Radio On The Real. St. John Frizell.

More often than not, we find that change can be the most profound at the local level. Whether New York City or Laredo, it’s typically the actions of a concerned few who live in and love their towns that define the collective future for that place. This is why we were excited to sit down with St. John Frizell last week. St. John makes a seriously mean cocktail, but he’s also the owner of Red Hook mainstay, Fort Defiance. Aptly named, Fort Defiance began life as a widely enjoyed café/bar/restaurant on Van Brunt Street, but in the devastation following Hurricane Sandy, it became something even bigger…a leader and champion of the Restore Red Hook movement. A fantastic storyteller with a great life story, St. John gets real with us about the restaurant business, why the Third Place matters, and the bright future of Red Hook.

st. john frizell, Craig LaCourt, red hook flicks, fort defiance, red hook

Thanks to portrait photographer Craig LaCourt for the iconic photo of St John!

About the Author |
We earn our living selling New York City. The next day is never like the last. The last is never ordinary. We witness all sorts. We listen to the City’s noise. We devour its phenomenal food. On the Real is our documentary. It is your pack of unfiltered New York 100s.

The Local. La Vara.

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.La Vara, dining, Spanish, tapas, restaurant, BrooklynCourtney 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.

Salt Cod SaladOne 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!

About the Author |
We earn our living selling New York City. The next day is never like the last. The last is never ordinary. We witness all sorts. We listen to the City’s noise. We devour its phenomenal food. On the Real is our documentary. It is your pack of unfiltered New York 100s.

Date Night. Battersby.

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.

About the Author |
We earn our living selling New York City. The next day is never like the last. The last is never ordinary. We witness all sorts. We listen to the City’s noise. We devour its phenomenal food. On the Real is our documentary. It is your pack of unfiltered New York 100s.