Monday, September 24, 2012


"As it rapidly evolves into one of the country's great food destinations,
it's clear the Brooklyn story has really only just begun."
(Craig LaBan, The Philadelphia Inquirer)

Following my "Summer 2012 Brooklyn Eats" post, on Saturday -- the first day of the fall season! -- Sam and I, along with some friends, finally made it out to Smorgasburg in Williamsburg. Smorgasburg is an outdoor waterfront food market featuring great local vendors.

The Area

A beautiful summer-to-fall day with a nice breeze by the water.

Colorful building on Metropolitan Avenue, near our parking spot
Williamsburg waterfront (a little overcast here)

The Smorgascene

It's my goal to make as many compound words beginning with "Smorgas" as possible.

Entering Smorgasburg
The hipster crowd
Food vendors
Mighty Quinn's long wraparound line with traffic cones

The Food We Ate least what I photographed (there was more).

Pork belly bun from Bite Size Kitchen
Lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound
Pulled chicken, pickled mushroom, cheddar, and egg
hash brown from Hash Bar

Chicken taco and fish taco from Choncho's Tacos
Fish and chips and shrimp from Handsome Hank's Fish Hut
A cup of "Kevin Bacon" from Kombucha Brooklyn
Pop tarts from Anarchy in a Jar
S'morgasm from S'more Bakery
Cafe au lait doughnut from Dough ("We fry in Bed-Stuy")
Maple bacon mini cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery
Buttermilk Fried Chicken, Shorty Tang & Sons,
Soy Hound, Takumi Taco, Ovenly, and more!

I enjoyed everything too much, but my favorites were the hash brown and the lobster roll; the fish and shrimp were really good too, and Ovenly was heavenly! I didn't eat the pork belly or the bacon.

Early autumn is the perfect time to enjoy Smorgasburg, which takes takes place rain or shine in Williamsburg on Saturdays through November 17, and in DUMBO on Sundays through November 18. SmorgasBar is also open now. For more Smorgasburg-related information, you can check out Eater NY.

We had some friends visiting from out of town this past weekend as well. On Friday night I went to Pio Pio for delicious Peruvian chicken and then The Biergarten at The Standard for some fun and games. On Saturday night I went to CALiU for tapas, then Finnerty's for the Michigan vs. Notre Dame football game, and Arang for late night Korean food with a bigger group. It was definitely a jam-packed weekend, which I'm not used to these days so I think I need a weekend after my weekend.

Get out, enjoy your city, and eat well!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Summer 2012 Brooklyn Eats

"Hey yogurt, if you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera?"
(Stephen Colbert)

Summer officially ends when autumn starts this Saturday! The past 3 months marked our first season of marriage and home-cooked meals, along with a healthy dose of Park Slope/Prospect Heights restaurant exploration -- especially at the beginning, when we were still uncovering our stove and oven and adding in a microwave after moving.

Below are some of our meals with recipe links when applicable, followed by a list with links of the local establishments we've tried so far. If you aren't familiar with our "other borough," feel free to venture out here and let me know if you'd like to visit us or any of the places mentioned!

Summer Homemade Meals

Pan-seared cayenne fish tacos with guacamole, tomato,
onion, and cilantro
Asparagus, spinach and feta quiche with fresh berries
(which I made again for "Summer Sunday Brunch")
Sautéed chicken in mustard-cream sauce with steamed asparagus
Chicken gyros with pickled onions, tomatoes, and tzatziki
Clementine and balsamic chicken with steamed broccoli
Yogurt-marinated chicken with watermelon salad
(which I made mini for "Savor Summertime in the Slope")
Seafood and chicken jjajangmyun (noodles with black bean sauce)
with kimchi
Grilled tuna melts with pickles and BBQ potato chips
Baked nachos with chicken, jalapeños, pepper jack, bleu cheese,
and pico de gallo
Watermelon, feta, and mint salad with honey

Summer Meals by Local Eateries

American: Carlton Park, Flatbush Farm & Bar(n)
Burgers: 67 Burger, Five Guys
Coffee/Tea & Bakeries: Blue Sky Bakery, Gorilla Coffee, Hungry Ghost Coffee Bar & Café, Konditori Swedish Espresso Bar
Creperies, Juice Bars & Smoothies: Brooklyn Crepe & Juice
Cuban: Cubana Café
Cupcakes: Butter Lane
French: Moutarde
Gastropub: Alchemy Restaurant & Tavern
Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt: Ample Hills CreameryYogurBerry
Japanese: Taro Sushi
Mediterranean/Middle Eastern: Miriam Restaurant & Wine Bar
Mexican & Southwestern: Burrito Bar & Kitchen, Santa Fe Grill
Pizza: Antonio's Pizza, Campo de'Fiori, Franny's
Thai: Born Thai, Nahm Thai Kitchen
Wings & More: Wing Wagon

There are so many more restaurants, cafés, and businesses to try in our area!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Savor Summertime in the Slope

"Go often to the house of a friend, for weeds choke an unused path."
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)

I hope you had a lovely Labor Day weekend! I'm home for a much-needed extra day. Below is my final post on August entertaining, following "Last of the London Olympics Get-Together" and "Summer Sunday Brunch and Brooklyn Cocktail Party with Home Blessing."

Savor Summertime in the Slope

On the last weekend of August, we invited some of our oldest and dearest friends -- which included my bridesmaids and my husband's hometown pals -- over for a colorful night of summer-inspired food and drinks. And when I think of summertime, I often think of Tex-Mex, cold picnic salads, juicy watermelon, ice cream, and refreshing sangria; but of course, I would enjoy all of these any time of year.

Chicken Fajitas with Guacamole and Pico de Gallo
Slider-Style Beef Burgers with Cheddar Cheese
Lemon-Garlic Grilled Shrimp Skewers
Picnic-Perfect Potato Salad
Miniature Watermelon, Tomato and Basil Salad
Tortilla Chips with Mango Salsa
Manchego and Pepper Jack Cheese with Crackers and Grapes
Neopolitan Ice Cream with Sprinkles
White Sangria
Red Sangria

Main dish preparation

I made the chipotle-lime chicken fajitas simply by caramelizing strips of white onion, red bell pepper, and a green poblano pepper, cooking strips of boneless chicken breast, and adding Chef Rick Bayless' Frontera Classic Fajita Skillet Sauce, which my sister had given me to try. It's a real timesaver and has great, authentic flavors since it contains all natural, fresh ingredients (no dried spices or powders), with no preservatives. I prepared fresh guacamole and pico de gallo to pile on top of the fajitas in flour tortillas.

Chicken fajitas, tortillas, guacamole, and pico de gallo

The mini buns of our first batch of sliders got burnt because the oven dial was somehow turned up to 500 degrees when it should have been at 350; but after that little mishap, Sam ran out for more potato rolls and all was good. Our beef sliders -- reminiscent of White Castle, but better -- were made by browning ground beef with onion soup mix (which I had from the onion yogurt dip I made for our cocktail party), draining the excess grease, and baking in the mini rolls along with some shredded cheddar cheese and light mayonnaise, topped with pickles.

Sliders are so cute

I had shrimp in the freezer from the previous weekend, so I wanted to use it for this get-together, but in a different way. I decided to make My Recipes' Lemon-Garlic Shrimp Skewers with lemon zest, garlic, parsley, and olive oil, which I put on the grill -- our "grill" being a Calphalon nonstick panini pan.

Lemon-garlic shrimp skewers
Side dish preparation

The Ina Garten Potato Salad I made as a summer-inspired side dish was a big hit. It tasted fresh and light -- perhaps partly because I used light mayonnaise and light buttermilk -- and bright with both Dijon and whole-grain mustard. I also found that Ina's method for boiling and steaming potatoes yields great results and is worth the extra step.

Picnic-perfect potato salad

Earlier this summer, I made chicken accompanied by a salad of fresh sliced watermelon and tomato with basil leaves in a red wine vinaigrette. I became mildly obsessed with the combination, but wanted to serve an easier-to-eat version, so I put together summery watermelon cubes, heirloom grape tomatoes for color contrast, and basil leaves soaked with red wine vinaigrette, on cocktail picks.

Individual mini watermelon, tomato and basil salads

I think the first mango salsa I had was probably years ago from Stew Leonard's, but I had never tried making it before 10 days ago. I followed Ellie Krieger's Mango Salsa recipe, and loved the way it turned out: sweet and spicy, with mango, cucumber, jalapeño, red onion, lime, and cilantro.

Tortilla chips with mango salsa

We picked up some Manchego and pepper jack cheeses from the grocery store to go with the Spanish-style sangria and peppery flavors of the food, and put out crackers and grapes.

Manchego and pepper jack with crackers and grapes

Question: What's a great, no-bake crowd-pleaser of a party dessert? Answer: Ice cream with sprinkles! Or in this case, Neopolitan chocolate, vanilla and strawberry frozen yogurt. Some people love vanilla, others don't, so guests were able to have any or all of the classic flavors, and add orange cream crunchies, chocolate sprinkles, or rainbow sprinkles. I found the Meri Meri ice cream cup and wooden spoon set at Sur La Table, as well as the green paper straws. Our friend Paul brought an assortment of Baked by Melissa mini cupcakes, which I can always go through much too quickly.

Neopolitan frozen yogurt with sprinkles

There are myriad variations of sangria, but the basics almost always include wine and citrus. One of our friends is allergic to apples and stone fruits, so I left those out. Sam bought a bottle of Pinot Grigio for the white sangria, and Cabernet Sauvignon for the red sangria, and we mixed each with club soda, orange juice, a splash of vodka, and slices of orange and lemon.

White and red sangria

As of today, summer is unofficially over. I always have bittersweet feelings about the transition from summer to fall, as I love warm weather and vacation brain, but look forward to the promise of a new and exciting "back to school" season. With friends, I've started taking a series of makeup classes -- very informative -- and signed up for my first cake decorating class!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Summer Sunday Brunch and Brooklyn Cocktail Party with Home Blessing

"By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled,
with rare and beautiful treasures."
(Proverbs 24:3-4)

This is a continuation of my last post, "Last of the London Olympics Get-Together." Following that night, we had Sunday afternoon brunch with my family -- my mother, father, sister, nephew, brother, and brother's girlfriend -- who all came from Westchester and Jersey to gather together with us in Brooklyn.

The next housewarming-ish event we hosted was a casual cocktail party for married friends who mostly have children, and it was during that evening that Jonah -- who also officiated at our wedding -- came with his wife Jennifer and their baby Avery, and presided over an informal home blessing.

Summer Sunday Brunch

Blueberry Pancakes with Blackberries and Raspberries
Asparagus, Spinach and Feta Quiche
Garden Salad
Clementines, Mangoes and Bananas

My family started dropping by sometime after 2 o'clock, beginning with my mother, sister, and nephew; my father arrived after them, and my brother and Tina came towards the early evening. I made blueberry pancakes and stacked them on a platter with a dusting of powdered sugar, along with fresh blackberries and raspberries we had in our refrigerator.

Blueberry pancakes with blackberries and raspberries

I baked identical quiches of asparagus, spinach and feta with mozzarella, which I made earlier this summer from a Two Peas & Their Pod recipe. I recommend you try this; it's really good! Just be sure you squeeze out the excess water from the spinach after you wilt them on the stove, otherwise your quiche will turn out soggy and appear not to be cooked through. I made the simple pie crust I use for apple pie, which I posted in last year's "September Sweets."

Asparagus, spinach and feta quiches with mozzarella

The arugula, spinach, and mixed greens salad included leftover cherry tomatoes, mini sweet peppers, and cucumbers from the previous night, and was tossed with a basil vinaigrette. We also ate leftover chicken tikka masala.

Simple garden salad

In case anyone wanted more fruit -- I was especially thinking of my then-pregnant sister and my nephew -- my tiered server held clementines, mangoes, and bananas.

Clementines, mangoes, and bananas

Brooklyn Cocktail Party

For this evening, I was determined not to use the oven, since I and my kitchen got way too hot when cooking and baking for the Olympics get-together and family brunch (and I still needed an oven thermometer). Also, it can be difficult to properly time the preparation of multiple dishes that need to go in the oven or on the stove. I decided on a menu of hors d'oeuvres and finger foods with a signature grapetini cocktail.

Asian Chicken Salad in Boston Lettuce Cups
Smoked Salmon and Cucumber with Cream Cheese
Shrimp Cocktail
Prosciutto-Wrapped Breadsticks with Boursin Cheese
Miniature Caprese Salad
 Mediterranean Vegetable Chips with Onion Yogurt Dip

Bleu Cheese-Stuffed Olives, Mixed Olives, Roasted Mixed Nuts and Genoa Salami
Havarti, Herb Brie and Parmigiano Reggiano with Crackers, Fig and Walnut Spread, Strawberries and Grapes
Miniature Cookies and Brownies


Food preparation

I made a shredded Asian chicken salad that included Mandarin oranges, slivered almonds, green onions, and toasted sesame seeds. The yummy dressing was from and included brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, vegetable oil, and rice vinegar. To make this chicken salad more finger food-friendly, I served it in Boston (aka Butter or Bibb) lettuce cups. Next time I'll make this with a store-bought rotisserie chicken -- so easy.

Asian chicken salad in Boston lettuce cups

For the smoked salmon hors d'oeuvres, I bought a little less than a pound of fresh smoked salmon -- the trimmings from cut-to-order purchases, which shouldn't go to waste -- and was able to enjoy the smoked salmon after the party, on crackers and in scrambled eggs. These appetizers consisted of slices of cucumber spread with cream cheese, topped with smoked salmon and garnished with fresh dill.

Smoked salmon with cucumber, cream cheese and dill
The shrimp cocktail was served with a squeeze of lemon and extra spicy cocktail sauce.

Shrimp cocktail

I don't eat prosciutto, salami and the like, but that doesn't mean I won't prepare or cook meats. But my taste-tester husband wanted to help put these together, and he did a great job. He wrapped the thinly-sliced natural prosciutto around breadsticks that were spread with a layer of Boursin cheese.

Prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks with Boursin cheese

Insalata Caprese -- sliced tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt -- is a classic Italian salad. My cocktail party version of cherry tomatoes, ciliegini ("little cherries") mozzarella, and basil was served on cocktail picks with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Individual mini caprese salads

Remember stirring onion soup mix into a container of sour cream to make a party dip for ruffled potato chips back in the day? Kevin Sharkey -- Martha Stewart's right-hand man and style and design authority -- never veers from the retro combination when throwing a party. To update this (and because I love Greek yogurt and even cook with it), I used Fage instead of sour cream. Served with TERRA Mediterranean chips -- which were an unexpected hit with the children -- it was a simple snack. We also had kid-friendly chicken nuggets and pizza rolls on hand.

Mediterranean vegetable chips with onion yogurt dip

Bleu cheese-stuffed olives, mixed olives, roasted mixed nuts, and organic Genoa salami helped round out the snack options. Behind the vase of flowers, you might make out the tiered server, which held cookies, brownies and fruit. One of the families that came over -- Julienne, Elliot, Noah, and Lydia -- also brought a delicious tiramisu for dessert.

Most of the spread, with beautiful blooms of yellow roses

The cheeses were havarti, herb brie, and Parmigiano Reggiano, placed on a board alongside crackers, Stonewall Kitchen Fig & Walnut Butter (I love Stonewall Kitchen products -- we went to a dedicated outlet store during our minimoon, but my sister gave this to me when she came over for brunch), strawberries, and grapes.

Cheese board with crackers, fig and walnut spread, and fruit

Our grapetinis were made with white grape juice, vodka, and St.-Germain -- I don't remember how many parts of each, but I wouldn't mind recreating them to let you know -- and garnished with frozen red grapes. We don't have real martini glasses because I want everything we own to serve at least 2 purposes, so the plastic ones reach all the way down to the base, which is why the grapes are sitting so low.

We also experimented and conducted blind taste tests with the Vinturi Red Wine Aerator and Vinturi Spirit Aerator, which our friends Peter, Joon, and kiddos Olivia and William brought for us. FYI, they really do make a difference!

Grapetinis with frozen grapes

Up next, the final housewarming installment:
Savor Summertime in the Slope