Monday, June 29, 2009

The UnFancy Food Show

I SO love living and eating in Brooklyn! The best stuff is happening with food in this awesome borough of ours, and I got to see and sample some of it yesterday at the UnFancy Food Show, the 3rd Annual ode to home-style, local, and delicious food. Held in a narrow lot adjacent to the East River Bar on South 6th Street in Williamsburg, the UnFancy Food Show had it all, from meats to chocolates to cheeses and produce.

As I approached, the first display I saw was a display with crates full of gorgeous greens from the Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Greenpoint. You gotta check this place out! So cool right? Started by two dedicated sustainable food lovers and backed by the folks at GoodeGreen, their veggies will be going to restaurants like Marlow & Sons and will soon be sold at their own "farm stand". For more information email Marlow & Sons also had a table just at the entrance to the main area where they were selling brisket and whitefish sandwiches. I opted for the homemade Brisket (made by Tom Mylan himself) with pickled onions and amazing sweet mustard from SchoolHouse Kitchen, a Brooklyn company that makes mustard, chutneys & dressings (you can purchase these savory seasonings at Marlow & Daughters). The sandwich was one of the best I've ever eaten - juicy, melty brisket, sharp, tangy onions, the softest bun and the mustard! Heaven! It also came with a spear of the spiciest pickle I've ever had, from McClure's Pickles who were also on hand.

Last year I bought a jar of McClure's relish which kept me happy for months - I used it on quesadillas, tuna sandwiches, and anything else I thought it'd be good with. Yum!

So, the place was packed, and full of samples of the tastiest treats from Liddabit Sweets (Jelly Candy made with Cucumber & Mint), Nunu Chocolates (Salty Caramels) and Mast Brothers Chocolates. There were also cheesemongers from Consider Bardwell Farm (which I often get at my local Farmer's Market - get their version of feta, you'll die!) as well as Cellars at Jasper Hill which had samples of an incredibly creamy Blue Cheese. The folks from Salvatore Ricotta were also there, and they were selling open-faced sandwiches with ricotta, thinly sliced prosciutto and a bit of arugula, drizzled with olive oil. These were incredible too - the creamy cheese went so well with the smoky meat, cut with the spicy green.

The prosciutto was being sliced before our eyes and the sandwiches were being sold as quickly as they were being made. I also got to try the salad mix sold by the Queens County Farm which included parsley & dill among the greens to make it flavorful and refreshing, nice after all that smoky, hearty meat! Check 'em out, they're co-hosting a Fourth of July Pig Roast & Camp Out weekend along with Brooklyn Based!

It was so great to see such a large turnout for the UnFancy Food Show, and to know that good quality, local & sustainable food is being sought out and demanded by more and more people.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dinner at Watty & Meg #2

I'm SO happy to say that I gave Watty & Meg (248 Court St., on the corner of Kane St., 718-643-0007) a second chance and had a lovely time, and meal. Having had a not so great dinner there during their first week open, I wasn't feeling too positive about it. But in my aforementioned quest to find Brooklyn restaurants that serve good, organic, grass-fed meat, I read Erin Zimmer's review on Serious Eats, which while not especially flattering, made me decide to give it another try.

It was a rainy Sunday night (when was it not!?), but there were few tables open. The space inside was inviting with low-lighting and candles and pleasant servers. We started out with their Green Salad with lettuce, cherry tomatoes and sliced sweet peas which were so perfectly crunchy! The salad was delightful, with a tangy, British-inspired dressing (think Salad Cream but lighter), we ate it up in seconds.

The burger was great too. A bit on the small size, it was totally satisfying, juicy and clean tasting. The bun was delicious too - a nice crust covering soft dough inside, it was chewy in a good way instead of being complete fluff. The fries were great too - little sticks of potato, lightly salted and fluffy inside.

We also got a side of the Mac & Cheese which was impressively good as well. Made with real cheese, which clung to the pasta, it was so creamy, and had that lovely, slight crust on top from a quick turn in the oven.

For dessert we shared a Mixed Berry Cobbler with Vanilla Ice Cream on top. Bursting with fresh, juicy berries, and topped with a dense crumb crust, this seemed almost healthy!

I'm so happy I gave Watty & Meg a second chance. It's definitely going to be my go-to place for burgers I can enjoy without feeling guilty or disgusted about the meat. They also seemed to have gotten things running smoother and tighter after this first month of being open. Yay!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Dinner at Prime Meats #2

I'm on a quest to find and map all the Brooklyn eateries that serve hamburgers made with good meat - organic, local, grass-fed, all the qualities that lead to a more sustainable and healthy meal. Prime Meats (465 Court St., at Nelson St., 718-254-0327) is one of those spots that places a high priority on quality meat and the other ingredients they use in their food. They also pay close attention to all the other aesthetic details like lighting, decoration, server clothing and cocktail list, which all contribute to a wonderful dining experience. I had dinner here once before and really liked it so I was looking forward to trying some other dishes.

Take a look at this burger. It comes with pickled red onions, perfectly melted cheese, an excellently proportioned and tasty bun and a gigantic half a sour dill pickle on the side. Not to mention the substantial order of thin, nicely salted fries on the side. So good. The meat is done exactly to your liking and tastes like good meat should, robust and juicy.

On this particular visit we also got an order of the Weisswurst which arrives in a pot of hot water and comes with a soft-baked pretzel & sweet (and delicious) mustard. The pretzel was so incredible - the crust was hard but the inside was pillowy soft. The sausage was amazing too, loaded with all sorts of amazing herbs and spices, it was almost buttery soft.

I really am loving Prime Meats. I'm looking forward to trying it for Breakfast; they're open at 7am every day of the week!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dinner at Roebling Tea Room

My BF & I took some of his family to the Roebling Tea Room (143 Roebling St., between Metropolitan & Hope, 718-963-0760) for dinner the other night, and we had such a lovely time. The space is so great; big and open with nice lighting and great wall paper with illustrations of horseback riders. It's such a special spot, and the food is terrific as well.

We started out with some appetizers, one of which was the Roasted Brie, which comes with two great big hunks of a dark, pumpernickel bread and was just incredible.

We also got the Beet Salad with mixed greens, apple slices, walnuts and the creamiest, most delicious Gorgonzola ever. Lightly coated with a tasty vinaigrette, it was so fresh and flavorful.

We also got the Meat and Cheese Plate. There were two kinds of hard salami and three cheeses. I'm not sure what the cheeses were, but one was like a white sheep's milk cheese, one was like Comte, so creamy & nutty and one was like a Gouda. Two big, fat radishes rested atop the dish next to a heaping spoonful of a delicious fig jam and capers were scattered about. This is a perfect dish to share with a few people.

We ordered the Journeyman's Steak with a Juniper Sauce as well. The sauce was incredible, tangy and savory, it livened up the meat in a nice way. The steak was a bit tough though, and therefore a bit chewy, but the sauce was great and made this dish.

It didn't come with any sides, so we ended up ordering an extra plate of the steamed kale which was also amazing. It had a lemony flavor to it, and went nicely with the meat and sauce. It did come with the Half Chicken that we got, but we wanted a little extra.

The chicken was great too. Free range, juicy and nicely roasted, it was meaty and substantial and nicely seasoned. As i said, the Roebling Tea Room is a really sweet place with great food, efficient servers and a rotating menu of seasonal specials and interesting combinations of ingredients.

Roebling Tea Room on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dinner at Alma

Ooops! I messed up the date when I posted this. Sorry it's late!

One of the best views of Lower Manhattan can be had from the roof of Alma, (187 Columbia Street, at Degraw St., 718-643-5400), a Mexican restaurant that has been more of a miss for me than a hit in terms of dining. I've been there a few times, and am usually left with a bit of a disappointing taste. The following is a sample of food I've had that explains why Alma is such a mixed bag.

I started with the Chilaquiles with shredded chicken, cheddar cheese, crema, and tangy tomato sauce. They were crunchy and tasty, but a little greasy and heavy.

The Tacos de Pescado were really good though, crispy fish tacos served on warm tortillas with jalapeno marmalade, pickled red onions and shaved red cabbage. I was surprised and disappointed to see that the fish was fried (not mentioned in the description), but the jalapeno marmalade was delicious and the rest of the garnishes added a crispy, tangy bite to the simple, flaky fish. It was very colorful too!

The corn tortilla Enchiladas stuffed with Portabello Mushrooms and Cheese with a Pumpkin Seed Sauce were a little off-putting though. Hmmm. It looks really unappetizing: a mess of cheese and oil and mush, topped with shredded iceberg lettuce. Really gross, right?

I don't know what to make of Alma. I've been disappointed more often thatn I've been pleased. It's only worth it to go early, have appetizer, some drinks and enjoy the view, and avoid dinner and the risk of getting a plate of mush!

Alma on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Dinner at Sweetwater

I love Sweetwater, (105 N.6th Street, between Berry St. & Wythe Ave., 718-963-0608), a cozy French/American bistro that's a long-standing member of the Williamsburg resurgence, AND has an amazing backyard to boot. The tables are packed in on a raised wooden deck that made me feel like I was in San Francisco for some reason. All you can see is sky and despite the cramped quarters, you feel like you've got tons of room. Big white "sails" offer some shade from the sun during the peak hours of the day.

A group of us went recently to celebrate the BF's birthday and it gives me great pleasure to describe the dishes we all enjoyed that evening. But let me start with the cocktails, of which there are a few delectable & interesting offerings. I had a gin drink with rosemary and cucumber that was light and refreshing, but still had a nice kick to it. It was pretty to look at too.

There's a good wine list and some local beers to choose from as well. To start, there was an order of Salt & Chili Calamari with Arugula and Lemon Aioli. There were plenty of nice, big pieces and the sauce was tart yet creamy. This plate was polished clean in minutes!

The Red & Golden Beet Salad with Boucheron, arugula, toasted hazelnuts & poppy seed dressing we had was amazing! The earthy beets paired with the tart cheese, the light, zesty dressing and spicy greens was so good, I couldn't get enough. I wiped up any leftover dressing with slices of bread!

One of the main dishes was the Seared Scallops from the list of specials that day. Four perfectly seared scallops arrived on a bed of mashed celery root, with peas and mushrooms. The scallops were on the small side, but everything else was so well done, that was easily overlooked.

As my main I ordered the Organic Chicken with capers, tomatoes, artichoke hearts and fresh basil leaves. All of those tastes went together so well, I was really impressed. The basil leaves really added a nice, fresh flavor, whereas the capers and chokes lent a nice pickled angle. The chicken was excellently seasoned on the outside and was juicy on the inside. I'm usually nervous about ordering something so potentially boring as chicken, but I had no regrets with this dish!

There was also an order of the Hanger Steak with buttermilk onion rings & asparagus. It was cooked exactly to order and was a nice cut of meat. The onion rings were huge, yet light, and the asparagus cooked just right.

Finally, there was an order of the Seared Covino with Mango Serrano Salsa, also off of the specials menu. The salsa was ever so slightly hot, so it added to the delicate flavor & texture of the fish instead of overpowering it, and the mango added a nice touch of sweet.

Even though we were totally satisfied with this most excellent meal, we thought it a shame to not try dessert, so we ordered the Food of the Gods, chocolate cake swimming in chocolate soup topped with hazelnut ice cream. This was pretty incredible too. The moist, dense fudge-y cake truly sat in light yet creamy chocolate liquid, with a big scoop of tasty, nutty ice cream.

So yeah, I love Sweetwater. Now you know why.

Sweetwater Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dinner at Since 1963

*2/19/10 Since 1963 closed pretty quickly and became Bueno, which also closed. The space has been shuttered and it's windows covered with brown paper for a good while now. Not sure what's to become of this "jinxed" space. Seems like nothing lasts long there. Shame, since it's a really great location.*

My first reaction to the name of the new restaurant to grace the space formerly occupied by Trout and Gravy was one of scorn and derision. Since 1963 (102 Smith St., at Pacific St., 718-237-3141) is such a dumb name to me. It makes me think of the Gap (since 1969) and feels as though they are trying so hard to be part of the fabric of the neighborhood before they've earned their chops. Y'know? Still willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and check out the new place, I went there for dinner with the BF to see what it was all about.

The menu consists of a bunch of different cuts of meat (chicken, beef and pork, all from Los Paisanos butcher shop down the block, smoked at Whiskey Sunday in PLG and carted back to Smith St.), the aforementioned meat sandwich-style, plus sides (collard greens, friend mac & cheese, etc.) as well as PBR and Lone Star beer. If you'd rather have something good to drink, you can go to Trout (which maintains an open-air bar next door) and bring your drink back to Since 1963. (Ugh, really, every time I have to say that name I flinch). The other thing that was lame was the fact that everything was plastic - forks & knives and cups. I mean, c'mon?! In this day and age using disposable plastic is completely irresponsible. Maybe it's because they just opened and they're awaiting their delivery of regular cutlery and glasses. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

You have to get a minimum of half a pound of everything except the chicken, so we got a bunch of stuff to share and ended up having to take some home. The Pulled Pork Sandwich with Pineapple Salsa came on two small, puffy buns and were quite tasty. The Cole slaw and pineapple added a nice crunch and zingy flavor to the meat.

The St. Louis Cut Pork Ribs were amazing. Tender and juicy and wonderfully seasoned; there were three to a half pound.

The 12 Hour beef Brisket was good too, and juicy, but the cuts we were served had lots of fat on them and were less well-flavored than the pork. This is a half-pound order which was quite substantial, and next to it is a cheddar biscuit which was just OK; it wasn't warm and it wasn't especially cheddar-y.

We also got a side order of the collard greens which came densely packed in a take-out container. Made with bacon but not particularly smoky, they were nicely vinegary but not overwhelmingly so, and were good to cut the greasy, meaty-ness of everything else.

I'm not sure what to think of Since 1963. The food was decent, the place itself seems a bit of a mixed-up jumble with really loud music playing despite the fact that we were the only customers eating inside, and a main dining room that was too musty for us to stay and eat in. That corner spot seems cursed, but maybe they'll pick up steam and have a good run there. Let me know if you end up checking it out.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Sandwiches at Brooklyn Social

Not much is written about the sandwiches available at Brooklyn Social (335 Smith St. at Carroll St., 718-858-7758), probably since the main reason you're heading here is the drinks. But, since the cocktails are strong, it's a good idea to put something in your stomach or else you'll be sorry later, and the three sandwiches offered here are perfectly suited to sate your appetite.

I apologize for the lack of photos on this post; sometimes I'm just not paying attention and forget I'm supposed to be writing about this stuff, so you'll just have to trust me on this when I say the Ginger Martini is delicious, and comes with a big chunk of candied ginger as a garnish, and that the Brooklyn, which gets a spritz of orange rind zest over a flame for some mini-pyrotechnics and an ever-so-slightly caramelized/smoky flavor is excellent. Made with exceptional attention to detail and flourish, the drinks are a real treat.

But those sandwiches I mentioned are truly delicious little snacks as well. Perfect morsels stuffed with your choice of artichoke hearts, mozzarella and basil or the soppresata with pesto and fontina cheese, which is pictured here. Made on fresh bread from Caputo's Bakery, over on Court St., they are pressed and served warm with a spear of dill pickle. Each is delicious, and has it's own distinct flavor, but either way you'll choose well.

It gets crowded on the weekends, but is a great spot to go for an early cocktail and snack or for that last drink of the night and a bite before heading home.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dinner at The V Spot

I just got back from a really good meal with a friend at The V Spot (156 Fifth Avenue, between Degraw and Douglass, 718-622-2275), a Latin Vegan restaurant in Park Slope. I always would forget that The V Spot was a restaurant because I think I wanted it to be a lesbian bar. The name just conjures randy images. But anyway, our dinner was quite good, and as a meat eater, I'm always happy to support tasty vegan & vegetarian places as much as a good carnivorous meal.

They don't have hard alcohol at The V Spot, serving only beer and sake-based cocktails. I started out with their Mojito which was made with sake, organic champagne, mint, lime & sugar. It was good, with lots of mint, but definitely had that white-wine cocktail kind of taste. They have a 2-for-1 happy hour from 5-8pm weekdays, so I also tried something with mango & coconut in it which was a bit thick and less enjoyable than the Mojito.

We shared an appetizer of Summer Rolls, rice paper wrappers filled with avocado, lettuce, cucumber & carrots and served with Thai peanut sauce. They were GIGANTIC, and quite difficult to eat. We sorta split them open and messily ate them with our forks and hands. Do not get this if you're on a first date! The peanut sauce was great though - one of my favorites!

For my main entree I ordered the Portabello Mushroom Tacos made with spinach, avocado & potato and served with a side salad and sweet plantains. I can't get enough of plantains and these were cooked perfectly, a bit burnt, but thinly sliced and slightly caramelized. The tacos were delicious, not sure I found any mushroom in there, but the spinach was fresh and tasty and the potato added a nice texture to the dish.

My friend ordered the Tortilla Salad which is made with corn, black beans, tomatoes & avocado over mesclun greens and a choice of dressing (lemon, sesame ginger, balsamic) and bordered with fresh, homemade tortilla chips. This was delicious as well and quite substantial. A good combination of ingredients, which were fresh and nicely proportioned.

We were too full to look at the dessert menu, but judging by the main dishes, I'd venture to say that they're pretty good as well. Anybody had their desserts?

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

PortSide! New York Fundraiser

So, this isn't really food news, but it's awesome Brooklyn stuff, so I wanted to post the info so people can support this awesome organization. PortSide New York brings opera to the Brooklyn waterfront and they are hosting their first fundraiser this Saturday at the Brooklyn Lyceum. Tickets can be purchased here, and if you go you'll get a chance to bid on a number of cool items, including a tour led by American Stevedoring to the top of a gentry crane! How awesome is that!?

Even if you don't go to the fundraiser, check out one of the amazing shows PortSide produces throughout the summer.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Brunch at Buttermilk Channel #2

As an early riser, I have no trouble getting a table at the hottest brunch spots. The only thing I sacrifice is the free mimosa since I arrive before noon to ensure they'll be no line (noon being the time, according to NY's Blue Laws, an establishment can start serving alcohol on Sunday). I get juice instead and like I said, a table without a wait.

On this visit to Buttermilk Channel (524 Court St., on the corner of Huntington St., 718-852-8490), which opens at 10am on Saturdays, we were seated right away and I decided to get the Short Rib Hash, with two eggs sunny side up, toast & organic greens. The hash was bits and pieces of short rib, with it's mild pork flavor, but it was pretty fatty and not as flavorful as I would have liked it. The eggs were good, but there were runny areas. The toast was perfectly suited to sopping up the yolk and the greens had that delicious salty, lemony dressing I love. It was fine, but I don't think I'll be getting this again.

My boyfriend got the Pecan Pie French Toast with bourbon, molasses and toasted pecans. This was incredible, and heavy and really sweet. The molasses added such a deep, different flavor than I'm used to and the dollop of whipped cream really helped cut the sticky sweetness of everything else. It's not a very eggy dish, so it's unlike traditional french toast, but it's good. Maybe best shared with someone who'll also split their order with you.

All in all it wasn't as great as our last brunch here (mmmm, Eggs Huntington), but not disappointing enough to keep us away. It's still one of my favorite places in Carroll Gardens. And, there was a line by the time we were finished!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Breakfast at 'SNice

I met a friend at 'SNice (315 Fifth Ave., at 3rd Street, 718-788-2121) for breakfast last weekend and had such a lovely morning sitting in their garden patio. There are a bunch of wooden picnic tables outside where the sun reaches around 10am. It's a great spot to people watch as well, since it's right on the corner. They're forecasting sunny & warm this weekend, so if you're in the area check it out! It's an all vegetarian, mostly vegan restaurant with lots of great stuff on the menu, but even if you're not a vegetarian, the food is really good and tasty.

I got the Tofu Scramble Wrap with black beans and salsa which was substantial, delicious and fairly spicy. The tofu had a nice consistency very close to real scrambled eggs and the wrap was densely packed with the filling. I ordered an apple juice to wash it down with.

I've written about the cupcakes before which are quite yummy as well, and while I didn't write about it, the Vegan Tempeh Reuben was fantastic. They also have smoothies, salads & other baked goods.

'Snice on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dinner at Taco Chulo

Meandering along Grand St. I found myself craving Mexican and so headed to Taco Chulo (318 Grand St., at Havemeyer, 718-302-2485) for dinner. The menu there is huge and extensive. You can basically get any combination of food in any amount - small snack or appetizer, plain taco or a gigantic plate with all the extras like beans and rice and veggies.

We started out with a couple of cocktails from their long drinks menu. I took a risk and ordered something called The Guero which is made with Cinnamon infused Vodka, Horchata and Patron XO Cafe which is a coffee liqueur made from tequila. I loved it! Spicy, sweet and complex, it was quite a treat. My BF got a Strawberry Margarita which was decent, but the lime was probably better.

We also started with some chips and salsa. I was impressed with the salsa - made with fresh, bright red tomatoes, garlic, cilantro & onion it was very addictive, even if the chips were ever so slightly stale.

For dinner I got two classic tacos, one with Carnitas (moist & juicy, flavorful and slightly spicy it was great) and one with Fish (the creamy, tangy sauce added such a nice zing to this dish, and the fish was fresh & flaky). This was the perfect amount of food, and you can get about 8 other fillings for your tacos this way.

My boyfriend chose two tacos from the list of "Signature" tacos; the BLT taco and the Baja taco. The BLT had just what it sounds like it had and was smoky and meaty and a little too 'breakfast flavor' for me. The Baja with fish, guacamole, beans, lettuce & cream sauce was really delicious; both were GIGANTIC!!

The food was great and I'd go back, but the space kinda drove me crazy. It's one, big concrete room with no effort made to deal with the way sound bounces around and gets all echo-y. If you're part of a big group and want to have a fun time, this is your place. If you want a quiet, simple dinner, go somewhere else.

Taco Chulo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

New Website!!!

Hey! Just wanted to share a piece I wrote for Brokelyn, an awesome new website that focuses on the cheaper things in our fair borough. They asked me to write about places that aren't as expensive as they seem and would be good places to go for a date or special occasion that won't break the bank. You can find the article here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Pizza & Ice Cream!

While I tend to steer clear of places that have long lines outside them, Grimaldi's Pizza (19 Old Fulton Street, between Front St. & Water St., 718-858-4300) is so good, I might have to make an exception more often. If you arrive at 11am, you can be sure you'll be a part of the first wave to be seated when they open at 11:30am. Inside, it's a bustling place, with red & white checked tablecloths, photos and newspaper clippings about Frank Sinatra lining the walls in frames, and about 8 waiters, all running this way and that, trying to get everybody's orders in. The huge oven can be seen from all the tables and you can watch while your pizza is made to order.

There's a lot of hype about this pizza, but I believe it stands up to all the hyperbole with delicious, well-made, tasty pizza. The crust is perfect, crispy & thin, but still just doughy enough, and never soggy. The cheese is so fresh and has the best melty consistency, and the sauce is well-seasoned and not sweet at all. This pizza has pepperoni slices on it which are the smaller version, but slightly thicker than usual pepperoni slices and spicy enough to add a little heat. Fresh basil leaves dot the entire pie. Of course, they have lots of options for other toppings. Also, if you can't stand the lines, you can call in your order and pick it up to go.

Afterward, if it's a nice day, take a walk down to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory at 1 Water Street (or 2 Cadman Plaza West, depending on your map) for dessert (718-246-3963). There are usually 6 or 8 flavors on the menu and all are available on a cone, in a cup or made into a milkshake. It's some of the creamiest, most delicious ice cream out there, made even better by the lovely views of the Brooklyn Bridge from the pier.

These cones are displaying a single scoop of the wonderful coffee ice cream on sugar and wafer cones. Deeee-licious!