Search results for 'polonica'

Change

23 Jan

Change is in the air.

We (finally!) have a new president, big things are happening for both Isaac and I at work and we’re moving.

No, sorry Lydia, not upstate.  But we are moving on up, uptown in fact, to the Upper West Side.

Our two years in Bay Ridge were an experiment.  After living together in an apartment that more closely resembled a small watercraft (with a very small kitchen) than a place to live on land, we decided that space trumped an easy commute.  We packed up and moved to the far, far reaches of Brooklyn.

At first it was joyous; a new neighborhood with new quirks and so much good food to explore.  But as the months dragged on and my job, especially, became increasingly intense, the hour or more spent each way commuting to and from work has become too much.  And so, when an email popped up on my BlackBerry from a co-worker who was vacating a small (but not that small) two-room studio a block-and-a-half from Central Park, we jumped on it.

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Creamy Evil

23 Apr

I got my first sunburn on Saturday.

Our Neighbor's Cherry Tree

I also ate an extortionately priced orange, found a Baby Jesus sausage, bought a racially insensitive cookbook, walked over eight miles and crossed three bridges. It was a great day!

Manhattan Bridge

Isaac and I did the “Three Bridges” walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge. I had never heard of, or even really thought of, walking over more than one bridge in a day until the other Ann left a comment about it way back in January.

Manhattan Bridge

We had kept it in the back of our minds as something we really wanted to do for four months, waiting for the perfect day. It finally came on Saturday. Sunny, but not too hot and delightfully breezy, we haven’t had a more glorious day in about six months.

Water Tanks from the Manhattan Bridge

We started in Chinatown walking over the Manhattan Bridge into Dumbo. The Manhattan Bridge is still my favorite. I know it’s not fair to play favorites, but I just love it. I was in a horrific mood when we started. I’d been woken up by work (on a Saturday!) and my mood had gone from cranky to downright foul in about 2 seconds. But, by the time I was out over the middle of the East River, everything was once again right in the world.

Manhattan Bridge

We bumbled about in Dumbo. It really is a beautiful neighborhood, and there’s a fabulous bookstore there, P.S. Books, that all book loving geeks should make a pilgrimage to. They have a terrific selection of books on art and history, a great cookbook and fabulous biography sections and a neat place for kids to play and read. It’s a lovely bookstore, the sort I wish we had out here in Bay Ridge. I found a tiny old pamphlet on the cooking of the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Amish may know a thing or two about pickling and pork, but racially sensitive they are not. A well spent $2.50 if you ask me!

Dumbo, Art

We then walked through the park along the river where I tried to help some very, very lost tourists, breezed past the ungodly long line at Grimaldi’s and headed over the Brooklyn Bridge. This is my least favorite bridge to walk over, which is a pity, because it’s so beautiful, but it’s just too chock-a-block with tourists and bikers.

Off-Ramp of the Brooklyn Bridge

We walked under the anchorage, past the Brooklyn Banks and on along to the river. It was a quiet day, not many boats or fisherman, and no, no beavers. But Isaac did spot the world’s saddest dead turtle. All it’s limbs were limp and swaying back and forth in the wavelets. It kind of broke my heart, the hardness of the shell, the softness of its neck…

Brooklyn Bridge

But, we motored on and soon needed a pit-stop, so we headed inland for some pork & chive dumplings at Dumpling North on Essex. From there it was a skip and a hop over to Delancey and onto the Williamsburg Bridge. This is where my legs started rebelling, you finally realize how long the walk has been when you’ve walked and walked, and walked and walked on the Williamsburg and you’re still not over any water yet.

Brooklyn Bridge

The view on the Williamsburg Bridge is obstructed by a cage of safety fencing, so the real pleasure of walking over this bridge comes from the people watching. The endless stream of hipsters wearing ridiculous “ironic” t-shirts is something I find endlessly amusing and I’m always in awe of the beautiful coats worn by the men in some of Williamsburg’s Jewish sects. But the real reason to walk over the Williamsburg Bridge is to get to the other side.

The Brooklyn Banks

Williamsburg, to me, is like a Disney World for adults. Our first stop was Marlow & Sons, to pick up some of Steve’s magic beans (we got Goat’s Eyes and Little Horses). This is where I picked up the extortionately priced orange, too. $2.25 for an orange! But, I must say, it was absolutely worth it. It was the best orange I’ve eaten since we have been back from Italy, and that’s saying something.

Williamsburg Bridge

From there we walked up Bedford to the cheese shop. They have the best pickle selection in the world. It was everything I could do to keep myself from buying a half dozen different types. In the end, all we bought was some farina di ceci, or chickpea flour. I was sad to leave the little baby Jesus sausage where he was lying, but he looked so peaceful. Next time…

Williamsburg Bridge

Our bellies were rumbling again, so we pushed on the last half mile or so to Greenpoint. It was rough, but the siren call of Polish food made our trip quick and our feet light. We were going to get borscht! On a recommendation from Brooklyn Guy, we went to a place called Pyzy that he praised very highly for its soups. Unfortunately, it was a rare miss in our book. The food was decent, and yes it was very, very cheap, but, Polonica‘s food is vastly superior in flavor and freshness. But Pyzy, hands down, has better atmosphere. What a trip!

Williamsburg Bridge

And that was it. We walked to the G train, which oddly enough came instantaneously and went home. It was a great walk, and despite keeping ourselves well fueled, it was tiring. While Isaac napped on the couch I concocted dinner. In Rome one evening, Isaac was aced out of a dish of gnocchi di ceci that both he and I kept thinking about. Gnocchi, made out of chickpeas? It sounded so magical!

Williamsburg

And so that was what I was thinking of when I bought the farina di ceci. A quick search on the interwebs led me to the understanding that these are not your typical gnocchi. They’re more like the gnocchi alla Romana, made of semolina, than like a traditional potato gnocchi. Making them is like making polenta and then playing with your food. I was very excited!

Gnocchi di Ceci

Most of the recipes I found suggest serving gnocchi of this sort with no sauce, just pure creamy goodness covered in cheese. But me? I’m a sauce girl. I love sauce, almost more than I love stuff the sauce is on, so I whipped up a quick rustic tomato and pepper sauce.

Gnocchi di Ceci

This dish is so gentle, so creamy, so pillowy and decadently delicious that it reminded me of a class of potato dishes we kept running across in Italy that I named “Creamy Evil.” They’re cooked potatoes covered in bechamel sauce, sometimes with other healthy accompaniments like boiled eggs or an additional cheese sauce. They are so good, so insanely, swear-word-worthy-good, that yes, they are in fact Creamy Evil.

Gnocchi di Ceci

These gnocchi aren’t quite as bad for you, but they do have the same sort of mouth feel, and so, since I’m never (ever, ever, ever) going to allow myself to make potatoes covered in cheese and butter sauce, I hereby officially add gnocchi di ceci to the taxonomy of the food family known as “Creamy Evil.”

Head below the jump for the recipe for Gnocchi di Ceci.

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The Chowder Bowl

5 Feb

So, the Giants won the Super Bowl.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

If you’re anything like me, you’re still trying to figure out how they even got into what the NFL wants you to think of as “The Big Game” in the first place.

Perhaps, as a New Yorker, I’ve come to expect our teams to be mostly mediocre. The Yankees, as much as I love them, seem to have lost the come-from-behind fire that made them so exciting to watch for so many years. The Mets are always claiming to have finally procured that last player they need to become the best team ever, and then nothing happens. And then there’s the Knicks. Oh sweet mercy, the Knicks! Have you ever seen such a spectacle? They’re like a goat rodeo masquerading as a professional sports team.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

I suppose I should admit right off the bat that I’m not a football fan.

That said, I was still aware that the New England Patriots were having a “magic season.” I knew that their quarterback was dating Giselle, I knew that they had the hubris to pre-print a book about their perfect year, I knew that they were virtually guaranteed to win. Yet I had no inkling that the team from our own backyard (also known as New Jersey) was even fair to middling this year.

And so, even though it is once again “TV free February,” Isaac and I granted ourselves a special dispensation to watch the game. And Puppy Bowl, of course. And since you can’t have a Super Bowl without food, I discovered something important, something I could get behind. This game wasn’t about a perfect season, or blue-collar heroes, about pretty-boy quarterbacks or coaching dynasties.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

Oh no my friends.

This game was about chowder supremacy.

New England clam chowder vs. Manhattan clam chowder. Creamy and white vs. tomatoey and piquant. The chowder known around the world vs. the chowder maligned as the “other” chowder. The chowder kids cheer for vs. the chowder that makes kids groan.

Fourth Avenue Station, Brooklyn

But, not really. In my heart, there is only one chowder. New England clam chowder forever! I’ve tried to like Manhattan clam chowder, I really have. I love tomatoes and I love clams, but Manhattan clam chowder I do not love. It’s not a chowder. Chowders have cream and butter. But Isaac? Exactly the opposite. He loves Manhattan clam chowder best.

So instead of making New England clam chowder, which would have implied clandestine culinary support of the Patriots, or Manhattan clam chowder, which would have made the cook grumpy, a sure way to ruin the soup, we made Brooklyn clam chowder.

Fred loves football AND clams

What’s Brooklyn clam chowder you ask? It’s an homage to two of the greatest dishes we’ve discovered since moving to Bay Ridge.

The first is Polonica‘s cucumber soup; a simple broth, made creamy with a touch of sour cream and flavored with Polish dill pickles and tons of fresh dill. The second is a special we had once at local Italian stalwart Canedo’s; clams and mussels steamed in white wine with tons of garlic and hot, pickled cherry peppers.

Homesick Texan's Mythical Biscuits

Brooklyn clam chowder has its foundations in New England clam chowder, but the pickled peppers do give it a Manhattan chowder-esque reddish hue. I know it sounds weird to put pickles in soup, but you’ll just have to trust me on this. They add a beguiling flavor that’s very hard to put your finger on, an unexpected lightness and delicacy to a soup that can be a bit heavy.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

If I may mix my metaphors, this chowder is a real home run. Especially when served with an endless supply of Lisa’s extraordinary biscuits, a pat of Ronnybrook garlic butter and a growler of locally-brewed SixPoint beer.

Brooklyn Clam Chowder

Top it all off with a Giants victory, and you’ve got the recipe for a very pleasant Sunday evening.

Head below the jump for the recipe for Brooklyn Clam Chowder.

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Bay To Bay

21 Aug

From Bay Ridge to the Bay Area and back again.

Sunny San Fran

That’s kind of how I feel. Dazzled and sun-burnt. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that much sunshine in my life. And yes, we were in San Francisco!

Telegraph Hill

Before the trip I had picked up Patricia Unterman‘s food guide which turned out to be a good move. We hit the ground starving. We sat one row away from business class and were therefore tortured for the entire flight by the aromas of real food and warm cookies and the tantalizing trays of champers. Stupid airlines. Couldn’t even spare me a cookie? Bah.

The Bay Bridge

This little book is really quite indispensable to any food lover heading to San Fran. By no means comprehensive it is however a good guide to what sorts of food you can find in and around the city by the bay. We headed straight for Chinatown to ABC Bakery & Restaurant. I was promised soup dumplings. What I got were amazing dumplings and wontons with soup. I’m cool with that.

Annie Street!

From there we puttered around Telegraph Hill and the Embarcadero, saw City Lights bookshop and the Ferry Terminal Market and had tapas at B44. I was promised fish cheeks, but had to settle on dungeness crab stuffed piquillo peppers. I was cool with that too.

The Mission

The next day we did what we do best. We walked. 11 miles in total if our memories and gmaps pedometer are to be believed! We turned right out of our hotel (such a deal if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom and shower) and headed up Mission, breakfasting on some truly excellent street tacos.

Painted Lady

I know it is cliche, but seriously, those Victorian painted ladies are stunning! I’d be so intimidated if I owned one. You have to have such a good eye to pick out all those complimentary colors.

Palacio Latino

Real estate porn can work up a mighty hunger so the Boy and I popped into Palacio Latino. We’ve settled on a new rule for eating. If a restaurant is packed with locals and showing a football (soccer) match in the native tongue, the food is probably solid. This rule has never led us wrong and boy did it serve us well with this joint.

Tostada with Beets, Red Cabbage, Meat Sauce and Hard Boiled Egg

The menu at Palacio Latino is crazy and the food so good I broke my cardinal rule of restaurant eating and took a picture. It’s South American, to be sure, but there’s an odd Eastern European twist to it. I mean, they’ve got borscht! Even though I know I should have, I didn’t try it. I wasn’t that hungry unfortunately. But we did try the tamales (eh), the Pupusas and the Enchiladas Chapiunas, the Technicolor dish you see above.

Noe Hill Door

The pupusas, little masa pancakes stuffed with cheese and beans, came with a cabbage salad that would have been perfectly at home served beside a plate of pierogis at Polonica. (By the way, the world needs more pupusa places, you hear that world!) And the enchiladas? Amazing. Sublime even. Dilled beets and red cabbage dressed with vinegar and chiles on top of a meat sauce that would have been at home with my grandmother’s galumpkies topped with cheese, raw onion and hard boiled egg? What could possibly be wrong with that? Nothing! It was awesome.

San Fran

We left the Mission and headed to the Noe Valley, and then the Hayes Valley, and finally up to the top of Russian Hill.

Coit Tower

Why? I have no idea! Our feet felt light and it was a beautiful day. By the time we hit Fisherman’s Wharf I was a little cranky, but, at mile 9 or so, I’d say that’s to be expected.

Fisherman's Wharf

And so we turned home-wards. The only problem is, there was this giant hill in between us and our hotel. We originally started to go over it, but damn, no way. Those are some serious hills to tackle after a serious walk, so we went around it.

Big Hill, Big Boat

After much walking a big dinner is called for. Unfortunately we didn’t know where to go. If I had just listened to the good book we would have ended up at Original Joe’s without tacking on an extra couple of miles, but no, I had to grumble and grouse and come to the place by my own path.

San Fran Garden

There are no pictures of dinner or the restaurant. Why? Because while Original Joe’s may be awesome and the steaks delicious and perfectly cooked, it happens to sit on a rather sad, downtrodden and sketchy block in the Tenderloin and, well, I just didn’t feel right whipping out my camera to take a picture while trying to fend off beggars and junkies, especially with a belly full of incredibly perfect T-bone. So, you’ll just have to imagine a scene from Mad Men where they’re all in an at-that-time classy steak and cocktails joint and then re-imagine it in 2007. Nothing’s changed except there’s no crinoline.

Downtown San Fran

The next day, with sore feet and owie knees we decided to go easy on ourselves and take the ferry to Alameda and the Hangar One distillery and tasting room. The ferry conveniently leaves from the Ferry Terminal Market, so we breakfasted on Acme Bread and Cowgirl Creamery sandwiches, checked in with the wine merchants to be sure we knew where we were heading and set out to taste us some vodka in the afternoon. But alas, to no avail.

Bay Bridge

I’d like to air my frustration with Hangar One at this point in time. Anyone who doesn’t want to listen to me rant should move on. *ahem* Dear Hangar One; My boyfriend and I decided to spend our last day in San Francisco with you. We did our due diligence, we checked websites and schedules, we paid $22 for ferry tickets, we walked 20 minutes in the beating sun to arrive at your tasting room where there were 20 people sitting outside laughing and drinking. We tried the door, it was locked. We noticed the sign, it said, “Open Wednesday-Sunday.” It was Monday, and yet, there was a door open and people carousing, so I stuck my head in and said to the guy behind the counter, “Are you open?” to which he replied, “No.” I stuck my head back out of the door to make sure I hadn’t hallucinated the 20 or so people and said to him, “Really?” to which he said, “YES.” I replied, “But your website said you were open 7 days…” to which he replied, “Then you looked at the wrong one,” and turned back to the guy to whom he was giving samples of the wares. The conversation was obviously over.

Hangar One

Rather pissed, I stomped back to the ferry terminal, 20 minutes in blazing sun, to find that we had just missed a ferry and another would not arrive for over an hour. So thank you Hangar One, thank you for your hospitality and understanding. I know if I owned a business and a sweaty, dusty person popped her head in, that I would treat her in just the same way. Really, honest. I wouldn’t offer her a taste of something, just to make her feel special, after spending a nice chunk of money and 3 hours simply to come visit my establishment. Nope, I sure wouldn’t do that.

This is what I stared at for an hour and a half while waiting for the ferry in Alameda.

And just so I don’t sound incredibly crazy, yes I do know they were closed and that they had every right to treat me that way. But, this one experience has transformed me from someone who enjoyed drinking, purchasing and recommending Hagar One to friends and strangers alike into someone who will now steer people away from delicious mandarin blossom and kaffir lime vodkas. This makes me rather sad. I really loved their stuff.

Tugboat

Incredibly frustrated and frankly pissed, I boarded the ferry back to San Fran (the Boy was less pissed and frustrated than I was and was a really good sport to listen to my rantings and ravings). I was dejected, and sad. Even arriving back in the market and purchasing some chocolates and cookies couldn’t help, so the Boy took pity on me, bought some bread and cheese and we headed back to the hotel and had an impromptu nosh in Yerba Buena on truly great bread and exceptional cheese.

Baker Beach

After that, I was ready to leave San Fran and head for the hills, but there was one thing left I needed to do. I had to dip my toes in the Pacific. Baker Beach was on the way to the Golden Gate Bridge so we stopped there. The Boy loved the old embattlements, I loved the fog.

Pelicans

I did not love the naked guy doing yoga on the beach. I later learned that Baker Beach is the naked beach. Oh well, I suppose this prudish East Coaster should learn to loosen up from time to time!

Golden Gate Bridge

So San Francisco, thank you. You were a lovely host and I can’t wait to come back and visit again as soon as I can.

Golden Gate Bridge

More to come: Crab sandwiches and Napa and Sonoma and wine and barbecue and tacos oh my! Stay tuned.

Learning To Cook, Bay Ridge Style

7 Feb

New York City is a city of neighborhoods. This may come as a surprise to some non-New Yorkers, but yeah, there’s some truth to the way TV shows and movies portray us; we do stop and talk to our neighbors, ask about the grand-kids and pet the puppy next door.

The other thing about New York neighborhoods is that each one has its own distinctive rhythm and flavor that, much like my personality, is as much a product of it’s past as it is of it’s present. To me, the easiest way to spot these pasts and presents is, of course, in the food.

Fish Stew

The Lower East Side was giddy, transient, loud, brash, hopeful. It was the place for new immigrants to stop first, be they Eastern European Jews, Puerto Ricans & Dominicans, a diaspora of Asian cultures or college graduates from Ottumwa, Iowa. There were tons of bars, tons of places to get great Cubanos and haute cuisine, Asian groceries, Jewish delis, yuppie bodegas and nerdy wine shops. I could get nearly anything I wanted at nearly any hour of the day.

And Bay Ridge? Yeah, not so 24-7.

It may be too soon to be drawing grand conclusions about our new home, but I’m a bit of a impetuous ass at times and will do so anyway. Bay Ridge reminds me of my childhood. Stores are closed on Sunday. When they’re open on Saturday, you can’t be sure for how long they’ll remain so, as it really does depend on what the proprietor feels like doing. Thursday is the late-night shopping night. The fish guy stays open later on Friday. This is one traditional little neighborhood. Might it have something to do with it’s Italian, Scandinavian and Irish heritages? Yeah, I’m willing to jump to that conclusion.

I’ve quickly marked five spots as my “go to” locations for quick eats that are really, really Bay Ridge.

There’s a Scandinavian grocery that sells the most wonderful multi-grain rolls, veal and pork sausages, everything lingonberry, and yes, Hamcheese In A Tube.

Hamcheese In A Tube

There’s Polbridge (the only one who’s name I can remember) conveniently located next door to Polonica, that carries, bestill my beating heart, Podravka Liver Pate, the very same stuff we ate the hell out of while in Croatia. That right there was worth all the pain and suffering the move entailed!

There’s the Italian fish market (open late on Friday) which is just down the block from Cangiano’s, the Italian grocery that has everything except vegetables (and fish) and makes so-so fresh mozzarella.

And finally, directly across the intersection from the Italians is a Korean grocery of the most wonderful and classic sort; reasonably priced and full of diverse fruits and vegetable that, since they’re the only game in town as far as produce goes (as far as I can tell) is always really fresh because of their high turnover.

Brasciole and Bitter Greens

See? Quite the little United Nations of food! And I haven’t even begun to try parsing all the different Middle Eastern, Turkish and Egyptian groceries that blanket the hood!

And so what have I been cooking? Mainly Italian. It’s comforting, easy, warm, quick and a cuisine I know like the back of my hand (despite not having a drop of it in me). Our first real meal in the house was a thrown together fish stew. The second, my first experience ever with pre-packed, grocer-prepared “convenience meat,” a take on brasciole.

I can’t wait for this weekend when we actually have the weekend to ourselves. No Time Warner, no movers, no shakers, no noones but us. I’m hoping to do some bread baking, some stewing and maybe some exploring of those Middle Eastern delis!

Oh, and can you tell I’ve found a new blog that I love? Dave, the guy behind Eating In Translation is eating his way through the Five Boroughs and taking us along for the ride. This is really great stuff! Dig in, explore and enjoy!

Head below the jump for recipes for Bay Ridge “Caciucco” and Brasciole With Bitter Greens.

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