A Perfect Evening

26 Aug

Perfection is something you strive for but never reach, unless you were never striving for it in the first place.

Plans are great, but mostly they involve a lot of effort and it is difficult to judge the results objectively once you have invested so much. Last minute is obviously unreliable and has potential for disaster but it also lowers the bar allows for the magic of chance.

Saturday last was that perfect evening happened upon with as little organisational effort as is possible when meeting friends.

I wish to clarify the ‘magic of chance’ quickly as there is nothing worse than getting to the point where everyone is hungry but no one knows where or what to eat and invariably you end up at the lowest common denominator which is never a good place to be.

I only leave eating out to chance when I know a neighbourhood well enough to be aware of the options, or that I trust the people I am with  to leave it up to them…..a rare occurence as anyone who knows me will testify.

On this occasion I had the luxury of both options. My original thought had been to return to the Good Fork a restaurant I really enjoyed on my last visit, but our friends had other ideas and thanks to them we had a delicious dinner in the garden of HOMEMADE.

The menu is simple, broken down into snacks, salads, sharing platters and open sandwiches. It is perfectly suited for sharing and as soon as the first snacks arrived we knew we would be happy for the rest of the evening. This was no culinary masterpiece, the  food as the name suggests is reminiscent of a meal you would put together at home having stopped off at some nice food store. Good olives marinated in warm oil with citrus zest, a garlicky artichoke dip smeared on a baguette, potatoes roasted with garlic and a spicy chipotle aioli. The salad was refreshing and light, with slightly tart granny smith apples, rocket and fennel.

The setting was idyllic, in some ways we could have been nowhere else other than Brooklyn, yet it also reminded me of a tiny Italian trattoria. We sat in candle light surrounded by walls on three sides and looked out onto a rough garden growing tomatoes, herbs and veggies used by the kitchen.

It is worth being reminded that all the finest food in the world cannot improve the company you are with but the opposite is true, as good friends and tranquil setting can turn a good meal into a great evening. We finished dinner and took a walk around Red Hook, which is like no other place in New York.

A perfect evening……..


All The Posts I Did Not Write

18 Aug

This post is mainly about not wanting to post and in some way an explanation into the diminishing number of posts I have written over the last couple of months. I got married in July and in going through all the things that I did not get done in the run up to the joyous occasion I discovered a trove of photos all taken with blogging in mind.

It would be a lie to say that the build up to my nuptials meant that I did not have the time to blog, in fact a lot of the non blogging was due to a paralysis of thoughts. Every time I sat down to write something I came to question its worth: why would any one want to read it? I would go as far as to say I have become reluctant to blog. I have always been doubtful as to the value of one persons thoughts over another, especially when one is not even a professional (in the sense of not getting paid for it), yet here I am back again.

I am determined now at the very least to make it 12 months as a blogger, so here is a selection of posts that never quite got written up.

This slushed ice drink immediately took me back to those heady school days where you could pop into the newsagent and buy a neon Slush Puppy and get the best sugar rush going. The Kelvin Natural Slush Co has taken the concept and upgraded it. All natural flavours, no additives just good old fruit puree. You start off with a base, such as the lemon one I chose and add secondary seasonal flavours, such as strawberry, for full menu and truck location see there website. It really is a delicious treat on a sweltering day.

The best tuna sandwich in the world, well in my opinion. I have been trying to perfect this for years and I still struggle to get it spot on every time. These are my choice ingredients and top tips; spend money on good tuna (in fact only buy good tuna), make it a day in advance the flavours come together much better, and use slightly more of everything than you think you should. There really are very few things finer than a great tuna sandwich!

Homemade lemonade cannot be beat. Recipe, 1 litre boiling water, handful of mint leaves, 250 ml  sugar, mix together and allow to cool. Add 500ml freshly squeezed lemons and mix well, again this actually tastes better the next day. Feel free to add a little more or less sugar and lemon to taste.

I Have no green fingers, the best I could do was to try to keep my brothers herbs alive as he willfully ignored them. But as the heat cranked up here salads became the only home eating option the expense of having to buy fresh herbs began to grate. So I began my own little garden. The basil was a random experiment that happily worked. By snipping a healthy stem and giving it water and a little sun it sustained itself until it went into a rooting cycle. At this point I simply planted it and gave it some organic fertilizer and watched it shoot up. I now have basil, coriander, thyme, parsley, mint and rosemary all growing on the roof.

I have decided that my corner of Brooklyn is in the midst of a burger war. In the last 3 months four fast food style burger joints have opened within a mile radius, with two more due to open. The real lines will be drawn (quite literally) when Shake Shack opens in autumn. In the meantime Smashburger came out on top against Five Guys (they opened 2 different locations) and 282 burger.

Last but by no means least is Blue Marble Ice Cream, which definitely deserves its own post.

Thier strawberry ice cream is so good that come July, when they still had no stock of it (all flavours are made seasonally), I was forced into emailing them to find out when it would be returning. Fortunately the answer came back as the following day, I was ecstatic and first in line. It is a 3 time a week habit right now, so hard to ignore when it is literally feet from my doorstep. I feel like I am ruined for all other ice cream, certainly strawberry wise, this simply is the best I have ever had!

Lucien Freud

22 Jul

Sad news that the artist Lucien Freud passed away today.

Reminded me of a place I used to work where he was an everyday regular, always looking slightly disheveled in his painting overalls. He seemed like a shy man but every so often he had wicked grin that told of deeper mysteries.

As I remember he drank a Lattechino, dryer than a latte but milkier than a cappuccino, something he delighted in having made up himself, oh, and he was partial to an almond croissant always paying with crisp £50 notes.

Can’t say I am a mad fan of his art but there is definitely something to be said for someone willing to show people at their least flattering rather than their most and truth be told I always wished I could get him to doodle on a napkin.

Diaries of a Secret Swine Eater

16 Jul

I stumbled across the Pork Memoirs website a couple of weeks ago and was immediately struck by the amusing and moving tales, everything from Holocaust survival to the secret stashes of bacon on a kibbutz. It made me think about the story of my own introduction to the forbidden meat of my youth.

Very happily they deemed it worthy of publishing and so this week A slippery Slope is their featured story.


And They Call It Tiki Disco…….

11 Jul

It doesn’t matter where you are in the world people always find a space to party. Sometimes whole economies are based upon it, other times the Party finds its space in the cracks where no one else is looking. I found this one by accident and it seems like one to savour. I have been to the Full Moon Parties on Koh Phangan, and experienced the mega clubs of Ibiza and now in Bushwick I have found Tiki Disco. Although the scale is incomparable the happy vibe and care free attitude of this place easily matches any of those beach blow outs.

My journey was a cultural odyssey. I cycled past throngs of people enjoying Sunday cook outs in Fort Green Park. Towards Bedford Avenue I was delighted to pass through an enclave of Hasidic jews, these people live such an extraordinary life right in the middle of such ordinary suburbia. Then there were streets dominated by Latino families and businesses, until I reached Bushwick where, Chinese builders merchants, the New York Loft Hostel and Roberta’s all combine in an industrial landscape.

This looked like the party of the summer, the only thing missing was the beach and the beautiful setting. Much is being said about Bushwick as a new center for artists, with a ready supply of loft and studio space all right on the L train to Manhattan, the building blocks are there. The only price of these conveniences is a gritty landscape of industrial buildings, poorly paved roads and a dilapidated housing stock.

But still none of this mattered to the hundreds of people who wanted to party. Tiki Disco is a bi-monthly event during the Summer at Roberta’s and it seems the masses are tuned in. Apparently a big name DJ in from LA was swelling the numbers but even so the line around the block was impressive. Once past the door (it is free to enter) there is wood fired pizza available from a mobile oven, two bars one more makeshift than the other and the Tiki tent where frozen Margherita and Gin ‘n’ Juice kept the crowds happy. The music, the blazing sunshine, killer drinks, it was the atmosphere I had seen before in those beach paradises, everybody rocking shades and happy vibes.

This part of town seems relatively lawless compared to the manicured streets of Manhattan and fancier parts of Brooklyn so I imagine this kind of party is pretty unique. I am sure in years to come when this area has gone through the almost inevitable gentrification process these parties will be looked back upon with awe and envy  as people reminisce on more simple times when throwing a party was just about opening the doors, turning up the music, and allowing the drinks and ….. to flow.

Tiki Disco
251 Moore st

Reputations at Steak

9 Jul

New York is a steak city, yet I had never been to a real steakhouse here, so when out-of-town guests wanted to go somewhere ‘we would not normally go’ I decided that this was my best opportunity to drag along my semi veggie partner without seeming totally selfish.

The decision of which steakhouse then left me with a dilemma. If I was going to do this it had to be good, and since it was with guests it was about  more than just the food. I wanted the right kind of venue with atmosphere, friendly service and great meat. This ruled out my long-term desire to eat at Peter Luger’s which is regularly voted as NY best steak. Unfortunately the reputation for their steak is as well-known as their reputation for surly service. While this can sometimes add to the fun, the thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars in cash (they do not take credit cards) to be treated like an annoyance did not seem appropriate.

Hence some further research led me to Keen’s steakhouse in the city. Once I had the approval of Carmine, my omniscient landlord, I knew we were in for a good night. As soon as you enter you feel a million miles from the bustle of mid-town New York. The low ceilings, wood panelled walls and bow tied waiters take you back in time, and I imagine since the place opened in 1885 not much has changed.

The service was elegant and friendly, we were offered cocktails that came with a crudite plate and proper bread rolls before a food menu was even presented. All our questions were graciously answered and a request for an off menu item was greeted with an ‘of course madame’.

The food did not disappoint. I ordered a delicious piece of sirloin that must have weighed at least 16oz, but that was dwarfed by the Kings Cut Prime Rib with bone that was enough to feed 3 healthy adults. Even the non red meat-eater was satisfied with a good piece of sea bass. Sides were equally matched with proper crispy fries and creamed spinach. Starters and desserts were tasty but lets face it the steak is the important thing here and when the only garnish is a piece of red pepper you know they must be proud of their meat.

Kings Cut of Prime Rib

Keens was a great experience, and made a nice change from the usual places. Whilst I am a big supporter of the locavore movement it was nice not to be force-fed the provenance of every ingredient, and to be treated like a valued guest rather than someone who should be grateful to receive such rarified ingredients. The service, the food and the ambiance were truly old school, all the way to the lobster tank in the middle of the room. And while this is not a regular destination (for the sake of your wallet and your stomach) it is defiantly a special occasion treat that I would confidently recommend to anyone.


Beach Life

22 Jun

As much as my last post sang the praises of Brooklyn, city life can still be a grind. My partner and I had the opportunity to play summer-house as friends very kindly gifted us theirs. For a week we fantasized about the beach and fresh air, until finally the day came when we could leave behind the grit and grime of the city.

Our timing was perfect. While 90c sunshine is great at the beach, it is not quite so much fun when your window ac unit rumbles away struggling to cool off the apartment. After a hurried rush for the train we sat back and gazed out of the window as the city gradually bled away, first through unfamiliar neighbourhoods then into suburbia and finally countryside. We ate a picnic inspired by Paris as I had earlier stopped off at Epicerie Boulud and picked up the holy trinity: Cheese, Salami and Baguette.

One road in, one road out…..

We arrived late so it was only when we awoke the next morning that we could appreciate our luck. The plan was to hit the beach early so using the bikes our thoughtful hosts had left us we followed their advice and made a quick breakfast stop at Mary’s Marvellous. We filled up on a delicious egg and bacon sandwich and pretty good pain au chocolate.

Atlantic beach is miles of uninterrupted sand, with a gentle breeze and the kind of tranquility seldom found. The water was far too cold to swim so we opted instead to walk the tide allowing our feet to be cooled by the large breaks and our minds to be scrubbed by the salty air. A bike tour of the coast road was idyllic until I managed to get a little excited and went over the handle bars, a dust down and with minor scrapes and wounded pride we decided it was a good time to get out of the midday sun and head back to our tranquil paradise.

We could not get the hot tub to work, but who cares, we instead toasted our luck upon having a plunge pool to cool down in. When we could not get the TV to work we instead turned the music up (it took a good 30 minutes to work the stereo out too) and laughed at our Luddite ways. Our time away was too short to let our technological ineptitude spoil the relaxation.

Wild Turkeys

Dinner was Indian from The Hampton Chutney Co who also have a branch in Soho, but while the food was just as tasty I could not imagine myself sat in the city watching an almighty storm blow in. We rushed home just in time to avoid the downpour, and agreed that while we only had half a day left another early trip to the beach via Mary’s was in order.

I do not think I have ever experienced such a quick route to serenity, normally it take at least a day to get into holiday mode but here it just felt so easy. We made our train with minutes to spare and sadly watched as the city leaked back into our world. Stepping off the train in Brooklyn was the reality check you never want, back to normality.

Hence the moral of today’s story is; friends are good, friends with beach houses are better!

*We stayed in Amagansett, (apparently Paul Macartney has a place there too) a beautiful little town past East Hampton on Long Island. There are several places to stay in town all very expensive during peak season,we passed a very lovely looking place on the beach called Ocean Dunes.