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Posts Tagged ‘Brooklyn’

Got Crabs?

June 14, 2010 Leave a comment

One of my favorite things to consume during the summer is blue crabs.  Slowly sharing a bushel with a large group is a commonality between Asian communities and many people who grew up on the Eastern seaboard.  While some people complain that the small amount of meat is not worth the effort of crab picking (and hence, the invention of the crab cake), those folks are missing the point.  The effort is worth it when you’re sitting by the water surrounded by family and friends, cracking crabs and downing cold beers on a lazy, sunny afternoon.

I’ve been eating blue crabs most of my life.  At a very young age, my parents taught me how to crack open the bodies and pick out the meat.  I can tell the difference between males (“jimmies”) and females (“sookies” if they don’t have roe or “busters” if they do have roe) and know that the best time to buy them is two weeks after a full moon when they are at their fullest (i.e., most filled with meat).  People who grew up in Maryland and Delaware can wax poetic about their favorite crab houses that specialize in the all-you-can-eat (AYCE) feasts.

Six years ago when I moved to New York, I refused to give up AYCE crabs and vowed to hunt down places that offered this summer time specialty.  The now-defunct Park Slope restaurant Minnow used to have a summer all-you-can-eat special but limited eating time to 2 hours.  Back Forty in the East Village continues the tradition, but I find the 2-hour limit and Back Forty’s reservation/seating system off putting.  It really defeats the relaxed atmosphere that you’re supposed to have.

After some hunting on the internet, I found a place in Brooklyn that finally lived up to expectations: Clemente’s.  This past Saturday, some friends and I trekked down to Sheepshead Bay to spend our afternoon dockside enjoying AYCE crabs proper.  Though completely coincidental, the New York Times Magazine had a timely write-up on crabs this weekend.

While Clemente’s is not very convenient to get to without a car, you can still get there using public transportation (2/3/F/D/Q trains followed by a bus) or riding your bicycle down the beautiful bike lanes of Ocean Parkway to the water.  Here are some suggestions for booking your trip: (1) call ahead for a reservation, especially if you have a large party like we did, (2) ask to sit outside on the deck that overlooks the Plumb Beach Channel and (3) bring plenty of cash or your ATM card because the place is CASH ONLY.

Also note that parties of 6 or more get tagged with an automatic 18% gratuity.  Clemente’s serves their crabs with traditional Old Bay (which is my preference) but also offers a garlic style (heavy on the oil, garlic cloves and fresh parsley) that was very popular with some members of our party.  Boiled yellow corn and French fries accompany the crabs.  It may sound like a lot of effort, both the trip to Clemente’s and crab picking in general, but believe me it’s well worth it.  I’ve been going for the past three years and already look forward to organizing for next year.

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Urban Gardening

June 11, 2010 3 comments

Just like all of the other stereotypical yuppies living in Brooklyn, I too have embraced urban gardening.  I consider myself very fortunate to have private outdoor space to try my hand at growing plants and herbs in containers.  Many people throughout the borough make good use of any outdoor space they have — from those coveted roofs and backyards to more resourceful spaces such as stoops, windowsills and fire escapes.

Last year during my first growing season, I planted many things that I just had no use for (lavender — what was I thinking?) or rarely used (oregano and sage).  This season I wanted to focus more on plants and herbs that I would use on a regular basis.  While I included some flowers this year to pretty up my balcony, let’s be honest — my focus was on what I could eat.

My balcony is currently home to plantings of plum tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, chives, dill, cilantro, mint, parsley and Italian basil.  I will soon be adding Thai basil and shiso to the mix.  I have many of the basics to make Vietnamese spring rolls, guacamole, pico de gallo and a basic red sauce.  Recipes using what I’ve grown will pop up all summer.  Since I’ve never really been known for my green thumb, let’s just hope I don’t kill all of these plants.

Bar Review: Beer Table

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Beer Table

  • Address: 427 7th Avenue (between 14th and 15th Streets) – Park Slope
  • Website: www.beertable.com
  • What to get?  Ask the owners.

Beer Table is the teeny, tiny bar located in the part of town the real estate folks currently call the “South Slope.”  Get there early if you want a seat.  There are only three small communal tables and a bench in the front window that could accommodate 2 people (maybe 3 hipsters, or at least their skinny jeans).

The beer menu changes daily.  The limited food menu of small plates, charcuterie and pickled items are meant to complement the beers.  The owners are friendly, knowledgeable and helpful in your decision making process.

Most of the complaints I have heard about Beer Table concern some of the prices for the beers.  Yes, $9 for a beer is expensive.  But the beers being served are specialty beers that are not likely to be found in any other bar and they are constantly being switched out.  If you are looking to get hammered on cheap beer, Murray Hill is about 30-45 minutes away by subway.  If you are looking to try some unique and interesting beers that often pair well with food, give Beer Table a try.

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Bar Review: Mission Dolores

May 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Mission Dolores

  • Address: 249 4th Avenue (between President and Carroll Streets) – Park Slope
  • Website: http://missiondoloresbar.com/blog
  • What to get?  Anything on draft, handmade margaritas.  For food, go across the street and bring back tacos from Oaxaca.

Located in part of the space that housed the now-defunct lesbian bar Cattyshack, Mission Dolores is becoming a popular destination for those seeking outdoor drinking space.

Brought to you by the folks behind Smith Street’s Bar Great Harry, Mission Dolores has a relaxing atmosphere where a wide variety of people — from Brooklyn hipsters to Park Slope moms to suits, artists and everyone in between — meet up for craft beers that change out regularly.  I am a fan of the selections from the brewers at Captain Lawrence (Westchester County) and Sixpoint (Red Hook).

The Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones pinball machines naturally inhabit this nerdy part of Brooklyn provide for a nice distraction from the usual outdoor bar scene.

On the occasions I’ve been at Mission Dolores, some people had their dogs along, much to the delight of their pooch-less drinking neighbors. 

Given its convenient location close to the Atlantic/Pacific subway stop and decent outdoor seating, look for Mission Dolores to get busier and busier as the weather gets warmer and warmer.

Appetizer Spotlight: Stewed Octopus at Noodle Pudding

May 5, 2010 1 comment

While the name may be off-putting to some, Noodle Pudding is a very popular Italian restaurant in Brooklyn Heights.  Located “just a little past the fruits” at 38 Henry Street between Cranberry and Middagh Streets, Noodle Pudding is often packed, with plenty more people waiting for a table to open up.

The no nonsense food is homey, satisfying and reasonable, an anomaly for the posh neighborhood (“the Upper East Side of Brooklyn,” if you would) in which it is located that is not known for destination restaurants.  The only real complaint about the restaurant?  Cash only (read: mob…just kidding…please don’t hurt me).

While critics and other food bloggers have already raved about the many entrees such as Angus steak, osso buco, butter & sage gnocci, mushroom risotto and rabbit, I think they have overlooked one of the best dishes on the menu: the stewed octopus (polpo).   I always start every meal at Noodle Pudding with this appetizer. 

The dish is basically giant tentacles that have been braised for hours in a tomato sauce until the octopus is tender.  You can seriously cut into this dish with just a butter knife — it is that tender but without losing any flavor.  The octopus and accompanying tomatoes it was stewed in is accompanied by a healthy serving of bread to allow you to slop up all the extra goodness along with the octopus.  I can’t think of a better way to start off a meal at Noodle Pudding before digging into the entrees for which it is known.