This is how Bavaria floats – Review of Maifest on the Hudson

BY MICHELLE WAHLERS

Photo by Michelle Wahlers

This past Saturday I decided to spend the rapture at Maifest on the Hudson. Located at Pier 81, this traditional German event marked the beginning of summer complete with the May pole, dancing and music. And of course, food!

Photo by Michelle Wahlers

The skies parted for the first time in what seemed like months, and the atmosphere on the pier was celebratory and warm. We began by purchasing tickets, at 4 dollars each. These tickets were the currency for food and drinks. The first stop was the beer vendor where we got  huge beersteins ($20) filled with Paulaner. My first wurst of the day was the “classic” which was filled with pork and beef. I covered it with sweet mustard and enjoyed it while looking out at the Hudson. It was satisfying, a basic wurst a bit spicy and bursting with juice. Surprisingly, the mustard sort of saved it; it was sweet with an edge of spicy. Onto my second wurst, to accompany my second liter of beer. This time I put a heap of sauerkraut on it, and I think I can safely say that I like sauerkraut! The first time I was convinced it was just a fluke, but I think I am a devout convert now. This “sour cabbage” was an excellent yet basic topping, and I went a little overboard and drenched my fries in it as well. It’s all or nothing with me. My boyfriend got a pretzel which was different from the pretzels one picks up at a vendor on the street. This had a crusty and almost sweet exterior, and was piping hot. The inside was a bit bland and dry, but nothing some of that delicious mustard couldn’t fix!

Phot by Michelle Wahlers

As you can tell from my previous post I am smitten with German culture, and the authentic clothes and music were delightful and fun. I’m not one for “yacht club culture” so the crowd was a bit infuriating at times, but the people running the show, the dancers and musicians were enough to keep me smiling. Oh, and the people doling out beer and wursts are always friends of mine so I will continue to celebrate Maifest.

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Wunderbar! A wonderful Bierhaus in Long Island City.

BY MICHELLE WAHLERS

37-10 11th Street.
Long
Island City
718-937-2337 / wunderbarlic.com/#self

Last Saturday the rain and wind in New York made trekking outside seem down right foolish. However, I couldn’t  bear to ask the delivery guy to bring my order of sesame chicken without feeling terrible, so my friends and I packed into a car and headed to Long Island City to Wunderbar, a German grill and Bierhaus.

Photo by Michelle Wahlers

We took a seat in the corner, away from the long wooden tables that made up the rest of the seating area. Large groups of people were laughing and knocking back beers in huge bier steins. We ordered a few pitchers and began looking through the extensive and authentic menu. Each item had a brief description for those not fluent in German. We started with the vegetable platter, which was comprised of a delicious potato salad, tomatoes, pickles and a string bean salad. The potato salad went very quickly, and was a terrific and encouraging way to start the meal. It was made with red potatoes, with the skin wisely left on which gave the salad an earthy texture, not just a mushy mess. It was made simply, with no unnecessary spices or add ins such as celery.   The atmosphere was welcoming, with charming waitresses skipping around, and playing chess with their little brothers on their breaks. We decided on the Roulade (beef stuffed with bacon, onion and pickle) , the brat burger, the “Wunderbar Wunderbar” which consisted of two wurst of your choice, cabbage and string bean salad and the Schweinebraten (pork loin marinated in beer).


Where to begin! The plates come in large portions, and we quickly began dividing the meals since we we overwhelmed by the sizes of the servings, and basically wanted to sample everything on the menu. The brat burger was slathered in a delicious sweet sauce, almost like a curry barbecue sauce. It was a bit messy, but throw a pickle on it and I’m sold. The Roulade was perhaps a bit dry, however the moisture from the onions compensated for that. The “Wunderbar Wunderbar” (my dish!) was exactly what I expected from a place boasting authenticity.. I chose the Bauernwurst and the Spicy Kaisewurst, which was beef and pork and cheddar cheese. The cheese was overwhelming and very, very rich. But the Bauernwurst….spicy and juicy, and when eaten with a scoop of sauerkraut it was exactly what I was hoping for. (Note: I went into this evening not liking sauerkraut, my tune is quite different now!) The Schweinebraten perhaps “won” the evening. The pork was cooked perfectly, and the bier flavor was definitely present. It practically melts in your mouth and is packed with flavor, but not over seasoned. It is a basic (and fantastic) display of pork and beer.

Wunderbar Wunderbar Platter at Wunderbar, NYC - Photo by Michelle Wahlers

For dessert we ordered a hot pretzel, mostly because I had forgotten to order one at dinner, and I could not leave without trying one. It was served piping hot, speckled with huge salt crystals and dipping mustard on the side. A great end to a feast! The prices run from $5 (cold sandwiches) to $45 (the Wunderbar Haus special which is essentially a sample plate of everything on the menu).

The overall feeling throughout our evening was “When are we coming back?”; it was such fun and although they played “99 Luftballoons” three times while we were there, the music was catchy and everyone was upbeat. The service was great, and the food is exceptional. Needless to say, I am glad I gave the delivery guy a night off.

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A Tribute to Bukowski: Review of Post Office

BY MICHELLE WAHLERS

Post Office
188 Havemeyer Street

Williamsburg
718-963-2574 / postofficebk.com/
Photo by Michelle Wahlers

The calendar boasts it is spring, but I would argue otherwise.  I decided to use the chilly weather as an excuse to try Post Office, a whiskey bar located under the Williamsburg Bridge. I met friends and got a table in the middle of the dimly lit, narrow bar. The bartender was willing to help an amateur (me) with the very extensive whiskey, Bourbon and rye list. I decided on the Buffalo Trace on the rocks, and my boyfriend got the Kentucky Vintage, neat. The Buffalo Trace was smooth and had “butterscotchy” tones. The Kentucky Vintage knocked me off my feet and put some hair on my chest with it’s musky, smoky flavor. I preferred the former. The other two guests with us both got Manhattans which were mahogany colored and garnished with a single cherry.


The Post Office’s decor is lovely, vintage and very personal. Above us hung a chandelier, each bulb burning soft. On the tables were candles, which had the habit of blowing out when we moved in to talk to each other. The music playing was a complete throwback, think Buddy Holly and Bobby Darin. The wallpaper was the Eagle Insignia, but I like to think that the true mascot for the place is Charles Bukowksi, whose portrait was hanging above the bar. As a fan girl, I was thrilled.

The menu was scarce, but we all knew what we were getting into. The place is a bar first and this becomes blatantly obvious when you realize the kitchen is about the size of a broom closet and that you can see right into it. I always marvel at kitchens that are so exposed to the public, confidence must run deep. We ordered oysters, deviled eggs, the pickle plate, a grilled cheese with bacon, the pulled pork sandwich and the last filet mignon. (Essentially the entire menu.) As soon as our waiter told me there was only one left I made it a point to reserve it. The food did not arrive promptly, but the service was always assuring us of its whereabouts and re-filling drinks. This is not a place to go for a quick bite, but it never presents itself as such. It promotes leisure and contemplation.

Of all the food we ordered, I have to say the deviled eggs were my favorite. That doesn’t even seem fair when steak is in the equation, but like I said this place is a bar that happens to serve food, not the other way around. Also I have an affinity to deviled eggs and these were made damn near perfectly.  The pickle plate was a fun way to begin the meal, with pickled peaches, beets, mushrooms, blackberries and peppers. (Trust me, somehow this all works together.) The filet mignon was rare but a bit too tough, but the bed of mashed potatoes it was lying on was delicious, swimming in bacon gravy. The grilled cheese was cooked perfectly; the bacon to cheese ration was 50:50 (which to me, is perfect!). The pulled pork sandwich was packed with freshly made coleslaw and thinly shredded pork on a dark toasted bun.

When our plates were cleared and we were warm and full, the place seemed to be gaining real momentum.  A small line formed (no doubt waiting for our table), and we started heading out, although I could have stayed for much longer. The mood was kind and calm, but with a healthy appreciation for the devious, as the portrait above the bar would suggest.

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A Provincial Escape in Alphabet City – Review of Edi and the Wolf

Edi and the Wolf
Lower East Side/ 102 Avenue C
Alphabet City
http
://www.ediandthewolf.com/

BY MICHELLE WAHLERS

Schultzkrpfen at Edi and the Wolf

I remember the exact moment I became fascinated with Austria. It was as a young girl, watching Julie Andrews twirl in the Austrian Alps. After that it was all “I should have been born in Austria!,” and “I look exactly like Liesl!”. Ah, to be young. I took German language classes for 4 years and still plan to twirl through those mountains. Until then, Edi and the Wolf will have to do. But what a delightful substitution.

We arrived at Edi and the Wolf at early dinner time, and were lucky enough to get seats by the window. The space is might have been an old garage, the front window is attached to runners that bring it up to the ceiling. Our waitress was friendly and personable, being honest with the dishes and pointing us in the right direction for drinks. We started with the Spiegel and the Hefeweizen. The latter provided a citrus touch that would carry throughout the night and enhance the entree. We were seated at a long wooden table, designed for large groups of strangers who will inevitably become charming and boisterous friends. This place is suitable for groups, but intimate ones; low lighting encourages close conversation and dish sharing.  Bouquets of flowers on the table are fragrant, but only until the food arrives.

For appetizers we orders the Landjager and the cured pork belly. They both arrived promptly and took up quite a bit of room. The Landjager (cured dried Austrian sausage) sat on a large slate plate; seated next to a dollop of mustard and a small pile of pickled parsnips. These short logs of  sausage immediately reminded me of Slim Jims, but there was a vast difference; these were amazing. Dried and wonderfully spiced, they were exactly what I was hoping to get from a place that boasted authentic Austrian cuisine.  The pork belly was thinly shredded and physically delicate yet tasted salty and a bit overwhelming (though plesant). I preferred the Landjager, but perhaps it was because of the easy access “sticks” they came in.

Passion Fruit cake with fresh whipped cream at Edi and the Wolf

Another round of beer arrived. The atmosphere of the place is completely comforting and even inspirational. Heavy wooden planks line the ceiling with rope line peaking between them, which conveys a sense of being below deck. As more people arrived the long tables filled up and friendly, wine filled banter rose into the air.  Heavy rope drapery canopied the bar, giving a feeling of being entangled in a space where they frequently bring you wine and cheese. A good nest to be caught in.

The entrees arrived. We ordered Schlutzkrpfen and the steak. The Schultzkrpfen was ravioli with a Austrian Mountain Cheese, roasted pine nuts and squash. What resonated most with  me were the pine nuts, contributing a crunchy toasted texture contrasting with the cheese and pasta. It was tart and startling at first, and fortunately the plates are small because it quickly becomes very filling. (I was also holding out for dessert!)

They recommended the steak cooked medium rare, advice we accepted. It was cooked excellently, with a crisp outer layer and tender pink middle. Surrounded by fried onions, tender parsnips and mild fried peppers, this steak didn’t stand a chance between the two of us. So long! We hardly knew ye.

Completely full, we trudged right through to dessert.  An overly complicated Linzer torte ended up fairly neglected, while a delicious passion fruit cake with fresh whipped cream stole the last act.

Perhaps it was because after such a heavy meal an airy passion fruit concoction calmly finished the meal, while the torte seemed to just sit there with additional heaviness.

The night slowly came to an end. By this time, the place was packed with smiling faces clinking glasses and excitedly opening menus. In a corner of Alphabet City you can find a sliver of whimsical yet realistic Austrian cuisine. For those New York bound, this might be as close to the Austrian Alps as we can get.

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Locally Grown in Astoria – A review of Sweet Afton

BY MICHELLE WAHLERS

Sweet Afton at 30-09 34th Street
Astoria, Queens
718-777-2570/ http://www.sweetaftonbar.com/

Photo by Michelle Wahlers

Photo by Michelle Wahlers

Astoria, Queens is not up and coming, it is happening right now. Local food, farmers markets, and neighborhood bars with a present and supportive community are sprouting up like dandelions. Sweet Afton (“The Astoria Local”) is quickly making a name for itself as the hub of trendy,  conscious and excellent eating and drinking.

I went Sunday night for some pre-Oscar cocktails and the place was packed to the gills. We got the last table in the house which is impressive and telling for a Sunday. Sweet Afton was incredibly welcoming with dim lighting and a great soundtrack, a perfect place to rehash the weekend’s debauchery and fuel up for the upcoming week. The menu is chocked full of comfort food made methodically with local ingredients. McClures pickles (made in Brooklyn) are featured prominently here, offering fried pickles and a pickle martini, winning over this pickle enthusiast. I ordered the salt and pepper rubbed ribs, the aforementioned pickle martini and a side of fried pickles. The ribs were tender and well cooked, but you are getting exactly what you ask for, no frills. Heavily seasoned with salt and pepper with no other accoutrement,  the emphasis is all on the pork, so poorly cooked meat has nowhere to hide. This is a nice change from ribs swimming in sauce with no consideration for the meat under it. The fried pickles were beer battered and served piping hot. The batter was almost like pastry dough, soft and chewy, even faintly moist. I washed it all down with the pickle martini which is (as the name suggests) a glass full of Titos vodka and pickle juice. As mentioned earlier I am a pretty fanatical pickle consumer so this is just what the boozy doctor ordered.

My boyfriend got the Sweet Afton burger with cheddar cheese and, oh my lord….it was excellent. Extremely juicy, perfectly melted cheese, strategically placed pickles (of course!) on a toasted bun. It really was what a burger should be; messy, sinful, and perfectly crafted. He got a Rye Root Beer, which is the kind of sneaky drink that crawls up on you and before you know it you’ve guzzled 3 glasses. What I’m saying is, don’t forget there is rye in that mug of homemade root beer.

We finished the evening with another drink, a Lagunita for him and a Miller’s martini for me. Although I’m more of a beer or whiskey kind of girl, this elegant cocktail was delicious and served almost as a dessert. Made with elderflower liquor, Millers gin, strawberry puree and garnished with a slice of cucumber, this “girly” drink was delicate and a bit dangerous. Tinged with a light pink hue, the Miller’s martini was an excellent end to a great night at a neighborhood hot spot in the making.

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