Calexico Carne Asada

One of Fork’s most favorite food trucks in New York is the bright yellow Calexico truck that can be found most days on the corner of Prince and Wooster Streets in Manhattan. How happy was Fork when Calexico opened a brick and mortar shop on the Columbia Street Waterfront. Yes, it’s taken Fork a while to get there, but the cutlery finally got there! Calexico Carne Asada is located on Union Street between the BQE and Columbia Street, which is on the border of the Carroll Gardens and Red Hook neighborhoods.

Bright and sunny, great staff, great decorating, Calexico is a wonderful place for a quick lunch, take-out or delivery when you’re too tired to cook! Sadly, Fork lives a smidge outside the delivery zone!

The food is incredible. The tacos are all on 6″ tortillas. The burritos are massive. The rolled quesadillas look wonderful, as do the tortas.

For this trip – and trust me, there will be MANY more – Fork and Knork  decided to stick with the taco menu. You stand in front of the boards with so many choices and get overwhelmed with anticipation. Starting in a central category, makes everything seemingly so much simpler. Yes, we plan on eating our way through everything on this menu at some point, but you have to start somewhere!

While we were waiting for our order, Fork spied a salsa bar over in the corner. Fork quickly ordered a side of chips so all of the fresh salsas could be tried. The salsas were wonderful. Fresh, all green, varying degrees of heat and sweet. The chips, not so much. Sadly, they were really stale. But do not let this little, teeny, tiny fact, stop you from going here. The food is AMAZING!

All tacos are served on two 6″ soft corn tortillas with cabbage and pico de gallo.

Both Fork and Knork ordered the Carne Asada taco. Marinated skirt steak and an incredible avocado sauce are added on top of the cabbage in the warm soft tortillas. There was the house condiment pico de gallo, wonderfully fresh with a little kick too it. Fork added cotija cheese for just an extra layer of flavor. The skirt steak was amazing. Well cooked, nice bark on the outside, beautifully tender on the inside, and whatever they marinate it in is great! The pico de gallo gives it a pop of freshness. The avocado sauce was really interesting. Easier to deal with than chunks of avocado and just as fresh and delicious. The cotijo cheese just made it a perfect package with a little tang and saltiness. A squeeze of lime and you were good to go!

Knork ordered a Pulled Pork Taco. Slow roasted chipolte pork with sour cream and pickled red onions. The pulled pork was tender and flavorful. The chipolte added a nice smokiness to the pork. Again, warm 6″ tortillas, cabbage, topped with the tender pulled pork, runny sour cream and then topped with pickled onions. Every single bite gave you the greatest flavors.

And lastly, as a special of the day, were Carnita Tacos. Fork loves carnitas any which way you serve them. Carnitas are bits of pork that are braised and some bits fried. You have tender and succulent right next to crispy and flavorful. Totally amazing. Again, a generous portion of meat nestled inside 6″ tortillas, shredded cabbage. But, on top of this taco was an amazing cantaloupe salsa. THe sweetness of the cantaloupe was so refreshing and perfect against the carnitas. Lots of lime and cilantro and you were in taco heaven!

You can add lots of extras to top the tacos, burritos, tortas, etc., including ‘crack’ sauce. Which, true to its name is like crack – you just keep wanting more of it and trying to figure out what else you can put it on!

Fork keeps a menu for Calexico in the car – just in case we know we’ll be passing Calexico and want to make a quick stop for take out!

Calexico Carne Asada ~ 122 Union Street ~ Brooklyn, NY ~ 718.488.8226
Calexico Carne Asada on Urbanspoon

The Harrison

Restaurant Week! Restaurant Week! Nothing sends foodies scattering and vying for the best restaurants in NYC faster than the impending promise of Restaurant Week. Done twice a year, Restaurant Week let’s restaurants lure new customers with a 3-course $25 lunch or $35 dinner.  The hope for the restaurants is diners loving the place so much they would come back no matter the cost, and for the diners the chance to dine in restaurants they couldn’t otherwise afford.

There seem to be two categories of restaurant menus during Restaurant Weeks. Ones that go all out to please diners and keep them coming back, and those that are doing Restaurant Week just to do Restaurant Week. Sadly, The Harrison doesn’t seem to put much effort into Restaurant Week.  Was the food good? Yes. Was it spectacular? No. Was the menu interesting? No. Would we go back based on this Restaurant Week menu? Hell no!  Wake up, folks, people will go back to restaurants from Restaurant Week if the menus were great and the food and service was great!

Iced tea? Bottomless, refilled without asking, large glasses and very good.

To start, Spoon ordered the Bibb Lettuce Salad with lime vinaigrette and crumbled queso blanco. It was a salad. Yes, a good salad, but not a special or stellar salad.  If you look at the photo, you’ll agree. – bright, fresh looking, inviting, but nothing to write home about. Bibb lettuce, a smattering of cheese and a drizzle of dressing.

F0rk selected the Crispy Skate Fingers. Aside from the salad the only other starter choice was cucumber soup. Nope. Not gonna happen. The skate fingers were served with a napa cabbage slaw and spicy crème fraiche. This was surprisingly good. Skate looks like a stingray and the flesh looks almost like a fan. The fish is light and flaky. This wasn’t battered dipped, but breaded in cornmeal and fried golden brown. The skate sat on top of a lightly dressed napa cabbage slaw and spicy creme fraiche. Wonderful flavor combinations. Definitely a winning starter.

Main course was slightly more difficult. There just weren’t two dishes to pick. The regular menu has so many great choices, but the restaurant week menu, fish chicken or steak – almost like a bad wedding menu. Fork and Spoon both chose the Grilled Flank Steak, which was served with a grilled corn salad and a red onion jam. The steak was perfectly cooked, well seasoned, slight bark on the outside, and generous portion. The steak sat on top of a grilled corn salad. Fresh, grilled with the right amount of char to give it that slightly nutty corn taste, good flavors in the seasoning, perfect with the steak.  The red onion jam on top was not really jam-ish, but really nice with the steak, adding just a nice bit od sweetness to the dish.

The absolute star of this meal , though, and the only reason to return to The Harrison were the fries, the Duckfat Fries. O M G. THey were crispy, crispy on the outside, light and fluffy on the inside. Fabulously golden brown from the duck fat they are fried in -yes, fried in duck fat! The duck fat gives the fries a totally different flavor and texture. So absolutely yummy. There was a Mayo-ish dipping sauce on the side, but it was really guilding the lily. Only complaint about the fries – MORE, we wanted MORE!

There was no choice for dessert. This wasn’t because there was one outstanding dessert that just couldn’t be missed, but because there was only one choice for dessert. Fork and Spoon both had the Summer Berry Shortcake. Fresh berry compote and fresh whipped cream piled on top of housemade biscuits. The bicuits were tough – perhaps they were over worked or over cooked, but they shouldn’t have been so hard.

The company was wonderful. Fork and Spoon have fun no matter where we are or what the situation. The food at The Harrison was okay. Just okay. Sadly, there was nothing about this meal that would make the cutlery return.

The Harrison ~ 355 Greenwich Street ~ NYC, NY ~ 212.274.9310
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Buttermilk Channel

One of dishes that lure Fork and Spoon to a restaurant every time is the promise of great fried chicken. It was this very promise, Brooklyn’s best fried chicken and cheddar cheese waffles that drew Fork and Spoon, followed along by Knork and Spork, to Buttermilk Channel.  Buttermilk Channel is in Carroll Gardens and gets its name from the stretch of water between Brooklyn and Governor’s Island. It was said that this stretch of water was so rough that milk going to market would turn to butter before reaching the other side.

Let’s start off by telling you, they don’t take reservations, and on the weekends they are packed all the time! According to the bartender, people are already there and waiting at the door at 4:30pm. During the week is better. Before 7:00 is better. Be willing to eat outside or at the bar. We faced an hour wait or sit at the bar. The four of us commandeered the corner of the bar and had a grand old time – until everyone waiting for a table decided that standing at our end of the bar was a good idea and putting their drinks down in the middle of where we were eating. Nice manners.

 Trust us, even with this slight annoyance, the food is fantastic and this is definitely a place to go!

Iced tea, fresh, cold, huge glasses, and bottomless. We always find surprising the places that offer bottomless iced tea and those that don’t. We would have thunk higher end restaurants would not – and for the most part they do and the more casual places would – and surprise, surprise, they don’t. Enough about tea!

In looking at the menu, there were so many wonderful dishes that Fork and Spoon wanted to try. The only solution? Order a few small plates and one main course. Always works for us! As we were drooling over the menu and waiting for Knork and Spork to finally decide what to order, our wonderful waiter/bartender brought over a plate of popovers. Light and airy, tender, buttery, yummy, sprinkled with sea salt and a slightly sweet syrup. What a great way to start a great meal!

Knork and Spork don’t really like to share, so we let them do their own thing. For starters Spork ordered the Maine Butter Clam & Corn Chowder. The chowder was lovely, smelled delicious, and Spork actually shared a spoonful. It was delicious and fresh. The clams were delicate and buttery. The chowder creamy and smooth.

We all also had Maple & Bacon Roasted Almonds. It’s worth the trip to have these! They’re served in a small sundae glass, but there is nothing small about their taste or flavor.  Almonds are oven roasted with bits of bacon. This alone would have been enough to send the Cutlery into heaven, but there, of course, was more. The bacon and almonds are then candied with maple syrup. What a combination – nuts, bacon and maple syrup. And as you reach for these almonds over and over you occasionally grab something that you think is a small nut, but it’s a nice surprise, a hunk of bacon covered in maple syrup! A little sea salt sprinkled over the top just elevates this a little further. Fork and Spoon now know the reason why these are served in a small glass – you could eat bucketfuls of these and then have no room for the goodness yet to come!

Our second nibble were Hush Puppies with a Green Chile Aioli for dipping.  Again, served in a small sundae glass, what appeared were four perfectly golden brown and crispy spheres of deliciousness. These were not dry. They were moist and totally unlike any hush puppy Fork had tasted before. They weren’t coarse from the corn meal the way hush puppies usually are, they were tender and smooth on the inside. The outsides were perfect. Just the right amount of crunch, sprinkled with sea salt, with flecks of fresh herbs throughout. The green chile aoili sat at the bottom of the glass. Each of the hush puppies just sitting at the edge of the aioli. The aoili was spicy and tangy and so wonderful with the smoothness of the hush puppy.

Our last nibble was Mustard Glazed Grilled Bacon. And, yes, it was as good as it sounds. This was amazing.  Thick slices – no, slabs, really – of house-cured, meaty, flavorful bacon. The bacon is grilled so that it was crisp on the outside, while still tender on the inside. Now, take it from a piece of Cutlery that has tried to grill bacon, this is no easy feat. We nearly burned the backyard down grilling bacon! From now on we’ll let someone else do the bacon grilling! The mustard glaze was sweet, tangy, and spicy at the same time, large flecks of mustard seeds throughout. Each rasher of bacon equally covered. The bacon was served with a simple salad of sugar snap peas, micro greens, a light dressing and hearty whole wheat croutons – well, more like soldiers that croutons. Perfect for sopping up any of the mustard glaze that may have attempted to make an escape. More, please!

Knork does not play well with others. Knork doesn’t share, nor like to have dishes photographed, but Knork occasionally goes along with the program so he’s invited along. On this adventure, Knork refused to try the dish that we all were drawn to Buttermilk Channel for, the fried chicken.  Knork ordered the Creekstone Farms Delmonico Rib Eye with Greenmarket Potato Salad & Horseradish Vinaigrette.  The steak was small, especially for the price. Knork said it wasn’t very tasty. The potato salad was just plain old potato salad. We were very sorry Knork was disappointed. Fork and Spoon and Spork all did a little homage to Grace Adler and did the ‘Told Ya So’ dance – though quietly and behind his back.

Fork, Spoon and Spork all had the Buttermilk Fried Chicken with Cheddar Waffles and Savoy Cabbage Slaw. Buttermilk Channel us known for their fried chicken. It’s been written about, blogged about, featured on television, and is one of the leaders of the fried chicken craze in New York City. We were served a large half chicken, with the crispiest coating imaginable. The coating was flavorful, well seasoned and nicely salty. The chicken nestled inside the coating was very, very moist. One wouldn’t think one could have both, the serious crunch factor and the moist chicken, but they managed it. The fun doesn’t stop there. The fried chicken sits on top of a cheddar cheese waffle. The waffle is light and fluffy, with a light crispness to the outside. There isn’t so much cheese to make the taste overpowering, but enough to give you a subtle notion that there is cheddar cheese there. The powdered sugar on the waffle is so great with the salty coating on the chicken. Next to this is a scoop of savoy cabbage slaw. Great dressing. Really rounds the dish out. And that little pitcher? That’s maple balsamic syrup. Drizzle a little of that on everything and anything and you have just entered nirvana. Best part of this chicken? It’s available for take-out! Call up, order, run in and grab and you have yourself a feast any time the spirit moves you.

Spork had to have an ice cream float for dessert. For a kid from Brooklyn, there is no better dessert than an ice cream float, but add the grown up Manhattan Special Soda instead of root beer and you’ve now crossed the line into adulthood.  This was no small float either. Gigantic glass, filled with vanilla ice cream and Manhattan Special Soda. For those of you who don’t know Manhattan Special, it’s an espresso flavored soda, definitely not for the faint of heart.

Fork and Spoon shared two desserts. If we had realized the sheer size of these beforehand we would have opted for one, but once in front of us, we trudged on like the troopers we are.

Dessert One –  a Strawberry Rhubarb Tart with Brown Sugar Crumble and Vanilla Ice Cream. The tart shell was crisp and buttery. The filling was sweet and tart, a nice combination of rhubarb and strawberries. The crisp topping was brown sugary and buttery and very crunchy. Put a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on top and you have a dessert worth stuffing your face for.

Dessert Two – Doug’s Pecan Pie Sundae. Our waiter/bartender recommended this, and it was very good. But very, very, make-your-teeth-ache, sweet. Another giant fountain glass. This time the glass was layered with what can only be described as pecan pie filling (everything but the crust) and vanilla ice cream. The coldness of the ice cream made the caramel pecan pie filling hard and become gloriously chewy and candy like.  This is not a dessert for one person, certainly not one person who had just eaten everything we ate during dinner.

Please, if you want to only pick one place in Brooklyn for dinner and you are a fried chicken fanatic, this is the place.  The fried chicken is knock your socks off good! I know the cutlery in Fork’s draw will be enjoying take-out from Buttermilk Channel for many moons to come! Call. Go. Take out. Eat. Enjoy.  Let us know what you think!

Buttermilk Channel ~ 524 Court Street ~ Brooklyn, NY ~ 718.852.8490
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