Since opening in 2010, Mile End has garnered quite a bit of praise for its Montreal-style Jewish delicatessen fare. This dish was no exception—a fluffy square of house-baked pretzel was topped with a generous schmear of chopped liver and pickled red onion, with a garnish of crunchy watercress. A lifelong liver lover, I couldn't get enough.
This Williamsburg joint knows what's up. Simon Glenn's maque choux was studded with crawfish tails, housemade tasso ham, and bacon. Stewed with creamy corn and crunchy celery, the meats added a soft, warming smokiness to the traditional Louisiana dish.
These guys are a late-night Bushwick favorite, and with good reason. An ultimate comfort (and awesome drunk) food, the saffron-risotto balls were stuffed with ragù, peas, and mozzarella cheese. I got a gorgeous strand of gooey cheese on my first bite, and subtle bitter-floral notes from the saffron. That said, we would've liked to see a little more seasoning—or salt—in there.
Inside the Arancini
A peek into the gooey rice ball.
Top Chef's Dale Talde makes a mean chicken larb. The lemongrass-infused chicken came on a crunchy lettuce wrap and brought some serious heat and a strong undercurrent of peanuts. A sweet grilled grape garnish didn't seem very grilled, but with the sweet juicy bite was a welcome addition to the plate.
Pete Entner's Crown Heights spot is known for its pizza, but last night the chef deviated from his celebrated pizza with servings of three different fried wonton iterations. His baked potato wonton definitely took first prize: a bacony knish-style filling was encased in a crispy, golden brown skin with just the right amount of doughiness to it. Dipped in a cheddar-crème fraîhe sauce, it was a wonderful take on Polish-Chinese-American fusion.
Talde gives a shout out to his chicken larb.
Fleisher's Grassfed and Organic Meats
I couldn't have been happier to find not one but two tables celebrating liver last night. The Fleisher's team spread their chicken liver pâtè on a crunchy rye crisp for a simple, classic bite that took me back to brunch at grandma's. And yes, that's a very good thing.
I'm not usually a rice pudding type of gal, but Liz Gutman and Jen King may have converted me. Sautéed caramel apples and candied almonds had a malty sweetness that was perfectly balanced by a salty, crunchy crumble.
Considering that FOODfreaks is all about grilled cheese, we were a little surprised to find their 3 cheese sandwich pretty forgettable. That said, we fell head over heels in love with their side of brussels sprouts, which were fried to greasy, crispy perfection and drizzled with agave for some surprisingly pleasing sweetness.
FOODfreaks Brussels Sprouts
A closer look at the marvelous fried sprouts. The crisp paper-thin layers were an addictive combination of sweet and salty.
The McClure's team wasn't kidding when they dubbed their garlic-dill pickles spicy. The burst of briny heat delivered an invigorating jolt. Paired with a sip of their pickle brine-based bloody mary mix, their table was a perfect mid-event palate cleanser.
Steve Linares prepared pork two ways in his rendition of choucoute garnie, an Alsacian classic. Smoked pork loin and kassler (a salted and smoked cut) were served on a bed of sauerkraut. The sauerkraut was deliciously caramelized and strongly seasoned.
One of the most interesting and beautifully plated dishes of the night, Gwynett St.'s Autumn Roots featured a dense chestnut mousse. Joined by sweet potato chips, caramelized chestnuts, pickled radish, and a sweet, vibrant beet powder, it was a delightful experiment in flavor and texture.
This was my first Brandade, and boy am I grateful for the introduction. DeCoursy whipped salted cod with potatoes, cream, and olive oil for a creamy, not-too-fishy spread. The mixture was served on crunchy toast points and garnished with some vibrant pickled onions.
Nate Smith, formerly of The Spotted Pig, now heads up Williamsburg's Allswell restaurant. Last night he served up smooth shark confit in a chimichurri sauce. His shark was perfectly cooked and paired with a duck fat potato chip that cut the acidity in the chimichurri for a well-balanced plate.
Allswell's Nate Smith, still looking energized at the end of a long night.
Acme Smoked Fish Corporation
Acme Smoked Fish has been a Brooklyn fixture since the turn of the 20th century; today they distribute their products to supermarkets across the region. Their table was doling out a diverse and oh-so-delicious trio of salmon: a smooth and creamy gravlax in sweet mustard and dill sauce, their David Burke pastrami-smoked salmon, and some crisp salmon jerky. It was old New York at its best.
Brennan & Carr
The Sheepshead Bay restaurant churned out these hot roast beef sandwiches, dipped into a bubbling vat of rich juices. The best bite came from the center of the sandwich, where the spongy bread had soaked up the liquid, and the meat was rare and flavorful.
Oh, Junior's, you red pinstriped icon, you. This three-tiered cup delivered layer after layer of the creamy sweetness that has made this cheesecake factory one of Brooklyn's most famous institutions. Chocolate frosting on chocolate mousse on that good old-fashioned cheesecake, it was pretty darn heavenly.
If you thought Bierkraft would be serving beer...well, you'd be wrong. Their dessert featured dense, fudgy brownies sandwiching a hefty scoop of vanilla chocolate chunk gelato. Even better? They dubbed it the Shameless Ice Cream Sandwich, so I took their advice and had two.
The Man Himself
With a cane in hand, a limping and apparently injured Adam Richman demonstrated some serious stamina, standing for photo ops with guests for almost the entire duration of the evening.