Tag Archives: New York

Lilia’s new-school Italian in NYC

Italy

We have been traveling a lot this year: LA, Kansas City, New Orleans, Madison, Chicago, Columbus… and as a result, we have an ever-growing backlog of posts we have been meaning to write. So, we thought it was about time that we post about a restaurant we’ve been thinking of for a while: Lilia (567 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY). We are famously finicky about Italian food, we always figure that we can make it better (and cheaper) at home, so, other than pizza, we rarely order Italian out. But sometimes a restaurant seems interesting and special enough to lure us out of our old habits, and that was the case with Lilia. Lilia is the brainchild of chef Missy Robbins, and was named as one of the best new restaurants in 2016 by the New York Times and Time Out New York.

Photo From Eater NYC

The restaurant is definitely scene-y, and we were certainly not cool enough to be there among New York’s buzziest. And I can’t say we were made to feel particularly welcome: even though we had a reservation early on a Thursday, we still had to wait about a half hour to sit, all the while waiting awkwardly in the vicinity of the bar, because the bar itself was completely full. Though in the meantime we did have time to explore the interesting space – which used to be an auto repair shop – and the menu. The menu was divided into small plates and entrees, but we opted for small plates to share. The pasta is all made by hand, and we heard only great things about the sorcery of Missy Robbins, who cut her teeth as Executive Chef at Chicago’s Italian icon Spiaggia from 2003-2008.

More precisely, the menu is divided into cocktail snacks, antipasti, “Little Fish,” Pasta, “Big Fish,” and Meat. The cocktail snacks are sort of like appetizers for your appetizers: Sicilian olives, prosciutto, house-made mozzarella or radishes with sea salt. Up one level in size are the antipasti, including many interesting veggie-forward combos: Red celery and fingerling potatoes; whole artichoke with mint; and cauliflower with spicy sopressata and pesto. I notice that now they have Bagna Cauda on the menu – which we certainly would have gotten! Our first chosen dish was roasted trumpet mushrooms with balsamic, arugula, and Sicilian almonds (above) – the mushrooms were woodsy, and almost meaty, and went well with the deep, aged balsamic. For a second “lighter” bite, we went with the fennel salad with oranges – one of our favorite dishes that we first tried in Siracusa, Sicily. There is something about the combination of fennel and oranges that is just perfect.

Next was the “Little Fish” menu which featured grilled scallops with walnut, yogurt and marjoram alongside mussels and sea salt. From this section of the menu, we started out with cured sardines with capers, butter and dill on top of fettunta (bread rubbed with garlic – above). This was our favorite bite of the night – salty, savory and a perfect flavor combination. Sardines have really been growing on us recently, and these were the salty, savory bite showcased on some excellent bread. The “Big Fish” and Meat sections of the menu had much larger entrees and included grilled swordfish with sweet/hot peppers and mint and grilled veal flank steak with hot peppers.

The pasta dishes are intended to be a starter course, as in Italy, but we basically ignored that advice. There were almost 10 pasta choices, and each sounded more delicious than the next: ricotta gnocchi with broccoli pesto, basil and pistachios; fettuccine with spicy lamb sausage; or potato-filled ravioli with crème fraîche, garlic and rosemary. From the pasta menu we chose the sheep-milk cheese agnolotti (mini, rectangular filled pasta pockets), topped with saffron, dried tomato and honey and Malfadine – flat pasta with wavy edges – with pink peppercorns and Parmesan. The malfadine dish was a great riff on cacio e pape. The simple Roman classic was elevated by the slightly thick, handmade pasta and high-quality Parmesan. The agnolotti was light and fresh, with a slight sheep’s-milk tang which shone through the light sauce. The handmade pasta was uniformly excellent. We finished off our meal with a seasonal apple galette with winter fruits- which was perfectly proportioned with flaky, crispy crust.

Flipping the script – Lilia is also known for their soft serve (we didn’t sample it this time, but maybe we will be back)! The Italian-only wine menu is quite extensive, and they have the widest selection of amari (after-dinner bitters) we have ever seen! In the morning, and for lunch, you can visit a more subdued Lilia for coffee, pastries and panini. Though you may have to cut through the hype a little bit to eat there, we really enjoyed our meal at Lilia. The small plates were all perfect and simple in an ingredient-forward way, spicing up traditional flavor combinations and dishes. Lilia lived up to our standards for Italian food, and that is saying something!

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A taste of St. Vincent at Ethlyn’s Caribbean Bakery

stvincentEthlyn’s Caribbean Bakery (1621 Nostrand Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11226) is in the heart of the Flatbush neighborhood on Nostrand Ave., which is the center of NYC’s Caribbean community. What is great about Flatbush is they have food from pretty much every country in the Caribbean, and while bigger countries like Trinidad and Jamaica are handsomely represented, so are the smaller countries like St. Vincent, which only has a population of 100,000.
ethlyns One of our longstanding policies is that there is no better way to experience a country than through their bakeries, so we were excited to experience some of the more unique tastes of the Caribbean at Ethlyn’s. Ethlyn’s is nothing more than a small glass counter filled with pastries and breads, both sweet and savory. Everything was super reasonably priced, and each item was no more than $3-5.

selara

We got a bright red salara coconut roll, and a currant roll. The salara, which is popular in St. Vincent (but can be found in other Caribbean nations), was a super-sweet enriched roll that fell somewhere between a bread and a cake, and was chocablock with coconut. The currant roll, which is found throughout the Caribbean, was a little more sedate. Both were tasty, though the salara did somehow manage to leave red crumbs all over, which we were still finding months later. On the savory side, we also got a saltcod patty which was touted as one of Ethlyn’s specialties. To be honest, we are more fans of the sweet treats, but if you wanted to have a savory fish patty for a light lunch, it is a good one. Other treats available at Ethlyn’s bakery include a coconut tart, peanut cake, marble cake, loaves of bread and dinner rolls.

ethlyn

To wash down your treats, Ethlyn’s makes a mean sorrel drink, along with the more exotic soursop and sea-moss varieties. Ethlyn’s was a real taste of the islands, and it was a fun way to explore the Caribbean side of Flatbush. Plus, it is right next to a costume design shop for Carnival. What could be better?!

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Venezuela via NYC: Caracas Arepas

Caracas Arepas
93 1/2 E 7th St
New York, NY

There is something about carbs with tasty fillings (especially cheese) that get us every time. Pretty much every culture has a national version of this combo – and Venezuela has arepas. In New York one of the hottest places for brunch makes some killer arepas.

On our last trip to NYC we headed to Caracas with a group of NYC-native friends for a Saturday morning brunch. Seems like we were not the only ones with the idea for some mid-morning arepas. There was a wait out the door – so we took ours to go and eat in nearby Tompkins Square Park.

I ordered the A10, the La Del Gato, which was filled with guayanés cheese, fried sweet plantains and avocado slices ($6.25), but they forgot it and gave me a chorizo arepa instead, a bit of a bummer. We didn’t find out til we were well into Tompkins park so I ended up trading for A-14, La Jardinera  ($6.25) vegetarian with our all too accommodating friend Ashley (Thanks Ashley!). Too bad for me though, since I hear the Del gato is amazing.

But in the end, I really enjoyed my trade-in. The Jardinera had grilled eggplants, sundried tomatoes, caramelized onions and guayanés cheese.   The arepa was near-faultless except for the fact that all of the cheese was concentrated at the bottom M ordered the A-20 La Sureña  ($7.50) grilled chicken and chorizo, with avocado slices and chimichurri sauce. M loved the chorizo arepa, which had a bit of a kick.

As we noshed in the park we also split an order of fried plaintains. In the end we did not miss eating in the cramped space and enjoyed the warm weather outside. Other than the mix – up on our order. Guess it gives me an excuse to go back and order the De La Gato someday.

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