Friday, May 29, 2009

Dinner at Watty & Meg

I sort of can't believe Caffe Carciofo finally bit the dust - it felt like that place was around forever and I was sorry to see it go. So, it was with great expectations and hope that I ambled into Watty & Meg (248 Court St., at the corner of Kane St., 718-643-0007) on a recent evening to see what all the fuss is about. It's amazing how everyone gets into such a tizzy when a new restaurant opens up. I also love how there are conflicting stories about how the place got it's name. After a song, after a young couple in love. I'm beginning to think the folks behind W&M spread all these theories to encourage talk & buzz. I hate to say it, but my first meal there was a disappointment. I'll definitely give them another chance and sample some other things on the menu, but with all the other great options out there...

We started out with the Seared Diver Scallops appetizer, with green apple, leeks, English peas, marcona almonds in a veal semi-glaze. It was tasty, but c'mon, TWO scallops??? Too pricey for what you get.

We got the Crispy Skin Organic Salmon with quinoa, steamed kale and juniper berry sauce. Bo-Ring! First of all, I was asked what temperature I wanted it and then was served something waaaay overcooked (I asked for Medium Rare). Don't ask me and then ignore my request, right!?? The fish was very bland, the sauce was non-existent and the kale was lame. The quinoa was interesting, but I could have made this dish at home with one hand tied behind my back and it would have tasted better and would have been way cheaper.

I will go back - I hear the burger is fantastic (check out L Magazine's recent review), and I'll check 'em out for brunch. Hopefully they'll iron out all the kinks, things will settle down, and they'll become the next favorite local spot.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Parked!: Lunch at The Yard

FYI - A number of Park Slope restaurants are offering deals on meals, now through the 30th, in honor of the Brooklyn Half Marathon which is this Saturday, starting in Prospect Park and ending in Coney Island. Check out the New York Road Runners Club website for details on participating restaurants and where you can cheer on the runners. Go Mom!!!

Oh yeah! The Yard, now know as Bklyn Yard (388-400 Carroll Street, by the blue swinging bridge, between Bond St. & Nevins St.) has opened for another season and I'm so excited. There's something about the ramshackle, haphazard spot on the banks of the Gowanus Canal that makes me so happy. Not to mention, the food!!! This Saturday marked the first of many Saturdays where you'll be able to amble down and get some of the tastiest treats in Brooklyn, all at one place! Some weekends there will be special food, like the Pit BBQ coming up on June 6th; others will host various food vendors selling their fare out of trucks.

First, get yourself something to drink 'cuz you're going to be standing in line and waiting for a while before you get to eat anything. There is a bar with beer but I got myself some Hot Pink Lemonade from the Green Pirate instead. Green Pirate is a juice bar on wheels that makes delicious liquid concotions. The lemonade had lemon & lime juice, celery, sweet beets and ginger, which resulted in a cup full of blood red liquid, sweet and tart and very refreshing.

I then stood in line and ordered a couple of personal pizzas from Pizza Moto, a mobile, wood-fired, brick oven pizzeria. One was with Artichoke Hearts (for me), and was delicious, with plenty of chokes and melty cheese. The crust was perfect - thin and bubbly, crisp and not soggy at all.

The other, for the BF, came with Ramps and Bacon and was so good my eyes bulged out of my head when I tried a bite. Seriously. Smoky, chewy bacon, tangy ramps and again, that fresh, melty cheese and wonderful sauce.

We bumped into some friends who stood for an hour to get some Huaraches from a vendor who normally sells in Red Hook on the weekends. It was a ginormous dish, and very messy, so snag a seat at a table if you can. I tried a bite for research sake and found it to be quite good. The tortilla is so fresh, it's unlike any other tortilla wrapped food, and all the flavors migled together to make a very tasty meal indeed!

The Van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream Truck was there when we left, but we were full and the line was ridiculous, so we left. Maybe next time. The truck was pretty and I hear their ice cream is the bomb.

Also, don't forget that on Sundays there are DJs and dance parties. Go to Bklyn Yard!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Memorial Day!

Hope you're enjoying the Holiday Weekend!

I'm hoping for a beach day, but I'll settle for a movie. See you on Wednesday with more food tales from Brooklyn.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Dinner at Belleville

The BF and I went for a LONG walk this past Sunday, through all sorts of neighborhoods and ended up getting pretty hungry. We were going to try Sheep Station but found ourselves in the middle of the Brooklyn Pub Crawl 2009, egads! So, in a desperate attempt to escape we ended up deeper in Park Slope at Belleville (330-332 Fifth Avenue, at the corner of 5th Street, 718-832-9777). This corner place seems to have quite a divided following. Seems like it hit a rough patch in recent times, but I think things have settled down and the food is back on track. Personally, I really like it, and have never had a bad meal here. I also think their Roasted Chicken is amongst the best; juicy & flavorful and just how you like it. The vibe is chill and authentically French, with luggage racks installed above your heads along the perimeter like you're at an old train station, old mirrors and the hugest doors you'll ever see heading into the bathrooms. It's also priced quite reasonably.

I wasn't in the mood for chicken so we decided to get a couple of things and split everything. The Moules with Frites were terrific. Big, meaty mussels in an oniony broth; some were briny like the ocean and made me feel like I was dining at the end of a beach vacation. There were so many, I don't think we were able to finish them.

The Frites were great too - perfectly fried, crispy and salted and wonderful to either dip into ketchup, or used to soak up the extra broth at the bottom of the bowl. We also got a side of the Mushroom & Pea Risotto which was OK. Not as creamy as I like my risotto, and probably unnecessary to have ordered, but the BF was worried we wouldn't have enough food so I indulged him.

We also got the Burger which comes with Roquefort and Bacon and was AMAZING. Really, it was great. Juicy, flavorful, decadent, and perfect to split with someone. The bun was well-proportioned and toasted, and the sauteed red onions provide some grounding for the strong flavors of the cheese and bacon. This was thoroughly enjoyed and every last bit was polished off.

Another great meal at Belleville. Something to note however is that they no longer serve hard alcohol, only wine and beer, which is definitely something new, and a bit of a disappointment when you're jonesing for a Martini. Some nice beers are offered on tap, and the wine selection is extensive.

Belleville on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lunch at the Red Hook Fairway Cafe

The weather is beautiful again! Which means that it's time to have lunch and enjoy the outdoor space behind the Red Hook Fairway as you take a break from the sometimes hectic shopping that can take place there. If you haven't been, it's really worth the trip. You could plan a whole Red Hook neighborhood tour with Fairway as your lunch spot. Start at the North end of Van Brunt Street and stroll down while window shopping and taking in the last bits of industry that exist there. Stop in at Liberty Sunset Garden Center for supplies and plants, get some Key Lime Pie for later at Steve's on Pier 41 while you're there and before you know it, it will be lunch time.

There are numerous sandwiches on offer at the rear of the store (including lobster rolls, as well as breakfast foods), right by the exit to the back area overlooking the water and the Statue of Liberty. On this occasion I got a chicken salad-type deal with tomatoes that was really flavorful. You can also get your sandwiches pressed so they come out all warm and melty if you ordered cheese. All sandwiches come with a very nice, fresh mixed greens salad and potato chips.

When you're done you can walk down the pier and peek into Glass Blowing Studios and other work spaces of local artists belonging to BWAC. From there, walk down Broad Street to Dwight Street and check out the Red Hook Winery, a new spot that will soon be bottling their first wines! Continue on down towards Added Value, Red Hook's very own organic farm, and past that to the public pool (opening July 4th weekend) which is across the street from the Red Hook Ball Fields where you can take in a game of soccer. By then, you might just be ready for some more food and you'll find some of the best Central American food in town from the vendors who have set up shop on the perimeter of the field.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dinner at Rye

I went with a friend to check out Rye the other night (247 S. 1st, between Roebling & Havemeyer, 718-218-8047), the newest venue from Dressler & Dumont chef Cal Elliot to open in the 'Burg. It's a beautiful space; the long wooden bar is framed by gigantic columns and the mirror behind all the bottles makes the space feel all the more spacious. The dining area feels a bit like you've been transported to the 40's (btw, I'm really digging this speakeasy renaissance thing, with all the new places being crisp and clean, with lots of white and wood and tiled floors and delicious, meticulously prepared foods). The bartender was friendly and based on his recommendation, I ordered the Hemingway Daiquiri, made with white rum, maraschino liquer, fresh grapefruit juice and lime. It was delicious - tart and tangy with a touch of sweet to balance everything out. Not cloyingly sweet with sugars and syrups though.

The menu is a bit unusual, with lots of small plates like pork belly sliders and salads, a whole "grilled" section and entrees, which average in the $25 range. I wanted to try a couple of things, so stuck with lighter & smaller fare and was happy with my choices. My friend and I each started out with the Beet Salad, a gorgeous tower of slices of beet and boucheron, topped with greens (sprouts of some kind?) and drizzled with a creamy, tangy sauce. It was heavenly.

My friend also ordered a side of Fries which were perfectly crunchy sticks of potato, salted and flecked with parsley and quite addictive. I'm lucky she shared them with me.

I also ordered the Short Rib Terrine which came with frisee, onion marmalade, horseradish & potato. This. Was. Fabulous. Tender, fall-apart-at-the-touch-of-your-fork meat topped with all the yummy little nuggets of sweet onion and potato. All the flavors married well into one, big, incredible taste experience. This might sound hyperbolic, but I'm telling you, it was one of the best dishes I've had in long time. Do I say that a lot? That pile of greens makes it look like it's a wimpy dish, but the portion of rib was quite substantial underneath it all. There was plenty!

We also got the Steamed Lemon Pudding Cake to share. The "cake" part was warm and somehow both densely creamy and fluffy at the same time. The citrus flavor was subtle and combined well with the berries underneath. The dollop of whipped cream added a nice touch of sweet to it all.

I'd go back just for this, but there are lots of reasons why I'll be back!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dinner at Lunetta

I tried to go to the new Watty & Meg last Friday but it was their soft opening so they closed the kitchen early & we were turned away! Major bummer, but not for long since we ended up going to Lunetta (116 Smith Street, between Pacific & Dean Streets, 718-488-6269), one of my favorite restaurants in Boerum Hill. Luckily there were a few tables available so we were seated right away.

I knew exactly what I wanted to start with and was delighted to hear that the Fried Artichokes were on the specials menu. I had them last time I was at Lunetta and have thought of them since. The ends of the leaves are trimmed and the bulk of the outside layers are peeled away. The center bunch is then fried with garlic and parsley and end up tasting and feeling a bit like potato chips, all crunchy and wafer thin. I've never seen this dish anywhere else and think it's the bomb! They disappeared very quickly!

It was difficult to decide what to get for our main entrees, as there are so many yummy dishes on the menu to choose from. I settled on the Linguini with Little Neck Clams with tomatoes, escarole and sea salt. The tomatoes lent a sweetness to the dish, but the main flavor came from the numerous plump little clams dispersed throughout the pasta. Delicious!

My BF got the Spaghetti Carbonara with Smoked Pancetta. It was a bit too heavy on the red pepper and in turn became to hot to enjoy. A few slices of crusty bread cured that problem though! This dish was hearty and deeply flavored from the pancetta and lightly creamy, not overwhelmingly so. Very nice!

We were way too stuffed to even think about dessert, so next time I'm saving room for the Chocolate-Hazelnut Budino!

La Lunetta on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sushi to go from Kotobuki Bistro

So, Koto Sushi is my go-to place, but in an effort to try new places and expand my repertoire, I called up Kotobuki Bistro (192 Columbia Street at Degraw St., 718-246-7980) recently to place an order. I know people who travel from Clinton Hill to eat here (and they do have a nice little garden in the back for dining during the warmer months), so I had high hopes for our meal.

We started out with an order of Steamed Edamame, a nicely sized portion of gorgeously bright green beans, perfectly steamed, slightly salted, crunchy and tasty.

I also ordered the Spider Maki which is one of my most favorite rolls ever. I have to say that Kotobuki's spider roll was fresh and tasted just like the soft shell crab it was made out of. No gloopy mayo dressing smothering the meat, just big pieces of crab rolled up with cucumber, lettuce, and smelt roe. This was quite delicious.

In addition to that I got an order of the Rock'n'Roll with crab meat, salmon skin, avocado & crunch and an order of Spicy Tuna Crunch with tuna, scallion, smelt roe, spicy sauce and asparagus. The Rock'n'Roll was great, with crunchy salmon skin rolled up in moist rice, but the Spicy Tuna was awesome. An initial & quick burning sensation fades away so you can savor the flavor of the fish, which is also fresh and tasty.

I was a little disappointed though, as our Maki came with only six pieces instead of the eight I'm now used to, for the same or a higher price. They also use the dyed pickled ginger which I swear tastes different to me than the naturally colored version. It's a nice place to go to eat out back, but I think I'll stick with Koto for my sushi take-out fix.

Kotobuki Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dinner at Walter Foods

Happy Mother's Day! I'm feeling so happily stuffed right now from the delicious dinner we had at Walter Foods (253 Grand Street at Roebling, 718-387-8783), where we took my mom to celebrate her day. She was happy, so we were happy! But really, the food was fantastic and the place is really nice. Clean and classic with white walls, exposed dark wood beams, white milky glass over the light fixtures (globes over the tables, angular shapes over the bar) and a looks-to-be beautiful garden out back, where I imagine I'll savor future meals come summertime. Oooooh baby. Last night I started with a Bramble, a cocktail made with gin, lemonade and crushed blackberries. It was tart and strong and quite yummy.

I read today on Eater that when the fellows who created Walter Foods (Danny Dodd, owner of Barrio Chino and Daniel Minch, former bartender at Balthazar) were thinking of their establishment, they wanted to make a place that Frank Sinatra would have wanted to go after one of his shows. When I saw that I knew it was my kind of place. Simple foods, done marvelously; classy drinks with strong flavors and a nice, wide open space that's at once airy and cozy, with black leather booths up on a level above the wooden tables for two and the bar beyond that. I also read about the amazing Raw Bar, so we started with some oysters. They were providing four kinds, so we chose two of each of the three East Coast kinds (there was one from Oregon, but we were staying local). I didn't write all the names down (sorry!), but there were some Blue Point which were the tastiest; medium sized and briny. There were some humongous ones that were pretty mellow and then some smaller-sized morsels that had a bit of a kick to them. They came with a metal container full of a red onion & red wine vinegar topping. We also got some shrimp served with cocktail sauce which was served on the same bed of shaved ice that were tender and fresh and delicious.

For my entree I ordered the Butcher's Steak, which comes with fries and horseradish sauce. The steak was a long strip of nicely cooked meat over a bed of arugula with a creamy, tangy sauce and thin fries. The fries were mediocre, but the meat was nicely done, cooked to perfection and the arugula provided a nice, sharp counterpoint to the savory, juicy steak.

My boyfriend got the Pork Shoulder with Ratatouille from the list of specials. This was so flavorful, so juicy and tender, it was the best thing on the table. You had to negotiate some bones, but it was definitely worth it. The ratatouille was made with spring veggies like zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes and was so bright and fresh!

My mom got the Swordfish over Spinach, also from the list of specials. She loved it and polished it off before I could get a bite.

My sister got the Caeser Salad which she really liked, with homemade croutons and a creamy, tangy dressing. She also got a side of Crushed Potatoes of which there is no photo, but were a really nice take on roasted potatoes. Seasoned with rosemary, they were both delicate and earthy and quite delicious with crusty bits mixed in with softer bits of smashed potato.

We also got a few sides; Brussel Sprouts & Onion Rings. They Brussel Sprouts were cooked until they were soft and seasoned with something akin to maple syrup, but they weren't overly sweet, and the Onion Rings were incredible. Big, thick slices of onion battered and fried and presented in a big pile with ketchup and mayonnaise. Pure decadence.

I love going to dinner with my sister for may reasons, not least of all is that it we'll definitely be ordering something chocolately for dessert. We chose the Chocolate Pudding from the Specials menu and were not disappointed. So thick it was almost like mousse, it came with two chocolate chip cookies and a dollop of whipped cream. The cookies were OK, more like shortbread than cookie, but the 'pudding' was divine.

We also got an order of Berries and Cream, because even though nobody else orders dessert, they want some when it's served, so better to have extra than not enough! This was a dish of pineapple, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries tossed in a balsamic-honey glaze and served next to a scoop of thick and creamy whipped cream. Fantastic. The fruit was fresh and sweet, and the cream was a perfect compliment.

I'm eager to get back to Walter Foods to try their Brunch. Maybe by then the backyard will be open!

Walter Foods on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dinner at Cubana Cafe To Go

Rainy weather and long work days combine to result in me wanting to stay home and and order take-out. I have a list of standard that I usually order from and places that I usually don't. Sometimes I want to try something new though, so the other night we placed a fairly large order from Cubana Cafe (272 Smith St., between Sackett St. and Degraw St., 718-858-3980). We were thoroughly disappointed. I'm loathe to even write about our meal, but one of the goals of this blog was to try to write about everything I ate as long as it was from a food business in Brooklyn. This was a meal I ate; so, here goes.

We got a few smaller dishes like the Elote, the grilled Corn on the Cob, slathered with a creamy dressing and sprinkled with spices. This was one of the better dishes - a slow burn developed as I ate the corn, which was nicely cooked and not soggy. It just doesn't look so appetizing.

I also got an order of the coconut shrimp which are covered in batter with shredded coconut and then deep fried. They're pretty greasy, but are a sweet treat in moderation (you can see them in the lower right part of the plate). They came with a yummy mango salsa that had a bit of a bite to it as well! I also ordered the Quesadilla with Shrimp. The flavors were good; spicy and strong with cilantro, fresh tomatoes and topped with Queso Fresco, but the shrimp were disgusting, rubbery pieces barely resembling the succulent little crustaceans. Bah!

My boyfriend ordered the Pulled Pork with a side of Yuca. The pulled pork was OK, kinda basic and boring BUT, the yuca! This was really gross - a slimy, starchy puddle of ickiness that you can see in the top part of the to-go container. Ugh, it was horrible and I shudder to think of it. Plain rice came with dish as well.

I used to have good meals here - the Cuban Sandwich was delicious and they serve a chick pea salad that is delicious, but things have really gone down hill in recent months. I know people also complain about the Carroll Gardens Cubana Cafe as being inauthentic, and the one in Soho being much better. We'll see how they fare over the summer, as they have a few tables in a sort-of "porch area" that are fun to sit at on warm evenings, sipping on exotic fruit cocktails while watching people saunter by.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Brunch at Hom

While in Bay Ridge on a recent sunny morning (I know, sun, please come back!!!), I was lured into Hom, a gift store and cafe located on 3rd Avenue (8804 3rd Ave. between 87th Street & 88th, (718) 238-4466). The front area is a gift store with all sorts of pretty little things including cards and notebooks, gardening tools, new-agey CDs and tons more. We were taken out back where there are two areas for dining, one with a number of various tables and benches and one more private, with space for one party to be seated. Long, white flowy material hangs down from the balconies of both buildings, contributing to a magical feel. It's quite lovely back there, with the sun streaming down through the trees. There was a slight breeze and we were offered Peruvian blankets to keep us warm. The sun soon came up over the tops of the buildings so they weren't needed, but was a nice touch!

There were TONS of teas available, but both the proprietor and our waitress recommended the sangria and we easily succumbed. One white and one red, each unique. The white was more "juicy" and sweet, with a slight tart note that reminded me of muscat. The red was good too, but was more dry and earthy. Both had huge orbs of red grapes floating about as well as chunks of apples and an orange wedge. I also got a cup of coffee but this was some of the worst I've ever had. I'd stick with tea or for a splurge, get the sangria.

After we ordered, we were served a plate of complimentary breads and pastries. A nut pound cake, a chocolate bread (both very tasty) and a decent croissant. It was a nice treat and took the edge off our appetite while we waited for our food.

There were only a few options for Brunch, but everything sounded great. I settled on the BLT sandwich with egg & cheese on whole grain toast. It was FABULOUS! Nice proportions; perfectly melty cheese. It tasted like perfection. I'd definitely go back just for this sandwich!

The BF ordered the "Green Eggs & Ham", an omelette of sorts made with pesto, green peppers, ham, onions, Swiss cheese & spinach with wheat bread toast. The pesto was a surprisingly nice addition to this substantial and tasty dish.

I loved this place and would recommend it to anyone in the neighborhood, or if you're looking to explore, head out to Bay Ridge some weekend morning, start with a delicious Brunch at Hom, and then wander 3rd & 4th Avenues before heading to the water for gorgeous views of the harbor.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Thai Food to Go from Em Thai #2

Ooops! I thought today was the 5th! Sorry for the delay with today's post. Happy Eating!

I think I've written before that Thai food is especially popular in my house. I tend to get the same things over and over, but in an effort to expand my palette and offer you, good readers, something new, I ordered a couple of dishes I've never gotten from my favorite place in Carroll Gardens, Em Thai (278 Smith St., between Sackett St. & Degraw St., 718-843-0511)

I started out with the Jeeb Pukk, steamed veggie dumplings with garlic soy sauce. They were OK; a little underwhelming and slightly bland. All of the other appetizers I've had here were much better (fish cakes, dumplings with peanut sauce, curry puffs), so I was a bit disappointed.

We ordered two entrees, one of which was the Pad Lemongrass with duck, finely chopped lemongrass, ginger, carrot, scallions, red onions & cashew nuts in a lemongrass sauce and served with jasmine rice. This was so delicious. The thin slices of crispy, potent lemongrass add a lovely astringent quality to this dish, which is quite heavy with the plentiful slices of tasty duck.

The other entree we ordered was Pad Ginger with mock duck, which is surprisingly "meaty" and even replicates the bumpy "skin" of real duck. This dish comes with red and green bell peppers, oyster mushrooms, carrots, baby corn and more ginger and lemongrass, but has a distinctly different taste than the other dish. This was mellower, with the flavors of the vegetables shining through and the ginger and lemongrass more subtle. It, too, was delicious, and went perfectly over jasmine rice.

It's a good, solid place for eating in (the restaurant has a simple, clean feel with interesting coral-like plastic configurations decroating the walls) or for take-out. Reliable, fast and affordable too!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Lunch at Panino'teca 275

7-9-09 I'm sorry to report that Panino'teca has closed. I'm totally bummed. No more amazing Mac & Cheese, no quirky-ness and I never got to try their Brunch!!!

I've eaten at Panino'teca 275 (275 Smith Street, between Sackett St. and Degraw St., 718-237-2728) before for dinner, and have enjoyed a drink in their lovely backyard when the weather's nice, but I went for a late lunch/Happy Hour for the recently and had another good time. Recently written up on Brownstoner, this little Italian joint is quirky but offers decent food with good, strong flavors and great deals during their daily Happy Hour. We chose their Bucket of Brews which usually is four of one beer, but since it was early and we asked nicely, the bartender mixed it up for us. Two Penn Gold, a light, crisp beer and two Pork Slap, a hoppy lager that was surprisingly delicious. And check out that golden bucket that we think had Braille all over it with a message that said, "Everybody needs water". Hmmm.

My friend got the Mixed Greens Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, a simple salad, but tasty with fresh greens and a tart dressing. Great to start with or for cleansing your palate.

I ordered three of the Bruschetta, made on long, thin slices of good, crusty bread; one with Fresh Ricotta, one with Roasted Eggplant with Mint, and one with Prosciutto with Fig Jam. Each one was better than the other, in the order listed, but they were all great. What an interesting combo of eggplant and mint, which was subtle, and I just LOVE the sweet fig jam with salty, smoky prosciutto.

My BF ordered the Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli Rabe. It was a touch on the oily side, but still, the sausage was good quality, there was plenty of garlic and big slices of sun-dried tomato throughout. Very satisfying.

So, I really like it here. It's a fun little spot with good deals on good food and drink and happy waitstaff who'll engage you in conversation if you're up for it. Definitely worth a try. Next on my list is to try their Brunch.