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Applewood (long review, of course)

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Applewood (long review, of course)

Steve R. | Jan 7, 2006 10:40 AM

We werent sure that we didnt just want to have a post-holiday Friday night crash at home, so we made absolutely no plans for last night. Of course, by 7:30pm we were looking at each other & saying "what have we done?!". Made some phone calls, no one else seemed to be available. Called Applewood to see if we can find out what the NY Mag Top 101 List fuss was all about -- figured that they'd tell us they were jammed. Instead, got an upbeat voice on the phone saying that they were totally booked until 10pm but she was sure we could eat at the bar & would seat us if there were any cancellations. So, why not, off we went to Park Slope (11th St, betw. 7th-8th Ave).

First of all, not a fancy room. More country kitchen-ish. Very nice, comfortable, fireplace going. Bar in back with 6-8 seats & good view of the room (40 or so seats at tables). Everyone friendly, "Ms. Owner" present front of house and smiling at customers making small talk but keeping everything organized. Reminded us of Henry's End in that staff seemed to enjoy being with each other and the place had an open, friendly feel without losing the professionalism.

Sat at the bar, thinking about whether to eat there or just have a drink and wait to see about cancellations. The wine list has a decent selection: Ginny ordered a 1/2 bottle of the '04 Sancerre ($22), which turned out to be very good, although neither of us are experts in this. The mixed drinks menu mentions that all infusions are done in-house (there's a cardamom vodka amongst others) & that all fruits & herbs used are fresh. I had a blood orange margarita & out came the fresh blood orange, pounded down by hand by the bartender. I think it also included fresh basil. Good! One of the couple next to us had the cardamom vodka with other ingredients and maple syrup (?!) and didnt seem to think it was too sweet. My teeth hurt just looking at it. The bartender was outgoing, knowledgable and clearly the craftsperson, not just hired labor.

We split the domestic cheese plate to start ($12). The four selections (no choices given) were a blue, a cheddar & a goat-brie with a blue "cheesecake" made in house. Decent portions, very good cheese (although, again, this isnt our area of expertise & is more "we know what we like when we eat it"). I'm sure that, given the "organic" descriptions of everything on the menu, the cheeses came from farm animals that romped freely around some upstate open field, gifting the land owner with their milk. For me, "tastes great" was enough to know. Additionally, the bar dinner setting included coated roasted almonds (with a kick) & farm bread with 3 spreads: sweet butter, a sun-dried tomato spread & a blue cheese spread. All good ways to spend the first 40 minutes of a meal. Eating at the bar had its reward -- I dont think the tables got the almonds, which were addictive, went well with cheese and spreads and were replenished.

For entrees, Ginny had the Tazmanian Sea Trout (a very healthy, thick portion) over pureed turnip (?) with cipolini onions and other veggies around it. I had the venison (similarly good portion size), with a rich sauce and root veggies, including purple parsnips (and pureed turnip). The bartender wasnt happy with me drinking white wine (we'd ordered another 1/2 bottle of Sancerre), so he comped me a glass of cab. sauv. with my entree. Again, I'm not fussy about where the food comes from, how it's grown, etc. I try to rely on the bottom line of how it tastes, recognizing that, if it's done right, the carefully raised stuff will taste better. Well, whatever they're doing to procure the right ingredients is clearly coupled with a very good hand in the kitchen (Mr. Owner/Chef). I dont like making judgments after only one try, but the temptation is to declare these "best in Brooklyn", up there with Manhattan's better places (as "Peter in the Heights" said on this board last week, Craft?).

Ginny had French press coffee, none for me (have to cut back somewhere for my diet). No desserts. We were full. Total price $138, including tax, before tip. Healthy tip to the bartender/waiter still puts it way under anything else of this caliber. On the way out, spoke with Ms. Owner and told her that NY Mag. finally got something right. She seemed to be much more interested in us, how the food was, etc than in their ratings (one fork in Michellin as well?). Nice to see. For us, this experience puts Applewood in our top 3 Brooklyn rotation (Henry's End and al di la being the other 2 for us: Tempo is a notch below). We'll be back. Maybe a lot.

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