Monday, August 31, 2009

Silver Spoon Review



With the remnants of Tropical Nonsense Danny having passed us by on Sunday, the sun came out and forced me to leave my humble cave in search of...something. Who knows what, but I ended up wandering around most of Clinton Hill and Fort Greene over the course of the morning. After a while I started to get a hankerin' for ice cream or iced coffee or something, and even poked my head into Bittersweet, but didn't get anything. Passed by the General Greene too, but didn't get anything.

What did I finally get? Frozen Yogurt at a place I'd never actually been, Silver Spoon on Fulton St. It's another of those places I've passed by a few dozen times but never actually set foot in. That all changed on Sunday when I, well, set foot in it.

The place feels a bit like a spa, which is odd. Calling their menu sparse might be a big generous, but they're certainly focused. They have 5 or 6 flavors of frozen yogurt along with a bevy of various toppings. They also serve coffee.



...and that's pretty much it. I wasn't feeling cheeky, so I got a medium pineapple frozen yogurt (they had mango on the menu but apparently it wasn't available). The staff was friendly and prompt, and I handed over my $5.90 in exchange for my yogurt.

Yes, you read that right. $5.90 for a medium, and to be honest, they don't go to any length to fill the cup they give you. If I'd wanted toppings? That would have run me an additional couple of dollars. That's getting dangerously close to $10 for a little snack, no?

In any event, it was really, really good frozen yogurt, so no complaints there. But I'm not sure how often I'll stop in. I mean, I guess it's not *that* much more than $4.50 for two scoops at Bittersweet, but it really felt like a lot. It was good, but I'm not sure it was that good. Still, on a gorgeous, warm day the place was pretty barren, so maybe I'm not alone.

Information:

Silver Spoon
737 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11227
718.852.7567

Google Map

Friday, August 21, 2009

More on Fresh Fanatic



Are we tired of Fresh Fanatic posts? I hope not! I've had a chance to stop in a few more times in the last few days, as well as get some reader questions answered, so I thought I'd collect everything into a single follow-up post.

First, prices. One of the traps Fresh Fanatic is going to have to work hard to avoid, because of its focus on high-quality fare, is high prices for everything. They've maintained over and over that while they're going to be selling organic produce and other goods, they believe they'll be able to offer lower prices than other stores. How are they doing? Well, prices on deli meats are high but not exorbitant. $8.95/lb for things like ham and turkey, which is about a dollar more than many stores offer for comparable meats. They use Applegate Farms for the meats but offer Boar's Head cheeses. When I've been there they haven't had anything on special - if they do start to offer specials, it might bring things down a bit. I got a pound of ham yesterday and asked for it sliced thin and they did a really great job, which isn't always a given at delis around here. The bakery staff also mentioned that they're still playing with prices on things like the prepared sweets. A slice of flourless chocolate cake is $3.25 now, but that might change as they gauge interest.

Produce seems reasonable, especially for fruits and vegetables which have both an organic and non-organic option. I'm still not thrilled about how the produce is organized, though. Tomatoes, for instance are set up so that organic ones are in the main produce area, while non-organic roma tomatoes are on the other side of the partition by the front door. Two separate places in the store to get tomatoes? I don't think it works, but they're still playing with how things are set up, I imagine. Price in general will be something everyone will be keeping a close eye on.

For items where they only have an organic option, like eggs, prices are high. Their cheapest dozen eggs is $3.50, and that might mean people shop elsewhere for staples. I'd like to see some non-organic options for things like milk and eggs so that a trip for basic stuff doesn't take too much of a chunk our of my wallet.

How about hours? Right now they're still playing in by ear a bit, but they're open by 7:30 or 8 in the morning and are planning on closing between 7:30 and 8 on weeknights, 6 or so on the weekend. They've mentioned to me a couple of times that they're trying to get a feel for the neighborhood and how late people will shop, and they won't close up if there are still people shopping. They also have a "walk-by" window on Park that will be open at 7am to server coffee, which will be great for people who use the bus stop that's right there. I stopped in at about 8 this morning for coffee ($4.25 for a large latte and a poppy seed muffin) and both the store and the coffee window were open.

Beer? They're waiting on the liquor license, and it may take up to six months for that to come through. Once they get it, they plan on having a good selection (30+) of beers, and they're also planning on soliciting suggestions from shoppers as far as what we'd like to see. The Associated on Myrtle has always had an excellent beer selection, so it will be interesting to see how Fresh Fanatic competes.

A few people have mentioned it, but everyone there has been exceptionally friendly and helpful. Stop at the fish counter and you can end up getting a 15 minute lesson on fish. Everyone wants to know what they can do to help, and what they can do better.

Have you had a chance to stop in yet? Tell us what you think!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

67 Burger Review



I've written up 67 Burger before, but this past Saturday I happened to get a craving for a good burger while also having my camera with me so I thought I'd take the opportunity to pop in and give this neighborhood joint the full treatment that it deserves.



Named after its address, 67 Lafayette Ave, 67 Burger is a Fort Greene restaurant that does pretty much one thing: serve gigantic, greasy burgers that are made to order. The menu is a monument to burger construction, guiding the diner through a choice of meat, burger "style," extras, and sides. If you're looking for something other than some kind of meat on a bun, this probably isn't your place (though there are a few good looking salad options). 67 Burger is all about the burgers, and they make no bones about it.

I've been to 67 Burger before and have always been happy with their beef burgers, but this time I wanted to try something a little different. I make turkey burgers at home a lot and I'm always happy, so I figured I'd give 67's a chance. I ordered a turkey "parisian" with swiss cheese and an order of fries.



First off, the fries were as good as ever. They're made to order and are almost too hot to eat when they arrive ahead of your burger. The order is also pretty massive, so you might want to consider sharing a single order if you're not alone, especially considering the size of the burgers themselves.





67's Burgers are massive affairs, so there's never any worry of leaving hungry. While I really liked the parisian's onions and mushrooms combined with the swiss, I was less thrilled than I thought I'd be with the ground turkey. It didn't seem seasoned much at all, and was a bit disappointing. From now on I'll stick to the ground beef, I think.



67 Burger has to be a part of any discussion of Brooklyn's best hamburger, though. While I loved what I tried at Prime Meats, 67 certainly has more variety and creativity on their menu as a specialty joint, and if you haven't been it's certainly worth the trip. I kind of need a nap just thinking about it.

Information:

67 Burger
67 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY
718.797.7150
http://67burger.com

Google Map

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fresh Fanatic Grand Opening



UPDATE #3: (Putting this up front so it gets noticed)

After trying Fresh Fanatic a number of times in the past few months, I cannot recommend it as a place to do any kind of regular shopping. They don't stock some basic things I would expect at a gourmet grocer (cocoa powder, fresh basil), and whenever I go I invariably have to go somewhere else to find everything I need. They also stock the same item in multiple locations, making shopping there somewhat of a treasure hunt. Regular broccoli is in one section, organic broccoli in another. Regular apples here, organic apples over here. What's the point of this? It just makes a shopping trip more difficult than it needs to be.

Most importantly, the customer service is just awful. The last few times I've gone, the staff has been both rude and unhelpful, making me feel as I'm imposing just by asking a question or even wanting to pay. I always seem to leave in a much worse mood than when I went in, and I'm through giving them the benefit of the doubt.

To read more about my recent experiences, check out this post:

http://www.clintonhillfoodie.com/2009/12/fresh-fanatic-fail.html


Today marks the official grand opening of the new gourmet grocer in Clinton Hill (or is it Wallabout?) on Washington and Park, Fresh Fanatic. I've had opportunities to stop in twice now and so far I'm pretty impressed. I've been hoping for better grocery options for a while now, and while Fresh Fanatic may not be the second coming of Trader Joe's, it seems to be about the next best thing.









I'd gotten a heads-up about a new "deli" opening nearby when I sat down with the owner of Body by Brooklyn a few months back. I'd gotten my hopes up for a little Italian deli - good meats and cheeses - and that would have been just fine. Instead, Fresh Fanatic is a more than full-service grocer, offering deli, meat and fish, coffee, and hot food counters along with a pretty substantial fresh bakery.









I was initially struck by just how big the space is, since I was expecting a glorified bodega. Fresh Fanatic is built in the Fresh Market or Greene Grape Provisions mold, focusing on a small selection of high-quality products rather than a huge selection of everything. There just isn't space to carry everything, but from what I've seen so far, what they do carry is very good.







Jake Bernstein, Fresh Fanatic's Marketing Director, was kind enough to answer some questions I had in advance of the grand opening today.

What brought Adam and David [Fresh Fanatic's owners] to this part of Brooklyn?

The family owns the building at 275 Park, entitled The Chocolate Factory. They made it residential in 2003 and opened the spa (body by brooklyn) soon after, and now comes the supermarket.

What's the relationship with Body by Brooklyn?

Also owned by Adam and Davids family.

Why a grocery store?

Adam and David had the space already and saw the opportunity. There is also no great fresh affordable supermarket in the neighborhood.

What does Fresh Fanatic hope to do differently? I noticed separate deli, bakery, and meat counters - will there be any specialties?

We specialize in international, gourmet, organic (stress affordable), and eventually a 24 hour coffee window.

Will there be any delivery options? What about prepared foods?

We will be taking delivery orders via internet. Also we have many prepared foods such as sushi, whole chickens, and much more.

Aside from Body by Brooklyn, does Fresh Fanatic have any other direct relationships with local businesses, such as selling Bergen Bagels bagels, for example?

We will be at The Jelly Pool Parties for the last two Sundays of August.

So what's been my experience so far? Well, the produce is good, but not expansive, and is unfortunately split on two sides of a large partition. Onions, potatoes, etc on one side, with other fresh product on the other. I'm one for having all the produce in one section, but that just might be a personal caveat. I did like the way the rest of the store was organized, and nothing feels cramped or out of place.





















The deli and especially the cheese counters looked great. I'm a long way from Greene Grape Provisions and the other great markets in that part of town, so having this kind of cheese and deli selection close by is fantastic. This is probably instantly the best meat counter in this part of the neighborhood as well. There wasn't much to see as far as the coffee, hot foods, and bakery are concerned, but those will come along as the store finishes getting set up.









This block is home to Mojito, Il Porto, RePop, Body by Brooklyn, and now Fresh Fanatic, and it's become a great destination in a part of the neighborhood that seemed pretty barren just a few years back. We can always use more great grocery options, and so far Fresh Fanatic looks like a great one.

UPDATE: A commenter inquired about the hours, so while I was in today I asked. Right now they're opening at about 7:30 and closing between 7:30 and 8 on weeknights, 6 or so on the weekend. They're playing it a bit by ear, and if there are people in the store, they're not going to kick anyone out. They also plan to have a drive-by window open at 7 in the morning for coffee, which should be handy for anyone who uses the bus stop there on Park.

I also asked about beer, since right now it's the most glaring omission. They're well aware, and apparently it's what's been asked about by more people than anything else. They're in the process of getting their liquor license, but it can take up to six months. I was assured that when they do finally get it, they're going to do it right, hopefully offering a large assortment.

Today I had a chance to shop at the meat and fish counters, the deli counter, and the bakery, and every single person helping me was eager and enthusiastic to not only help me with what I was looking for, but to ask for any thoughts I might have. This first week, at least, Fresh Fanatic seems to be doing everything they can to be the best grocery in Clinton Hill. Or Wallabout, but I'm not sure how much competition there is for that one.

UPDATE 2: See further thoughts here: http://www.clintonhillfoodie.com/2009/08/more-on-fresh-fanatic.html

Information:

Fresh Fanatic
275 Park Ave
http://freshfanatic.com/

Google Map

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pequena Closed Temporarily for Health Violations



It appears that Pequena, one of the better little restaurant sin Fort Greene, has been temporarily shuttered following a Department of Health inspection. According to The Local:

[A] spokeswoman for the Health Department said Pequeña was shut down after receiving 90 violation points at an inspection on Wednesday. The inspection was a followup visit from a June 20 inspection at which the restaurant racked up 35 violation points. These included not keeping foods at correct temperatures, evidence of insects and inadequate refrigeration, according to the Health Department.

Here's the actual result of the June 20th inspection:

PEQUENA
86 SOUTH PORTLAND AVENUE, BROOKLYN 11217
718-643-0000

Violation points: 35

Inspection Date: 06/20/2009

Violations were cited in the following area(s) and those requiring immediate action were addressed.

Sanitary Violations
1.) Non-food contact surface improperly constructed. Unacceptable material used. Non-food contact surface or equipment improperly maintained.
2.) Plumbing not properly installed or maintained; anti-siphonage or backflow prevention device not provided where required; equipment or floor not properly drained; sewage disposal system in disrepair or not functioning properly.
3.) Appropriately scaled metal stem-type thermometer not provided or used to evaluate temperatures of potentially hazardous foods during cooking, cooling, reheating and holding.
4.) Food worker does not use proper utensil to eliminate bare hand contact with food that will not receive adequate additional heat treatment.
5.) Cold food held above 41°F (smoked fish above 38°F) except during necessary preparation.

Following my review of Body by Brooklyn a few months back, there was a lot of discussion in the comments about the DOH records for a lot of local restaurants. It's nothing out of the ordinary to have a few minor blips after an inspection, but this was apparently egregious enough to have Pequena closed temporarily. Here's to hoping they get things sorted out properly. I liked Pequena, but I may take a closer look at their DOH records from now on, as well as of Maggie Brown and Olea, which are under the same management.

You can take a look at DOH inspection histories for all NYC restaurants at this page.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

CHB Previews Fresh Fanatic



Robin over at CHB recently got a chance to take a sneak peak at the new grocer going up on Washington.

Owner Andrew Goldin lives in the building and has a degree in hospitality management. That experience, combined with world travel to many of the globe’s best markets, led to the unique experience that is to be Fresh Fanatic. Goldin says that the store will eventually boast an impressive range of international foods – Thai, Japanese and even Russian. They’ve already ordered bread from Germany.

Fresh and organic it will be, but Goldin promises it will be much less expensive than Whole Foods. He also promises the most reasonable prices on prepared foods in the tri-state region.


This looks even better than I'd imagined, and I'm going to try and get in there this weekend. They're doing a soft open today or tomorrow, with an official grand opening on Tuesday, August 18th.

UPDATE: I've posted my own impressions after stopping in a couple of times over the weekend.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Prime Meats Review



While I still have a ways to go in my search, there's a new candidate for Best Burger in Brooklyn. Prime Meats, the spin-off of the much-beloved Frankie's 457, is right down the block on Court St. in Carrol Gardens and it has a great one.





Prime Meats is a bit of a throwback. It feels like a Western saloon, almost like something right out of Deadwood. From the antique Prime Meats mirrored sign to the tin ceiling to the old-fashioned light bulbs, Prime Meats feels like a lovingly-crafted experience all the way through.







We went on a Sunday morning at about 11, and the place was already packed. We were happy to wait five minutes for a table while we examined the great-looking pastries and cakes on display. The Olive Oil Cake in particular looked great, and we ended up ordering one along with coffee and a bloody Mary while waiting for our entrees.



The bloody Mary ended up being a bit of a disappointment, though it was the only thing about Prime Meats I wasn't completely happy with. It's expensive for one, at $11 (Frankie's 457 sells them for $8 - weird) and it just wasn't all that tasty. It wasn't bad, per se, but it wasn't worth $11.





The Olive Oil Cake is only of those dishes that just takes you completely by surprise. We expected sometime similar to a pound or bundt cake - something kind of dry and tasty, if unspectacular. We ordered it our of curiosity more than anything. What we got was exceptionally moist and delicious, with hints of lemon zest and sugar on the outside. This is the kind of thing I'll be craving for months, and it makes me wonder just how good the rest of the pastries are. I'm already looking for recipes to try my hand at something similar.







For my entree, I tried the Steak and Eggs along with a side order of grilled bratwurst. The eggs weren't overcooked, always a danger, and the steak was seasoned well and juicy. The dish comes with an order of potatoes as well, which were good but not great, but they complement the steak and eggs well. The bratwurst was also very good, if a bit smaller than I was expecting. There don't seem to be a lot of great places for brats in this part of Brooklyn, so I think I'm comfortable calling Prime Meats one of the best.







The real star of our meal was the 1/2 lb Prime Meats Burger, which my father ordered. Served with lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo, and gruyere ($2 extra) on a slightly grilled bun along with fries. This is the stuff dreams are made of if you like burgers. Big but not massive, seasoned well, and perfectly juicy, this was a really exceptional burger. I know there are great burgers all over this area, but Prime Meats has got to offer one of the best, and it's currently my personal favorite.



We also shared an order of Jenn's German Potato Salad, which was ok but not fantastic. In my opinion, the potatoes were a little overcooked so they lost too much of their firmness. I'd like to try their American version, though.

Prime Meats is a great spot, and well worth the quick trip over from Clinton Hill/Fort Greene. If you're looking for some place new and unique, you'd be hard pressed to make a better choice. I certainly hop to be back soon.

Information:

Prime Meats
465 Court St.
Brooklyn, NY
718.254.0327

http://www.frankspm.com/

Google Map