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Posts from the ‘English/Irish/Scottish’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Good Burger, Bad Burger, BBQ

elm brunch trio

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 western bbq burger

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.

rookery scotch eggThe 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.



Mary Queen of Scots

Reimagined tartan upholstery, hipster toile wallpaper, a graying Eurasian server with a Scottish accent (I’m still waiting for young women to own this silver streaked look instead of dyeing) and a random Morrissey single I can’t even remember but want to say was "Now My Heart Is Full," all add up to yes, I’m liking Mary Queen of Scots. I’d almost forgotten this was the old Allen & Delancey space.

Despite the presence of larger dishes, the menu lends itself more to drinks enhanced by shared things rather than a more traditional appetizer, then entrée convention. Unfortunately, they were out of two of the six-or-so snacks during the early side of Friday night. No sweetbread beignets or scallop crudo.

Mary queen of scots charcuterie

Instead, we ordered a selection of charcuterie. Jamon de Bayonne, a veal cheek, pistachio and chestnut terrine and saucisson. No, you will not find haggis—all offal is Gallic. They do have scotch eggs and devils on horseback, though.

Mary queen of scots phoenix

The Phoenix (applejack, rye whiskey, maple syrup, and orange bitters topped with Champagne) wasn’t overly sweet, despite the man at the table next to ours being broken the news that none of the cocktails met his “Which are dry?” criteria.

Mary queen of scots pork belly

It was the substantial cut of gooey, crisp-skinned pork belly atop a plate of lentils coated in rivulets of foamy butter that made me think sharing would’ve been a better idea. It’s a lot of richness for one. Also, none of the mains really jumped out at me. The preparations may have been interesting, but I tend to shy away from roast chicken, salmon, moules frites and burgers unless I know that one is particularly outstanding. At least the extra side of fried brussels sprouts added a little green to the meal.

Mary queen of scots bathroom toile

When I first started seeing modern tweaks on toile back in 2004, Timorous Beasties, a Scottish design firm, was the name often mentioned. I do not know if this is their handiwork in the bathroom, but I would not be surprised.

Mary Queen of Scots * 115 Allen St., New York, NY

George’s Bistro

1/2 I must mention George’s Bistro, if only to give one semi-review of a Welsh restaurant. I also ate a beef and onion pie from a chip shop that’s supposed to be quite remarkable (I can’t stomach battered, fried fish, despite loving other fried foods like French fries) and had toffee ice cream in a cone. Oh, and I had an order of chips at a pub. But none of those were actual sit down meals.

I had horrible stomach cramps and heartburn my entire weekend in Wales (and it began before the wedding/12-hour drinking binge so alcohol and assorted substances weren’t the culprit) and I don’t want to attribute it to the food. Maybe I just don’t travel well.

Carvery_1 My mom became irrationally fixated on trying the “carvery” at George’s on Sunday. The few restaurants in town all seemed to have sandwich boards out front advertising this concept, which I imagined entailed cuts of meat. Because I only see my mom every couple years and I’m a wonderful daughter, I went along with her carvery idea. I will admit to liking roast meats and boiled vegetables, though it’s not the kind of thing I ever eat in NYC. I don’t think it’s even the kind of fare I grew up on. Good food memories and childhood aren’t synonymous for me. Neither my sister nor I were crazy about anything my mom came up with (which was why it was funny that our two cousins at the wedding whom we rarely see remarked that they remembered my mom making good spaghetti and garlic bread like 25+ years ago when they visited us).

George’s is in the George Hotel, and it’s sort of a stodgy, musty affair. But fine enough for a buffet. And I don’t think that buffet means all-you-can-eat, but simply that you can serve yourself from a spread of food. I say this because my grandma had like three desserts and then the stepdude had seconds too, and they were all gung ho to serve themselves from the dessert cart even though there’s a girl who’d supposed to do that for you. I don’t think the staff cared much (well, maybe they did—when I finally got around to dessert and politely asked for one slice of cake I was given a shitty, tiny piece with its frosting all falling off when everyone else earlier got huge, tidy slabs) but it didn’t go unnoticed by me because I’m a freak about rule following.

First course was shrimp cocktail slathered with what I’m guessing was marie rose sauce or lentil soup. I tried the shrimp despite fearing mayonnaise. The carvery part comes in when you choose amongst roast beef (with horseradish), pork (with applesauce) or lamb (with mint sauce) and it’s nicely cut for you and put on your plate. I didn’t have the beef because I didn’t want to be gluttonous, but everyone else got all three. The pork was the best because you get cracklings with it, and well, I just love pork. Vegetables included carrots, corn, cabbage and roast potatoes. Yorkshire pudding and gravy was also a must.

The aforementioned dessert cart contained bread pudding (which no one wanted), a fluffy chocolate layer cake, éclairs and something else that I can’t recall. It seemed like the sort of food that should be eaten on a wet, gray Sunday.

George’s Bistro * 23-25 High St., Criccieth, Wales


Quintessential burgers.  Ultimate pizza. I'deal BBQ. I'm neither purist, nor aficionado. I honestly cant distinguish uber patties, slices and ribs from the fray, though many Americans purport to. Donovans often gets the best burger kudos (though it seesaws between them and Corner Bistro). I've never had the opportunity to decide for myself because if I'm ever in Woodside, I'm waylaid by Sripraphais siren song. But this Saturday afternoon I happened to be just hung over enough and in need of good old fashioned grease and meat stomach padding to check the Irish pub out.

I like the stained glass and dark wood dcor. It's almost like a castle and would tend towards hokey if it wasn't original details. We were seated in a romantic little nook in the back corner, not that burgers necessarily induce amorous behavior. I opted for a medium cheeseburger, James the same but with bacon. We also ordered a side of onion rings that never appeared. That mightve been for the best because the fries werent prime specimens. I suspect frying isnt their forte.

The burger–it was in the simple camp, as wed expected. Bun, meat, cheddar cheese with tomatoes and lettuce on the side. It was very juicy, of the type that soaks the bottom bun, but not so much as to fall apart and make a complete mess. It was very likeable, a classic bar burger. James wasn't as impressed as I, but hes the kind of person whod put onion soup mix and eggs in his ground beef (though not milk and ketchup like his moms version that induced vomiting during a Christmas vacation viewing of The Aviator).

Donovan's Pub * 5724 Roosevelt Ave., Woodside, NY

Atlantic Chip Shop

Everybody was in such as tizzy over the opening of the Atlantic Ave. branch.
Maybe the months and months of opening soon teasing built up hype.  I
don't know why I cared so much, I don't even like battered fried fish
(battered fried candy is another story). But I couldnt pass up the chance to
give it a try since I was seeing a show at Magnetic Field, just a block over
(never mind that I live near walking distance to the Chip Shop anyway).

There's not a lot of seating, but luckily we didnt have to wait too
long, and I didnt mind passing time with a pint at the bar (something the
original location lacks). I ordered the steak and kidney pie with chips like
I've always done at this now chain. I don't know why everyone gets grossed
out by that. I love meat pies, pot pies, I used to eat frozen ones after
school like a little freak. Combined with the beer, its filling fare, for
sure. We were only able to share the treacle pudding, which was warm,
carmelly and good. The fried Atkins bar was an amusing touch. As for the
fish? I really couldnt say.

Atlantic Chip Shop * 129
Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn, NY

St. John

Badass Britannia. Or something like that. Stark, traditional, and
consequently radical. I asked for something spendy, moderately trendy and
decidedly un-New York, and I got it. Somehow I don't feel right detailing it
with flourish.

Chitterlings, faggots, rarebit, treacle, bone marrow, eel…potted pigs
head–it is "Nose
to Tail Eating
" after all. While reveling in little morsels of rabbit
offal on toast, James was freaking over what he perceived to be a table of
nazis. Yes, they were German, creepily Aryan and did seem to relish the odd
bits of meat, but that doesn't necessarily mean there's a secret after hours
club for dining on human flesh. Though that would add an interesting
dimension to the establishment.

St. John * 26 St. John
Street, EC1, London, England



Tea for two in London. A tourist cliche? So what. I'm a sucker for tiny
sandwiches and pastries. And who could resist a mound of clotted cream, for
goodness sake. If you're going to partake in stereotypical English fare,
you'd better do it right and The Savoy does it in grand style. Trompe l'oeil
walls, silver tiered trays, squishy velvet couches and the like. Some would
say garish, and they'd be right. It's the dead opposite of St. John.

* Strand, WC2, London, England

Chip Shop

I don't even like fish and chips fish, however, I do like heavy,
fried food like steak and kidney pie–and who can say no to chips with malt

The menu was typical casual English food in a sit-down fancified
environment with prices to match (not that they were outrageous or
anything). It's all to be expected since this isn't an authentic chip shop
replica, it's a dining establishment in a gentrified neighborhood. My
favorite Park Slope moment came when the kid at the table next to us asked
his mother, "what kind of music is this?" and she informatively replied,
"techno." Ah, Brooklyn and its free spirits.

The funny part was when they told James he'd received the last piece of
cod. We also ordered fried Mars bars and when they said they'd have to check
if they had any, it made me a little nervous. It wasn't until we left that I
noticed the sign on the door (that wasn't there when we entered) saying
they'd ran out of food, and due to the impending storm, didn't know when
they'd have more. Not just out of fish, but food altogether. That was
pretty absurd. I don't know if it was opening week underplanning or if Park
Slope residents just love their pub fare. I felt lucky to have snatched up
the last scraps.

It seems that I've been spending an inordinate amount of time in
brownstone Brooklyn these days. I guess I never frequented the area until
late '00 when I got a job in the neighborhood. It's not something I want to
make a habit of. Be forewarned, it's the stomping grounds for aging,
were-never-quite-hipsters, and precocious tots and the parents (who are
largely comprised of the aging, were-never-quite-hipsters) who made them
that way. (3/3/01)

Deep-fried Twinkies…what more can I say? (9/6/02)

Chip Shop * 383 5th Ave.,
Brooklyn, NY