New York Openings: Lobster Joint, Kittery of Brooklyn

Back in the day, lobsters were fertilizer and fish bait. Even into colonial times the meat was considered worthy only of servants and prisoners. Fast-forward to contemporary NYC and fresh lobster is all but a fetish. Low-key seafood spots are proliferating. The meat is a luxury. The atmosphere is casual. And there’s a nostalgic connection to summers and the seaside. Newcomers Lobster Joint and Kittery of Brooklyn are prime examples of why seafood shacks are the new black.

Greenpoint and Rockaways sensation Lobster Joint has taken on a prime slice of East Houston. The spot skews quaint, with picnic tables, whitewashed walls, and natural light streaming in from the skylight. Order off the hand-lettered menu and settle in for seriously fresh fruits of the sea. Lobster rolls are signatures, made in two styles: warm Connecticut, or New England with herb mayo. There are ample alternative rolls, too, from clam to crab to crispy oyster. If you want the full feast, opt for a dinner, complete with corn, potatoes, coleslaw, and a pound and a half of succulent lobster.

Vacationland comes to Carroll Gardens with the opening of Kittery of Brooklyn. A corner spot with ample yardage does its best impression of Maine coastal dining. Ayuh, they’re serving lobstah rolls, with meat shipped straight from Kittery. Borders broaden with a selection of sustainable ocean seafood, fished from Maine all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. New England native Josh Moulton helms the kitchen, drawing on memories of early Down East years (recent stints at Monkey Bar and Union Square Café make for a high-wattage résumé). Nautical-themed digs are a reminder that the Atlantic is just a short hop on the F away.

Photo by Erin & Camera/Flickr

SCRATCHbread Scratches Off Wholesale to Cater to the Public

After three years of peddling soft, buttery focaccia, rich loaves of bourbon wheat, and flavorful scones and muffins, SCRATCHbread’s Matthew Tilden has decided to give up his wholesale business and concentrate on getting back to his roots as a chef.

“I am a chef, not a baker, and I need to play with food,” he said while serving a line of eager customers from his takeout window in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. “It took so much energy to make the food and deliver it across the city. I could never give those customers the same experience that I can give here at the window.”

The change sucks for places he supplied to, like Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe, but it’s a happy transformation for residents who have been getting savory whiffs of fresh baked goods for almost two years from the SCRATCHbread headquarters. Now, instead of scrambling to make it to the food shop in the few hours they were opened to the pubic, SCRATCH-junkies can sidled up to the take out window six days a week from: 6:30am to 3pm Monday, Tuesday, and Friday; 6:30am to 8pm on Wednesdays; and from 10am to 3pm on the weekend.

The best part about this—breakfast. Tilden has whipped a killer menu consisting of hot, buttery Anson Mills grits and a daily stuffed-savory muffin that, on my last visit, consisted of a poached egg and a fresh kale pesto. They also serve Tilden’s famous oatmeal chunky, a muffin-like treat he said he finally got time to tweak, and now, is the best thing ever. For a morning perk SCRATCHbread serves Stumptown coffee either hot or iced, a nice addition to his menu and one made possible by the company’s donation of the brewing equipment. Now, a little secret about Tilden: he is an avid juice fan and has been creating recipes for this beverage for years. So, at the shop they will have one or two fresh squeezed creations daily like his currant pride and joy, the carrot, ginger, lime and mint combo.

Not to be overshadowed by breakfast, lunch also offers fun and tasty options. Tilden will serve a rotating stuffed sourdough pita filled with all sorts of goodness. For example, yesterday’s creation consisted of brown rice, house-made pickle, and spicy wood-roasted babaganoush. Currently they also have soup—like a sweet and savory tomato-parmesan, perfect for dipping a butter roll in—but don’t expect to see it once the weather truly heats up. For those of you in the know, don’t worry, you can still swing by SCRATCHbread to pick up Tilden’s celebrated focaccia, loaves of sourdough, slices of shortbread, butter cream brownies, and his latest creation, the mutt, which uses all types of bread mixed into one loaf.

Everything I have tried at SCRATCHbread has amazed me and I am ecstatic that Tilden can finally let his creative chef side shine through. Starting soon he will offer bread making classes and even more exciting, a monthly tasting dinner, which will also allow patrons to finally, eat inside the shop. Until then, continue to line up and indulge in goodness to go. 

New York: Top 10 Restaurant Recession Specials

imageIf there’s one upside to the tanking economy, it’s that transcendental culinary experiences are finally accessible to the foodie cheapskates. Here’s a rundown of 10 particular pleasures of the palate and wallet, offered for the moment at a discount. Of course, “discount” is a very relative term …

10. Two-pound Lobster at Strip House, $58. Replaces their $116 four-pounder with a critter that’s half the size and half the price.

9. 2005 Lacryma Christi Del Vesuvio, Mastroberardino at Union Square Cafe, $25. Wedged between the four-figure bottles on their 30-plus-page wine list are 100 new selections under $75 — Why this particular Italian wine? Because when an eatery prices a Plain-Jane Belgium beer at $9, $25 for a bottle of wine is a steal.

8. Organic corn dogs at Hundred Acres, $2. For this price we’ll not only eat a corn dog, we’ll wash it down with their $3 ice cream float — offered 5-7 p.m.

7. Wok-seared filet mignon with mixed vegetables in peanut sauce at Ruby Foos, $10. At long last, a worthy excuse to be caught in one of the irritably kitschy Pan Asian tourist magnets.

6. Free Monday panini with glass of wine at Vero Wine Bar, around $10. Booze plus carbs equals happiness — especially if part of the equation is free.

5. Lunch entrée and a glass of wine Fridays at La Grenouille, $35. So you’ll have some extra cash to put towards that $20,000 panther ring from Cartier, conveniently located across the street from the posh eatery.

4. Chicken and rice at Republic, $8. Because dammit, when the going gets rough, that’s what you eat! Luckily this is Manhattan, so the chicken comes with tasty Vietnamese rice, shiitake and wood-ear mushrooms, Asian basil, and bean paste.

3. Three-course Sunday dinner at Apiary, $35. Groaning because it’s almost Monday isn’t attractive, so treat yourself to this new prix-fixe that includes a chocolate cashew brownie tart with cashew ice cream.

2. Two-course dinner menu at Eighty One, $42. We don’t know what foie gras royale is, but we had it, and it was not only good — it was worth the heartburn.

1. Three-course prix fixe at Le Cirque’s Wine Lounge, $48. Now the only question is: Do we pair our meal with the $50 glass of 1993 Barolo, or do we go for the more affordable $48 glass of 1996 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin “la Grande dame?”