winner, winner chicken (and bubbles) dinner

I was just reading about Sarah Simmons’ new restaurant, Birds and Bubbles, as I received an invite from N to go check it out during her recent trip to NYC in September. The wait to get a prime time seat was a bit on the longer side, so I felt super lucky that my friend from Detroit was so on top of the Manhattan food scene. I went to one of Simmons’ City Grit dinners back in 2012 and had been planning on coming back. This was a good alternative!

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When T and I arrived, they had already been seated and were perusing the fabulous menu. The selection of bubbles to accompany your order is extensive. We had the H. Billiot Fils Brut Rose, which was a raspberry rose that was amazing. The list on their website gives you an idea.

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They started with an order of deviled eggs. I didn’t have any (not a fan) but as I have always heard, the verdict was that they were amazing (especially the flavor added by the sriracha flakes).

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For main course, we ordered several of the winner, winner, chicken dinners – which is a whole chicken, three sides, and a bread basket. They tried to dissuade us from ordering two for our party of six, especially since one was ordering their own dish, but we insisted. Note: their leftovers reheat fabulously, and make a perfect dish to bring to potluck brunch the next day. Just saying…

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The chicken itself was outstanding. Not greasy at all. The breading was not very thick and was slightly crispy, just the way it should be. Being from the South, you could say I am a bit picky when it comes to Southern food, but knowing Simmons’ North Carolina roots and passion for fried chicken, I did not expect anything but the best.

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For sides, the grits were good. The green chiles were a nice addition. I was not a big fan of the vidalia onion soufflé. It was somewhat runny and soggy. It was the only low point out of the dishes on the table. For me, the unexpected winner of the entire meal was the slaw. Slaw, you say? Yes, slaw! I’m not usually a big fan of slaw, usually avoiding it. This slaw though is amazing. Definitely a must have on the menu. The buttermilk biscuits were definitely the star of the bread basket, but I pretty much knew at buttermilk.

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For dessert, I highly recommend the banana pudding. It’s a perfect balance of savory (touch of salt) and sweet. It’s enough for two if you’re looking for a smaller dessert option. So good. We went shortly after the restaurant opened, which is likely why the service was on the slower side. I look forward to going back again to check it out again in the future.

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Much thanks to Ms. N on the reservation!

Birds and Bubbles – 100B Forsyth Street (b/w Grand and Broome Street) – 646.368.9240
Reservations Required

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double-date brunch at buttermilk channel

I’d been meaning for a long time to go check out brunch at Buttermilk Channel. But brunch at Buttermilk Channel is extreme on all levels. Portion sizes? Generous. Wait times? Be ready to just grow roots and stick it out. No reservations with crowds that don’t let that send them away means there will likely be a wait at just about any hour – even if you plan to get there early.

This particular Saturday, we got there around 11am and only found about a 30 minute wait. Not too bad, in the grander scheme of things. We sat down and ordered right away, having perused the menu while waiting at the bar. Our friends ordered a short-stack to enjoy as they waited for their main dishes. Look at this. Just a taste of what was to come.

Our food came out fairly quickly, though we were missing one dish. As we started to eat what had already come out, they kindly sent out one of their jelly doughnuts for my BF to eat while he waited on his meal.

I was unable to resist the allure of the pecan pie french toast with bourbon, molasses, and toasted pecans. My oh my. Sometimes I’ve found things such as this to be too much for me – even with my significant sweet tooth. Yes, there was definitely some sugar on my plate – but it was just teetering at the line of excess, and worked perfectly for me. Note, I did not need dessert the rest of the day (I was also not complaining).

The fried pork chop with cheddar waffle wasn’t just big – it was massive! The flavors were excellent and paired perfectly with the cheddar waffle – hanging out beneath the pork chop fully dwarfed by its size.

Is this somewhere I’ll indulge to eat at on a weekly basis? No. Is this somewhere I’ll definitely be making a return visit? Why yes.

Buttermilk Channel – 524 Court Street (at Huntington) – Brooklyn – 718.852.8490
Reservations for parties of 5 or more only

post broadway dinner at peels

Peels has been on my list for quite some time. I remember when it first opened that it was too crazy to think of trying it, so I kept waiting and eventually, forgot I could try to go again. My friend A was in town this particular weekend. We’d had an eventful day – sitting front row for Porgy and Bess and then getting to go backstage after the show to meet Audra McDonald herself! She was so warm and friendly. We even wandered through Broadway Barks for a bit before heading for dinner. I made us a reservation, though it wasn’t super necessary since we were going at 6 – on the early side for NYC. I loved the interior of the restaurant. It had an unexpected upstairs area and far more seating than I’d ever anticipated from walking by the building countless times. It felt appropriately Southern.

Hushpuppes - Peels

Hushpuppies

While we waited for another friend of ours to join, we tried out an order of their hushpuppies. I had to try them for comparison purposes. I feel compelled to try them any time they are on a menu, although I’m almost always disappointed (looking at you Bubba Gump – crawfish hushpuppies? Never again). I have to say, the ones at Peels are some of the best I’ve had since leaving the South. Slightly sweet and crumbly. They also have a nice cocktail menu. Some highlights include the watermelon gimlet (tequila, watermelon, opal basil, and lime) and the Kentucky Corpse Reviver (bourbon, curacao, Lillet, lemon, and mint).

Tuna Tartare - Peels

Tuna Tartare

For entrees, we decided to share a couple of dishes. We ordered the fried chicken (cause you just have to) and the tuna tartare. The tuna wasn’t anything extraordinary but was nicely done, especially on a warm summer evening.

Fried Chicken - Peels

Fried Chicken

The fried chicken itself was good. The breading wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t remotely greasy, which is a pretty amazing feat. It was served with one of their biscuits – which was large, fluffy, and something I’d definitely do again if I return for brunch. Where they lost me though was the salad that accompanied the dish. I thought it was a nice touch. Fried chicken and a bit of iceberg lettuce with blue cheese … wait. Blue cheese? Uh uh. Proper dressing would absolutely be ranch. Such a bummer.

Cheeseburger - Peels

Cheeseburger

Another friend opted for their burger, which looked quite good as well.

Blackberry Eton Mess Fool - Peels

Blackberry Eton Mess Fool

For dessert, I had to try the Blackberry Eton Mess Fool. I still don’t know what the heck the name means. All I know is that the dessert was so good. Listen to the mix – blackberries, crunchy meringue, yogurt mousse, and mint ice cream. I’m assuming the “mess” comes from the presentation – everything all crammed into a tall container. Everything was perfectly mixed though that in almost every bite you could try all of the elements together. I wasn’t sure about mixing the mint in, but it worked. And being much more accustomed to the soft nature of meringue I just loved the crunchy meringue.

Overall, I really enjoyed my visit to Peels. I will definitely have to make a return visit for brunch!

Peels – 325 Bowery (at E 2nd Street) – 646.602.7015
Reservations Suggested

soul food done right at mitchell’s

It’s rare that I go into a place in NYC and forget where I am. Not because I’m lost but because it just doesn’t feel like NYC. New York, I love you, but I have to say finding this is refreshing. I walked into Mitchell’s after 9pm on a Thursday. We’d tried to call in an order for delivery but learned that the person who does delivery was gone for the evening. No worries. I’d go in person.

Mitchell's Soul Food - Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

Mitchell’s Soul Food – Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

 “What desserts do you have? Do you have banana pudding?”

 “We don’t have that today. We have peach cobbler. And we have cake.” The way she said it, I thought they only had one kind of cake. When I walked in though I found that wasn’t the case. She was using it collectively, just like how all soda in the South is “Coke”. It made me smile.

 The dining room is nothing fancy. It’s all about the food here. It was on the later side for dinner, so when I was there it was mostly filled with people also waiting on orders to go. The tables are basic – topped by simple plastic tablecloths.

 I’ve said before I’m usually underwhelmed by the fried chicken most people rave about. Buttermilk Channel? Meh. The best I’ve found thus far had been Clinton Street Baking Company. Until now, that is. The fried chicken at Mitchell’s was only lightly breaded. The flavor made it obvious to me that they aren’t using super old oil, which was great to see (and taste!). The portion size was generous yet manageable. I usually try fried chicken at any given place only one time. I have to say, I don’t know that I could try any other main dish here now that I’ve had their fried chicken. So good.

Fried Chicken, Mac 'n Cheese, & Collards - Mitchell's

Fried Chicken, Mac ‘n Cheese, & Collards – Mitchell’s

For sides, I went with the mac ‘n cheese and collard greens. The mac was creamy enough but nothing extraordinary. It proved to be a nice balance to the strong pork flavor of the collard greens – and no, that is not a negative comment in the least. Both the fried chicken and collard greens are menu items not to miss.

To finish things off, we had the peach cobbler, which was quite good, even though I found myself wanting just a bit of vanilla ice cream. That’s me just being dessert greedy. The dough portion was not as sweet as others I’ve had, but it worked well with the sweeter peach portion. If this spot were closer to me one word… danger. All this food came to about $12 each. Not bad at all. Highly recommend.

Mitchell’s Soul Food – 617A Vanderbilt Ave @ St Marks Ave, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn – 718.789.3212
No Reservations / Cash Only

southern brunch at seersucker

I’d been dying to try Seersucker and figured it was a perfect time when two of my Southern friends were in town back in November.We instantly noticed that the wood pieces along the wall, mounted at a set interval, were intended to align to the ridges in seersucker fabric. Nicely done.

Seersucker - Carroll Gardens

Seersucker - Carroll Gardens

We had a plate of their biscuits – $10 for 4. They were served with three different types of spreads and preserves.

Biscuits with Homemade Preserves and Molasses Spread - Seersucker

Biscuits with Homemade Preserves and Molasses Spread - Seersucker

I really enjoyed my blackened catfish tacos (I was a bit antsy about doing that for brunch – but they worked well with the other items we ordered). They were prepared with cabbage, radish, lime, and hoppin’ john. Next time I’d probably do the buttermilk pancakes with salted molasses butter and bacon. Mmmmm bacon. Service was very attentive as well. Portion sizes were generous but not ridiculous. Just right.

Blackened Catfish Tacos - Seersucker

Blackened Catfish Tacos - Seersucker

The verdict on the pork hash was that it was good, though a little lacking on flavor. Gorgeous presentation though, as you can see below.

Pork Hash - Seersucker

Pork Hash - Seersucker

Probably the most surprising dish out of our party was the … vegetable salad? Yes, that’s right. Comprised of only vegetables from the local market. Not your usual salad, as there was no lettuce in this salad. Colorful and fresh, it looked like fall on a plate. Now that it’s winter, it seems to have rotated off of the menu. Here’s hoping for a return of this concept except with a spring twist come March.

Vegetable Salad - Seersucker

Vegetable Salad - Seersucker

Brunch Crew @ Seersucker

Brunch Crew @ Seersucker

Seersucker – 329 Smith Street, Brooklyn – 718.422.0444
Reservations Suggested – Note: Brunch Sunday Only

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

fried chicken & whiskey buttermilk pie at hill country chicken

As a last dinner of sorts prior to her moving to London, my friend Anna and I made plans to go to Hill Country Chicken, a spot she recommended and that I’d been meaning to try for quite some time. The atmosphere is very casual – no table service. Instead, you walk up to the display counter, order, and then seat yourself.

When I walked in, I thought it was interesting to see that you could either order set dinners or order by the piece. Smart – so not hungry? Grab a chicken breast and a side, and you’re done. And that’s exactly what I did. I added their “blistered corn salad”, which was a spicy flavorful take on corn salad. And of course, I had to get one of their buttermilk biscuits, which was big, flaky, and fluffy – an essential addition to the meal.

Fried Chicken Dinner - Hill Country Chicken

Fried Chicken Dinner - Hill Country Chicken

And with so many options in their display, dessert was a must try. They have certain daily offerings as well as daily specials, one of which this day was their margarita pie with a pretzel crust.

How to decide?!?

How to decide?!?

And so much more!

And so much more!

I finally decided on the banana cream pie and the whiskey buttermilk pie. I couldn’t resist the banana cream pie and it’s awesome whipped cream topping – and it didn’t disappoint. The topping was vanilla bean flavored. If someone wanted to take vanilla bean ice cream and make it into a topping, this is what it would be. So good. And the filling was just slightly sweet and creamy. Perfect.

Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie

And a peek inside

And a peek inside

I tried a bite of the margarita pie, which was actually quite good. It was slightly less tart than a key lime pie and definitely tasted more like a margarita. And the pretzel crust was a nice touch. I’d be curious to see that with other desserts, but it worked well as another tie in to your traditional margarita. The whiskey buttermilk pie was also quite good. I usually like buttermilk pie just fine, but sometimes it seems a tad bland and lacking something. In this case, the whiskey brought that necessary something. Don’t like whiskey? Then this is not the option for you. I, on the other hand, really enjoyed it.

Whiskey Buttermilk Pie

Whiskey Buttermilk Pie

And next time, I already know what I’ll be trying… one of the worker’s recommended it as their most popular, but I couldn’t bring myself to choose it over so many other Southern staples. But next time, for sure.

Crème brûlée

Crème brûlée

Hill Country Chicken – 1123 Broadway (at 25th street) – 212.257.6446