Monday, November 30, 2009

Dinner at Henry Public

I knew as soon as I walked into Henry Public (329 Henry St., between Atlantic Ave. & Pacific St., 718-852-8630) that I was in for some good times. The space has been restored to it's original specialness by the team that opened Brooklyn Social, with close attention paid to the details like the wood floors and photos hung on the walls while maintaining simplicity. A transformation has taken place where last there was a TV & Radio Repair Shop and now there's a spot to grab a drink and a bite, even if it's 2am (it's open until 4am on the weekends)! The first room houses the bar, the back room is the dining room. Everything is done up in black, white and wood, with tables for two and low lighting. I loved it.

The menu is small, with burgers, cheese plates and salads, but there's an interesting cocktail list, in addition to a few beers on tap. The meat is grass-fed & organically-raised, as are the eggs and dairy served. The pickles are house-made and the bun specially crafted for Henry Public. I started with the Wide Awake Cocktail made with gin, lemon, ginger (fresh & liqueur) & scotch. It was strong, fresh, bitter and delicious.

My boyfriend got the Turkey Leg Sandwich with french-fried potatoes. Out came a GIGANTIC sandwich with deliciously moist turkey - kind of pulled-pork-meets-tuna-salad in texture, but with that earthy turkey taste. The bread was thickly cut and fresh and the fries were perfectly crispy & salty.

I ordered the Hamburger with Cheddar Cheese (an incredibly dry, sharp cheddar), also served with fries. The burger was wonderfully charred on the outside, flavorful and juicy on a bun that does not overshadow the patty. Tangy slices of pickle added a nice bite.

It's definitely on the pricey side, but the quality of ingredients and atmosphere costs, right? A positive addition to the neighborhood, and nice to have a late night option!

Henry Public on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dinner at Hotel Congress

On our last night in Tucson, we went to the Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress in downtown for drinks and dinner. Hotel Congress is a really cool place, with funky decorations and dark, private nooks scattered about. Built in 1919, John Dillinger & his crew hung out there until he was arrested in 1934 after a fire. There are also stories of ghosts roaming the halls, and there's a bar, a performance space and a restaurant all located within the building.

In addition to all this, the food at Cup Cafe was wonderful, as were the delicious, unique cocktails like the the El Camino Martini made with Tequila, grapefruit juice and agave nectar and the Ghost Orchid made with Citron Vodka, Domaine de Canton (ginger liqueur), ginger root and a drizzle of prickly pear. Great beers are on tap as well.

We started with a Seared Scallop appetizer from the specials menu, made with big, tender sea scallops topped with greens and blue cheese. They were cooked to perfection, deliciously flavored and the cheese really added a nice depth to the dish.

We also got an order of the Hotel Salad, made with baby spinach, spiced candied pecans, fresh pear slices and gorgonzola tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Everything tasted so good, with each ingredient shining through as well as enhancing the others. The portion was substantial enough to be shared between two people.

I loved it here, and will mke sure to go back on my next trip to Tucson!

Cup Cafe (at Hotel Congress) on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's my favorite holiday today! A day to take a moment to acknowledge all that we are grateful and thankful for in our lives & to sit with family and friends to share their company and eat delicious food. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dinner at Cafe Poca Cosa

The best meal we ate in Tucson was at Cafe Poca Cosa. Located in Downtown Tucson, this swanky spot offers traditional northern Mexican food made from fresh ingredients, which change daily & seasonally. Naturally, I started with a Margarita, straight up with salt on the rim. It was so smooth and so delicious, I had two of them!

My boyfriend chose the Carne Asada en Morron (Bell Peppers) y Remerito. The presentation of all the entrees was amazing. Each dish was lovingly assembled, with a side salad, fruit and veggies arranged just so. Everything was incredibly flavorful, hearty and smooth, with just a little bit of heat.

My Dad got the Pastel de Pollo en Mole Negro, again presented with a side salad and fruit and drowning in a thick, rich, chocolate-y Mole sauce. The chicken was tender and slightly sweet and each of the flavors enhanced the other.

I went out on a limb and ordered the mysterious Plato Poca Cosa which is a selection of any three of the entrees, chosen by the chef. I ended up getting the Carne Asada dish I described above, a vegetarian dish made with spinach and mushrooms and the Crema de Elote con Jalapeño which was a cornmeal-based dish (like polenta) covered in a banana cream sauce with just a hint of jalapeño. It sounds kind of crazy, but it was delicious. Sweet, thick, creamy and hearty at the same time, it was perfect as part of a three-dish selection. I loved this meal!

We were pretty stuffed by the end, but we HAD to try a dessert, so we ordered the flan. It was delicate, subtle-y sweet and slightly caramel-y. Lovely.

So, definitely get yourself to Cafe Poca Cosa if you find yourself in Tucson for drinks and dinner!

Café Poca Cosa on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Ice Cream at Frost Gelato

A very popular dessert spot is Frost Gelato, serving the "best ice cream in the world". The owners were inspired by Gelato they had in Rome so they enrolled in a Gelato University, learned the process and opened up a shop in Tucson that serves upwards of 60 flavors of Gelato & Sorbet ranging from Strawberry to Pistachio to Chocolate Chocolate Chip. They currently employ Nazario Melchionda from Bologna, Italy as their Master Gelato maker and use only ingredients imported from Italy, save milk and sugar, as well as Italian machinery and display cases. In addition to frozen treats, they serve chocolates, coffee, root beer floats and affogato (espresso & gelato), plus you can get pints, quarts and buckets of ice cream to go.

What you see below is Chocolate and Pistachio. The chocolate was so rich, so decadent it was unbelievable. And the pistachio was so true to the nut, not fakey-fake.

We also tried an order of strawberry and coffee. The coffee was on the subtle side, not as strong as I prefer it, but the strawberry, a flavor I usually don't order, was delicious. Fresh-tasting, creamy and fruity.

If you find yourself in the Tucson area, head over the Frost Gelato, you won't be disappointed.

Gelato on Foodista

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tucson Meet Yourself

One of the best things in Tucson also has the funniest name. Tucson Meet Yourself started as an attempt to acknowledge and celebrate the diversity that exists in the town most known for Southwestern/Mexican/native American culture & cuisine and has evolved into a three-day festival complete with all kinds of cuisine, musical acts, dance troupes and cultural tchotchkes. Turns out, there's quite a number of countries represented within the Tucson city limits, and they all come out to showcase their cuisine at this huge outdoor festival.

We started with an Empanada from Costa Rica packed with olives, boiled egg, beef and veggies. I was hungry, so I ate it, but it wasn't anything special.

I made my way over to the Ghanaian booth where they were making Sweet Plantains, one of my favorite dishes.

They were great, and super spicy too, different from how I'm accustomed to eating them (the sweet, El Salvadoran way).

I also made sure to get some Tacos from the Mexican booth, since I was in the Southwest after all! One with Beef, one with chicken. The beef tasted a little strong, but the chicken was just right. Sprinkled with some lime juice and covered with shredded cotija cheese, they hit the spot just right.

For dessert we went to the Danish booth.

They were making fresh Aebleskiver, little pancakes shaped in a sphere. They're similar to popovers and not too sweet, served with jam on the side and a little sprinkling of powdered sugar. We also got some Danish Kringle, originally a pretzel-like snack which developed into a puff-pastry filled with fruit or nuts. This one was almond and subtle, not too sweet, but a nice little treat.

There's so much to see and eat at Tucson Meet Yourself! It's a yearly celebration of Tucson's multi-ethnic make-up and is worth checking out if you're nearby!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Breakfast & Cookies at B-Line

Beginning today and lasting through next week, I will be posting about the food I ate on a recent trip to Tucson. There's some amazing food in Tucson, so stay tuned. You'll want to hear about this!

If you find yourself in Tucson, as I did recently (visiting family), head over to the B-line (621 N. 4th Avenue Tucson, AZ, between E.4th & E.5th, (520) 882-7575) for an excellent breakfast to start your day right. All the eggs are organic & free-range, the coffee is strong and delicious, and you can have the best cookie for dessert, if you have room. Maybe get it and save it for later.

On this trip, I chose the Scramble with Spinach (you can get other veggies or meats in yours), with a side of beans and toast that all comes with little pots of butter and wonderful fruity jams. It being the southwest, everything comes with beans instead of potatoes. The eggs were fluffy, with lots of spinach mixed in. The bread was fresh, and like I said, the jams were chunky with fruit and delicious.

My boyfriend got the Bagel Sandwich - eggs & cheese on a toasted bagel. The eggs were spilling over the side, and the bagel was pretty good, it being Tucson, did I mention?

One of the best Chocolate Chip Cookies I ever had was from B-line, so I made sure to get one for later. Packed with chips, it's soft, chewy and melty and can be shared between three people it's so big!

I also got a Mexican Wedding Cookie just out of curiosity. Turns out, it's one of my favorite cookies - powdery, with pieces of hazelnut and maybe something almondy? I think every culture has this kind of cookie - it's a typical German holiday cookie - and it's one of my favorites, yet I never know what it's called since I've had it in so many different styles.

The B-line is open late (10pm Friday & Saturday, 9pm Mon. - Thurs. and 8pm on Sunday), so you can stop by for lunch or dinner. There's no table service though, you order at the counter and they bring you your food. They also serve wine and beer (13 microbrews on tap) in addition to coffee, natural & regular sodas and fresh squeezed juices.

The B Line on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Brunch at Building on Bond

Walking around on a recent sunny Sunday, I found myself at Building on Bond with a bit of an appetite. The late afternoon sun poured in through the windows and while it was busy, there were a few empty tables scattered throughout the two rooms. The tall tables and stools accomodated a party of four with a stroller and at the two-tops near the windows single diners sat with their computers or books. I ordered a Veggie Burger, made with lentils, sunflower seeds and carrots. It was a substantial patty, moist and chock full of yummy ingredients, served on a soft but not mediocre bun.

I also got an order of the homemade chips, which were thicker than most, lightly salted and tasty. Not as awesome as I'd hoped, but a nice change from fries.

The service is friendly and attentive and the space lovely to sit in. Great for a simple meal on a quiet day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dinner at Thomas Beisl

I once was waiting for a friend outside of BAM when a gorgeous woman ran out of Thomas Beisl, (25 Lafayette Ave., between St. Felix St. & Ashland Pl., 718-222-5800), across the street and in through the doors I was standing next to. It took me a second, but I quickly realized it was Cate Blanchett (this was during the run of Hedda Gabler). It was a very dramatic moment and has been linked to the restaurant ever since. I went there for the first time recently when I was invited to dine there as part of Austria Wine Month and discovered that it's a cozy sort of pub where warm tones dominate with low lighting, dark wood tables and ochre colored walls.

We started with a glass of the Grüner Veltiner Berger, a crisp, dry, grape-y white. There's a Prix Fixe menu special for the month (which ends Nov. 22) which my boyfriend ordered from. For starters he chose the Liptauer Cheese (made with farmer's cheese and paprika). It comes with toasted bread, pickles (that were incredible) & capers and is a chunky, creamy spread with an mild tangy flavor. It was quite good, and quite filling!

I chose the Palatschinken from the regular menu, a traditional thin crepe-like pancake stuffed with sauerkraut and smoked trout. The sauerkraut was fresh and tangy, but overwhelmed the fish so that I couldn't taste the smokiness. The mushrooms were delicious though, in the sauce, and it, too, was a huge portion. By the end of the first course, we were almost stuffed!

For his main entree, my boyfriend ordered the Paprika Chicken with Spätzle. Chicken can be so hit or miss but this dish was excellent. The meat was wonderfully tender and the sauce flavorful and hearty. The Spätzle was on the crispy side and less creamy than I'm used to. It was also on the bland side, and could have used more salt or spice. It was good with the chicken though, and provided a nice mellow flavor in contrast to the strong one.

I chose from the list of Specials for my entree and picked the Braised Pork Shoulder with Savoy Cabbage. The cut of meat was a little bit like a chop, and while tender, didn't break apart quite like the chicken did. The flavor was nice and the cabbage was great. There was also a little tower of shredded roasted potatoes on the side which were good, but could have used more salt.

Even though we were quite full, I wanted to try a dessert so we ordered the Walnut Cake which comes with a caramel sauce on top. More like a tart or dense pie, it was nutty and hearty, yet light at the same time, with a wonderful burnt-caramel topping & side of whipped cream.

I got to meet Thomas, the owner, who was quite charming, and found the staff friendly and attentive. It does get very crowded before shows at BAM, so go around 7:30 instead when there's something playing. There's a small bar as well, if you're more interested in having a pint or a glass of wine. Cash or Amex only.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Brunch at The People's Republic of Brooklyn

** Austria Wine Month started a few weeks ago and continues until November 22. Restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan will be offering special prix fixe menus, pairings and select rare Austrian wines by the glass. Boozy NYC has the complete list.**

Some technical difficulties have delayed today's post. Thank you for being patient!

Intrigued by the menu hung in the window, I ventured with some friends to The People's Republic of Brooklyn (247 Smith St., between Douglass and Degraw, 718-522-6100, in the former Sapodilla space) the other morning to check it out. As we walked in, we were told we were the second group of "victims" for brunch that day. Har har! It was a gorgeous morning and there was no way I was staying in the dark dining room, so we were escorted out back to the sun-drenched yard. We ordered coffee and orange juice. When the coffee arrived sans juice, I was told the juice would be a little bit longer. "Oh", I wondered, "Is it fresh squeezed"? "Um, it's going to be a little longer" was the mysterious reply. Weird. I was getting nervous about what the food would be like.

I was soon reassured. My friend ordered the Fritatta with Spinach & Mushrooms and an Eggplant Remoulade on top. It was quite tasty, with the contrasting flavors of the creamy eggs and the tangy remoulade.

My boyfriend and I split a savory dish and a sweet dish. I started with an order of three-eggs, over-easy, with bacon and potatoes. The eggs arrived sunny-side up, but were cooked well, with no runny whites. The potatoes were well-spiced with herbs and peppers mixed in, making them more wet than crispy, but the portion was small. We also were only given one slice of bacon. It was thick-cut, but it would've been nice to get two slices.

For our sweet dish, we chose the Banana & Chocolate Chip Pancakes. These were perfect. Just the right amount of chips were added for a touch of chocolate, along with slices of banana. They were fluffy and a good size as well. A few berries on the side added a refreshing burst of juice and clean sweetness.

The place was empty when we arrived at 11am, just as they opened, but it was packed by the time we left. There was also live music inside at that point; a woman on the Cajon and a guy on Guitar, playing a lively Samba. They've only been open a few weeks, and still have a few kinks to work out, but all in all it was a nice meal. Especially with that backyard!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dinner at Dumont

** Austria Wine Month started a few weeks ago and continues until November 22. Restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan will be offering special prix fixe menus, pairings and select rare Austrian wines by the glass. Boozy NYC has the complete list. Stay tuned for my write-up of my trip to Thomas Beisl! **

! We took our visiting friends to Dumont (432 Union Avenue, between Metropolitan Ave. & Devoe St., 718-486-7717) for dinner Saturday night, and wouldn't you know it, my camera battery died! So, please accept iPhone photos, but I think the food transcends the photos. Trust me!

We started with cocktails. The Mary MacGregor was deliciously citrusy with lemon juice, Dewar's, Apricot Liquor and a sugar-coated rim. Smooth, sweet and tart, it's dangerously good. I also had the Scarlett O'Hara (these were the only two named that way; listed together makes them sound a bit ridiculous) which was Gin, lemon, real crushed cranberries and something else I forget. It's a seasonal drink, light and refreshing, with the kick of strong, bitter fruit. Pretty too.

For food, we started with some salads. One of the best tasting dishes I've had in a while was the Crispy Artichokes, with baby arugula, parmesan, lemon, herbs & creamy garlic dressing. The dressing! Tangy, strong, smooth, with the wonderful small artichokes that were lightly fried was incredible! Dang!

Then we ordered the Dumac & Cheese, with bacon, made with cheddar, gruyere and parmesan. It's perfect to share since it's so rich & creamy. It's fantastic though; thick and full-flavored, not thin or powdery at all.

And, of course, we got a Burger, because they're so good. Presented with perfect, crispy fries, thick slices of pickle, tomato & lettuce, it's cooked exactly to order and arrives on a bun that's neither too thick or too thin. You also get a choice of cheddar, American, danish blue or gruyere if you want it with cheese.

For a little bit of extra vegetables, we got a side of Brussels Sprouts which were solidly good. Nothing note-worthy or special, but good, fall veggies, sauteed in butter served with a sprinkling of salt & pepper.

Even though it was quite full, the wait wasn't very long. They've got the backyard garden covered and heated, so there's ample seating and a few bar areas to wait at with your cocktails or beer. Since the food is worth waiting for, it really isn't a bother.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brunch at Fort Defiance

** Austria Wine Month started a few weeks ago and continues until November 22. Restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan will be offering special prix fixe menus, pairings and select rare Austrian wines by the glass. Boozy NYC has the complete list. Stay tuned for my write-up of my trip to Thomas Beisl! **

I was all set to love Fort Defiance, (365 Van Brunt St., at the corner of Dikeman, 347-453-6672) based on what I had read, the cool sign on the outside proudly displaying its name in cursive, with its nod to Brooklyn history and its presence in Red Hook, one of my favorite neighborhoods. Plus, the eggs are free-range and organic and the cocktail menu is extensive, creative and intriguing. Alas, Brunch did not lead me to love. (Added 11/11/09 - It has come to my attention that Sam Filloramo (the chef mentioned in the write-up on Brownstoner that I've linked to) left Fort Defiance four weeks ago).

We started with some drinks - the Bloody Mary (which you can get with gin, vodka or tequila; I chose vodka) and a Mimosa. I was interested in a Tiepolo, a drink with Prosecco and Strawberry puree, but the Bloody Mary swayed me. It was nicely spicy, not too tomato-y and just strong enough to create the lightest of buzzes. Don't they look pretty on that awesome fig oilcloth?

The Eggs Benedict sounded good, with two poached eggs, ham and Hollandaise sauce. But, the sauce was too acidic, as if whoever made it had a heavy hand while pouring the vinegar, and the ham was like boring, tasteless cold-cut deli ham, not a thick cut of something quality and savory. The bread was boring too, not even an English Muffin and a bit dry. The eggs were also a bit underdone which led to raw whites oozing out with the runny yolk. Boo. I was also disappointed in the presentation - that's it? No little salad or some potatoes? Just a julienned strawberry. Double boo.

My boyfriend and I split the eggs and an order of Yogurt, Granola & Fruit. The granola was on the light side, full of flaky bits instead of crunchy oats, but the yogurt was thick, creamy and tart, just like a good plain yogurt should be. The thinly sliced green apples were a nice touch, but I could have used a few more berries, slices of banana or something. Honey was drizzled on top which contributed nicely to the dish.

We also ordered a side of bacon (North Country Bacon - not so special, but with a special name; it's not organic or anything). It did have a good, meaty flavor, but it was served in a puddle of grease. Not very appetizing.

Our friend ordered the Red Beans on Toast with two fried eggs. It was OK, with a touch of southwestern flavor, but it wasn't spectacular, only decent. It could have used a little more fire.

All in all I was quite disappointed. Add to my reaction to the food was our waitress who seemed like there were a million other things she'd rather be doing. I don't need a lot of attention, I just like someone who is a little friendly, smiles once or twice, and makes an effort to engage while interacting. I'll definitely give it another try, maybe for an evening meal, but I don't have high hopes anymore.

Fort Defiance on Urbanspoon