We are only a few days into 2013, and I’m wondering if I didn’t already have potentially one of the best meals of the year last week at a place called La Vara in Cobble Hill. A relatively new restaurant from the couple behind Manhattan’s Txikito, at face value it appears to be merely a sweet little tapas restaurant but there’s a unique geo-culinary fusion being applied in the kitchen that seriously works its ass off. What I’ve read is that La Vara seeks to explore the legacy of food that was created as a result of the Jews and Muslims who shared the Iberian Peninsula with Christians for centuries. What I discovered is that this legacy exploration business is a very, very tasty thing.Courtney and I ordered a whole bunch of plates, and there was honestly nary a clunker in the bunch. If you are fortunate to go, here are just a few of the plates we tried that we deemed must-orders:
- The bowl of crunchy paprika fried chick-peas. Compulsively munchable and a fun starter.
- The lightly fried tiny artichokes with anchovy aioli. This one provoked dueling forks for the final bites.
- The salt cod salad. They cure their own fish in the kitchen and this beautiful plate was bright tasting, citrusy and delicious. Never had a salt cod salad and I had no idea what to expect, and it was way better than I could have imagined. This dish was a total star.
- The suckling pig (a special.) I could have eaten a whole meal of just this… honeyed cracklin’ skin over tender and juicy pork paired with a delicious chimichurri sauce. Loved it.
One other standout worth mentioning; the service at La Vara really shone. The whole staff was so genuinely friendly, we couldn’t get over it. You know you’ve been living in New York City a long time when authentically pleasant service is noteworthy, but here we are. I realize this sounds like a love letter, and maybe we went there on a particularly good night, and it did happen to be my birthday– but this just seemed like a happy restaurant and they are frankly doing everything right. Great food, terrific vibe. Go. Eat there!
With things being totally upside down lately, sometimes what you want is a little return to normalcy. Since we were both home from work today, Courtney and I were craving some comfort food and a cozy spot for lunch so we hit up Boca Lupo in Cobble Hill. That place is the terrific antidote for a crazy world. I particularly love the feel of the restaurant’s interior: it’s been opened up with floor to ceiling windows that make it bright and cheerful, and it affords you with a really nice view of the gorgeous Henry Street brownstones.And the food was top notch — never been there for lunch before, but I’ll be back. We had perfectly crusty paninis for the main course (I loved mine: sausage, broccoli rabe, taleggio & ‘shrooms) but I think next time we’ll make an entire meal just from their inventive and delicious bruschetta menu. We shared three that were amazing, and this was our ranking in order of their awesomeness: 1) Creamy mushroom, leek & truffle cheese, 2) Butternut squash & gorgonzola, 3) Goat cheese, eggplant, jalapeño spice raisins.It was really good to have a few laughs and enjoy some solid chow. Here’s hoping all of you out there get some good food and drink this weekend, and let’s all hope next week is little more back to normal.
Behind an unassuming glass storefront on Atlantic Avenue just off the corner of Henry is one fine eating and drinking establishment that we hope continues being so roundly superb for years to come. I was first introduced to Colonie for brunch by friends who live in the neighborhood. The staff is so unbelievably friendly even when you show up on a crowded morning with a couple of strollers. The room is so incredibly warm and inviting with casual furnishings, a healthy dose reclaimed wood and a wall of green fauna welcoming you to the back room with chef’s bar surrounding the bustling kitchen. On the several occasions I have been, each meal has been perfect. Start off with their basket of baked goods. Their shrimp and grits are to die for, the duck hash rocks and they make a seriously fine cheeseburger. Jesse and Courtney have been for dinner and Lesa and I finally followed suit last week. We started off with a dozen of Thomas Keller’s favorite oysters…Island Creeks from Massachusetts. Plump, briny, perfect. We washed them down with a couple of Cool Hand Cukes which makes for one super sweet earth and sea combination. Moving on, we had their freakishly good grilled octopus, Pate de Campagne and Ricotta Gnudi which are little balls of aged ricotta lightly boiled and served with ever-so-gently warmed sweet 100 tomatos…killer…like Colonie’s take on the caprese salad. By the time we got around to thinking about the main course, we were so full that we opted for a cheese and salame plate. My only regret is that we didn’t leave enough room for the pork chop which is brined for three hours and then lovingly pan seared and basted for what looked like a perfect crust over what I hear is the most tender inside you’ll find anywhere. I was weeping as I watched the chef cook and servers deliver each one to their lucky patrons. I’m ordering it for an appetizer next time I go.