Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The PSG has a new home.

The Park Slope Gastronome has its own blog now. It features the Bacon-O-Meter, where I will keep track of all the bacon I consume.

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Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Park Slope Gastronome #16 - West Coast Baseball Trip Day 4

Day Four finds us in Las Vegas, NV. It is 800 degrees and surprise, surprise, we are only among another 100 or so 51s' fans to brave an early afternoon game. Mitch buys a fishing cap and Marc, a visor at the team store. I believe both their purchases are festooned with the 51s' mascot, which happens to be a bald, inverse teardrop shaped alien head with big, shiny black almond shaped eyes. At the game I ate a Johnsonville Brat at the sausage factory stand (it may have been called Brat-ville) and for dessert got me shave ice, flavored with black cherry syrup. Shave ice is a frozen treat indigenous to Hawaii. It is NOT the same as a sno-cone. And no, it is not SHAVED ice, past tense. It begins with a huge bock of ice that is finely cut into flakes, rather than chips. The process produces a light, snowy product that is way more delicate than your average state fair sno cone. Somehow Jamie peer pressured himself to drink the leftover syrup from my shave ice. Did he even win a dollar for doing that?

That evening before the boys went off to Sam's Town for a night of 5 cent bets at the craps table, we feted ourselves at the MGM Grand Buffet - a lavish feast of gluttony and mediocrity. I think Mitch ate 20 snow crab legs and Marc only slices of prime rib, washed down with Cokes. We did have a wonderful waiter, whose name I didn't write down, but he was from an exotic land (according to his name tag) and he was very prompt with the beverage refills and very generous with the wet-naps. My favorite part of the meal was a grilled "baked" potato. Basically you get a portion of mashed potatoes, and the grill master adds a variety of toppings, including bacon bits (and we're not talking bac-os!), scallions and cheese. She covers it up with a metal bowl to steam it up and then plates up the oozing gooey scrumptious tuberlicious mess.

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Sunday, November 13, 2005

The Park Slope Gastronome #15 - West Coast Baseball Trip Day 3

Calling this Day 3 of the WCBT may be a bit misleading. So let me offer this disclaimer. Team Brooklyn arrived in Hollywood very late in the evening on Thursday. This post is about what we ate on Saturday, which if you count Thursday as Day 1, makes this our third day.

Saturday morning we awoke to the delicious smell of donuts. While I was still sleeping (I can't vouch for anyone else), Dave had made the trip out to Westwood to Stan's Doughnuts. Stan's is this little corner shop that has been making amazing variations on the fried cake for nearly 40 years now. I had first heard of Stan's on where else but the Food Channel, and remembered telling myself, "I need to file this away for future use." But I should know by now that if I don't write something down, it's as good as lost. When I saw the pink boxes in Dave and Jen's kitchen though, I had a memory jog and immediately pictured Stan, showing off his cakey creations behind a glass case and couldn't wait to stuff my face.

Dave had brought us a true assortment. There were cake donuts and buttermilk donuts, twisted and covered ones, crumby and chocolatey types. It's not easy to admit negative things about yourself, but one problem I've had my entire life is that if presented with a dozen varieties that are all new to me, I need to try all 12 different types. I don't care if there are other people; I need a taste of every single one. So when there are two boxes of donuts in front of your greedy mug and there are only one or two repeating variations, it causes a big problem for you. Knowing that I could take a bite out of each one, I had to make the perfect choice or I would really regret it for the rest of my life. I chose a banana cake donut that was drizzled with chocolate. It was moist and chewy. The banana and chocolate created a beautiful harmony in my mouth. A perfect way to start the morning. Rumor has it that New York restauranteur Danny Meyer sent one of his sous chefs out to LA to apprentice with Stan to learn how to make these treats for his Shake Shack in Madison Park.

Later that day, we hit up a Lebanese chicken shack called Zankou. Apparently it's a mini-chain in LA, and even immortalized in a Beck song. Jen had been raving about this place, especially the white garlic sauce and I was ready to give it a try. I think she ate an entire chicken! I was in awe of her appetite the entire trip since I suffer from eyes bigger than stomach syndrome.

This branch of Zankou was located in a strip mall. The menu was posted above the counter and the space had exactly the ambiance of a restaurant located in a strip mall. I ordered a quarter white chicken plate, which came with a little plastic container of the infamous white garlic sauce, which actually looked more like the pastey stuff you got in kindergarten during art class. My chicken was served in an elegant white styrofoam container; it's brown crispy skin glistening under the artificial lights. Along with the garlic paste, you get a bunch of pita, some hummus and a salad consisting of tomatoes, pepperoncinis and bright fuschia pickled daikon. I would have preferred a crisper daikon (the strips were pretty limp, but that was probably the only downside to a fantastic fast and cheap meal. I couldn't get enough of the garlic paste - I would put it on anything and everything. Dan, being averse to eating anything that includes a bone*, opted for a shawarma wrap, but I gave him some of my food because he really would have regretted missing out on such tastiness.

That evening on the way to Barstow after a High Desert Mavericks game (where I think I had some nasty nachos after standing on line for way too long), we hit up the first In-N-Out on the trip. I don't think I was really hungry, but just seeing that red and yellow sign made my mouth water and I made a request for a stop. While the shakes were nice and thick and the burger topped with some really fresh produce, I was a bit disappointed in the hand-cut fries which were a bit undercooked. Still, I'd kill for an In-N-Out in New York.

*This doesn't apply to buffalo wings - he seems to have made an exception for anything drenched in Frank's hot sauce.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Park Slope Gastronome #14 - I'm Dining With Elsa

A new addition to our neighbhorhood is called Night and Day, named for the Cole Porter song. When the awning was first raised I imagined the place to be more of a noveau diner, judging by the font. Instead, it's a slightly upscale, but appealing to an entire family, kind of place. Meaning there won't be crayons on the table to entertain the kids for a couple minutes, but expect tons of Bugaboos blocking the path from your table to the bathroom. (By the way, I only saw one, that can't be right, can it?) A few weekends ago we tried out their brunch. We both opted for the prixe fix ($14.95), which included an entree, coffee, cocktail or orange juice and a muffin/mini-chocolate croissant to start. The bloody mary was nothing to get overly excited about but it was decent. Thankfully not too thin and not too vodka-ey, two things I hate in a bloody mary. You have to get the perfect balance between tomato and vodka and I've found in my research that bartenders more often than not can't do this. I'd be foolish to not mention the bloody cajun mary's of the Jones in any post that references this cocktail. They are simply the best in the city - teeming with bits of horseradish, flecked with black pepper and enough spice to wake up your tummy.

But I digress. Dan opted for the french toast for his entree, while I ordered the frittata with cheese, potato and spinach. What I got was a dried out, barely warm flattened disc of overcooked eggs. Any time I came across cheese (I think it was gruyere) in my frittata, it was already coagulated. There was no melty dairy joy, or even a bit of stringiness; the cheese was completely solidified. The accompanying roasted red potatos suffered the same fate - dried out and tough. There were also maybe only 6 chunks on the entire plate. Dan's french toast was a joke - two limp square pieces of thin battered bread that looked so lonely on its plate. Oh wait, there were a couple pieces of honeydew to keep the french toast company.

The service, while pleasant, was very scattered. We had to ask twice for syrup to be brought to the table when it didn't show up with the food. Maybe we'll come back to Night and Day for dinner, but there's no sense in going back for brunch, when there are other options with more inspired food and at lower prices.

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Monday, September 19, 2005

The Park Slope Gastronome #13 - West Coast Baseball Trip Day 2

Our first full day in El Aye begins with a trip to Japantown. The area is filled with modest, well cared-for ranch style homes, but due to its low crime rate and overall pleasantry, the houses go for over a million dollars. Crazy! Of course my need to check out this area has nothing to do with real estate, but everything to do with visiting the Giant Robot stores. The store is an offshoot of an Asian American lifestyles magazine of the same name. I've been a fan for some time now. When I last visited Los Angeles around 2002, there existed but one store. It's since expanded to include another store across the street (GR2), a restaurant (GR Eats), a shop across town (GR Silverlake) and outlets in San Francisco and New York (GRSF and GRNY, respectively). It's safe to say the robots are doing all right. I must say, I was on my absolute best behavior at the stores and only purchased a couple sheets of stickers, a Relax Bear mini-diorama and a Japanese book about chewing gum wrapper graphic design. Stop laughing.

On the way back from shopping, we hit the Apple Pan in West LA, a city institution since 1947, serving quality forever! This is the kind of place that you live for. It's a u-shaped counter with stools all around. It's also free form, first come, first serve, making the seating situation a bit hectic. After a short wait, our party of six managed to secure 5 seats together. The ladies (myself and Jen) were allowed to sit first, so it was us who got to initially witness the ketchup magic. We both ordered Hickory Burgers with cheddar cheese and french fries. The fries were up first - a golden, crispy mass of half inch thick potato joy strips. Our server put out two paper plates made of recycled gray pulp and deftly poured ketchup onto both using a bottle in each hand. As we munched on the fries and made our way through the initial serving of ketchup, our guy came over, saw that our ketchup supply had dwindled and promptly refilled. Judging by the eyes I'm giving our server, the experience was magical! Then it was time for the burgers! We all opted for the Hickory with cheese, except for Balgavy who has an aversion to cheese that is not found on pizza. But come to think of it he ordered the plain burger, not even the Hickory, so I don't know what to tell you. The mounds of happiness came snuggled in their own little white paper wrapper. The burgers were juicy with a pile of crisp lettuce acting as a good counterpart to the mush created by the melting cheese and ketchup. I made a mess. The consensus was that this was a fantastic burger, except for Balgavy, but like I mentioned, all he got a regular burger, plain. Beef and bun as he likes to call it. I believe it's a decision he still rues to this day.

Unfortunately, we didn't have enough room for a slice of their famous apple pie. I could see a wall of them through a window inside the restaurant and they seemed to be about 2 feet high. No kidding.

That evening we hit Angels Stadium in the OC to watch a game between the ridiculous named Anaheim Angles of Los Angeles and the Boston Red Sox. Wow, talk about boring fans. The Red Sox fans made mince meat of the Orange County snoozers. While the boys were taking pictures of the flair outside the stadium, I had to rush in cause of course I had to use the ladies' room because I suffer from SABS (small Asian bladder syndrome). I am not sure if this is a real disease or if I am the only case of this existing. After emptying, I took a tour of the stadium to figure out where I wanted to get my dinner. I had nearly walked the full perimeter of the stadium when it appeared. The line was surprisingly short, although once I got in line, I realized there was a terrible glare off the concession window that made it nearly impossible to look at the cashier. After some debate, I decided on the hot Italian beef with jus. It came with a side of crunchy barbecue chips. The meat was dripping with drippings, but it was a nice alternative to a hot dog. This would be the first of many times I would double beef in a day on the trip.

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Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Park Slope Gastronome #12 - West Coast Baseball Trip Day 1

The unthinkable has happened and I have fallen in love with the city of Los Angeles. My first two trips there were relatively underwhelming, leaving me wondering what people could possibly see in this sprawling city. But this time there was an emphasis on food, not the nouveau cuisine served in dim, trendy settings for vapid club hopping dumbasses and out of touch richies, but the food made by the people and for the people that are the pulse of this city - the working class, the immigrants, the regular joes.

Our first meal in the city came past midnight. We had been hoping to pass an In-n-Out from the airport to Dave and Jen's, but instead settled for Carl's Jr. Carl's Jrs are mostly found on the West Coast. I had my first taste on a trip to Hawaii about a decade ago. It was founded by a man named Carl and the franchise began as a hot dog cart. Eventually Carl's hot dog cart turned into a drive in, which in turn begat a smaller version, the Jr. Later in the week we even passed a couple Carl's Jr. Jr's, akin to Pizza Hut Expresses, I imagine, serving a condensed version of the menu.

While waiting for our turn at the drive-in, I was able to study part of the menu. It was only part because of the angle of the car and I didn't even learn about the fried zucchini until the order was placed, which in retrospect was probably a good thing. And this is also a place where instead of chicken nuggets, you get chicken stars! I wasn't really hungry, but am I not one to pass up a meal, so I settled on the Western Bacon Cheeseburger. It would fufill my bacon quota for the day, it was relatively small and the idea of two onion rings nestled between the charbroiled patty and sesame seed bun was too ingenius to pass up. I always like having sides. I don't like just having a burger. Or just an entree. I like having a salad or vegetables - something to break up the monotony of what you're eating. How perfect was this, I thought. I just wanted a little taste of a side and it already came with the package! Brilliant! The most remarkable thing about the burger was the staying power of the pleasing crunchy texture of the onion rings. I got crunch on my last bite and couldn't have asked for more.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Park Slope Gastronome #10 - Give me something good to eat

Hey, the PSG is back! Believe me, it's not that PSG hasn't been eating, PSG has just been lazy. My belly overhang will attest to that. Last night, Margie J, Barf and I visited Little Giant on the L.E.S., where Barf's friend Eric is the chef. Little Giant is relatively new restaurant serving cheeky takes on American food, using market avabile ingredients. It's small, but cozy. I never got the sense of feeling overcrowded and having my personal space violated, something that can happen often in any restaurant. The inside decor is minimal, but not cold - the ceiling is brick, the chairs and table were made of the same blonde wood and the wall behind where we were seated housed shelves constructed out of trapezoidal pieces of wood that held everything from astute looking wooden trays to kitschy, authentic fondue pots. To start, we were treated to some free house nibbles courtesy of Chef Eric - tangy red piquillo (I think...I should have snagged a menu) peppers stuffed with goat cheese and herbs, tiny avocado salads served with bacon and shallot dressing and piece of crisped speck and some unbelieveable deviled eggs. Boy, do I love me some deviled eggs and it turned out my two dining partners love them too. I really don't think you can ruin deviled eggs, but there are ways to elevate them to new heights. In Little Giants' case, the eggs were dusted with flakes of salt (um, fluer de sel?) with such intense saline flavor. It also provided a nice contrast in texture to the mushy yolk filling. I could have easily eaten another half dozen, no problem. I wish I had some right now!


Most people would consider that to be their appetizers, but all three of us brought very healthy appetites to the restaurant. So for the next phase of our meal, we shared a portion of white and wild asparagus served with a truffled omelet as was as the graze plate. I wasn't too thrilled with the wild asparagus, the tips had a gumminess to them, not unlike that of fiddleheads (which PSG had first tried at Carroll Garden's Crave and immediately disliked), but the white asparagus was out of this world! I don't know what made them so yummy, but they definitely had more flavor than you standard green variety. The graze plate was nothing overral fancy, but it was a solid mix of such deliciousness as chorizo, manchego, proscuitto, cornichons, Marcona albums, and quince paste. I love quince paste and I think I was the only one who ate it. It was my first time trying TĂȘte De Moine, a Swiss cheese that requires a special cutter that scrapes out little ruffles that look like oyster mushrooms. It was nutty and earthy, but since we got such a small quantity to share, it was a little difficult to really grasp the full flavor of it.


For our main course Barf and I opted for the Berkshire pork chop, while Margie J ordered the dayboat scallops served with hazelnuts and declious pea puree. Talk about baby food for adults! The pork was served bone in, and also with a large piece of fat attached. Having never had Berkshire pork before I don't know if that's one of its selling points. It certainly injects a lot of flavor into the meat as it is cooking. I have to say nibbling on the rib was the tastiest part since that's where the meat was most caramelized. Our dishes were served with sweet and sour caramelized baby onions, a cinnamon and apple smash and awesome cracklins on top! They were so crisp but not so much that it would disintegrate when you bit down on a piece.


Sadly, our double fisted attack on the appetizers left no room for desserts, which ranged from spiked egg creams and adult milk and cookies. Next time, for sure.


Oh, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the lovely house cocktails of Little Giant. I had one of the most delicious gin and tonics ever - the tonic was infused with meyer lemon and the glass served with a sprig of tarragon. Barf had a couple dark and stormys, complete with a piece of candied ginger.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

Park Slope Gastronome #9 - The Return of the Pig

Don't worry, I have been stuffing my face like I always do, just not writing about it. Anyway, last night's dinner experience has motivated me to write about 3 places I have recently dined at. Let's start with the most recent.

DeMarco's Pizzeria
So last night, the Listmaker (my huband, for any of you bibimbop newbies) had dinner at DeMarco's Pizzeria. DeMarco's is sort of an offshoot of the legendary DiFara's. I think some of DiFara's children or in-laws are the proprieters of DeMarcos but other than that, the two restaurants are not related. I'm sure Slice can give you the skinny.

There are actually two parts to DeMarco's - one is smaller and used for take-away orders, while the building on the corner is a sit-down restaurant. We chose the sit-down option and although the pasta offerings were tempting, we of course had to opt for a pie. The first sign of trouble was the price - DeMarco's charges $18.50 for a round pie of 8 slices. The second sign of trouble was when we got our pepperoni pie. While we approved of the type of pepperoni (smaller, thicker coins that curl up into little cups - favored by the best coal-oven joints), we were disappointed to see no more than 20 or so slices on the entire pie. That comes out to less than 3 pieces per slice. There was even a slice that was pepperoni-less. Unacceptable! The restaurant was not busy - we were the first diners to sit at a proper table, so it's not like the kitchen was busy throwing one pie after another. When we entered the restaurant, there were a couple diners eating at the bar and for a second I thought they were employees having their staff dinner. It prompted me to ask, "Uh, are you guys open?" and have my question go unanswered.

Both Listmaker and I were less than impressed with our $21.50 pie (most toppings are $3). While the sauce was tangy and the grated hard cheese sprinkled atop a nice touch, we both found the crust to be way too hard. When I first picked up a slice, I was struck by how firm it was. It amazingly didn't bend or sag. After the first slice, eating the crust became a chore and hurt my jaw. There was no chewiness to it. The final nail through the coffin was when we got the bill. The bottle of Peroni consumed by Listmaker cost $7! We could only laugh it off and promise to never come back to DeMarco's ever again.

We wonder how long this establishment will last with its mediocre food served at outlandish prices and poor layout of tables. As Listmaker remarked, a restaurant shouldn't feel cramped when you're the only customers.

I was amused by the party of three sitting at the table next to us (2 Japanese women, and a British man) erroneously talking about how this place was written up in the Mug Newsletter with pictures of the tops and bottom of the slices.

Food: C
Service: I'm going to stop grading service. If it sucks, I'll just write about how awful it is.

Kenka
Let's just say I only spent $20 and got stuffed on the following:
- glass of shochu
- pint of Asahi
- bowl of beef curry and rice
- plate of Japanese pickled vegetables
- half an okonomiyaki (shared with margie j.)
- third of an ear of sweet and salty corn cob
- miso covered grilled rice ball
For dessert, they present you with a little plastic cup of granulated sugar. By the entrance there is a cotton candy machine. Self-serve fairy floss! Brilliant! That day's flavor was grape.
Food: A- (didn't love the pickled vegetables. it was not the variety of oshinko i was expecting)

Stone Park Cafe
This is the foofy resaturant that recently opened up at the end of our block. Listmaker and I have hemmed and hawed about eating dinner there a bunch of times, but it wasn't until they started servicing brunch that we became fully motivated. While Stone Park's dinner menu is a bit on the pricey side, the brunch is rather reasonable. We've been there 3 times in the last 3 weeks - twice during one weekend, even! Each visit has been very satisfying, which is a positive sign, since despite all the restaurants in the area, a good brunch remains elusive. It was the first visit that really knocked our socks off. FIrst off, we liked the music - while we were there we heard Elliott Smith and Low. Second, it was not baby carriage central. As you all know, I love love love the children, but sometimes when you dine in Park Slope, you just get so overwhelmed by the fleet of Bugaboos and scent of baby powder. Third, the wait staff was pleasant. We both opted for omelets and we each got to choose up to 4 fillings! Listmaker chose garlic, jack cheese, sausage and one more filling which I can not remember. I chose garlic, house-smoked bacon, mushrooms and bleu cheese. Choosing garlic was a bold move, but one that proved to be out of this world. I'm equally in love with the bacon at Stone Park Cafe. It's thick and has a full smokey flavor. The omelet was really perfectly done, with all the fillings portioned out equally throughout. Nothing worse than starting on one end of an omelet and realizing halfway through, you've eaten all the mushrooms and only have tomatoes left or something like that. The eggs were served with chewy sourdough toast and delicious roast potatoes with sauteed onions. Coffee was included in the $11 price. The one minus I would say is that I really wanted a bloody mary but did not want o pay $9 for one. That's just ridiculous. Anyway, having Stone Park Cafe just a few steps from our front door is a very welcome addition. Now we can be even lazier on the weekends!
Food: A (for the first visit)

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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Park Slope Gastronome #8 - Field Trip to Seattle: Cheap Eats

We took a field trip to Seattle over the holidays and we ate a couple places worth mentioning.

First of note is Red Mill Burgers. Listmaker, J.E.R.C., B Zissou and I had lunch at the Phinney Ridge location (there's also one in Interbay). This had been a favorite of Listmaker's during his last visit to the Emerald City (I think that's Seattle's nickname and I'm too lazy to fact check at the moment) and he was quite eager to relive that burger experience. Red Mill Burgers is a made-to-order fast food joint. It looks like fast food, but it sure doesn't taste like it. You place your order and then you mill around while it cooks. They call your name when your food is ready and you hope you can find a seat. I ordered the bacone deluxe with cheese, which came with pepper bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickle, red onion, american cheese and something called Mill Sauce. It's some homemade conconction that's sort of like Thousan Island dressing, but totally not. I also got an order of onion rings and they were some of the best I ever had. Unfortunately Listmaker and I had a tangle and some dropped to the floor. I was really tempted to invoke the 5 second rule and pick them up and pop 'em into my mouth. Ok, so let me tell you about these onion rings. They were coated in this delicious cornmeal batter that was light and crispy. It created a perfect seal to keep the onions moist while they cooked. I wish I had some to eat right now! Someone was disappointed in the burger, saying it didn't compare to Bonnie's, but I thought it was an unfair comparison. Red Mill's burger is a thin, unseasoned patty, while Bonnies, is a monstrous circle that's dipped into a blend of spices. It's more like an In-N-Out burger. Also Listmaker got the barbeque burger, sans lettuce and tomato so it was just a mushy, saucy mess. Oh, his fries were delicious too.

Food: A
Service: n/a (although if it were, i would take off points cause they called me Susan when my food was ready. boo).

We also ate at a pho restaurant called Than Brothers. It's a chain in the loosest sense of the word - there are about a half dozen locations spread out Seattle and I'm sure all have the same mirrored interior and glass covered tables. Underneath the glass are clippings of reviews the restaurant has received over the years. The place endeared us immediately because as you sit down you are presented with a plate of creme puffs made by the owner! I tried to save mine for dessert, but I gobbled it down as an appetizer. Than Brothers serves a variety of pho in 4 sizes: small, medium, large and x-large. We were warned that the portions were quite generous and to order on the conservative side. My medium portion of Pho Bo Tai Nam was enough to feed two and less than $5! The broth was fragrant and tasty enough to stand by itself but I am never one to say no to sriracha sauce. I usually overdo it with the sriracha, but luckily at pho restaurants, there's plum sauce to balance it out. All the pho trimmings come on a communal plate, so it's this overflowing bounty of bean sprouts, hot pepper slices, lime wedges and thai basil that's presented before you. I don't really know much about the intricacies of pho to go on further.

Food: A
Service: again, not really applicable. the waiters and waitresses bring you your food and then pretty much leave you alone. you walk up to the cashier when you are ready to pay.

In the next installment of the Park Slope Gastronome, I'll discuss the other places we ate at in Seattle that do not qualify as cheap eats.

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Park Slope Gastronome #7 - al di ladi, we like to party

Who says you have to travel thousands of miles for a declious Northern Italian meal? We only had to travel 5 blocks or so to finally try Al Di La, what a bargain. Al Di La is a neighborhood joint that doesn't take reservations so of course we had to wait. I like this policy though - you gotta earn your meal! We arrived around 7:30 and it was already a full house and a full list of diners ahead of us. We were told it would be about an hour wait or so and contemplated going back home before deciding to go to the newish wine bar around the corner. A quick look through the window made us change our minds - the place was tiny and packed - so we would up heading to Great Lakes for a pre-dinner drink. About halfway through our beverages - a Stoli Oranj and soda for the lady, a Brooklyn lager for the gentleman, my phone rang. Our table was ready more than 30 minutes early. Hot stuff!

I was immediately impressed with the service. We asked for water and was given glasses and a carafe to pour our own refills (though the waiters and busboys did an excellent job of tracking this themselves and often times did the chore). Everything on the menu sounded delicous, as did the evening's specials. For the appetizer, the sardines special was really enticing we but we opted for the minestrone soup with canneloni beans and softened Italian greens, as well as the taleggio cheese special. The latter was a slab of the fragrant cheese with a wedge of warm, delicate foccacia along with a side of greens. The greens were dressed with an aged balsamic and its sweetness made a nice contrast to the herby heartiness of the bread and the pungency of the cheese. Aged balsamic rules. It's delicious over just about everything. I once had fresh strawberries drizzled with aged, syrupy vinegar. Wow. The soup was some of the best I've tasted - the tiny shards of parmesaen that topped it off was such a perfect touch and one that I'll probably ape from now on. Whenever you got a bite of slightly melted cheese, it just set off this bolt of sharpness. If there was ever a taste that could be three-dimensional, it might be parmigianno-reggianno.

For our past course, we shared the house made tagliatelli with meat ragu. The husband and I love our meat sauces, yes we sure do. I've probably raved about fresh pasta before, but no dried pasta could ever come close. It had this amazing chewiness to it that it just so pleasing to one's palate. The ragu was rich, but somehow light at the same time. Probably because the pasta wasn't overdressed with sauce. I like my pasta sauce in moderation - I'd like to see the noodles please.

By this time we had also consumed an entire loaf of bread as well and without even asking, a busboy whisked away our near empty basket (one end piece left) and brought us a new one. This was a restaurant after my Atkins-hatin' heart.

Ok, now on to the main course. The roasted pork shank special sounded amazing and looked and smelled even more amazing when a waiter walked by with it. However, the steak tagliata with arugla won out and while it was a simple dish, it was certainly a winner. We had ours cooked medium and it was served pre-sliced in shallow pool of a balsamic reduction. Once again the addition of balsamic made the taste soar into space.

So now we're really stuffed but someone we think ordering two desserts is a good idea! I picked the pear cake with bittersweet chocolate while Dan chose the rice pudding. Even though my choice was initially slagged, it was the clear winner between the two. I thought the rice in the pudding was a little undercooked, making for really hard and nutty rice. It was nice to have rice pudding with bite, but in this case, it was too much bite, too much chewiness. It was a good effort by the chef though to offer something more than your average gummy rice pudding.

I need to go back soon so I can sample more of the menu, like the sardines and the pasta con vongole. One of Al Di La's best quality is its affordability. Nothing on the menu seems overpriced or should I say nothing on the menu makes you feel like you are overpaying for it.

Food: A
Service: A

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Sunday, November 28, 2004

Park Slope Gastronome #6.5

in the past two days, i have consumed about 14 slices of bacon. the majority was eaten during a post-thanksgiving brunch in silver spring, md. bacon rules.

**blogger hates bacon and it giving me all sorts of trouble in trying to post this.

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Thursday, November 18, 2004

Park Slope Gastronome #6

oh moutarde, how did we ignore you for this long? as previously noted on the park slope gastronome, we've detailed a number of disappointing brunches in our neighborhood. with recently transplanted brooklynites dave and jennifer in town from LA, we wanted to brunch at a nearby establishment that wouldn't break our hearts. the four of us wound up at moutarde, a(nother) french bistro on 5th avenue. when dan figured out where we were going, he groaned, "this place?" not like he's ever even eaten there!

we are greeted by friendly workers who whisk us away to our table in the back. as we take our seats, we are given shot glasses of freshly made fruit juice (strawberry, in this case) garnished with a chunk of canteloupe. we are already having a better experience even if the busboy spilled water on me! i ordered the wild mushroom and goat cheese omelette, as did dave and jennifer. dan could not stray from his habit of ordering french toast, so that's what he did. the trio of omelettes arrived before the french toast and the waitress was aghast and apologetic and asthamtic. just kidding about the last thing - that my have been me. dave had also ordered a side of toast, which turned out to be a basket of toast, plump butter croissants and mini chocolate croissants. thanks to dave's mysterious aversion to flaky deliciousness, dan and i got to eat the mini-cho-cros. yum!

i'm getting tired of typing so let's just wrap things up. the food lovely and the service was delightful. thank you moutarde.

Food: A
Service: A

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Monday, October 18, 2004

Park Slope Gastronome #5 - Whatever happened to Lukas Haas?

this past weekend, the psg found themselves in amish country. the plan was to partake in the amazing maize maze, a dizzying 3-D puzzle cut out in five acres of corn. sans the psg, the maze proved to be too daunting last year. after over 3 hours of walking through the stalks of dried corn, the mission was abandoned. call it beginner's luck or what have you, but we finished the maze this year in record time. unfortunately, we didn't pick up all the map pieces along the way so that disqualified us from getting on the white board of fame.

en route to the maze, we stopped at an amish food stand, where heidi was ever so excited to see her pumpkin moonpies. i had nearly the same reaction to dilly beans, which are green and yellow string beans pickled in brine. they are simply delicious. heidi also bought a package of snickerdoodles. as we sampled the cookies in the car, liz provided us with the quote of the day when commented: "these snickerdoodles sure don't taste like a snickers bar." we'd like to think she was kidding, but she was not!

after the maze and a walk around the petting zoo, we were ready for some pennsylvania dutch home cooking. that led us to dienners where heidi and i both opted for the buffet, while liz got a delicious looking blt.

i proceeded to pile the following on my plate: rotisseried chicken drumstick, piece of ham, whipped potatoes, buttered noodles, baked lima beans, beef stew, stewed tomatoes, bread filling aka stuffing, green beans, rice, broccoli, macaroni and cheese, fried shrimp, fish stick, corn and a roll. when i returned to the table, i realized i hadn't gotten any salad so i went back and got a plate of greens, carrots, potato salad, macaroni salad, beets, cucumbers, egg salad, and some apple butter for my roll. oh, i also had a small ladle of chicken corn noodle chowder. all the hot food kind of had that same mushy cooked texture, but i loved it all. everything tasted like it was made with love, especially the apple butter and soup, and a lot of butter! i wish they had bacon in their hot food section. oh, i had some vegetable soup too, but i didn't like it too much because it was a bit sweet. i didn't even have dessert but i got so stuffed.

this was a girls only trip so dan was not allowed. i brought him home a homemade whoopie pie.

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Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Park Slope Gastronome #4

This past week the Park Slope Gastronome had brunch at the restaurant Belleville. Its location made for an easy choice when we were trying to figure out where to have brunch on a glorious Sunday afternoon. The walk to Cousin John's was a bit more than we wanted to flex our legs for. Cocotte stinks. A recent meal at the Mexican Sandwich Company helped me get acquainted with our bathroom and forced us to miss the Atlantic Antic.

Belleville is a French bistro, similar to the ones down the street (Moutarde) and a few neighborhoods over (Patois). There's a sprinkle of quaint, a dollop of shabby chic, a pinch of old-timeyness and steak frites on the menu. We were seated and given our menus immediately. Dan ordered the french toast, only to be told it was sold out. He then ordered the crossaints, and was again told it was sold out. "We've had a busy morning" our waitress explained. Finally we both wound up ordering the waffle with eggs and bacon. Along with our meal orders, we requested water, which would not show up until about three-quarters of the way through our meal.

Our dishes arrive and we're both a bit bummed out to see our waffles are pre-syruped. Not only was it imitation maple flavor syrup but the pre-syruping also made the waffle soggy. I like my waffles crisp and I also don't like to drench it in sugar. The eggs on the other hand were really nicely scrambled. They were a golden yellow color without any browning, loose, but firm enough that they didn't have that uncooked, phlegm-like texture to them. The bacon on the other hand was way overcooked. When I bend a bacon strip, I like for it to do just that and not snap in half. Finding good bacon is an impossible mission these days. I'm convinced our meal was to be accompanied by greens and potatoes. Two of the brunch options, the smoked salmon platter and the french toast were above the line that read something along the lines of "the following come with green and potatoes." The waffle was listed under this line and I positive I did not see an asterix listed next to it saying it was excluded. We asked our waitress about this, not because we were hungry, but because we thought we were missing a part of our meal. She didn't know her menu. She had to check. We still didn't have water by this time. A waiter came by with a pitcher and asked us if we wanted some more water. Then he noticed the lack of water glasses on our table and turned red, apologized and sent someone to get us glasses. We were never offered a refill on coffee.

p.s. The glass of orange juice we ordered was some sort of from-concentrate-crap served with ice cubes. En francais!

Food: C
Service: C-

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Monday, October 04, 2004

scufflin'

it's been an exhausting past week at bbbhq. apologies to my vast audience on the lack of postings here, and there. a couple noteworthy events from the last seven days:

1. i was one of the 3 grand prize raffle winners at allen's 30th birthday.
2. my grand prize was 8 boxes of brillo in assorted sizes.
3. we got a dustbuster

that really might be it. sorry folks. stay tuned for park slope gastronome's field trip to uminoie in the east village, as well as stop at belleville for brunch.

in the meantime, everyone's favorite fitnik has joined the horribly exciting world of blogging. can i just say how much i love the title?

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Friday, September 24, 2004

Park Slope Gastronome #3 - A Field Trip

ok, so i was only going to write about restaurants in my neighborhood, but decided that might be a bit too limiting. last night, i took my girl heidi to chikalicious as a belated birthday present. chikalicious is a newish restaurant in the east village that only serves desserts. they offer a 3 course prix fixe, which consists of an amuse, dessert entree and petit fours. the space is a stark box of white and metal - heidi likened it to a muji store.

we both began with a small bulb of lemon ice cream set upon a mound of lemongrass jelly. the jelly was so incredibly delicate, i was amazed at how it was able to keep its solid shape. it melted in your mouth, releasing a crisp, clean and tangy burst. the lemon ice cream was smooth and tart - why don't more people make it? you see lemon ice and sorbets all the time, but lemon ice cream is so rare! for my main course, i chose the warm chocolate tart with pink peppercorn ice cream and red wine sauce. i splurged for the wine pairing and was presented with a glass of mas amiel maury cuvee special 10 yr. i have no idea what that means, but the mas amiel was a delicious accompaniment. not overly sweet and very smooth. the warm chocolate tart was essentially one of those chocolate volcano, molten lava cakes. the crust was made out of a butterly tuile batter and its crunch contrasted nicely with the smoothness of the warm chocolate batter. i enjoyed the red wine sauce, but probably would have preferred it to have been reduced down a bit more. the ice cream was a mound of blushing vanilla. heidi opted for a seared plum half that was served with a ginger vanilla anglaise and something else i couldn't remember. i had eyed that dish too, but i've developed an allergy to stone fruits in the last five years which means i can't eat plums, peaches and cherries. it's a total bummer because i love all three! i think it's ok when the fruit is cooked or pastuerized, like in cherry garcia ice cream. that doesn't affect me.

our petit fours course had a coconut marshmallow, black peppercorn biscotti with hazelnut and a green tea chocolate truffle. i tried the marshamallow first, and upon first touch was swept to the clouds. no, really, i was! the texture was so amazing. it was like squeezing a mogu pillow, only daintier. the biscotti was interesting and it wouldn't surprise me to learn that a half hazelnut gets placed in each one by hand, rather than being mixed in with the dough. the truffle disappeared into my mouth with a puff of cocoa powder. it was the perfect size, slightly bigger than a marble. it was a delicious capper to a delicious meal of sweets.

Food: A
Service: A

Coda: we went across the street to rai rai ken for noodles afterwards. how i love that place!

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Park Slope Gastronome #2

Well I suppose I should have posted this review first since we ate here on Saturday, but I needed to get my disappointment over Cocotte out first. As previously mentioned on the Bibimbop, Amy was in town. She had just turned 21, so we decided to take her out to dinner. We went to Star of India, on 5th Avenue. Dan and I had discussed eating there before but we never made the plunge. The last Indian place we blindly tried was Joy on Flatbush. Someone stuck a delivery menu on the screen door at 375 Cumberland and delivery choices were pretty slim pickings over there. It was decent enough to order from a couple times, but it was soon determined we always got the same bloated burning sensation after our meal. So back to Star of India, Dan was hesitant to try because he never sees anyone in there. While that could be a bad sign, there's hardly ever anyone in Thai Sky further down 5th Avenue and their food is pretty good. We've also had Thai Sky at least a dozen times since moving to Park Slope but we've yet to actually eat *in.* So here we are at Star of India and as we sit down, we're presented with a basket of papadum and the usual condiment triptych of onion relish, cilantro relish and a sweet tamarind sauce. We ordered the Tandoor Feast for two, to be split 3 ways. It included: naan, a double order of chicken tikka masala, two gigantic vegetable samosa, 4 banana fritters, a bowl of coconut soup, a bowl of muligatawny and two deserts. It was more than enough food, but for some reason, we reinforced the meal with an order of paratha, extra rice and two large bottles of Taj Mahal beer. The two least successful dishes were also the sweetest (not counting the desserts). While the fiery red lentil soup was tangy with a lovely textured consistency, the coconut soup that dan ordered was more like a handful of shredded coconut stewed in coconut juice mixed with a bit of milk. The banana fritters, while crisp and not too greasy, were too doughy for me. The dough to banana combination was about 4-1. The paratha and naan on the other hand, was some of the best I'd ever had. Both, but especially the naan was served piping hot and was chewy and crisp at the same time. The chicken tikka masala was tasty, but the sauce was lacking depth. I will compliment the quality of the chicken - nice chunks of white meat, rather than sinewy mystery parts. For dessert, we chose a dish of pistachio ice cream and a serving of rice pudding. The pudding was fair and the ice cream infected with freezer burn so I didn't have more than 2 bites of either.
Food: B+
Service: B+

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Park Slope Gastronome #1

It was gorgeous weather on Sunday and what better way to start off the day than with a delicious brunch. Dan, his little sister Amy who was visiting for the weekend and I, decided to try Cocotte, a Frenchy place across the street that shares the same owners as Dan's beloved LouLou in Fort Greene. We decided it was a tad too breezy to eat outside, so we waited for a table inside. There was no one taking names, which should have tipped me off immediately. I have big problems with places that won't let you leave your name and number in your party and doesn't provide space for waiting. So basically, a bunch of people were huddled by the front door and you had to keep a mental track of where your place in line was.

The inside decor is a near carbon copy of LouLou, down to the vintage silverware and turbinado sugar cubes in a ceramic bowl. The food is pretty much the same as well. Our drink orders were taken soon after we sat down. Strong but not very hot coffee cost $3 a cup. I wasn't very happy about this. A bland, but overall fair Bloody Mary cost $6. It came with a long stalk of celery, top intact, so that was a nice, classic touch. The celery garnish in a Bloody Mary is just too underused these days. So we get our drinks and wait for our waiter to come by to take our food order. We wait and wait and wait some more. Nowhere to be seen. We see tables who were seated after us get their food orders in. Of course I get incensed. We finally see our server; he walks past our table no less than 4 times but not once does he pause to say he'll be right with us. When he finally shows up at tableside, he doesn't apologize for making us wait and that puts me over the top. Listen, I know servers are not paid an hourly wage and rely on tips, but it's not just about taking food orders and bringing the food to your table. I want someone to want their 15-20% tip and not just simply expect it. Amy, the one with wait experience at our table agreed. A simple gesture to acknowledge our presence would have done wonders. Oh well.

I got a ham, mushroom and cheese omelette, Dan got the french toast and Amy got the l'ocean omelette - an egg white omelette with smoked salmon and cream cheese. My food was good but nothing spectacular. A bit of dressed greens would have been a nice addition to the egg dishes. Amy's eggs were quite underdone and looked like a plate of grits.

Of course our waiter never showed up to give us the check. Once again we waited and waited and finally just figured out the bill in our heads and left. Don't think we'll be going back there any time soon.

Food: B
Service: D-
(It would have been an F if another waiter hadn't brought out food and actually came back to check in and see if everything was ok)

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