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

Friday, September 30, 2005

Choice Cuts, A Choice Book by Mark Kurlansky

Perhaps best knows for his books Salt: A World History and Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky's collection of intelligent essays, Choice Cuts: A Savory Selection of Food Writing from Around the World and Throughout History, is proving to be an informative and entertaining read. He covers the gamut, from ancient food writing to contemporary. Who knew the father of French cuisine worked in London and actually predicted Nouvelle Cuisine in the late 1800s? And what is the difference between a gourmet and a gourmand anyway?

If you enjoy reading about the history of food and regional foods like I do, then this book is for you.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Oktoberfest in Brooklyn

This sounds like a nice idea: celebrate Oktoberfest at the Brooklyn Brewery. I've never done it, but I've heard it's fun. Looks like a nice fall menu too. Lederhosen optional.

Brooklyn, American Home of the Kugel

I love reading about food history and ethnic foods. The New York Times' dining section today explores the changing kugel of Jewish cooking. They take a look at "the homey casserole of noodles or potatoes" just in time for Rosh Hashana.

Be sure to take a look at their recipes too.

Here, Here and Here.

Gourmet's Restaurant Issue

Yesterday Gourmet's annual October restaurant issue came in the mail. I only had a chance to browse through it quickly this morning, but ever mindful of which Brooklyn restaurants get press, Gourmet picks two from Brooklyn: Peter Luger's (no surprise there) and Queen's Hideaway. Queen's Hideaway was also mentioned in New York Magazine's cheap eats issue in July.

Also notable was a quote from Devi (which also got listed) owner touting DiFara's pizza as the best in the world. I told you the secret was out.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Tip of the Day: Broccoli Stems

Did you know you can eat the stem of broccoli? Simply peel away the tough outer layer with a sharp knife or vegetable peeler and slice it. It's delcicious. I also eat the leaves of the broccoli.

My favorite way to eat broccoli is also quite simple. Boil the broccoli florets, slices of stem and leaves in salted water. Drain and set aside. Saute some garlic in olive oil with some hot pepper flakes. Add the broccoli, stem and leaves and saute a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Freshly grated parmiggiano and a squirt of lemon juice are optional. This is a flexible recipe and can be made to your tastes. Enjoy.

Friday, September 23, 2005

New Restaurant Coming to Bed Stuy?

Word on the street is that Tavern on Dean of Prospect Heights is opening a restaurant on Stuyvesant Avenue (on the corner of Macon) in Bedford Stuyvesant where the McDonald's Stuyvesant Heights Cafe used to be (no, not the fast food chain).

I haven't been able to confirm the rumor, but it would most certainly be welcome news.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Like a Magnet, DiFara's Pizza Pulls

I'm reticent to write even one single word about pizza. In New York, pizza is a hotly debated topic, right up there will real estate. The best pizza in New York is, not only a personal, but also an unending debate. But...

But there is something about DiFara's that keeps me going there when I know there are so many other wonderful pizzerias in the borough to try like Totonno's or newcomers like Peperoncino. It could be the owner, Dom, himself who treats each pizza like a work of art, taking his time, and dousing the final product with olive oil. It could be the combination of the fresh mozzarella, bufala mozzarella and freshly grated parmeggiano. It could be the piping hot oven that is neither wood nor coal burning that turns out a perfectly charred crust that Dom skillfully pulls from the oven with his bare hands. Maybe it's the basil that grows on the window sill. Or maybe it's the feeling of having discovered an old-world hole in the wall far off the beaten tourist path. I don't know.

Alas, the secret is out. With write ups everywhere: here, here and the list goes on. In fact, DiFara's is ON the tourist path. I was there Saturday afternoon and discovered a line longer than I had ever seen before. I waited about an hour for a pie. That is nothing compared to the man next to me at the counter who had called and ordered 2 hours before arriving and still had to wait an hour. I must say though, it was worth it.

I had this fear that the popularity of DiFara's would ruin it, but so far it has not.

Now the question is, can I tear myself away to try the other great pizzerias in the borough?

DiFara's is located at 1424 Avenue J at E. 15th St. 718-258-1367 (don't bother calling ahead.)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Memories of Zwetschgenkuchen

You might be wondering what Zwetschgenkuchen is. About this time of year Italian plums start making an appearance at farmer's markets. My favorite way of eating them is sliced on a torte or, in German, Zwetsgchengkuchen (now try saying it fast 10 times.) Baking the plums concentrates the flavor and the cake absorbs the juices.

My grandmother was famous throughout our family for her Zwetschgenkuchen. She unfortunately never left a written recipe for the torte. So I've been combing through books and the internet ever since she died to find the right recipe. My cousin and I have been experimenting. Most of the recipes I've come across include yeast, although my grandmother's did not. Her way provided a moist, crumbly and buttery dough. This time of the year not only gets me experimenting, but conjuring up memories of my grandmother too.

Here are a few recipes. The first is a yeastless one from Gourmet.:

Friday, September 16, 2005

Today's Link

Wrights and Wrongs: Speed the plow at new casual American bistro in Williamsburg (Village Voice)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

History Preserved in Bedford Stuyvesant

Bedford Stuyvesant is an historical neighborhood, with block after block of late 19th century brownstones, but what of its eateries? This past weekend I ate at two establishments that seem stuck in time, places that are a world away from present day Brooklyn. Sometimes that feeling of being someplace else without ever leaving your town can be the most pleasurable experience and a direct link to the past.

David's Brisket House is a relic from another era. Looking past the remnants of ill-advised renovation over the decades, like 1970s wood paneling and 1980s light fixtures, I felt like I was sitting at a soda fountain from the 1950s. The pumping music of the vibrant Caribbean and African-American community outside was a world away.

David's Brisket House is essentially a deli. For about $7.50 moist, roasted beef brisket and excellent pastrami (warning: both are very fatty) come piled high on your choice of bread (I opted for standard rye with mustard) with pickles on the side. The sandwiches easily compete with the Katz's and 2nd Avenue Delis of the world, especially when taking into account the price-- about half the cost. Such good pastrami in Bed Stuy -- who knew?

With year-round Christmas decorations in the windows my friend said he felt like he was at the Whistle Stop Cafe in the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes" when we ate at the Down South Cafe. This is a real greasy spoon with efficient and friendly service. Regulars flank each side of the entrance and gospel music is piped through the place Sunday mornings, as church goers come and go.

The breakfast special can't be beat. Where else in New York can you get three eggs, 4 slices of thick-cut bacon and a creamy, heaping, helping of grits along with toast and coffee for $2.99? Also on offer are blueberry or apple pancakes for as little as $2.50.

As the neighborhood continues to change let's hope these places don't.

David's Brisket House is located at 533 Nostrand Avenue 718-783-6109 and the Down South Cafe is located on Lewis Avenue between Hancock and Halsey.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Expanding Empire of Rice

This may not be news to some of you, but Rice, which just opened a place on Lexington and 28th, is expanding in Fort Greene after having hit Dumbo. According to the proverbial "girl behind the counter," we should expect it at the end of this month.

I have to give Rice credit for their high-quality, cheap eats. For under $10.00 you can gorge yourself on Thai coconut milk curry, Indian chicken curry, Vietnamese lemongrass chicken salad or Ratatouille and more. Of course each comes with a choice of exotic rices like a plump black rice or Bhutanese red.

They also serve a variety of appetizers and special fruit juices. This is the second Nolita establishment, after Cafe Habana, to open shop in Fort Greene and I'm not complaining.

Rice will be located at 166 Dekalb Avenue. 718-858-2700

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Ribs Worth Waiting for in Bed Stuy

With the unofficial end of summer upon us, I try to cram every glorious summer moment into a weekend: beach, tomatoes, corn, melons and barbecue. Sometimes it just all gets to be too much. When I've got that barbecue craving and too much on my plate, I turn to the Royal Rib House in Bedford Stuyvesant.

The ribs are slathered in sauce and the pulled pork is moist. Don't miss other southern specialties like corn and biscuits. They are only open Thursday through Saturday and it's best to call ahead with your order. They also hold unofficial hours, meaning they stay open till they run out of food. So order early. There is usually a long, long line.

If you're not one of the lucky to escape to the beach or the countryside this Labor Day weekend, but still want to celebrate, Royal Ribs is the place to go.

Royal Rib House is located at 303 Halsey Street near Throop Ave. 718-453-9284

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Today's Photo

Coney Island, Brooklyn, 2005 Copyright: Peter Hassler