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Archive for the ‘prospect heights’ Category

Everybody’s favorite cheap (previously reviewed) Prospect Heights Mexican restaurant, Chavella’s, is making moves! Though beloved as a BYOB spot, congrats to Arturo (the charming and handsome owner) and his crew for getting their liquor license! Negro Modelo is the most delicious and complementary beer that they stock – I think they also have Pacifico and Modelo Especial and such.

Still totally worth it, especially now that they have added the AMAZINGLY delicious camarones (shrimp) to the regular menu.  Order it. Unless you cannot handle spice and will be forced to go next door to pick up a pint of Haagen-Daz because your mouth is on FIRE!….as was the case with the father of one Brooklyn Skeptic. But you’re tougher than that, aren’t you!!

Get going!

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As nouveau cirque enthusiasts across the city gear up for the upcoming run of Au Revoir Parapluie (Dec 4-16 at BAM), a French food enthusiast is born in Brooklyn.

For two of the last three nights I have warmed myself on Le Gamin’s hearty yet refined sandwiches, delicate yet substantive crepes, and invigorating yet stupefying GROG.

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Le Gamin graces New York and Boston with several locations; ours is located on Vanderbilt between Dean & Bergen, nestled on a very special block next to two of my favorite spots, sweetie pie boutique Red Lipstick and reliable repair shop Bicycle Station.

This is a first date’s wonderland with a cozy, romantic feel and a menu that won’t break your bank, even if he orders the most expensive thing (roast beef tenderloin, $15). A fireplace warms the back of the restaurant, and a generously sized patio equipped with umbrellas and picnic tables promises warm weather fun to come.

Mooseknuckle and I both began with sandwiches, or as they call them: “Les Sandwiches.” Isn’t that just darling? He housed the Merguez a la Moutarde Forte – spicy lamb sausage with roasted red peppers. You know how sometimes roasted red peppers are the ‘luxury’ item in a sandwich or salad that you pay extra for, but still you’re like – is this worth it? Should I have just gotten free tomato slices instead? In this case, the roasted red peppers totally complete the sausage – just the two of them there in that sandwich would keep each other well enough, but the goat cheese that Moosie opted to add contributed a lovely smoothness as well as that cool tartness to cut through the sausage-spice and red-pepper-sweet. Mmm!

I went for Le Saumon Fume – smoked salmon, hard boiled eggs, cucumbers, mesclun, homemade mayonnaise, and pesto. Right away I liked their boldness at including as standard two condiments. They’re a funny pair. If you added mayo to pesto, it would totally bring down the quality. If you added pesto to mayo, you’ve got yourself some gourmet spread. But allow the two to exist separately but equally (what doesn’t work in society can sometimes work in sandwiches) and you’ve got a sandwich whose mayonnaise helps things stick together and keeps the eggs from sticking in your throat, and whose pesto seeps into the ciabatta and gives your teeth a succulent layer of olive oil to sink through before reaching the chewy crust. I liked it. The salmon itself was also great – not overly salty, and generously portioned.

Both sandwiches,$9.75, were served with mesclun salad on the side – fresh leaves, appropriately engaging but understated dressing.

The next night, intending to just stop in for desert, Mooseknuckle, Johnbaptisedme, and I were taken in by the savory selections. They were sadly out of mussels, so I opted for a Brie crepe ($9). Whaat??! Oh man. Combined with expertly carmelized onions and sliced baby tomatoes, it was excellent. If you are the kind of person who has to restrain herself from downing the whole baked brie wheel at a party, then this dish is for you. Don’t share it!

Moosepie went for a make-your-own crepe ($10.50) with chicken, goat cheese, and ratatouille. After the disappointment that it was not served by animated rats subsided, he tucked into this tasty concoction. The taste I begged off him was very satisfying. More ingredients provide many many possible combinations for personalized crepes. Like an omelette bar but way classier. Also served with salad.

Always a classist, I mean classicist, JBM got Gratinne a L’Oignon, the classic French onion soup ($6). Mmm! The rich broth you want, the crusty bread made soggy in it, the sharp cheese knocking you down. They get it right.

And then of course there’s desert! Though the actual desert menu sounds great, with a warm upside down apple tart served with creme fraiche ($5) and a classic creme bruelee (also $5), how could we do anything but head straight on to the sweet crepes ($4.50-$7)?

Apricot jam made a delicious filling. As did melted chocolate – of a really high quality and cocoa count – either on its own or combined with fresh bananas. They are famous for their crepe with fresh sectioned orange and homemade caramel, and for good reason. Unlike its made-by-Kraft counterpart (not that there’s anything wrong with that), Le Gamin’s homemade caramel does not stand up on its own, instead lending the subtle flavor of burnt sugar sweetness to the juicy oranges and light crepe dough.

The drink options in a French restaurant can be intimidating, but with a small and accessible wine list, I felt empowered to order a glass of Muscadet to accompany my meal. It was a nice choice and at $7 for a generous class I felt like all was right with the world. Mooseknucks opted for a bottle of Brooklyn, which Le Gamin rings in at $5. About reasonable and standard at a Brooklyn restaurant, no?

The drink enticements continued on to the section of the menu entitled “Les Boisson Chaudes,” or delicious wam things to which we occasionally add liquor. I was taken in by the GROG (as I may have mentioned before). It turns out GROG is a simple and refreshing drink, the Mandy Moore of warm winter drinks. Hot water, lemon juice, honey (that you add yourself to your liking), and spiced rum. Serve it in a big ole bowl and you’ve got yourself my new favorite drink!

The next night I opted for a steamed milk, again with honey and spiced rum, again served in an oversized bowl. What is not to like about drinking from a bowl? In a place like this, you feel like a viking and a refined French person at the SAME time! A valuable, if too rarely found, combination.

So, clearly, I recommend Le Gamin with no reservations (ha!). No, really, you don’t need reservations. This 3 1/2 year old restaurant was no where near crowded either night I went. Perfect for a romantic rendezvous or a night out with the gals, Le Gamin has an extensive, inexpensive menu that will make your friends think you know your GROG.

Le Gamin, 566 Vanderbilt Ave, Prospect Heights

Related merchandise: Joie de Vivre, simple living the French way. A book that tells you how to be happy like the French. I’ll stick to the food, thanks!

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Not so long ago, Prospect Heights was blessed with a new addition to the happy family on Classon Avenue between Park and Prospect. It is called Chavella’s and it is Mexican and we all love it.

A first glance at the menu will tell you that it’s CHEAP. Seriously cheap. And a first taste of the food will tell you that it’s DELICIOUS. Very seriously delicious.

417478001_8b939e9aa6.jpgThe lunch/dinner menu features hugely generous platos like rotisserie chicken or chicken mole (rich and delicious with all that cocoa sauce) with mounds of rice and beans. My favorite, though, is mixing and matching the various tiny special treats they have for $2.50 – like tacos in soft corn tortillas (roasted vegetables with guacamole, chorizo and potatoes with cabbage, black bean with avacado are my go-to’s). The sweet creamy rice pudding is the perfect end to any Chavella’s meal. And so so so much better than any other rice pudding. Ever. (Sorry grandma.)

Check the specials board because if you see the sizzling camarones (shrimpies) up there then get it. It is ridiculously flavorful and fresh and exciting. It comes with whole jalepeno pieces that beg to be eaten with abandon, scooped up with the juices and rice and veggies and shrimps. My only warning, be a little careful. The seeds stay in and lend a LOT of heat. Balance your bites so you can live to enjoy the whole dish.

Recently they’ve added a Sunday brunch with menu items like eggs benedict on mexican toast with guacamole and jalapeno hollandaise. Yes! Their namesake omelette comes with bacon, avacado, queso oaxaca and the good lord only knows what else… the best part is the chorizo hash that comes on the side of that one. Brunches at Chavella’s start off with a complimentary bowl of Mexican sweet breads – they not only get you started on your way to hangover recovery that much more quickly, but for me they provide the security that I will always be able to balance my sweet with my savory! I’m not forced to order a sweet baked breakfast just to sate my sweet-tooth – I can have my sweet breads and eat my eggs too, as it were. Not that I would deter anyone from ordering the sweet breakfasts here. French toast dipped in tres leches (that’s 3 milks for you anglos) will stare tantilizingly at you off the page.

So, in case you guys are having trouble picking up on my subtlety, I am wholeheartedly endorsing Chavella’s for your casual dining, affordable priced, outrageously fresh and delicious Mexican food needs.

Chavella’s
732 Classon Avenue
Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

NOTE: No alcohol on the menu so feel free to byob. And they deliver.

Photo from 52 Projects‘ photostream.

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Zaytoon is a new Middle Eastern restaurant on Vanderbilt and St. Marks. There’s another branch of it on Smith Street that I guess does okay. The Prospect Heights branch is recently opened, and I’d heard good things from a neighborhood friend. But maybe she’s never eaten Middle Eastern food ever before. Ever. Or maybe she has some disease where on her tongue crap tastes like filet mignon. It’s a mystery. Keep reading for an in-depth review of this new potential hot spot!

Okay – in the interest of total disclosure: when we first got there (me, mooseknuckle, and one more friend), the waitress came over and said ‘what can I get you gentlemen?’ In case you don’t know, pizappas is a lady. This waitress didn’t know, so maybe you don’t either. So as I proceed to write this scathing review there is always the possibility that my experience was taint(haha)ed from the very beginning. But whatever. Here goes….

I started out ordering a sampler platter. You know, the middle-easterners, they love their mezze. So I got the Zaytoon Combination Plate with (my choice) yogurt cucumber salad, fatoosh, babaganoush, stuffed grape leaves, and mujaderra.

Yogurt Cukes: these guys were near the best of the bunch, which is not saying much. A watery concoction that would have been an OK sandwich dressing did not hold up on its own. The topping of low grade feta did not help matters.

Fatoosh: In general I am a big fan of fatoosh, a salad featuring sour flavor from lemons and sumac, and toasted pita bread. What I was served didn’t actually seem like fatoosh. I think they might have accidentally substituted Israeli Salad, as it was a slightly soggy pile of cubed cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions. No pita bread. So it was either a bad Israeli Salad or a really bad fatoosh.

Babaganoush: This shit tasted sweet! Not sweet like scoring free tickets to a G&R tribute band show. Sweet like the jujubes that are the only candy you have left 2 weeks after Halloween. I don’t know what the shit was wrong with it but it tasted bad and like eggplant candy. Not in a good way. Dudes, check your recipes.

Stuffed Grape Leaves: Passable. They weirdly had like one slightly hard chick pea in each stuffed leaf. wtf?

Mujaderra: When made well, this is a delicious concoction of rice and lentils topped with fried onions. When I passed this shit in the display counter on my way to the bathroom, I knew before I tasted it that I had made a mistake in ordering it from Zaytoon. However, when I asked the waitress to switch it a mere 3 minutes after ordering, she said it was too late. Bummer. No comps even. So when it gets to the table, I found that it was cold! Usually served warm to room temperature, as you may know when rice is cold it gets hard. One bite of hard, cold rice was enough so that I didn’t venture any further into this dish. And there weren’t even any fried onions on top!

So that takes care of my meal. It stank. Mooseknuckle got a shawarma sandwich that was OK. Except for that it was a wrap! Like, a 1995 looking wannabe gym bunnie type of wrap. Like, that fad when they thought that if you put a chicken ceasar salad in a wrap it made it healthy. But anyway. He liked it medium. In my opinion the meat was a little overdone.

Friend #2 got kibbe that were ginormous! Like the size of nerf footballs. So if you’re into portions, go for that one. The flavor was too heavy on the cinnamon and the texture was too mushy in the middle but it was at least recognizable as kibbe. Of the three dishes ordered, it was the best.

The bread is delicious, but extra breads come 50 cents a pop. Their little way of keeping Atkins’ dream alive. And no matter how delicious freshly baked pita bread is, it loses a bit of its luster when dipped in babaganoush that tastes like an eggplant had a baby with a sugar cube and then stepped on it. Then ate it and puked it back up. Then died and its body decomposed with the puke. Then a cat ate the decomposed puke body and shat it out on your plate and drizzled it with olive oil.

So, screw you Zaytoon. I hate you. I’m never going to eat at you again. PEACE!

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The story is that 4 “thirty-something hipsters…including a well-known illustrator and designer, and a Vogue Australia scribe” bought a building on Bergen between 6th Ave and Carlton that is home to 5 rent-stabilized units. And the people who live there.

The law is that the owners can evict the residents for “personal or family use,” and that’s what they’re trying to do.

The new owners are artists, which has surprised some people:

“You’d think as artists these people would basically have better politics but they’re basically building their dream house on the backs of long-term rent-stabilized tenants,” [Brent] Meltzer [a lawyer for one of the tenants] said. “When they bought the building, they got it for that price [$866,000 in 2006] because it came with five-rent stabilized tenants.”

The comments on this Village Voice article aren’t too surprising – poor people have it easy, poor people have it hard, why would you think artists would have good politics? et cetera.

What seems interesting to me is the value or culpability that gets attached to “coolness”:

Yeah, those damn poor people. They have some nerve paying their rent, with regular rent increases, and living in a neighborhood that no one wanted to live in until Mr & Mrs Yuppie & their partners decided that it was “cool” and bought a building below market rate. And some of those tenants are senior citizens. How dare they not just move out onto the street because a greedy couple doesn’t have enough to satisfy them.

Coolness is a funny thing. Sometimes when something is trendy it is because it is a good thing that can really improve the world (the sustainable food movement?) or sometimes it is trendy because it helps people feel better than other people (remember bling?), and most of the time it’s some of both (um, like both of the above examples).

OK, but what I’m really getting at is the fact that every cultural convention we have started as some kind of cool trend… whether it became cool because it helped people not die as often or as quickly (hygiene, vaccinations, etc.) or because it helped people not be disfigured freaks (not sleeping with your cousin – what’s cooler than that?).

And right now, gentrification is cool. Thirty-somethings are coming of age who were raised by baby boomers. The baby boomers thought the coolest shit was to get rich and move to the suburbs. The thirty-somethings think the opposite is cool. And the baby who is raised wearing Sonic Youth onesies will eventually grow up to be a proper lady.

Gentrification clearly affects peoples lives in a much more serious way than baby fashion. And this type of gentrification is possible because of free-market capitalism and our legal system. The whole way our society is set up means that whoever has the most wealth will get to fuck the most people. And there are way richer people than these artists who have inevitably made these artists feel victimized before… but in this situation the artists are clearly doing the fucking.

And people who’ve grown up poor are obviously the ones who get fucked over and over again by this system. Councilwoman Letitia James was at a block party/rally to protest the attempted evictions. Which is great. Support your electorate.

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Pic from Village Voice

But it’s hard to be totally into it when the most recent decision to come out of City Council is a ban on metal bats. Not anything about renters, eminent domain, or evictions. In a situation like this it’s really only a change in law that could keep these tenants in their apartments. Or in the next building that this happens to, to keep the tenants in their apartments. And so on…. And what happens when all those yuppie owners/livers are her electorate? That must be a scary thing about being an elected official in a trendy Brooklyn neighborhood. Huh.

Because it is a trend, and it seems unlikely that case-by-case advocacy could change that. If it could, would we have ever seen another publicly fucked-up celebrity after 12 year-old Drew Barrymore finished rehab?

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No.

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