Category Archives: eater’s digest

eater’s digest: bklyn larder

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

By mid-summer in New York City, the average food lover has spent plenty of time outside—grilling hot dogs, veggies and ribs; packing improvised picnics of bread, cheese and wine. By now, your “signature salad” may seem a bit redundant, or the humidity may have you researching a raw food diet. In other words, it’s the ideal time to let someone else do the cooking. And for that, there’s no better place than Bklyn Larder.

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Started by the same team behind renowned Brooklyn pizza spot, Franny’s, Bklyn Larder is not your average boutique grocery store. Community-focused in its vision, the Larder is a seasonal, local and eco-conscious shop, with much of their day-to-day produce coming from the nearby Grand Army Plaza of Union Square greenmarkets. The bread is also locally selected from some of the city’s best artisans—Grandaisy, Bien Cuit and Orwasher’s.

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Heirloom tomato and cucumber salad with fresh oregano and red wine vinaigrette

This savvy approach to sourcing translates into incredibly fresh and photogenic food, from an heirloom tomato and cucumber salad to an organic berry tart with vanilla pastry cream. It’s worth noting that the Larder also specializes in cheese, so whether you’re looking for local, raw milk, aged imports or a taste of each, the shop is stocked with an excellent selection.

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Organic berry tart with vanilla pastry cream

One of my favorite seasonal bites was an English pea salad with farro and dill buttermilk dressing, a cool and refreshing spin on grains.

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English pea and farro salad with dill buttermilk dressing

I also appreciated the aged prosciutto da parma from Pio Tosini, which beautifully complemented the naturally leavened, tangy dough and dark crust of a Bien Cuit baguette.

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Pio Tosini’s exceptional prosciutto di parma and raw cow’s milk blue cheese from Blue Cellars at Jasper Hill

For those in more of a rush, the shop has wrapped sandwiches to go, prepared with such care that the words pre-made seem misleading. On the contrary, if you’ve time to peruse the Larder’s provisions, the thoughtfully curated goods extend to hard-to-find grains, tinned fish, oils and chocolates. I especially enjoyed the exceptionally creamy walnut and honey White Moustache yogurt that I spotted in the dairy case.

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A range of refined grains are among the Larder’s pantry staples.

For those too far removed to enjoy the Larder in person, you can still snag a pint of the shop’s prized gelato and sorbetto, which recently became available for nationwide shipping.

Don't forget dessert: from their signature gelato and sorbetto, to these beautifully brûléed s'mores cupcakes, the shop's not short on sweets.

Don’t forget dessert: from their signature gelato and sorbetto, to these beautifully brûléed s’mores cupcakes, the shop’s not short on sweets.

So whether you stop in to prep a simple picnic, cater a house party or stock up on top-notch staples, Bkyln Larder’s the type of shop that will have you lingering, daydreaming, yearning and scheming. You might even find yourself asking the happy, helpful staff if they’re hiring.

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eater’s digest: northern spy food co.

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

As a food writer, it’s easy to to fall into a habit of extremes, toggling from insatiable to oversaturated. This is typically the curse of chasing trends, following the buzz or, worse yet, a desire to be the first to discover a new, unsung food locale. But then there are the restaurants we discover off-the-clock. The plates that satiate us, without leaving us feeling stuffed. The mouthfuls that remind us why we got excited by food in the first place—which, for me, has nothing to do with standing in line three hours for a cronut.

My food appreciation began with the ingredients at my disposal and the thrill of testing out a new flavor or texture—most especially, those with a specific taste of place. In short, I fell hard for cooking with local ingredients, and the chefs who thrill me most are the ones who revive that feeling of discovery.

Porgy with fava and yellow eyed beans in green garlic broth

Porgy with fava and yellow eyed beans in green garlic broth

In Manhattan, Northern Spy Food Co. is a singular example of this type of restaurant. Over the past year, I’ve eaten there four times—more any other restaurant, except maybe the more casual Co. Pane—yet I never got so far as to write a review. They were meals without ulterior motives, an opportunity to indulge in anonymity. In fact, I ate there the way critics would ideally eat at restaurants: often, and casually, without explicit intentions to review them. The true gems are the places that consistently satisfy and surprise you, steeping over time until they blossom into a story.

Let’s start with Northern Spy’s kale salad. Or don’t, in fact. It’s been raved about so often that it overshadows other dishes on the menu – plates like the equally irreplaceable Elysian Fields lamb or smoked bluefish rillettes. In that spirit, I decided on one rule for this review – if I’ve already eaten it, it’s off the table.

And so it was that I started off with pickled eggs. Normally, this wouldn’t be a dish that I’d choose, as all my favorite egg preparations include a runny yolk. Pink with beet juice, they were certainly acidic but also mildly sweet. The yolk maintained a certain creaminess, if the white was a bit more resistant than I’d usually prefer. But I approached them objectively, and they grew on me with each bite, providing yet again that N’Spy sense of discovery, the same that I’d found before.

Chilled watercress soup

Chilled watercress soup

The rest of the dishes were less challenging, but no less interesting. First up, the chilled watercress soup. The texture of this gorgeous pastel palette of food is nothing short of spectacular, coating your mouth with cool green flavor, without the cumbersome weight of cream.

Then came the strawberry salad with goat milk yogurt and fresh herbs. Tart and sweet, it featured both fresh red and pickled green berries, cut with the funkiness of goat cheese, the refreshing crunch of fennel, and the bright, lemony bite of sorrel. I’ll go right ahead and call it the salad of the summer.

Speaking of summer, I highly recommend the refreshing celery tonic cocktail. I’d been eyeing it for months, and it met all my expectations, balancing refreshment with bitter and vegetal notes. For those who like ginger, the Spy Glass is the spicy, fruitier cousin of a Bloody Mary, and also shouldn’t be missed.

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Celery tonic and Spyglass cocktail

Back to the eats, the warm squid salad arrived all tender coils: squid, carrot and daikon radish, garnished with a streak of dark black ink. Accented with the rich flavor of pork belly, it reminded me of a pork and clam dish I once ate in a bistro in Lisbon, a remarkable marriage of land and sea.

For our first entree, we tried the Porgy special—mildly briny and flaky, but more oily than flimsier white fish. Served in a green garlic broth with favas and yellow eyed beans, it was fragrant and comforting, the tender beans yielding beautifully under the impeccably moist, pink-tinged fish.

Broccoli with cabbage, mustard, pretzel

Broccoli with cabbage, mustard, pretzel

But the real scene-stealer was the sleeper on the menu: the broccoli with “cabbage, mustard and pretzel.” If it sounds like a vegetarian beer hall dish, you’re not entirely off track. Tender stalks, breaded and fried in crisp pretzel crumbs, made me wonder if I ever needed to eat juicy sausage again. Negotiating over who would get to drag the last floret through the mustard and pesto sauces, I couldn’t help but think that this was no mere vegetarian alternative. This was a definitive dish – the kind that can make a chef’s career (kale salad be damned).

Ending on a sweet note, (and still entranced by the pretzel-breaded broccoli stalks) we opted for the pretzel waffle with strawberry ice cream and caramel sauce. A flatter, compact, Scandinavian-style waffle, it brought al dente texture and salt, an excellent contrast to the sticky caramel and creamy, concentrated strawberry scoop. Yet again, we found ourselves bartering for the final bite.

Pretzel waffle with strawberry ice cream and caramel

Pretzel waffle with strawberry ice cream and caramel

If this sounds like a rave review, it is. I don’t promise that each of your taste buds will explode with new ideas or ingredients, but—like a good tea–the dishes at Northern Spy develop as they steep. Rather than being at their best on the first bite, they evolve as you uncover each layer of complexity. It’s the ultimate in “slow food,” in fact. Not only is it local and sustainable, but you’re best eating it at a leisurely pace, lest you let one of the subtler elements pass you by.

Northern Spy Food Co.
511 E 12th St
(212) 228-5100

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eater’s digest: googamooga 2013

Photos by Eric Isaac

The dust is starting to settle after GoogaMooga‘s second annual food and music festival, and I can’t help but think of LL Cool J’s oft-misused catch phrase “don’t call it a comeback.” After the onslaught of criticism about long lines and insufficient amounts of food at GoogaMooga’s first run, I returned to this year’s food and music extravaganza with tentative optimism. And until 12:15 on Sunday morning, I was ready to write an article on how, this year, the event had finally earned its name of The Great GoogaMooga.

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Sure, the sound on Friday night could have been better, and yes, Saturday’s weather left something to be desired. But on the whole, the food I ate at GoogaMooga was among the most satisfying I’ve had at large-scale, multi-vendor food events. The notorious lines were short, bordering on non-existent. And Saturday’s musical acts at the Joe’s Pub stage included some of the most promising local bands in New York City.

So after frankly acknowledging the fact that attendees, the musicians and (especially) the food vendors were blindsided by Sunday’s last-minute cancellation, let’s talk about the first two days of the festival.

Friday’s beautiful weather had everyone in high spirits, with early arrivers singing along to The Darkness, laughing as they realized they knew all the words. The smell of barbecue was in the air, shoulders were bare, and a surprising number of toddlers donning adorable sound-muffling headsets danced along with the mostly 20/30-something crowd.

Grilling oysters at Maison Premiere

I kicked off The Flaming Lips’ set with a round of Maison Premiere‘s grilled oysters, their brine laden with a gorgeous herb butter and aroma of char. Serving oysters at an outdoor music festival may seem more Hamptons than “hipster”, but at GoogaMooga, quality was king. Even the stands selling sliders upped the ante, as with Umami Burger’s fragrant, truffle-infused beef patty.

Another unexpected element: healthy food options. At Back Forty, Chef Michael Laarhoven served up a harissa smoked lamb over a refreshing pickled vegetable and quinoa salad with spiced yogurt. Sufficiently filling for an evening of drinking, but leaner than your average summer bbq fare, it was my clear favorite dish at the festival.

Back Forty’s smoked harissa lamb dish

Midway through the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ performance, I had a hankering for something sweet, so I headed up to the Melt Bakery cart to check out Chef Julian Plytner’s latest concoction. I’ve tried many of his flavor pairings before, but I was especially impressed by the sugar-sprinkled chocolate cookie with malted chocolate rum ice cream. Alcohol isn’t my favorite flavor in dessert, but Julian had crafted a just-adult-enough ice cream sandwich, mellowing the chocolate flavor to let the malt and rum subtly shine through.

On day two, the drizzle had us feeling indulgent, so we started the day with dessert from Red Hook’s BAKED. Head Baker Molly Marzalek-Kelly couldn’t have been more friendly, as she hawked her sweet and salty brownies, as well as “brooksters” (the love child of a brownie and a chocolate chip cookie). We eagerly gobbled up the brookster and used our remaining willpower to hold onto the brownie, which later proved to be one of the most moist and delectable I’ve ever eaten.

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For lunch, we opted first for Red Hook Lobster Pound‘s chilled Maine lobster roll, with a bright, mellow sweetness that helped us imagine sunnier times. Looking for a warmer dish to follow, we ran into Chef Dan Holzman of The Meatball Shop, expediting to ensure that each of his MBLT sandwiches had exactly the right amount of mayo. To say the least, we were grateful for his attention to detail. Having recently been impressed by Pok Pok‘s showing at the Lucky Rice Night Market, we settled on Chef Andy Ricker’s “phat thai.” Unusually egg’y, with crushed bits of dried shrimp, tofu, tamarind and fish sauce, it had a delayed spiciness and complexity of flavor that couldn’t have been farther from takeout food.

By Saturday’s end, we had already dreamed up a last-ditch list of the dishes we wanted to try on Sunday. Jeepney‘s pinoy corn and chori slider. DBGB Kitchen & Bar‘s Käsekrainer sausage with ramps, spring onion and mustard. Northern Spy Food Co‘s fried eggs with kale and potato hash. Big Gay Ice Cream‘s vanilla with bourbon butterscotch and cardamom and cacao nibs. (That’s the short list.)

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Really, the tragedy of GoogaMooga’s cancellation on Sunday wasn’t the fact that it was poorly communicated (There was already a delayed opening when I arrived at 11:30, and nothing was announced on social media or their website. The cancellation itself came nearly 90 minutes after the scheduled opening.) The rain was constant, and despite our “make it work” game faces and weather-appropriate outfits, we still were chilled to the bone. The real tragedy is that the very vendors who killed it on Friday and Saturday were faced with a major financial hit to their bottom lines.

I’m not sure what the future of the festival holds, and I’m not one to suppose I know enough of the details about Superfly’s event planning tactics and policies. What I do know is that there is an amazing number of small food businesses in this city and that they’re not only incredible at serving food on their own premises, but they’re also dedicated enough to surpass our expectations off-site, in challenging weather, faced with potentially ungrateful crowds. That’s the story of GoogaMooga I’d like to remember. So maybe we should “call it a comeback.”

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eater’s digest: lucky rice night market

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

As someone who has never been lucky enough to travel to Asia, I’ve always been intrigued by tales of nighttime markets that sell sizzling dishes to the hungry throngs. Fortunately for me, Lucky Rice, an annual, Manhattan-based celebration of Asian culture and cuisine, is bringing the night market (along with a number of other exciting events) to 5 major cities across the US.

Cocktail waitresses served gin cocktails and beer to guests arriving at the night market.

Cocktail waitresses served gin cocktails and beer to guests arriving at NYC’s night market.

New York was the first city on this gastro-culinary tour, with the night market taking place at Chelsea’s Maritime Hotel. As the sun set slowly over the Hudson, the evening light spilled through the atrium ceiling, and hanging lanterns started to glow.

Talde's Lemongrass Chicken with Spicy Peanuts, Romaine and Fresh Herbs

Talde’s Lemongrass Chicken with Spicy Peanuts, Romaine and Fresh Herbs

The first dish we sampled was Talde‘s comforting lemongrass chicken with crunchy romaine, a more mellow, richly flavored take on the intense spice of traditional thai larb.

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Family Recipe’s sichuan peppercorn-infused ramen dish

From there, we moved on to the most tongue-numbing dish of the night, Family Recipe‘s “Soy Vay Teriyaki” Pork Jowl Maze Ramen—a seemingly innocent (and surprisingly creamy) noodle dish that packed the punch of sichuan peppercorns.

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Qi Thai Grill’s BBQ Ovaltine Pork Ribs

One of our early favorite plates was Qi Thai Grill‘s Ovaltine Pork Ribs, an unusual riff on the flavors of mole, which fell off the bone beautifully. Ginny’s Supper Club‘s pork belly bun proved that celebrated chef Marcus Samuelsson can tackle just about any global cuisine. The addition of super-crunchy, almost caramelized chiccarones and pickled slaw off-set the dish’s rich texture with a refreshing crunch.

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Pork Belly Bun by Ginny’s Supper Club

But of all the dishes we sampled that night, two stood out in particular: Pok Pok‘s Sai Ua Chiang Mai Sausage and Spice Market‘s Shaved Tuna. The former was the most balanced and complex bite of the evening, combining the spiced umami of sausage with the crunch of bitter cabbage and chiccarones, the sweetness of squash and the spice of burmese curry.

PokPok's winning sausage dish

Pok Pok’s winning sausage dish

Spice Market’s tuna was served in a coconut broth, with tapioca pearls and asian pear. Packing just a touch of heat, it was the most refreshing (and dessert-like) bite at the market—the perfect way to conclude such an intensely flavorful evening.

Spice Market's sweet Shaved Tuna

Spice Market’s sweet Shaved Tuna

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eater’s digest: boulette’s larder

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

When I was growing up, I would do anything I could to avoid eating breakfast. It wasn’t for a lack of hunger. Rather, I disliked the foodstuffs that made up this iconic meal. Scrambled eggs made me nauseous. Toast, pancakes and waffles, a bit bland. Even my 5th grade invention convention entry spelled it out: a “sog-no-more” cereal bowl, crusading against soggy breakfast. On weekends, I opted for leftover chili or other savory foods.

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So when 101 Cookbooks recommended I eat this most mundane of meals at Boulette’s Larder, I didn’t even consider it. But my sister (older and, in this instance, wiser) noted the tip.

Our trip to San Francisco was a last minute plan, sprung from a work trip to the annual IACP conference. Being that I haven’t been to SF since I was 13, I enthusiastically tacked on a few days vacation to fully explore the city, and Lauren was all too happy to come along.

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Breakfast at Boulette’s, which I experienced twice – on my first and last days in the city – is nothing short of a revelation. I try to reserve such seeming exaggerations for true stunners, and this is one of them.

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From the dreamy open kitchen – complete with copper pots and other elegant details – to the intentionally brief, curated menu, everything was rave worthy. The nauseating scrambled eggs of my youth are not remotely the same species as the impossibly light and creamy eggs at Boulette. Drizzled with lemon or mandarine oil and served with a dollop of fresh chevre, they were the single dish for which I returned a second time.

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The sheep’s milk yogurt and quinoa granola that I sampled the first time were also more than noteworthy. Extra-tangy, luxurious yogurt was served with a nutty, crunchy crumble of home-toasted grains and seeds. It’s hard to describe how something so simple can be so exquisite, but that’s the essence of Boulette’s.

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Perhaps the most fun thing to order is the many-grain porridge, which is served with an assortment of little wooden boxes, offering nuts, seeds and dried fruits, such as currants. While these three stand-bys tend to be offered in different iterations each day, the extended menu changes constantly, based on the local offerings in the market.

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As for the ambiance, the unusually tall and elegant waiters are as pleasant as the food, and the prime communal table seating offers a front-row view into the kitchen. Housed in the Ferry Building, which also hosts the city’s best farmer’s market, there is little not to love about Boulette’s.

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If I had to offer one critique, it would be of the restaurant’s sweets. Both the brown sugar/kumquat and the lemon meringue tarts (which I bought on other mornings for breakfast) were a bit too sweet for my liking. It’s not that they were saccharine, but rather that the tart citrus accent I had hoped for was muted by other elements. That said, the textures, crust and meringue of both tarts were among the best I’ve ever eaten. So if you’ve a sweeter tooth than I, do dig in.

Boulette’s Larder
1 Ferry Building Marketplace
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 399-1155

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eater’s digest: buvette

There are some restaurants that fit like a glove. Barely through the door, even without seeing the menu, you sense familiarity. It’s not quite déjà vu, because you’ve rarely seen this before – your kind of restaurant, manifested in the flesh.

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Now that doesn’t mean this is the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten in. Of course, it has to be great. But a restaurant that feels like you imagined it yourself is not a constant succession of “wow!” moments. Like Alice in Wonderland, you’ve tried the bottles that made you bigger and smaller. That was good fun, but this is the bottle that will turn you back to “just right”.

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Getting to the point, this restaurant – for me, in New York – is Buvette. The first time I went there, I had only a glass of wine and two small plates, but that was enough. From then on, I called it “my favorite restaurant in New York”. Sure, I cock my head to think after saying it, knowing I’ve had more earth-shaking meals elsewhere, but that’s not the point.

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The point is the charm, the desire to return, again and again. The waiters and bar staff that range from pleasantly gruff to more than accommodating, all dressed in dapper ties and half-aprons. The random assortment of ceiling mirrors that reflect the hustle and bustle of the small space. The conscious and obvious eaves-dropping of the conversations around you. The bathroom whose haphazard “je ne sais quoi” qualities make you wish you had brought your camera.

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But for all my affection, it was just this month that I ate a full, proper meal at Buvette. I brought along one of my favorite eaters – a friend whose wealth of cultural experiences has not dampened her enthusiasm for simpler pleasures (case in point: her favorite food is macaroni and cheese). I introduced her to brandade de morue, a long-time provencale favorite of mine. Buvette’s was an appropriate balance of creamy and light, briny and balanced. We followed with more seafood, an octopus salad with celery that stunned with its simplicity. If there was a dish of food to eat every day it might be this. Tender, crunchy, refreshing, textural.

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As for sides, I insisted on poireaux. To get properly cooked leeks is always a pleasure, and these were cooked in the traditional French vinaigrette style, tender (but not mushy) with an ample dose of whole grain moutarde. As for the cauliflower gratin (chosen by Ms. Mac n’ Cheese), it was a reminder of this overlooked vegetable’s myriad magical qualities. I’ll take mashed, steamed, pureed or roasted cauliflower over the omnipresent potato any day.

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And then, the pièce de résistance. I had heard rumors about this chocolate mousse – that it was whipped by hand in copper bowls to achieve a most wonderful texture. However, I could never have imagined what I was about to experience. Luxurious, dense, creamy, resistant and yet yielding – I’m not sure you can even legitimately call it mousse. It’s too intense to eat alone, even with its dollop of exquisite whipped cream. The essence of dessert, hailing from a time before we decided to emulate the hyper-sweet, high fructose corn syrup universe in which we currently live. In short – and in summary – it’s not to be missed.

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eater’s digest: al di là

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

One of the great misconceptions that people often have is that I’ve eaten at all the restaurants in my neighborhood. The truth is, if I’m near home, I’m usually cooking. Moreover, something nearby is no more likely of an edible destination than others, as I’ve never been shy about traveling far and wide for the perfect bite.

That said, moving to South Brooklyn has opened the flood gates to an entirely new world of local eats. Though I still spend a hefty chunk of my paycheck on groceries at the Coop, the unique culture of small business in this borough has inspired me to spend more time outside my kitchen. And so it was that on a recent weekend I arrived at Al Di Là.

Soup of the day.

Soup of the day.

Now, eating Italian food in restaurants is a tricky thing. Raised on la cucina della nonna, I typically opt to explore more obscure cuisines on my restaurant outings. To boot, if I’m dining with the discriminating palates of my parents and sister, the bar for a “pasta joint” is set pretty high. But as I’ve eaten in more and more of the excellent Italian establishments in NYC, I’ve come to appreciate the perfection of truly al dente pasta or the difference between everyday minestrone and a masterpiece.

In this ever-crowded genre of restaurant fare, Al Di Là inches ahead with grace and little fanfare. The dining room is a quirky spin on bistro chic, with a red/maroon and gold aesthetic that repeats in the wall paper, curtains and painted-to-look-vintage tin ceiling.  The dishes echo this unassuming – yet distinctive – charm, with slight details that consistently offer something more than expected.

Spaghetti carbonara.

Spaghetti carbonara.

A mild mandolined salad of white winter vegetables was refreshing, elegant and crisp. The soup of the day contained everything but the kitchen sink, and yet achieved a refined balance – in particular, the contrast of bright, just-wilted greens with the slow-built flavors of meat stock. The pastas, too, were an upgrade on the classics. The carbonara tasted distinctly grown-up, with pronounced, lingering notes of white wine and far-superior-to-your-average bacon. An indescribably delicious cavatelli with cauliflower ragu had me bartering “a-bite-for-a-bite” so often that I surely ate half of my sister’s plate.

Cavatelli with cauliflower ragu.

Cavatelli with cauliflower ragu.

These are the meals that inspire me as a cook. The dishes that remind me that ingredients, timing and the tiniest dash of creativity are the difference between great and phenomenal. The days where we laugh ourselves silly, sopping up every last bit of sauce with our bread. The ones where we walk out of the restaurant not stuffed, but satisfied – knowing we’ve truly shared a meal.

Al Di Là
248 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
718.783.4565

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eater’s digest: revel

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

At the “Center of the Universe” (Fremont, Seattle, WA), there lives an urban-style Korean restaurant called Revel. The epitome of an open kitchen, the space is both understatedly hip and remarkably calm. Fragrant, pungent plates slide across the oversized counter, a constant flow of culinary eyecandy for diners smart enough to snag a bar seat.

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The brainchild of chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi, 2013 James Beard Award semi-finalists, Revel is only one of the couple’s local culinary projects. The nextdoor cocktail bar, Quoin, and Joule, an electic international spot in nearby Wallingford, are equally renown for Yang and Chirchi’s fun, imaginative fare.

At Revel, this creativity is first apparent in the somewhat confusing menu, which the eager staff is happy to explain in detail. Even the bacon and eggs (the most straight-forward item on the brunch menu), were assertively different: dark, thick-cut bacon, grill-charred toast and scallion hash to swoon over.

Hibiscus-Ginger soda and

Hibiscus-Ginger soda and a bacon, hazelnut, asian pear donut

Donut fans should sample the almost custard-y, crunch-crusted donuts, mysteriously bereft of grease. Vegetarian, spice-driven eaters will find their groove with the smoked chili and eggplant DanDan noodles, further improved with a dash or two of Revel’s signature fish and soybean paste sauces.

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Short rib rice bowl with cilantro chimichurri and eggs

Carnivores might consider the incredible short ribs, a heftier spin on bimimbap, but well worth the indulgence. And the wise will wash it all down with a super-spiced kimchi Bloody Mary or fuschia Hibiscus-Ginger soda.

Kimchi Bloody Mary

Kimchi Bloody Mary

Revel
403 N 36th St.
Seattle, WA 98103
206.547.2040

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eater’s digest: pike street fish fry

A few months back, I headed west – Pacific Northwest to be exact – to check out the locavore food culture of eclectic Seattle, WA. The ingredients I found there surpassed every expectation, from sweet-tart satsumas to incomparable smoked salmon. But my first edible stop on this city tour wasn’t a colorful market. It was a fish lover’s greasy spoon.

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Far from the waterfront stalls of the Pike Place market, the similarly named Pike Street Fish Fry is a dive-y bastion of pescatarian nostalgia. This “chipper”, like the nearby Elliot Bay Book Company, remains the kind of spot that locals still haunt, undeterred by the accolades that further expose it to the masses. When we arrived for lunch on a Friday afternoon, it was quietly bustling, hawking greasy wares from a simple open kitchen. Overhead, a blackboard menu listed: battered & fried, grilled, sandwiches and sides – plus the option to “slap anything on the menu on a roll” for an additional dollar.

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Here, there are no standard “fish and chips” – you order by type of fish. We opted for fried cod, calamari and fish tacos. The tacos and cod initially seemed greasy, but one bite of the moist and flaky flesh revealed a light breading that puffed crunchily away from the fish. The fried calamari was an equal improvement on a classic: tender, freshly-caught squid that couldn’t have been a further cry from the frozen, heavily-breaded version which frequents too many appetizer menus.

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As we dug into our fish, dashing malt vinegar over our salt-and-peppered fries, we struck up a conversation with a pair of locals. One, taciturn, deplored the number of overrated restaurants in the city. But this, this was his spot. Understated pleasure, pommes frites-style dipping sauces (try the lemon aioli or chili mayo) and self-serve soda fountain included.

Pike Street Fish Fry
925 East Pike Street
Seattle, WA 98122
(206) 329-7453

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eater’s digest: the toucan and the lion

Photos by Lauren DeFilippo

For as long as I can remember, breakfast has been my least favorite meal. I used to eat my mother’s leftovers – everything from carrot cake to reheated chili – for breakfast on the weekends. It was a culinary victory over the practical constraints of weekday morning sustenance. So, in theory, I always have appreciated the transitional meal of brunch, which made it socially acceptable for me to eat savory while my friends and family opted for sweet. Unfortunately, many restaurants seem to miss the brunch boat, simply serving both breakfast and lunch options, rather than embracing the creativity of this fusional meal. Among the few restaurants that I feel “do it right”, an increasing number are asian-influenced, like the East Village’s The Toucan and the Lion.

The first unusual aspect of the Toucan is its comfortable, design-y ambiance. It feels more like eating in your very chic friend’s kitchen than a hip new restaurant.

The Lion Stack

Feet swinging over the cozy carpet (when was the last time a restaurant had carpet?), we perused the menu of reinvented classics. The Lion Stack, a duo of corn pancakes served with sunny side up eggs, bacon and salsa verde had instant savory draw. The golden-brown cakes were perfect – both crumbly and moist – with a mild sweetness that balanced out the dish’s bolder flavors.

Short rib benedict on a bao bun

The Short Rib Benedict was a heavier spin on this already-rich breakfast classic. It lacked the spices and acid of my favorite asian meat dishes, but was still a filling, comforting choice. On the other hand, the seemingly unexciting Huevo Burrito turned out to be outstanding. Spicy and veggie-centric, it did not succumb to the dry or sloppy, wet extremes of other breakfast burritos. Rather, it neatly satisfied from the first bite to the last.

The one must-order dish on the menu, however, was the Taro Hash. Lighter and less greasy than your typical morning potatoes, this cilantro-topped, spiced dish inspired audible raves from multiple tables in the restaurant. (We literally negotiated who would nab the last bite.)

The inimitable taro hash

Even if the Toucan isn’t the absolute “best” brunch I’ve tried in New York, it certainly is one I’ll return to again. If only because – innovative cuisine aside – it was an unusually hype-free weekend meal. No long lines, no excessive day-drinking – just good food in a cozy, tranquil environment.

The Toucan and the Lion
342 E 6th Street
212.375.8989

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