Bia Bistrot (Edinburgh): A French-Gaelic Mélange

Donkeyote GarnachaAmid the fashionable cafes and boisterous eateries of Edinburgh’s Morningside neighborhood is a little storefront so unassuming it’s easy to breeze right on by.

I had, in fact, done just this on a few occasions before D.B. pointed bia bistrot out one day. The fact that he liked the place — and had eaten there regularly — is noteworthy. This is a man who has given just four Edinburgh restaurants his stamp of approval in all his years here. And bia bistrot is one of them.

When we finally made it in for dinner this week later, I certainly saw why …

[Read more…]

La Crêperie (Key West, Florida): A Little French on the Island

Ask anyone in Key West about lunch and you’ll likely get the question: “Have you been to the crêpe place?”

Admittedly, this island is not a place I’d think of for crêpes — seafood, yes. (Perhaps even a boozy lunchspot with a view.) Crêpes? Silly as it sounded, it didn’t seem local enough for one of the few meals out I was allowing myself during my month of writing.

After a few weeks of getting this question though, I decided to investigate. So off we went one morning on a jaunt to a little corner in Bahama Village …

(null)

L'Amant: A French-Colonial Homage

The perfect boîte can be an elusive thing.

For me, it has to have several components — a seductive yet comfortable setting, cocktails that are as delicious as they are inventive, and a menu that goes far beyond basic nuts and cheeses, filled instead with snacky dishes that actually excite.

Recently, I found a new little place in New York‘s West Village that checks all those boxes: L’Amant, a FrenchVietnamese bistro that opened early September …

[Read more…]

Colonie: Style Over Substance

Saturday night in Brooklyn Heights and the unthinkable finally happened.

Striking up a conversation at the new restaurant Colonie with a group of people who were kitted out with the glaring symbols of current New York hipster-ness — the plaid shirt, the Bear-like beard, the professorial Mad Men-style glasses — we discovered that they were, as suspected, definitely not of the staid stroller-central that is Brooklyn Heights.

No, this group hailed from Williamsburg, home of the impossibly fashion-forward and often sneering of other lesser neighborhoods. Not only that, they had traveled to Brooklyn Heights because they had heard of Colonie and were curious to check it out — quite possibly marking the first time that a restaurant in my neighborhood has garnered the level of buzz to encourage this type of stunning reverse migration.

The anticipation of Colonie’s opening has been palpable for months. For starters, the restaurant smartly began generating chatter about its plans by raising more than $15,000 on Kickstarter last fall to obtain “sexy kitchen appliances, beautiful pendant lamps, and cool tiles for the wall.” By the time the restaurant finally removed the paper shrouding its glass doors in February, locals (and out of towners) began packing its sleek bar stools right away.

Would it live up to the hype? We were keen to find out …

[Read more…]

Buvette: Chicken, Au Courant

It is never easy to lose something you love.

For me, this moment in New York restaurants occurred in late 2009, when the storied Pink Teacup, a soul food spot that had drawn celebrities ranging from Whoopi Goldberg to Mick Jagger (and had the autographed photos plastered on its walls to prove it) suddenly shuttered after 55 years. For years, this sleepy rose-hued cubby hole along slender Grove Street in the West Village was my go-to place on many a weeknight and lazy Sunday afternoon. Strawberry pancakes, smothered pork chops and — in my opinion — the best fried chicken in New York, the Pink Teacup had it all. Astronomical property taxes and rising food costs ultimately sealed its fate, however. (The restaurant has since reopened in a different spot but the scene — massive, clubby and loud — is different and sadly, so is the fried chicken.)

Just over a year later, a new restaurant has shoehorned its way into the old Pink Teacup’s sliver of a space, however, and it could not be more different. Billed as a “gastroteque,” Buvette, by chef Jody Williams (formerly of Morandi and Gottino), is a lot of things its predecessor was not. Packed with a crowd that looks as if it would be completely at home on the set of “Gossip Girl,” the place is French, constantly burbling with loud chatter, downtown chic and anything but homey and comforting.

When chef Simpson suggested we check it out, I was instantly dismissive. Surely, I couldn’t possibly like my old sweetheart’s replacement. Why waste my time?

Curiosity is a powerful thing, however. And soon enough, I found myself reluctantly sliding into a seat at Buvette’s jammed bar …

[Read more…]