I get a lot of PR emails, and to be honest I ignore 99.99% of them. A few weeks ago I saw one that intrigued me, which mentioned a rooftop dinner at Gotham Greens presented by a design firm called ICRAVE. I’d never visited any of the Gotham Greens rooftop greenhouses, and I’d always wanted to go. So a free dinner at their Greenpoint location seemed like a great opportunity.
Before dinner we got a short tour, where a representative from Gotham Greens showed us the facility and the 1/2 acre of leafy greens and herbs. They say that they grow as much as a tradition farm could grow on 10 acres, and delivery to local restaurants cuts down on the carbon footprint (versus produce being shipped in from outlying farms). And although it was windy and a little rainy we got great views of the city skyline in the distance.
The dinner consisted of three salads, each designed to highlight the produce from Gotham Greens. Pictured at the top of the page is the pad thai inspired salad, created by Franklin Becker of the Little Beet, with lime, garlic, and peanuts. My favorite salad of the night was the oneby Mariela Alvarez of Tasty Plan. It started with a base of beet hummus, topped with the Gotham Greens salad, an amazingly tasty chimichurri, and homemade crackers. It was the balance of flavors — sweet, salty, acidic — and textures — crunchy, smooth, crisp — that really set this one apart.
Thanks to Gotham Greens and ICRAVE for the invitation and the great food and drinks!
For many years I’ve been enjoying dinners at Elora’s Mexican restaurant, just a few blocks from my apartment. Although they serve brunch I’m not really a brunch person, so I didn’t really care. But I kept the knowledge in my metaphorical hip pocket, and on a recent Sunday when trying to think of a good place to eat I suggested Elora’s.
I’m glad I did. There’s only one vegetarian item on the brunch menu, but it’s a doozy — the chilaquiles. Tortilla chips are saturated in a tangy salsa verde, then topped with scrambled eggs and melted cheese. The chips soak in all of the flavor of the salsa, making a perfect bed for the rich eggs and cheese. I couldn’t eat it fast enough, even with the rice and beans on the side to slow me down. I’m glad to have such a good option for brunch in the neighborhood, even if I don’t eat brunch that often.
(I should point out that they will make the huevos rancheros without meat if you ask.)
Elora’s — 272 Prospect Park West
If you live in NYC you know all things change. As I mentioned in my previous post, Kebeer has become Cafe Max. More shocking to me was the closure of the Brighton Beach outpost of one of my favorite Ukrainian restaurants, Cafe Glechik. Thankfully their Sheepshead Bay location is still open, and not too far from Brighton Beach. We started out meal with some fantastic cold appetizers — assorted pickles and the “salad spring.” The pickled cucumbers were sharp and acidic; the pickled tomatoes were soft and matched well with the dense dark bread, and the pickled watermelon (yes) had a hint of dill to offset the sweetness. The salad featured radishes and cucmbers tossed with mayonnaise and scallions, but what really elevated it were the small chunks of hard boiled eggs throughout.
They still have the fantastic potato and mushroom vareniki, and we also tried the homemade pancakes filled with sweet farmer’s cheese. It was a feast fit for a (Ukrainian) prince, and well worth the extra walk from Brighton Beach… if only to work off all of the calories we consumed.
Cafe Glechik — 1655 Sheepshead Bay Rd
For many years I thought of Kebeer, a small Russian restaurant, as one of my favorite places to eat in Brighton Beach. Imagine my surprise a couple of months ago when I walked by and saw it was no longer there — instead there was a restaurant called Cafe Max. It didn’t look particularly Russian inside, and there was no menu posted in the window, so I assumed everything had changed. Later I did some research and found out that in spite of the American-sounding name they pretty much kept the menu intact from the days of Kebeer. On my next trip to Brighton Beach I decided to stop by and find out the truth. I started my meal with a bowl of the borscht; without the sour cream it’s actually vegan. It’s a great vegetable soup, cut with the sweetness of beets. Strips of onion and cabbage, chunks of potato, and grated raw garlic all added flavor to the soup. For my entree I got the fried potatoes with mushrooms. The potatoes were sliced into thin rounds, and fried until crisp on the outside with a bit of creaminess on the inside. They were topped with sauteed mushrooms, mixed with caramelized onions and more grated raw garlic and some fresh dill. The mix of textures and flavors was a good one, and it was a huge plate of food. It wasn’t quite the same experience I’d had during my visits to Kebeer, but Cafe Max was still pretty good.
Cafe Max — 1003 Brighton Beach Ave
Here in NYC we’re in the middle of an incredible heat wave. It makes me want to do nothing other than sit inside in the air conditioning and eat ice cream. I’ve been making a fair amount of my own ice cream this summer, but lately I’ve been craving something a little lighter, something that can take advantage of all of the great summer fruit available at the farmer’s markets right now. Sorbet seemed like the obvious answer, but I’d never made sorbet before. I found this recipe over at the Kitchn and slightly adapted it to my own needs. Here’s how I did it.
I made a sugar syrup by bringing 3/4 cup of sugar with a cup of water to a boil, then turning down the heat super low and letting it sit like that for about eight minutes. Meanwhile I peeled 4 Jersey peaches — you use a knife to make an “x” int he pointy (bottom) end of each peach and then boiling them in water for about a minute. Then remove them from the water and rinse under cold water and the skins should peel right off. Then I roughly chopped the peeled peaches, and put them into a blender with the sugar syrup, a pinch of salt, and the juice of one lemon. Then I blended this mixture until completely smooth. Then I chilled the puree.
And that’s it. Once the puree is chilled you can put it into your ice cream maker and make the sorbet. Then put the sorbet into a plastic container and store it in your freezer. You can do this with just about any fruit. I served a scoop with some fresh blackberries and was quite happy with it, but you do what you need to with yours.
For years I’ve heard about Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, where they make fresh tortillas deep in the heart of Bushwick. In addition to the tortilla factory they have a small no-frills restaurant attached, where you can sample their fresh tortillas. I finally made it out there a few weeks ago, and for $2.50 I got this beautiful, overstuffed vegetarian taco. On top of the fresh corn tortilla is a smear of beans, some fresh veggies and herbs, crumbled queso blanco, crema, and large slices of avocado. They also give you a wedge of lime and access to bottled hot sauce, the addition of which elevated this taco from good to great. You get your hot, your cold The next time I’m in the neighborhood I may make a little detour over to Los Hermanos for a quick snack.
I never ate at Two Duck Goose, which closed last year and re-opened recently as Hey Hey Canteen. Two Duck Goose seemed to be a slightly upscale Chiense-American restaurant; Hey Hey Canteen reinvented itself as a more casual place with a noodle-heavy menu. My friend Hong-An suggested we check it out a few weeks ago, and I decided on the cold sesame noodles. I’m a fan of cold sesame noodles in general, and they sounded like a refreshing way to beat the heat. At Hey Hey Canteen they give youa huge bowl of noodles, and it’s a fresher version of what you’ll find at your neighborhood Chinese place; shreds of carrot and cucumber joined the familiar sesame peanut sauce, and the noodles were chewy and firm. All things being equal I actually prefer the cheaper version from my neighborhood joint, but Hey Hey Canteen does make some tasty noodles.
Hey Hey Canteen — 400 4th Ave