Sarah Peltier understands why people make fun of vegans, and vilify them. Some vegans, she says, are so obnoxious that they give the entire vegan community “a bad rap.” She was, she admits, one of those people. But that’s why she works hard to make sure the Vegan Shop-Up, a monthly pop-up market featuring all vegan products, is an open and welcoming place. And there’s another one coming up on April 13th.
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I became a vegetarian long before I’d heard of the unlikely combination of chicken and waffles. Thankfully, Donny had his birthday party at Sweet Chick in Williamsburg, and thankfully they have a vegetarian version of their signature dish. I wasn’t quite prepared for what came out — two giant hunks of fake fried chicken alongside some big, tasty-looking waffles. The “chicken” was wrapped in a crispy deep-fried chicken batter, which gave way to a spongy, soft, almost smoky fake chicken meat inside. When combined with the waffles, then topped with butter, maple syrup, and hot sauce, it became something magical. I’m a huge fan of contrasting (but complimentary) textures and flavors, and this had everything. Soft and crispy, sweet from the syrup and salty from the fake chicken, and just slightly spicy. I couldn’t shovel it into my face fast enough.
I was disappointed with my side dish of Brussels sprouts and hominy. I like both ingredients, but this dish was so heavily doused in vinegar that I couldn’t taste much else. I was ready to write off Sweet Chick as a one hit wonder, until I took a bite of dessert: warm biscuit bread pudding.
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I was intrigued by the “farm to sandwich” ethos at Landhaus, which is up a short flight of stairs in a narrow window-lined space just off of 7th Ave. Landhaus usually sells at markets like Smorgasburg, but recently set up a permanent shop here in Park Slope. The Herb Roasted Mushroom sandwich is an over-stuffed piece of work; the button mushrooms are wonderfully browned, and the toasted bun was pretty good, but the real stand-out was the sharp and creamy cheddar sauce. Though it made the sandwich way too messy to actually pick up and eat (I had to resort to a plastic fork), it also made the sandwich waaaaay tastier than it would have been otherwise. With its limited menu (four sandwiches, only one of them vegetarian) it doesn’t necessarily rate a return visit, but it was definitely worth the one.
Landhaus — 808b Union Street
Leske’s Bakery is something of a Bay Ridge institution, originally opened in 1961. Although the ownership has changed since then, and it has closed at least once, the bakery is still regarded as on of Bay Ridge’s food destinations. They recently opened a new storefront here in Park Slope, so I stopped by to check it out (I’ve never been to the Bay Ridge location). I got a cheese danish — how could I not, considering my quest for the best cheese danish in NYC. Leske’s is also known for its versions of classic Hostess desserts, so I got a “twinkie” as well. The danish was good, though the filling was a little on the grainy side. The twinkie was geat — good sponge cake-like exterior, light and fluffy cream in the middle. Actual Twinkies don’t taste so good (especially now that Hostess is gone). I also got a sample of their black & white cookie, which has mounds of frosting instead of caked-on icing. It’s an interesting twist on an old favorite, and it makes me wonder if that’s how black & white cookies used to be.
Leske’s Park Slope — 588 5th Ave
If there’s one major hole in my Brooklyn pizza education, it’s that I’ve never been to Grimaldi’s. Every time I’ve passed by, there’s been a huge line out front. Plus, it seems like most people agree the pizza isn’t that great, it’s just a Brooklyn institution that you kind of have to go to. And anyway it’s not really Grimaldi’s — back in 1998 Patsy Grimaldi sold the restaurant and the name to someone else, who has been running it ever since. Juliana’s, which recently opened right next door to Grimaldi’s, is actually run by the Grimaldi’s, and I met up with my friends Jess & Garrett to check it out. Patsy Grimaldi himself was working the room, paying special attention to a birthday party for a small child at the next table. Shortly after we ordered — a large sausage and garllic for Jess & Garrett, a small margherita for me — a server dropped off a large pie with mushrooms and ricotta at our table. When we mentioned that we hadn’t ordered that, we were told that it was on the house; it was a pie that had been messed up for another table, so they thought they would just give it to us. It was a remarkably generous gesture, all the more so because the pizza was fantastic.
The crust was thin but sturdy, with a light char. The mozzarella was creamy and the sauce was slightly sweet and tasted of ripe tomatoes. The fresh ricotta had barely melted in the heat of the coal-burning oven. This is miles away from my beloved Neapolitan-style pizza, it’s more what I would consider classic New York-style. The margherita was great as well. Both pizzas also passed what may be the most important test of all: eaten cold out of the refrigerator the next morning they were both excellent.
Juliana’s — 19 Old Fulton St
Just before leaving for Taiwan a few weeks ago I met up with Donny, Matt, Phaedra, and Steph for dinner at Hunter’s. I had never even heard of the place, but Donny and Steph both had good things to say about it. After eating there I can see why; I started my meal with the creamed kale, which was fantastic. The kale was rich and creamy, with a bit of tang from cheese, and topped with fried bread crumbs for texture. To paraphrase Phaedra, I could have curled up with a bucket of the stuff.
The mushroom pot pie was also very good, and full of big chunks of mushrooms. Once again the menu described the mushrooms as wild and they were no such thing, but there was a lot of mushroom flavor. My only complaint was that the crust, which was loose on top of the filling, had steamed a little bit from the heat and instead of being flaky and crispy was a little wet and chewy (but that’s nitpicking).
Hunter’s — 213 Smith St
Yes, it’s time for another 4 & 20 blackbirds post. The Lemon Black Bottom pie was one I’d never had before; a lemon custard with a thin layer of chocolate underneath. Lemon ans chocolate is not a combination I’m familiar with, but it worked really well. The sharp lemon and the sweet, smooth chocolate flavor complemented each other nicely. During the dead of winter it can be tough to come up with seasonal fruit for the bakers at 4 & 20 to make pies out of, but they seem to be making the most of citrus; I also had a slice of a grapefruit custard pie which tasted almost unnervingly of fresh grapefruit.