Tuesday, March 29, 2011

je t'aime petite crevette ! dine in brooklyn 2011 !

Dine-in Brooklyn is Brooklyn's own version of Restaurant Week and features countless restaurants in each neighborhood for cheap eats: 3 course meals for $20.10 for lunch, $25 for dinner.  So not only is the price point better than NYC Restaurant Week, the duration is better too!  All restaurants participate during the ten days - including a weekend, which is a total score for a work traveler like myself.

One of the clear winners among the options was Petite Crevette in Carroll Gardens; not only is it located in Thanan's future home neighborhood (he wishes!), it also has a stellar Yelp reputation.  I enlisted my trusty crew of eaters: Anne, Ish and Thanan, to check it out with me.

The motley crew: Anne, Thanan and Ish!
Visiting Petite Crevette will make you use all the words you see employed in Craigslist small apartment ads: cozy, quaint, and charming.  Petite Crevette is definitely all of those, and upon arriving at 7p on Saturday, the house was full, and we had to wait ever so patiently for a table to clear up.

If your friends are also social media experts, you can watch them check in on Facebook and Foursquare during the wait.

The other part of the wait will involve you staring at the chef through the window.  You will be amazed at their tiny kitchen, how ridiculously good everything looks, especially the soft shell crab and the whole fish.  You may drool a little bit too, and the chef may take note, but he will understand.

Finally upon seating, and squeezing your body between the narrow space between the tables, you will squeal with glee at the cozy/quaint/charmingness of the whole place and how the decor is a hot mess but somehow works when taken together in a fell-glance-swoop.

The waiter will describe the specials of the day (soft shell crab + red snapper that just came in that afternoon) so you will forget anything else that you might want to eat.  The menu is posted on brown kraft paper at the back wall of the restaurant for reference though.

Cute restaurants offering BYOB can be so fun!
Okay - enough with the small talk!  Here's our food!  Please note: We ended up ordering dishes in addition to the Dine-In Brooklyn menu because a half hour of staring at the kitchen will make you do crazy things like that!

This bread represents serious love at first bite.  Soft, pliant and studded with delicious sesame seeds.
The amazing olive oil, herb, sea salt and tomato mixture that accompanied the bread. Like. Omg. Srsly. Love. at. first. oily. bite.  This oil enabled us to polish off three loaves of bread.  I could have eaten three more loaves after that.  Diana probably could eat ten.
Fried oysters.  They come 4-6 per order depending on the size.  We received five.  The batter was crunchy, slightly thick, and the oysters were fair-sized and plump.  It was good, but the batter overpowered the oyster flavor for me.  
Dine-in Brooklyn appetizer option: tuna carpaccio.  Anne was pleased and happy and didn't talk to us once while eating this plate.
Dine-in Brooklyn appetizer option: seafood chowder.  Thick, flavorful broth with chunks of fish and vegetables.  A nice, warm prelude to the meal.
Special of the day: soft shell crab served with the vegetables of the day: mashed potatoes, lightly sauteed julienned carrots and zucchini.
The soft shell crab was battered in the same cornmealy batter of the fried oysters, but I liked it better on the crustacean.  This was my favorite part of the meal - hot, crispy and the good kind of crabby.  Thanan also was a superfan and volunteered himself to help Ish eat his share of the plate (what a nice, self-sacrificing kind of guy!). 
Dine-in Brooklyn entree option: tilapia fillet with vegetables of the day.  The filet was lightly sauteed and naturally flavorful.  It was topped with their standard protein topping: tomato puree and fat, salty capers.  The potatoes were perfectly buttery and creamy, and the vegetables were simple and fresh.
Anne had another Dine-in Brooklyn entree option: seafood curry which came with mussels, fish and other seafood in a coconutty curry.  The third loaf of bread definitely came in handy to soak up the deliciously rich sauce.
The other special of the day: grilled red snapper.  We each flaked off pieces of the fish, and marveled at its wonderfully smokey flavor.  The fish was simply grilled and drizzled with a bit of lemon and yet was perfect.  So fresh. So flavorful.
The food was so good, even Anne offered to help Ish finish his plate.  
Another good self-sacrificing samaritan at the table!
Other strange things the good food will make you do: make faces like this in public as you're attacking beautifully fried soft shell crabs.
For dessert, they ran out of mixed berry tarts, so we all defaulted into the other option: flourless chocolate cake.

The flourless chocolate cake was so dense, thick, and rich.  Blanketed in an equally luscious, not quite whipped but fluffy heavy cream.  Each bite just felt right.  

At the end of the meal, we all were so...happy.  It might have been the two bottles of wine talking or how warm and comfortable we were feeling in the cozy corner of the restaurant, but we all were just so satisfied with everything.  Granted, the service at Petite could be a little more prompt and attentive, and I am not sure why every protein is topped with tomatoes and capers, but hey, let's let bygones be bygones.  Petite Crevette is definitely a neighborhood gem that is worth a visit!

Petite Crevette
144 Union Street NY 11231-2908
(718) 855-2632
Petite Crevette on Urbanspoon

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Martha Stewart's Pie Pop Up Shop

Carrie came to visit recently, and we had an action-packed activity and eating weekend. One of the favorite things we did was attend a filming of Martha Stewart.  It was nothing but fate when the episode turned out to be "Pies and Tarts," a preview to Martha's new Pies and Tarts book.

Martha had a beautiful television set.  The actual kitchen was set to the left of the main kitchen stage, with her "gardening room" to the right of that along with her "dining room."
Martha, always looking so polished and perfect!
At the end of the filming, Martha gifted everyone in the audience a copy of her new book (which I can't wait to tackle). She also announced that there would be a pie popup shop in the West Village this weekend featuring pies made from the recipes featured in the book! And. If there is anything you must know about me:  I cannot miss a pie event in New York.  Especially one by Ms. Martha Stewart herself. (Srsly.)

So naturally, I was there upon the pop up shop opening on Saturday. :)

The pop up shop storefront.  So inviting!
Waiting.  Kind of patiently.
When the shop opened, the small space quickly became a cluster with everyone clamoring for the beautiful pies displayed in the small display case.

Filling orders.

The flavors.
 Sometimes I lack all self control.  Saturday was one of those days...I ended up ordering 5 of the 9 types listed...and now we have more goodies to look at!

Poppy seed tartlet with lemon curd.
Bright and beautiful.
Beneath the thick dollop of whipped cream, sprinkled with poppy seed, is a thin slice of candied lemon and perfectly balanced tart lemon curd contained within a poppy seed flecked crust.
A bite of this reminds me of summer and brilliant sunshine.  
Port caramel chocolate tartlet. (Had a bit of a mishap with the pies in the box, hence the weird caramel swirl; it should look flat).
You can detect notes of the port wine in the rich chocolate caramel, adding a unique complexity.  The sweetness of the dark caramel is balanced by the sea salt added in the crunchy chocolate crust.  Chopped almonds are sprinkled across the top.

Apple pie.
The quintessential apple pie: flaky, buttery crust, sweetened but slightly tart apples and the essence of cinnamon.  So comforting.
The spinach and feta turnover.

Sometimes I cannot remember if I like certain cheeses; feta is one of them.  However, if Martha thinks feta and spinach taste good together, then I shall try it, and I was glad I did!  The flaky crust gave way to heaps of spinach and tangy feta chunks.  Great flavor combination!
Chewy chess pie.
Essentially made with butter, sugar and eggs, this pie was obviously tasty with its Nilla wafer crust and fun, chewy texture.  The filling magically creates a flaky crust on top that adds a nice crunch to the chew.
And last but not least, my favorite: coconut cream pie.  Pardon the excessive pictures.  I love it that much.

This pie joyously celebrates coconut in all its beautiful glory from the bits of toasted coconut in the crust to the shredded pieces in the creamy filling.  The crust falls apart immediately upon eating, but I couldn't help but think that was part of its charm.  You end up using each scoop of pie filling to collect the crust remnants along the sides of the pan.  The creamy center is not too rich or sweet, and I feel I can eat this pie for days or years or for the rest of my life.  I think this will be the first pie I will make and eat all by myself. :D

I loved this pie event, and upon googling others' experience, I noticed that they had enacted a "one pie per person" rule later in the day on Saturday or had only permitted people who purchased a book to have one pie.  I am so glad to have visited the shop early in the morning in order to purchase any amount of pies and sample all of them because I sure would not have been able to pick only one.  (Okay, that's a lie.  It woulda been the coconut cream, ftw!).  Anyway, I would definitely recommend this book based on the pie samples I had this weekend, and because it is a beautiful tome of treats.  Each recipe is accompanied by a photograph of the pie, and the back section has all sorts of pie tips with more photos to show techniques!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bali's Best

Hi, there! Many many apologies for my silence these past few weeks... I've been frolicking in Taiwan and eating entirely way too much food. I've also been busy moving to the east coast! That's right, I'm now officially blogging from the beautiful city of Boston. (Though today is not so beautiful: wintry mix like whoa. Ugh.)

Not to fear, I will definitely tell you about all the superfoods I consumed the past coupla weeks in Taiwan. First up: good eats from the Bali district, which is just a short ferry ride across from my home in Danshui. When I was little, my grandpa would often take me on the ferry across so we could eat some of Bali's famous mussels. (He always knew how to make me happy.) I didn't get to partake in any mussels this year, as we were only passing through very quickly, but I did get to eat some of Bali's famous twin doughnuts and octopus!

The ferry hasn't really changed at all, and I love that.

The main street near the ferry station is always packed, especially on the weekends. Food vendors line both sides, and it's hard not to stop at every stand!

My cousin Meiyi and I were enticed by all the seafood.

And when we saw this, we were sold:

Fried octopus in all its glory.

This fried squid also looked delectable.

We ended up getting the fried octopus combo (half 'soft' tentacles, and half 'chewy' tentacles).

They chop up the octopus, mix it all up with seasoning, and top it off with bonito flakes, Taiwanese mayo, and wasabi. The end result is just as it sounds: fantastic.

See how happy Meiyi is to have eaten this?

Next we had to try Bali's shuangbaotai, or twin doughnuts.

They're two pieces of fried dough that are shaped like cat's ears, stuck together at the base. So cute, and even more tasty. I've been eating these since I was 2, so maybe they're the reason why I'm such a doughnut fanatic. *light bulb* One side of each twin (the side shown right above) is scruffier/crunchier/sweeter than the other and has sesame seeds. Clearly that's the side I like best.

My aunt is so cute with hers.

Twin doughnuts are sooo good, and they're best eaten hot. The dough is denser and sweeter than Western doughnuts, and the hint of brown sugar is unforgettable. I'm pretty sure we bought 10 twins, which means we got 20 pieces of delicious dough. Now that's the kind of math I could do forever!

Bali district (八里區)
Metro: Danshui station (淡水站)
Then take the ferry across to Bali
Taipei, Taiwan