The Park Slope Gastronome

Back in Park Slope.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

House of Dreams

My friend Nate, the one whose mom makes the tastiest brisket, constructed this glorious dream home over the holidays. I asked him if it was okay to post it, but have not heard back yet. I decided that it was just too beautiful to keep to myself, so here it is:

A friend of mine thinks that the front of the house is made of trotters. I used to think that as well, but upon closer inspection, it occurred to me that it was probably made of the same material as the chimney – sausage (is it weißwurst???). I am fairly certain that the front path is made of sauerkraut, but I am still unsure about the lawn. I have peered and squinted at this photo so many times since it landed in my inbox and the best guess I can come up with is shredded daikon… Despite loving it absolutely, in many ways this house is still a complete mystery to me.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Bo Ssam Feast

After hearing rave reviews, I finally made it to Momofuku Ssam Bar back in December for the titular feast. As many of you know, SHR and I are huge fans of the Noodle Bar, so I was especially excited to try the Ssam Bar, and more excited still to eat the Bo Ssam.

The Bo Ssam is colossal and not served during peak hours, which makes it incredibly tricky to schedule. For maximum enjoyment, you really need eight solid eaters for this meal to prevent yourself from feeling completely overwhelmed. You could probably get by with six SERIOUS ROCKSTAR eaters, but if you have anyone in your party who you suspect might not be able to pull their own weight, you should try to have more like ten, especially if you want to sample some of their tasty apps. Unfortunately, since we had to reserve for either before 6:00p or after 10:00p, getting the correct amount of eaters was impossible. There were only five of us and I won’t name names (initials are TB), but one of us was not doing the sort of quality eating that was really required for such an endeavor.

We started with a bottle of Albert Mann Gewurztraminer (we actually ordered the Albert Mann Crémant d'Alsace, but were brought this by mistake – it was very tasty, but just not what I wanted) and one of the country ham plates. Truthfully, I have no recollection of which one as I was suffering from a nearly terminal case of Bo Ssam brains. Since SHR wrote about it in September, let’s just pretend it was the Edwards’ Wigwam Smoked Ham.

Not recommended for one who keeps kosher, the Bo Ssam consists of an entire pork butt, a dozen oysters, kimchi, rice and bibb lettuce to wrap it all up in. YUM. The things I love most in this world are pork and oysters, so I was basically living out my dream, wondering what I had done to be so lucky. The oysters were brought to the table first, along with all of the aforementioned accoutrements and the bottle of sparkling we initially ordered (bubbly and oysters – a classic combination, reminds me of New Year’s in Paris…). You’re supposed to wrap the oysters up in the bibb lettuce with the pork and all of the other deliciousness, but I couldn’t wait another second and had to slurp one down immediately. And then it arrived - the pièce de résistance:

The pork butt was so phenomenally delicious and succulent that I cannot believe I have let forty-six days go by without eating it again. And the fact that there are people out there who have never even eaten it is an absolute injustice. Despite the fact that it would never make it past the mezuzah, the pork butt was so tender that it reminded me of eating brisket at Seder (my friend Nate’s mom makes the best I’ve ever tasted, by the way). I loved tearing off pieces of the gargantuan pork butt with my chopsticks and wrapping them up in the lettuce, experimenting with the various sauces and creating new taste sensations. My favorite combination involved plying the lettuce leaf with a layer of spicy red sauce, a layer of spicy green sauce (very similar to the light green sauce commonly served with Peruvian chicken, which I guess is called Aji?), the whole kimchi (as opposed to puréed) and an ample portion of pork. I made one oyster and pork combo wrap, but I found that I actually preferred keeping those flavors separate. While I love oysters and could easily polish off three dozen in one sitting, I felt like the pork was just TOO GOOD and that the former was compromising the integrity of the latter.

The Bo Ssam was not only one of the most perfectly delectable things I have eaten in years, but it was very reasonably priced as well. I would even go so far as to say it was exceptionally cheap at $180, which split by six or eight people is an absolute steal when you factor in all of the deliciousness. Anyway, I would like to do it again soon. Like I said, I need five SERIOUS eaters to accompany me – let’s make it happen!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Hill Country – Finally!

I spent the better part of the first week of 2008 trying to eat at Hill Country with little success. The first time, after spending roughly two hours at the bar doing shots of bourbon, it was announced that the restaurant had run out of food. As compensation, I believe one of the bartenders bought us a round, but like I said, I had been doing shots of bourbon for two hours… We ended up having to go across the street to Black Pearl for some of the most abysmal tasting and overpriced food I have ever eaten. The raw clams on the seafood plateau were not terribly fresh and if given the choice between eating them again and eating a colleague’s pencil shavings, I would choose the latter.

The second time I tried to eat at Hill Country, just two days later, we arrived a little before 7:00 and were informed that the restaurant would be closing at 8:00 that evening for the staff holiday party. After careful consideration of the stakes, my friends and I decided that we should abort the mission and eat elsewhere. Though, before heading a few blocks north to K-Town for some consolation BBQ, we downed a couple of cocktails and a snack (the sort of snack many would consider dinner) of the following:

• 2 Kreuz sausages (one regular and one jalapeno)
• Moist brisket
• Pork ribs
• Market chicken
• Longhorn cheddar mac & cheese
• Smokey chipotle deviled eggs

With the exception of the deviled eggs, everything listed above was absolutely delicious and I couldn’t wait to eat more. This disappointed me, as I am a huge fan of deviled eggs and never thought I would see the day I encountered one that I did not love.

Later that week, SHR and I decided to try sneaking in an early dinner at Hill Country before the barbecue hungry masses devoured all of the food again. We cruised in around 6:30 and were seated immediately. Finally – SUCCESS. I quickly ordered a Kreuz margarita (garnished with cilantro – v. tasty) and then we headed up to the counter to order our much anticipated feast, which was comprised of this:

• 1 Kreuz sausage (regular) – Very complex flavor, in my opinion better than the jalapeno variety and I LOVE spicy food, so that is really saying something.
• 1/2 lb. of moist brisket – So fatty and succulent. Anyone who would opt for the “lean” variety clearly does not know how to live. Perhaps they will outlive all of their loved ones, but spending every moment wishing they had experienced more deliciousness.
• 2 pork ribs – No surprises here, very tasty.
• 1 bone-in pork chop – SHR and I both thought it would be more juicy because of the presence of the bone, but it was disappointingly dry. The good news is, it was still a pork chop, which is nice…
• 1 Beer can game hen – The first surprise hit of the meal. One of my friends feels that this dish sounds too gimmicky, but I paid him no mind and found it to be perfectly juicy and delicious.
• Small serving of green bean casserole with fried onions – Second surprise hit of the meal. Obviously, this dish is a classic, but Hill Country’s preparation was especially tasty. The fried onions atop the mushroom soupy green beans were flavorful and resilient, never losing their crispiness.
• Small serving of longhorn cheddar mac & cheese – This side was almost as amazing as the first. One of my friends took a cooking class with Elizabeth Karmel, the executive chef, and asked her for the recipe. Not surprisingly, Ms. Karmel would not give up the goods.

For my second drink I had a Hill Country Cooler, which is made of Tang and I have no idea what else, and SHR had just about the biggest Arnold Palmer I have ever seen, served in an enormous Mason jar. Suffice it to say, the feast was well worth the wait. We even got 15% off of our bill (on my last failed visit, the hostess felt awful and gave us 15% off cards) AND I ran into a friend and gave him some golf balls and tees that I had in my purse. Here are some pictures SHR took of our visit to Hill Country:

Random pre-carnage table shot:

What everyone has been waiting for - the meat money shot:

Labels: , , ,

Monday, January 21, 2008

Day trip to Carluccio's
aka Oda's Birthday Part I
Plus, a Cheese Plate

For part one of Oda's birthday day of eating, we visited Carluccio's in Bensonhurst for some heroes. This sandwich shop is located on a block mostly occupied by specialty food shops. There's a Lioni meat store, a Lioni's latticini and then Carluccio's. I have no idea where that name comes from because their eight page menu reads Lioni Brooklyn Italian Hero's [sic]. The tiny shop is filled with Italian food staples - from dried pasta to a variety of olives, fresh mozzarella from their latticini next door and breads, as well as, of course, the neighborhood locals.

Though I studied the menu in the car, I still had no idea what I wanted to order. Moments after we walked in, I was further thrown off by all the signboards and the Frankie Valli that began flowing from the store's speakers. Dave and Jen, being old pros, didn't need much time to put in their orders. Dan and I hemmed and hawed before deciding on two sandwiches to split:

#16 - The Phil Rizzuto "Holy Cow It's Good"
Roast beef, Lioni fresh mozzarella, lettuce, mayo, salt and black pepper

#139 - Doo Wopper Hero "Your 1950's Early 60's Doo Wop"
Prosciutto di Parma, cappicolla, sopressata, fresh mozzarella, provolone, bruschetta and balsamic vinegar.

Yes, all sandwiches (all 150 of them) are named after someone from Brooklyn or who has something to due with Italian culture and come with their own tag line. Our #139 was one of a handful not named after a person. So in addition to the Scooter, you can order the #132 Paul LoDuca (featuring banana peppers and the house basil mix), the #61 Tony Danza (Sicilian salami, cappy, fresh mozz and dressing) or the #95 Ann Bancroft which features of all things, olive loaf! The menu is definitely required reading, just don't do it in the car or you'll get nauseous like I did.

While we waited for our heroes to be created, I noshed on a piece of Italian bread with some of the aforementioned bruschetta topping from a platter that was put out at the register. The topping, featuring tomatoes, fresh herbs, bits of Parmigiano-Reggiano and pine nuts, made for an excellent sandwich condiment. I imagine the basic mix is made from the same blend of ingredients, minus the tomatoes.

Though it was a little nippy outside, we decided to eat at the picnic table in front of the store instead of inside the car.

Moments before the unwrapping:

Close-up of the Phil Rizzuto:

Extreme close-up of the Doo Wopper after I took a bite:

Little Henry eyes the prize:

And once again, it's a near miss as Dave pulls the deliciousness away at the last second:

The Doo Wopper was the winner of the afternoon, with its two types of cheeses and bruschetta mix. I found the roast beef to be underseasoned. A drizzle of balsamic and maybe some of that basil mix would have done wonders for it. I was stuffed and I still had 1/3 of my Doo Wopper plus 1/2 minus three bites of the roast beef left over. Dan had his half of the roast beef left over as well. We ate those leftovers for the course of the next two days! The next morning, I polished off the rest of the Doo Wopper. For lunch I panini pressed the roast beef after adding Maldon salt (which I've recently become obsessed with and need to sprinkle on everything, black pepper, sweet red peppers and balsamic vinegar. The following evening, I did the same with Dan's half of the roast beef and made an antipasto plate to accompany it and we had a dinner for two!

Clockwise from 1 o'clock: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Jasper Hill Bayley Hazen Blue, Pecorino Pepato, dry cured sausage, Peppadew peppers, cornichons and in the middle a round of soft Italian cheese.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, January 17, 2008

donut picture with new camera

here's the first picture of food i took with my new camera. it's a little nikon coolpix that i bought on sale at with a 2gb memory card, it came out to about $125. i purchased it at around 3pm and it was on my desk before noon the next day!

meyer lemon doughnut plant donut from dishes in midtown. i cut into it a few times before realizing i should immortalize it. i know cutting a donut is lame, but i've found it to be the only way to eat a doughnut plant donut without getting glaze all over yourself.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room - Big Indian, NY

Right before New Year's, Dan and I borrowed my mom's car and drove upstate to Mt. Tremper for a mini vacation. We spent the night at the Lodge part of this place called the Emerson Resort, which turned out to be a bust! The promised Wi-Fi was non-existent and the front desk lady game me a lame excuse blaming semantics and the toiletries left in our bathroom were totally USED! Ew. We did have a very nice meal at the Peekamoose Restaurant & Tap Room, which was about a 20 minute drive up the same route the lodge was located and where I ran into an old co-worker!

I'll get the cons out of the way first:
- We had to wait at least 35 minutes past our reservation time to get seated, even though when we were brought to the dining room, at least a third of the tables were empty. We were also seated right by the door at an awkwardly placed table that seemed like an afterthought.
- Upstate water, EW! After taking one sip from my glass of tap, I had to break down and order a $6.50 bottle of Panna still water.

Now, onto the meal. I got a Cascazila from the Ithaca Beer Company. I forget what Dan ordered - maybe a Newcastle Brown? We got some delicious bread with scallion butter to begin. I love when bread comes on a board with a cutting knife. It was delicious, and as you can tell from the picture, very crumby.

We were then given an amuse bouche of a curried crab salad, which was perhaps a little over-dressed. It also could have used an edible vessel like an endive leaf, or is that too overdone at this point? I do love salads in endive leaves and isn't the point of an amuse something you can pick up and pop into your mouth? I'm probably wrong and just thinking of that poor chap Clay's fruit salad mess from the first episode of the most recent Top Chef.

To start with, the both of us ordered the 12 ingredient chopped salad. I could only make out the following ingredients for sure: romaine, tomatoes, olives - nicoise?, red onion, feta cheese, cucumber. I think there were also pine nuts and two types of sausage/meat. In deconstructing my plate at dinner, I think I figured out another ingredient or two, but now I can't remember.

Dan couldn't figure out a main to get, so he ordered two appetizers. The first was a trio of pan roasted sea scallops with slices of apples that sat on a puree of sweet potato. This could have easily been its own entree.

He also got the sweet potato gnocchi, which got added texture from being browned in a pan. The sweet and savory nuggets were served in a creamy (coconut milk, I think) but light broth and dotted with olives and pine nuts.

For my main, I went with the braised pork belly, which came with red wine braised red cabbage and creamy mashed potatoes. The cabbage by itself was too sweet, but once you started making bites with the pork and potatoes, it became an addictive combination.

We put forth an excellent effort. What you see left in my plate is some of the skin. I ate some of it, but I like my pig skin crispy.

Dessert was the weakest part of the meal. I really enjoyed the cardamom ice cream since it's not a flavor you see too often, but hated the puff pastry shell that held the braised half apple.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Il Torchio First Taste

Dan and I recently had our first taste of Il Torchio on Myrtle Avenue. I had personally held off after perusing its menu as the prices seemed really high. What is it about Myrtle Avenue? I can't imagine rents are higher than that of Dekalb, but we stopped going to our laundromat because they were charging $.90/lb for drop-off, way more than what we used to pay in Park Slope.

On this night though, I was craving Italian and didn't want to cook. Il Torchio's rustic decor provided warmth and coziness on a very cold night. Maybe a little too cozy, because even though the place was about a third full it felt a little crowded. I think the tables are too big for the space. The menu looks like it's been pared down a bit (both in price and choices).

Our meal began with the antipasto platter, which took forever to appear. We had barely tasted the mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto and another salumi which I can't remember the name of (but it was thick-cut and quite dense) when our server asked if we wanted our entrees now or have the kitchen hold off. I'm glad we didn't ask them to hold the entrees, since the plates appeared moments later. Obviously, they were already done when we were asked that question and if we had opted for the second choice, our meal would have sat under a heat lamp for who knows how long?

Dan's rigatoni bolognese was decent - the ragu was nice and thick but too much on the sweet side. My spaghetti vongole was a disappointment. It was super dry as there wasn't enough broth or sauce, and what was in the dish wasn't that flavorful either. There was a generous portion of four different types of clams, though. I shudder to think how it would have tasted if it did sit in the kitchen any longer!

Labels: , ,