Posts tagged Park Slope

Artisanal Junk Food: Roberta’s and Bark

Last weekend was all about the junk food: pizza and hot dogs, I am sorry to say. Now, before you get all upset about my unhealthy gluttony, can I explain that said junk food was made from primarily local and seasonal ingredients? That the purveyors were true artisans who cared deeply about their high-quality hot dogs and pizza? After all, transforming once lowbrow food items into more gourmet fare—such as the fried chicken craze currently storming the city—is certainly the trend right now. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at what we sampled last weekend:

robertas

Roberta’s
Jim and I began our weekend on Friday night at Roberta’s in still-gentrifying (yet very hip) Bushwick, Brooklyn. Open only since January 2008, Roberta’s immediately garnered attention for its pizza topped with high-quality, seasonal ingredients in unique flavor combinations. Its young owners Carlo Mirarchi, Chris Parachini, and Brandon Hoy even shipped a wood-burning oven back from Italy in their quest to make a great pie; it occupies the front of the long, warehouse-like space. Although the menu has gradually expanded to offer more refined items such as hen of the woods mushrooms and orecchiette with duck ragu (Roberta’s now offers a fried chicken platter as well), Jim and I were there for the pizza. But in a concession to slightly healthier eating, we started with the kale salad. The deep-green, curly leaves were adorned with thick chunks of guanciale, sweet pickled onions, and pecorino cheese that packed a flavorful punch with each bite ($9). For our pies we decided to stick with the house-suggested flavors instead of creating our own combination of toppings. I selected the RPS, which came with creamy mozzarella, tomato, roasted red peppers, and soppressata, while Jim ordered the Crispy Glover, a pie covered with tomato, taleggio cheese, guanciale, onion, breadcrumbs, and pepperoncini oil (both $14). We both found the flavor combinations a little too strong overall—in particular, the red peppers on my pie overwhelmed all other flavors, and Jim’s guanciale was burned—but we agreed that the crust was practically perfect. Light and crispy, with just the right amount of char at the edges, it was the best part of our pies (gourmet toppings included). 261 Moore Street at Bogart Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn. T: 718-417-1118

bark

Bark Hot Dogs
The next day we finally tried the artisanal hot dogs at Bark Hot Dogs in Park Slope. Made from a combination of pork and beef by Hartmann’s Old World Sausages in the Finger Lakes, and basted with smoked lard and butter, these were some serious wieners. Owners Jeff Sharkey (formerly of Cafe Grey) and Brandon Gillis (formerly of Franny’s) have put their personal touch on every aspect of the place, from the house-made toppings to the recycled wood tables. As at Roberta’s, instead of choosing my own toppings I let Bark guide me: I started my lunch with the Pickle Dog, which was covered with house pickles, mustard, and mayonnaise ($5.50). The tart toppings didn’t obscure the light, almost sweet flavors inside these snappily cased sausages. Jim and I also split the NYC Classic Dog with mustard and sweet and sour onions, while Jim’s Bark Dog came with sweet pepper relish, mustard, and onion (both $4.75). Each delicately flavored hot dog paired wonderfully with the Bark-suggested toppings, and I was grateful that I didn’t strike out on my own. The onion rings, on the other hand, were a bit of a disappointment. Coated with too much batter, I was left searching for the onions within ($3 for a small order). As a quick side note, I did find the list of food and beverage sources on each table a bit precious. I am all for organic, locally farmed produce and free-range meat, but putting this extensive list on repeated display seemed like overkill to me. But damn, those dogs were good. 474 Bergen Street at Flatbush Avenue, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. T: 718-789-1939

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More Neighborhood Newcomers: Ghenet and Eton

Hot dogs, ribs, potato salad—I ate more than my fill of these good old American favorites on the 4th of July. But then I spent the rest of the weekend embracing America’s multicultural spirit, trying out a few new ethnic restaurants in the neighborhood.

Ghenet: Because I had been to this Ethiopian restaurant’s Manhattan location before, I was more than excited to hear of its new Park Slope outpost. The rest of the neighborhood must have felt the same way, as Ghenet’s intimate dining room was packed on Saturday night. After taking our seats next to the intricate metal screen surrounding the room, Jim and I started with the tasty sambusa, two small packets of crispy pastry dough stuffed with ground chicken and served with a spicy dipping sauce ($6). Next came our combination platter of five dishes served on a sheet of Ethiopia’s staple bread called injera ($31.95). We received another plate of this spongy bread on the side, and used it to scoop up our sega wett, tender bits of beef in a thick sauce of exotic berbere spices. The dish was a comforting yet light stew, perfect for a summer evening, and although the seasoning included red chili peppers the heat was not overwhelming. Instead, the heat factor was taken care of by the spicy mushrooms, one of our four vegetarian dishes. I preferred the creamy and buttery yellow split peas, dipping my injera into them again and again. Vinegar-tinged collard greens and pureed beans rounded out our meal. In Ethiopia it is customary to eat only with the right hand, but at Ghenet it’s difficult to keep yourself from diving in with both. 348 Douglass Street at 4th Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn  T: 718-230-4475

Eton: On Sunday afternoon during the Wimbledon rain delay I strolled over to Eton, a tiny new dumpling house in Carroll Gardens. I didn’t want to miss the match, so I took two sets to go: one group of pork and beef dumplings, and another of lentils, mushrooms, and tofu ($3.50 for each set of five dumplings). While I waited for my order in the cheerful yet spare dining space, I chatted with chef Eton Chan about how the dumplings are first pan-seared in cooking spray and then steamed. They are trans-fat free and actually pretty healthy. Back at my kitchen table, I quickly realized these were not your typical take-out dumplings. The dough was delicate yet sturdy, sheltering the compact, well-balanced centers of meat and sweet vegetables. The flavors can be enhanced by condiments such as the house soy and ginger black vinegar. I have to return and try the third dumpling option of chicken with mushrooms, as well as the extensive shaved ice menu; I’ve got my eye on the lychee and green tea flavors. And when the weather gets colder Eton will start offering hand-pulled noodle soups. For once I can’t wait for winter weather. 205 Sackett Street at Henry Street in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

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Applewood and Applewares

Applewood in Park Slope, Brooklyn

Finally, fall is here! There’s a slight chill in the air and a light breeze swirling leaves around the sidewalks. Arriving just in time for Jim’s birthday, Friday night’s autumn-appropriate weather helped us celebrate at Applewood in Park Slope.

Established in September 2004 by Laura and David Shea, Applewood is known (and loved) for its use of sustainably-grown, local food products. Low lighting, yellow and exposed-brick walls, and small pots of herbs on each table contribute to the restaurant’s homey feel. After walking into the friendly warmth of the dining room on Friday night, I immediately felt my muscles relax, something I needed after an especially long week.

Reading through Applewood’s menu was to stroll through autumn’s natural bounty. Jim and I considered ordering some of their fabulous-looking seasonal cocktails, but in the end we shared a bottle of wine from the extensive list. We started with a roasted red beet salad, the ruby-toned root vegetables surrounded with toasted, crunchy hazelnuts, foamy fromage blanc fondue, and delicate red bowl lettuce ($10). The meaty, charred flavor of the sautéed Maine lobster with caramelized potato gnocchi and wilted pea shoots was an earthy contrast to our light salad ($15). It was also our favorite dish of the night. Throughout our meal we snacked on complimentary wheat and multigrain bread. Whether slathering it with Applewood’s french butter, cream cheese and garlic, and white bean and bacon spreads, or using thick slices to mop up broth from the lobster dish, we just couldn’t stop eating it.

The rest of our evening was spent in Vermont: Jim chose the grilled Vermont pork with rapini, caramelized pears, and mustard-pork jus for his entrée ($23) while I went with the grilled Vermont lamb special served with rainbow chard, white turnip purée, and lamb jus ($26). My lamb was soft in texture but strong in grilled flavors. It was perfectly cooked and heartily complimented by the tangy vegetables upon which it rested. The pork, while gentler in taste, was subtly accented by the sweet pears.

Then it was time for dessert: the Italian plum-chili cobbler with arugula ice cream ($7). Now I know I don’t need to explain our fondness for arugula again. Once we heard that the ice cream was made on-site at Applewood, there was no going back. And we didn’t want to, not after taking a bite of this spicy treat. To be honest, the ice cream didn’t scream arugula flavoring to me, but it wasn’t supposed to; just a hint was all we needed.

Even though it took us a long time to get to Applewood, now I can’t wait to go back. In between meals at the restaurant, I’ll have to make do with visits to its new cookware store, Applewares, around the corner from the restaurant. This airy, light-wood hued store offers all the basics: ceramics, pans, knives, appliances, and more. Now, do I really need another vegetable peeler?

Applewood: 501 11th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn) 718-768-2044
Applewares: 548 10th Street (between 7th and 8th Avenues in Park Slope, Brooklyn) 718-576-2484

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