Tag Archives: brooklyn

Brooklyn Biscuit Tortoni: Born in Brooklyn, based in Florida, available at many fine dining establishments!

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tortoni When the chefs behind Brooklyn Biscuit Tortoni asked me if I would help them out by taste testing a few different versions of their product, I rolled up my sleeves, took a deep breath, and decided that out of the goodness and generosity of my heart, that I would grant them that favor. It is precisely moments like these that remind me of that cliche, “Do what you love and the money will follow.” While there isn’t paper money involved here per se, delicious tastes of dessert are worth way more than dollars as far as I’m concerned.

I grew up in New York, where it was common to see tortoni on just about every pizza place or Italian restaurant menu. The choice was usually tortoni, spumoni, or cannoli, and given the option of dried, candied fruit and nuts in spumoni (yuck) or ricotta cheese filling of a cannoli (Um, ew. Why would I want cheese and carbs for dessert after presumably eating cheese and carbs for dinner?), the choice was always clear to me. Add a single-serve sized paper cup that meant I didn’t have to share, a maraschino cherry and almond cookie crunchies on top and well, who could pass that up?

I didn’t realize until many years later that at some point I stopped seeing these delightful treats on menus. I didn’t even realize how much I missed them until this dessert duo brought it to my attention by offering me a taste of their version of this classic.

The first sample I had was creamy, cold, sweet, and sparked so many memories for me that I simply forgot to slow down and savor each bite. It was gone before I knew it and I was clearly NOT wearing my culinary taste-tester hat that day. I would definitely require another one to be able to give helpful feedback.

The second sample was a different story. I was mentally prepared to take small bites and really let all five senses tune in. The crisp cookie crumbles on top were my favorite part. They are blended throughout the cup giving a slightly granular feel and keeping that almondy flavor consistent from top to bottom. I saved the cherry for last, as I always do with any cherry-topped dessert, and it was a wonderful last juicy bite.

The taste is very similar to ice cream, but more like frozen custard with a slightly eggier quality to it. It’s sort of like someone melted one of those yummy, toasted almond, Good Humor popsicles, re-constituted it, used better quality ingredients, and then perfected that concept in a cup version. It was *almost* the perfect tortoni, but for me, someone who has a serious sweet tooth by the way, it was actually too sweet overall. Now that did not for one second mean that I left even one drop uneaten, it just meant that I actually had something other than a full rave to come back to the creators with.

And so, that brings me to the final version. The chefs tweaked the original recipe that they used by reducing the amount of sugar and the amount of crumbled almond cookies by nearly half. They brought me my third and final sample. The moment of truth. I used a small spoon so as better to slow my bites down and to allow me to savor every delectable taste. Now this is perfection. Creamy, sweet but not-too-sweet, crispy, almondy, cold, and just the right portion size (although I could admittedly eat 2 or 3 of these easily- I really shouldn’t).

This is a memory in a paper cup. A great memory…and now one that can live on in the present instead of only a distant past. Bravo!

You can have your own “creamy, dreamy, taste embrace” too! Find them at Mozzarella Fella, Solorzano, Don Giovanni’s and MANY more restaurants coming soon! Follow their Facebook page to see where they are going to pop up next! https://www.facebook.com/brooklynbiscuittortoni

And if YOU want to carry them in your restaurant, contact the chefs via their website for wholesale information:

http://www.brooklynbiscuittortoni.com/

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State Street Eating House: 1533 State St, Sarasota FL

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state st clam chowderstate st grilled lettuce state st grilled cheese

I was excited to finally visit State Street Eating House with my dad for lunch last week. I’ve walked past it a bunch of times and am always intrigued by the menu, the minimalist/industrial atmosphere and the young, hip crowd dines and drinks there. When we met on a Wednesday at 1:30, we were greeted by the owner- who I was sure (and turned out to be wrong) must be from Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It felt so familiar in a New York-y way, and everything about him from his persona to his plaid shirt and bow tie made me think of the Brooklyn hipsters I left behind when I moved to Sarasota last year.

We sat at a table and were brought menus and asked if we wanted tap or bottled water. We asked for tap, which we quickly realized was not going to cut it. The water was notably bad, as it often is in Florida, and we ordered a ($6!!) bottle of Evian instead. This turned out to be the ONLY thing about our experience here that we didn’t both love. We did, in fact, chat with the owner about it after our lunch and he was very open to hearing the criticism. He explained that they were expanding into the space next door and planned to add a filtration system. We also discussed his ideas about charging for bread and filtered water, which my father and I cautioned him against. We both agreed that we’d rather see price increases on the menu items to cover his costs there rather than charging extra for things that our society definitely expects to be included.

Anyway, back to the meal. We decided to order a bowl of soup, a salad, and a sandwich. We asked the waiter if he would ask the chef if he would split our three choices for us to share. When our food arrived, we were both pleased to see that the splits had been made. The portion sizes were STILL so large that I was surprised it was only ‘half’ on my plate and in my bowl. I liked the simplicity of the presentation and felt that it coordinated well with the decor of the restaurant. The way the ambiance, menu, staff and food all went together showed clear attention to detail and sophistication.

Our clam chowder had whole clams, chunks of potato, celery, little puffed crackers, and a creamy, smooth, not-too-thick base. It had a wonderful flavor that could only come from the fresh clams. The semi-thin consistency made it a lovely first course instead of the heavy, filling, appetizer that most chowders are.

Our salad and sandwich came out next, looking amazing. The salad was wonderful; Grilled lettuce hearts topped with ricotta salata and fried hearts of palm. It came with a side of bread, but I chose to leave it behind since the bread on the grilled cheese was already carb-indulgent enough. Well, ok. I did have one little bite of it, but it wasn’t different enough from the sandwich bread that I could justify it. The salad was tossed in a grainy mustard dressing that added texture and a little sharp bite to this creative salad. It was my own fault that I didn’t ask for the dressing on the side. I almost always do, but forgot this time. It was overdressed for my taste, but I still ate every bite and really enjoyed it. The classic grilled cheese sandwich was served on crusty sourdough, with thin slices of tomato. It was grilled perfectly and adorably topped with a green olive. Some creamy coleslaw came alongside of it, but was also a bit overdressed for my taste. I love cabbage, so too much mayo is always a disappointment.  The cheddar cheese was awesome; gooey, sharp and exactly the comfort food I’d expected.

Overall, aside from the bad tap water and overpriced bottled water, I thoroughly enjoyed this meal and restaurant. I would love to go back some evening after work for cocktails (they use craft liquors that add to inherently artsy quality) and snacks like the housemade pickles and mini lobster rolls on their snack menu. If you need a cool spot to meet a date or some friends, I think State Street Eating House makes a great choice.

Mozzarella Fella: 1668 Main St Sarasota, FL

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As a recent NYC transplant, when I read excellent reviews about a new sub shop in Sarasota, I do not take it lightly. When I find out that the owner is from Brooklyn, I take it even more seriously. When I see mouth-watering pictures posted on their well-maintained Facebook page, I start making my plans to go. Everything I’ve been reading about Mozzarella Fella has been a rave, and I am very happy to report that I agree. It’s a fantastic new addition to Main Street.

My father (who is also a Brooklyn native) and I met up yesterday for lunch and arrived to find a packed house. Apparently it has not taken long for people to catch on to the new hot spot for lunch, but the line moved quickly and they were actually ready to take our order sooner than we’d made up our minds. Everything on the menu was appealing, and the case of lasagna, meatballs and various prepared salads was gorgeous, with each dish looking better and better. I was in the mood for eggplant and had (If I remember right) 3 different eggplant-based subs to choose from.  I settled on the eggplant parmigiana sub and a half iced tea/half lemonade. My father was quickly sold on the special sub-of-the-day: veal cutlet with fresh mozzarella and marsala sauce. We placed our orders and went to sit at a 2-top to wait for them to be brought out to us.

About 10 minutes later, our sandwiches arrived wrapped in deli paper. My drink was forgotten and I decided to just go grab a bottle of water from the fridge instead of re-ordering it. I came back to unwrap my sandwich, which turned out to be a mozzarella, arugula, tomato and basil oil sub instead of the one I’d chosen. It actually DID look pretty awesome, but it was not what I’d ordered so I brought it back to the counter and told the owner, who was very apologetic and said she’d correct it right away. A little while later, she brought my correct sub along with the mistaken one- and it definitely made up for the error that she let me keep it to bring home for my honey. (who, incidentally, was quite pleased) In the end, I decided to eat half of each which was a great consolation. More to try! Both subs were excellent. The mozzarella is definitely the standout ingredient- SO creamy and somehow light and rich at the same time. The eggplant was crisp and not overly breaded. The bread has the most perfect consistency- both chewy and soft with a toothsome crust.

All that said, one bite of my dad’s sub and it was quickly obvious that the special of the day is no joke. Seriously. Next time, I’ll let the chalkboard decide what my order will be. WOW. This was unbelievable. The veal (which I don’t normally order) tasted so incredible that any animal-cruelty-related guilt quickly subsided. Sorry vegetarian friends. Sorry cute little baby cows. I’m sorry that you are so delicious.

It was tender, but with the most delicious, crispy, crust. The melty mozzarella on top dribbled down the sides and mixed into the savory marsala sauce with juicy, plump, sliced mushrooms. The crusty bread sopped up all of the extra sauce and cheese and worked both as a catchall and as a compliment. This was seriously one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had. It was, however, totally messy. My dad and I agreed that if you decide to eat there, it would be nice to have your lunch served on a plate instead of wrapped in paper. A paper plate would be fine, but the mess that eating on paper makes was kind of annoying.

Aside from the 2 little ordering errors with my overlooked beverage and my sub confusion, this place totally rocks. I am sure that they will get more and more efficient with the ordering and accuracy, but the food can’t possibly get any better. I will absolutely and positively be back, and hopefully by the time I return, reviews like mine and the soon-to-be-countless others won’t have made it completely impossible to get in.

Bravo Mozzarella Fellas! Welcome to Florida!

Paisano’s Italian Bakery: 2732 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota, FL

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This was the third and final stop on my father and my Gulf Gate area foodie tour today and the only one that didn’t blow us away. The case of goodies looks simply awesome when you first walk in, but I should have trusted my initial instinct about bakeries who put sprinkles on rainbow cakes. It’s just not right, and usually indicates that they don’t really know what they are doing. Beautiful cakes and cookies are nice, but if they don’t taste as good as they look I won’t be back.

We ordered rainbow cakes, (wrong consistency and flavor of the cake, chocolate that was too thick and kind of weird tasting, and the sprinkles, ugh)  biscotti (totally wrong texture, not hard or crunchy enough), an almond macaron (which was spelled incorrectly as a macaroon, which it definitely was not) and a raspberry linzer tart that was very sub par.

So yes, maybe I’m just a spoiled NYer with parents from Brooklyn who was lucky enough to grow up with access to some of the best cakes and cookies in the world, and maybe I should have turned and left when I saw the sprinkles (which, by the way I DO love on my ice cream but don’t want anywhere near my beloved rainbow cakes) but I didn’t. Oh well. Two out of three ain’t bad.

And yes, I will be eating salad for dinner tonight.

 

Dumont Burger: 314 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY

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Every eight weeks, my boyfriend I have what we call ‘blood donation and burgers day’. We try to eat pretty healthfully most of the time, so we REALLY look forward to our iron-replenishing meal and often decide well ahead of time where our next burger will take place. This time, we were VERY excited to try the famous burger at Peter Luger’s Steakhouse in Brooklyn. I’ve had the steak there and was dying to try the burger. Well, silly me, I totally didn’t think we’d need a reservation for a Sunday mid-day burger and I was very wrong. When we arrived and were told in a fairly snotty way that it would be at least 45 minutes, we decided to leave to go to Dumont Burger instead. I’ve had this burger before- but it had been a few years, and I remembered it being one of the best I’ve ever had. I also remembered the staff being super friendly and laid back, not at all like the hoity-toity Luger’s people.

When we got to Dumont and were warmly welcomed by the waitress, we had our choice of seats in the nearly empty restaurant. I should mention that by the time we left, the place was totally full, so I suppose it’s just hit or miss regarding wait times. We each ordered a burger (mine with a side of onion rings, and topped with gruyere and mushrooms and Gabriel’s with a side of fries, and topped with caramelized onions, bacon and gruyere) and a half and half (vanilla and chocolate) milkshake to share. The burgers came out quickly, with some of their housemade pickles on the side. I’d ordered my burger medium rare and it was more like medium well, or even well done. There was no red or pink anywhere in sight and I was a little annoyed but didn’t want to send it back because I was starving. Other than that, I have no complaints at all. The burger is on a delicious brioche bun, with melty cheese and meaty mushrooms and was totally delicious. The onion rings were perfect, not too greasy, but hot and crisp. The fries that came with G’s burger were also awesome. Our milkshake, though not quite as out-of-this-world as I’d remembered, was quite good and creamy- but not very sweet. I did LOVE that it was so thick that the straw could stand straight up in it. As far as I’m concerned, if you don’t get light-headed trying to suck up a milkshake with a straw, it’s simply too thin.

As good as the food was, with a bill over $40, I felt this was really overpriced. I’d be happy to pay that much in a nicer, more comfortable setting, but to sit atop bar stools in a dark, drafty, small restaurant seemed a little ridiculous. I think their prices should be much lower than they are…or the seating should be much more comfortable.

After lunch, we stopped by Dumont-to-go next door intending only to get a hot cup of coffee. When we realized that they make homemade donuts to order, we felt it was really quite important that we fill in any remaining empty spots in our stomachs with fried dough and sugar. On the suggestion of the cashier, we ordered the cinnamon donuts with dulche de leche sauce and the plain donuts with chocolate sauce. They are tiny and polishing off 2 each took about 30 seconds. We both preferred the cinnamon/dulche combo over the others. The chocolate ones would have been about a million times better if the sauce had been warm- but a piping hot donut with cold chocolate sauce seems somehow wrong to me and left a bit to be desired. I’d recommend stopping by for these anyway, especially on a chilly day when a little extra fat and carbs will feel like a big hug. Enjoy!

Song: 295 Fifth Ave. Brooklyn (Park Slope), NY

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I was in Park Slope for a rehearsal today and some band mates and I decided to go have lunch afterwards. We were pointed to this restaurant by the one person in the band who lives in the area, and since we all love Thai food we gave it a try. At 3pm on a Friday, it was relatively empty with only one or two other tables full. We were seated right away in the sleek, minimalistic atmosphere, and I noticed the great patio in the back with very cute ,colorful, printed pillows. It was a little too hot to sit out there, but on a cooler day it looked pretty awesome.

The menu was fairly typical Thai fair. The lunch entrees were all under $10, incredibly fair for a meal that was really above average.

The service was casual, friendly and fast. The kitchen is open, allowing for a view of the chefs and the flames as they made our meals.

We got a calamari appetizer for the table, which was lightly tempura battered and fried. Not at all greasy, and with a sweet and sour mango dipping sauce that went over very well. So well, in fact, that after we polished off the calamari and made it down to the bed of romaine that it sat on, we continued using the lettuce to dip until the sauce bowl was clean.

I had a Tom Yum Koong soup and a small salad with tofu and peanut sauce and everything was excellent. The soup had the perfect combo of tangy and spicy, and the shrimp and cilantro were fresh and flavorful. The salad was crisp and cold, with a few strips of fried tofu on top. The peanut sauce was an especially good one and I kind of wished I had ordered a bigger salad so I could keep using it.

If I’m in the area again craving Thai, I will definitely go back. Check it out!

Buttermilk Channel: 524 Court Street. Brooklyn, NY

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Ah Buttermilk Channel. I’ve been meaning to visit you for SO long. Ever since I read the rave reviews in countless magazines and blogs and then found out that an old friend who I grew up going to summer camp with is the owner, I’ve been meaning to get there. It took me way too long to finally go and when the 3rd annual random friends brunch came around (a little party I throw every year where I post an open invite on my facebook wall and the first 10 to respond join me in the fun) I thought this was the perfect pick.

When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by Doug’s (the owner) awesome wife and drink orders were taken while they got our table ready. My spicy bloody mary, complete with a homemade pickle spear, hit the spot. I LOVE horseradish, and this drink was bold and flavorful with a serious kick to it. The pickle was a cute, creative touch, so much more interesting than the typical piece of celery.

When we were seated, Doug was kind enough to send over some snacks to munch on while we drank, got acquainted, and looked over the menu. As you can see by my first picture, we were hungry. We chowed down on the treats way too quickly for me to remember to snap a picture. What you see there are the remnants of homemade pickles, walnut coffee cake and these incredible maple, bacon almonds that I seriously would have eaten all of if I wasn’t supposed to share with the others. Deeeeelicious.

The menu is a bit quirky, totally comfort-food oriented, and what I’d call down-home-creative. The big hit at the table were the pork chops over cheddar waffles, but everyone enjoyed their own meals as well. I shared the mushroom, spinach, goat cheese scramble and the pecan french toast. The scramble was awesome, especially the many different kinds of mushrooms, and I really enjoyed it. The salad and toast that came with it rounded out the meal nicely, but the little potato pancake was a bit on the greasy side for my taste. Very crunchy and hot though, and I’d imagine that people who didn’t grow up in Jewish families who make outstanding potato latkes would probably have loved it. The pecan pie french toast has been talked about on almost every review I’ve read so I felt like we had to try it. It was VERY sweet, made with fresh, delicious, thick-cut bread and served with a scoop of fluffy whipped cream or marscapone, or maybe whipped ricotta (oops, I forgot to ask) and covered with bourbon, molasses pecans. This dish WAS delicious, but I would really put it into a dessert category instead of a main course. I happen to have a pretty serious sweet tooth, and this was even a little too much for me.

The overall vibe of Buttermilk Channel couldn’t be more perfect. Hip, without being at all pretentious. Trendy, but also very chill. Relaxed, comfortable, warm, and the kind of place that locals must adore meeting at every Sunday. It’s a bit off the beaten path for me- over an hour to get there, but even so, I will probably be back. Many thanks to Doug for making this event super special, taking such good care of us, and welcoming us into his second home.

 

*photos courtesy of Gabriel Sanders. http://www.magicsandbox.com/enter/Magic_Sandbox.html