Saturday, July 23, 2011

Brunch in Brooklyn

Last weekend, my wife and I got a spur of the moment invitation from her daughter and son-in-law to join a group visiting one of her friends in Brooklyn. So, we drove over for brunch. It was a beautiful day and neither one of us had ever been there before, so it was kind of an adventure.

Brunch was at the Clover Club and it was well worth the excursion. Our friend from Brooklyn particularly recommended the potato cakes with truffle crème fraiche, and they were almost worth the drive by themselves. The Clover Club also featured a three bacon sampler, ideal for those who can't make up their mind or just want to try a bit of it all: the ensemble included maple, black pepper, and duck bacon.  I think my favorite was the black pepper bacon, but I would happily have any or all of them again.  My wife loves rhubarb and grows it in the back yard, so she got the ricotta pancakes with vanilla poached rhubarb and strawberry curd, which were as good as they sound. She also makes a really great lemon curd - our neighbor requests it regularly - but strawberry curd was an entirely new concept to me.  A quick check of the curd entry in Food Lover's Companion, The (Barron's Cooking Guide) 3rd Edition reveals the usual suspects - lemon, lime and orange curd - but no strawberry.  (This expansion of the known curd universe does get me thinking, though: I bet kumquat curd would be fabulous.)  I had the baked eggs with chorizo and manchego, which were also really delicious, but when the meals were delivered, I was accidentally given the baked eggs with truffles and leeks that one of the other members of our gathering had ordered. Good as mine was – and it was – I did find myself wishing I had ordered what was originally set in front of me: the truffle smell alone had me drooling all the way home afterwards, and it was enough for me to encourage my wife to put truffle salt on the French fries she made the following night to go with dinner. But probably the best dish of the day was the pork ‘n grits that one of the other members of our group ordered: it included cheddar grits, shallots, a sunnyside-up egg, and sourdough toast. All in all, it was a great day, described somewhat more eloquently by our friend Karen in her blog The Bikini Wax Chronicles (see the July 19th post).

After brunch, we went across the street to Stinky Bklyn, a really fabulous little store that features a beer-of-the-month club, sweets and sandwiches, a tremendous assortment of cheeses (including some great stinky ones, of course), sausages of various descriptions, and a lot of other things. Their on-line shopping guide includes 67 cheeses, ranging from abbaye de belloc, a French sheep’s milk cheese, to zamorano, a sheep’s milk cheese from Spain (to avert the risk of allowing two points to determine a line here, I should note that they also have cheeses made from cow’s milk or goat’s milk, along with some combination-based varieties like the Italian toma della rocca, made from all three).  The shopping guide also list somewhat more limited assortments of meats, chocolates, oils and vinegars, mustards, and pickles.  To help understand the similarities and differences between the vast array of cheeses that shops like Stinky Bklyn carry, their website provides a simple breakdown into five basic types. I won’t try to repeat the whole thing here, but I offer the following tidbits to give an idea of both their classification scheme and their entertaining writing style:

Type 1 – “uncomplicated little fellows,” these are fairly young, soft cheeses like Brie, triple creams, and Robiolas

Type 2 – aged longer (6 – 12 months), firmer cheeses like pecorino or manchego

Type 3 – “complex recipe cheeses,” usually at least 1 year old, includes both Gouda and Gruyere

Type 4 – “Stinky cheese! O the sublime washed rind.” This group includes things like Taleggio, and the description notes that “if it smells and has a bright orange crust, chances are you’ve got one of these guys”

Type 5 – blue cheeses like Roquefort and Stilton.

We loved roaming around in the Stinky Bklyn store and we could have easily spent hours there, rummaging among the goodies.  But we had limited time, so in the end we only brought back two culinary treasures. The first one was Red Meck, a raw cow’s milk cheese from Mecklenberg, NY, with the following description on its label: “Gouda or gruyere? Why not both?”, which would seem to put it squarely into the Type 3 class defined above. However you classify it, the stuff is delicious and I wish we had bought more. Our other find was biellese saucisson basque, a superb salami, sliced very thinly, that leaves a most pleasant burning sensation at the back of the throat after you eat a slice. It reminds me a bit of the hottest salami I have ever had, a great find at the indoor market in Tampere, Finland when I was living there.  It was imported from Italy, absolutely firey, and I have never been able to find it anywhere else.  The Stinky Bklyn salami that we did find is great on sandwiches or in omelets, and again, it is clear in retrospect that we didn’t bring back enough. Sadly, neither of these particular delicacies is listed on their website.

I guess it means we will have to arrange another brunch.