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Posts from the ‘Restaurants’ Category

Why I Keep Going Back to Back Forty

Brunch... Well the remains of...
Juicy burgers with warm melting cheddar and thick-cut heritage bacon, bourbon on the rocks, bourbon cocktails, micro-brews, and a killer brunch menu– Back Forty really has all one could hope for in a cozy, laid-back East Village setting. Not to mention a lot of pork products, absolutely mouth-watering selections too, like Pork Jowl Nuggets with Jalapeno Jam. There’s also a Grilled Bacon and Trotter Flatbread on Lard Dough with Creamy Onions and Herbs, and seriously, to quote Ina… how bad can that be?

Pork Jowl Nuggets... Yum!

The food is somewhat simple, but this sister restaurant to Peter Hoffman’s Savoy (which we will soon be saying goodbye to) uses local produce and proteins to create very comforting and hearty seasonal dishes. It is a very relaxed environment for a New York City restaurant, with a friendly staff, and an excellent bar for pre or post dinner drinks, or even enjoying a whole meal. My friend Perry from FCI works in the kitchen, so my friends and I find ourselves there often, and it has quickly become one of my favorite places to go to eat on the weekends.

The brunch menu also puts a seasonal spin on sweet and savory classics, like the Soft Scrambled Eggs and Ramp Pesto with English Peas, Favas, Salvatore Ricotta, and Grilled Bread— which I got last weekend, along with a bloody mary of course, and one of the house Buttermilk Biscuits, which are good enough to get out of bed on a hungover Sunday for, Sunday after Sunday in a row.

Back Forty
12th St and Avenue B
New York, NY

To check out Perry’s blog, click here.


Soft Scrambled Eggs with Ramp Pesto, Peas, Favas, and Salvatore Ricotta

A Sad Goodbye to my Second-Home: Planet Bliss Closes After 10 Seasons on SI

The Planet.

It has been a while since I last posted, as these days most of my food related resources are being put to use at Everyday Food Magazine, or working in the restaurant at L’Ecole… but this weekend a very bittersweet occasion took place that I absolutely had to make time to write about.

After almost 11 years– at least 8 of which I spent working there– Planet Bliss restaurant on Shelter Island has announced it will be closing it’s doors, and invited everyone to be a part of celebrating the past decade last Saturday.

While many things shape who we are, and who we become– those of us who are a part of the Bliss family had a mutualistic relationship with the restaurant. The personalities of owners Julie and Sebastian, the staff throughout the years, and all of the regulars made bliss what it was. Even the Zagat caught on to the “eclectic” vibe of the staff several years in a row. The atmosphere at Bliss offered something much different from any restaurant in the Hamptons, or anywhere, that I have experienced. While it offered comfort, and that warm, weight-lifting feeling of being at home, it also had an incredible energy that will be difficult if not impossible to ever duplicate.

How has it effected me? Well, first and foremost, I think it is pretty obvious that I would have never chosen food as a career path had I not been amongst Sebastian and his relentless passion for cooking. So thank you Baz, for not only teaching me so much, but keeping me interested, and inspired after 10 years in your restaurant. With so much experience to pass on, I was always paying more attention than you probably thought. It was great watching a chef cooking exactly what he wanted, using fresh ingredients, and always experimenting without the rigidness and downright coldness of most kitchens. You always made it look fun (except on those days Rem would hold the thermometer over his head and it read what, 160?) Your skill, creativity, love for food, patience, and of course your sense of humor through it all will always mean so much to me, and I hope to some day be half the chef you are (I’m one burn closer to being there).

Opie and Baz (Thanks for the pic Nika)

There is also Remmey, who I miss every single day. If it wasn’t for PB I wouldn’t have become so instantly close with him. Even if it was only for a short time, we probably knew each other better than most people will ever hope. So many of the best Bliss memories I have are from the summer Remmey worked in our kitchen. That big, red, sweaty kid who put a smile on my face the second I walked through the screen door in the back. Whether it was entertaining a bachelorette party, rescuing baby bunnies from Jezebel the cat, or making a flame-kissed steak– Rem will always be remembered as a big part of Bliss.

And to Julie, and the rest of the front-of-house: Vee, Mimi, Opie, Chop, Chris, Nicole, Erica, Kathy, Ali, Julie F, Kara, Ian, Karen, Selina, Lolo, Remy, Sam, Xange, Leah… There are too many memories, most of which I feel we wouldn’t want written anywhere, especially on the internet, no? There were late nights at Sunset, sometimes with the cash out locked in the glove box– how many years ago was that? Later nights at the bar, like Cory’s jungle-themed birthday party… “Damuck, you were my ride, and I can’t sleep here!” “Staff meetings,” and God only knows how many margaritas. Endless literary discussions with Opie, after all these margaritas. Can a stripper juice even be classified as a margarita? Bingo night. “Just One Drink at The Chequit.” All the late night, no A/C, tequila driven dance parties to Madonna and any other DJ Mimi choice hit. The Gerbil Box. The ritual we all openly shared that would get us through doubles on Saturdays and Sundays. Brunch. Staff parties. BCD’s (boozy coffee drinks). It’s goddamn impossible to list them all, but there really is no need any way. Some of my most unforgettable, well–… most amazing nights, have been spent at Bliss. Though I’m sure the party will continue whenever and wherever we end up together, only a place like PB could have gotten us together in a first place. And how it ever functioned or how Julie and Baz put up with such a staff I will never know, but I will always be grateful.

Sunset Beach with Vee, Amanda, and Mimi (circa 2005)

And of course there are the regulars, most of them I will miss, some I will be relieved not to see again– I can’t lie about that. Always an interesting crowd behind the bar, or out on the porch, you were all obviously a huge part in shaping Bliss as well.

Saturday night seemed like any other wild evening at Bliss, but if one looked closely, I think the underlying sadness could easily be sensed. I know it wasn’t just me looking around the glowing orange walls, down at the worn wooden floors, and everywhere in-between suddenly becoming nostalgic over EVERYTHING. The nappy-haired Barbie doll on the bathroom door, the two toilets in the woman’s bathroom– the hanging lock on the door, worn from one too many customers pulling on it despite the clear typed warning not to do so. The ever-present scent of sticky parsley spray. The bamboo benches, and millions of flurry pillows– round, long, brown, white, orange. The liquor cabinets eerily empty. The ancient cash register, God how many late nights were spent hunched over that thing, desperately trying to do math, sober up, or both. Tables and chairs with wobbly legs– am I being melodramatic now? Perhaps, but I really felt at that moment like one of the mismatched pieces of silverware housed above the bread warmer. It stung in my heart that I would never again write on the chalk-board, put a ticket on the line, or slam the walk-in door behind me again. But between the dances on the counter, sweaty hugs, kisses, and numerous cocktails, I know we were all feeling the same way. The unsettling effect of being up-rooted, displaced.

But I can’t forget about the happiness in this ending as well. Julie and Baz have welcomed two truly amazing children into their (and all of our) lives. Phoenix and Tola are going to get to spend a lot more time with their parents, and who could be sad about that? Especially when they are the coolest, most loving, fun, smart, inspiring people I can think of? I personally couldn’t have asked for a better second Mom and Dad if I tried.

Tola and Phoenix Bliss

So again, thank you Julie and Sebastian, and to my extended Bliss family. Please share any wonderful memories of Bliss you have here, (or e-mail me any photos to share at foodequalslovenyc@gmail.com) as my words alone could never sum up everything that was PB, and all that it meant to me.

Julie and Baz

Healthy, Delicious, and Dangerously Addictive: Hampton Chutney Co.’s Dosa

Seasonal Dosa at Hampton Chutney Co.

It was a gray February morning, a Sunday. It was wet– whether it was snow or freezing rain I couldn’t tell, but I walked down the cobblestones of Prince Street hoping I could avoid a fall long enough to reach an eating establishment without the usual weekend brunch wait.

Between Broadway and Lafayette, I recognized the familiar grass-green sign hanging above the Hampton Chutney Co., and shuffled a bit faster to get inside.

The Hampton Chutney Co.’s original location is in Amagansett, NY, and while in high school, especially when heading out to Montauk to surf in the summer (or working next door at the surf shop), Hampton Chutney was always one of my favorite spots to stop for lunch. While the Soho location doesn’t have the charm of the swinging screen door, or outdoor picnic benches, and omnipresent wind-chimes– it does have the same mellow meditation soundtrack of indian chants, and of course, what is really important, the ever-so-addicting dosa.

A dosa is an Indian take on the crepe, made with rice batter and black lentils. It is very light, and more crisp than the French classic– but the inside is still slightly tender and chewy. It is filled with a variety of savory items, the most traditional is the Masala Dosa ($7.95) with spiced potatoes– but Hampton Chutney offers many combinations like Avocado, Tomato, arugula, Jack Cheese, and Grilled Chicken ($11.95), a Seasonal Dosa with Roasted Butternut Squash, Portobello Mushroom, arugula, and Jack Cheese ($10.95), they even have a Breakfast Dosa made with Two Eggs, Spinach, Roasted Tomato, and Jack Cheese ($8.95).

Each Dosa is served with a choice of Cilantro, Curry, Mango, Tomato, Peanut, or Seasonal Pumpkin chutney. These chutneys are also available for purchase, and are a really great way to spice up weekday lunches on sandwiches and salads, or even used alone as a dip. Out of habit, no matter which dosa I get, I always seem to go with the Mango Chutney. It is the perfect blend of sweet and tart, with just a little heat. With the flavors in the Seasonal Dosa, in hindsight, I should have gone for a more mild flavor, that would have complemented the flavors a bit more (maybe the pumpkin?).

Daily soups are also offered, as well as the best grilled cheese I’ve ever had (on sourdough with tomato and avocado… yum!). And as for drinks, they don’t offer bloody marys on Sundays, but I was happy with their warming Cardamom Coffee with more than a hint of spice. They also have delicious Chai Tea (iced and hot), and Mango Lassis, a light yogurt drink with mango that is a meal in itself. The freshly baked cookies (especially the White Chocolate Macadamia) where also a favorite of my friends and I, although I didn’t get one during this visit.

Any quick and inexpensive meal that can transport me back to a summer afternoon in the Hamptons in the middle of February is certainly one I’d recommend to anyone, whether they are familiar with the Hamptons location or not. With so many variations, the dosa makes a great breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack that is super healthy and offers something unique if you are tired of sandwiches and wraps. There is also a location on the Upper West Side on Amsterdam Avenue between 82nd and 83rd, and both NYC locations deliver.

The Hampton Chutney Co.
68 Prince St (Between Broadway and Lafayette)
464 Amsterdam Ave. (Between 82nd and 83rd)
Amagansett Square, Main St, Amagansett, NY

Candle Cafe: Vegan Farm to Table on the Upper East Side

Soba Noodle Salad with sprouts, shiitakes, edamame, carrots, daikon, snap peas, red cabbage, and sesame seeds with a creamy wasabi dressing

Sandwiched between Le Steak on one end of the block, and J.G. Melon (home to arguably the best burgers in Manhattan) on the other, is the Candle Cafe one of my favorite vegan restaurants in the city. The cafe is always very crowded, and pretty noisy (the constantly running juicer in front of the restaurant accounts for most of this), but the healthy, tasty dishes in this casual dining spot are well worth a few minute wait.

There is one menu for both lunch and dinner that changes seasonally at this farm-to-table restaurant, but some items are staples year round like the delicious Mezze Plate with hummus, quinoa tabouli, olives, warm parata bread and homemade wonderfully tart and sweet lemon-date chutney. Daily specials are always offered, including one or more soups, a salad, and a wrap (these specials are updated everyday on the website if you’re ordering take-out or delivery).

BBQ Tempeh & Sweet Potato Sandwich with wilted kale, grilled red onion, and a shallot sage aioli

There is a great selection of salads ranging from a vegan take on the classic caesar salad, to Asian-inspired flavors in the Soba Noodle Salad pictured at the beginning of the post. There are also several sandwiches, including my favorite, the BBQ Tempeh and Sweet Potato Sandwich. This savory sandwich is served warm, and has a great blend of texture and flavor. The shallot sage aioli complements without overpowering, and I always find myself using all of it, probably counteracting anything that was healthy about the dish.

Heartier entrees such as a stir fry, veggie lasagna, and pomegranate Grilled Tofu with garlic-shallot-potato mash, sautéed greens and crispy sage with roasted vegetable gravy and parsley oil are available and are all priced under $20.

The juice bar also serves up several different varieties of fresh juices and smoothies which are available to-go. Wine and beer is served at the cafe as well.

While this type of cuisine is not for everyone, even many skeptical friends of mine have really enjoyed the creative use of vegetarian proteins. The chefs have done an amazing job of giving the soy products on the menu texture and flavor beyond your average tofu– but the veggie-centric selection may be a bit daunting for a date with your burger-loving boyfriend (right Annie and Billy?) The smell of wheat-grass and ginger when you enter may turn some off from the start.

If you are interested in the Candle Cafe’s cuisine but are looking for a more upscale dining experience, try their sister restaurant Candle 79 just around the corner. Worlds apart from the bright lights, chatter, close tables, and hum of the juicer, Candle 79 offers a quiet, elegant atmosphere, with many more menu choices (still 100% vegan).

Candle Cafe
1307 Third Ave (Between 74th & 75th st)
(212) 472-0970

Candle 79
154 e. 79th st (at Lexington)
(212) 537-7179

Home Sweet Home

Home, 20 Cornelia St.

Cozy is certainly a word that comes to mind when walking through the front door of Home on Cornelia Street in the West Village. The space is small, tiny in fact, which makes for familiar surroundings to those who reside in New York City. Dimly lit, filled with mostly tables for two. Look closely at the hostess stand that doubles as a bar, and you will see a constantly replenished supply of tiny chocolate cookies, any child’s dream when walking in their own house. It made us pretty happy too.

The menu hosts a mix of unpretentious american fare, and ingredients are supplied by local farms, and change seasonally. Home makes their own ketchup, which is a delightful paring to the crisp, sweet, and not too greasy onion rings my friend Annie and I shared, and I would imagine on many other things as well. With dishes like Maple Bourbon Pork Belly and Spicy Apple Hash, Hudson Valley Duck Confit Salad with watercress, grilled apples, duck cracklings and cranberry vinagrette, Braised Beef Short Ribs with herb polenta, crispy hen of the woods, red wine jus, and Meyer Lemon Brick Chicken with sautéed collard greens, I can easily say it surpasses anything I remember having on the dinner menu at my own home (sorry mom and dad).

Many of the flavors were distinctly New England, which to me provides some of the most warm and comforting combinations. Apples, bacon, maple, pumpkin, sharp earthy, and smokey cheeses, and pork all appear on the fall menu all of which I consider to be very classic flavors (and very Vermont, even better).

Cheese Plate with "Home" Salami

Annie and I shared the Artisanal Cheese Plate with apples, and Home’s very own salami with sourdough toasts. We sipped a Long Island white (Bedell’s “First Crush” a blend of chardonnay and Sauvignon blanc).

Very Romantic, no?


Though I prefer reds, the wine mirrored the flavor of apples, and the crispness balanced out our sweet main course. The Molasses Double Cut Pork Chop with onion rings, brussel sprouts, and bacon was a really wonderful dish. The pork was tender and seasoned well. The brussel sprouts and onion rings were a perfect salty contrast to the sweetness of the glazed meat, and the homemade ketchup was a really nice touch.

Molasses Double Pork Chop, Brussels with Bacon, Onion Rings

We were very close to the table behind us, which was unfortunate because it was difficult to ignore the absolutely ridiculous conversation between the two girls of similar age behind us. After finishing the wine, and noticing one of our favorite Bob Dylan songs was playing, we tuned out of the conversation about someone traveling “Argentinia”. The Kentucky Coffee loaded with Knob Creek and topped with homemade whipped cream didn’t hurt either. Not to mention the chocolate chips, which we snuck many of (not quite as many as the table right in front of the hostess stand).

Dessert...

Overall, a really wonderful meal that incorporated many of my favorite flavors of fall, and any other season for that matter. Our conversation was stimulating enough, and our drinks strong enough to dismiss the close quarters. Though I think the atmosphere could be a bit more “homey,” comforting, relaxing, and welcoming– I look forward to returning during the Spring or Summer when the garden is open in the back. White walls with really drab oil paintings and rows of wine bottles didn’t feel like a warm home environment to me. I really liked the menu, the concept, and the fact that everything (even the wines) were farm-to-table. There were a very creative touches on the menu but what I liked most was the classic flavors and simplicity.

Burlington, VT pt III: Breakfast in Burlington

Chorizo & Egg Tacos

Any Saturday or Sunday in Burlington, no matter how cold, you will see a crowd of people gathered outside of Penny Cluse Cafe on Cherry Street. The wait is always at least a half-hour (unless you go very early, on weekends the cafe opens at 8am)– but, is always so worth it. This cozy breakfast spot has a diverse menu of delicious, incredibly fresh (and never greasy) dishes.

Penny Cluse always offers breakfast and lunch specials utilizing seasonal ingredients, but I always find myself craving some of the staple menu items. The omelettes are amazing, and have so many different filling choices, it’s actually a bit overwhelming. Way beyond the standard options, Penny Cluse offers many local cheeses, and meats (including andouille, chorizo, chicken apple sausage, and smoked bacon), and other interesting items like cranberry-almond relish, dulse seaweed, capers, and many, many more.

My personal favorite dish is the Chorizo and Egg Tacos a lunch plate featuring two soft corn tortillas filled with house-made chorizo sausage scrambled with eggs and jack cheese, served with black beans, and avocado salsa. The chorizo is packed with spicy and savory flavor, the eggs are always soft and fluffy, and with just a little hot sauce, it makes one of my all time favorite brunch meals.

The Mama Cruz’s Huevos Rancheros, and the Tofu Scram (I like it with the salsa ranchero and corn muffins), are some of my other favorite savory items. These are served with the cafes awesome homefries, which are so good they could be a meal in themselves (the Bucket-o-Spuds appetizer features a mound of homefries with melted cheese, salsa, sour cream, and green onions, an egg on top is also an option).

Tofu Scram with Salsa Ranchero, Spinach, and Andouille Sausage (not so vegetarian).

For those of you who prefer sweet breakfast foods, Penny Cluse offers many delicious options. The Gingerbread Pancakes (served with Vermont maple syrup, obviously) are one of their most popular dishes. I also really love their Banana Bread with Maple Walnut Cream Cheese to share with the table.

With a bloody mary, mimosa, or several cups of steaming hot coffee, you’re in for one of the best brunch meals in the area (Sneakers in Winooski takes a close second). The food is consistently great, and arrives to your table very quickly after ordering. So wait the half hour, go shop across the street at the Outdoor Gear Exchange (where you can easy spend 30 minutes), believe me, it will be worth it (no matter how bad your weekend hangover may be).

Burlington, VT pt II: A Tiny House and a Big Farm (A Perfect Sunday).

Photo: Dan Kirk

Sundays in the Fall in Vermont now always remind me of my friend Jess, and our long drives while up at school, through the “country;” peeping leaves, admiring houses, and of course stopping for snacks along the way. Though Jess wasn’t with me this trip, I really had the perfect lazy Sunday in Vermont. The air was crisp, and there was a light breeze throughout the morning. Being out of the city, just breathing seemed like a vacation in itself. It was a beautiful day in Burlington, but it was the quick drive to Charlotte that was really the perfect picture of an autumn afternoon.

Dan’s Microhouse is located on an amazing piece of property, on a dirt road, set way back from the street in Charlotte. All the leaves were really in their peak, a fantastic background splattering lit by the bright sun of brilliant reds, and warm orange and yellow hues. Everyone had already been working on the house for several hours by the time I arrived (I did afterall, say this was a lazy Sunday) and we couldn’t stay long if we were to make it to brunch on time– but we got the full tour of the project, and it was great to finally get to see the real thing!

Mike & Mr. Kirk, hard at work on the Microhouse.

We were all really impressed by what the guys have done so far, especially my dad who still has not stopped talking about it. I look foward to watching the project progress, and can’t wait to see it when it’s all done! You can get additional information, and follow Dan’s Microhouse on his blog.

It was a lazy Sunday for Wyatt too.

After our quick visit at the Microhouse, we headed to Shelburne Farms for brunch. Shelburne Farms is a membership-supported, nonprofit environmental education center, as well as a 1,400-acre working farm, and a National Historic Landmark all right on the lake. The estate, built in 1886, is now home to the Inn at Shelburne Farms, and an incredible restaurant that uses produce from the farm’s market garden, as well as their own dairy, meats from other local farms, and items from Vermont food purveyors.

The Inn at Shelburne Farms

All the fresh ingredients of the day are displayed at the entrance of the dining room:

We had a really amazing meal. I of course started with a bloody mary (which was a little thick for my liking, but still pretty delicious). Both my parents had the Maple Sausage, Apple, and Cheddar Omlette, and I had the Market Garden Fritatta, with sunchokes, foraged mushrooms, and other tasty veggies. The eggs were light, fluffy, and really delicious, and the vegetables were all very mild in flavor, but cooked perfectly, and worked very well texturally. The house-made sausage was really amazing– tender, juicy, and seasoned to perfection.

After our meals we walked around some of the expansive grounds, stopping down at the farm to see all the animals, and the numerous Dutch Brown Dairy Cows.

The farm was crowded with families, and there were a lot of little kids very happy to be around the animals, and having the opportunity to pet them, feed them, and even milk them. The farm is not only a really beautiful place, but the educational programs offered for children and adults are really incredible. The farm has a huge impact on the local community, and is a really big part of organizations such as VT FEED, a group that links Vermont farms to schools throughout the area that has done some really inspiring work.

After spending a few hours at Shelburne Farms, we ventured down the road to another favorite spot, Shelburne Orchards. While we usually go apple picking, this time we opted for some apple pie, and hot cider instead. We sipped our warm drinks, and sat at picnic tables on the top of the hill listening to bluegrass music taking in the view. The pie was delicious, and the sight was spectacular, I’m not sure I could have asked for a more perfect day. And though I love living in NYC, I can honestly say in that moment I didn’t miss the subways, sidewalks, or smells, the attitudes, or the people that posess them. I didn’t even really miss the food.

Burlington, VT: Slow-Food Burgers at the Farmhouse Tap & Grill

Misty Knoll Free Range Turkey Burger at the Farmhouse

If you turn onto Bank Street, off of the pedestrian-only cobblestone Church Street– where you once could find a McDonald’s tucked behind the shops and restaurants– you will stand before The Farmhouse Tap & Grill: a gastropub “dedicated to showcasing and supporting local farms and food producers.” A clear victory for the local food movement, and a perfect example of just how progressive Vermont is, I was excited to see what the menu had to offer.

We travelled down from Mike’s house to meet his parents, and Dan, who were in the outdoor beer garden. While it was quite a bit colder than NYC, there were still quite a few people outside enjoying beers from the extensive selection. We sat inside quickly, and our drink order was taken immediately. I took Dan’s advice and tried the Victory/Stone/Dogfish Head DeBuff, a collaboration between Victory Brewing Co, Stone Brewing Co, and Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales. With a hoppy front, and an herbal finish, the crisp beer is infused with (cue the Simon & Garfunkel) parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Photo: Dan Kirk

We started with a selection of Vermont Cheeses, served with local Red Hen bakery bread, Vermont apple butter, and maple candied walnuts. Favorites included the Jasper Hill/Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Peaked Mountain Farm VT Dandy, and the Consider Bardwell Farm Equinox, a hard, sharp, raw goat’s milk cheese. Mrs. Kirk shared the interesting story of Consider Bardwell’s farmer Angela Miller, and how she ended up in West Pawlet Vermont (after spending many years on Shelter Island).

The restaurant is known for its burgers, which are all composed of local meats. Their beef burgers are made with Maple Wind Farm Grass Fed Beed, from Huntington, VT– and are topped with Landaff Creamery cheese, VS&C bacon, and house pickled red onion (other toppings are available for all burgers such as Laughing Lotus Farm Kimchi, House Pickled Jalapenos, and Wilted Lacinato Kale. They serve a Pork burger with a sunny side up local egg, Vermont Cheddar, and tomato (the pork is farm pasture raised at Winding Brook Farm in Morrisville), and I had the Misty Knoll Free Range Turkey Burger with Taylor Farm smoked gouda, grilled local apple, charred onions, and arugula. They also had several specials (Dan had the special Venison burger), as well as vegetarian options (Farmhouse Veggie Burger, and Portobello White Bean Burger).

Photo: Dan Kirk

My burger was moist and flavorful, which is not always a given with turkey burgers. The toppings offered the perfect blend of sweet and savory, without over-powering the mild taste of the turkey. The fries were hot, crispy, and served with a variety of condiments brought out to the table (the garlic aioli was a favorite).

Photo: Dan Kirk

The Farmhouse was very crowded, almost all of the tables seemed to be full, and the bar was pretty packed by the time we left. Like it’s sister restaurant American Flatbread (which we ordered take out from the night before, see menu here,) it seems to be quickly becoming a Burlington favorite. The atmosphere wasn’t amazing, the room was large and fairly impersonal (it was after-all, a McDonald’s) but we had a great table of people, interesting conversations, and plenty of beer, all of which allowed one to easily ignore their surroundings. With it’s impressive locavore (or as Dan might prefer it, localvore) menu, and not to mention it’s beer list– it’s not difficult to see why this is such a popular spot.

The Dragon Bowl at Angelika Kitchen: So Perfect it Gets it’s Very Own Post.

Photo: NYMag

“Oh, you’re one of those people.” My Chef Instructor replied, and rolled his eyes at me, after I told him how excited I was for salad day at the French Culinary Institute. After bechamel, hollandaise, and duck confit, I was craving some serious green-age. Maybe it is weird, but by the end of the week especially, I am always craving something heavy on the vegetables. Angelika Kitchen is one of the oldest, and probably my favorite vegan restaurant in the city. With a diverse and creative menu, always focusing on seasonal produce, I (almost) always find myself ordering the same thing. Sure, it is a little boring in comparison to the some of the dinner specials– like the “Nut A-Stew About Nothing” an African inspired ground nut stew featuring roasted cauliflower, sweet potatoes, green peppers, turnips & tomatoes, simmered with ground peanuts, coriander, cinnamon, cumin & cayenne; topped with spiced tempeh croutons, & served with a brown rice-teff blend. But, still, I remain faithful to their famed Dragon Bowl.

Dragon Bowl

The Dragon Bowl is composed of rice, beans, tofu, sea vegetables & steamed vegetables; and served with your choice of dressing. The dressings include the House dressing, a puree of tahini, scallions & parsley, Tangy Basil, Black Sesame– with wasabi, garlic &toasted sesame oil, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Creamy Carrot– with ginger & dill, and Brown Rice Gravy– Brown rice flour roux with a savory blend of herbs, spices & tamari. My favorite is the Black Sesame, a really garlicky delicious mix that goes really well with the asian-inspired dish.

The veggies change seasonally, the greens are usually kale, chard, or bok choy, and last night the vegetables were a blend of winter squashes. The regular portion is just $13, and is the perfect amount of food if you’re hungry (if you’re really hungry try some of their breads and spreads). The bowl also is available in a half portion, which especially if your party gets some appetizers, is the perfect amount of food, and only $9. The Dragon Bargain ($18) and Wee Dragon Bargain ($14) include the bowl (of half bowl) plus a cup of soup and a bread and spread.

Angelika Cornbread and Tahini Spread

It makes a great lunch, or the perfect dinner– especially after the work week and sometimes not so great eating habits. My friend Annie and I enjoyed a meal there on Saturday, and she was so happy to have some nutrients after a day stuck is the office surrounded by sweets. Another plus is the restaurants BYOB policy– it makes it a great spot for a reasonable meal (that won’t bog you down, or put you in a food coma) before going out. Though no reservations are accepted I’ve never had to wait more than 15 minutes, even on a busy weekend.

Angelika Kitchen is located on 12th st between 2nd and 1st avenues. It is such a convienient location, and since I am always in the area, I stop in pretty often. Next time you’re in the area, I would make it a point to check it out, even if you are not a vegetarian, for a delicious Dragon Bowl, or any of their other menu items.

Brunch In Brooklyn: Five Leaves, Greenpoint

Before checking out the McCarren Park Farmer’s Market on Saturday, my friend Annie and I went to one of my favorite brunch spots, introduced to me this spring by some family friends, Five Leaves on the corner of Bedford and Lorimer.

A quick subway ride from NYC, five leaves offers a great Austrailian influenced menu, with fresh ingredients and many local products (like Sullivan Street Bakery Breads). The restaurant which was a project of the late Heath Ledger, opened just after the actor died, but has quickly become a favorite of the neighborhood. The crowd is mostly young, and the atmosphere is both energetic and welcoming. The decor inside the triangular-shaped building is simple, and somewhat nautical (going along with the cafe’s raw bar). Chairs and tables outside are mis-matched, and water is served in ball jars.

Five Leaves offers both sweet and savory items, including the amazing Ricotta Pancakes with honeycomb butter, a whole banana, blueberries, strawberries, and maple syrup, and the Fresh Sage Scrambled Organic Eggs with Aged Cheddar on Grilled Sullivan Street Panini.

Oysters!

For lunch choices, they have appetizers (like 1/2 dozen Blue Point Oysters, Steamed Mussels, and a Prime Meat Plate), Salads, and Sandwiches. Annie and I both got sandwiches after our oysters, I got the BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato, and cumin/lime mayo) with a fried egg, and Annie got the Grilled Vegetable Sandwich with pepper, zucchini, eggplant, portobello mushrooms, tomato tapenade and melted brie. We both got the truffle fries to accompany our meal, and of course a few delicious bloody marys. They offer a great cocktail menu, but for afternoon drinking, their bloody marys which have a good amount of kick, celery seeds, and are served with lemon, lime, olives, and a cornichon.

BLAT (with a fried egg)

For a tasty mid-day meal with friends, or after dinner drinks, I would definitely recommend Five Leaves. Not just for it’s food, or cocktails, but for it’s laid-back atmosphere which makes for a great place for catching up, or recapping the night before.