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Leah Bhabha Headshot

Top 5 Tastes: Classic Dishes and Micro Fishes

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Living in such a culinarily vibrant city allows me the opportunity to enjoy any food on a whim; from classic dishes which fortify and comfort like summer rolls or ham and cheese crepes to new and exciting (but no more delicious, necessarily) preparations like tomato tarte Tatin, a healthful naan sandwich and a finger-sized anchovy hors d'oeuvre. Behold, another week of gullet gallivanting.

1. Crêpe Parisienne - Pâtes et Traditions (Brooklyn, NY)
In New York, brunch generally brings out the worst in people. $18 eggs, over-extended kitchens and hungry, bratty customers create a perfect storm of Hollandaise-laced, Bloody Mary-emboldened chaos. On my continuing culinary (and wallet depleting) quest to explore my neighborhood, I visited Pâtes et Traditions, and was immediately transported far from the madding New York crowds, to a quaint Parisian "resto", (albeit with charming-and French! -- waiters). Known as a "galette", this variety of buckwheat crepe is native to the French region of Brittany. I ordered the Parisienne, with slivers of Jambon de Paris ham, melted Gruyère, sliced mushrooms and a perfect fried egg nestled in between the turned up corners of the crèpe. In this hearty hug of a dish the slightly sour buckwheat crepe cut through the richness of the cheese and egg while the strips of ham provided both heft and saline seasoning. Au Revoir, Brunch.

2. Tomato Tarte Tatin - Short Stack Editions Event at KitchenSurfing (Brooklyn, NY)

If tomatoes are a fruit, how come no one treats them like one? At a recent event, chef Soa Davies prepared an unforgettable Tomato Tarte Tatin from her "Tomatoes" volume. After being caramelized with butter, sugar and balsamic vinegar, the tomatoes entered an unmistakeably sweet state; lusciously reminiscent of baked stone fruit. They were, of course, a bit savory as well, the acidic tang of tomato juice balancing the sugar, while the balsamic vinegar rounded out the flavor -- adding depth and some additional acid. Rich vanilla ice cream pled the dessert case even further, cooling down the warm tomatoes, and re-creating that incredible balsamic/vanilla combination. Out of 9 food-centric guests, this was everyone's first tomato dessert.

3. The Clean Slate- Saltie (Brooklyn, NY)

Sandwiches are known for many things; versatility, deliciousness, and presence in a number of cultural foods, from Vietnamese Banh Mis to Indian Vada Pav and Italian Paninis. They are decidedly NOT known, though, for their health benefits. So, as I strolled to Saltie, I attempted a virtuous approach, selecting a health-food inspired sandwich with the encouraging moniker "The Clean Slate." A mound of pickled vegetables, sliced beets and herbs shrouded the hearty base of hummus, yogurt and bulghur. Residing on an oval of fluffy naan, this hippie commune of freshness was a lovechild between artisanal Brooklyn and 1960s California; pickles, bulghur and all. I picked at the top with a fork, wading through the crunchy acidic vegetables and earthy sliced beets, all enhanced by the sprigs of dill, mint and basil scattered throughout. After some central demolition, I ended by wrapping the leftover veggies in naan, and turned in a plate, or should I say slate, entirely clean.

4. Summer Rolls - An Nhau (Brooklyn, NY)
One of the few merits of moving is the necessary quest of finding new eateries in the neighborhood. After the boxes have been collapsed, the hands have healed, and the pictures have been hung, one can sit back on ye olde Seamless and go to town. Ordering summer rolls is invariably a win-win, they are good for you, feature all essential food groups (protein, carbs and vegetables) and, most importantly, are usually accompanied by that high priestess of condiments: peanut sauce. The rolls hit all the notes, with fresh poached shrimp, refreshing vegetables, vermicelli noodles, surrounded by a swath of rice paper and, of course, Madame peanut sauce. Revolutionary they were not, but who's looking for revolutionary delivery anyway?

5. Paprika Chip with Fried Anchovy and Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette - Asta at the James Beard House (New York, NY)
I was lucky enough to be a guest at an unusually classy event at the James Beard house, since some close friends from Boston were preparing a meal there. While the dishes were all fabulously innovative, one of the hors d'oeuvres particularly struck my eye (and taste buds.) The dehydrated chip spanned merely half an inch, slightly curved at the edges to more effectively hold the contents. On top lay a shimmering silver anchovy topped with small cubes of preserved lemon and one solitary micro green(!) The delicate presentation was matched in taste; the crunchy chip flavored with paprika, rendering it appealingly orange and delicately smoky, while the slender anchovy exemplified the unapologetic fish flavor, but without any overtones of funk. The lemon was refreshing yet sour, a burst of controlled citric flavor which brought to life the other components more fully. All just one bite! I probably had six of them.