626 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238
We strolled leisurely down 11th, avoiding the tourist-infused High Line, toward a chef’s counter reservation at Toro where we happily ordered a step beyond what might be considered reasonable.
We also found the Hell’s Bell Pepper to be just the right amount of savory – tequila, mezcal, yellow bell pepper, agave and bird’s eye chili.
Now we’re diving headfirst into an expensive plate of Paleta Iberico De Cinco Jotas – a dry cured boneless Iberian ham that delights and is gone before you can say “twenty eight dollars.”
Some addictive Maiz Asado con Alioli y Queso Cotija followed – a dangerously convenient version of grilled street corn, and a nice foil for the Setas, a bowl of deliciously unctuous mushrooms set beneath a sexy chivy yolk.
Then things got heavy – in a good way. Unable to choose between bone marrow and foie gras, we picked both. I’m more of a purist when it comes to bone marrow, so the Asado De Hueso with guajillo and chorizo XO, Brussels sprouts and escargot – perhaps has a little too much going on. Yet I ate it happily.
We opted for the Foie Gras Tonkatsu – a crispy foie sandwich with strawberry tomato jam and pickled daikon. Kinda perfect bar food if you’re OK with foie taking second billing. Nice marriage of textures, too.
“Hey man, that’s probably delicious, right?” asked a stranger at the bar – flanked by two liquored up and leathery ladies of a certain age. I smiled and snapped a picture of his seared foie.
For dessert we had hamburgers.
Ok, not dessert per se, but our last course were a pair of delectable Hamburguesas, mini dry-aged burgers with a spicy kick on a potato bun.
In a nutshell, Toro is the perfect place for you and your overpaid friends to meet up, get buzzed, and eat decadent small plates while ignoring a world gone mad.
Prospect Heights restaurant from chef-owner Greg Baxtrom packs them in for dinner and recently rolled out brunch. Expect twists and turns, like a breakfast of Carrot Kathi Rolls (Carrot Pulp Falafel, Cilantro Stem Raita) or the Duck Duo, crispy duck sausage with scrambled egg and maple flatbread. And don’t leave without trying their bacon, egg, and cheese Egg Rolls, as delicious as they are adorable.
The tight and thoughtful dinner menu includes a scrumptious Duck Liver Mousse, a clever Beef Tartare, Heritage Pork with Raclette, and other seasonal curve-balls. Toss in a playful cocktail menu and you’ve found the perfect spot for those who like a dash of quirkiness on the plate.
On your fourth trip to Paris, you take less pictures and enjoy more actual moments. Best to live like a local. We rent an apartment and stock up on breads from Poilâne, french butter, various cheeses, some fromage de tête. Good coffee. And the inevitable bottle of Orangina.
The Google Map below has more restaurants than you could see in any one trip. I wound up having super memorable tasting menus at Frenchie and Ellsworth, and a nice meal at Ore in Versailles. But we also had excellent low key bistro meals, enjoyed Pizzeria Popolare, and some cocktails and charcuterie at aveK.
There’s always next time.
Between the historic sites, architecture, museums, churches, parks, and restaurants… there’s a whole hell of a lot to do in and around Paris. Check out our Google Map for some ideas.
If you’re spending a few days in New Orleans, you’ll probably focus on the French Quarter and the Garden District. Maybe branch out to the Financial District or take a boat ride to Algiers Point. Truth be told, those spots are small enough that after a few days you’ll feel like you’ve exhausted all possibilities. And how much can you really drink, anyway?
If the answer is “a lot,” then you can be very happy in New Orleans, day drinking and catching local Jazz in any number of touristy hangouts. You have carte blanche in New Orleans to over-do it. For the most part, no one will judge you for public intoxication and/or nudity. It’s part of the deal. As fun as that sounds, it may get old fast. Kinda like only going to Amsterdam for the weed. Once you give in to the touristy stuff, dig a little deeper.
Once you give in to the touristy stuff, dig a little deeper.
DeKalb Market Hall
445 Albee Square West • Brooklyn, NY 11201
The brand new DeKalb Market Hall in Brooklyn just augmented your dining choices by a factor of forty. In the basement of the same building that houses the new Alamo Drafthouse, Target, and Trader Joes, you can find a host of flavory pickin’s, including, but certainly not limited to, the first outpost of Katz’s Delicatessen, and Brooklyn favorites Fletcher’s Brooklyn Barbecue and Wilma Jean.
Now, I haven’t tried everything, and that will be a fun little experiment, but I can vouch for the excellent pork jowl and fried chicken buns from Bunsmith. I would go back for those alone. Certainly a lot cheaper than a $21 sandwich at Katz!
The carne asada arepas from Arepa Lady are a meal unto themselves, so next time I won’t also order the chorizo. And maybe finishing with scoops of both zesty lemon sorbet and malted milk ball ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery may have been over doing it.
Another plus in the Brooklyn column, fo shizzle.
749 Metropolitan Avenue • Brooklyn, NY 11211
Excellent spot for crafty cocktails and smallish plates in East Williamsburg.
Quaint bar setup, but concise and well stocked. Dug the Trolley Dodger (Redemption Bourbon, Vermouth Bianco, Cherry Heering, Peychauds) and the super smokey War Horse (Laphroaig single malt, Overholt Rye, lemon, Aperol, Falernum). Bartender let us know that the drink program will change regularly to keep it interesting.
Roasted Bone Marrow with pear and bourbon glaze and toasted baguette may provoke purists, but I found it tasty and perfectly sized for two people to share without feeling overly stuffed afterwards. Same for the Little King Burger, covered in caramelized onion and tomato jam so you won’t confuse it with the multitudes of burgers on every street in this town. Solid fries, too.
Menu also includes Beef Carpaccio, Fried Brussels Sprouts, Chili Glazed Chicken Wings, Cheese and Salumi Plates, and more. I intend to know it well. Across the street from the L train, and a stones throw from the G – this is my new go-to spot before shows at Brooklyn Steel, for sure.
– Little King, a new bar and gastropub, is now open in Williamsburg – Free Williamsburg
– The Making of Little King- Tumblr
– Metropolitan Minibar Little King Reigns Supreme Over Graham L-Stop – Greenpointers
– Little King Bar – Design Sponge
564 Fourth Street • San Francisco, CA 94107
Truth be told, I shouldn’t be eating at Cockscomb. My doctor recently told me an angiogram is in order to see if I have any arterial blockages worth a stent or two. But any damage I may have done over several decades won’t be augmented by a few meals in a hastily planned vacation before I get back to New York for a procedure I’m not looking forward to.
Otherwise, I’ve been on somewhat good behavior. Taking my meds, my vitamins, eating better the week leading up to this vacation. If I live through the angiogram, I’ll modify my behavior appropriately – with decadent meals and cocktails the exception rather than a weekly rule. So this little trip to California may be my last hurrah. Or my last something, anyway.
Cut to Cockscomb, Chef Chris Cossentino’s ode to whole animal cookery, where the menu is replete with ginormous sharing plates that may include a hundred and twenty five buck Pin Bone Steak with a bone marrow dipping sauce. Depending on how adventurous you are, you can even order Wood Oven Roasted Pig’s Head. Both these options, tempting as they might be, are better suited to large groups – or smaller groups for whom such leftovers are sanctioned by a cardiologist. (Insert smiley face emoticon here, but only half mean it.)
Kim and I reeled it in a bit, but still felt like we had thankfully overdone it. A night of salt infused fitful sleep, while not on the bill, was a cost we gladly paid for a foray into debauched butchery. We started light, with the Tombo Crudo – citrus cured fish with Vietnamese herbs and chili beneath a wide-rimmed rice cracker. It had all the acid that was missing from the Beef Heart Tartare, so we dipped our bread in it before slathering on the aforementioned ticker.
Any attempt to keep it light was soon thwarted by the Hot Mess – an aptly named combination of seared foie gras and pork trotter on gravy soaked toast. Some pickled pink rhubarb could only hope to cut the richness of this most devilish and delectable dish. If you’re out drinking with friends, this is a must.
Our waiter steered us in the right direction and we ordered the Bacon Chop after he suggested it was the most flavorful thing on the menu. I was skeptical. How could a pork chop live up to that? Well, for one, this piece includes the pork belly in the cut – and is served on a tasty bed of mint salsa, chicharron and citrus panzanella that adds some much needed acid. It’s one decadent chop – nothing like you’re imagining right now, so don’t even bother. If you can get over to Cockscomb, this porky delectation needs to be experienced to be believed. Wood fired and perfectly rendered – its pure bliss for carnivores of every ilk. We got it with a side of beautifully garlicky Baby Bok Choy.
If I live to tell the tale, I’ll be back to Cockscomb one day – perhaps to feed my bionic body-parts with everything else on the menu.
Maybe I’ll even come back for the lunch-only Impossible Burger, the closest vegan replica of that American staple which got so much good press recently.
As for me, it’s time for my high blood pressure meds and a leisurely walk along Half Moon Bay where, perhaps, I’ll mull over my life choices and the future of writing about eating.
Chef Rob Newton has opened a few solid Brooklyn eateries including Nightingale Nine and Wilma Jean, two spots I totally dig. Black Walnut, the new restaurant in the Hilton Hotel on Schermerhorn, seemed like a great opportunity to expand the brand, but a little out of character. Turns out Newton brings a similar sensibility to the space along with a few hidden charms.
“Like his other restaurants, there’s a minimalism on display that lets the flavors do the talking.”
At Wilma Jean you’re gonna get some good fried chicken. At Nightingale Nine, some competent Vietnamese. Here, catering to not just the restaurant itself, but also to room service, Newton balances on that fine line between pushing the envelope and playing it safe. Thankfully, he hits the sweet spot.
Whether Black Walnut is considered a financial success remains to be seen. The hood is still showing signs of adolescent gentrification. There are cranes aplenty, with new apartments and establishments popping up for blocks around. Is it enough to keep this spot afloat? I sure hope so. For starters, get some signage out front. Had I not been tuned into social media, or sites like Grubstreet and Eater, I would have never known about it.
So, off the bat, the cocktails were super delicious. Always a good sign. We had a couple of Wilma Jeans (rittenhouse rye, koval honey liqueur, fennel, lemon, bitters ) and more than a few magically smokey Dopplegangers (nuestra soledad san luis del rio mezcal, cynar, brennavin aquavit).
We started with some smaller plates, the high-point of which was a surprising chicken liver mousse with caramelized cocoa nibs, pickles, and perfectly grilled bread. The flavors really shined through. It was bright and creamy and now I want it again.
The flatbread with roasted mushrooms, kabocha squash, mint, and parsley was also good, but maybe could have been crispier. A little bit. But the flavors were spot on and there was a lightness to it you don’t normally get from flatbread.
We also shared the dry aged burger on a butter toasted house bun with some hearty steak fries. Different enough from the solid burgers at Wilma Jean, with an aged funk that stole the show. The inclusion of pickled okra was a perfect pairing, indicative of the chef’s ability to twist expectations in subtle, thoughtful ways.
The pan roasted fluke, with unctuous chanterelles, parsley root purée, crosnes, and pickled spruce tips was light and tasty, if a wee small. That it left us wanting more is probably a good sign.
I read positive things about the aged Tennessee ham and the grilled shishitos, but we were stuffed by the end of the meal. That Chocolate Pretzel Torte will have to wait until next time.
Definitely another plus on the Brooklyn food scene.