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Pack(age) Rat: Madagascar Green Peppercorns


One of the most eye-catching cans in a typically boring grocery section. Nice use of a single color.

Something to Be Thankful For

gostner schwaige bread bowlIn 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).

Green-Eyed Monster

Matt Rainey for The New York Times

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?

Hello and Goodbye

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.


gambrinus quad

twoshovelI 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.

gambrinus exterior

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.

gambrinus fish platter

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.

gambrinus seafood blintzes

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.

gambrinus salad

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.

gambrinus piano

The benefit of the now cold weather is that the piano player won’t be so alone.

Gambrinus * 3100 Ocean Parkway, Brooklyn, NY





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.



That’s BREE-osh to You

According to USA Today, unlike those white bread boomers, millennials are demanding “unconventional bread options” for their burgers, and fast food chains are happy to comply.

“For those who can’t pronounce the word, it’s BREE-osh, a light, slightly sweet French bread that’s made with milk, eggs and a rich yeast dough.”

The beauty of being part of a generation that slacked so hard we ceased to exist, at least to marketers, is that no one gives a rat’s ass if I eat my burger on a multigrain bun, Hawaiian bread bun, chipotle-studded bun, pretzel bun or even on brioche, however the youngsters pronounce it.

“Millennials need to have something that says who they are — uniquely them. The more unique the better — hold the raisins.”

I could also eat raisin bread and not let it define me. Or maybe even Craisins, a dried, sweetened cranberry introduced by Ocean Spray in 1993, likely to target boomer moms rather than Gen Xers hitting their peak sell-to-me years. Craisins are pronounced like cranberry minus the ranberry plus raisin.



While the Time debacle was sucking up everybody’s attention yesterday, a most important (highly unrelated) tidbit was overlooked: the teen from Me and You and Everyone We Know is a chef?


As beautiful as the food at Alumette looks, I would have a hard time not thinking of pooping back and forth forever while eating it.


Photo: Tasting Table

The Week in International Intrigue: Ping Pong, Pizza Hat, Philly Steaks

mash donald's

Remember when Susan Sarandon got all into ping pong and opened SPiN with her super-young boyfriend? Now Dubai is having that experience, but with gold-plated tables, naturally.

Those ping-pongers will soon be able to brunch at Clinton Street Baking Company too.

Iranians are master fast food appropriators.

Johnny Rockets has been in Kuwait for 18 years and is continuing its Mideast expansion.

What does anyone know about Belgian food beyond fries and waffles? Soon enough New Yorkers will find out when healthy fast-casual EKKi  shows up in Manhattan. Based on the Facebook page, there will be farro, bowtie pasta and couscous.

Charleys Philly Steaks wants to fill “a void in the Russian market for quality, grilled sandwiches.”

Americans love Costa Rica so it’s not really surprising that the country would get a few Dairy Queens.

Photo: via Buzzfeed

Cerveceria Havemeyer

twoshovelFor me, Cerveceria Havemeyer, newborn kin of La Superior, has been a bit of a lifesaver.  It fills the same super-close, crowd-pleasing (who doesn’t like Mexican food and margaritas?) free seats on a weekend night niche as Taco Chulo, but with better food and music (someone really likes Thee Oh Sees and The Walkmen).

For you, I don’t know? I would say that if you happened to be in Williamsburg and wanted a good sit-down taco al pastor and a strong drink, this would meet, and maybe even exceed your needs. (The now permanent Brooklyn Taco pop-up inside of Donna also thrives in this Williamsburg-Mex genre, but with more emphasis on the cocktail side and fewer menu options.)

cerveceria haveymeyer taco al pastor

Carne asada and tinga are fine standards, but lesser cuts are sorely lacking in the immediate area. So, in addition to the recommended spit-roasted
pork, it’s nice to see cheeks, tongues and skin also put to use (eaten, but not pictured).

cerveceria haveymeyer volcan

Volcanes are tostadas blanketed in melted cheese (the lava?). Rajas work for that vegetarian friend, but meats can be piled on instead.

cerveceria haveymeyer aguachile

The masa-avoidant can have aguachiles (and ignore the accompanying basket of tortilla chips) which are a less lime-marinated ceviche. The shrimp version with truly raw seafood, no firming or pinkening, was powerfully spicy.

cerveceria haveymeyer margarita & chicharones de harina

It’s also fine to just drink and snack on the free (bottomless, as they say in the Red Robin world) chicharrones de harina, Puffed wheat
wagon wheels striped with hot sauce and served with lime wedges. The $12 margaritas (classic, guava, hibiscus, tamarind) are really two drinks in one. Half sizes are available for half the price.

Cerveceria Havemeyer * 149 Havemeyer St., Brooklyn, NY