brooklyn


Friday’s weather seemed like it might be at least working towards spring, making it a perfect day for some seafood. I’d been curious about Brooklyn Fish Camp for a bit and T had heard some great things from friends. Happy hour runs from 12-7pm, at the bar only.

The happy hour food menu is filled with $5 options. Note, when they say bites, they mean it. The salt covered shrimp, while tasty, was only 2 shrimp.

We also started with an order of their hushpuppies ($8 for a side order). I was a bit surprised that they were more like fritters than hushpuppies. They were not savory or crumbly enough to truly be hushpuppies. I’ll admit, I also had a hard time with the $8 charge for three of them, having just been somewhere where a huge plate with them came free with the food.

For main dishes, we knew we wanted to do their Baja Style Fish Tacos. They were served with a habañero lime yogurt and frijoles charros ($17). The flavor was great – I really loved the yogurt sauce. The only thing that would have been an improvement would have been something crunchy – more radish, lettuce, or something – to mix up the texture a bit.

We also ordered the pan fried ‘Hook and Line’ Atlantic cod sandwich with french fries ($17). It was interesting to have the sandwich pan-fried instead of truly thick batter fried. I actually really liked it, as it made it a bit lighter overall yet still having a touch of the fried texture. I really liked their fries – fresh and thin. Just to note, both of the dishes we had were the heavy selections off of the menu. The other dishes were much smaller.

I opted us in for dessert, curious to see what the banana fritters tasted like, opting for vanilla instead of chocolate ice cream. It didn’t cross my mind at the time, but it ended up being the sweet version of the hushpuppies. Oh well. Win some, lose some.

Overall, some great flavorful bites, albeit light on portion sizes. I’d come back for happy hour, but not sure for full meal.

Brooklyn Fish Camp – 162 5th Avenue (@ Degraw Street), Brooklyn – 718.783.3254
No Reservations

T and I had been wanting to pay a visit to the newly opened store for Robicelli’s. But it’s a bit of a hike – ok far – so going for a visit, unless that happens to be where you live, does require some time (not that I’ve ever let that deter me).

Yesterday was gorgeous. Okay, comparatively nice. The sun might have been hiding, but temps were almost a balmy 50 degrees, no rain or snow, and little wind. Perfect day for a stroll to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. To be fair, the plan had been to take the subway, but we decided why not just walk?

Turns out that walk was over five miles. We strolled through South Park Slope and into Sunset Park, where the streets were filled with families, some children sitting to the side of their parents as they fried up food for their street carts. There was a man protesting in Spanish outside a church, his microphone breaking up but seemingly accusing someone of being a murderer.

Finally we made it into Bay Ridge, which started much further north than either of us realized. There were too many options from which to choose, the likes of which changed while we were sitting there.

T had walked the whole way intent on trying their buffalo chicken cupcake, an appropriate nod to Super Bowl day. When we got there, there were none to be seen. Instead, he went with the chicken and waffles.

Seeing as I’m a big fan of the salty/sweet combo, I finally chose the pecan potato chip cupcake. It was perfection – pecan potato chip cake, vanilla buttercream, salted butterscotch, roasted pecans, crushed potato chips. Potato chips are my favorite unexpected dessert accent.

As we were halfway through both, Matt Robicelli came out with a surprise tub of found buffalo chicken cupcakes, and we went from two to consume to three. So hard.

As we finished up, I looked over to eye the cookie sandwiches which had just emerged, filled with a layer of marshmallow fluff. Marshmallow fluff! I sighed, wishing that had been available 30 minutes ago before realizing I was being greedy and could go back. And go back I will.

Robicelli’s – 9009 5th Avenue (between 91/92 Street) – 917.509.6048

To me, New Year’s Eve is a night to get dressed up. Something sparkly – so doesn’t even have to be crazy fancy – and be surrounded by some of my favorite people (along with one special guy, naturally). Unlike last year, T and I decided to keep it local – an “off year”, if you will, where battling for cabs wouldn’t be necessary and we could enjoy ourselves the whole weekend in our chosen borough.

I came across a list of restaurants offering New Year’s dinners on the Twitter account for Park Slope Stoop. Their list had a bunch of great options from which to choose. T and I took a look and chose Kiwiana, a New Zealand restaurant which had an interesting looking 5 course option.

It’s a small restaurant tucked into the northwest side of 7th Avenue and Union Street in Park Slope. We were surprised to find that the menu differed somewhat from what we had read online, but were still looking forward to seeing how it was seeing as we had read so many great things about it.

The first course only had one option – seafood chowder. Chowder was a bit of a misnomer as it was more of a soup. After the chilly walk over in heels, it was hard to mind anything that was so warming as a starter.

For the second course, we both went with the Octopus which was served with chorizo and smoked potatoes. I was surprised when this dish came out to find it was prepared cold! The flavors were good though. The spice of the chorizo and the smokiness of the potatoes nicely balanced the octopus. The presentation was also interesting, with the octopus sliced thinly similar to pepperoni. First time I’ve seen that. The other option on the prixe fixe menu was white bait latke with tartar sauce.

For my third course, I chose the pork belly, earth cooked yam, boiled kale, and bacon. The pork belly was a leaner cut than I’ve typically had. It was nicely seasoned though and I like what they did with the kale. I often find it too bitter, but they managed if soften it a bit. The other option was foie gras torchon, blood orange marmalade, and toast. I’m not a huge fan of foie gras, but could appreciate in my small bite that it was nicely prepared.

For my fourth and main course, I had to try the NZ venison, which was served with a poblano sauce, rice and butterscotch beans. I can’t say I’ve ever had venison before (so had to give it a try). Their preparation was excellent. Super tender and the sauce was a nice slightly spicy addition to the mix. The other option was the lamb chop, which was accompanied by lamb empanadas and a radish salad. The flavors were great, but the lamb “chop” was much more of a lamb “lollipop”. The portion size was much more appetizer than fitting of the more entree round of the courses.

For dessert, we both chose to go with the sticky date pudding over the pavlova. After we ordered, I started to see plate after plate of the pavlova – which was big and fluffy and made me wish we had gotten one of each! The sticky date pudding though was sweet and filling. A perfect end to a wonderful meal.  I will definitely be back – next time for brunch and the chai French toast!

Kiwiana – 847 Union St. (at 7th Ave) – 718.230.3682
Reservations Recommended

I almost missed out on the most recent round of Restaurant Week. I did manage to catch the final week and was excited to see Benchmark was on the list as participating. I’d been curious about Benchmark for quite a while, and was even more interested after seeing their menu for this summer. The cuisine is New American and the setting is casual yet nice enough for a nice date night out. Make it over before it cools down too much and you can sit in their front outside area, with a canvas canopy overhead. Romantic!

To start, I had to try the marinated steak and tomato salad, which featured baby arugula, spiced goat cheese, and a cilantro pesto. The steak was nicely flavored and thin, which worked well with the goat cheese and the cilantro pesto. It was interesting to lead the meal with red meat and then go back from there, but it worked as the salad was on the lighter side.

For our main course, we both had their East Coast Halibut, which was served with a corn and tomato succotash and a chilled asparagus broth. I really loved the mix of the veggies on this one. It was an ideal end of summer dish – fresh and light.

For a finale, there was the buttermilk panna cotta, served with local strawberries with a saffron gelato. While tasty, even this dessert lover had to admit that this wasn’t the highlight of the meal for me. The panna cotta wasn’t super flavorful, but I did really enjoy the gelato, which worked well with the strawberries.

I did take a peek at their normal menu, which oddly enough was basically completely different than the restaurant week menu. Interesting play for a restaurant. I can’t say I have seen another spot do that. I’d be curious to try it out again with their regular menu!

Benchmark – 339 2nd Street (at 5th Avenue) – Park Slope, Brooklyn – 718.965.7040
Reservations Suggested

Since moving, I’ve become slightly obsessed with my local farmer’s market. To round out the end of T’s birthday week of fun and tasty things, I picked up what (accidentally) turned out to be a lifetime supply of blueberries to make blueberry cobbler. The best thing about the recipe is that it reheats quite well, as unless you’re entertaining a crowd, it makes more than you’ll need for just one meal.

The recipe was quite easy. I wasn’t sure before, but the comparison that 1 pint container is the equivalent of 2 cups of blueberries is in fact accurate. I’m sorry I ever doubted you Internet.

Mixing the sugar, lemon juice, and those beautiful farmer's market blueberries

Mixing the sugar, lemon juice, and those beautiful farmer’s market blueberries

Because I’ve recently become obsessed with it, I ended up choosing to substitute coconut palm sugar for 2/3 of the overall sugar in the recipe. It made it come out a bit darker in color, but I loved the flavor. This recipe was quite simple and is a great way to incorporate whatever seasonal fruit strikes your fancy. The original recipe referenced blackberries. I used blueberries. Next time, perhaps peaches or mixed berries!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups, white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 cups fresh blueberries, rinsed and drained

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line your baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Mix the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/4 cup boiling water just until the mixture is evenly moist. I went ahead and used the whole amount this time around, but monitoring more than I did is probably the smart way to go!

Disolve the corn starch in cold water in a separate bowl. Mix in the remaining 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blueberries. Transfer the mixture over into a cast iron skillet and bring it to a boil, stirring often. Drop the dough into the skillet in small spoonfulls, placing them spaced out across the skillet. Then place the skillet on the foil-lined baking sheet.

Bake 25 minutes, until the dough on top is a golden brown. Serve with ice cream, if you are so inclined. (The simple vanilla bean from Turkey Hill made for an inexpensive and excellent additionl when I made this!)

I’d been curious to see how the new location of Franny’s would compare to the original, as it’s been one of my Brooklyn favorites. The new spot opened on April 8th, and promised more seating, a larger menu, and even a separate downstairs dining space for private parties. Accustomed to arriving to a group waiting just outside or inside the door, we were amazed to find the new space much more open. The pizza oven space is much more spacious, as is the bar area.


We decided to sit at the bar, happy to have caught them still serving dinner at almost 10pm (their posted hours are actually until 11:30pm). We ordered several appetizers as well as a pizza, which ended up being a perfect amount of food. The first dish to come out was the pea shoots with lemon and pecorino rossellino. The fun ribbons of cheese were a nice balance to the slight bite of the greens.

This freekeh salad was my favorite out of the starters. It included some tasty parsnips, almonds and pecorino ginepro.

I was not sure if it would be too heavy, but this wood-roasted pork sausage with mustard greens was a perfect addition to the line-up, adding just enough protein to the starters we tried. The greens were nicely done – not too bitter with excellent flavor.

And of course, it’s not a visit to Franny’s without a pizza. This time we went with the prosciutto cotto, spring onion, olives, chilies and caciocavallo pizza. The thinly cut proscuitto was flavorful. The chiles added a bit of spice and it was a nice change from the standard mozzarella for them to use the caciocavello (a sheep’s milk cheese).

For dessert, we tried their latte gelato and the salted caramel. The latte was more of just iced milk – made me almost think of making snow ice cream growing up. Put the two together, and the flavor was quite good. Yum. Verdict? New Franny’s still equates to the varied goodness of the original.

Franny’s – 348 Flatbush Avenue (b/w Stirling Place & 8th Ave), Brooklyn – 718.230.0221
No reservations, except  for parties of 8-12

We were not planning on going out on the actual day of Valentine’s Day. Most places only offer prix fixe menus or find some other way to make it more expensive for that one particular evening. However in the end, we opted to do our Valentine’s plans on the actual day. We started the evening with some paint your own pottery at The Painted Pot before making our way down the street to Kittery.

restaurant blog reviews pottery brooklyn grits in the city

The restaurant, which has been open since around Christmastime, isn’t crazy crowded. As should be expected for Valentine’s, it was totally different. We got there around 9:30 (my squirrel here was super detailed so I wasn’t exactly the quickest of painters) and found the place completely full, with the hostess telling us it would be another hour before they could seat us. T did not look amused. However, it was only another 10 minutes before they seated us. Perhaps some growing pains of a new-ish restaurant learning how to deal with peak crowds.

Kittery Brooklyn Grits in the City Restaurant Reviews Brooklyn Carroll Gardens Food Blog

We chose to skip their popular “Stuffies” (baked clams with sausage stuffing and lemon) and instead started with their warm spicy crab dip, which was served with bagel chips. We were warned that the portion size was on the larger side and that many people had commented on the dip being pretty spicy. Both made us smile. The appetizer was much needed with the late dinner time and confirmed what I suspected, which is that on a cold night if I needed a bit to eat, this might be something perfect to get and sit at the bar and be content with just that. Quite good.

Seafood Kittery Brooklyn Carroll Gardens Grits in the City Restaurant Reviews Crab Appetizer Food Blog

We also had to start with the clam chowder. Hard to beat a good clam chowder on a cold night. With the seafood focus at Kittery, it was a no-brainer. The balance of flavors was good. Creamy but not overwhelmingly so. It was heavy on the pepper, which I loved but BF found a bit excessive. Portion size was nice for us to share, seeing as we’d ordered an assortment of items.

Clam Chowder Seafood Kittery Carroll Gardens Brooklyn Grits in the City Restaurant Reviews Food Blog

For our main course, we split the surf & turf, preceded by the simple greens salad. The mustard vinaigrette on the salad was excellent and made the salad for me. The surf and turf was a great combo. The steak was perfectly done and seasoned, and I liked that it was all very reasonable portion sizes, even with us splitting the dish. The hollandaise-esque sauce wasn’t too heavy too. My issue was with the lobster. It was way overdone, making it too chewy and a bit disappointing. I’d like to go back when it’s warmer and feels more seasonally appropriate to instead try their lobster roll. Overall, a nice spot and curious to try their outdoor dining once spring fully kicks in. But overall, a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

Lobster Steak Kittery Carroll Gardens Brooklyn Grits in the City Restaurant Reviews Food Blog

Kittery – 305 Smith St (btwn Union/President St – Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn – 718.643.3293
Reservations Suggested

Last night was the official opening for Nightingale 9, a Vietnamese street food spot that sneakily went up under the facade of a curious frame shop that just never seemed to be open. Outta nowhere, there was a name and last week, there was a sign proclaiming Thursday, February 21st to be the day. I really wanted to check it out, being such a big fan of Kerry Diamond’s other spots – Seersucker and Smith Canteen.

Walking in, you can see the small bar bordered by tables mostly in a L shape. There are some 2 person tables in the front but the back is mostly communal style, holding around 6 people each. The menu was divided into 5 sections: salads ($11-12), appetizers ($10-14), rice noodle soups ($10-12), vermicelli bowls ($11-15), and jasmine rice dishes ($10-15). While many of the dishes caught my attention, I did have to read carefully, as there were lots of dishes with mushrooms in them. They have beer and wine on tap, as well as several intriguing sodas (next time, I’m totally trying the tamarind soda) and teas.

To start, we had the Long Island Squid Salad, which was tamarind, peanuts, morning glory (this interesting green you see here, also referred to as “Chinese spinach” or “Swamp cabbage”), and fried garlic. The dish was refreshing and very light. A nice flavorful yet light way to start off the meal. I can’t say I’ve ever had fried garlic but it was kind of an amazing addition.

I opted for the Chao from the jasmine rice dishes. The dish had shredded chicken, cilantro, peanuts, and fried bread. It was a nice portion size – just enough to enjoy without feeling overwhelmed by food. The broth was light and topped with a heaping portion of cilantro (no problem by me).

My BF had the Berkshire pork rice noodle soup, which had roasted pork shoulder, country ham, cracklin, lemongrass, and annatto. I really liked his. It was quite spicy without adding any of their on-table assorted sauces. You could tell it would be as soon as they brought it out from the deep orangey red of the both (which apparently was due in part to the addition of the annatto).

For dessert, I have to confess we never got to see the menu. The party next to us took off, seemingly late for another event. They left behind a lady, who was still paying and, as it turned out, was also waiting for dessert. Since they’d left, she offered us their dessert. They were Popsicles – one a coffee with cream and the other a creamy lemongrass. They were so completely different. The coffee one was more icy than creamy, except for the thin layer of condensed milk running along the bottom. It packed a bit of a bite and was quite good. I think my favorite though was the lemongrass. It was so creamy and flavorful. I really enjoy the flavor of lemongrass but I’m much more accustomed to it in hot noodle dishes.i have to say, it’s a great cold flavor as well.

Wonderful first night here. Can’t wait to go back and try more things at this spot, in particular I’m already eying the cha ca catfish vermicelli bowl and the campanelli checken pho.

Nightingale 9 – 345 Smith Street (btwn 2nd & Carroll Streets)
No Reservations

Yesterday I used another one of my carryover vacation days to enjoy doing a little this and that in the city. I’m becoming hooked on this extra day a week thing. It’s one part staycation and one part errands I never get to do. Amazing.

The first thing I did was to voluntarily head over to South Williamsburg on what ended up being a pretty chilly Wednesday to check out the relatively new breakfast at Briskettown. Based on the other time I had Daniel Delaney’s brisket (over at a friend’s house), I had a feeling it would be well-worth the hike over.

Had to try two different ones - bacon taco & brisket taco

Had to try two different ones – bacon taco & brisket taco

The seating area is very no frills and laid back. At just after 10, there were three others in there besides us. Service was quick and super friendly. They have some different bread and pastry options, but I knew coming in it was all about the tacos. They are $4 each and are a solid portion without being crazy crammed full. Coffee was solid as well.

Oh but back to those tacos… so there was I believe a veggie option (apologies, my eyes skimmed right past that one) as well their “bacon taco” (pulled pork belly prepared in the smoker paired with scrambled eggs) and the brisket taco (scrambled eggs, pickled purple onions, cilantro, and chile sauce.)

Bacon Taco - Briskettown

Bacon Taco – Briskettown

The pork one was really good. I liked the addition of the pickled onion and the chile sauce. The pork was solid as well – flavorful and tender.

Brisket Taco - Briskettown

Brisket Taco – Briskettown

I ate the pork one first though since I had a feeling that the brisket one? It was going to be the winner out of the two. And oh was it ever the winner. Just a quick backdrop on me and brisket – I didn’t grow up eating it. I kinda didn’t know what it was. In fact, I don’t think I’d ever had it until I moved to New York City! I tend to like it okay, but it’s not my absolute fave. Correction – unless it’s Daniel Delaney’s. Amazing. Just amazing. I would eat this brisket taco every day. I want it again already… This is truly brisket like no other. Totally worth traveling for.

One more brisket close-up - just cause...

One more brisket close-up – just cause…

Breakfast today feels totally inadequate. I think breakfast just might be ruined for the week… cause nothing is going to come close. Darn it, Briskettown!!!

Briskettown – 359 Bedford Avenue (btwn S 4th & S 5th Streets) – Williamsburg, Brooklyn -
Breakfast tacos are available Mon-Fri 8AM-12PM & Sat/Sun 8AM-3PM

After watching this spot go up for a while, I was so excited to see Avlee Greek Kitchen finally open late last week! Curious to see the finished product, I popped in yesterday, expecting the food to be more grab-and-go style (like a Maoz). Boy was I wrong. While there isn’t a ton of seating, there are several small tables for you to eat there with table service. Just beyond the first group of tables in the entry way, there is a long bar-like area which is the kitchen and there are a few more tables int he back. They even have a few wines you can order along with your meal.

Their menu ranges from standard pita wraps and platters to traditional Greek entrees, like pastitsio and mousaka. Usually I have to go into the East Village for some of these favorites, so I’m really excited to be able to try them now instead from Brooklyn! For my first visit, I went standard – chicken souvlaki along with Greek patates tiganites (hand cut russet potatoes fried & topped with EVOO, fresh lemon, and feta cheese). So good! Can’t believe they haven’t even been open for a week yet and are functioning so smoothly.

I was talking with one of the employees and the inside scoop is they wil be starting delivery next week! If you’re in the area (or ordering delivery in the area starting next week) I recommend giving this new tasty spot a proper welcome!

Avlee Greek Kitchen - 349 Smith St (between Carroll St & 2nd St), Brooklyn – 718.243.2641 

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