Food Talk: Balinese Cuisine with Selamat Pagi

Why would three Brooklynites open a Balinese restaurant? Because once they’d tried the exotic, healthy cuisine, they couldn’t get enough.

Pete Van Leeuwen, Ben Van Leeuwen and Laura O’Neill, the trio behind Brooklyn’s renowned Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, have opened Clean Plates-approved Selamat Pagi (Indonesian for “good morning”). They shared what made them say “we want to eat this kind of food all the time.”

Q. What was the impetus behind opening up a Balinese restaurant?
A. I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and travelled to Bali several times from there with Ben. We fell in love with the island and especially the food. After taking a cooking class in Ubud, Bali, we began experimenting with the dishes and cooking style back home in NYC. We wanted to eat this kind of food all the time and had always secretly dreamed of having our own restaurant, so when we ended up with an empty storefront at the front of our ice cream-making kitchen in Greenpoint, we thought, why not go for it?

Q. What did you have for breakfast today?
A. Sticky black rice with yogurt, fresh mango and toasted coconut.

Q. What are the defining elements of Balinese cuisine?
A. Balinese (Indonesian) food is complex, spicy and fresh. Bali is an island with access to great seafood. Part of what defines the cooking is the use of fresh spices as opposed to dried. We run an almost dairy-free kitchen, cooking most dishes with extra-virgin coconut oil. We use a lot a lemongrass, ginger, galangal, kaffir lime leaf and chilies.

Q. What are some choices in cooking style and ingredients that help keep your dishes healthy?  
A. Cooking with coconut oil rather than butter keeps the dishes lighter and is integral to the flavor, as well. We source the majority of our ingredients locally and from organic producers. Our grains and flours come from Cayuga Farms. Our produce and meats come from small organic and biodynamic producers in New York and Pennsylvania. Certain ingredients cannot be produced in this region and for those, we make sure to find sustainable and safe sources.

Q. What kind of fish do you feature? 
A. We wanted to feature delicious, sustainable and locally caught fish. We change it up based on availability. Right now we are using mostly bluefish and mahi-mahi, but also sometimes offer pollock.

Q. You’re known for your sambal. Can you tell us a bit about this condiment, and how you like to use it?
A. Sambal is generally a spicy condiment. We make all ours from scratch. We offer prawn crackers with three sambals as a snack/appetizer on the menu, which is a wonderful introduction to the flavor profile of the cuisine. We feature the sambals across many of the dishes, with eggs, fish and steak. I often enjoy our sambals simply with steamed rice. The Sambal Matah is a raw sambal made up of finely sliced lemongrass, shallots, kaffir lime leaves and chilies, with black pepper, lime juice, coconut oil and shrimp paste. It’s full-flavored and fresh and great with eggs, meat, greens or fish.



Selamat Pagi’s Sambal Mateh Recipe

by Chef Jason Greenberg
(makes approximately 1 quart)

Add a few tablespoons to your breakfast, lunch or dinner to give them some Balinese spice.


225 g shallots, thinly sliced rounds
5 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
130 g lemongrass, white parts only thinly sliced
35 g red thai bird chilies, seeded and julianned
1/2 tsp. black pepper, ground
2 Tbsp. lime juice, fresh
1 Tbsp. shrimp paste
1/4 c. coconut oil, warmed
sea salt to taste

Place all ingredients except coconut oil in a mixing bowl, and toss well. Add the coconut oil and salt to taste. Sambal should be served at room temperature. Will keep for 1 week in an airtight container in the fridge.

Selamat Pagi
152 Driggs Ave. (bet. Russell and Humboldt Sts.)
Brooklyn, NY 11222
718 701-4333

For more recipes, check out The Clean Plates Cookbook!

Sweeter Sips: Lower-Sugar Cocktails from Aska

With the average piña colada packing 28 grams of sugar, it can be hard to find a mixed drink that isn’t chased with a sugar hangover. But at Williamsburg’s Aska, co-owner and bar manager Eamon Rockey knows how to shake things up using less or even no sugar behind the bar.

“I want each drink to tell a story,” says Rockey. The bar’s signature drink, the “Next of Kin” (named for Kinfolk Studios, the restaurant’s home), transports the drinker with aquavit, caraway tea and a house made pu-erh kombucha, which was inspired by cold-fermented, mountain leaves that Rockey and Chef Frederik Bersilius enjoyed in Sweden at Faviken. For the “Silly Rabbit,” Rockey says, “I use carrot juice, which burns into a sweet caramel.” In other cases, he’ll look to ingredients that evoke sweetness even if they don’t necessarily have anything sweet in them—like licorice.

On the drier side of the scale, he likes to use Pineau des Charentes—a fortified wine—as a base for house-made vermouths; he says it “produces delicious Vesper-like cocktails when combined with gin and citrus peels.”

Rockey uses his bright, floral, house made vermouth in The Bond (both recipes below), his variation of the secret agent’s Casino Royale invention. With a backbone of dry gin, the drink gets an extra touch of sweetness and Nordic love from half an ounce of Swedish Punsch (liqueur made with citrus, rum, spices and Batavia Arrack, a southeast Asian liquor made from sugar cane and red rice.)

Use the vermouth in your favorite martini, or channel your inner Jens Bond with the recipes below.

750 mL (usually 1 bottle) Pineau des Charentes blanc
10 g dried jasmine flowers
15 g cinchona bark
5 g mace
(NYC recommendation for botanicals: Kalustyan’s)

Allow the botanicals to steep, refrigerated, in the spirit for a week before straining. Keep refrigerated.

The Bond
2 oz. dry gin
1 oz. vermouth
1/2 oz. Swedish punsch (Kronan’s is widely available in the US. You can also make your own.)

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Open seven nights a week; Sun-Thurs prix fixe available, $65 (plus $35 for pairings)
90 Wythe Avenue (@ North 11th St.), Brooklyn, NY
718 388-2969

Image courtesy of  Maryse Chevriere for Serious Eats

Food Talk: Scandinavian Style at Aska

If most of your Scandinavian food knowledge comes from IKEA’s cafés (meatballs and lingonberry sauce, anyone?), you’re missing out on a sea change. More Scandinavian-inspired restaurants are gracing our shores every day, and as it turns out, there are a lot of healthy secrets in Nordic cuisine: Get ready to try sea buckthorn, smoked fish and…lichens. We talked to Chef Fredrik Berselius of Clean Plates-approved Aska about the New Nordic fare coming to America, and his locavore-friendly version.

Q. What’s the basic philosophy of Scandinavian cooking, to you?

A. Scandinavian cooking is based on simple, wholesome ingredients. Grains, root vegetables, tubers, onions, wild berries and mushrooms. Long winters and mild summers made preservation of food, like drying, smoking and fermenting important for us and [it’s] something we still do on a regular basis.

Q. What did you have for breakfast today?

A. Organic oatmeal, muscovado sugar, roasted apple and full-fat local milk. Also, Swedish pastries we make at the restaurant, and dark roasted coffee.

Q. One dish that stuck out to us at Aska is the earthy “fallen leaves” broth. What’s the story behind this rich vegetarian broth?

A. The whole kitchen staff was out picking mushrooms, lichens, and different leaves to use in our cooking. We found very aromatic leaves and brought them back to the restaurant. The first broth we made reminded us of the smells of the forest in a very comforting way. We kept working on it, and started serving it with lichens, wild carrots and other root vegetables.

Q. Though the food may seem foreign, you’re working with many local suppliers. Who’s one that you’re particularly excited to work with?

A. I get most of my seafood from Gabe Stommel of “Gabe the Fishbabe” in Point Judith. She will call me when the boat arrives at the dock and let me know the catch of that day.

Q. Is there a favorite food from your youth that you’ve brought to Aska?

A. Many things, but I am particularly happy to be getting fresh herring right now. I grew up fishing for herring as a kid, and it is definitely bringing back memories for many of us here, both in the kitchen and front of house. We all get excited as the seasons change, and we’re looking forward to warmer weather and seeing more wild greens.

Q. What do you find most inspirational about the food industry right now?

A. The appreciation of vegetables and forgotten ingredients. I really love eating food that does not have animals in it. And I like to look to how people used to cook before there were all kinds of crazy technology and cooking devices.

Open seven nights a week; Sun-Thurs prix fixe available, $65 (plus $35 for pairings)
90 Wythe Avenue (@ North 11th St.), Brooklyn, NY
718 388-2969

Image courtesy of goodiesfirst

Cup, Cupping Away: Toby’s Estate Coffee Cupping Class

While we’re more apt to recommend a glass of green juice for your morning boost than caffeine, we still love a good cuppa. Especially from the likes of Toby’s Estate.

Sustainability is the driving force behind the Australian company, whose first American café-roastery is in Brooklyn. Toby’s buys its beans directly from farmers, ensuring traceability and fair trade. It also welcomes the public to $5 cupping classes twice a week: that’s the process of evaluating coffees’ unique tastes (just as with wine).

How to do a cupping at home:

1) Measure several varieties of whole beans into separate cups or glasses (about 12 g coffee per 6.5 oz. water). For a blind tasting, you can place stickers on the bottoms of the cups to keep track of what’s what. Place a small glass of water next to each set of cups.

photo-22) Grind the beans in each cup individually, making sure to brush off your grinder in between coffees. Place a number next to each coffee, to use in your notes.
3) Sniff each cup of dry grounds, taking notes on what you smell.
4) Boil water (the ideal temperature is 202°F), then pour it slowly over each cup until the grounds are saturated, starting with the first beans you ground.

5) After 3-4 minutes, it’s time to break the crust: using the back of a spoon, push away the “crust” that’s formed on top of the brews, inhaling deeply as you do. Take notes on what you smell.
6) Skim the cups to remove the grounds, leaving as much liquid as possible, and get ready to taste.
7) Take a spoonful of coffee at a time and slurp—ungracefully rapidly and loudly—trying to get the liquid to coat your tongue as you inhale. Dip your spoon into the water in between tastes.

8) Try each coffee a few times, and feel free to spit out sips (into an empty cup, that is) as you go.
9) Compare and contrast your observations and your favorites, and then go for the big reveal.

That’s the smell of success.

Toby’s Estate
125 North 6th St. (bet. Bedford & Berry)
347 457-6160

$5 public cupping classes take place every Wednesday and Sunday, from 10-11:30am. Reserve your spot here.

Photos by Jaclyn Einis

Spirit Talk: Owney’s Rum

In New York, it can be easy to forget there’s a world beyond the five boroughs…especially when you don’t need to step outside Brooklyn to find locally made rum.

You might also be surprised to learn how deeply rum is rooted in America’s history: it was the first US-distilled spirit, and one of the country’s first recorded rum distilleries was on present-day Staten Island. Adding to this New York story, Williamsburg-based Bridget Firtle has started “The Noble Experiment,” her own one-woman distillery, kicking off with Owney’s Rum. She stepped away from the still to answer our questions:

Q. Can you remember the first time Bridget Firtleyou really enjoyed a great rum?

 No comment…

Q. Owney’s is white rum. What does the color, or lack of it, mean?

A. In order for rum to get dark, it has to be stored in barrels and mature for months or years—this leads to a new flavor profile created by the interaction of the spirit with tannins and vanillins in the wood; it is also where [rums] pick up their dark color. White rum does not age for nearly as long and that is why it is the first product I’m able to make available to the market. And I’m excited about the white rum—it works really awesome in cocktails but is also smooth enough to be enjoyed with a few ice cubes.

Q. How would you describe the Owney’s taste?

A. The Original Owney’s is similar to an agricole (or sugar cane juice) rum: sweet on the nose with hints of vanilla, banana, butterscotch, and cane. On the palate, it’s quite grassy and full of minerality. It’s dry and super smooth, because it is distilled at a high alcohol by volume before being blended down to 40%.

Q. How do your ingredients set Owney’s apart from other rums?

A. A lot of commercial rum producers add sugar at the end of the process for
added sweetness, or caramel coloring, and use synthetic chemicals in “flavored” products. We source all of our [non-GMO] sugar cane molasses domestically, and our [forthcoming] infusions are made of mostly homegrown herbs.

Q. What’s on tap next?

A. First off: our overproof version of the Original Owney’s rum, intended to really stand up in cocktails. Later in the year, we’ll be releasing some limited edition, infused varieties of the Original, made with homegrown herbs, using a simple cold infusion process. Stay tuned for our backyard garden opening this spring! Later down the road, after a proper barrel aging, I’ll be excited to release our aged rum and American whiskeys.

The Noble Experiment still

Try one of Firtle’s favorite rum recipes, The Classic Daiquiri:

2 oz. Owney’s NYC Rum
1 oz. lime juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup*

Shake ingredients with ice until chilled, and serve up in a coupe glass.

*Clean Plates tip: Substitute 0.15-0.2 oz. organic raw agave nectar for simple syrup, or make your own simple syrup using coconut palm sugar.

The Noble Experiment
23 Meadow St. (bet. Bogart & Waterbury)
Brooklyn, NY 11206

The distillery offers $10 tours on Saturdays. Reserve tickets here.

Image courtesy of The Noble Experiment

Super Sunday: A Soup Bowl for Sandy Recovery

What: Soup Bowl Fundraiser (for Greenpoint Soup Kitchen & Food Pantry)

When: November 18, 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Where: EAT, 124 Meserole Avenue, Greenpoint

How Much: $25, 100% of which goes to charity

Hurricane Sandy has done a number on NYC. If you’re not currently dealing with the aftermath or housing others, you’re probably thinking about how to help. Maybe you’re also thinking about how nice it would be to just cozy up with a bowl
of homemade soup. Continue reading

Celebrate the BK Harvest at Brooklyn Bounty

What: Brooklyn Bounty

Where: Brooklyn Brewery, 79 N. 11th Street, Williamsburg

When: October 25, 7:00pm to 9:30pm

How Much: Tickets start at $150

You’ve been ready to celebrate the harvest bounty ever since you took the AC out of the window, but Thanksgiving is still a month away. Well, have a beer while you’re waiting and raise your glass to Brooklyn’s bounty. Continue reading

Pouring Enlightenment: A One Night Wine Bar

What: Enlightenment Wines Pop-Up Bar and Café

Where: Whirlybird Café, 254 South 2nd Street, Williamsburg

When: Thursday, October 4, 7pm to midnight

How Much: Wines by the glass and small plate for $5 each

Pop-up shops and restaurants are nothing new for New Yorkers. But an ephemeral, esoteric wine bar with market-fresh pairings for only $5 a small plate? That’s a pop-up worth Sharpie-ing into your schedule. Raphael Lyon of Enlightenment Wines, which bills itself as New York State’s smallest winery, is pouring his hard-to-find, non-grape-juice wines and herbal meads by the glass over at Williamsburg’s Whirlybird. “Let’s not call it a pop-up,” says Lyon, “let’s call it a spell. Here today… and poof! Gone tomorrow.” The special event is halfway done; catch the second act this Thursday. Continue reading