Battle Hill Tavern Is Toby’s Pizza Reborn

I was pretty disappointed when Toby’s Public House closed. It was a true neighborhood favorite, with good pizza and friendly staff. Then I heard a rumor that a new place had opened up in the old Toby’s space, a place called Battle Hill tavern. We stopped by on a recent summer night and I’m happy to say that it lives up to the Toby’s legacy.

The menu, in fact, is pretty close to Toby’s. We shared a salad, which was great, and then I had the Spinaci pizza. The Spinaci is a white pie topped with fresh spinach and truffle oil, and it was my go-to order at Toby’s. The crust, while not as puffy as a Neapolitan-style crust, was thin, crisp, and tasty, and the balance of toppings was spot on. Carolyn got the Funghi, another white pie but topped with mushrooms and onions, and it was also delicious. I’m happy that the neighborhood has high-quality pizza again, and I’m looking forward to a return visit.

Battle Hill Tavern — 686 6th Ave

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Vegetarian At The BAM Africa Bazaar

I first heard about BAM‘s DanceAfrica Bazaar (which has apparently been going on for over 40 years!) last year, but I wasn’t able to go. This year I managed to fit it into a busy day, and I’m glad I made the time. All of the streets surrounding BAM are closed off, and vendors line every inch of the streets. You can find art, books, clothes, essential oils, beauty products, and of course food. There were actually a couple of vegan vendors there — both Nyota’s Ting and Lady M Vegelicious had promising-looking menus. But an hour into the Bazaar neither one of them had opened for business, and I was so disappointed I had to make do with an enormous veggie roti from Kim’z Guyanese. The stew of curried chickpeas and potatoes in a flaky wrap (topped with sauteed cabbage and spicy pepper sauce) more than made up for my disappointment, especially when washed down with fresh ginger lemonade. The 2018 Bazaar was held from May 26-28th, so be sure to check the BAM website for 2019’s schedule.

BAM DanceAfrica Bazaar — Ashland Pl / Lafayette Ave

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A Vegetarian Dinner Party By Wild Honey Pie

Just the other day I was lamenting that I don’t see enough live shows despite living in Brooklyn. Then I got an email letting me know about an upcoming vegetarian dinner hosted by The Wild Honey Pie at Greenpoint restaurant Le Fanfare, with a live performance by the band Plastic Picnic. Tickets are normally $50 and include a three course meal, unlimited beer (wine and cocktails are extra), plus the band. But they told me I could go for free if I would blog about it. Sign me up!

Wild Honey Pie puts on these monthly dinners at restaurants around Brooklyn, though they will be expanding to Manhattan shortly and popping up in Los Angeles as well. They started as a music blog, and have now expanded into hosting these dinners as well as a summer festival where they take over a summer camp for a few days.

The food at each dinner is provided by the restaurant at which it takes place. All of the food at Le Fanfare was great: a refreshing salad made with bitter greens, pickled cherries, plums, and pistachios; trofie (a delicate rolled pasta) dressed in a watercress pesto; and a rich chocolate mousse. My only complaint was that everything was served family-style, so we didn’t get a whole lot of food. They took our plates away quickly after serving the pasta, but then said we could have more. Then they brought around the dessert spoons and let us know the mousse was about to be served, but then waited another 10 minutes to serve the dessert. I’m sure there are plenty of challenges when serving 50+ people all at once, but it seemed a little disorganized. Still, I drank plenty of the free beer (at this dinner it was the Sixpoint Alpenflo) so if you’re a beer drinker you can definitely get your money’s worth. Plus there’s the live music.

Everyone I spoke to at the dinner was involved in either the food world or the music world. I met a man who writes about music, some people who work for the James Beard Foundation, and a couple of more people who for Pilotworks. It was a fun night, and I finally got to go to one of those events I was regretting not attending. Plus I got introduced to a new restaurant and a new band, which is the whole point of the Wild Honey Pie. Not all of their dinners are vegetarian (as this one was) but they can accommodate any diet within reason.

June’s Wild Honey Pie dinner was held on June 13th, 2018, check their website for future events.
Le Fanfare — 1103 Manhattan Ave

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A Vegetarian Feast At Tanoreen

There’s an old joke: “The food here is terrible, and the portions are so small.” At Tanoreen in Bay Ridge the food is fantastic. And the portions are enormous.

We were at Tanoreen to celebrate, and it turned out to be the perfect place. Not knowing the sizes of the portions we ordered multiple appetizers, some from the regular menu and some from the specials. We sampled classic hummus, fried Brussels sprouts with pomegranate and tahini-yogurt sauce, cold cauliflower with tahini and pomegranate molasses, fried halloumi, and artichokes sauteed with tomato. This is in addition to the free bread and pickled vegetables brought to the table when we were seated, but keep in mind there were six of us.

There are a handful of vegetarian entrees, plus a couple of special ones. I got the Vegetarian Combo, which as its name suggests is some of everything. It’s a plate heaped high with items like lentils topped with fried onions, bulgur with chickpeas, sauteed dandelion greens, and warm stuffed grape leaves. It was enough for at least two people, though I had it all to myself. My girlfriend Carolyn ordered on of the specials, called Cauliflower Steak. We all assumed it would be a thick slice of cauliflower; what ti was was an entire enormous head of cauliflower, breaded with panko breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese then smothered in more of that magic tahini-pomegranate molasses and some spicy harissa.

We all had different favorites — the cauliflower, the artichokes, and the lentils were standouts for me. But we could all agree that everything was delicious. And luckily there was plenty left over to eat later.

Tanoreen — 7523 3rd Ave

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Easy Overnight Pickles

I love pickles. Not just pickled cucumbers but pickled cabbage, radishes, mushrooms, and carrots. In Brighton Beach I’ve feasted on pickled watermelon, apples, grapes, and tomatoes (both red and green). On a recent trip to Estonia and Lithuania we ate pickles at almost every meal, so much so that my girlfriend started to get tired of pickles. And yet with one big exception I have never really made my own pickles. Sure, I’ve done some quick pickles — essentially salting this slices of cucumber (or radish or carrot), letting them sit for a while, then rinsing them off and letting them soak in vinegar (and maybe a little sugar) for a while. It’s a great way to make a quick salad, but it’s not really a pickle.

Unfortunately I don’t have the equipment or the patience to make real pickles. I figured there had to be a better way. A few weeks ago I bought some fiddlehead ferns at my local farmer’s market, and a friend mentioned that she likes pickled fiddleheads. I had never heard of pickled fiddleheads, but I was intrigued. A quick search brought me to this Serious Eats recipe, which I adapted to my own purposes. These aren’t the kind of pickles that will keep for months/years, but they should keep for a couple of weeks if you don’t eat all of them first.

First I rinsed the fiddleheads, then boiled them in salted water for five minutes (the SE recipe calls for 10 minutes, but that seemed way too long). Then I drained them and rinsed them under cold water. In another pot I added a cup of apple cider vinegar, a cup of water, a teaspoon each of salt and sugar. I also added a tablespoon of black mustard seeds, some dried garlic, and two dried chili peppers. I brought this mixture to a boil then turned off the heat.

While waiting for it to boil I cleaned (not sanitized) a mason jar and added the boiled fiddleheads. Using a funnel I poured the hot vinegar mixture over the fiddleheads, including the seeds and chili peppers, then screwed on the lid. It was still quite hot at this point, so I let it come to room temperature on the counter (this took several hours) and then put the jar into the fridge overnight.

The next day the ferns had soaked up all of the vinegar, yet still were slightly crisp. The chili flavor was lost though, and I thought the apple cider vinegar overpowered most of the fern flavors. Still, they were very good pickles.

I repeated the experiment this past weekend with sugar snap peas (only boiled for two minutes), and replaced the mustard seeds with lemon zest and spring garlic. I used red wine vinegar instead of apple cider vinegar, and I also added two more chili peppers, which resulted in a much spicier pickle. The shorter cooking time meant that the snap peas stayed nice and crunchy, and the lemon and garlic flavors were more pronounced.

I’m planning on repeating this experiment with more veggies (though if I do it with cucumbers I won’t be boiling them) as the summer progresses. Or until I get sick of pickles.

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Italy Meets New York At L’Industrie Pizzeria

I first heard about L’Industrie Pizzeria via pizza-lover (and Margot’s Pizza creator) Adam Kuban‘s Instagram account. I implicitly trust any pizza recommendation Adam gives, so when my friend Donny asked if there were any pizza places I wanted to check out I suggested L’Industrie. It turned out that it was on Donny’s list as well.

L’Industrie is owned by Florentine chef Massimo Laveglia, who wants to mix Italian ingredients and techniques with the familiar New York slice. The way it works is that they have basic red and white pizzas, which you can purchase by the slice or the whole pie. Then there are variations on each — you can order a slice of any pizza on the menu, and it’s built on that basic pizza. I ordered a regular slice for a baseline, and then a variation on the white pie called Onions and Brie. For this one they top a basic white slice with caramelized onions and brie cheese then heat it in the oven, and when it comes out they add dollops of fresh ricotta. I really enjoyed the regular slice; the crisp crust was delicious and the sauce was great. I wasn’t as thrilled with the white slice; the onions weren’t really caramelized so weren’t as sweet as I expected, and the brie wasn’t as pronounced as I would have liked. Still, there was the tasty crust underneath it all.

L’Industrie isn’t any more expensive than the traditional corner slice place, and the quality is a lot better. It’s a little out of the way for me, but if you’re in the neighborhood it’s a great option for a great slice.

L’Industrie Pizzeria — 254 S 2nd St

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Old-School Diner Classics At George’s

George’s Diner, on Coney Island Avenue, has been around for over sixty years. In a city where restaurants come and go on a seeming daily basis, it’s worth taking a moment to celebrate the long-timers. I’ve passed by this 24-hour diner dozens of times on my way to Brighton Beach, but until last weekend I had never eaten there.

I got my standard diner order: pancakes, with two scrambled eggs on the side. There was nothing particularly special or exciting about the meal, but it was hard not to imagine how different Brooklyn was 60 years ago. As I ate I watched families come in for their Sunday breakfast, and I realized that maybe some things haven’t changed so much after all.

George’s Diner — 753 Coney Island Ave

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