November 17, 2014

HB Eats: Le Fond, Brooklyn

Le Fond in Greenpoint, Brooklyn is a culinary dream come true for Chef Jake Eberle and I’m sure many of his diners, including me.  I’ve been looking forward to Chef Jake opening a restaurant since the first time I sampled his delicious food back in 2008 (my pre-blogging days!).  Since then I’ve followed him and his exciting take on food to great restaurants such as The Lamb’s Club.   I’m so thrilled that Jake finally got the opportunity to put his unique touch on French cuisine and create an inviting space to partake in the feast.

Le Fond’s setup is the perfect mash up of high-end dining meets rustic comfort.  Every inch exudes thoughtfulness and handcrafted detail, from the wooden serving tables built by Jake’s father to the ceramic bread plates and paintings made by local artists. But when you visit, don’t forget about all of the love put in the food.   

I wanted to order every appetizer on the menu, but narrowed my selection to the artic char, the foie gras terrine and the item that made my eyes light up upon viewing the menu:  the octopus.  After all, Chef Eberle was the first person who introduced me to the wonderful world of octopus and I haven’t looked back since.   The octopus was extremely beautiful and flavorful.  I could have eaten multiple dishes of this delicate treat.  I felt the same about the velvety smooth terrine, which spread amazingly on the accompanying toast.  The artic char is smoked in house, which was a perfect complement in the trio of apps.

My entrée selection was a bit trickier, because I was in the mood for chicken but I was worried that it wouldn’t be exciting enough, given the other great options.  Chef Jake assured me the chicken was a wonderful choice.  He was right, the chicken was perfectly moist throughout and topped with a crispy skin.  I was also impressed by the fun table-side pouring of chicken jus on my plate.  My dining companions enjoyed the Cassoulet and the Wild Striped Bass and raved about how excellent they were as well.

For dessert I knew exactly what to order from the previous photos that I had been drooling over on social media for weeks-- the maple grade ‘A’ beignets.  These little bites of heaven were in fierce competition for top dessert with the almond cake that tasted like the best Madeline cookie that I’ve ever had.  Overall, Chef Jake’s comfy play on French food went far beyond my high expectations.  Thanks for a great meal!  I’m so glad I now have another delicious reason to visit Brooklyn.  And so do you!

January 26, 2014

HB Eats: Toby's Public House - Brooklyn

Cozy. Friendly. Delicious… that’s Toby’s Public House in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  My good friend first introduced me to Toby’s when she had the pleasure of living just a stone’s throw from this awesome brick oven pizzeria and bar.  Years later when she sadly left New York for DC, her goodbye dinner was at Toby’s.  Now whenever she comes back to visit, a ceremonial stop to Toby’s is always on the itinerary.  Every time I eat at Toby’s the food seems to gets better and better.  On this recent trip, Toby’s was packed with happy patrons.  We chose to eat at the bar to avoid an unusually long table wait caused by the NFL playoffs.  This turned out to be an awesome decision thanks to the very nice bartender Mike, who doubled as our waiter. 

First we ordered a plate of Toby’s decadent mushroom ravioli.  It was served straight from the brick oven in a seasoned cast iron pan and topped with a luscious creamy black truffle sauce.  The dish was so good (and we were so hungry) that I didn’t take time to snap a pic.  I know it’s hard to believe!  Trust me, they looked and tasted fabulous and you should order them when you go!

After the ravioli, we had a tough time choosing which pizza to order since every pie on the menu sounded amazing.  My pick, and favorite, was the Proscuitto Di Parma with baby arugula, parmigiano reggiono, and olive oil.  We also had the Del Mac with sweet italian sausage and red onions, and the Quattro Stagioni with parma cotto ham, crimini mushroom, artichoke hearts, and olives.   All three thin crust pizzas were perfectly balanced and flavorful.  That was the first time that I remember actually having ham on pizza, and it was surprisingly tasty.

Since there is always room for dessert, I also shared a slice of light and fluffy key lime pie.  A perfect end to a great meal.

During my time at the bar I learned from Mike that Toby’s has a special beer club for discounts and specials.  You even get your own mug that hangs above the bar.  And if you can’t make it to Brooklyn, Toby’s has a second newer location in Little Italy.   I’ve heard that the pizza there is equally as delicious, so I can’t wait to try it one day soon!

November 24, 2013

HB Sweets: Candy of the Ages

Today I braved the first extremely cold Sunday of the season to check out Susan Benjamin’s talk on Candies Through the 19th Century at the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum and Garden on the Upper East Side.  And I’m so glad that I did! 

Besides being held in a really cool former carriage house turned hotel turned museum, (which everyone should check out), I was delighted by Ms. Benjamin’s animated presentation and knowledge of the history of candy.  As founder and President of Cool Confectionaries, based in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Ms. Benjamin runs the nation’s only historic candy company offering authentic candies from the Native Americans through the 1950s.  Her museum talk offered a rare interactive learning and tasting experience focusing on the origins of a variety of different confectionaries including - sugar plums, licorice bark, Turkish delight, Necco wafers, jelly beans, and many more.  

Here are a few interesting tidbits from the talk: rock candy was first made widely popular in the saloon drink called rock and rye, as well as for its medicinal usages; jawbreakers and fire balls were created by a father and son team and still take 14-19 days to create; and, candy canes, as they were originally created, did not have red stripes.  The red stripes were added much later on, around 1900, as a marketing idea.   

I definitely recommend checking out Ms. Benjamin’s website to find out how you can get a taste of candy history!

September 14, 2013

HB Eats: Summertime wrap up - Ice cream, pizza, and po’boys!

Like most people I know, I’m in denial that the summer is almost officially over.  Luckily, most of the delicious food that I sampled over the last few months is available (in one form or another) year round:

1. Octopus Po’Boy @ LIC Flea and Food - Just in case you hadn’t heard, Queens is now home to its very own weekly food market and shopping festival, the LIC Flea and Food.  This diverse gathering of local merchants succeeds in transforming an empty lot, not far from the Queens waterfront, into a foodie destination.  After a few circles around the market, and much debate about what to try, I sampled and loved every bite of the maple bacon popcorn offered by Alobar, as well as their unique octopus po’boy -- move over lobster roll, there’s a new delicacy in town.  While I believe the sandwich is a LIC Flea special, you can also go straight to the source for other creative dishes at the nearby eateries themselves;

2.  Pizza pie @ Totonno’s - Totonno’s serves up fresh brick oven pies with your choice of traditional toppings.  You can feel the Coney Island history at Totonno’s simply by walking in the door, a door that is located just a few blocks from the iconic boardwalk.  This shop is a survivor, having suffered from a fire in 2009 and a through a post-Sandy shutdown.  The pizza could possibly be my favorite in New York, with its perfect balance of sauce, dough, and yummy mozzarella.   

Make sure to save room for dessert and stop by Williams Candy Shop on Surf Ave.  I couldn’t resist the bright blue and pink cotton candy hanging so beautiful around the store; and

3.  Ice cream sundae @ Eddie’s Sweet Shop - For another look at New York’s culinary past, check out Eddie’s Sweet Shop in Forest Hills, Queens.  Eddie’s is a neighborhood institution that has been owned by a number of different families since it was built in 1925.  While the original ice cream parlor wood finishes and décor were certainly a sight to see, I was also equally entranced by the large bowls of homemade whipped cream that they use for every sundae.  Nothing says indulgence like a few scoops of your favorite ice cream overflowing with delightful toppings.

I highly recommend checking out all of these destinations for a taste of summer fun!