Gran Electrica

Mexican
5 Front Street, Brooklyn
(718) 852.2789
Website

This Saturday I joined a couple of friends in Brooklyn for eating, drinking, and gallavanting. We met up in Dumbo and headed over to Gran Electrica for margaritas and tacos. The restaurant is spacious and consists of multiple rooms as well as a big backyard area with loads of tables, so we chose to sit outside to take advantage of the unusually Spring-like mid-July afternoon. We shared a crab tostada and an assortment of meat tacos (beef brisket, carnitas, and tongue). The food was prepared well and really flavorful, and the tamarind margarita that I drank was tart, sweet, and refreshing.

By early evening, we had ended up in another part of Brooklyn and finished our day off with some excellent handmade ice cream at Ample Hills Creamery (which I had first sampled at Choice Eats 2012). Their salted “crack” caramel flavor is crazy good.

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Tertulia

Spanish
359 Sixth Avenue
646.559.9909
Website

The kitchen at Tertulia is partially visible from the rear dining room, and on my first visit there I was sitting directly across from it. Line chefs, dishwashers and waitstaff swarmed around elbow to elbow in a constant frenzy of activity. Most, if not all, of the hot foods were being cooked to order, and this was evident in the delicious dishes that arrived on our table. The only disappointments for me were the Iberico ham, which would have almost been worth the hefty $25 price tag if it had been sliced better (they weren’t the paper-thin slices I was anticipating), and the fishy deviled eggs, which were way too salty, and had a texture like it had been sitting out for a while. On the upside, the hamachi crudo was fresh and excellent, and the crispy potatoes were addictive. I can’t wait to go back and try more of the menu.

Acorn-fed Iberico ham

Clockwise from top left: Smoky deviled eggs, giant grilled prawns, crispy potatoes, hamachi crudo, and tortilla

A slice of lamb leg, cooked medium, and topped with a light gremolata, tomatoes, and fingerling potatoes. $21 and easily enough meat for at least three people.

Apple cake with rum raisin ice cream. The cake was buttery and warm with spice and the rum flavor in the caramel and ice cream was great.

Chocolate and coffee ganache tart, topped with almond slivers, sea salt and a huge dollop of whipped cream. This was terrific.

Sprinkles

Cupcakes
780 Lexington Avenue
(212)  207-8375
Website

I stopped in at Sprinkles for the first time last week. I had always heard that it was a hugely popular cupcake chain on the west coast (and their company slogan seems to take credit for the cupcake craze of the past decade), but it took me a year to finally check out their first store here in New York. The shop is very small and gets crowded quickly. There’s a cute little seating area that features big seats for adults and smaller seats for kids, or perhaps dogs – they seem very dog-friendly. In fact, they’re also very people-friendly. Everyone who works at the store is extremely nice. When I visited there were about four people working behind the counter. They took turns helping customers on line and made sure to ask everyone their name. Then they would address the customer by name several times while they packaged the order and processed payments. It’s like that party trick where when you meet someone new, you’re supposed to address them by name three times and then you remember it forever.

I loved the display cases. So streamlined and organized!

I purchased two cupcakes – the salty caramel (which has a limited run until May 27th) and the red velvet. When I got home I tried the salty caramel first. The cake was described as a caramel flavored cake, but the flavor was faint. It was, however, extremely moist and buttery. The frosting was a smooth butter and cream cheese frosting, this time with a distinct caramel flavor, sprinkled with fleur de sel. There was a little too much frosting for the amount of cake, but since it was so delicious, I didn’t mind. Overall, buttery goodness.

I decided to give the red velvet cupcake to my mother so I only got to try a tiny bite, possibly not enough to get a full impression. It was moist and sweet, but didn’t have the tanginess that I like in a red velvet cake and cream cheese frosting.

At $3.50 a cupcake, I doubt I will make frequent trips to Sprinkles, especially since I can easily make a batch of them at home for the price of just one there. However, in future moments of weakness and laziness, I can imagine being drawn to their salty caramel – when it’s available.

The Meatball Shop

Meatballs/Italian
84 Stanton Street, NYC
212.982.8895
Website

I had wanted to try The Meatball Shop since last year, so when my cousin recently suggested it for an early dinner I quickly agreed. Our server explained the ordering system, which consisted of a laminated menu and a black marker to check off the items we wanted. There were a few small sections of the menu but they all involved meatballs. We could have meatballs on their own with a choice of sauces, or in a variety of sandwiches. Once we ordered our food arrived very quickly.

Buffalo Chicken Balls

Chicken “Smash” with pesto and mozzarella: two meatballs pressed between a griddled brioche bun

Spicy pork balls over mashed potatoes with classic tomato sauce

The meatballs here are definitely not dry, in fact they were so tender they were falling apart on our forks. On their own they don’t have much flavor so the sauces and sides are key here. We were told the Buffalo Chicken Balls was a popular item and that we were lucky to be there on a night when it was a special. The sauces on that dish were tangy and it was a nice, zesty start to our meal. The Smash was tasty, but they had used so much butter grilling the sandwich that all we could taste (and see on our hands) was grease. If I were to order this again I would ask them to go easy on the butter. The arugula salad that came on the side was lightly dressed with vinaigrette and helped cut through the butter overload from the sandwich.

We finished our meal with an ice cream sandwich; we chose caramel ice cream between a Snickerdoodle cookie and a peanut butter cookie. The cookies were good, but the ice cream on its own was even better.

If I’m ever in the area again I might pop in for a meatball hero and a glass of wine.

Downtown Food Crawl

Last Saturday two friends and I committed to spending a whole day walking around downtown in search of tasty food. We had already spent considerable time figuring out an itinerary and our final plan included five locations to grab a bite and two for cocktails. By the end of the day, we had stuck to our intended itinerary and even had room to sneak in two additional spots along the way. Since we shared everything (except for cocktails and buns at Baohaus), I didn’t feel stuffed at the end of the day. The walking probably helped as well.

Excellent breakfast at Dominique Ansel: choco soft bun, ham & cheese croissant, “DKA”

Unscheduled stop at Payard for a coffee macaron

Beecher’s Handmade Cheese make their own cheese on-site in these giant vats.

Grilled black forest ham and cheese sandwich and their “World’s Best” mac & cheese. It was very tasty but not the world’s best.

Prosecco (and donut) stop at Tarallucci e Vino.

Beef cheek bao and pork belly bao at Baohaus. I was surprised that I liked the beef cheek more than the pork belly, but both were yummy.

A well-made Negroni at Freeman’s. So good I had two!

The star of the day: whole fried chicken wings at Pok Pok Wing. I want to go back to there.

Boquerones and patatas bravas at La Churreria

A small order of regular churros with dipping chocolate and one vanilla cream stuffed churro. Unfortunately they were sold out of the dulce de leche stuffed churro that I really wanted. Not sure I would go back here, nothing was so good that I’ll crave it again.