Chef Caroline Schiff's Food Lover's Guide to Fort Greene, Brooklyn

New York is defined by its neighborhoods and there's no tour guide like a local, and no better source of restaurant recommendations than a chef. Pastry chef Caroline Schiff shares her favorite spots in Brooklyn's Fort Greene where she works at the iconic eatery Gage & Tollner.

Widely known under the moniker @pastryschiff, Caroline is a celebrated pastry chef and culinary consultant based in Brooklyn. She got her start in the restaurant industry a decade ago cooking at The Good Fork, and worked her way up through a number of acclaimed restaurants and bakeries including Mas (la Grillade), Maysville NYC, Kenton's NOLA, and Greene Grape Provisions before coming full circle to work with Sohui and Ben once again at Gage & Tollner. Caroline’s signature gravity-defying hairdo is outsized only by her enormous heart; in her spare time you can find her either supporting charitable causes or running a marathon. Casual.

For more than a century, Gage & Tollner was the cornerstone of the Brooklyn restaurant world. Now three friends have decided to restore the space to its former glory and guide it into the 21st century. Bentobox plays an important part in the restaurant's modernization - serving as its digital front door. BentoBox empowers modern restaurants to build their online presence, diversify revenue, engage with diners, and increase operational efficiency. Visit today to get your first month free. Thanks to BentoBox for supporting HRN and coming along for a tour of Brooklyn!

Caroline portrait
Image Attribution: Lanna Apisukh

HRN: What do you love about Brooklyn's food scene? How does your Food Lovers’ Guide capture that?

Chef Caroline: More than anything, it’s about a community. Well established places that have been around for a decade or more are part of the fabric of the community, part of peoples routines and daily lives. 

HRN: How does Gage & Tollner's iconic history inspire your pastry menu there?

Chef Caroline: The space and its history are so inspiring. I went through old menus, researched time periods, Edna Lewis’s desserts….it’s all about paying homage to what G&T was over the years, and the role it played in the community. Once I have that as a foundation, I can express who I am as a chef through my desserts. 

HRN: Tell us about your book, "The Sweet Side of Sourdough." Is this facet of sourdough getting enough love from all the pandemic bakers?

Chef Caroline: Yes! It’s my Pandemic baby. It all happened because I didn’t want our sourdough starter at G&T to die. So I took her home, and the rest is history :) 

HRN: How would you categorize the state of hospitality right now? What is important for chefs and operators to bear in mind and prioritize?

Chef Caroline: I think we’re still trying to come back- things are still not 100% normal. And after what hospitality workers experienced during the pandemic- I think there is a huge effort to make the industry more sustainable for everyone. 

HRN: How has BentoBox helped Gage & Tollner thrive?

Chef Caroline: G&T is a big operation- having a platform that can do so much, with such intuitive, user friendly interfaces is so key and helps us hit every opportunity!! 

Brooklyn Brownstones

Chef Caroline's Food Lover's Guide to Fort Greene

It’s easy to get swept away in the NYC food scene. There’s always the new kid on the block….with lines around the block. And I’m the first to jump on that line with everyone else. It’s exciting and so informative as a chef to try what’s new. However, there are those places, those neighborhood gems that are always there for us. They are the reliable joints that never let us down, and in my mind, they’re what make our city so special. When I walk into my regular spots and am poured my favorite glass of wine without even asking because I’ve been eating there for over a decade….I mean, that’s true amore people.

These are my go to neighborhood spots. Walking in is like a hug. I could eat at these spots every night. Throughout those early, scary days of the pandemic I found myself getting takeout from them over and over, and it gave me a sense of security and normalcy in a very uncertain time. I am so thankful they have weathered the storm, and hopefully you’ll find me noshing at these spots for decades to come.

1. Black Iris - I moved to Fort Greene in 2008, and while I was apartment hunting, I stopped in for a falafel sandwich to share with my mom. It was a chilly day and the manager, seeing us trying to warm up, brought over a small bowl of warm, perfectly spiced lentil soup on the house. That is hospitality; above and beyond. Since then I’ve probably eaten there or gotten a falafel to go at least once a week. It’s always the same folks working the large oven, making fresh pitas. Sometimes they slip a piece of honey cake in my bag too. Don't miss the creamy, smoky baba ganoush. 

2. La Rina - I am in a very serious committed relationship with the smoked spaghetti at La Rina. We are really happy together. We have been for years now. The rest of the menu changes, much to my delight, but this sultry, smokey spaghetti stays. If there’s another seasonal pasta on the menu that I want to try, I go for it, but I always get a bowl of ol’ smokey too. We have that kind of understanding in our relationship. 

3. Olea - I have spent countless evenings at the warm, welcoming bar at Olea. I’m equally comfortable there solo, with a book or with a friend or two. Having lived a stone’s throw away for 13 years means I know the staff- many of whom have been there as long as I’ve been in the neighborhood- and it’s like coming home. I get a glass of red and the fried green olives with harissa yogurt. It’s a magical combination. There’s always a few specials, but the core menu never changes and that’s exactly how I like it.

4. Baba Cool -  You know that place you stop at everyday for a coffee on your way to work, even though you already had coffee at home, but you just want to stop anyway? Maybe because you love the people, and the energy, and you just really want to have a little routine to hold onto because who knows how the rest of the day or the week is gonna go? And the coffee is perfect? That’s Baba Cool for me. I love saying hi to the owner, and seeing the same faces day in and out. It’s such a perfect slice of the neighborhood and I love that it’s been there for me for years. 

5. Bati Ethiopian Kitchen - Another spot that’s been in the neighborhood for years, and one that I can never, ever tire of. The space, people and food are all so warm and comforting, and as a veggie, it’s just so incredibly satisfying. Eating in, or taking it to go, I always ask for extra injera. 

Latest Episodes