brooklyn


I’m well-aware that I’m a tad tardy on sharing the food side of New Year’s. It’s more than justified, but that’s a story and explanation that will come later. Besides, I’m a believer it’s never too late to talk about a fabulous meal.

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True to what’s become our tradition, T and I made reservations for a nice dinner in Brooklyn. This year, we opted to visit Rose Water in Park Slope, having previously only been there for brunch. We were both big fans, so I took a bit of a leap of faith, booking us a spot for two menu unseen. Hey we’re serving a six course paired tasting menu just for the evening. A quick email to the manager confirmed that they could accommodate a mushroom allergy, so other than that, we had no idea as to what to expect when we arrived.

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The restaurant was nice and cozy when we arrived. We quickly received the first course – a Medjool date, stuffed with Fourme d’ Ambert and wrapped in bacon. It was paired with a Méthode Champenoise Brut from Domaine St. Vincent (New Mexico). For us, bacon wrapped dates are a fave, so this was a nice take on a staple

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The next course was fresh and super light – a simple raw scallop with finger lime. It took me out of the cold climate for a little bit as this one felt almost like a summertime dish (not that I was complaining). This has me excited to come back for dinner once the warm temps return as this bodes well for what the menu might include!

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We then were served a seared yellowfin tuna, accompanied by maitake, gold beet, and fresh wasabi. It was paired with a Muscat – “Exsultate” Domaine du Chapitre from S. Rhone. The sear on the tuna was nicely done and I liked the pairing of beets and wasabi with the flavors of the tuna. It was a slightly unexpected combination but worked perfectly.

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I believe the next course was my favorite – cider glazed pork pelly, with quail egg, cabbage, and mustard. From a prior brunch, I knew going in that their pork belly is delicious, so I was pleased to find it made the New Year’s Eve menu. The wine was also one of my favorite wines, a Riesling (Kabinett Halbtrocken “Zeltinger Himmelrich” Selbach-Oster from Mosel). If you’re ever lucky enough to be at Rose Water and pork belly is on the menu, this confirms it’s almost guaranteed to be a winner.

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The next course, the final of the savories, was seared venison, with chestnuts, black trumpets, and black truffles accompanied by a Barolo – Riserva Giacomo Borgogno from Piedmont.

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Dessert was a chocolate custard cake, with eggnog anglaise, vanilla ice cream, and hazelnuts, accompanied by a Quinta do Infantado LBV Port from Portugal. I only wished the eggnog flavor was a bit more prominent in the dish, but the mix of flavors here overall was great. The ice cream was a nice balance to the denser chocolate cake.

Following dinner, it was another lovely New Year at Amber’s… with many a fun photo to capture the evening. Here’s to more wonderful in all of the days ahead in 2015!

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Rose Water – 787 Union Street (at 6th Ave) – 718.783.3800
Reservations Recommended (No Reservations at Brunch)

I left one day with an ambitious plan – going to bed early. It had been a busy several weeks at work with events and I needed an early night to help offset. My big post-work “plan” was simple – a quick post-work sweet treat at Buttermilk Bakeshop before I turned in. So yes, a pre-dinner dessert. Yolo.

This spot was much more narrow than I was expecting. There’s a thin lane going the width of the store for customers to stand in. There were a few chairs though it was tricky to really hang out. Much more of a grab and go scenario.

Since I came for the cupcakes, I had to give that priority – though I really wanted to try the whoopie pie. Next time…

I went simple. Plain vanilla / vanilla. A friend of mine once mentioned you can really tell a good bakery by something as simple as vanilla / vanilla standing out – and I have to agree. Putting them to the test, I have to say their’s were quite good. Their name is not just to be catchy, as buttermilk was noticeably present in the cake of their cupcakes.

They also have a weekly macron schedule. Amazing. Since I was lucky enough to be there for PB&J (couldn’t have asked for a better flavor) I had to take one of those too.

Buttermilk Bakeshop – 339 7th Avenue (b/w 9th/10th St), Brooklyn – 347.689.4376

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!)

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