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Posts from the ‘Carroll Gardens’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Farewell to Carroll Gardens

Hbh sandwiches smith st. cheesesteak. cheesesteakk

HBH Gourmet Sandwiches. This is totally one of those
places that was new and talked-about and so ridiculously close to my apartment
that I could put off going for some time. It finally turned out to be that
time. (I did not get to Court Street Grocers, however–too many damn sandwiches in the neighborhood.) It's also totally one of those kinds of absolutely delicious (and kind of ugly when transported home and unwrapped) but caloric
sandwiches that makes you wonder why artisanal food gets a health halo–what do
you mean Shake Shack isn't good for you?–while other equally fatty food  is disparaged. Quality ingredients, yes, I
know. This Smith St. cheesesteak, all tender short rib meat and taleggio on
cibatta, is nothing like a cheesesteak, so if you're craving shaved beef of
questionable quality and processed cheese, this will not satisfy.

Seersucker black pepper ricotta dumplingsSeersucker. I didn't grow up using the term townie,
which feels more east coast anyway. I didn't need to because Portland was
nothing but townies. I like the word, though, so I'm going to call the person
in my neighborhood who told me that Seersucker was expensive with tiny portions
even for her, a tiny person, a townie. I'd resisted for years, based on the
name alone (which I chalked up to being a crank until a non-cranky coworker who
lived on the block also hated it and was coming up with other deserving
fabrics–perhaps Gabardine? Oh, my, that's already been taken by a Top Chef in
San Diego). My duck with a succotash-ish bed of kernels at first did seem a little
precious, but was rich, and the Berkshire pork, fall-apart belly topped with
cracklings (and I swear there was a third pork component) was flat-out meaty. The
prices were fair and reflective of what was on the plate. It was good enough
that I forgot to even snap lame camera phone pics of the mains and only
captured the starter of ricotta dumplings in a crazy broth perfumed with salty
country ham. One day I may eventually warm up to the owners' future Vietnamese
food project too, even if it doesn't make a lot of sense on the surface.

Prime Meats. There aren't a ton of dining choices
close to 11pm on a weeknight in my now-a-memory south of Fourth Place universe.
I was curious about what pleasures an $18 1/2 lb Creekstone Farms Angus burger
might provide. More than a Guy Fieri burger created from beef of the same
origin, I hated to admit. I only stole a bite, technically a forkful meat
barely held by a wet bun because it was the tail end of the meal and the whole
thing had nearly fallen apart with texture matching my steak tartare. Prime Meats grew on me over time, though I would never crowd in for brunch.




Eaten, Barely Blogged: Mexico, Spain, Brooklyn

Pampano quad

Pampano doesn't get the attention of other newer, cooler Mexican restaurants, but it remains popular, seemingly with early-stage dates, guys who appear businesslike, and older Spanish-speaking women with younger relatives who only speak English. I was there to sample a new summer menu spotlighting ingredients from La Paz in Baja California. (I've also been before of my own volition, so this isn't totally shilly. And yeah, Richard Sandoval rivals Ducasse with his international expansion efforts, but I'm still curious enough to try a tapa or two at Toro Toro when I'm in Dubai this weekend. Ha, that's sounds hilarious, as if I'm always off to glitzy places.) Supposedly, different regions in Mexico will be featured throughout the year. The full menu is here with details, but I can say that the bacon-wrapped shrimp (is there a bad bacon-wrapped shrimp?) with a chipotle sauce, grilled pineapple and melon ball-sized rounds of avocado was the standout with its sweet, creamy and salty components. And it didn't hurt that the presentation was so pretty. An all-seafood meal, there were also smoked clams, a tamarind mahi-mahi and a tuna tamalito. The guava pastry did not contain seafood, thankfully, just fruit and Damiana, an herbal liqueur said to have aphrodisiac properties (they're not boasting that claim on the menu, though maybe it's legit since even WebMD mentions that usage for the herb).

Tapeo29 trio

Tapeo29 I find myself coming back here with increasing frequency. The corner bar using open windows instead of air conditioning is more Madrid than Barcelona (though both cities would let you sweat in the summer) meaning traditional, not avant-garde (I don't know the Spanish for avant-garde–de vanguardia?). Chorizo al sidra, croquetas de bacalao and boquerones aren't surprising, but they are satisfying, and before 8pm on weeknights only $6 each (plus wine and cocktails for the same price). I always leave a little drunker than intended and just full enough.

Lavender lake aperol spritzLavender Lake I didn't try any food and, frankly, it's the kind of place I read about on blogs, or rather The Times Style Magazine, in this case, and decide that there's no need to rush over. Can I live without "Scandinavian  rustic" in Gowanus? (I also refuse to give pseudo-neighborhood, Gowanus, its own category–it's two blocks from the F train.) But I didn't realize it was located on the relaxing, over-the-canal route I occasionally take home when I feel like the F is going to crush my soul so I preemptively take the R all the way to Union Street and walk the mile-and-a-quarter to my apartment. So, I had an Aperol spritz, which is dangerously close to a white wine spritzer (in spirit, not taste) and awkwardly sat by myself on a folding chair too short to reach the bar-like ledge on the back patio. At 7pm there wasn't a free table in the entire yard, which is a common phenomena and I'm certain would've been the same even an hour earlier. I'm convinced no one in Carroll Gardens actually works, despite the crazy real estate prices. Regardless, it's a pretty place, all muted tones and reclaimed wood, like a physical Instagram.

Brooklyn Ice House I have far less to say about this Red Hook bar than Lavender Lake, and yet I like it more. Thai chile sauce wings served Buffalo style (blue cheese, carrots and celery) and a pint of Sixpoint Righteous Ale don't need rehashing. Neither bar has a website, which is distressing.

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Double Dandelion Greens & Falafel Three Ways

Levant duo

Levant I never ever used to order delivery, maybe more due to social anxiety (I hate ordering by phone–there's always a misunderstanding) than an abhorrence for convenience. But Seamless has won me over lately because it cuts down on all that messy interpersonal interacting. I was a little bummed when Palmyra went belly up, but turns out it was ok because they were replaced with another Middle Eastern restaurant with better food. Or at least more variety–there's not just falafel but Jordanian (chickpea and fava), Egyptian (fava) or Syrian (chickpea) falafel. I had the standard all-chickpea fritter in my five for $13 mezze, along with labneh shateh (spicy), muhammara, mukhalal (pickled vegetables with a whole preserved lemon tossed in) and mousa'a, a steaming hot stewy eggplant dish not pictured. The pizzas, a.k.a. manakeesh are only $6. The lahmeh bi ajin was topped with ground beef, onions, pine nuts, and was a little salty. I'm curious about the one with blue cheese, dates, honey and walnuts.

Paprika selection

Paprika Despite its existence on St. Marks for 12 years, I don't recall ever noticing this Italian restaurant. There are just too many Italian restaurants in NYC, I'm afraid. That's why owner and chef, Egidio Donagrandi, has gone back to his roots and revamped much of the menu to reflect the cuisine of Valtellina, a Northern Italian region bordering Switzerland. It's also why I was attending a preview dinner. Gone is most of the red sauce (there are still meatballs–lamb, by the way) and a different type of hearty food has taken its place. Buckwheat plays a role the tagliatelle and the lasagna with leeks and fonduta (pictured), Northern Italian cheeses like new-to-me, Bitto, enhance the polenta, also given a little heft with buckwheat, pickled vegetables frequently show up as with the oyster mushrooms atop the bresaola. Also shown here is black kale with pickled onion and almonds, a dandelion salad with pickled radishes and creamy crescenza cheese, and beef crudo with beets and chicory. (Obviously, there are substantial mains, too, but the light waned and I didn't have my real camera on hand to adequately capture them.) Maybe my end-of-2011 prediction that Alpine cuisine would be a break out, will prove true. What happened with Harold Dieterle's The Marrow, anyway?

Frankies 457 Now that Pok Pok exists, waiting an hour for a table at Frankies seems like nothing. Technically, I'd already eaten enough snacks earlier to constitute a meal so post 10pm dinner was fine. But to counteract the already-eaten food, I went healthy and ordered a dandelion greens salad with octopus instead of pasta (well, I also shared a charcuterie plate). It was a bit too healthy, like giant bowl of tart, nicely dressed weeds accented by charred octopus tendrils. I would recommend sharing this unless you're the type who can regularly eat a whole forest of kale in one sitting.

Brick house cocktail listBrick House Tavern + Tap I've mentioned this suburban breastaurant (which seems to be decreasingly breastaurant-y) before. I only want to mention that a short cocktail list with a Manhattan twist and a drink using Firefly sweet tea vodka seems to be in at these corporate-type establishments (Is there a company or consultant who designs lists for restaurants? I feel like I should know.) Brick House has a Woodford Reserve Peach Manhattan (which I ordered) and a Carolina Spiked Tea (which I would never order because I hate sweet tea). Though I can't find any cocktail lists on their websites, both Republic Gastropub and Bricktown Brewery (no relation to Brick House) Brewery in Oklahoma City also had prominently featured a sweet tea cocktail and a fruity Manhattan.

Prime Meats

1/2 It's not really fair to judge things based on outdated notions. My first and last visit to Prime Meats was when the menu and space was a fraction of its current size. It's one of the closest (probably the closest after Frankies) restaurants to my apartment but I avoid venues that tend to have people waiting/loitering outside the door.

Maybe I give off this impression wordlessly too? I always thought I did a good job of masking my internal old and cranky self. At 7:30pm on a Wednesday (playing hooky from Spanish class–I hope no one there reads this) the dining room was less than a quarter full, and we were given a free-standing table for two instead of being fitted into the row of tables along the wall.

Prime meats applejack sazaracAn applejack sazarac, sweetened lightly with maple syrup is a nice way to start. The cocktail, along with the stewy, braised, Germanic-leaning menu, also reinforced the disconnect between the season and the weather. Fortifying food makes sense in late January; less so as temperatures soar above 60 degrees.

Prime meats new brunswick oysters

A half-dozen savory oysters from New Brunswick (I zoned out on the name) seemed better suited for a bare-legged winter evening.

Prime meats vesper brett

Ok, and a meat board, the so-called Vesper Brett. The selection included ham, calves' tongue, bacon, landjager (like a softer, fatter pepperoni), and chicken liver pate with assorted pickles and a milder "health bread" than the darker, denser stuff packaged into tight rectangles at certain grocery stores. Speaking of German-style bread, I'm kind of excited for Landbrot to open.

Prime meats sürkrüt garnie

Somehow the sürkrüt garnie (no Frenchie choucroute here) managed to be light despite containing three meats: a small amount of pork belly, a bratruwurst, and a substantial slices of calves' tongue (yes, again) that I mistook for brisket in its pleasantly fatty, chewy texture.  When I say light, I only mean that in comparison to the version experienced recently at Renger Patzsch in Berlin. Unlike in Germany, though, I felt no strangeness in taking my leftovers home for dinner the following night.

Prime meats herb & gruyere cheese spätzle

Why not a shared side of gruyere-infused spätzle too?

You don't have to order German food (weird that I also ordered the exact same dish in 2009–I really like pork and fermented cabbage). That's just what I happen to like about Prime Meats and I wasn't up for paying nearly double for the goat special ($32 vs $18 sürkrüt garnie) even if it is my favorite underrated meat.  I could see myself going back on a weeknight, though I'll probably continue to stay clear of the  patrons spilling out onto the sidewalk brunch.

Prime Meats * 465 Court St., Brooklyn, NY

VIP@ Thai Cuisine

The other night, I found a paper menu for something called VIP@ Thai Cuisine in the foyer. What the what? I immediately recognized its peculiar brand of menu chaos–and then I decided to place an order. Apparently, Em Thai has rebranded as VIP@ Thai Cuisine. The thing about VIP@ Thai Cuisine/Em Thai is that there are a handful of dishes on the menu that make them the only Thai restaurant I'll order from in the neighborhood, but 90% of the other offerings (the already voluminous menu grew with the re-do) are middling or just plain weird.

I expect them to abide the pad thai, spring roll, green curry tastes of Carroll Gardens, but who asked for a new rambling dessert section? Key lime pie, Living on the Island (coconut jelly in a shell), something called Golden Palaces with no description, and Ruby Coco, i.e. tab tim krob (the one Thai dessert I've ever learned to make) are just a few new choices.

The handful of acceptable, more or less "real" dishes–steamed fish, a spicy pork thing, seafood salad, minced pork with chile and basil topped with a fried egg, grilled chicken with papaya salad–used to be relegated to a tiny section where they warned about heat levels. That "Authentic Specialty" section has grown to 26 items and now includes a panang curry with avocado (even though tempura'd, the vegetal-fruit is great, I'm grossed out by its presence in a hot stewy concoction), chicken breast in a walnut sauce with jade (spinach?) noodles, pork chop on a green salad, and udon all over the place. Oh, and they removed the fried chicken wing salad–I liked that oddball!

Duck duo

I went wild and ordered the rock & roll duck when I really wanted to order the shrimp cheesy roll, a.k.a. " Shrimp, celery, scallions, spinach and Philadelphia cheese wrapped in a rice paper," but chickened out.  Actually it's a roti, not rice paper, and akin to peking duck pancake sandwich with one piece of meat, one scallion, one cucumber spear, and shredded lettuce as filler, er, and  plopped atop a bed of baby spinach. It's heftier than a $1 Flushing peking duck sandwich because of the roti, but more Brooklyn-priced at $6.

VIP@ thai cuisine pa cha pork red hot

Pa Cha Pork Red Hot is genuinely hot, though I always make a polite request in my Seamless Web order to make everything extra spicy because you can't take too many precautions around here.  The krachai, pickled peppercorns, and torn lime leaves, add an extra dimension and earthiness rarely found in the overly sweet local Thai food.

VIP@ thai cuisine duck salad

Duck salad (yes, double duck) is maybe fried a little hard, though it kind of reproduces the bony catfish chunks sometimes found in Thai curries. The pineapple and shredded mango are naturally sweet and balanced by the requested heat. Cashews never hurt.

VIP@ Thai Cuisine * 278 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY


I had only been to Monte’s Venetian Room, the so-called oldest Italian restaurant in Brooklyn that sat dormant for the past few years and was just reincarnated, once in its original state, probably around 2003. It was the last time I ever saw my stalker, an unstable former coworker (librarian, naturally) who originally seemed harmless because I thought he was gay and too old (late 30s, ha). I mean, it’s not like I get a lot of stalkers so I had to get the attention where I could find it even though it needed to be nipped in the bud. After two mid-afternoon gin and tonics at Monte’s bar, that was that was that.

Monte's facade

On Friday night, half past nine, the bar was the liveliest section of the new room, Venetian mural removed, wood-burning oven installed. The two-for-one drinks advertised on the chalkboard outside probably had something to do with it. We had our pick of seats and choose a red booth mimicking the original the leather banquettes in the same shade.

Monte's bresaola salad

The arugula salad with lots of parmesan and thin slices of breasola was good and; the focaccia and crusty Italian bread was a nice accompaniment.

Monte's bread basket

So, too was the diavola pizza, layered with sopressata, briny olives bound by a generous application of mozzarella atop a crust more yeasty than crackly. How did I become too distracted to take a photo? That never happens, which could be the sign that I’m finally weaning myself from rampant picture-taking. It really wasn’t because I was concentrating on the food, even though the pizza was at least as good as anything else in the neighborhood.

That was the issue I got stuck on. Why was no one there on a Friday night? It’s not the cuisine. Even though I think the area should put a moratorium on Italian food, I know I’m not the norm. South Brooklyn is teeming with similar reasonably priced antipasti, pasta, secondi restaurants and they’re busy. I don’t mean destinations like Frankies 457 or really Brucie, Rucola, Bocca Lupo or that ilk, but comparable spots like Savoia, the enoteca next to Marco Polo, Fragole. Even Red Rose, which always looks a little down on its luck gruffly turned me away a few months ago. Not a single free seat on a Saturday.

That leaves location as the problem. Gowanus, as much as I love it, isn’t really Carroll Gardens or Park Slope. There’s not a lot of foot traffic, hence no potential spillover from neighboring restaurants. I’ve always thought much of Smith Street’s popularity was due to the volume of restaurants, not necessarily the food quality. It looks bustling; people want to go. And if one place is full, you pick another Thai/Sushi/Italian/Small Plates option.

(Part of the reason I forgot to take photos was because when I saw James’ orecchiette I brought up Gabrielle Hamilton’s Blood, Bones &  Butter because I had just reached the part where she was making that pasta in Italy and I then started going off on a tangent about how had described Smith Street as “that minor-league stretch of Brooklyn that always disappoints,” which I wouldn’t disagree with. Then she lost me with the following overblown inaccuracy: “I would rather starve and kill my children—Medea-like—than eat the truffle oil omelette with chorizo ‘foam’ and piquillo peppers at Soleil or Blue Bird or whatever those restaurants are called…” Twee names maybe, but Spanish flourishes, foam and truffle oil are totally foreign concepts in the vicinity.)

Luna Rossa, at the butt-end of Court is in the same situation as Monte’s. They both have similar menus and aren’t grabbing attention on a non-prime block. I think people just go to Luna Rossa because they have a back garden. Perhaps, Monte’s could work the not-yet-realized patio beer garden mentioned in the press. I’m not sure what the solution is, but you have to stand out.

Monte's bar

One of the owners happened to be picking the brains of a young couple at the bar that had replaced the earlier, raucous crowd of locals. Are Open Table, Seamless Web, foursquare and email marketing blasts worth it? How to get on “foodie blogs?” Ostensibly, I work in digital marketing (and even wrote a report called Digital Dining: Chain Restaurants Add Social Media, Mobile to the Menu) but frankly I don’t feel comfortable giving advice because it would only be something obvious and generic like create a quality product and people will come to you. That’s as obnoxious as book deal bloggers talking about cream rising, passion, doing what you love and the money will follow, blah, blah.

I might try to capitalize on Monte’s history rather than coming in as just another Italian-American restaurant in an area thick with them. Keep the pizza, add updated classics, Rat Pack era cocktails or even modern cocktails with Italian flourishes–Fernet Branca is in, right? It could be pulled off by someone with a sharp aesthetic, but it would be tricky to avoid crossing over into kitsch or alienating whoever this target audience is supposed to be. Astor Room hasn’t been wildly successful with this approach, though, so I will zip it now.

Monte’s * 451 Carroll St., Brooklyn, NY

Me & My Egg Roll

Earlier this week I spied a shocking development on the corner of Court and 2nd. I’m surprised I noticed it at all because normally during my home-to-subway walk I’m zombified but speedy (more 28 Days Later  than Walking Dead) rarely noticing anything in my path. There was no doubt about this, though. Even I could see that Me & My Egg Roll, the Chinese takeout place with the best name for miles, had not only re-opened its permanently gate-down, lights-out dining room, but was now advertising Vietnamese sandwiches and bubble tea on a crisp new awning.

Me & my egg roll awning

When I moved to Carroll Gardens (last week I realized I’m one-month shy of seven years, far longer than I’ve lived in any one place in my adult life. No wonder I’ve become so burnt out on the neighborhood despite the fondness everyone else in the city seems to have for it) I never would’ve anticipated a banh mi shop appearing around the corner. I’d given up on convenient tacos (do not try convincing me that Calexico and Oaxaca serve real Mexican food) and Vietnamese sandwiches after leaving Sunset Park in 2004.

Better late than never. And just because I declared a banh mi ban in 2009, doesn’t mean that I’m not happy to finally have the beloved sandwich being made four blocks from my apartment. Luckily, this work-from-home snow day coincided with their opening, so I could pop over during my lunch break.

Me & my egg roll interior

I can’t say if they’ve redecorated the dining room filled with about eight-to-ten four-seaters because I never got a good look at the dim space before (I’m fairly certain that when I did first move here, you could still dine-in).The room is utilitarian with recessed ceiling emanting colorful glowing light and a few pendant lamps for good measure, but not dreary like sitting in the one or two plastic booths you might find at your corner takeout spot. A twosome who appeared to be a middle-aged son and mother were sipping coffees (the woman asked the man if my bubble tea was a smoothie, which reminded jaded me that decade-old Taiwanese trends aren’t a part of everyone’s word) out of paper cups, a younger man was eating in and waiting a bit for his food like I was and a lot of passerbys stopped to peek inside.

You can order from the Me & My Egg Roll menu (I’ll admit that when I’m in the mood for Chinese-American takeout I choose Wing Hua because they’re the only ones who serve crab rangoon) or the new one, which devotes most space to drinks—37 of them—five sandwiches and three resolutely American salads.

Me & my egg roll banh mi

Banh mi are $5 apiece, which is fair (you don’t want me to tell you about how they were only $1.50 in Portland a million years ago again, do you?) and falls between Chinatown and contemporary Vietnamese in Manhattan pricing.

Me & my egg roll house special The house special was good for an opening day sandwich. One of the staffers admitted that they were still getting it right. Most of the components were there: lunchmeats, cucumbers, pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, ground and bbq pork, mayonnaise… but the balance skewed a little sweet, maybe from a sugary pickling liquid and thickly sliced char siu. What it lacked was chiles and the pate, both mentioned on the menu. A little heat and creaminess would’ve added more dimension. Sriricha is always on my shelf, so that was easily rectified. The bread was fresh and pliable with a little chew, though not particularly crackly. Given the neighborhood, it’s probably Italian bread, not a traditional French baguette.

I realized the taro bubble tea was a mistake after I got out the door. The mauve beverage filled with brown orbs draws attention. Also, I needed my arms for balance while trudging through slippery piles of slush and navigating single-file paths carved out of feet of snow (not easy with the amount of dog and stroller traffic in the area—I really don’t enjoy playing chicken with strangers in the slush).

Me & my egg roll bubble tea

I tried squeezing past two boys, shovelers for hire, and one turned to ask me something. Oh no, I read enough police blotters to know that kids are always punching people and snatching their iPhones (I’m more concerned that they’ll discover that I only have a Cliq XT and punch me harder because it’s such a piece of shit phone).

“Where did you get that drink?” he said.

Oh, right, everyone’s into food these days. “Um, at the Chinese place down the street, Me and My Egg Roll,” I replied.

“So, it’s like a milkshake?” he asked.

“Yeah, I like it,” I said and then wondered why I said I like it instead of answering the question. I guess bubble tea is like a milkshake. Did he really need me to go on about Taiwanese tea being co-opted by Vietnamese and now sold by Chinese in Brooklyn? No, that deserves a punch.

Now I wonder if the kids who have been known to eat monochromatic fried combo meals from Styrofoam containers (and get into altercations with the staff) while gathered outside Me & My Egg Roll’s takeout door, will start asking for milkshakes.

Me & My Egg Roll * 407 Court St., Brooklyn, NY


Palo Cortado

Palo Cortado is an ideal restaurant in that I will be able to use my visit as fodder when asked to explain en español what I did the past week in my weekly Spanish class, two-and-a-half blocks away. It’s also the only tapas bar in the area—Reds Produce never really caught on and La Mancha, technically in Brooklyn Heights, has always seemed a bit off—so by default, it’s welcome on this burgeoning stretch of lower Court Street.

The food is traditional, straightforward, no gastronomic pyrotechnics in the modern Catalan tradition.  And that’s fine. I suspect they’ll reap benefits from Buttermilk Channel’s spillover.

Palo cortado meats & cheeses The small square table could barely contain our selection of meats (chorizo, jamon iberico, lomo embuchado) and cheeses (caña de cabra, idiazabal, valdeon). I had idiazabal at home in the fridge, so ordering more when out is a testament to how much I like the smoked sheep’s milk cheese. I always feel like they cut the jamon a bit too chunky in Brooklyn, but I’ve stopped caring. It doesn’t really affect the taste, and they captured enough ivory ribbons of fat in the slices.

Palo cortado croquetas There’s something about fried balls of mush that makes them end up tasting the same even though they were crafted from very different and often tasty base ingredients. The goat cheese with truffle honey, jamon with piquillo sauce and bacalao with salsa verde would’ve been nearly indistinguishable without their accompaniments as signals. Croquetas do beat mozzarella sticks with marinara, though.

Palo cortado patatas bravas I’ve had so many versions of patatas bravas in the US and Spain that I don’t even know what’s standard or if there is a standard. Aioli and tomato sauce, one or the other, pimenton, no pimenton, cubed, sliced thinly into rounds, sauce on the top, sauce on the side. These golden squares did have nice crispy surfaces, and a good ratio of lightly spiced tomato sauce and thin aioli. It’s hard to have a problem with a fried chunk of potato.

It’s nice having a walkable place to drink a glass of Rioja and nibble on chorizo and Marcona almonds, but I wouldn’t feel right telling anyone to travel more than a subway stop or two to pay a visit. Palo Cortado is best for lazy locals feeling tapas-deprived.

Palo Cortado * 520 Court St., Brooklyn, NY

Buttermilk Channel

Hate is a very strong word. At least that’s what my mother tried hammering into my head for years. That didn’t make me banish the word from my vocabulary–sometimes you really don’t like something. I’ll never be able to soften my stance on women substituting tights for pants or people who insist on walking up-and-down the left sides of staircases (those who stand on the left side of escalators instead of walking are right up there).

Buttermilk channel bloody mary I’ve said that I hate brunch. That’s not really true. The whole ritual is kind of gross and not my thing, but it does make drinking before noon seem respectable and I can appreciate that. And since blizzards negate all normal self-imposed rules I felt ok with myself for seeking out the short rib hash down the street that I’d read about in Metromix’s Top Dishes of 2009 (my contribution to the list was Aldea’s arroz con pato).

But not before I ordered their classic bloody mary, a chunky, spicy (horseradish?) beverage in a tumbler with a pickle spear. Brunch comes with a mimosa, bellini or sparkling wine. I opted for the peachy cocktail towards the end of my meal because I don’t see them that often (probably because I don’t eat brunch). Who orders a bellini? That same night, I slogged through the not-that-engaging Elegy and Ben Kingsley ordered pre-dinner bellinis for Penelope Cruz and himself. I think it was supposed to be the choice of an older sophisticated man. That’s me all right.

Buttermilk channel short rib hash

The short rib hash is really a smart burst of decadence, not the greasy, heavy, starch-laden fare I often gravitate towards when dining out for my first meal of the day. Rich fatty meat, tiny cubes of potatoes and runny yolks are perfect with simple triangles of toast (the salt could’ve been toned down a notch, though). Hey, there’s even a little lettuce for extra class. In fact it was so well portioned that if there is to be a next time I’ll also order a short stack of pancakes or coffee cake. Savory demands sweet.

Previously on Buttermilk Channel.

Buttermilk Channel * 524 Court St., Brooklyn, NY

Sue Perette

1/2 Sue Perette, a play on superette, and possibly an homage to JOE'S S PERETTE down the street, home of famous prosciutto balls and missing letter U signage, recently opened on Smith Street in the former Café Dore space (which used to be a crepe place that I ate at back in 2001, way before I knew anything about Carroll Gardens and rapidly got a lesson in the laissez-faire, children run free local parenting style that wouldn’t be tolerated in Sunset Park where I was living at the time). At least it’s not another Thai restaurant.

Periodically I feel like a bad person for my lack of enjoyment in living in a desirable neighborhood and then resolve to try new things in hopes that I’ll discover something to make me excited about Carroll Gardens. It’s yet to happen. Sue Perette, thankfully, didn’t add to my negativity, though.

At 7pm on a Wednesday, I was surprised that we were the only diners, and remained so until the very end of our meal when three groups slowly trickled in. I pegged Smith Street as an early bird zone considering that if you stroll around after 10pm on a weeknight you can literally hear crickets. A lot of passerbys did peek in the window and at the menu posted out front. I, myself, am hesitant to take a chance on an unproven restaurant with entrees over $20. Price could be part of it. Also new Wing Stop across the street might be more mid-week speed for many.

Sue perette bread

While a bit nondescript in looks, Sue Perette is more personable than generic–you know, the Luluc’s and Bar Tabacs of the strip. It’s one of those rustic, canning jar, no fear of lard restaurants. In fact, bread is served with both butter and pork fat.

Sue perette pastifret

I didn’t know that until after I ordered pastifret, a pate-rillettes hybrid, or else I might’ve thought twice about all the congealed white porcine products I would be ingesting and chosen something healthier. The creamy soft meat was served with traditionally sour accompaniments: pickled onions and cornichons.

Sue perette double duck

The menu is brief and not radical in any way;  it’s French country cooking that doesn’t stray too far afield. I tried the double duck, a crispy rare breast cut into thirds atop scattered Brussels sprouts leaves glossy from chunks of confit. My original plan to only eat half and save the rest for another meal didn’t work out. One, despite the richness, I still wanted to eat the whole portion, and two, duck is never the same after reheating, there’s no way to preserve the skin and keep the meat from overcooking and turning livery.

I might be inclined to return and cobble together a meal from the snack section of the menu. The Brussels sprouts with duck confit can be found there served minus the breast. Polenta fries with parsley aioli also sound like they have potential.

We passed on dessert and had a nightcap at Brooklyn Social Club instead. Part two in my quest to ignite the flames of Carroll Gardens passion. I did like my Brooklyn (I just like rye—I wasn’t going overboard in borough boosterism) but I wouldn’t go so far as to say love.

Sue Perette * 270 Smith St., Brooklyn, NY