Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Burritos & Farmer's Market in San Francisco

Happy Holidays!!! Since this is a vacation week for many, I'm going to take this opportunity to write about five meals I had in San Francisco during a trip there this fall.

One of my favorite things to do when I'm in San Francisco is to get burritos in the Mission and take them to Dolores Park for a picnic. Go to any of the Taquerias along Mission St. between 24th St and 19th St. to pick up your fare , walk North on Mission St. and make a left on 19th St. Walk a few blocks and head up the stairs that bisect Mission Dolores Park. Go all the way to the Southwest corner where the views of the city are the best.

We went to a place on Mission around 22nd St. (I NEVER can remember the name, I just know how to get there) and got a Carne Asada Burrito that was packed with yumminess like guacamole, sour cream, slices of tasty, tender meat, rice and beans. The best burritos are to be found in San Francisco.

We also got an order of Beef Nachos which were actually pretty gross. You really need to stick with the burritos. They did come with huge slices of avocado, and they were covered in jalapenos, just so you know.

But really, it doesn't even matter what you're eating since you've got one of the best views around - you can see all the way to the Oakland Hills! Gorgeous!

My other favorite thing to do in San Francisco is go to the Farmer's Market down by the Ferry Building on Tuesdays and Saturdays. So many amazing fruits and vegetables, as well as jams, honey, soap and flowers are for sale.

Gorgeous carrots and zucchini:

Little sugar pumpkins:

The best pomegranates I've ever had:

And tons of sunflowers:

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Italian in SPQR

Happy Holidays!!! Since this is a vacation week for many, I'm going to take this opportunity to write about five meals I had in San Francisco during a trip there this fall.

On our first night in San Francisco we had dinner with a friend in Pacific Heights at SPQR (1911 Fillmore St., between Bush St. & Pine St., 415-771-7779). There was quite a wait, so we went to the bar of the French restaurant next door for a drink while we waited (SPQR is long and thin with no space for parties waiting for a table. Half of the menu is small plates and half is pasta and other dishes. We got a bunch of things and shared everything.

The Grilled Chanterelles were great and flavorful, if a bit oily, with bits of sauteed spinach throughout.

The meatballs were also good, served with sauteed tomatoes and big slices of garlic. They were on the small side, but were packed with flavor.

My boyfriend got the Pasta Carbonara. This was a bit disappointing and tasted more like an Alfredo Sauce with no hint of bacon or egg anywhere.

I ordered the Canneloni with Homemade Sausage and Spinach. This was good, with tasty sausage and a marinara sauce, but not much spianch at all. The portion was decent and everything came with a big basket of crusty slices of Italian bread.

SPQR on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 29, 2008

Brunch at Zazie in Cole Valley, SF

Happy Holidays!!! Since this is a vacation week for many, I'm going to take this opportunity to write about five meals I had in San Francisco during a trip there this fall.

The first morning of our trip was spent in the Upper Haight/Cole Valley neighborhoods. Our lovely guest suggested Zazie (941 Cole St., between Carl St & Parnassus Ave., 415-564-5332) for Brunch and it turned out to be a perfect spot for our first lazy morning on vacation. We were seated outside in their overflowing-with-flowers & sun drenched garden. Bonus - the milk is organic and the eggs are hormone-free, free range and organic.

We started out with special Mimosas. Mine was with Blackberry Juice and my boyfriend got one with Orange Sherbet. They were delicious and beautiful. Oh, also, I accidentally knocked down the Orange Sherbet one and they brought us another, gratis! That's a sign of a nice place!

I got the Poached Eggs with Smoked Salmon, Red Onions and Capers served on English Muffins with Hollandaise Sauce. This was very tasty - perfectly poached eggs, not too much sauce, and really good potatoes on the side.

Of course, I had to get a side of bacon, YUM!

My boyfriend got the Pumpkin Spice Pancakes with whipped cream on top. These were delicious and the flavor was subtle. They were moist, if a bit dense.

I highly recommend Zazie!

Zazie on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 26, 2008

Polish Food at Teresa's

I was doing some Holiday shopping last weekend in Brooklyn Heights and suddenly had a craving for some Pierogis and Potato Pancakes so I met up with my boyfriend at Teresa's (80 Montague St. between Hicks and Columbia Heights, 718-797-3996), a Polish restaurant that my family and I used to order delivery from when I was in High School. I'm so glad it's still there, as so much has changed over the years.

We started out with a salad, knowing that the rest of our meal would be all things greasy, heavy and fried. The salad was perfect with crisp Iceberg lettuce, wedges of not-mealy tomato, shredded carrots and thin slices of red onion. The Thousand Island dressing came in a little dish on the side.

We ordered a half order of mixed Pierogis which is one of each of the four kinds (Mushroom, Potato, Meat and Cheese). The meat is kind of yucky and the mushroom is good, but my favorites were the potato and the cheese (which is the kind of slightly sweet cheese you'd find in a Blintz). We got a side of sour cream and applesauce for dunking.

We also got a half order of the Potato Pancakes which is three very large and very greasy pancakes that are made from what seemed like mashed potato rather than shredded potato. They're good though, and taste lightly of black pepper, which may be used in the mixture. The sour cream and applesauce is good with these as well.

As our main dish we got the Kielbasa with Sauerkraut. This was perfect, and so beautifully presented with cross-hatchings and grilled. The sauerkraut was like a stew; made with pork, mushrooms and Bay leaves and was delicious. Perfect on a cold day.

Then for 'dessert' we got the half order of the Apple Fritters, also three to an order. These were just disappointing. Too, too greasy which masked any flavor whatsoever. I remember them being better.

All in all I think Teresa's is a great, simple Diner-style restaurant with delicious Polish classics. They make a great Mushroom barley soup, and they also serve Brunch - I hear the French Toast is great!

Teresa's Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bagels by the Park

Like I mentioned last week, I'm really disappointed by the lack of a good bagel place in my neighborhood. I discovered in the process that whenever bagels are mentioned, people have strong opinions. I got so many comments (La Bagel Delight seems to be a favorite, but none are near me, and FIPS even did a thorough Bagel Comparison Experiment and declared The Bagel Hole as their Prospect Park winner, but again, it's too far for me). There's a place on my corner that I absolutely hate. I've never had a good experience there, even though the bagels are fine. The service is horrible, inept and ridiculous and I refuse to go back there. My only other option is Bagels by the Park (323 Smith St., at President St., 718-246-1321), which I went to last weekend to assess their bagels.

I got an Everything bagel with Lox spread. The spread was great. It wasn't dyed an unnatural color and tasted fresh and slightly salty. I would've liked more seeds, but was happy with the proportions, AND it had salt. I hate it when Everythings don't have salt.

I also got a Cinnamon Raisin Bagel with Plain Cream Cheese. This was also good. Nice and glossy on the outside, and chewy on the inside, with a good amount of raisins and cinnamon swirled throughout.

I liked that these bagels were not drowning in cream cheese. That's just gross and unnecessary, so it's good that there's just enough spread for both sides and that you don't have to take off a bunch in order to eat it. It's a bit slow here though, and there are lots of opportunities for mixed up orders. It's also not just a bagel place so some of their attention is taken elsewhere into baked items and deli items. It's convenient though, being right by the Carroll St. F & G trains, so they get a lot of business in the mornings.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Pulled Pork & Fried Chicken at Jake's

On cold, wintery nights I crave BBQ. I'm not even from the South, but it's total comfort food to me. If I can't get to Fette Sau, I turn to Jake's BBQ (189 Columbia Street, at DeGraw Street, 718-522-4531) and order in. Their menu is pretty extensive, ranging from all sorts of sides (Mac & Cheese, Rice & Black Eyed Peas) to BBQ Ribs to Jambalaya and other Seafood dishes, but I pretty much stick to a few tried and true options.

I usually get their Pulled Pork Sandwich. It's not a typical moist pulled pork that's got strands of pork, this seems more chopped than pulled. It's on the drier side, but is definitely still tasty with plenty of smoky BBQ flavor. It comes on a choice of bread (I always get it on a roll) and it comes with Potato Salad, Macaroni Salad, Fries or Cole Slaw. Their slaw is some of the best I've ever had, and the sliced pickles go SO well and the BBQ sauce is spicy and tangy. I don't know why anyone would get mayo or mustard with this. It's also big enough to split between two people.

I ended up getting the Macaroni Salad which is decent. I do love this shape of pasta, and with little pieces of carrot and bell pepper, it's a little reprieve from the greasy, meatiness of the rest of the food!

On this occasion I also ordered their appetizer of Kansas City Fried Chicken which comes with five pieces. This is big enough for a meal, but is perfect to share along with the Pulled Pork Sandwich. This breaded outside is perfectly salty and the meat is tender and juicy. Some of the pieces aren't very meaty, but it's satisfying nonetheless.

I also ordered a side of the Collard Greens because I thought we needed a vegetable. They too were tasty and not overcooked as is often the case with Collard Greens at BBQ joints. They were simply seasoned and I didn't see any meat, so they might just be pure vegetable.

I'm thankful Jake's is close by when the craving strikes!

Jake's Bar B Que Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tex-Mex at Lobo

Having just over an hour before our movie at Cobble Hill Cinemas, we decided to try Lobo, (218 Court St., between Baltic St. & Warren St., 718-858-7739) the Tex-Mex place on Court St. that's been there for a few years now. It used to house my favorite neighborhood brunch place (Harvest) - that fact and the grey, used-to-be-white pillows in the window have kept me away. I don't think I'll be back any time soon.

Now, I'm having a hard time writing this, because I'm hesitant to say anything bad about a place. I think in the last 6 months of posting, I've only been negative 2 or 3 times, so it's not the perspective I normally take. It's just that there were a number of areas in which Lobo went very wrong, and contributed to the whole experience being a disappointment. The Margaritas were very good, and I might even go back to sit at the bar for a drink and some chips, because the main room downstairs is very cozy and appealing in a Tex-Mex way. But the food...

I ordered the Vegetarian Mix Combination which was described as coming with a Portobello Mushroom Burrito (a small burrito), a Cheese Enchilada topped with Spinach Sauce and a Bean & Cheese Chalupa. The burrito tasted like dishwater, very funky and bad, a terrible thing to do to a Portobello. The Enchilada was mediocre, but had no spinach anywhere near it. Instead it was topped with huge chunks of green pepper and tomato, WTF? The beans also coagulated almost immediately which didn't't make me want to eat them. ~sigh~

The Chalupa was made with what tasted like cheese from a can. Even the shredded cheese on top of the lettuce was yucky. C'mon, where's the sharp cheddar? I ate only half of this. Ugh.

My boyfriend ordered Molly's Chicken & Cheese which is two Chicken (soft) Tacos and one Cheese Enchilada. The chicken tasted stewed and was OK. Not very flavorful, but not inedible.

The Cheese Enchilada seemed to be made of the same grody cheese and everything was covered in those chunks of green pepper.

Totally disappointing and afterwards we both felt kinda gross. Maybe some of their other dishes are better, and the service was really great - friendly and nice - but they've GOT to do something about that cheese!!!

Lobo on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Latin at Bogota Bistro

Some friends and I ended up at Bogota Bistro (141 5th Avenue, at St. Johns Place, 718-230-3805) on a recent rainy night to escape the wetness and pretend we were in a tropical locale. We were seated in the back room which was decorated, like one friend said, like Epcot Center. It was a little mish-mosh cheesy, but there was a Happy Hour deal so we went along with things and decided to be festive.

The drinks were good - I got a Strawberry Mojito which was delicious, my boyfriend got a Hot Toddy and another friend got a Mango Margarita. They were all tasty, and the fruity drinks were full of chunks of fruit and strong.

There's a lot to choose from here, ranging from small plates of little treats (Empanadas, Arepas, etc.) to full meals with rice and beans. Some things were really good, some were mediocre, nothing was terrible. I chose the Pom Palm Salad with Hearts of Palm, Pomegranate, Mango, Pepper, Watercress and Cilantro. This was a really good salad, all tart and tangy in a great dressing. All the ingredients were fresh and flavorful and were in good proportions.

I also got the White Arepa with Pork Chicharron. This was disappointing. The arepa was sort of bland, with cooked-to-death pieces of pork on top. I know chicharron is fried, but this seemed extreme. It was so underwhelming I neglected to take a photo.

My BF got the Empanada with Blue Cheese and Spinach. This was quite tasty, and subtle. The blue cheese wasn't overpowering and the spinach was a nice, green balance that made it feel on the healthy side of indulgent.

He also got the Arroz con Pollo which was good, but nothing special. It had all the standard components of this dish, plus tasty red cabbage and sweet plantains, which I love. The chicken was juicy and mixed in with the rice and came with a small side of black beans.

My friend got the Tortilla Soup with Chicken, Spicy Chipotle Broth, Avocado, Sour Cream, Jack Cheese and Cilantro. This was very spicy and savory, perfect for the cold, wet night. The strips of tortilla added a nice, salty crunch.

All in all it was fine, but most of the dishes lacked a certain flair. I don't think we'll be adding it to our regular rotation of restaurants, but it's a fun place to go for good Mojitos, Margaritas and little treats.

Bogotá Latin Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 15, 2008

Spatzle & Soup at Flatbush Farm Bar(N)

I met a friend on a cold night recently for dinner at the bar next door to Flatbush Farm known as the Bar(N) (76 St. Marks Place, at 6th Avenue and Flatbush, 718-622-3276). I'm a fan primarily because they only serve seasonal fare and organic farm-raised meat, and local products as often as possible. The bar area feels like an old country home as it's decorated with with busted wooden crates and rusty farm tools. There's dark wood everywhere which makes it feel rustic, cozy, and relaxed which is nice.

We decided to eat at the bar and ordered a couple of items. We started with the Ploughman's Plate to share. This came with Cheddar Cheese, Cured Meats and slices of crusty French bread. There were two kinds of meat - one was a hard salami-type and one was closer to roast beef. Both were tasty and good, and the cheese was sharp and dry and delicious. It needed some mustard or jam though, as it was it was a bit lackluster.

I then chose the Spatzle with King Trumpet Mushroom Ragout and Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Spatzle are a German style of dumplings usually made with egg. This was a fabulous dish, wonderfully seasoned and flavorful with meaty mushrooms in a creamy broth. I loved it and would go back just for this dish!

My friend ordered the French Onion Soup which was really good too. It wasn't drowning in melted cheese and seemed more delicate than how it's typically served. It was well-balanced, and had one big Gruyere crouton floating in the broth and chives sprinkled about adding to the flavor. Yum.

All in all it was a good outing. I'm curious about their burgers and grass-fed steak and may be back soon to try them out. Mangia!

Flatbush Farm on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 12, 2008

Seasonal American Fare at Buttermilk Channel

I finally got a chance to try out Buttermilk Channel, (524 Court St., at Huntington Street, 718-852-8490), the newest addition to dining on Court St. A few months ago, owner Doug Crowell set up a tasting table at the Carroll Gardens Farmer’s Market to give locals a sneak peek at what kinds of dishes would be available. I was excited to learn that he’d be highlighting local, seasonal fare, as well as locally raised organic meats. Buttermilk Channel is described as American Bistro, which includes Southern dishes (Fried Chicken with Waffles), Duck Meatloaf, an alternate take on an old stand-by and homemade pickles.

Walking into the restaurant you’re immediately welcomed by the cozy warm glow of the lighting and the dark wood of the floors and bar area. It’s a big dining room, but it feels friendly instead of cold and while it’s decorated with Stoop Sale finds, it’s not cluttered at all. We were seated at what I think was the best table, in the back corner by the window. On the sill sat a big glass vase with cranberries on the bottom in which a tall candle was nestled. The only thing that would’ve made it better was if it had been snowing outside.

The wait-staff was friendly and attentive and the owner himself stopped by to see how we were doing. We ended up chatting a bit about the neighborhood and other such topics. Then there was the delicious food. The menu is extensive, offering snacks, sides, appetizers, main dishes, or sandwiches (two types of sausages on a roll with onions, peppers & mustard). There is also a separate, just-as-extensive Vegetarian menu!

I chose two starters because I couldn't decide what to get. The Delicata Squash Tart comes with house-made ricotta, brown butter and organic greens. The ricotta was super creamy and slightly tart, a nice balance to the sweet and savory squash. The tart itself was a bit doughy, when I expected it to be flakier. It was delicious though, and could easily overlook the chewiness of the dough.

I also ordered the Spice-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs which came with a Winter Vegetable Slaw and Cider Glaze. The slaw was fantastic, made with slices of kale and shredded carrot and cabbage. It was a wonderful new take on a boring stand-by. The meat was also fantastic - it was so tender it easily fell from the bone. Four ribs made for a very filling appetizer!

My boyfriend picked the Sweet Potato and Pumpkin Pasta, which comes with black olives and rosemary butter. The olives went surprisingly well with the other flavors which made it delicious. The rosemary butter ended up being a little oily though, which brought the dish down a notch.

We were too full to order dessert but I'm definitely going back to try the Chocolate Bread Pudding! I was very happy with my food at Buttermilk Channel and am happy to welcome this newest member to the local dining scene.

Buttermilk Channel on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mediterranean Tapas at Beast

My boyfriend and I met up with some friends late Sunday night at Beast, (638 Bergen St., corner of Vanderbilt Ave., 718-399-6855), a place I've been wanting to go for years now. I've heard mixed reviews but found the food to be really yummy, the drink I had was delicious, and the atmosphere is like a comfy, local bar. The food is "Mediterranean Tapas" which maximizes one's ability to sample a variety of flavors and dishes.

We ordered the Seared Diver Scallops which came served over Squash Puree, Fried Leeks and a Balsamic Drizzle and the Polenta with Portabella Mushrooms and Blue Cheese. The scallops were delicious and meaty, the squash smooth and almost sweet and the fried leeks added an interesting crunch.

The polenta was good too. Slightly chunky, it was a little like corn chowder. The portabellas added an earthy component and the warm bowl was perfect comfort food on a cold night.

Our friends got the Blue Point Lager Braised Short Ribs with Potato Smash and Corn Salsa. This. Was. AMAZING. The meat was so tender, it just fell apart at the touch of a fork. The corn and potato were a hearty combination and the flavors were complex and delicious.

We also treated ourselves and got dessert. Our friends got the Chocolate Mousse with Raspberry Sauce. This was good, but too cold for my taste. It was creamy and dense, but I prefer a warm cakey chocolate dessert instead.

My boyfriend and I ordered the Ginger Creme Brulee which was awesome. There was just a hint of ginger and the top was perfectly caramelized and crisp. It didn't take long for us to gobble this up!

The drink I got was a Pumpkin Pie Martini which I didn't take a photo of. This was delicious too, and I'm not usually a fan of frou-frou drinks. It was made with house-infused vanilla pumpkin vodka, Bailey's Irish Cream, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. It was so tasty, and warmed me up as well. I really enjoyed everything during our evening at Beast, and will definitely go back.