Brooklyn’s Historical Ice Cream

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory sign

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

When I encounter the world or begin to converse with someone new, I begin to tell them of my interest in the pastry arts and my aspirations of becoming a pastry chef. This often leads to an arrangement of many questions such as the specific industry role that I wish to work in as well as the best bakeries or dessert shops around New York. Unfortunately, I almost always find that I answer that last question with great bias. Being a native Brooklynite, I want to constantly tell others what Brooklyn has to offer as a city more specifically when comparing the best dessert spots to dine.

Brooklyn is a haven for many activities, restaurants, and other social interests but even more so, for the dessert world. Brooklyn is the first borough in New York to be known for its world famous New York styled cheesecake at Junior’s Restaurant & Bakery and to have an entire restaurant that has an innovative menu dedicated to the use of avocados in every dish, Avocaderia. So when someone asks me about my favorite dessert of all time is …*drum roll*…ice cream. I cannot help but to get elated in talking about what Brooklyn has to offer in this constantly evolving industry of ice cream. This particular dessert has such a variance with the addition of other countries’ versions on this classic treat that have also found a place in this modernized New York borough. Around the world, ice cream is consumed much differently than it once was years ago.

First, we have the difference of quality which is ultimately based on the amount of air that is pumped into the ice cream during the freezing process. Second, there are different bases such as milk based, cream based, or egg based which can change the overall creaminess and mouthfeel finish of the ice cream. And finally, the presentation of the ice cream such as Thai Rolled Ice Cream that is small rolls of ice cream or ice cream made from liquid nitrogen that allows a fun look of blowing smoke when consuming the ice cream.

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory for the very first time. It was an amazing experience that showed off the endless talent Brooklyn has to offer. The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory opened shortly after September 2001 with the help of the owner, Mark Thompson. The building itself was converted into a factory from a 1922 fire boat house, located at 1 Water Street. It is the oldest fire boat house on a ferry landing in Brooklyn and has become an official landmark. It was once used as a place to hold firefighting practice sessions before it was converted years later.

bowl of ice cream

Image by: Sabrina Vasquez

According to the New York Times, Thompson grew up in Pennsylvania and even had a summer job working in an ice cream shop which enabled his education as well as his love for ice cream. When he later moved to New York, he began working as a valet in the Water Club before quickly working his way up the ranks until he was director of operations. He then became friends with the restaurant owner, Michael O’Keeffe. In 1998, O’Keeffe leased this 1920’s fire boat house that was located in the Fulton Ferry Landing between Bargemusic and the River Cafe which was also owned by O’Keeffe. But the fire boat house had already been established as a city landmark which meant that O’Keeffe could not install any additional restaurant equipment such as an oven or use the space as a restaurant. O’Keeffe then thought of creating an ice cream shop and when he shared his ideas with Thompson, he offered to run it due to his ice cream background. Thompson was nervous as he has only prepared ice cream for family and friends in a small half-gallon ice cream maker and would now have to be familiar with the use of commercial equipment. And Thompson limited his menu to eight flavors of ice cream, to simply sell just the classics. The ice cream shop was set to open on September 12th, 2001 but due to the attacks of September 11th, Thompson extended his official opening to the next month and instead donated thirty tubs of ice cream to the local firehouses and other relief workers.

The décor is very old-school of a traditional ice cream shop, they have a great varying selection of flavors but I ended up having both the Butter Pecan and the Peaches and Cream. The ice cream was absolutely delicious; it was so creamy and vibrantly flavored. The ice cream is sold by the scoop inexpensively or by the gallon. The ice cream is prepared in small batches Philadelphia-style, which is without the addition of eggs in the base. Usually, ice cream uses eggs or other thickening agents as an emulsifier to allow ice cream to get a creamier texture but sometimes this can add a greasier or chewier texture that isn’t as appealing to the palate. Most ice cream shops do not use the Philadelphia style because it is more expensive due to the use of cream as the thickener instead of other fillers but it is simpler to make as it is an easier process.

A Scoop of… History

The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, known for its delectable frozen treats all year round. It resides juxtaposed the Fulton Ferry Landing, serving customers along the piers of Brooklyn Bridge Park. It’s a short walk from CityTech’s campus, in fact it only took me around ten minutes to walk to the beloved ice cream shop. Due to its close proximity, I find that it’s a go-to place for down time or time away from the busy college campus.

The building that holds all the tasty treats was once a fireboat house for the New York City Fire Department’s Marine Company 7. According to Cory Seamer, It was built in 1926 with clapboard, the tower on top of the house was used as a lookout. As time went on the station was used less and less before just amounting to a place to hang-dry hoses; like that piece of equipment in your house that has been reduced to only being used as a coatrack. The station then was revitalized into a museum called the Fulton Ferry Museum, National Maritime Historical Society and stayed in this state from 1976 up until 1982. After facing near demolishment to make way for new construction, the small boat house was named a landmark due to it’s grand significance.

In 2001, nearly two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mark Thompson took his chance as an owner in the restaurateur profession and opened the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory to the public. Sixteen years later and another location available to Brooklynites in Greenpoint, the ice cream shop is still going strong.

After buying the ice cream (because I had to do my complete research for the enrichment of the post), My travel buddy for this post, Brianna, and I ventured outside to find some natural seating. We walked along the piers in the 70 degree breeze while spooning globs of rich frozen goodness that I can swear was made from the gods. We finally settled down on a large lawn and overlooked the New York City skyline. After our clothes soaked in all the fresh-cut grass smell and Brianna swatted the fifth mosquito off her face, we decided it was time to retreat back to the city’s civilization.

It wasn’t too expensive; a double scoop dish was only $7. The price is reasonable to me since the ice cream is just that good; there’s no other way to put it.

Tune in tomorrow to hear Brianna’s side of the story and get a complete breakdown of the most delicious ice cream I have ever tasted.

A Summer’s Treat

Image by: Michelle

If anyone knows me then they will know how thoroughly obsessed I am over ice cream. I am the type of person that will eat ice cream all year round. Ice cream is my ultimate favorite dessert, I appreciate the variance that it can offer as well as the mouthfeel. It is an amazing creation that enables flavors to be so prevalent even in a frozen state. Ice cream reminds me of some of my best memories in life…it takes me back to fun memories in my childhood or great times spent with close friends. But as time evolves, ice cream trends are constantly changing from the simplicity that most of us are readily accustomed to. There is Thai rolled ice cream, liquid nitrogen ice cream, mochi ice cream, and gelato. Overall, the range and variation  in which ice cream is prepared has expanded. The debate about what constitutes as ice cream based on its percentage of fat has also broadened.

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

The beautiful thing about New York is that it has so many amazing ice cream places integrated into it but unfortunately many are unknown to others. Personally, I prefer the sanctity of ice cream…the simplicity of traditional styled ice cream. Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain is located ideally close-by to the college which makes for a great and fun lunch spot. They offer many menu options from soups and sandwiches to egg creams and ice cream sundaes. They even seasonally offer student discounts on meals, desserts, and drinks as long as you have a valid student identification card.

Image by: Brianna Vasquez

Over the summer, I had the greatest opportunity of visiting this awesome restaurant which is a short walk from the school. It looks quite small from the outside but it has a quaint amount of seating inside. The restaurant offers the option to either dine in or to take out…and I decided to dine in since I was strongly looking forward to laying my hands on one of their handcrafted sundaes as well as quenching my thirst with one of their house-made drinks. I had the maple egg cream which was robustly delicious as well as an almond joy styled sundae which was seasonally available when I visited the restaurant. The sundae was absolutely delicious and everything was made in house. The restaurant itself has an old school vibe which is interesting given the modern flavors of ice cream that is offered. I would recommend that everyone try this little ice cream shop that is neatly tucked into the heart of Brooklyn.

The Donut Shoppe

Image by: Robyn Lee

I am finding that as my skills as a pastry chef improve, I am gaining a better appreciation for the bakeries and small shops that are in New York. Not just the most popular but the small places that you appreciate as important in your life…that are popular in your life even if they are not widely franchised. One of the most appreciated desserts in America is donuts because they are viewed as a breakfast food as it is usually paired with a cup of coffee or can even be a dessert. It has become such a centrical part of America’s confectionery world.

Aside from the readily franchised shops, there are so many other doughnut shops that are considered mom and pop shops as they are not franchised which makes them more unique. There are so many Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme’s, but I further enjoy small shops that are not so widely franchised which allows the quality of the product to taste better as it is being freshly made instead of mass produced. And fortunately, New York is home to many mom and pop shops especially for something as delicious as doughnuts. There is Doughnut Plant, Dough, but my personal favorite is in Brooklyn named Donut Shoppe but is also known as Shaikh’s Place. It is located near the southern end of Brooklyn on Avenue U and is a 24-hour shop. The story behind the name is that the current owner who is named Shaikh Kalam was once just a native of Calcutta before moving to America to better himself by attempting to receive a college education. When he began working at this coffee shop called, Donut Shoppe with the original owner of the shop, Carlo Radicella. Kalam became so invested in his job role that he began to be a baker in the shop and was working long hours to reinvent a way to make better tasting doughnuts that were less dense and less oily. He somehow created a foolproof way to make doughnuts that were light and airy in texture with a balanced level of sweetness. He was able to adjust his recipe by changing the amount of time that the dough proofs before being fried as well as the temperature of the frying oil that the doughnuts are fried in. When the original owner had a stroke and his health declined, he promoted Kalam to be the head baker and eventually he took over the shop in the 80’s.

Image by: Mary Bakija

There are so many flavors to choose from such as Boston Cream, Glazed, Powdered, Jelly filled, Vanilla Sprinkled, Chocolate Sprinkled, Strawberry Sprinkled, et cetera…the flavors serve such a variety to the customers. The prices are so affordable and are inexpensive. When you purchase a dozen of doughnuts, you receive a baker’s dozen which costs a little less than eight dollars. The doughnuts are absolutely delicious and I would suggest anyone to go to Shaikh’s place to eat a great doughnut. It is the perfect balance of doughnut as it has both the chewiness of the dough as well as the crumble of a cake.

Brooklyn City RailRoad

In the 1880’s a new roadway system was born for Brooklyn, it was called the Brooklyn City RailRoad (BCRR) and was the oldest and largest railway system of its time. The old headquarters resides on the corner of Furman Street and Old Fulton Street and is still a prominent building although the line’s discontinuance in 1930. Now, the tracks are still partially visible through the cobblestone streets; showing what was there prior to the rise of other means of mass transit. Although the trolleys stopped running, the history of the archaic system remains engrained into the current culture of transit. Just by looking at the rails you see something more than random exposed metal. You are greeted by New York City, they tell you a story in this greeting. “We are strong and resilient,” they elucidate. “Regardless of the harsh winter blizzards, the extreme heat waves of the summer, the constant trampling by FedEx trucks, or people jay-walking passed us, here we lay, as we always did, with pride and tenacity. Like a weed that can never be plucked or a bird that will never cease to grace us with its musical whistle, we stay here to watch as life moves on around us.”

On July 3, 1854 the first route began its loop, the Myrtle Avenue Line ran from the Myrtle Station to a stop adjacent to the Fulton Ferry. The system started as a modified railway for the time; in that particular time space it was called a horseway since the trolleys were horse-drawn. This horsecar trolley ran along the same line that is now the B54 MTA bus. By 1867 there were twelve different routes and approximately twenty-two million people used the transit system. According to a 2015 government data overview, about twenty-two million people use the MTA in just two business days as opposed to the 1867 review. As time progressed, the use of horsecars slowly declined and the rise of streetcars prevailed. By 1897 there were 27 railways that were stationed in the Brooklyn Heights section of Brooklyn.

Because of the proximity of the railways, the BCRR headquarters resided along Fulton Street (or as we know it, Old Fulton Street). The building was built in the early 1860’s and controlled/managed the railways. Offices filled the walls, behind the red brick exterior. The molded cast-iron was styled in a neo-classical style, vying to portray the nobility, control, and power that it held in the community. Somewhere along the years of the Depression the business lost its control, commercial use, and patrons and the BCRR eventually declined in popularity to the public.

In 1975 the BCRR was used as a factory until architect, David C. Morton II, took on the project to make the space residential. As of 2009 the building was named a New York Landmark and is currently still used as dwellings.

Some of the rails are still visible through the cobblestones and concrete. If you are interested in seeing it for yourself take a walk down to the corner of Furman Street and Old Fulton Street to see the headquarters, then walk to the corner of Main Street and Plymouth Place to see the old rails that sprout, bevel, and vine their way through the streets; just keep in mind that they are over 150 years old.

Rockaway Beach

I’m not sure if the tradition of observing Easter Sunday which is followed by a trip to Coney Island is just a Brooklyn ritual but this custom goes far back into the years before my birth. Over the break, I listened to my Grandmother talk about the favored trip to Coney Island like it was so ordinary and usual; “It was normal,” she said “go to church, then go to Coney Island.” She recalled, in a retrospective tone. “Or at least that’s what I did with my kids.” she said reminiscing  about my Mom and Aunt. As a kid I loved the beach; it was always sunny and the water was always cool, but after a while the easy accessible, Coney Island Beach got to be too dangerous. It was consistently polluted with garbage and debris; the worst thing possible to ruin a day at the beach would be to see an empty bag of potato chips pass you by as you wade in the water. For a stint of my childhood that was what Coney Island Beach reduced itself to. Although the beach is a lot cleaner now, whenever my family and I want to go to the beach we jump on the A line and take a short trip to Rockaway Beach.

I have spent years feeling like a bad Brooklynite for being enticed by the peacefulness and cleanliness of the prestigious Queens beach. Of course I have and will always love the Coney Island area, but when you are looking for a little piece of suburban life in the midst of the hustle and bustle of urban New York City, Rockaway Beach is the place to be.

Just as the Canarsie Pier, in the 1600’s the Rockaways were ruled by a Native American tribe until the Dutch exiled them in order to take over the land. Rockaway translates to “sandy place” or “place of our people” in their language. Although different wealthy people tried to proclaim the land as their own and name it after themselves, the term Rockaway reluctantly stuck and is what we call the area today. In the late 1800’s tracks were laid down for a steam railroad and is still used today for the Long Island Rail Road and the A/S MTA lines. The Rockaway Park station opened on August 26, 1880; it closed in 1955 and reopened in 1956 as Rockaway Park–Beach 116th Street.

As we all know, Hurricane Sandy stripped the publicly adored boardwalk which ultimately forced the concrete rebuild of the boardwalk. Although the new boardwalk is a masterpiece all in itself, no one can quite forget the feel of its wooden predecessor.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed the Holidays or just basked in the pleasant warm weather. As the good weather trend continues, try out Rockaway Beach for a trip away from the hectic New York life or go to Coney Island for family fun; both are amazing and are the best places for unforgettable memories.

Join the conversation, What is your favorite beach in New York? What makes it your favorite?

*PLEASE SWIM AT YOUR OWN RISK, AS LIFEGUARDS ARE NOT ON DUTY FOR THE SUMMER SEASON YET*

Canarsie Pier

My family wasn’t exceedingly rich throughout my childhood, we were a standard middle class household living in an urban environment, much like most of New York City. Whenever we wanted to treat ourselves to a different atmosphere, we would begin to explore as far as our feet would take us. We used to walk miles in the summer breeze, in a vying attempt to escape the heat of the city and the pier was one our most popular destinations. This was before it became a renowned spot for community fellowship, back when the pavement was cracked and broken and we’d vanish between the thick trees in order to reach the sandy clearing of Jamaica Bay. We would watch numerous sunsets/sunrises there; to my young mind, it was the most beautiful, mesmerizing, and magical thing I had ever witnessed.

Approximately 600 years ago the Mohican and Delaware Indians were living in the New York area. Long Island/Brooklyn housed 13 tribes, the Canarsee tribe being one. From the Native Americans is where the name derives (along with many of Long Island’s counties). They called Long Island, which includes part of Brooklyn, Seaawanhacy which translates to “Land of Shells”. It is not entirely clear as to how Canarsie got its particular name, but there are two theories. The first is that, as the French invaded the Native American’s land they named the land after “Canarde” which means duck in the French language (referring to the wildlife),  the name, then, morphed into “Canarsee” which follows the Native American dialect. The second theory is that “Canarsee” which can mean fort or fence was used in reference to the surrounding environment working as a natural barrier.

In the early 1900’s Canarsie was claimed to be a popular area for recreation. The in-coming Italian and Jewish immigrants found housing by the water and it quickly became the ideal area of the City due to avenues dedicated to hotels, casinos, and other social halls. By the time of the roaring ‘20’s the once lucrative commercial fishing port was deemed unfit for consumption due to an overgrowing amount of pollution in the water; killing off a large sum of Jamaica Bay’s fish and oysters.

By the time of 1926, the City commissioned the manufacturing of a pier that would extend 600 feet out of the main land. This was the last attempt at making Jamaica Bay marketable by building a seaport; this plan was, unfortunately, never fully executed, leaving behind the pier that we all came to know and love today. Then, in 1973 it was taken over by the National Park Service which, consequently, became the main contributor in the enhancement of the overall environment of Canarsie Pier/Jamaica Bay. Now,  if you go to the pier on any day you will see people fishing for Blue Fish in the clean waters.

So many memories reside within those welcoming gates; summer evenings of picnicking, birdwatching, and most of all exploring. Since my childhood, Canarsie Pier has gotten more activities that you can enjoy (especially in the summer) that ranges from hiking to kayaking.

The Evolution of the New York City Housing Authority

NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) started in the Modernist era of architecture. The concept was something new and unheard of, rent controlled housing for the city’s inhabitants. It started in the year 1934 marking the completion of New York City’s first urban complex. The very first complex was in the Lower East Village of Manhattan by architect Frederick L. Ackerman. The first in Brooklyn resides in Williamsburg called the Williamsburg Houses; it was built in 1938 consisting of 20 apartment buildings. The Red Hook East Houses complex remains the largest in Brooklyn with a whopping 27 buildings housing an estimate of over 2,500 inhabitants; the complex was established in 1939.


Since they all were supposed to be cost efficient, it resulted in them all looking the exact same way or something similar. The red, brown, and tan bricks would create an optical stereotype in the later years serving as a tell-tale sign of a proclaimed “project”. These buildings would be marked by a highly urbanized group of people; doused in, what I call, a true melting pot of cultures. Although these old buildings have a lot of history tied to them as various families once lived in them; serving as the only means of home for many childhoods, new government owned buildings are now hitting the public. Other than NYCHA the rent-controlled aesthetic in New York City is now considered outdated. So these new buildings are either called “senior living” or transitional housing for less fortunate families.


Since I lived in Brooklyn my entire life, I have been exposed to many iterations of these complexes. Seeing the new building in progress makes me see how the means of sustainability has severely changed over the years. It’s amazing to see what the new standard is for the current era of time. The older buildings’ were well equipped with updated programs like central heating and elevators for the elderly, disabled, and popular convenience. Now, the new technology being implemented is trendy alternatives of energy used from solar panels, and central air which eliminates the need for bulky air conditioners.


Looking at the new developments makes time seem very apparent as there is also a major change in overall look. The contemporary style has been carried out making the buildings not look like the same typical complex housing. I find it extremely fascinating how it’s so blatantly visible how time changes as the buildings stand adjacent to each other; an old veteran showing the rookie the new surroundings and what it has to offer. I guess sometimes you really can find the most intriguing subjects in your own backyard.

Blogging Events Effectively

a young person in glasses with international flags bordering the photo

Last Tuesday, I attended the International Youth Leadership Assembly (IYLA) at the United Nations and the whole time I thought about blogging the event. However I felt I couldn’t create the post last week. Although I uploaded images on social media, I had to leave an hour early to make a meeting with charter school to be a possible affiliate for my organization. I really had to go and did not get to experience the IYLA event fully. And therefore I was stuck.

a seated audience

Of course I could have just uploaded the images I took and wrote on the speakers I did see or parts I did partake in. However, I felt I would not capture it fully and effectively, being that I missed on on substantial parts. Of course I could have took it into a different direction and spoke on the IYLA organization that led the program and the message of “Moral and Innovative Leadership: Vision, Service & Entreprenuership.

Therefore (a week later), I am writing how to capture events effectively.

  1. Stay for the Duration: You should stay for the duration in order to capture everything with imagery and/or with notes.This will also give you a first hand look and ability to connect with what or whomever you need to.
  2. Bring a Friend: I know you may not be able to get two tickets or press releases but try. If its a free for all bring someone to accompany you. Two heads are better than one. While one person is taking pictures, the other is taking notes. While one person is networking the other is making announcements. While one person is bobbing for apples the other is capturing the moment. 😉
  3. Take Images: If a scene can not be found on the internet or its unique to the event, make sure you take your own image. If possible hiring a photography, lol, or just bring a friend. Its always best to have original imagery when speaking on events.
  4. Take Notes: Although you think you’ll remember, when its time to write your blog certain facts or instances will be forgotten. For example I had to try and look up the presenters at the past IYLA event and some topics before I could write the blog that didn’t get published. 🙁 Have a system on notes, try not to just write everything all over the place. Organize your notes.
  5. Have a Focus: What were the special topics that sum up the event. For example: was it about empowering or networking and what took place to show that.

Why I Love Diners

My boyfriend once said to me, “When it’s our turn to get marry, I’ll make sure to tell everyone that I’ve never been to so many diners until I’ve met you.” Honestly. I don’t know when my affinity for diners began, but I’ve been going to diners for the last six years and I have no complaints except for when the food and the service lacks good quality.

The sad fact about diners is that a lot are closing down or have closed down, leaving us hungry customers with limited choices in diners. For now, I’d like to share with you my three favorite diners and why I love diners in general:

Coachhouse diner dishes

My boyfriend and I frequent Coach House Diner when we’re in New Jersey and want to go to a restaurant/diner that is affordable and delicious. I like this diner a lot because it feels like a diner, but than it doesn’t. They do have booths, counter tops, diner-like food and beverages, and they are opened 24/7. However, they also have a restaurant vibe to it because they have an exclusive section that’s a bar, it’s fairly spacious and comfortable, and they have daily specials for dinner and special soups that you wouldn’t find at other diners. They also have a salad bar for you to customize your own salad and always have a delightful,freshly baked bread basket for you. I highly recommend this diner if you’re in New Jersey!

brownstone pancake factory menu

Another diner I really and truly love is Brownstone Pancake Factory. They have two locations – Jersey City and Edgewater which I have been to both, but my ultimate choice and favorite one is Jersey City. I have been to the one in Jersey City both on weekdays and on Saturdays and there’s always a little wait, but hell it’s worth it. Brownstone Pancake Factory offers diner like dishes, but their main focus is brunch and pancakes. This is my go-to diner for brunch in New Jersey.

I found out about this place through Food Network, Yelp, and because a friend told me a restaurant, but I thought it was Brownstone Pancake Factory, but I was mistaken. One factor that separates Brownstone Pancake Factory form any other brunch place we’ve been to is they have these insane, monster-like pancake wraps which is what Guy Fieri tried on his show: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.

vegan dishes

Another one of my favorite diners is a local spot in my neighborhood: Vegas Diner. It’s also dear to my heart because it’s the place that my boyfriend and I had our first official date on Christmas Eve of 2010 (yes I remember it so clearly). This diner definitely has history in Bensonhurst and definitely a very family friendly diner. The food here is delicious and I always leave this diner as I do with most diners completely full. Unfortunately, I’ve heard recently that this diner may have been bought out or will be facing a conversion, so looks like my boyfriend and I may have to make a visit soon.

More reasons why I like diners are that: there’s always something for everyone at a diner and opened either late or 24/7 and it just feels very homey, comfortable, and I never leave diners starving again. I have been to my share of bad diners and bad service/food at diners, but that’s a whole different story.

Do you like diners? What’s your favorite diner that you’ve been to?