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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Can't Boil an Egg?

From the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph:

Revolutionary "self-timing" eggs designed to overcome the perennial problem of how to avoid runny whites and overcooked yolks will appear on supermarket shelves in the coming months.

Maybe this will be available Stateside too.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Tasting Room in Manhattan Expands

Even though it's not based in Brooklyn, I wanted to mention a bit of news about The Tasting Room in Manhattan because it's such a great place. With an incredible wine list and inventive, seasonal food, I always adored The Tasting Room, but the dining room was oh so tiny.

I happened to be walking down Elizabeth Street in Nolita the other day when I noticed they opened a bigger restaurant there and made the old (tiny) one a wine bar -- the original intention.

The Tasting Room is located at 246 Elizabeth Street and the Wine Bar is located at 72 E. First St., 212 358 7831

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Returning to Roots at Frankies 457 Spuntino

Frankies 457 Spuntino often gets labeled Italian-American home cooking and the Village Voice went so far as to say its best attribute is that it "feels like it belongs" in the Italian neighborhood of Carroll Gardens. Honestly, who are food reviewers to say what fits in?

Having been raised mostly on Italian-American food, I can say to that "yes and no." To me Frankies 457 is refined home cooking and there's nothing wrong with that. Don't expect red-checkered tablecloths and a pile of spaghetti and meatballs alla Disney's "Lady and the Tramp." The meatballs here are dotted with sweet raisins. The restaurant is sleekly decorated with exposed brick walls and lights that emit a warm glow strangely leading one of my dinner companions to feel as if he were eating down South. Beyond the back garden is another room for eating offering a sense of discovery.

The chef's plate of cured meats contained perhaps the most ethereal proscuitto I've had. The paper thinness and feathery lightness were refreshing after so many bad slices that end up with hard edges and little fat. The pork braciola rested in a silky bath of irresistable tomato sauce. The hot sausage and sage brown butter played perfectly off each other in the homemade cavatelli pasta dish and the roast loin of pork with rapini and pine nut polenta was delicious. The meat fell right off the bone. Having had so many bastardized versions of Tira Mi Su (this was the dessert of the 1980s), I figured this was the place to revisit it and I was not disappointed.

Returning to the roots of Italian cooking with such a refined and gloriously simple approach is a joy. It brings back childhood memories while appealling to a more world-weary palate. I for one am looking forward to returning to taste Frankies' take on other classics like sausage and peppers, gnocchi and bufala mozzarella with arugula.

Frankies 457 Spuntino is located at 457 Court Street, 718-403-0033, and Frankies 17 is located at 17 Clinton Street in Manhattan, 212-253-2303.

New York Times Reviews Chicory Brooklyn

I love the idea of the communal table.

From the time the restaurant opens through dinner, customers from the neighborhood occupy the 10-seat communal table, opposite the long, low refrigerated case that holds a host of sides, like potato salad, baked beans and coleslaw (all available in $2.50, $5 and $10 portions). The room is furnished simply and is almost too minimally decorated to be called decorated at all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

How to Beat the Heat -- Or Not

In last week's Time Out they had a little write up about Blue Pig Ice Cream which just opened up in Brooklyn Heights. It seemed positive and my mind started visualizing a place with country charm or perhaps boardwalk kitsch. Well, I'm not so sure it has either. The New York Times writes about it today. And on the Chowhound Boards they weren't too positive:

Reminded me a bit of a Baskin Robbins - they had blue ice cream with m&m's that they described as vanilla ice cream with m&ms and blue food dye and a few chocolate flavors - some with m&ms - as well as the obligatory mint chocolate chip.

I stopped by last night, but was not particularly impressed. Maybe I'm too into the natural food kick, but I was put off by the bright, artificial colors; artificial flavors; and use of plastic cone holders. Plus, the ice cream I ate had a distinct "iciness" to it - it was more like ice milk (low milk fat content?) than ice cream.

What a bummer, but I still plan on going to check it out for myself.

Blue Pig is located at 60 Henry Street, 718-596-6301

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Going Greek in Gowanus

From the Village Voice:

Spartan Souvlaki isn't exactly a Greek diner, though it trades in hamburgers, feta-planked salads, and the delicate shish kebabs known as souvlaki. But the canned soups, toasted cheese sandwiches, and mile-high cream pies are missing, so it's more like a Greek diner in Greece.

Monday, July 17, 2006

BBC Films My Block

So this is kinda cool. Yesterday a crew from the BBC came out to film my quiet, yet glorious corner of Bed Stuy. They wanted to see the work we had done to beautify the block for one of their gardening shows on BBC2 in the U.K. One of my neighbors was interviewed as she gave the presenter a tour of our block showing off our window boxes, whiskey barrels and treepits.

After the shoot, we gave the presenter a tour of our brownstone and garden and he was really impressed I must say by all the original detail we have (plaster moldings, woodwork, parquet floors, fireplaces etc.) He said in England most of the original stuff has been taken out, which I know is not true because I lived there and saw plenty of houses with original craftsmanship. But as the saying goes, the grass is always greener. We're hoping they'll come back for a home show!

Here's a few old photos of parts of the interior. A lot has changed since I took these. I apologize for the poor quality.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Waterfront Ale House - Where Everybody Knows Your Name?

I've eaten at Pete's Waterfront Ale House a few times. The last time I ate there my friend and I sat in a booth near the swinging kitchen doors. There was a photograph on the wall right above our booth. In that photograph it appeared that the entire bar, with that drunken, friendly camaraderie, was celebrating something -- New Years Eve or the World Series, perhaps. That got me wondering if this darkly lit and rather plain looking bar is the Cheers of Brooklyn?

In all reality there are many neighborhood taverns in the borough, but do they all have food so satisfying and such an extensive international beer and wine list? I love the new-fangled bistros that are helping to define many neighborhoods as much as the next Brooklynite, but sometimes all we want is pub grub and Waterfront Ale House certainly fits the bill.

It's not easy to make good nachos. I shudder to think about how many bad nachos I've had -- a pile of chips with melted fake cheese and fake guacamole, and sour cream and jarred salsa on the side? No thank you. The nachos at Waterfront Ale House rank as some of the best I've had with melted cheese and jalapenos evenly spread throughout the pile of tortilla chips. They add their own unique twist by serving their standard nachos with chili. The chips are super crisp and slightly charred thereby avoiding one soggy mess. Equally impressive are the beef burgers. (For the more health conscious, they also have decent bison burgers.) Mine came out just as ordered, perfectly medium with pungent blue cheese. The accompanying fries were meaty yet crisp. Also, worthy of mention is the German wurst platter with a selection of plump German sausages. Feel free to grab any one of the numerous condiments lining the shelf along the tables.

Admittedly, I've never tried any of the Ale House's attempts at "more sophisticated" plates, but why would I when, I could go to a bistro for that? It's the burger, nachos and beer that lure me to this place. And if the Waterfront Ale House were in my neighborhood they would certainly get to know my name.

Not on the waterfront, but close Waterfront Ale House is located at 155 Atlantic Avenue,

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An Abundance of Sage

I've got lots of sage growing in the garden. One of the plants is so astoundingly good that we managed to keep it alive by bringing it indoors over the winter for 3 years.

What to do with all that sage? I suppose I could try drying it. I could also make lots of pasta or ravioli with sage brown butter or roast chickens with sage and butter under the skin. All of that is delicious, but I came across this recipe for walnut and sage pesto. Something I could keep in the refrigerator and use when needed. I gave it a try last night and for the most part it works, except the walnuts overpowered. I would double the sage and parsley called for, use about half a cup of olive oil and add more cheese (how much depends on personal taste.)

One of My Favorite Plants in the Garden

I'm not the gardener of the house, but occasionally I get to plant something. I picked up this plant about 2 years ago. I don't even know what it's called, but it's one of my favorites. I bought it becuase it's indigenous to the Northeast. I figured it would do well in our garden's conditions and so far it has. Although lately all this rain has it looking a bit sad.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Village Voice: A rant about the threat to real fried chicken in Brooklyn

From the Village Voice today:

"But now accelerating gentrification and misplaced health concerns have shuttered many of the old fried-chicken joints."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Red, White and Blueberry

I haven't been home in a few weekends. I spent a week in Maine and the following weekend at a wedding in Philadelphia. Finally, last weekend I was home, glorious home, a chance to do "nothing." I headed to the farmer's market at Grand Army Plaza in Park Slope. My plan was to shop and cook. The South Jersey blueberries looked too good to pass up so I bought 3 quarts of them and baked this open faced "cake." I love casual, eat-with-your-fingers foods. Essentially, I took the Zwetschgenkuchen recipe and substituted blueberries for plums -- something my grandmother used to do. Here is more or less the recipe:

200 grams flour with a pinch of salt. I used whole wheat flour for the first time. It turned out ok, but I think for this recipe unbleached white flour is better, or maybe a combination of the two.
3tbls sugar
1 packet dry active yeast
1 egg
100ml lukewarm milk

Combine flour, sugar and yeast in a large bowl. Create a well in the middle and beat in the egg, add the milk. Mix and knead until dough is smooth. Spread the dough out on a cookie sheet or something similar. Let it rise for about 1.5 hours. Top with blueberries and cook at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The View from My Kitchen Window

A few weeks ago (or is it months?) Meresy over at Edge Effect asked to see the view from my kitchen window. I finally got around to this. I don't have a digital camera so I had to borrow one. My kitchen is on the ground floor, so I have bars on the windows. I took a few shots right on the other side of the window and one through the bars. Here you get a glimpse of my urban garden.