good shmeats

one food-loving vegetarian taking New York City's restaurants one plate at a time.

Friday, March 31, 2006

Portland Breakfast

Alison works at Pioneer Organics. Every friday she gets to take home several large boxes overflowing with the unsold organic and angelically beautiful produce. This is the breakfast we made with the bounty of the Friday box:

Fruit Salad with kiwi, mango, banana, grapefruit and orange-blossom honey
Salad with greens, snow peas, beets, celery, and Parmesan (left over from dinner)
Omelet with caramlized onions and spinach
Toast with plum tomatoes, basil, Earth Balance, nutritional yeast, sea salt, and pepper
Best. Ever.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Bierkraft - Park Slope

Bierkraft (191 5th Avenue between Berkeley and Union)

Bierkraft on Park Slope's 5th Avenue is a neighborhood bullseye for artisanal cheese, a staggering selection of microbrews, and hand-crafted chocolates. If this description is not enticing enough, Bierkraft also holds free weekly tastings. Each Tuesday around 7:00pm, about 25 artisanal novices (as well as some closet home-brewers) crowd into Bierkraft's brightly-lit basement room to sample five pre-selected and paired beers and cheeses.

On March 7th, Bierkraft's tasting gave a nod to Women's History Month, featuring brews and cheeses crafted exclusively by women. The toothpick-speared cheese chunks and shot-glasses of beer were accompanied by historical her-story trivia (Queen Elizabeth I drank beer every morning at breakfast, for example).

Adding to the evening's feminine feel, Bierkraft's usual tasting hosts Bobby Reeves and Ben Granger were replaced by female staffers Krystal White and Sally Shelton. Although they were both knowledgeable and endearingly irreverant, their overall demeanor bordered too-close to ditzy, which lost them credibility as tasting hosts. ("What was I about to say? - I think I drank too much Triple.")

Note - While the cheeses listed below hail from several different cheese-makers, all of the beers are brewed by Stoudt's, which is owned by Carol Stoudt.

1. Pils and Sisters Bella Sorella
Beer: Mild and crisp, this German-style Pils is rather forgettable.
Cheese: Sweet, nutty, and buttery, the Bella Sorella is a semi-hard cheese with a deliciously crumbly consistency.

2. Scarlet Lady Ale and Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tan
Beer: This deep red beer is slightly bitter and described by one of our hosts as "shy."
Cheese: Sue Conely and Peggy at Cowgirl Creamery produce this salty, mild, and slightly mushroomy cheese. The Mt. Tam is Triple Cream, which means it has a high butterfat concentration.

3. Triple and Cypress Grove Humboldt fog
Beer: This beer is fruity and cider-like with a balanced malt flavor.
Cheese: The most outstanding cheese in the tasting. This refreshing goat cheese is both layered and wrapped with a beautiful vegetable ash, which is reminiscent of morning fog. It features three consistency strata, including a luscious melted edge where the bacteria in the rind comes into contact with the cheese.

4. Double IPA and Mouco Colorouge
Beer: Bitter and slightly pine-flavored, this was the strongest beer featured in the tasting (10% alcohol by volume)
Cheese: Described by the hosts as "funky," this Bavarian-style cheese boasts a bright orange rind. Despite having more kick than the other cheeses, the true flavor Mouco Colorouge hid behind the cracker that accompanied it.

5. Blond Double MaiBock and Brovetto Dairy Harpersfield Lavender.
Beer: Most outstanding beer in the tasting. This beer is only seasonally available (in spring). Dense and slightly sweet, the MaiBock arrived at Bierkraft the day of the tasting.
Cheese: This untraditional cheese comes from a small dairy farm in upstate New York. Firm and nutty, it is infused with lavender, which one participant thought tasted like soap. The hosts suggested a drizzle of honey to coax out the full lavender flavor.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Rosewater - Park Slope

Rose Water
787 Union Street (between 5th and 6th Ave)

Sunday brunch in New York City is an institution - a scheduled moment of relaxation, weekend networking, or gossip catch-up that is often scribbled by Wednesday afternoon into an already over crowded Blackberry. Considering the vital role it plays in the rhythm of a frenzied work week, New Yorkers place high expectations on brunch. Fortunately Rose Water shines between the hours of 11AM and 3PM.

Perched just off of Park Slope's most-traversed block (Union Street between 6th and 7th Ave), Rose Water strikes the elusive balance between upscale sophistication and homey coziness. The decor exudes an elegant charm, like it was designed by your quiet college roommate who devoured English Lit classics and spent Friday nights knitting coordinated scarf/mitten sets. A brick archway ushers diners in, where they are greeted by oversized potted branches, a bookshelf of cookbooks and tasteful knickknacks, and a row of cheerful paintings.

The only downside is that Rose Water is also reminiscent of your dorm room - in size. Rosewater opens for brunch at 11AM and by half past is uncomfortably bustling with anticipating patrons who spill out past the doors and onto the Union street sidewalk.

The $12 prix fixe entitles brunch-goers to an entree and drink - coffee or juice, unfortunately not both. But there is nothing skimpy about the entree options. The chefs at Rose Water attempt boldly exotic flavor combinations like a banana ginger waffle with papaya mango chutney and a fritata brimming with sweet vidalia onions, mustard greens, olives, provolone cheese, and fragrant jasmine rice.

I am almost embarrassed to describe my meal at Rosewater - I wouldn't want to kindle jealousy over the embarrassment of culinary riches I enjoyed. (But here goes - take a deep breath.) I decided to forego my usual cup of coffee and try the cardamom-spiced hot chocolate. The white teacup of warm chocolate I received fit snuggly between my cupped palms. Puddled with milky whipped cream, the chocolate was subtly sweet and intoxicatingly fragrant with cardamom. It evoked the richness of the homemade cardamom gelato I savored during a summer trip to Tuscany.

For brunch I selected Rose Water's Pink Lady Apple Pancakes, immediately drawn to the idea of the cinnamon cashew butter that accompanied them. Shortly after, a stack of two brioche-thick pancakes arrived with a creamer of warmed maple syrup. Each pancake was ringed with seasonal pink lady apple slices. Crunchy cashew pieces added texture to the supple pancakes and delicate apple. As promised, a crowning hill of cinnamon cashew butter slowly melted into the cakes, soaking into the half-exposed apple wedges. I sighed audibly upon my first bite and at several bites throughout my meal.

My brunch-mate ordered a Grilled Eggplant Sandwich with savory thick-cut French fries and homemade ketchup (which turned out to be more of an acidic tomato puree. Honestly, I would have preferred the Heinz variety). The eggplant slices were flecked with feta cheese and served on a firm roll. Although I rarely condone the practice of ordering lunch foods at brunch, her sandwich played a perfect foil to my combination of decadent breakfast sweets.

In a city where mid-morning meals dominate weekend dining, nearly every New Yorker has a favorite place to brunch. If they don't, perhaps it is simply because they haven't been to Rosewater yet.