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Entries in Foodporn (99)

Friday
May042012

Friday Foodporn: Kiwiana, 847 Union Street

For all the buzz that Talde's been getting, there's another restaurant from a Top Chef alum on the other end of Seventh that's also churning out some incredibly inventive, inspired, delicious, and most of all, fun food. It's Kiwiana, and it's the brainchild of New Zealand-born chef Mark Simmons. It's a hidden gem that's right up there with the neighborhood's best.

Since opening on Union Street just west of Seventh Avenue last August, the restaurant's developed a loyal following of regulars who feel like they're in on a secret. The space is comfortable and has a retro feel, and service is attentive and knowledgeable. Every day until 7 there's a rotating happy hour with cheap drinks and even cheaper food, like dollar oysters and killer pulled pork sliders in a sweet and savory sauce (below).

The menu is constantly changing depending on what's fresh and seasonal, but some items are menu mainstays: crunchy and tender horopito (a peppery herb) and buttermilk fried chicken, smoked and pickled mussels, craveable manuka honey and Marmite braised baby back ribs, expertly cooked New Zealand lamb, and the classic Kiwi burger, a lamb patty topped with cheddar, beets, and a fried egg.

Everything on the menu has something incredibly unique about it, and that just adds to the fun. Nicely caramelized diver scallops (below) are served on the shell atop a chunky caluiflower and bacon ragout, tied together with a tangy passion fruit sauce. Crispy-skinned New Zealand snapper (top) is served alongside a creamy saffron risotto dotted with peas and chunks of chorizo. Tiny little whitebait fish are breaded and fried whole, and eaten head and all. Baby beets are slow-poached and served with lavender infused fresh ricotta and Marcona almonds. A vegan Jerusalem artichoke soup is so rich and earthy you'll swear it's loaded with cream and butter.

There's a real sense of whimsy and playfulness here, and that extends to the cocktail list as well. There's a ramp gibson, made and garnished with pickled ramps, which are sweet and tangy and should be sold by the jar. A martini is made with pickled mussels. There's also a nice selection of inexpensive wines (with a slant toward Australian and New Zealand selections) as well as beers from that region that I've never seen anywhere else, like Steinlager and Boag's.

For dessert, don't skip the lamingtons, soft squares of sponge cake doused with cherry or raspberry liqueur, rolled in coconut and topped with fresh whipped cream.

And then there's brunch, which is generally when they're at their most crowded. It's just as inspired as the rest of the menu. It's clear that Chef Simmons is incredibly proud of his work, and is in the kitchen every night creating some really inspired food. Next time you're in the mood for a nice meal but don't feel like waiting for the same dish as always at al di la, head a block east. You'll leave happy.

Kiwiana, 847 Union Street Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-230-3682.

Friday
Apr272012

Friday Foodporn: Sweet Treasures Bakery, 588 Fifth Avenue

It's amazing to think that there's been a bakery in one form or another at 588 Fifth Avenue, between 16th and Prospect, for well over 100 years. For the past several years the tenant's been Three Star, an under the radar old-world bakery that churned out serviceable rolls, loaves, cakes, and other baked goods. When they decided it was time to close and put the shop on the market a couple months ago, the landlord insisted that another bakery move in (a great move), and in came Sweet Treasures, run by a family that's run several bakeries in South Brooklyn for many years.

They renovated the space (but not too much), brightened it up a bit, and gave it a decidedly Italian-American twist. Refreshingly, it's not particularly sleek or trendy, and the baked goods (all made from scratch in the large kitchen in the back) stand on their own: this place is a real gem, and I would seriously recommend stopping by.

The diminutive new owner, Rose, is about the friendliest person you'll ever meet, and takes great pride in her work. The selection is impressive, a wide variety of items both sweet and savory: Italian cookies, danishes, sfogliatele, turnovers, sweet breads dripping with icing, eclairs and cannolli, tarts, cakes, pies, cookies, and muffins. They're also baking a lot of bread, from sesame seed-flecked semolina loaves to sturdy sandwich rolls, and there are fresh cold cuts that they'll be more than happy to pile on for you. 

But their real (soon-to-be) claim to fame, however, is the prosciutto bread (top). These rustic loaves are dense and filled with chunks of prosciutto and provolone, and sell for $5 each, a steal. They're about the most savory thing imaginable, and I was about ready to walk out with the entire plate of free samples that's been generously laid out (I opted to just buy a loaf instead).

Next time you find yourself in that neck of the woods, stop in, say hi to Rose, and try some of that prosciutto bread. You'll thank me later.

Sweet Treasures Bakery, 588 Fifth Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-788-7898

Friday
Apr132012

Friday Foodporn: Stone Park's House-Smoked Salmon Platter

Stone Park Cafe, which has held down the corner of Fifth Avenue and Third Street since 2004, has become something of a neighborhood institution. They were serving local, seasonal ingredients before it became uber-trendy, with a menu that changes near-daily. While there are always some "mad genius"-type items on the menu (scallop and marrow tacos are now on offer, for example), there are also some classic standbys, like their top-notch burger, one of the neighborhood's best.

There's almost always a wait to get in, especially on the weekends (when it's nice out the outdoor section along Third Street is one of the best people-watching spots in town), and one of the true classics on their varied and inspired brunch menu is the house-smoked salmon platter. This is one seriously classy dish. The salmon is thin-sliced and loaded onto the plate, and topped with a wedge of cream cheese, onions, tomato, egg white and yolk, horseradish cream, and, amazingly, a toasted Bagel Hole bagel. It's a winner!

Stone Park, 324 5th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-369-0082.

Friday
Apr062012

Friday Foodporn: Cyprus Avenue's Chips

When Cyprus Avenue, the cozy Irish pub on the corner of Fifth and Bergen, closed "for renovations" several months ago, and certainly appeared as if it might never re-open, I was really disappointed. The Guinness and ambiance were good, yes, and the dollar sliders were always welcome, but the one thing that knew I would miss the most were those damn chips.

The new menu, which still retains many Irish standards like Shepherd's Pie and "toasties," now calls them fries instead of chips, but it was a relief to learn that they're still exactly the same as before. Thin-sliced half-moons of skin-on potato are fried until super-crispy and tossed with salt and some other secret spices, and one portion is enough to feed three. They're a completely different creature altogether from just about any other fried potato you'll find around here, and they really stand out from the pack in the best way possible.

Cyprus Avenue, 52 5th Avenue Brooklyn NY 11217. 718-638-1066.

Friday
Mar302012

Friday Foodporn: Dram Shop's Burger and Pimento Cheese

There comes a time in every drinking session when one feels inclined to take a look at the food menu. And if this drinking session happens to be taking place at the Dram Shop, on Ninth Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, you might end up finding yourself to be quite pleasantly surprised. These aren't just bar snacks, these are damn good bar snacks.

There are the Irish Nachos, which substitute fries and bacon for tortilla chips. There's deep-fried mac and cheese. There's chili. But, most of all, there's the burger. And there's also the only pimiento cheese you'll find in the area.

Let's start with the pimento cheese. A staple in the southern states, it's pretty tough to come by in these parts, but they certainly do it justice here. Sharp cheddar chesse is blended with, by my judgement, butter, mayo, pimentos (also known as pickled cherry peppers), onion and garlic powder, and a very heavy dose of dill. Served alongside saltines and Fritos (which you'll probably need to order more of), it's a bar snack for the ages.

I'd been hearing a lot about Dram Shop's burger, so I knew I had to check it out. First a little history, though, courtesy of a note at the bottom of the menu:

"Sixty years ago, the first of our burgers was served at the Mallow Grocery in South Dallas.  The secret of this gastronomic treat remained closely guarded and was passed down from my grandfather Lynn to my father Steve, and then to me.  In the spirit of true Texas hospitality, I am now sharing his Dallas delicacy with my friends in Brooklyn."

The burger more closely resembles a fast-food burger than any others in the neighborhood, but I guess that's because it first came around before the 12-ounce behemoths took over. Two thin, square patties are topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, diced onion, pickles, mayo, and mustard, and served on a soft sesame seed bun along with a massive helping of top-notch hand-cut fries. American cheese is free, and a third patty and bacon are both a dollar extra. Might as well go for both, and spread a little of that pimento cheese on top while you're at it.

It's a world away from what you'll find at, say, Bonnie's, and the juices certainly won't be dripping down your arm (anything but well done is out of the question), but it's still very worthy of attention, and the double patty is perfectly proportioned. It's basically the best Big Mac you'll ever eat, and after a few craft beers and a couple of rounds of shuffleboard, that could be just what the doctor ordered. 

Dram Shop, 339 Ninth Street Brooklyn NY 11215. 718-788-1444. Open until 4 AM.