an unforgettable night at la vara and clover club

I first went to La Vara not too long after it opened, and enjoyed it so much what we vowed to come back before too long. At the time, T lived close by, so in my mind, it was a no-brainer. As is often the case though, time continued to pass by and we didn’t return – not until January 14th, a day I’ll never forget.

Small plates are the focus at La Vara, which we enjoy since it means we really get the chance to try as many different menu options as we’re prepared to eat. They change them up often, which can be good (yay, more things to try!) or bad (wait, where’d my favorite go?), depending on your POV. We’d recently started to do one “fancy date night” a month, and January, our destination was La Vara.

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Even though we had it last time, we had to start with the Berenjena Con Miel, which is crispy eggplant with honey, melted cheese, and nigella seed. I love this dish. It’s just fried ever so slightly, and it’s the only time I’ve ever seen eggplant and honey paired up. It’s a winner.

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Since we so enjoyed duck hearts on our San Francisco trip, we decided to try their Pincho de Ceuta – which is Gibraltar style grilled chicken hearts served with a fresh herb salad and a lime-date vinaigrette. This was pretty good, though our duck heart king is still Alembic.

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One of the specials of the day was cauliflower fritters. These were super flavorful and much more substantial than we’d expected.

Gurullos

For one of the heavier plates, we had to order the Gurullos, which is a handmade Murcian pasta with goat butter and ground goat. The ground goat is optional, but oh my, it’s delicious. This was one of our favorites from our first visit and it didn’t disappoint. The noodles and the butter just melt in your mouth and the flavor of the goat is always on point. So so good.

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To end the meal, we ordered the Torta Santiago, which was a Galician almond cake topped with fruit. T seemed a bit iffy on the dessert, but I didn’t think anything of it (he’s never big into sweets, so I wasn’t entirely surprised by his lack of enthusiasm). This was essentially a thicker short bread. Next time, I think I’ll instead try their homemade olive oil ice cream.

After leaving La Vara, T thought we should make our way over to another fave of ours, Clover Club, for a quick night cap. I didn’t think anything of it, seeing as we’ve been there a number of times. When we walked in, I was excited to see that Michael Arenella & His Dreamland Orchestra were playing. We’re huge fans of theirs, and we always seem to forget that they play Wednesday night every week over at Clover Club.

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When we walked in, we instantly saw Clay up by the bar. Again, I didn’t think anything of it, seeing as we often run into Clay out and about in Brooklyn. T had to run out for a minute, so I sat for a bit chatting with Clay. I was talking so much with my back to the band that Clay finally interrupted me to ask something along the lines of, “You guys are fans of the band, right? It looks like they have a new lead singer.”

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Puzzled, I stopped and turned around to find Michael had let Topher take the mic as he sang Adele’s jazzy rendition of “Love Song”. I’m pretty sure I instantly froze, slowly processing what was happening and what this might could mean. The band continued to play in the background as he made his way over and got down on one knee. My mind was a blur as he reached into a box and pulled out the ring. In the moment, I was so excited that I seemingly grabbed the ring and put it onto my finger. (Ooops.) I gave him a huge hug, then a kiss. Later, he would tease me I never actually said “yes,” but I think he got the idea. It also turns out that running into Clay was not such a coincidence, as he was there to catch the entire thing on camera.

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The surprise continued when we walked to the back room, where I found so many of our closest friends waiting for us to join in the celebration.

Post Engagement

Some had taken planes, trains, or automobiles just to be there to celebrate along with us, which really did mean the world. Love really was all around. It was absolutely perfect.

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That night, we stayed until Clover Club closed. We were the last two sitting at the bar, chatting and grinning. We managed to grab a quick photo with the band, too, before they made their way out.

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So, that explains the hiatus here. It’s been a busy six months or so, but now that our wonderful wedding is done and we’ve returned from the honeymoon, I’m back behind the laptop, contemplating my last great meal. Good to be back, and to share the fun story of the reason for my brief “hiatus” with you all. Xo.

La Vara – 268 Clinton Street (at Verandah Pl), Brooklyn – 718.422.0065
Reservations Suggested

Clover Club – 210 Smith Street (between Baltic and Butler), Brooklyn – 718.855.7939

at last – char no 4

Occasionally, there are restaurants I’m seemingly always planning to visit that I never manage to actually visit. Char No 4’s on that short list, known for their classy American fare (with a definite hint of the South) paired with their extensive whiskey and bourbon selection. Their website actually defines the restaurant as “a whiskey bar and a restaurant inspired by a passion for bourbon”. Yes please. I finally made it there due to a special through Blackboard Eats, which entitled you to a free 2 oz. taste of one of two wiskeys (Rittenhouse Rye 100 or 4 Roses Bourbon) with the purchase of either an appetizer or entree. Deal.

Char No 4

Char No 4

On my first visit, my boyfriend and I decided to go with the fried jambalaya rice balls from the snack section of the menu, the bacon from the appetizer list, and the shrimp and grits entree. The jambalaya balls were very flavorful – slightly spicy and not overly salty. The andouille aioli served along with it was a nice touch. Note, they take the word “snack” seriously here – you’ll see that the order included three balls.

Fried Jambalaya Balls - Char No 4

Fried Jambalaya Balls - Char No 4

I can’t help but know I’m going to love a restaurant that has bacon as an appetizer. The bacon is house smoked and it’s a thick cut, served alongside molasses marinated grilled corn  Awesome. The bacon is thick and chewy. If crispy is your preference this might not be for you.

Bacon - Char No 4

Bacon - Char No 4

Our main course was my favorite out if the meal. They used chile marinated shrimp and paired it with sweet corn-hominy grits, scallions and baby cilantro. Sometimes as much as I much as I love my grits, meals incorporating them can come out too heavy (such as in the brunch that unfortunately preceded my first trapeze class). At Char No 4 though, they avoid this. They’re light and fluffy. Added plus is the spicy shrimp they’ve used, which add a nice needed kick to the grits.

Shrimp and Grits - Char No 4

Shrimp and Grits - Char No 4

The next visit, I wanted to mix it up, and so I went with their cornflake crusted crab cake with a side order of their cheddar polenta fries with ancho chile sauce. The crab cake was okay. Somehow it was soggy, and didn’t have a lot of flavor. The lemon bay leaf sauce was a nice touch, but next time it’s back to the shrimp and grits for me (or perhaps their mole pork sausage or their chopped pork sandwich).

Cornflake Crusted Crab Cake - Char No 4

Cornflake Crusted Crab Cake - Char No 4

The polenta fries though were quite good. If you’re looking for something to add, I highly recommend them. I tried my friend’s smoked and fried pork nuggets with Char No. 4 hot sauce, which I really liked. She spoke so highly of their french onion soup that I may have to try it next time – it was prepared with vidalia onions, bacon-chicken broth and a cheese crouton.

Cheddar Polenta Fries - Char No 4

Cheddar Polenta Fries - Char No 4

Char No 4 – 195 Smith Street (at ) – 718.643.2106
Reservations Recommended

dish buzz: pacifico

Pacifico, Cobble Hill/Brooklyn

Pacifico, Cobble Hill/Brooklyn

I think I might have found the best Mexican food (at least that I’ve encountered thus far) in … Brooklyn? Oh yes. You heard that right! Last week, I went with some friends to check out their neighborhood spot, Pacifico. It’s out in Cobble Hill, but not too far from the train and oh-so worth it. Continue reading