A Forest Hills Life

Another voice in the wilderness of central Queens working towards Forest Hills 2.0.

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Recently visited Terroir, the brand new wine bar from the fine folks behind Hearth and Insieme. Went on the second or third night it was open, so they still didn't have a full wine list available. Even with that limitation, it was a terrific evening. It was full most of the night, but the heavy rain probably kept it from being overcrowded. I sat with some friends at the long communal table that runs the length of the bar. Its a bright and lively space, and the communal table and the hospitality of Paul Grieco and Marco Canora definitely contributed to a social atmosphere. We spent a lot of time talking to our neighbors.

We arrived in time for happy hour, which includes a few well selected wines for 5 dollars a glass. While we were debating what food to order, Chef Canora dropped a small plate of the fried risotto balls in front of us. These were made from beat risotto with some gorgonzola and were delicious. We ended up ordering the plate of cured meats which was amazing. I don't recall exactly what was on the plate, but it was all high quality. The fried sage leaves with lamb sausage was great as well. And I have been craving the duck ham, taleggio and hen-of-the-woods mushroom panini ever since I had it.

Paul Grieco, the man behind the wine program at Hearth, Insieme and Terroir is a super enthusiastic presence in the bar. He was ready to give you a full rundown on any wine you had a question about, and you could tell he was excited about each one. I was thrilled when he said that come summer, the white wines by the glass may be one long list of Rieslings. That's music to my ears.

For me, this is an ideal place. Ambitious wine and delicious food at a reasonable price, served with enthusiasm by obviously passionate hosts. I wish I could live next door.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Bonfire Grill

While it may be a little early to give this place a real review, I have a few quick impressions from a visit there last night with my wife.

The space is decent looking by Forest Hills standards, but not exactly that attractive. The bar area is a little more appealing than the bland, oddly colored, dining room. The cheap tables and chairs don't do much for the space either.

Service wasn't great, but that's typical this early. Our waitress took quite some time to take our order (it appeared she was also cleaning and setting tables). She never brought the water I asked for, never asked if I wanted a second glass of wine and she brought out our main course before we were finished with our appetizers. That last one is a big one for me, but certainly not fatal for a just opened and obviously not ambitious restaurant.

From the limited menu I tried the calamari appetizer. This was lightly fried and came with a cocktail like sauce which I didn't care for. The calamari themselves were alright, slightly rubbery and no added crunch from the light batter and frying. I also had the burger. This was nothing special. Typical burger like you would get at any number of places. The fries were tragic for me. Soggy and greasy.

My wife had the ceasar salad which she said was decent and a some goat cheese tapas. This was some toasted bread with a little bit of goat cheese (too little my wife said) and some artichoke and tomato mixture.

We'll see what happens as they get up to speed and have their full menu available, but I'm not that optimistic. Honestly, we typically cook every night and only go out on the weekends, which means usually a trip into Manhattan or maybe Jackson Heights. While some good options in the hood would be great, I'm not so desperate that I'll be excited about something that doesn't really warrant it. There seems to be a lot of excitement on the blogs about this place, and that's OK. I just don't think it fills any real need for me.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bottega del Vino


I assume its expense accounts (we were seated next to a table of attorneys, later joined by their client, celebrating some BIG deal) that keeps this place open, with its convenient midtown location and trophy filled wine list. It certainly isn't the food.

Went here last night with some family and thankfully I wasn't paying. The best part of the meal was the wine. A 1998 Barbaresco, a "steal" at $200. There wasn't much for less than that on the list. I had a half portion of one of their signature appetizers to start, Tortellini della Bottega tortellini filled with beef and prosciutto dusted with porcini mushroom powder. Under-sauced and under-seasoned. For a main course, I had a "rack" of lamb with chestnuts. This came overdone (I should have sent it back but didn't), in a classic catering hall presentation. It was a small piece of lamb, sitting atop passable but useless mashed potatoes with a carrot and 3 chestnuts sitting in a tasteless sauce. For almost 40 dollars. Really?

Dessert was ok. A pretty good Tiramisu and a tasty but pathetic looking souffle. It barely rose up the full height of its diminutive ramekin.

The service was good.

You have to take an elevator to get to the bathroom.

You don't need to go here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Danny Brown minus the DB

From Frank Bruni's Diner's Journal blog we learn that Danny Brown has lost the battle with Daniel Boulud and will now be danny brown Wine Bar & Kitchen.

From the blog:

I’m trying to reach him to find out whether the dispute between him and Mr. Boulud actually ended up in court, or whether it was just hashed out in meetings, phone calls and letters between lawyers. His e-mail was brief and ambiguous.

But on one point it was clear: he lost.

“I have changed all my logos,” he wrote me, providing photo documentation of the old awnings coming down and new ones going up.

“We are now danny brown Wine Bar & Kitchen,” he announced. And so the story, apparently, ends.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Quick Hits - some other recent restaurants

Some places where you will get your money's worth:

Picholine. My wife and I went here for our anniversary and it was terrific. There service was pitch perfect and truly accommodating and the food was excellent. Craig Hopson, who was running the kitchen during Picholine's resurgence has recently left, but hopefully that won't effect this wonderful restaurant.

Caffe Falai. I've enjoyed a few meals at Falai on Clinton street and happened past its more down-market sibling Caffe Falai on Lafayette the other night when looking for a place to grab a bite with some friends. We shared a whole bunch of stuff and it was mostly terrific. Especially the pastas. All priced in the low teens, they were interesting and really delicious.

Boqueria. Terrific tapas place on 19th. Better at the less traditional stuff (go to Las Ramblas or Tia Pol for the traditional stuff).

Non FH Restaurant Blogging - L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Well, since I seem to spend most of my time not in Forest Hills, I might as well blog about non-FH stuff as well.

L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon

Went there for my wife's birthday. First thing, the decor. A bit deco, a bit 80's. Neither inviting nor of the moment, so I'm not sure what they were thinking with that.

The service was quite good. I had informed them of my wife's dietary restrictions when making a reservation and the waitress was well informed. However, the chef didn't seem very flexible. Given the price point, leaving off the sauce on one of the fish dishes (as they all had meat which my wife doesn't eat) doesn't strike me as the mark of a top restaurant or chef.

I will say, they did alter the amuse which she enjoyed. Sort of a deconstructed ratatouille. Mine was a shot glass with gorgonzola, port wine reduction and quince. Not something I would ever think I would like, but it all worked together amazingly.

We each selected two tasting portions (the menu is divided into tasting portions, traditional appetizers and entrees). I started with the crispy frogs legs with garlic purée and parsley coulis. These were perfectly fried and the frog meat was tender, but as was to be the theme with the rest of the dishes, it seemed to be lacking something. Lets call it salt. Or any depth of flavor and seasoning. The technique was great, the ingredients good. But the dish lacked something. The same can be said of my next dish, quail stuffed with foie gras, truffled potato purée. Although here, the truffle slices on the potato weren't really up to snuff. Again, the quail was perfectly cooked, but the dish didn't do it for me.

My main dish was the best of the bunch. Its not on any of the online menus, but I believe it was loin of venison with poached pear and candied ginger. They also brought a dish of the "famous Robuchon" potato puree, as the server put it. The venison was cooked just right and was delicious. Though still underseasoned. In one bite, the venison and the pear and the ginger worked well, but there wasn't much of the ginger or the pear. And that potato puree doesn't really deserve to be famous. Not as good as Craft's or a number of other places.

For Dessert I had the tart tasting. 5 slices of various tarts. Cinnamon, chocolate, peanut butter, passion fruit-banana and something else. This was quite good.

My wife was underwhelmed with her first tasting plate. A dish of eggplant around tuna tartar, she said she couldn't taste the tuna. Then a gazpacho, which I though wasn't really seasonally appropriate, but she said it was really good, but very cold. Finally she had the Turbot, without the sauce. Fishy, is what she said.

All in all, some beautifully prepared and presented food, that just lacked depth and in my opinion was under-seasoned. At this price point, and lower, I have had much better and more enjoyable meals and more accommodating service.

Forest Hills CSA

Hadn't seen this before, but here's a website for Forest Hills Community Supported Agriculture.

Seems like a great resource for anyone interested in signing up for a CSA.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

#1 Coffee Shop = Hidden Korean Gem?

According to the folks at Gothamist, I'm missing out on some decent Korean food hiding behind an unassuming bodega on the border of Forest Hills and Rego park:

A Korean restaurant is not something one would expect to find on the border of Forest Hills and Rego Park. If anything the neighborhood is better known for the plethora of Central Asian kebab joints. Nor is Korean chow something you'd expect to find at an old-school spot like the #1 Coffee Shop. Years ago local legend Robbie Richter, pitmaster of Hill Country, worked the flat top one day when the grill man was out sick. Despite it's improbability, there they were, handwritten signs advertising bulgogi and bibimbap. We hastened inside out of the rain to see what #1's bibimbap was all about.

And how was it?

All in all, it was the best bibimbap Gothamist has ever eaten in a diner.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Gothamist at DB

Gothamist goest to Danny Brown and they like what they find.

When we asked Chef Brown what he thought of Chef Boulud's suing him over this typographical tempest in a teapot, he shrugged off our question with a "No comment," saying he had to get back to work in the kitchen. And we're glad he did, everything we lunched on that day was topflight.

Legal squabbles aside, one thing is certain. Danny Brown's is one of the only places on this stretch of Metropolitan Avenue where you'll hear wine geeks talking tannins with the well-informed bartenders.