The Park Slope Gastronome

Back in Park Slope.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Cylons were created by woman. There are many copies.

For the season 3.5 premiere of Battlestar Galactic last Sunday, Amy F. made these awesome Cylon cookies. Someone get this woman a show!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dinner at Prune

It's only taken about 7 years, but I've finally eaten at Prune. Their Chicago Matchbox Bloody Mary, rife with pickled vegetable garnishes, is what initially piqued my interest. Unfortunately, they only serve Blood Marys at brunch and I was there for dinner.

DMR and I were joined at this meal by Fleck and Margie J, who by the way is celebrating her birthday today. Happy Birthday MJS!!! I hope you had good sushi! We began with a bottle of wine which I really enjoyed but now for the life of me can't recall. I though it was a 2003 J.L. Chave Offerus, but in one of the pictures below I noticed the label on which "Barrie" is clearly legible. I should really write these details down but I don't have my act together. I wasn't quite as fond of the second bottle, which I'm almost positive was a Pinot Noir.

For my starter, I ordered the pasta kerchief, which was a pasta sheet draped over a poached egg and french ham, and covered with Parmesan cheese shavings and pine nuts. I tried to make each taste a combo bite, so that the saltiness of the ham and cheese would balance out the simplicity of the pasta. I think I could eat something like this all day.

Fleck went with the sweetbreads (pardon the poor photo), something I had never tried. I was unable to resist fried paired with capers and bacon. I must say it was pretty tasty, but nothing I would ever order for myself. Sorry, but I'll never be a foodie. The consistency reminded me of croquettes from Japanese bakeries - crunchy on the outside, dense and creamy on the inside. Actually they remind me of something else too which I have on the tip of my tongue and can't quite put my finger on. This is going to bother me for days.

One of the special starters this evening was a bed of julienned radishes in a butter sauce, topped with bright orange pearls of trout roe. Margie's ears were perked first by the radishes and then the roe. If tobiko is on one end of the fish egg spectrum and ikura on the other, trout roe would be well-placed right in the middle. I tend to stay away from the huge ikura because I'm not into all that liquid that gushes out when you bite into them.

On to our mains.

Margs and I both went with the grilled whole branzino on a thin layer of lemon peppercorn oil and accompanied by a small ramekin of coarse salt. I loved the way the salt dissolved once it made contact with the warm meat of the fish. We were both very pleased with our choice.

DMR went with the special entree of the night - ginormous beef ribs braised in Asian spices. Our table was intrigued by this dish. Would you need a knife and fork or could you eat with your hands we wondered. The knife and fork won out, but I think the real winner here is DMR, who has truly learned to embrace bone-in foods in the past year or so. I doubt a year ago he would have willingly ordered ribs. Congrats, DMR!

Not pictured is Fleck's lamb shank and it's a shame because the presentation was really nice. The hunk of meat arrived at the table tied up in a parchment pouch.

We also ordered some sides to round out our meal.

To the left are mini sweet potatoes drizzled with a brown butter viniagrette. Prune loves brown butter! These were a bit disappointing because after unwrapping the skin, you were left with two small bites of sweet potato at the most. On the dish to the right are the roasted beets, along with their swiss chard-like green tops, served with aioli. I had never had beet greens before (at least knowingly, who knows what my mother served us back in the day) and really took a liking to them.

M holds up the plate of greens, sauteed in lemon juice and olive oil, served with a sprinkling of pignoli and raisins on the vine! I stayed away from that last part of the dish, although I will say raisins on the vine are pretty cool looking.

Dessert was my least favorite part of the meal. DMR and I shared a panna cotta which was served rather strangely. First off, it was a very thin and liquidy panna cotta. A milk glass didn't seem like the best choice of serving vessel. I wasn't sure what the orange slice was for. I did take the piece of vanilla bean that was resting over it and place it in the panna cotta glass.

The meal was quite satisfying, but I didn't leave the restaurant feeling overwhelmed by greatness. Don't get me wrong, it was a delicious meal and I was very happy with the friendly and attentive service as well as with the little touches, like the chunks of dark chocolate that accompany the bill and the spicy papadums when you first sit down. Maybe I was just bummed the suckling pig, which I had decided during pre-meal research would be the dish for me, wasn't available that night?

DMR just asked, "What are you writing about?" To which I replied, "Prune." His response: "When did you go to Prune?" Oh, DMR!

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Sunday Eating

Was invited by Brooklyn’s premier board game party host to play Ticket to Ride EUROPE. The game was glorious and it prompted me to re-learn one of life’s most important lessons – Reading Is Fundamental. Like, when you get a card that says Amsterdam to Pamplona, don’t build a train from Amsterdam to Palermo. While it is a much more complicated route (which, by the way, I successfully built), you will not be rewarded for it in the end as it is WRONG. If only I would have actually READ my card instead of simply SKIMMING it. Regardless, the blow of my complete ineptness was somewhat cushioned by the delicious pre-game pizza I consumed.

We ordered two pizzas (one pepperoni, one sausage) from Graziella’s on Vanderbilt between DeKalb and Willoughby. To be honest, I don’t really eat pizza that often. I like it well enough when I eat it, but I never go out of my way to eat it. I have a similar relationship with bagels (though the latter DO actually induce headaches – maybe too many chewing repetitions?). I’ll eat pizza at Grimaldi’s, but that’s pretty much it. Graziella’s, like Grimaldi’s, is tasty thin-crust brick oven pizza. I find this variety preferable because I also don’t like bread or crust. I’ve had Graziella’s twice now and have to say, I love it. Each slice goes down so smoothly that it makes me wonder why I don’t eat pizza all the time. My fellow board gamers and I each scarfed down three slices, easy peasey, with the exception of my favorite cracker – the original Jimmy John Hong. It was his lucky day and he got to eat FOUR amazing slices. I think what makes this pizza so delicious is the perfect sauce to crust ratio. It must be even MORE perfect tasting in the actual restaurant.

Afterward, I went to my friend Zach’s house to watch the Pats/Colts game. I was very pleased to discover upon my arrival that ex-Commissioner Phil, who lives in Greenpoint, brought some wonderful kielbasa from his nabe. Zach cooked it up perfectly and we enjoyed it with some rye bread (which I did not really eat b/c I don’t like bread), sauerkraut (which we almost couldn’t open because the lid was, I think, GLUED instead of screwed onto the jar) and spicy hot mustard (also oddly difficult to open) – all from Greenpoint. Additionally, I was psyched that the Colts won because I’m totally done with the Patriots. I especially hate them because my former company built their stupid stadium, so as a rule, I always root against them.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Palo Santo, Finally

Palo Santo is easy to miss and that's just what I must have done for the first few weeks it was open. It's tucked away on the ground floor of a brownstone on Union Street so if you're not looking for the restaurant, you'll walk right past it. DMR and I tried to eat here with Mr. Glen and Jane on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, only to be faced with a closed gate. Closed for Thanksgiving weekend. A few weeks later, we walked over to Union and 5th before I decided I didn't want Latin for the second night in a row. And most recently, the restaurant was inexplicably closed on a weekday, erroneously leading me to believe the restaurant had shut down for good. Finally, right before the new year, we were able to try Palo Santo with the fresh from Mexico and newly engaged Skippy and Cortney.

The first thing I noticed after being seated: no noshes, no nibbles, no nothing. It was close to 9PM. I was pretty damn hungry and would have loved a little something.

Our appetizers. Since I was famished, I was too busy eating to remember to take a photo. Remnants of an incredibly tender pork belly on the left. I found the chicory salad topped with a poached egg on the right a little on the bland side.

Skippy shows off his asopado, which was chock full of mussels, lobster and other tasty sea creatures. The soupy rice was buttery and addictive and possibly the best thing I tried all night. In the foreground is a baked platano maduro that DMR ordered, which was presented whole and in the peel.

DMR's steak was fatty and gristly, the least impressive dish of the night.

My whole grilled trout sat atop a bed of thinly sliced radishes. A few wedges of purple potato accompanied. The fish came deboned and the flesh was quite tender, both which I greatly appreciated, but it could have used a little more seasoning (meaning salt).

Cortney got the rabbit in a mole sauce. It was a mammoth serving.

For dessert, we had only one option and that's what we ordered. It was a panna cotta, quivering atop a barely sweet, thin grapefruit sauce, actually more like a glaze or simple syrup and topped with supremes from the fruit. I thought the combination of citrus and cream was rather interesting. It was a fresh and light way to end the meal.

The restaurant is beautiful with a lot of rustic but warm touches. We were the only diners in the front room and greeted with a blast of cold air each time the door opened. Aside from the handful of tables in the front, there's also a bar you can sit at and order the $45 chef's tasting menu. Unfortunately, it's not publicized and I only learned of it post-meal. I guess it's one of those things you just have to know going in or stumble upon. I think our group would have been into that. There is also a back room to Palo Santo. It's where we had asked to be seated, but the hostess couldn't accomodate us. I'm not sure how many diners they can fit back there, but only two or three other parties passed by us to leave the restaurant.

Palso Santo also serves breakfast and brunch, which I've heard raves about and are very reasonably priced. It's at these meals where you can imagine yourself being a regular. Dinner may be a little tougher to do that at. Expect to shell out some clams.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Christmas Eve at Haru

I don’t have anything to work on for the rest of the day, so I thought I’d do a retroactive post. On Christmas Eve, my friend Abbey and I ate at the Haru in Times Square. I found the food to be just so-so and the service to be, well, poor. Which begs the question, despite my many protestations, am I a service snob? I really never thought I was, but lately I feel like I can’t stop complaining about bad service. Am I just growing more difficult and persnickety in my old age? Or is the general state of the service industry just really as abysmal as I perceive it to be? To be honest, I’m not sure which option I’d prefer as they both sort of suck, though I guess I’d prefer the former as I have some modicum of control over that one.

The tastiest thing I had at dinner was the Rum Punch, which is described on their menu as rum, fruit juice and more rum. It was a fairly accurate description as I felt totally sozzled after just two drinks (if you know me, you know that I typically have about 17 drinks in one sitting). To start we ordered the Chilean sea bass yakitori (though we were initially served the yakitori trio, comprised of chicken, filet mignon and salmon, which we had to send back as Ab is a strict pescatarian) and the king crab dumplings. Both tasted fine, but left me feeling pretty under-whelmed.

For dinner I ordered two pieces of sashimi for each of the following: yellowtail, Spanish mackerel, fluke and then just one piece of salmon. But instead of what I ordered, the waiter brought me three pieces of yellowtail and zero pieces of salmon. He insisted that he had brought me the salmon and I politely told him that I could tell the difference between yellowtail and salmon, that I would pay for what he brought me, but still wanted a piece of salmon. When we got the bill, I noticed that it was all messed up, but as it was Christmas Eve, did not mention it and still left an overly generous tip (roughly 30%).

Anyway, as far as expensive NYC sushi goes, I really do not recommend Haru. But perhaps I am judging it unfairly as I had just eaten at Sushi Yasuda (still waiting for pictures to post write-up – WHHIIIZZZZUUUPPP MATT?) two nights before. All other NYC sushi pales in comparison, so I guess the juxtaposition of the meals was rather cruel to Haru.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Friday Night's Dinner

Went to the Dos Caminos on Park (between 26th and 27th) for my friend’s 30th. I’ve been meaning to try this upscale Mexican place for a while, so was excited to learn that was where we’d be dining. For the most part, the food was pretty tasty, but I found the overall experience to be sort of mediocre. The earpiece clad army of hosts/hostesses were a little over the top and self-important, while our waitress was just sort of jerky seeming, though she did not do anything in particular until we asked for the check (we had to ask twice, the second time she simply responded with a sarcastic thumbs up). But we all know what a service snob I am (if you know me and have actually broken bread with me, you know that this could not be further from the truth, but my partner in eating and I seem to have gotten a bad rep for being sticklers for crazy things, like getting what we ordered).

Anyway, we started with two orders of guacamole – one spicy and one of medium heat. The spicy guacamole was delicious. They make it fresh to order for you at the table in a lava rock pot thingy, which I guess makes it seem more fun. Once the guacamole was almost completely devoured, an expeditor bought out two plates of, um, white cloth napkins? We opened the napkins and found some lovely warm corn tortillas. We asked what they were for and were told that they were for the guacamole. Mais bien sur! An accoutrement for something that was served to us 25 minutes ago! Here I go, snobbing it up again, but seriously, when a table drops $48 on guacamole, they should get everything it comes with BEFORE it has all been eaten.

For the next course, I had two empanadas - one wild mushroom (this was the tastiest thing I had, aside from the margaritas (rocks, salt)) and one roasted plantain (also filled with black beans and cotija cheese). For my main I ordered the Chipotle Barbeque Niman Ranch Pork Ribs. The tender ribs were served atop some delicious cumin braised cabbage with black beans and Mexican chorizo chili on the side. I had really high hopes for the chili, but it was totally mediocre. It wasn’t seasoned well and the chorizo was so finely ground that its presence was practically undetectable. The birthday friendo was also unimpressed with her entree, which was some sort of seared tuna dish. She thought it tasted bitter.

Oh, also, I was trying to pass one of my ribs to someone and I accidentally dropped it into someone else’s beer. Well, it was funny, and probably made the rib taste even better, but the mishap proved to be a bit messy. The beer glass had bbq sauce all over it and a lone piece of pork floating up and down inside half full glass (even in the face of adversity, I’m an optimist!). The bobbing piece of pork was even grossing ME out, and I love pork like a brother. Our surly waitress, despite several post-pork rib fiasco visits, refused to a) acknowledge the bbq sauce covered glass, or b) clear it. Weird.

So, I guess I didn’t really like this place. Maybe I’ll try the one in SoHo to see if it’s better. I’m in no rush though.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007

This is what I ate yesterday

I started an entry about Sushi Yasuda a couple of weeks ago, but am waiting for the amazing pictures my friend Matt took of this culinary experience before I complete and post it. In the meantime, I’ll just tell you what I ate yesterday.

I’ve been temping at Phoenix House on 74th and Amsterdam for the last three weeks or so and am now a card carrying Fairwayoholic. I’m addicted. Sometimes I go three times in one day. Yesterday I went twice. The first time I went yesterday was for lunch. From the prepared foods bar I got 2 slices of turkey meatloaf (I ate this on Tuesday too), three portobello mushroom caps (also consumed during Tuesday’s lunch) and an eggplant rollatini with all of the usual ingredients, but HAM as well! The turkey meatloaf and portobellos were delectable for the second day in a row, and the eggplant rollatini was outstanding too. To make matters even better, I’ve been all kinds of spacey lately, so I forgot about the bonus ham entirely and got all excited when I happened upon it with my fork and knife!

After work I decided to go back to Fairway to pick up dinner. I got some sashimi (2p tuna, 2p yellowtail and 2p salmon – v fresh and a steal at $5.99) and some karaage (6 lovely little pieces of fried chicken deliciousness). When I got home I had to run a quick 8 minute errand and then I totally scarfed my food. Afterward, I noticed that Mike Wrobo had texted me to see if I wanted to eat dinner. Despite having just wolfed down the aforementioned, I decided that I was still hungry and was up for a second round of eating. Mike felt like sushi, so we ordered in from Gen (Washington and St. Marks), which is right around the corner from my new and old apartments. I really like this place. I’ve gotten take-out from there a bunch of times and have not been disappointed yet. So anyway, Mike and I shared some tonkatsu (my dear old friend, DEEP-FRIED PORK) and a Mega Godzilla roll, which despite being rather stupidly named, was super tasty. The Mega Godzilla roll was comprised of soft-shell crab and avocado inside the roll, and perfectly crisped eel atop. Since it was Mike’s first and only dinner, he got some miso soup and a mackerel and ginger maki as well. Suffice it to say, I stole a piece of the latter and it was glorious.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Minca Ramen Factory

Around the holidays, we ate at the Minca Ramen Factory, a tiny ramen restaurant in the East Village (536 E. 5th St b/w A & B). It's cozy, but definitely not as cramped as Rai Rai Ken. At Minca, you can choose to site at the half dozen or so tables, or at one of the seats at the bar, where you have can observe the ramen production firsthand.

The Minca mise en place.

Pork gyoza. These were served piping hot and with a lovely layer of crispy on one side. DMR burned his tongue, I think. I for the life of me cannot replicate this at home. My gyoza always winds up sticking to the pan. Am I just not using enough oil?

We both opted for the house Minca ramen, which centers around an earthy broth made with pork, chicken and dried seafood. The noodles are imported dried from Japan and were more toothsome than I've been accustomed to. Topping the noodles were handfuls of marinated bamboo and black mushrooms (I picked all of these out, I hate these mushrooms despite being a mushroom lover), half a soy-sauce marinated hard boiled egg, a couple thin slices of tender pork and a sprinkling of scallions. A square of seawood is placed upright in the bowl as well. Next time, I'll probably order a different soup base and ask them to hold the mushrooms.

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Momofuku Ando, R.I.P.

We have just learned of Momofuku Ando's passing (thanks for the heads up, Martin). The inventor of instant ramen died on January 5 at the age of 96 after suffering a fatal heart attack. Fittingly, his last meal was chicken ramen, the product that started it all.

The Park Slope Gastronome is grateful to have been able to visit
The Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum in Ikeda City while vacationing in Japan last summer.

Momofuku Ando
March 5, 1910 - January 5, 2007

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