Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Breakfast salad

It is rare to see a menu item that is so original I can honestly say, "I have never heard of that before!" It is rare, also, to see a tiny neighborhood gourmet to-go type place push the boundaries of breakfast to such a degree that my breakfast, lunch and brunch eating habits have been transformed. The breakfast salad at Chicory Brooklyn on Degraw Street is my favorite dish in the world right now, the foundation of a concept that deserves further exploration. Salad for breakfast, you ask? This is like the best Israeli salad ever – grape tomatoes, little diced bits of cucumber and radish, with just enough feta cheese – combined with gently scrambled eggs, perfect cubes of fried potato and a combination of chopped romaine and frisee, all tossed in a light shallot vinaigrette. When I asked Gavin, the owner, if I could crumble an order of bacon into the dish, he agreed and also suggested sausage as another meaty, greasy addition to the absurb deliciousness of the breakfast salad. It's a dish that brings vegetables to the breakfast table in a way that I often crave but don't know how to fulfill.

Chicory was reviewed in today's New York Times Dining section. I'm sure the owners are thrilled but terrified: they seem overworked already – it's super hot in the space and the guys are always sweating it out and looking like they are working their asses off – and I am sure that this review will send business up even higher.

But I am dismayed that the reviewer overlooked my beloved breakfast salad! Yes, the fried chicken is good, the salads in the deli case are consistently great, the sweet potato fries are almost perfect, but that salad is an elevated dish. I have turned several people on to this salad already; my friend Aimee from San Francisco had four of them, I think, during her few days in the neighborhood.

I do have criticisms of the place, sure. I agree that the mac & cheese is too brick-like and thick, and often gets that strange off-kilter burnt flavor when put under the broiler or salamander. Also, I am very disappointed in the regular sandwiches there: the use of crap supermarket bread depresses me, and what really infuriates me is that a place of that calibre uses shredded iceberg lettuce on most of the sandwiches. A few leaves of green leaf or even a bit of cress or arugula would do wonders. Pardon the heated sandwich criticism there, but I find it baffling that a kitchen that can turn out something as sublime as the breakfast salad falls so short on making a basic turkey sandwich.

All that aside...
Congratulations to Chicory! They deserve it, and I wish them well.

Monday, July 24, 2006


I might have overdone it this weekend. Three ridiculous meals over three days, a lot of rich food and good experiences.

The quick run-down: Friday special birthday lunch at Bouley (lovely and delightful but hardly mind-blowing), Saturday night late dinner at Little Owl (unpretentious and delicious, moments of pure joy), and dinner last night at East Village newcomer Barbone (serious Italian in a gorgeous back garden - pictured, albeit abstractly - super fun, since I was with a friend who knew the owner).

More detailed reviews of each to come, but in the meantime I would wholeheartedly recommend both Little Owl and Barbone as two new spots that deserve attention. Little Owl, I imagine, is about to explode. We overheard them say something about an upcoming Times review while we were eating, so I am glad I got in while I could. Barbone will more likely build by word of mouth and neighborhood devotion, though I do hope that they get widely reviewed and become a destination place. The owner was incredibly nice, and I loved getting to sit with him and chat restaurant business stuff. He's a wine guy primarily, and he served us a fantastic red sparkling wine that sent me over the edge of drunkeness.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The endless picnic

Last night was about as beautiful as it gets in the world of free New York summertime events. I went to a showing of Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, or the Empire Fulton Ferry park or whatever it is technically called there, that astonishing slope of green grass along the river between the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. The weather was cool, the group of friends was stellar and there was lots of good picnic food brought to the blanket. I was especially impressed by the two women who brought their homemade pate. Wow, I went to Whole Foods and bought the smoked bluefish pate on special for $2.99 and thought I was bein' all super fancy. Stepahnie made amazing gooey chocolate cupcakes, which looking back, was really the bulk of my dinner last night. Cupcakes and pate, there's a girl who knows how to live! (Oh wait - I have a few of the leftover cupcakes in my refridgerator, maybe that will be my birthday afternoon snack.) I did bring the Crazy Creek chair though, so at least my camping gear was a hit.