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Posts from the ‘Prospect Heights’ Category

Eaten, Barely Blogged: Ears, Tongue, Pizza, Pizza

margot's hot supreme

Margot’s Pizza It’s doubtful I would order a supreme anywhere else but this Saturday pop-up. Hawaiian is my suburban pizza  of choice, ham and pineapple being the sweet-and-kind antithesis of ground sausage and green peppers, but a supreme also seems like the ultimate bar pie style (casual, thin, crispy) even if I went slightly out of bounds with the Hot Supreme that wisely subs pickled jalapeños for those diced green peppers. This was a very good pizza, with a nearly frico’d rim and wonderfully anisey free-form sausage that made me wonder why I had a problem with it in the first place. All that was missing was a pitcher of beer (insert your own regional cheapie brand of choice). I lucked out when a friend and his friend turned out to be in attendance (the other two bar-sitters until Margot herself showed up) so I could swap for a slice of pepperoni drizzled with honey, more to my natural sweet-and-savory tendencies. Why is honey on pizza so good when it can be so gross in other guises?

el atoradero duo

El Atoradero Since I rarely stray beyond North Brooklyn if I’m going cross-borough due to public transportation logistics and general impatience, I had to squeeze in a second meal to make my Clinton Hill pizza journey more worth the while. After killing some time, trying to work up another appetite by counter-intuitively drinking beer and buying doughnuts in Bed-Stuy, double-borough-crossing Bronx-to-Prospect Heights Mexican it was. (And if you think I’m bad and provincial, I couldn’t convince any Brooklynites to meet me.) I had a nice taco, blue corn tortilla and chewy-crunchy pig ears, followed by tongue, dead opposite texturally, described as “like filet mignon” because of its softness, drenched in a moderately spicy salsa verde. Look at those tasty slabs. I’d prefer this to that pricier cut of beef even if it provokes revulsion on social media. It’s doubtful anyone would identify braised tongue if fed a delicious bite. As an aside, if I were someone else, someone to whom Plant Love House wasn’t dead to after abandoning Queens, I might’ve stopped by Look too on the way back to the G train.

00+co farro fennel pizza
00+Co If I were to choose a new-school, unconventional pizza in the East Village I would probably pick Bruno because I like cheese, but this was not up to me. Birthday dinners that aren’t yours are like that. I like modern vegan food. No biggie. It’s more like you have to evaluate a non-traditional pizza against itself not some Neapolitan standard. Same for Chicago pies. These are hardy pizzas, no doubt, with farro-fennel balls standing in for sausage on the one of my choosing, along with tomatoes and cashew mozzarella that was a little overshadowed. My favorite was the smoky, tangy grilled trumpet mushroom and walnut cream pizza with green harissa, an overall earthy vibe and noticeable lemony brightness that once again made me covet my neighbor’s slice. 

alewife solo lady receipt

Alewife is a fine enough place for a sour beer (and maybe a super dark stout or two if its Friday) and a pile of duck confit poutine on the way home from work if those two points are connected by the 7 train and and both Corner Bistro are Casa Enrique are full, but if you are a woman doing so alone at the bar it will not go unnoticed and might be used to identify you on your receipt. Yep, just a “solo lady” here. That’s me.


Eaten, Barely Blogged: Deer Dumplings, Deep Dish, Cold Beans

cooklyn duo

Cooklyn There are two types of New Brooklyn restaurants: those that bore and those that deliver the goods. (Also, I’m patiently awaiting the emergence of the New Queens restaurant). Cooklyn, perhaps even in spite of its name, falls into the latter camp with the assist of a few unexpected Greek touches. Yes, there’s octopus. I never order pasta but those I sampled, from a squid ink cavatelli to a lobster mac and cheese to a new-for-spring beef cheek fusilli with fontina, dried cherries, Kalamata olives and mint were strong. Notable small plates (no, they’re not going away) include two of the most un-Chinese versions of buns and wontons I’ve encountered in recent memory: lamb, dill and feta like a mini gyro, and venison dumplings (pictured) served with stone ground mustard.


Pizzeria Uno Like many fleeing obsessions, I don’t recall how or why I became consumed with hitting up an Uno for the first time in over 13 years (thanks to a history of documenting the mundane, I know exactly when my previous and first visit took place even if it’s embarrassing reading old missives). In that decade-plus span Uno added farro, artisan a.k.a. non-deep dish crusts, and arugula and prosciutto as toppings. What? No. I’m pleased to see that the chain is ditching the pseudo-upscale healthy trends and getting back to doughy basics. Sure, deep dish is kind of an abomination. Yet if you think of it as a lasagna with a tart-like buttery crust, it’s reconcilable.

maravillas chicharrone

Maravillas I naively assumed that a dish called chicharrones en salsa verde would contain a strip of crispy pork, all crunch and contrast, not soggy, soft skin rolled around the meat. I did not hate this, mostly because the sauce was great and that level of fiery where you begin feeling a tingle creep through your tonsils up into your ears, and perfectly tempered by corn tortillas that I’m pretty sure weren’t store bought. The chips made from these tortillas were light and flaky, but the nachos they were a part of? My gringo punishment. (I’d just had an exchange with the guy replacing a window in my apartment upon seeing my last name: “Can you make Spanish food? You look like someone who cooks cabbage.”) They were cold, not just cold like food delivered carelessly and slow–the pork was steamy–but never warmed in the first place. Chilled beans and solid squares of Munster beneath hte guacamole and sour cream. And I still want to return in person despite all this.

pampas parillada

Pampas Argentinas If you find yourself hopped up on tiki drinks at End of the Century (and maybe a surreptitious puff on a silent residential street) and aren’t up for Danny Brown Wine Bar next door and it’s too late for a sundae at Eddie’s, Pampas is a fine enough choice for splitting a parrillada for two three ways and still being barraged by meat. It’s also a little pricier and a lot weirder than the better known Argentine/Uruguayan steakhouses of Jackson Heights/Elmhurst/Corona. You’ll get chicken, not intestines, which is more accurate for Forest Hills. You will also hear a lot of ’70s soft rock, some deep cuts even, Gerry Rafferty plus much Steely Dan. White sangria might come wine-free but tasting like rum. Um, I guess none of that is so weird in retrospect. I did accidentally tip over $100 and had to fill out a new slip, then walked two miles and spent nearly two hours getting the four miles home, none of which was Pampas’ fault.

The Vanderbilt

1/2 Waiting long enough after an opening and long enough past prime dinner time can make dining at popular Brooklyn restaurants more enjoyable (despite the hype and proximity to my apartment, there is no way I’m touching Seersucker in the immediate future–I learned my lesson with patience-trying Thistle Hill Tavern). Of course, that also means that no one in the online world cares because not-so-new equals dull. That is fine; I’ll take seven-month-old, The Vanderbilt, at 11pm on a Saturday.

I’d already eaten pepperoni pizza and a few bites of a reuben earlier at Rocky Sullivan’s while trying to be a semi-sophisticated American embracing the World Cup. (I don’t watch sports period, and frankly, don’t understand where World Cup mania sprouted from all of a sudden.) A small plates dinner and cocktails were fine.

You would think that someone ordering the Whiskey Skiffer (rye whiskey, Cynar, sweet vermouth, mole-amarillo bitters) would know what they were getting into. Clearly not, since our server warned me, “It’s bitter.” Better safe than sorry for him, I guess. Then again, the last Cynar cocktail I had at The Sackett (what’s up with all the The?) was kind of foul.

The vanderbilt croquettes & broccoli

Maybe it was because I’d just had a few handfuls of movie theater popcorn while watching Please Give, but this wonderfully oily broccoli with singed edges reminded me of Smartfood. Each pecorino-draped bite oozed olive oil and had a delicious crunch.

The Serrano croquettes actually tasted like ham. You never know if you’re going to get a bready mouthful or be able to distinguish the advertised filling. Plus, the aioli dollop was a nice touch.

The vanderbilt risotto with boudin noir & peas

All that brown needed a hit of green. It was the boudin noir that attracted me to this dish, but the fresh peas and shoots kept the blood sausage from overpowering.

The vanderbilt duck rillettes

Even if you know rillettes come packed in fat, seeing so much melted animal product can give you pause. I like mine a little stiffer and opaque, more spreadable. The rhubarb preserves did add a nice sweet tartness. 

The Vanderbilt * 570 Vanderbilt Ave., Brooklyn, NY


1/2 Do you think people are swayed by businesses with the same name as their own? I would because I'm a cornball, but the only establishment I'm aware of that falls into this category is the Krista Hotel I recently saw in Buenos Aires.

I didn't choose new restaurant James simply because I was dining with someone named James, though it's possible that I was lightly influenced. Really, I was thinking of not terribly far away Brooklyn neighborhoods I rarely dine in like Prospect Heights, Fort Greene and Ditmas Park. I'm just not sold on South Brooklyn as neighborhood even after four years here so I'm testing the waters through restaurants.

James is pleasant in that handsome dark wood, painted white brick and pressed tin ceilings punctuated by hanging filament bulbs style that's been au courant for a few years. Nearby Flatbush Farm isn't a wildly different animal. The area can definitely sustain two seasonal restaurants with prominent bars, though.

Sure, there are small plates…and proper entrees too (mostly above $20, for what it's worth). I'm all for a normal dinner-sized portion but something about the wilting humidity combined with offerings that just sounded ok, not amazing (I can't define an amazing sounding entrée but I know it when I see it, and I will concede that James the dining companion's lamb with big fat white beans looked good) prompted me to order the burger. I never order the burger.

James cheeseburger

The grass-fed beef was juicy and flavorful, perfectly medium-rare. Topped with sharp Cotswold cheddar and served on toasted brioche, this was a more elegant burger specimen. My only complaint is that the patty was a little stubby and tall, and not wide enough to fill up all of the bun. I cut the sandwich in half and this caused the patty to bunch up at the flat cut edges, so that when you tried to grip the half-circle the meat kept sliding out. I don't think it's overly fussy to want your patty to stay put.

James grilled prawns with sunchoke puree

I envisioned a cocktail with our shared starter of prawns with a lemony sunchoke puree and a glass of Syrah with the burger but they brought out all of our food at the same time, which is a pet peeve I didn't realize I had. Maybe I'm fussier than I thought. It doesn't just throw off the balance of a meal and lets food get cold, it's physically tough at a two-top. It certainly wasn't the end of the world.

James ginger fizz

The ginger fizz with rhizome-infused vodka and mint was refreshing. I've always preferred ginger in beverages than in food where sometimes it's jarring. I would've passed on dessert but if one is ordered and put in front of me I can't not take a few bites.

James ricotta beignets with raspberry red wine coulis

Described as ricotta beignets, the blobs were more like coconut-crusted fritters. Fried, sweet and cheesey is a hard combo to resist. A raspberry-red wine coulis tarted them up.

James is a perfectly likable restaurant, but with so many worthy spots competing for attention in the city I wouldn't feel compelled to return in the immediate future. But it's definitely worth stopping in if you happen to be in Prospect Heights, maybe for a cocktail and a few small dishes.

James * 605 Carlton Ave., Brooklyn, NY

Flatbush Farm

1/2 Bar_1I’m so not into the whole urban “farm” trend. Terms like seasonal, organic or locally grown excite me slightly less than fritter, popper or bacon wrapped (I realize the two sets needn’t be mutually exclusive—now, that would be a restaurant concept I could support). But I can venture into this terrain if doesn’t entail straying too far from my apartment and Flatbush Farm, while not walkable, was close enough for at least one visit.

The restaurant, which is situated on that semi-Prospect Heights, kind of Park Slope, mini-strip of St. Mark’s between 6th Avenue and Flatbush that’s nearly the tip of a triangle, wasn’t terribly crowded at 9pm on a Saturday. Bad for them but a boon to me. There’s nothing convivial about being wedged into a squished row of two-seaters.

Lamb_2They had the atmosphere down pat, slightly woody and candlelit yet modern and enhanced by design-y hanging bulbs. A Mo’ Stomy, their minty take on a Dark ‘n Stormy, was the perfect warming beverage to sip while skimming the menu, which was spot on with the sudden drop in temperature. Braised, stewy dishes were exactly what I’d had in mind and that’s where they excelled. I had a lamb shoulder with bubble and squeak, as they said. That’s one British classic I’ve never actually tried so I cannot vouch for any authenticity. This rendition seemed to consist of pureed potatoes (possibly with cabbage mixed in) topped with chunks of meat and whittled carrots and turnips, all sauced. James had the pork goulash topped with a wad of hearty egg noodles.

Terrine The country farm terrine with pickled fruit and toast was kind of flat and flavorless. I want terrines to be unctuous and rich. The plums brightened up the dish a bit, but essentially this was a chilled slab of what seemed to be canned chicken. I don’t know that I’ve ever had canned chicken but I imagine it would be like this: dry, chunky, grocery store tuna style. Maybe there’s a poultry based Chicken of the Sea product, after all. And initially our waitress thought that they’d run out of this starter, so obviously we weren’t the only ones ordering it. I’d love to hear other takes on this because it takes a lot to induce finickiness in me.

Goulash We finished with a piece of gooey chocolate peanut butter pie, which probably wasn’t necessary but hard to say no to. The feeling was relaxed enough that I could’ve lingered around for one more drink. I could see Flatbush Farm as fitting for cocktails and bar snacks. That menu includes things like fries with herb mayonnaise, radish and butter baguettes and tempura onion rings.

Because that’s the way I am, I have to toss in one unsavory tidbit. James threw up around 3am the night we ate here, which is something I’ve never known him to do in the eight years we’ve been acquainted (though I did hear a story about puking up his mom’s home cooked hamburger in a Northern Virginian movie theater restroom during The Aviator) and I really don’t want to blame the faux farm food. He insists it was the beer later consumed at Moonshine but we only had a couple I.P.A.’s. Maybe all that hormoneless, antibiotic-free meat was too much for his system.

Flatbush Farm * 76 St. Marks Ave., Brooklyn, NY


1/2 Though hardly far away (maybe twelve minutes by car), Prospect Heights feels a little like a trek. I only ever head that direction to occasionally hit the Target, which I usually eschew in favor of the nicer Elmhurst location, anyway. I liked the idea of Beast, a pubby, neighborhood tapas place, but have never been inclined to pay a visit (I was supposed to go to a birthday party there maybe six months ago, but that afternoon our tire got punctured and blew. And yes, I realize there's such a thing as public transportation in Brooklyn, but this was a celebration thrown by people I barely knew, hence the lack of extra effort. It's tough going east-west).

Maybe it was an off night. (For me, I mean. I was feeling hot and cranky for inexplicable reasons. I don't like spring, I guess.) There's something off-kilter about Beast. I felt unsettled, even after two pints of beer. I can't put my finger on it. I'm not sure if it's the service, the clientele, the atmosphere or what. But most importantly, it seemed like the food had no taste. I can barely even recall what I ate beyond the main ingredient.

We ordered escarole that was studded with pine nuts and raisins. All I can remember is soupiness. There were also cocoa-dusted venison skewers, but all that's coming to mind is meat cubes and grapes on a stick. They rested on beds of something–red cabbage sauerkraut? Sweet potatoes? There was a purple patch and an orange one. James thought the mussels had gone off, I thought they were ok, but strongly flavored. The winey, buttery, tomato tinged broth was the most flavorful thing we tried. It was perfect for dipping crusty bread into.

Oh, the sticky toffee pudding was a late showing highlight. It's nice to find a warm dessert that's not chocolately, oozing and molten.

Beast * 638 Bergen St., Brooklyn, NY