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June 26th, 2015

Grand Central Oyster Bar Brooklyn Makes for a Real Staycation

The recent history of Park Slope's Fifth Avenue swirled through my mind while dining at the Grand Central Oyster Bar Brooklyn at 256 Fifth Avenue.

Cucina was one of the first to occupy 256. It was, at one time, Park Slope's only fancy, special occasion restaurant. When they closed, the space, which is three commercial spaces wide, became Tempo and then Fornino, a highly rated gourmet pizza restaurant with tons of cred that still couldn't make a success of that enormous space.

Around 2008, there was talk of an Asian fusion restaurant with the owners of Stone Park Cafe. But that never came to pass, I'm guessing, due to a recession that briefly kicked Brooklyn's butt.

Then, Grand Central Oyster Bar, the New York institution on the lower level of Grand Central Station, decided to drop anchor in Park Slope. What? It seemed such an intriguing if strange idea?  How could the Oyster Bar make sense in Park Slope?

I was familiar with the Oyster Bar from the days my father worked in the Pan Am building and we'd meet for an elegant and quick lunch at the Oyster where we'd have clam chowder at the counter. What fun that was.

Grand Central Oyster Bar Brooklyn (GCOBB) opened its doors in December 2013. Interestingly enough, the original Oyster Bar first opened its doors in 1913 almost exactly 100 years before. Seems that the Brooklyn Oyster Bar is some sort of franchise. Here from their website an interesting quote from Jerome Brody, Founder of Grand Central Oyster Bar & Franchising:

In 1974, when I was approached by the New York Metropolitan Transit Authority to take it over, the old restaurant had been bankrupt and empty for two years, having become in its last days not much more than a sad, old coffee shop.

To prepare for the decision, my wife and I toured the best-known seafood restaurants in Manhattan, Brooklyn, New Jersey, and the rest of the metropolitan area, and they were invariably full--even when the cuisine was ordinary. This is why I decided to take a chance--the same kind of chance I had taken with restaurants such as the Forum of The Twelve Caesars, the Rainbow Room, the Four Seasons, and Gallagher's. And so, in 1974, I entered into a lease with the MTA, and embarked on inventing the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Restaurant.

According to Michael Slimmer, General Manager and a self-described Oyster Bar geek, GCOBB joins franchises in Newark, New Jersey (at the airport) and in Japan, where it is wildly popular.

Slimmer welcomed my daughter and me warmly to the restaurant and we were seated at the white Sarrinen tables and chairs in the bar/restaurant room, which is very attractive with black walls and beautiful lighting. He explained that the big room on the south side of the restaurant is only open on weekends and for special events, including a recent baptism/circumcision. Later he showed us the marvelous chandeliers that are from the original Grand Central Oyster Bar.

The food was delicious, sizes ample. For appetizers my daughter had the crab cakes and I had the steamed clams, which reminded me of being on Block Island. The broth was delicious as were the clams.

For my main entree, I ordered the delicious Pan Seared Extra Large Diver Sea Scallops with Oregano and Buerre Blanc with Sweet Peas and Parmiggiano Reggiano Risotto, which is one of Chef Jamal Bland's specialities. It's a mouthful but a very delicious and savory dish. The scallops were large and fresh and went well with the  tastefully seasoned risotto.

My daughter ordered a medium sized lobster, which she adored.

I had a glass of Chardonnay. I believe it was the J Lohr "Riverstone" 2012 from California. Our server was delightful. A twin from the great state of Florida, he was friendly and very attentive.

I observed what people were eating at other tables and concluded that GCOBB is a perfect place to order a huge shell fish platter to share with friends—a perfect dish for a celebratory meal. It's even a place where you can go on a casual date and order lobster roll or an entree of jumbo lump  crab cakes. I just might do that next time.

And yes, there will be a next time.

GCOBB is the perfect summer restaurant. It'll make you feel like you're on vacation for a couple of delicious hours. Cape Cod, Block Island, Grand Central Station...

All aboard!

Full disclosure: We were treated to our meal by the restaurant. 



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October 30th, 2014

Rustic Supper: Catering in Brooklyn

Two women in Brooklyn open a catering company and their story must be told. They have both worked in numerous and notable professional kitchens and have decided to pool their talents and their passions to open Rustic Supper.

In the beautiful photos on their website, you can practically taste the food and the pleasure it brings.

One of the two is Molly Baz, the daughter of old friends. On Facebook, I have followed the early path of her career as she has worked in professional kitchens in New York City, including Picholine, Allswell, and Glasserie to expand her palate and truly understand the global plate. Her culinary expertise includes classic French cuisine, to rustic Italian, to American gastropub, making stops in Middle Eastern and Asian kitchens along the way.

Molly's partner Amanda Elliott has been working as a private chef and caterer since graduating from The Institute of Culinary Education in 2005. Her globe spanning food emphasizes seasonality, creating memorable meals for two or two hundred.

Together? Well, collaboration, adventurous, fresh ingredients, talent and great energy is all. Just look at their web site and dream about events that would be perfect for this dynamic duo.

For example, dinner could begin with cauliflower fritters with cumin and  date molasses, and steak skewers with aleppo, almond aioli, and thyme. This could be followed by chickpea and yogurt soup with dried mint. And for the main course: leg of lamb, warm spices, garlic, cilantro, charred baby eggplant, tahini, pomegranate,  crispy black rice, dried apricot, shallot, mint.

Dessert sounds divine: cardamom donuts flavored with rosewater and pistachio.

To me, it looks like Rustic Supper excels at creating communal dinners that will inspire conviviality and delight. The food, I must say, looks absolutely delicious.


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October 10th, 2014

Food for Thought: Civic Council’s Annual Eatathon and Scholarship Fundraiser

The Park Slope Civic Council's Food for Thought event is in its third year and, can you believe it, I've  never been! My bad. But this year, I won't miss it because it's the best one yet. At least that's what I'm hearing.

If you like:  al di la trattoria, Amorina, Backyard, Benchmark Restaurant, Branded Saloon, Brooklyn Brine, Buttermilk Bakeshop, Du Jour Bakery, Krupa Grocery, Palo Santo, Pickle Shack, Rose Water, Runner and Stone, Scottadito Osteria Toscana, and Stone Park Café.  Wines and spirits will be provided by Barrows Intense Ginger Liqueur, Freddy’s, Jack from Brooklyn – Sorel, P+H Soda, Pull Brewing Company, Red White & Bubbly, Shawn Fine Wine & Spirits, and Slope Cellars, you're going to LOVE this tasty event, which is also a benefit for the Civic Council's scholarship fund.

Each year, the Civic Council awards an education scholarship to an outstanding high school senior graduating from each of the Secondary Schools at John Jay High School who exhibits exceptional commitment to community service. Their goal is to establish an endowment for the scholarships from the surplus funds raised by the event in future years.

It all happens on Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m. to support the education scholarship program! We’re hoping to make this year’s fundraiser even better than last year’s.

As you can see above, there will be delicious food from local restaurants, drinks, music, mingling and lively conversation, all to support a worthy cause.

WHAT:            3nd Annual Park Slope Civic Council Food for Thought Fundraiser.

WHEN:            Wednesday, October 15, 2014, 6:30 to 9:00 p.m.

WHERE:            Prospect Park Picnic House (located near the 3rd Street and Prospect Park West entrance to the park)

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August 7th, 2014

The Playland Motel in The Rockaways

Has anyone stayed at the Playland Motel in The Rockaways? I am sort of intrigued. It sounds like it might be a fun night away from home.

On the website it says: "Playland Motel is ideal for those adults who want to go to the beach and hear good music, eat fresh & tasty food, drink delicious drinks, and most importantly, have a great time. Located right near the beach, and a few steps from the subway line which connects directly to JFK, Brooklyn & Manhattan, it is a very rare opportunity for a fun getaway."

I remember in high school we used to go to Rockaway Playland as a class trip.  That was always a fun day of roller coaster debauchery. The amusement park seemed very down on its luck back in the 1970's but maybe it wasn't. I just didn't know what make of the Rockaways back then.

The rooms look, well, interesting. They were all designed by different artists. The room I like was designed by Design Department (above) and I like it because it has a desk;  I might want to do some writing there. But I am intrigued by the room with the hammock. All but one of the rooms has a shared bathroom. They do say this on the site as a kind of warning. The all caps are their's:


I think they're managing expectations. I think it sounds like fun. Cool location, nice rooms, fun adventure. You?

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June 29th, 2014

Enjoy World Cup Soccer at Events at Stone Park Cafe (with 100″ screen)

Folks in Park Slope are definitely very enthusiastic about The World Cup. Bars along Fifth Avenue have installed projection screens and patrons are watching the games while enjoying drinks and comraderie.

I was surprised (and pleased) to learn that one of our swankier restaurants is also getting in on the World Cup fever.  At Stone Park Cafe, you can enjoy soccer, eat their wonderful menu while knocking back beer, wine and cocktails. The food and drink will both be inspired by the  countries competing that day.

What fun and classy way to enjoy the World Cup.

It's all happening in their Events at Stone Park space located on Third Street  just west of Fifth Avenue, where they've got a 100" screen and state-of-the-art sound system for your viewing pleasure. They will be open on 15 days for select games. So join Gary (Englad), Silaine (Brazil), Edy and David (Houduras), Ferny and Mauricio (Columbia), co-owners Josh and Josh (United States), Manny and Gabino (Mexico) and cheer on your favorite teams. The schedule is listed on their website. 


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November 4th, 2013

A Trip Through Time at Two Boots in Park Slope

This was originally published in the Brooklyn Paper in 2007:

Saturday night, Smartmom, Hepcat, and OSFO found themselves at Two Boots, Park Slope’s beloved Cajun pizzeria known for its tolerance of unruly children.

For a frigid January night, the restaurant was moderately crowded and the maitre d’ told them it would be three minutes until their table was ready.

“This is way more than three minutes,” OSFO whined as her parents sat at the bar drinking Turbo Dogs for 15 minutes.

Finally, the maitre d’ gathered up menus and took them to their seats.

“I’m very sorry,” she said. “I had a bunch of tables that looked like they were ready to leave…” Like most of the staff at Two Boots, she was charming and full of spunk (you have to be to work in a restaurant where the children run wild with small balls of dough while their parents zone out on peach Margaritas).

As they walked toward the pizza window, Smartmom noticed a long table of teenagers eating an interesting assortment of appetizers. At another table, a kid blew straw paper

“Oh sh—,” Smartmom said aloud. The maitre d’ was making a beeline for the table near the pizza window — aka the Second-Most-Dangerous Table in the restaurant. It’s the same table where a dough ball once landed in Smartmom’s Margarita, tossed by an unrepentant 4-year-old.

The most dangerous Table, of course, is the one next to the pizza window. When there are too many kids at the pizza window, they use that booth as a kind of off-ramp. At one dinner, Groovy Grandpa got many an Elephantan shoe on his thigh.

As Smartmom perused the familiar menu, she found herself overwhelmed with remembrances of things past. She was unable to imagine ordering anything other than what they’d ordered so many times before.

Pizza face for OSFO; goat cheese and andouille pizza for the grown ups; a small house salad and an order of calamari for the table.

And with each menu item, she saw a picture of herself and her children at various stages of their lives.

On a cold January night in 1989, Hepcat proposed to Smartmom in the East Village Two Boots, which was their favorite restaurant back then. They’d usually eat after 10 pm and were barely aware of the restaurant’s status as child-friendly. As far as they were concerned, it was hipster cool.

“Will you marry me?” Hepcat purred as he offered an empty white porcelain coffee cup as an engagement ring.

You know the answer to that question (even though a busboy whisked the “ring” away with the other dirty dishes).

Fried calamari from Two Boots was baby Teen Spirit’s first solid food. Or so they like to say. He was a regular at the restaurant by the time he was 2.

OSFO’s first meal at Two Boots was in a Baby Bjorn. Smartmom splayed the napkin over her infant’s head and gorged on pizza as the tot slept. As she grew, it became a family tradition to celebrate her birthday there.

Despite these crusts of memory, Smartmom longed for something new. “How about the Sophia, the special pizza of the day,” she blurted out. Red pepper, spicy Italian sausage, Vidalia onion, and fresh mozzarella.

Sound good?

Hepcat made a face. A creature of habit, he had his heart set on the usual. But with that passive-aggressive flair, he left it up to Smartmom.

“We’ll still have the house salad and the calamari,” she offered. He forced his lips into a smile. Smartmom hoped the Sophia pizza would make him forget this change in the routine.

The teenagers at the table nearby looked like they were having fun. They looked so comfortable in their seats — like they’d been there a million times before. And they probably had.

In different incarnations of themselves, of course.

Once upon a time, they were carried in by Bjorn. Or wheeled in by single or double Maclaren.

Later, they were one of the doughboys and girls at the pizza window. Perhaps they were one of the runners, a kid who nearly trips a good-natured waiter, holding a tray full of Sangrias.

Smartmom wondered how they perceived the place. Was Two Boots the fuddy-duddy place their parents always took them to? Or the childhood restaurant they remembered most fondly?

Would this be like the restaurant on Fire Island that sent plates from the kitchen by electric train that Smartmom never forgot? Or was it like the Great Shanghai, the cavernous Chinese restaurant on West 102nd Street that she was dragged to every Sunday night for years?

Smartmom watched as Hepcat bit into her steaming hot Sophia pizza slice. “How do you like it?” she asked hopefully, her mouth full of savory, succulent pizza.

“It’s OK.” Hepcat is known for his pathological understatement. “OK” is actually a compliment in his lexicon.

But then he made a face. “I don’t like this sausage as much as the andouille. And the fresh mozzarella — it just doesn’t compare to the goat cheese.”

You just can’t win. Still Smartmom enjoyed her Sophia pizza and OSFO, after she removed the olive eyes, the broccoli nose, and the tomato slice smile, was thrilled with her Pizza Face.

“Why do they put all this stuff on it that kids don’t eat?” OSFO yelped.

This is Park Slope. Kids DO eat vegetables here. And they love it.

At that moment, a waitress bolted out of the kitchen with a slice of cake with a single birthday candle. The kids at the teenager’s table sang “Happy Birthday” to a very embarrassed birthday girl.

Soon the entire restaurant was singing along. Out of the muck of discordant voices came a gorgeous operatic soprano, from a cheerful woman sitting at the Most-Dangerous Table.

Her soaring voice rose above all the rest. It was clear as a bell, deep and full of ebullient feeling. Her son hid under his shirt clearly embarrassed by his mother’s artistry.

The crowd applauded. Smartmom shouted, “Bravo.”

As the Park Slope diva exited the restaurant, customers thanked her and shook her hand. She stopped at the teenager’s table and wished the birthday girl a happy day. Smartmom overheard that she was chorus singer at the Metropolitan Opera.

Done with her food, Smartmom asked the busgirl she’s known for more than 10 years to pack up the remnants of the Sophia pizza.

It may not be as memory full as the goat cheese and andouille, but it would certainly taste great for breakfast tomorrow morning.

For research purposes, Smartmom asked the waitress what the most popular topping is: “Hmmm,” she thought for a moment. “Andouille. With goat cheese,” she said assuredly.

Hepcat smiled. Vindicated at last.


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November 1st, 2013

Goodbye to Park Slope’s Sweet Melissa: So Sorry to See You Go

I am so sad about the closing of Sweet Melissa. Where oh where will my sister, her daughter and I meet every Saturday morning at 10AM? That's been our routine for years now. We love it. They let us sit there as long as we want. We order coffees, oatmeal, waffles, toast. And we talk.

And talk.

This is where we catch up on the events of the week and welcome the weekend. The staff is wonderful. They know us and treat us so well.

Yesterday, there was a handwritten note on the door of Sweet Melissa, written by Melissa, who has to be one of the best bakers in New York. She said that shop has been struggling for quite some time, since the economic downturn. All of their shops are now closed and they are rethinking things. They may reopen in New York City or in New Jersey where they live now.

What a loss to Park Slope. What a loss to me. Those Saturday morning with my sister mean a lot. Such special times.

And it's not just the restaurant that we're losing, we are losing a WORLD CLASS PATISSERIE with sublime offerings: bread pudding, glorious cakes, beautifully decorated cakes, cup cakes, cookies, patisserie items, special items for the Jewish holidays. Below is the post I wrote in 2006 about Sweet Melissa when it was brand new:

Sweet Melissa, nice to have you on Seventh Avenue. Everyone is buzzing about you. You’re the talk of Seventh Avenue as in "Hey, the New York Times had something about them yesterday" or "It’s very pretty." "It’s really big."

I’ve been and I like it. Actually, it’s my new hang — no, I’m not abandoning my seat at Conn Muff. Diaper Diva, OSFO and I just like to try new things from time to time.

It’s a bit more serious than Conn Muff. You need a little bit more time for the waiter service. It’s not your quick let’s meet for a latte kind of place. It’s a more formal: "We need to talk. Do you want to meet at Sweet Melissa?"

It’s a perfect place to have a elegant treat with a good friend on her birthday.

Tea with one’s mother, sister, or friend is a must. It’s a bit pricey. But we really needed a place for high tea.

I plan on visiting Sweet Melissa with a notebook or writing paper. It looks like the place to go for writing letters or thank you notes. Good for writing poetry, or notes for my Smartmom column.

I predict it will be the cafe of choice for those serious friend-to-friend chats ("You’ve been acting weird. What’s going on?"). The tables are close, though. It’s not ideal for telling a friend you’re cheating on your husband or something equally confidential.

I can confirm that Sweet Melissa truly was my "go-to" place. There were years when I felt like I was there every day of the week: meeting with friends, meeting for work, meeting for interviews, meeting about the PS 321 Yearbook, meeting with PS 321 moms and later meeting nostalgically to catch up with PS 321 moms...there was no end to the coffees I had at Sweet Melissa. And the conversations.

No wonder I felt maudlin yesterday after seeing the note in the window of Sweet Melissa. It was Halloween, which always makes me feel nostalgic for all the Halloweens with my son, now 22, and my daughter, now 16. And I felt sad about a favorite place closing.

Thank you Sweet Melissa for being our favorite place to sit, to sip, to eat and to talk. And talk we did. End of an era, I guess. Best of luck to you.


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July 11th, 2013

Salamander Salsa Celebration at Backyard Restaurant and Bar

by Matthew A. Taub

After making fresh salsas, chili and crushed peppers from the hot peppers of small gardens in Rhode Island, followed by concocting impromptu recipes while working for various restaurants in the New York area, Brooklyn entrepreneur Timothy Kavarnos decided to follow his passion and start his own sauce-making business.

Last night Backyard Restaurant and Bar in Park Slope (5th Avenue near 6th Street), helped Tim’s company celebrate its sauces and spread the word about its Kickstarter campaign with a launch party. The event included cocktails featuring Salamander Sauces and a special menu designed to be paired with the sauces.

“As an avid heat seeker, I’ve learned to appreciate the variety of flavors offered by different peppers, and the many ways they can blend with other ingredients,” Tim explains on his company’s Facebook page.” I’ve found, however, that in the majority of hot sauces the fire overwhelms the flavor.”

At last night's shindig, employees and supporters took pictures and shot videos to help us spread the word, and there were chances win a free bottle of sauce or a Salamander t-shirt. Even if you missed the party, support the company, and get your sauce on!The result, Salamander Sauce Company, is dedicated to creating all natural sauces of distinction, and the recipes have a wonderful depth and complexity.


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June 16th, 2013

Stay at Stove Dad: A Cooking Blog for Everyone

Father's Day seems like a good time to write about Stay at Stove Dad, a cooking blog by John Donohue, who is the author of a wonderful cookbook called Man with Pan: Culinary Adventures of Fathers Who Cook for their Families.

I must say, Stay at Stove Dad is a terrific cooking blog. And you don't have to be a dad to enjoy it. I hadn't visited it in quite some time but I just took a look, motivated by Matthew Taub's story about the Wordsprouts reading, and discovered fantastic recipes and great stories about cooking for one's children.

I particularly like the way Donohue combines recipes with stories about his family, creating a sort of an on-going cooking memoir in the process.

I discovered a recipe for Bolognese sauce which may inspire me to make Bolognese sauce for Father's Day dinner tonight. Donohue's cookbook makes a great gift by the way.

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March 27th, 2013

Second Night Passover Seder at the James Beard House


Next year in Jerusalem? Nah. I say next year at the Second Night of Passover at the James Beard House. Really. As soon as tickets go on sale next year make a point of being there.

I went last night and I am still reliving it in my head and my taste buds. Where to begin?

First, you must understand that the James Beard House was at one time James Beard's home on West 12th Street in Greenwich Village (across the street from St. Vincent's Hospital). A cookbook author and teacher, James Beard was a champion of American cuisine who helped educate and mentor generations of professional chefs and food enthusiasts.

I know the name very well because I grew up with the James Beard Cookbook. It was in regular use in our house. I think I brought it with me to my first college apartment in Binghamton, New York. I remember looking up steamed brocolli.

The Beard Foundation offers a variety of events and programs designed to educate, inspire, entertain, and foster a deeper understanding of our culinary culture. There are cooking events there just about every night of the week. Their programs include educational initiatives, food industry awards, and an annual national food conference. They also maintain the historic James Beard House as a “performance space” for visiting chefs.

The house itself is a narrow, brick 4-story building with a huge kitchen, an indoor/outdoor patio and a parlor floor large enough to feed 85 people. Crowdedly. But that's half the charm as are the green walls and the huge portrait of James Beard over the mantle.

For starters, guests walked through the narrow kitchen, a chance to see all the rock star chefs at work. Yes, through the kitchen to get to the patio where we were treated to "nosherei" from Mile End Deli and The Gefilteria, including an alcoholic drink made of beet kvass tails with sweet ginger and bitter orange (with either gin or rum).

Passed nosherei included Mile End's lamb kreplach, duck patrami Monte-Cristos with spiced cured duck and Jewish-style deviled eggs.

At 6:45, Mitchell Davis, executive vice president of the James Beard Foundation welcomed everyone and Billy Harris, a host/emcee for all kinds of benefits in New York City and Los Angeles, led the seder reading from The Bronfman Haggadah. He read about 30 minutes of the seder, leading the guests through the unison readings. No food was served and the focus was completely on the words and pictures in the book.

And then the dinner began. There were so many courses, I lost count. Fabulous gefilte fish (salmon and whitefish pike),  chicken soup with matzoh balls...

A fish course of seared Skuna Bay Craft Rasied Salmon, pickled salmon belly lox, beets, apples and mustard seed. And then there was Lamb Belly Confit with quinoa and Brisket Bourguignonne with Mushroom and Cippolini Onion and Jerusalem Artichoke Confit with Preserved Lemon.

The dessert was divine: a warm haroset cake by Zucker Bakery. I was so moved seeing all chefs in the kitchen and when they came into the dining room to thundersous applause (Noah Bernamoff, Jeffery Yoskowitz, James Merker, Jake Dickson and David Schuttenberg of Dickson's Farmstand Meats, Zohar Zohar and many more) and the sense of process, creativity, hard work and joy that infused the evening. We were all part of a special evening—performance art for chefs, a Jewish eating fest for the guests.

Next year in Jerusalem? Next year at the James Beard House.

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December 4th, 2012

Skylark Graces Fifth Avenue with The Good Fork

Skylark, a new bar on Fifth Avenue, now has bar food from The Good Fork, a Red Hook restaurant serving savory Asian-style bistro food that was devatstated during Sandy.

When Timboo's, a bar open since the middle of the last century, went out of business, the owners and a bartender from Abilene's in Carroll Gardens, decided to give it a go. They renovated it to look like a frumpy 1970's living room and it seems to have the cool neighborhood bar vibe.


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November 17th, 2012

Trois Pomme In Park Slope Bakes Bespoke Twinkies

 Today the New York Times reported that Hostess is closing its doors. The bankrupt company was in the midst of a strike. But the snack cake business has been declining for a very long time.

You can, however, get a sort of bespoke Twinkie at Trois Pomme, a bakery on Fifth Avenue between  Garfield and Carroll Streets in Park Slope. It'll cost you about $2.50 if I'm not mistaken. They also have a Whoopie Pie and a take on a Hostess Cupcake.

I must tell you, the Trois Pomme Twinkie is yummy. And now that Hostess is turning off its ovens, the Trois Pomme Twinkie is all we've got.

Truth be told, the Twinkie at Trois Pomme looks a lot like the original though the cake doesn't have that weird artificial yellow complexion. The  TP Twinkie is golden brown color, has a torpedo-like shape and a creamy white inside.

They taste similar but I actually haven't tasted a real Twinkie in years. The  bakery uses an almond batter that gives the cake a delicious flavor, I mean it's one awesome Twinkie knock-off but it's just different enough from the original to a be delicious and sophisticated dessert.

So in that way it's not like a Twinkie at all. The photograph above is from Bklyn Foodie

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October 2nd, 2012

New Brunch for Sweet Melissa: Finally

I'm glad to hear that Sweet Melissa Patisserie, the popular Park Slope bakery and eatery, is rethinking their weekend brunch menu. I go there often with my mother on Sunday's and I've gotten sick of their old brunch offerings.

Starting soon, they're going to have dishes like eggs Benedict. In fact, they're going to do it four different ways: the classic, Florentine style- with spinach and gruyere; The Cajun-with crabcake and roasted peppers-, and a salmon dill version.

They're also going to have French Toast made with their delicious homemade brioche and dipped in creme brulee batter, which sounds very fattening—but good.

In addition, they're adding scrambled eggs plain and with veggies, using organic eggs from owner Melissa Murphy’s very own Rhode Island Red Hens.

Who knew she had hens?

Still available will be the staple items quiches, sandwiches and homemade sour cherry and toasted almond granola, which I love.

Sweet Melissa Patisserie has been in Brooklyn since 1998. They started with a lovely, romantic tea shop on Court Street, where I used to go to with a  friend for late-afternoon tea and conversation. Once they opened in Park Slope, I became a real regular. My sister and I meet there every Saturday morning for coffee, chitchat and the occasional argument (followed by a quick making up).

Their home-baked treats, scones, croissants and all the rest are, quite simply, divine.

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September 26th, 2012

Wild Edible Plant & Mushroom Hunt in Prospect Park

Get your hands dirty with Leda Meredith. On Sunday, October 7th, she will lead a Wild Edible Plant and Mushroom Hunt in Prospect Park showing  the edible foods (and elusive mushrooms!) that are available for succulent dining.

Participants will then disperse and reconvene at The Farm on Adderley for a meal inspired by what is found.

Leda Meredith is the author of The Locavore's Handbook, The Busy Person's Guide to Eating Local on a Budget. 




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August 30th, 2012

Terroir is No Dive Bar: Elite Winery Coming to Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue

A brand new Terroir, a wine bar with locations in  Tribeca, the East Village, Murray Hill and the Highline, is coming to Park Slope.

Owners Marco Canora and Paul Grieco are bringing their wine bar to what was Great Lakes, a former dive bar on Fifth Avenue and Second Street. It should be open in early September. They've been working on that space for months.

This is no dive bar.

Terroir, whose slogan is "the elitest wine bar for everyone", serves food and fine wine. I couldn't find a menu but expect pig roasts, cheese and charcuterie.

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August 30th, 2012

Barclay’s Center Gets Liquor License With 1AM Cutoff

When the Barclay's Center opens next month, Levy Restaurants, its food and liquor contractor, will be allowed to sell alcohol but only until 1AM in the morning. Forest City Ratner, developer of the arena, had hoped for a 2AM cutoff.

Well that ain't gonna happen.

On Wednesday, the New York State Liquor Board voted to approve alcohol sales at Barclays Center until 1AM and no later.

The cutoff is good news for those who live in the surrounding neighborhoods who fear the noise and disruption late night drinking will bring to the area. Like everything connected with the Barclay Center, the fight over the liquor license was contentious.

More than 1000 locals residents signed a petition demanding that the cutoff time be 10PM.

Residents of north Park Slope are braced for the changes the opening of the arena will bring to that area. More than a few homeowners have put their homes on the market out of fear that the arena will change the quality of life over there.

It remains to be seen. The first show at the arena will be Jay-Z who is a part owner of the arena.


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August 29th, 2012

Great Meal at Crown Heights’ Bar Corvo

Last night, for my birthday, we went to Bar Corvo, Al Di La's sister restaurant in Crown Heights. It is slightly more casual, slightly less expensive and no less wonderful than Al Di La.

The friends we went with were concerned that it would be crowded as it usually is. They've had to wait an hour to get in there, as you'd expect from a restaurant owned by Al Di La.

Well, because it was a Tuesday night during the last week in August,  it was easy to get a table inside and out in their lovely back garden. And we parked our car right out front.

The food was fantastic. The service, by a waiter I recognized from the Fifth Avenue Al Di La, was fantastic. The experience was lovely. A really special birthday dinner. Funnily enough, it was the birthday of our waiter as well.

I ate the Confit of Duck Leg Confit with roasted peaches (yes, peaches) and it was sooooo delicious. We drank an excellent bottle (or two) of Rose. My husband had the Heritage Pork Chop with grilled greens and creamy polenta ($18). For an appetizer, we shared a Calamari Salad, which was also fabulous.

For dessert (with a candle) I ordered the Creme Freche Panna Cotta with rasberry. Yum.

Photograph from

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August 19th, 2012

Pork Slope Offers Tasty Food and Fun for Good Prices

Those are the boar's heads that are now on the wall at Pork Slope.

Last night I ventured into Pork Slope, Top Chef Dale Talde's new classic American restaurant on its opening night and found it to be fun, friendly and inexpensive. It's so not kosher and it's so not P.C. It's actually a welcome—if  bawdy and slightly unhealthy—change from the vegan/veggie/healthy/locavore sanctimony of  many Park Slope restaurants.

Saturday night, opening night, was noisy and crowded and everyone was in a good mood. Strangers at the bar talked to each other: What do you think? Did you ever go to Aunt Susie's? We've been waiting for this to open. Do you mind moving one seat so my husband, who's waiting on line, can sit next to me?

A young woman even offered me tastes of her tater tots. Friendly!

Oh, and for the opening, you had to stand in line for twenty minutes or more to order your food.

But it was fun.

I think that was just an opening night thing. I'm guessing there will be waiter-service in the future. The man taking orders at the end of the bar was friendly and eager to explain the sandwiches like the Porky Melt, which is a pork patty with cheese on pumpernickle/rye bread.

Remember pumpernickle/rye bread?

While standing on line, the bartenders were friendly and helpful.

"Hey, can I get a drink for anyone standing on line," I heard one of the bartenders say.

"I know you left an empty drink glass on the bar. You want something else?" a friendly bartender said to me.

"How much is a PBR,?" I asked a female bartender using the acronym for Pabst Blue Ribbon.

"Three dollars," she said.


Pork Slope is the ideal place to order a PBR. They also have one hundred brands of whiskey and many, many brands of beer on tap. Last night they had a special on shots of Four Roses Whiskey. You get the picture. It's the kind of place you want to order a whiskey.

After ordering,I got a number-stand and were told to sit anywhere and "the waiter will find you."There wasn't anywhere to sit so I sat at the bar. I only saw two other people in roughly my age bracket.

The guys standing behind me on line ordered a smorgasbord of things to share: fried chicken, ribs, potato salad, slaw, tater tots...The orders are very generous and sharing seems like the way to go. My brisket sandwich was, I tell no lie, big, flavorful and delicious. There were pickles in there and an incredibly savory sauce on the  brisket. It's not your Jewish grandmother's brisket, something a little more tangy and southern.

I will, most definitely, order it again with a PBR.

The crowd was young. I saw a lot of semi-familiar twenty-year olds from Park Slope I used to see at PS 321,when they were in elementary school. Three guys  behind me waited patiently and hungrily to order.

"Someone should tell them that we're they're ideal customer. We're going to eat here, like, all the time."

I'm sure that's  true. With six dollar cheese burgers, a ten dollar brisket sandwich, thirteen dollars for ribs, side orders for four dollars and nothing on the menu over fifteen dollars, this is a great place for cheap—and judging from the brisket  sandwich I devoured and the tater tots I sampled—delicious cheap eats.

"We're so glad that an affordable, regular kind of place went into this space," a young woman who has lived in Park Slope for two years told me. "We'll come here a lot."

The walls are adorned with all kinds of kitsch related to pigs and Americana, including a stuffed boar's head. Take that Park Slope. The tin ceiling that used to be Aunt Susies is now painted bright red. Large framed black and white photos give the space a lived in look. The place is a little bit of country, a little honky tonk and a fun place to be on Fifth Avenue.

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August 17th, 2012

Pork Slope Officially Opens on Saturday

When Pork Slope officially opens on Saturday, you just might get a chance to taste what all the hype is about. Dale  Talde's new Park Slope outpost with the truly great name is more fun and folick than Talde, his elegant, delicious and somewhat pricey "Asian-American" eatery on Seventh Avenue.

With 25 beers on tap and more than 100 whiskeys, Pork Slope is ready for the Fifth Avenue crowds. And the crowds, I'm guessing, are ready for it. There's brisket to be had, as well as ribs, po' boys, pulled pork sandwiches, country ham 'n biscuits, and fried chicken.

The price point? I'm hearing that most dishes are below $15. Pork Slope is located on Fifth Avenue between Carroll Street and Garfield Place. Heck, it's in the space that used to be Aunt Suzie's, Park Slope's red sauce Italian powerhouse, co-owned by Irene LoRe, president of Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID.


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August 15th, 2012

Prospect: Fancy Burgers and More in Clinton Hill

Yet another fancy burger joint in Brooklyn? Not exactly.

Prospect, a new restaurant opening in Clinton Hill not far from BAM serving New American Cuisine and artisinal burgers, will be open by early September (if not sooner).

I got a kick out of the name because one of the first nouveau Park Slope restaurants back in the day (1980s and 1990s) was called New Prospect located on Flatbush Avenue near Grand Army Plaza. They later had a take-out/gourmet shop on Seventh Avenue. New Prospect was way ahead of its time serving organic and locally grown food with a decidedly Moosewood meets the Silver Palatte vibe.

This new restaurant called Prospect, owned by two high school friends, will feature organic and locally  grown foods in what sounds like an attractive environment.

The decor will feature reclaimed wood from the Coney Island Boardwalk. The walls of the restaurant will be adorned with early 20th century photographs from the collection of Peter Cohen.

The menu by Chef Kyle McClelland will draw from local sources, including Greenpoint's Eagle Street Rooftop Farm, Brooklyn Grange, and Sunset Park's Bright Farm. The restaurant's location is 773 Fulton Street between South Portland and South Oxford.


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August 13th, 2012

Scottish Travel Reporter Loves “Buzzing Brooklyn”

In Sunday's Scotsman, a Scottish news website, Lee Randall, a travel journalist travels to Brooklyn and lives like a native. His father was born in Brooklyn and the reporter found plenty of things to love about the borough, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Park Slope's Al Di La.

"Forget hotels and live like a native in buzzing Brooklyn, suggests Lee Randall

"Wandering around Williamsburg, the hipster capital of Brooklyn, brings to mind my late father, who was born in this borough, which was an independent town before its engulfment by New York City in the late 19th century. Dad wouldn’t recognise the place. In fact, even I don’t recognise it. The last time I ventured to this part of my native city was in the 1980s, when we’d joke that you needed to pack heat to get in and out alive. Now – all joking aside – I’d advise you to pack a Mac computer, a trilby, and a refined palate for artisan beer and coffee, else die of shame."

"Also notable was lunch at Al Di La Trattoria (248 Fifth Avenue;, where they offer a local, organic, sustainable take on Italian food, in a sweet little room overlooking a Park Slope corner."

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August 2nd, 2012

Strollers Welcome in South Slope’s Greenwood Park

You all remember the No Stroller Manifesto at the defunct Patio Lounge on Fifth Avenue and the No Strollers policy at Union Hall. Well, Greenwood Park, a new 13,000 square foot bar in Park Slope with a huge outdoor space, decided that strollers are not only allowed they are welcome.

But do people who hang out at bars really want kids around. The City Room blog at the New York Times revisits this issue once again.

“I arrived around 6 PM with friends and showed my ID to the doorman. OH YEAH, time for a laid back and relaxing time with some frosty beverages and bar food! WRONG, welcome to Chuck-E-Cheese in South Slope,” a Yelp reviewer, John H., posted on July 3.

If you're interested in the history of the Park Slope babies in bars/no strollers issue, read my essay The Park Slope Stroller Wars in Make Mine a Double: Why Women Like Us Like to Drink.

Photo from:


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August 1st, 2012

Talde’s Bacon Pad Thai Reviewed by Donna Minkowitz

Donna Minkowitz, who lives in Park Slope, writes exceedingly well about food on her blog, which isn't surprising because she's an excellent writer and the recipient of a Lambda Literary Award for her memoir Ferocious Romance: What My Encounters with the Right Taught Me about Sex, God and Fury.

A former feature writer and columnist for the Village Voice, she has also written for the New York Times Book Review, Salon, The Nation, New York magazine and Newsday.

But food. Food seems to be a passionate subject for Minkowitz. On her blog she writes sensuously of eating a McDonald's hot apple pie as a 10-year old. "I was moved deeply by something about the burning liquid inside the pastry package, the near-searing of my lips when I took a bite, the mystery of the musky, tangy ooze cut with cinnamon. I wanted that pie in a way I have never wanted any other food. (I think I was literally in love with it.)."

Because I recently sat at the bar at Talde and enjoyed an appetizer called Pretzel Pork & Chive Dumplings, which was delicious (if a bit greasy),  I was interested in her review. Here's Minkowitz on their Bacon Pad Thai - Fried Egg, which sells for $14 at brunch. I assume it's a variation on their Crispy Oyster & Bacon Pad Thai that they serve at dinner.

...Talde was so good that it made me want to communicate minutely about every aspect of the food I could, as though it were a piece of poetry or a weird white flower growing on the moon.

Talde is an Asian-American restaurant (that’s what its owners call it) in Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York. I ate the bacon pad Thai, which is an oyster-and-bacon pad Thai at dinner, and was stirred to a degree that bordered on emotion by its sour, complicated, enlivening flavors. With fat chunks of bacon, it tasted of lime, of fish funk from the great sauce called nam pla, of salt, and an almost indescribable tanginess. I wanted more fat and even more of that funky fishiness – probably the addition of oysters at dinner helps it. There were some peanuts, but I wanted more, and some more minced herbs for contrast. Even so, I loved it so much that its peculiar sour mix of flavors has stayed with me a month later. I ate the entire bowl, even though it was huge and mostly noodles.

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July 30th, 2012

Have You Been to Greenwood Park?

It sounds like quite the extravaganza.

Greenwood Park is a 13,000-square-foot beer garden, bar and restaurant, which opened recently at the foot of Green-Wood Cemetery (555 Seventh Avenue). Open noon until 2AM, they've got 60 tap lines, an indoor bar as well as an outdoor cargo bar, 3 bocce ball courts a menu that will be serving from noon to midnight

Quite the extravaganza.

I love the fence made of shipping containers. That's all I've seen. I might just go and take a look and get a, um, a beer. Have you been?

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July 26th, 2012

New Owners for Belleville, Again, And New Name (As Yet Unknown)

Sending some love to Here's Park Slope, who has a a story about Belleville, the once lovely and authentic French bistro on Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street, which has changed hands more than once over the years. Apparently, it closed for a couple of days recently and then repopened under new management. Here's an excerpt from HPS:

"Belleville, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Fifth Street, would certainly be on the list (along with Moutarde and I'm sure a few others). It appears that the French bistro had a close call over the weekend, as they were closed for a couple days and re-opened with a sign on the front window saying that the restaurant is now under new management."

Walking by Thursday evening, I noticed a banner saying "Under New Management" covering up the Belleville sign. In addition, the white letters that spell Belleville above the awning have been taken down leading me to conclude that the new business will not be called Belleville. The words "cafe" and "bar" remain.

Stay tuned.

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July 25th, 2012

August 23: Pig Roast at Rosewater

August 23 is the official date for Rosewater's annual Salute to Swine Fest!

They're firing up the Party-Que Spit and roasting a fine piggy from an upstate address over hardwood coals.

The pork will be served with cole slaw, corn on the cob, heirloom tomatoes, cold draft beer and fresh pink wine and you've got one swell porcine summer soirée. "We'll have more fun than a possum in the corn crib with the dog tied up!" is what they're saying.

Tickets go on sale Thursday, July 26th at 1pm. $78, all inclusive of beverage, tax and gratuity. Get yours quick - it's always a sellout. 718-783-3800, phone only.

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July 25th, 2012

A Tea Lounge Franchise in Kuwait CIty

Park Slope Patch has a good story today about a Tea Lounge franchise in Kuwait. Here's an excerpt:

" will be able to sit on a couch and drink any of their six organic-and-fair-trade-certified micro roasted coffees or 65 organic loose teas and it will not look too much different from the Brooklyn version.

"The owner of Tea Lounge, Jonathan Spiel, has put a call out to businesspeople to own their own franchise. However, Spiel’s vision is more of an “unfranchise,” meaning that the franchisee (or better yet, the unfranchisee) has more creative freedom in building their very own Tea Lounge."

According to Patch, a Tea Lounge franchise deal is $25,000, plus a 5-percent royalty and a 1-percent brand development fee. You need to have a net worth of $400,000 and $100,000 in liquid capital.

The initial investment to open your own Tea Lounge is between $145,750 and $346,250.

It's interesting to consider what it is that is franchisible about the Tea Lounge besides the name. What is the Tea Lounge brand exactly? What stops someone from creating their own funky cafe with old couches and lattes with heart shapes on top in the Middle East? Very interesting. Indeed. What else could be franchised around here for Kuwait, China...

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July 23rd, 2012

Afternoon Wine at Brooklyn Crab

After shopping at Fairway on Saturday afternoon, I decided to sit at the bar at Brooklyn Crab in Red Hook and have a glass of wine and some lunch.

Brooklyn Crab is the latest addition to the Red Hook restaurant scene recently opened  by the folks who own Alma.

The shrimp cocktail I ordered was delicious, as was the wine. And the view. OMIGOD. From the fun bar, which feels like a shack you'd find on a magical beach somewhere, Brooklyn Crab has a fantastic view of New York Harbour, the Fairway parking lot, the Statue of Liberty, water, sun, sky...

It's very transporting. I highly recommend it for a Saturday afternoon. I'm sure the night is fun, too. But I hear it's been getting very crowded. My sister was told there was a three hour wait on a Sunday night.

Because Red Hook is hard to get to on public transportation, they offer free shuttle service to and from the Carroll St. Station of the F and G trains. Just exit the station and look for the little yellow school bus with the Brooklyn Crab logo.

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July 20th, 2012

The Ploughman, a Foodie Emporium in South Park Slope

This morning walking into Forty Weight Coffee, the cafe that doubles as Sweet Wolf's restaurant, the owner said, "Someone mentioned your blog yesterday." Then he remembered that it was Alice at The Ploughman, the new cheese and gourmet food shop at 438 Seventh Avenue near 14th Street in Park Slope.

The Ploughman's Lunch is the name of a 1983 film with Jonathan Pryce and Tim Curry, but it's also a term for a cold sandwich served in British pubs with cheese, ham, pickle, apples, pickled onions, lettuce,  bread and butter.

The Ploughman offers artisan cheeses, meats, sandwiches, chocolates and beers. It is in the space that used to be Grab. Alice has revitalzied the decor of the old shop by painting it a gorgeous shade of purple. Not hippie purple but an elegant purple (see picture of Alice in front of her purple wall).

Clearly,  Alice has revitalized the shop with a foodie's selection of breads, sandwiches, condiments and items perfect for a Celebrate Brooklyn picnic.

The Ploughman features Forty Weight Coffee and also has olive oils and probably dozens of other things that are delicious and wonderful. I will most certainly be back to explore.

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July 17th, 2012

Peter Luger Named Best Steak House In US By USA Today

Peter Luger, the renowned and historic steak house in Williamsburg, Brooklyn,  was recently named the best steakhouse in the United States byUSA Today.

Marty Markowitz had this to say about this carnivore's emporium: “Now Americans across the country know what Brooklynites and New Yorker s have known all along: that Peter Luger is, hands down, the best place to eat a steak in America."

The steak house has been around since 1887. Here's a link to the  USA Today story:

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