May 31, 2009

Doughnut Plant

If I could define my hopeful perception of Heaven in two words, they would be "Doughnut Plant." The first time I was lucky enough to try this place, Roland had so graciously brought a ton of different ones into work one afternoon. After eating and thoroughly enjoying the selections, I knew we had to venture to Doughnut Plant and try more. And boy did we.

Conveniently located near the LES, this place offers a variety of standard doughnuts including regular glazed and jelly filled, but they also offer something more for those looking to have something special in their maefs. Their Tres Leche doughnut is just like its name - a perfect mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk and cream. Although a cake doughnut, it is in no way dry, and is very rich and has cream in the middle. Another famous one is their creme brulee yeast doughnut, completely sweet and perfect. And of course, my absolute all time favorite of any doughnut ever, their Blackout - a chocolate cake doughnut with chocolate cream in the middle oozing out into my mouth. They also have specials of the day, but they always seem to run out before you get a chance to try them.

The small, cute building gets rather full fast of hungry customers, so it's a good suggestion to get your doughnuts and run. We got a LOT on our visit, making sure to savor every bite. The pudgy guy behind the counter was ranting and raving over the Carrot Cake doughnut he was shoving in his mouth, so I might have to try that next time.

Yes, it's that good. - Jennifer

Oh man, I love this place. Their doughnuts are just so... good. Jennifer once brought me a Tres Leche donut, and it was all over after that. I had to have more.

To this day, the Tres Leche is probably my favorite donut pretty much ever. I'm not a huge donut eater, and I notoriously go for the glazed, but I think the general rule at Doughnut Plant is to go for the cake varieties. Although nothing I've tried has ever led to me regretting trying it. The Tres Leche is a nice consistency, not as heavy as you'd think, and lightly sweet with a bit of cream in the middle. I've also tried their seasonal strawberry yeast and cake donut-- both delicious, but not quite strawberry-y enough-- and the coconut creme yeast donut, which has a cream filling and coconut on the outside. Their iced chai tea is also good, but a little too sweet (especially when you're eating donuts).

If you haven't been, you have to go. Yes, I love my sweets, but I've never been donut-crazy, and I'm close to needing an intervention because of this place. Glad I don't work/live nearby, for my arteries' sake. -Laurel

Address: 379 Grand St, near Marcy Ave

Payment: cash only

Delivery: no

Open Late: no, 'til whenever they sell out, between 5-7

Large Group Friendly: no

Bar/Happy Hour: no

May 26, 2009

Di Fara

Di Fara is a place I have heard/read about ever since moving to NY and started learning about the food here. I love pizza, and NY has some awesome pizza.. and I knew that if I wanted to pretend I knew anything about it, I had to eat here. It took me a while, but it finally happened. One Saturday I convinced Jennifer to hike out with me to Midwood and try Di Fara's legendary pizza.

It is a bit of a hike, especially if you're not in Brooklyn to start with, and especially if the Q is skipping some stops due to construction. You can call in your order (no delivery), but from what I can tell it doesn't mean that much. See, speed is not something you should expect here. The wait is part of the experience. And yes.. you will wait.

The man seen below, Domenico De Marco, has been at it for more than 40 years, and he is the only one making the pies. He uses authentic Italian ingredients, some sourced from his native village, and he's in no hurry. No. hurry. But you get the idea that he makes each pie as it he would want it, and I respect that. It's also fun to watch him drizzle the olive oil, grate the cheese and cut the basil (as he is doing to our pie below).

We ordered a meatball and artichoke heart regular pie, which cost roundabout $30-- a bit pricey, but also huge. The crust was crispy-chewy, not too thick and not too thin, and held it's own against the toppings. The sauce was bright and perfectly portioned, as was the cheese-- a mix including fresh mozzarella and parmesan. The fresh basil finishes it off perfectly. And of course, one of the draws of this place is the imperfections-- the wait, the lightly uneven toppings-- it's not perfect, but it is perfect in my mouth.

Di Fara is about the experience, and about a handmade pizza you're willing to wait for. I'll be back, anyway. -Laurel

Eating at Di Fara's reminds me of when I was little and I would wait (im)patiently to open presents from my grandfather at Christmas. He always gave me the best presents, remembering what I wanted from a mere mention or giving me some new, "high tech" gizmo that he read about in Consumer Reports. He gave me my first calculator watch, a pen with a clock on it, and he even gave my family our first computer.

In much the same way, Domenico De Marco makes some of the best pizza I've ever tasted, and I very much (im)patiently waited for the final product. He could sort of be called a pioneer...although he hasn't changed his ways in 40 years. He still laboriously (and yes, very slowly) makes each pizza by hand, and finishes them off with fresh ingredients. Also, he's a sweet old man, just like my grandfather, although Pop wasn't even remotely Italian.

Despite the expensive price and the long wait, this pizza was absolutely DELICIOUS - thick, crispy crust and fresh tomatoes, and the perfect mixture of mozzarella and parmesan. Most of all, artichokes are one of my favorite things to put on pizza (along with feta cheese and pesto), so I almost lost it when I realized they had the hearts. As you can see below, and as Laurel mentioned, one big complaint would be the uneven portions. One piece I got, I literally had to pick half off another piece, but it was so worth it.

For future reference, the pizza 100% stays warm until you get to Prospect Park (or wherever you're going, because eating in the actual restaurant is a hard thing to do). Make sure to get extra napkins and ask for a smaller box for leftovers - the box and pizza they give you are HUGE.  Also, to avoid such a long line, go at an odd time - like 3pm or 4pm, but just know this will only shave 10 minutes or so off your hour or longer wait. 

So go visit my Italian grandfather, and make sure you record him putting the finishing touches on the pizza...they call your name beforehand so you can watch.  - Jennifer

Address: 1424 Ave. J at E. 15th St. (Midwood, Brooklyn)


Payment: cash only

Delivery: no

Open Late: no, closed at 9 (last orders taken at 8:30)

Large Group Friendly: no, unless you take your pie and eat it elsewhere

Bar/Happy Hour: no alcohol

May 22, 2009

Choice Market

Choice Market is a great option in a neighborhood that can feel lacking in good pick-up-and-go options. They have tons of delicious looking things in their glass cases, of which I have tried their croissant and chocolate croissant (I have a long way to go). Both are excellent, and note to other cheaps like me, they are marked down after 5. They also offer muffins, scones, loaves, tarts, quiches, cupcakes, breads, and other options along those lines. Prices are standard and so far have proved fair for the quality.

On the far end they offer real food options, like egg dishes in the morning, and salads, sandwiches, paninis, soups, and hot foods by the pound the rest of the day. Of this I have only tried the quiche (individually sized, with mushroom and spinach that day) and a side salad ($7), which made a nice dinner. The quiche was a creamy texture with good flavor, but the crust was a bit limp by the time I got to it. Granted, they were about to close and it was reheated.

I can't wait to try the many other items they have to offer, since they all look delicious. They are also expanding-- you may recognize them from either of the Brooklyn Fleas. They recently opened up Choice Greene a couple of blocks away, which offers carefully picked grocery items, along with fresh fish and meat and cheeses. It's very cute and nicely stocked for the space. More recently opened (so much so that we haven't been yet) is Choice Atlantic, which should prove an oasis on a gross strip on Atlantic. They are setting up their catering operations there but are keeping a small storefront open offering their normal fare. I will be there ASAP. -Laurel

Choice Market is a cute bakery/restaurant that is either really packed or closed. We had walked past it on multiple occasions late at night since I moved here, always craving a tasty snack and always met with a CLOSED sign. Finally, one morning when we were both up earlier than needed, Laurel was kind enough to walk the few blocks to Choice and pick us up some chocolate croissants. From then on out, I've been hooked. True chocolate croissants don't have chocolate chips in them or chocolate on the outside, they have chocolate bars on the inside. And that is exactly what the flaky, buttery delicious pastry had inside. 

After that, I went back to Choice Market on the way to my friends' house, and picked up some cookies for my friends and Country Cake for breakfast the next morning. The cookies were amazing. Not too greasy but not dry to where they didn't taste homemade, with chocolate chips and pecans. Absolutely delicious. The country cake I was not too impressed with, however. Not that it would necessarily sound all that appealing to an average person. It contained a lot of different ingredients from what I could tell, including carrots and pineapple. It also contained more butter/grease than most anything I've ever had. So much so that it soaked through the bag in my purse. Let's just say, I didn't eat much of it. However, my co-worker Celia ate it all and enjoyed it thoroughly, prompting her to buy country cake muffins from Trader Joe's and eat them all the next week.

Finally, I tried some of their food-food. I got a chicken salad sandwich. The "salad" consisted of chicken with salt and pepper and onion, and it was topped with avocado. It was the perfect combination sandwich, and I sucked it down pretty fast. Like Celia, it prompted me to attempt (and fail) at making my own chicken salad. Yes, I know it's not hard to make chicken salad, but I suck at it apparently. Guess I'll just have to leave it to the professionals. - Jennifer

Address: 318 Lafayette Ave at Grand (Clinton Hill, Brooklyn)

Payment: cash

Delivery: yes

Open Late: no, 9pm

Large Group Friendly: no

Bar/Happy Hour: no

May 10, 2009


I had never been to Batch before, and when I saw on the Cupcakes Take the Cake blog that it was moving and would be closed for a while, I decided to give it a try. Batch is the brain child of Chef Pinchet Ong, who also owned the recently closed P*ONG. Cool part: he was actually the person who assisted me with my choices. He was super nice, and I was actually kind of excited that he was helping, even though it didn't seem like it was an anomaly.

My choices were Lemon, Lemon, Lemon, made of lemon cake, lemon curd filling and Lemon buttercream frosting, Carrot Salted Caramel, made of carrot cake, filled with lime cream cheese, and topped with salted caramel, Dragon Devil's Food, filled with caramel, and topped with chocolate icing, and the White and Black, chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.

Guess what, they were all absolutely DELICIOUS. The cake was soft, and every cupcake was a perfect combination. Even the Carrot Salted Caramel, which sounds weird, tasted fantastic. The tanginess of the lime and the saltiness of the caramel was the great balance. And yes, I tried all of them. Luckily, I didn't eat them by myself, but I would have. Chef Ong was pushing cookies on me too, but I opted out. But I think it was because they were closing the next day, so I figure he was trying to get rid of as much as possible.

Unfortunately, the new, yet to be disclosed, location in Chelsea isn't open yet, but should be soon. I hope! - Jennifer

I was visiting family down South when Batch was getting ready to close, but luckily I received word from Jennifer that she had picked up some extra cupcakes for when I got back. PHEW.

I won't say much since I only tried two of them, and it was two days after the fact out of the fridge.. but they were still tasty. I love lemon and anything with lemon curd, so of course I liked the Lemon (x 3) variety. The cake was a bit dry by the time I tasted it, but I can imagine it was extra delicious fresh. I also tried the carrot cake variety, which had a really interesting combo of flavors, but it somehow worked. Salty, sweet and sour, all working together. Genius.

Can't wait for the new storefront to open-- we'll be there, and you should too! -Laurel

Address: Currently nowhere, but stayed tuned.


Payment: Cash, Credit

Delivery: no

Open Late: no

Large Group Friendly: no

Bar/Happy Hour: no

May 7, 2009

Brown Betty

Brown Betty is literally visible from the windows of our apartment, so it's surprising how long it took me to visit (about 6 months after I moved in). I've been a couple of times since and was satisfied with each visit.

The space is tiny. As in, about 3 tables very close to each other and a couple of stools.. and you're still going to run into each other. It's cozy and has a nice feel, but can be too cramped. They add a bit more seating under an umbrella outside when the weather is nice. The service is friendly but a little inconsistent. The guy usually working is very nice and your food comes in a reasonable amount of time, but sometimes things are forgotten and it's not overly attentive. But nothing to dissuade me or ruin an experience.

I've had the Eggs Any Style (2 eggs, fried in my case, grits and toast), I think it was about $6. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the grits were as well. Nothing fancy, but well executed. I've also had the lemon waffles with chicken sausage (above). It's a bit pricey at $12ish, but the waffles are so good. Lightly lemony with caramelized bananas. Except that the pic above is from Jennifer and apparently they didn't give her bananas. LAME. The sausage is good but almost too salty.

All-in-all a solid little brunch spot. Prices are standard and the coffee is good. It's a fun place to relax if you can snag a spot, since it is so cozy and very neighborhoody. I think they have an $18 prix fixe dinner menu-- I will report back once we walk our asses the 10 steps it takes to get there and try it. -Laurel

Two people work at Brown Betty. The cook, who is nice but a little curt, and the waiter, who is nice, but a little all over the place. Every time I went, one of us would order something, but he would deliver it to someone else. The second time I went with my parents, and he asked where I was from. I said across the street, but my parents are from Tennessee. When I left, he made some comment along the lines of "Have fun in Tennessee!" to me. Let's just say, very friendly, but definitely a space cadet.

The first time I went with Laurel, I got the two eggs with grits. The eggs came out just right, granted I got them scrambled, but they weren't overdone or underdone. The grits and bacon were good as well. When I went with my parents, I tried the Lemon Waffles. As Laurel mentioned, they forgot my caramelized bananas. They also forgot my father's side order of bacon. However, upon mentioning both, the waiter happily brought it out. Otherwise, the Lemon Waffles are delicious, and if anything, a reason to go. The chicken apple sausage, however, has a slightly odd flavor, and is a little tough, but I still enjoyed it. My mother was really impressed by their salmon croquettes. An odd choice, but she was feeling quite adventurous during that visit. 

This is definitely a local spot. And everyone in there seemed to really want the jerk chicken, although it was 86'd on that particular visit. Definitely worth a visit if you have a chance to come out to Clinton Hill. If you do, come get us and we'll go with you. - Jennifer


Payment: cash only

Delivery: no

Open Late: no

Large Group Friendly: no

Bar/Happy Hour: no
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