are brightened with a gentle drizzle of sour cream, crumbled queso fresco, cilantro, and sesame seeds. All of this blankets the tender protein at the center of the dish: chicken braised for so long it falls apart with the touch of a fork, rolled into three handmade, soft corn tortillas.

For $21, Fonda’s black mole chicken enchiladas are by no means the cheapest dish you’ll find on a Mexican menu, merely one of the best. As an added treat, pair it with their sensational mezcalita — one of the best mezcal cocktails in the city.

The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10. To read about previous dishes, browse our 100 Favorite Dishes page.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
#91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
#90: General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
#89: The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
#88: The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
#87: Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota
#86: Pougi at Loi Estiatorio
#85: Pearl & Ash’s Smoked Bread with Chicken Butter
#84: Gluten-Free Pizza at Rossopomodoro
#83: Perry St’s Chocolate Pudding With Candied Violets
#82: Whit’s End’s ‘Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip’
#81: Morgenstern’s Salt and Pepper Pine Nut Ice Cream
#80: Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie
#79: Delmar Pizzeria’s Pizza
#78: Cafe Cluny’s Avocado Toast
#77: Brooklyn Star’s Cinnamon Bun
#76: Pork Belly Cotton Candy at Carnem
#75: Ippudo’s Pork Buns
#74: Mission Chinese Food’s Oil-Cured Anchovies
#73: Johnnycakes at LoLo’s Seafood Shack
#72: The Starving Artists Steak at Belle Reve
#71: The Spotted Pig’s Gnudi
#70: Xi’an Famous Foods’ Tiger Vegetable Salad
#69: Crème Brûlée Truffle at Kee’s Chocolates
#68: Pok Pok’s Muu Paa Kham Wong
#67: Cacio e Pepe at Upland
#66: Pulpo at Toro
#65: Junior’s Something Different
#64: Duck Carnitas at Cosme
#63: Banana Miso Ice Cream Sandwich at Neta
#62: Breads Bakery’s Chocolate Babka
#61: Braised Lamb Neck at the Gorbals
#60: Dough’s Passionfruit Doughnut
#59: Uncle Jesse Bao at Baohaus
#58: Patatas Bravas at El Colmado
#57: Lupulo’s Razor Clams
#56: Bar Masa’s Spicy Dancing Shrimp
#55: Underwest Donuts’ Halva
#54: The Virgola Platter at Virgola
#53: Noreetuh’s Monkfish Liver Torchon
#52: Amarena Cherry Merveilleux
#51: Roasted Mushrooms at Bara

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Join Owl Farm’s 3rd Anniversary Party with Craft Beer All-Stars on Tap

In just three short years, the Owl Farm (297 9th Street, Brooklyn; 718-499-4988) has cemented its place in Park Slope as a formidable destination for craft beer and canines. This Saturday, they mark the anniversary with a 20-hour celebration of suds kicking off at 8 a.m. If you think that’s too early to be drinking beer, you’ve never tried Mikkeller’s Beer Geek Breakfast. They have a whole keg of the rare Danish import rearing to go. And the draft list gets even more exclusive from there, as the bar slowly unleashes selections they’ve been hoarding for months. Don’t sleep on this one.

The selections showcase venerated ales and lagers from across the globe, including special release bottles that will be available by the glass, throughout the day. Multiple offerings from Belgian lambic legends like Cantillon, and Tilquen, the final keg in existence of Other Half’s Greenbacks IPA, a small barrel of Schneider Aventinus that’s been aging for 12 years, not to mention the unique beer distillates. Four boilermakers have been paired specifically for the big day.

Come for the coffee stout, stay for the smoked ale aged in scotch barrels (Xbeeriment #44). Either way, if you’re a fan of craft beer, make it to Owl Farm tomorrow, and bring an insatiable thirst. Below is a list of everything announced thus far. Expect additional surprises—Brooklyn’s own Grimm Artisanal Ales just confirmed they will be unveiling the first keg of their unreleased Simcoe Double IPA. Imagine what Owl Farm’s tenth anniversary list will look like.

Drafts:

Allagash Four
Barrier + The Owl Farm Chewy Porter
Bayerischer Bahnhoff Dry Hopped Berliner Weiss
Bell’s Quinannan Falls
Birrificio Italiano Tipopils
Brewery at Bacchus Good old Neon
Brewfist + Prairie Grappa Barrel Aged Spaghetti Western
Cantillon Iris
Crooked Stave Vieille Artisanal Saison
Del Ducato Beersel Mattina
Hitachino Nest White Ale + Distillate
IQhilika Red Wine Barrel Aged Mead
Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast – 2014
Millstone Sidra Americana
Montegioco Demon Hunter
Narragansett Lager
OEC Artista Zynergia: Gosatequin
Orchard Hill Red Label Cider
Other Half + Mission Dolores Greenbacks – Last keg in existence
Reissdorf Kolsch + Distillate
Schlenkerla Urbock + Distillate
Schneider Aventinus 2003 (yep, it’s 12 years old) + Distillate
Stillwater Readymade Vacuum
Thirsty Dog Cognac Barrel Doppelbock
Transmitter H2 Harvest

Beer Bottles:

Alvinne Cuveee Freddy Sofie
Baladin Xyauyù Fumè
BFM Cuvee Alex le Rouge 2010
Buxton Wolfscote
Cantillon Saint Lamvinus
Cascade Blackberry
De Ranke XXX Bitter
Green Bench Saison de Banc Noir Brett
Hanssens Oudbeitje 2012
Kerkom Ruess
Praire OKsi
Tilquin Oude Gueze 2012
Trois Dames Grande Dame Oud Bruin
Xbeeriment #44 – Scotch Whiskey

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The Ten Best Dishes at Barclays Center

When the Barclays Center opened in the autumn of 2012, it promised to be a boon to local business. To deliver on that vow, it launched Brooklyn Taste — a collection of no fewer than 55 Brooklyn-based food vendors scattered across multiple levels of the 18,000-seat arena. Most of these purveyors cook up event-friendly fare specific to the venue. Together they represent a wide spectrum of dining options indicative of their home borough’s ethnic diversity. Dining at Barclays is unlike the predictable junk-food-fueled experience of a typical stadium. But as at any other sportsplex, it doesn’t come cheap. To accommodate the constraints of your wallet — and stomach — we’ve assembled a list of the ten best dishes to seek out during your next Nets game, rock concert, or (next season) NHL match.

10. Signature Concrete ($7.50), Junior’s, Section 26

This frozen Frankenshake blends organic Blue Marble ice cream with chunks of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and Junior’s legendary cheesecake. It’s a textural marvel served in a plastic drinking cup, best tackled with a spoon.

9. Grilled corn Mexican-style ($5.75), Habana, Sections 25, 209/210

Habana’s handheld offering is like corn on the cob on steroids: The ear is dusted in a layer of tangy cotija cheese before it takes a bath in chile powder and fresh lime. Each semi-sweet bite is lifted by smoky char from the grilled kernels.

8. Boneless wings ($11), Buffalo Boss, Section 22

These bite-size morsels of white-meat chicken are caked in a thick breading, which provides ample crunch and a perfect landing pad for generous amounts of spicy buffalo sauce. They’re served alongside a pile of Nathan’s crowd-pleasing crinkle fries. It’s a well-executed, classic combination of flavors that’s bungled far too often at inferior venues.

7. Cali’s Greek nachos ($12), Thomas’ Greek Kitchen, Section 225/226

Familiar arena fare gets a Mediterranean makeover in this gut-busting array of feta, scallions, kalamata olives, and beef chili heaped atop house-baked pita chips. The savory beef works well against the saltiness of the olives. With plenty of chopped tomatoes and onions topping off the plate, it can get messy. Bring a napkin, and some friends.

6. Baja Fish Taco ($14), Calexico, Section 03

Ordering fish at a sporting event seems like a bold move, but the beer-battered tilapia at the core of this Mexican staple is legit. Flaky and not overly greasy, it brings a delicate seafood flavor that’s still detectable through the sweet mango salsa add-on. Lining the pair of flour tortillas is your standard-issue chipotle “crack sauce” — basically a spicy sour cream.

5. Smoked White Cheddar Brat ($8.50), Brooklyn Bangers & Dogs, Sections 08, 225/226

This ain’t your typical dirty-water dog. Plump and juicy house-crafted, German-style bratwurst opens up to reveal an inner lining of molten white cheddar. The smoked sausage is served tucked inside a locally baked potato roll, the perfect vehicle for squishing up any additional flavor that might otherwise be lost along the way.

4. Lobster Monster ($18.50), Boomer and Carton Kitchen, Section 17

Red Hook Lobster Pound provides the goods in this mouth-watering union of crustacean, mayo, and butter-toasted bun. Sizable lumps of tail, claw, and shoulder are all prominent, studded with the occasional chunk of celery and sprinkled with chopped scallion. It’s a mouthful of meat to help justify its stately sum. [

3. Batchagaloop Burger ($14), Boomer and Carton Kitchen, Section 17

This absurd smorgasbord between buns was invented by local sports radio personality Craig Carton. The sandwich stacks an American-cheese-blanketed beef patty from Paisanos with deep-fried chicken fingers, pickles, and french fries on a buttered brioche. Beyond the novelty, the constituent parts work surprisingly well together. And you have to applaud efficiency: Why waste time eating everything individually?

2. Hot Pastrami on Rye ($16.75), David’s K Deli, Section 06

It can’t be a proper Brooklyn experience without a decent Jewish deli. And the hot pastrami from David’s K is beyond decent — it’s delicious. More than half a pound of thinly sliced smoked meat is piled high betwixt two pieces of traditional rye bread. It’s served without frills — just a small cup of slaw and an oversized sour pickle on the side.

1. Short rib banh mi ($13.75), Fatty ‘Cue BBQ, Sections 07, 222/223

One of the city’s best barbecue joints, Fatty ‘Cue is renowned for fusing the flavors of the South with Southeast Asia. Here, it elevates the standard Vietnamese sandwich into the stratosphere, building it around tender beef short rib. The meat is magnified with a unique smoky-sweet barbecue dressing and finished with a crunchy layer of cabbage-carrot slaw. A doughy French baguette holds it all together.

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The Distilled-Beer Program at the Owl Farm Bar in Park Slope Is Unlike Anything in NYC

There are many reasons to fall in love with the Owl Farm (297 9th Street, Brooklyn; 718-499-4988). Centered in the heart of Park Slope’s energetic 9th Street, it makes the most of its prime location, offering a cozy interior with comfortable seating and exposed-brick façades, an eclectic cross-section of craft beer and spirits, and pinball machines. It’s even dog-friendly. Yet these attributes are common to many a Brooklyn-based watering hole. To set his bar apart, managing partner Steven Baird compiled a distilled beers program unlike anything else in the city.

“I was tired of seeing the same collection of spirits at most bars, so I decided to bring the liquor program in line with our beer program,” says Baird. “Since the first step of making most whiskies is making a wash [basically, an un-hopped beer] it was a logical step to explore distilled beers. It’s been a fun journey tracking these things down and adding them to the list.”

That list features a dozen distillates, most of which rotate depending on availability. Prices range from $8 to $12 for two-ounce pours that hover in the traditional spirits realm of 80 proof. The liquors are produced almost exclusively by third parties, but generally in close cooperation with the breweries. Oregon-based Rogue Brewery is an exception, crafting both their popular Dead Guy ale as well as the whiskey they distill utilizing the same malt bill.

Although he frequently switches them out, Baird typically stocks a few expressions well suited to entry-level experimenters seeking to get their toes wet. The Kiuchi No Shizuku, for example, is distilled from Hitachino White ale and offers gentle notes of orange zest and coriander, pleasing to most palates.

For the seasoned single Islay malt fans, distilled Aecht Schlenkerla amplifies the smoked malt components of its base beer into something resembling peatiness. The distillate is mellowed in barrels for several months, giving it a whisky-like appearance to match its flavor.

There’s also selections suited to gin enthusiasts: Last month’s list featured Anchor Hop Head, a gin-like spirit subbing hops for juniper. Port lovers would migrate toward the Baladin Xyauyu Oro, an oxidized barleywine with sweet tannic characteristics.

And, of course, having a liquor derived from beer affords a unique opportunity to build the perfect boilermaker — always a crowd-pleaser. “The response has been extremely positive, especially when we pair a distillate with the base beer,” notes Baird. Currently, he is running a combo of Uerige Doppelsticke, a strong German altbier, with Uerige Stickum, its un-aged whiskey derivative. It might not remain on the rapidly evolving list by the time you arrive. But come to the Owl Farm with a sense of adventure and you won’t leave disappointed.


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Threes Brewing Launches Brewpub in Gowanus

When Threes Brewing opened their doors earlier this week, it brought more than just craft beer to the neighborhood. Brooklyn’s newest brewpub is also a sizable event space, offering live performances, a coffee bar, and a rotating pop-up eatery.

Of course, beer will remain a central theme, and owner Andrew Unterberg–along with two partners, Joshua Stylman and Justin Israelson–express an interest in unique styles of suds. Sour beers, for example, will play a prominent role on the menu here. Tart and tangy, and brewed in the tradition of Belgian Lambics, sours are fermented using wild yeasts and bacterias that impart a wicked, unpredictable funk. To reign in inconsistencies, they usually spend time aging in wine barrels for up to three years. Threes Brewing has a whole stash of funky beer sitting in barrels on the north fork of Long Island, slowly awaiting their introduction to the brewpub’s two dozen tap line system.

Those 24 handles include four dedicated to kegged wine, and an enviable assortment of local guest brews. There’s also a noteworthy collection of whiskey lined up behind the bar.

“We are a place where craftsman — like mad-scientist-poets — create illuminating beer, where music performances enliven, and art performances enlighten,” says Unterberg. Pretty lofty aspirations for a brewpub. But Threes clearly intends to be much more. “It is our aim to create a pillar, both as a responsible manufacturer and a community space, that will be here for years to come.”

Kicking off with a New Orleans-based brass band and a week’s worth of Roberta’s pizza is a great way to start. Threes Brewing opens daily at 4 p.m. and is a three block walk from the Union Street subway station.

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Ryan Keberle & Catharsis

There’s a mess of bobbing and weaving in the trombonist’s foursome, and at its most aggressive, it can have an edge-of-your-seat vibe. The jabs Keberle and trumpeter Mike Rodriguez throw at each other on the new Music Is Emotion remind that, on some level , jazz is about dazzling interplay. Factor in the cagey swing of the rhythm section and you’ve got a quartet resolute in its restlessness. Pretty damn tight, too – but you’ll hear that instantly in this cozy Park Slope bar.

Tue., July 8, 7 p.m., 2014

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$1 Empanadas and Thai New Year’s Dinner Highlight This Week’s Top Events

Is the lime shortage right before outdoor drinking season making you mad? Or did the first Game of Thrones episode leave you hurt and bitter? Whatever’s on your mind, relax a little — or a lot — at this week’s top events.

National Empanada Day, multiple locations, Tuesday

If you aren’t aware of the benefits of having empanadas in your life, head out to Favela Cubana starting at 11 a.m. The restaurant will be offering the beef-and-corn-stuffed pastry for just a dollar all day long for both in-house dining and take-out. For the morning commute, Brazilia Cafe will offer breakfast versions of the treat — bacon, egg, and onion, anyone? — as well an empanada stuffed with Brazilian sausage. Other spots worth a visit: Empanada Mama and Mama’s Empanada’s.

Enlightenment Dinner, The Farm on Adderley, 1108 Cortelyou Road
Brooklyn, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Interested in drinking wine not made from grapes? How about mead or potions? Representatives from Enlightenment Wines and Caledonia Spirits will be on hand to speak with diners about the unique drinks they produce using the land around them. Not promising anything, but you might have a chance to try dandelion wine, and vodka made from honey. The event also includes dinner prepared by the restaurant, as well as the chance to interact with some of the most interesting spirit makers working today. Tickets are $79; reservations can be made through The Farm on Adderley’s website.

A Taste of Fifth Avenue, The Grand Prospect Hall, 263 Prospect Avenue
Brooklyn, Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.

If you’ve been meaning to check out Park Slope restaurants all in one place, this tasting event has you covered. A few of the participating restaurants from the bustling strip include longtime avenue favorite Al Di La and newcomer Grand Central Oyster Bar Brooklyn. Wine and beer will be served throughout the evening, so expect to see a few of Brooklyn’s most famous spirits helping people dance like no one’s watching. Tickets are $45 in advance — $20 of which goes to the participating charity of your choice — and can be purchased here.

Luckyrice’s Songkran Thai New Year Celebration Dinner, James Beard House, 167 West 12th Street, Friday, 7 p.m.

To commemorate Thai New Year’s, a selection of chefs including Ngam’s Hong Thaimee will descend upon the historic James Beard house for a family style meal complete with cocktail pairings. Snacks like shrimp toast will start off the cocktail hour, which will feature a selection of gin-based libations. At 8 p.m., guests will sit down for a meal of coconut soup, spicy tomato dip, and braised beef curry with turmeric noodles…among other Thai specialties. Tickets are $130 for James Beard Foundation members and $170 for the general public; additional information regarding the complete menu and reservations can be found on the Luckyrice website.

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The Rise of Chocolate and Innovators of American Cuisine: What to Do This Week

From discussions on chocolate to a spring sake festival, this week holds a number of chances for culinary education. And if you haven’t yet had the chance to purchase our Choice Eats tickets for an old fashioned tasting extravaganza, here’s your last chance for $60 tickets — they’ll be $70 at the door.

Innovators of American Cuisine: A History of the Culinary Arts in the U.S., The New School, 66 West 12th Street, Monday through April 21

This free course begins tonight and covers four renowned culinary figures — Julia Child, James Beard, Judith Jones, and Henri Soulé — and their impact on American food culture. Each individual will have a specific session dedicated to his or her contributions; the class aims to help students explore their own relationship with food. Course registration and additional information can be found on the school’s website.

Short Stack Editions Bookbinding and Release Party, No. 7, 7 Greene Street, Brooklyn, Monday, 6:30 p.m.

Authors Scott Hocker and sandwich specialist Tyler Kord host a dish sampling and bookbinding event. These new short format cookbooks focus on sweet potatoes and broccoli, so expect a few vegetarian friendly bites prepared by the authors and perhaps a trade secret or two.

Dassara Spring Sake Social, Dassara, 271 Smith Street, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Welcome spring by sipping a little rice wine. For $45, guests can sample eight different sakes plus offerings from the restaurant’s spring menu. Tim Sullivan from Urban Sake will discuss the selections, and guests are invited to sample as much food and sake as needed in order to become an expert. Purchase a ticket.

The Rise of Chocolate: The Heated History of the World’s #1 Candy, Littlefield, 622 DeGraw Street, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

This informative discussion will cover chocolate’s historical origins from lowly fruit to everyone’s favorite aphrodisiac, examining Mexican hot chocolate, a British chocolate war, whether M & M’s will melt in your hand naturally, and, as is seasonally appropriate, the Cadbury Egg.