The Elm

Interior, the Elm

There’s a certain sort of meal you expect to have in Paris – white tablecloths, foie gras, beautifully plated food and bespoke service – that unfortunately I rarely get to have. During fashion week I am too busy running around taking photos, and at the end of the day I often emerge rain soaked and generally unpresentable for fine dining.  (more…)

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Antica Pesa

You know Brooklyn dining has really come into its own when a celeb-friendly restaurant touted in Page Six opens not in Manhattan, but in Williamsburg. Antica Pesa, the new Italian spot on Berry Street, already has a loyal fan base in the Travestere neighborhood in Rome, where the original restaurant has been serving up Roman classics like chitarra alla carbonara for generations. Its American sister restaurant is no brightly-lit family trattoria but a modernist boîte filled with well-heeled scenesters. This is Antica Pesa 2.0.  (more…)

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Reynard is the latest farm-to-table-in-a-chichi-setting restaurant to hit the city, this time by Marlow & Sons chef Sean Rembold and his partner Andrew Tarlow. The new spot in the Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg got some flak for being too slick and sceney, but the vibe here feels positively organic compared to the hyper-branded, focus-grouped type of restaurant that seems to be colonizing Manhattan(more…)

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One of the best things about dining in New York is following the diaspora of kitchen talent from one key restaurant to its contemporaries. April Bloomfield (herself a grad of London’s River Cafe, like Jamie Oliver) has launched several chefs from the seminal gastropub the Spotted Pig, including Nate Smith, formerly of Dean Street and now the proprietor of Allswell in Williamsburg.

Allswell isn’t direct copy, so don’t come here looking for the Spotted Pig II. There are similarities, like the quirky British decor – cutesy mismatched wallpaper (surprisingly feminine for a male-owned pub), exposed wood beams, inexplicable bric a brac, those famously uncomfortable stools, but a bar you could really settle into. The space is populated with patrons who’ve mastered a particular brand of studied cool, like the Spotted Pig before it hit hundreds of guide books. But the menu and the setting feel personal and distinct.  (more…)

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Post Office

A lot of places in the city call themselves restaurants – but because it’s easier for a new establishment to get a full liquor license when there’s food involved, they may just be mega bars with a menu. (Remember Japonais, anyone?) Rarer is the place that calls itself a bar that’s secretly a restaurant.

Sam Glinn is the chef in the lilliputian kitchen of Post Office, a Williamsburg bar dedicated to American whiskey, bourbon and rye, and named after a Bukowski novel. From a corner of the one-room space, done up with dark wood, tin ceilings and memorabilia propped on the shelves, Glinn, formerly of Brooklyn Star and Momofuku Ssam, dishes out a limited but memorable array of reinvented classics.  (more…)

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Sailor Stripes, Brooklyn Flea Williamsburg

Here’s how guys can work sailor stripes for spring – bold, vibrant and crisp. I also like how the white soles of his sneakers (intentionally?) match the white tires of his Moth bike.

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Two Looks, Brooklyn Flea Williamsburg

The new Brooklyn Flea on the Williamsburg waterfront has attracted a huge crowd with its great shopping, food trucks and beautiful city views. On these women at the first Flea, I loved the denim jumpsuit on the right, especially paired with an orange bag and big bangles. On the left, sailor stripes look even better with a toggle coat.

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Girl in Khakis, Williamsburg

This girl’s look was so cool I don’t even know where to begin. It’s just effortless. I especially liked the button-fly khakis.

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The Commodore

What would you do for a great plate of fried chicken? At the original Pies-N-Thighs in Williamsburg a couple years ago, fried chicken fans had to be willing to wait. The line snaked out the door, and service was glacially slow – think Duane Reade with more piercings and tattoos. But then, perhaps even because it took 30 minutes to get to the front of the line then 10 minutes more to get your food, the chicken seemed breaded with manna from heaven, perfectly seasoned and perfectly crisp. So what if you had to eat it while crouched on a curb next to a trashcan?

Fried Chicken Thighs, The Commodore

If you were willing to endure the old Pies-N-Thighs (the new one is a larger, more restaurant-like place), you may want to try the Commodore, helmed by Stephen Tanner, previously of the chef at Pies-N-Thighs, and also in the kitchen at Diner and Egg. But be forewarned: if you don’t have the stamina of a 21-year-old and a love of crowds, you will end up feeling aged, cantankerous and starving – not unlike Mimi Sheraton cast into the wilds of Brooklyn. (more…)

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La Superior

One of the worst things about eating Mexican food in LA is coming back and eating it in New York. The New York version of Mexican food is almost sure to disappoint after you’ve had the vibrant, spicy food at a random hole-in-the-wall in an LA strip mall. Even the most successful NYC Mexican restaurants don’t source traditional ingredients like goat, and they get the cheese all wrong – Vermont cheddar is surely not a staple south of the border. Most Mexican food in New York is what Italian food was here in the mid-’80s: dumbed-down Mexican-American, not authentic Mexican.

That’s why it was such a relief to discover La Superior in Williamsburg after reading Pete Wells’ $25-and-under review. As soon as the first dishes landed, we knew: they got the cheese right.

La Superior’s requesón is a mild but cheesy cheese, fresh, with the consistency of a crumbly cottage cheese. Though it’s said you can use ricotta as a substitute, I don’t find the taste the same at all. (One close flavor you can sometimes find is Mexican Cotija cheese – not at high-end cheese stores, but at corner bodegas.) Here it is sprinkled on top of the flautas de pollo, which were very crisp and topped with bright, fresh greens and salsa that contrasted with the creaminess of the cheese.

Gorditas, typical Mexican street fare, are highly addictive little corn buns, split and stuffed with chorizo, lettuce, and more requesón. La Superior’s taste a little like huitlacoche, the surprisingly tasty weird corn fungus. If you want to spice up the gorditas some more, the green salsa served alongside does the trick.

The quesadillas also come street-style, more like heftier empanadas than a mere fried tortilla. But for me this amount of bread overwhelmed the filling.

Their tacos are amazing little delights, each one a separate burst of flavor. (This too is where so many other NYC Mexican places get it wrong – all Mexican dishes shouldn’t taste the same.) Clockwise from top, these are the camarón al chipotle (very spicy shrimp tacos), the carne asada (smoky grilled skirt steak), the carnitas (pork confit topped with sweet white onion), and the phenomenal rajas, roasted poblano pepper strips cooked with that fabulous cheese. This was a really intriguing combination. Usually you think of a creamy cheese as something to quell the spiciness of pepper, but when they’re cooked together, the cheese has the effect of drawing it out.

Alas, there may be a shortage of authentic Mexican food in New York, but if you can locate Cotija cheese, here’s a recipe for a Mexican salad for you. But if you’re going to La Superior, here’s your strategy:

  • Arrive early (7-ish). If there’s a wait, you’ll have to wait in line – they don’t take cell phone numbers.
  • BYOB! There’s a bodega around the corner with a good selection of beer.
  • Prices are crazy cheap.
  • Their idea of “decor” is a single string of colored lights. You’re not here for the romance.
  • It’s much easier to get a table on busy nights as a party of two than as a larger party.

La Superior
295 Berry Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211

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Fette Sau

Perhaps no other advertising campaign has done a greater disservice to its product than “Pork: The Other White Meat.” Borne out of the fat-phobic late ’80s, the National Pork Board’s campaign reduced the entire animal to the pork chop. If the complex, meaty, by turns fatty and lean pig could talk, she would no doubt tell you: I am so not a chicken.

Twenty years later, our obsession with barbecue and pork’s ability to take on and emphasize spicy, smoky flavors may seem new, but it has long been part of the basic vocabulary in Chinese, Korean, Italian, German, and yes, Southern cuisine. Consider this: would David Chang of Momofuku be David Chang without his silent partner, the Berkshire pig?

It requires a certain mania for the fatty beast to see a barbecue joint in an auto body shop, bring in a crypt-sized Southern Queen smoker, make all the right connections with Berkshire pork suppliers, and open your doors for business. But that’s just what owners Kim and Joe Carroll of Fette Sau have done.

By now you probably know what’s on the menu: pork spareribs, pork sausages, pulled pork, plus some beef brisket to give that guy a nod too. But it’s the sau that impresses. Fatty, rich pork belly is like the foie gras of pork products. The ribs are charred on the outside, meaty and tender between the bones. There’s an espresso-and-brown-sugar rub on them, but as with the pulled pork, the true deliciousness comes from the unadulterated flavor of smoke. The Southern Queen smoker – and chef Matt Lang – sure can cook.

I’m no barbecue expert, since I come from Maryland, the no-man’s-land considered the South by Yankees but disdained by Carolinians and ignored by Texans. But barbecue experts have endorsed Fette Sau’s separation of meat from sauce, which you combine yourself at the table. The sweet sauce is the traditional mix of ketchup, vinegar, maybe a bit of Worchestershire sauce, and some other secret ingredients, but it was still my favorite because of my Southern-ish sweet tooth – same goes for the sweet white rolls. Fette Sau’s spicy sauce is a much more complex, mole-like mixture that tastes of coffee, dried chilies, molasses, and unsweetened chocolate. The two would taste great mixed together.

The non-meat sides received a drubbing in previous reviews of Fette Sau, so we skipped these – except for the excellent Gus’ half sour pickles – and headed straight for the baked beans. Embedded with hunks of brisket, they tasted like the ideal incarnation of Fette Sau’s mole-like spicy sauce.

Though the atmosphere is pretty much the polar opposite of Frederick’s Downtown, Fette Sau does have that see-and-be-seen scene, Williamsburg version, lots of outdoor seating at picnic tables, and few rules. (“No drinks outside after 11pm.”) Walking into the garage, I felt the same kind of relief a teenager experiences upon arriving at a keg party in somebody’s indestructible concrete basement. It’s the kind of place where you can let your hair down, don some Williamsburg style glasses in weird 80’s frames à la Michael Caine, and drink a gallon of beer – literally. A slew of microbrews is dispensed from pulls rigged with butchery tools into gallon-size glass jugs. If that doesn’t spell an afternoon of Brooklyn patio drinking, I don’t know what does. Just get there early because, like Pies ‘N’ Thighs, Fette Sau tends to run out of food, usually by 9:30pm on weekends.

The extensive list of bourbon, whiskey and rye is like the bonanza of breaking into the absentee parents’ liquor cabinet: Whiskey, all you want! We particularly liked the Tuthilltown rye and the Black Maple Hill bourbon. If you’re really daring, knowledgeable bartender Dave Herman will serve you a bit of corn mash liquor that tastes like moonshine: the ceramic jug says it all.

As with a keg party, days later, my clothes still smell like smoke, but this time it’s the alluring scent of barbecue. It even makes me hungry, which is no problem, because like addicted regulars at Fette Sau, I ordered more pulled pork at the end of the night – to go.

Fette Sau
354 Metropolitan Avenue at Havemyer Street
Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York

for directions go to hopstop.com

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