Archives for posts with tag: Williamsburg

It’s time I say goodbye to my dear friend Sarah. She was visiting me from Vancouver since Friday and we had a blast all over NYC. Highlights include: visiting the Tomás Saraceno sculpture on the roof of the Met (that’s a reflection of me in the sculpture above); eating in the new Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg @ Reynards; joking about “man repellent” clothing; Jones Beach; an inversion workshop at Jivamukti yoga school; and dinner at Kyo Ya.

Sarah and I met fourteen years ago at Pearson College on the southern tip of Vancouver Island, a wonderfully bizarre, idyllic school that brings students together from around the world to promote international peace. She was an alternative skateboarding punk from B.C. and we bonded instantly. Since then we’ve been pretty good about visiting each other nearly every year—sometimes I go to Vancouver and more often she comes here to NYC. Below is us at Habana Outpost in Fort Greene, doing our part at brokering peaceful international relations.

We ate like queens while she was in town. Three meals in particular stood out. Friday night we dined at the bar of Gwynnett Street, the new Williamsburg joint run by two former WD-50 chefs, Justin Hilbert and Owen Clark. Pete Wells gave this place two stars back in April, writing:

And while it is a restaurant in Brooklyn, Gwynnett St. is not really a Brooklyn restaurant. There are no butchers’ tools hanging from reclaimed barn doors. Under the eye of Carl McCoy, the proprietor, the dining room staff is calmly professional, utterly free of pretense and attitude. Nobody is the least bit likely to pull up a chair and offer to show you pictures of the sauerkraut the chef is currently fermenting inside a pair of Red Wing boots.

If only he were kidding about the sauerkraut pictures. But who am I to judge? I’m brewing kombucha atop my fridge as I write. At least it’s not brewing in my Toms shoes. Anyway…not only was the food at Gwynnett really solid, the service was attentive and atmosphere lively without being loud. I love a restaurant where you would just as much want to dine at the bar as a table—Dressler being one of my favorites for this—and Gwynnett is such a place. We started with whiskey bread served with cultured butter from VT, and a pea & mint salad. The peas were full of spring—bright and fresh and grassy—and the whiskey bread was decadent and a hint sweet. We then had duck that tasted like perfectly charred steak, and, just to be redundant, the steak with radishes two ways. (My mostly vegan diet mostly went out the window this week – I’m back on the wagon though. Side note: a guy turned to me in line at Chop’t yesterday and said: you know why this line is so long? Everybody was at the beach this weekend and thought, “I need to start eating salads for lunch.” Ha!) For dessert we had what tasted like amazing peanut butter and jelly, but was actually milk chocolate ganache, peanut crumble, and black currant somethingorother.

I had also been wanting to try Reynards, Andrew Tarlow’s new joint in the Wythe Hotel, also in Williamsburg. Shout out to my friend Hale Everets and his team for a really elegant redesign of this former waterfront factory. We met up with our friend Ella, also from our Pearson days, whom I hadn’t seen in many years, and feasted on a beet-and-mint salad; nettle toast; arctic char with spring vegetables; house-made sausage; lobster and peas poached in butter; chocolate olive oil cake; and Mast Brothers chocolate sorbet. The food was creative without being fussy. It was seasonal and fresh and really well seasoned. The place is a little sceney for everyday eating, but perfectly fun with out-of-town guests on a balmy holiday weekend. The staff are effortlessly hip in that Williamsburg way—lots of short denim cut-offs, wedge heels, and Warby Parker eyeglasses—but the clientele leaned more toward a slightly older out-of-town crowd with gold jewelry and blue blazers, guests of the hotel I imagine. After dinner we skipped the half-hour lineup for the rooftop bar (see what I mean, sceney) and headed down to Zebulon. I dig Reynards open kitchen design (below), to which we had front row seats.

And last but not least, there was Kyo Ya. For Sarah’s last night in town I thought dinner at this five-year-old Japanese joint hidden on East 7th Street was the proper sendoff. I made the reservation weeks ago. Since it was (also) reviewed in the Times not long ago, I didn’t want to take any chances. This place is charming in a hushed but not snobby way. It’s the kind of place you wish there were more of in this crazy loud city of no-reservation restaurants, open kitchens, new American cuisine, cool kids everywhere, and savvy marketing behind the next new thing. Kyo Ya is kind of opposite. The antidote to Gwynnett St. and Reynards, which don’t get me wrong, I really liked.

For starters, there’s something like ten tables at Kyo Ya. And a quaint staircase off the street level leading you to the subterranean restaurant (above). The entrance has leaves pressed between two large panes of glass and I noticed instantly upon entering that I was put at ease. We ordered a la carte rather than kaiseki, and chose the sea urchin, two bites worth of luscious uni served with small sheets of nori and fresh wasabi; chawanmushi, a silky, savory custard with shrimp and gingko nuts, among the best I’ve ever had; a smoked potato salad, made by dressing the potatoes in a smoked soy sauce; one of their specialities—pressed sushi with soy-marinated Canadian salmon (photo below); and snapper chazuke—a pot of rice served with snapper sashimi and little side toppings like shiso, wasabi, tiny cubes of daikon. At the end you pour green tea over your bowls of rice and mix with the leftover chazuke sauce. Each bite at Kyo Ya is a kind of revelation, a testament to chef Chikara Sono’s inventiveness paired with reverence for tradition.

And here’s the uni…

It was a decadent meal in a very understated way, quite a fitting end to my week with Sarah.

Gwynnett St.
312 Graham Ave., Brooklyn

Reynards
80 Wythe Ave., Brooklyn

Kyo Ya
94 E. 7th St., East Village

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Yesterday was all about the snow storm. It seemed to come from out of nowhere: beginning at 11 am Brooklyn began its transformation from mid-fall stupor to winter wonderland. The snow came down fast and hard and blanketed New York City with three inches by the evening.

Last night, despite the inclement weather, eight of us made it to poker in Fort Greene. I decided I’d bring a dessert—it was a perfect day after all for staying inside with the oven on—and landed on a chocolate tart recipe by the trusty David Lebovitz. But first I needed to pick up the few ingredients I didn’t already have on hand (the chocolate, for one), and a tart mold.

I’ve been needing a tart pan for ages so ran into Whisk on Bedford Ave. Whisk is a great kitchen supply store that opened in Williamsburg maybe two years ago and carries top of the line everything. Yuji double-parked out front and I ran in prepared to wince at the price tag and fork over my Visa. But it would be worth it, I thought, for a delicious chocolate tart! Well wasn’t I pleasantly surprised when the mold turned out to be a reasonable $8.99. And the icing on the cake? Christina Tosi, the Wonka-esque pastry chef, was in the back room signing copies of her new book, Momofuku Milk Bar, released this fall by Clarkson Potter.

Given the freezing rain and general freakishness of the weather I was not surprised to find her hanging out with just a couple of Whisk employees, sitting around shootin the you-know-what, without many groupies in sight. I went up and introduced myself and then helped myself to two of her famous cake truffles, birthday cake and dulce de leche. Only three letters to describe those things: O-M-G. I flipped through the book, thanked her for her pastry wizadry and dashed back out into the freezing rain, into the warmth of the Volvo. It was an auspicious beginning to the tart-making.

Back at the ranch, I began by making the pastry, for which I also used the recipe from David’s blog. It really was quite an easy job, requiring neither a stand mixer or electric appliance of any kind. He has a funny post here describing how he came to this particular recipe. You put butter, vegetable oil, water, sugar, and salt into an oven-proof bowl and place that in a hot oven for about fifteen minutes. You take it out, add the flour, and voila, there is your pastry, ready to roll out into the tart shell.

Using the heel of your hand you press the dough into the tart mold. You bake this in the oven to a golden brown before inserting your filling.

The filling is all about bitter chocolate. But first actually you make caramel on the stovetop, melting the sugar until it is a liquid, sweet gold, and then fold in your chocolate. Buy good quality bittersweet and unsweetened chocolate. The recipe also calls for adding 6 tbsp of coffee and just a tsp of vanilla extract. You pour the mixture into your cooled tart dough and then pop it back into the oven.

The resulting tart tasted hardly sweet; with the deep dark notes of the caramel, coffee, and chocolate, it was a nice ending to our pre-poker dinner of braised short ribs, polenta, and broccoli rabe. I was lucky the tart turned out well, but not quite as lucky at poker. In the end I only lost $6 though.

French Pastry Dough
Adapted from Paule Caillat of Promenades Gourmandes and David Lebovitz

3 oz (90 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 rounded cup (150 g) flour

Preheat the oven to 410º F (210º C).

1. In a medium-sized ovenproof bowl, combine the butter, oil, water, sugar, and salt.

2. Place the bowl in the oven for approximately 15 minutes, until the mixture begins to bubble and just starts to brown.

3. Remove from the oven, being very careful not to burn yourself on the hot bowl. Stir the flour in quickly, until it comes together and forms a ball.

4. Transfer the dough to a 9-in. (23 cm) tart mold with a removable bottom and, with the heel of your hand, press it evenly into the bottom and sides. If the dough is still hot you can wait until it cools to handle. Reserve a small bit of dough for later in case you need it for patching up any cracks.

5. Prick the dough all over with the tines of a fork (about ten times) to prevent the dough from puffing up, and bake the tart shell in the oven for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on it so it doesn’t burn. You want the dough to be golden brown.

6. Remove from the oven and patch any cracks with the reserved dough if necessary. Let the shell cool before filling.

Chocolate Tart
Serves 8-10

1 1/4 c (250 g) sugar
6 tbsp (90 ml) warm coffee
4 oz (115 g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
pinch of salt
4 oz (115 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 oz (55 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
2 large eggs
1/4 c (35 g) flour
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tbsp dark rum)

1. Lower the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC).

2. Spread the sugar in an even layer in the bottom of a large, heavy-duty saucepan or Dutch oven. Cook the sugar over moderate heat, stirring occasionally with a heatproof utensil, until it begins to liquify. Take care, as caramel can splatter and burn.

3. Once the sugar is melted it will caramelize quickly. When it begins to smoke turn off the heat and stir in the coffee. (You may want to avert your face and be sure to wear oven mitts!) Then add the butter and salt, stir until melted, then stir in both chocolates until smooth.

4. Once the mixture has cooled just a bit, mix in the eggs, then add the flour. Stir in the vanilla extract or rum.

5. Pour the mixture into your pre-baked tart shell then bake for about 15 minutes, just until the filling starts to rise and crack at the edges but the center is still jiggly. Do not overbake.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing.

Do you watch the BBC show Downton Abbey? I’d heard folks talking about it for the past few months (never understanding what they were saying when pronouncing Downton) and finally one late weeknight in the recent past I got on Netflix and tuned in. I was hooked faster than you can unlace a corset—which I guess isn’t actually fast at all—and am now through half the first season. I’m trying to pace myself because that’s so far the only season to watch.

Anyway…in one episode, a lowly middle class lawyer says something to the effect of “Well I work during the week but there’s always weekends and evenings.” And the pitch-perfect Maggie Smith, playing the Dowager Countess of Grantham, says in disbelief “What’s a week-end?”

Well your Countess, a weekend, in these parts of Brooklyn anyway, is when you put on your skinny jeans and lace-up shoes and walk around Williamsburg, stopping along Smorgasburg on the waterfront, getting coffee at Blue Bottle, brunching at Fabian’s or Egg, then shopping along the strip of Bedford Avenue.

I took in Smorgasburg on Saturday afternoon for a little nosh. First you have to spend 10-15 minutes walking around checking out the vendors. You don’t want to commit to a vendor too early then be disappointed to find there was better barbecue on the other side of the flea market. This is what happened to Y. He committed to a barbecue sandwich from Williamsburg’s Meat Hook—not a bad move, you’d think this would be among the best—but then later discovered even more mouth-watering brisket being barbecued on the far north side of the market. Too late.

Well I’m an experienced food market strategist. I was waiting for the right vendor when I saw a couple strolling, gobbling sandwiches with cilantro and something fried inside. I caught them mid-bite, asked from whence it came, and was pointed toward Dadar, a stall hawking Bombay street food. The sandwich above is a Vada Pao; for $5 you get to chow down on smashed potato and chickpea flour fried and served on a bun with a tamarind sauce, spicy peppers, and cilantro.

My next diversion was Kombucha Brooklyn’s stand. As some of you know, I am a sucker for kombucha on tap, so couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get a $10 half-growler filled with fresh apricot kombucha. You can refill your buch bottle for $8 at Radish, Urban Rustic, Fresh Fanatic, and Khim’s Millenium, for starters. I told the guy I wanted to work for his company. I was only half kidding. That reminds me, I need to get business cards made. Ok it’s Downton time!

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