January 30, 2013

Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ

My friend Carlota invited me for a night of good food in Brooklyn, and we met up at Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ, a 2-minute walk from several trains in the Gowanus neighborhood. I've been disappointed in a LOT of BBQ spots that seem very popular in NYC, but Carlota assured me THIS one was worth the trip.

Fletcher's has an open kitchen plan, it smells like a woodsy, smoky, wonderful heaven, and the staff was surprisingly friendly when I walked in the door. They welcomed me and invited me to order a drink and have a seat at the bar (don't mind if I do! ) I was excited to see Long Island Wines on the menu, so I ordered a glass of Wolffer Estate Merlot ($9), which came in a small mason jar. Wolffer makes an excellent Merlot, I think! (Carlota had one of the Shinn Estate Vineyards' unoaked Chardonnays)

They also gave me some complimentary oyster crackers (the biggest ones I've ever seen) that were generously, spicily seasoned. These babies are SPICY...but tasty! I could only eat a few of them, but I thought the spicy smokiness was just lovely with the Merlot.

You order your meats & sides at the counter, and they serve them up on a tray. We didn't even bother with plates-- we just dove right into the goodness!

Carlota ordered the pork sandwich-- the pork on its own was smoky, juicy, and delicious on a soft roll. I think she added sauce later but it was great either way. Her side of cole slaw was just okay to me, but we know slaw isn't one of my 'things.'

We also had some of their cheesy, saucy macaroni and cheese. This was nice, smooth, almost bechamel-like. A small was enough for both of us, and I'd say, yeah, it was pretty good!

My dish, however, stole the show. It was the char-siu pork steak ($28/lb, my serving was 3 slices, around 1/4 lb), which had a marinade of hoisin sauce, ginger, honey and more. Wow. This was not just gorgeous (look at that pretty smoke ring around the meat!), but it was gorgeously flavored, tender, not dry at all. It comes with a special dipping sauce that was finger-licking-good, too. I could have eaten a lot more than three pieces!

Fletcher's isn't Cheap Eats territory (it was $26 pp for one glass of wine & our food), but I found it quite delicious, and the friendly service definitely puts it higher up on my list, too. Almost every worker chimed in about the delicious offerings and seemed genuinely passionate and interested in what they do there. Thanks to the gigantic red smoker (brought in from Texas, pictured below), the whole place smells wonderfully of burning wood and tangy flavors. You go home pleasantly sated (though not stuffed) and smelling great, too!

Fletcher's Brooklyn BBQ

433 3rd Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11215‎

(347) 763-2680

January 24, 2013

Shake Shack-- on Long Island!!

I was visiting ABF on Long Island (he taught me, tho I often forget, that you're never "in" Lawn Guyland, as I say it, you're ON it), running our standard (and beloved) run to Trader Joe's, when a familiar sign jumped out at me.

"There's a Shake Shack here!?" I practically yelped.

And out the window went our earlier dinner plans! Spontaneous AND delicious!

Unlike most NYC locations, there was no line snaking outside around the building. Just a few folks who were there for their very first Shack-sperience were ahead of us.

We waited just a few minutes at our repurposed table (deliciously hipsterish) before the buzz sounded-- yum!

I went for my usual (and I rarely have a 'usual' somewhere, but I do here.. or at least I did.. until now.) Shackburger (which is a single patty, cheese, and the Shack sauce, lettuce and tomato). Crinkly fries (my favorite!) to share with ABF, and an unsweetened iced tea.

ABF got the SmokeShack Burger-- single patty, Niman Ranch applewood-smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers, and, of course, ShackSauce.

Oh my word. This burger. I am getting it next time. The sting of the peppers (not painful, just perfect). The bacon. The everything-coming-together-awesomeness. Whoa. New favorite!

We squeezed in a small dessert-- half-sized Old Country Rocky Road concrete, which was chocolate custard, marshmallow sauce, chocolate truffle cookie dough, and almonds. Sound the trumpets! It was marvelous! The almonds were practically pulverized, deactivating any dental dangers. They were the perfect bit of crunch without putting any molars at risk. (Note: from the menu, "5% of the sales [for this dessert] go to Island Harvest, Long Island's largest hunger relief organization.")

I love that Shake Shack is so consistent from location to location, and I appreciated how friendly and welcoming everyone on the staff is. It's also one of the cleanest kitchens/dining areas I've ever seen.

We are SO going back there, and I'm getting the Smokeshack!

Shake Shack

860 Old Country Road

Garden City, NY 11530


January 18, 2013


A friend of mine was in town for business, and invited me to join him and some other media types for dinner. If you have to talk business, you might as well do it over some delicious food, amirite??

I suggested Avra, a restaurant known for Greek/Mediterranean style food, especially grilled seafood.

We started with fried calamari for the four of us to share. This was delicious. Tender, not too briny, and two great sauces. The green one had a lot of parsley and dare I say some anchovies? Yum yum yum.
We also all shared a piece of flaky, just-salty-enough spanakopita, or baked pyllo dough with spinach, feta cheese, and leeks. This was really good and had a great balance of pastry and filling.
We also ordered a bottle of Malbec: a 2010 Zuccardi from Argentina's Mendoza region. This was luscious and a great pick for everyone, especially considering our range of wine preferences.
Charcoal-grilled seafood is the specialty at Avra, so that's exactly what I ordered: grilled tsipoura (royal dorado), a nice, flaky white fish from the Mediterranean. They present it whole but deboned, and dress it only with some olive oil, lemon juice, and capers. Heaven. Sweet, seafood heaven.

I didn't know everyone that well at the table, so I held back from taking pictures of their dishes, but I knew the friend to my left quite well (back from our days in TV News), and he ordered the tuna tartare. I declined his offer to try it, but only because I was already stuffed.
(Okay, okay, I may have swiped a beet slice or two-- I love beets!)
The meal was fantastic, from the company to the service to the very last bite of food & drop of wine. You definitely need to make a reservation, but if you're anywhere near Avra, pop in for a taste of super-fresh charcoal grilled fish-- and a killer wine to match.

141 East 48th Street
New York, NY 10017
212 759-8550

January 17, 2013

Scotty's Diner

After a drinks-only Happy Hour with ABF (at a nice, cheap, cozy little dive bar), we were in dire need of some actual FOOD. Thank goodness Scotty's diner was a) right around the corner and b) open 24 hours!

Considering it was after 10pm at the moment, Scotty's was pretty busy! We sat immediately in one of the time-worn but clean booths.

We each ordered a burger-- "Texas" style for me (jalapenos and Monterey Jack cheese)with sweet potato fries and "California" style for ABF, with mushrooms and avocado--LOTS of avocado. These came out so fast I could hardly believe it--but wasted no time in diving in for a delicious bite!

They do NOT skimp on an avocado. He had more than half of an entire avocado on that burger--and it was perfectly ripe.

I liked my fries a lot-- even though ABF called them "soggy." That's exactly how I like mine! His fries were crispier, much more to his liking than mine.

My burger was perfectly medium, juicy, delicious, I ate every bite and every single tangy, pickled jalapeno!

We shared a piece of their carrot cake, which was incredibly tasty! It had this awesome layer of what I'd call a cheesecake mousse in the middle. Our server said that's the REAL New York carrot cake. I cannot confirm that, but I can confirm that it was pretty freaking delicious.

While ABF ordered a coffee, I ordered a hot chocolate, imagining it to be some standard, boring affair. Not so! It came in a fancy cappuccino glass with whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon-- delectable!!

Scotty's was a win for us. It's your basic diner that is the life's blood of many a city-- nothing fancy, but man, it was good! We also noticed local after local coming in for takeout (a few of them actually wearing PJs), so that gave me another vote of confidence. It's walking distance from Grand Central Station and the subways, so it's cheap, convenient, and came to our late-night rescue. Grab a pint nearby, then fill your belly here!

Scotty's Diner

336 Lexington Avenue

New York, NY 10016

(212) 986-1520

January 15, 2013

Dairy-free Hot Chocolate

I love how Pinterest makes me consider trying new ways of making old favorites! This time the spin is on a classic cup of hot chocolate.

And what better time than on a cold winter's day when the boiler in my building had (yet again) broken. That meant NO heat and NO hot water! The cats and I were FREEZING! INDOORS!

A lot of the recipes I found called for coconut milk, but I wasn't ready to make such a big change to an old standby just yet. I had some Trader Joe's unsweetened vanilla almond milk on hand, so that's the first one I tried.

I'm working more milk alternatives into my life lately-- not for any particular reason, really, but it's a nice bonus that almond milk has a ton fewer carbs in it compared to dairy milk. I am certainly not qualified to talk about hormones, blah blah blah, but almond milk seems like a nice simple substitute for the heavier cow's milk. Just ignore the silly grammatical error on the box (before "it's" time!?!?!? WRONG!!!)

[Okay--I thought about it.. maybe they meant they will milk no almond before IT IS time (to milk it)?]

I slowwwwwwly heated up the milk, then melted a half square of unsweetened chocolate into it, whisking as I went. Once it was warmed through, I sprinkled in just a smidge of Splenda to sweeten it. I sprinkled some freshly ground cinnamon into it and called it a day.

This came together in less than 5 minutes and was surprisingly good! Is it exactly the same as cow's milk hot chocolate? Of course not? It's not as thick and heavy, but it did have a strong chocolate flavor, just enough sweetness, and warmed me right up on a chilly January day. This was a great little experiment that turned out quite deliciously!

Do you have a favorite milk alternative? Let me know in the comments!

Almond Milk Hot Chocolate

(1 serving)

1 cup almond milk (unsweetened)

1/2 block of Baker's unsweetened chocolate ( you could use a few T of cocoa powder)

Splenda, to taste

Freshly ground cinnamon (dash or 2)

Slowly warm up milk in saucepan. Add the chocolate bar and let it melt, whisking as you go. Once the bar melts completely, remove pan from heat. Add Splenda & spices as you like them. Serve & enjoy!

January 09, 2013

Lexington Brass

Lexington Brass is attached to the Midtown East Hyatt 48 Lex hotel, where my dear friend BH was staying. The lobby of the hotel leads right into the bar/bistro, so there's no need to step out into the cold (and oh, was it cold that morning)! You can enter from the street, too, but we were feelin' fancy.

We sat at the gorgeous marble slab bar. Gorgeous. And roomy! Our server was welcoming and friendly, and quickly brought us drinks: a mimosa for BH (on the left in that first photo) and a bellini for me. Smooth, tart, just a touch of sweet--these were nice.

I start my day with a cup of coffee, though-- and they carry Stumptown Roasters at LB. What a wonderful cup of coffee! Rich, lush, not bitter at all. This was glorious.

We decided to get sweet & savory, starting with some scrambled eggs and lightly drizzled tossed greens (2 of my favorite things!) Eggs: perfectly cooked, sprinkled with herbs. Side salad--so, so good.

For the sweet, we ordered their challah french toast, which comes with a ginger orange syrup! That was fantastic. The syrup was bright, not-too-sweet, and really made the whole dish.

We also ordered some of their home fries, which were perfectly crisped and nicely seasoned, and a side of (chicken) sausage. The sausage was not my thing. It was cooked just fine, and BH liked it, but I didn't care for the flavor.

This was a delicious, delightful meal in an area that I don't normally visit. But it's close to lots of places-- a 10 minute walk to Rockefeller Center (where we later saw the Christmas tree), Times Square, minutes from Grand Central. It's a primo spot that I'd never have tried without my friend's invite. If you're staying at the Hyatt 48 Lex, it's a must-try for breakfast. Tourist-AND-local friendly, kind to the wallet, and a convenient corner spot, perfect for people-watching (one of the best things to do here in NYC)!

Lexington Brass

517 Lexington Ave

New York, NY 10017

(212) 392-5976

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