Food For Thought — July 7, 2015 at 11:45 am

Alice’s Arbor; Farm Fresh

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The night was was cool and the sky drizzled, setting the mood for the perfect comfort food storm.We went to Alice’s Arbor on Classon Avenue in Brooklyn, an establishment known for its warm ambiance, eclectic interior, farm-to-table as measure of quality and not just a trendy marketing tactic, and an all-star cast of successful restauranteurs that actually lives up to its promises. Led by Motorino’s Dimitri Vlahakis, Eric Goulange, and chef/partner Mike Franzetti of Palladin, Washington Park, Lupa, and Chestnut; the team executed on the concept of farm-to-table with sincerity and authenticity.

The entrance led directly into the first of two spacious, banquet dining rooms that could very comfortably fit a full house. Guests relaxed by the bar whose beverage program, designed by Eric Goulange features local, organic, biodynamic products whenever possible. Selections are typically from smaller breweries, distilleries, and wine makers with lower distribution and higher attention to quality. Current selections include William Vigne Gruner from the Finger Lakes, and Vino Rosato by Andrea Scorvero, that is available only at Alice’s Arbor and one other restaurant in Brooklyn. Bourbon, rye, and scotch flights and tasting portions from over 50 local and international distilleries are available in 1, 1.5, and 2 oz. portions. The cocktail list is based on a selection of American spirits, locally made bitters, and market ingredients. After we arrived at our table, we ordered a local IPA (one of 11 on tap) and a specialty cocktail called The Gin Figz — Barr Hill Honey Gin, fig preserves and lemon thyme simple syrup.

The appetizers arrived and we were impressed off the bat. We got a special starter plate of ribs that were lathered in a rich, spicy sauces tacked atop a playing of black eyed peas. My date was blown away by the kale salad, another house specialty. We asked the staff how the restaurant prepares its kale to be so tender, as opposed to the tough, bitter leaf we are used to. An appetizer portion of Alice’s Arbor’s Scallops were fantastic, as well, and a highlight for me. Popping with flavor and seared just the way I love them– the scallops were served on a bed of large, al dente white beans and crispy oyster mushrooms with romesco sauce. The dish is earthy and homey, while balancing textures and flavors to result in something wonderful.

For Alice’s Arbor, farm-to-table is not only about sustainability and the support of local businesses. It also brings incredibly fresh ingredients to the table and makes the fruits of local farms accessible to city restaurants. Freshness is something you can taste immediately and it was deliciously everywhere at Alice’s Arbor. Vegetables make sounds when you eat them, and they’re fresh. Their flavors hide for a bit, let the experience build, and then strike out of nowhere, pronouncing their presence with every subsequent bite. Extreme freshness has other attributes that come in handy when you’re scarfing down a lot of food; you don’t feel crappy after you eat a meal! Food is designed to energize and enable, and fresh food does this really well. So even after several apps, we were still ready for our entrees by the time they arrived.

Alice’s Arbor features something fresh for every taste and changes seasonally based on what’s good. The menu also highlights house specialties like the Pork Chop and the Rib Eye. We decided to go with the house recommendations and the advice of the restaurant’s staff and chose the Pork Chop and Trout. When I write about restaurants, and they recommend a Pork Chop, I will always go for it because of how easy it is to overcook and dry out. It’s a big risk/reward move because if a cook nails a good pork chop and cooks it to the right temperature and texture, then it’s a huge win. Otherwise, a miss can result in devastation on a plate; typically something resembling a cardboard, sawdusty chop on a plate…ruined pork, complete misery.

On this evening (I assume not an anomaly), the chef prepared a great chop and I immediately understood why it was a house speciality and recommendation. It was outstanding. Served on top a mix of roasted potatoes and squash, with a rich mustard sauce that cut the salt, resulted in a perfectly seared pork chop. The other dish we ordered, which was highly recommended, was the Sullivan County Farm Trout. It was seared and prepared with lemon, capers, and brown butter, plated over roasted fingerlings and crispy green beans that must have been plucked from the ground hours before.

The table next to us, we couldn’t help but notice, were throughly enjoying their Mac & Cheese, which on Alice’s Arbor’s menu, is offered as a highly customizable dish with options to add lobster, pulled pork, truffle oil and more. The cheese is made from a rich blend of cheddar and goat cheese béchamel and is the perfect comfort option for the sedentary evening. Side dishes are also impossible to overlook and feature crispy brussels sprouts with bacon sautéed with a honey glaze that marries that blissful combination of bacon and anything sweet.

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Alice’s Arbor’s dessert menu includes freshly baked pastries and a variety of digestifs and coffee. We enjoyed an Apple Crisp and a scoop of Blue Marble ice cream. Somehow, I had convinced myself that I had enough room for that and did not regret it.

Overall, we were very satisfied by the whole dining experience and look forward to returning. What I discovered was that Alice’s Arbor was far from just another Brooklyn establishment tooting its horn about being organic, sustainable, green, and wholesome. Alice’s Arbor proved to be far more than just buzzwords by taking positive concepts and fulfilling them with exceptional attention to detail, quality, and personal character.

*All images via Shiri Lara

Twisted Talk: Have you dined at Alice’s Arbor? What’s your favorite dish? Discuss below!

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