Posted by: Jacques | September 24, 2010

Thirty One Brooklyn Restaurant Memories

Bubble wrap inside of a slightly worn large manila envelope. It could only be one thing: my two personal copies of a new cookbook to which I supplied a couple of recipes. Roast Fish & Plantain and the Shaved Chayote. THE NEW BROOKLYN COOKBOOK recipes and stories from 31 restaurants that put Brooklyn on the culinary map Melissa Vaughan & Brendan Vaughan photographs by Michael Harlan Turkell…

I skimmed through the introduction and drooled over some of the best food porn to ever come out of Kings County. Sitting at the Palo Santo bar with a glass of barley wine, I passed the second copy across the counter and into the open kitchen.

The endpapers are decorated with a map showing the section of Brooklyn that spans from Greenpoint to Windsor Terrace –a.k.a. the gentrified half of Brooklyn. For some reason I have always loved maps. This one is printed on what looks like brown lunch bag paper and it adds to the clever high school text book aesthetic. Where Manhattan would be, is a list of 31 Brooklyn Restaurants. Inside are recipes, photographs and the stories of each one of those neighborhood institutions. I read down the list pausing to find each one on the map and bring to mind the associations that I had with each establishment. There is no particular reason that my thoughts on these places should be helpful to anyone, but some how cataloging my memories sounded like it might make a decent blog entry.

Listed in alphabetical order:

1. Al Di La

How should I start with this one?

…I was behind the line when I looked up and saw Emiliano, Anna and their young son walking in to Palo Santo near the end of our third brunch service just a couple of weeks after we opened in the end of the Summer of 2006. For years I had been enjoying inspired meals at the restaurant that they owned and ran, and now that they were sitting down to eat at a table that I had made, I would be feeding them. Cooking for them made me nervous, but I was also proud knowing that Emiliano must have enjoyed his first meal at Palo Santo because he was back again in just under a week’s time.

2. Aliseo

I ate there on a cold January night while I was still living in Crown Heights -only a few blocks away. Albano was working at a counter a few feet from my table. On a deli slicer, he was shaving white vegetables that he had bought at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. I’ll never forget that salad!

3. Applewood

I’ve eaten there at least six times and on what were often special occasions I shared meals with at least three ex-girlfriends, a now current girlfriend, my father, my brother and my sous chef. I also work with another jr. sous chef who spent some time working at Applewood and visited Palo Santo for the first time when Applewood’s owners, David and Laura held their staff Christmas party at Palo Santo.

4. Beer Table

I ate a midnight supper there once with a good friend and one of his work buddies.

5. Buttermilk Channel

Rick -my GM’s husband- mans the bar at BC. That dude is always good for a dirty joke and we share a mutual appreciation of flannel, facial hair and beer. Plus, Doug’s Pecan Pie Sunday is my favorite dessert… ever.

6. Char No. 4

I ate at the bar a few months after they opened and I ran into a bro that I had worked with at Zoe in Soho years before –he was bartending there at the time and he insisted that I have a drink with him. Six rounds of bourbon later he wanted to test my history knowledge. He asked me what I knew about Douchavez… I knew nothing, but I guess I should do more reading because he was reportedly an infamous Haitian dictator back in the 1970’s.

7. Convivium

Not too long ago I had an excellent meal in the depths of their cavernous wine cellar.

8. Dressler

I was sitting at booth around nine or ten pm on a Tuesday, trying to enjoy what I hoped would be a celebratory meal as I hit the reload button over and over again jittery with anticipation. Finally on my cell phone internet browser I pulled up the Palo Santo review that had just posted to the NY Times website.

9. Dumont

When they first opened I lived a block and a half away. Eating there rekindled my love for mac-n-cheese. I guess that’s not such a difficult thing to do.

10. Egg

I have never been as unhappy as I was the day that I rode my bike up to Williamsburg to have breakfast at Egg and they were sold out of biscuits! I got my fix about a year later when at the end of a tasting event at the Food Network studio, I traded Chef George my left over ceviche for his left over biscuits.

11. The Farm on Adderley

I had brunch there a few years back. I don’t remember much about it except that back then it was the only restaurant that people mentioned when talking about Windsor Terrace.

12. Five Leaves

Our tables were side by side at the event that broke the Guinness Book’s record for the world’s largest pot luck dinner. They were serving a salad with fiddlehead ferns.

So… There is a small confession that I must make. I have enjoyed one of their salads, but this is actually the only restaurant of these 31 that I have never stepped foot in. After realizing that, I will definitely make a point to pay them a visit within the next month.

13. Flatbush Farm…

…Serves burgers at the bar until 1am. Park Slope is starved of late night dining.

14. Franny’s

Two new pizza places have opened up closer to where I live, but Franny’s is still worth the walk. Even on a cold night when they make me wait outside for a spot at the bar.

15. The General Green

I want to steal their vintage glass cake stands.

16. The Good Fork

After drinking a bottle of Burgundy while watching the sun set over the NY Harbor, Katie and I arrived fashionably late for our dinner reservations at the Good Fork. That was the third excellent meal that I have had there.

17. The Grocery

In their garden is where I sat down to dinner with both of my parents together for the first time in over a decade.

18. ici

There I was introduced to Mo and Joyce of Joyce bakeshop over brunch with my friend Trudy –Mo’s cousin.

19. James

Skate wing with citrus and capers…

20. Locanda Vini e Olii

Tongue salad dressed with an aged balsamic…

21. Lunetta

They poached Mark, he was probably the best disciplined and most talented chef ever to work at Palo Santo. Still there’s no way that I could hate on their pasta!

22. Marlow & Sons

I can never decide which is my favorite Williamsburg restaurant: Diner or Marlow & Sons. (I guess it’s not a surprise that they share owners and a prep kitchen)

…OK, it’s Diner.

23. Northeast Kingdom

The only time that I have ever been there was for my good friend James’ older brother’s wife’s baby shower.

24. No. 7

I can’t get the image out of my head of Tyler dancing on the bar topless while blasting Empire State of Mind from his ipod. Good times.

25. Palo Santo

Shit… That’s not a restaurant! That’s my house!

26. Prime Meats

I still need to go back there for one of those huge steaks.

27. Roberta’s

How did that dude on TV claim to be opening “The first ‘Roof-to-Table’ restaurant?” He might open up Manhattan’s first Roof-to-Table restaurant. I think he needs to get out more. Maybe do some traveling? He should spend a summer backpacking in Brooklyn.

28. Rose Water

After checking out Roberta’s rooftop garden, Rose Water could be his second stop -John the owner is a rooftop beekeeper.

29. Saul

In my opinion Saul is the only “fine dining” restaurant in Brooklyn. I’ve been twice. Once was with an old friend from Cooking School.

30. The Vanderbilt

It was not on the menu, but the first time I ate at the Vanderbilt a truly incredible (and equally colorful) dish was sent to my table compliments of the kitchen –fresh pig liver sautéed with apple, sliced stone fruits and summer vegetables.

31. Vinegar Hill House

In an unexpected but charming location, Vinegar Hill House is well deserving of it’s hype. The dish that stands out most in my memory is the thick cut pork chop that they roast in the wood burning oven.

The book will be released for sale on October 5th.

Watch the promotional video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7B5CSVuxUk

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