The Park Slope Gastronome

Back in Park Slope.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Brunch at Great Jones

Great Jones has upgraded their brunch menu since my last visit. Not the contents which need not to be touched, but the physical menu, which now features Andouille Man much more prominently. DMR and I hit up the Jones for some Memorial Day Weekend brunch before heading over to the Sunshine to catch Once (a word of advice, if you have the chance to do the same, DON'T). We both went with our standards: huevos rancheros with potatoes and cornbread for him, Crescent City smothered eggs with grits for me. And of course my favorite bloody mary in all of New York, made by Pavement's Mark Ibold who was manning the bar that day.

My plate was overflowing with biscuit halves drowned in an orange gravy generously (more so than usual) dotted with chunks of salty ham and andouille. I don't know if it was the heat or what but neither Dan nor I could finish our food. It was a very weak showing. I can't believe I left nearly half my food on the plate. I wish I had the leftovers to eat right now! Maybe this year I'll finally attend their anniversary party.

Mets win! Mets win!

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Dinner at Craftsteak

Craftsteak is not exactly a restaurant on my to-eat-at list, but when big brother is footing the bill, how do I say no? In fact, I might even like Tom Colicchio. He seems like a pompous tool on Top Chef, but he doesn't irk me in the way that most celebrity chefs do. Plus, I love 'Wichcraft.

Craftsteak is super sleek and housed in a cavernous space. Before you can ponder a guess as to how much Colicchio and his investors must be paying in rent, you realize that you are going to help him make his rent in a very big way. Maybe I just don't have enough experience in fine (or should I say trendy?) dining but holy shit, this place was stupid expensive. I don't even want to know how much they were charging for a bottle of water. The servers kept filling our glasses over and over without hesitation. We probably had two full bottles' worth of water left in our glasses by meal's end. Were the french fries fried in rendered foie gras and sprinkled with salt from the tears of Hawaiian virgins because I had a hard time figuring out how else they could justify serving us a bowl of soggy, cold potatoes for $10. There were nice touches, like the rolls served in cast iron pans but for a table of 8 you think they would have brought out more than one dish of butter - and with two small pats at that! Ditto for the small crock of liver pate with pickled vegetables. For our table of eight, the waiter brought out one portion of this.

We started off with a grand seafood platter, which had some of the tastiest raw clams I've ever had. They were so cold and clean tasting. Give Craftsteak a point there, and another one for the oysters. Again, delicious. But again the dish was grossly overpriced. For $120 the platter consisted of a dish of lobster salad, a small portion of calamari salad, as well as another plate of crudo which I can't remember. There were also an assortment of clams and oysters - maybe 12-18 pieces total. Let's say there were 18 pieces of shellfish, at a higher end of the spectrum price of $3 a piece , that's $54. Even if you say the lobster salad was $25 (the price of your standard New York lobster roll, which contains about the same amount of meat), that's still leaving $40 for a squid salad and couple small pieces of raw fish? What the fuck?

I don't know, throughout the entire meal, I just couldn't get over the price of it all and it definitely factored into my enjoyment of the meal. Don't get me wrong, the two things in life I would shell out tons of money for without hesitation are good seats to a baseball game and food. But I want that money to be reflected in the food, not in the lighting, decor and leather for ridiculously oversized banquettes.

The steaks were fine, though lukewarm like much of the food that was served, as were most of the sides (the onion rings and potato gratin were my favorites). In addition to the soggy fries, the escarole was a big disappointment. I was confounded by the kitchen's choice to serve greens that have not been cut into smaller pieces with a serving spoon, rather than a fork.

To drink I had a Smuttynose Hanami Ale which was totally a new, strange taste for me. I did really enjoy it's crispness and tartness. With your check, Craftsteak sends you home with a chocolate chip brioche muffin, which DMR and I enjoyed for breakfast the next day. But unless they send you home with a rebate offer, I can't imagine ever coming home from Craftsteak feeling fully satisfied.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

wake up maggie (and franny) i think i got something to say to you

I've figured out why it took nearly three years to try Franny's for the second time. As my (sometimes...seriously, where are you?) co-blogger the CLC would say, "I'm just not into them." I remember feeling pretty disappointed the first time we tried Franny's, which I think was around the time they first opened. Years pass and the near-universal acclaim piles up yet, I have never felt much of a need to go back. Well I finally did over the weekend and I think it's safe to say that Franny's is simply not my type.

DMR, the CLC, Balgavy and I headed to Franny's after downing mint juleps and derby pie at Commonwealth in Southgreenslopeset. I won zilch, thanks a lot Paul Lo Duca. Having not had any time to read up on the horses, I went with Captain Red Ass' Trifecta Picks. Sure, he wound up picking the winner but at 4-1 odds it was nothing like his bingo call of Giacomo a couple years back. DMR and I actually started the afternoon with a couple of tacos from Tacos Nuevos Mexico (aka Jack's). I got a spicy chicken and queso taco and they were easily the best I've had from there. The green sauce on the queso was SPICY!

Anyway, back to Franny's. We get seated after a 30 minute or so wait and delve into the menu, which looks great. The restaurant's environmentally conscious philosophy is admirable but it confused me that it appears they print new menus out every night. I guess when the market dictates your menu you need to do this? Surely they can find an alternative, maybe even a few whiteboards as they use at Superfine in Dumbo?

We began with a couple of starters: the trio of house-cured meats and house-pickled vegetables. The waitress informed us that bread was not served with the meats and wondered if our order would that be enough food for us. I'm not quite sure why they don't serve bread since there are crostini variations on the menu. There's also uh, you know, a nice, hot oven in the kitchen where a thin round of pizza dough could be fired up and cut into wedges to accompany the meats. Our waitress was also not nearly as good as she thought she was. She forgot to bring Dan's beer and went out of her way to tell us that she wouldn't be pressuring us to order more food and drink. Thanks, we appreciate it.

I'll start the least appetizing of the house meats. The proscuitto (although the website lists pancetta, so now I'm confused. I thought the menu that day was offering proscuitto, but I may be mistaken) looked and tasted like uncooked bacon strips. It was fatty and chewy and not overly appetizing. The soppressata and coppa, on the other hand were delicious but our waitress was right, there wasn't enough of it. I think we paid about a dollar per small slice of meat. The vegetables used for the house made pickles were an interesting mix, ranging from kohlrabi to baby fennel. They each had different brines, some were sweet and tangy and some packed a bit of heat.

Our table decided to split three pizzas among the four of us. We went with two tomato, buffalo mozzarella and house-made sausage pies and one with clams, chilies and parsley. The pizzas failed to live up to the hype. Where was this magical light and thin crust? We got bready, puffy crusts that reminded us of Bobolis. Granted, it was fine, but not what was expected and certainly not amazing. I was pleased with the number of little briny bellies that dotted our clam pie, but there was something missing. Some garlic would have been nice. The chilies that were promised were barely there and the parsley dominated each bite. The sausage pie was too much outer crust, with the tomato sauce populating too small an area. I remember not loving the sausage last time because it tasted too gamey to me. Had the same thought this time around too.

Despite the promise of "Brooklyn's best panna cotta," we chose to skip dessert. I don't know if that's a line our waitress was told to say or if she truly believed it, but we wouldn't bite. I had no reason to trust her. The bottom line: the pizzas are good, but not that good to make us want to shell out $16 for a pie. The bathroom is very nice, however.

The following day DMR and I went to Maggie Brown's for brunch. We had nice experience dining on the outdoor patio the week prior, even if the service was spotty. I think our waiter disappeared halfway through our meal never to be seen or heard from again. I again went with the Beryl Evans - corned beef hash with a biscuit on the side, along with delicious raspberry butter. We should have branched out because it was just not Maggie's day. My hash came sitting in a pool of oil so it was barely eaten. DMR ordered the Maggie Brown, which is a scramble of cheddar, horseradish and chives. The kitchen forgot the cheddar. He also ordered a side of yogurt with fruit and honey, only first we realized the honey was missing and then we realized the yogurt was missing! Our server, despite seeming super harried, was super apologetic and even took 15% off the bill, which was definitely unexpected.

I could probably write more, but it's taken me like 5 day to write this so I'll just wrap things up now. Plus, I want to post about dinner the other night at Craftsteak in the next day or so.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

geographically inaccurate (and ok with it) + today's lunch

After weeks of pondering, I'm unable to come up with a good enough new name that reflects our new zip code. So I guess we'll just stick with the Park Slope Gastronome, especially considering starting a new blog would mean losing comments like these. Also apparently Clinton Hill is already the most blogged-about neighborhood in the country.

My what to eat for lunch dilemma from the other month is no longer since I started working in a real office again. The new commute sucks, but I love my new lunch options. Right up the street from me is a cluster of Japanese owned businesses, including a small grocery store that also serves dons and udon, a sushi place that happens to make a ymmmy tiramisu and a juggernaut called Cafe Zaiya. There's also a great used bookstore called Book Off. I was psyched to discover this block and did so because I have been experimenting with routes to work. For a week straight my morning routine included a mochi donut from Zaiya. Feeling a bit muffin-toppy of late, I've purposely not walked down this block for the past few days. Anyway, Zaiya reminds me of the food court at Mitsuwa marketplace in Edgewater, NJ. Instead of all the stores and stands being spread out over a couple thousand square feet, they are all jammed in a space the size of your average Starbucks. You can get cream puffs from Beard Papa, a steamed green tea bun or fancy Opera cake from the bakery, a protein and two sides from the hot lunch counter in the back, pre-made sushi and tea sandwiches from the refrigerated case or one of the many room temperature bento boxes and dons from the metro shelving that divides the bakery section from the make your own salad area. Yes, there's also a salad bar. The food and prices are both solid so this place attracts a ton of hungry mid-towners.

Luckily for me, I take my lunch later (1:30 at the earliest) and the scene is a bit more calm then. This morning however I had skipped breakfast so I wound up eating lunch around 12:30. Holy shit, Zaiya was a madhouse. Granted, there were bento offerings I had never seen before, but it was a ridiculous scene. I attempted to make a quick lunch decision, but with all the never-before-seen offerings, I failed. I finally decided on a mixed bento box which contained the following: white rice with a little mount of chopped oshinko atop; a tiny scoop (size of a squash ball, maybe?) of potato salad/mashed potato hybrid; more oshinko; a panko-crusted fried shrimp, a slice of shio salmon, a small slice of some sort of meat loaf, a piece of karage, a hunk of simmered bamboo, two tiny sausages (sadly, not cut to look like an octopus or penguin); chicken and sauteed onions (basically oyako-don without the egg or rice).

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