Fluffy Frittatas and Fabulous Fish Fries!

The Park Slope section of Brooklyn is able to boast an endless reign of eating establishments, and one cozy place that has especially caught my eye is Rose Water. Located on Union Street, the owners of Rose Water offer a menu of very healthy and delicious garden fresh meals.

What positively delightful edible have I discovered at this spot? Well, that would be one of my favorite things to eat, frittata. For anyone who is not familiar with a frittata, it is akin to an omelette, although much more substantive and in most cases a lot tastier. The fritatta I enjoyed at Rose Water was prepared with carmelized onions, mushrooms and goat cheese, and it was served with an herb salad. Quite delicious. Try it, you will so like it!

Next stop is my own backyard, Bay Ridge. This neighborhood of mine gives us countless and well-known corner restaurants, ones that we can always rely on for our favorite dinner after a way too long day. For me, Circles is one of those restaurants. A dining experience of comfort, Circles sits on the corner of Bay Ridge Ave and 3rd Ave. After decades of service to the community it still draws crowds.

Circles refers to an array of round pita bread sandwiches and fun and tasty fillings, such as Turkey and Thanksgiving Day Stuffing. For years, Bay Ridge residents have enjoyed pita circles as well as a full menu of salads, pastas and entrees. However, there is one item I have discovered on the appetizer section of the Circles menu that is an absolute must if you visit soon. Drum roll please ... sword fish fries! This is a terrific grazer and a great taste to enjoy. Finger- sized slices of fresh sword fish are battered and fried to a fluffy crunch. A zesty home-made jalapeno tartar sauce is added for dipping. Biting into the fry reveals the moist fish enclosed within. This item has actually been on the menu for some time but does not receive the attention it deserves. I want to hear Bay Ridge folks say "let's go over to Circles for some sword fish fries!" What a best-kept eat this one is, folks. I highly recommend it!


Brooklyn's Crazy Ball!

A favorite neighborhood experience of mine, although a simple one, is entering a timeless pasta shop like Papa Pasquale's Ravioli Company. Nestled in Bensonhurst, at 7812- 15th Ave, Papa Pasquale dates back to 1955, when the original “Papa” brought his grandmother's time-honored recipe for ravioli to the U.S. and set out to wow generations of Brooklynites.

This old-fashioned shop also has a unique hidden treasure for this pasta lover to uncover. The good news is that Brooklyn is home to it's own "Crazy Ball." . A crazy ball is, well, crazy, and it is a Saturday special that Papa Pasquale offers to his loyal patrons. The Crazy Ball is the size of a large grapefruit and it is actually a ball of pasta, fresh cheeses, Italian meats, spices and herbs, rolled in bread crumbs and deep-fried to a golden crust. The flavor is "melt in your mouth smooth," and offered at a reasonable cost of $3 dollars each. On my visit, I purchased two Crazy Balls for my teenage sons to enjoy and viola! It was a great Saturday lunch.

Papa Pasquale also offers a variety of fresh pastas and an array of ravioli including whole wheat as well as asparagus with smoked mozzarella. Still a family-owned business, Papa Pasquale attributes its success to old-fashioned family recipes along with the benefits of modern machinery and techniques. Only the freshest cheeses are selected and fillers and preservatives never see the inside of a ravioli.
Nicely done, Papa Pasquale! Keep up the good work.


Cookbook !

Friends, my abject apologies for such a long absence from this blog. However, my excuse is a very good one, and it certainly does not signal a vacation away from food writing. On the contrary, my absence is actually due to a more involved project in food writing. For over a year, I have been engrossed in writing my first cook book. The writing process is now in the end stages and almost ready for the next step of many steps. Although a very long and time consuming road, it has been a complete and total labor of love and dedication. A very different concept from the standard cookbook, I hope that it will reach as many people as possible in an effort to spread my perspective on food as the great communicator.

I am truly blessed in the realization that I am able to take my dual passions, that of cooking and writing, and share them with one and all.... stay tuned!


Take a walk on the carb side!

The countless and hidden treats are still alive and mouthwatering in Brooklyn, Manhattan and beyond!

.....which brings me to a subject that is something of a love/hate relationship for many of us. Carbs! How we love them! ..but how we hate what they do to the old waistline. Still, can we resist? No! So, let us begin with the most authentic focaccia bread outside of Italy. There I was, minding my own business in our local neighborhood pizzeria while picking up a few slices for my youngest son and my dad. That would be Brooklyn Pizza on 86th St. and 14th Ave, in the Dyker Park section of Brooklyn.

As I was waiting, the new owner/chef/pizza-man proudly presented this piping hot morsel for my tasting pleasure (the guy obviously knows a "Foodie" when he sees one). It was his own interpretation of focaccia bread. Now, I have tasted plenty of focaccia in recent years, and most were pretty good. This one was really excellent. It was lightly coated with extra virgin olive oil and topped with fresh herbs and tangy circles of purple onions that were deeply baked into the little valleys of the warm moist crunchy bread. I asked the owner, Pasquale, how the heck this focaccia could be so darn divine. He told me that it is really very simple. He uses the very best ingredients imported from Italy along with a time-tested baking technique.

Pasquale also offers a focaccia topped with Parmiggiano Reggiano and fresh plum tomatoes. Both variations are priced affordably at $4 and I am happy to say that they graced my bread basket and antipasto table for Easter Sunday Dinner this past spring. My family completely enjoyed !

Next stop is two blocks away at Mona Lisa Bakery 15th Ave and 86th Street. Have you had a really good piece of lard bread lately? Yes folks, this is a really offensive carb especially since it has all those adorable (and I do not use that word lightly) cured Italian meats included with the deal. Of all the lard breads that are present in all the Italian bakeries in all of New York City, there is no lard bread like this one. It is just so true to the title of my blog because it really is a best-kept secret eat! The loaves are perfectly shaped and textured and then baked with the utmost care. The peppery prosciutto complements the fluffy inside and pours out onto the buttery crust of the bread.

Along with Pasquale's focaccia bread, this is also an addition to my holiday bread basket. Also, I use this particular bread in my cooking. I took the opportunity to use it as part of the filling for my mushroom caps. My mushrooms are now a favorite among family and friends. To end this blog entry, I invite you to email me if you would like a copy of my mushroom cap recipe!


That Asian Flavor!

Brooklyn is the proud home of many Asian restaurants. Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Thai proprietors are an important part of the culinary quilt of our community. They provide the opportunity for Brooklyn folks to taste the wonderful delights of this foreign fare. However, I believe I am safe in saying that many menus that our Asian friends offer are quite similar. This, of course, is a good thing. I take comfort in walking into my favorite Chinese take-out with that pleasant reassurance that my favorite beef and broccoli is just waiting.

That said, I have uncovered a not-so-ordinary item at Hana Sushi, located in Bay Ridge at 524 86th Street. This Japanese restaurant is a favorite of mine. Whether I visit with family and friends or order take-out via their delivery man, the service and food never disappoint. As to my find...Rock Shrimp!

This is a very unique offering that is listed under the "Hot Appetizer" section of Hana Sushi's menu. It is a large portion so I recommend ordering it as an entree. Hana's Rock Shrimp is not only unique but very memorable. The jumbo shrimp was lightly fried in a golden batter and topped with a sauce made from Japanese mayonnaise and Asian spices. This spicy sauce was so very original with its coral color and combines well with the flavors of the shrimp. Just delicious, and at an affordable price of $7. Do not miss this one! Treat yourself to a dinner at Hana Sushi!


The Wonderful World of Baked Clams!

When it comes to one of the most popular of all Italian appetizers, I believe it is safe to say that baked clams is on everyone's short list. There are very few Italian menus in New York City that do not offer caked clams as part of the “Antipasto.” As a true admirer of these addictive little shells, I cannot even begin to count the various Italian restaurants at which I have enjoyed this favorite of mine.

Now, I know I am going to get a lot of emails on this one and that is because, like pizza, most people, especially Italian-Americans, have their top spot where they believe the best baked clams can be found. Well...pssstt .. I have discovered the most succulent clams in all of New York City! I honestly can not recommend them highly enough. I know many people will read this and think of all the most popular and authentic Italian restaurants in our wonderful City and they will guess that I am going to announce one of them the winner. But the best clams, in my opinion, are not on Court Street, or Coney Island, or Sheepshead Bay. They are not even in Bensonhurst , the heart of Italian Brooklyn food. The very best clams can be found at ... the Cappuccino Cafe!

Ok, so here is the deal, folks. My youngest teenage son, Christopher, and I, had a few hunger pangs late at night after coming home from the movies or one of his sports games. Cappuccino Cafe 7717 3rd Ave in Bay Ridge is open late. Cappuccino Cafe is actually a part of The Green House Cafe which is a very popular restaurant among us Bay Ridge folks. So Christopher and I order, and of course I choose the clams. Amazement. These Little Necks are baked to perfection with a creamy virgin olive oil sauce bubbling from the lightly herbed breadcrumbs. They are toasted a vibrant tan color and served with a twist of lemon that blends with the aroma of garlic and crisp green parsley. Very fresh and well-presented. The price of the clams are the average of what most restaurants charge at a half dozen for $8.00.

Now I visit Cappuccino Café for their clams and it is definitely worth the trip. The rest of their menu is very well-rounded. The service is friendly and way above average.
So folks, for this season of Lent, I encourage you to taste the very best flavor on a shell that NYC has to offer. Bon Appetit!


Drink to Your Health in Brooklyn!

Back to the Land truly lives up to the name. This natural foods grocery store sits right in the heart of Park Slope at 142-7th Avenue. Although it is not a small store, as it actually takes up the space of three stores in a row, there is a uniquely warm atmosphere upon entering this establishment. It gives me a "do the right thing" feeling which I think we all need now and then when we are grocery shopping and tend to stock up on way too many of the processed items.

Back to the Land has the finest quality fresh, natural, organic and whole foods. They also offer nutritional products, body care products and health information in a comfortable and clean environment. I know when this information-seeking patron is asking dozens of questions on herbs and supplements, the helpers are welcoming and seem to know their thing. So for those who are health-oriented, and we should ALL be so, this establishment is truly the yellow brick road to a better mind, body and spirit.

Now as to my magic find. Here goes.. organic juice smoothies! After I purchase everything that I need, I like to treat myself to their health bar which is stationed at the front of the store. The bar offers smoothies and fresh organic juices that truly allow one to enjoy a wholesome and crisp quality when drinking this cup of nature. All natural, no pesticides and a tremendous boost. My favorites are the citrus juices but you can pick from a variety of fruits to be juiced out on the machine and presto! An instant drink to your health! The best part is that there is no guilt factor involved. That bonus really wins my favor. A bit pricey, but I am still proud of myself as I drive away with my organic juice-smoothie-cocktail in my car cup holder. It especially feels good as I pass Starbucks down the block which houses my fattening mocha cappuccino with heavy syrup and triple spoons of sugar.

So next time you are in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, stop by Back to the Land, for the real drinking thing!