Alder was not exactly what I expected. The food was fairly straightforward, at least in comparison to WD-50, which wasn’t a detriment for the dishes since most are memorable close to a month later. I couldn’t conjure up a single detail about the room if I tried, though. Perhaps that wasn’t the point.
Even though I’ve been trying to work my way through two pounds of Chinese sausage picked up at Costco, I still ordered the pigs in a blanket that wrap flattened hot dog buns around the sweet fatty links of lap cheong. The emphasis here is more on the link than the normally puffy coating. Served with sweet chile sauce and Japanese mustard, these are the perfect cross-cultural snacks. They will not be forgotten come Super Bowl.
The quail scotch eggs, whose shrunken size provides a good coating to innards ratio, also tread in bar snack territory.
Grilled octopus combined the most unusual flavors and it was also the most successful composed dish. Octopus and chorizo, I could buy in that Portuguese-y pork and seafood way. Sweet potato–why not? Banana, though, seemed, well, bananas, one step too far. It was not. Oily sausage, paprika and octopus coins are strong enough for a sweet, starchy accent.
Instagram works. I might not have considered the goat if I hadn’t seen the whole animal being prepped before service. I’m not sure what else went into this take on Jamaican goat curry and coco bread, but based on taste it was less a riff than a rendition, just presented spilling out of a wedge of acorn squash.
Alder * 157 Second Ave., New York, NY
People may complain about the pervasiveness of American culture, but abroad it’s Britishisms all the time. At the airport Costa Coffee (yes, yes, a British chain) the advertisement for mince pies (also, mince for ground as in ground beef will never be right) set me off. Thankfully, the sight of the turkey, stuffing and cranberry sandwich tempered my Thanksgiving outrage a bit. Also, did you know that Costa Coffee recently started offering camel milk?
I said “takeaway” and hated myself for it when I over-ordered at the mall food court and didn’t want to leave food behind. We all know what to go means, right?
The only mention of Thanksgiving was this frozen turkey display at Carrefour. This is also a four-day weekend in Dubai, but it’s for National Day, which means a lot of flags.
My hotel room, which is slightly larger than my Brooklyn apartment which isn’t super tiny, has a kitchen. Unfortunately, there is an electric tea kettle but no coffee maker. I’ve scoffed at foodies who travel with pour over coffee contraptions, but now I’m not laughing. I resorted to buying a jar of private label instant espresso that was imported from Poland.
This is only one-third of the instant coffees displayed at the Carrefour inside of the Mall of the Emirates. The mall is a three-minute walk from my room.
I’ve wondered why American malls don’t contain grocery stores when it’s commonplace in other countries. I will concede that shopping carts in a crowded (Thursday night is Saturday night here, if you didn’t know that already) mall isn’t the wisest idea. Someone has one half-way through the entrance of the Cheesecake Factory. There was still a wait for tables at 10pm.
It has now taken me 96 hours to get this short post uploaded because my laptop internet won’t stay connected long enough to insert photos. At least that now gives me the chance to share a picture of a guy driving down the street with his pet monkey hanging out of car…
or not–it’s taking over 20 minutes to email the photo and instagram crashes my ipad, which I resorted to because the laptop won’t work. You are really missing out. Ok, the mall has better free wifi.
One of the most eye-catching cans in a typically boring grocery section. Nice use of a single color.
In the December Food & Wine (no features online yet) you’ll find what might be the world’s classiest bread bowl, prettified with saffron, violet and pink petals floated across the still surface. I would like to believe that the crusty loaf is sitting atop a bed of smoked hay,
but it’s probably just dry Alpine grass, and it is.
The dish is actually called Hay Soup because that is what it’s baked in, and not only contains 20 herbs, but cream from cows that have eaten the same herbs. You’ll have to go to the Dolomites to experience this sourdough majesty, though; it’s served at Gostner Schwaige, a restaurant with no website.
Since I’m spending Thanksgiving in a desert where the only English-language TV shows appear to be Low Winter Sun and According to Jim, indulge my nostalgia and allow me to link to a teenage photo of myself with a bread bowl (on Christmas, but a holiday still).
Matt Rainey for The New York Times
This creature appeared in The New York Times last week with no commentary beyond “Appetizers include hummus with olive oil, herbs and lemon.” And parsley hair?
You may (or may have not) noticed that this blog has been revamped. I call this out because it’s still a little messy. I’m aware that images are missing and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some strange formatting and bad links, but let me know if there’s anything egregious.
The content is more or less the same but with the integration of one of my Tumblrs (I’ve attempted using Tumblr like four different times and can’t really stand it for anything that’s not photo-centric–the reblogging, following culture freaks me out because I don’t need my social networks to be that social) so if you find my current obsession with middle-aged drinking not to your liking…well, we can’t have it all.
I’m about to head to Dubai, a land where Benihana serves turkey temaki and gyoza to celebrate the friendship of pilgrims and Indians, just like in a story book. It should be fun. See you in December.
I suspect that much of Gambrinus’ appeal stems from being able to sit outside, drink vodka and smoke rather than being related to the Russian restaurant’s swashbuckling theme or the food. The indoor bar is fashioned to look like a boat–and so is the exterior–so peering in from outer porthole window has the potential to suck you into a maritime-themed vortex. For good measure, the male servers wear sailor suits.
It was still warm enough for the picnic tables when I went and that’s where every patron was clustered. I’m also not so sure that it’s a seafood restaurant, despite the full name, Gambrinus Seafood Bar and Restaurant, and the eight different fish involved in the entrees. Soups, grilled meats and potato dishes seemed to get more play.
Unintentionally, I ended up with three dishes, all appetizers technically, sharing many common ingredients. The assorted cured fish platter with salmon and sturgeon was good, and a concession because they didn’t have all of the meats for the meat platter.
If there’s a menu section called “dough entrees” it can’t be ignored. That’s how I ended up with seafood blintzes filled with shrimp, fake crab and cream sauce. People witnessing my broadcast on social media seemed to think this gross, which wasn’t true at all. There’s nothing problematic about dairy paired with seafood, and krab is legit.
The “subtlety” salad was in a similar vein, including smoked salmon, roe, and a form of thousand island dressing that was not all that subtle.
The benefit of the now cold weather is that the piano player won’t be so alone.
Gambrinus * 3100 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY
At The Elm there were a lot of empty tables during the brunch Sunday (and I was still told preemptively that I couldn’t be seated until my full party showed up, even though I didn’t ask to). What gives? I’ve generally considered myself as a member of the opposition in the war on brunch, but I wanted to try that burger. It’s two dollars cheaper during brunch ($16) than dinner , which I suppose is pricey (remember when $12 burgers used to spazz people out?) but more than ok because it’s one of those special, thick, aged like a steak patties, medium-rare without asking, juicy enough to soak through the bottom of the brioche bun if you chit chat too much while eating. The dinner menu says white cheddar while the brunch one says comte–whether different meals actually demand different cheeses or if the two menus are out of synch is a good question. Frankly, I don’t even remember the cheese because the meat blend was so dominant. The pickled onions and tomato confit were a nice touch, though. The fries were real fries (see below) which is the best one can hope for. You could also have an omelet or lobster benedict.
Red Robin I hate to say this as a chain apologist, but Red Robin is just sort of off. Both of my adult experiences, the latest being at the new Staten Island mall location to visit the recently opened Uniqlo and to take advantage of a housewarming gift card (thanks, by the way) for the house I no longer live in, have done nothing to persuade me. (Last time there was glitter in my ice.) In every way, it’s the anti-Elm burger. You can’t have it cooked less than medium and it doesn’t matter because the patty is too thin anyway. The bun and toppings are all you taste, and this particular burger comes with mayonnaise despite already being dressed with bbq sauce, which shouldn’t be allowed. The most distressing aspect of this restaurant’s M.O., though, is the bottomless fries premise because they’re steak fries and what kind of monster could or would want to serving after serving of soft, mealy potato slabs? When considering this offering, paying $6.50 more at The Elm feels like a true bargain. I did like the pretzel bites with cheese sauce even if they tasted inexplicably like peanut butter.
The Rookery Even as New Nordic flourishes seep into all corners of the culinary world, gastropubs persist. I managed to eat two scotch egg renditions in a single week without even realizing it (more on Alder, which I’m not calling a gastropub, later). More pub than gastro, The Rookery has a small menu with West Indian tweaks like curried goat in the shepherd’s pie and oxtail used for sloppy joes, however the egg is fairly straightforward with some bitter greens for balance. Order it and the sweet and sour brussels sprouts (with the rashers, of course) which are spicy more than sweet or sour.
Hometown Bar-B-Q It could’ve been the lateness (is 9:30pm late?) or the brutal chill (it was coat-wearing temperature even in the restaurant) but I was surprised by the lack of patrons on a weeknight. The brisket was very good, both crusty and just fatty enough to freak out the lean brisket-lovers (I know you exist, but why?). I wish I had ordered more of the beef than the pork ribs because a pound is a lot for two people, pink with a perfect smoke ring or not. I’ve never been able to capture bbq adequately with a smartphone; the all-brown food is always set atop a brown piece of paper on a tray that’s on a brown wood table, creating a dark reddish mud-toned photo that only a Martha Stewart would be comfortable sharing online.
When: Tuesday, 8:48pm
What did I drink? Strictly Rhythm (Beefeater gin, Aperol, Dolin Dry, grapefruit bitters, Zucca) $11; two Bulleit bourbons on the rocks, price unknown.
“Ghost! Just because I’m a potter doesn’t mean I like Ghost!”
Bar Below Rye isn’t huge, and was lacking enough bodies to ensure a conversation-muffling din. Even over Cults, Sleigh Bells and Belle and Sebastian, bands that wouldn’t be out of bounds on a Brooklyn middle-ager’s
Walkman iPod shouts traveled down the bar.
Ghost? A one-named underground potter that I wasn’t enough in the know to identify? Before Jonathan Adler had a string of retail stores (and dishes I couldn’t resist on One Kings Lane) his name would pop up in media as a celebrity potter, so it was an entirely implausible evolution.
Parsing, parsing…ah, Patrick Swayze was the impetus for the outrage.
I suggested that enough time would eventually pass and new crops wouldn’t be familiar with the movie, underestimating the millennial love of the ’90s.
“I’m under 30 and everyone still says it,” the potter lamented.
Of course they do. And 23 years later Ghost is becoming a TV show.
Ghost inevitably led to Ghost Dad, which again triggered talk of Ghost Dog.
Age appropriate? Not in the literal sense, but the drunk and chatty vibe wasn’t exclusionary. Soon enough we’ll all be ghosts.
When: Tuesday, 11:49pm
What did I drink? Bossa Nova Smash (Old Overholt Rye, lemon, mint) $9. After midnight it became ladies’ night, therefore two for one, so a number of gin and tonics and beers were also consumed.
Bossa Nova Civic Club was the setting for a double birthday party. The women were turning 39 and 40, one visiting from Miami along with her 19-year-old son who is a DJ and lives in Williamsburg, which is kind of hard to fathom. “A grown man came out of your body!” (Unbeknownst to me, I was sitting next to the son earlier at The Rookery’s bar. I hadn’t seen this now-adult since he was in preschool.)
If it’s good enough for Florent, right? (And yes, he showed up at the end of the night.)
There were gay men, black men, old men, even a Goth man named Geronimo who may or may not have been Native American. What there wasn’t were the typical L train Bushwickers and their beards and plaid. House music will have that effect.
Oh, there also weren’t any women over 40. It’s hard enough finding middle-aged women out and about as it is, and those who’ll stay out till 4am dancing on a weeknight are a rarer species still. Where are you?
Was I carded? Yes
Age appropriate? I would still say yes since Bossa Nova operates outside of typical Brooklyn bar conventions. A twentysomething from the neighborhood who was surprisingly welcoming of gentrification (more things to do) even gave me his number. (I didn’t ask–he told me to put it in my phone and watched as I typed so I had no choice.)