Archive for the 'NYC +' Category



Betony, NYC

A few weeks ago Rocky and I were out in Bushwick eating some bad ass pizza on our big day off together when we ran into our friend Eamon Rockey(no relation to my Rocky, don’t be confused). We chatted a bit and I asked how his new gig was going and made a promise to pay him a visit sometime soon. So a trip to Betony, Eamon’s new project with Chef Bryce Shuman, got put on my NYC shortlist.

Last Sunday while pounding sipping bourbon cocktails on the EMP patio during USHG’s Big Apple BBQ Block Party, Rocky and I ran into Rockey again. Though a lot of the details for the day ended up fairly fuzzy for me, I’m moderately sure I promised I would dine the next day at Betony. Either way, I made good on my possible promise. And I’m delighted I did. Our dinner was superb.

betony nyc orange julepbetony nyc bar snacks bread

Rocky and I met at the bar when she got off work and we started with a couple drinks and some bar snacks.

After chatting with some of the staff, and drying off from the pouring rain, we made our way to our corner table in the dining room. We were told the menu is intended in three sections: snacks, appetizers, and main courses. We picked out a few of each and got the party started.

betony nyc potato chips

Potato Chips, Creme Fraiche, Chive. Delicate potato crisps, with some nice allium flavor, cooled out by the tangy creme fraiche. Like refined sour cream and onion chips.

betony nyc crushed zucchini

Crushed Zucchini, Mint, Gruyere. Fork-smashed zucchini, sandwiched between gruyere chips. Livened up by a bit of mint.

betony nyc trout roe rice cracker

Marinated Trout Roe, Puffed Rice, Cucumber. Rice crackers topped with trout roe, fennel, and cucumber. An exciting combination of flavors. Nice texture contrasts between the light cracker, the pop of the roe, and the crisp vegetable.

betony nyc tuna melt

“Tuna Melt”, Fontina, Brioche. Open-faced melts built on small round brioche slices with mayo, bigeye tuna, fontina, tomato, and sorrel. These tasty little snacks made Rocky want to start making tuna melts for lunch.

betony nyc tomato snow gooseberry

Tomato Snow. With gooseberry compote, olive oil, and tarragon tips. A fun few bites. Super light, but packed with restrained flavor. Clean, savory, tart, and fresh.

betony nyc corn gnocchi

Gnocchi, Corn, Sea Cress. As I’ve said before, I’m a corn fanatic. And being that my mother grew up on a pig and corn farm in central Nebraska, I have an instilled sense of corn snobbery. I loved this dish. Soft, lightly starchy gnocchi served with baby corn and freeze dried corn kernels in a superb sweet corn pudding that had a light touch of heat. Amazing. I hope to have it again soon.

betony nyc grain salad

Grain Salad, Labne, Sprouts. A variety of grains prepared in a fun variety of textures, set in strained yogurt and topped with sprouts.

betony nyc chicken liver

betony nyc chicken liver

Chicken Liver, Apple, Celery, Caraway. This liver was effing bad ass. Rich and smooth. I was a big fan of it on its own, though it was accented really nicely with the sweet, tart, earthy, tangy accompaniments.

betony nyc brook trout

betony nyc brook trout

Brook Trout, Artichokes, Lovage. Big thanks to Rocky for the sweet photo above, and for having this to say about the fish:

‘The mild trout served skin on took me back to long days fly fishing along the Current River in southern Missouri. However, enjoying the trout without fish guts under my nails or river gunk in my undies allowed for a much more elegant experience. Also, the brook trout of the Northeast doesn’t have the skunky flavor of the rainbow trout I grew up on. The lean fish was complemented by buttery artichoke leaves with crispy artichoke heart chips adding texture. A ballin outta control broth topped the dish, making it a plate worth licking. Yummy fish, fun accompaniments, and awesome broth left me satisfied and excited for dessert.’

betony nyc lobster

betony nyc lobster peas radish

Lobster, Peas, Easter Egg Radish. Damn. This lobster was awesome. With sugar snap peas and English peas, a little mint, and some delicious sabayon. A flawless plate of food. Better executed and three times the size of the lobster and pea dish I had on the fourth floor crosstown a few weeks ago.

betony nyc goat milk ice cream honey

Goat Milk Ice Cream. A couple quenelles of tangy ice cream served over crunchy toasted buckwheat and drizzled with honey. A pleasant pre-dessert.

betony nyc blueberry

Blueberry, Poppyseed, Osmanthus. The ice cream, flavored with osmanthus tea, was fantastic, especially paired with the sweet berry.

betony nyc apricot almond

Apricot, Almond, Watercress. The sweet, mildly tart apricot matched up well with the almond ice cream.

betony nyc coconut white chocolate rum

Coconut, White Chocolate, Aged Rum. My favorite of the desserts. I’m not sure what to call the white chocolate part(maybe a semifreddo?), but it was filled with rum, which made magic happen when it spilled out and combined with the ice cream and toasted almonds.

betony nyc dark chocolate cardamom coffee

Dark Chocolate, Cardamom, Coffee. Another dynamic range of tastes and textures. Light, airy foam. Dense, decadent chocolate. And a base of crunchy granola.

betony nyc petit fours

Frozen Chocolate Stout Macaron. Pink Peppercorn Caramel Chew. Dried Cherry & Pistachio Divinity. A few more little bites to finish up an extraordinary dinner.

Some wines we were served, paired up by sommelier Luke Wohlers and my buddy Big Will(service director):

betony nyc winebetony nyc winebetony nyc winebetony nyc winebetony nyc winebetony nyc winebetony nyc wine

Date of visit:  June 11, 2013

Betony. 41 West 57th Street, NYC  212.465.2400  www.betony-nyc.com

Pearl & Ash, NYC

A couple weeks ago, Rocky flew out to the west coast to visit family and left me alone in the city, which really isn’t significant to this post at all, except maybe that that’s why I went as a solo diner to visit Pearl & Ash, a super cool restaurant on Bowery headed up by Richard Kuo, who was one half of last summer’s pop-up Scandinavian sensation Frej(along with Chef Fredrik Berselius, currently of Aska).

pearl and ash champagne

I arrived just a few minutes after opening and was given the option to sit at the bar or a communal. The bar it was. I started with a glass of Gatinois Champagne while I thought about dinner, fresh apple with citrus-y acidity, light minerals and yeast, and a tart finish. The menu is broken down into six sections: raw, small, fish, meat, vegetables, and sugar. I wanted to get a good taste of what Kuo was cooking up, so I started out with all the raw and small dishes, one fish, and one meat(the latter two are offered in full or half portions). I ended up with one plate from the vegetables and both from the sugar as well.

pearl and ash ama ebi shrimp

Ama-ebi, smoked lime yogurt, radish, bee pollen. True to the name, pleasantly sweet shrimp, accompanied by some good acid from the lime yogurt, radish spice, and a little salty crunch.

pearl and ash tea cured salmon

Tea cured salmon, goat cheese, tamarind, seaweed. Nice strips of salmon with a little tang and pleasant light bitterness from the tea cure. The seaweed beneath was simply wonderful, well dressed, with a great snap. A small amount of goat cheese for a little fun.

pearl and ash diver scallop

Diver scallop, fennel, lily bulb, berbere. The toasted(torched) berbere spice was really neat against the sweetness of the scallop. The pickled lily bulbs added nice florality(not yet a real word).

pearl and ash hanger tartare

Hanger, egg, cocoa, melba. Tasty tartare of impressively tender hanger steak accented with juniper and a little harisa paste that warms up nicely on the finish.

pearl and ash octopus

Octopus, sunflower seed, shiso. This plate was delicious. Like a spicy BBQ octopus. Braised and flashed, served in a reduction of mirin and sriracha that carried some pretty decent heat, along with a little mellow shiso.

pearl and ash duck confit

Duck confit, red cabbage, celery. Confit duck in panko breadcrumb and slice of confit leg draped atop. Kickin acidity from pickled red cabbage puree and tart earthy astringency from celery ribbons and leaves made a cool dynamic with the rich duck.

pearl and ash quail

Quail, almond, pomegranate, chicken skin. The bird was deboned and rewrapped in its skin, sausage style. The pomegranate, while fairly sweet, was a good enough companion to the quail. The chicken skin, made into a type of salty crumble, was awesome.

pearl and ash

Skate, chermoula, cauliflower, leek. This was the only plate I disliked. While the smooth whipped cauliflower was tasty, and the leeks were decent, the skate had a weak density. The salt, rather than helping, was a striking contrast to the bland, almost mushy fish.

pearl and ash potatoes

Potatoes, porcini mayo, chorizo. An extra from the kitchen. Damn. These were some kick-ass spuds. Super soft inside with crispy crunchy outside. Topped with some killer sauce and chorizo. Solid.

pearl and ash pork meatballs

Pork meatballs, shiitake, bonito. When this bowl hit the bar, I was mesmerized by the hypnotic contracting of the bonito flakes..like a living dish! Simple pleasures.. Superb meatballs with soppressata, mushrooms, and a sweet sauce.

pearl and ash ice cream sandwichpearl and ash ice cream sandwich

pearl and ash fernet branca ice cream sandwich

Fernet-branca ice cream sandwich. Lightly herbaceous ice cream with a very mild touch of bitterness in delightfully fun packaging.

pearl and ash coffee parfait lemon cake

Coffee parfait & cake. A mildly tangy parfait with bright flavored lemon poundcake, preserved lemon, and creme fraiche. I don’t often like lemon in desserts, but this plate, a take on the coffee and donuts that Kuo & crew used to consume pre-opening, was surprisingly nice.

pearl and ash rieslingpearl and ash chinon

In addition to Chef Richard’s fantastic food, I was impressed by wine guy Patrick Cappiello’s superb accomplishment of a list. I had a fantastic bottle of 1990 Schloss Schonborn riesling for a very fair $52 and a glass of cab franc by Bernard Baudry, currently my favorite Chinon producer. Given its location just blocks from my gym, and the great value for tasty food, I anticipate I’ll be returning to Pearl & Ash soon. Plus once I post this Rocky is going to be pissed off that she hasn’t been yet.

Date of visit: April 1, 2013

Pearl & Ash. 220 Bowery, NYC  212.837.2370  www.pearlandash.com

Aska, Brooklyn

Last summer, when I caught word of a pop-up restaurant in Williamsburg called Frej, I jumped right on securing a table to see for myself what Chefs Fredrik Berselius and Richard Kuo were up to…or at least I intended to. I slept on it a little too long and by the time I made a legit attempt to schedule a dinner I was met with a message of the restaurant’s mysterious closing and their ambiguous time frame of reopening. So I missed out on that one. Though when I heard of the space within Kinfolk Studios being reborn as Aska, I made sure that I was among the first in line to take a bite of Berselius’s food…or at least I intended to.

aska table setting

It wasn’t until about two months after Aska’s opening that I ran into Eamon Rockey(the ex-GM, who recently left the company) and promised that I would be in to dine soon. A week later, there I was with camera in hand and Rocky(my Rocky, not Eamon) by my side ready for dinner. We ordered a couple cocktails and a bottle of Champagne, then we were ready to rock.

A few snacks to start:

aska molasses shortbread

Molasses shortbread with smoked cheese. Warm flavors with a touch of sweetness.

aska scallop dill

Scallop and dill. A savory crispy chip with an unmistakable scallop taste.

aska pig blood chip

Pig blood chip with sea buckthorn berry. How very Nordic. Tart berries with dry, bitter bloodiness.

aska bread service

Bread service. Crisps and caraway rolls with salted local butter.

The menu:

aska oyster cucumber rapeseed

Oyster, cucumber, rapeseed. A nice opener, Rhode Island oysters. The cucumber was great for a fresh balance to the brine of the oyster.

aska herring potato jumiper

aska juniper herring

Herring, potato, juniper. A delicious fish. Delightfully crispy head and tail. Served with a shot of aquavit, onion juice, and whey. I thought the pairing was bad ass. Distinctively Scandinavian.

aska sunchoke trotter apple

Sunchoke, trotter, apple. Crispy trotter with apple puree, raw sunchoke, and woodruff powder. The dynamic was nice between the pork richness, the sweet acidic apple, and the raw root earthiness.

aska roots egg yolk lamb

aska salsify

Roots, egg yolk, lamb. Salsify, sunchoke, slow cooked yolk, and lamb heart and tongue in a broth of winter leaves and lichen. I loved the savoriness of the broth with the meat. A very nice plate of food.

aska monkfish cabbage bay leaf

aska monkfish

Monkfish, cabbage, bay leaf. What at first looks like a plate of cabbage leaves, punches, and puree, reveals a cut of monkfish and its liver. A pretty strong contrast melded together with a sauce of pork & monkfish stock with bay leaf and rose hip.

aska beef shortrib rutabaga hay

Beef, rutabaga, hay. A good size piece of beef short rib with rutabaga, some fermented, some not, with reduced cream and beef stock. From Rocky: ‘Damn. [dramatic pause] This is delicious! Holy balls. This is unhealthy.’ And a little later: ‘This is a fantastic dish. Super-hella-rich, but this is awesome!’ Well said.

aska lingonberry oat chip

A little pre-dessert of frozen whey, lingonberry, oat chip. These little guys were amazing.

aska cardamom brown butter hazelnut

Cardamom, brown butter, hazelnut. A delicious, nutty serving of cardamom ice cream with brown butter mousse, hazelnuts, and hazelnut powder.

Following dessert we moved from the more formal part of the space out to the casual bar area to finish up our bottle of bubbles and glasses of Sherry.

aska dreams cookies

Eamon gave us a little plate of cookies. He called them ‘Dreams’ and said he hoped they made our dreams come true.

Date of visit: January 28, 2013

Aska. 90 Wythe Avenue. Brooklyn, NY  718.388.2969  http://askanyc.com

Kajitsu, NYC

Even before I moved to NYC, I had wanted to visit Kajitsu. Though the restaurant switched chefs and somewhat changed cuisines since it first popped up on my radar, it maintained a high spot on my eating list. So late last January on our big night off together, Rocky and I headed to the East Village(Kajitsu has since relocated) to try out Ryota Ueshima’s Shojin fare.

kajitsu table setting

We were offered a choice of two Kaiseki menus: Kaze, the shorter, or Hana, which includes the whole Kaze menu plus a few additions. Naturally, we chose the Hana tasting. I ordered the sake pairings, Rocky opted for grapes by the glass.

kajitsu camellia flower plate

kajitsu flower

Camellia Flower Plate. Red cabbage, turnip, arrowhead root, watercress, vinegared jelly, malva nut. Presented as a scene of a flower growing from the ground with ‘pollen’ of arrowhead root chips. The ‘petals’ were thick, tasty cuts of cabbage. The jelly had a yummy savory/acid balance. While it wasn’t at all bad, this was a super underwhelming opener.

kajitsu ozouni soup

kajitsu ozouni soup

Ozouni Soup. White miso, mochi, broccolini, daikon, carrot, sakekasu-fu, cumquat chips, mustard. I loved this. The soup was of an amazing savory density. The fried mochi had a little spice and with the fu gave the dish some fun chewiness.

kajitsu new year osechi box

kajitsu osechi box

New Year Osechi Box. Yuba, snow pea, burdock root, shiitake mushroom, golden beet, temari-fu, potato, chayote, sweet potato, cucumber, date, yam, beet, daikon, radish, parsnip, myoga, crosnes. Quite the assortment of items and preparations. A delightful compilation of tastes and textures. I particularly enjoyed the black soy beans, the sliced golden beet, and the thin shaved turnip wrapped around a cube of red beet.

kajitsu house made soba noodles

kajitsu soba noodles

House Made Soba Noodles. Wasabi, horseradish, scallion. With a kelp, seaweed, and soy broth. Little pieces of wasabi tempura were fun. The pairing of a bold, dry Junmai from Gunma was fantastic with the root spice.

kajitsu fried taro with shungiku sauce

Fried Taro with Shungiku Sauce. Rikyu-fu, variety of seasonal mushrooms, ginger. Another winner. The fried taro was incredible. The varieties of mushrooms had great textures and earthiness that added extra depth to the Shungiku broth.

kajitsu bi color sushi miso soup

Bi-Color Sushi with Miso Soup. Shiitake, lotus root, bamboo shoot, bok choy, wasabi, carrot, ginger. The rolled ‘sushi’ was merely decent on its own, though warmed in the red miso & tofu soup it was spectacular. The pickled vegetables were a nice condiment.

kajitsu snow mochi cake

kajitsu mochi

Snow Mochi Cake. A mochi rice ball filled with sweet white bean paste and topped with what seemed like spun sugar.

kajitsu matcha candies kyoto suetomi

Matcha with Candies by Kyoto Suetomi. A sugar candy representing the year of the snake and a light rice and sesame cookie. Along with a small serving of warm matcha.

Some sake I was served:

kajitsu sakekajitsu sakekajitsu sakekajitsu sakekajitsu sake

Date of visit: January 27, 2013

Kajitsu. 125 E 39th Street. NYC  212.228.4873  www.kajitsunyc.com/

Gwynnett St, Brooklyn

I’ve said before that I’m often fairly slow to put up posts about meals. Well..here’s one from about three months ago that I’ve had queued up on my wordpress page for quite awhile with pictures attached and just waiting for a few words. A late January dinner at Gwynnett St with Rocky. I’m not sure how relevant this will be since just days ago the restaurant announced that Chef Justin Hilbert has left the team and former sous chef Owen Clark will be taking his place. For what it’s worth, here’s what was for dinner:

gwynnett st whiskey bread

Whiskey Bread with cultured butter. I really liked the crust. It was nice of Rocky to give me both end pieces.

gwynnett st sunchoke

Sunchoke. The sunchokes were served crispy, sliced, and roasted with cheese. Along with hazelnuts, purple watercress and a kick ass alpine cheese broth. The roasted and sliced chokes were both great, but the crispy ones got soggy with the broth.

gwynnett st kohlrabi

Kohlrabi and Turnip. The kohlrabi was compressed with yuzu and soy. The turnip compressed with a dashi. Served with Iberian ham both shredded and in a mousse. Very impactful flavors in the vegetables. The turnip was awesome with its pairing, a Mosel Riesling Spatlese. Great work with roots.

gwynnett st snails farro crosnes

Snails roasted with meyer lemon. With farro in an onion soubise, pickled onion, and crosnes. Super solid dish. Great flavor balance between acid and richness. The texture variety was a lot of fun. The crispness of the crosnes was superb, and Rocky had fun putting them atop the snails acting like they were shells.

gwynnett st blood dumpling

Blood Dumplings. With parsnip noodles, roasted apple, and trevisio. A fantastic balance all together: the iron flavor of the blood, the bitter radicchio, the more vegetal than sweet parsnip, the soft texture of the dumplings, and the crisp and crunch of the vegetables. A vegetal local rose from Bedell Winery on Long Island was a fun pairing.

gwynnett st white bean tofu

gwynnett st white bean tofu carrot

White Bean Tofu. With smoked white beans, carrots, and a few other roots. A few alliums in the dish had a wonderful char. The caramelized onion broth was spot on with a great fragrance.

gwynnett st ocean trout salsify beet

Ocean Trout. A well-prepared piece of fish. Some sweet earthiness from salsify and golden beets. Some ocean accents from nori, wakame, and roe. A little bitter acidity from red veined sorrel. Superbly matched with the slightly sour dark berry earthiness of a cru Beaujolais from Julienas.

gwynnetts duck

gwynnett st duck prune

Duck. With brussels sprouts and prune. Super rich. Hard-hitting. With a huge wine to match; from Cadillac, Bordeaux.

gwynnett st fennel grapefruit

Fennel & Grapefruit. Cool dessert with good bitter to sweet ratio and a resounding, cool herbaceousness.

gwynnett st dessert

gwynnett st mystery dessert

I can’t recall anything really specific here. Something in the vein of a take on a strawberry shortcake. I remember it being awesome with the Pineau Des Charentes.

gwynnett st chocolate rosehip bulls blood

Chocolate. Rosehip. Bull’s blood. Textures of chocolate and rosehip with a handful of bull’s blood leaves. Tasty. Nice with the 20 year Tawny.

The wines we were paired:

gwynnett st winegwynnett st winegwynnett st winegwynnett st winegwynnett st winegwynnett st winegwynnett st winegwynnett st winegwynnett st winegwynnett st wine

Certainly a fun dinner and I think a fantastic value. I’ll have to head back soon to see how things cook up with Chef Clark leading the team.

Date of visit: January 20, 2013

Gwynnett St. 312 Graham Ave. Brooklyn, NY  347.889.7002  www.gwynnettst.com

Torrisi Italian Specialties, NYC

As our recent Euro-eating-trip was approaching, Rocky and I were supposed to be going easy on the eating out and saving money for our Copenhagen-Denia-San Sebastian line-up. But coming up on my last night off work before departure, I couldn’t help but call up Torrisi to see if they could get us in for their Chef’s Tasting Menu. After a moment on the phone, on and off hold, we were good to go. The menu was composed of roughly 20 ‘courses’, each paying homage to the history of NYC dining and food culture.

OUR AMERICANO. American in Italy. A bitter drink started the night. I believe it was something like Grapefruit, Wormwood, Cherry Bark, and Ginseng.

THE QUAIL’S OLIVE. Canned Bar Snack. Olive-brined quail eggs. They seemed more about the novelty than an attempt at a great flavor combination.

PRETZELS. Street Cart. Soft pretzel bites with caraway and mustard. A great little snack, but a stretch to be called a course.

SABLE CIGARETTES. Stork Club. Gnocco fritto, wrapped in smoked sable, dipped in cod roe, with poppy seed ash. Despite the gimmicky nature of this snack, I thought it was delicious.

OYSTERS. Bloch & Guggenheim Deli Peppers. The peppers left a nice spice on the finish to follow the brine, but were a little strong for the oyster.

LITTLE NECK CLAM. on the Half Shell. The foam had great acid and a little bitterness to compliment the clam and balance with the neighboring half shell.

BUCKWHEAT CAVIAR KNISH. Yonah Shimmel Celebrates. Brilliant. The crunch of the buckwheat, the Hackleback salinity, a little red onion. Great snack.

RABBIT TERRINE. Toasted Italian Bread. Another winner. Rich rabbit game, nicely seasoned, countered by sour cherry jam, lemon zest, and rosemary.

CASHEW CHICKEN. A Southern Mulberry Classic. Fried chicken oysters rolled in chopped cashews, served on century-old Tiffany & Co. spoons. Outstanding.

PROSCIUTTO’D MELON. Eldorado 5-8654.  A lovely slice of melon, with a beautiful cut of prosciutto. Some livening freshness from the herbs, and a few big salt crystals. Simple, classic, and perfect.

RAW CAPONATA. Bensonhurst BBQ. The feature of the dish, the BBQ eggplant, fell pretty flat. Though the caponata was nice, with good vegetable crunch and a little spice. The raisin creme fraiche ice cream gave a pleasant cooling effect.

MACKEREL IN CRAZY WATER. Atlantic Aqua Pazza. A pretty slice of Mackerel, barely touched, accompanied by seaweed ash, sea beans, and tomato compote, and finished with a fantastic acqua pazza.

FOIE GRAS NEWBERG. Wenberg & Ranhofer. Excellent foie. Rich and smooth. Topped with brandy gelee. A fowl take on the original Lobster Newberg.

DELMONICO STEAK TARTARE. 25 William Street. A bold flavored tartare with a good amount of black pepper, petite cornichons, and encapsulated béarnaise.

SHEEP MILK RICOTTA GNOCCHI. Dancing Ewe Farms. Well-executed ricotta gnocchi tossed with buttery sweet corn. This plate was damn delicious.

OCTOPUS SPAGHETTONI. A Sunday on Long Island. The octopus was nicely tender with a strong ocean flavor. Toasted bread crumbs were a plus, texturally. The dish was initially too spicy for me, but I numbed to it fairly quickly.

LAMB CAPELLACI. Pope John Paul Goldstein III. Artichoke hearts, matzah, mint, Manischewitz. Good pasta, the lamb was cooked well, and none of the components were overbearing. A pleasant dish.

DRY-AGED GUINEA HEN. French in Italian. Black truffle. Boudin noir. This was a great plate. Nothing ground-breaking, but honest and impeccable.

CHEESE DANISH. Bagel Shop. A fluffy, buttery, poppy seed danish, with sweet onion jam and cheese. A tasty, balanced, composed cheese course.

GINGER ITALIAN ICE. The Corona King. Pretty much what one could expect from ginger italian ice. Densely packed, and almost spicy in flavor.

MARASCHINO FLOAT. Soda Parlor. The root beer financier was great. Sour cherry ice cream over pretzel crumble was great as well. The milk straw and cherry soda were a nice novelty.

PASTRIES. Ferrara Bakery. Let’s see if I can name all these…Ricotta cannoli with orange zest. Polenta cake with ricotta and rhubarb. Peppermint truffles. A honey something that just kind of poofed away. Seaweed Taffy, dry and bitter. An interesting and kind of unpleasant olive wafer. A pistachio thing. Celery cake with concord jelly, which was much better than expected.

A take-home menu and some rainbow cake/cookies.

Rich Torrisi and Mario Carbone certainly have good things going with their current restaurants. They make food and experiences that are fun and honest. I’m excited to check out their new endeavor: Carbone, which is aiming for a late fall opening.

Date of visit: September 5, 2012

Torrisi Italian Specialties. 250 Mulberry Street. NYC. 212.965.0955  http://www.torrisinyc.com/

Atera, again

Atera, the multi-course chef’s counter experience headed by Wonder-Chef Matthew Lightner in Tribeca, is in my opinion, the most exciting restaurant in NYC at the moment. Lightner’s creative vision, technical precision, and new naturalism perception make for a dining experience unmatched by any other in the city. So when I had a night off, and they had an open seat for me, I returned without hesitation(even though I’m supposed to be saving for my upcoming dining trip across the pond with Rocky).

I just posted a brief recap of my first meal at Atera to accompany this post. My second visit to the small Worth Street dining room started with a beer cocktail. Voisin Belgian Saison was the base, mixed with rhubarb, wildflower honey, lemon, and bitters. It was a great way to start off. If I don’t have bubbles, I’ll usually always have a bitter drink to begin. This had a slightly-more-than-subtle bitterness matched with fresh citrus and herb layers. It played nicely with the series of opening bites as well.


Snacks:

Flaxseed Cookie, Pine Nut Butter, Dried Mushroom. Served cold, the cookie was crisp and crunchy, with a little sweetness, and a light earthiness from the mushroom.

Lobster Roll. Lightner’s small-bite-play on the east coast classic. The claw meat in mayonnaise had a nice chew. The yeast meringue ‘bun’ had a nice puff to it.

Horseradish Parfait, Salted Halibut, Mustard Seed. Mild fresh fish taste, with a little horseradish heat on the finish. I was a little unsure how to eat this. I didn’t have utensils yet, and this was somewhat cumbersome for finger food.

Beer & Creme Fraiche Macaron with Caviar. I’m still not sure what was going on here, but it was damn delicious; I wish I had asked for an explanation. Light, crisp texture, a little something sweet, and caviar salinity to finish.

Foie Gras Peanut. Creamy, peanutty, with more foie flavor than I remember from last time. I liked it much more this time for some reason.

Pickled Quail Egg. Quail egg made into an aioli, reshaped into an egg, and pickled. Still more of a miss than a hit for me.

Pig’s Blood Wafer with Whipped Pork Fat. This was very interesting, if nothing else. I couldn’t decide if I liked it overall. I definitely like the crackle of the cracker, and there was some pleasant bitterness.

‘Whole Razor Clam’. Razor clam mousseline, poached razor clams, and seaweed in a baguette painted with squid ink. Between the clam and the ink, this had great ocean flavor. I love the texture of the crust too.

Rock Tripe, Herb Aioli, Malt Vinegar. As far as I know, I had never had rock tripe, a lichen, or algae, that grows on rocks. The taste was very mild until enhanced by the tang of the aioli.

Smoked Tomato Ice, Fresh Sea Urchin, Shallot Oil. I’m actually not sure if this was intended as part of the snacks or as the first course. Since it wasn’t printed on my menu, I’m putting it with the snacks. Either way, this was amazing. Nice, smoky aroma. Delicate, chilled urchin. Beautiful balance, spot-on umami.

Menu:

1st Course: Diver Scallops. Purslane. Pickled Green Tomatoes, Sesame. Scallops cured in gin botanicals. Tomato juice ice. Not so much balance, as a fun imbalance. Dynamic, sharp flavor. The scallops had a much better taste and texture than in the scallop dish I had last time. The seeds had a fun snap.

2nd Course: Peeky-Toe Crab. Artichoke. Cold Herb Infusion, Strained Buttermilk. A Creative course. The artichoke petals were beautifully tender and a fun textural play with the crab meat. The sour of the buttermilk set everything off and made it sing.

3rd Course: Lamb Tartare. Wood Sorrel. Smoked Tomato. The smoked Beefsteak Tomato was a wonderful compliment to the tartare. The black malt cracker tasted like a space-age Triscuit, and made a great vessel.

4th Course: Seared Duck Hearts. Nasturtium. Tender Young Vegetables. Blanched roots and vegetables with herbs. Mushroom vinaigrette, with sunflower oil and fish sauce. Pastrami-cured duck hearts. Amazing. There was a couple dozen different veggies, leaves, petals, roots, and alliums, all individually treated or barely touched. Every bite was fresh and different. It was like eating Michel Bras’ famous Gargouillou, with the bonus of the superb duck hearts.

5th Course: “Ramen”. Salad Burnet. Noodles, shallots, dissolving spice packet, chicken bouillon. Though this wasn’t presented as a Mugaritz-style ‘Guess what it is?’ mystery, I was left on my own to figure out the noodles were made from squid, which wasn’t that tough to do. The squid was lightly blanched with a nice density. This bowl had lots of savory punch without being in-your-face salty.

6th Course: Dried Beet “Ember”. Bull’s Blood Beet Green. With smoked trout roe, toasted bread, and a sea urchin & crustacean emulsion. This dish is the only repeated course from my first meal. Since it was my favorite plate then, I was happy to see its return. The compilation on this slab of slate is an episode of brilliance that I hope never leaves the menu.

7th Course: Brined Hake. Milkweed. Wildflower Honey, Yogurt. A nicely treated, honey-brined piece of Hake. Nice flavors, good balance, and a little dance on the palate. While this had no faults, it wasn’t a huge wow.

8th Course: Barbequed Veal Sweetbreads. Garlic Scape. Hazelnut. The sweetbreads were in a spiced veal demiglace and hazelnut sauce that was lick-the-board good. The garlic scape was pickled and seared. This reminded me of a dish one might find at Mugaritz, with the two complementing/contrasting elements on the plate. A dynamic, almost transcendent back-and-forth. This is in a toss-up with the dried beet and the vegetables with duck hearts for my favorite of the night.

9th Course: Four Story Beef Strip. Lobster Mushroom. Marrow Ragu, Smoked Onion. A gorgeous piece of meat from Four Story Hill Farm. Amazing flavor, especially the fatty end. Pickled and frozen bone marrow was a very interesting item, and great when mixed with the sweet ragu. The dry mushrooms, simply just shaved, absorbed the other flavors on the plate and made for some very special bites.

10th Course: Square Cheese. 80-day raw goat’s milk cheese from Twig Farm in Vermont. With blueberries and apple bread. Semi-soft and rustic, a nice choice for a single cheese plate.

11th Course: White Rose. Sea Rose Mallow. Wildflower Sherbet. A beautifully presented flower made of rose water ice. The petals peeled off like a real rose, and had a pleasant floral flavor.

12th Course: Peach. Magenta Spreen. Sunflower Toffee. I love poached peaches, and this didn’t disappoint. The sunflower ice cream ‘pit’ had a perfect seed taste. The herbs made good refreshers between bites.

13th Course: Strawberry Shortcake. Cinnamon Basil. Wild Strawberries. Raw Milk Ice Cream. The shortcake batter was aerated and frozen and made for a fun take on the classic dessert. Some menthol-ish anise hyssop brightened and elevated the ice cream and fresh berries and left me feeling fresh and minty.

14th Course: Dried Tomato. Parsley Powder. Goat’s Milk Ice Cream. The dried tomato was almost candy-like with its chew and sweetness. This was a nice pairing of creaminess and acidity.

15th Course: Churro. White Cardamom. Salsify, Cinnamon. A salsify ‘churro’ rolled with cinnamon, sugar, and white cardamom. Served with salted hazelnut chocolate. A nice rendition of the Spanish classic. Nice nutty savoriness.

16th Course: Bourbon Cask Ice Cream Sandwich. Oak. Almond, Vanilla. Ice cream aged in bourbon cask. The chocolate cookie was made with flour flavored with toasted oak chips, in addition to cocoa and almond flour. Another fun play on a classic to finish the menu.

Petit Fours: Black Walnut. Nutty Sweetness.

Petit Fours: Hazelnut Truffle. A dense, chocolatey, rich bite. Perfect finisher for an amazing tasting.

Bread Service:

I was served three breads throughout the meal: Salted Rye, Sourdough Roll basted with Pork Fat, and a Whole Grain Seeded Roll. The cream for the butter is aged in house with Jasper Hill Farms Harbison Cheese.

Some wines I was served:

I won’t belabor details about each of these wines and their placement in the meal because I’m running short on time and I want to finish this post. Though I’ll say that the pairings offered are eclectic, intelligent, and exciting. During each of my two visits, I was impressed and wowed a few times by the beverage team.

As I’m sitting here typing, I’m texting back-and-forth with my good friend BLT(The Beltless Tiger), trying to plan a visit to Atera on his next trip to NYC. At this point, I’m planning to take every opportunity I have to experience Lightner’s cuisine before the price doubles and reservations become even more difficult obtain.

Date of visit: August 23, 2012

***Update: A small disclosure: Since having these two meals and posting about them, I’ve joined the Atera team.***

Atera. 77 Worth Street. NYC. 212.226.1444  http://ateranyc.com/

Atera, NYC

I never made it to Compose. And Compose never made it onto my to-eat list. Though when I learned of the space reopening as a new seasonal-forage-inspired/half-molecular/chef’s counter concept, Atera quickly made it onto my list. Before long, after learning more of Chef Matthew Lightner, and reading some of the early words regarding his new work, the small Tribeca restaurant was number one on said list.

The Bro was planning a combo birthday-slash-James Beard Awards trip, and left the eating decisions up to me. I told him Atera was my number one at the moment, and he didn’t argue. Get ready for an amazing run-on: After a night of heavy drinking at the JBF ceremony, after party, after after party, etc, followed by an earlier than desired wake-up for lunch at EMP(which was the best meal I’ve had there since my first(and also an amazing clean-up from the previous night’s festivities)), then an afternoon of notaries, wire transfers, and lease signing, The Bro, Rocky, and I couldn’t wait to sit at our barstools at the thirteen seat counter(right next to my new friend Doc Sconz and his friend, whose meal can be seen here(on a much fancier and more eloquent blog than mine)).

Now this meal was 3+ months ago, and I’m posting this simultaneously with my meal from last week, so I’m going to be fairly vague and brief for this one.

A bottle of 2000 Gaston Chiquet to begin. It was everything it should be, and a great match for the upcoming ‘snacks’.

Snacks: Sunchoke Skin, Buttermilk, Flowers, Herbs.

Snacks: Mustard, Flax, and Sunflower Seed Granola coated in Black Sesame Butter.

Snacks: Lobster Roll. Claw meat and Mayo on a dry yeast meringue.

Snacks: Malt Cracker.

Snacks: Foie Gras Peanuts.

Snacks: ‘Pickled Quail Eggs’

Snacks: ‘Whole Razor Clams’. Razor clam mousseline, poached razor clams, seaweed, baguette painted with squid ink.

Snacks: Seaweed Cracker. Seaweed pounded and dried with hay ash. Herb Aioli.

Snacks: Spring Garlic Roots, Garlic Aioli, Dill.

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1st Course: Yogurt. Shad Roe, Rhubarb, Licorice.

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2nd Course: Diver Scallops. Citrus, Gin Botanicals, Buttermilk.

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3rd Course: Fluke. Barbequed Onion, Coriander, Fennel Seed.

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4th Course: Squid. Cured Lardo, Squid Broth. This was presented in the guessing game/blind tasting fashion I encountered at Mugaritz.

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5th Course: Dried Beet. Trout Roe, Crustacean Sauce. My favorite dish of the evening. I believe The Bro’s as well. And I think it was Rocky’s favorite, aside from dessert.

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6th Course: Softshell Crab. Brown Butter Consommé.

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7th Course: North Coast Halibut. Young Garlic, Whey.

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8th Course: Squab. Caramelized Ramps, Pear, Tarragon.

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9th Course: Lamb. Sprouted Wheatberries, Leek.

At this point we were told we had a choice to sub out one of our dessert courses for a cheese course. I thought it was a silly offer. Substitution, no. Supplement, yes.

10th Course: Cheese. Ascutney Mountain-Cobb Hill Farm, VT. Moses Sleeper-Jasper Hill Farms, VT. Mountaineer-Meadow Creek Dairy, VA. Mossend Blue-Bonnieview Farm, VT.

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11th Course: Rock. Meyer Lemon, Wild Ginger.

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12th Course: Parsley Root Split. Banana Ice Cream, Chiffon, Milk Skin.

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13th Course: Charcoal. Chocolate Meringue, Goat’s Milk Ice Cream. Rocky still talks about this dish every time someone mentions Atera.

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14th Course: Oak. Bourbon, Malt.

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Petit Fours: Hazelnut Truffles.

Petit Fours: Black Walnuts.

A few more wines we were served:

Certainly a great first impression from an outstanding first meal at the hands of Chef Lightner and his team.

To see what I had for my second visit, with a little more detail, click here.

Date of visit: May 8, 2012

***Update: A small disclosure: Since having these two meals and posting about them, I’ve joined the Atera team.***

Atera. 77 Worth Street. NYC. 212.226.1444  http://ateranyc.com/

Battersby

Several times a week, Rocky saunters along Smith Street in Cobble Hill before or after work. For about a month, she kept mentioning passing by a small restaurant she had read about and how cool it looks. On our most recent night off together, it was her turn to choose our dinner spot. So I hopped on an F train to Brooklyn to join her at Battersby.

Since they operate primarily on a first-come, first-served system(and since it worked perfectly with our schedules), we planned to meet right at opening time(5:30). We were the first guests in the door and were offered our choice of seating. We opted to sit at the far end of the bar, since it provided the best view into the open kitchen, and we wanted to see co-owner/co-chefs Joseph Ogrodnek and Walker Stern in action.

True to form, we started with some bubbles. Pierre Gimonnet Blanc de Blancs, always a welcome friend. I didn’t care for the small glass glasses(as opposed to crystal) which they served our Champagne in, though I’m sure if I had asked to switch to crystal stems they would have graciously obliged. We gave a quick look over the dinner menu and without hesitation ordered the 7-course Chef’s Tasting(a 5-course tasting was offered as well).

Amuse: Chilled Corn Soup. The first bite to hit the table was light and delivered a satisfying sweet corn flavor. It was also a nice treat to have alongside the bubbles.

Bread: Rosemary Flatbread, served hot and fluffy, and generously seasoned. Accompanied by whipped ricotta with olive oil and black pepper.

Amuse: Cod Brandade Croquet, Shishito Pepper, Tomato Compote. The sweetness and acid of the tomato balanced well with the croquet, while the vegetal pepper made for a well-rounded few bites.

1st Course: Heirloom Tomato, Burrata, Basil. A straight-forward plate. Beautiful for the season, and not over-treated. I appreciated the Campania-born Burrata much more than the domestic attempts I’ve been faced with recently.

2nd Course: Heirloom Carrot, Greek Yogurt, Crispy Quinoa. A variety of heirloom carrots treated in a variety of ways. Some had a fresh snap, while some had a tender sweetness that reminded me of my mom’s brown sugar carrots. The tang of the yogurt, with a little dill, livened the plate. The crunch of the quinoa was brilliant. An impressive dish.

3rd Course: Homemade Pork Tortelloni, Cherry Tomato, Dandelion Pesto. The pasta was very well executed; great pork flavor, but somehow very light. The tomatoes are a welcome addition to most any dish this time of year. While I loved the bitter flavor of the greens, for me they were far too strong to balance with the light tortelloni. Even between bites the leaves left too much astringency and overpowered the pasta.

4th Course: Poached Hake, Mangalica Ham, Piperade, Garlic Chips. Fantastic fish, confit in duck fat. The lively, robust flavor of the piperade made me dance in my bar-stool a little with each bite. Of course adding garlic and ham didn’t hurt. Great layers of savory and acidity. This was my favorite dish of the meal. Pretty damn tasty.

5th Course: Chicken Roulade, Spaetzle, Shiitake Mushroom, Bacon. So far, the richest dish, by far. Rocky commented on the heavy salt; I have to agree with her. Though she loved the spaetzle. I thought the roulade was overall well-executed, but a little dry.

We had one more savory course to go. I asked if it hard already started plating, because it if hadn’t, I wanted to supplement the kale salad that Battersby is becoming well-known for. We were told that the chefs had already fired our dish, but that it was built around that salad.

6th Course: Short Ribs, Crispy Kale, Green Papaya, Radish, Cucumber, Peanut. This was the best short rib dish I can recall being served as I’m typing now. They tend to be served either too rich or too sweet for me, but the freshness of the kale setting(which I believe lives up to its acclaim) made for a beautiful, fresh counter-balance. Bravo.

Pre-Dessert: Blueberry & Bay Leaf Panna Cotta. Nice little bite; light and addictive. The panna cotta was slightly herbaceous and soft, not too set. The berries were mild, not too tart or too sweet.

7th Course: Sweet Ricotta, Honey, Pistachio, Black Mission Figs. Rocky was really unfair to this dessert. She felt she had been ripped off by not getting chocolate. So I got to eat most of hers. I thought it was great.

Chefs Ogrodnek and Stern certainly have a great thing going in Cobble Hill. It was fun watching their passionate performance in the kitchen. Judging by the line out the door when we left, they’ll be at it for a while

Date of visit: August 22, 2012

Battersby. 255 Smith Street. Brooklyn, NY. 718.852.8321 http://battersbybrooklyn.com/

Governor

Governor, in DUMBO, Brooklyn, the latest effort from the team responsible for the hip and wildly popular restaurants Colonie and Gran Electrica, is a modernist farm-to-table concept headed by chef/partner Brad McDonald. I’ve been encouraged by a number of friends to try out the first two of the brand, but still haven’t been to either. When The Gov opened, and I found out a friend of mine was working the kitchen, I made a point to pay a visit sooner than later.

So on our big night off together for the week, Rocky and I called in a reservation and requested to sit at the chef’s counter. We started dinner with a bottle of Jacques Lassaigne Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blanc Champagne. Green apples and yeast on the nose. Citrus acidity and brioche on the palate with light minerality and beautiful bubbles. A fun bottle.

Looking over the savory menu of the night, we found about ten things we wanted to try. Chef McDonald(who was genuinely welcoming, super cool, and enthusiastic) came over and introduced himself and asked how we were doing with the menu. After a little back-and-forth, we gave him Carte Blanche, and this is how our night went:

1st: Poached Oyster Toast, Lobster Emulsion, Sheep’s Sorrel. Island Creek Oysters gently poached, served on crunchy crostini. I’m not sure of the base for the emulsion, but it was balanced, savory, and still light. I always love the citrus-like acidity of sorrel, and in this instance, it was thoughtful condiment to the oysters.

2nd: Lobster Consomme, Apple, Fennel. A chilled consommé with impressively strong lobster flavor, with poached lobster, Pink Lady apple granite, shaved fennel, and fennel fronds. Rocky thought the consommé was ‘Too Lobstery’, but I thought it was fantastic, especially set off by the herbaceous fennel. And I loved the scent it left on my lips.

3rd: Grilled Chicken Wings, Cucumber, Thyme, Mustard Barbecue. Confit boneless chicken wings grilled ‘Japanese Style’ and plated with grilled and pickled cucumber, mustard bbq, and onion flowers. The sauce, which they called ‘South Carolina Style’, was a hit. I like the char-to-freshness ratio of the cucumbers. The onion flowers gave a potent, vegetal, allium spice. A fun play on a classic bbq dish, and a definite winner with my date.

4th: Beef Tartare, Mussel Emulsion, Watercress, Ramp Capers. On crackers made of tapioca and pickled ramp water. This bowl smelled like the ocean. And left a feeling and flavor in my mouth like I just ate seafood. Lovely beef flavor is prominent on the palate and set off by brilliant ramp capers. Very creative. I’ll surely order this if I see it on the menu next time. Rocky wants a bag of the tapioca chips.

Bread, Butter and Radishes. Warm sourdough baked in-house. Light, but firm crisp to the crust. Fluffy crumb. Spicy fresh radish. Butter, topped with salted rind of Timberdoodle cheese.

5th: Gold Bar Squash Gazpacho, Zucchini Blossom, Fresh Chèvre. Yummy. Not at all overly-sweet(unlike most squash based soups I’m fearful of being served). A tempura-like blossom is always a plus.

5th: Tomato ‘Tartare’. Smoked Tomato Water. Mint Oil. Poached Mackerel Cream. Toasted Bread. This didn’t pack as strong of a seasonal tomato deliciousness as I had hoped for, but the combination of the tomato with the smoke and mint certainly put me into deep-thought-mode for a moment.

6th: Summer Beans, Whipped Salt Cod, Chorizo Oil. A selection of beans, all cooked appropriately, peas, pickled peppers. The whipped cod was pleasantly subtle, and very light. The peas were great in the chorizo oil. Strong flavors restrained just enough to accentuate a beautiful plate of legumes. This was my second favorite dish of the night.

7th: Charred Baby Corn, Goat’s Milk Feta, Cilantro, Gulf Prawns. Lime Juice, Shrimp Oil, Cayenne. Big winner. The corn was marvelously fresh and juicy. The Prawns were cooked spot-on. My favorite plate of the meal.

8th: Glazed Celery Root. Embryonic Egg Yolk. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar Mousse. Lemon Zest. I adore celery root; this example maintained the right amount of crunch without being tough. The embryonic yolks were cured and grated over the slices of root and spots of mousse. Deep richness was brightened by the lemon zest. I’m very happy to have had this and can still recall the dynamic flavors.

9th: Porgy Fillet, Swiss Chard, Fish Sauce, Tapioca, Chile Pepper, Cilantro Oil. My piece of fish was cooked perfectly; great flavor and texture. The crisped skin was lovely. The chard, described as ‘wilted’, had a wonderful strength still in the leaves as well as a nice spice. I’d have been pleased with just the fish and the leaves. I didn’t like the tapioca. I’d have preferred a more firm or crisp grain or potato to the gummy starch.

10th: Chicken Breast, Corn Pudding, Chanterelles, Sugar Plums. Buttermilk. Tarragon Oil. The breast was de-skinned, wrapped with activa(meat glue), re-skinned, poached, and quickly fried to crisp(I hope I have that right). A tender, tasty piece of poultry. The sweet and creamy corn pudding and chanterelles were a great accompaniment. I wasn’t a fan of the sugar plums and felt they were misplaced in this dish. A good plate of food, though the overall flavor seemed a little heavy for summer and more suited for autumn.

11th: Strawberry Sorbet, Brioche Macaron, Berries. A superb little dessert. The density I like in a macaron meringue, straight-forward strawberry flavor, and fresh berries. Simple and gratifying.

11th: Cucumber Sorbet, Sour Cherry, Soured Cream, Thyme. The sorbet had a delightful fresh flavor and was enhanced by the thyme. I would have liked more sorbet in ratio to the sour cherries and cream that took over the bowl.

12th: Apple Cider Soufflé, Cherry Kernel Creme Anglaise. An aroma like fresh-baked apple pie. A well-executed soufflé. Light and puffy with delicate flavor. I think the ramekin was sprinkled with sugar because there were small caramelized bits spotted throughout which were a fun surprise. While it was a little much for me to handle by the end of our menu(the photo belies its grandeur), I see this as an ideal dessert to follow two or three savories at the gov.

Something I often find of farm-to-table restaurants is they maintain high scrutiny in sourcing perfect ingredients(fresh, local, organic, sustainable, etc) and use them to deliver boring plates of food. Governor easily bucks that trend. Brad McDonald’s food is pure, honest, creative, and exciting.

I’ve been told the cocktails at Governor are excellent. I didn’t try any, but since Rocky is in DUMBO regularly for work, I anticipate we’ll be stopping in soon to see what’s shaking.

Date of visit: August 1, 2012

Drinks while typing: Tito’s with fresh citrus, blueberries, and seltzer(thank you Rocky for all the refills); Blue Point Toasted Lager

Governor. 15 Main Street. Brooklyn, NY. 718.858.4756  http://www.governordumbo.com/


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