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.
Yesterday afternoon I was searching for someplace great to go with Lesa for dinner. Combing through the pages of Eater, I decided to have a look at their 20 of NYC’s Most Underrated Restaurants page and our old friend Degustation popped off the screen and into our plans for the night. Billed as a Franco-Spanish tapas bar by its owners Jack and Grace Lamb, Degustation is still going strong on East 5th Street between Second Avenue and Cooper Square after six years. Though you can order small plates like the amazing Fried Egg with Pork Belly or Seared Foie Gras, we have always opted for the chef’s tasting menu. We went for the $75 a head 10 course version and it rocked our world just as it did the last time we were there five years ago.
- Seared Pork Belly as delivered.
- The after was oddly just as beautiful.
Time to go out in the evening and be adults again! It’s always nice to have a conversation over drinks with your spouse that doesn’t involve legos and princesses, so last night Courtney and I went to longtime neighborhood staple Bar Tabac. It’s the same group who run Jules Bistro in the city, which is another terrific bistro you should try (if you haven’t already.)We’ve been to Tabac for brunch many times (its a good live jazz brunch – but skip the bloodies) but never for dinner. We decided to give it a nighttime go because we saw online that Stephane Wrembel was playing there. You may remember him from when we went to Fada, in Williamsburg… I swear we’re not stalkers. The music is just so damn good. Take my word for it and please go see him live!
There are so many ways to experience a chef’s talents in this town of extreme culinary diversity. One of my favorites is to book a reservation, sit down, and let the chosen chef bombard your with their talents. Omakase in Japan. Prixe-fixe in France. ”Oh my God!” at Torrisi on Mulberry Street.
Lesa and I booked reservations for the Chef’s Tasting Menu a couple of weeks in advance and our mouths watered heavily as our date neared. I’m going to spare you the blow-by-blow for each course, because you can read about it from actual food writers here, here, and here, but I will tell you that the 22 course culinary journey through the history of New York that unfolded for about three hours after being seated was absolutely phenomenal and, dare I say, fun. Here is a list of each course as presented at the end of the meal.
Every course had a purpose beyond looking good and tasting pretty. The atmosphere is cozy, unpretentious and thoroughly un-modern with a healthy dose of old funk and hip-hop keeping the mood decidedly upbeat. And the service was perfect. Food and wine were never over-described, each course appeared at a perfect clip and everyone working to give each diner the best experience possible seemed to be actually enjoying themselves. The feast felt real…nothing forced or over thought. It was an amazing experience that should be had by as many as possible. We’ll be headed back for round two as soon as the credit card recovers!
Date night for the Shafers! We decided to try newcomer Battersby, on Smith and Degraw in Carroll Gardens. The two chefs (in photo) cut their teeth at Gramercy Tavern and Blue Hill, so I was expecting something amazing. I wasn’t disappointed! If Vinegar Hill House is the best restaurant in Brooklyn, then Battersby is hot on their heels. Tiny space with a great vibe and the food was outstanding. The menu changes all the time but for me the highlights were the short rib salad, veal sweetbreads, and the duck breast with foie gras tortellini in duck consomme. My wife’s sea bass was also pretty close to perfect. I haven’t had a “you have to eat here!” recommendation in a while, but guys, you have to eat here.