Brooklyn Chef’s Table is here. Check out our pigs head terrine recipe and tips on foraging
Dinner $$$: Northeast Kingdom
You can almost smell the Vermont pine trees upon entering Northeast Kingdom, Bushwick’s contemporary American tribute to New England farmland. Since opening in 2005, it’s become a neighborhood institution, and with good reason. Kevin Adey‘s seasonal menu changes regularly, supplemented by a sizable list of specials advertised from mounted chalkboards. Intelligent, impeccably executed dishes celebrate local—often foraged—ingredients and nose-to-tail preparations of organic meats. You can’t really go wrong with your order, but my personal go-to is the scallops, most recently served with tender cipollini onions, tart crab apple, smoky bacon, and a garnish of hazelnuts and greens (pictured above). If you’re craving the red meat they’re best known for, though, go for the burger—you won’t regret it.
It’s also worth noting that by $$$, I mostly mean that this is the kind of restaurant you’d take your out-of-town middle class relatives and kill two birds with one stone—a great meal for free and an environment that won’t totally freak them out or leave them muttering about the sh*thole you live in (true story). In reality, you can get away with spending under $40 a person, including drinks, if you order wisely.
#8 Northeast Kingdom’s Stone Cut Oat Porridge
No. 8: Stone cut oat porridge from Northeast Kingdom (18 Wyckoff Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-386-3864)
Porridge might be a breakfast basic, but on the dinner menu at Northeast Kingdom, it gets special treatment–and it should not be missed.
Bushwick’s Northeast Kingdom celebrates humble ingredients, and on the ever-changing seasonal menu here, you’ll find many fine specimens of local produce, seafood, and poultry basking in glorious simplicity, the true essence of each item showcased by a supporting cast of garnishes that’s pared down to just what’s necessary. With that context, porridge doesn’t look out of place on the dinner menu, even if you’d be inclined to think of it as a proletariat breakfast dish elsewhere. Order it and be further convinced that it belongs–the hearty bowl of soft-cooked oats is as rich and savory as a winter stew, and it’s bolstered voluptuously by a runny-yolked egg and the earthy paper-thin slices of crispy sunchokes. It’s comfort food and immensely satisfying, and it works as a precursor to a heftier meal–perhaps you’ve come for NEK’s killer burger–or as the main event if you add a plate of simply dressed greens on the side.
The 20 Best Sandwiches In 20 Brooklyn Neighborhoods
Before trying the Northeast Kingdom chicken sandwich, I would’ve thought it was impossible to improve upon something so simple and so good. I mean, what’s better than a classic chicken sandwich? Oh, I don’t know, maybe a chicken sandwich smothered in spicy, nutty Kung Pao sauce that’ll make your tongue tingle and your nose burn and will leave you feeling like you just can’t get enough of this savory sandwich served on a soft, sweet brioche roll that offers the perfect contrast to the crunchy, spicy chicken. Do yourself a favor and eat up accompanied by one of the many beers Northeast Kingdom has on tap. This is definitely one of our favorite lunches in Brooklyn.
Posted by Kristin Iversen on Tue, Sep 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM
Creamed Kale; Northeast Kingdom
Even kale needs to feel decadent sometimes, and what better way to do it than by adding lots of cream and butter and dairy goodness? None that we can think of. So when you want to feel a little bad when you’re eating kale, get on over to Northeast Kingdom and either order the vegetarian main of Cauliflower, which comes with creamed kale, potatoes, and roasted garlic, or order the kale salad which comes studded with tangy, creamy blue cheese. Either way, the dairy goes a long way toward cutting the intrinsic bitterness of the kale, making it even more delicious than you ever thought it could be.
18 Wyckoff Avenue, Bushwick
The Michelin Guide has released its “Bib Gourmand” picks for the forthcoming 2014 dining guide.
These are restaurants that the guide highlights for excellence on a budget (defined as two courses and wine or dessert for $40 a head). New entries on the Bib list include ABC Cocina, Battersby, Northeast Kingdom, Mayfield, Porsena, Seersucker, and Xixa. Restaurants that land on the Bib list are not awarded Michelin stars. The full list of star ratings for 2014 will be released next Tuesday. Congratulations to all the 2014 Bib Gourmands.
4. Northeast Kingdom, 18 Wyckoff Avenue, Brooklyn
Aside from the fact that the owners are native Vermonters, freshness is perhaps the strongest thread that connects this restaurant to its namesake county in northern Vermont, where many residents grow kitchen vegetable gardens, eggs come from a farm stand down the road, and meat is procured from a pig-raising neighbor or beef farmer. Owners Paris Smeraldo and Meg Lipke have imported this ethic to Brooklyn, sourcing produce from Brooklyn Grange (which I wrote about last week) and farm-raised meats from upstate while adding foraged ingredients whenever possible. Seasonal menus shine a spotlight on what’s fresh right now. This summer, try the roasted tomato gazpacho and Brooklyn Grange greens.
It’s around 7 p.m. on the hottest Friday in recent memory. On a roof in the Brooklyn Navy Yard overlooking smokestacks, shipyard cranes, and city bridges, the East River glittering quicksilver just beyond the dry docks, Brooklyn Grange managing partner Anastasia Cole Plakias points to a row of ruffled green leaves, streaked vibrant purple, and instructs me to pick one and take a bite.
I do as she says. The leaf has a green, vegetal flavor, with a strong wasabi note, a warm sensation on the tongue. “Ooh, that’s good,” I say. “Wait for it,” Plakias says, grinning as I chew. Moments later, my mouth explodes in a fiery burst of black-pepper spice. “Whoa!” I say, laughing, and she smiles: “The chef at Lafayette has been loving these.”
Dusk is falling on Brooklyn Grange’s second rooftop farm, planted in 2012 after the flagship farm (established in 2010 ona roof in Long Island City) proved to be a huge success. The project put Plakias, along with partners Ben Flanner and Gwen Schantz, at the helm of a strange new industry: urban commercial organic farming. As successful farmers do, they’ve been expanding, first here, and rumor has it, soon to the Pfizer building, a mile or so down Flushing Avenue.
And they’re cranking out great vegetables. Plakias has just fed me a baby mustard leaf; I’m stunned by the force of its flavor. I haven’t had greens that strong since living on an heirloom vegetable farm, in a place called Paradise Valley, the summer after college.
“We’ve been selling lots of these beautiful little leaves,” Plakias says. “They’re everybody’s favorite.” She turns one in her fingers as she nibbles. Looking closer, her brow furrows: “Looks like they’ve been getting eaten by beetles,” she says, showing me the leaf. “See that shotgun effect?” It’s peppered with tiny holes.
These greens and others are the top crop right now. Earlier today, farmers arrived around 4 a.m. and picked 100 pounds of mixed greens, 50 pounds of arugula, and “dozens of pounds of other things,” Plakias tells me. By now, this morning’s leaves are in restaurants around the city, likely being plated as we speak: Lafayette, Blanca, Northeast Kingdom, and Prospect are all clients. At 7 p.m., the Friday dinner rush has begun.
The greens are great, but, as in most gardens, tomatoes are the uncontested star. Brooklyn Grange grows a full rainbow of heirloom varieties; however, none are quite ready, the vines heavy with unripe produce. “Tomato plants don’t do well in temperatures above 95 degrees,” Plakias says, cupping a plump fruit in her hand. “Basically, their growth stagnates. They’re doing what the rest of us are doing, gritting their teeth, trying to survive. We should be getting ripe fruit any day now, but this heat is really not helping.”
She shows me a bed of Feherozon peppers, which are thriving, their pillowy, pale yellow forms grassy and sweet. Later, they will blush a rich, striated orange, and their flavor will deepen. We say hello to hens in a roomy coop, to a bright bed of zinnias and sunflowers, and pause to watch a honeybee drag another, against her will, from the hive (she escapes and flies away).
As we are leaving, Plakias stops. “I just learned this, and I think it’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard.” She’s standing near a patch of basil winged by beds of sunchoke, eggplant, and ground cherry that will be harvested later in the season.
“Basil has different flavors along the leaf. Find a nice big one and try the stem. It’s floral, sweeter. . . . The other end is going to be spicy, it will have almost a bitter note.” I pick a leaf and try it. One end is tender and lush, the other leaner and tougher, its flavor stronger and more mature. “It’s really cool tasting that,” she says, “and being able to connect with plants through their life. That may sound a bit precious, but, quite frankly, it really is a wonderful thing.”
That concludes our tour, and throughout the weekend, I can’t stop thinking about those greens. On Sunday night, I find myself at Northeast Kingdom ordering a Brooklyn Grange salad and little else. The plate arrives, heaped with emerald bounty: Arugula, leaf lettuce, and those raucous little mustard leaves are lightly tossed in a simple, unobtrusive vinaigrette. I normally chop the hell out of salads, so I can assemble perfect bites with bits of each component, but these leaves are best enjoyed whole, folded beneath the fork with a crisp, wet radish, just as nature made them.
Days have passed and that salad continues to haunt me. I’m excited for the next wave of vegetables. There is so much to come. Soon, the tomato vines will burst into color—stripey Green Zebras, savory and acidic; deep purple Black Cherries, musky and rich; dandelion-yellow Sungolds, sweet as grapes and snackable by the pint—and nutty sunchokes and eggplants will follow, and on and on, into the fall. Which leaves me to wonder—am I to spend the rest of the summer chasing down the freshest produce, completely at the mercy of the harvest? Alas, there are worse fates.