Monthly Archives: May 2010

Romans Review

243 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 622-5300

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Change comes fast to restaurants, especially in New York.  New spots open all the time and close just as quickly.  Chefs leave and menus decline, or places become so popular you can’t even get a table any more.  In our neighborhood of Clinton Hill/Fort Greene, Brooklyn some of our favorite places have closed just when we were starting to frequent them regularly.  When I took my younger brother to Pratt four years ago to check out the neighborhood and see the campus we went out to dinner at June, on Dekalb Ave.  We ate street side and talked about how it would be our spot while he was at school and the food was excellent.  Two years later it was closed and reopened as The General Greene.  After discovering L’Epicere, (a French market by day, family style amazing bring your own wine by night cafe) we had planned every major celebration there for the next five years.  It closed that fall never to reopen.  We waited almost a year before finally trying LuLu’s on Dekalb.  After loving it and taking everyone we knew there…yup, it closed, (something else will replace it in the next few months).  But I digress.

I guess I am thinking about change and the inevitable passage of time.  Things you think will always be often last only a brief moment.  The spot you went to every year your whole life suddenly no longer exists.  Ok, maybe I am getting overly dramatic…I just turned 30 so give me a break. That brings us to this week’s review.  It was my 30th birthday and Jess and I wanted to go out locally to celebrate just the two of us.  We were headed to Chez Oskar, our old standby, when we detoured and decided to try something new.  We vacillated between the menu at Ici and a new spot, Romans.  Romans looked warm and inviting full of people and lively music while Ici was essentially empty.  We followed the crowd. (I should note that we have always wanted to eat at Ici and it has been highly recommended…it will probably close.)

Romans (same group as Marlow & Sons, Marlowe & Daughters and Diner) opened up on Dekalb maybe six months ago.  It replaced our favorite Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood, Bonita.  (See the theme here?)  We mourned the loss of Bonita because of their wonderful margaritas, fabulous guacamole, fish tacos and enchiladas.  Life goes on, of course, and when it comes to restaurants life goes on quickly with no remorse.  Romans has been packed every night since it opened, we had to give it a shot.  Romans boasts a unique blend of traditional northern Italian cuisine with local produce and seasonal menus. The meal was exceptional, I just hope its still there when we go back with friends.

The wait staff was very friendly and helpful.  They explained that the menu items were quite small and they suggested we indulge ourselves in the traditional three courses of entrée, pasta dish and meat dish.  We started with two entrées: grilled asparagus with olive oil, shaved Parmesan cheese and topped with a fried egg, and Crostini with nettles, pesto ricotta cheese, and pickled shallots.  The grilled asparagus was the absolute winner; tasty, perfectly cooked and the fried egg was such a surprisingly wonderful addition to the dish.  The Crostini was excellent in conception, but the toast was clearly burned and we ended up with an ash flavor and a very hard piece of bread.  It was unfortunate considering the pairings on top.  The pesto ricotta cheese was so subtle, it would have been a velvety hint of pesto, but it was drowned out by the flavor of burned bread.  The pickled shallots were amazing, sweet and tangy.

Our second course for Jess was lamb agnoletti (sort of like little ravioli dumplings) in homemade brotto (broth) with braised scallions.  I had a lasagna with a white béchamel sauce, prosciutto and spinach.  The lasagna was the winner here; creamy ricotta and spinach with sharp prosciutto and lasagna pasta was pure decadence.  Jess’s agnoletti was a little too al dente for my taste but the lamb was so rich and flavorful.  The brotto was a deliciously subtle hint of lamb jus and braised scallions added an almost Asian influence to the flavor.

On our waiter’s recommendation we had the special fish, which was, a whole Porgy locally caught off Long Island (this was a real treat as I knew Jess would never order this on her own but since it was my birthday, she conceded). The fish was so delicate and cooked to perfection.  The fish was prepared with nothing more than the flavor of the grill and some lemon and herbs.  We ate it to the bones like Heathcliff and picked at the blackened head of the thing until there was little left on the plate but an eye and the skull.  I have had whole fish in lots of places including Northern Italy, and this ranked as one of the best I have ever eaten.

Maybe it was because we waited a little too long for some of the courses (someone definitely got our fish first and we waited another ten minutes for ours), or because it was my birthday but the staff came out with a complimentary mixed salad and also topped off our wine after we had finished the glasses we had paid for.  We ended the evening with an olive oil cake with fresh strawberries and cream.  I can’t really describe this dessert other than to say it’s worth the visit JUST for this.  It was so good I don’t think we spoke or took a breath while eating it.  Imagine the best strawberry shortcake meets a unique olive oil flavored white cake that is slightly dense, just sweet and crumbly?  Very hard to describe, so very good.

I will critique Romans for having exceptionally loud music that did not fit the décor.  I may sound like an old (30) man but we were half screaming at each other when we were talking.  With low lights and candles with an Italian café feel, the blasting hits were out of place.  The wait between courses was a bit long but the staff made up for it with freebies and excellent service.  Jess would disagree but I also thought the wine list had few affordable bottles and the by the glass selections were very limited.  In the end the price was not bad for the quality and no, after three courses with dessert we were not stuffed at all.  The portions are just right and nothing is heavy or over sauced.

I hope Romans is here to stay, at least until my next birthday.

— JV


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Manhattan Clam Chowder

Music: What Would You do with a Drunken Sailor? – Pete Seeger

Hi…We took another break, as you likely noticed, but now we’re back. Let’s just say I lost some teeth…;)

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James Beard House

Chef Linton Hopkins of Restaurant Eugene
The James Beard House
New York City
May 5th, 2010

Last week Brooklyn Plated took a wonderful field trip to the James Beard House for a six course, tasting menu with wine pairing by guest chef Linton Hopkins.  The cuisine paired a southern flare with traditional American cuisine.  In short the night was amazing and I felt honored to be apart of a real and very rare New York culinary experience.

The Beard House is a beautiful town house on west 12th street between 6th and 7th avenue.  After Beard’s death in 1985, a group of his friends answered a call from Julia Child to do something extraordinary with his home.  What became of the townhouse is now the Beard House and they serve up amazing events and dinners with special guest chefs showcasing their signature dishes.  As you enter the house you are greeted by the vast kitchen, which takes up almost the entire first floor.  Passing through the kitchen I was tempted to pluck an hors d’oeuvre off the tray being plated by the wait staff.  We exist the kitchen into the solarium (yes there is a solarium) that looks out onto a beautiful backyard.

We started the night in the backyard with a signature cocktail called The Harrier: gin, grapefruit juice and lavender essence.  This was the equivalent of drinking a spring morning.  Passed hors d’oeuvres included (in the order of mouth watering amazingness) a mini cornmeal blini with Crème Fraîche and Altamha River sturgeon roe, Pimiento cheese and B&B pickle fritter with pepper jelly, Levain crusted mountain trout with smoked trout roe and dill pollen, Sorghum glazed veal sweetbreads with crushed peanuts, and Border Springs spring lamb terrine with house made beer mustard.  Phew…it was a lot, and we successfully planted ourselves right near the door so we would get first dibs.  It also didn’t hurt that I was the only man in our party surrounded by beautiful women, (sorry Chris, you should have come) which I won’t rate like the hors d’oeuvres.

The main dining area is what used to be Beard’s living space and bedroom.  Our table was actually in what was once his bed nook, which oddly enough, had fully mirrored ceilings!  Flirty.

I will be forced to simply list the courses since there were so many.  It is safe to say it was one of the better meals I have ever had and the wine parings were really special.  My only real critique was the last main course of red meat was sort of eh.  I am not a huge meat eater and after our trip to Argentina, it takes a lot to wow me with steak.

Amuse: Asparagus agnolotti (essentially, a perfect little ravioli shaped like a football)

Paired with 2008 Simpson Vineyard Viognier.

First Course: Georgia wild shrimp, island clams, crab toast fennel and Cherokee leek broth. Yum.

Second Course: Skillet roast tilefish, creamed English peas, roasted Vidalia onions, crisp bacon and lettuces.  This was a personal favorite.  I had never heard of tilefish but it was very good and the crispy bacon with the fish was a wonderfully surprising flavor.  Paired with a 2006 Wile Yeast Chardonnay, which I LOVED, others at the table not so much, but it really opened up with the food.

Third Course: Roast South Carolina pigeon with Riverview farms cornbread and Cruze buttermilk, wild watercress and natural jus. Paired with 2008 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir. And the winner is?…this dish.  I have had game bird in a few places and never have I had pigeon as perfectly cooked and tasty as this dish.  That buttermilk cornbread was like pancake batter and corn pudding puree.

Fourth Course: White oak Pasture beef to ways, pepper crusted and hickory smoked ribeye with short ribs and Appalachian ramps, morel fondue, pickled fiddleheads and marrow.  Sadly the best part of this grand finale was the fiddleheads.  Nothing really spectacular about this entrée except maybe the short ribs. The pairing of 2006 La Diligence Syrah was an excellent wine.

Fifth Course: Southern Cheese course with The Oracle 2005 a Bordeaux blend was by far my favorite wine of the night and the cheese was very good.  We had:

  • Sweetgrass Dairy Green Hill
  • Blackberry Farm Blue – excellent!
  • Spinning Spider Creamery Stackhouse – a triple cream that one of our friends thought tasted like cream cheese, but I loved it for the mildness.

It was also served with smoked blood orange and pecan levain.

Sixth Course: Woodland Gardens’ strawberry shortcake with strawberry sorbet ad mint cream.  This was served with an Old Hickory, a rather perfuming but refreshing cocktail of dry and sweet vermouth with orange bitters.  The shortcake was some of the best I have ever had, and I love strawberry shortcake.

This was a remarkable night and the chef coming out to answer questions topped it.  He was quite approachable and as I left shaking his hand it was as if I had stopped in for dinner at a friends house.

– JV

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Filed under Appetizer, Dessert, Drinks, Food Anecdotes, Review, Travel Spot

Lobster Rolls!

Music: Driftwood – Travis

This past weekend we threw a lovely soiree for my dear friends Trina and Ji Young.  We spent the weekend at Molly’s family beach house on Long Beach Island and celebrated the passing of 3 decades. And Brooklyn Plated catered it!  We served some old standby’s like crab cakes and polenta fries (pictures at bottom).  I also made a variation of a good old fashion New England lobster roll recipe and combined it with something from Thomas Keller.  What we got was magic. We served the lobster rolls along side some corn on the cob and cole slaw.

I grew up in CT.  In CT they serve lobster rolls hot and with butter (Lenny and Joe’s Fish Tale in Madison is where we usually go for this – also if someone can find and send me a picture of one of their old school tee-shirts, I’ll make it worth you’re while…not quite sure how but I will).  Everywhere else in New England they serve lobster rolls cold and with mayo! Imagine the horror on my first trip to Maine way back in the summer of 1992 when I was served a cold, wet lobster roll…to be honest, I never grew to like it, not even after many trips north in the passing years.  It wasn’t until a recent trip to The Brooklyn Flea where I ate a Maine-style lobster roll from the Red Hook Lobster Pound that I was converted.

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Filed under Appetizer, Brooklyn Places, Fish, Food Anecdotes, How to..., Polenta, Recipes, Sides, Sunday Dinner, Travel Spot

Chocolate Cupcakes Revisited – Sweet Thursday

Music: Hole – Rock Star

This is my mothers recipe for the cupcakes I posted a few weeks ago. It comes from McCall’s Cooking School published in 1973.  They were legit the tastiest cupcakes I’ve had in a long time.   We don’t have any of the “process” pictures but you’ll get the idea. Those little sugar flowers are only decorative and about 25 years old…kinda awesome? Kinda gross?  My Grandmother made them for her cakes and used to put them in mason jars.  She’d line them all up in her pantry and it was really pretty.

Regular Version

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Filed under Chocolate, cookbooks, Dessert, Sweet Thursday, Uncategorized

Did you know?

The  General Greene, 229 dekalb ave. brooklyn, ny 11205  tel.(718) 222-1510

Hi all…did you know The General Greene has a grocery?? I went to the restaurant yesterday only to find the back of the space totally revamped. I spoke with Tina, the manager, and she let me know they will be converting the entire stock in this four month old space to feature – get this – only local items. It’s a small space but well stocked. There is a selection of cheeses and meats, local produce, a large selection of Asian ingredients, and some semi-prepared foods (made specifically for small spaces and few eaters – genius!) Stay tuned because it will soon be a CSF stop. It will also serve as a pre-order pick up space for a certain local/sustainable focused butcher shop. 😉

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Filed under Brooklyn Places, Food Anecdotes, General Rantings, Kitchen Things

Fettuccini with Peas, Asparagus and Bacon

Music: In Spite of Me – Morphine

Hello there, friends.  We’ve returned from our Spring hiatus.  It was a well needed break to plan some good meals for the coming season. And guess what?!!  We’ve got our new Spring Sunday Dinner menu up right now…so check it out and RSVP….spaces are filling up!

I was so tempted by the cover of Bon Appetite this month that I bought it while walking past a magazine stand and then remembered, we have a subscription.  Have you seen it?  There is something just so alluring about pasta with vegetables.  It’s likely the time of year…but throw on some bacon and you really can’t loose.

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Filed under Greens, Pasta, Recipes, Sauces