Monday, January 26, 2009

The Early Bird Catches The Worm

When I called Gramercy Tavern to say I knew they didn't accept reservations, so what could I expect for a weekend lunch, they told me to get in line.

I liked it.

"There's just one table for 6, so you if you get here, and someone else has it, you have to wait 1 1/2 to 2 hours until they're done. You can call and see if it's available. Sometimes people are lining up when we open..."

Those were the magic words that led me, my parents, and Liam to the door of Gramercy Taven at 11:00 for a drive-by, then in line at 11:35. While we waited for Liam's mom and her husband, another customer came up and tried the door right behind me.

"We're in line" my dad told him.

Which was good - because later, we realized he had a party of five.

And so, for the first of several times this weekend, the early bird got the fantastic lunch with the perfect round table in by the window for parents to meet and food to be enjoyed.

I was entranced with the arrangements - apples and pine cones on our table, grasses at the bar, paperwhites and amaryllis at the side table. And of course, the food. We sampled nearly half the menu between the six of us - merguez swimming in harissa and chick peas, shredded carrots with calamari, heirloom cauliflower salad.

Entrees were a hit from chicken to an open faced ham sandwich to my mushroom lasagna that was fired in the wood oven.

And the desserts - it's almost difficult to convey how tasty they were with just descriptions of ingredients: pear tartin with a smear of creme fraiche and hazelnuts, an egg-shaped selection of three ice creams, a luscious and fat apple pie, and for me one plate of cookies that included caramel dipped in dark chocolate with pepitas. If only I had room to try the martini with lavender or the Harrar coffee with orange, cardamon, and cinnamon.

We'll just have to go back.

We watched the line snake around the foyer, children peering through grasses and older men patting the hostess on the back. We heard about waits of 1 1/2 hours, pleas to move more quickly from bar to table, even a few glances at our table, but we had it. 25 minutes in the cold? Worth every minute.

And we can't wait to go back.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Tea Time

I miss the days of the Bay Area Tea Tour.

Friends and I circulated among several of the top tea shops in the Bay Area and compared. Places that don't give you milk even if one were to ask for it? No thanks. Birds in cages above your seat and old men playing Go next to you? Of course.

In Paris, there was a place for tea and cakes in the afternoon - with a special after 4 o'clock for 9 euros (that rose to 10 soon after I discovered it).

Yesterday, with an doctor's appointment that went quickly, I found myself with an afternoon hour in the city. I needed a place to do work that was also the hip cafe that would make me feel like I-am-working-in-the-city.

A place I could share with friends or see something with a story worth telling or just have a good cup of tea, with milk if I wanted.

I found it - a small place with a chair pushed against a wall and in between coats and people. I put down my 3 bags, huge coat, 2 scarves and settled my eyes on them.

Bundt cakes.

They do it for me every time. As soon as I saw lemon and asked about chocolate orange, I figured it was my best bet. One mug of assam and a slice later, I was doing my work on a cold, cold day in the city... if only it were my neighborhood, I'd have my place.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Brooklyn Food Adventure: Middle Eastern Food on Atlantic Avenue

In between Urban Outfitters and Trader Joe's, there's a street of Middle Eastern grocers, pastry shops, nut and candy stores and fantastic cafes. Sara did the research and we enjoyed a morning full of old favorites (the pastry with the stringy cheese in the middle on top of a sev-like sweet soaked in syrup that you microwave that I first had on my Other Side of Palestine tour) and new treats (Yemeni food pictured above).

The Yemen Cafe was worth our wait (we had great Turkish coffee and Arabic tea across the street first). Molten hot pots of beans and tomatoes simmering, the largest hunk of fresh baked bread (pictured above), a smear of babaghanoush and cup after cup of a dark black, sage and sweetened tea, yum.

Our adventure ended with pockets full of fresh pitas, pistachio halva, and some date cream with almonds. One shopkeeper told me to eat the halva with a banana (new to me), which I haven't gotten to try yet, but look forward to.

For now, the goods are on the table for some Turkish-like breakfast each day.

Next up: Arthur Avenue for Italian and Jackson Heights for Indian.

Sara may need to quit her day job and start leading tours!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Food Intentions for 2009

My 2008 intentions served me well as I transitioned from Paris to Brooklyn. I walk into the local cheese shop and know my pyrenees brebis from ossau-iraty. I stuffed several fish and served them successfully to friends. I had lunch at L'arpege and can finally tell the difference between Assam and Darjeeling.

There is currently salsify rotting in my fridge, again. Oysters left my life when I left Le Baron Rouge. I don't think I will ever be a confiture person with my toast or a willing salade consumer in my own home.

The vinegar mother made it here, and she's growing like crazy.

Food Intentions for 2009:

10. Korean chiles. Know 'em and use 'em.
9. Inspired by a cheese plate at the MoMA from Murray's Italian section (see above), I am in the market for 'flavored cheeses' and aim to find my favorite cow's milk with truffle and goat's with green peppercorn. 2009 is about flavor.
8. Brooklyn Cheese Club (complete with Oakland and Paris members!)
7. Make flatbreads. Pita. Foccaccia. Pizza.
5. Dinner/brunch parties 1x/month
4. Jackson Heights for Indian, Bay Ridge for Greek, Midwood for Kosher and other local food adventures.
3. Eat at a Michelin 3 star in NYC.
2. Continue to blog each week.
1. Demonstrate that it's possible to be an effective principal of a college-prep charter school for under-resourced students in Brooklyn AND cook delicious dinner during the week.