Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Market Eats | Brooklyn Flea

Over Independence Day weekend, Angela suggested making a visit over to the Brooklyn Flea over in Fort Greene. I knew the food scene there would be interesting to check out, so I was definitely game (Marcus, too). After some initial perusals of some vendor shops, food was calling for us. There were so many food stands to choose from. Marcus made his initial assessment, leading us to Asiadog.

Asiadog offers hot dogs with Asian-inspired toppings. Co-founders Steve Porto and Melanie Campbell, along with their love of NYC, "wanted to push the limits of one of its most popular street foods by adding their own personal touch with super-fresh ingredients." The pair's mixed Asian backgrounds (Mel is half Chinese/half Australian while Steve is half Korean/half Italian) inspired their celebration of "NYC's diversity by incorporating flavors found in China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, etc." through their fun, playful fare. They began their little venture back in 2008 while in the backyard of a friend's bar "with the basic principles of good food, good friends, and good fun." Asiadog has come a long way in the past three years, with a "brick-and-mortar" shop in Nolita as well as store fronts appearing at Brooklyn Flea and Central Park SummerStage.

The chalkboard menu with all of Asiadog's eclectic Asian-inspired dogs as well as its signature burger and pulled pork "sammy." After much debate of which two Marcus and I would try, we were finally decided.

We brought our hot dogs over to the concrete steps behind the front line of food stands, where it seemed most market-goers snuck out to chow down on some street grub.

Marcus and I shared the wangding (left) and the mash (right).

The wangding was a beef hot dog with Chinese barbecue pork belly in plum sauce and a cucumber slice, topped with scallions. This was amazing -- probably the most interesting and delicious hot dog-topping combination I've ever had. The pork belly was really tender (no troubling chewiness), and the plum sauce gave it a little more depth of flavor. The cucumber was a nice addition for good measure -- entirely clean, crisp, and juicy, which added a cooling contrast to the heartiness of the hot dog and porkbelly.

The mash was a beef hot dog topped with sweet and spicy ketchup, jalapeño mustard, and crushed potato chips. If you're, at best, a handler of mild spice alone, I wouldn't recommend this. The spicy ketchup paired with mustard (with jalapeños, no less) is not just kicky -- it's more like multi-faceted kicks coming at you all at once.

We were such fans of the wangding that we had a double encore of them, only this time, we opted to try the organic beef hot dogs. With a $2 differential per hot dog, Marcus and I didn't really see the appeal in opting for the organic one if only just for health reasons. In all honesty, we thought the organic one tasted a little bit different (couldn't put our finger on what it was), causing us prefer the original beef hot dog we had in our first round of hot dogs. Nevertheless, the flavors were consistent and very satisfying for our famished stomachs.

Marcus was still hungry, so he made a stop at Porchetta, the eponymous street food enterprise created by Sara Jenkins and Matt Lindemulder in 2008. Porchétta (pronounced as por-ketta in Italian) is of Roman cuisine, comprised of roasted pork with crispy skin that is highly seasoned with aromatic herbs and spices, garlic, sage, rosemary, and wild fennel pollen. In other words, it is "slow-cooked Italian fast food." In fact, it is "traditional street food of Central Italy" usually sold from a cart or truck (sliced to order and served in a sandwich), where the the porchétta is typically made from a whole roast pig, boned out and stuffed with the liver, heart, and other entrails mixed with savory herbs and then slow roasted in a wood oven.

In the case of Porchetta, Ms. Jenkins and Mr. Lindemulder wanted "to bring this classic food of their childhood" to the streets of New York City. But, instead of whole pigs used in the traditional Italian fashion, the duo "sources whole loins with the belly and skin still attached, in the same cut the mad butcher of Chianti, Dario Cecchini, taught Ms. Jenkins to use." Their version of porchétta is slowly roasted at various levels of humidity and dry heat yielding "meltingly soft and juicy" pork loin. Porchetta's mission: to "offer up the sandwich with a little bit of everything, or pork three ways" (or as Mr. Lindemulder likes to say -- "fatty belly, crispy skin, lean loin, and of course, plenty of aromatics").

While the pork loin is especially selected and sourced (differently than it is in Italy) from Niman ranch (where the pigs are raised humanely with no growth hormone or antibiotics), the pork is kept warm, sliced, and assembled to order just like they do in Italy. And the verdict of the porchetta sandwich we ordered? The pork loin didn't disappoint -- it certainly lived up to Mr. Lindemulder's word. It was undoubtedly crispy on its skin, lean on the loin, succulent from the fatty belly, and hauntingly aromatic as a result. Only letdown was the bread was a little tough and difficult to chew, but I'm attributing that to being traveling vendor at an open market with limited supplies and equipment. I would love to stop by the joint's brick-and-mortar shop in the East Village to give the bread a fairer chance.

To soothe the craving of our sweet tooth (or is it teeth?), we made a necessary at The Good Batch, which offered ice cream sandwiches at its vendor stand. The Good Batch began with "a simple mission: bake pure, not overly sweet, delicious food." Chef Anna Gordon, the founder and pastry chef behind The Good Batch, was influenced by the many Dutch people in her life, all of who eagerly requested that she make fresh stroopwafels for them -- one day, she finally decided to take the plunge "to get the texture and taste fully saluted by her Dutch counterparts," taking her "several months, dozens of batches, and countless taste testings" to create the classic stroopwafel! So ever since the first "good batch" in early 2009, Chef Gordon has been "satisfying sweet tooths in and around Brooklyn" with the "same mission, same passion, and new creations" ever since!

There were two offerings -- the Goodwich consisting of oat chocolate chunk cookies with sea salt, vanilla ice cream, and dark chocolate fudge at the center and the Classic consisting of two spiced waffle cookies (best known as stroopwafels in Dutch) pressed together with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce in the middle. While the Goodwich was super tempting, it was very similar to the Chipwich (one of my all-time favorite childhood desserts, especially the ones with the chocolate chips entirely coating the ice cream center!), Marcus and I felt the Classic was unique from other ice cream sandwiches we've had in the past.

Here is the Classic ice cream sandwich from The Good Batch! The cookie ends, as I've already mentioned, are stroopwafels -- Dutch spiced waffle cookies with a caramel filling. The history of the cookie (thanks to The Good Batch for the background!) dates back to early 18th century in Gouda, when bakers combined bakery scraps to make a treat that would eventually become the country's most beloved cookie. However, handmaking these treats are no easy task. Their yeast-based dough is pressed in a special iron, then immediately cut into a perfect circle and carefully split in half for the hot caramel filling. Right out of the oven the cookie is chewy and aromatic. The traditional method of enjoy the stroopwafel is to place it over a hot beverage so that it heats the caramel within the cookie.

So our verdict on the Classic? Marcus and I were pleased with the ice cream at the center but were a little bit on-the-fence about the stroopwafel. I've never had one before, so I think my expectations for its taste differed from its actual taste. It was heavier and thicker than the light, crispy, and wafer-like texture I was expecting. The salt caramel sauce was hard to taste, too. I would love to try this again on another occasion as well as the Goodwich, which sounds very good.

Our last stop was at Blue Marble Ice Cream, co-founded by Alexis Miesen and Jennie Dundas. "Borrowing its name from Earth's playful moniker," Blue Marble prides itself on its premium ice cream, as its dairy ingredients are sourced from "happy, healthy cows" of local New York State farmers. The ice cream maker, "convinced that nature doesn't need much help to be delicious," keeps its flavors "simple and elemental instead of clouding them with sugary and preservative-packed mix-ins (i.e., avoiding the use of artificial coloring/flavoring and corn syrup).

Thought the tag line "Spread the Love" was cute here.

Waiting for our ice cream to be scooped.

I kept it simple that day and ordered a scoop of strawberry -- the classic favorite that brings back memories of my pink-laden childhood days (where strawberry ice cream reigned superior). Creamy and fresh goodness right here -- Blue Marble undoubtedly upheld its aim to create "simple and elemental" ice cream. Loved the chunks of strawberry infused in the fresh cream. I would definitely be up for another trip to Brooklyn to hit up Blue Marble's actual shop to try other seasonal flavors!

Findings: I enjoyed our market eats over at the Brooklyn Flea -- the market definitely offers a wide array of varying cuisines and street food fare. Among the most unique and creative, Asiadog is definitely up there, drawing influences from Asian cuisine as hot dog toppings. While I enjoyed Porchetta and The Good Batch, I would definitely want to return to them (either at the market or elsewhere) to give a better, more informed assessment on their offerings. On the other hand, Blue Marble was impressive, offering pure flavors and good ol' simple ice cream -- the kind you remember from those days your parents would take you out for a special treat. All in all, I recommend making the trek out to Fort Greene to check out the food vendor lineup with the chances of discovering some new and delicious things. I'll definitely be hitting it up again this fall for People's Pops and Kumquat Cupcakery (among others) for sure!

Price point: two Asiadogs for $7, two organic Asiadogs for $9, $10 for a porchetta sandwich from Porchetta, $5 for each Classic ice cream sandwich from The Good Batch, $3 for a single scoop of Blue Marble ice cream.

--July 2, 2011

Brooklyn Flea
176 Lafayette Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11238

open Saturdays, 10 AM - 5 PM
rain or shine through November 19, 2011

66 Kenmare Street
New York, NY 10012
available on Saturdays at Brooklyn Flea, 11 AM - 5 PM
for other locations throughout the week, check here

110 East 7th Street
New York, NY 10009

The Good Batch
every Saturday at Brooklyn Flea
for other locations, check here

Blue Marble Ice Cream

196 Court Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
available every Saturday at Brooklyn Flea, 12-5 PM
plus various other locations during the week

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dinner | The Dutch

I apologize for the unexpected absence from the blog! Now that Marcus and I are mostly settled into our new place, blogging shall commence at normal pace once again!

Anyways, I paid a long-awaited visit to The Dutch last month with Alice, and Clare, her friend from college who also enjoys good food. I received the recommendation from my co-worker, James, who raved about everything on its menu, as well as via the relatively recent restaurant review by Sam Sifton in the Times.

Chef Andrew Carmellini, The Dutch's executive chef, began his culinary career at the young age of fourteen in his Ohio hometown at an Italian joint, later moving onto a fine-dining establishment that centered around French cuisine . He went on to study and train at the Culinary Institute of America, where he cooked for New York state's governor, Mario Cuomo, on the weekends. Post graduation, Chef Carmellini worked the line at San Domenico in New York City, then traveled to Italy where learned the arts of making pasta, prosciutto, wine, cheese and truffle hunting. He returned later to Manhattan to work at Lespinasse and Le Cirque, spending a year cooking and traveling through France and England in between. Later on, Chef Carmellini helped open Café Boulud in 1998 as chef de cuisine (earning him 2 James Beard Awards) as well a A Voce near Madison Square Park (where he earned his first Michelin star) in 2004. Five years later, he opened Locanda Verde, the restaurant housed in Robert DeNiro's Greenwich Hotel in Tribeca followed by The Dutch in the last year.

I waited in the bar area as I waited for Alice and Clare to arrive for our evening dinner reservation. I liked the style and look of the bar -- the look of the organic wood, low and industrial-style lighting. The old-school attire of the bartenders were a nice touch too -- sweater vests are always a plus in my book!

I decided to have glass of white wine recommended by the bartender, given my inclination for fruitier wines. This one was a glass of Furmint Sec from Tokaji, Hungary produced by Királyudvar with a 2007 vintage. This is Királyudvar's signature (and innovative) dry white wine balances viscous intensity and bright acidity of the furmint grape (i.e., the grape that is indigenous to Tokaji). Alice followed suit, too, once we were seated.

Inside The Dutch's rear dining room.

As we began perusing the menu, we were given a plate of freshly baked cornbread and some salted butter. Although the texture of the cornbread was incredibly crumbly (making it kind of difficult to eat), the savory flavors were good overall.

Clare suggested we start with these Little Oyster sandwiches (from the "snacks" section of the menu), and I'm so glad we did! They were lightly battered and fried, making them super delectable. The tartare sauce wasn't very heavy complementing the bivalve's texture and naturally fishy (the good kind) flavor. Highly recommend these for table starters!

New York Sour with mellow corn whiskey, lemon, peach bitters, and a claret float (i.e., the red wine from Bordeaux or wine of a similar character made elsewhere that floats in the cocktail, similar to the grenadine in a tequila sunrise). It was very strong from the whiskey (though when isn't whiskey strong?), but a very solid cocktail from a flavor standpoint.

The Dutch's menu referred to its evening menu as the "supper" menu, a quirky yet fun touch, as "supper" specifically denotes a light or informal evening meal (typically, a late-night dinner). I found the word choice here to be both clever and fitting. Plus, the "main courses" on this menu are also called "seconds" -- as if they're the second helpings to the appetizers (i.e., first courses) you probably ordered.

For my main course, I ordered the black cod with smoked mushrooms and yuzu-chili broth. I'm a sucker for black cod when I come across them as menu items at restaurants. It certainly lived up to everything I thought it would be. The texture was warm and silky at the ideal temperature, foaming with the Asian flavors from the yuzu's citrus as well as the spices from the chili infused in the broth. The earthiness of the smoked mushrooms and asparagus complemented the light but flavorful broth and the savory cod in a very synergistic way. Overall. it was a very light, clean, and refreshing main course.

Alice went with the sea scallops with peas, bacon, and chipotle pepper. The scallops were seared with a tender center (no raw sliminess here!) and toasty surfaced, topped with crisp bacon, a sea of peas, and sautéed shallots. The dish here gave the otherwise"fancier" gourmet main ingredient of sea scallops a more homestyle feel from the familiarity from the medley of peas, shallots, and bacon. A lovely main course, for sure.

Clare had the steamed black bass with mussel-lemongrass curry and peanuts, which was ultimately a curry seafood stew. I liked the fun addition of shredded taro chips (along with the peanuts), which added a nice textural contrast to the smooth soupy base and soft black bass. I normally am not a big fan of curry, but The Dutch executed it very well here -- very flavorful without being extremely overwhelming in spices where it clouds the other ingredients and their unique flavors in a said curry dish. The sea bass here (as with the black cod) was steamed to the perfect temperature where the center was cooked just enough before becoming overcooked. The mussels were a delicious addition as well.

For dessert, I had the strawberry shortcake with honey butter biscuit, tarragon cream, and lemon-anisette granita. It wasn't the strawberry shortcake I had expected (i.e., the traditional sort), but I thought the deconstructed ingredients presented as dessert was quite creative. Never did I expect a butter biscuit to be incorporated into a strawberry shortcake dessert, but it seemed to work as the "shortcake" part of the dessert. With tarragon cream scoop at its center and citrus-infused granita atop a fresh medley of berries, this dessert was light and very refreshing -- just a little too tart for my personal liking.

Clare had the summer sundae with apricot sorbet, frozen custard, and sautéed stone fruits, caramel, and raspberries. I found the use of sautéed stone fruits to be interesting, but overall, we found this dessert to be just okay -- it was good, but nothing really stood out much.

Alice had the pie of the day which was a cherry pie served with toasted almonds a la mode. Being the pie fanatic she is, Alice found the pie to be mediocre as well. Nevertheless, it was prepared well -- just didn't have the punch we were expecting.

Findings: Overall, the three of us had a very lovely dinner at The Dutch. The snack we ordered, along with each of our main courses, proved that Chef Carmellini carefully crafted a menu of some solid dishes that essentially created a poetic symphony of flavors, spices, and ingredients for the restaurants patrons to enjoy and on which to pass the good word. I'm excited to see what new items Chef Carmellini will have in store for The Dutch during the fall season. I really liked that the courses we had were proportionately sized (i.e., not at all sparse, yet not anywhere close to overly generous diner portions). Tastes are well-balanced and used to close to their highest potential which was quite admirable. It is every so often that I come across a restaurant that is worthy of this kind of praise, and The Dutch is one of those restaurants. Looking forward to more visits in the near future -- it certainly is the "jack-of-all-trades" in the restaurant world, as it is great for dates, catching up with friends, impressing out-of-towners, and relaxing over a lovely Sunday night supper in a pleasant corner of SoHo.

Price point: $5 for each miniature sandwich, $13 for each glass of white wine, $14 for each cocktail, $26-29 for each second, $10 for each dessert.

--July 10, 2011

The Dutch
131 Sullivan Street
New York, NY 10012

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Etcetera | imminent return

Sorry for my brief, unexpected absence. Marcus and I finally finished moving into our new place, so once we're mostly settled in, I'll be returning, full-fledged reporting all of the foodie adventures that I've failed to share with you over the last couple months. No disappointments, I promise! Looking forward to resuming regular blog posting! But for now, here's a quote for you to ruminate on:
“Do nothing but eat and make good cheer!”
-- Silence (character)
from Henry IV (Part 2, Act V, Scene 3) by William Shakespeare, 1596-1599.


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