celebrating the glories of eating in brooklyn. from the gut.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Daily News Takes a Stroll Down Edible Court St.

"If you stroll down Court St. from Union to Huntington Sts. and ask the friendly merchants the name of their South Brooklyn neighborhood, old-timers still call their turf Red Hook, while newcomers have renamed it Carroll Gardens. But one thing they both can agree on is that these nine blocks on the main drag of Court St. boast some fabulous food."

Monday, August 29, 2005

Tempo Presto Wows

With a write-up in the New York Times and much excitement on the Chowhound message boards (here and here), I was surprised at how small Tempo Presto, the take out sandwich shop of the mother restaurant Tempo, was. But as the saying goes, good things come in small packages.

Tempo Presto offers a selection of hot and cold sandwiches like the muffeletta with salami, mortadella, tasso, provolone and olive salad on a semolina roll and the mr. crunch with prosciutto cotto, fontina and white truffle bechamel on grilled pullman bread.

Quite simply, the muffeletta is an amazing sandwich. The olive paste soaks the crunchy semolina roll. You won't want to forego even the smallest drop forcing you to find a way to sop up the drips on the paper wrapping. The mortadella, salami, tasso and provolone play off each other nicely.

Also, on offer at Tempo Presto are a selection of gelati and salads.

Tempo Presto is located at 254 Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. 718 636 8899

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sette Stands Out on 7th Ave

After weeks of unbearable humidity, the heat this week finally broke. Last night after the clear day was replaced by a starry night, there was a slight crisp in the air. So when I got to Sette, on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope, I had a hard time deciding whether to savor the outdoors with the other diners or have the inside to myself. I opted for the charming outdoor patio with big red umbrellas, but the interior should not go without note. When Italian restaurants avoid kitschy decor they automatically get a plus in my book. Adorned in a warm minimalism with natural materials like the dark wood ceiling, light wood tables and a marble counter separating the open kitchen, Sette's small dining room is sophisticated without being overbearing. But who can resist this weather?

One of the best things about Sette, is the "Venti per Venti" wine list -- 20 bottles of wine for $20.00. I like this idea because the diner can invariably order the cheapest bottle of wine without being embarrassed. We chose a full, yet refreshing Librandi from Calabria.

If you ignore items like asparagus in August, Sette's pan-Italian menu is mostly seasonal. Although I thought the grilled squid with chickpeas and greens was too heavily dressed, the char on the squid cut nicely through the dressing. The stand out appetizer was the artichokes alla Romana, tender artichoke hearts dressed lightly in olive oil and lemon, a perfect dish for late summer.

I'm a big fan of the traditional Sicilian pasta dish, bucatini con le sarde, so after a good start to the dinner, I had to try Sette's. I was not disappointed. The tubular pasta was wrapped in tender fennel and plump golden raisins topped with toasted bread crumbs and fennel fronds. The special of the day, pan-seared sea bass, was delicious with a crispy skin and moist yet flaky meat. I finished the meal with a dense almond cake. My only complaint is that it tasted a tad heavy of almond extract giving it a slightly artificial flavor.

Sette offers two dishes, a pizzette and fish of the day, from their wood-burning oven which I unfortunately didn't have a chance to try. Will I go back to try them? You bet.

Sette is located at 207 7th Avenue at 3rd Street. (718) 499-7767

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Today's Links

New York Daily News: Neighborhood Gardens Give Life to East New York Farmer's Market
New York Times: Brooklyn's Mad Scientist of Espresso

Monday, August 22, 2005

A Taste of the Sun: Summertime Basil Recipes

This is a great time of year for food. I was at the Park Slope farmer's market on Saturday and the tomatoes, corn, peaches, eggplant, zucchini, melons all looked and tasted fabulously. The long, hot summer is fully expressing itself in the produce. There's nothing like the flavors the sun imparts to fresh herbs too.

I'm lucky enough to have a garden in this city. This year my basil plants are growing in abundance. I pick them every day and they keep offering up more precious green leaves. I throw the basil leaves into salads or on tomatoes and mozzarella for a classic Caprese salad. Also, I have a few favorite recipes that I thought I'd share. They are easy and perfect for something quick after work.


While pesto has been bastardized, it's still worth taking the trouble to make the real thing. It's best to use a mortar and pestle, but let's be honest, if you want to eat well after a long day at work, a food processor will do the trick. If you're not in the mood for pasta, pesto also goes great with grilled meats.

2 cups of fresh packed basil. One of my favorite cookbook authors, Viana La Place, says to NOT wash the basil, but instead to take each and every leaf and wipe it off with a paper towel. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about pesticides in my garden. But, again, who has the time to do that after work? For a quick after-work pesto: rinse, spin and dry thoroughly. Also, you can replace half a cup basil leaves with fresh mint leaves for a variation.

1/2 cup olive oil. Plus extra if needed. Italian cookery guru Marcella Hazan adds a dollop of butter to hers at the end. I find this step unnecessary.
1 tbs sea salt
1/3 cup pine nuts. Toasted 3-5 minutes at 375 degrees. You really don't want to over toast them. The flavor will take over.
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 clove garlic

Start by placing the harder food items in a food processor: garlic, pine nuts, Parmigiano and blend. Then add the basil, sea salt, and oil. Blend until coarsely chopped. Try to avoid a runny pesto.

Papardelle in Basil Creme Fraiche Sauce

I am basically trying to recreate this recipe from memory. The original came from Ruth Rogers and Sarah Gray of the River Cafe in London. It was published in an issue of Gourmet, but I can't find it on their Web site. This is a dynamite and *simple* recipe, so I really want to share. This is the basic concept.

1 8oz. container of creme fraiche
1/2 cup lemon juice
2 tbs lemon zest, finely chopped
1/4 fresh basil leaves, sliced
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus extra for serving if desired
Salt and pepper to taste. I like using flaky sea salt like Malden's for some crunch and texture. You could also use white pepper if the black pepper would bother you.
1lb papardelle

Get a large pot of water boiling. When it boils add some salt. When it reboils, add the papardelle. Cook until al dente. Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the cooking water. Combine all other ingredients in a large bowl, add reserved cooking water and pasta. Toss and serve.

Penne with Tuna, Basil and Lemon

It's really important to find the best jarred tuna in olive oil you can. Don't skimp. It just won't be the same.

Friday, August 19, 2005

New Food Store to Open in Dumbo?

"...Gothamist has learned that changes are afoot. Capitalizing on the rich Yuppie fascination with healthy eats, a new, sizeable natural food store is under construction on Jay Street - Bridge Fresh."

I think there is a definite need for a sizable grocery store in DUMBO, but an unoriginal name like "Bridge-Fresh" already has me questioning how good it will be.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Bon Appetit Likes Al Di La

Most Brooklyn foodies know Al Di La, an unmatchable Northern Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. Bon Appetit magazine has discovered it too. Unfortunately not available online, the magazine picks the best restaurant cities in the U.S. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Las Vegas and New Orleans are the winners. One of the spots they highlight in New York is Al Di La. Nice to see it getting national attention.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

"Brilliant" Dim Sum in Brooklyn

Just catching up after my vacation. From the Village Voice:

"...lately Hong Kong -- style restaurants have been appearing off the grid, especially along Brooklyn's N train route. In particular, there's World Tong, a glitzy, red-dragoned place that occupies an obscure corner in New Utrecht. Typical of these restaurants, the interior features a humongous color transparency of Hong Kong harbor ablaze with light, and enough marble to furnish a Roman emperor's mausoleum. And the waiters, when they speak English, sometimes do so with a slight and somewhat comical British accent. Also typical of these eateries, the lengthy evening menu spans many styles of Chinese cookery, from Sino-American egg foo yong to pork chop Peking-style to Sichuan diced chicken with hot pepper to a surprisingly good moo shoo pork."

Monday, August 15, 2005

Arthur Schwartz's Two Kitchens

"As a former restaurant critic, food editor and talk show host and the author of six cookbooks - including "Arthur Schwartz's New York City Food: An Opinionated History and More Than 100 Legendary Recipes," published last year by Stewart, Tabori & Chang - Mr. Schwartz knows from kitchens. He has renovated and cooked his way through every sort of kitchen you might imagine - from the tiniest hot-plate-style Murphy kitchen to a full-blown custom-crafted kitchen in Cornwall, Conn. But they're all behind him now."

"Seven years ago, he and his partner, Bob Harned, a law librarian, left Manhattan for Mr. Schwartz's native Brooklyn, to a large two-bedroom in Park Slope near Eastern Parkway that they had bought for $290,000. Four years ago, they bought the one-bedroom next door, for $265,000, so they could have a dining room."

Be sure to catch the slide show too. Buying the apartment next door to have two kitchens? Maybe there's money in the food writing business afterall?

Vanderbilt Ave's New Beast

I had no time to cook dinner amidst all the packing I had to do right before vacation. What a perfect excuse to try a new restaurant!

So I finally got around to trying Beast, a place that opened this year on Vanderbilt Avenue's burgeoning restaurant row.

A decidedly neighborhood restaurant, the front room with the proverbial exposed brick wall, was cozy and gave off a slight midieval feeling -- something that in my mind went along with the mystical beast theme. Past the open kitchen is an uninspired back dining room. I would recommend eating in the front room or outside if possible.

Although Beast claims to be a tapas bar, the servings are large enough to qualify as entrees, which makes the prices quite reasonable. I started off with a disappointing smoked trout salad. The lettuce was soggy, the dressing bland and the trout not very smoked. The next dishes, short ribs braised in beer and skirt steak with a creamy citrus sauce, really hit the mark. The ribs were delicate and tender and contrasted wonderfully with the crunchy spring vegetables they sat on while the skirt steak was done just right and was enveloped by the perfectly balanced sauce.

The show stopper for me was the lemon tart dessert with a real fruit taste and tiny bits of grated lemon zest that left me wanting to go back for more.

Beast is located at 638 Bergen Street at Vanderbilt Avenue, (718) 399-6855.

Back from Vacation

I'm back from a wonderful week down the Jersey shore. I didn't have time to update the site before I left, but I did have time to try a new restaurant. Stay tuned later in the day for my report.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Something's Brewing in Red Hook

Recently some friends from Philadelphia, a good beer town, came to visit me and commented on the lack of good microbrews in New York. Drink Brooklyn Lager I told them. Well now, looks like we'll have one more to choose from. From the New York Times:

"Shane C. Welch and Andrew Bronstein call their brewery Six Point Craft Ales, from a symbol that once signified high quality in European brews. The beers from the brewery, a pocket-size place at 40 Van Dyke Street (Dwight Street) in Red Hook, Brooklyn, are refreshing, especially lighter ones like Sweet Action, with an alluringly tart fruitiness suggestive of a hefe-weizen, and Abigail, which is similar to a Belgian pale ale."

Most microbrews I've tried that try to make a hefe-weizen or Belgian ale only approximate a pale comparison, but I'm excited to give these guys a try.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Market Watch

Looks like there's yet another market opening in Park Slope.
On the corner of Lincoln Place and Fifth Avenue there's a sign in the window announcing the arrival of "Fresh Fields Market & Cafe." Between this, the Park Slope Co-op, the Grand Army farmer's market, the new Union Market, the impending Whole Foods, not to mention the Fairway coming to Red Hook, how many upscale markets can Park Slope absorb? The mind boggles.

More on Farmer's Markets

Ruth Reichl, editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, joins chefs Bill Telepan and Tom Colicchio for a look at the unique offerings of New York City's farmer's markets on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Village Voice Highlights Brooklyn Farmers Markets

Most of us agree. Fresh, locally grown and raised produce and meat is incomparable. It's the way I prefer to shop and eat. Luckily, Brooklynites don't have to go far. The Village Voice's favorite Brooklyn farmer's markets are Red Hook, Grand Army Plaza and Fort Greene Park. I've tried the fresh garlic and onions at one of the Grand Army stands. The fresh garlic added a whole new dimension to the classic aglio e olio pasta dish. I'm hooked. From the Village Voice:

"Many New York chefs rely on the Farmer's Market in Union Square for the best produce in season. Especially now that smaller menus that change daily, or almost daily, are in style, it's the equivalent of going out to the farm for inspiration. But residents and restaurant owners of Brooklyn know you can keep it really local by shopping at neighborhood greenmarkets which are getting bigger and better rapidly."

My general sense is that the Brooklyn farmer's markets are focused exclusively on food, with the occasional flower and plant stand, while the Union Square market is becoming just as much a destination for arts and crafts as food.

Power Breakfasts at Teresa's in Brooklyn Heights

"Teresa's, which has a sister restaurant in the East Village, has been a quiet Brooklyn Heights standby for 16 years, drawing families for Sunday brunch and gaining popularity as one of the few Heights restaurants to offer breakfast. Teresa Brzozowska, the restaurant's namesake, who runs both locations with her brother, Bogdon, says breakfast and lunch have always been popular. "I don't know why," she said with a laugh. "Location. Ambience. Coffee?"