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

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Rice, It's Simple

You might be dubious about a place that has Mexican chicken soup (left) and a Vietnamese chicken salad on its menu -- too diverse to be good at any one thing. But you'd be wrong about Rice, a restaurant whose theme is its namesake. From Latin America to Asia rice is a staple and this establishment offers rice in its many forms, from Thai black to Bhutanese red.

On a wintry night before a show at BAM with Nellie Mckay, Laurie Anderson, Suzanne Vega and Joan Osboarne singing with the Brooklyn Philharmonic, I stopped at Fort Greene's Rice for a quick bite. I loved the Mexican chicken soup ($4.50) with its clean, yet flavorful broth, crunchy corn, tomatoes and avocado (and of course rice). A squeeze of lime gave the soup a nice zip and added layer of flavor. Although it's not hearty, it really hit the spot on a cold night. The Vietnamese lemongrass chicken salad ($5.00 for a small, $9.00 for a large) was equally as simple. The grilled chicken is marinated in lemongrass and served with a rice and iceberg lettuce, pickled carrot, mint and lemongrass dressing. I'm a big fan of dishes that contrast flavors and textures. So mixing the warm chicken with the crunchy lettuce was a treat. With options like non-greasy Indian chicken curry, grilled tofu steak, tea-smoked salmon salad and warm lentil salad the menu is not only diverse, but healthful as well.

From the food to the decor, at Rice the formula is simple and it works.

Rice is located in Brooklyn at 166 Dekalb Avenue in Fort Greene, 718-858-2700, and 81 Washington Street in DUMBO, 718-222-9880.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

New NYC Food Site -- Blog Soop

There's new, well-designed food web site called Blogsoop devoted to New York City. It highlights restaurant reviews by bloggers and includes yours truly among its ranks. The site does a great job cultivating the full range of food blog opinion. There's also a nifty chat function. Will the grassroots efforts of food bloggers take on the bigger guns like Citysearch and TimeOut?


Friday, February 02, 2007

Kate's Brooklyn Joint, the UnMeateaters Paradise

I finally muster the strength to sit down at the keyboard and give my 2 cents about the vegetarian outpost of East Village favorite Kate's Joint, when Gothamist beats me to the punch. Anyway, here goes...

For someone who loves to eat and pretty much eats any type of food from brain to sweatbreads to good old fashioned NY sirloin, I have a lot of vegetarian friends and family. Whenever I book a table for friends and family, I always check on the vegetarian options available. So when my vegetarian friends invited me to Kate's Brooklyn Joint the other night, it was not without trepidaton that I took them up on the offer.

Housed in what feels like a former Kennedy Fried Chicken, the restaurant is not only physically cold, but utterly charmless. And no, the lack of charm doesn't make it charming in an ironic Williamsburg way. Kate's Brooklyn Joint is a regular smorgasboard of tofu TV dinners. Chicken fried unsteak anyone?

With the daily onslaught of how bad meat is for us, Kate's can be a guilt-free experience in indulgence. I was ready to go full hog. Starting with the unchicken buffalo wings, then advancing to the unsteak au poivre and a vegan dessert. I could barely contain myself. I was ready to devour endless amounts of unmeat with no guilt. It's tofu. It's healthy and how I was going to make a trip to the ultimate in vegetarian dining worth it.

The tofu in the unchicken wings ($5.95) had the consistency of breaded, deep-fried wet sponge doused in tobasco sauce. It didn't help that they were served with limp carrot and celery sticks to finish up the blue cheese dressing with. Was this a preview of the rest? That's when I put the breaks on the rest of my plan and opted for the grilled cheese ($4.95). It was your basic and thoroughly unsatisfying grilled cheddar cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread with a side of mixed mesclun leaves. Meanwhile, one of my vegetarian dining companions devoured her McKate burger made with two unbeef patties and served with top notch fries ($9.95). I had a taste and indeed Kate's own "special sauce" makes it reminiscent of a Big Mac, just without the guilt and the disturbing ingredients. It would be worth a trip to Kate's just for that. Another was more than happy with his chicken fried unsteak with collard greens and yams ($10.95). The vegetarian burrito ($7.95) however came in first. It was excellent made with real grilled vegetables and brown rice.

If you can manage to eat dish after dish of tofu masked as meat, Kate's can be a lot of fun. You can have those "wings" and that "burger" and know you're cutting back on saturated fat. But for the meateater maybe the best thing about Kate's Brooklyn Joint is the BYO policy.

Kate's Brooklyn Joint is located at 295 Berry Street, 718-218-7167.


Village Voice's Sietsema on the Burger Bonanza

In addition to visiting 3 Manhattan burger joints, he tries out 67 Burger and Brooklyn Burger Bar in Brooklyn. Take a read to see which one he likes better. You may be surprised.

An Interview With Arthur Schwartz in Zeek

There is an interesting interview on the Zeek web site with Arthur Schwartz. He talks about the concept of food writing as a profession. Most interesting to me though is his deep knowledge of food history in New York City and his strong opinion on current food trends.

You know, after World War II, really from the 1930s through 1950s, mainstream New York menus had Jewish food on them. You could go to a mainstream restaurant where the appetizers were shrimp cocktail and gefilte fish. Or the soups would be mushroom barley and lobster bisque. Or underneath the grilled ham with pineapple was brisket. Every New Yorker ate these dishes. There were the assimilated Jews who ate shrimp cocktail and the gentiles who liked gefilte fish. And that doesn’t exist anymore. The ethnic blending is over in New York. Now it’s all 'chef food.' To me, food is not just something just to eat, it’s also a reflection of our culture. Of course the chef food is also a reflection of our culture. But it doesn’t speak well of our current culture [laughs], when I see Mario Batali on television boiling pasta in red wine and topping it with cranberries, it just doesn’t speak well. I enjoy food that has context and culture.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

What Am I Here For?

I feel like I've been going through a mid-life crisis since I was about 16. The past few years my "self-discovery" has become such a preoccupation that I sometimes feel paralyzed. Finding my calling so to say is a near constant battle inside my brain. Photography retreats, food courses, pottery classes, now guitar lessons. I think I'm much more than the sum of my parts. Do I really want to write restaurant reviews on a blog? Do I want to go to culinary school or get my MFA? Or do I just want to stay at my corporate job that I could do blindfolded? Maybe I'm really supposed to be the next American Idol. Am I really good at anything? Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock. Call it an existential crisis. These questions without answers sometimes keeps me up at night or put me in a bad mood depending on my level of caffeine intake.

Just as my brain is about to explode from all this constant questioning and nagging of self
my iPod shuffles to this Lambert, Hendricks & Ross song as I enter the lobby of my office building this morning and for a split of a second everything seems alright.