i <3 brooklyn
so despite numerous visits to new york, this was the first time i actually made it across the bridge to brooklyn. i’m sorry i waited so long. i feel like it’s going to take me a million more visits to touch on everything that this amazing borough has to offer. at least we scratched the surface this time. our first stop? food of course.dinner at buttermilk channel in downtown brooklyn.
buttermilk channel is in downtown brooklyn, not in the fort greene neighbourhood that i had been reading a lot about when researching for this trip. but it was getting great reviews and once i had a look at their seperate all-vegetarian menu online, i was convinced they were worthy of a special visit. a good restaurant with thoughtful vegetarian mains is very exciting to me. but there were so many other things to love about this restaurant before even getting to the mains. the whole place had the glow of candlelight without being too dark but the vibe was much more fun than romantic. the bar area was packed with people dining there or happily sipping on cocktails while waiting 45-minutes for a table (like we were–no reservations). but with a cocktail like my “blue train #3”: champagne, brandy and amaro, or my friend’s “westlake”: bourbon, elderflower liqueur and bitters, no one was counting the minutes.
when we were finally seated at a communal table, we devoured the oven-warm goat cheese popovers (served in place of a bread basket) that were so good i had to post this grainy low-light iphone picture of them. the other picture is of the main i decided on: cheddar waffles with savoy cabbage slaw, roasted mushrooms, grilled beans with a mustard dressing. if i attempt when i attempt to make cheddar waffles one day, i’ll be sticking to the same mix of rich, creamy, tart, crunchy pairings. i loved every element of the dish. one of my friends chose this place to order buttermilk fried chicken (they were on a few menus at the restaurants we hit on this trip), because of, well, the name of the restaurant, and the southern slant their menu takes. she was not at all disappointed. except a little with herself. she’s a good eater but she just couldn’t finish all of the three large pieces served to her. a tiny part of me wished i could help her!
the next morning, we headed back to brooklyn but this time concentrated on the fort greene neighborhood. the plan was to explore the brooklyn flea early, then shop around, head to di fara for their famous pizza and shop the boutiques to work up an appetite for dinner, also in the fort greene neighbourhood. in the end we had no time for pizza! we spent hours wandering the flea and it also took us longer to get to there than we thought. we kept stopping to take pictures of the beauiful streets, old brownstones and churches and to check out a few of the many stoop sales with the neighbours! brooklyn is charming.
the brooklyn flea
this is not one of those flea markets you peruse in half an hour, not really touching anything, not really a destination. the brooklyn flea would definitely be a frequent saturday morning destination for me. it has a farmer’s market vibe with all kinds of people, everyone’s in a good mood, the pace is slow and there are amazing finds around every corner. there are stalls with nothing but antique maps and postcards, some with vintage clothing, others with artisan crafts from the likes of the brooklyn design co-op artists and the amazing alyssa ettinger. i’ve admired the work of some of those artists for years so it was also neat to get to see a few of their works in real life, and also to stumble on the three potato, four tent whose online store i’ve visited. i picked up a few things that would have cost me a fortune to have shipped. but a huge part of the appeal of this market is the food.
we read that it’s best not to eat breakfast before going to the brooklyn flea, because of all the great food there. a very good tip. the line-up of food vendors is impressing if not overwhelming for a greedy little eater like me. i ran around for 5 minuts wondering “where did they get that corn? where did they get that corn?” before giving up and lining up in the very long and telling line for pupusas. i sent my friend to hunt for the corn since she already had a maine lobster roll (look how fresh it looks!) in her belly. she walked about 10 feet away and got the corn i was after. i guess i was a little excited. but it was justified. the grilled corn was juicy, sweet, salty and a little spicy after being rolled in mayo, and dusted with cotija cheese and chili powder. the perfect thing to keep us occupied in line. the other thing keeping me busy was trying to decide between the cheese/bean, cheese/jalepeno and the special of the day, spinach pupusas. why not a cheese, bean and jalepeno one?? i settled on cheese/bean and a spinach pupusa with salvadorian slaw, tomato sauce and sour cream. delicious but you know i’m still wondering about the cheese/jalepeno one, right?
most sit on the steps behind the food stalls to eat, which gives you a nice view of part of the flea and the comings and goings. in line and on those steps i listened to people rave about other treats at the market, especially the fresh ricotta… “she puts lemon zest in it i think”, “soooo good–just that on bread”, etc. and i saw more than one person leave with a tub of this ricotta. fine. that would be next. it was easy for me to make my choice from their menu, since i pick savoury over sweet any day. i devoured my share of baguette sliced, topped with a cloud of soft ricotta and wild arugula, and drizzled with very good olive oil. heaven! the ricotta deserved all of that praise. my friends opted for the ricotta-stuffed cannolis and days later i was still hearing “that was the best cannoli i’ve ever had”.
the general greene
from what i can tell, dekalb is the other “main” street running through this neighborhood in brooklyn. it was where we stopped for a coffee, shopped and where the general greene is located. i wanted to go there for some pre-dinner drinks because i’d read that it was a busy neighbourhood spot with lots of worthy offerings. the place itself was relaxed and had a short but sweet bar menu, including what seemed to be a decent list of micro-brew beers. i never tested them because a cilantro martini caught my eye. we ordered two plates of the deviled eggs (also on many menus these days) and ate a couple bowls (though served in glasses) of fried fava beans. with more time i would have loved to stay for dinner but we had other plans…
(picture above by elinor carucci for bon appetit magazine, september 2009)
i never post images from other sources but i wouldn’t be doing the food at no. 7 any justice if i left you with only my shadowy, almost no-light images above. this gorgeous picture comes from bon appetit magazine who voted no. 7 one of the 2009 ten best new restaurants in the u.s.
they recommend, and share the recipe for, no. 7’s pumpkin seed crusted tofu which i ordered as my main (although mine didn’t come with a poached egg on top). the crust was thick, crunchy and chewy and though the tofu was firm, it was remarkably moist, not dry or crumbly. still, i enjoyed the much blogged-about and reviewed fried broccoli with black beans and citrus even more, and i’m including the photo despite its flaws (no really, the dining area was so dark–lit almost solely by the one candle on each table) because it did not arrive as i’d expected. i was presented with one large “tree” of broccoli, breaded in a tempura batter and fried whole, flavoured with fermented black beans, paired with citrus and greens. it just worked. i want more. i want more of all of brooklyn. but after this meal, it was into a car, zipping across one bridge while trying to commit to memory how the others look in the distance.