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Brooklyn Bites

June 30, 2010

I’ve been spending some time in Brooklyn recently, and every time I go there I wonder “why didn’t I come to this neighborhood earlier?” While at the Columbia J-school, I visited DUMBO/downtown Brooklyn/Brooklyn Heights pretty regularly, since those neighborhoods were my beat in my reporting class. There’s a lot of cool stuff going on in those neighborhoods, and some of the restaurants in Bk Heights are really nice.

This summer, I’ve moved a little further down the F line, traveling to Park Slope and Red Hook for the first time. On Father’s Day, Keith and I went to the Seventh Heaven Street Fair in Park Slope. It was pretty much your typical street fair food-wise, with plenty of Mozzarepa and gyro stands. We weren’t in the mood to eat outside in the 90-degree weather, so we ducked into a little hole in the wall for a bite.

Beer Table turned out to be a very cool surprise. The restaurant’s beer list features a rotating draft menu and there are plenty of random bottled beers to please even the most picky connoisseurs. I really liked that the list had descriptions for each of its offerings, and the staff (of one) was really knowledgeable and helpful — always much appreciated. We chose a light, straw-colored brew from Cologne, Germany to cool us off. I think it was Kölsch, but the downside of blogging a few weeks late is that I don’t remember (bad blogger, bad!). But I do remember the waitress telling us that Germans tend to drink it in shots, since it’s so light. Sounds like my kind of beer.

To go with our beer, Keith and I shared pickled eggs, a waffle with ricotta and strawberries and a side of bacon. The pickled eggs were much better than I imagined, a little tart and salty (due to the dusting of jalapeño powder and sea salt on top), but still slightly sweet from the egg yolk. The waffles were delicious too, a little salty from the ricotta to match the sweetness of the maple syrup and strawberries.

Perhaps my favorite part of the meal was the bacon. It was thick-cut slab bacon, with the fat still on. Sounds a little gross, I know, but the fat was caramelized and delicious with the maple syrup. Just typing that out makes me want to go run 100 miles right now …

Just a small sampling of the brews offered at Beer Table. (Photo courtesy of Keith)

Needless to say, I enjoyed Beer Table and would love to go back. It was a well-hidden surprise. As I learned this past weekend, Brooklyn is full of those.

On Saturday, Keith and I ventured out to Red Hook. And it’s an adventure to get out there — first a train, then a bus. Next time, I’ll take the free ferry from the South Street Seaport to Pier 44 in Red Hook. It seems like a much more enjoyable way to make the trek.

The first thing Keith and I saw when we got off the bus was a huge Fairway. I’ve never been, but I’m told they are less expensive versions of Whole Foods. There’s one on 77th Street and one on 125th Street, so it’s a little embarrassing that I haven’t gone. But Keith had an event to cover (he’s a J-school student now too!) so I quickly quelled my desire to go grocery shopping for the time being.

After the event, our first stop was, of course, Fairway. According to Keith, this one was much nicer than the Upper West side iteration, with plenty of room for people and shopping carts and lots and lots of food. We mostly browsed, but took advantage of the extensive antipasti bar (only $6 a pound!) and the fabulous bakery.

Armed with groceries, we decided to walk around in search of the neighborhood’s famous Red Hook Lobster Pound. Given that I’ve become a little obsessed with lobster rolls after trying Luke’s at the Hester Street Fair (and then again at his shack in the East Village), there was no way I was leaving Red Hook without visiting the Pound.

On our stroll up Van Brunt Street, Keith and I walked by Baked. I had never heard of it (once again, blogger FAIL.) but Keith said they were famous for their sweet and salty brownies. I needed no convincing to try them out. The bakery also sells cupcakes, tarts and other baked goods as well as brewer’s blondies, made with a malt, and spicy brownies, with chiles. We got the sweet and salty, and tried it later that night. It was the perfect blend of fudgy and cake, the sea salt a perfect foil for the rich chocolate.

Finally we made it to the Lobster Pound. They offer two types of rolls: Maine-style, cold lobster with mayo, and Connecticut-style, warm lobster with butter. We went with Maine, since I couldn’t even think of eating something warm in the hot afternoon. The lobster was fresh and meaty, and the scallions added a little crunch. I’ll have to revisit Luke’s to compare!

What struck me most about both Park Slope and Red Hook (and the DUMBO/downtown/Bk Heights area, for that matter) was how easy it was to find good food, even in the most unlikely places. Perhaps I’ve been too much of a Manhattan snob.

Note: NY Mag had a story on lobster rolls in this week’s issue. It mentions both Luke’s and Red Hook, and includes a cool comparison of the two (plus other famous rolls in NYC).

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