Red Hook, Brooklyn

Last weekend, Andy and I journeyed to Brooklyn, nothing unusual.  This time, we went to Red Hook, the hip neighborhood that is often written about in NYC media (Sam Sifton, former New York Times food critic, lived here!) but I have yet to meet someone who has been.  We're intrepid NYC explorers and love 8-10 mile walks on the weekends so we took off for Red Hook.  The name comes from the red soil when Brooklyn was all farms, and because it juts out into the water, a "hook" if you will. 
I loved the area, with incredible views of the Statue of Liberty and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, an urban mix of edgy grit and new gentrification, and great restaurants and bars.  Of course, there is also the IKEA that arrived in 2008, bringing impossible-to-understand furniture instructions and delicious chemical-laden Swedish meatballs. 
Subway service is nonexistent in the 'hood (the closest is the F line at Smith/9th Street but you'll still have to walk a mile).  There are buses that I'm told are quite easy, but I have yet to take a New York City bus, which I am terribly proud of (call me a snob).  We walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, through Brooklyn Heights and on to Red Hook.
While in, say, Cobble Hill, there is 100% pure Brooklyn chic in the houses and streets, contradiction is what you see in Red Hook.  We saw rows of adorable brownstones next to projects and random, sketchy street corners.

The main street in Red Hook is Van Brunt, where most of the enterprising and eclectic businesses have set up shop.  

Van Brunt Street, Red Hook
If you keep walking on Van Brunt, you'll hit the water and the behemoth Fairway Market beloved by Upper West Siders, known for great produce and samples (Andy LIVES for samples. Put him in a Costco and he'll nibble on samples for hours).   
Fairway Market, Red Hook
You'll see a mix of old warehouses and plants, like this former Monarch Luggage Company building which has been converted into lofts.  I hope *they* never remove the original lettering.
Baked on Van Brunt is a foodie destination for many in Red Hook, known for their cakes, cookies, cupcakes and brownies.  The Sweet & Salty Brownie was on Food Network's "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" and the store gained many new fans from the show.  As you can see in the cookie jar photo, that particular brownie was long gone by 1 p.m.  There are two cookbooks out from the Baked team.
Baked in Red Hook
Also on Van Brunt is the Red Hook Lobster Pound.  Many of you know my obsession with lobster rolls and in particular, Luke's Lobster.  Red Hook Lobster Pound serves a great roll that is similar to Luke's in size but with a different kick to it.  If you need a live lobster, simply walk in and ask--they'll lift up their tanks in the front of the store and deliver you a live one. 
Red Hook Lobster Pound
On Van Brunt and the surrounding side streets, you'll see these bars and restaurants, all of which I wanted to try (but I was too busy sampling lobster rolls and treats from Baked). 
By far, my favorite part of Red Hook was Valentino Pier, close to Fairway Market, where the Statue of Liberty feels so close you could reach out and touch it.  We lucked out and got there during the "Magic Hour" before the sun sets, and snapped amazing shots.  You can see industrial New Jersey, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge that gives way to the Atlantic Ocean, and the lower Manhattan skyline.
Valentino Pier in Red HookSunset from Valentino Pier
View of Lower ManhattanValentino PierStreet near Valentino Pier
Oh! One more Red Hook MUST near the pier--if you like key lime pie, this will be your nirvana. If you don't (like me), you will still be completely obsessed with Steve's Key Lime Pies (like me).  Get the little 4-inch tart with fresh squeezed key limes to split.
Steve's Key Lime Pie Entrance
We ended up taking the ferry home from IKEA (free on the weekends!), which dropped us off near South Street Seaport at Pier 11 so we could wind our way back to the Village.
I love New York.