Restaurants: Dumont Burger

Oh, Dumont Burger, how I love you. You never cease to amaze me, with your tender and succulent beef patty, crunchy lettuce and onions, and toasted bun. With or without cheese, you are perfect. I could rhapsodize about your vinegary pickles, your crispy fries, and your incredible onion rings, but really, it is the burger that takes center stage.

If you live in New York and haven't been to Dumont Burger, I suggest you hop on the L train and run there. Immediately.

No really, you will thank me.

Dumont Burger is the off-shoot of a slightly fancier restaurant called Dumont, both located in Williamsburg. Dumont has better ambiance, with a lovely garden outside (and an excellent fried artichoke salad). They also serve the same burger, but in my opinion it is somehow better at the appropriately named Dumont Burger. The only unfortunate thing there is that the seating, especially in the winter, is limited. It is really more like a bar inside, but on warm summer nights, life doesn't get much better than sitting outside at the sidewalk tables with a giant burger in hand and a cold Hoegaarden to wash it all down. Of course, they have other items on the menu besides burgers and fries, such as a pulled pork sandwich and turkey burger. However, I ordered the turkey burger once and while it was good for a turkey burger -- that was about it. I enviously looked at my dining companion's regular burger with regret. As the inimitable Ray Isle, Food & Wine's  Executive Wine Editor, recently said:

"Somewhere out there someone is trying to stay healthy by eating [a turkey burger]. Madness knows no bounds. Drink water with it, then watch Papillon, the great Steve McQueen movie about being in prison on Devil’s Island in French Guiana—because that is what you are doing to your soul, my friend."

(See the full article on burgers and wine pairings here)

Many people claim to know the best burger in New York, but in my humble opinion, it can be found on Bedford Avenue  in Williamsburg, just a short ride from Manhattan.

Also, does anyone know where they get those pickles?

The Greene Grape

For those of you who live in Fort Greene or Clinton Hill, The Greene Grape is probably already familiar to you. However, even if you don't live nearby, I think it's worth a trek from elsewhere in the city. Their provisions store has a good selection of organic produce, fancy packaged foods (many from Brooklyn), and one of the better cheese selections I have seen in the area. My particular favorite so far is toma della rocca, an excellent goat, sheep, and cow's milk cheese that is runny and soft and has just enough tang to make it interesting. The Greene Grape also has a wonderful meat counter, and all of the employees are extremely helpful. Ari and I bought some ground beef from them the other night to make hamburgers, and they were quite delicious if I do say so myself, even though they were made on the stove instead of the grill. The meat and fish is also all organic, and locally raised when possible.

Luckily, they also have a wine store by the same name just down the street. Though small in size, they have a great selection of wines in many price ranges. One of my favorites over the summer was the 2010 Laurent Micquel Syrah Rosé, affordable at $9.50 while also being a lovely, dry summery wine. They also have have hard-to-find Aperol, one of my favorite spirits from Italy (particularly when mixed with prosecco over ice to make a Spritz). In addition to a great wine selection, they have tastings at least once a week, and the last time I was there they had a bottle open for people to taste for themselves.

I love the informal atmosphere of both of their stores, but the people that work there are always ready and willing to help if you need it. You could easily buy ingredients for an entire dinner there, but my favorite is to ask for a cheese recommendation, grab a baguette (and some wine, in a paper bag of course), and picnic in Fort Greene Park a few blocks away. Doesn't get much better than that.

Restaurant: The Farm on Adderley

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Last Thursday was the second time I had visited this little restaurant in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn. Ditmas Park is within walking distance of my old apartment in southeast Prospect Park, but it feels like you have escaped New York into a peaceful neighborhood filled with gracious old Victorian houses and charming little restaurants. The Farm on Adderley is an American, seasonal restaurant with a great beer and wine selection, known mostly for their burger and red meat which is all sourced locally.

The first time I ate there was for brunch, and my friend Morgan and I sat in the back garden. I had the smoked trout hash with hollandaise (excellent), and Morgan had the scrambled eggs with kale. The best part of brunch was the chocolate brioche, served warm and smothered in butter. This, eaten with great iced coffee while sitting under the September sun, was perfect.

The next time we went, Fall had finally come to Brooklyn, so we sat inside near the bar. We decided on splitting a few things, and started off with acorn squash with sauteed peppers and fried brussels sprouts. This was disappointing. The amount of brussels sprouts amounted to one, and the peppers overwhelmed the flavor of the squash, which is the reason we ordered the dish. However, the french fries made up for it. They were crisp and thick without being soggy, served with an excellent curry mayonnaise (and I am always a sucker for flavored mayos). For our entrée, we split the pan-fried skate with brown-butter sauce, collard greens, and pearl onions. This was lovely, albeit incredibly rich. I had never had skate before, and the sweet, almost crab like meat provided a wonderful foil for the brow-butter sauce. The roasted pearl onions were sweet and delicious, particularly when contrasted with the bitterness of the greens. At the end of the meal, we were both regrettably too full for dessert, but I plan on returning to try the burger and hopefully the salted chocolate mousse soon.

Restaurants: The Mermaid Inn

      Due to some unseasonably warm weather in New York this week, restaurants are keeping their patios open through the end of the month, which is always excellent news for me. At seven o'clock on Sunday night, it was still 80 degrees out, which gave me a chance to catch up with a couple of good friends from Bar Boulud. We decided to hit up the East Village institution known as the Mermaid Inn. I had heard great things, but never had a chance to go.

Abby and I both decided on the fish tacos, while Angie chose the squash soup and the grilled romaine salad. The fish tacos were wonderful -- the tilapia was crispy but still moist inside, and the cabbage slaw that it was served with was spicy without overwhelming the fish. I also tried a little of Angie's salad, which was fresh and lemony, with just a hint of anchovy. We sat in their back patio, which is much quieter than the sidewalk seating in front, and is festooned with lights and bordered by trees. We all felt like we had escaped New York for a little while.

The meal ended as they all do at the Mermaid Inn, with tiny cups of complimentary chocolate pudding and a fortune-telling fish. My fish told me that I'm "passionate" (which is certainly true about food). I'm hoping to go back before the weather changes and check out their excellent happy hour ($1 oysters! fried calamari! Aperol spritz!), but I don't make it before that, they also have a charming bar.