03/31/15 2:00pm
An offering from The Burger Bistro: Beef burger with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, and tomato on a brioche bun, with sweet potato strings. (David Chiu)

An offering from The Burger Bistro: Beef burger with Swiss cheese, caramelized onions, lettuce, and tomato on a brioche bun, with sweet potato strings. (David Chiu)

Call me a cheap skate, but I’m someone who feels there is something fundamentally wrong when you have to pay more than five dollars for a hamburger. I mean, it’s just a hamburger for God’s sake, not a filet mignon. Yet, there is that appeal of buying a high-end burger from such popular places as Shake Shack, Five Guys and Umami, perhaps because unlike what you get at fast food joints and diners, there’s more of a premium with the quality of the meat, how it’s cooked, and the type of fixings it comes with. It might make me sound uncouth, but I’ll take a hamburger in any form, from the good ol’ White Castle sliders to the deluxe special at a Greek diner.

There does a come point, though, when you do kind of get tired of McDonald’s, and having recently run out of other lunch option in my neighborhood, I decided to splurge a bit and try out The Burger Bistro, a relatively recent joint in Bay Ridge on 72nd Street and Third Avenue. When it first opened, I didn’t think it would last given that Bay Ridge is kind of a blue collar neighborhood that wouldn’t go for a burger that starts at $9.25 (and that is without a side order and/or a drink); also, there is a McDonald’s just a block away. Yet, the Burger Bistro has survived and it draws customers each time I pass by there. (more…)

03/31/15 11:10am

liza-ss smallToday we’re introducing our new cooking advice column, Dear Liza, penned by Liza Queen, who, though she might humbly deny it, is one of the pioneers of the New Brooklyn food scene. In 2005, she opened her first restaurant in Greenpoint called Queen’s Hideaway, which quickly attracted a cult-like following and transcended easy categorizing, save for its reliance upon Greenmarket fresh foods. A rent hike sent her packing, and she landed for two years in Vietnam before boomeranging back to Brooklyn to open Potlikker, where she fused the Vietnamese techniques she’d learned with her already unique, Southern-tinged style of cooking. Now she is between restaurants–and fortunately for us, answering questions from inquisitive home cooks. Send her your questions here

Dear Liza:

What are some of your favorite ways to prepare fish?

I’ve put more thought into this than a lot of other ingredients, as the sad truth is that I rarely crave fish in the way that I crave crustaceans. Give me a perfectly cooked Diver scallop and I will love you forever. Set a mountain of crab or lobster in front of me and I become Paul Prudhomme on the cover of The Prudhomme Family Cookbook, a couple hundred pounds heavier, and ready to take on all comers, nuthin’ but a fat man in overalls and a blur of spittle, fingers and mouth.

The thing you notice, when you go about trying to educate yourself about seafood and cooking by reading cookbooks, is that so many fish recipes are preceded by rapturous prose followed by a dead simple recipe, with maybe four ingredients besides the fish, and two of them are salt and pepper. So you see, what they are really saying is, be lucky enough to live next to a very bountiful and unpolluted body of water and then eat only seafood that has been caught that morning.

This is a fantastic cookbook, and I highly recommend it if you can find it.

This is a fantastic cookbook, and I highly recommend it if you can find it.

(more…)

03/31/15 9:00am

MetroCard Sweeps 600x400

We get that the MTA needs some way to raise $15 billion dollars to repair a 110-year-old subway system that is getting less reliable, and more crowded each year. But how about taking it easy on the fare hikes, and finding a new way to foot the bill, like congestion pricing?

Unfortunately, the odds of that happening are far less likely than you winning an unlimited MetroCard for one full year. We know, because we’ve teamed up with the skint, DoNYC, Gothamist and Wakefield to offer one lucky reader 12 unlimited, 30-day MetroCards. We’ll select the winner on April 23, so enter now if you’d like to breeze merrily through the turnstiles for an entire year, nearly $1400 richer!

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03/30/15 2:36pm

A while back, I became friends with a young guy who biked around Brooklyn with a bird on his shoulder. For a guy who prized “open communication,” and didn’t own a smartphone (the bravery!), he never–not once–remembered to ask me a question. Still, I was jealous of the ease he seemed enjoy in life: his lack of concern for the future, the beautiful loft apartment he paid nothing for, the stunning girlfriend who liked him even with the bird. He was, down to the height, the spitting image of Jamie, Adam Driver’s character in Noam Baumbach’s While We’re Young. Jamie isn’t alone. Baumbach’s latest comedy is so razor-sharp, so perspicacious, that nearly all of us can spot someone we know–even if that person is ourselves.

“Isn’t it amazing that we can act like this and people will still be attracted to us?” Image: A24 Films

“Isn’t it amazing that we can act like this and people will still be attracted to us?” Image: A24 Films

While We’re Young tells the story of Cornelia (Naomi Watts) and Josh (Ben Stiller), a forty-something married couple from New York, busy watching all their Brooklyn friends give birth to high-maintenance babies. Despite all their stainless steel appliances and Macbook Pros, Josh and Cornelia’s relationship feels stagnant. Cornelia can’t physically conceive a baby, and Josh has been stuck working on the same documentary for a decade. It’s a New York Times Magazine problem for a Sunday Styles demographic, but Baumbach still–magically–allows us to feel empathy for them. It’s a testament both to his impeccable writing and my class status. (more…)

03/30/15 9:32am

The edible extravaganza now known as Smorgasburg began back in 2008 as a few modest food stands at a budding hipster antiques fair called the Brooklyn Flea. Today, it’s not only the borough’s most psychotically crowded twice-weekly gorgefest, but also a global arbiter of taste that has given the world everything from the amazingly tasty Mighty Quinn’s BBQ to the amazingly ridiculous ramen burger. Smorgasburg now has spinoff food markets at a whole slew of NYC events, as well as imitation-is-the-best-form-of-flattery clones popping up everywhere from Queens to Pittsburgh. A restaurant owner I recently met, literally on the other side of the earth (in Manila, the Philippines) told me she goes to Smorg once a year to see what’s up and coming in the food world.

So if you’re an aspiring food artisan and think you’re gonna get one of the few open spots at this year’s edition, you better be bringing your A-game. Flea/Smorg Co-founder Eric Demby says they get up to four or five new applications every day, all year long–roughly 1,000 total–from new people hoping to hawk their grub, and only 19 new spots were awarded this year. The Smorg crew solves such a delightful problem by choosing a different aspiring vendor to come in and cook lunch for them every day from November through March (holy sweet business plan!). The rules: everything has to be freshly made, a good backstory is a bonus, and they won’t add any foodstuffs that already appear at the event.

“If you’re the best BBQ guy out there, it doesn’t matter,” says Demby. “We’re only looking for new things that our vendors aren’t already offering.” And so 1,000 would-be grilled cheese gurus’ dreams were dashed.

But enough about the process: let’s talk about what we’ll be stuffing our bespectacled Brooklyn faces with this spring. Smorgaburg returns to its outdoor locations this coming weekend, at East River State Park in Williamsburg on Saturday, April 4 and at Pier 5 in Brooklyn Bridge Park Sunday, April 5. The crew was nice enough to give us a pre-opening taste of those new applicants who made the cut, and here are the five I enjoyed the most. (more…)

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03/28/15 4:54pm

The seventh edition of our spring wedding fair, Wedding Crashers, was our biggest yet. This was the first year we held the fair at both The Green Building and 501 Union, and both spaces looked incredible. And thanks to a Honeybook-sponsored happy hour afterward, our vendors left as happy as the guests.

Check out our slideshow for inspiring shots from the fair, all taken by Alison Brockhouse, and these photos by Kristy May Photography. See you next spring (and let us know if you’d like to join us)!

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03/27/15 2:00pm
The legendary Brennan and Carr from across the street. (David Chiu)

The legendary Brennan and Carr from across the street. Photo: David Chiu

Ever since childhood–perhaps going back as far back as Blimpie’s and Arby’s–I’ve loved roast beef sandwiches, plain and simple: that tender, succulent medium-rare to (preferably) well-done meat on a roll with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. Compared to other deli meats such as ham and turkey, I don’t think I’ve ever gone more than two weeks without downing roast beef for lunch.

I thought I knew everything about roast beef until a few years ago, when I stumbled upon a YouTube video of the Travel Channel series Man v. Food. The show’s premise is that host Adam Richman would visit “big food” eateries across the country and partake in food challenges. In one of his adventures, Richman visited a place in Gravesend, Brooklyn called Brennan and Carr, which has been around since 1938 and is primarily known for its hot roast beef sandwiches. What makes a Brennan and Carr roast beef sandwich unique is that you can request the meat and the bun together to be dipped or covered in a special beef broth. With a reaction similar to the first time I saw a Star Wars action figure at a toy store as a child, I was hooked and decided to dip my toe (sandwich?) into the South Brooklyn restaurant’s signature dish. (more…)

03/27/15 12:00pm

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 10.10.42 AMYesterday as I was spreading cream cheese on the 100th plain bagel of the month, I started to lecture Nate on the benefits of at least trying a different spread. There is butter and jelly, I argued. There is butter with jelly. Peanut butter and jelly, sliced cheese. There are all sorts of new combinations and foods to try. Life is rich and varied and food should be too!

Nate took a bite. “Mommy,” he said thoughtfully. “Is god real?”

So that happened, but it was an interesting time for this question because a small miracle has recently occurred.

My second kid, Mack (pictured on the right), is a terrific eater. I didn’t think it was possible after Nate and his plain-yogurt-only years but then along came Mack and the boy can eat. And the funny thing is he eats perfectly. He prefers eggs (usually “sunnystideup”) to bagels and cantaloupe to cake. He shuns carbs, consuming most fruit, vegetables and healthy proteins like fish and seaweed. Honestly.

Again, I have nothing to do with this little guy’s taste—he is a take-no-prisoners three year old. Mack eats what Mack wants to eat and on his birthday he wanted to eat cucumbers. When Michael explained the real point behind the Super Bowl: chips, pretzels, dips, salsa and Velveeta queso. Mack chimed in, “and carrots!” It’s weird a little.

Anyway, I now have a terrible eater and a perfect eater who only wants to eat whatever the terrible eater is eating. When we sit down to dinner Mack joins in the  “ew gross” chant even though he loves salmon. Usually I give Mack a separate plate in addition to the pasta/hot dogs/mac and cheese plate that I give Nate because he will inevitably ask for whatever he sees on Nate’s plate even if he doesn’t want to eat it. Basically I’m still cooking for a picky eater despite the fact that Mack is not one.

This winter I’ve tried to combine Nate’s core food groups (eggs, bacon, pasta, bread) in new ways. For example, my breakfast pasta. These pizza bagels and my DIY egg muffins. But I’m still not getting veggies or grains into my kids. Plus I’m tired of these same old ingredients. I want to make one creative, interesting, healthy meal for all of us. I want to be inspired. And that’s why I called mommy chef Paula Hankin. (more…)

03/27/15 9:12am
The new film "Cinderella" doesn't break new ground, but princess loving preschoolers will definitely love it.

The new film “Cinderella” doesn’t break new ground, but princess loving preschoolers will definitely love it. Afterwards, treat them to the play at Kings Theater. Photo: Meredith Craig de Pietro

If your child has caught fairy tale fever like mine, here are a few more suggestions to expand your Disney fan’s repertoire.

March 28th & March 29th: The Sleeping Beauty at Puppetworks, 338 Sixth Avenue at 4th Avenue, Park Slope. Showtimes at12:30pm and 2:30pm. Children $9, Adults $10. Reservations can be made at 718-965-3391 or by emailing puppetworks@twcmetrobiz.com.

April 2nd: 7pm; April 3rd: 1:00pm, 7:00pm; April 4th: 11:00am, 3:00pm, 7:00pm; April 5th: 1:00pm, 5:00pm, Disney Live! presents Three Classic Fairy Tales at King’s Theater, 1027 Flatbush Avenue, Flatbush. Tickets range from $23.70- $91.70. Kids under one are free.

Do a home study on The Cinderella Story. Playful Learning has a great post on ways to use different cultural interpretations of the classic fairy tale for an at-home exploration that will result in your child writing their own tale. The princess doesn’t need blonde hair or to wait for her prince to come.

For those of you living under a rock, the live version of “Cinderella” premiered last weekend at movie theaters across the land. Unlike Disney’s classic animated “Cinderella” (1950), this one skipped the makeover portion of the movie and instead peddled the importance of being “kind and brave.” This updated version is just as sexist as the original fairytale, but with gorgeous visuals and sweeping music, it’s a magical retelling without too much fairydust (i.e. CGI).  Also, don’t look for any spicy fight scenes in this flick, as the whole thing is simple syrup.

Parents will love seeing their favorite Downton Abbey characters in costume–Lily James (“Rose”) plays Cinderella, while Sophie McShera (“Daisy”) plays one of the stepsisters. But the real showstopper was Cate Blanchett, who easily stole the show as the evil stepmother. She arrives right after the death of Cinderella’s mother, but none of the very young children around me even blinked at the tragic scene. To find out just how much of the film my 5-year-old son, Lincoln, grasped, I asked him to explain his thoughts on the fairy tale. (more…)

03/27/15 9:00am

March, the month that promised spring and then reneged, has delivered some delicious talking points, from a compendium to the 99 essential restaurants in Brooklyn to John Oliver’s sharp takedown of March Madness. Here are 10 of the month’s most memorable stories to add to your party banter this weekend.

1. Full disclosure: I maniacally love March Madness. A lifelong college basketball fan, I do things like take the first two days of the tournament off of work and eat multiple meals in the same bar so that I don’t miss a single crazy upset. I bite off all my nails, I yell loudly at exciting parts and send my dog into fits of panic, and I once many years ago almost got into it with a smug child who was trash talking when my team was losing (not proud of that, btw). This is embarrassing not just because, in Brooklyn, I’m an overly earnest fan of a very conventional, kind of fratty thing in a land where many seem to believe that the only acceptable sports are bocce and pretending to follow futbol, but also because it is becoming harder and harder to justify supporting the multi-billion-dollar March Madness machine and to excuse the NCAA for its unapologetic profiteering on the backs of the so-called student athletes whose talent and hard work it exploits. John Oliver’s hilarious but sharp and unsparing takedown of the whole business, which aired earlier this month on Last Week Tonight, is required watching if you want to fully grasp just how preposterous the situation is.

One of two rooms in Yenifer’s dungeon. Photo: Heather Dockray

One of two rooms in Yenifer’s dungeon. Photo: Heather Dockray

2. In a city where real estate prices are an evergreen topic of conversation at every dinner party, our story of one Park Slope woman and her unorthodox method for coming up with the monthly rent on her 3-bedroom apartment–running a BDSM dungeon out of it–will at least give you a new and risque point of entry to well-trodden territory. (more…)

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