Sunday, December 29, 2013

Bergers at the Smorgasburg!: Brooklyn, NY

I had been begging to go to the Smorgasburg for months.  The Smorgasburg, for those of you not aware, is a roving band of food vendors that set up in various Brooklyn locations every weekend.  Food stand upon food stand, it was a Mecca of sorts for me.  If I still lived in New York, I am certain that this would be a part of my usual weekend routine, and one December Saturday we finally got there.  (Lucky for me, this year the Smorgasburg now has a winter indoor location).  I'm fairly certain that the outdoor Smorgasburg is a completely different experience, and I look forward to going come Spring, but for now 75 food vendors will just have to suffice. 

That's right, 75 food vendors under one roof in a Williamsburg warehouse, if only I had the time, stamina and stomach to try them all.  We did our requisite research on the drive in, each vendor is listed on the website in advance along with a map so you can attempt to plan your visit.  Lines can be long especially for the "it" item.  For example, we did not feel like waiting an hour for the Ramen Burger but we took a peak at it and perhaps JB can recreate it at home.  

Some of our highlights: 

- Dough: The first stop because Big Z had been so patient on the drive to Brooklyn (not really). Z's reward was a massive, plain glazed donut for $2.25.  It was big enough to keep him entertained through our entire visit.  I hear they have a Bed-Stuy location, we may be stopping by.

- Cemita's Mexican Sandwiches: JB had seen a TV show that featured these Mexican behemoths, so we braved a moderate line for a freshly made sandwich.  Our Cemita was a roll piled with steak, Mexican cheese, avocado, onion and a few different kids of sauces.  In a word, it is awesome and worth every bit of $8. 

- Kelvin Natural Slush Co.: While waiting for the cemita, I was able to sample, for free, a spicy ginger slush. Not exactly my thing, but I appreciated the opportunity to try something that I would usually skip.  

- Landhaus: Little D is our bacon lover.  Sadly, he was not a Smorgasburg lover.  We saw bacon on a stick and thought this would be better than any cookie would be.  We were wrong on that front, but our $3 bacon on a stick was just awesome.  Awesome sugary-glazed bacon.  Thanks for sharing, D. 

- McClure's Pickles:  The bacon didn't work.  But the pickles did.  We made two stops here for their spicy wonders, $2 each, made with both cayenne and habanero versions.  Perfect for our feisty 4 year old. 

I could have stayed all day. But not all of the members of our party (namely the ones 5 and under) were as into it.  I drooled past the BBQ, the grilled cheese, the lobster, the Asian-style hot dogs, just so much amazing food.

I highly recommend a visit, whether you have one snack or twenty, it is certainly a New York experience.  

I can't wait to go back. 

Until our next Berger, 
Find more info about the Smorgasburg including locations, hours and the vendor list.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Family Affair: Bistro 25, Sayville, NY

Our path to Bistro 25 was not a smooth one.  It was dark, it was snowing and our party of 9 was turned down by our original choice (more about that later).  Some quick Google work led our family to this welcoming and delicious stop in Sayville.

I was still somewhat skeptical as the over-friendly server handed us our menus, and then I saw the
menu.  Pork belly, truffled macaroni and cheese, this was no roadside restaurant.

The restaurant is named Bistro 25 as most of their wines are $25 a bottle.  Of course, we didn't realize this until half-way through dinner, so I will tell you all now.  Wines by the glass, though, were not too shabby either.  My prosecco was a heavy and bubbly pour.  A pinot noir, also a good size, was robust and flavorful.

JB started with a salad, that, upon its arrival, I promptly shared.  Spicy and peppery arugula was lightly dressed with grape tomatoes, parmesan shavings and a light lemon vinaigrette.  For me to like a vinaigrette, means it was indeed a good one.  A chopped salad that included candied walnuts and dried cranberries was also a hit our table.

For dinner, I chose a scallop special with brussel sprouts and pancetta.  I had to battle little D for almost all of my pancetta.  I inhaled the well-flavored scallops in minutes.  Meanwhile, JB chose the pappardelle with a meat ragu.  The meat itself was delicious and appeared to be the same meat in the short ribs that were also at our table.  Another table favorite was a fish-filled paella.

Par for the course, our boys had burgers and fries which passed their test.  Little D had a double order of bacon that he graciously shared after the pancetta incident.

A simple dessert of a dark chocolate tart ended our decadent meal.  The boys had house made ice cream.

I am looking forward to our return, this time as our planned destination.

A note about our original choice: Downtown Burger at Five Points Cafe.  This place was written up in Newsday as one of the best burgers on Long Island, however, they would not seat our party of nine despite having the room for us.  Big mistake.

Until our next Berger,

Bistro 25
45 Foster Avenue
Sayville, NY

A Groupon Steak Feast: Delmonico's, Southampton, NY

When Groupon first appeared on the scene, I was an instant fan.  Discounts on food, massages, clothes?  YES! But then I found myself purchasing items I really didn't need and struggling to redeem them on time.  So I cooled off.  Occasionally though, there is something too good to pass up.  Like the Groupon I found for Delmonico's Steakhouse in Southampton, NY.
       * $100 for 4-courses for 2, including wine *

Sign me up.  I quickly purchased the deal and immediately felt satisfied.  And then I waited.  And waited.  And soon, as with all Groupons, the expiration date loomed.  No need for a special occasion, an offer was expiring.  I picked a Friday and tried not to eat a big lunch.

On a July Friday, this place would be packed.  On a December Friday, it was empty.  The room was welcoming with a roaring fireplace and just two tables of two seated next to it.  "Have a Groupon?" the host asked when we arrived - I guess we weren't the only ones.

The Groupon offered some impressive choices.  For the the first course there were two salads, a crab cake and a soup special.  JB opted for a heaping wedge salad covered in bacon and blue cheese.  My Caesar salad was standard and tiny compared to JB's.  The second course was a mushroom risotto.  Being mushroom averse, I inquired about a mushroom-free risotto.  I was initially told that my request could not be accommodated, and then the server returned victoriously with my sans-funghi creamy and cheesy risotto.  Note: JB was a fan of the mushroom version.

The third course was a no-brainer for us both among the choices - a 40 day prime aged strip steak.  This was the best part of the deal.  The steak was perfectly cooked and massive.  It could have used a side, but we really did not need it.  After JB helped me to finish mine, we still had to take some home.

Dessert offered just one choice - a salted caramel and chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream.  I ate the tart and JB the ice cream.

Service was brisk, a la steakhouse style, and we did have to pay full tax and tip on the meal, so it wasn't just $100 even. While still a tremendous deal,  it is, unfortunately, no longer on offer on Groupon.  Furthermore, I have heard rumors this location may close (or perhaps just for the Winter season).  So I will consider myself lucky that I got to eat a great meal at a great price.

Until our next Burger, 

Delmonico's of Southampton
268 Elm Street
Southampton, NY

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Celebratory Lunch: Topping Rose House, Bridgehampton, NY

When there's a new restaurant in the Hamptons, I put it on my must-hit list.  My list is long.  So I slowly chip away at it.  When the Topping Rose House opened in late 2012 with Tom Colicchio as head chef, it took a spot at the top of my list and remained there until last week, when JB and I treated ourselves to a celebratory lunch.  A lunch worthy of celebrating indeed.

The Topping Rose House is an historic home turned luxury hotel (read: rooms start at around $500/night).  The renovations are top notch and the pinnacle of the experience is dining at their establishment which focuses on farm to table fine dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.  Given that we are now in the off-season, at 12:30 on a Wednesday, we were the only two in the 50 seat dining room.  It was heavenly.

The small room is comprised mostly of two-tops and four-tops, some along a banquette with large old windows overlooking Montauk Highway.  The music was a bit loud for just the two of us, but would have been fine with a few more patrons.

Service was impeccable and stands out with little touches.  As we sat, my white napkin was promptly switched for a black one.  We were offered a taste of our wines by the glass prior to the full pour.  The potato rolls were warm and lightly dusted with salt.

The lunch menu is well-curated and small with just five appetizers and five entrees (including a burger!) Our server presented us with two bowls of beautifully cured bacon and creme fraiche and proceeded to cover it with potato leek soup.   The bacon was crispy and well complemented the robust potato flavor.   I would have preferred slightly warmer soup, though, it was warm enough.

For our mains, I chose the cheese pumpkin agnoolotti.  This homemade pasta came with discs of duck confit and pecorino, it was rich and delicious.  Better still was JB's entree of the chicken sausage with roasted vegetables and chicken jus. While on paper it appeared simple, the sausage was seared to perfection and each vegetable seemed hand-selected for the dish including the tiniest broccoli florets I have ever seen. 

To finish we ordered the apple pie which was not just a slice but rather a miniature pie surrounded in a flaky, buttery crust.  Completing the plate was vanilla bean ice cream and caramel.  We could not have asked for a better dessert to finish our special meal.  

While JB ordered a fresh French press and I finished a local Long Island Red Wine, we imagined dinner on a crowded summer night.  I can only assume that the restaurant at full capacity is as delightful as it is for two.  I hope to find out soon. 

Until our next Berger, 

Topping Rose House
One Bridgehampton - Sag Harbor TurnpikeBridgehampton, NY631.537.0870

On the Side:  Open daily year-round, breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Prix-fixe dinner currently offered Sunday to Thursday, 3 courses for $48.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Post-Thanksgiving Meal: Pasta Pasta, Port Jefferson, NY

In our family, and most families I imagine, there is the obligatory visit with the family that you didn't see on Thanksgiving.  This year our visit took place in Port Jefferson, NY, a former shipbuilding town that is now home to several touristy shops and a ferry that traverses Long Island Sound to Connecticut.  Eating was on the itinerary.

We usually eat at a spot called the Fifth Season that is very close to the ferry dock, but they do not serve lunch on Saturdays so we headed to an oft-recommended spot, Pasta Pasta.  Although no one was really in the mood for Italian food, I assured the group that Pasta Pasta offered more than just it's name.

The dining room is quaint, romantic almost, with frilly curtains and mirrors.  Yet they were kid-friendly and did not seem to mind when little D was wailing while waiting for the Wi-Fi to connect.  (Yes, full disclosure, I let my boys use their electronic devices sometimes at restaurants).

The menu is massive.  In addition to the assumed pasta section, they have a major focus on seafood and landlubber items.  At lunch, this came in the form of salads, sandwiches, pizzas and entrees.

While we perused the menu, a gigantic bread basket arrived that contained several pounds of garlic-slathered bread.  This thing was heavy to pass around the table but quickly got lighter and lighter.

Ordering took awhile as there were so many choices, but we finally settled on two seafood salads, one with crab cakes and the other with lobster, two filet mignon quesadillas and one hamburger with fries.

Contrary to the bread, the crab cakes were miniscule.  After two excellent bites of crab cake, it was all lettuce.  The lobster salad had more meat to it and tasted especially fresh and light.  The filet mignon quesadillas were packed with flavorful ingredients including alouette and mozzarella cheese, caramelized onions and roasted corn.  The quesadillas themselves were crispy, covered with chipotle lime aioli and plentiful.  My Dad who was still hungry after the crab cakes was able to fill up with my remaining quesadilla donation.  Oh and as always, the boys enjoyed their hamburger and fries.

Now, I do wonder if we ordered correctly.  I think everything we had was fine, good even, but not outstanding.  Other tables appeared to really have some winning dishes, including wasabi calamari and all of the pastas.  I guess in a restaurant called Pasta, Pasta, that is probably the right order.

Until our next Berger,

Pasta Pasta
 234 E Main St
Port Jefferson, NY

PS -- After lunch, we stopped in an adorable restaurant, C'est Cheese, that sells grilled cheese, cheese boards, wine, etc.  It is on my list for the next visit.  We did take home some amazing Point Reyes Toma to tide us over until our next trip to Port Jeff.