27. September 2006 American, Brooklyn 0

501 11th street off Seventh Avenue, Park Slope, Brooklyn
$160 for two, with several drinks, with tip
♥ ♥ ♥

I believe it’s called skill when a chef can take a cheap cut of veal and mask it as if it’s not part of the animal’s chewy shoulder. And I believe that it’s only a sincere love for food that can make a lamb loin taste, not like lamb, but of the combination of the complementary ingredients with it.

An amuse of roasted red beets with bloodoranges was a good start to a nicely-paced dinner at Applewood. The beets were tender but gave softly in my mouth. A seared Maine scallop sat in soup; I was only disappointed that I didn’t have a spoon to slurp all of it. A braised Vermont pork belly was crunchy and yet so delicate with the tiny pieces of eggplant, my smile stretched past my ears. The lamb loin was soft and really tasted like a nice cut of beef especially with the slightly bitter daikon and the creamy (but a little too salty) polenta. And veal shoulder, an inexpensive cut meant to be braised for hours, was naturally chewy but it was presented with such skill that you accept it just the way nature intended it. We ended the night with a small muffin of almond cake and it came with Seckel pear, the miniature sweet-sour kind excellent for cooking. A much bigger dessert, nectarine cobbler, was eaten until the last crumb was unseen.

Treading to Brooklyn for dinner is an ordeal for us Harlem residents, but we are well aware of the restaurants cropping up in support of sustainable local products and we are slowly making our way to eating in the outer boroughs. Applewood, for the last two years, has been changing their menu daily to ensure the freshness and seasonality of the ingredients. (An onion martini is a must-have before dinner is served.) An otherwise quiet Tuesday night dinner became special.