When I started this blog a few weeks ago, I promised you, the reader, four things:
Clearly, my travel writing game has been lacking. Apologies! Luckily, Aaron and I went on a fantastic foodie mini-vacation to Brooklyn the other week, and I want to tell you ALL about it.
First, the backstory. Why were we going to Brooklyn? The short answer is that we had tickets to see a 2 Dope Queens show. If that means nothing to you, the long answer is that Aaron really likes podcasts, and 2 Dope Queens is a comedy podcast that we love to listen to together. So when we heard there were (cheap!) tickets available for a taping of their show, you know we showed up.
Of course, showing up required a good 4 hour drive from PA, so we made a plan to take in as much of Brooklyn food scene as possible in the <48 hours we were going to be there. Here's how it went down:
Lunch: Momo's sushi shack
Chocolate: Fine and Raw
Surprisingly Awesome Chocolate: Raaka
Spontaneous Pie: Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie
Wine: Red Hook Winery
Planned Pie: Four and Twenty Blackbirds
Dinner: The Meathook at Three's Brewing
I Nearly Died of Pie: Four and Twenty Blackbirds: Part Deux
Laugh it off with 2 Dope Queens at the Bellhouse!
Frantic Shirt Search (aka Aaron left his collared shirt in his cousin's apartment and we had to get him a new one or else brave the glares of people who can actually afford to eat at Lincoln)
Ok, so to be fair Lincoln isn't in Brooklyn, it's at Lincoln Center in Manhattan. When your spontaneous NYC trip happens to overlap with Restaurant Week though, it's hard not to take advantage! Aaron and I could normally never afford to go to Lincoln--hell, we can barely afford the restaurant week lunch menu--so it was totally worth the detour into midtown.
Lincoln aside, I have to say that the real gustatory highlights of our trip were concentrated in Red Hook, a neighborhood that's generally best known for housing NYC's IKEA. Despite that, Red Hook is home to our favorite winery, pie shop, and new second-favorite chocolate maker (after Askinosie).
Although Raaka didn't quite edge out Askinosie to make it to the top of my entirely subject chocolatier list, that's only because their milk chocolate offerings are a bit creamier in texture than what I'd like from a chocolate bar (Aaron disagrees). Harsh criticism, I know. But in terms of pure flavor, I am amazed by the breadth of products that they have created while retaining the integrity of the cacao (more on this in a second). To give you an idea, Aaron and I walked away with the following four bars, after extensive discussion and negotiation: Smoked Chai, Coconut Milk, Ghost Pepper, and Bourbon Cask Aged.
It's not just the flavors that make them unique, however. It's also how they treat their cacao. Raaka is not only an organic bean-to-bar chocolate maker, they also use un-roasted cacao beans in their chocolate. That is highly unusual in the chocolate world, and honestly made me pretty suspicious of their product before I went there. After all, imagine if someone told you they were going to make you coffee without roasting the beans first. You'd be a little skeptical too, right? Nevertheless, the chocolate at Raaka exceeded our expectations. I highly recommend that anyone heading into Brooklyn go by the factory and check them out. The people there are super nice and there are free samples of EVERY flavor they make, even the limited batch ones like this month's raspberry lemonade. And if you can't make it into Brooklyn, they have a subscription service, First Nibs, where they will send a new set of chocolate bars to you each month.
I swear, I'm not getting anything from Raaka to talk them up like this (although I wish I were!). As far as our other culinary highlights in Red Hook, Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pie and Red Hook Winery, I can only say this. Out of my last four trips to New York in the past two years, I have visited Red Hook Winery 3 out of 4 times, and this is a place that isn't even accessible by subway. The wine there is incredible, and they are now making grappa as well--smooth, fruity, nutty grappa that is unlike any you've tried before. As far as Steve's Authentic, this was only our first time trying it, which is crazy because it's next door to Red Hook Winery. It certainly won't be our last though, because that man is a master of the key lime. His lime curd is surprisingly light and fresh, sweet but vibrant. It is a lime curd that I will aspire to replicate--and I will certainly share the recipe here with you if I do!
All in all, it was a delightful little vacation and a fantastic excuse to see some of our friends: Alyssa and Tony who split rhubarb crumble, birch beer float, and strawberry lime pie slices with us at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, Simon who came and laughed with us at 2 Dope Queens, Karen, who put us up for the evening and plied us with wine and gossip, and Megan and Evan, who shared in the joys of burrata, branzino, and burnt flour pasta with us at Lincoln.
If you are curious about any of the other places we visited, want to hear about some of my other NYC recommendations, or have your own, let me know in the comments!