Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Little Thai Food Trailer

Underwhelmed. Saw some encouraging things on Yelp, but when it came down to it...I've had better Thai food. Today was my first visit to the Little Thai Food trailer on South First Street, next to the School for the Deaf property. Very friendly, and the food came fast.
I ordered the tofu spring rolls and chicken pad thai. The spring rolls are mostly vermicelli noodles; some cabbage and a bit of cucumber, and a strip of firm tofu. But no basil or mint or cilantro to give it any flavor. The accompanying peanut sauce was good; very thick, and very coconutty.

The pad thai wasn't bad, but it didn't have enough of the sweet and twangy flavor that I like. They do put scrambled egg in it which was nice, and some ground peanuts and bean sprouts on the side. But there was a lemon wedge for garnish.... why no lime?

With Thai Fresh also nearby, it's disappointing not to be able to get really good Thai food in the neighborhood. I'll stick to Madam Mam's.


I was warned. Or shall we say advised.

A friend who went to Hopdoddy last week (and thus spurred on my going last night) told me about their method of ordering. Basically, you order at the counter. However, as you are waiting in line to order, a friendly hostess/server comes along, asks how many are in your party, and finds a table for you. You're told what your table number is, and in turn, you tell that to your order taker. You order, get your drinks and condiments, and find your table. Then the server finds you and your table with your food. As three of us were approaching the order taker, we were told there were no tables at the moment, but we were next up. Within a couple minutes, we reached the order taker, and the waitress had secured us a table.

I guess it's not all that different, but it's nice to know they won't let your food get cold as you're waiting for a table to clear. 

Very clean lines, and a very effective use of space (the old Cissi's Market on the SoCo strip). High booths line the right-hand perimeter, and high tables in the middle and on the left. A couple "regular" height tables are to the right of the main door. The booths would be difficult for kids or a mobility-impaired or elderly person to navigate. We were in one of the booths, and at one point, my shoe came off my foot, and it was a bit of struggle to fish for it on the floor with my short legs. Great pictures of local music legends line the walls.

Anyway, the food. They have a number of burger options from basic burger, to ahi tuna to lamb to veggie, etc; there seems to be something for everyone! And, they bake their own bread, cut their own potatoes, and even make their own ice cream. 
Two of us split the classic burger with an add on of bacon and cheese; our third member got the Terlingua burger, complete with chili con carne, Fritos, and cheddar. Our order taker immediately asked if we wanted them to pre-cut our burger in half. We got an order of chili cheese fries and a Mexican vanilla milkshake. Once we picked our condiments and found our table, our milkshake was already there, split into two cups, and we hadn't even asked for it to be split; very thoughtful! It was heavenly! OMG! Real vanilla beans were used -- you can see the specks from the seeds, and it was a very thick, incredibly creamy, tasty shake. A good sign of things to come!

The burgers arrive on small metal trays (quarter sheet trays). A nice soft challah-style toasted bun, filled with meat and the fixin's. They don't ask you how you want your burger cooked, so this was cooked more than I like it (medium rare), but still good. The fries were extra crisp, and well-seasoned, though perhaps a bit heavy on the salt, and I am the one who puts salt on everything. We still ate practically every last one though! Overall, I'd say the shake and fries were phenomenal, and the burger was good, but didn't blow me away. Will try the lamb burger next time.
Hopdoddy was hopping on a Tuesday night at 7:45. It is a bit loud in there, and the booth tables are wide, so I sort of had to lean in to hear all of what my friend's were saying. Oh, and the name Hopdoddy. Another beer + animal named establishment (see Barley Swine post). Hop(s), obviously for beer, and doddy is the nickname of the Aberdeen cow in Scotland. Hop to it, for beer and burgers!

Barley Swine

One of the perks of writing this here blog, is occasionally you get invited to a tasting. And when the tasting happens to be at one of the brand new hot spots, then all the better! And when the restaurant is closed to the general public, and it's just you and your fellow food bloggers, and you have the staff at your disposal to ask questions, then even more fun! And just who is this new kid, you ask? Well, turns out, it's a rather familiar face -- Bryce Gilmore, the man behind the Odd Duck trailer, which sits about 1/2 mile north on South Lamar from it's new baby sibling, Barley Swine
The name Barley Swine comes from some of the owner's favorite things -- beer and pork. Like Odd Duck, the food menu, comprised of mostly local ingredients, will change as the seasons do. The beer menu is comprised of several local breweries, and all the staff are educated on the beers, being able to make food pairing suggestions to customers. I have never seen a beer menu where the percentage of alcohol is listed, and I imagine this is a trend we may start seeing more and more. The space itself was completely remodeled after the previous tenant (RIP Pie Slice....your pies were fantastic) vacated. Very efficient use of space, with the whole place only seating about 40 diners total. There's a rustic farmhouse feel to it, which matches that of the food. The old doors along the base of the counter give it some further character.
Our tastings started with the Ommegang Hennepin, a lighter citrusy beer, and my favorite of the night. The food began with the potato fritters, with goat cheese (the puree), leeks (inside the refined tater tots) and espelette pepper. Normally these come five to a plate, and I think I could have eaten ten! Very light and flavorful.
Next, grilled broccoli, farmhouse egg dressing, and housemade ricotta. This also included some seasonal greens and radish slivers. Broccoli has never been one of my favorites, but grilling the florets made them much more tasty.
The next beer was the Brooklyn Local One Strong Pale Ale, my second favorite. The dishes were grilled scallops, with pancetta, (green) cauliflower,and a curry-esque sauce. This was one of my favorites. For big, fat sea scallops, they were still moist inside, and the curry sauce didn't overpower.
Also with the Local One, was grilled baby octopus & chorizo on a white bean sofrito. While I thought the octopus was cooked properly (as in not tough and chewy), it was too smokey; the chorizo was flavorful (and turns out to be from local charcuterie Salt and Time), and I could have eaten a whole bowlful of the beans! Tender but incredibly tasty.
The next beer was the Ommegang Rare Vos, an amber ale with a hoppy finish. Lamb sweetbreads followed, with a creamy garlic and almond puree, baby brussel sprouts and while described as bacon on the menu, it was larger cubes, like pork belly. I have not eaten that many sweetbreads in my life, and these were so tender and light; the whole dish was amazing.

Here's where barley and swine came to play, as crispy stuffed pig trotter's (feet), were paired with a soft-poached egg, mushrooms, and some greens. It was suggested you cut everything up so it all mixes together with the runny yolk; and while runny yolks aren't my faves, it really worked. The trotter was very well fried, and I wouldn't have known what body part it was unless I had been told. Extremely tasty.
Getting fuller by the minute, the next beer was Brooklyn Local Two Dark Ale. The richness continued with red wine and bone marrow risotto with radicchio. This one normally comes with grilled beef, but it was plenty decadent on its own.
Finally, coming to the end of the gluttony, was more swine, this in the form of braised pork belly, with lightly pickled enoki mushrooms, on a very tasty, creamy puree that I can't recall what it was. The belly was some of the meatiest, least fatty I've had, and while fat = flavor, this swine still had plenty of it.
Dessert also had a creative touch.  A Real Ale Coffee Porter float, with pecan ice cream in it. The porter was too bitter for me, but the ice cream was delicious!
Barley Swine has barely been open a month, but I've already seen a lot of buzz on Twitter, and imagine there will be much more for some time to come.  So excited to have a place like this in the neighborhood, and I can't wait to go back and try things like roasted beets and foie gras that we didn't have.  A big THANK YOU to Bryce, the engaging and dedicated staff (they're usually closed on Sundays, so this was their "day off"), and Bread & Butter PR for hosting this delectable evening!

Blue Dahlia Bistro

In the revitalizing stretch of East 11th Street, just a stone's throw from IH-35, sits Blue Dahlia Bistro. Located in a re-purposed building, there's patio seating in both front and back, and while too cold to make good use of it this past Sunday, the back area particularly looked inviting for warmer times. You walk in, and a sign says to seat yourself. There's both some bar stool-height tables, a couple large community tables, and a smattering of two-tops. I took up the end of one of the nice wooden community tables, and waited for my two friends to join me.
Breakfast items are served all day, and overall, the restaurant has a commitment to local, fresh, and organic whenever possible. Originally thinking I would get the waffles, I changed my mind after hearing about the frittatas of the day; two of us picked the sausage and mozzarella one, and the other, the olive, artichoke (I think), and feta. The very nice fresh, basic salads come undressed, and there are bottles of oil & vinegar on the tables, as well as three hinged jars -- Nutella (or close facsimile), orange marmalade, and raspberry jam. Thought the frittata was good, but not outstanding; a bit overcooked, so somewhat dry on the inside and crusty in parts on the bottom. The breads - one whole wheat, the other white were both tender and delicious. Really didn't need the jams on them!

Our waitress was very friendly from the get go; also very honest too. When we were asking about some items on the menu, she said the frittatas were always some of her favorites, things like chicken salad you can get anywhere, and the blintzes on the breakfast menu should be considered more of a dessert item. So we split the blueberry blintzes for dessert, and they were delicious! She was right about them though, sweet, rich, and it would have been too much as a breakfast item.
While we were there for brunch, the other portions of the menu look really interesting, and I'd like to go back for dinner! Cassoulet, bouillabaisse, ratatouille.... all those good French-inspired dishes!