Friday, January 29, 2010

Dinner at Tacos Matamoros

Sunset Park! Can you believe it? I finally made it out there, to a place the now defunct Best View in Brooklyn recommended almost a year ago! Tacos Matamoros (4503 5th Avenue, between 45th & 46th Streets, 718-871-7627) is an eat-in or take-out establishment, with nicer ambiance than the also recommended Xochimilco across the street. You can bring your own beer (or tequila as one yelper wrote), and order some of the tastiest & cheapest Mexican around.

We started out with some Guacamole & Chips, naturally, which came with a fresh and flavorful salsa verde and cut up radishes. The chips were nicely salted and fresh as well. The guacamole was chunky with red onion & tomato and wonderful.

I ordered three small tacos - one with Al Pastor (slow roasted pork), one with Chorizo and one with Carne Asada. The Al Pastor was delicious - slightly smoky, the meat had a certain depth to it. The Chorizo was super spicy with a red chili sauce drizzled all over it, but great, and the Carne Asada...well, I received chicken instead, and decided to just go with it. It was disappointing and a bit bland. I think the beek would have been better. Oh well, next time. The tacos are all made with corn tortillas that are fresh and hearty, and everything is sprinkled with cilantro.

My friend ordered two small tacos, one with pollo and one with al pastor. Again, everything was fresh and sprinkled with ample cilantro. She also got a tamale which she deemed "authentic".

I couldn't believe it when we got the bill and it read $12! What a bargain. I really liked Tacos Matamoros. It's a great place to go with a big group of friends - they certainly have enough space, and there's even a party room in the back! The food is hearty & filling and delicious as well!

Tacos Matamoros on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Economy Bites!

I just got word of a new online cooking show called Economy Bites that offers a weekly five-minute video & podcast that teaches viewers how to make quick and easy meals for cheap. I just watched the most recent post on Corn & Black Bean Salad. It's one of my favorite easy at-home meals to make, and they did it real cute. Check it out!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Brunch at Sheep Station

A long, meandering walk led us to Sheep Station (149 4th Avenue, corner of Douglass St., (718) 857-4337) one recent afternoon, so we popped in for a late brunch and enjoyed the quiet empty before dinner, and soaked up the long shadows of the afternoon sun. It's a corner spot, so there are windows everywhere - on either side of the bar and along the front, with small wooden tables lined up opposite the bar, and a room in back to accommodate overflow during busy times. We ordered a couple of beers and settled in.

I ordered the BLT, made with thick-cut bacon & garlic mayo on toasted whole wheat bread. A nice little side salad accompanied the sandwich. The bacon was a bit too crispy, but still flavorful, and the garlic mayo brought everything together in a wonderful way. I loved it!

My boyfriend ordered the Meat Pie with mashed potatoes, minted peas and gravy. The slight minty flavor of the peas was surprisingly nice, the mashed potatoes were excellent and the flaky crust of the pie made a perfect container for the tender pieces of meat and veggies loaded up inside.

I really like Sheep Station - a nice, neighborhood joint with good food and a wide selection of beers and cocktails. I'll definitely be back to try the dinner menu.

Sheep Station on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 22, 2010

Breakfast at Tazza

I recently had the honor to join The Wandering Foodie for breakfast. He's in NY for his 93 Plates project, wherein he has three meals a day at different restaurants throughout the city, to make 93 meals in 31 days. We met at Tazza (311 Henry St., between Atlantic Ave. & State St., 718-243-0487), and enjoyed the good food and tasty coffee in the quiet atmosphere of the early morning. It's a great neighborhood joint, a coffee shop replete with pastries & sandwiches by day, wine bar by night. I had a latte, he ordered a cappuccino. Neither looked especially pretty, with no image made out of the foam so I didn't snap a photo, but the latte was creamy and strong.

I chose the Homemade Granola with Fruit & plain low-fat yoghurt. I love their Ricotta & Fig Panini, but I wanted to try something different. The granola was crispy & sweet, and was studded with tart, dried cherries & raisins and was topped with slices of strawberry & banana. The yoghurt was great too - thick & creamy and had a nice, strong flavor.

My dining companion chose the Steel Cut Oatmeal with milk, which came topped with slivered almonds, golden raisins and brown sugar. It was very milky, but nicely made. Good for a cold, winter morning. We also tried a plain marshmallow from Baked. We think it was a day old since it was a bit dried out and disappointing. I'm sure they're much better if you get them fresh. Overall I think Tazza is a nice place. The service was friendly, if a bit slow, and the space is serviceable for a casual get together. Just don't bring your computer expecting to hunker down for the day. There's a strict no-computer policy between the hours of 11am and 4pm.

Tazza on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cafe Pedlar

Crowded on a recent weekday morning, Cafe Pedlar (210 Court St., corner of Warren St., 718-855-7129) had about 6 people behind the counter, none of whom seemed to be actually working, instead they were talking loudly to each other as if performing for the waiting customers. The end result is that you feel like someone not in on the joke. Not something you want to be cultivating in a neighborhood coffee joint. It's too bad, because the space is lovely to be in - the Franks really know how to decorate. The coffee, on the other hand, is a bit perplexing.

Always gorgeously presented, the taste is slightly different each time. Sometimes it's great, but sometimes it's burnt-tasting or a bit watery, and many times it's been slightly & mysteriously sweet. On this particular visit it was great - creamy and full-bodied.

I also ordered an Almond Croissant, which was very good. Flaky, sweet, filled with almond paste and covered in confectioners sugar. It's a pretty large serving as well.

So, like I said, I often find it frustrating to be in there, but a well-made latte is sometimes worth it.

Cafe Pedlar on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dinner at No. 7

No. 7 (7 Greene Ave., at Fulton St., 718- 522-6370) is virtually hidden by the subway entrance right outside it's door. Upon first entrance, you see the long, dark-wood bar with frosted glass and mirrors, tall stools and a marble counter. The subway-tiled walls and white tile floors add an urban elegance to the space and in the back dining room the skylights bring light and spaciousness. It was a bit chilly on the coldest night of the season, but that was easily overlooked by the general coziness exuding from everyone there. The cocktail list is full of herbs, bitters and infused vodkas; I stuck to a Gimlet.

More enamored with the appetizers, I chose two of them instead of one main dish. The Fried Broccoli caught my eye with grapefruit and black beans. I think it was dunked in a Miso batter before being cooked - it was a bit "gluey" and salty, but the black bean sauce and citrus over bitter greens cut that nicely. Interesting, but not something I'd get again.

I also chose to get the Soft Boiled Fried Egg with arugula and roast pork. Three lean slices of tasty roast pork accompanied a pile of arugula salad topped with two halves of a soft boiled egg, coated in bread crumbs and gently fried. This was fabulous! The flavors of the creamy yolk, the salty meat and the fresh greens went so well together.

My friend went with the Grilled Arctic Char, which came on top of baby Brussels sprouts, topped with a celery root mash and lychee. Again, everything combined to make one delicious dish. Each flavor and consistency adding to the other.

I really liked No. 7 and look forward to going back again soon!

No. 7 on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dim Sum at East Harbor Seafood Palace

A bunch of us went to the East Harbor Seafood Palace (726 65th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues, 718-765-0098) on the border of Sunset Park, Bay Ridge & Dyker Heights, in a bland, peach & beige building that looks like anything BUT a palace. We went on a recent, frigid weekend morning and stood in the windy entryway with our ticket in hand, asking the kind people around us what number the gentleman inside was shouting into his microphone. He eventually did yell out our number, in English no less (they write it down if you need such assistance when you get your number) and were seated, 45 minutes after arriving at a cozy table away from the action at the front door.

Immediately plates of Pork Spare Ribs were brought over (Bottom Center), along with some Shrimp Dumplings (Top Right) & Fish Balls (Top Left) (please excuse my ignorance at not knowing the proper names for some of these dishes, we were so hungry and frantic at first, I could barely stop to take a photo, let alone write down the name!). Happily and hungrily we dove into our food and were quickly put at ease. The ribs were cut into small pieces you had to eat with your fingers in order to scrape the meat off of the bone. They were fatty too, so I could only stomach 2 or 3 pieces. The Shrimp Dumplings were "fierce" as one of my dining companions exclaimed but the Fish Balls were my preference. They were of a soft consistency - sort of doughy, sort of mealy, but a pleasant texture overall and very tasty.

Next came some Flat Rice Noodles stuffed with Shrimp and doused in a sweet Soy Sauce. They were so steamy, I had to photograph them twice!

What are you eating?

Oh, there you are! These were wonderful. The sauce was sweet and a bit thick, the noodles were slightly sticky and gummy, yet pleasing to the palate and they had juicy, tender shrimp nestled in them.

Of course, it wouldn't be a complete meal without some Buns. Fluffy dough, slightly dry, with tender chicken meat inside - perfectly proportioned.

We also went out on a limb and tried a dish of Little Fried Fish. This was an "Extra Special" dish, and was the most expensive item we ordered, ringing in at $6.95. Tasting very garlicky and fishy, I ate a small handful before cutting myself off. Two of my dining companions couldn't stomach them at all, while my other friend seemed to enjoy them a lot. See their little eyes?

We also got some BBQ Pork in Flaky Pastry (Bottom Center) (YUM! saucy, flaky, delightful), Spinach & Shrimp Dumplings (Top Right) (so great with the spinach) and some Turnip Cake with bits of pork (Top Left) (not my thing).

MORE flat noodles with shrimp. So tasty!

Of course we had to have something sweet to round the meal out. Sesame Balls with Red Bean Paste are a must. So sweet, a little oily, but so delicious. Again, the consistency of the inner dough is slightly gummy but I love it. These were cut with a special scissors by our server!

We also had these really great doughy balls covered in coconut flakes. There was some kind of dark black/brown paste in the center that I couldn't place, but I really liked these too.

I haven't been to Dim Sum too many times so I'm not a reliable critic on this one. My friend who grew up eating Dim Sum regularly rated the EHSP passable. Most of the dishes were decent, but she's had better. It's definitely a fun option for a group wanting something different for Brunch some weekend morning. Seating is available until 3pm.

East Harbor Seafood Palace on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dinner at Vertuccio's on the Park

I was invited to attend an Editor's Tasting at a fairly new spot in Williamsburg called Vertuccio's Pizza on the Park (232 N.12th., between Driggs & Roebling, 718-486-3900). It's in the old Mamalu play space & cafe whose cavernous space been transformed into sort of an Italian Courtyard, complete with a faux water well and stone walls, and in the summer I think they'll have a pretty sweet backyard area. We were seated and given complimentary glasses of wine (they have since received their liquor license, and are selling red & white wines by the glass & bottle, in addition to beer), by the very friendly and attentive waitstaff who made sure we had everything we needed.

We started with a Cheese Plate (3 choices, dotted with olives) and a Cured Meat Plate (3 choices, again with olives). We were given a Gryuere, a Parmesean and a Provolone. The cheeses were good, but they were all strong and flavorful, and not enough variety, as they were too similar and the tastes overlapped too much. The meat, too, was not varied enough. There was Pancetta, Speck and Prosciutto. Each had the same soft texture and each had strips of fat mingled in with the meat. It would have been nice to have some spicy Soppresatta or Salami. Everything was fresh and good quality though.

A Bresaola Pizza was brought out next, straight from the Brock Oven, topped with Mozzarella, Baby Spinach, Black Truffle & Parmigiano Cheese. I love Bresaola and this pizza was absolutely fantastic. The meat was flavorful and supple, the cheese plentiful and the crust crispy, except in the middle where it got a little soggy. The truffle was also a bit overwhelming, and took over the other, more subtle flavors. I liked it though, and would definitely order it again. They also offer a Gluten-Free pizza.

Our next course was a White Bean Salad with Shrimp. It was tasty, with a lemon-herb dressing, and the shrimp were tender and nicely cooked.

We then got to try two Pasta dishes. One was Fettuccine in a creamy tomato sauce with spinach, cherry tomatoes and scallops. My boyfriend made a Gorgon Ramsey crack about the chopped parsley sprinkled around the edge of the plate, but the dish was nice. The sauce was lightly salted, the pasta fresh & not overcooked and the scallops a nice change from chicken.

We also had the Fettuccine with spinach, mushrooms, parmigiano cheese & truffle oil. On top of everything else, I think we were too stuffed to appreciate it. This is a dish best paired with a light salad or shared with someone else. The truffle oil overpowered everything though; it's really strong so only a little bit is needed and the creamy sauce was quite heavy.

We ended up taking the slice of Cheesecake home, there was no way we could even try it at that point! It was creamy, slightly sweet and decent. My grandfather made the most amazing Italian Cheesecake I've ever had, so I'm spoiled and never order it when I'm out.

I think Vertuccio's will settle into it's space, get it's 'restaurant-legs' and do pretty well. They just need to go lighter on the Truffle Oil! Delivery offered within a 5-mile radius.

Vertuccios on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 4, 2010

Breakfast at Ortine

Happy New Year Everyone! It's good to be back.
I am making a slight change to the publication of Eat It Brooklyn.
There will now be posts twice a week, on Mondays and on Fridays.

Happy Eating!

On a semi-desolate stretch of Washington Ave., with repair shops and construction sites, sits the warm, welcoming Ortine (622 Washington Ave., between Dean & Pacific, 718-622-0026). There are three tables in the front area, where the counter and tea assortment live which is connected via a long hallway to the larger back dining area. Mix & match cups and saucers lend a playful & colorful vibe, and the free wi-fi and nightly happy hour (closed Tuesdays), complete with Hot Wings from cage-free & organic chickens make for a round-the-clock goodness. They also boast having their own in-ground vegetable garden out back, a first for NYC.

I met a friend for breakfast recently and loved everything about our time there. I had read complaints about the menu being overpriced, but the prices quoted online were higher than they were on our visit. Perhaps Ortine's owners responded to their customers and adjusted? The latte was perfect - creamy, slightly bitter yet smooth and hot. I hate a tepid coffee. I ordered the Homemade Granola & Yoghurt (local), which came in a lovely ceramic jug. The granola was delicious, with pumpkin seeds and pieces of dried apricot. It was quite filling as well.

My friend ordered the Eggs Florentine which came baked in a dish with toast on the side. The eggs were wonderful - creamy, flavorful, with plenty of spinach and cheese.

The staff was friendly, the space bright and cheery and the food wonderful. I'm eager to try Ortine for dinner, and definitely will be back in the warmer months to enjoy the produce from their garden!