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It's the former Max Court space, which I never really got to know. There's
so much Italian food in the neighborhood and I'm rarely inspired to sample
any of it, but we were suffering car withdrawal due to it being stuck drifts
of ice and wanted someplace close and walkable. Thats Fragole (I've never
heard it pronounced aloud, but I cant help but think of it sounding like
Fraggle, as in “Fraggle Rock”). But the experience started off
poorly when we were seated at a table a half inch from loud party of three
when there were other available tables. They totally dampened our spirits,
and the mood suddenly turned sour, which seems to happen every now and then
at restaurants and the food is unable to rescue an initial bad impression.
Atmosphere is important. So, we only had one thing each, no appetizer, no
dessert. My porcini ravioli was perfectly fine. We had much more fun at
Juniors, where we trudged for dessert afterward. Bolstered by a shared
bottle of wine, the chilly trek was like nothing.

Fragole * 394 Court St.,
Brooklyn, NY

Bouillabaisse 126

Judging from the crowds jammed inside this tiny new bistro mid-blizzard,
Bouillabaisse will have no trouble attracting business. It took us at least
twenty minutes of trudging through fresh, powdery snow drifts (you really
have to appreciate NYC storms quickly, as the scenery turns from pristine to
putrid with each dirty footstep) to make the mere 7.5 block journey.

By the time I reached the restaurant, socks soaked and mascara streaked,
I felt like I'd really earned a soothing dinner and glass of wine. (Luckily,
we knew it was still BYOB. Unluckily, we only had one bottle in the apt. and
liquor stores werent open. We had no one but ourselves to blame for the
tasty, but probably incompatible Spanish red). The wintery landscape
fostered by our adrenaline boosting journey made me a little giddy. This
mightve been a case where atmosphere and circumstance make the meal. If had
been any other Saturday night meal my impressions might have been duller.

James ordered the requisite bouillabaisse and I tried the seafood combo
(which sounded like the exact same thing) for comparison. They both included
lobster, crab, scallops, shrimp and mussels, but mine had a tomato parsley
base while the bouillabaisse broth was lighter, perhaps tinged with white
wine and saffron (I preferred the namesake dish over my choice). I think the
traditional preparation is very particular about using fish, and certain
kinds, but this loosey-goosey Brooklyn rendition suited me fine. We also had
to try the “signature” dessert that I'd just seen disparagingly
described as sour and crunchy. Well, it was sour and maybe more chewy than
crunchy. But heck, we saved a few bucks not buying wine, a dud dessert was
nothing to get worked up over.

Bouillabaisse 126 * 126 Union St., Brooklyn, NY

Rice Ave.


“Ill have brown rice,” “make that without oyster sauce and
fish sauce,” “this is really spicy.” No, no and no. I'm so
not a food snob, but when talking about Thai I am a bit particular. I cant
help it, its the one cuisine I feel like I actually “get.” Curry
shouldnt be eaten with chopsticks, and crinkle cut carrots shouldnt be
swimming around in it either.

Friday night I was excited because I'd finally be able to see the new
renovated Sripraphai, it had been a while. It's bizarre because the last
time I went was the Saturday night before I impulsively decided to fly to
Portland in October, and then like the week I came back it was written up as
main review in the NY Times
, which caused a stir because people thought
it belonged in the Under $25 column. I was just weirded out by the photo in
the review because apparently the dining room had been completely redone in
the short time since my last visit. Anyway, I had heard that it was
reopening in its new larger form on Jan. 19, but when we trekked out on a
freezing Fri., the 20th, it was still under construction.

Despite that neighborhood being a trove of varied and inexpensive food,
we were bent on Thai. Knowing that wed be disappointed by anything less than
Sripraphai was a given, so we opted for the more atmospheric, yet less
authentic Rice Ave down the street simply because wed never been before. Eh,
it was pretty much as expected, not what I'd been looking forward to at all.
The duck salad was good, the potential was there, but the hot part of the
hot, sour, salty, sweet dynamic was severely lacking, as it was in all of
the dishes we tried. The red curry with pork and cashew shrimp were adequate
and tasty too, but not the wow-inducing blizzard kick off meal I'd been

Rice Ave * 72-19 Roosevelt Ave., Jackson Heights, NY

Rainbows I Have Known

Fulton Mall: According to mapquest, this location is equidistant to my apt. as the Park Slope store, yet I rarely frequent Fulton Mall except to go to Junior's. I've never been able to figure out why downtown Brooklyn is predominantly black (and why downtown Brooklyn is walking distance from Manhattan while downtown Queens is at the borough's furthest reaches. What does downtown mean exactly?). The area is more municipal and commercial, not really residential, so it's not necessarily like the clientele reflects nearby residents. Shoppers are drawn there for reasons I don't quite understand. The one time I did visit this Rainbow, my scary upstairs neighbor (who happens to be black and recently moved to NYC, which was what got me to wondering about choice of shopping district. Like she'd only been the city a few months and had already decided that Fulton Mall was where she should be or wanted to be. It?s weird. I always try to avoid people like me.) was there and I hightailed it out fast.

Greenpoint: I've only been once, over six years ago to return too tight (Rainbow clothes lean towards short, snug and body hugging, it's often wise to buy larger sizes unless you want to look like a hooker) items I bought during my virgin voyage in Ridgewood.

Park Slope: The lamest I've encountered. Way too small and impossible to squeeze between racks. Poor shoe selection and if you go upstairs to look at them a bell goes off and an employee will follow behind and keep their eye on you while you're browsing.

Sunset Park: Much better now that they've revamped. They only recently got a plus size section and it's housed upstairs in a huge space with plenty of shoes. This new incarnation rivals, and possibly surpasses the one near the Empire State Building. Too bad I don't live walking distance anymore.

Lazy-Assed Sides & Squeezes

The world has gone squeeze crazy. Remember when French’s mustard was the only thing in a squishy bottle? Now every condiment comes ready to ooze through a little opening. I guess the point is that you don’t need a knife? Maybe it’s a messy kid thing? I don’t care for the thickness that a squeezed trail of anything leaves on my food, so I just end up having to spread it out with a knife anyway. Now Pillsbury has Treat Toppers Squeeze Frosting because apparently it was too hard to get the readymade stuff from little plastic tub to cake surface. I like novelty, but this product isn’t for people like me.

Also on the weirdo convenience/laziness front are Country Crock Side Dishes. Really, how hard is it to mash potatoes? I don’t have a family to feed, but still, I think I could handle the challenge of macaroni and cheese or rice from scratch. But it doesn’t stop with the sides, the Meals in Minutes brochure shows you how to craft whole meals around prepared foods. Yum, London broil seasoned with Knorr Recipe Classics Roasted Garlic Herb Dip, green beans with Shedd’s Spread, store bought apple pie with Breyer’s vanilla ice cream, Lipton ice tea, and of course Country Crock Side Dishes Homestyle Mashed Potatoes.

Crab Rangoon

I can’t believe that I spent most of my life oblivious to the charms of crab rangoon. Well, I did grow up occasionally eating cheese-filled won ton skins at American-Chinese restaurants. They came with combo platters that might also contain fried shrimp (which would always make me sick—there’s something about battered, fried seafood that’s hard to stomach—though it hasn’t put me off soft shell crabs), stir fries laden with corn starch and celery and those little dishes of ketchup, blobbed with a hot mustard streak and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. But we just called those golden, cheesy things won tons.

I’ve since discovered that in New York City parlance won ton, at least at the one-per-block chop suey joints, means those uninspired, thin strips of fried dough that come in greasy little transparent bags. Crispies, as I call them, aren’t good for much more than floating in hot and sour soup. Crab rangoon, as it turns out, is akin to my childhood notion of what a won ton is: a creation where the presence of crab is usually undetectable, though a wisp of scallion might make it into the filling.

To allay some confusion The Food Lover’s Companion defines won tons as “bite-size dumplings consisting of paper-thin dough pillows filled with a minced mixture of meat, seafood and/or vegetables” So really, rangoons are more won ton (though of course cream cheese was not part of that definition) than NYC crispies are (which isn’t surprising, the city tends to mangle foodstuffs. I’ll never get used to hearing gyro pronounced “jai ro”).

Ubiquitous on local take out menus, I was swayed by the description of cheese won tons one lonely evening in my Greenwood Heights basement apartment, an abysmal culinary no-man’s land (good food wasn’t the only thing lacking—banks, drug stores and Laundromats were all in short supply while copious strip clubs, adult bookstores and a federal prison dotted the next block). Creamy, crunchy, caloric…the three Cs seemed like the perfect greasy antidote to my glum surroundings (the only bright beacon being the White Castle mere steps away from Twin Lin, said Chinese storefront). It was a good decision, and only set me back $4.50 for ten rangoons with sweet and sour sauce (some restaurants just include packets of duck sauce).

And where the Rangoon descriptor comes in is anyone’s guess, there’s nothing remotely Burmese about the golden treats. It reeks of Polynesian invention, pu pu platters, mai tais, exotica. This line of reasoning was bolstered by a feature on Trader Vic’s in the December 2004 Saveur, “Crab Rangoon & Bongo Bongo Soup.” It included a delectable sounding rangoon recipe where the crustacean plays prominently in taste and texture—Trader Vic was no slouch. I have a couple of Trader Vic’s cookbooks in storage, unfortunately, on the opposite side of the country, I’d be curious to see crab rangoon is mentioned. I know the restaurant has had its heyday, but a visit to the granddad of tiki chic would be fun, nonetheless. Unfortunately, the nearest location is in Chicago, and that’s a bit of a haul.

On my recent maiden voyage to Stew Leonard’s I was most impressed by the big boxes of frozen crab Rangoon (the animatronic singing cows placed a close second). This was a score, and also a comfort during yet another despondent lull in my life. Despite currently dwelling in a nicer apartment and neighborhood, I still get bummed over my annual Christmas alone in NYC predicament. Crab rangoon to the rescue. I ended up eating the whole box over the course of that holiday week (and out of desperation turned to frozen jalepeno poppers when the rangoons ran dry) with sweet Thai chile sauce, the ultimate pairing if you ask me. But don’t get the impression that crab Rangoon is only meant to be enjoyed while sad and alone just because I turn to the fatty treat in times of need. Heavens no, what’s more social than warm cheese and fried dough? A plate of rangoons, a bottle of chile sauce, and thou.

Roll Your Own: Crab Rangoon Recipes

Gorton’s No, I wouldn’t trust food from a company that combines goldfish crackers and frozen fish sticks to make Fish on a Log, either.
Ming Tsai goes haute with cranberry chutney and a $50 Chardonnay pairing
Low carb (barf)

DuMont Burger

I don't know why I spent the past two weekends traipsing around Williamsburg
(I've tried to avoid the area for the past few years. I had a couple of
innocent beers at Zablozki's and was totally scared by the riff raff, all
entourage minus the star teeming out of SEA onto N. 6th St. Where do these
baseball capped phantoms come from? It doesn't seem worth the travel effort
from New Jersey or Long Island. Or from Bay Ridge or Bayside, for that
matter) but at least this Saturday I managed to keep my food and drink in my
stomach and out of public spaces.

Always the pessimist, I didn't have much faith that DuMont Burger, which
somehow became the out-of-the-blue focus of two of the four members I was
with, would still be open after 1am, but we were in luck.

The room was comfortably sparse, woody and counter and stool style. I'm more
of a booth gal, but eating at the bar felt more personal like our burgers
were being crafted just for us (well, technically they were since after the
first ten minutes we were the lone diners).

We ordered various permutations, a veggie burger, a mini and
two regular burgers, fries and a salad chosen for sides. I can only speak
for my own, a medium-rare gruyere topped burger with fries. Having a few
drinks under your belt always makes food a little tastier, but I truly think
this meal was top notch. The meat was juicy, if not more rare than medium (I
like a pink patty, but sticklers should probably order a notch more done
than usual) and slightly sweet, perhaps from Worcestershire sauce. I don't
think the sweetness of the brioche bun alone would've caused this. They come
thick, and with the addition of tomato slice, onion rounds, sweet pickles
and lettuce leaf it's a tad too tall. I guess the baby-mouthed could opt for
the mini, but I wanted my full 9 ounces, just squished down slightly.

The parsley flecked fries pretty were right on, neither too thick or
thin, nor too soggy or crispy. I've never been able to order a side salad
when fried potatoes are an option. Though as of January 9 I'm supposed to be
eating healthier, I'm not sure how DuMont Burger might fit into my proposed
betterment plan. Moderation, right? (1/7/05)

DuMont Burger * 314 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Bryant Park Grill


It wouldn't be my first choice for a company lunch, but its not as if I'm in
an expense account industry (well, advertising: yes, but a librarian within
such an organization: no). Per Se, Masa—not happening. As a
post-Christmas present our department was taken out to lunch by a former
company CEO who still holds court, at least figuratively, on some oak-heavy
floor that I've never ventured on. I didn't want to look a gift horse in the
mouth despite the host and the two employees who ordered after him all
asking for the exact same Caesar salad and cheese ravioli special. Weird. I
got the boring womans choice: roasted chicken, though primarily for the
french fries that came on the side. And since I wasn't paying I didnt feel
much guilt about only eating half of my food (not by choice—everyone
else just ate faster and I had to stop too). Isn't that the French
way everyone seems to smitten with
lately? Eat whatever you want, but
just a few bites. Waste is so chic.

Bryant Park Grill * 25 W.
40th St., New York, NY

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que


I tend to scoff at New Yorkers who deem anyplace in the boroughs or far
reaches of Manhattan impossible to get to. There are very few subway
inaccessible spots on the big island, there's no excuse except not actually
wanting to make the effort. Ill cop to being ignorant of most of everything
above midtown, mainly because everyone I know lives south or east, not
north, but I'm not opposed to trying unfamiliar corners. When it came to
finding Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, my Brooklyn-centric stripes began to show.

In theory it seemed like either the 137th or 125th
street stations would be fine since theyre both equidistant number-wise from
131st. The 1/9 went screwy and bypassed 125th for
137th. Fine, no biggie. But instead of walking the six simple
blocks down Broadway, I opted away from the crowd and went for the next
block west, Riverside Dr. This shouldve been a tip off because I knew the
restaurant was underneath Riverside Dr. and how could it sit underneath a
street and also be along it?

Despite the snow flurries, as usual I was still sweaty from impatiently
huffing around. I made it past 134th before realizing that I was
up in the air on an overpass that extended as far as my line of vision.
Dinosaur Bar-B-Que was clearly somewhere beneath my feet. And I'd already
trudged what felt like a long way. I couldnt cut back to Broadway without
completely backtracking to where I'd originally came from. So frustrating,
and I had no one to blame except myself. At least I was working off my large
lunch from Bryant Park Grill (weird restaurant choice, but it wasn't mine to

Once inside, cozy with an IPA microbrew I was able to settle down and
take in the peculiar surroundings and now pretty falling snow. There would
be no guessing you were in New York City if you hadnt traipsed through East
Harlem (and had a large party of heavily accented, muscle bound, New
Jersey-esque type guys with cell phones attached to their ears, sitting
right next to you. I did appreciate that they considered Cuban sandwiches to
be perfectly normal appetizers to order. Never mind why Cubanos are on the
menu at all, though I faintly recall the same weirdness at Blue Smoke) to
get there. For one, the space is quite large, and woody, rustic like a
roadhouse. I don't know their whole history, except that theyre from
Syracuse, have something to do with bikers and have a loyal following.
Clearly theyre shooting for an outlaw vibe, which I've never really
understood about barbecue, how its somehow developed this extreme or tough
persona, perhaps because grilling, smoke and fire are mens domains, who
knows. The staff were also unusual for NYC—friendly, guiless,
bubbly—perhaps they are upstate tagalongs.

We started with spicy, earthy boiled shrimp, which felt very New
Orleans. I had the big-ass pork plate, despite minor reservations with
saying the name (not out of piousness but because I have issues with silly
food titles—moons over my hammy, anyone? I noticed a guy near us just
ordered “the pork plate” which prompted his server to force him
into saying big-ass).

Despite a short southern jaunt last summer, I'm hardly a barbecue
aficionado, but I would give high marks to the limited items I did taste at
Dinosaur. My pulled pork came with a slightly sweet sauce, which was fine
though others might prefer a different style topping (there are three sauce
choices on the table). I like that the meat was tender, yet also with a few
crispy bits on the fringe. I only ate one pork rib, but it was also
flavorful and not overly fatty. Barbecue isnt about the sides, but my beans
and salt potatoes were surprisingly good. I'm not usually a fan of bbq
beans, but these were loaded with smoky meat, and the potatoes were in a
slick of oozing butter. It's hard to beat butter and salt for simplicity and

There wasn't room for dessert, though I've heard good things. I hate to
say it, but I'd be inclined to use a car next time. Even so, Ill still
harbor ill will towards the subway-impaired, I cant help it.

Dinosaur Bar-B-Que *
646 W. 131st St., New York, NY

Indian Oasis

The best New Years Day hangover food ever. It's usually hard enough just to
get dressed on days like these, let alone leave the house. But I'd been
dying to try Indian Oasis, lured by reports of sublime Indian Chinese (as in
Chinese food theyd serve in India, which got me to wondering what Chinese
food around the world must be like. At least India is nearby, but what about
someplace like Finland or Panama?) and Thai food. I forced myself to get in
gear, desperately in need of a savory, spicy kick off for 2005.

This is one of those restaurants where I regret only being able to order
so many dishes. I suppose thats why group dining can be desirable, except in
my case where everyone I know seems to have some sort of dietary quirk or
irrational aversion to anything fun. The menu is varied, and having both the
Chinese and Thai food is a little incongruous (or the best of both worlds
depending on your outlook). Our penang shrimp, while very good, seemed
strange mingling on the same plate with kung pao potatoes (what a great
invention) and chilli lamb Hakka style.

All of our Chinese-Indian food was very dark, rich and liberally spiced.
The sweetly named drums of heaven: crispy, saucy lollipopped chicken wings,
also fell into this canon, which I don't think is necessarily Hakka (if I'm
correct they are known for dried and pickled items, as well as pork usage)
but some Indo-hybrid. I need to learn what ingredients they use for their
dishes, because its wonderful on the tongue. That also could have something
to do with a purported heavy MSG hand. But I was feeling so toxic after a
night of excess that a few more chemicals couldnt have possibly done any

Indian Oasis *
HoraceHarding Expressway, Fresh Meadows, NY