Archive for February, 2011

Eat This: Brunch at Red Rooster Harlem

Red Rooster Harlem, the long-awaited and much-anticipated Harlem restaurant by the increasingly famous Marcus Samuelsson, opened its doors at the end of last year to much fanfare. Trumpeting Samuelsson’s Swedish and African roots with Harlem’s soul food heritage, Red Rooster Harlem’s brunch menu is full of interesting offerings drawing from all three influences.

The open kitchen at Red Rooster Harlem

Prudently, we made reservations (they take them on their website and at opentable), which seemed like the smart thing to do. At 11, we got a nice table in the dining room as opposed to the bar area up front and were seated immediately; after 12 there was a large crowd waiting in the bar area. The decor is homey and comfortable with a touch of class–there is some nice artwork hanging on the walls and an interesting mural covering the open kitchen in the back. The service was solid as well.

A Philip Maysles print of Norman Rockwell as Ruby Bridges at Red Rooster Harlem

Now, on to the food:

We started with an order of cornbread ($4), which comes with two thick slices of cornbread and sides of honey butter and tomato jam. Slathering some honey butter on that cornbread was pretty heavenly. The tomato jam was nice and tomato-y–I wasn’t in the mood for that, but if you like tomatoes in the morning you’ll enjoy it.

Cornbread with honey butter and tomato jam

Since there were four of us we got a pretty good sampling of entrees. We ordered the Wood Oven Baked Egg with Mac & Greens ($14), Nuggets & Toast ($15), Poached Egg, Shrimp, & Red Grits ($15), and Lamb Hash ($14). The restaurant gives you a choice of sides with the Wood Oven Baked Egg, the other choices being Wurst & Onion or Tomato & Mozzarella. While I can’t speak for those, I can say that the Mac & Greens are fabulous.

Wood Oven Baked Eggs with Mac & Greens

The eggs themselves come in a small cast iron pan, studded with chunks of thick bread. All in all, they were just eggs. But, the Mac & Greens, covered in bread crumbs and served in their own mini cast iron dish, were supremely delicious. A mix of comte, NY cheddar, and gouda give the orechiette pasta a nice, creamy and smoky base and the added greens make you feel a little less guilty!

Mac & Greens close-up

The Poached Egg, Shrimp & Red Grits reportedly contained the best, juiciest shrimp my friend has ever tasted. The red grits are a nice, unique play on traditional grits, mixing them with tomatoes for a fresh and almost fruity flavor. The poached egg was cooked well and oozed it’s yummy yolk all through the dish.

Poached Egg, Shrimp, & Red Grits

The Lamb Hash joined chunks of tender lamb with potatoes and sweet potatoes and was served in a cast iron skillet. My husband reported the lamb juicy and well seasoned, and the potatoes went well with the lamb, with sweet potatoes adding a nice element to the overall flavor of the dish.

Lamb Hash

The Nuggets & Toast was my favorite entree of the morning. An innovative play on the traditional fried chicken and waffles, this dish has boneless chunks of friend chicken atop thick slices of brioche French toast. The whole thing was then soaked in maple syrup.

Nuggets & Toast come drenched in maple syrup

Let me start by saying I am not a huge French toast fan and almost never order it at a restaurant unless it sounds exceptional. My usual issue is that it ends up being too dry. However, these thick slices of brioche were cooked so perfectly that the middle was custardy and moist, while not being soggy. There was a LOT of maple syrup on there, which may turn some people off, but the syrup was so delicious that I didn’t mind. In fact, I loved it. The syrup also covered the chunks of chicken, which were spicy and peppery and crunchy and oh so yummy. All in all, a winning dish.

Of course, we couldn’t stop there–we had to have dessert! We ordered the Sweet Potato Doughnuts and the Warm Apple Pie. The doughnuts came with a bowl of whipped cream and a bowl of lemon sorbet. I was expecting to be blown away by the doughnuts–two of my favorite things, combined!–but in the end was a kind of disappointed. I wanted them to be more moist, and while I loved the squirt of sweet potato filling int he center of the doughnut holes, it was a tad flavorless, plus not all of them had it. However, JudyJams loved them and so did my husband, so what do I know?

Sweet Potato Doughnuts--check out the sweet potato ooze coming out of the doughnuts

Luckily, dessert was saved for me by the Warm Apple Pie! Boasting a “soft cheddar crust” this pie really blew me away. The apples were sliced very thinly and the crust was intensely amazing. And the vanilla whipped cream was the perfect accompaniment.

Warm Apple Pie = Heaven

On a side note, I am so thrilled that both pie and doughnuts are having their moments in the spotlight lately, what with Four & Twenty Blackbirds, D.O.U.G.H., and the new Doughnut Plant location in Chelsea. Hooray for non-cupcake desserts!

The verdict? It is definitely worth traveling up to Harlem over the weekend to check out Red Rooster Harlem’s brunch–just try to get a reservation so you don’t have to wait. And then you can make a day of it by checking out some of Harlem’s museums or other delicious food institutions!

February 25, 2011 at 3:56 pm 1 comment

Eat This: Seven Grain Porridge from Natural Blend

Seven Grain Porridge from Natural Blend

Our one day of warmth last week was clearly just a tease…it’s back to freezing here in NYC. If you’d like to start your day with something warm and soothing, try the Seven Grain Porridge from Natural Blend, a vegetarian Caribbean joint in Prospect Heights. Just $3.50 will get you a full 8 oz of piping hot and hearty porridge. They also sell a large (16 oz) for $6.50, but I cannot imagine one person being able to eat all that–it would be perfect for two or three though.

Seven Grain Porridge from Natural Blend is perfect for eating on the subway on the way to work!

They call it Seven Grain Porridge, and I spent a while trying to figure out what the seven grains are, or if there even is actually seven. I’ve concluded that there is definitely millet, oats, barley, and possibly amaranth and/or spelt in it. The grains are married together by a thick and milky liquid, flavored with spices like cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg. The overall effect is warm, gooey, spicy goodness that will comfort you, while waking you up and preparing you to face the day. Perfection!

And, if you feel the need for a treat, Natural Blend also has excellent vegan baked goods, including various quick breads, like strawberry, carrot, and zucchini. And on the non-breakfast front, their vegetarian patties and other dinner items are delicious too. And cheap!

Natural Blend is located at 769 Washington Avenue in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, between Sterling Pl and St. Johns Pl.

February 22, 2011 at 5:13 pm Leave a comment

Album Review: Native Speaker by Braids

Braids' Native Speaker, available from Amazon

Seeing Braids was one of my highlights of CMJ last year. They played the M for Montreal showcase at Arlene’s Grocery, along with fellow Canadians the Luyas and P.S. I Love You, all of whom seem to be enjoying the spotlight. P.S. I Love You released their debut album at the end of last year and now Braids has released their debut at the beginning of this year.

Braids at Arlene's Grocery during CMJ 2010

Braids consists of Raphaelle Standell-Preston, Katie Lee, Austin Tufts and Taylor Smith who have been playing and creating music together since high school. Guitarist Standell-Preston takes care of lead vocals and her voice is pretty astounding. The range of notes she can successfully register is extremely impressive and the band often uses her vocals, as well as keyboardist Katies Lee’s, as instruments in themselves. There is no doubt that this is a group of extremely talented and well-trained musicians, but they certainly do not play by the book.

Raphaelle Standell-Preston with Braids at Arlene's Grocery during CMJ 2010

Native Speaker begins with a slow build, but by the time you are midway through the first song “Lemonade” you find yourself tapping your toes while simultaneously envisioning yourself swimming in a lake of colors. What I mean to say is, this is shoegaze music with a beat to it. Some songs are certainly more upbeat than others, and you can definitely space out to this album if you want. But if you pay attention you will catch wondrous nuances and surprising layers, all frosted with a layer of  Standell-Preston’s glorious voice.

Native Speaker heralds a promising start for this young band and I for one see great things in their future–this album hasn’t been compared to early Arcade Fire for nothing. Braids are currently on tour with Baths (another young wonder with a great debut album recently released) and Asobi Seksu. Click below for remaining dates.

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February 21, 2011 at 12:46 pm Leave a comment

The Toast ‘N Jams interview with Obits

Brooklyn based band Obits‘ debut album I Blame You was in heavy rotation on my iPod when it was released 2 years ago, so I was excited to hear that they were coming out with a follow-up in 2011. The record, with its brooding guitar lines, steady beats, and fiery, swaggering vocals, sounded fresh amidst a sea of “chill-wave” bands that were coming out that year. Moody, Standard, and Poor exhibits the same raw rock energy, with equally intelligent lyrical content. The band has members from some of the seminal indie rock groups of 90’s: Drive Like Jehu, Hot Snakes, and Edsel, who have influenced scores of modern groups.

Images of Obits via SubPop.com

I had the opportunity to ask Obits members Rick Froberg, Greg Simpson, and Sohrab Habibion some questions about the new album, Brooklyn, and of course, breakfast.

Hi Obits!

TnJ: Let’s start with the basics: your album titles. Both “I Blame You” and “Moody, Standard, and Poor” have a rather confrontational vibe to them, but one is aggressive, and one is self-deprecating. Do you feel like the two albums have completely different MOs?

RICK: For my part, there is no intention to confront or even make a point. We’re all two years older – maybe less aggressive? Dunno. We tried keeping the songs short on purpose to offset that in case.

TnJ: The reference to “Moody, Standard, and Poor” is a very time appropriate theme. Without getting too political, are you angry at the economic state of our country right now? And are you optimistic for the future?

RICK: I was hoping to be able to stay in the middle class, but I think I fucked that up a while ago.

Album cover via SubPop.com

TnJ: Your sound really reflects the influence of your previous bands without being derivative. It also is a sound that I think fills a gaping hole in the “rock” scene as of late. What have you been listening to and who is your favorite new band?

SOHRAB: While none are exactly new, my favorite current bands are Disappears, The Lights, Tijuana Panthers and The Soft Pack. Recently I saw Suuns at The Rock Shop and they were excellent.

TnJ: The theme behind this record seems to be summed up nicely (in my opinion) by the song “Naked to the World.” Sub Pop describes the album as “a series of emotional road trips.” Was there any specific that defines this record as opposed to the debut? And while we’re at it, why “I Blame Myself”? I thought “I Blame You”?

RICK: There’s a theme, but I think it would be bad policy for the singer to point it out. And it’s probably best not to blame you again; some of this must be my fault or it wouldn’t keep happening to me.

TnJ: Does it seem weird to have all of these young “hipster” fans? I was at your show on the Williamsburg Waterfront last summer and it seemed like the average audience age hovered below 30. Do you find this true on tour, or is there a good mix in the crowds across the country?

SOHRAB: I think the audience at that particular show was more reflective of the fact that it was summer, it was free and it was in Williamsburg.

I’m not sure if I have a very good gauge of who our average fan is. We’ve been lucky to have all kinds of folks express some sort of enthusiasm, from high school kids in Charlottesville, Virginia to parents and their teenage children traveling together over the French border to see us in Geneva, Switzerland.

The notion of “hipster” is vague and ever-shifting. We don’t worry about how our band might or might not fit in. We do what we like and try to make sure we are represented publicly in a way that hopefully allows people to make up their own minds about our music.

TnJ: You’re a Brooklyn based band, we’re a Brooklyn based blog. What’s your favorite thing about Brooklyn? What’s your least favorite thing?

GREG: Favorite – Walking through Prospect Park with an espresso from DUB Pies. Least favorite – Bicycle cops.

TnJ: We’re a music AND breakfast appreciation blog. What’s your favorite breakfast item? And do you have a favorite place in Brooklyn to have breakfast and/or brunch?

SCOTT: Pumpernickel bagel, scallion cream cheese, not toasted. That with a glass of fresh orange juice and I’m set. I get my bagel fix at Court Street Bagels in Cobble Hill.

Check out Obits’ website and Subpop.com for album info and song previews. The album is officially released on March 29th, and you can expect to see them playing a venue near you starting March 11th!

February 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment

Love Catastrophe: Music for a Love Cycle

Whether you’re a lover or loather this Valentine’s Day, there’s always music to soundtrack the dramas of romance—the heights, the death, and the dearth of it. Luckily, we’re all total cliches, and that’s why songs about lust and love and loneliness and heartache are so relatable and often cathartic.

So, in honor of this holiest of phony holi-days, Toast n Jams presents the Love Catastrophe mix, which attempts to track the stages of a typical love cycle. Click the link, download, and enjoy. Happy Valentine’s Day!

(Track listing is after the jump…)

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February 14, 2011 at 11:44 am Leave a comment

Das Racist at Highline Ballroom 2/3

After our epic fail at CMJ of missing all four of the Das Racist shows, we were determined to catch them live one way or another. The opportunity came last week when they played for a very affordable $10 at Highline Ballroom.

Photo of Das Racist (too good to resist posting) via benzandabackpack.com

We arrived just in time to catch Das Racist and not wait around, but not in time to get a great spot. Life’s little trade-offs. We could hear just fine, though. The three members, Heems, Kool A.D., and Dap, were joined on stage by a fourth goofy, unnamed dude, and various other friends. DJ Jasmine, who opened, joined them for a few songs as well. They had a ton of energy, and bounced around haphazardly for every song. The bouncing, however, made it difficult to hear them in the beginning. It sounded more like disorganized, chaotic shouting; the essence of a DIY hip hop show, without the DIY.

Some evidence of the bouncing around. It was hard to capture them in still photography!

The Das Racist boys seemed like they were having fun for the most part, barring the occasionally telling the audience to go home. No one on stage could stand still, and Aeon Flux was playing on a screen in the background for added effect. They played a bunch of songs from their first mixtape Shut Up, Dude including “Who’s that Brown,” “You Oughta Know,” “Hugo Chavez,” and of course, “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.” I’m sure that they are tired of that one; they mixed it up a bit with some new lyrics. My favorite improv was “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the combination Best of Times and Worst of Times.”

In between songs, Das Racist mocked themselves and the crowd (but mostly the crowd and how white we were and how we were all NYU students). The momentum was slowing, and then they played a few from the newer mixtape Sit Down, Man like “Hahahaha JK,” and brought out El-P (much to my extreme excitement) for “Sit Down, Man,” and then Despot for “Rooftop.” The previous chaos calmed and everything came together.

Despot on stage with Das Racist

They closed with their hypnotic “Rainbow in the Dark.” Watch the video to get a sense of what their crazy live show was like, but beware, there is some nudity. I was surprised at how little nudity there was on stage, actually. This video really captures the “essence” of their live show, and if you can’t tell, they really don’t care what you think about them:

 

February 11, 2011 at 5:48 pm 1 comment

Those Darlins: Drunk + Crass (+ Touring)

Those Darlins will probably kick your head in if you call them “darlin.” The Tennessee honky-tonk punks are releasing their 2nd album, Screws Get Loose, on March 29, and the first video hit the ‘tube last week. Warning: the sexy clip for “Be Your Bro” contains boozing, smoking, and scantily dressed Darlins.

Led by Nikki, Jessi, and Kelly Darlin, the girls sing about country living and country partying, whether they’re snaggletooth mamas who don’t own any shoes or getting drunk and eating a chicken—yeh, a WHOLE damn chicken. They’ve got the twang and snarl of Wanda Jackson, the punk ethic of Joey Ramone, and a knack for old-fashioned storytelling—an awesome reminder that not all modern country girls are glossy and bottle-blond.

I’ve never seen them live, but some guys I respect say that their shows are rowdy, beer-soaked parties. Actually, LOTS of dudes love the Darlins, probably because these ladies can turn them on, drink them under the table, and then kick their asses. Case in point:

So, feck yeah for a tour. They’ll be in NYC March 25 and 26, and in Boston on the 27th. Yarr.

Full tour schedule after the jump.

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February 8, 2011 at 8:50 am 1 comment

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