When I arrived at the open house for my apartment in Brooklyn — a one-bedroom atop a tall Brownstone stoop — I was pretty much sold on the place before I walked in the door. I grew up living the stoop life in a row home in Philadelphia’s Queens Village neighborhood. When the weather was nice, my family would sit on our stout stoop at the end of the day with a box of chalk for the kids and glasses of vodka on the rocks for the adults.
Stoop Wine is perfect for a date night when you want to impress someone, late summer gatherings with friends, and parties with many bottles of bubbles.
Since I moved into my Brooklyn apartment, I’ve spent countless hours perched on my stoop, watching the parade of dogs that goes by every evening, people rushing off to work in the morning, and neighbors carrying overly stuffed bags home from the farmers’ market on Sundays. But I’ve learned that the best way to enjoy a stoop is for what I like to call “Stoop Wine.” It’s a catchall term that encompasses both an event and a hosting philosophy — which could easily apply to a picnic blanket if you don’t have a stoop.
Stoop Wine is perfect for a date night when you want to impress someone, late summer gatherings with friends, and parties with many bottles of bubbles. You can prepare a multi-course meal with cold soup and ice cream sundaes — ergonomically served in coffee mugs — or a dinner of wine, cheese, bread, and little else. Both are equally fitting and pleasurable.
Unlike a seated dinner party, I don’t feel the pressure of perfection when I host on the stoop. Tablecloths (or old tapestries) are welcome, but not necessary. And there’s no need to lay the table with a full set of designer ceramics or cook a star main dish like osso buco. Stoop Wine menus are best when they’re made up of little delicious things that people can pick with their fingers over the course of an evening.
Wine, cheese, and bread are ideal since they take next to no time to set out and the rest can typically be pieced together between meetings. You can pick a region of the world to inspire the menu if you like, but Stoop Wine also invites a mix and match approach. On the stoop, Sichuan-style spicy cucumbers somehow make sense next to a roasted red pepper salad with capers and herbs (see recipe below), and a bowl of labneh topped with nigella seeds and sliced radishes.
Stoop Wine is truly for any occasion: The first was my housewarming during the pandemic. Friends stopped by for a glass of wine and hunks of peppery bread from a nearby bakery. I’ve made mezze spreads and baked bourekas filled with roasted tomatoes for a dozen friends for a birthday edition, and played professional matchmaker at a Shabbat Stoop Wine. I’ve also invited friends for one-on-one evenings when one of us is having a rough time and needs to talk. People often ask me when they can come by for Stoop Wine. (Just text while you’re walking over, I say, the stoop is always open!)
Unlike a seated dinner party, I don’t feel the pressure of perfection when I host on the stoop.
One of the best parts is that there’s no set seating for the evening. Friends can start out on one step and, later, easily move up or down a few, clustering with whomever they want to talk to. There’s also space for dogs, and friends with little ones can bring them without the pressure of asking a two-year-old to sit through a “grown-up” dinner party.
I like to stretch out Stoop Wine season as long as I can. When it rains, we sit under the overhang or open the building’s big front door and set up folding chairs in the foyer so we can watch the storm. Having blankets at the ready for late fall and early spring gatherings helps — so does a collection of outdoor pillows and legless camping chairs to make everyone’s seat more comfortable.
In the winter, when I can’t serve dinner on the stoop, this approach to hosting still holds. I worry less about impressing people with my tablescape or my cooking these days and more about spending quality time with my friends. I have my stoop to thank for that.
Roasted Red Peppers with Capers and Herbs
If your desk is close to your kitchen, you can easily make these peppers during a busy work day, popping up from your seat periodically to tend to them.
I worry less about impressing people with my tablescape or my cooking these days and more about spending quality time with my friends. I have my stoop to thank for that.
Start by roasting two bell peppers: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place the peppers on their sides on a sheet pan. Roast them for about 40 minutes, turning with tongs periodically, until they are nicely browned on all sides. Transfer them to a large bowl and cover with the sheet pan to trap in the steam. About 30 minutes later, peel off the skin of the peppers and deseed — try not to run them under water, which washes away a lot of the flavor. Instead, wet your fingers with water if you need. Slice the peppers into ¼-inch-wide ribbons.
In a bowl, mix together olive oil, Sherry or wine vinegar, chopped flat leaf parsley, salt, and pepper. Now, choose your own adventure: Add a small clove of microplaned garlic for punch, a pinch of capers for brininess, or a couple of anchovies that you’ve mashed into a paste for funk — or, any combination of the three. Add the peppers and toss. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve at room temperature.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Devra Ferst