On Our Radar: Arthur on Smith

“I like to joke that if you’d put my father in the kitchen with Thomas Keller, you would have gotten the food at Arthur on Smith,” says Chef Joe Isidori of his new Carroll Gardens restaurant, which opened at the end of March.

Isidori’s late father is the Arthur of the Smith Street restaurant, and one third of its three generations of chefs. The last third is Isidori’s grandmother, who taught him how to make pasta. Though inspired by his nonna’s kitchen, Isidori eschews the ‘from grandma-to-table’ label. “‘Grandma’s cooking’ makes most people think of just basic comfort food ­­– baked ziti or meatballs,” he explains. “She was a professional chef who made serious, well-executed food.” Continue reading

Eating for Good: Pesto Fest Benefit for Chefs for the Marcellus

What: Chefs for the Marcellus Benefit: Spring Fling and Pesto Competition

Where: Ger-Nis Culinary and Herb Center, 540 President Street, Suite 2E, Brooklyn

When:  Sunday April 29 — 12-4pm

How much: $25/person

New Orleans may have Jazz Fest, but New York’s got Pesto Fest (with local jazz). Chefs for the Marcellus, a group of chefs, restaurateurs and other food professionals working to stop fracking (hydraulic fracturing for natural gas) will host a Spring Fling and Pesto Competition at Ger-Nis Culinary and Herb Center on April 29th. Continue reading

On Our Radar: Talking with Neal Harden of M.O.B.

From the walls down to its custom plates, Maimonide of Brooklyn (M.O.B.) feels inspired, well thought out and carefully executed. [Editor’s note: In fact, it just received the Clean Plates seal of approval! Read the full review.] But would you expect anything less from Cyril Aouizerate, the philosophical Frenchman behind the über-hip hotel chain Mama Shelter? His vision of avant-garde vegetarian food for carnivores came to life when he partnered with so-over-Michelin chef Alain Senderens and executive chef Neal Harden, formerly of Pure Food & Wine. Harden stepped out of the kitchen to tell Clean Plates about the M.O.B. philosophy, the restaurant’s eponymous comic book and how brunch just got better for vegans. Continue reading

A Conversation with Francine Stephens of Franny’s

The evening before I spoke with Francine Stephens about her upcoming cookbook and plans for a new restaurant, an interesting tidbit caught my eye. Frank Bruni, the former New York Times food critic, tweeted about Clean Plates-approved Franny’s : “‘Salad’ doesn’t cover the arugula and mustard greens at Bklyn’s Franny’s. So fresh. So perfect. Love this place.”

In addition to serving up delicious pizza in their Prospect Heights restaurant – read our review here – husband and wife co-owners, Francine Stephens and chef Andrew Feinberg, have a real commitment to sustainable practices. Check out this page on their website to learn how they created an environmentally responsible business.

Francine Stephens, chef Andrew Feinberg and their children

Francine Stephens, chef Andrew Feinberg and their children

The menu at Franny’s changes every day; if you were to sit down and dine tonight, what you order?
I would need to have the spicy salami and the arugula, mustard greens, and chicory salad – it’s so fresh and perfect right now. Then I’d probably have the spaghetti cacio e pepe (spaghetti with cheese and cracked black pepper), a classic.

It’s a major talking point that you don’t cut your pies. Any comments?
They don’t cut their pies in Naples; pizza there is always served whole. We took our cue from the originators. I don’t think it’s so complicated: Here’s a knife, here’s a fork, do your thing. I will say though that in the last month we got larger, flatter plates that make it easier than ever to cut your pie.

Why do you think Franny’s has remained so popular over the years?
Our menu is honest to who we are and customers appreciate that honesty. I think the most important thing is that the experience is consistent. Customers know what they’re going to get every time.

I’ve heard about a cookbook and a new restaurant. Can you share any details?
It’s a large cookbook with amazing photography. Food from the book will be exactly like the restaurant: The recipes were incredibly well-tested. It is going to contain the best of the last eight years and include all sections of the menu. As far as what’s next for the restaurant, Franny’s is moving to a different location and we will open a new restaurant in the original space, Marco’s, focused on what my husband is interested in cooking now.

If you had to name one underrated dish you wish people would order more, what would it be?
The extra virgin olive oil and sea salt pizza. It’s all about tasting the dough.

Images courtesy of Franny’s.

Breezy Spring Eats: Clean Plates’ Brooklyn Picks

Five Leaves NY image courtesy of Five Leaves

As the real estate market goes in Manhattan versus Brooklyn, the same applies to restaurant space: In Brooklyn there tend to be more spacious restaurants, which can translate into greater outdoor spaces.

With spring temperatures in the forecast, here are Clean Plates’ picks for restaurants with spaces under the open Brooklyn sky to tantalize more than your taste buds.

Stone Park Café
Inventive seasonal cuisine with house-made pasta in Park Slope | 324 5th Ave.
“An outdoor patio calls for balmy summer nights… Stone Park Café masters the concept of being able to adapt to your mood. Feeling like bold flavors? Pair a small plate of grilled octopus with chorizo, fingerling potatoes and preserved lemon with a main dish of a center cut pork chop with smoked cranberry beans, spaghetti squash and braised mustard seed.” Read our full review.

Flatbush Farm
Locavore standby for Park Slope crowd in Flatbush | 76 St. Marks Ave.
“Flatbush Farm’s outdoor backyard garden dining area is beautiful. It belongs in a fairytale. The indoor dining room is classy and comfortable with strategic wall lighting and 19th century furniture, but sit outside if you can… High trestle walls encompass a vast outdoor dining space that feels simultaneously intimate and like being at a great party. Anything would taste good there.” Read our full review.

Roebling Tea Room
Open communal café with outdoor space in Williamsburg |143 Roebling St.
Enjoy “tasty dishes that feature relatively exotic vegetable combinations and robust seasoning” outside at the charming Roebling Tea Room. Expect organic meats as well as flexitarian options and “creative Greenmarket dishes,” reviewer Allix Geneslaw writes. Read our full review.

Simple Café
Friendly café with superb flavorful fare in South Williamsburg | 346 Bedford Ave.
“A varied menu full of guilt-free, healthy, flavorful options along with the spacious tables and outdoor seating all combine for a welcoming, fuss-free atmosphere.” Affordable Simple Café cooks up “items so craving-worthy you will be drawn to return,” reviewer Jessica Colley writes. Read our full review.

Rustic locavore Italian in South Williamsburg | 70 Grand St.
“Dining at Aurora is nice. The outdoor garden is quaint, and the staff is friendly and unassuming. The food is good to great, comfortable, authentic-feeling Italian — you almost won’t miss that Amalfi sunset.” Read our full review.

Five Leaves
Heath Ledger’s café & oyster bar in Greenpoint | 18 Bedford Ave.
Enjoy Australian comfort food at this Greenpoint corner hot spot. “Five Leaves has mastered the art of the first impression: charming outdoor tables, a corner location, the unusual 20s era boiler-room door to the WC.” Read our full review.

Nile Valley Eco-Juice & Salad Bar
Smoothies, salads and live dishes in Boerum Hill |138 Willoughby St.
Located in Downtown Brooklyn’s Dekalb Market, the juice and salad bar operates out of an old shipping container, like the other storefronts here. Order from 100 percent vegan options including juices, smoothies, Jamaican patties, salads, wraps, burgers and raw food made with local organic produce. Grab a picnic table to nosh and people-watch or take a walk around the outdoor market. Read our full review.

Lilla Café
Southern comfort meets Mediterranean in Carroll Gardens | 126 Union St.
Expect genuine, relaxed service. Clean Plates reviewer Megan Murphy sat outside with house-baked focaccia bread with herb butter, “thick white asparagus spears topped with a perfectly poached egg,” and “a beautifully balanced salad of sweet watermelon chunks, mild-flavored feta cheese and tangy balsamic vinegar over peppery watercress.” Read our full review.

The General Greene
Rustic seasonal with small-batch grocery in Fort Greene | 229 Dekalb Ave.
“The General Greene, a quiet and casual Fort Greene eatery, offers dressed-down complexity and depth from the thoughtfully sourced menu to the outdoor organic ice cream stand, to the adjoining grocery store offering local, handcrafted products and prepared foods.” Read our full review.

Image courtesy of Five Leaves.

Willyburgers’ Prayers Answered: Parish Hall Opens for Dinner

Williamsburg’s kings of North 5th have stretched their wings to North 3rd Street and last month opened Parish Hall for lunch; Friday, April 13th it makes its dinner debut. The restaurant is the second from George Weld, owner of Williamsburg’s locavore breakfast darling, Egg.

It’s hardly a surprise that Weld brought a following from the dining room and kitchen at Egg to Parish Hall. At the 2012 Just Food Conference, Weld gave a Food Talk centered on restaurant worker appreciation. “If you treat employees like they’re disposable, they will leave,” said Weld. “They should have a palpable sense that what they do matters. Their belief and passion will make the food movement sustainable.” Continue reading

Springtime Cerveza: Organic Beer Dinner at Palo Santo

What: A five-course spring dinner with beer pairings from Peak Organic

Where: Palo Santo, 652 Union Street

When: Wednesday, April 25 — 7:30pm dinner

How much: $55/person. Reservations are required.

Whoever said, “April is the cruelest month,” probably* hadn’t met Jacques Gautier. Palo Santo’s chef and owner is celebrating spring with a five-course dinner with Peak Organic beer pairings on April 25th. Continue reading

Clean Plates’ Picks for the Brooklyn Flea

Headed to the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene on Saturday? Check out these delicious, Clean Plates-approved food vendors as you wander the aisles:

Kings County Jerky
This artisanal beef jerky is done right every step of the way: the beef is 100% grass-fed and pastured without hormones or antibiotics from nearby Simply Grazin’ Organic Farm, then humanely processed at a family-owned, organic butcher. The beef is hand-trimmed and the spices are toasted and ground on site. What the jerky doesn’t have: corn syrup, nitrites, MSG, or artificial additives.

McClure’s Pickles 
These touted pickle masters use local produce whenever possible; if the produce they need is out of season, they contact farms and speak directly with the growers to find out where the produce is coming from and if it’s grown sustainably. Continue reading

Take The Lid Off: Brooklyn Salsa

Matt Burns has come a long way; what began with 8th grade salsa experiments has transformed into a booming, sustainable business: Brooklyn Salsa. He gave Clean Plates the inside scoop on the company’s “condimovement,” conscious methods and how to salsa power your suds. Seriously.

How did it all start? Was The Pure your first salsa?
In 8th grade I got a dishwashing gig at a small taqueria in my hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. My prep work was frying chips and blending fresh salsa. I had just gone vegan; salsa became an addiction and creative culinary outlet. There were no hard rules; a few tomatoes, a handful of cilantro, squeeze a lime, dash of salt, jalapeno, a little onion — boom! Salsa. Fast forward to 2008: my roommate had finished his MBA and was ready to launch something. I was making salsa and feeding the people. It happened. Continue reading