an urban lifestyle + travel blog by liz norment.

Category: FOOD

westlight at the william vale

Where to Eat | Westlight, at the William Vale

in FOOD
North Williamsburg has become a place for tourists. It’s the meat packing of Brooklyn, I cringed overhearing someone say, but then have found myself saying too many times. so where do we find ourselves among the noise? We don’t hide from it, we need to find a way to embrace it. to get above it. to be part of it because if not, well… I guess we all move to Maspeth.
And the best way to get above it? From 22 stories up, where you’ll see all the chaos below in its best light. at Westlight, Chef Andrew Carmellini’s loungey love child atop the William Vale hotel.
let’s face it, we’re all seeking a heightened dining experience, whether it’s so local it’s from the farm you’re seated within, a secret supper club that encourages guests to strip down to fully appreciate the raw and vulnerable dishes being served, or a multi-sensory adventure that allows you to touch, smell, hear, and taste while completely blindfolded… Westlight brings you an equally heightened experience while avoiding gimmicks and staying grounded and true to what’s best about food in New York, even while being way way above it. The cuisine is inspired by street food, which makes me wonder what streets Andrew Carmellini has been eatin’ on, because these tapas-like plates have been reinvented with a fresh, edgy flavor combinations with a relentlessly seasonal appeal. it’s made for sharing, so go with friends, stay through sunset, pair with cocktails and experience the best thing to come up in North Williamsburg.
When the elevator door opens on the 22nd floor, it feels nearly like being transported in time. the interior of Westlight brings a nostalgic feeling of old New York cocktail bars. With a distinct art deco inspiration, you feel like you should be smoking and listening to some jazz-age seductress on a fuzzy microphone and making lustful promises and dangerous business deals in equal proportions. Outside, the stunning skyline views and uncompromised look into the heart and soul of Brooklyn create the ambience from the glass-walled terrace. Free binoculars allow you to finally see into the clear glass apartments of all the fancies who have moved into your ‘hood. oh and of course, Westlight offers absolutely impeccable views of the sunset, nightly.

 

what not to miss.

cocktails
the dolores royale, which is how my night started and i think perhaps led to a bit of the demise. it was dangerous and smokey but felt like a conversation with a good friend. bright, familiar, and you wanted it to never end.
 
wine
admittedly and unabashedly i had a few glasses of rose and a few (or mose) glasses of the cave. both were refreshing, crisp, and paired perfectly with sunset and absolutely everything we had. because should sharing foods be paired with bubbly, happy wines? yes, of course they should. and you can’t go wrong here.
   

 

food
tequila-cured salmon
this was my favorite dish out of the 4, and not just because i recognized immediately that tequila is of course the cure for everything so i was sure it does salmon oh-so-right. every single bite of this dish was perfectly balanced, avocado and caviar and raw salmon. it made me not want to share although, i’m never one to forget my manners. i painfully took my turns while yearning for more.
  
shrimp cocktail dumplings
Now I’m not a fan of shrimp cocktail. I find it tacky and painfully uninventive and I hate how people in the south react to it. “Oh, and they had shrimp cocktail!” as if to offer some vindication for mary-jo’s shameless stock-the-bar the backyard cookout. These rubbery little crustaceans all sit there, socializing smugly around a proverbial pool of glorified ketchup. ugh. However, the shrimp cocktail dumplings put skrimps in their proper place; folded into delicate bite sized dumplings and spiced to perfection and dipped into a fine little soy ginger sauce. They were a delight.

 

westlight at the william vale

seasonal ceviche
a new addition to the menu, this dish was light and fresh and perfectly mixed with locally seasonal vegetables. and it reminded me inevitably how great it is to be surrounded by water and by so so many coastal areas with absolutely impeccable seafood.
 westlight at the william vale

how not to miss it

Westlight is located at 111 N. 12th st. 22nd floor.
Sun-Wed 4pm-midnight
Thurs-Sat 4pm-2am
Happy Hours – all of them.

 

the last bite 

the westlight paints northern williamsburg in its best light, showing that the best way to combat gentrification is to be above it. elevate your dining experience and realize that change should be embraced and with food and views this sweet, it’s oh-so-easy to embrace it.

 

westlight at the william vale

<3L.

el born greenpoint

El Born, Greenpoint | Where to Eat

in CULTURE, FOOD

this catalan outpost on manhattan ave is a destination for authentic tapas, old world wines and new age cocktails, and is quite simply my favorite restaurant in brooklyn the entire city. the name el born references the edgy and colorful neighborhood in the south of Barcelona that relentlessly attracts artists, musicians, and dreamers to its narrow streets, quaint bars, and unsuspecting restaurants… not unlike our own burgeoning northern point of Brooklyn. is it a coincidence that the coordinates on my wrist point exactly to a park in the very barrio of el born in barcelona, and that this restaurant opened on my block the week I moved back from Spain? nope. I was (el) born to exist in this restaurant at least weekly while my heart resides daily across the pond.

IMG_3892

the charming dueña elena, a barcelona transplant, has built an exemplary staff led by head chef alberto “talento” and a handful of dashing camareros with heavy hands, kind smiles and who are particularly easy on the eyes. her husband playing flamenco guitar makes the whole operation feel like a quaint family affair.

this restaurant embodies everything about food and culture of Barcelona that I can’t get enough of, plus has madrid‘s beer on tap, all day and all night. add to that a killer brunch deal on the weekends, live flamenco guitar on sundays and wednesdays, paella specials on mondays, two-for-one gin and tonics on thursdays, and every single day a friendly staff, perfect ambience, and patatas bravas that kick sergi arola’s out of the water, and i can personally attest to that.

so vamos, ahora. (I’m probably already there)

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Peach Cobbler, from a Southern Kitchen in Brooklyn.

in FOOD
peach cobbler should only be trusted from the hands of someone from the south. somene who has spent time in georgia, someone who has shamelessly stopped so many times on family road trips at the big peach in south carolina, someone who isn’t afraid of butter or telling you exactly why her peach cobbler is the best.
and mine, of course. is the best.
i have always approached peaches with such revelry. these volatile little fruits are rarely perfect but when you bite into one and know, yes, this will be the best peach of the season, there’s no better gift.
i came across this little piece written years ago, by peach-loving, high-school liz, about my love for the finnicky, fuzzy little fruits:
people think of me when they think about peaches.
they give me peaches, my whole life they have.
they tell me about peaches they’ve recently eaten.
and I love peaches, I do.
but I don’t think I ever blatantly say that I love peaches.
maybe it’s in the way I speak of them how I experience them, the closed-eyed deep inhale I give each one before I pierce the soft skin and sink my teeth into the juicy flesh.
so odd, that I am compared with such a small, sweet, seasonal little fruit.

 

and now,

the recipe. 

 

ingredients
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced.
1 1/2 – 2 cups sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruits you have chosen.
1/2 cups of water
8 tablespoons of butter, salted
1 1/2 cups of flour
1 1/2 cups milk
cinnamon (preferably form burlap and barrel in brooklyn)

 

what to do with the ingredients
  1. preheat oven to 350 degrees (it’s going to get damn hot, if you live in brooklyn and only have a/c in select rooms. think of this as a great opportunity to sweat out your hangover. you know you have one.)
  2. combine peaches, 1 cup of the sugar, and water into a saucepan. bring to a boil and let simmer for 10 minutes. remove from heat.
  3. melt butter. (gotta be honest, i really enjoy doing obnoxious paula deen impressions while i’m melting butter. inspiration here.)
  4. mix together the remaining sugar, flour, and milk.
  5. pour melted butter into a 3-quart baking dish and pour or spoon the flour mixture over the butter. do not stir.
  6. spoon fruit on top.
  7. sprinkle with cinnamon.
  8. bake for 30-45 minutes, until batter is cooked and everything ie smelling really fucking heavenly in that hot little apartment kitchen.
  9. serve with vanilla ice cream.
  10. realize that all of your sins have been forgiven.
 <3L.
camperdown elm, park slope

Camperdown Elm, Greenpoint | Where to Eat

in FOOD
getting off the 7th avenue stop in south park slope, i followed the directions to 7th and15th street. before entering camperdown elm, i looked around the block. this looks super familiar , i realized immediately. i saw the cross streets and texted my friend, “didn’t you used to live on this block?” i asked, sending her a picture of the new resturant, with the cross street signs in the background. “i think?” she said. “i mean that’s definitely it!” we both tried to figure out briefly what was there before, what the block had looked like, how the neighborhood had been. I had brief visions of us dancing in some bar, maybe across the street? and my farewell party on her rooftop, it was just there i think? she’d moved away 4 years ago, which of course in rapidly-gentrifying brooklyn neighborhoods is basically a lifetime. this is the reality of life in our borough. change is the only constant (that and the rats), and we’re left standing in front of a new juice stand/artisan butchery/bao bar/tapas spot wondering what the hell was there before.
camperdown elm, however, has slipped into the neighborhood seamlessly. staying true to the integrity of the space, both the interior and exterior of reinvented space has maintained the historic architecture of what must be a 200-year old building; original tiled floor and ceiling in nearly perfect condition, the evening sun alight and alive through stained glass above the door, a raw, a tangible and exposed brick wall behind the bar, and perceptively  compelling minimalist decor… even its name pays homage to its neighborhood roots, named after the infamous and seemingly endless elm tree in neighboring prospect park.
the interior of camperdown elm captured by @asphotonyc
the experience already felt nostalgic, a bit like somewhere that had been there all along…
until, that is, the food came.
camperdown elm is providing an explosion of flavors, textures, spices, and bold new dishes that create an experience that is anything but familiar. it’s intriguing, it’s ambitious, it’s bold and oh-so-good for the soul. like both your first and last lover.
head chef Brad Willits hails from indian river, florida and thus inevitably concentrates on a seafood-centric menu, and my distinctively-curated virginia palate recognized and celebrated so many below-the-mason-dixon-line flavors. my favorite among a standout crowd of appetizers was the country ham on corn gunny cakes with a blueberry jam adhesive. its taste was gave me the feeling of the one kid from a small town who goes to college and comes back for christmas break for the first time. recognizable, familiar, but in a different package and one that every one in town wants a piece of.
camperdown elm park slope
the mood and atmosphere felt celebratory and charged. “we open tomorrow,” the bartender told me, eyes alight as she poured me another glass of sparkling.
the next course were fresh, briney oysters with a muffled-tropical minionette of pickled kiwi; the seasonal and subdued sweetness perfectly washed down the salty bivalves. next, a crisp squid ink rice cracker floated by, topped with a light mackeral pate, neither of which was overbearing; suspiciously un-fishy. then, small grilled cucumber slices wearing fancy ikura hats came along… and top of the evening to you dear sir! i said, eating it before any response was to be heard. finally a bold ending to the appetizer parade, a bundle of fried muffins with house made butter that reminded me of hush puppies in the loudest of ways.
seasonal oysters at camperdown elm, captured by @asphotonyc
the wine list, curated by nacho monclus from Spain is spanish-centric which is oh so perfect for this little hispanophile. my glass stayed full of dry, expressive cava for the appetizers and switched to an endless, filterless, raw, biodynamic red from Andalusia, which was pasisonate and alive for the stellar main courses.
the grandmasters of the parade consisted of a seasonally festive interpretation paella that more than stood up to its spanish ancestor.. which is something i wouldn’t say lightly. the next course, a hearty d’artagnan rib eye steak served nearly rare with a secret signature camperdown sauce that was almost more of an aus jous (god i hate that word. ugh.) and was perfectly paired with broccoli rabe atop a light cauliflower mash, just to make momma proud.
photo by @asphotonyc
at this point in the evening I was pleasantly full and admittedly tipsy, buzzing with energy and networking like a busy little blogger bee. I was joking lightly with the team from Bklyner when I saw dessert coming out… oh no, I thought. there was no way i had room for dessert, especially because i admittedly had seconds, thirds, fourths of any appetizer that came around as many times. come on! i’m a poor starving blogger. i was simply proud i didn’t slip any of it into my bag. (though i thought about it, trust me.)
i had no room for dessert, but I remembered that when i entered into this event, a bit nervous and slightly late, i introduced myself to Karly at the door and she told me to get some wine and then, earnestly, grabbed my arm and said, “save room for dessert.”
i hadn’t done it, karly. i had no more room. but i had promises to keep and so when the delicate little squares of (what else from a floridian!) key lime pie came around, i took one. i forced my mouth open. i slipped it in.
sweet jesus almighty.
what was this? made not from key limes but from sea buckthorn, which was some sort fo magical, imported berry. all of the tangy tartness expected from key lime pie was silenced into a beautiful symphony of sweet and sour and slightly salty, bold and seductive flavor.
i had 3 more.
i ate three more of these magical delicacies because a taste like that, you take as much as you can without hesitation. because you just don’t know when or if it will come to you again, just as the sweetest and most seductive of lovers so often tease and elude us.
and after another glass of wine or two, i found myself interviewing the talented and remarkably approachable chef brad willits and taking a few pseudo-portrait photos of him in the best light i could find, conversing about the magic that goes into every menu, every night, every plate.
chef brad willits, captured by @asphotonyc
i walked out into the beautifully moonlight night aloft and fulfilled, and to be honest, i was left rather dumbfounded, wondering how exactly i got here. obviously, i arrived by the finnicky little G train, but how did i start getting invited to restaurant openings, discussing flavour (<— yeah look at me, i’m using the fancy spelling of things now.) palates with food critics and influencers. did they know that i couldn’t exactly afford dinner tonight? but i knew, honestly, that this was exactly what i’d been working toward for the past 2.5 years since i started my blog. working, writing, networking, writing, planning, writing, outreaching, writing writing writing.
this. my perplexed elation matched that of every taste that i put into my mouth. ambitious and nostalgic, unexpected yet deeply appreciated. a food and life experience that felt elevated yet rooted, and one that no doubt will continue to grow.
oh camperdown elm, i have no doubt that these roots run deep and that you will bloom with every season, on every night, upon every plate with no hesitation. chance favors the bold and there’s no chance that these flavours won’t emerge into the stunning, metamorphic institution that the neighborhood has been seeking yet didn’t know it deserved.
  

 

 

what not to miss
oysters with seasonal mignonette, country ham and gunny cakes, grilled octopus, d’artagnan rib eye, and that damn pie.
how not to miss it

441 seventh avenue at 15th st.
sun-thurs 5-10pm
fri-sat 5-11pm
(brunch happening soon)
camperdownelm.com
@camperdownelmnyc

chez ma tante, greenpoint

Chez Ma Tante, Greenpoint | Where to Eat

in CULTURE, FOOD
making the case for french canadien cuisine, with a distinctly british influence, in Greenpoint.
now don’t you dare read that and start thinking about poutine. don’t go there, don’t do it. let’s all deliberately and culinarily reset our understanding of French Canadian cuisine, and I’ll tell you where to do it.
chez ma tante, greenpoint’s new hotness, will help stretch your understanding and cleanse your palate of what you understood as “french-canadien”.
the name itself serves as an alibi. literally translating to “my aunt’s house” it’s the flat response you give when someone asks you where you were, where you’ve been, and perhaps what you’ve been doing at a place that perhaps you don’t wish to divulge. “chez ma tante” you say with a smirk. “i was at my aunt’s house,” and trust me, once you try their food, it’s a little secret you just might want to keep to yourself.
i’ll let you in, though, despite my inclinations to keep this quiet. provided that you listen to me. I mean it, lean in and listen close. they are making the best steak tartare in north brooklyn. and I’m only setting geographical boundaries here because i haven’t tried all the steak tartare in all of brooklyn, but I can say with confidence, holy shit.
tartare at chez ma tante, greenpoint
photo captured by hannah armstrong, @hannahea88
(holy shit)
there is no raw egg to run amok upon the terrain of thinly chopped beef, but it doesn’t seem to require it. this dish is delicate and powerful with a perfect balance of brine. with some sort of whipped magic beneath that I kind of wanted to spread all over my face. I mean, I wasn’t going to because this place is inoffensively refined, but I imagined putting it all over my face. twice.
oysters at chez ma tante in greenpoint
photo by hannah armstrong, @hannahea88
what followed this preposterously well-balanced dish was a taste of the country pate, and 6 oysters with a light parsley mignonette, perfectly paired with a sparkling white bourdeaux. the entire experience felt indulgent, as if, perhaps, i did need an alibi.
just over 4 weeks old, chez ma tante has been generating plenty of hype in the hood and beyond our blurred little boundaries. they moved into the old jimmy’s, which, ok, did pull at my heart strings a bit, but any tinge of nostalgia quickly dissipated with my first sip of my Dorothy Parker negroni amid the delicate lighting and vintage minimalist decor, and I swear not a trace of the former occupants, with their syrupy stickiness and bottomless coffee remnants, were to be found… although this canadien natives affinity for maple has found it’s way subtley into a handful of the recipes.
photo by hannah armstrong, @hannahea88
no part of my time at chez ma tante didn’t charm the pants off of me (good thing I wear only jumpsuits) (I’m serious, i only wear jumpsuits). it felt both lavish and clandestine, as most good things in life are. i learned also thet chez ma tante is the name of a hot dog stand in Montreal that the owner is particularly fond of.  And I like anyone who likes hot dogs shamelessly enough to open a restaurant named after a stand, and then peddle perfectly poised plates rather than weiners.
they’ve had a full house every night so trust me, so get in there quick. because the answer you want on your lips come Monday morning, when someone asks, where have you been?
chez ma tante. 
inoffensive refinement, approachable luxury, dynamic flavors, and a particularly delightful bathroom.
chez ma tante, greenpoint
photo captured by hannah armstrong, @hannahea88

 

what not to miss.
the steak tartare, the oysters, the country pate, the monkfish.
a dorothy collins negroni to start, a sparkling white bourdeaux to accompany the plates.
 
how not to miss it. 
wed-sat    5.30-11pm
sun           11:30–3pm, 5:30–10pm
mon, tues closed.
90 calyer st.

The Milky Whey | Cheese Making 101

in FOOD
summertime can have us slipping pleasantly into long days of sunshine and sangria, letting our tanned skin and overbooked social agenda tease us into complacency.
intead let’s balance this summer’s bounty with a bit of learning. our name is farm is teaming up with agritecture this summer to offer some amazing classes in food production and susatinable farming that will leave you inspired and, well … what’s that they say about teaching a man to fish? check out their list of offerings here and read about my experience below.
I spent last night learning the deceptively simple art of cheese making at The Milky Whey event, along with a little wine tasting tutorial, that left my mind stretched as far as my mozarella ball, imagining how i will use my newfound skills (for good of course, not evil), and thirsty for more wine and wine knowledge, and then wine again.
while the event was focused on cheese making, it ended up being a beautiful collaboration between so many amazing and inspiring food-related creators in brooklyn. it was hosted at blue planet consulting, a space and project dedicated to the design, implementation, and operation of urban agriculture projects. we were greeted upon arrival by a beautiful spread of meats from mangalitsa, a pork producer located upstate and dedicated to breeding pork slowly to enhance its incredible natural flavors. their products have been called “the kobe beef of pork” a nickname i can 100% attest to its accuracy. the charcuterie was complemented by a variety of foccaccia from simon’s breads, the beautiful passion project of simon bowden. we sipped moscow mules from bruce cost ginger ale, and got slowly and pleasantly tipsy with no extra additives or flavors. which of course, means no unnecessary hangovers. at the table, we snacked on bright, red, juicy tomatoes from stone ridge farm, sprinkled with zesty sumaz from burlap and barrel, enhancing the sweet summertime flavor while educating us on  the importance of getting back to the roots (or barks, or branches, or seeds) of spices. the cheese lesson began with a bit of history on cheese from janine the cheese teacher.
It was janine’s honest expertise and approachable demeanor made the lesson feel less initmidating. the most important thing, she taught us, is to use good quality dairy, which was provided to us by five acre farms and was, well, the cream of the crop.
as we dove in fingers-first to the bowls of curds. two things in particular blew my mind, even beyond having mozarella materialize from my fingertips.
1. legend has it that cheese was discovered by accident, when some true urban fashionistas carrying gunny sacks made of stomachs (yep.) tried to transport their milk. pouring it into these belly bags, an enzyme left inside it from… well, the bags’ original owners, if you will, curdled the milk and it was dead and spreadable upon arrival.
2.do you know what burrata is? other than pure magic? burrata is ricotta inside of mozarella. HOLY SHIT. i mean, of course it is, but when a cheese maker is making both ricotta and mozarella in front of you and then describes the beautiful, magical dance of creation that must happen to marry the two, my mind was racing and my mouth was watering. i feel like every time i have had burrata and sensually cut into it, letting it ooze delicately over the plate, for a minute i think, what are you, burrata? and then my curiousity is depleted as soon as the buratta hits my mouth and the whole thing is over before i know it and i’m only left feeling curiously satisfied.
after the mozarella balls were created and brined, shannon westfall, founder of vinfluence led a wine tasting curated around the very fresh cheeses we were enjoying, that perfectly complemented the fruits of our labor. shannon works with only small winemakers that are producing sustainable wines. she especially favors female vintners, and has built a dynamic repertoire of varietals that aren’t sold in stores. check out her membership program and try to catch her at a wine tasting around brooklyn soon.
my experience yesterday was as uplifting as it was satisfying. i expected a cheese making demonstration and instead was filled with so much inspiration by all of these passionate people, working to share their love of food, wines, and farming and to live their best life. i sat around a communal table of writers, bloggers, chefs, and eaters, and i realized that i was invited because i am somehow considered their contemporary. i took in as much information and knowledge as i could between bites, because my head and my heart were as hungry as my stomach. admittedly, i don’t exactly have any money to buy groceries until my shift tomorrow. i was happy to leave satisfied with my mind buzzing with exictement, ideas, and inspiration.
do yourself a favor and check out the amazing collaborative events agritecture is hosting this summer. immerse yourself in sustainable agriculture, horticulture, viticulture, and this beautiful community of creators that will feed your body and soul.
le fanfare, greenpoint

Le Fanfare, Greenpoint | Where to Eat.

in FOOD
fan·fare – /ˈfanfer/

a lot of talk or activity showing that people are excited about something

isn’t that why you came here anyway? to hear my voice talking excitedly about places, events, movement, people, life, burrata.

for the fanfare.
and this restaurant embodies why we came here, to this city. le fanfare is a visceral experience that you’ll want to rave about. from the people who brought you Epistrophy in nolita, comes this charming italian spot in NoGreePo. the owners felt that greenpoint had the same cultural and artistic charm that nolita had 20 years ago, and after years of searching, they chose to open their only other restaurant right on manhattan ave, but far north enough that you aren’t bombarded by the new onslaught of edison bulbs and rustic chic small plates on slates.
they have live music wednesday to saturday, a charming backyard, inventive cocktails and progressive yet familiar italian cuisine. also, you can come have free apertifs in my backyard after your meal, because we’re neighbors.

le fanfare, greenpoint

 

what not to miss

cocktails.
my weapon of choice is the rosemary gin fizz, and the thyme margarita is equally refreshing and aromatic.
the burrata
It’s the best I’ve had in brooklyn, and you know I don’t throw superlatives like that around casually. served with seasonal veggies, pine nuts, and a drizzle of pesto, it’s all you can do to not climb onto the plate with it and let it slowly and wholly envelope you into its magic.
seared octopus
perfectly cooked, simply seasoned, and accompanied by it’s unlikely land friends the potato and the olive, this dish feels like a hug from four people at once. and trust me, that is something you want.
 
asparagus a la plancha
might sound crazy, but damn do they understand exactly how to honor the integrity of a vegetebal. and this is the most pristine and taste-driven example. comes with a soft-boiled egg cooked so perfectly, it makes one wonder the method
 
la pasta
when there is a pasta with duck and oyster mushrooms on a menu, there is little that will distract me. add house made pappardelle and you have a nearly perfect pasta dish. also the spahetti neri falls under the old adage “anything with squid ink, everything with squid ink” and they pull it off here perfectly balanced with mussels, green chile, and bottarga.
 
mains
the hanger steak and the chicken are each cooked to absolute perfection and rely on very little fanfare for their efficacy. stunningly simple and deliciously straightforward, they bring you back to the roots of italian cooking.
oh and the cannoli is made completely in house so save or find room. seriously.
best backyard in greenpoint, le fanfare

 

how not to miss it

tues-sat 5.30-1am
sun 5.30-midnight
live jazz wed-sat

<3L.

 

best restaurant in greenpoint
get in here.

Consider the Paella.

in FOOD
The final arrival of springtime immediately and unforgivingly followed by summertime here in the city means we will be doing all of the things we were forced to do inside, outside. dining al fresco. day drinking on patios, getting naked with strangers on rooftops.
To usher in this awakening, consider hosting a dinner party to welcome all the friends you forgot about during our urban hibernation, consider moving your kitchen table outside and having these friends all share in the sanctity Spanish sabores and sangria. consider awakening your brain cells as well as your taste buds by learning a new skill. i ask you, please, to consider the paella.
I seek here to expose the realities of paella making. This is an intimidating dish that should be approached with. caution, however it deserives a place on your table, a titillating dance around your mouth, a permanent residence in your heart.
step 1
forget your dignity. you are nothing compared to the paella. forget everything you once knew about cooking. forget those comforting ratios you memorized about rice. forget it.
rice is no longer a grain- rice are tiny mutants with PHDs and white coats. they are smart, they are sneaky, and they are insulated. and prepared not to give up a damn thing, come hell or high water.
step 2
realize that this is a lost cause. you will be let down. you will be upset. your friends will become liars as they choke down your creation. this will likely ruin your day and you will be left with no food, so have a pizza number at the ready.

 

step 3
thus, find hungry, happy people. hungry people will eat the food you create no matter what soggy state it is in. happy people are less likely to be the kind you blame for your mistakes.
step 4
the pan- the pan is also called a “paella”. do not say “pealla pan”- this is incorrect. i have no idea, but i would imagine that this evolved from someone saying, “oh yeah, for the dinner party? i’ll bring the paella!” and then after hours of utter chaos in the kitchen, they threw it out in a fit of rage, washed the pan, and showed up with it and attempted to call the host’s bluff- “this is a paella.”
anyway. the pan. should be shallow, round, wide. with two handles that screw into the sides. it’s thin, which adds to the volatility of the dish. it has exposed screws, which are used to measure the stock added which allows a much too large margin of error in a 24” pan, which is very likely what could screw your over. in addition to everything else. anyway, they are cheap and beautiful and can double as pie pans, pizza pans, casoulets, cymbals. symbols of your own insufficiency. i only buy mine from latienda.com who sources there’s directly from valencia, home of the paella.
step 5
learn a bit of history about the dish to leave your guests satisfied with new knowledge if nothing else.
paella? weird word, right? well. now, rumor has it (this absolutely has not been researched, i just heard it from a spaniard and I believe most things Spanish men say. and I will simply leave it at that.)
Back in the days when our social status was primarily determined by meats, rabbit was considered poor mans fare. As the story goes, a hunter shot a rabbit in the woods. His buddy was like, “yo what’s the deal man? I thought you said that new … was going well! I was about to invest in it!!”
“Oh no no no, you mean this” pointing at the limp little conejo. “This is para ella,” he said, referring to his wife. “I don’t know why, it’s para Ella” for her. it’s for her, she requested it. we aren’t poor, my wife wants it for some reason. A dish named to cover up shame. Ironic, given it’s bubbling and thick determination to display mine…
The hunters wife put into to a rice dish that became the paella we know today.
VOILA! they’ve forgotten they are hungry!
Ok now here’s the recipe, and the process.
Ingredients 

Paella Spice

4 tsp cumin

4 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp saffron threads (optional)

For the Sofrito
2 red bell peppers, chopped.
2 green peppers, chopped.
1 spanish onion, chopped.
1 very ripe tomato, peeled and grated.
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp paprika
1 cup of white wine

5 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp saffron threads (optional)

 
Everything Else
5 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 cups sliced chorizo (ok this is a point of contention, because one should never mix land and sea creatures in the paella… but… i keep the chorizo.)
seafood medley! i like monkfish, shrimp (peeled, de-veined with tales on), mussels, and clams.
2 1/2 cups bomba (or calasparra) rice
2 Tbsp olive oil

 

Instructions

for the spice, grind all spices together with a mortar and pestle.

you have now done the spice.

for the sofrito, chop peppers and onions and blend together in a food processor. heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in pan. add garlic and saute until slightly browned. add pureed veggies and paprika. let simmer and stir frequently. add white wine and 1/4 tsp of saffron if using. simmer 15-20 minutes or until it has reduced by half. (you can make this ahead and keep for 2 days in the fridge.)

in a separate sauce pan, heat the stock and add 1/2 tsp of saffron threads. let this simmer on low.

this is the part when you should preheat the oven to 450F, but resist the urge to use it.

heat the paella (pan) on medium to med-low heat. (ps this should measure 12″ across, or you’ll be swimming in paella.) add the remaining 3 Tbsp of oil and 3 Tbsp of garlic. saute 2-3 minutes. add the chorizo. smellin’ real good now, huh? cook for 4-5 minutes or until the fat is rendered and chorizo is slightly browned.

VERY important – constantly turn the pan IF heat isn’t evenly distributed. do not stop doing this the entire time.

season the fish (cut into chunks) with salt and pepper. add to pan and saute 2-3 minutes, on all sides.

ok, take a deep breath. add the rice. stir well and saute for 2-3 minutes until you see the outside getting just slightly translucent. look through the rice, into its soul. ask it, silently- what do you want, rice? what is it that you want from me?

no matter what it says, give it the spice next. all of the spice. stir well and coat. now add the sofrito. stir enough to spread evenly and let it all settle in before bringing to a boil. let it boil for a few minutes before reducing the heat and keeping the paella at this almost boiling point. bring your face close to the paella often. do not burn the paella. do not burn the paella. do not burn the paella.

keep turning the pan.

arrange your chosen mariscos (seafoods!) in a pleasing pattern. this might be the only satisfying part of your experience, so enjoy it. they should resemble synchronized swimmers in a pool of wonderous sofrito beauty.

keep turning the pan.

cook until it feels right. all water should be absorbed. the paella should be thick, the rice healthy. the mariscos opening their hearts to you. IF you must, put into the oven. regardless, just before you are ready to turn the stove off, turn up the heat to medium high. listen for the crackling rice on the bottom to crystallize. this is a HUGE risk but it is the most sacred part of the paella, the socarrat. you must try.

Helpful Tips
turn the oven on, but do not submit to the oven. try not to submit to the oven. The goal here is to cook the entire paella on the stove, or on a grill if you’re lucky enough to have one at your disposal (guess who does!)  here are some tricks that might help, depending on what needs to be sovled. if there is residual absorbed but rice is already cooked, turn burner on low and place a dish towel over the entire pan. water will be absorbed into the towel so as not to cause the rice to get soggy, and (sauce?) will thicken. if there is not enough water left and rice still hadn’t cooked fully, place newspapers over the paella. This will encourage no water to escape while the rice still cooks.
now serve. enjoy.
or, order pizza.
buen provecho mis amores!

<3L.

 

how to cold brew.

in FOOD

it’s springtime. and that means that as temperatures rise our waking hours get a little later and our non-waking hours get a little nonwakier and we all have to go to work and pretend to be human beings. while listlessly gazing out the window into the sunshine and wishing we were napping in mccarren park.

because of this hot heat and no sleep and desperate need for caffeine phenomenon that is rapidly rising with the temperature, my coffee budget is also on the up and up. the hot percolator coffee from my stovetop or drip drip americana from the community office pot just isn’t refreshing. and while i’m proudly funding a new back patio at konditori on manhattan ave with my daily $4 cold brew purchase, it’s been eating into my budget for everything else.

and thus, enters, the you-do at home cold brew.

 

what you need

1/2 lb whole bean coffee (highly recommend gumpy’s, oslo, or stumptown)

bean grinder (or you can get it freshly ground when it’s purchased as long as you use right away)

a large bowl

cheese cloth (i had a little trouble finding this but they sell it at the garden on manhattan ave)

 

the magic

grind beans to a medium-course grind.

dump into bowl

fill bowl with water- water to coffee ratio should be about 3:1.

put the bowl in the refrigerator over night and wait. (you can sleep too if you want.)

remove bowl and strain liquid through cheese cloth.

enjoy, my friends. and now let’s go spend your savings on fun.

 

<3L.

The Brooklyn Oyster Happy Hour Guide

in CULTURE, FOOD
oysters. those gnarly little gems of the sea, upholding and beholding such complexity and daring not to let us in. lest we shimmy a little wedge or wedge a little shimmy inside just right so it unveils all of the magic and beauty inside. a delicacy, however, that we cannot enjoy in months without the letter R.
where, though, did this theory come from?
do i know the biological reason for this? nope.
could i find it in a simple and shallow google search? sure.
will i draw my own unnecessarily imaginative conclusion? #rhetorical
and that’s why you’re here anyway, isn’t it? not to hear scientific facts of regurgitated google results, but to hear my take on things.
the oyster, you see, is a strategic and complex organism. what it lacks in valves it makes up for in layers of knowledge, in facets of complexity, in a true hustler nature.

 

Here’s the Story.
the oyster committee released a statement long ago that they would only be farmed and enjoyed during the R months. and given their delicate and volatile nature and the overall dimness of humanity, we complied. the truth? well, the truth of course is that the non-R months are when the oysters vacation. may-august they like to drift off for a bit. to the southern shores of spain, to the rocky beaches of new england, to the meandering rivers of virginia. and while i’m all in favor of a work-life balance, that would leave us oysterless for 1/3 of the year (#math). and given what we now know of the fragility of this theory, journey with me then, if you dare, to the land of the bold bivalves paired with a delicately complex chablis, on the cheap, even as we are on the precipice of this R month drought.
the official brooklyn oyster happy hour guide has arrived for you. dive shallow and rake it in, because every month can be “R” month.

 

 

Greenpoint Fish + Lobster
oh there’s no denying my love for this place. with fish almost as fresh as my mouth and oysters that harp from the most interesting of estuaries (just ask them!), plus rose on tap. their happy hour is seven days a week, 3-6pm. $1.50 oysters and littlenecks, $5 beer, $6 wine. 114 nassau ave. 

 

St. Mazie
could you turn down the charm, st mazie? just a little? because you’re making every things else in the neighborhood look trite, cliche, murray-hill-esque. the most charming of interiors and refreshing lack of pretension. live music most nights (and sometimes it’s flamenco). plus $1 oysters 6-8pm daily. $5 glasses of house wine, $6 shot-and-beer specials. 345 grand st.

 

The Bounty
this place is such a gem. everything they do is oh-so-right from the abstract decor, amazing burger, impeccable service and.. yep, the oyster happy hour. these guys shuck $1 shells from 5-7pm 7 days a week. there’s almost always a seat at the bar and their backyard/greenhouse is enchanting. 131 greenpoint ave.

 

Sauvage
ah sauvage i love to hate you, but mostly love you. you fancy little french savage you. take me in, wine me, dine me, then let’s shuck. (or honestly whichever order you prefer.) happy hour… yep, it doesn’t exist. reason being “the neighborhood is different than it was when (sister restaurant) maison premiere opened in 2011,” citing that they can’t get away with happy hour deals with rent prices so steep… they know that we’re all broke as fuck but we’re going to come anyway… tres sauvage. 905 lorimer st. 
 

 

Maison Premiere
a journey back in time to the land of suspendered men and suspicious lovers and dangerous intentions which all envelopes into a perfect little rendezvous. getting a spot here for happy hour is tough, but talking  yourself in to not returning, often, is even tougher. fall into the magic and enjoy $1 oysters m-f 4-7pm, sat + sun 11am-1pm. 298 bedford ave. 

 

Bar Uni
oh hey their newbies. in the space that used to be the volatile stones tavern and then that crappy italian ice place and then beloved beleft us and now we have bar uni, a small and fancy seafood and cocktail spot. their menu is also small and fancy, and their happy hour? generous and cheap. $1 oysters from 5.30-8pm and 11.30-close. plus discounts on drinks and other snacks as well. go, quick. you don’t want to be the uni one missing out… (sorry, not sorry.) 674 manhattan ave.

 

Lobster Joint
maybe you don’t need fancy cocktails and chablis to woo you into a pseudo-prohibition era bar that y ou will instantly feel out of place in once those hours of happiness end. maybe you just want a laid-back neighborhood vibe with a sick backyard way in the north where the smorgasburg spillover won’t dare venture. lobster joint offers $1 oysters, plus SO many more food and drink deals from 4-7pm and 10-midnight. 1073 manhattan ave.

 

may all your hours be happy, brooklyn, and a little slimy.

<3L.