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Saturday at Smorgasburg!

I have to thank my fav restaurant buddy for introducing me to her colleague as “my friend with the food blog,” because this new acquaintance then went on to give me the scoop about SMORGASBURG (map!), a cool Brooklyn food fair that happens in Williamsburg every Saturday.

Curious about this weekly event (organized by the same people who set up the Brooklyn Flea markets), DH and I picked a glorious day to visit.

Ok, maybe not so glorious. Where's the sun??

The sky was not nearly as beautiful as in all the press photos, but I wanted to try those fried anchovies I had read about, darn it! So we braved the rain and gloom under a tiny umbrella while making our way east from the L-train stop, and thankfully saw that a good number of other people had also made the same trek for a chance to taste some good Brooklyn yums.

So many places to try! First stop: BON CHOVIE (omg, their website is great. I’ll never think of anchovies the same way ever again. Apparently they are the rock stars of the sea?)

Tiny oily fish are effin' metal, dude.

We weren’t hardcore enough to go for “heads on”, but no matter. They were delicious! That smoked paprika aioli on the side was pretty special too.

And to think, you guys could have been canned and sitting on the shelf of a supermarket somewhere for MONTHS. This is a much better fate for you, fishies, I promise.

After that tasty little appetizer, we were on the prowl again. This time, we wanted something carby, with a little more heft. Ooo, what’s that over there?

Pupusas? PUPUSAS.

A little background. Pupusas are a Salvadoran food – thick tortillas filled with any variety of amazing things. (Long confusing story short: the first time I tried them was in Scotland, homemade by a Taiwanese-American girl who learned about them while visiting Latin America. A truly global treat.) And now here was SOLBER PUPUSAS, dishing them out! We ordered a traditional pork one and a fish one. They came with curtido (pickled cabbage), tomato sauce, sour cream, and jalapenos. Then we also grabbed some juices at the Red Jacket Orchards stand.

Time for a bigger photo:

I really like the colors in this picture.

Ohhhhmyyygodddd. These pupusas were totally gold. The combination of the tortilla, meat/fish, and all the condiments was just the most amazing mouth-happy experience ever. Not only was there a good taste, but the curtido gave each bite an excellent crunch, so the texture was great too. We scarfed it all down like animals, it was glorious.

So now we totally had the hunger. More carbs and meat, please?

Hmmm, that BOCATA stand smells pretty good.

Who can say no to sausage on a roll? One please!

I didn’t get the combo, which would have come with a side of fried shishito peppers, but they let me have one as a sample, and it was very good! (On a later occasion I bought some fresh peppers and tried to make an approximation at home. It’s a great healthy snack/app!) The sandwich itself, though, was also top-notch.

*CHOMP* Mmm, chorizo sausage and manchego cheeeeese...

Now, what about dessert? We need a unique baked good:

A stroopwafel. Perfect!

This bit of cookie-caramelly goodness was courtesy of the nice lady at THE GOOD BATCH stand. I haven’t had a stroopwafel since my visit to Vandaag way back (has it been 10 months already??), and this was a good specimen. I also got some AMAZING iced coffee from GRADY’S COLD BREW to go with it.

I am such a fiend for well-brewed coffee. Tiny bit of milk, no sugar needed. ZERO BITTERNESS. That is what I need. NEED I tell you.

I was tempted to buy some of their concentrate. Enough great coffee to last quite awhile! Maybe next time, though.

These lads know their craft well.

And they gave us our change all in $2 bills! Is that so hipster? I think that's kind of hipster.

In case you were ever wondering what the back of a $2 bill looks like. It's the presentation of the draft of the Declaration of Independence to Congress. NOT the signing. Factoid for the day.

Although I also really wanted to try a popsicle from the PEOPLE’S POPS stand, I was just a little too full and the weather was getting just a little too cold, so we had to pass on it. However, just a couple of weeks later I stopped by the stand at Chelsea Market (another foodstravaganza under one roof) and got my chance to sample their frozen goodies:

Roasted red plum. CHOCK FULL of fresh fruit. I had no regrets.

I would love to go back to Smorgasburg again on a better-weather day and try more selections. There were a lot of other choices that looked appetizing. If you want an opportunity to sample the new wave of artisanal, independent foods that are originating out of Brooklyn nowadays, this is a good chance to graze all in one place.

And after you’re done stuffing your face, you can open up your wallet at the vintage market around the corner!

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Woofs of Approval at Bark Hot Dogs!

Bow wow wow wow wow wow! BARK Hot Dogs (map!) is good!

Ridiculously convenient for those trekking by subway.

It was a lovely spring evening and I wanted a good hot dog. Maybe it was memories of Iceland kicking in, or maybe it was just the terrific weather, but either way, I was on a mission and Bark quickly came to mind. You may remember from earlier that DH and I happened to spot the Hodgman at this establishment. I had vowed to return to the neighborhood and give this place a try. Perfect opportunity!

Bark’s menu was great, I wanted to try everything. We settled on the “NYC Dog” (sweet & sour onions with mustard, $5), the “Pickle Dog” (house pickles, mustard + mayo, $5.75), and a side of Disco Fries ($5.50). For drinks, “Sehr Crisp Pilsner” and “Righteous Rye” beers from Six Point Craft Ales ($6 each):

Ahh, lovely.

Behold, what you have been craving all day!

Everything disappeared way too fast. A perfect, flavorful meal that was just what I wanted.

Some may say that a hot dog does not need to be $5+, but I thought it was absolutely worth it. You get some nice comfort food with a twist in a well-maintained and comfortable setting (as opposed to the street corner next to a vendor cart), and the location is super-handy for public transportation. Seems quite economical to me. I just want to rub this shop’s stomach and say “good boy!”

Bye-bye, Bark! I'll be back to try the rest of your menu soooooon!


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Kaz An Nou: Welcome home

Kaz An Nou (map!) is a restaurant I had heard about for awhile, but never got a chance to visit. When it was featured as a nominee for “Best New Brooklyn Restaurant” in TimeOut New York’s 2011 Food and Drink Awards, I knew I had to check it out.

So off to Prospect Heights we went!

Did I just step into someone's apartment?

(I have to mention the fact that when DH and I stepped out of the Bergen Street subway stop, we saw none other than John Hodgman eating a hot dog in the window at Bark! The man himself later confirmed this via Twitter. Hooray for random Brooklyn celebrity sighting!)

But back to Kaz An Nou. This delightfully cozy BYOB restaurant, with a name meaning “our house” in French West Indies Creole, made me feel like I was being welcomed into someone’s dining room. The decor is incredibly homey, with only a couple dozen coveted seats and jazz records decorating the walls. The co-owner/chef Sébastien Aubert was also our host and server that night, and I could hear the French language peppered throughout the small space. Customers were hugging the waiters as they left. Wow, this place is the real deal.

The French-Caribbean cuisine also did not disappoint. In fact, it was probably the most unique meal we had at a restaurant all winter. Having waited a long time and luckily being the last customers of the night, we got a bottle Budweiser to share, on the house (since we did not know it was BYO), and settled in for an amazing dinner. Onto the photos:

Tatin D'Apricot et Fois Gras - Tart with apricots, caramelized onions, and fois gras

The taste of dried apricots and fois gras is a marriage made in heaven. I loved the presentation too!

Poire et Blue - Maple roasted pear with bleu cheese

Another terrific mix of flavors. The sweet pear gently waves hello, and then gives you a soft smack with the bleu cheese. YES.

Magret et Maracudja - Smoked duck breast with passion fruit glaze

Quack quack quack. Yum yum yum. So tender and homestyle.

Ratatouille Exotique - Squash, zucchini, and eggplant in spicy pineapple tomato sauce, served with plantains

Oh my goodness. Do you know that scene in the movie Ratatouille where Anton Ego eats the ratatouille? Well, I didn’t flashback to rural France, but the dish was just as powerful. The addition of pineapple gave it just the right spin, and I loved eating every single bite!

For dessert, Sébastien just surprised us:

Blueberries and custard

I can’t recall the exact name of the dish, but it was a simple little crustless blueberry tart with custard and sugar on top. PERFECT.

I really didn’t want to leave. This is the sort of restaurant where you can linger a little, talk to the owners, listen to great music (I want this restaurant’s playlist), and fulfill a foodie’s dream. You really do feel at home, and it is definitely a place you can return to again and again.


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The Way Station: A TARDIS Lands In Brooklyn

Last Friday, I went to Prospect Heights, Brooklyn. My primary objective: to visit THE WAY STATION, a new bar that had finally opened.

Why the excitement? Because this bar has a TARDIS inside!

For all the Doctor Who fans out there, this needs no explanation. For everyone else, read the wiki link and just know that a TARDIS is really really really cool. As a result of my strong need to see this icon of geekery (and in a place that serves drinks!), I resolved to make my way to The Way Station post haste, with DH in tow.

Fast forward many hours later, after walking in the cold, late into the night, among ridiculously long stretches of quiet and creepy sidewalk near abandoned lots, getting lost in a panic with the smartphone batteries almost dying, worrying about getting mugged of said smartphone while looking at Google maps, and getting barked at by a guard dog behind a fence (“bark bark bark! I’m a dog! I’m a dog! Stranger! Stranger! Are you coming to steal the tires from this auto shop? Go away! bark bark bark! I’m a dog!”)…we finally made it.

The glow of that police box never looked more beautiful.

If only it made the whirring sound too.

I immediately parked myself on the comfy red leather banquette and sort of just stared at it. Meanwhile, the DH got a cocktail to soothe my jangled nerves (“The Train Wreck” – Tanqueray gin, muddled cucumber, ruby red grapefruit juice – $9). Not bad, maybe a little heavy on the grapefruit though.

A hastily-captured image. Why, look at that delightful hand model.

As the TARDIS actually concealed the bar’s restroom, a small line started to form in front of it, which I thought was kind of funny (what is this, auditions for a new companion?). I finally made my way in there too, and yes, was highly amused by the fact that it was bigger on the inside. There is a true fan at work here.

I took a picture of the interior, but I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you (ok, fine, a no-brainer spoiler: there’s a sink and toilet inside). You’ll just have to pay a visit yourself.

There’s not much I can say about the bar’s supposed steampunk theme (which wasn’t very noticeable to me in the decor or patrons; still all very nice, regardless), but in the end, isn’t the world is a better place for having a bar with a TARDIS in it? I’m sure the Doctor wouldn’t mind having a drink here. Give it a try, and watch out for that guard dog on the way.


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Williamsburg fattypants

I kept hearing good things about PIES ‘N’ THIGHS (map!) and passed by it last time on the way to Dram, so it was time to try the place out.

Comforted only by thoughts of the delicious food that awaited, one of my fav restaurant buddies and I braved our way through ridiculously cold temperatures while walking from the Bedford Ave subway stop. It was dark and everything was slicked with ice, but when we saw the soft glow of the restaurant we knew all would be well soon enough.

Welcome, weary travelers. What manner of fried deliciousness shall you be having tonight?

Lucky for us, party of 2, there was no wait for a table! Thank goodness, since I was just about to drop after having endured the arctic expedition immediately before. As soon as I sat down and took one quick look around at all the happy people chowing down, I only had one thought on my mind: OMG FRIED CHICKEN. NEED FRIED CHICKEN NOW.

GIMME.

I chose the side of macaroni and cheese with hot sauce, figuring I’d go for the gold since we weren’t pretending to be eating healthy anyway. It seems like such an obvious and simple combo, but I had never thought about how complementary adding hot sauce to this classic comfort food could be. A new and tasty discovery was made that night.

And the chicken. Oh boy, the chicken. How do they cook it to make the meat so moist and tender yet with such crispy skin? There must be chicken wizards in the kitchen or something. The biscuit, soft and fluffy on the inside (and not too buttery/greasy!) rounded out the plate very well and was good for dipping into the mac and cheese.

My friend got the Carolina pulled pork sandwich plus hush puppies, which looked mighty tempting as well. Basically, the whole restaurant was a delicious-smelling den of different tasty meats and gastronomical joy. I kind of wanted to try the whole menu. The best we could do after our very filling main dishes, though, was to share a choice slice of banana cream pie, which did not disappoint.

Pie pie pie pie pie

And did I mention the sweet tea? If you visit, get the sweet tea. Sweet, but not too sweet. The caffeine will keep you up late, but it’s worth drinking if you don’t have to get up early the next morning.

Overall, I have nothing against The Colonel, but the chicken I had at Pies ‘N’ Thighs was definitely something special. Honestly, in all my eagerness, I think I almost ate it too fast to enjoy everything properly. Solution: must go again.


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Williamsburg fancypants

It’s a good time to visit Williamsburg. The neighborhood is a grand amalgamation of old and new, filled with trendy young adults doing creative new things amongst the grittiness. It’s a fun mix.

As for eating and drinking options, it’s not just about the veggies and PBR (although those can be awesome too). Oh no, Williamsburg is a place where you can get some high-caliber charred meats and top-notch cocktails. It’s not cheap, but it’s definitely cheaper than Manhattan.

Fatty ‘Cue (map!). This restaurant is great. It’s a little bit of a walk from the Bedford Avenue stop (closer if you take the J/M/Z Marcy Ave stop, in the alternative) along some run-down buildings and an overpass, but the only people we ever encountered were well-dressed and riding bicycles. You definitely can’t miss this place.

A Brooklyn spin-off of the restaurant Fatty Crab, Fatty ‘Cue is dimly-lit (with a red tint from a vintage red “exit” sign), cozy (the space is not very big), and a great place for a date. Meanwhile, there’s a good selection of Johnny Cash and Elvis tunes piped in to accompany your meal.

The menu consists of a series of small dish "snacks" and some larger "specialties". We tried the pork loin (kind of like thin sliced meat, great flavor), pork rib (omg giant rib, eat it with your hands), red curry duck (who doesn't love a good duck dish? the amount of spiciness was just right, tempered by slices of daikon with rice), and crab laksa (daily special, noodles in savory broth with crab, shittake mushrooms, ginger, and probably magic).

To finish it off, we got the "Fatty Bar" (dark chocolate with almonds, chili, and sea salt). I love a dessert that has no pretense about what it is or will do to you.

This label needs to get framed.

To be clear, Fatty ‘Cue has excellent barbecue, but this is barbecue with sophistication. It’s not the state fair, but you can still expect to get some sauce on your face if you order right.

As a second stop after rolling out, belly full of pork and chocolate, I suggest checking out Dram (map!), just a few blocks away. Located in an unassuming brick building with a warm glow coming out of casement windows, it’s the perfect place to escape the cold in this season and feel fancy (but not too fancy, we are in Brooklyn, of course).

Come on in, delicious alcohol inside...

The menu has a nice selection of beers and wines (oh boy, how did I miss this…the online menu says they have Porterhouse Oyster Stout? I envision a repeat visit in the very near future…), but the main attraction is of course their cocktails, mixed by gentlemen who take their craft very seriously. I saw one of them practically sculpting the top foam on one of his creations, it was like surface tension art. And they are all, be still my heart, $9. What a nice change of pace from the $14 prices across the bridge, and at no less quality in my opinion.

We tried the Behind God’s Back (Chairman’s Reserve Rum, Fresh Pineapple, Lime, Orgeat, Cane Syrup, Bitters Float):

I enjoyed the color gradation.

And the Kilted Bastard (Jamaican Rum, Famous Grouse Scotch, Grapefruit, Lemon, Absinthe, Housemade Orgeat, Frank’s Mix):

The patrons were a cheerful crowd and everyone looked quite relaxed, happy to meet up with their friends. Our waitress was very polite and attentive as well. And I must mention that you bolt the restroom door with a wooden spoon. Really. The entire bar has a very natural wood decor, so this little detail was the perfect touch. Good job, Dram.

Williamsburg: when you want a nice little not-Manhattan evening.