The Park Slope Gastronome

Back in Park Slope.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Can't a girl get a decent burger around here?

We recently visited two new burger joints in Brooklyn. Burger stands seem to be to new restaurants what "wolf" was to indie rock during the past 12-16 months: Wolfmother; Wolf Parade; Wolf Eyes; Peter and the Wolf; etc. Yesterday's lunch was at the Brooklyn Burger Bar in Park Slope, in the space formerly occupied by Bar Minnow, and where they tout hand-made black Angus beef patties. We were hipped to it by the Larrys a couple days ago, although you couldn't miss the garish yellow awning if you tried.

The first sign of trouble was when the waitress took our order without writing it down, a huge pet peeve of ours. I went with a medium burger with bacon and mozzarella, while DMR went with provolone and caramelized onions on the side, cooked to medium as well. She came back a few minutes later to confirm the cheese type and double check whether or not I had ordered bacon. Can readers with wait experience chime in on why there's such an abhorrence to taking a pen to paper, especially in a casual restaurant setting? Our burgers arrived on plate with a mound of shoestring fries (though special house fries are offered on the menu, they were inexplicably unavailable on this day), lettuce, a slice of tomato, a thin ring of red onions and a new pickle wedge. When our server asked if we needed anything else, I answered with black pepper, mayo, mustard, a couple place settings, oh and the top bun for DMR's burger!
I was appalled. I don't think Dan nor the server noticed and when I pointed this out, she in all seriousness asked Dan to check under the lettuce leaf! I wasn't sure whether to bang my head on the table or burst out laughing. I wish the missing brioche half was the only shortcoming of the day. Despite the burgers looking solid appearance-wise, there's not much else positive to report.
The fries were cold and a bit too oily. The burger was void of flavor and juiciness. The caramelized onions had been reduced to a sickly sweet jam, so off-putting I had to scrape it off my burger. When our bill arrived, we noticed we were charged $4 for a glass of fountain root beer. GTLO! We were trying to think of an explanation for this exorbitant charge. Perhaps there were free refills, although the menu doesn't note that (or the price). We needed an explanation and what we were told was that the root beer served used to be the more premium bottled Abita. Used to? Meaning when the Brooklyn Burger Bar was Bar Minnow, a completely different restaurant? So they just haven't gotten around to reconfiguring Ordertron 2000? DMR and I both got the impression that we weren't first customers to point out this price gouging. Why don't they just charge $20 for a burger and hope that most people won't say anything or won't even notice. Oh, and where does a restaurant get the nerve to not give back coin change? It's one thing if you get shorted a penny or two (although I still find that to be really arrogant and aggravating - if you don't want to deal with unrounded numbers, alter your prices to include tax and even it off), but seriously, where was my 27 cents today? I wish Bonnie's was open for lunch.

On the flip side, we are going to give 67 Burger a second shot even though the CLC, DMR and I weren't blown away on the first try. There were some problems with the food preparation and overrall flow of the place but also a couple of little quirks and glimpses of greatness they can build on. I was a big fan of 67 Burger's fountain beverage choices. On tap were RC Cola, Diet Rite, Bosco Chocolate Soda and Stewart's Root Beer. The $1.95 price includes a free refill, possibly even refills, because the drinks were casually filled and never to the top. The french fries, when not sitting on the counter, waiting to be delivered to your table, were piping hot and delicious. Unfortunately, one of our orders of fries had the misfortune to sit out too long and lost its crispiness. All three of our burgers were way overdone. The CLC had ordered hers medium rare, while DMR and I went with our usual medium doneness. Only my burger showed any hint of pink. The outsides were charred and hard as a rock, as were the buns (note the bottom right of the plate). The insides though surprisingly remained somewhat juicy, which combined with the sauteed mushrooms and onions, aided in the disintegration of the bottom bun.
These guys should really ditch the table service. It doesn't make any sense at any time, but especially when there's a crowd, as was the case when we ate here. You order at the register, so why then sit around and wait for someone to deliver your food? Was I supposed to wait for a server to come around to ask for a drink refill or was it kosher that I turned around, stood up and took the three steps to the counter to ask for one? Service issues aside, our pal Balgavy was shocked upon hearing of our not too stellar experience, as he's had a number of perfectly cooked rare burgers here. That gives us hope.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Santa Strawberries

Strawberries turned into Santa Clauses by my sister-in-law and the peanut. The siamese twins on the far right are my favorite. Note the black sesame seeds used as eyes.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Octopus Salad at Stone Park Cafe 12/8

One of my new favorite dining routines is eating at the bar of Stone Park Cafe on Friday nights, when our downstairs neighbors have their salsa parties. On this particular night, I was headed to a Christmas party but needed a little something beforehand. This is a grilled octopus salad, with shaved fennel, frissee, cherry tomatoes and capers in a tomato beurre, topped off with a duo of tempura'ed caper berries. The octopus was really tender and I really enjoyed the beurre. DMR got a burger, OF COURSE!

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Friday, December 22, 2006


Number of strips: 3
Comments: I woke up yesterday with a cold and came home from work early. Didn't have much of an appetite but figured I should eat something. So for dinner, I cooked up some spaghetti and tossed it with butter, black pepper, parmigiano reggiano and two pieces of Applegate Farms Organic Sunday Bacon which I had broiled in the toaster over and then crumbled up.

I can't say I'm the biggest fan of this bacon. It lacks that definite wood smoked flavor, despite touting "applewood smoked" on the package. The bacon was left over from Sunday's pick-n-climb food preperations. At the pick and climb, I had a bacon-wrapped oyster which the CLC made, as well as some swiss-bacon dip, which I brought to the party. I figure there's a full strip between the two.

Total count from April 26, 2006: 66.75*
*this number is off by like at least 15, because I forgot to update a couple times. I also sometimes forget I'm eating bacon when it's on a burger.


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Cambodian Cuisine becomes The Smoke Joint

I had no idea Cambodian Cuisine had closed its doors. While never its biggest fan, I liked the idea of this place as it provided an nice dining alternative for the area. It was just different and I loved the corner of land it occupied. Taking over its spot is The Smoke Joint, serving honest to goodness, real barbeque in Brooklyn! And it's REALLY GOOD!

DMR and I got some takeout to bring to Balgavy's the other week, where we caught up on the television shows we had missed while our interwebs and cable was indisposed. (For those keeping score at home, it took Time Warner 11 days to fix everything: 3 actual appointments and 1 made-up appointment where the technician showed up despite us never confirming the date or time.) Balgavy went with the mammoth beef short ribs and a side of fries shaken in the house "jointrub." I went with a half rack of baby-back ribs, while DMR chose the tips and bits drowned in the house sauce, "jointsmoke." We also shared an order of fries, mac n' cheese and greens.

I devoured my dry-rubbed ribs, which came 5 or 6 to the order. I liked being able to dip my rib into the sauce to control the amount. They were meaty and tender, and I licked them clean. DMR was a little hesitant about his tips and bits, as it was difficult to tell what was meat and what was bone amid the sea of sauce. Still, the sauce is damn good, and the crusty end bits made up for accidental gnawing on cartilege. Neither of us was overly fond of the other sauce - which was probably the brown-sugar chilie. The fries, served in a brown paper lunch bag, were a big hit. The Smoke Joint's jointrub is reminiscent of Utz's bbq chips, with sweetness coming from granulated sugar. Personally, I opt for Carolina-style bbq chips were vinegar provides a tang, but these fries were so tasty, it didn't matter. A fry can widthstand sweetness much better than a thin chip can.

I had read some reviews that said the greens needed work and the mac n' cheese was fantastic, but my experience was the opposite. My greens were slightly smoky and not overwhelmingly vinegary at all as some reports stated. The mac n' cheese, on the otherhand was too unctuous and the sauce didn't have much of a bite. And where were the crusty parts? Oddly, I enjoyed this side more the next day, when I reheated the leftover portion for a snack. The cheesiness was more prominent and the sauce had broken so it wasn't overly creamy.

We can't wait to go back and try the fantastic selection of beers owners Ben and Craig have put together. While we waited for our order, we chatted with Ben, who regards the Smoke Joint's beverages like his own children. A PSG favorite, Blue Point Toasted Ale is sold in bottles for $3.50. There is also a selection of cans from Butternuts Beer and Ale in upstate New York, each just a couple bucks and with great names (Pork Slap Pale Ale, anyone?). Dale's Pale Ale from Colorado, which I recently tried at Floyd is on the menu, too. Ben mentioned his favorite of all is Hennepin from the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown.

There is still much on the menu, I want to try. Coleslaw, Brooklyn Wings and Hacked and Stacked, I'm looking right at you! You are warned, even though it will be difficult to not the ribs the next time around.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Still alive and eating...

I can't believe it's been a month since I've last written! But honestly, does anyone out there really care what Youthlarge and I ate for lunch? Anyway, nothing really of note to report. Last night Jim and I went to Floyd to have a little mid-tourney practice (we pulverized members of the Electric Company, who play in the Union Hall league) and then lost to some newbies. Though I suspect that they were actually grifters, probably hailing from Tulsa or something. After we lost, we headed next door to Chip Shop for some dinner. Chip Shop makes me sick to my stomach roughly 50% of the time. I've mentioned this before. Unfortunately, I have to place last night's dinner in the more vomitatious percentile. My bangers and mash and I simply could not coexist.

Tonight I'm going to eat delicious crab and pork soup dumplings at Joe's Shanghai, so I should have lots to write about tomorrow!

Monday, December 04, 2006

4 on Fifth

Friday's Lunch: Taro Sushi (ok, technically on Dean, but steps from 5th Avenue)

I took a personal day from work on Friday and wound up having lunch with the China-Latina Chowhound. She was fiending for some sushi, so I suggested Taro, a tiny spot around the corner from O'Connors. Taro offers up some great deals during the day. I went with lunch special #1, a bento box of unadon, whitefish tempura and 4 pieces of sushi along with miso soup and salad for $8. My box was portioned off into four squares: a mount of rice with two pieces of glazed eel; two pieces of fish, a broccoli floret and a small slice of acorn squash all tempura'ed up; a dish of tempura dipping sauce (the wonderful combination of soy, mirin and dashi) with a healthy amount of grated radish; ebi, tuna, salmon and mackerel nigiri. Beth went with a sashimi appetizer and combination #4, which was a plate of chicken teriyaki, dumplings and spicy tuna roll (you can also choose a California roll, but why would you want to?). While neither of us would go out of our way to order chicken teriyaki, Beth needed some additional protein and seemed very happy with her choice. I already had a bounty of food in front of me, but would up eating one of Beth's spicy tuna pieces, all of her noodles that came with the chicken, half of her salad and also one of her peppery dumplings. Wow, that makes me sounds like a pig! Oink, oink.

Friday's Dinner: Bogota
The rain started coming down pretty hard during lunch so afterwards the CLC came over and we had a plan to watch something great on television. By something great, we were hoping for Glory Road or While You Were Sleeping, but instead cable television decided to play a joke on us and only offer up real crap like Must Love Dogs. We wound up spending the rest of the afternoon YouTubing "We Are The World" and Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton duets, and creating a special rainy day playlist that included lots and lots of Rod Stewart. Obviously, we worked up quite an appetite and decided to meet up at Bogota for dinner with DMR, who would be coming from his squash game.

We started with an order of plantain chips with cilantro black bean dip which was really flavorful. For my main, I went with the ropa vieja, simmered in a cilantro red wine sauce here, accompanied by a side of tropical slaw and garlicky kale. Man, this was a tasty dish. I love shredded meat dishes, whether it's barbacoa or yook gae jang. Each bite was juicy, as the meat retained the sauce well. The crunchy slaw was composed of shredded red cabbage, coconut flakes, mango and a couple other fruits. Thankfully, I spotted only a single raisin in the dish.

DMR ordered the skirt steak with chimichurri sauce, which turned out to be a very nice portion of meat. There were three thin strips of beef on his plate, half of which he placed on my plate in exchange for a mound of ropa vieja. He went with rice and beans and sweet plantains for his sides. The CLC went with a taste of Bogota, the Bandeja Paisa, a smorgasbord of Latin treats including: grilled skirt steak, an arepa, rice & beans, fried egg, maduros and best of all, glorious chicharron.

By the way, the folks at Bogota really couldn't be nicer. DMR had stopped by his work to pick up a package before dinner. On the way out, knowing the weather was terrible, one of the co-owners stopped him and went to get a plastic bag to cover up the box. By the time we stepped outside, it had stopped miraculously raining, but it was still a very thoughtful touch. Also, we were seated moments before Happy Hour was to end, so the same guy rushed over to our table to see if we wanted to put in an order while there were still specials going on.

Saturday's Dinner: Stone Park Cafe
DMR and I were planning to attend a fundraiser in lower Manhattan, but instead decided to stay in. Then we decided to go out and get dinner in the neighborhood. We decided to try Palo Santo again, but once we arrived at the corner of 5th and Union, I realized I didn't want Latin cuisine two nights in a row for dinner. So we headed back south and decided to eat at the bar of Stone Park Cafe. Overall, DMR and I have had our most satisfying dining experiences here sitting at the bar, whether it's for brunch or dinner. I'm a big fan of the night bartender - I think his name is Cliff or Clint. He was also tending the other time we had dinner at the bar. DMR ordered a bacon and jack cheese burger and a pint of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale. Very DMR. I once again went with the frisee salad, which I love for its ingredients list: lots of bacon chunks, crisped shitake mushrooms, Yukon Gold potatoes cubes and a poached egg with a breadcrumb coating. I also ordered a side dish of homemade tagliatelle with pork belly. The sauce in this dish reminded me a lot of the broth in tonkotsu ramen, which is made from cooking pork bones for a long time. It had that same thickness and stickiness to it. I remember feeling a little overwhelmed by the broth in that ramen, but here it seemed just right, coating the light noodle strands and tiny squares of pork belly with velvety richness. We ordered a root beer float for dessert. The menu touts Virgil's root beer, so I was somewhat disappointed when a bottle of Olde Brooklyn showed up - not exactly my favorite as I find it a tad syrupy. We're both big fans of the chocolate chip marshmallow sandwich cookie that accompanies the float. With a little more than a quarter of the cookie left, DMR declared that he was going to eat the rest of it, which made me laugh so I didn't put up a fight. Oh, one more thing about the dessert that wasn't great - in addition to vanilla, there was chocolate ice cream! Who wants chocolate ice cream in a root beer float? Certainly, not I.

Sunday Brunch: Perch
I want to like Perch but having to wait 20+ minutes for a couple of egg sandwiches to go, doesn't so much to help that. There's something oddly inefficient about this place despite so many servers zipping back and forth and so many people behind the counter. The egg sandwiches were good (his: eggs, cheddar, bacon, caramelized onions, jalapeƱos; mine: green eggs, ham and cheddar), but they're not exactly cheap and not really worth waiting all that time for. When my sandwiches were up, I was kind of taken aback when the woman behind the counter asked me if I wanted a bag. It's our own damn fault for being lazy.

I guess at most places, if you order for delivery or take out, your ticket in the queue jumps. Maybe I'm just spoiled by places like Joya, where it barely takes 10 minutes from hanging up the phone to having your doorbell rung. The coffee was nice and hot though.

Taro Sushi 446 Dean Street (b/w Fifth Avenue and Flatbush)
Bogota Latin Bistro 141 Fifth Avenue (b/w St. John's Place and Lincoln Place)

Stone Park Cafe 324 Fifth Avenue (at the corner of 3rd Street)
Perch 365 Fifth Avenue (b/w 5th and 6th Streets)

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