Looking Back On 2014…

Hello my fellow food friends,

I hope you had a fantastic holiday season and New Year Celebration. Looking back, 2014 was a crazy year filled with amazing memories, a trip to Italy and of course delicious eats! I’ve had the opportunity to explore Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Long Island more than ever. Along the way, I’ve discovered my love for new foods thanks to the help of my friends and food-lovers.

This year I’ve tried:

-Kangaroo

-Xiao Long Bao (Soup dumplings)

-Hand-pulled noodles

-The famous DKA from Dominique Ansel’s bakery (no cronut yet…. it’s on my list)

Etc., Etc., Etc. (to name a few!)

To my readers…. thank you so much, for taking the time to hear what I have to say. I hope you enjoy my perspective and maybe someplace I visit will become your next stop! So here’s to another year of GREAT food, WONDERFUL people and LONG LASTING memories.

Cheers,

Katie



me 2

Well Done, Bien Cuit!

PC: Yelp

PC: Yelp

After visiting Bien Cuit, you’ll never look at pastries the same way again. Is it possible to love something without even trying it yet? That’s how I felt about this little bakery.

To preface this review, I have a short story…
As most of my family/friends know, I hardly ever watch TV. But when I do it’s usually a show about food of some sorts. This brings me to my next point: “Unique Sweets” featured Bien Cuit on one of their episodes and whenever I watch these shows, I make sure to make a mental note to visit ESPECIALLY when it’s close by. Just from the images and descriptions, I knew I had to visit. Their featured item was the elusive Chocolate Almond Croissant… double baked in brandy. I’m such a visual person and was immediately enticed when watching the show. More or less, I was sold.

Bien Cuit, meaning “well done” is certainly appropriate. All of the desserts here are carefully crafted down to the very last bite. Upon arrival, the storefront is simple/minimalist and reflects the rustic nature of the inside. Although its spacious, there isn’t much seating to go around. I was there on a mission. My friend was cooking me dinner that night and I can never go empty-handed. So I asked the girl at the counter for suggestions (she was very helpful) and I ended up deciding on three pastries:

-Huckleberry Danish with Yuzu Curd, Huckleberry Jam: Flaky, tart and very flavorful. Those berries certainly packed a punch. This was my wildcard if you will. It’s hard to describe if you haven’t had this fruit before, so take a chance on it. It’s good.

-Apple Cardamom Danish with Pureed Apple and Cardamom Strudel: Second favorite of the night. I’m a HUGE fan of apple desserts so this was a win-win. The unique pairing of flavors certainly works.

-(The true star of Bien Cuit) Chocolate Almond Croissant/Twice-baked with Brandy: If you have to pick an item, CHOOSE THIS. You can thank me later. It’s everything a croissant should be — flaky, soft, buttery, nutty (from the almond paste)… you get the idea. And the fact that its baked in brandy? Say no more. It’s a true showstopper.

Bien Cuit-Assortment

Yes, Bien Cuit may be a tad bit on the pricier side. But I can guarantee the quality is there within every single bite. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

120 Smith St
Brooklyn, NY 11201

(718) 852-0200

biencuit.com

Govinda’s

Govindas-meal

 

 

I feel like I’ve just hit the jackpot.

And by jackpot, I mean I’ve discovered delicious, cheap, fresh food in the most unexpected place imaginable. Yes, I’m talking about in the basement of a hare krishna temple. Don’t you just love that?

You can wander past this place without doing a double take. There’s no large neon sign. No flyers. No people advertising outside. It’s good ol’ fashioned word-of-mouth marketing and of course many thanks to all of you. When you walk in, look past the man that sits by the door and past the temple services and to your right you will find Govinda’s. Picture this: Walk down a flight of stairs into what looks like a much-needed-rennovation space that reminds me of an older catering hall/cafeteria. The walls are a interesting shade of green and it’s a veryyyy casual atmosphere. And….. I love all of it.

The staff here is incredibly friendly and always have a smile on their faces. If you look at the sign on the wall (see picture) it’ll tell you the price breakdown. Everything is made that day (buffet style) and fresh out of the kitchen. Their desserts for the most part are vegan so if you have dietary restrictions, always ask! They’re very accommodating.

As for the food. Holy cow (irony, I know) this stuff is GOOD. No GREAT. They offer vegetarian/vegan options without sacrificing any flavor. I’ve been able to each lunch here (Mon-Fri 12:00-3:30pm) a few times and their star dish IMO has to be the eggplant parm. It’s not your traditional eggplant parm by any means in that there’s a underlying hint of curry with every bite. Super “meaty” and cheesy. I’ve also had their: pumpkin soup, quinoa salad, curry chickpeas, roasted curry potatoes/veggies, vegan cookies and cupcakes. Their meals come with their own homemade multigrain bread which is pretty stellar like everything else.

Not only are the portions pretty hefty (I have yet to finish my full lunch), but they’re very reasonably priced. Everything I’ve had here has been nothing short of amazing. I’m looking forward to becoming one of their “regulars”.

305 Schermerhorn St
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 855-6714
https://www.facebook.com/govindaslunch

 

The Little Uglyduckling

Uglyduckling is the newest addition to the many adorable shops and eateries along Smith St. This street is a favorite of mine — so naturally when searching for a nice place to grab a drink/grub after a crazy week at work, my friend and I wandered into Cobble Hill.

inside-uglyduckling

Only 2 weeks old, the Uglyduckling offers a diverse selection of American /Gastropub cuisine as well as a nice wall of craft beers on tap. It has a cool, hip vibe with the mismatch wooden panels on the wall, giant tv screens, vintage lighting and chalkboard artwork to name a few. There’s not a whole lot of seating but for the size of the place, they definitely utilize what space they have. We decided on sitting at the bar for dinner… and much to my surprise, they have bag hooks! Ladies (or gentlemen) your wishes have been granted. But in all seriousness, its a small but important perk.

I thought to myself, “what to choose, what to choose” when glancing at the beers along the wall. And then my eyes fell upon the Left Handed Brewing Co. NITRO MILK STOUT. I’ve been searching for this beer for the LONGEST time. So glad it’s at a bar nearby! And might I mentioned it was perfectly poured and delicious. As for the menu, very interesting items. I ended up choosing the Chicken and Waffles ($16). I was intrigued at the combination of the classic dish but with a side of spicy aioli. The buttermilk waffle was fluffy and equally crispy as the corn-flake crusted chicken. The spicy aioli was a nice touch, although I’m not sure if everyone would like that combination of flavors. But all in all, my dish was great. I would definitely order it again.

chickenwaffles-uglyduckling

tap-uglyducklingNot only was the food tasty, but the staff was personable and welcoming. Most of the staff are from Ireland so I immediately struck up a few conversations about my good ol’ days studying abroad in Limerick. Made for some great banter. Next time… my eyes are on the Pork Belly & Quail Egg Burger. Wishing the staff of Uglyduckling the best of luck! I’ll be visiting again very soon.

P.S. They’re creating a brunch menu and a happy hour which should be finalized within a week or so. So keep your eyes peeled.

166 Smith St

Brooklyn, NY 11201

b/t Wyckoff St & Warren St in Cobble Hill

uglyduckling-bk.com

SkyIce-Ice Baby!

PC: Yelp

PC: Yelp

Where else can you get ice cream in flavors like: Durian, Black Sesame Seaweed, White Miso and Almond & Thai Tea? One word my friends: SkyIce.

What an adorable part of Park Slope! My college friend suggested this place and when I looked at the menu as well as the reviews, I was pretty excited to check this eatery out. At a glance, SkyIce is undoubtedly cozy, casual and a decent size. During the warmer weather they open up the windows and you can people watch to your hearts content. The decor is very charming with their wooden benches and tables, hardwood floors and exposed brick. We sat down right away and glanced at the menu…. It was selective but covered all the basics of a Thai establishment.

I ordered the Spicy Noodle (extra spicy of course) with chicken. It was just the right amount of heat. As well as with the addition of egg, bell pepper, onion and carrot balanced out the dish pretty well. (For $9.75- good portion too.)

PC: Yelp

PC: Yelp

drunken noodle-skyice

Spicy Noodle With Chicken

Yes the dinner was good but what we REALLY came for was that “ice, ice baby!”* I have to say, choosing two flavors was a difficult feat. However, I rose above and made my mind: Thai Tea and White Miso Almond. I tried a safe and a unsafe flavor. Luckily I loved both. The Thai Tea tasted like the drink itself in ice cream form. I could eat that every day, for real. As for the White Miso Almond… totally unexpected combination of flavors, but they WORKED. And well I might add. If you’re feeling a bit risky, go for that one. I was tempted to convince my friend to go for the sampler, but we were too full. Next time, we’ll just go straight for the ice cream.

SkyIce may be advertise sweet and savory, but in a battle between the both… I think the sweet takes the gold in this case. Can’t wait to come back on a nice hot summer day.

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*Stuck in my head the ENTIRE time I wrote this review. Damn you Vanilla Ice.

Sottocasa

pizza-sottocasa

Forget cheap, $1 slices* and let’s get classy people. Sottocasa brings that elegance and refined take on brick oven authentic Neapolitan pizza that we’re all looking for. It’s a cozy, inviting and rustic little establishment. My friend and I were looking for someplace with a great atmosphere and reasonably priced dinner. And we found just that.

Sottocasa sources their flour and tomatoes from Italy as well as their wood fired oven was built and shipped directly from Naples! How’s that for ya? When I walked inside I was immediately enticed by their simplistic decorations and wooden picnic tables. We were asked if we’d like to sit in the closed-off greenhouse. UMMM… YES PLEASE! Just my kind of seating. They have stringed lights from the ceiling and heat lamps for when it gets cold. Practical and pretty.

Now let’s talk food. For the antipasti we ordered the Prosciutto, Mozzarella and a side of Arugula salad. It was all extremely fresh — a nice beginning to our meal. As for the main course we weren’t too hungry and decided on splitting a pizza. We chose the Salsiccia: tomatoes, mozz, hot italian sausage and basil. *Sigh* The dough was perfectly crispy and held all those ingredients fairly well. Brick oven just has that home-y taste that you can’t get anywhere else. That crispy, slight (in a good way) charred crust. Brings me back to when I visited Italy when I studied abroad.

Our service was great… the waiter was friendly and helpful when deciding on what to choose. As well as we didn’t feel rushed since we had a lot to catch up on that night. Hey, we’re talkative people!

Overall, I’m really impressed with this place. I can’t wait to come back and try their other items on the menu. *Eyes immediately drift towards the Burrata pizza*. Next time it is!

______________________________
*I mean don’t get me wrong… we all have those $1 pizza night cravings. You know what I’m talking about.

298 Atlantic Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11201

b/t Hoyt St & Smith St in Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill

(718) 852-8758

sottocasanyc.com

 

Ole-a!

Inside-Olea

PC: Olea

I have a firm belief/philosophy in life that I try live by:
“Sharing is caring.”

And what’s one of the best ways to share? TAPAS.

Olea was brought to my attention by my co-workers. They raved about this cute eatery and its uniquely styled Mediterranean offerings… so naturally I couldn’t wait to go! Inside reminds me of a combination of decorations that borders a Pier 1 Import/Antique feel. My taste in a nutshell. It was a very cozy and relaxed environment which is just what we needed after a long work week. We went early to ensure we didn’t miss the happy hour specials…which are great. You can choose from a couple of wines and sangria (both white and red) for $5 each. They also have happy hours for the tapas $3-6 each and $1 oysters M-F and from 4pm-7pm.

Drink-Olea
They bring you out a nice bread basket with EVOO to dip in. It was very fresh and the perfect start to our meal. As for the tapas, we ordered a bunch. The more the merrier, am I right? I’ll try to be concise and highlight the best parts of each dish.

-Almond Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates: Umm, what’s not to love about Bacon? The only negative is that they should have given us more. It was an interesting pair with the dates/almonds. Crunchy and crispy.

-Boquerones al Vinagre: It’s a very light “salad” if you will. Not my favorite. But then again I’m biased since I’m not the biggest fan of anchovies (unless they’re in a sauce). But the arugula and toasted almonds helped balance out that strong flavor.

-Spanish ‘Pitza’: One of the best items of the night. It’s sweet, savory, and spicy in one. It’s a crispy thin pizza with quince paste, Manchego, toasted garlic and red pepper. Side note…If you haven’t had Manchego cheese, you’re missin’ out in life!

-Fried Chickpeas: I’d like to think of it textually-like wasabi peas. Pretty good.

-Patatas Bravas: My friend called this the “fancier version of cheesy fiesta potatoes*”. Which I laughed at. This is a killer side dish. The thing that makes it is the harissa aioli. Yum.

-Harissa-Deviled Organic Eggs: Good. Spicy. But nothing special IMO.

-Grilled Whole Wheat Pita with Spicy Feta Dip: The dip was very creamy and fluffy. I liked the unique twist of the added heat.

From what I’ve seen their brunch is pretty popular as well. So I can’t wait to try that soon. But speaking for their dinner experience, it was a pleasant one. The staff was friendly, attentive and patient while we pick our tapas. And of course the food was pretty darn good! At a place like this, try as much as your wallet can allow. (Happy hour certainly helps!!!) I’ll definitely be back to have the full brunch experience.
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*Really? You’re comparing this place to Tbell? Shameee.

171 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238

 

b/t Adelphi St & Clermont Ave in Fort Greene

(718) 643-7003

oleabrooklyn.com