Apres Easter

If you have not had the chance to celebrate life or being an adult of legal drinking age since Mardi Gras, then you might find the following list of bars and bakeries useful for your post-Lent and Easter festivities. Or, if you’re not religious at all, then think of this list as my celebration of French culture’s creation of the dessert course—yet another reason to love French culture. Whether you want a liquor-laced, calorie-laden cocktail dessert or a dessert cocktail, this list has you covered. Read on to find your too good to be good for you indulgence of choice.

Crown Heights Confections
Butter and Scotch
https://www.butterandscotch.com
The name says it all! Half bakery that specializes in boozy treats! Half cocktail bar that specializes in dessert cocktails. Between the milkshakes, the famous if not devilishly infamous in a bad-meaning-good way the hotline bling cake, and the sweet and perfect birthday cake, you won’t be able to commit to one choice. Pretend you’re at a wedding cake tasting and sample them all. Of course lent will be over, so it’s ok to be a little mischievous. What is a confessional is for, if not for sweet, sweet treats.

Atlantic Ave. Treatery
Elsa
https://elsabarnyc.com
Try the frozen craft cocktails, lush with fruit, herbs, and quality liquor. If you don’t drink too much—which is not an easy task at this classy throwback to the roaring twenties den of mixology—there is little to no chance of getting wasted. Elsa’s art deco vibe was created for the experienced drinker that prefers after dinner cordials. Enjoy light snacks from Stinky Brooklyn while sipping a fine, make your week cocktail.

Candy-Coated Cobble Hill

Mia’s Bakery
http://www.miasbrooklyn.com
Brooklyn Blackout, Strawberry Shortcake, and two cro-nuts was my most recent order from Mia’s. The diner-style strawberry shortcake was my favorite of the bunch but I have never gotten anything from here that didn’t make me smile. It can be frenetic at this busy, Smith Street, open till 1a.m. on a Saturday night cafe/bakery that sells traditional sweets sans alcohol. Promise that you’ll get a different kind of buzz if you stop in for a cupcake nightcap.

Cookie Monsters on 5th

Du Jour Bakery
http://dujourbakery.com
Park Slope is littered with bakeries, restaurants, and family-style eateries of all kind. Du Jour is a standout because its macaroons are so darn cute, and the fresh, baked on the premises pastries—like the monkey bread—are crave-worthy. Did I mention Du Jour pastries are extremely fresh? So fresh that if you blink while standing in the occasionally long line for coffee and sweets, or call a half an hour in advance to reserve your son’s birthday cake, your special sweet thing could be gone. No matter how important it is to you or your child, it’s just gone, without a sign of life or a crumb of sugar as evidence of its existence. Yes, I’m being dramatic because from time to time, I still think of the Du Jour cake we didn’t get to savor on his birthday. We instead got a regular Brooklyn Blackout cake from Du Jour that my family loved.

Park Slope’s Finest

The Chocolate Room
https://www.thechocolateroombrooklyn.com
In the words of Linda Grayson, “There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.” My inner chocoholic would change the last part to say, “… unless it is a friend made of chocolate.” The Chocolate Room has been satisfying the universal, classic craving since 2005 and reopened in 2014 at a new 5th Avenue location. What it lacks in its part cafe, part diner and part store environment, The Chocolate Room makes up for in its sometimes delightful, sometimes lust-worthy offerings. If you want a truly decadent, thick and intense hot chocolate (available with rum), there’s no place that does it better. But if you’re in a nostalgic mood, the popular brownie hot chocolate sundae or the frenchified banana split with brûleéd bananas will make you feel like a kid again. Thirsty for a chocolate martini? Turn up with the rich, creamy and topped with cinnamon Brandy Alexander. A perfect good night.

 

Photo by Alireza Etemadi on Unsplash.

Advertisements

Ooo Baby I like it Raw or Not

The only time that stinky is sexy is when cheese is involved. Even the simple, local supermarket varieties of aged cheddar and smoked gouda can have mind-blowing effects when satisfying a 3 a.m. craving. The life-changing kind, however, that you finally uncover and say to yourself, “I could’ve been eating this all along?!”—yes fellow stinky cheese lover, I’m referencing Époisses—is available at one of the best Brooklyn cheese shops around, Stinky Brooklyn.

This Cobble Hill cheese lover’s paradise and specialty foods shop carries a few other cheeses that fit the bill—imported from France, stinky and oh-so runny—but Époisses is the epitome of French stinky and runny cheeses. If it were one of your college friends, Époisses would be the one most likely to get white-girl wasted and dance all over the place, while letting everything hang out. When I say everything, I mean all of its bold zest. About 200 years worth of unforgettable flavor, culture and incredible cheese-making tradition is packaged in a wooden, round and too small if you ask me box.

I knew that my beloved Époisses was hiding in the crowd of delicious-smelling cheeses in Stinky Brooklyn’s display case as soon as I walked in and smelled SB’s gourmet stink. It was the pleasantly pungent smell of grilled cheese, possibly Emmental or gruyere and sausages. Talk about a savory, mouth-watering, I’m finally where I belong aroma!

The gourmet grilled cheese smell was a nice distraction from my cheese mission: to find a perfect parmesan cheese for a holiday lasagna. After many tastings, the cheesemonger at the counter helped me choose the house parm—an aged parmesan cheese with an almost grassy undercurrent. It was unique, sharp and really satisfying to the palate. It was actually, the first parmesan cheese that I’d tried that day.

After choosing the right parmesan cheese—I know because my family raved about it—I wanted a secret stash of stinky cheese for me and me alone. I wondered about a Pierre- Robert triple creme cheese that I haven’t tasted in years. But when I asked instead for Époisses‘ basic description without saying its name, the cheesemonger said “We got you” with so much confidence that I knew I’d be taking home my lost love.

And so, I took it home with me that night and finished it the next day. I tried to hold out, maybe try it with champagne, but I had to have my Époisses right then. I could never get enough of it, so I’ll definitely visit Stinky Brooklyn again, in the near future, for lunch today, maybe.

When a Bahn Mi Quacks

Lately I’ve been ducking down. No I’m not hiding from anyone or anything, but rather on the hunt and taking advantage of every opportunity to chow down on a piece of luscious, fatty and decadent duck. If I see my favorite fowl on the menu, then I have to have it.

Foie gras two ways and seared duck breast in one very fancy and well-executed meal didn’t satisfy my craving before ordering the duck confit Báhn Mi at Park Slope’s Bricolage. I even asked my server for a recommendation but once I saw the duck Báhn mi option, I had to have it.

When duck is added to a dish or in this case, a delicious multi-culti sandwich, the plate soars to new heights, with a richer, more complex flavor.

The duck confit Báhn mi at Bricolage, a “Vietnamese Gastropub” with an ugly-pretty, fashion forward interior and an oasis backyard garden, was no exception. In the sandwich, there wasn’t enough tender and sweet duck for me—when is there ever—but it was a purely delicious version of the classic Vietnamese sandwich. I couldn’t see the spicy mayo but it was definitely present and spot-on. The soft and fresh baguette reminded me of the really good hero sandwich that I’d been craving all week. The veggies—fresh cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon—tossed with a vinegar-y dressing added a healthy crunch with the right amount of sweet tang. Everything they are supposed to be in a Bahn Mi.

So having two of my favorite things to eat in one sandwich put me on the highest cloud nine possible.

My only wish was for a smear of duck pate on the inside of the baguette. Why don’t most Bahn Mi sandwiches include duck or pork pate anymore? When I had my first Báhn mi in Midtown East Manhattan, these beautiful bridges between Vietnam and France included pate, unless of course it was the vegetarian option. The rich and creamy pate added so much more flavor to every single bite, especially where it hugged up next to the spicy mayo.

But it’s hard to miss anything in a Báhn mi because the synergy of all the key components creates an unmatched experience for almost every taste bud. Sweet and sour in the pickled veggies, savory and salty in the caramelized meat, heat from the spicy mayo, and the added the freshness of the cilantro. The stuff of foodie dreams.

By the time I noticed just how lovely Bricolage’s backyard garden truly is, I was halfway done gobbling up my duck Báhn mi, a stupid mistake that I won’t make twice, thrice or however many times I get to revisit this gem.

 

Photo by Carly Jayne on Unsplash.

Family-Friendly French

For my son’s birthday, guess what we did? No. Not a crazy party with five-year-olds, a bouncy house, lots of sugary cupcakes and the most tired, worked over version of me. (We’re doing all that and then some next year!) All of us sat at a comfortable booth table at the most upscale, kid-friendly French restaurant in Manhattan. (I’ve been taking him there since he turned one, so it’s a tradition or else I’d have chosen a Brooklyn resto.)

My family had a marvelous time despite our differences in priorities. Being an active toddler/ladies’ man/social butterfly, my son’s favorite restaurant sport is running under tables, all the while melting every heart in the room. My mom is a veteran retiree who deserves an Oscar for her role as a food critic and restaurant inspector each and every time our family eats out. My sister, embarrassed by us all, couldn’t pick a better time to be engaged with or to her phone. And, I can’t wait to get my appetizer, usually something French, served in a wine glass.

Not unlike any other family-friendly French restaurant that we’ve patronized, they served us with ready plates. Great service, good food and they have cotton candy! I’ve noticed that this inclusive behavior is typical of French eateries. I’m sure that France’s family-first policies have some significance in the general way that the French consider the importance of family life.

Most Brooklyn French restaurants that we’ve tried have been so accommodating for a family with a young child, and also cater to the needs of a family with an aging parent. Life is so good when you can swap a horrible, fast food chain location for a lovely, safe restaurant where you can watch your son play, and catch up with your mom and sister while enjoying a nice cocktail, even if only three times a year.

Hopefully with the tremendous amount of five-star family-friendly French restaurants in Brooklyn, I will continue to be be able to afford and enjoy many meals out with my family. extended family, and family-like friends and their kids too.

Here’s a short list of restaurants that I’d like to try. ’Tis the season to be jolly with your loved ones.

Cafe Paulette
718-690-2148
The Place: Lots of dramatic sunlight by day with sweeping windows and a view of Fort Greene park across the street. Spacious, somewhat plain, minimalist with an expensive air or maybe that’s the delicious smell from the kitchen that fills the room.

Other notes: No kids’ menu, but we noticed a few other families noshing on the Poulet Roti and the burger. Closed for one and a half hour before dinner.

L’Antagoniste
917-966-5300
The Place: Cute, quaint, and comfy cafe-type interior with a mural of black and white photos of French antagonists. A secluded table for one mid-sized family—it’s in a cozy corner. A handsome lush garden will woo you.

Other notes: No kids’ menu but they have several kid-friendly options. The Michelin-star-worthy food is so finely, crafted that you’ll want your future foodie (hopefully), to try it. My son liked the cheese soufflé, not the sorbet that comes with it. I liked everything.

La Cigogne
718-858-5641
The Place: True Parisian aesthetic vibe on Union Street. Green walls and a bit of greenery for tables that counter each other. A fireplace that if you’re lucky enough to get a seat by, is perfect for this kind of weather.

Other notes: Opens early at 4 p.m. for dinner. The kids’ menu is fantastically different. It doesn’t list chicken fingers that they won’t eat anyway. The Shirley Temple though would make my son smile.

Le Paddock
718-435-0921
The Place: French rustic appeal that is primed for a brick-oven pizza dinner. From the branches chandelier to the distressed wooden bar to the real wooden tables to the barn-like floor, this place takes its name seriously.

Other notes: Order the pizza and you’re an automatic hero to your kids. Order one of their cool cocktails and you’re wind-in-hair ready to face the world. Very close to Prospect Park. My son felt at home here after a trip to the park, and ravaged his salmon entree.

Le Petit Paris Bistro
718-369-3590
The Place: Brick walls, lots of accent lighting makes it cozy. The space is OK, but the view of the food is the reason you come this little Parisian bistro.
Other notes: Boasts an extensive menu with traditional French entrees. Picky eaters welcome. Lots of choices for everyone. Proudly doesn’t offer WiFi, but rather encourages actual face-to-face conversation.

 

Crazy for Crepes

Senegalese-French cafe, Le Paris Dakar quietly snuck into its hallway-sized space just around the corner from my house. Since it opened in 2012, I couldn’t imagine my ever-changing Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood without it.

This cute, clean and comfy environment sets the bar high for other small eatery newcomers. Once it was noticed with virtually no promotion or marketing, the area’s people began to ask Le Paris Dakar, “Who are you?” In a short while, it answered the question by consistently providing friendly service and great food—mainly delicious, crispy edge, made to order crepes—in a region of Brooklyn that’s never seen anything like it but now  demands that it stays forever.

So with its initial success, its more spacious sister cafe, Le Paris Dakar 2, opened last Summer on nearby Fulton Street. The second cafe is complete with an urban oasis backyard garden, while the interior holds true to its original location’s unique, homage to Africa, brown and beautiful decor. In addition to becoming a staple in satisfying my cravings for savory and sweet crepes, Le Paris Dakar 2 is just what the freelance doctor ordered, as it fulfills the need for a quiet—but not too quiet—place to think, write and snack.

If you find yourself with a sweet tooth at either Le Paris Dakar location, consider the beautiful and sometimes Eiffel Tower-decorated chocolate crepe. It’s crispy, sweet and perfect with a good quality chocolate filling. A nice dessert or breakfast option!

For a savory breakfast or brunch, my favorite is the turkey, egg, cheese and onion crepe. It’s so good that I almost always get this dish. I also enjoy trying the fresh pastries and cookies that are displayed in the front of the cafe.