Articles by Rebecca Kritzer
Rebecca likes to write about what she likes - and she likes food. A Miami native living in NYC, she grew up dancing and got accepted to Tisch School of the Arts, but instead graduated magna cum laude from NYU with a B.A. in journalism and religious studies. Rebecca traveled the country, and parts of the world, as an actor with the tour of the Broadway musical, "In The Heights," and has contributed to GO magazine, The Village Voice, NYU LiveWire, Washington Square News, BrooklynExposed.com, and CityPath.com among others. She also dabbles in photography and has a motorcycle license. Rebecca's constant affinity is for food: she loves to prepare it, eat it, talk and write about it, and is always on the hunt to find the next best place that does noteworthy things with it. Culinary school, travel food writing, and her own food-related business are in the plan.
Dirty words can be good sometimes...that is, when they have another meaning. To most who grew up speaking Spanish (myself included), one hears the word “carajo” (meaning crap or hell) used as a cursing exclamation, as in the phrase popular among my Cuban breed “Vete pa’l carajo!” (Go to hell). It's a risk when a business, moreover a restaurant where the last thing you want to taste is crap, appropriates the word as its own. But in this instance El Carajo, a Miami Spanish tapas and wine spot, the word grabs our off-put attention and then wafts it under our noses so we can wake up and smell the roses - the roses of meaning. The restaurant’s “carajo” refers to the lookout basket at the top of a Spanish ship's mast.
With every subsequent issue I receive in my mailbox, New York Magazine's restaurant listing pages progressively puff with an expanding Brooklyn section. No doubt the torrential food flood has leaked across the East River into the borough they are calling "the new Manhattan." Though I am not promoting that new nickname, I will confirm that as a resident of this fine borough called Brooklyn, the growing culinary presence is undeniable - and quite honestly, astounding.
But I am not one to complain, as my taste buds can't lie. In my many edible excursions, I've come across three recently opened Williamsburg restaurants (two of which happen to be directly across the street from each other) that each offered one noteworthy pick for Brunch, Booze and Bone: Fat Goose, Gwynnett Street, and Basik. Which pairs with which? Read on to find out.
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Fall is upon us, whether the weather wants to admit it or not. Thus the squash sweetness of the butternut variety must be put to good use. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this recipe for my sage-infused butternut squash and carrot soup could not be more appropriate. Better yet, it's a quick one-potter, so no dirty dishes from this beautiful blend. Let the fall fragrances of cinnamon spice permeate your kitchen - even before November hits!
For 3-4 servings:
(Multiply the quantities for a larger batch; you can never have enough of this taste and it freezes well.)
- 1.5 lbs butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 lb carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 sweet Vidalia onion, chopped
- 20 oz. stock, chicken or vegetable
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 2-inch cube of fresh ginger
- fresh sage leaves, whole
- grated zest of 1 large orange
- ground cinnamon, 2 tblspns
- curry powder, 2 tblspns
- garlic powder, 1 tblspn
- roasted pumpkin seeds
The contenders dished out their food truck best, and scores from audience and celebrity judges (Gayle King and Colin Quinn to name a few) were tallied. And the Vendy Goes to....
Dessert: Wolly's Shaved Ice
NJ: Taco Truck
Rookie: Korilla BBQ
Maker's Mark: Cinnamon Snail
People's Choice: Souvlaki GR
Vendy Cup: Solber Pupusas
Agreed on Korilla BBQ, with their amazingly seasoned "Eye of the Tiger" ribeye taco (best taco in the lot) and Cinnamon Snail, which in my book, made the best use of bourbon (aside from the VIP tent punch concotion) with their pillowy creme brulee bourbon doughnut. Other personal favorites were La Newyokina's inventively flavored ice pops like the rich "cafe con leche" and their sweet, salty, and spicy pineapple-jalapeno with chilli salt! Very honorable mentions go to Comme Ci Comme Ca's meditterranean cous cous bowls with your meat of choice (I choose the lamb sausage), and Jersey's Two Pitas in a Pod's elaborate tasting platter that included fluflly quinoa and the best falafel in the field.
He grew up on welfare and 50-egg fritatas, is not so fond of the beach, and prefers wine to beer. The latter, naturally befitting a Northern Italian who had his first sip of the stuff (Chianti, of course) at the vine-ripe age of five, courtesy of his grandpapa. Perhaps this was the seed that stemmed Chef Fabio Viviani’s eventual endorsement of Santa Margherita Italian wines. Most recently the partnership brought this Bravo “Top Chef” contestant to Miami to promote “Prosecco & Popcorn” at the Miracle Mile Theater in Coral Gables on Wednesday, September 7th. Floridians turned out to capture the classic “Roman Holiday” while sipping on their personally popped Prosecco half-bottle from a retro striped straw and clawing at unlimited mini-buckets of gourmet flavored popped corn kernels. I’ll throwback that throwback any day.
The team aimed to gussy up the classic comfort of popcorn at the movies with a few bubbles and some fancy flavorings. Viviani created three popcorns for the picking with profiles to complement the sweet acidity of the Italian Prosecco: Lemon & Black Pepper, Truffle Oil & Parmesan, and Caramel & Pancetta. Let me assure that sparkling wine was simply an added bonus to these devourable pops, as my hoarding instinct had me stacking as many as I could muster for the seated screening. The truffle oil’s unmistakable tongue trademark was further enhanced by the powdery Parmesan cheese. And the burnt saccharine caramel was expertly juxtaposed by the swine’s salty bite. By movie-end, I had downed at least six buckets worth of these pillowy pops of decadence and was only disappointed by the deficit of to-go bags. Though if you did want to savor these snacks at home, little recipe cards were provided for the taking (but we all know it never tastes the same when we make it for ourselves).
Viviani charmed guests in a casual pin-striped button-down, sleeves coolly rolled to the elbows, and that thick Italian hair slicked back on par with his thick Italian accent. As he spoke to me with engaging hazel eyes, Viviani assured he would never serve anything he wouldn’t eat himself. While proud of his popcorn recipes, he modested, “I’m just a chef; I’m not reinventing anything.” But that doesn’t mean palate pleasing popcorn has to be a new idea for savory success.
And while it may seem like a new idea to Americans, Viviani boasts that he has long enjoyed Santa Margherita wines since his days in Italy before their partnership, and proudly serves them at his LA restaurant Firenze Osteria. Popcorn is old-fashioned and so is the movie, he said, so the addition of the Prosecco is an attempt to make wine more accessible to everyone (er, the legal-drinking everyone). But why the bubbly? He asserts that you can drink it with anything and at any time of the day; a versatile wine to say the least. Cheers to that.
Besides popping up for “Prosecco and Popcorn,” Viviani has other promoting ventures to attend to. His television exposure does not end with Bravo’s “Top Chef” as he is in the works of his own production where he will be “cooking up a storm and rebranding this country one meal at a time.” Until then, event attendees may remember him with an effervescent sip, salty lips and a Roman Holiday.
Skip the hazing and go Greek in the best possible way: eat it. Egg & Dart reaffirmed my lingering allegiance to Mediterranean cuisine. I painlessly became a pledge of this new Greek restaurant nestled on a corner of North Miami Avenue in the flourishing Miami Design District.Co-owners Costa Grillas (of the family behind Maria’s Greek restaurant in Coral Gables) and Niko Theodorou (whose family owns Sea Satin Market in Mykonos) made it very easy, personally welcoming you into their home - literally. This venture is a family affair through and through: Niko’s grandmother is the chef flown in from Greece, Costa’s wife, Maria, stints as the hostess, and the two young restaurateurs are practically brothers - a solid fraternity. With the success of Maria’s (named for Maria’s grandmother), the lads wanted to modernize the traditional Greek dining experience to reflect the design aesthetic of the location. The sleek, open white interior and the name - an architectural Greek moulding design of alternating egg and dart shapes - illustrate this goal more than the food itself. But this is not a bad thing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. “Rustic” (as they coin it) Mediterranean fare expertly executed with a no-frills attitude is exactly what Egg & Dart achieves. And the absence of stuffiness is welcome in a trending culinary scene peppered with fancy plating, exorbitant prices, tiny portions, and no bite to back up the bark. Egg & Dart hit the mark with almost every dish in my dinner smorgasbord - and the portions were refreshingly generous.
We were first greeted with their signature “Greek Salad” cocktail, which was essentially a gin -based Bloody Mary, tying in the Mediterranean with muddled cucumber and feta-stuffed Kalamata olives. While it could use a tweak in presentation (the brown color could be off-putting to some and the glass, plain-jane), it was a savory and refreshing concoction that intelligently instigated my salivation for food.
All nine of the appetizers ordered landed on our table at the same time, which I was initially not thrilled about. I usually enjoy a coursed meal but I quickly changed my mind as I began mixing and matching dish components, unintentionally creating new flavor profiles. I scooped the rich garlicky tzatziki that came with the perfectly fried Zucchini Croquettes onto my Salad of sweet beet and tart granny smith apple slices. (The accompanying goat cheese was quizzically not its usually pungent self and I am suspicious that the beets were canned). The heavenly tomato, ouzo feta sauce that marinated the jumbo Shrimp Saganaki were the perfect dip for those croquettes (and anything else; I’ll take a jar of that to go, please). And the tender chunks of simply charred Octopus (a requisite order of mine) enjoyed a healthy drizzle of the chilled cucumber soup which boasted the perfect kiss of cream and fennel (to which I am normally averse).
The steamed Ocean Dumpling dough balls stuffed with fresh shrimp and snapper swam in a lovely light saffron sauce, and the mound of Mussel mouths swallowed a slightly creamy white wine sauce with unapologetic cuts of fresh garlic and tomato. Let’s just say once the shells cleared the bowl, my spoon saw to it that the remaining “soup” did not go to waste.
Their popular Crispy Cheese Pie could certainly double as a dessert. The large rectangle of crispy phyllo dough encased a salty feta cheese patty and was gloriously brushed with sweet Greek honey and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The juxtaposition of sweet and salty never disappoints the palate.
The Pork Tips was the only dish I could live without. Appropriately touted a traditional “peasant” style dish, it felt like a messy after-thought. Flour-dusted shaved pork bathed in an unappealing muddy moat of oddly flavored sauce, and the fried onion nest topper did not provide a much-needed levity to the dish. Though it may be a historic homage, it’s one Greek staple I could not embrace.
It was not difficult to embrace, however, the gargantuan Lamb Shank and delicately baked Cod entrees. The lamb was braised to a perfectly pink inner hue in a rich tomato sauce with deep notes of warm clove. It was so expertly cooked (as was the accompanying linguine) that the juicy meat slid off the bone in effortless shreds. As decadently bold as this was, the fish special was a fabulously demure foil. The Bacaliaro Sto Fourono could not have been a more simple fillet of fork-flaking cod adorned with Greek herbs and softened onions and tomatoes. Sometimes simplicity yields success, and the dish was the perfect example. The subtly balanced flavors allowed the cod to truly shine.
As if satisfaction was not yet reached, owner Niko sent out his pick for dessert. And after I dangerously devoured it, I could see why. I never met fried dough I did not like and their Loukoumades were no different. Much like doughnuts but supremely better, Greek puff pastry is fried into palm-sized globes and drizzled with that delicious Greek honey, shaved walnut slivers, and powdered cinnamon. When you bite into the lightly crisped exterior, the airy puff deflates to a bready center that packs a satisfying chew. (Let the late-night cravings begin.)
By meal-end, my stomach was smiling, feeling amply satiated with the lingering flavors of Greece on my tongue. My Greco-philic tendencies were never realized via the college sorority, but something tells me this is so much better: basking in this restaurant’s rustic glory. Was the plating immaculate? No. Was our table wiped down and reset between each course? No. Did it matter? No, because all these menial things are easily forgettable when what you eat and where you eat it are exceptionally memorable. Egg & Dart takes aim with Cupid’s arrow and hits you straight through the heart, initiating what is sure to be a lengthy Greek love affair by way of your stomach.
Old-world Havana, churned with leather-cushioned speakeasy and a dash of contemporary chic. This is the recipe Chef Michelle Bernstein conjures for the decor of Sra. Martinez in Miami - her take on tapas. The restaurant is housed within the historic walls of a 1920’s post office, already tipping its hat off to the Design District in which it resides. Passing the umbrella-d patio seating and stepping into the dim bi-level, lofty space, you are ready to nestle into one of