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Archive for the ‘wine’ Category

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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Your personal Brooklyn wine shop sherpa, ChezJJP, has been studying in depth this small store which lies smack between the infamous Prospect Wine Shop (9th St.) and much lauded Slope Cellars (15th St.) on the wino-heaven-boardwalk we call 7th Avenue in Park Slope.

My initial observation led me to mistakenly believe that there was no way Big Nose could cater to my “cheap but elegant” tastes in wine with a selection that seemed rather limited and an interior decoration that seemed inclined towards a higher class clientèle. I was completely wrong on this account; Big Nose offers a plethora of reds and whites around my usual target price range of “dix dollars americains“.

I don’t know about you, but when I try a new wine store, the first thing I do is to gauge how honest the owners’ intentions are by making a mad dash for the lowest price bottle in sight. Call me cheap, but I don’t make six figures a year yet, so a bottle under 10 that I can safely get to know over many nights is the object of my affection, and it makes me comfortable knowing that the shopkeeps condone this behavior. So with respect to my sly little test, Big Nose passed with flying colors and more. Where Slope Cellars up the street has more choices for bottles circa the $10 mark, this place has two or three selections under 10$ that really stand out on their own. I had a bright and luscious Spanish tempranillo red that was a steal for 7 bucks. Another $7 Australian Cudgee Creek syrah hit Plainclothesman’s well worn G-spot as well. Also at the $7 mark there was an absolutely tasty Portuguese red from the Dao region called Grao Vasco; fabulous with a light dinner of leftover jerk barbeque, Goya black beans (man, I’m addicted to those) and a CSA tomato with a toasted chunk of bread. As far as I’m concerned, if a store carries perfectly decent wine under $10, it makes me want to try their $25 and 40$ really badly. (I mean let’s face it, $7 wine usually is nothing to write home about.)

Another upside is that the staff are really friendly guys, and they have a chiller in the back so any room temperature white wine can be made ready to drink within minutes. The final verdict is that Big Nose Full Body is up there with the quality wine stores such as Slope Cellars, LeNell‘s and Red, White and Bubbly and I thoroughly recommend it.

 

Inside Big Nose Full Body

Big Nose Full Body
382 7th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11215
(718) 369-4030
www.bignosefullbody.com
Mon-Thurs 12-9pm
Friday 12-10pm
Saturday 11-10pm
Sunday 12-9pm

Pros:

  • Weekly Free Wine Tastings
  • Excellent Picks
  • Great Opening Hours
  • Super Friendly Staff
  • Animal Friendly
  • Close to Subway

Cons

  • Thinner Selection than you’d probably like

You can’t go wrong with: Olivares Jumilla, Spain, 2005. $10. This is a blend of 3 grapes and after being satisfied with the other cheaper wine, we were blown away at the complexity of this one for the price. Dispensing most of the jibber jabber you hear about hints of cherries, black forest berry love sessions and chocolate-river pipe dreams, I will just describe the Olivares as ” velvety smooth with a lone spice in the aftertaste that keeps you coming back for more”. It’s a perfectly elegant accompaniment to lamb or duck and suitable enough to drink by itself. Plus, your guests will think you’re a class act for pairing food with a Spanish wine.

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Someone I don’t know said once that sex is like wine, and in that line of thought, 7th Avenue in Park Slope is like the ‘Dam’s Red Light District. There are at least four wine shops within a twenty block radius, not even counting 5th Avenue. I suppose the rather comfortable living standard of the area makes for a lucrative steady supply of customers in the mid to high end market. Of course, you’ve still got my people; the $10 wine club -who occasionally spike to $15 if there happens to be a scotch tasting between walking in the store and the picking of the bottle.

Slope Cellars, my current go-to, is located on 7th between 14th and 15th streets. Clearly a labor of love, Slope Cellars is what it is: a welcoming, warm place with a metric sh*# ton of carefully palate-picked booze.

In the front, you will find a really great selection in all price ranges, in particular from the Burgundy/Rhone Valley region in France. But keep walking towards the back of the store and you will find the treasure trove which is the “Cheap & Tasty” section. In these boxes lie some very interesting finds for the wino. Prices span from $6.99 to $9.99 and believe me, it’s all game. Funnily, I learned from one of the owners that the Smith & Vine people are friends of theirs and adopted the 10$ and under section, which I think we can all agree is a top idea.

Of course, like any wine shop there are some duds here and there, like one particular bottle of Cahors red we tried, but you know what, nothing is fun without the occasional letdown. Wine is not an exact science, and neither is pleasure. Most of the whites in the cheap and tasty are stocked in the adjacent fridge but occasionally you may have to put in an ice bucket when you get home if drinking soon. American wines are also in the back, and again there are some very sweet looking picks.

Did I mention they have a club card that gets you a 13th bottle for 1$? I’m on my second card. So take a walk there, bring your English Bulldog and have a chat with the staff. They are super nice and will fix you right up.

Slope Cellars

Slope Cellars
436 7th Avenue (14th and 15th Streets)
(718)369-7307
www.slopecellars.com

Monday-Thursday: 11am – 10pm,
Friday, Saturday 11am – 11pm,
Sunday 12pm – 9pm

Pros:

  • Friendly, knowledgeable staff
  • Carefully handpicked selection, also lots of liquor
  • Cheap and Tasty section is large and changes frequently
  • Great opening hours
  • They have a “buy 12 get one for a buck” card!!
  • Frequent tastings
  • Great website

Cons:

  • No in-store wine chiller
  • You might find it a bit out of the way if you don’t live in South/Central Slope

You Can’t Go Wrong With: Jean Perrier et Fils. Apremont -Vin de Savoie , 2005, $12.99 (white, Savoie wine made from the Jacquère grape). You can tell I’ve been really into the light, crisp and tasty whites perfect for the summer heat, and this is one that will do that and the ol’ winter raclette night. I know it’s outside the acclaimed Cheap & Tasty section, but having spent some time in this region of France, I truly recommend it.

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The Brooklyn wino has many choices when it comes to “scoring juice” in the Carroll Gardens area. But of course, we know not all wine shops are created equal. Frankly, the area spanning Court/Atlantic to Smith/9th street is littered with average wine shops (Scotto’s, Carroll Gardens Wine & Liquor, Vintage Cellars, The-Bullet-Proof-Window-Liquor-Store, etc.) that just provide your standard Yellowtail Shiraz meets “I’m Francis Coppola and I’m Buying This Vineyard” selection. These places are fine if you just need a bottle of Jameson and want to shoot the shit with the owner. But hey, let’s get real. This is Brooklyn and I expect a perhaps smallish but exotic and carefully picked assortment of well priced, worldly wines.

And this is what you get at Smith & Vine, the only store in this whole area that has truly sent me out the door murmuring a Cartman-like “sweeeet” with a happy jaunt in my step. You can tell the quality selection here by the lovingly labeled descriptions placed on each bottle coupled with the fact that there isn’t overwhelming amounts of dusty inventory stacked to the ceilings. Plus, the friendly staff always seems to be drinking and that can only be good, right?

S&V’s single best feature is the “10$ and under” table, which is the store’s centerpiece. One side is dedicated to reds and the other side white, with about ten bottles on each side. It’s tough to go wrong here, and I made it my beeswax for a whole year to try out as many as I could. For me, it sealed S&V’s spot as “most kick-ass wine shop in Carroll Gardens.”

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Another advantage of S&V is their sister cheese shop “Stinky” located across the street. These shops are totally in sync, and everyone knows what’s up. This really makes things easy when you’re shopping for Wine & Cheese night. Stinky’s got some great stuff, and also sells crackers, quince paste, cured meats (Christ, they have “guanciale”) and duck confit. Those close to me know I believe ducks to be a superior species.

Smith and Vine
268 Smith Street
(718) 243-2864

Pros:

  • The 10$ and under table is a Brooklyn landmark.
  • Wine selection is given a lot of care and well labeled
  • Great opening hours
  • Sister cheese store across the street
  • Excellent website

Cons:

  • The staff’s a bit jaded, but it might be ‘cause they’re drunk all the time.

You Can’t Go Wrong With: Domaine De La Batardière (white) – a crisp , dry and flavorful Muscadet from the Loire Valley (France, genius), this is the ultimate summer wine and perfect for that romantic picnic in Prospect Park or just a booze-soaked Sunday.

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Just read this whole recipe first. It’s a lot of steps but its not that much work. Better for two people to do it: one takes care of steak and one takes care of fries. You can conveniently execute this recipe on a small Brooklyn sized grill.

Necessary Jive :

Grill or Cast Iron Pan or (Oiled)

Strip Steaks (one per person or one for two if squeamish)
Unsalted Butter
Fresh Tarragon
Lemon Juice

Idaho Potatoes
Two cloves Garlic
Kosher Salt

1. Get yo’ steaks to room temperature and get that butter soft.
2. Chop up tarragon, combine with butter and tablespoon of lemon juice. Mix with butter.
3. Now, place mixed butter in saran wrap and make a log, place in freezer.
4. Cut up your fries and place in a cold bowl of water with ice cubes.
5. Now, pre-heat your grill pan or grill. Oil it so meat wont stick. On the stovetop, heat about 3-4 inches of oil in a deep pot. Here you really should use an oil thermometer and you should have one, cuz for proper frying this oil should be at 360 degrees F. If it’s cooler than that, you’re wasting your time but hey, dip a finger and take a chance. (Wait, don’t do that).
6. Place two cloves of garlic in the warming up oil and take em out before its hot enuf to put fries in.
7. Now with oil super hot, drop in a first batch o’ fries. Don’t overcrowd, or it will suck suck suck. Just a handful at a time. Get someone else to tend to the fries while you do the steak, as they will need to removed from the oil when they are nice and brown using tongs or a slotted spoon. Put the fries on a rack to drain, preferably, or on a cloth napkin in a bowl and toss around. Throw some plates in the oven to get ’em hot. Keep the done fries in the oven as well.
8. Ok, now the steak. With a 1-1.5 inch steak you want about 3 mins a side for rare, 4 mins for med rare and leave it on forever if you want more than that. Just imagine the heat first searing the edge and then penetrating the meat. You definitely do not want to cook each side for more than 4 minutes in my opinion. Make sure to use tongs and don’t pierce the damn thing. 9. Now let the steak REST. For 2-3 minutes preferably in a warm oven on a hot ass plate or covered in foil.
10. If you are slicing it up, place on cutting board and SLICE ACROSS THE GRAIN. That means slice it perpendicular to the little streaks you see running across the surface of the steak.
11. Cut a round of the now hard butter and place it on top of the steak and let melt. Mmmmmm. Go get your fries.
Serve everything as HOT as you can! Realistically it will take you some tries to get this one efficient, but its f&*% rewarding when you’ve done it a couple times.

Look for more recipe ideas you can rip off as your own at www.chezjjp.com!

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The owners of Red, White and Bubbly, Park Slope’s wine destination, are trying to meet all of my needs – not just by fueling my alcoholism, but by fueling my love of all things Brooklyn.

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That’s right! We, as a borough, now have our very own wine company…in a manner of speaking, I suppose. If you want to be technical about it, the grapes are grown, fermented, mixed and bottled in California. But the guy who designed the label totally lives in Brooklyn! And the only place it is currently sold is in Brooklyn. So that’s close enough, right?

I tried the “Feliz Red” last night. I wasn’t crazy about it, but it might have been that it just doesn’t pair well with a black bean burger and garlic scrapes. Or it could be that I just wasn’t doing it right. The instructions say to “celebrate a day well lived” with it, but I was actually just watching The OC and painting my toe nails. The owners of Brooklyn Wine Co. & Red, White and Bubbly feel different, of course. They said to the Brooklyn Paper, “it’s not so much that we create a good wine, but that we create a fantastic wine. And if we’re going to put our names on a bottle of wine, we want it to knock your socks off.”

It’s true that my socks were off, but that was because of the pedicure…or was it?

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Saddam Hussein, in an elaborate ruse worthy of the Three Stooges, somehow managed to escape the execution that was legitimately captured on some dude’s camera phone. Or so says a gaggle of conspiracy theorists.

I would just love this to be true if it would mean a little more heartbreak for George Bush.

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