Friday, February 26, 2010

Lunch at Mile End

So, everybody's talking about Mile End (97A Hoyt Street, between Atlantic Ave. and Pacific St., 718-852-7510), the new Montreal-style deli in Boerum Hill that sells bagels driven down from Montreal every Friday, and in-house smoked and cured meat. Um, really? 100 bagels catch a ride from 450 miles away every week and people actually buy them for $3 a pop? I'm sorry to be such a stinker about the whole thing, but that really makes me raise one of my eyebrows in questionable disdain. I went over there recently to see what all the hype is about.

The space is -small-. Three or four tables and a counter with as many stools cram the space - outside which crowds wait on the weekends. The staff is super friendly and I felt welcomed, always a nice thing when going into a new place for the first time. They were out of the Ruth Wilensky (salami pressed on an onion roll), so I ordered the Smoked Meat Sandwich (all of the meat, fish & vegetables are house pickled, cured, and smoked using local, pastured, line-caught & sustainable ingredients whenever possible). Two slices of soft, pillowy Rye bread contain a large pile of the fatty, smoked meat. Mustard is smeared on the bread to provide some bite.

It was a big sandwich, but not ridiculously so, and at first I thought I'd only eat half, but it was so tasty I ended up polishing it off in one sitting. But soon, my stomach made me regret my decision. I have a pretty steely stomach, too, so I'm not sure what this says about this sandwich. I don't think the meat was bad, it just ended up hurting! I just don't get the rabid following Mile End has already established within a few short months time. The menu is so small, and what's on it is slightly different versions of the same thing, so it feels even smaller. I do hope they succeed, maybe they can add a veggie option to the sandwiches, and maybe they can find a better way to deal with that bagel situation!

Mile End on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Food News!

On Thursday, Feb. 25th celebrate at The Meat Hook the release of Maria Finn's new book Hold Me Tight & Tango Me Home, a recount of her experience with divorce and subsequent healing through learning the Tango. It looks to be an awesome event. Expect wine from Familia Zuccardi, Argentinian-style snacks and a Tango lesson. $30 gets you all that plus a copy of the book ($15 sans book).

Then on Friday, 2/26, get free samples of Peeled Snacks at Starbucks.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Dinner at Noodle Pudding

One of the most consistent and lovely places to have dinner in Brooklyn is Noddle Pudding (38 Henry St., between Cranberry & Middagh, 718-625-3737). Some say the name is off-putting or confusing. It used to be quite common to hear Italian-Americans refer to pasta as "noodles" and there's a dish of the same name that uses sweet ricotta as filling. The food and service are top-notch AND they operate their own farm in New Jersey where they grow many of the vegetables that end up in their meals. It's a favorite in my family and we often go there for special dinners out, especially when friends from out of town visit. We always get an order of the Fried Calamari for the table to start. A fresh marinara sauce is served on the side for dipping, the batter is light and crunchy and the calamari fresh and tender.

My mom is a sucker for Sardines and if they're on the menu, she'll order them. Grilled whole, they're presented on a bed of potatoes, tomatoes and sliced red onion. They're flavorful and delicious, especially with some fresh lemon juice drizzled over them.

The Fried Ricotta was a special appetizer that sounded intriguing so we had to get it. It, too, was served with marinara sauce and was incredible. The mix of soft and crunchy textures and the tangy creaminess all mingled together to create a wonderful dish to share.

I can't pass up Bresaola if I see it on the menu. Theirs was paired with artichokes and shaved Parmesean to make a rich, dry, salty dish that was fantastic.

On to the entrees! My sister always gets the Angel Hair Pasta with Tomato Sauce. It's a classic - simple but done so well, with fresh basil and grated cheese. Part of what makes it so good is the sauce- it's not sweet, which I hate. It tastes like tomatoes, earthy and slightly acidic, rounded out with cheese and spices.

Noodle Pudding makes great seafood dishes as well. My step-father ordered the Salmon Filet with Escarole & White Beans. It's another simple dish, but it's delicious. The escarole is braised in a mellow broth, the beans bring a creamy texture to the dish, and the fish is fresh, nicely charred on the outside, yet not overcooked.

I ordered the Pappardelle with Mushrooms (shitake, porcini & cremini) in a cream sauce. The mushrooms provide a meaty bite and the pasta, fresh-made and light, is wonderful. It's the sauce that'll put you over the edge! It was rich and decadent and therefore best shared with someone else.

My boyfriend got another fish dish but I can't remember what he ordered! It was great though, with parsley, big slices of garlic and fresh basil on top in a lemony sauce. Nicely grilled, it was flavorful and tender and delicious.

Despite being pretty full, we had to get some dessert to share. One had to be chocolate so we got the Chocolate Tart with a scoop of Coffee Ice Cream and drizzled with warm chocolate sauce. It was rich, creamy, dense and incredible.

The other dessert we ordered was a Blackberry & Mascarpone Tart. The crust was flaky & buttery, the creamy filling was subtly sweet and the berries tart, combining to make one lovely dish.

One can't say enough good things about Noodle Pudding. It's great. Quality, delicious food, attentive service in a friendly, lively atmosphere.

Noodle Pudding on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 19, 2010

More Ice Cream from Blue Marble

Yay for me and all the other folk who live in Cobble Hill & Carroll Gardens. Blue Marble (196 Court St., between Congress and Warren St., 718-858-0408) opened up a third shop in the spot formerly occupied by Tasty D-Lite. AND they have Soft Serve, my favorite way to eat ice cream in the summer. I had to get over there right away to sample some of the new stuff. I ordered a Mini Twist (of Chocolate & Vanilla) on a sugar cone and while $2.90 might be a bit pricey, the ingredients are high quality and local whenever possible, the shop's owners are committed to being as green and it's an independent business as opposed to a soul-less chain. PLUS they are pairing up with Bpeace, an awesome organization that helps women in countries ravaged by war & conflict open up businesses of their own, to set up a shop in Rwanda. I'd rather spend the extra buck knowing it's going to good use.

Look how cute that is!!! It was good too. You can get it with Nunu Chocolate nibs as a topping but I chose simple for my first taste. The chocolate had more flavor than the vanilla, and they were smoother than I prefer soft serve. I like it best when it's more frozen and granulated, and I still prefer their plain frozen yogurt, but come summer, this will be perfect!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lobster at Cafe Mei Mei

8/3/10 OK, I think the word is out, but just to make sure, Cafe Ribant has officially closed. They're trying to transfer the lease (which has like, 10 years on it). Sad.

5/23/10 Walking down Court St. I saw Cafe Mei Mei is now called Cafe Ribant. Seems like there was some copyright issues with the original name. Same menu though.

Cafe Mei Mei, (231 Court St., between Baltic & Warren, 718-852-8571), "an American restaurant", has been open since November and was named after the Chef's dog. They don't seem to be getting a ton of business and I wonder if the name is throwing some people off, since it sounds like an Asian-themed restaurant, of which the neighborhood does not need another. Last week I ventured over with some friends to partake in their special Lobster Monday deal. For just $13 you get 1 1/2 pounds of lobster, de-shelled, with a choice of one of three sauces (Butter, Basil Aioli or Saffron Mayonnaise), and a beer. We decided to try all three sauces - the Basil Aioli was my favorite, with Butter a close second.

The lobster meat was tender and sweet and very filling! So delicious, and nice to not have to deal with the shells. There are also a number of sides available, to round out your meal. The Roast Garlic Polenta was the hands-down favorite, we had to get a second bowl it was so delicious, creamy and amazing (but not photogenic as it's cream-colored in a white bowl). We also ordered the Garlicky Greens:

which were great, and the (vegetarian) House-Baked Beans which were hearty and comfort-food classic:

Although we were quite full, we were tempted by the dessert menu and ended up ordering two! The Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta with Blueberry Cinnamon Coulis (bottom of photo below) was light, creamy and subtly sweet. The Chocolate Pot De Crème (top of photo below) was decadent, rich and wonderful, topped with vanilla ice cream.

I really liked our meal, the food was very good, high quality and nicely presented, and our waiter was attentive and friendly, but something felt off. The was the space was arranged is a little weird, with a long, wooden banquet along the wall and tables for two lined up the length of the place. Everything is white with red splashes which ends up feeling a bit cold and antiseptic. Not the warm neighborhood spot you want to go to weekly. The lobster special is a good deal though - so check it out while they're still having it!

Cafe Mei Mei on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 12, 2010

Brunch at Five Leaves

I've said it many times, Brunch may very well be my most favorite meal of the day/week. So many ways to have both savory & sweet flavors. Coffee is usually involved. Also eggs. And so, we made our way to Five Leaves (18 Bedford Ave., at the corner of Lorimer & Nassau, 718-383-5345) for their breakfast fare (having really enjoyed dinner there about a year ago). The amiable host greeted us warmly and seated us at the bar to wait for a table to become available.

We sat and sipped our delicious (and expertly made) lattes while listening to the first album by The Cure.

My boyfriend and I split two dishes, like we usually do, to maximize the taste experience, and to achieve a good balance of the savory and sweet flavors. I started with my half of the Fresh Sage Scrambled Organic Egg Sandwich served on a Panino Roll with Aged Cheddar Cheese. It was terrific. The sage was subtle yet strong, with flavorful eggs, a light & flaky panino roll and strong cheese.

We also split an order of the Ricotta Pancakes served with Honeycomb Butter, Blueberries, Strawberries, Sliced Banana and 100% real Maple Syrup. These were incredibly light, not very sweet, a bit tangy with a face made out of fruit and rich honeyed butter. They were perfectly browned and altogether wonderful.

I love this place. The food is wonderful, the details are attended to and the atmosphere is cozy and comfortable.

Five Leaves on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Greenpoint Food Market

If I was going to be in town this weekend, I'd be heading to the Greenpoint Food Market. Just LOOK at all the cool vendors who will be there selling their wares and treats. Plus a kissing booth, artwork and DJs! How fun! Saturday, February 13th, noon-5pm at the Church of Messiah, 129 Russell St. between Nassau & Driggs.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Brunch at Provence en Boite

Yuck. The meal I had at Provence en Boite (263 Smith St., at the corner of Degraw St., 718-797-0707) was one of The Most Disappointing. Ever. I had heard bad things, but decided to give it a try, and they are one of only a few spots open in the Carroll Gardens/Cobble Hill area before 11am. Never again! We started out with lattes. One was lukewarm, one was cold. How do you make a cold latte??? We asked them to make another, and that came back warm, but both were tasteless, watery, $5 cups of yuck that neither of us finished.

I ordered an Omelette with Goat Cheese and Spinach. It was a huge portion, with a strange bright orange liquid oozing out of the seams. It was overcooked, and the proportions were off. Each bite did not contain equal amounts of each ingredient; there wasn't enough spinach, and the potatoes on the side were mushy and tasteless as well.

My boyfriend got the Country Breakfast, two poached eggs on country bread and a side of the same mushy potatoes. The eggs came on the smallest slice of bread you've ever seen. The eggs were decently poached, but the hollandaise sauce tasted like it came out of a can, and the proportions with the eggs and that bread were awful.

So, boo. The waiter was friendly enough, but the owner was screeching at everyone and trying to control everything behind the counter, in a very unproductive, inefficient way. I've decided to never eat here again - too much money for not very good food. MAYBE I'll stop in for a croissant because they do make those well.

Provence En Boite on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 5, 2010

Dinner at Bar Tano

Trudging through the cold wind-whipped rain is worth it once you've arrived at Bar Tano (457 3rd Avenue at 9th Street, 718-499-3400), a warm & cozy respite from the industrial stretch of 3rd Avenue, near the train trestle spanning the Gowanus canal. They've even got a drink (one among many) called Flats Fixed, a nod to the business across the street, in addition to a good selection of wines and beers. We settled into a corner table and soaked up the place. Old tin ceiling and walls, a beautiful wood & etched glass dividing wall between dining area and bar, and low lighting creating a warm amber glow. Since it was so cold outside, we started with some Butternut Squash soup from the Specials Menu.

It was wonderful. So flavorful and unadulterated. Just a few drops of olive oil and a small sprinkle of fresh basil. We also got two Bruschetta to split. One Baccalá Mantecato (whipped salt cod) and one Fichi (goat cheese & fig spread).

The Baccalá was strong and slightly fishy, but grew on me and ended up being a hearty, savory appetizer. The Fichi was delicious. The tart creamy goat cheese complemented the subtle sweetness of the fig spread. We also split a Spinaci e Pinoli salad made with baby spinach, arugula, fennel, dried figs, toasted pine nuts & balsamic reduction. It was lovely with fresh greens, crunchy fennel and chewy fig tossed in a full-bodied dressing cleansed the palate and got us ready for our pasta entree.

We ordered a special Rigatoni with Smoked Mozzarella and Eggplant in a marinara sauce. The intensity of the smoked cheese was tempered by the earthy eggplant and the sauce was good and simple - not sweet nor complicated.

I'm happy to report that Bar Tano lived up to everything good I had heard. I look forward to my next visit there.

Bar Tano on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 1, 2010

Riceballs from Joe's Superette

If you ever find yourself in Carroll Gardens and in need of a quick, little snack, pop into Joe's Superette (349 Smith Street, where 1st Place meets Smith, 718-855-6463) for some mini Riceballs. They come stuffed with either cheese, ground beef or prosciutto and are the most heavenly bites of goodness you'll ever have.

Lightly fried, never greasy, the exterior of the golf ball-sized morsel has a slight crunch that gives way to the melted, flavorful inside. They're good served as a side with dinner, as something different to bring to a party, or just for something to munch on while you wait for the B75 bus. For further reading on these delectable treats, check out this article in the Times from a few years back.

Joe's Superette on Urbanspoon