Monday, August 30, 2010

Dinner at Vinegar Hill House

FINALLY! I made it over to Vinegar Hill House (72 Hudson Avenue, between Front & Water Streets, 718-522-1018) for dinner. What has it been, years? I've been reading at hearing about how great this place is - I even have a friend who lives in Manhattan, uptown no less, who list VHH as her favorite restaurant in the city! That speaks volumes. And we were not disappointed. I went with my husband, and my parents, and we sat in the backyard on a warm night. Thankfully they have baskets full of cans of bug spray to help ward off the mosquitoes that are unfortunately part of any outdoor summer dining. After a few sprays, we settled in and ordered.

I do have one criticism - the chairs were not comfortable at all. The garden is a sweet spot full of blooming shrubs and concrete turtles, but the tiny, metal chairs did nothing to add to the ambiance. Anyway, the food made up for it. We started out with a corn salad with basil and red cabbage that was tender and crunchy and so flavorful, all topped with a sprinkle of paprika that added a little bite.

We also ordered a salad made with Bibb lettuce and Beets that was delicious. Bright colors, bright and soft flavors, topped with tangy grated cheese.

The Oven Roasted Octopus Salad was one of the best dishes though, with zesty octopus, lemon and olives. It was fantastic. The octopus was tender, not chewy at all, and the citrus provided a good pop of astringent flavor.

We also had a Zucchini Tart that was excellent, topped with crunchy frisee and made with creamy ricotta. The crust was wonderfully flaky too.

For a main dish, we ordered the breaded Cod with green and wax beans. The fish was very good - fresh, flaky and tender, with lightly buttered beans for a hint of decadence.

The only disappointing item was the side of potatoes. While nicely flavored with fresh thyme, they weren't what I was expecting. I imagined crispier potatoes, and these were big chunks of creamy potato - not bad, just not what I was wanting. Plus they looked weird.

I really liked the whole experience. Our server was nice and competent, the garden was pretty, the dining room cozy. I'm definitely planning to head back in colder weather to take advantage of the fireplace!

Vinegar Hill House on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dinner at Luna Rossa

***Too good to pass up: Scopello Ristorante in Ft. Greene on Lafayette & Fulton,
will be giving away Cannolis today during Happy Hour from 5pm - 7pm.
Drink specials include buy one get one free as well!
Check it out and let me know how they are!

There seems to be no shortage of wood-burning pizza places these days, which is fine by me, and we checked out a new-ish spot on the Carroll Gardens/Red Hook border recently (and by new-ish I mean less than 2 years old). Luna Rossa (552 Court St., between W. 9th Street and Garnet Place, 718-875-1384) is located practically in the shadow of the Gowanus Expressway, with dark and cozy interior and a large backyard that needs some work. We sat there one recent evening, with the sounds of the highway in the background, and enjoyed our tasty dinner.

We started out with a Caprese Salad, something I'm quite obsessed with at the moment. It was good, with big, round slices of tomato and mozzarella, topped with chopped basil. The mozzarella was fresh and the tomatoes ripe. A drizzle of balsamic vinegar added some bite. While this isn't as good as the Caprese at The Good Fork, it was good.

We also shared a salad from the specials menu, with mixed greens, thinly sliced green apple, walnuts and goat cheese. It was delicious - the tart apple, the creamy cheese, the crunch of the walnuts all combined to make a great dish.

Then there's the pizza. We ordered a Prosciutto and a Rustica. The Prosciutto had slices of the meat, fresh arugula, thinly shaved pieces of Parmesean and cherry tomatoes. The crust was chewy but thin, not soggy and had a slight sourdough flavor. Yum!

The Rustica had mozzarella, mushrooms and sausages. There was a nice balance of all the ingredients, all were flavorful and the crust was again thin, chewy and slightly tangy.

Luna Rossa is a good local spot, without the crowds, attentive service (maybe too attentive at times), and decent, tasty food. Perhaps not a destination from far away, but I hope enough people go here to keep these guys around.

Luna Rossa Restaurant Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 2, 2010

Dinner at Strong Place

Hey! I'm back! Maybe just part-time for the rest of the summer, although there are a TON of new places that I'm eager to check out, so it's not like I have nothing to write about! Thanks for being patient, but the break was very needed and was quite helpful.

The new Strong Place (270 Court St., between Kane & DeGraw, no website) opened up last Monday, by the chef & owner of Bocca Lupo, (Kenny Tufo and Jeff Lederman respectively) and we took the opportunity to check it out. We also had heard from a photographer we interviewed back in the Fall that her boyfriend was making all the furniture and woodwork, and were curious to see what he made. When you walk in, there is a long, dark bar to your right, the length of which you follow to get to the tables in the back. There are windows on both sides of the space, which is a nice, and rare, touch. The tables are indeed beautiful and interesting. There are two-tops bolted to the floor, and metal fixtures into which you set an addition to expand your table as needed. Very clever.

We started off with some beer and wine. The beer comes in what look like 12-ounce glasses and my pour of wine was quite underwhelming. $11 for a few sips isn't cool. Ah well. Small plates = small drinks? We perused the menu, which is broken up into four sections: raw, market, seafood and meat. We started off with the Fluke Croudo, small slices of fluke with citrus, jalapeño, sea salt and agrumato oil (an olive oil infused with lemon). This was a delicious dish, possibly my favorite of the evening. Light, tender fish, subtle slices of jalapeño and a citrus dressing. It was flavorful and refreshing and topped with slices of pickled red onion.

We also ordered the Grilled Asparagus from the "Market" section of the menu, which came with a mushroom fondue and pecorino. The mushrooms were delicious, a mixture of hen of the woods and oyster in a thin cheese sauce. The asparagus, both green and white, were crisp, grilled just so and wonderful.

We also shared an order of Seared Diver Scallops, with English peas, tasso ham and lemon & honey. There were two large scallops, tender and meaty, over a mash of peas, with a slice of bacon-like ham served with a froth of the lemon & lavender, which had barely a hint of lavender. They were good scallops, nicely done and of good quality.

The dessert menu had a few options on it and for some reason the Upside-Down Pineapple Cake called out to me. This is not something I've ever ordered before, or have found appealing, but the description: with Brandied Cherries, Almond Cake & Lavender sounded intriguing. And it turned out to be one fantastic dish. The pineapple was sweet, the almond cake provided a nice balance, the cherries were earthy & tart and the slight floral addition of the lavender evened it all out. I'll definitely be back for this - perhaps at the bar with some red wine.

So, the food was pretty great, the servings of alcohol were on the small side, but the service and atmosphere are top-notch so I think this place has got a good chance of doing well.