Telepan Local, a 2014 restaurant favorite! Photo credit: Nadine Anderson
I came to a huge Brooklyn realization this year: I don’t go to Williamsburg. It’s not that I dislike Williamsburg–I actually like the neighborhood very much–it’s just so far! Sure, for Manhattanites, it’s a quick ride on the L train. But from Bay Ridge… The fastest way for me to get to Williamsburg is to go through Manhattan. Did you hear that? I have to go to another borough to get to a different part of my own borough. Ridiculous, I know.
So why has this discovery become so apparent now? Well as I sit down to write my 2015 restaurant bucket list, I of course reflect on the 2014 list. No, wait…don’t click that link. It’s embarrassing really. It’s not like I didn’t eat out this year; oh I ate out plenty. But from my bucket list, I only managed a mere 5 of the 10 restaurants. Don’t worry I have excuses.
The Bay Ridge restaurant scene is much like a revolving door. Mediocre pubs and bars magically pop up and mysteriously disappear a few months later, going out as quietly as they went in. A bright new sign hangs above the vacant storefront promising a new and better restaurant. What bothers me most is seeing a new place open and unsuccessfully racking my brain for the memory of what sat there just 6 weeks earlier. Then there are the places that come and stay, breathing new life into the current food scene, something different from just another pub. I’m hoping Brooklyn Beet Company is a keeper.
Blue Hill at Stone Barns is the ultimate locavore dining experience. You can’t get much more local than picking harvesting vegetables and herbs right behind the restaurant or roasting the pig that grazes just a few hundred feet away. The restaurant has no menus, no specials of the day. Your meal is guided by what’s in season and what’s fresh. A welcome “journal” greets you with lists of what’s in season and how the dining experience works. For dinner, you have a choice of 5, 8 or 12 courses. The amount of food is fairly consistent across all three meals. Selecting a higher number of courses is simply a way to try more ingredients and different preparations. I’ve dined at Blue Hill twice. Different seasons, different company, different experiences completely.
I first tasted Brooklyn Commune’s food at a benefit event. Surrounded by elegant, over-thought dishes, Brooklyn Commune stood apart with shots of tomato soup accompanied by bites of bacon grilled cheese sandwiches. The soup was essential to cut the chill of the cold rainy day and the crisp, buttery sandwich bite melted in my mouth. How had I never heard of this place? Where was it located? Park Slope or Cobble Hill—it had to be one of those. But no, it was a neighborhood foreign to me, Windsor Terrace, down by the southern tip of Prospect Park. I was absolutely determined to find a reason to explore my newly discovered neighborhood, and more importantly, see what else Brooklyn Commune had in store for me. If a sip of soup and bite of sandwich could pack so much flavor, just imagine what was bursting from the walls of a whole restaurant.
My first trip to Rosewater was uneventful. There wasn’t necessarily anything wrong with it, there just wasn’t anything memorable about it. We did a chef’s tasting menu a few years back for my birthday. It was a great value—Five courses for $60 and add the (I think necessary) wine pairing for just $26 more. Five courses and wine for under $100 a person. You can’t get much better than that. At most restaurants, especially in Manhattan, I find you can barely clear 3 courses, paired with water, for that price. I remember enjoying the food but the next week, even the next day, I couldn’t recall any specifics.
I judge a meal based on experience and how it lingers over time. There are meals I’ll remember for a life time. My first dinner at Blue Hill where my husband told the waiter to “challenge us”. The rich, yet feather light gnocchi at One if by Land, Two if by Sea. The tiny bistro in Quimper, France where language was a barrier but the waiter’s oinks (yes, oinks, not a typo) communicated the pork loin was his favorite dish on the menu. But my dinner at Rosewater lacked staying power. After walking out of the restaurant, it seemed to evaporate from my memory. With so many other restaurants to try in Brooklyn alone, I wasn’t overly anxious to return. Though it happened we were in the area for brunch and figured, why not? I’ve never been so happy to give a restaurant a second chance.