Monday, April 5, 2010

BARK: Delicious Dogs in Brooklyn

Restaurant Name: Bark

Restaurant Location: 474 Bergen Street, Park Slope, Brooklyn

Picture this: a hot dog joint committed to local, sustainable ingredients of the highest quality all done up in reclaimed woods with a retro diner-esque feel. And they have absurdly good milkshakes. Welcome to Bark.

Homemade pickles, heritage pork and free range chicken from Upstate NY and ice cream from Il Laboritorio de Gelato are just some of the great ingredients that elevate these hot dogs, burgers, and milkshakes well above the ordinary and make them (almost) worth paying $5-6 bucks apiece for.

After an early Spring Saturday in the park, Bark is just the way to round out the afternoon.

Bon Appetit!

Bark Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blue Ribbon, Brooklyn: Order Smart, Leave Happy

Restaurant Name: Blue Ribbon Brasserie

Restaurant Location: 280 5th Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn

My husband and I have lived in Park Slope for about two years now but have been leery of eating at Blue Ribbon. We've heard rave reviews and total pans. We've heard it's expensive but worth every penny and so outrageously overpriced and overrated as to be utterly avoided. Finally, (after deciding we'd spent enough money at Al di La for a little while), we went to investigate Blue Ribbon for ourselves.

Boy, am I glad we did. Here's what we learned: order smart and you will leave Blue Ribbon very happy.

The menu here is big, and rambling, and suffers a little bit from multiple personality disorder. Recently, though, I read a write-up on the owners in Saveur Magazine. Apparently, they trained at Le Cordon Blue and decided to open their own spot that brought excellence to all their favorite comfort foods. Hence the very eclectic menu...and the excellence that comes close to justifying the high prices.

One thing we noticed about the menu at Blue Ribbon is that *everything* is expensive. From the fried chicken all the way up to the lobster, you can plan on paying in the ballpark of $30 bucks for an entree. So, why not get the most luxurious foods? I mean, even if the fried chicken totally rocks the house (which I hear it does), you might feel cheated paying $26 bucks for it. But an awesome steamed lobster seems like a fairly good deal at $30 bucks. Ditto for a paella that is big enough to feed two and full of luscious seafood.

The other thing we learned was that if you arrive early, they have a Happy Hour special on fresh oysters - another way to incorporate more luxury for less money.

We started with the aforementioned oysters as well as a rich, creamy, glistening plate of roasted marrow bones that was To. Die. For. This was followed up by the classic, perfectly cooked lobster with drawn butter and a baked potato and the Basque Paella with shrimp, mussels, chicken, and various other yummy seafoods (which purports to serve one but is more than enough for two). Stuffed by this excess of riches, we finished with a single scoop of mango sorbet - the promise of summer in a little bowl.

With a carafe of wine and the tip, our bill came out to about $120, the same as if we'd eaten at Al di La, but with a greater emphasis on rich, special occasion foods. We walked (okay, teetered) out onto 5th Avenue full and happy.

Bon Appetit!

Blue Ribbon Brooklyn on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Bar Jamon: Wine, Tapas, and Dark Corners

Restaurant Name: Bar Jamon

Restaurant Location: 125 E. 17th Street, NYC

Bar Jamon is the teeny tiny sister location to Mario Batali's Casa Mono, with whom it shares a corner (and a kitchen) near Union Square. Atmospheric, with its dark wood and low lighting, this bar provides the perfect spot for drinks and excellent tapas. The place is truly miniscule and can fill up fast, but patient hovering usually pays off.

Bar Jamon is a great place to do nothing but drink wine (served by the bottle or in cuartos, which amount to about a glass and a half), but they also have a pretty extensive menu of gorgeous, creative tapas, too (the menu does not overlap with that at Casa Mono).

Over the course of a couple of visits, here's what I've tried (all of which I'd happily recommend):

The Coach Farm Piquillo consists of a glistening piquillo pepper stuffed with herbed Coach Farm goat cheese and served on a bed of raddichio and citrus fruits. It's much larger than I'd expected (more than enough for two to share), and the bed of tangy fruits and lettuces provides a delicious counterpoint to the plump, rich cheese-stuffed pepper reclining atop it.

The Pulpo with Spiced Garbanzos was also much bigger than anticipated and consisted of perfectly grilled meaty sections of octopus served on a mound of crisp, spicy garbanzo beans. I'm not usually a big fan of octopus, I guess partly because it's often poorly prepared, but this was excellent. My only complaint would be that the garbanzos were a bit dull; they didn't bring much to the overall preparation. They might have been better fried (as so many things are).

The thinly sliced Chorizo with Pickled Peppers was a smaller portion - about five or six wafer-like rounds of chorizo with a tangle of peppers piled atop. Very edible, but nothing out of the ordinary here.

Finally, the Jamon Serrano was a generous portion of really lovely, tender cured serrano ham served with chewy Italian bread. This by itself would be a great accompaniment to a cuarto of wine.

And, speaking of wine, I've sampled three different cuartos at Bar Jamon:
the Oro de Castillo, a bright and tany Verdejo; the Agro de Bazan, a full, lush Albarino; and the Olivares, a very drinkable Garnacha with a good finish. Most of the cuartos range from $9 to $19, and at the lower end of that scale, the Garnacha was an especially good deal.

Bon Appetit!

Bar Jamón on Urbanspoon