Pelzer’s Pretzels, Crown Heights

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With the exception of select beer halls, I find that the standard New York soft pretzel has become rather disappointing over time. Sometimes I’ll get one at a concert or sporting event, tempted by the promise of a warm and doughy knot. However, what I’ll invariably end up with is an over-salted, dry, crumbly, tasteless waste of five dollars. Isn’t that sad?

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who has been feeling this way. Enter the duo behind Pelzer’s Pretzels, which recently opened up shop in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The brainchild of a Philadelphia native and his wife, Pelzer’s serves Philly style pretzels, which are delightfully shaped like bow ties. But it’s not just the shape that sets them apart. These twists are denser than the average NYC street corner pretzel, and extra moist and chewy at first bite. No wonder the average Philadelphian consumes about twelve times as many as the national average (so says Wikipedia, anyway). They’re better!

Pelzer's Pretzels, Crown Heights

Pelzer’s Pretzels are priced between $3-4 a pop and come in yummy flavors like The Cran-Mary (cranberries, rosemary, lemon zest), The Everything (an aptly named pretzel version of an everything bagel), and my personal favorite, Jalapeno Cheddar. We the people of Brooklyn, shall eat them all.

Pelzer’s Pretzels, Crown Heights
724 Sterling Place
Brooklyn, NY 11216
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Farfalle with Beets, Beet Greens, and Pine Nuts

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We may be in the middle of a heat wave, but I’ve been cooking like crazy. In a desperate attempt to keep up with my weekly CSA pick-up, I’ve been baking frittatas, roasting veggies, concocting soups, stir-frying, and making pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. Perhaps too much pasta, but Mr. Yummy Brooklyn has yet to complain.

This week I revisited a Bon Appetit recipe for Farfalle with Beets, Beet Greens, and Pine Nuts, a dish I made a couple of years ago after moving to Brooklyn and buying beets for the first time at the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket. The recipe exemplifies “root to shoot” cooking as both the earthy beet roots and their leafy green tops are used. It also encourages water conservation in the kitchen by using the same pot of water to boil the beets and the pasta.

Because of the latter, Bon Appetit’s warns that “you can use red beets if golden beets are unavailable, but your pasta will be pink.” As if that’s a bad thing. When I discovered we were getting red beets from Common Hands Farm, I couldn’t wait to make this bold pasta dish again.

Farfalle with Beets, Beet Greens, and Pine Nuts
Author: 
Serves: 4-6
 

Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large onions, quartered lengthwise through root end, sliced crosswise (about 4 cups)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bunches 2-inch-diameter beets with greens; beets peeled, each cut into 8 wedges, greens cut into 1-inch-wide strips
  • 12 ounces farfalle (I used whole wheat – try white for even pinker pasta!)
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese plus additional for serving

Instructions
  1. Heat skillet over medium heat. Add pine nuts and stir until lightly toasted, about 3 minutes. Transfer to small bowl.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons oil and onions to same skillet and sauté until beginning to soften and turn golden, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to sauté until onions are tender and browned.
  3. Add garlic and stir 2 minutes. Scatter beet greens over onions. Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons oil over; cover and cook until beet greens are tender, about 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, cook beets in large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Using slotted spoon, transfer beets to medium bowl. Return water to boil. Add pasta to beet cooking liquid and cook until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot.
  5. Stir onion-greens mixture and beets into pasta. Add pasta cooking liquid by ¼ cupfuls to moisten. Season with salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Stir in ⅓ cup cheese.
  6. Serve sprinkled with toasted pine nuts and more cheese. Devour.

 

Butter Lane Cupcake Class

Butter Lane

In a sweet and fluffy twist of fate, I was recently invited to join a cupcake making class.  As my baking skills are a bit rusty (read: non-existent), I thought it would be a good idea to attend and score a few pointers from the pros. And anyway, who says no to cupcakes? Not me. So last Wednesday evening I headed down to the East Village and joined a group of local food bloggers to make cupcakes the Butter Lane way.

Butter Lane

I love a good vanilla cupcake, so I parked myself at that table. We had a few minutes to get to know our table mates before settling in for a hands-on class led by our instructor Olivia. Many of the ingredients were already measured and set out, and Olivia gave us clear instructions on what to do with them each step of the way. We all pitched in to crack eggs, combine ingredients, and operate the fancy stand mixer.

Butter Lane

Before we knew it, it was time to fill cupcake tins and pop them in the oven for 30 minutes of baking.

Butter Lane

As the amazing smell of vanilla, chocolate, and banana cupcakes filled the air, we got to work on the frosting. Each table was tasked with creating a base flavor and then dividing it to make a second, amped up version. Vanilla frosting (made with fresh vanilla bean and extract for max flavor) became vanilla-raspberry, while cream cheese  was spiced up with cinnamon, and chocolate took on a second life as peanut butter cup.

Butter Lane

Then it was mix and match as we all frosted cupcakes to take home. Olivia taught us how to wield long metal spatulas and frost cupcakes using the “tap and turn” method, which I am attempting in the picture below. We finished each cupcake with a signature Butter Lane swirl, or as close to one as we could manage. It’s harder than it looks!
Practicing the tap and turn frosting maneuver. #butterlane #cupcakes By the end of class I was covered in frosting (true story, I found some on my back when I got home), but very proud of my newly acquired cupcake skills. Mr. Yummy Brooklyn was happy too, because I brought home eight tasty cupcakes. I’ll have to try attempting a batch on my own soon. He’ll be happy about that too.
Butter Lane

Thanks to Course Horse and Butter Lane for this delicious experience! I definitely recommend it to anyone interested in mastering the art of cupcakery, or just looking for something fun to do with friends.  And while I took the class in the East Village, Butter Lane has a second location in Park Slope and the class is also offered there! So you can make your cupcake and eat it too, all without leaving yummy Brooklyn.

For more info, check out Butter Lane’s East Village and Park Slope classes on Course Horse.

Vicolo Ristorante, Bay Ridge

Vicolo, Bay Ridge
Vicolo, which means “little alley” in Italian, is not located in a little alley in Brooklyn, but on the corner of 86th Street and 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge. Co-owners and cousins Domenick and Mario Abitino opened Vicolo in October of 2012 and have since been treating Brooklyn to cuisine inspired by their Southern Italian roots. Executive Chef Bruno Milone (from Bari, Italy) oversees the menu, which includes pizza made in a neat looking wood-fired brick oven, fresh pasta made daily, and an assortment of antipasti.

Mr. Yummy Brooklyn and I recently took a ride down to Bay Ridge to check it out. We sat on the South side of the restaurant, in a sunny room (a little alley, perhaps?) with wall-to-wall windows looking out on the town. It was the perfect setting for a relaxing Sunday lunch, which for us started with a Negroni. For those not familiar with this Yummy Brooklyn favorite, a Negroni is a classic Italian cocktail made up of equal parts gin, campari, and vermouth. It’s a little bitter, a little sweet, and very yummy.

Vicolo, Bay Ridge

The food proved to be very yummy as well, starting with the special burrata appetizer. It was our first experience with this type of cheese, which is essentially a ball of mozzarella filled with a heavenly mozzarella and cream mixture. Served with tomatoes, arugula, olives, and red onion, it was exactly as our server Matt promised it would be: off the hook. No wonder Vicolo imports it from Italy on a weekly basis!

Vicolo, Bay Ridge

The Spaghetti allo Scoglio was a medley of seafood in a light tomato sauce. It was full of flavor, but not overly heavy, making it an excellent lunchtime pasta. Tender calamari and spaghetti made fresh from Vicolo’s pasta machine made it a memorable dish that I look forward to ordering again.

Vicolo, Bay Ridge

And of course, we couldn’t eat at Vicolo without trying a pizza! We ordered the Pizza Italiana and were delighted when it came topped in an Italian flag of arugula, fresh mozzarella, and cherry tomatoes. The pizza was served on a “Golfo di Napoli” plate and with each slice revealed another city on the Gulf of Naples. This was probably the closest I have ever been to eating pizza in Italy, and it was delicious.

Vicolo, Bay Ridge

Our meal ended on a sweet note with the Torta della Nonna, a lemony cheese cake in a crust of pine nuts. The pressure was on as anything named “Nonna” reminds me of my Nonna and therefore better be good. Luckily, Vicolo’s Torta della Nonna delivered. It was tart and tasty, and didn’t stand a chance against Mr. Yummy Brooklyn’s fork.

Vicolo, Bay Ridge

Before we left we were treated to one last thing: the tantalizing aroma of Truffled Taglioline being prepared table-side for a lucky group of Vicolo patrons, twirled inside a hollowed out wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I’ll soon be making a return trip to Bay Ridge just for that. Who’s with me?

Vicolo Ristorante, Bay Ridge
8530 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11209
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Rainbow Chard Frittata

Common Hands CSA

My first CSA experience is officially underway! Last Tuesday evening I headed to Brooklyn Boulders for the first pick-up of the season, excited to take home my farm fresh veggies from Common Hands Farm.  The first week brought an abundance of leafy green goodness, and so did not disappoint. In fact, I was smitten.

Common Hands CSA

That night I spent hours browsing the web for recipe ideas, storage tips, and the like. This was an important part of the process for me as I didn’t want to waste a single piece of produce. I’ve had greenmarket veggies go bad in the fridge before, and it’s a sad affair. So, I took to Google and handy blogs like Ecocentric (their Real Food Right Now series highlights seasonal ingredients and tells you what to do with them). I also went on a bit of a Pinterest frenzy, the evidence of which you can view here. The following day I woke up inspired and eager to get reacquainted with my kitchen.

Common Hands CSA

I was very excited about this gorgeous rainbow chard and so it starred in my first CSA meal. I decided on a Rainbow Chard Frittata inspired by a recipe from Jennifer Grayson of The Red, White, and Green. The chard was easy to work with: I cleaned it thoroughly, separated the stems, chopped them into a colorful pile, and tore the leaves into large pieces. The stems were then sauteed with onion, filling the apartment with a wonderful aroma. Next the leaves were added and quickly cooked down before the entire mixture was combined with eggs, milk, and cheese and poured into a greased pan. While that was baking, I prepared a side salad of  speckled trout lettuce (also from the CSA) with berries and a simple citrus vinaigrette.

Common Hands CSA

Mr. Yummy Brooklyn and I enjoyed the frittata so much we ate the leftovers the next morning for breakfast. It was delicious both times, with the earthy flavor of the chard taking center stage against a backdrop of eggs, milk, and hints of Pecorino Romano. Thanks to Common Hands CSA for inspiring a meal that gives new meaning to phrase “taste the rainbow” and proves that yummy brooklyn is something that can, and should, happen at home, too.

Common Hands CSA

Rainbow Chard Frittata
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 

Serves: 4
 

Ingredients
  • Butter or cooking spray
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ yellow onion, sliced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 6 eggs
  • 1¼ cup whole milk
  • ½ cup pecorino, grated

Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a pie plate or pan with a little butter or cooking spray.
  2. Thoroughly wash the chard, taking care to rinse off the dirt and grit that can become embedded in the folds of the leaves. Cut off stems and chop into small pieces. Tear each leaf into large pieces.
  3. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add sliced onion and chopped stems to the skillet and cook 4-7 minutes, or until stems are soft and onions are translucent. Add the chard leaves and cook for 1-2 minutes more, or until leaves are just wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. While veggies are cooking on the stove, crack the eggs into large bowl. Stir in the milk and grated pecorino.
  5. When chard is wilted, remove from veggies from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Quickly add chard mixture to the eggs and scrape into the prepared pie plate with rubber spatula.
  6. Cook frittata at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve room temperature or refrigerate and eat cold.

Are you participating in a CSA this summer? What’s cooking in your yummy Brooklyn kitchen? 

Mominette, Bushwick

Mominette, Bushwick

The restaurateurs behind Mominette, Bushwick wanted to create an oasis with their French bar and bistro. Like planting a flower in the desert, they built it in between the bodegas and 99 cent shops of Knickerbocker Avenue. When Mr. Yummy Brooklyn and I visited last weekend, it was nearly 90 degrees out and the restaurant’s bright blue facade was a welcome sight indeed.

Another welcome sight was Mominette’s backyard, a beautiful outdoor space complete with a rainbow of flowers, an overhead trellis, and a bocce ball court along the wall. I felt a little bit like I’d found the secret garden, except it wasn’t a secret and brunch was currently being served.

Mominette, Bushwick

The hot day called for a cold beverage and I went with a Blood Mary. It arrived in a mason jar, which is always a nice touch. I savored it sip by sip as the sun beat down on my face and the sand from the bocce ball court (which we were sitting in) tickled my toes. In the background, a pair of musicians played guitar, providing the soundtrack to this summery scene. Oasis found.

Mominette, Bushwick

Mominette, Bushwick Mominette, Bushwick

And then there was the food:  French Toast for the mister and Eggs Florentine for moi. Mr. Yummy Brooklyn inhaled his, but not before I stole two delicious bites. The French Toast boasted the ideal combination of crispy outside, moist inside and was perfectly complimented by sweet maple syrup.

Mominette, Bushwick

The Eggs Florentine were equally yummy, and the best that I’ve had in a long time. Later, I learned that Mominette’s Chef Wesley is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu, and has spent 5 years working in Paris. Now that you know this too, perhaps you won’t be so shocked to hear that his Hollandaise sauce, which had a slight kick to it, was amazing.

Mominette, Bushwick

Per Yummy Brooklyn house rules, if there is Mac and Cheese on the menu, it must be had! We shared a side of Mominette’s Mac, which featured curly coquillette pasta with béchamel and Gruyere. I loved this version, which was lusciously creamy underneath the surface.

Mominette, Bushwick

Finally, if you’re wondering what a “mominette” is exactly, I have the answer for you. After spending the past week wondering if it might be an homage to someone’s mother, I did some googling and confirmed with the folks at Mominette that it actually refers a drink similar to an aperitif. It’s a term used in the south of France for a small (half shot glass) strong drink, usually absinthe, served before a meal to open the senses. Mominette currently carries 6 absinthe liquors, 2 of which are imported from France. Now I have something new on my to-do list: return to Mominette for a mominette!

Mominette, Bushwick
221 Knickerbocker Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11237
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