There’s not a lot of vegetarian food on the menu at The Elm, a bar and restaurant in the basement of the McCarren Hotel in Williamsburg. There are a few good apps and sides: the vegetable tempura was lightly fried and delicious, and blistered shisito peppers are elevated with a splash of orange. But I have a friend who works as a bartender there, and he told me that when the right chef is in the kitchen he’ll put together a huge seasonal vegetarian plate my friend referred to as “the Garden.” Another chef was working that night, and he created an incredible vegetarian pasta at my request. Strozzapreti, a thick, curled pasta was dressed with a dandelion and lemon pesto, topped with crispy bits of fried onions and crunchy almonds. I also got a side order of the smoked maitake mushrooms. This is something for mushroom lovers only — the cooking process intensifies the deep, mushroom flavors. I love mushrooms, but even I thought they needed a little bit of acidity to offset the intense earthy flavor. Giving the maitakes a quick dunk into the pesto from the pasta did the trick nicely. It’s not a cheap meal, by any means, but The Elm does quite well by vegetarians if you ask the right questions.
The Elm — 160 North 12th St
I first started going to 61 Local for the beer. They have a rotating selection of craft beers from around the country, and there’s always something interesting to drink. It’s a beautiful space too, with high ceilings and skylights. I’d also eaten there a few times, mostly snacks, but towards the end of 2014 I had a few lunches at 61 Local and they were great. They make a big deal about using local ingredients. Listen to the menu description of the Northeast Egg Sandwich, pictured above. “Hard-cooked farm egg
by Spring Brook Farm, collard greens, Raclette cheese by Spring Brook Farm, roasted garlic butter, sourdough by Hot Bread Kitchen, with maple bourbon pickles by Brooklyn Brine.” It’s a lot of detail, and it’s a sign that 61 Local cares about the food they serve. It was also a delicious sandwich. On another visit I had a few of the bar snacks, including Delhi Deviled Eggs made with my friend Chitra’s Brooklyn Delhi achaar, and a mezze platter that pays homage to the many Middle Eastern restaurants and shops that line Atlantic Ave. They even have free wi-fi, so it’s the perfect go to place if you want to do some work on a weekday with a good beer and a good plate of food.
61 Local — 61 Bergen St
It’s time once again for that annual traditional of year-end favorites. This will be my last post of the year, but I’ll return in 2015 with more Brooklyn Vegetarian. Click on the photos or the links to read the full stories.
Favorite New (To Me) Pizza Place: Emily
Favorite Dish I Cooked Myself: Great Vegetarian Ramen At Home
Favorite Ice Cream: Bonfire On The Beach From Hay Rosie
Favorite Meal At A Restaurant With A New Chef: Glasserie
Favorite Bread: Ferdinando’s Focacceria
Thanks, and see you in 2015!
For some reason I expected Ferdinando’s Focacceria, an old school Sicilian joint hidden away near the Columbia Street Waterfront, to be empty when I went for a weekday lunch. It was packed, however, both with regulars and first-timers like me. Ferdinando’s is the kind of place where both groups are greeted warmly at the door, and served with a friendly smile. The food I had was pretty good — an artichoke stuffed with breadcrumbs and herbs, and the panelle special (panelle are thin patties made of chickpea flour, here served on a roll with a heap of ricotta and a sprinkle of pecorino cheese — but oh my goodness, can we talk about the bread? Despite the name of the restaurant I didn’t have any focaccia (and actually didn’t see any on the menu) but I did have two other types of bread. Along with the artichoke came a small, crusty knob of warm bread, and it was AMAZING. Almost like the best baguette you ever had, only it wasn’t more than four inches long. And the roll the panelle was served on was soft, slightly crusty, very yeasty and delicious. I had to ask my server, do they make their own bread at Ferdinando’s? Of course they do. I’ve heard good things about their eggplant parm, I may have to go back for that — but to be honest, i’d go back just to buy a dozen rolls if they’d let me.
Ferdinando’s Focacceria — 151 Union St
Back in 1999, I spent five weeks in Israel. The food was incredible. I had the best falafel of my life in Tel Aviv, and I’ve yet to find any falafel here in NYC that rivals it. In Jerusalem I remember eating borekas, deep greasy deep-fried pockets of dough filled with intensely salty cheese. And I also remember a hard boiled egg and pickle sandwich I ate at a bus stop somewhere in the middle of the country. That’s right, I ate an egg sandwich at a bus stop in a foreign country. What can I say, it was the ’90s, we thought we would live forever. Anyway, it was a simple sandwich: slices of sour pickles and hard boiled egg on sliced bread. No dressing, mayo, nothing. And yet it was a fantastic sandwich, one I still remember fondly almost 15 years later.
Here’s how I make hard boiled eggs: I put eggs into a pot, cover them with water. Bring the water to a boil, turn off the heat, and cover it. Let the eggs sit in the hot water for exactly 13 minutes. Then drain them and rinse them in cold water. I got this method from the internet, from a site which claims it is how Julia Child made hard boiled eggs. I have come across other sites claiming different methods for Mrs. Child, but this one works for me. Then it’s a simple matter of peeling the eggs, and slicing them. Slice some good, sour pickles into thin strips, and build your sandwich (I used rye this time, I don’t remember what bread I had in Israel). Obviously it’s an easy thing to make, and it’s not going to win you any blue ribbons at a cook-off, but it’s a great snack at any time of day.
It’s been over three years since I last visited Karloff, an Eastern European restaurant on Court St. I’ve always meant to go back, but somehow time kept on slipping… Anyway, back in September they tweeted at me about trying their kasha. Having grown up a descendent of Eastern European Jews I’m very familiar with kasha, but in case you don’t know kasha is buckwheat groats. What’s a groat? I had to look that up myself. According to Wikipedia, groats “are the hulled kernels of various cereal grains such as oat, wheat, and rye. Groats are whole grains that include the cereal germ and fiber-rich bran portion of the grain as well as the endosperm.” So there you go.
On a recent chilly November day I found myself craving Eastern European food but I didn’t want to go out to Brighton Beach. Karloff seemed like the natural alternative. I order the Farm Bowl, a combination of two things I was in the mood for: the above mentioned kasha (gluten free, if you care about such things) and their (vegan) kale and collard greens soup. The soup, a deep dark green color, was surprisingly light and fresh tasting. The kasha was flavored with herbs, and the chewy texture made a nice textural counterpoint to the soup. It was the ideal dish for the weather, both hearty and vibrant.
Karloff — 254 Court St
Until last week, the last time I ate at Glasserie was almost a year ago. My friend Molly was in town, and another friend got a whole group of us reservations at the chef’s table in the kitchen. It was a very good meal, though I never ended up blogging about it. About six months later it was announced that chef Sarah Kramer, whose cooking I’d enjoyed so much on my two visits to Glasserie, was parting ways with the restaurant. I don’t know that I was deliberately avoiding the restaurant after that, but it did feel almost like re-visiting the place would somehow be… disloyal. But I heard that the food was still really good there, so when my parents wanted to meet up for brunch last week I decided to give the new Glasserie a shot. I’m glad I did, because the meal was fantastic.
Glasserie serves a sort of modernized Middle Eastern/Israeli inspired cuisine, but I’m not sure where the inspiration for my dish came from — scrambled eggs with celery root, pine nuts, and mushrooms. The egs were perfectly cooked, soft and fluffy, and the celery root puree underneath lent an unexpected but wonderful sour sharpness to the dish. There was also a ring of fried dough, some crunchy mushrooms, a few pine nuts, and it was topped with an herb salad. It sounds like a crazy mix of flavors and textures, and I guess it was, but somehow they all worked together beautifully. The only element that felt out of place was a piece of raw carrot, for some reason mixed in with everything else, and which lent nothing to the dish. I also tried some of my mom’s meal — mushrooms, roasted until almost charred, on a puff pastry crust and topped with a fried egg. The intensity of the mushroom flavor was great. Even my dad, who is pretty hard to please, really enjoyed his lamb flatbread sandwich. I still have a soft spot in my heart for the era of Sarah Kramer, but it’s good to know that Glasserie is still putting out great food.
Glasserie — 95 Commercial St