Sunday, August 22, 2010

Last brunch in Brooklyn... and some thoughts about trends

You're probably thinking, "Why another brunch? What happened to dinner in between?" Well, the truth is, later that day we went to browse the market:

Try one!

Try another one!

Yum, yum, yum and yum.

... then we went to see Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings in Prospect Park and never really ate a proper dinner, so we just ordered pizza when we got in:

And can I just take a moment to linger here? ... 

I would just like to have a little sidebar, actually. And it's not to do with the pizza, which was amazing, by the way. But I do have to say that it feels sort of sacrilegious to be critical of anything to do with New York food. Well, New York anything, really. You know... it being the Mecca of cool and all.

I mean, let's be honest. As a good friend of ours said over dinner last night, seeing an emerging trend in Toronto is always accompanied by a sick feeling that the trend only exists because someone went to New York three years ago and brought it back with them. I expect fried chicken – which was on every single menu, everywhere – will be overtaking Toronto in two to three years. But, that's a whole nother issue, so don't get me started.

New York is looked at as this untouchable place where you're lucky to even be allowed to go there so just consider yourself blessed, shut up and take all the 'tude we dish out... and get the hell out quickly so we can turn your table over... and by the way, your shoes are sooooo two years ago... and aren't you a bit old and fat to be in here? ... and where exactly ARE your skinny jeans? ... and I can't believe you've never heard of macanudo. A feeling I left almost every restaurant with, by the way – mainly from the servers. None of whom, I'm willing to bet, were actually from New York. But hey. That's hipster-ville for you. I'm fine with that part. Par for the course.

But it does feel a bit strange and ballsy (especially for a mild-mannered Canadian) to point out that a trend isn't really working. I'm going to try not to make blanket statements, because we were only there for three and a half days and only went to a handful of places. But I was still left with... a feeling.

Don't get me wrong. Every single thing we ate during our stay was delicious. It was all prepared with lots of thought, care and love. You could tell. The quality was incredible. Nothing was mediocre. 


Everything we ate was absolutely deadly rich. To the point where you'd feel your throat start to close up after a few bites. Everything was just soaked in fat. Which usually, I'm all for! Typically, I'm all about adding ridic amounts of fat. I'm the first one to put butter on something. I could butter a cupcake. But it was just... out of place and frankly, unbalanced. Take our brunch at Roberta's for example.
Soft scrambled eggs, hen of the woods mushrooms and Taleggio with "grilled" bread (which apparently means toast buttered ON BOTH SIDES)

Roasted potatoes with the saltiest, richest pork hash known to man

Buttermilk biscuit with honey butter and would you please look at the amount of honey butter? Just look at it. And most of it is hiding under the "lid" of the biscuit. I assure you – it was enough to choke an ox.

Now, if our trip had fallen anywhere between November and April, this menu would have thrilled me. But during a heat wave in August with the added temperature of the subway rising up out of the concrete like the fires of hell? No. Just... no.

This pork fat/bacon/butter/cream trend is great and everything. And almost every part of me is all "yay!!" In fact, when I first arrived, I was all "yay!!" Any growing evidence of real unrefined food on this continent is very promising. But the time of year and seasonality is arguably THE most important thing to consider when developing a menu. And after a couple of meals of heart-stopping richness, I started to actually feel sick at the thought of eating. Me!

Where is the balance? It feels like the fat-and-meat-friendly trend is outweighing what should be just common sense. Where's the produce?? In the middle of August! I just went to a market just loaded with amazing produce and hardly any of it was anywhere to be found. And when it was to be found, it was to be found in the wrong places and in piddly portions. 

Truthfully, all our other meals in Brooklyn were over-rich and lacking in freshness/coolness, too. Maybe it was the places we were choosing to eat, but it felt like this was going on everywhere. Practically the only fruit and veg at Roberta's was on a pizza, smothered in cheese. And bibb lettuce soaked in dressing and laden with Gorgonzola and walnuts doesn't count. A spot of grilled pear salad with a fried duck egg and mortadella sandwich doesn't count, either. There was one mushroom in my eggs. One. There was about a pound and a half of Taleggio, though.

Come on Roberta's. Come on Brooklyn! You have so much going for you. Passion, youth, a huge market of people, just waiting to try what you have to offer. Keep up the real food and the care for quality. But it doesn't have to be heirloom and grown on your rooftop to make it on the menu. Go buy some vegetables and use them. Stop trying too hard and being overly concerned with trends and start thinking about the fact that it's 8 zillion degrees outside and if I eat one more teaspoon of bacon fat, I'm going to hurl.

I think I need to go back during the winter and eat my words. Hopefully they won't have moved on to fresh salsas and baby lettuces as "the big trend".

Thank you all so much for indulging me in such a long, drawn-out review of my stay in NY. I enjoyed every second of it. Even the near-death of my gall bladder from all the fat. I'm ready to move on now. I promise.

1 comment:

  1. I find this true about eating in the states in general. If I was a smidgen prouder of my ability to put food away, I'd have embarrassed myself at a buffet in Ohio last summer, when I opted for one piece of fried chicken and a plate full of stewed beets, which were the only veggie on the table aside from potatoes and corn on the cob