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International Intrigue: Commes des Garçons, Camel Meat, Cheese Patties

Though both are slightly out of my wheelhouse (is it just me or has there been an uptick in the use of “wheelhouse” and “sea change” recently?) it is worth noting that while Paris mostly gets Brooklyn burgers, tacos and diners, we will have Racines, a wine bar, “neo-bistro” whatever, opening tomorrow, and were introduced to Rose Bakery, the sort of British restaurant inside a Commes des Garçons boutique, late last year and reviewed by New York this week.

On the other hand, the UAE, which only gets our imports, never the other way around, may send something called Wok Chi our way. More interesting, might be Mandilicious, which partnered with a US-based company earlier this year. I’m not sure if its mascot, Nawaf, or the camel mugagal, would fly here, but a fast food chain serving Yemeni food would be cool.

Burger King isn’t really opening in Crimea. Pizza Hut did open in Iraq, though. Some members of the US Consulate attended the opening and looked pretty happy.

KFC is a little late to the game–McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Subway already have vegetarian menus in India–but the chain with chicken in its name finally joined in. That means paneer zingers, which are breaded fried cheese patties stuffed with a spicy sauce.


The Week’s Top 5 Offers From the Singaporean Daily Deal Site I Accidentally Subscribed to Over a Year Ago

durianAll you can eat durian, plus a waterfall.

western cuisineWestern cuisine, which means pizzas with ranch dressing, chicken, pineapple and beef bacon.

prawnsThe opportunity to bond with loved ones at a 24-hour prawnery.

outbackChicken and ribs at Outback Steakhouse.

kitkatSingapore is no Japan, but you can still access a limited edition green tea Kit Kat.

The Middle Ages: Quick Takes

Dynaco. Monday, 10:16pm. Extremely high concentration of beards and plaid, as well as two men with some serious white hair. In theory, the fireplace would be warming for ancient creaky bones.

Age appropriate? No.

Glorietta Baldy. Saturday, 8:08pm. The very dim lighting could be flattering for the elderly. There is a wi-fi network called “dr butt.”

Age appropriate? No.

Beloved. Friday, 9:48pm. Like a young immigrant’s interpretation of a damask wallpaper, tin ceiling bar, but crafted from what could be found at Home Depot. One benefit of being ignored at the bar is that when you walk out without paying for the drink you eventually got, no one notices.

Age appropriate? No.

Brooklyn Icehouse. Friday, 5:34pm. This is an old staple, and still suitable for a beer and a shot after the occasional trip to Fairway. It may seem weird to order pulled pork sliders now that Hometown is just down the street, though.

Age appropriate? No.

The Middle Ages: Ridgewood Round-up

Gottscheer Hall, Sunday, 8:01pm

The sweet sixteen party being held in the event space visible and audible (Alicia Keys) through the sliding accordion doors brought down the median age considerably. Bottles of wine that said Sweet White on the label were being rushed to the tables, presumably not for the kids, while the bar was mostly occupied by adult refugees. Eventually, a trio, which I assumed had to be Euro hipsters since the two young men were dressed in a confusing manner–bolo ties, flat, wide-brimmed hats, leather jackets–reminiscent of alternative guys I went to high school with, not the ’90s revival that’s currently en vogue. They were American, however.

Age Appropriate? The only woman over 40 was the bartender. She told us to come back on a Friday when it’s livelier.

Polish German Club House, Sunday, 9:10pm

Polish has long replaced the German, but the name remains. Club house is also a bit of an intimidating way to describe what is essentially someone’s living room that happens to have a bar against the wall. All patrons appeared to either live upstairs or have a connection to someone living upstairs. Outsiders can still drink beer, play with the pet chihuahua and eat homemade bagel chips, though. Even the guy, non-family, who comes in from Long Island to hang out in the old neighborhood and wasn’t crazy about gays in the St. Patrick’s Day parade, was friendly albeit misguided.

Age Appropriate? Once again, the only woman over 40 was the bartender, but it was ok.

No name bar, Sunday, ? pm

Where clubs or club houses can be forbidding, forgoing signage and windows with any visibility sends a stronger signal. This uninviting establishment directly next to the Forest Avenue station’s staircase appears to be exclusively for old Romanian men. If you are not an old Romanian man you probably won’t get the evil eye, you will simply be ignored by them. The bartender, barely drinking age, fresh from Hungary, appeared happy to see women. (She also already knew that Bushwick and Williamsburg are the more desirable neighborhoods to hang out in.) When she asked if we smoked, I assumed it was to bring an ashtray, but she also handed us cigarettes. The only man not sitting at the bar was alone at a table next to us. His chair began tipping to the left and then fell over completely with him still attached to the seat. There was no movement for a solid three minutes as he lay crumpled on the floor with his chair. Eventually, a few guys got up from the bar, propped him back up, and he continued to slump forward the rest of the evening with his new drink untouched in front of him.

Age Appropriate? Age is less of an issue than being female and a native English-speaker. There is a women’s bathroom, however, at the end of a very dark, shadowy hall past the pool table. The giant rat trap next to the toilet was less off-putting than the giant tub of pink Queen Helene hair gel above the sink.



threeshovelI’ll admit that a good deal of last year’s lauded openings–Estela, Contra, Piora, Narcissa, All’Onda–blurred to the point where I didn’t feel the urge to try any of them. Clearly, it’s all the A endings. Estela ended up being a standout, though. It’s kind of amazing how much a good seat (booth for two, ftw) and engaged service can color a dining experience. (For contrast, Glasserie, also for a birthday dinner a few days earlier, was kind of maddening.) It’s also one of those places where you might end up spending more than you intended to–and you’ll still leave with a good impression.

estela salt cod & potato croquettes with borani

Salt cod and potato croquettes with what I’m just now realizing was borani, a Persian spinach yogurt dip that I’ve made and wasn’t quite like this.

estela oysters with trout roe & yuzu

The oysters, super briny and tart from the trout roe and yuzu, were a nice contrast to the also snacky dish that preceded them. They had a spicy finish, despite no indication that they included a spicy component.

estela beef tartare with sunchoke

The hyper-red beef tartare mixed with crisped sunchokes nearly resembled a plate of chopped tomatoes rolled in cornflakes. Each bite was both crunchy and luscious with bread hearty enough to match. Slightly oddball and definitely one of the best dishes.

estela burrata with salsa verde & charred bread

Normally, I wouldn’t bother with burrata in a restaurant but assumed it would have to be more than just cheese and oozing cream (as delicious as that is). The green vegetal pool added a freshness that moved the dish from its rich Italian origins.Yes, there’s charred bread as a base.

estela endive, walnuts, anchovy & ubriaco rosso

The super orangey endive arrived unexpectedly; perhaps someone thought we weren’t getting enough vegetables or were missing an important dish. It didn’t originally jump out at me because it seemed austere. Of course it wasn’t because of the strong cheese (urbriaco rosso) and walnuts.

estela lamb ribs with charmoula and honey

Lamb ribs are having a moment, and this version, heavy with cumin and coated with jalapeño-spiked charmoula and topped with more cilantro and mint, is right on. (Estela really likes the color green and so do I.)

estela pork

The pork wasn’t really necessary, especially after those lamb ribs. The meat itself was perfect and rosy, but where I liked the greenness with the burrata, the herb paste hugging one side of the hunk was almost too grassy.

There’s no grief if you don’t order a bottle of wine, which tend to be expensive in comparison to the food (I’d already had a cocktail at the bar and a few beers downstairs at Botanica where they were also playing New Order). Even the wines by the glass are presented thoughtfully–after sampling three “unusual” whites,” I picked a  Jura chardonnay.

As an aside, there was what appeared to be a hot teen (though possibly older since he was clearly drinking) dining on charcuterie at the bar when I first arrived. He was clearly a somebody, based on the attention he was receiving, though I’m fairly certain it was not Flynn McGarry.

Estela * 47 E. Houston St., New York, NY

The Middle Ages: Queens Tavern

When: Sunday, not sure what time, but it was the point of the Oscars when Jared Leto was on stage, and Friday, 8pm.

If anyone had told me in 1998 that in the future there would be a bar on Fresh Pond Road where Joy Division was on the jukebox, poetry readings occurred, the number of transplanted twentysomethings nearly balanced the amount of gruff men drinking alone and that a bartender, bearded and plaided, would be extolling the virtues of Fernet to patrons who’d never heard of it, I would’ve lumped the notion in with hovercrafts and Star Trek needle-free injections.

But in September Caskey’s was turned into Queens Tavern by the owners of The Grand. The pool table was removed and the shuffleboard is now hung on the wall as decor, but there are still old guys drinking bottles of Bud Light at the end of the bar and belligerent men walking in off the street with their own beers and screaming when the pay phone doesn’t work. Thankfully, the neon spelling out Tavern accompanied by a glowing coupe glass is still intact (though only “vern” was lit).

Despite the provenance of the bar’s new iteration, Williamsburg has yet to fully migrate. On my second visit, when a friend of the bartender arrived to keep her company, she exclaimed, “It’s at the end of the world!” ostensibly visiting Ridgewood for the first time. The bartender lives a mile and a half away on the Wilson L.

Age appropriate? There’s a gap between the Sixpoint-swilling millennials and middle-aged men who start drinking at noon that could easily be filled by some nice non-young ladies.
Was I carded? On the second visit, yes. But only because the doorman, not present the first time, said he was bored. The only other paying customer was a man of Eastern European descent who looked 50s but was probably 40s, slurring what I think was “drink.”

Heart and Palette

Thankfully, I stumbled upon a palate problem right before the end of the month. I was starting to get concerned that 2014 had turned itself around. #blessed

Also, there is a new venue called Pinot’s Palette in Staten Island. I would like to hold the borough responsible for that name, but it’s a national chain and actually involves painting.


International Intrigue: Country-Hopping, Coops, Cheesecake

I’m not buying any of this fine dining musical chairs–Noma to Japan, Fat Duck to Melbourne, Can Roca on worldwide road tour–until after April 1. Though nothing about this news is particularly funny, so who knows.

Tangentially related to food, a Park Slope-inspired coop will open in Paris next year.

This piece on Moscow’s fascination with everything Brooklyn, Williamsburg, specifically, is not new, but new to me today (via Michele Humes on Facebook–is there a protocol for Facebook linking?). Most importantly, I learned that there is a restaurant called The Moscow Cheesecake. To my knowledge, cheesecake has no hip variation unless Russians are being ironic about Junior’s.

With over 900 stores, South Korea is Dunkin’ Donuts’ largest international market. Of course “The New York Pie Doughnut,”a.k.a. the Cronut knock-off, gets a shout out.

Oh, and by the way the first-ever Fuddruckers in Europe opened today. Varese, Italy is the lucky recipient. The beef is sourced from Piedmontese cattle and locals have a burger created specifically for them called The Lumberjack with bacon, Provolone and grilled mushrooms. Poland and Switzerland could be next.

Cool Story, Sis

Though I rarely post about it, I do have a thing for unnaturally colored food. It’s bright; it’s fun–why not?

Sarah Rainey over at The Telegraph isn’t having of it, though. One might think that an article titled “Why I Can’t Stomach Technicolor Food” would be about Burger King’s black ninja buns or McDonald’s cherry blossom burgers, not heirloom tomatoes, blue potatoes and, er, white asparagus.

 I like my potatoes white, reliable and predictable. Just as I like my carrots orange, my asparagus green and my tomatoes red.

Maybe this is what constitutes trolling in the UK. Rainey does like multi-colored igloos, it turns out.

The Middle Ages: Bates Motel

bates motel

“Can I buy you a drink?” asks the lady from Hung that’s not Anne Heche or Jane Adams.

“It’s not even 11 in the morning,” teenage Norman Bates’ mom exclaims.

“Good that means the bars are open.” (Does it, though?)

Though someone must’ve imagined this is the kind of bar where women in their 40s would drink two martinis for breakfast, I’ve not really encountered a bar like this anywhere and especially not on the Oregon Coast. Bigfoot’s might be more like it.