Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Dolce is an Italian word meaning “sweet and soft,” a perfect description of gelato made in Red Hook.  Dolce Brooklyn is an artisanal gelato and sorbetto café located at 305 Van Brunt St.  I am a gelato fanatic and love it more than ice cream…both for less fat and more taste.  Pierre Alexandre does the actual preparation and runs the café while his wife Kristina Frantz Alexandre is the obviously brilliant chef who creates the recipes.  Kristina purposely took a trip to Bologna in order to make sure that these cool desserts are made the old-fashion Italian way, totally from scratch without powders or any other artificial ingredients. 
Gelato is lot of chemistry and I learned mostly about how to balance the ingredients, how to use different sugars, how to use alcohol, etc”, Kristina said. “The education was more about tools and less about recipes. Like infusion, adjusting the sugars for consistency based upon their freezing power, and so on. That being said - we did of course make recipes while I was there but after white base, chocolate and salted caramel (making my own caramel) - the rest were learning exercises. But even these have since been adjusted to my personal versions.”

How about the recipes?  “All of my recipes are mine.  I started with a few recipes like Fior di Latte and Chocolate and adjusted them for the milk I used (different fat content) and my choice of chocolates. I use Battenkill from Salem, NY and the fat content is higher so everything had to be adjusted to maintain the 7% that I like to keep our gelati at.”

There are two ways to make gelato, one is done by a hot process and the other a cold one.  Kristina said that the hot process has a far better consistency and allows the full flavor to come through.  “It also allows for more flexibility in flavors.  Cold process requires a powder base with more ingredients allowing for less flexibility and poorer flavor and consistency.”

Ferrying from Rockaway to Sunset Park to Red Hook, my friend Nancy and I were up for a tasting and I believe we tasted all 5 sorbettos, 8 gelatos on hand and an Affogato as well.  

Miguel was at the counter as I waited for Pierre to arrive.  He had stepped out to get a bottle of bourbon from a local distillery called Van Brunt Stillhouse.  I’ll get to that later.   Sorbettos do not contain milk and when made properly taste quite “creamy.” Miguel invited us to try the sorbettos beginning with Mango.  It was like having a soft but frozen mango puree.  Only fresh fruit is used for any of the products.  Berry sorbetto, a mix of raspberry, strawberry and blueberry, is a great way to have a portion of your daily fruit.   Coconut sorbetto was pretty good and would have been even better for me if combined with their chocolate gelato.  

There were two sorbettos that were less common and expertly devised.  One was Pink Grapefruit Lavender.  I expected the lavender to be overpowering the way I find it in desserts or as an herb in cooking.  Kristina figured out just the right amount to use in order to taste the lavender while enjoying the full flavor of the sweet but acidic pink grapefruit.  

I wish I could have taken home a gallon of mint cucumber lemon sorbetto.   Think about these cool and most refreshing of combinations for a summer treat….although I could handle it in the winter.  In fact any restaurant that serves a “palate cleanser” should take heed to this one. 

Pierre is back and suggested the gelato tasting be conducted just the way you would if you were at a winery starting with the “whites.”  The first one, Fior di latte is a gelato made of milk, a bit of cream and sugar used as a base for the other gelatos.  It tasted just fine, alone.  They have a drink called Affogato, a scoop of Fior di latte with a shot of espresso poured over it.   Espresso is from Italy.  Best sipped after gelato melts somewhat.  

Onto the next group of gelatos.  Blueberry was full flavor without being overly sweet.  Cookies and cream…although I enjoyed it, isn’t one of my things.  With Amarena sour black cherry Kristina has taken the basic Fior di latte and added these delectable jarred cherries from Italy.  

Hazelnut does not have the “Nutella” taste.  Rather than the hazelnuts being made into a paste it is very finely chopped.   Soul Fuel Formula E Racing Flavor is dedicated to an actual car race that took place in Brooklyn.  Fior di Latte is infused with real Italian espresso beans completed with a Michel Cluizel cafe noir chocolate stracciatella (aka - chip).

These last two were as if you went to tasting the “red wines.” Van Brunt Stillhouse Bourbon Chocolate – There is a local distillery in Red Hook.  Pierre was buying the bourbon there.  What I enjoyed about it was that there was just enough bourbon without giving that overpowering alcohol sting.   Pierre believes in going “local” on resources whenever possible. 

Serious chocolate.   This one is for chocoholics like me and had to be nursed.  They are quite picky on the chocolate that they use.  It  is also used for the bourbon chocolate.  

Please keep in mind that since the gelatos and sorbettos are made in small batches, the flavor may change daily, or even while you are there. 

Here are other flavors that you may find: Gianduja, Pistachio, Mint Stracciatella, Strawberry, Banana, Fresh Ginger, Earl Grey, Spiced Pumpkin Pie, Olive Oil, Salted Caramel, Tahitian Vanilla (she literally have a friend from Tahiti who barters beans for gelato), Maple Pecan (Fior di Latte with real maple syrup swirled in with candied pecans - Pierre made), Peppermint Stick.

Sorbettos: Lemon, Ginger Pineapple, Raspberry Mint (Pierre made), Strawberry Basil, Gingered Peach, White Peach, Forrest Berry, Orange Cardamon.

“Last year for Thanksgiving I made Spiced Pumpkin Gelato Pies :)  They were a hit! Handcrafted chocolate (or graham) crust, spiced pumpkin gelato topped with fior di latte gelato and sprinkled with cinnamon.  No ‘pumpkin pie spice’ in this one!! Only my spice mix and real pumpkin.”

I’m certainly not going to wait until Thanksgiving to go back there.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Thanksgiving bringing visions of a turkey dinner with all of the fixings needs to be replaced by history as it really happened.  With the Mayflower floating at sea, the Pilgrims first landed in Provincetown, Massachusetts where the Native Americans introduced them to lobster.  Yes, it was the year 1620 as they spent five weeks drafting up one of the most famous documents in American history, the Mayflower Compact…In fact, you know you have approached P’Town when you see the Pilgrim Monument, the tallest all-granite structure in the US….That first Thanksgiving brought New England seafood where lobsters were considered the “turkey.” 
Once known as the “cockroach of the sea,” lobsters have become a mouth-watering delicacy especially to Susan Povich and her husband Ralph Gorham.   Susan’s family originally lived in Maine where the best lobster seems to be found.   While vacationing there Susan got a hankering for lobster.  She and Ralph first decided to share their food craving with friends by bringing back 20 pounds of it for a lobster dinner.   They came to the conclusion that a business investment would work even better with a move to Red Hook, Brooklyn.  Thus the Red Hook Lobster Pound begat selling lobsters maintained in tanks. 

With Red Hook going through a period of gentrification Susan and Ralph wanted to keep up with this new artsy area by turning his business into a restaurant.  Nothing fancy.  Ralph describes it as being a “shanty shack like you would see at the end of a wharf in Maine.”  I loved it!  Just a few blocks from the NYC ferry landing.  

What would then be the best way to serve lobster without having to cook them or even pick it apart?  Lobster rolls, another New England craze. “Maine Lobster”, one of the rolls, is tossed with a touch of homemade mayo piled on to a buttery split-top bun and topped with paprika and scallions. Susan has experimented with creating the perfect mayo that would enhance the lobster without overwhelming the flavor.   

Does the lobster meat come from the lobsters from their tank?   Are you kidding?  With the amount of lobster rolls sold here Ralph gets the meat from a company in Maine where they have machines that do the work.  It’s the knuckles and claws that have the sweetest and most tender meat.  Sometimes it can come from the legs as well.  Next time you get a whole lobster, use a rolling pin to push it out.  You may be surprised with the quantity.   Did I tell you that it comes with slaw, pickle and your choice of fries, potato salad or green salad?

Would you like the “Thanksgiving experience?”  Have a lobster dinner, especially on a Wednesday when the price is $25.  You get a Swimming-in-the-tank-fresh 1 1/2 LB Maine Lobster, boiled red new potatoes, corn and restaurant made cole slaw.  Bib and equipment provided. 

There are a few other items that you must indulge in.  One of them is soup.  If you are with someone, get two cups of two different “chowdahs.”   Down East consists of lobster, clams, haddock and mussels in a creamy tomato broth.  The other is a creamy old fashioned clam chowder. 

I have had fried pickles before.  Restaurants usually serve them in slices cross wise or length wise.  Ralph tells me that they dice them up, place them in a Brooklyn brine beer batter to fry and serve with a chipotle aioli.  There is always a next time for me.  

I’m not much for brussels sprouts.  I could now understand why it has become one of their best sellers.  Fry them in a caramelized lobster broth and make sure that they don’t come out raw or overdone.  Wow!  

You can’t imagine that the most popular sandwich is a Hook Burger.  That’s another one of Susan’s ideas and it won awards.  Dry aged prime custom blend. Burger itself is topped with lettuce, tomato, special sauce and American cheese. Add bacon...$1.50. Like all of the sandwiches, it comes with slaw, Brooklyn brine pickle and your choice of Fries, Potato Salad or Green Salad. Sweet potato fries extra $1.00.  This burger has been rated one of the top 25 in New York City.  

I had to save room for dessert (s).  Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies is a local thing.  They come in tarts and use real key limes and egg yolks.  Although pies can be made with regular limes, these small key limes have a special flavor of their own.  It is topped with fresh whipped cream.  Since the Banana Mousse Pudding is made on the premises I needed to sample that as well.  OMG.  Whipped pudding with ‘nilla wafers topped with whipped cream. 

Here is the info low down.   Open Tuesday-Thursday: 11:30am-10pm Friday-Saturday: 11:30am-11pm / Sunday: 11:30am-10pm.  Phone number: 718-858-7650 

Red Hook Lobster Pound has some other locations, although none are full restaurants.  Their Montauk location is a basic shack with food to go and benches outside.  Another location is a main booth that is part of UrbanSpace Vanderbilt at 45th St. in Manhattan.  Needless to say there are trucks, one of which you will find in Rockaway along the beach calling it Rockaway Clam Bar.  Cater your party by having a truck come to your home!  Happy Tanksgiving!

Sunday, August 13, 2017


NYC Ferry has become the most ingenious way to travel around the city.  Okay…they need more boats, etc.  Can you blame them?  For the same amount to ride a bus or subway, you get to relax on a boat that has enough seating for each person.  Snacks and liquid refreshments…many have or are getting WiFi.  

Most popular is the trip from Rockaway to Wall St. and probably the opposite as it has been giving Manhattanites the opportunity and indulgence of the beach, which I will get into at another time.  For now I’m concentrating on a stop in between:  Sunset Park.   No, that is not the place I explored but where there is the connection to Red Hook.  

I boarded the Rockaway landing locale at 108th Street at 3:15pm to arrive in Sunset Park at 3:58pm     The ferry system allows me to transfer from here at Pier 11 to Red Hook, picking it up at 4:07pm, arriving in Red Hook at 4:22pm.  Atlantic Basin is the station…a rather bare looking ship yard. 

Red Hook is now getting to be one of the built up neighborhoods with a lot of places to see and restaurants to eat at, all of which are in walking distance from the ferry landing.   Of course what one’s walking distance may be different from another.   I explored only a few blocks beginning with the Mary A. Whalen tanker. 

According to the website, “She is an artifact of Ira S. Bushey & Sons, a Red Hook business that ran an innovative shipyard, a fuel terminal, and a fleet of vessels moving fuel (tugs, tankers and barges). The fact that ‘Bushey's’ combined what are usually three separate endeavors makes the firm particularly remarkable - and they excelled in all three.”  Originally, the Mary went ground in the Rockaways. She officially became the bases of operations for PortSide New York in 2006 opening to the public in 2007.  

During Tanker Time you can go on the main deck set up with sorts of furniture.  Here is what they say. “Lounge in a hammock, lunch at a picnic table, meet over a cafe table, read books from our maritime library while you are stretched out in a lounge chair, bring the kids here instead of the same old playground! M-F 10am to 6pm as long as the weather is warm enough. Second Sundays, 5pm to midnight, May through September. At 9 pm, the musicians jam ‘WaterStories of the Wine Dark Sea’ starts and runs until midnight. Our Second Sundays are May 14, June 11, July 9, Aug. 13, Sept. 10.” This is all part of Portside New York located at Pier 11.   On the website you can hear short segments of their audio tour.   Keep the ferry schedule in mind.  

You will find Pioneer Works just past the gate at 159 Pioneer St.  I entered through their garden, a place of serenity with a picnic area, trees, grass and sculptures.  There is a tunnel through a hill giving access to stone paths.  Alongside is a three-story building.  Here we have a conglomeration of the arts and science. Visual and performing artists, along with designers, musicians, writers, and scientists are here to share their ideas in a public presentation of their work produced over the course of a residency.   

I did not see much on the main floor so far as exhibitions as the walls were vast and most of what one could view was on the two floors above.   The best way to enjoy your visit is to check their website, www.pioneerworks.org for all of the events.  

I am sorry to say…for me, that is…I was not able to get to Dolce Brooklyn at 305 Van Brunt St., the first main road that crosses Pioneer St.  I am a gelato fanatic and love it more than ice cream…both for less fat and more taste.  I spoke with the co-owner, Pierre.   It is made the old-fashion Italian way, totally from scratch without powders, etc.  Fresh fruit and no flavorings.  Co-owner, Chef Kristina took a trip to Bologna.  I will go back as I want to visit Waterfront Museum and Shorefront Barge, Erie Basin, Red Hook Winery, Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie and some art galleries.  

Where did I dine?  Red Hook Lobster Pound at 284 Van Brunt St.  That’s another full story.  

I would highly recommend taking on this adventure with an early start just after the morning rush hour(s).  For the extra dollar, you can bring your bike. If you don’t have one you will find that many of the ferry stops have Citibike, one of which is on Pioneer St., a few blocks from the gate.  Cost seems to be $12 for unlimited 30-minute rides in a period of 24 hours.   There are a number of docks in the area.   Advantage of bringing your own is that you can simply lock it up in front of each destination that you visit. 

Starting August 29, 2017, a route beginning in Astoria will connect to Roosevelt Island, Long Island City, East 34th St. in Manhattan, then on down to Wall St. at Pier 11.  The entire route takes approximately 45 minutes.  At East 34th St. you then have the opportunity to take a free shuttle bus going as far west as 6th Avenue, and as far north as 48th St.  One stop brings you to 47th and 6th, right in the heart of the theatre district.  Keep in mind that it is a “flag down” service and does not operate all day.  

Each ride costs $2.75 and gets you one transfer.  However, you can purchase a 30-day pass for $121.00; best if you are commuting to work.   If you are disabled or a senior citizen the 30-day pass is $60.  You will have to fill out a form and send proof in order to get it.  Check it all out on www.ferry.nyc