Sunday, November 2, 2008

LWF&D goes to Brooklyn!

You may have noticed that this blog is quite Manhattan-centric. It's that way for a number of reasons, primarily because that's where I live. But this past weekend, I was lured off the island with the promise of a nice dinner with MBF at Applewood in Brooklyn.

Applewood is a cute little restaurant in a Brooklyn brownstone. The centerpiece is the roaring fireplace, and the hostess kindly led us to the most desired (by me) table in the house: the two-top right next to the fire. If I could have climbed into the fire and eaten my dinner amongst the flames, I would have, but social mores being what they are, I settled for thoroughly enjoying dinner alongside it.

Applewood focuses on seasonal, local ingredients, and the menu makes that clear. There's a menu insert just for the daily specials (written down, which is awesome), which included not only food but wine specials as well. To start off, we ordered a bottle of their special white wine of the evening, a Sancerre. As the menu promised, it was crisp and bright with robust citrus fruit.

We placed our order, and soon the bread man (bread man!) arrived toting a cloth-lined wicker basket full of bread. He placed a trio of spreads on the table and spooned three slices of bread onto each of our bread plates. Two were house white, one was whole wheat. The spreads themselves included a cream cheese with roasted garlic, French butter, and white bean with smoked paprika. Everything was really soft and spreadable, and both the roasted garlic cream cheese and the sweet butter were delicious. I wasn't a huge fan of the white bean, primarily because I don't like smoked paprika. The whole wheat was the winner of the bread options; the white was tasty but almost bordered on cakey, with a tight and spongy crumb.

So spreadable

Any place that gives you three slices of bread by default is fine by me

After a reasonable delay to allow for copious bread consumption, our entrees arrived. MFB had ordered the venison special, which came with "rapini, potato pave, chestnut cream, juniper jus." Sure. I tried the rapini and potato pave, both of which were rich and delicious (especially the potatoes). MBF declared the venison to be very good as well.


I had chosen the beet salad, which came with house-pickled gherkins and a cheese described as "sweet grass dairy 'hopeful tomme.'" This salad was tasty but a bit puzzling; while the ingredients were all together on one plate, I didn't really understand why. The beets and the cheese, which turned out to be a mild, semi-hard cheese shaved over the top of the salad, definitely went together, but the beets were like red herrings. I will admit, though, that the marble-sized gherkins were some of the cutest things I've seen in a very long time.

You can sort of see one of the gherkins hiding under the beets at the bottom. Such an adorable foodstuff.

Our entrees out of the way, we moved on to the raison d'etre of any meal: dessert. Applewood's dessert menu borders on the eclectic; I definitely favor more straightforward, traditional desserts, but Applewood stayed just this side of too out-there, so I was safe.

MBF selected the "pear semifreddo, brown sugar bread pudding, candied bacon, sour milk granita" for one reason and one reason only: the candied bacon. He was wary about the sour milk element and inquired about it to our waiter, who asked by way of explanation whether we'd ever been to NYC Icy. Um, YESSSS!! When the dessert arrived, true to NYC Icy fashion, the sour milk granita tasted like sour milk, which was weird. I don't know what they meant by "brown sugar bread pudding," but I didn't spot any bread pudding on the plate. But the semifreddo was tasty, and MBF could not stop raving about the candied bacon. Seriously, bacon candy. What will they think of next?

Can you see bread pudding on there? Maybe they were talking about the sauce...

I had selected the honey-almond cake, which came accompanied by parsnip ice cream and lemon sabayon. I really hate parsnips, so I asked whether I could replace that with something else, perhaps the caramel apple ice cream found elsewhere on the menu. Unfortunately, the pastry chef was rationing the caramel apple ice cream, so our waiter suggested whipped cream instead. Perfectly fine. The dessert was quite delicious: the cake was moist and rich; the lemon sabayon tasted like the filling of a top-notch lemon square; and the whipped cream had flecks of real vanilla beans in it. As a bonus, the chef also sent out a little dish of the parsnip ice cream just so I could try it. I did. It tasted like parsnips. Enough said.

The cake is bleeding sabayon

Why would you ruin perfectly good ice cream with parsnips?

We finished our desserts and thought we were done-- but then they brought out a plate of complimentary petit fours with the check. The mini madeleine was yummy, but the pistachio brittle was a standout. Petit fours are such a lovely gesture-- they just leave you smiling as you walk out the door.

My dentist is going to kill me for that sticky brittle

Applewood was a delightful place, cozy and upscale while still friendly and unpretentious. The food was incredibly good and was definitely made with top-notch ingredients. All that AND a warm fireplace added up to a solid four Offset Spatula restaurant and a compelling reason to forsake civilization for the wilds known as Brooklyn.

501 11th Street, Brooklyn

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