Palenque Arepa Truck
As a Philly girl at heart, I have a soft spot for food trucks. Especially food trucks churning out super yummy grub (shout-out to the crepe truck circa 2001 at Penn!). So you can imagine how excited ATO and I were when, looking for a mid-day snack while apt hunting in Park Slope, we came across Palenque Arepa Truck, serving some home-style, freshly made Colombian food. Freakin awesome.
Here’s half an arepa: ATO and I split one and they neatly cut it for us. Grilled chicken, “mushed” red beans, some fresh herbs, a bit of special sauce and salsa, all served on a crisp corn arepa. A bit messy to eat but finger lickin’ good.
The truck hops from spot to spot in Brooklyn and their schedule is posted on their website. Another perk in moving to Brooklyn!
My new cupcake obsession! Butter Lane. These cupcakes are the real deal. Have fun mixing and matching your cake and icing flavors. The possibilities are endless… above is the very simple but delicious vanilla cake topped with strawberry icing. My personal favorite combo so far: banana cake and peanut butter icing.
Butter Lane has quickly ascended my cupcake hierarchy and is second only to Sprinkles! Although it’s super close….
I didn’t like Dale Talde when he was on Top Chef. He was too cocky, had a bad temper and his butterscotch scallops (for which he was sent home) have been ingrained in my food memory as one of the worst looking dishes ever on that show. His starring role prior to Top Chef was sous chef at Buddakan (a guilty pleasure of mine, but at its core, just cheesy Asian fusion food). So I was surprised to find that I actually REALLY like his food! After some open-housing in Park Slope, we stopped by his signature restaurant, Talde. Despite my tendency to hate this entire genre of food, I found his dishes delicious and not coarse or overly contorted. Dale is quoted as stating in NYMag that I’m “trying to take the dirty word out of fusion.” Well, he has done just that. I’m a believer now.
Above was the lychee martini: super refreshing and yummy. The drink wasn’t overly sweet as most lychee martinis are. The lychee touch was light (and didn’t taste like Pucker) and the lemon-lime juices and bitters added a bright citrus note.
Some small snacks to start: Perilla leaf wrap filled with toasted shrimp, coconut, bacon-tamarind caramel and peanuts. Crunchy and vibrant. We both hate coconut, but it was thankfully barely noticeable.
Pork and chive dumplings in a pretzel wrapper. This was awesome. The pretzel was a bit thicker than a normal dumpling skin, and when fried got a lot more crispy and browned. It also had a nice saltiness, perfect when paired with the spicy mustard sauce. A very harmonious blend of two street foods from opposite sides of the world: dumplings and pretzels.
The best app (and probably the best dish of the night) was the shrimp toast topped with a fried egg, served with a thick sausage gravy. This dish was truly inspired: a highly creative iteration of East meets West served in the form of soul-satisfying comfort food. It was heavy for sure, but not superfluously so. Yum.
We got a little carried away with carbs after the apps. Please don’t judge! Above is the fried oyster and bacon pad thai. I found the pad thai overly sweet and basically over-done in all respects: I mean, was the bacon really necessary? ATO recognized that this wasn’t a skillful dish, but enjoyed that gluttonous heap of noodles nonetheless.
I enjoyed the much more simple side dish of shrimp fried rice much more. The shrimp was tender and juicy, the fried cracklings on top provided a great crunch and the bean sprouts a necessary freshness. But the rice was the best part. So much flavor in that rice! Coming from a noodle girl (and an Asian who generally eschews rice), that’s quite a compliment.
Finally, a bowl of ramen: roast chicken dinner ramen that is. Definitely not the best bowl of ramen that I’ve ever had, but I was left bewildered. Close your eyes and you’ll be immediately transformed to the 1950’s at an all-American Sunday dinner complete with roast chicken and stuffing. All this in a bowl with ramen noodles and seaweed. Totally trippy, and very good.
We’re completely converted. Asian fusion can be successful! We love this place!
PS - if you’re looking for something more casual and you’re craving straight-forward solid bar food, check out Dale’s laid-back joint, Pork Slope (http://photo-hungry.com/post/41977898527/pork-slope).
After an exhausting afternoon of rock climbing at Brooklyn Boulders, EW, JS, ATO and I headed straight to Dale Talde’s Pork Slope to satisfy our hunger pangs with some pub food done right. This place is solid - nothing fancy and nothing mind blowing - but just good ol’ greasy spoon grub, better than what you’ll find at any typical pub. All in all, it’ll fill you up, your hands might need a wipe-down afterwards and you might even feel a little sick…. in a good, “I was a glutton and couldn’t control myself and ate too much” way. This place would be a ridiculously good drunk food spot!
Here’s what we sampled:
Half a rack of St. Louis ribs. Now that’s something pretty.
Tater tots! Like really, really good tater tots.
Crispy mac and cheese, burnt edges and all!
Onion strings. Good on just about anything. Finished with a surprising nice kick!
Frickles! We cleared the entire table but for two frickles. They were good for frickles, but frickles always seem to be a better concept than they are a reality.
Brisket sandwich. Loved the toasted white bread.
Motherporker. WTF. That’s a lot of pork. And an egg for more richness. Cos we obviously needed more richness.
Shrimp po’ boy. Impossible to eat without dropping shrimp in your lap or smearing mayo all over your face. Delicious nonetheless.
After another rainy work day, another trek to Brooklyn and another go at bouldering at Brooklyn Boulders, we stuffed ourselves at another delicious restaurant in Park Slope: Convivium Osteria (2 weeks ago we hit up Al Di La, see prior post). Convivium Osteria offers a mix of Mediterranean fare that spans from Italy to Spain to Portugal. The food is comforting and excellent. And I can certainly see why our friends CR and AR frequent this joint as their go-to date spot: the dim lighting and candles are romantic and warm, the low murmur of conversation provides a sense of stolen intimacy and the space is charming while a bit fun and quirky.
At CR’s suggestion, we ordered the DiStefano burrata with ugly tomatoes and air dried mullet roe (the roe was served on the side and is not pictured). As we all agreed, it’s so hard to see burrata on a menu and NOT order it! We weren’t disappointed. The gooey cheese fell apart at the touch of a knife, and we were rewarded with its pure fresh milky taste. The tomatoes, while surely ugly, were sweet and packed with flavor. The balsamic added the perfect amount of savoriness to each bite.
We also shared a portion of the braised artichokes: big, fat juicy gourds of artichoke hearts sat like just-ripe fruit in a fragrant bath of olive oil, garlic and wild mint that caused me to go through 2 extra pieces of bread in an effort to sop up the whole tasty pool of goodness.
EW ordered the special of the night: the roasted Cornish game hen. As VB aptly put it as the mouthwatering dish arrived, “ah, birds are just meant to be roasted, aren’t they?” Crisp, crackly skin, tangy citrus notes and a peppery rub made this particular apiary delightful.
The pastas were awesome. CR ordered the spinach and Italian ewe ricotta gnudi with asiago cheese: fat plump mounds that melted in your mouth, smothered in a decadent cheesy sauce.
VB and I both ordered the green apple and cinnamon ravioli, topped with fresh parmesan and chopped radicchio and served with a rustic duck ragu.
First bite: this is kinda weird. My palate is confused. It’s so savory and so sweet at the same time! How can this be??
Next 2 bites: Hmmmm??? Ears perking up.
2 bites later: Higgins - “I think she’s got it! I think she’s got it!” Eliza - ”The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” Higgins - “By George, she’s got it!”
Ha ha. I love that movie. And on this plate I especially loved the bitter and fresh radicchio, balancing all the cheese and sweetness.
But alas, I must admit, that the best pasta ordered that night was ATO’s: whole little monster prawns (these are not a type of prawn, I’m just calling them monsters cos that’s what they looked like to me), head and tail on, hovered protectively over house-made tonnarelli, as if guarding it with their lives. And I see good reason why. That pasta was ridiculously good. It had soaked up every bit of prawn essence; it basked in their juices and their glory. Every last bit of that sauce was greedily soaked up and eaten with our remaining bread basket. Mmmmmm….
Seriously, if we hit up amazing restaurants after every rock climbing trip, I might just become an expert rock climber!! ;-).
Al Di La
My friends and husband had been trying to get me to go rock climbing with them at Brooklyn Boulders forever. I stubbornly resisted. “I have no upper arm strength and I’m afraid of heights!,” I’d shoot as my defense (also, Brooklyn on a week night? I think not….). But then, last week, VB suggested hitting up Al Di La for a carb-heavy treat after the intense climbing workout. I was sold. I can be convinced to do a lot for the sake of good food.
Al Di La had been on my list for years. Although I have to admit that recently it kinda fell in the shadow of some of the newer, buzz-crazy places. It’s a homey, cozy spot, run by a couple who met in Italy (aww). Staying true to the traditional dishes of Northern Italy and the Venetian area, this place certainly does not shy away from butter. Lotsa lotsa butter. And they make no effort to hide it either! Butter literally sat visibly and proudly in large pools on almost every plate we ordered. I was happy. It made for good bread dipping.
We arrived at the restaurant just before 10, starving, dirty and wet like street dogs in Asia (it was pouring that night). As VB pointed out, there are some serious perks that come with Brooklyn; no one cares what you look like. “Bring us pasta!!!” I was chanting in my head as we took our seats. And so it starts…. Above is the malfatti: swiss chard and ricotta gnocchi, swimming in brown butter, topped with fried sage. Tasty, but ubiquitous.
Well, I had done my research. And Frank Bruni and just about every other reviewer had raved about the casunziei: ravioli, as soft and fluffy as pillows, stuffed with red beets and ricotta, served in melted butter and garnished with poppy seeds. Perfect texturally and soooo decadent. We were all going back and forth over whether this or the dish below was our favorite starter (ATO decided on this).
EW’s order of the stewed cuttlefish, oxtail, garlic and chili, served on a bed of creamy polenta. In the end, I think this was my favorite dish of the night. Certainly the most provocative. Hints of the sea and super meaty all at once? Total insanity. In a most delicious way of course.
Unfortunately, EW’s main dish, the tagliatelle al ragu, made with a compilation of ground beef, veal and pork, was not quite as spectacular. In no way was it bad, it just wasn’t great either. It was just a bit flat, very one note. Especially compared to that somewhat similar but amazing duck pappardelle I had engulfed just days before at Ciano (see prior post).
My main: the hanger steak, sliced and deglazed in balsamic vinegar, served atop some very good arugula, which lent the appropriate amount of bitterness. IIA’s first comment was “that looks healthy!” (no hint of sarcasm in her voice). I love my friends; we are so able to convince ourselves of such crazy notions to justify the rich and large amounts of food we love to consume! Super simple dish, but executed well. Unadventurous, but classic and solid.
Speaking of adventure, ATO decided to order the calf liver alla veneziana as his main. It was drenched in a savory brown gravy sauce and paired with stewed onions and a polenta cake (which was not as good as the polenta itself, above). You have to love liver to eat this dish, because there was no attempt to conceal that distinct irony, metallic liver taste. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing; with the sauce and sides, it really came together. But in the end, even ATO couldn’t finish this dish. I think it would have been more successful served as a smaller, appetizer portion!
Yes, I will go rock climbing more if it will always be followed by a great meal ;-).