Monday, March 30, 2009

Dinner at Vodka Gallery

So, some friends and I totally went off the beaten path on a recent Saturday night to Gravesend for some Russian food. We ate at the Vodka Gallery (2376 Coney Island Avenue, between Avenue T and Avenue U, 718-645-3400) and had a surprisingly delicious meal out of a number of their small plates. There's a bar in the front area and seating in the back, as well as a large garden which will be wonderful in the warmer months. A trio played music a la the Gypsy Kings which gave the place a festive air. Lining the walls are shelves containing more than 200 different bottles of vodka in every shape and size you can imagine, flavored and not. You can order flights of vodka to taste different kinds, or order a specialty vodka cocktail from the drinks menu.

We started off with the Borscht and a Russian Salad. The borscht was some of the best I've ever had. It was more of a stew with chunks of beef short rib, cabbage, potato, onion and topped with dill. It was delicious, flavorful and a very large portion.

The Russian Salad was made with cucumbers, tomatoes, onions and dill in a sour cream dressing. Not very light, but really good. Creamy and tangy, the veggies were fresh & crisp - also a very large portion!

The Potato Latkes with Lox and Cream Cheese were wonderful. Not greasy at all, potato-y with fresh smoky & salty lox. Perfect to split among four people.

The most surprisingly tasty dish was the Beef Tongue served with sauteed onions over slices of sourdough bread, and dill (which seems to be The Herb used at the Vodka Gallery). The meat was tender and savory and the onions were a perfect companion flavor. I don't think I've had ever had beef tongue but it wasn't like I imagined. It was a little like liver, with a slight metallic flavor.

Our waiter recommended the Herring and Potatoes which he said was a popular item. This too was very good with tender pieces of fish and sliced onions, although the potatoes were nothing special.

My other favorite dish was the Traditional Blini with sour cream and caviar. These were moist, slightly sweet crepes served with the creamiest sour cream (almost like creme fraiche) and salty, briny, large caviar. So yum!

We were pretty full after all this food, but we wanted to see what the desserts were like so we split an Apple Strudel served with strawberries on top. This was OK - the pastry was flaky but overall it was underwhelming and not memorable.

We're definitely planning another visit as it would be a perfect place to go with a big group to try the various vodkas, eat yummy traditional Russian & Ukranian food and relax in the backyard garden on a warm summer evening.

Vodka Gallery on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dinner at Bistro Francais

In honor of Spring Break Season, I'm taking this week to highlight five meals I had during a mid-Winter's vacation in lovely Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, just East of Cancun. Happy Eating!

Our last night on Isla Mujeres! I had read good things about Bistro Francais (29 Avenida Matamoros, between Hidalgo & Juarez) in our guide book and it was appealing being on a side street just off of the main drag of Avenida Hidalgo - the hustle and bustle wears on you after a few days, and it's nice to have a break from the constant throng of people. Turns out, the Times even gave it a positive review!

We started out with Margaritas, naturally, to mark the end of our lovely trip. They were delicious, and came in festive glasses.

My mom got the Shrimp and Lobster (the shrimp were so good everywhere on the island, it was hard to order anything else; she's also a vegetarian) which was served with rice and a baked potato. The seafood was perfect - tender, moist and flavorful, the rice fluffy and the potato wonderfully flour-y.

I chose the Garlic Shrimp (also with rice and baked potato) which was terrific. Again, the shrimp was fresh and tender and flavored with garlic and butter, but managed to stay light and delicate. The shrimp in both dishes were grilled on a skewer interspersed with vegetables which were so yummy, like the cherry tomatoes.

For dessert we shared an order of Flan. This was incredible. Creamy, light caramel flavor, just a hint of sweetness. So good! A perfect ending to an excellent vacation.

I also read that Bistro Francais also served a great Brunch!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Pizza at Aqui Estoy

In honor of Spring Break Season, I'm taking this week to highlight five meals I had during a mid-Winter's vacation in lovely Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, just East of Cancun. Happy Eating!

Too early for dinner but in need of a little snack, we happened upon Aqui Estoy (85 Matamoros) in the downtown area of Isla Mujeres. The pizza is wonderful, and available with all sorts of toppings - artichoke, sun-dried tomato, pineapple & ham, whatever you want. It's a popular spot too, with just a few stools out front, and a big crowd chowing down on the deliciousness. Unfortunately, I ate my little personal pizza (a small is about 6 inches in diameter) before I took a photo (we had been biking all day and I was REALLY hungry), but I did get a shot of the outside.

Fodor's gives it a rave review as well, so if you're in need of a snack before dinner, or if you're looking for a reprieve from guacamole and tortillas, then this is your place!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Dinner at El Patio Caribe

In honor of Spring Break Season, I'm taking this week to highlight five meals I had during a mid-Winter's vacation in lovely Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, just East of Cancun. Happy Eating!

Located just next door to Amigos on Avenida Hidalgo is El Patio Caribe restaurant, the only "beach restaurant" on the island. The dining area is in the backyard which has a sandy floor, hanging lamps and lush potted palms which makes for a cozy dining experience. The food is quite spectacular as well, probably the best meal we had during our vacation.

My mom ordered the Ginger marinated Shrimp Kabob which came with a baked potato and some vegetables on the side (cauliflower, zucchini & carrot). Tender, lightly seasoned and tasting of ginger and garlic and slightly sweet. Yummy.

I got the Mixed Brocheta Kabob with pieces of chicken, beef, shrimp and veggies which also came with a baked potato on the side. The beef was soooo flavorful, the shrimp tender and the veggies fresh & crisp. The potato was flaky and really enjoyable.

I loved this place! Being able to sit in the back, away from the hub-bub of the street was nice and relaxing, and the food was fantastic. Nicely done, flavorful and fresh, this is definitely a place to check out if you're in the area. They also have a live band every evening at 8pm.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Breakfast at Manana

In honor of Spring Break Season, I'm taking this week to highlight five meals I had during a mid-Winter's vacation in lovely Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, just East of Cancun. Happy Eating!

Manana is a great cafe/bookstore located on the corner of Matamoros and Guerrero away from the busy main street traffic and noise. It's filled with sun from the open windows on either side and window seats with stools on the inside AND outside so you can sit with the sun warming your back as you eat, or choose to sit in the shade while you watch the goings-on about town.

They had the best iced coffee, with a good strong flavor, frothy milk and served in a tall glass.

Their Homemade Granola was delicious as well. Loaded with almonds and raisins it was served over plain yoghurt and topped with slices of banana. It was more on the side of Museli but was delish and fresh, and a nice treat from the heavy foods served elsewhere.

On our second trip to Manana we shared a big goblet of their Fruit Salad with Yoghurt. Big chunks of watermelon, papaya and pineapple filled the glass and was topped with a sprinkling of the granola. The fruit was so juicy and fresh, I could've eaten another goblet-full right then!

Open only for breakfast and lunch, you can also browse their selection of books left from travelers past. If you have a book you're finished with, you can trade it in, or donate it for a discount off of your food bill. They also sell brightly colored T-Shirts that make great gifts!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dinner at Amigos

In honor of Spring Break Season, I'm taking this week to highlight five meals I had during a mid-Winter's vacation in lovely Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of the Yucatan peninsula, just East of Cancun. Happy Eating!

After a long day of traveling (subway, Air Train, Plane, Coach Bus, rickety Van & Ferry) my Mom and I were tired and in need of a good meal. We strolled away from our hotel down Avenida Hidalgo which is the main drag of Mujeres and found Amigos (between Matamoros and Abasolo, 52 99 88 77 13 38). A number of tables were set up outside and since it was still early we had our pick. We chose to sit where we could watch the sidewalk traffic amble by.

We started with Guacamole (of course) which was divine. It's amazing how much better things taste when all the ingredients are fresh and haven't had to travel hundreds or thousands of miles before you get to eat them. Made with chunks of tomato and fresh lime, there's really little else you have to do in order to make this any better. Served with tortilla chips artfully placed just so.

We also shared a dish of Mixed Ceviche which was AMAZING. Loaded with pieces of octopus, squid and shrimp, lime, tomato and cilantro, every little morsel was scooped up. The squid was great and the shrimp was incredibly tender. The octopus was a bit chewy, but overall this was delicious.

My mom chose the Fish Tacos for her main entree and I got the Beef and Cheese Tacos, both of which came with rice and beans and looked pretty much the same, so there's only one photo. The fish was tender, the beef flavorful, however the beans & rice weren't so great. BUT, everything else was so good, and hit the spot so we barely even noticed. The Mojitos and Margaritas were great as well, strong and citrus-y, a perfect ending to our long day and the perfect beginning to our vacation!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Brunch at Dizzy's

In all my years in Brooklyn, I had never eaten at Dizzy's (511 9th Street, at the corner of 8th Avenue, 718-499-1966). I had passed by numerous times only to see crowds of people waiting on the sidewalk, coffees in hand, hoping to get a table soon. There's seating outside, even in chilly weather to accommodate the spillover, as Dizzy's is one of the most popular spots in the area. I met a friend before a work-related meeting we had to go to one recent Sunday, and I thoroughly enjoyed my meal.

First you're given a basket with mini-muffins, scone-type baked goods and small containers of strawberry butter, which sounds weird but is actually quite delightful. Sweet, salty and creamy - how could you go wrong? The little muffins are perfect - just enough to tide you over, but not big enough to ruin your appetite.

On this occasion I ordered the Huevos Rancheros, something I usually don't get. Two eggs any style on corn tortillas with veggie chili (full of beans and corn), topped with tomato salsa, cheddar cheese and a dollop of sour cream. It was so good. It really hit the spot in that very satisfying, hearty way. The eggs were perfectly runny, the salsa was flavorful and the tortillas had been warmed up.

My friend ordered an Omelette by Design - egg whites only for her - and a side of turkey bacon which was surprisingly tasty. Served with toast and homefries. All brunch orders come with coffee AND juice too, which is such a nice bonus.

Despite the crowds, we were seated quickly and our food came promptly as well. Our waiter was competent and humorous and the vibe is kind of joyous & celebratory. Definitely a great spot to grab a casual brunch with a friend.

Dizzy's on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Pizza from Sal's

On the way home from a movie and in need of a late-night snack, I stopped in at Sal's (305 Court Street, corner of DeGraw Street, 718-852-6890) for a couple of slices. Sal's has been around for a long time and still has those old-style yellow and orange Formica booths lining the walls. In recent years they expanded and installed, in the warm months, a white plastic picket fence that encloses a sliver of sidewalk for enjoying the weather while you dine. Kinda weird to be on the busy corner, but kinda nice to chill with your slice instead of walking and eating which is surely bad for one's digestion.

On this particular trip I got one regular plain slice and one slice with fresh mozzarella and basil. The first thing I noticed was the sauce. It's a bit sweeter than I like my sauce to be. I don't think it's necessary to add sugar to the natural sweetness of the tomato. My grandmother never used sugar in her sauce, so my taste buds have been trained to frown upon its use in this way.

The cheese on both slices was also kinda mediocre. Maybe it was the late hour, but everything was kinda congealed, even after being heated up. The crust was disappointing too, kinda chewy; not crispy enough. There isn't a pizza joint close by, so if you're in a pinch and need a slice, this place is totally fine. I know most of the places in the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill/Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods and this one is one of the better in the area. Makes me curious about other pizzerias. Sleepy favorites out there?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Dinner at General Greene

A friend and I made our way to General Greene (229 Dekalb Avenue at Clermont Avenue, 718-222-1510) the other night for dinner, and had a most interesting time. The menu is made up of a variety of small plates in categories such as "Bar Snacks", "Hot" and "Cold". The front room is a classic space, all white and robin's egg blue, pressed tin and tiled floor. The lighting is lovely, with a smattering of styles that all seem to go together. The kitchen sits in between the front room and the back dining area, which felt odd to us, like there were two separate restaurants sharing a prep area; kind of disconnected. The host and wait staff were all friendly though and most helpful when it came to figuring out how many dishes to order to make a full meal.

We started with a Bar Snack of Radishes with Sea Salt and Anchovies. We were both expecting whole radishes, rubbed in sea salt with anchovy fillets, but what we got was much more delicate. Large slices of shaved radish were HUGE and mixed with an anchovy paste, seasoned with sea salt and garnished with halved smaller radishes. It was delicious - crisp, strong flavors and textures mingled and got better as the dish sat in its juices. In an effort to prevent a washed out photo, the resulting picture is a bit dark, but shows the beauty of the dish nonetheless.

We ended up choosing mostly veggies, which made for a yummy if not cohesive dinner. The Quinoa was amazing, and I never eat quinoa after a bad experience with it on a camping trip in college! It was moist and crunchy and seasoned with salt and mint, and butter? Something made this so smooth. It gave me a whole new way to think about this most nutritious grain.

The Beets with Yoghurt and Mint were also really good. Roasted beets, just this side of soft, lightly covered with yoghurt were sweet and savory and tangy.

The Roasted Turnips were my least favorite dish. Some of the pieces were too hard, and overall it didn't have a very turnip-y flavor. The leeks and butter overpowered the earthy, root-ness of the vegetable. There were also pieces of bacon which made it a little better, but not enough for me to really enjoy this dish.

Another favorite was the Pork Meatballs, served in a bowl covered with sauce and melted cheese, somewhat like French Onion Soup. The sauce was great, hearty and tomato-y and not sweet, the meatballs were nicely flavored and slightly juicy, and the toasted slices of bread were perfect for sopping up the extra 'gravy' as my grandfather calls Marinara Sauce. Wonderful.

Unfortunately, we were too stuffed for dessert, which is a real shame since the owner of General Greene is a pastry chef and has become well known for his pastries. Next time I'll get one or two fewer small plates and save room for something sweet to finish my meal with.

The General Greene on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 13, 2009

Brunch at Buttermilk Channel

Oh man, do I love Buttermilk Channel (and here). It's just such a nice place, with an owner and waitstaff who are warm and friendly without being cloyingly annoying, and always good, sometimes great food. We finally made it over for Brunch, after going once already accidentally before it was even being served (try getting over that quickly enough to switch gears for some other place), and were so happy with our meals.

My favorite way to eat Brunch is for one of us to get an egg dish and one of us to get a sweet dish and halfway through one switch so you get both sweet and savory. It's the best. So we ordered the Eggs Huntington, a local special, named for the cross street on which the restaurant sits. It consists of poached eggs on top of country ham, resting on a buttermilk biscuit (natch) with the most amazing and light and tangy hollandaise sauce I think I've ever had. Truly, it was amazing. The zesty flavor rang out, it didn't congeal into a gross mess, and it really added to the dish as a whole. The biscuit was dense, buttery and flaky and soaked up the yolk just right. With lightly dressed greens on the side. MMM-mmmmmm.

We also got an order of the Short Stack Buttermilk Pancakes, which come three to an order for only $5! Crazy, right? They were dusted with powdered sugar, which was a bit too much sweetness for me actually. The pancakes themselves were on the sweet side (they tasted a little like flat doughnuts), so the extra sugar was unnecessary. What would've been nice would be if there were some sliced strawberries and bananas with this, to cut the doughy factor. I mean, they were great pancakes, but a little something else would have been nice.

We also got an order of the Homemade Breakfast Sausage which come in patty form and are two to an order. These. Were. Fantastic. Juicy, fresh, herb-y - they are "the gold standard of breakfast sausage" as my boyfriend put it.

The ONLY thing is that they're a stickler for complying with Blue Laws and won't serve cocktails on Sunday before noon so you don't get to enjoy that free Mimosa or Bellini if you're an early bird, which you kind of have to be if you don't want to wait an hour for a table! Oh, and don't do like we did - Brunch is only available on Sundays!!!

I'm so into this place though and looking forward to going back enough times to try everything on the menu. And'll be a different season and their whole menu will change and I'll just have to keep going to see what they're up to! Yay!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dinner at Lodge

When you walk into Lodge, (318 Grand Street, at Havemeyer Street, 718-486-9400), you feel as though you've been transported to an Inn in Upstate New York, with a big open room bordered on two sides by a wooden bench hugging a table made from the cross section of a big tree and the bar at the far end. The chandeliers are white porcelain antlers and dividing wall between bar area and dining room is made from slabs of slate stacked horizontally. It's cozy and charming - all it's missing is a fireplace.

We started out with drinks. I ordered The Hunter, a version of a Manhattan with Bourbon and Cherry Brandy, complete with cherry.

The dinner menu is full of warm, hearty options; there are classic dishes and there are those with new twists. The chicken is organic and free-range and from a local farm. I almost went with the Organic Chicken Fingers, but was swayed by more savory sounding dishes. Like the Hot Artichoke Dip which four of us shared and had polished off in about 3 minutes. It was creamy with chunks of artichoke heart and not overly salted or heavy. It was almost light, if Artichoke Dip can be light. Served with toasted slices of baguette.

We also split the special Oysters, but I can't find the piece of paper where I wrote down the details so I can't tell you where they were from. They were good, but the sauce they were served with was fantastic. Chunky with onions and horseradish, it was spicy and proved a perfect balance to the briny, salty oysters.

I chose to get the Carolina Pulled Pork which comes with a side of the Gouda Mac & Cheese (to which I asked them to add the Applewood smoked bacon) and homemade Cole Slaw. The pulled pork was delicious - chunky and juicy, spicy and smoky, it fell apart when you looked at it. The slaw was excellent as well with just a touch of mayo and fresh cabbage, and the mac & cheese....well, the Gouda made it so creamy and so flavorful. It was genius, especially with chunks of that meaty bacon.

There was an order of the Homemade Turkey Meatloaf with garlic escarole, herb roasted red potatoes and white gravy. This was a bit interesting. A little on the dry side, there wasn't enough gravy, and the gravy wasn't buttery enough. It was good though, and the potatoes and escarole were nicely spiced. All in all a very filling meal.

There was an order of another special - the Pistachio Encrusted Striped Bass with spinach, rice, braised leeks and topped with a grapefruit salsa. The pistachio nuts' flavor was overshadowed by the rest of the flavors of the dish. The fish was prepared well though and was moist, tender and enjoyable.

Finally, there were the Steamed Mussels which were done with white wine, garlic, lemongrass and basil which all comes with a side of Fries. There wasn't enough juice in this dish, so some of the mussels were a little dry. The flavor was interesting too - perhaps it was the addition of the lemongrass that mixed it up. Again, they weren't bad, just not great. The fries however, were fantastic - perfectly salted and crispy and flecked with parsley.

All in all I really liked Lodge. Some of the dishes were a little bit of a miss, but still good, and the rest were absolutely fabulous. I think I've added this place to my list of favorites. Can't wait to see what they'll have in store for us in Spring!

Lodge on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 9, 2009

Pizza at La Pizzetta

***3/14/10 So, La Pizzetta is no longer. A new pizza joint will re-open as of
March 22nd "Under New Management". We shall see.***

There's a newish place called La Pizzetta (145 Atlantic Avenue, between Henry Street and Clinton Street, 718-855-6400) that serves small, personal pizzas, calzones and various Italian appetizers and pasta entrees. They opened last fall and I had been curious to check it out. The first thing I noticed was the decor which is kind of "everyplace USA". It had that generic vibe that makes you feel as if you are in a chain restaurant in some strip mall somewhere, with no specific personality or culture of its own. The light fixtures were sorta cute, made from colanders and cheese graters, but the signs and posters on the walls screamed catalog when they meant to say 'vintage farmstand' and the design on some of the plates was headache inducing. ~sigh~

We started with the Tricolore Salad, made with arugula, endive and radicchio with a balsamic dressing. The dressing seemed more lemon & oil than balsamic but was good, and the ingredients were fresh and had bold flavors. Notice the plate though. We hadn't finished when our waitress came out with our two pizzas, one in each hand, and stood at our table until we picked the salad plate up to make room for the pies. She then took away our not-totally-finished-with salad. Another sigh.

We shared the two pies. One was the Romana which had mozzarella, tomato sauce, anchovies, capers, olives & oregano. The olives were from a can, and the anchovies were a bit tough. The sauce was good though, not at all sweet, which I hate, and with the salty, briny capers it was hard for this to taste badly. The mozzarella was good too, fresh and creamy in a thin layer. I didn't notice any oregano though.

We also got the Marchigiana with Mozarella, Artichokes and goat cheese. This was pretty good, with lots of cheese and yummy artichoke hearts. The crust on both pizzas was nice and thin, crispy and crackly, albeit a bit burnt in some spots.

So, the food was fine, but with a couple of stellar pizza places in the neighborhood and restaurants with a more charming ambiance and capable staff, I can't say I'll be back soon. I did see a lot of parents with kids - perhaps it's an easy, unoffensive place to take picky eaters. It's BYOB though, so stop by the wine shop a few doors down towards Henry before you head over.

La Pizzetta on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 6, 2009

Dinner at Alchemy

I would like to add my thoughts to the overwhelming outpouring of sadness in response to the passing of blogger extraordinaire Robert Guskind. He took notice of Eat It Brooklyn soon after I started and offered me a recurring spot on Gowanus Lounge on Fridays. It was a generous show of support to yet another voice amongst the multitude of writers covering, loving and defending Brooklyn. He will be missed.

I had heard about Alchemy (56 5th Avenue, between Bergen St. and St. Marks Place, 718-636-4385) from a few people, but only went there for the first time recently. I immediately liked the interior, with booths along the right side wall, the bar to the left, and tables set up in the back. The exposed brick lends itself to feeling like an old tavern, with low lighting and candles. The waitstaff was friendly, and the food was surprisingly good.

We started out with the Roasted Mushroom Salad which had loads of Shitake & Button mushrooms along with shaved fennel, arugula and Parmesan cheese. The cheese was perfectly sharp and salty, the dressing was slightly creamy and tangy and the portion made it quite substantial. Delicious and best shared with someone so as to leave room for other dishes!

My friend ordered of the Duck Confit Cassoulet which came with white beans, merguez sausage, braised pork and dried cherries. She was nice enough to share so I got to taste this amazing, dish. The strong flavors of the meats mixed nicely with one another, and the tart cherries stood provided a good balance with a lighter zing.

Her boyfriend chose the Hamburger which he described as "great". It was gone before I could get a good look at it. I did notice that the bacon looked high quality & meaty and the fries were well-done and crispy. The bun was also nicely toasted and on the small side which is good - you don't want your burger drowning in bread!

My boyfriend got the special Catfish entree topped with salsa and served with corn pudding and asparagus. All of the flavors were quite distinct, but worked well together. The salsa was simple but spicy and the corn pudding was the creamiest, most decadent side dish, perfect on a freezing cold winter night. The fish was cooked nicely too, so that it remained flaky and moist.

My favorite though was what I got, the Grilled Chicken Sandwich with bacon, arugula, pickled onions, garlic mayo and fries. I do love pickled onions, and they added the perfect vinegary punch to this sandwich. The bread was excellent - thinly sliced and charred just enough to add a bit of smokiness. The bacon was meaty, the arugula added a nice, green, fresh taste and the garlic mayo brought it all together. It really was fantastic. It was also gigantic, and I ended up having it for lunch the next day, which I never do because I don't like to eat the same thing twice, but it was so good I didn't mind at all! Definitely going back for this sandwich!

Alchemy also offers special Mussels Mondays, and special deals on beer & wine pairings on Tuesdays. They have a number of hot drinks on offer perfect for the winter weather, and a great selection of special martinis and cocktails. Hooray for Alchemy!

Alchemy on Urbanspoon