The Game Festival at Henry’s End – Worth the Trip!

I don’t get out of this damned borough enough.

I mean I love Manhattan – I love sleeping here, working here, and especially eating here. Some of the world’s greatest eating experiences can be found just a cab ride from my front door.

And some are better found a train ride away – just over the bridge, in Brooklyn.

I’m not talking about hipster Brooklyn. You don’t have to wear a smaller jeans size than your girlfriend or carry a copy of “on the road” in your back pocket.  I’m talking about just Brooklyn being a place that happens to have outstanding food.

The food is at Henry’s End.

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Don’t expect much in the way of decor – it looks like any suburban pub. Families, friends, and longtime diners all crowded around the small tables. Christmas lights stay strung year round and you may find yourself next to a toddler having a meltdown.

It’s the kind of place where you expect a solid burger and maybe some frozen fries.

Not where you expect a totally memorable meal.

Though unpictured, the butter that comes with the varied bread basket is excellent. The bread itself is good if not great, bu that butter is sweet, soft, and dense – like whipped butter but with a smoother, heavier texture.

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Seared foie gras

Excellent. Nothing groundbreaking but foie is already perfect – let’s not reinvent the wheel, okay? This is a decent sized serving with a good sear on the outside and a warm, melting texture inside.  It is smooth and cuts with a spoon – clearly high quality. It’s served with softly poached pieces and a fruity balsamic glaze. Soft, lightly crunchy on the outside and rich beyond belief – at $17 it is the best priced foie dish in town, and thus one of my favorites.

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Pistachio crusted goat cheese and beet salad

Creamy herbed goat cheese is warm and unctuous inside its thick, fried coating of breadcrumbs and nuts. The beets aren’t overly spiced – they are earthy – really beets for beet lover. The lightly dressed spring leaves alongside lighten up the dish – it’s a welcome addition to what is sure to be a meat heavy meal.

Especially if you go, as I did, during the annual game festival, when game meats are heavily featured on the menu.

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Buffalo Pappardelle

Un-friggin-real. I have only had buffalo in burger or filet form, where it tastes lean and rather sweet. These short ribs are almost unrecognizable as buffalo – it is as fatty as pork. I mean that in a good way. Is there a bad way to mean that? The pappardelle is thick and eggy, clearly made in house. It’s draped in that soft, fatty buffalo that breaks apart on the tongue with the flavors of rosemary and red wine resonating through the palate. Some sharp pecorino cheese on top is the perfect finish.

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Antelope with sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts

This is so good I could cry just writing about it. I was nervous to order antelope because I don’t like really earthy flavors - they go muddy and dirty to me. This, however, is by far my favorite game meat. Ever. It comes seared medium rare and cuts like filet mignon. It tastes like filet too – soft, juicy, and with an incredibly mild taste - nothing too iron-y or woodsy here. It’s really juicy but not fatty. It’s lean but still soft, not cottony. It’s rubbed with cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon, bringing out the sweeter side of the meat. It’s served on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes and salty roasted Brussels sprouts – a great counterpart to the dish’s sweet elements. I ate every ounce of this and could have eaten more – not because I was still hungry; the portion is very ample – but because it was so delicious. Please get this.

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Mud Pie

Chocolate ice cream with a very nice Kahlua kick to it – almost enough to get you tipsy! Oreo crust, viscous hot fudge..yeah this is the ideal end to a hell of a meal.

The best part is how this meal taste, but the second best part is how reasonable it is  because it REALLY is. Just so delicious, so interesting, so well portioned. It’s worth a trip across the bridge.

Contrary to what they say on Survivor, it’s nice to get off the island.

What I’ve Been Eating Lately

And now, for a quick look at some of my favorite recent eats around the city:

IMG_20130827_083434_015 Pomme Palais macarons

Disclaimer – I work for this joint. But I’ll be damned if these macarons aren’t outstanding. Wow…they are made fresh, every single day, by a marvelous staff who painstakingly fills each crunchy almond cookie with fragrant raspberry jam, nutty pistachio ganache, or fudgy chocolate. You never get a stale one, because they are replaced every single day without fail. And a fresh macaron – chewy, crispy, light, and intense – is perhaps my numer one favorite sweet treat. These are among the best in the city.

IMG_20140112_123147_467 Vodka slice at House of Pizza and Calzones

I could shoot myself for not taking a beauty shot, but hey, at least the underskirt was captured, right? Besides, pictures could never capture the intense, cheesy wonderful nature of this slice. The vodka sauce is very creamy and sweet, with only a mild tang from tomatoes. It’s so rich next to the milky fresh mozzarella that covers the slice. Yet, it isn’t flat or boring – the sauce is generously spiked with oregano and the paper thin crust provides a wheaty, earthy backbone. I can’t recommend this slice enough – it may have replaced sausage and onion as my all time fave slice flavor!
IMG_20140113_131432_835 Anything at Viand

How many diners are there in this city? About a gajillion, right? But how many good diners are there? I have been to like 4 – and this is one of them. The place is pristine, with good service and they never look at you weirdly if you come in alone and just want to sit and read a trashy magazine…or a Pulitzer Prize winner…because that’s what I read. The salads are fresh, with no limp or slimy veggies, and there are curly fries.

Curly fries, people.

Get an omelette, get a turkey club, get a slice of homemade pie, and whatever time you get it, it will be fresh, delicious, and delivered quickly.

Long live the reliable diner. 

Purple Yam – Comfortable, Craveable Lumpia

I wish there was a really great Asian restaurant in our neighborhood.

 You know the type…when you just walk in wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and can sit down to Thai soup or Korean buns.

Where you can order in and they know your apartment number because they come so often.

Where you can still go on a casual friends date because it’s nice enough.

A place like Purple Yam

I went here with a girlfriend because it is a stone’s throw away from her apartment. It was a cold night and the vibe inside was warm, friendly, and welcoming. It’s casual and Ikea-sleek, and the excellent service was apparent from the moment we sat down.

IMG_20131107_193044_015 Mussels in Thai coconut curry

Just what you want on a blustery night. Plump, sweet mussels in an aromatic coconut broth. the curry flavor is very light, and while it is highly seasoned with cilantro, lemongrass, and scallions, it is not overly garlicky or spicy. The tender red peppers strewn through the broth are only lightly cooked, so they retain their sweet snap. This is perfect for someone who likes the taste of coconut and is mild enough for someone who is scared of curry – it’s a great intro dish.
IMG_20131107_193949_888 Lumpia Shanghai

I LOVE these Filipino eggrolls – they are like uber-large spring rolls! Crisp, shattering wrappers surrounding ground pork, shredded vegetables, and springy noodles. Dip them in the sweet and tangy pineapple dipping sauce and prepare to be in fried food heaven. These are light, greaseless, and come in a very generous portion. I can’t recommend these enough – I’m still dreaming of them, actually!
IMG_20131107_195142_061 Market greens in Thai green curry

It’s Brooklyn, so there was going to be at least one hipster-local-seasonal dish. This is very good, but I can’t put my finger on why. The bok choy, cauliflower, kohlrabi, and other vegetables are tender but still have a fresh, verdant bite. The curry is, like with the mussels, mild and creamy. It’s light but the sauce is rich. Eating it with some of the accompanying sticky rice is just so comforting and tasty. I wouldn’t go back especially for this dish, but I would be happy to eat it again.
IMG_20131107_195614_917 Pork buns

The one item that was lackluster. Pulled pork with some Asian spices in a steamed bun. Okay but not great – nowhere near the best I have had.

Purple Yam is just a great neighborhood joint. The prices are VERY reasonable, the service and atmosphere are lovely, and the service is great.

It’s just the kind of joint I wish we had in our neck of the woods. 

Purple Yam on Urbanspoon

DeKalb Market – Hidden Treasure in Brooklyn

Friendship has to be mutually beneficial. You add something to the relationship and the other person adds something. Otherwise…what’s the point? If that’s the rule of a good friendship, Justin and I have a great one. I send him crazy British potato chips from when I go abroad, and he shows me one of the coolest markets in the NYC area.

DeKalb Market, ongoing 7 days a week through September 30, is an outdoor market with artisanal clothing, tchotchkes, and food. The weekends are supposedly packed, but on a weekday afternoon, the place was pretty empty. Perfect for  either a quick lunch or a delightful afternoon sampling treats from many different establishments.

Mahrlinka Longganisa with Spicy Chiles, Pickled Vegetables, and Mayo

Hello, garlic breath. The first bite of this is extremely garlicky – that spicy, punchy hit of raw garlic that some people love and some hate. I love it. It avoids being overwheming here because the next taste is that of sticky, sweet, pork. The chunks are big and moist, more of a loosely packed sausage than a hot dog. There is a very umami, salty hit that has to be fish sauce.  This sausage is funky, powerful, and definitely not for those who are shy about strong garlicky flavors. The tangy pickled vegetables, creamy mayo, and the heat of green chiles finishes what is one incredible sandwich.

I let Justin have a bite because he led me to this wonderful place. But just one.

Dubpies Curry Chicken Pie

This was one of Justin’s picks. A flaky, crisp curst surrounds a lightly curry flavored filling with moist chicken and tender vegetables. It was incredibly humid out, so I didn’t have more than one bite, but the one I had was quite good, if rather subtle.

I like a curry that kicks me in the face.

Cheeky Sandwiches Shortrib Sandwich with Horseradish

This place also has a location on Manhattan’s LES, and is known for its New Orleans style sandwiches. Though Justin swears by the chicken biscuit, we both decided to branch out this time.

Soft, savory beef layered with wilted arugula, sweet tomatoes, and an almost unholy amount of horseradish. The horseradish is nasal clearing, counteracting with the fruity tomatoes and buttery toasted challah. The sandwich is fantastic in every way – run, don’t walk, to get one.

Cuzin’s Duzin Donuts

These handmade mini donuts, made to order, were good, but not great. Justin and his girlfriend loved them, but I prefer a lighter, yeastier doughnut. These are cake donuts, and thus heartier with a denser texture. They were quite good, just not to my taste.

 I still ate them, of course…

Get yourself to DeKalb Market before it closes! The food is delicious and varied, the weekdays are not crowded, and there are so many more food stalls to try that I didn’t even cover here.

Thanks, Justin, for bringing me here!

Sausage sandwiches – improving friendship, one link at a time.

Cheeky Sandwiches on Urbanspoon

The Fat Goose – A Neighborhood Haunt

I had read only good things about Fat Goose, a seasonally inspired restaurant in Williamsburg, so when my girlfriends wanted to take the train to Brooklyn for an early brunch, I was only too willing to join.
The restaurant was dead empty, but we were brunching insanely early, at 11 AM.  The room is casual with polished wood floors, a roomy bar, and tables next to large plate glass windows. It isn’t big, but it is laid out well and manages to feel spacious. 

Coffee
The coffee is worth a special mention. Brought in individual French presses, it is rich and deep, with butterscotch undertones and no scorched notes of lesser coffees. Too many places around town serve sub par coffee, and this is a delightful way to start the day.
Spaghetti Squash Bruschetta with Sundried Tomatoes
I had never had spaghetti squash, and this was a delight! Airy, charred bread is topped with thin strands of squash, bright vinegar, and soft, salty sundried tomatoes. A variety of textures and an overriding light, fresh flavor adds versatility to brunch, which is often a heavy meal. 
Case in point:

Huevos Rancheros
This is a good rendition of huevos rancheros, but nothing more than that. Runny eggs, fluffy rice, garlicky black beans. The tortilla chips are thick and freshly fried, but there is no hot sauce offered with the eggs. When asked for hot sauce, I got Sriracha. Really?
I mean I love Sriracha – would bathe in it if I could – but with huevos rancheros, I want some Cholula or something. A Mexican hot sauce.
Does that make me racist?
That’s what she said?
(guess that last one doesn’t really apply here)
This dish was good but not memorable. Luckily, the next dish changed all that.

Buckwheat Crepe filled with Swiss Cheese and Ham, garnished with Sriracha
Now, this is where Sriracha works. The buckwheat crepe is crispy and thin, filled with lakes of gooey Swiss cheese and thick nuggets of meaty, salty ham. The Sriracha balances out the saline, unctuous elements of the crepe, cutting though it with vinegar and chiles. This is highly recommended. 

I now know what the hype is all about. It isn’t about the mind blowing Kobe beef or the gorgeous waitstaff. It’s about a great neighborhood restaurant. The kind of place where you can bring a book, grab a satisfying meal, and get out of there for under $15. Nicer than a diner, not as stuffy or expensive as many other brunch places. I wish this were in my hood, but until it is, I can thoroughly recommend you check out Fat Goose.

Fat Goose on Urbanspoon
Popbar on Urbanspoon

Trophy Summer Tuesdays with Nate Smith

When McKenzie and Sarah wrangled me into Brooklyn for dinner, I had my doubts. I mean, we were schlepping to Williamsburg for dinner at a bar? 
They were touting Trophy Summer Tuesdays, held at Trophy Bar’s outside patio. Every Tuesday evening this summer, chef Nate Smith(formerly of The Spotted Pig) makes a different sandwich, side and pie for $17.
When I got to Trophy, I was immediately impressed. It had the low key, unpretentious vibe I love and a wonderful cocktail list.
When we ventured to the backyard, we were greeted with plenty of seating and a relaxed crowd that was part young people drinking beers and part families letting their kids run around the space while they enjoyed beers.
Lots of beers here. Always a good thing.
Cabbage Salad. Shreds of white cabbage, celery carrots and cucumbers were dressed in a sweet and spicy vinaigrette that had a kick from thinly sliced Serrano chiles. It had a slightly Asian taste from the cilantro and rice wine vinegar.  Fresh, crunchy and zesty, it was the perfect accompaniment to…
Vietnamese Chicken Sandwiches. Damn. These sandwiches redefined chicken for me. This chicken was so tender, flavorful and sweet that I could have sworn that it was pork. I tasted soy and sugar in the marinade, but beyond that…I was lost. It was a little tangy, a little spicy and only salty enough to bring out the natural flavor of the meat. And it as dark meat – the much maligned part of that bird. Dark meat is moist, robustly flavored and kicks dry and generally sawdust-y white meat’s ass. Placed on a soft, squishy bun with a hit of Sriracha, a leaf of butter lettuce and a gloriously crisp shard of fried chicken skin, this was everything I want in a sandwich. Satisfying but not heavy, flavorful but not salty and left me with enough room for this:
Peach Pie. Flaky, buttery crust topped with crunchy gains of sugar. Soft peaches, tasting both fresh with summer and slow cooked the way that your Southern Grandma would have cooked them, The juices mingled with warming cinnamon, creating a gelatinous pool of pure peach essence that softened the bottom crust, rendering it soft but not soggy. It only wanted for a scoop of really rich vanilla ice cream. 
And that was all this was missing – the vanilla ice cream. There was booze. There was food. There was the charming and talented Nate Smith (unpictured) making the rounds and chatting with patrons in between assembling totally delicious sandwiches. There was the chance that I would be returning next week to try the new sandwich. 
Hell, that isn’t a chance. That’s a fact.