Smorgasburg At Brooklyn Bridge Park

It’s almost unbelievable the sheer amount food vendors that continue to pop up here in NYC. On a recent visit to the Smorgasburg near Pier 5 at Brooklyn Bridge Park there were so many that I was able to eat several plates not only from vendors I’d never tried before, but some I’d never even heard of before. Above you see the sweet mango sticky rice from Bamboo Bites — warm, fragrant rice topped with cool, sweet and acidic mango pieces. They serve both sweet and savory sticky rice dishes in bamboo shells. Also of note: a spicy and refreshing tofu larb from Queen Cobra Thai and the Slumdog from Potpuri Indian Street Food, potato patties served on a hotdog roll and topped with Indian condiments. Like any other Smorgasburg location, it pays to arrive early — serious lines start forming just after noon.

Smorgasburg At Brooklyn Bridge Park

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Is Roberta’s Frozen Pizza Worth $12?

When Donny told me that the new Whole Foods here in Brooklyn was selling frozen Roberta’s pizza, I was intrigued. Could I possibly recreate the magic of Roberta’s pizza in my own kitchen? So when I made the trip to Whole Foods, even though I ended up buying a lot of other things, I only had only item on my mind. I found the $12 frozen pizza hanging in a bag in the freezer section. At home I examined it more closely. As near as I can tell, the dough is topped with tomato and baked before freezing. Then it’s topped with basil, fresh mozzarella, and olive oil (see the frozen oil droplets in the photo above?) and flash frozen. Cooking instructions are simple: put the frozen pie into a 450 degree oven for 5-6 minutes. I ended up leaving it in for a few extra minutes, because the cheese wasn’t really melting after 6 minutes. The bottom line: it’s good, and it’s of course better than generic frozen pizza, but it doe not approach the heights of actual Roberta’s pizza. The dough isn’t nearly as pillowy and chewy; the toppings not nearly as fresh. They are frozen, after all. I’d say that the only reason to get this pizza frozen rather from the source is to avoid the long waits at Roberta’s, but you’re probably going to spend the same amount of time traveling to, shopping in, and waiting in line at Whole Foods. No surprise, really, that I’d rather just go to Roberta’s.

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Vegetarian At La Vara

Like many great meals, my dinner at La Vara with my friends from We Heart New York started strong and got even better. The Cobble Hill restaurant is a little different than most Spanish places; they focus on Sephardic (Jewish-Mediterranean) and Moroccan influences. Or server’s obvious pride in the food was infectious, as he described the many specials to us. My meal started with fried eggplant matched with honey and melted cheese; the salty-sweet combo of the topping matched nicely with the blank canvas of the fried eggplant. Next was a crispy Mallorcan flatbread topped with sharp blue cheese and offset by the sweetness of roasted onions. Best of all was my entree, one of the aforementioned specials. Described by our server as a vegetable terrine, the roasted veggies were spiked with North African flavors and smoothed out by a smear of creamy goat cheese. It was an intense crest to the rising wave of flavor throughout the meal, and one that seemed to encompass La Vara’s mission statement in a single dish.

La Vara — 268 Clinton St

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Great Vegetarian Ramen At Home

I was thinking the other day that I spend a lot of time both on this blog and Eat to Blog complaining. Specifically, complaining about how disappointed I’ve been with vegetarian ramen (and other noodle dishes) around NYC. And even more specifically complaining about the vegetarian broth. So far only my beloved Chuko has given me a great vegetarian (vegan, actually) broth. But what makes me think it’s so easy? So many restaurants have failed to deliver, could I do any better? I decided to try at home. And guess what? I nailed it. First try, knocked it out of the park. So the gauntlet as been thrown, it’s not so hard. I’m even going to tell you how I did it.

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Vegetarian Pho At Falansai

It’s not easy to find vegetarian pho, even here in NYC. On the rare occasion a restaurant does offer a veggie version of this aromatic Vietnamese noodle soup, the broth itself isn’t actually vegetarian. Falansai, just a few short blocks from Roberta’s in Bushwick, offers not only a true vegetarian pho but also vegetarian spring rolls. Ever since my trip to Vietnam waaaaaay back in 2004 I’ve been searching for the same caliber of vegetarian spring rolls I found there. But when I got to Falansai a few weeks ago they were sold out of the spring rolls, so I can’t say whether they measure up. The pho, however, I was able to eat. The vegetables were perfectly cooked; the green beans and snap peas still had some crunch to them, but the okra was the real star. A little crisp on the outside, the interior slightly soft and slimy, they were a pleasure to eat. Unfortunately the broth itself was completely tasteless. I once went to a restaurant where they made the vegetarian pho with water instead of broth, and this was almost the same thing. It wasn’t water at Falansai, but it was awfully thin and flavorless. It wasn’t until my server brought me hoisin sauce and chili sauce, both of which I heaped into the bowl with bean sprouts and fresh lime juice, that I actually began to enjoy the pho. And so my quest continues…

Falansai — 112 Harrison Place

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Easy Vegan Kimchi Jjigae At Home

It all started when I bought some vegan kimchi. I had some tofu and some mushrooms at home, and I started thinking about making a Korean dish with all of these ingredients. It’s a dish I’d seen before, even though I didn’t know what it was called. I decided I’d need some garlic and ginger, as well as some miso paste for seasoning, so I went to my local Korean bodega, just a few blocks away. The Korean woman who runs the bodega asked me if I was making miso soup, but when I told her I was planning to make some Korean food with kimchi, mushrooms, and tofu she immediately said, “kimchi jjigae!” She pointed to the miso paste and said I didn’t need it. Then she told me how to make it.

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Pho Hoai In Bay Ridge

When Donny asked if I wanted to get pho in Bay Ridge, my first question was, “where?” But then I searched “pho bay ridge” and there was only one result — Pho Hoai. I have had bad luck with vegetarian pho, though. Usually the broth is meat based, so I tend to avoid it. Instead I ordered one of my favorite dishes: bun. Bun is usually room temperature rice noodles topped with a mix of cooked, pickled, and raw veggies. The noodles in my bun at Pho Hoai were warm; not a bad thing, just not what I was expecting. And there were no raw or pickled veggies either. The tofu and vegetables were well seasoned, unlike at Bun-Ker, and there were plenty of condiments like chili sauce and soybean paste to boost the flavor. I don’t go up to Bay Ridge very often, but my meal at Pho Hoai makes me want to explore the neighborhood more often.

Pho Hoai — 8616 4th Ave

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