Friday, October 30, 2009

Dinner at Zaytoon's

The Zaytoon's in Prospect Heights (594 Vanderbilt Ave., at the corner of St. Marks Ave., 718-230-3200) is almost the opposite of it's sibling on Smith St. in Carroll Gardens. It's spacious and brightly lit, but offers the same great food at incredibly affordable prices. The best is to go with a couple of friends so you can get a bunch of things and share everything. At least, that's how I like to do it. Of course you have to start with a Combination Plate - your choice of five of the 9 or so salads and dips available. We picked the Foul, Cucumber Yogurt Salad, Hummus, Babaganouj and Lentil Salad. Everything is fresh tasting, tangy, hearty and wonderful to scoop up with warm, right-out-of-the-oven pita.

I love the Pitza with Beef Bacon too. The meat is tender and perfectly salty, although I feel like there's too much scallion. Lots of melty cheese makes up for that though.

My boyfriend ordered the Kafta Kabob - charcoal grilled ground Beef & Lamb with onion, parsley & spices with a side salad, rice, green salad and pita bread with your choice of hummus or babaghanouj. It was flavorful, tender and plentiful. The hummus is creamy and zesty too.

My friend ordered the Shrimp Kabob - grilled Shrimp served over couscous with sauteed vegetables. I was surprised at how tender and juicy the shrimp were; and nicely flavored. I'm not a fan of couscous, so I'm not a fair judge and the veggies were mostly peppers, but good.

The Zaytoon's in Prospect Heights was great, and is a better choice for larger groups than the Carroll Gardens branch, but the food was just as good.

Zaytoons on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Brunch at Frankie's 457

Oh Frankie's (457 Court St. between 4th Place & Luquer St., 718-403-0033). Can I ever express just how much I love your French Toast? I don't think I can rave enough, but I'll try. My boyfriend and I arrived just before opening on Saturday morning (11am) in order to secure my favorite seat in the dining room - the two-top at the back in front of the window looking out at the backyard and the train tracks beyond. It's so cozy there. We started with some Stumptown lattes, creamy, caramel-y drinks made lovingly by the bartender.

I of course got the French Toast, two of the most delicious, thick pieces of fried egg-dipped bread you'll find anywhere. A few pieces of fruit on the side add a fresh, sweet & tangy burst, and the real maple syrup is amber goodness.

A side of meaty bacon is a necessity too. Salty, hearty and not greasy at all. It's the best bacon in town.

We also got an order of the Broccoli Rabe & Sausage Frittata. Served at room temperature, it's moist, dense and so flavorful, filled with big pieces of whatever it's made of - usually they serve two kinds. A nicely dressed little salad is served on the side to provide some zing.

This meal is absolute perfection and I'm never unhappy or disappointed with it. Go.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dinner at Brook-Vin

About a year ago, Brookvin (381 7th Avenue between 11th & 12th Streets, 718-768-9463) opened in Park Slope, boasting a long list of wines in addition to beer, a full bar and homemade infused alcohols used in specialty cocktails like The Glazed Ham made with Bacon Infused Bourbon, maple syrup & pork cracklin'. I wanted wine, so I asked the bartender for some suggestions. He helpfully steered me toward a wine I really enjoyed by offering me a taste of a few before I settled on the Renacer "Punto Final" Malbec from Argentina, a deep, full-bodied red. I also started with some Marinated Olives while I waited for my friend to join me for dinner.

They were fresh, not too strong and slightly lemony with marinated pieces of pepper in the mix.

Once my friend arrived, we ordered a few plates to share, starting with the housemade Bratwurst with warm bacon potato salad. This was a delicious sausage - juicy, flavorful and fresh, and the potato salad with chunks of bacon was a nice, homey addition.

We also got the roasted cauliflower salad with garlic confit, capers and anchovies. The anchovies were the best I've ever had. Fresh & tender with no noticeable bones; it wasn't gritty at all, nor was it overwhelmingly salty. This dish was a lovely mix of flavors and textures.

We rounded things out with an order of the Tartine with Goat Cheese, marinated mushrooms and fresh parsley. The mushrooms were meaty and deliciously strong - too vinegary for my friend, but delectable to me. The goat cheese was creamy and light and the fresh herbs on top cut the acid of the vinegar nicely.

I really liked everything about my evening here, from the uber-friendly bartender to the tasty food to the comfortable decor. They also have a backyard garden to enjoy in the warmer months.

Brookvin on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Vanderbilt

I got to go to the sneak peek of The Vanderbilt (Saul Bolton & Ben Daitz's new venture in Prospect Heights at 570 Vanderbilt Avenue at Bergen St., 718-623-0570) Wednesday night, and sample some of the food and drink that will be available TODAY, a corner spot on what is becoming the newest Restaurant Row in Brooklyn. The space is long and sleek, sort of that urban rustic that's very popular nowadays. Raw gray slabs of wood line the bar and the back dining room, banquet seating is along the left wall in the spacious bar area with tall bar chairs with backs. That leads you to the open kitchen, a giant space that's for spying on the cooks, then on to some stairs which take you to the cozy dining room. It's sharp yet comfy, sort of fancy-bar-in-the-Midwest yet in-the-know-hipster at the same time. I liked it AND the fabric used on that banquet seating.

There's a nice list of cocktails and two were being served the other night. The Black Cherry Rickey is made with vodka, black cherry syrup, lime & soda but I found it too sweet. The Glyda Rose was more my style, made with gin, campari, blood orange & champagne. It was tart, bitter and strong! There're also a couple of Sixpoint brews on tap (Oktoberfest & Sweet Action), as well as bottled beer and an assortment of wines by the glass.

The food was impressive - a mix of meaty classics and Asian flavors served in small plate arrangements. They started by passing a plate of Blistered Shishito Peppers with a pimenton salt. I was told only 1 in 10 are hot but the one I ate nearly blew my head open. It was pure fire. Tasty, I guess, but who can tell when your eyes are watering and you can't feel your tongue?

My favorites of the night were the Boudin Blanc Sausage with mustard and the Pork Meatballs with cuttlefish. The Boudin Blanc was almost creamy, excellently paired with a grainy mustard.

The meatballs were flavorful little morsels. I thought the accompanying bite was pineapple upon first glance, but the fish was chewy and I thought a little strange with the pork.

The Steamed Bouchot Mussels with coconut, basil & chili were strange as well. It was a little like mousse and a little confusing. I thought the stuff on the bottom was ice, but was actually a jelly-like substance. The coconut brought a nice flavor to the dish, but the many textures together were all wrong to me.

The Brussel Sprouts were great though - ever so slightly undercooked so they still had some bite, served with sirachia, lime and honey. Slightly spicy, slightly sweet and totally excellent.

I also liked the Puff Pastry filled with Chicken Liver. The pastry was light and airy, and the liver was earthy and strong. Delicious!

The rest of the menu has similar items - small plates that don't exceed $16 (and that's for Pork Chops and Hangar Steak). Most items fall between $4 and $10, plus there's a whole section of desserts that I didn't get to try like Homemade Doughnuts and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake. I'm excited to go here for real, especially in the middle of the winter, when the coziness of The Vanderbilt will totally come in handy!

The Vanderbilt on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dinner at Ghang Thai Kitchen

So Ghang Thai Kitchen (204 Smith St., between Baltic & Butler, 718-222-5598) opened about three years ago, and will soon be opening another branch on Court St., but I'd never been until last night. We were scheduled to see a movie at the Cobble Hill theater, and coming from the nearby Bergen St. subway stop, Ghang Thai offered proximity and speed. It also offered decent food, but it's not going to replace my favorites (Em Thai & Teeda Thai) any time soon.

We started with the Curry Puffs, happy to see them being served, as I've only seen them at Em Thai where they're one of my favorite appetizers. They were crispier, a little more cooked and a darker brown than I'm used to, as well as smaller. They had a nice curry flavor, but fell apart as you ate them. And while chock full of peas, there wasn't much else inside.

We also split an order of the Tofu & Veggie Pad Thai. I know, this is like, the dumbest thing to order, but I also think that it can be a pretty good measure of what the food is like at a New York Thai restaurant. Ghang's version didn't have any chopped peanuts on top, no lime wedges and it only had four chunks of tofu. It wasn't greasy, but had a slightly mushy quality to it. Again, it was fine, but it didn't match up to the Pad Thai at my two neighborhood favorites.

Not sure how the second, nearby location is going to fare amidst the glut of Thai places in Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill. I guess only time will tell.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sandwiches at Brooklyn Standard

I read about the Brooklyn Standard Deli back in March on Brooklyn Based and have been itching to check it out ever since. The still-new shop bills itself as the new bodega, offering the neighborhood everything it needs - convenience, food (both made to order and packaged), snacks, drinks, even condoms and smokes, but with the majority of their products being natural, organic and as local as possible. They use organic milk in their Stumptown coffee, and boast a whole line of vegan dishes to choose from, in addition to meaty breakfast and lunch deals and various pastries and desserts. I also saw a huge selection of sodas made with real sugar, not nasty high fructose corn syrup.

We got The Greenpoint (seemed fitting) which is Ham, Broccoli Rabe, Pepper Jack Cheese, Fresh Arugula and Arugula Oil on Grilled Foccacia. It was sooooo good! Melty, spicy cheese, salty ham, delicious bitter greens and a nice, soft bread, grilled to greasy perfection.

I also made sure to get a Cloud Cookie - a chocolate, chocolate chip cookie that so soft in the middle it's almost melting. It was so rich, it lasted me two days!

We also had a Stumptown latte that was pretty good, and cheaper than most of the other places serving Stumptown. I loved Brooklyn Standard and would go there many times a week if I lived in Greenpoint.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dinner at James

James (605 Carton Ave. at the corner of St. James Ave., 718-942-4255) has been open for a little over a year and I finally made it there for dinner the other night. It's in the space formerly occupied by Sorrel, the corner spot, changed up with a bar, mirrors and unfinished plaster, tall fern leaves in vases and an uber-modern plastic chandelier in the middle of the ceiling. The cocktail list is filled with unique concoctions, like the Vesper Lynd, Tarragon-infused Vodka, gin & Lillet Blanc. It was more licorice-flavored than I expected, but it grew on me as I sipped it.

We started with two appetizers. One was a salad made with Spinach, Shiitake Mushrooms, Parmesan-Reggiano & Balsamico. Big, meaty slices of mushroom dotted the greens as did little cheesy crackers and pine nuts. I really enjoyed it, but my boyfriend, not the biggest mushroom fan, wasn't wowed.

We also ordered the Glazed Berkshire Pork Belly with Apple Chutney and Golden Raisins. This was pretty amazing. Crispy skin on the outside of the meat, the chutney giving it a slight Indian flavor, and the meat melting on your tongue. Decadence - perfect for sharing.

For our entree, we chose the Cumin Crusted Loin of Lamb with Braised Mustard Greens, Sunchokes & Jus Natural. We were both amazed at how smooth and tender the meat was, unlike how lamb usually is served. it was perfectly cooked and spiced. The combination of the three flavors was also incredible - it was the best dish of the evening. Some may complain that the portion was small, but I thought it was perfect, considering we shared the appetizers and went on to get dessert.

We picked the Grilled Lemon Pound Cake with Figs in Port Wine Reduction for dessert. This was OK. The pound cake had a nice, citrusy flavor, but all in all it was a little boring and dry. The figs were small, there was barely any sauce; just a big mound of mascarpone, always nice, but not very exciting. I wish we had chosen the banana crepes with dulce de leche or the lavender creme brulee!

I liked James, I just wasn't blown away. From what I had heard I was expecting something it just isn't. The food was nicely prepared and served, but it won't replace any places on my list of favorites. Perhaps if I lived nearby I'd go there more often. As it is, I won't be going out of my way.

James on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sandwiches at Building on Bond

Yes, the Atlantic Antic was weeks ago, but the pleasant memories linger, especially when one is thinking about the B.B.Q. Pork Sandwich Building on Bond (112 Bond St. at the corner of Pacific St., 718-852-0301) was serving from their stand on the corner of Atlantic & Bond, just a block away from their storefront where they're open from Breakfast until Dinner serving all manner of yummy treats in a beautiful, sun-drenched space.

This incredible sandwich though, is made with braised pork, apple jicama slaw and red pepper aioli on pretzel bread. The pork is super cooked down, in all it's brown, tasty juices which run down the sides of your mouth when you take that first bite. The pretzel roll is a nice touch, with big crystals of salt, but is a bit on the dry side. I could have used a bit more pork on this sandwich. The Jicama slaw is also great - a nice, crunchy, refreshing bite to cut the heavy meat.

No need to fret, this sandwich is a regular on their lunch menu, so it's not just at street fairs that it's available. Served with a spear of dill pickle, this sandwich is quite the treat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dinner at O'Barone #2

Finding ourselves in Red Hook on a recent Tuesday night, we discovered that the places we haven't been to yet that are on our list to try (Botanica, Fort Defiance, the newly-relocated Teeny) are all closed on Tuesdays! What gives? So, we ended up at a place we've been to already, but since we love it, it wasn't too much of a disappointment! O'Barone (360 Van Brunt St., between Sullivan & Wolcott St., 347-599-2758) is an Italian-Austrian restaurant in the old 360 space that opened over the summer and seems to still be finding it's footing in terms of luring eaters out to dine there. THe food is so delicious, well-prepared and well-presented, I do hope that more people find their way here, so that it can remain on the food scene.

We started with a Baby Spinach salad with Goat Cheese, Beets, potatoes and string beans, tossed in a lightly citrusy dressing. Loads of tangy, creamy goat cheese was piled high atop fresh greens, earthy beets and almost creamy potatoes. A few string beans added a nice crunch.

For my entree, I ordered the Casarecci Pasta with roasted tomatoes & sausage. The tube-like shape held the sauce, and the fresh sausage was plentiful and flavorful. Such a basic, yet delicious dish, that was also comforting as only a simple and hearty dish like this can be.

My boyfriend chose the Gnocchi from the list specials. It was a four-cheese dish with a sprinkling of crispy Pancetta and walnuts on top. The meat was smoky and wonderful, the walnuts a nice nutty crunch and the gnocchi incredibly soft and light, almost pillowy! The sauce itself though was on the bland side - I wanted it to be saltier, denser. Fairly easy to remedy with a shake of salt, but I wish I hadn't had to mess with it.

The place was virtually empty, so I want to urge everyone to go give it a try. The food is great, the waiters are great too, and as for now, you''ll get a table immediately!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Dinner at The Farm on Adderly

Taking the recommendation of a number of commenters, I headed to The Farm on Adderly (1108 Cortelyou Road, between E. 11th & E. 12th, 718-287-31010) with my family for dinner and just as I was told, it was excellent! It was warm and cozy inside, with a small bar up front, tables in two areas inside, and a beautiful garden out back where we decided to eat and enjoy the last bits of warm weather. There were four of us, so there's a ton of food for me to describe, so let me get started! (There was also a nice wine list and a good, well-rounded selection of beers.)

My Dad got a squash soup from the Specials menu with smoked apple on top. Smoked apple! Have you ever had smoked apple??? It was like bacon, only APPLE! Amazing. The soup was pureed and flavorful with a sprinkling of black pepper.

My Dad's wife picked the Bibb Lettuce Salad with pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries & goat cheese fritters which were warm balls of creamy & tangy cheese. Gorgeous, and very autumnal.

My boyfriend got an order of Arugula salad with Roasted Duck with plenty of thick slices of tender duck atop a spicy, crispy pile of greens, lightly dressed with a subtle vinaigrette.

I chose the Celery Root Salad with escarole, candied olive, lemon, olive oil & parmesan. The greens were delicious, the olives were interesting - little bits of sweet and salty - and the dressing was tart and refreshing. The shaved celery root, while earthy & rooty, was a bit chewy, and there was a TON of it, kind of overwhelming the salad.

For his entree, my Dad got the Burger with cheese and a side of fries. The fries were excellent - big, pillowy potato sticks fried to perfection, and the burger was juicy and flavorful, a testament to pasture-raised meat.

My Dad's wife ordered the Grilled Trout with green & yellow wax beans, spring onion & portobello. The mushroom was thinly sliced and dried, so they were like mushroom chips; an interesting texture, with the same earthy, portobello taste. The fish was flaky and succulent and the beans offered a nice, snappy counterbalance.

My boyfriend ordered the Pork wrapped in a filo dough-like wrapping over acorn squash & braised mixed greens on top. It was a little bit Asian-inspired, but really complex in a good, savory way - slightly sweet, tangy and rich.

There were two kinds of steak to chose from and I picked the skirt steak which was served over potatoes with a side dish of a roasted red pepper & peanut pesto-like sauce. The potatoes were tender and ever so slightly salted, and the sauce was really unique and delicious.

Even though we were pretty full, we couldn't resist ordering dessert. We got a Buttermilk Tart with a peanut butter crunch layer and concord grapes on top. Amazing! Custardy buttermilk, intense peanut flavor and the grapes! Silky, tart and sweet. Yum!

We also got a Butterscotch Pudding which came in a tall wine glass that was amazing. Thick, not too sweet and ever so slightly butterscotchy.

To round it all out we got the Brown Butter Apple Cake in a Blueberry Sauce and a dollop of vanilla ice cream. The cake tasted great and was served warm, but was a little dry. The blueberry sauce helped a lot and tasted like summer.

This is totally a top-notch restaurant and I look forward to going back during different seasons and seeing their different menus throughout the year.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dinner at Lot 2

A colleague recently told me about Lot 2 (687 6th Avenue, at 20th St., 718-499-5623) and it's been high on my list ever since. I was fortunate enough to go last Friday, to celebrate something my boyfriend has been working towards for a very long time. As soon as I walked in the door I liked it. Low lighting, browns & exposed brick, with wooden tables in addition to a small-ish bar are all that fill the space. The waitstaff was friendly and knowledgeable, and the menu was enticing. We started out with some salads, all of which were delicious. My step-father ordered the Arugula with Pickled & Roasted Beets which was wonderful. The dressing was slightly lemon-y, and the plate was piled high with crisp leaves of arugula with fresh beets, earthy and flavorful.

My mom got the Roasted Mushroom and Herb Salad with slices of tender Porcini and Chanterelle mushrooms, in a light, tangy dressing. Celery leaves were mixed in with the greens, adding a nice, clean flavor.

My boyfriend and I shared an order of the Cauliflower & Romanesco with Capers and Mint. This was great - chunks of roasted cauliflower and pieces of romanesco (aka summer cauliflower), mixed with tangy capers & fresh mint. Served warm, it was an excellent way to whet our appetites.

My step-dad got the Buttered Noodles with Yellow Wax Beans, Summer Squash & Lemon for his entree. While a basic dish, it still offered a complex array of flavors, from the green squash to the citrus-y lemon to the comforting butter. It was quite good!

My mom chose to order a bowl of white bean & escarole in broth that was really tasty. It was slightly on the salty side, but the beans were cooked to a perfect consistency and the escarole provided a nice veggie balance.

I picked the Steamed Clams, Roasted Tomato, fresh chives & garlic bread for my entree, and split it with my boyfriend. A bowl full of smaller sized clams arrived in a wonderful broth - I only wished I had more garlic bread to sop it up with! I thought the clams were good, he felt like they were a little on the fishy side.

We also split the "Slow & Low", a dish with Beef Brisket, Pork Jowl, Lamb Rib & Carrots and Potatoes. The brisket was some of the best I've ever tasted - tender, rich and meaty, while the pork jowl while flavorful was mostly fat. The Lamb Rib was also good, with melt in your mouth meat that falls off the bone, all in a broth that was so flavorful, again, I wanted more bread, but also didn't want to fill up on bread!

Even though we were quite full, we couldn't completely pass up dessert, so we ordered the Vanilla Cheesecake with Almonds and Nectarines. I loved the sliced fruit splayed against the cheesecake, but I've been spoiled on cheesecake growing up with my Italian grandfather. This was so light, it was more like Pannacotta or a dish of Mascarpone, which, while nice, isn't what I'm expecting when I order Cheesecake. I wanted something denser and richer.

I really liked Lot 2, and would recommend it to someone looking for someplace nice to have dinner. They also serve grass-fed, locally-raised meats, which adds points in my book. Go and see for yourself - and just so you know, they specialize in Bourbons and Whiskeys, so don't go when you're craving a Vodka Martini.