The great (expedition): Four Brooklyn destinations my consort and I trekked to after a Tweetresponse by one of my followers to a request for suggestions on where to eat after the Greenmarket at Grand Army Plaza. As we told Ray Bradley, we had to come to him since he has not turned up at our market this year, and Blue Moon was back in biz after the winter off, so it was all vaut le voyage even though we only bought spinach and potatoes and a couple of apples beyond the meat/eggs/fish (oh, and a cider doughnut, too). I jokingly suggested we should eat pizza, then roti, then tacos, then ice cream, and Bob actually took me seriously. So we set off to Barboncino, just down Eastern Parkway from the market, for an outstanding pizza with artichoke hearts and pancetta, plus a glass of rosé on that premature spring day for me and a Crushed Velvet for Bob after he saw a single guy indulging at the bar. The combination of Chambord, prosecco and chocolate stout was about as close as you could get to a fortified beer to go with that great pizza. Add in superb service and an atmospheric room and I’d give an immediate yes to WIGB. From there Bob and his iPhone mapped the other suggestions from our digi-guide, so we set off first to Gueros for a good fried avocado-and-jalapeño taco and an even better house-made chorizo-with-potato taco for all of $8.05 with tip. The former was flawed by the gummy flour tortilla but redeemed by the jalapeño buttermilk transforming the winter tomatoes; the latter had a fascinating cinnamon undertone but otherwise finally converted Bob to the church of fresh corn tortillas. The place is minuscule, and loud, but the people could not be nicer, or the water drinkier if you choose not to indulge in the beer or tequila making the walls reverberate. Afterward we headed to Ample Hills Creamery, a rug-rat-infested shop with the most charming counter staff, one of whom jokingly said he could not sell a child-size portion of the salty crack caramel to us. And that super-caramely, very un-sugary scoop (for $2.30) did turn out to be the better of the two adult flavors, the “nutty nuts” being overwhelmed by chocolate. (My mom always made a “burnt-sugar” cake about once a year that I have never been able to replicate; this came close.) I just wonder what the owner takes to keep from having his cranium blow up with all the kids onboard. Then, finally, we trekked to Brklyn Larder, recommended for sandwiches, even though all we needed at this point was coffee (Bob gave it about a B-). The shop is pretty cool, to the point that it struck me as the model for the new Gastronomie 491 in our neighborhood. But we got away with just Taza chocolate for $4, on sale from $6, and a ginger-molasses cookie for the studio manager left behind while we gorged. Walking back to the 2 train, we talked about what four places of equal quality in our neighborhood we would recommend to a Brooklynite. And I have to say short is what we came up on . . .
The bad: Vai on the Upper West Side, where we headed for an early Monday dinner after passing it and reading the menu, and where we walked out wishing we had gone for the Social Media password at Mermaid Inn yet again. The place looks great, with Recipe aesthetics but a larger room, and the people were hospitable almost to the point of obsequious. But the fud. Jeebus. We walked out feeling we’d dodged a tank on the chef’s regular tasting menu, let alone on the $79 “10 course spontaneous menu.” The hamachi and yellowfin tuna crudo with avocado and preserved ginger went down passively enough. But my “burrata ravioli, truffle cream, ‘parmiggiano’” added up to white slime — superb cheese lost in bland richness. And once Bob sliced into his “roasted double cut pork chop,” there was no talk of the “caramelized onion agre-dolce sauce,” only sadness at how plastic the meat tasted (the $18 price tag on a menu more aligned in the $20s to $30s should been a clue: not heritage). Wine was also overpriced for what it was. WIGB? Not on a bet.
Oh, and this.