501 11th street, Brooklyn, NY
I have a confession. As much as I admire the sustainable food movement for encouraging more and more chefs to serve locally produced ingredients, I’m afraid that at times, I find the whole thing a bit grating. Perhaps it is just that I feel like it becomes an easy out for certain restaurants—that the cooking hides behind this “higher purpose” that almost dares you to disapprove. I wholeheartedly approve of it in theory, though have to admit that I do not always shop at the farmer’s market, that I sometimes buy food in bulk, and that I don’t always know where my meat and produce comes from.
I am, however, also a card carrying Park Slope coop member and have been a devoted fan of Alice Waters for years, so I am very susceptible to seeing “sustainably grown, local ingredients” as a bright beacon, drawing me to places like Applewood that proclaim this philosophy. As Applewood is on the pricey side, I decided to test the waters by trying it for brunch. It was a beautifully warm day so we chose to sit in the garden. When I had first read about the restaurant, it had been winter and many of the reviews spoke of eating tasty roasted meats by a wood burning fireplace. As noted in my Spotted Pig review, I am mad for meat and fireplaces on cold nights. Alas, it was summer so I’ll have to save those cravings for another time.
We arrived around 11:30 and were pleasantly surprised that we only had to wait a few minutes before being seated. We started with fresh-squeezed blood orange mimosas, and they were a perfect balance of tart, sweet and dry and so very pretty to look at! They were a tad on the pulpy side, but that often comes with fresh squeezed citrus. This drink and the setting made me feel like I was at an old-school garden party, which I loved. I had the BLT with Applewood smoked bacon, local lettuce and organic Vermont tomatoes ($15) and Court ordered the Maple Belgian Waffle with roasted fruit and sweet cream ($9). Even though BLTs are synonymous with diners, and therefore found on every other menu in America, I still have a hard time saying no. Applewood’s BLT was very solid: the bacon was thick, chewy and had the right amount of smoke, the tomatoes were juicy and tasted like a wonderfully ripe beefsteak. The sandwich was finished with a light layer of aioli on toasted sourdough. All in all, it was a wonderful sandwich. My biggest complaint is that it was a little thick, which meant I couldn’t get to all of the layers in one bite—which is really the whole point of a BLT, isn’t it?
The Belgian Waffle was very good as well—the waffle had a crisp exterior that gave way to a moist airy center perfumed with vanilla. I have to say though, that my favorite part might have been the sweet cream—it was luscious, full bodied cream that tasted unbelievably fresh and I pretty much wanted to slather it on everything—BLT included. The roasted fruit however, was a bit bland—just stewed spiced apples. And as it was summer, I had hoped for some beautiful berries, or better yet, peaches and nectarines.
The service was friendly and the atmosphere is terrific if you like intimate neighborhood places like I do. Did Applewood‘s cooking hide behind the local, sustainable banner of righteousness? Absolutely not, but I have only been once and will have to try dinner next time. I’ll keep you posted with a review upon my next visit. I can picture it now: slow-roasted pork and a glass of red wine in front of their fireplace…..