Being the food and wine nerd that I am, coming to New York is a joy. Sure, the shopping is good, the skyline is magnificent and the vibe is special.
Nevertheless, for me, the greatest attraction in the city is its many restaurants and bars – some of which are the best in the world, many of which knock the pants off the selection in the remaining continental United States (not too hard, admittedly, but still). The ethnic food attracts me, like the Brazilian restaurant Casa on Bleecker Street, the little Cuban joints scattered around town or the many dumpling places in Chinatown.
However, I know I spend a lot of my meals in those shabby-chic little bars and restaurants that are made to look like they are tattered and worn though they just barely opened. That special NYC-style. Excellent interior design, slightly industrial, and with delicious food served to hipsters and foodies (my lord I’m getting sick of those words). Yesterday’s nicest meal was definitely the brunch at one such place – Vinegar Hill House in Brooklyn. We took a long walk, through boring industrial areas and abandoned houses in an early January weather that had gotten confused and thought it was April.
When we arrived, my sister, a friend doing his last day at the UN, my newly wedded cousin, her equally newly wedded husband and I, the place had not yet opened. We happily lounged on a worn wooden bench in the sun, watching birds who were equally happy at the spring warmth. I was glad to arrive early though, both because it gave us a chance to see the staff prepping for the onslaught of 30-somethings who had made the trek out here, and because it got us a table.
The place, which was strongly recommended to me by one of my favorite wine writers – Alice Feiring – has a lovely, cozy atmosphere, friendly staff and an excellent wine list. However, this time around there was no wine for me as we were coming for the brunch. And what a brunch. One of the downsides of working with wine and food is that I’m not easily impressed.
I was impressed.
The sourdough pear pancake with a bourbon walnut syrup is easily the best American pancake I have had in my life. The sourdough made it tangy and crisp, and the bourbon-laced syrup went perfect with the warm pear. Yum. The side potatoes were also to die for – I don’t know how they made them so perfectly creamy.
Portions (save the pancake) were on the small side, but prices are reasonable. Perfect reuben sandwiches, lovely quiches, and simple but good egg scrambles went with 200-or-so cups of French-press coffee (refills, luckily, are free). After licking our plates clean, the group was at immediate risk for food-induced coma. So we left yet another new New York favorite to saunter across the Brooklyn bridge in the sun, with the replacement for the Twin Towers gaining height in our view. Walking, walking, walking, with the express goal to work up a new appetite. Because though there are more lovely restaurants in NYC than I could EVER fit into a visit, I’m sure going to try.