Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Holiday Food Experiments are coming

By Erica Sackin

They’ve battled over brunch, chosen the best cheeses, and even tackled tacos. But cookoff pros Theo Peck and Nick Suarez are about to take on what might be their most ambitious Food Experiment yet: the holidays. 

On Sunday, the foodie duo will bring 25 home chefs to the Bell House in Gowanus in the ultimate holiday cuisine smackdown. The two have been hosting their Food Experiments — themed competitive cook-offs for local home chefs — since last June, so far tackling beer, chocolate, cheese, tacos, brunch, and Brooklyn roots. Yet even for these competition veterans, they know that there’s something about holiday food that makes it, well, personal.

“Holiday food is all about comfort,” says Suarez. “It reminds people of growing up and home, and that’s so important in the realm of good food.”

Participating chefs will be whipping up a variety of dishes, including a traditional green bean casserole and more ambitious “God Jul Goat Kjottkaker with Dilled Brunost Cream and Cloudberry Aquavit.”

“I look for dishes that have a story,” Suarez says. “What does this food mean to the chef?”

Audience members will join the impressive judging panel — Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appétit magazine; Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery; and Peter Hoffman of Savory and Back Forty restaurants — in choosing the best dish based on creativity, presentation, and, of course, taste. Yet since dishes will be judged on just one bite, Suarez reminds his chefs that seasoning is of the utmost importance.

“Winning cookoffs is 50 percent logistics and 50 percent proper seasoning and execution,” Suarez says. “We always say to chefs to create the perfect bite.”

Holiday Food Experiment at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510], Dec. 5, 4-7 pm. Admission is $20 in advance (includes a whiskey tasting).


Momofuku - in Brooklyn!

By Erica Sackin

It used to be that the worst thing about the delicious cakes, pies and pastries offered at Momofuku’s Milk Bar was the subway ride into Manhattan to get them.

Well, no longer.

The scintillating sweets-peddler has just set up its first Brooklyn-based outpost, and will be offering its tasty treats through the holidays. 

Milking the location of its Metropolitan Avenue industrial kitchen, the cult baker opened a small, credit-card-only storefront just before Thanksgiving. Devotees are welcome to order any of the cult baker’s over-the-top goods online — from their crack pie to the bluberries and cream cookies — and pick them up in the brand new storefront.

Walk-in customers are also welcome, but be warned: the storefront takes no cash — and requires a $20 minimum purchase. So be prepared to walk away with at least a dozen cookies (not a difficult task once you’ve tasted them).

Though this storefront plans on closing after the holidays, the delicious dessert dealer promises that a permanent Brooklyn location is “in the cards,” possibly near the bakery’s industrial kitchen in Greenpoint.

“We all live within a 10-block radius,” said employee Alison Roman. “We love it here.”

Momofuku Milk Bar [382 Metropolitan Ave. between Havemeyer Street and Marcy Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 599-1370], daily 10 am–6 pm. Order online at www.milkbarstore.com.


Very graphic

By Thomas Tracy

Independent comic book doodlers will rub elbows with fine artists from matchless metropolitan magazines on Dec. 4 as the second annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival touches down in Williamsburg.

Get a load of this lineup: New Yorker Art Editor Francoise Mouly; Lynda Barry ("pictured" at left in a self portrait), long considered the queen of non-mainstream cartoonists thanks to her 20-year run writing and illustrating “Ernie Pook’s Comeek”; comic book legend Irwin Hasen, who began his career drawing “The Green Lantern” in the 1940s; and Charles Burns, author of the acclaimed graphic novel “Black Hole.”

There will also be symposiums and exhibits, organizer Gabriel Fowler explained.

“It’s going to be amazing,” Fowler said from Desert Island, his independent comic headquarters on Metropolitan Avenue. “Last year’s festival was a sleeper hit that gave us the power to draw more astounding artists to this year’s event.”

Much like the current comic book scene, Fowler’s festival will be a pot luck dinner of talent: Guests and exhibitors represent all shades of the illustrated storytelling spectrum. Experts in printmaking, silk screening and album cover art will also be in attendance, Fowler said.  

“In one sense, the festival has a narrow focus, but we’re going to have people from throughout the art world,” Fowler assures us. “Most people think that festivals like this are for comic book nerds, but this is not a nerd only event. It’s for the artists.”

Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church [275 N. Eighth St. between Havemeyer Street and Union Avenue in Williamsburg, (718) 388-5087], Dec. 4, noon-8 pm. Admission is free. For info, visit www.comicsandgraphicsfest.com.


Sometimes you feel like a nut...

Besides mistletoe, egg nog and that sweater from grandma, there’s no greater holiday tradition than “The Nutcracker.” But no two “Nutcrackers” are alike, so we checked them all out to give you an insider’s guide:

The Classics

From Dec. 22-Jan. 2, the American Ballet Theatre brings “The Nutcracker” to the Brooklyn Academy of Music. A live orchestra will perform Tchaikovsky’s famous score, while more than 100 performers will bring the magical toy soldiers, sparkling fairies, mischievous mice, and, of course, young Clara and her wooden prince to life. 

In Bay Ridge, the Vicky Simegiatos Dance Company (right) borrows ballerina Jennifer Ringer, principal of the New York City Ballet, once again for a full-length production on Dec. 19. Ringer stars as the Sugar Plum Fairy, while the rest of the cast is rounded out by the young members of the company for a particularly sweet production.

Similarly, over at the Kingsborough Performing Arts Center, the Brighton Ballet Theater’s Russian American Kids Ballet revives the holiday classic on Dec. 12, with lavish costumes, splendid scenery, and a junior company of more than 50 young dancers in an abridged production. You can catch the Brighton Ballet Theater again at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, as the company performs all your favorite excerpts from “The Nutcracker”  on Dec. 19.

American Ballet Theatre at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Gilman Opera House [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], Dec. 22-Jan. 2. Tickets $20-$135. For info, visit bam.org; Vicky Simegiatos Dance Company, Dec. 19 at 7 pm and Dec. 20 at 2 pm at the Poly Prep Country Day School [Seventh Avenue at 92nd Street in Bay Ridge, (347) 517-4169]. Tickets, $25–$35. For info, visit www.vspac.com; Kingsborough Community College [2001 Oriental Blvd. at Decatur Avenue in Manhattan Beach, (718) 368-5596], Dec. 18 at 2 pm. Tickets $12. For info, visit www.kbcc.cuny.edu; Brighton Ballet Theater at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum [145 Brooklyn Ave. between St. Marks Avenue and Prospect Place in Crown Heights, (718) 735-4400], Dec. 19 at 1:30 pm and 2:30 pm. Admission $7.50. For info, visit www.brooklynkids.org.


“The Nutcracker” wasn’t known for humor until Mark Morris’s “The Hard Nut,” an irreverent take now celebrating its 30th anniversary, Dec. 10-19. Morris’s troupe transplants the story from the decorous 1890s to the swinging 1970s, and live music will be provided by the MMDG Music Ensemble with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

The Gowanus-based Company XIV, known for its sensuous, Baroque-inspired performances, gives “The Nutcracker” an erotic makeover with its “Nutcracker Rouge” (left), running Dec. 10-Jan. 9. In keeping with the company’s opulent flair, this retelling promises to be a hedonistic display of gorgeous and decadent winter entertainment, complete with burlesque that further strays off book as it blends pieces by Tchaikovsky, Vivaldi and Duke Ellington, with text inspired “The Nutcracker” and “Little Red Riding Hood.” That, at least, explains the “rouge.”

“The Colonial Nutcracker,” an annual, hour-long production at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 12, sets the action in wintry colonial Yorktown in Virginia, during the Revolutionary War. That makes for a red-coated mouse army and an enchanted nutcracker prince in, naturally, a powder wig.

“The Hard Nut” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House [30 Lafayette Ave. between Ashland Place and St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], Dec. 10, 11, and 15-18 at 7:30 pm, and Dec. 12 and 19 at 3 pm. Tickets $25-$70. For info, visit bam.org; “Nutcracker Rouge” at Company XIV (303 Bond St. at Union Street in Gowanus, no phone), Dec. 10-Jan. 9, Friday-Sunday at 8 pm. Tickets $25-$40. For info, visit www.companyxiv.com; “The Colonial Nutcracker” at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College [2900 Campus Rd. at Hillel Place in Flatbush, (718) 951-4600 X22], Dec. 12 at 2 pm. Tickets, $6. For info, visit www.brooklyncenteronline.org.


It's the most wonderful time of the year

By Adam Warner

You’ll be running around these next few weeks, baking up a storm, decorating the house and crossing off everyone on your list. But don’t forget to take a step back and have fun with festivities that only come around once a year. Whether that means testing your dreidel skills, belting out a “Hallelujah” in Handel’s “Messiah,” or watching a scantily clad “Eve” perform some sacrilegious striptease, we’ve got you covered for the next month, thanks to our trusty holiday guide. Don’t leave home without it (and some mistletoe).


Don’t just sit there — get up, get in the game or simply shimmy off those sugar cookies at these holiday-themed parties, concerts and festivals.

Spin city: It’s not just football and basketball season — it’s dreidel season! Brooklyn’s top dreidelers will be descending on the Knitting Factory to spin their way to victory — and win Major League Dreidel’s coveted crystal trophy. There will be music, too, including holiday songs from the Young New Yorkers’ Chorus and serious face meling from Category Sixx, the “world’s greatest air band.”

Dreidel Tournament at the Knitting Factory [361 Metropolitan Ave. at Havemeyer Street in Williamsburg, (347) 529-6696], Dec. 9 at 7 pm. Tickets $10-$15. For info, visit www.majorleaguedreidel.com

Bowled over: ’Tis the season to give, but that doesn’t mean you can donate without a party. On Nov. 30, Brooklyn Bowl is hosting a fundraiser to support JDub records, a non-profit Jewish music label. Hosted by comedian Eugene Mirman, the show will feature JDub bands The Sway Machinery, DeLeon and Soulico. And there’s even a gift in store for you, if you’re early — first 150 people get a drink on the house.

“Festival of Strikes: A JDub Benefit Concert” at Brooklyn Bowl [61 Wythe Ave. between N. 11th and N. 12th streets in Williamsburg, (718) 963-3369], Nov. 30, 6 pm. $15. For info, visit www.brooklynbowl.com.   

Book ’em: If a sexy librarian is on your wish list this year, there’s no need to wait for old St. Nick. On Dec. 4, the Bell House hosts “Biblioball 2010: Spellbound,” a winter formal dance party to benefit the organization, Literacy for Incarcerated Teens, thrown by the ladies (and men) behind the library group, Desk Set. DJs will be spinning the beats of every decade, while bands like the Crazy Pills and Raindeer will get you rocking. And don’t forget your formal wear.

Biblioball 2010: Spellbound at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510], Dec. 4 at 8:30 pm. Tickets $20, or $45 with the 7:30 pm happy hour. For info, visit www.thebellhouseny.com.  

Festival of light: An avant-garde art rave and fashion show isn’t the traditional way to mark the first night of Hanukkah, but that’s what makes this event so enticing. On Dec. 1, a Sunset Park warehouse will welcome music, live interactive art, fashion show, and more for the first night of the sixth annual Sephardic Music Festival. Live models will present the latest apparel by Dveykus — the label behind the controversial Israeli Keffiyeh scarf — and, this being a music festival and all, DJs Y-Love, DeScribe, and Diwon will bring the beats.

Warehouse Art Rave and Fashion Show (226 36th St. near Second Avenue in Sunset Park, no phone), Dec. 1 at 7 pm. Tickest $8 in advance, $10 at the door. For info, visit shemspeed.com

Unorthodox reggae: It wouldn’t be Hanukkah in Brooklyn without Matisyahu’s “Festival of Light” tour, now in its fifth year. The Crown Heights–based Jewish reggae star presents eight shows, of course, this holiday, with four of them at Brooklyn Bowl and Music Hall of Williamsburg, where he’ll break out his custom-made dreidel disco ball and songs spanning his entire catalogue. That’s sure to include his new song, “Miracle,” his own answer to Adam Sandler’s unmatched “Hanukkah Song.”

Matisyahu at Brooklyn Bowl [61 Wythe Ave. between N. 11th and N. 12th streets in Williamsburg, (718) 963-3369], Nov. 29 at 9 pm. Tickets, $25; Music Hall of Williamsburg [66 N. Sixth St. between Kent and Wythe avenues, (718) 486-5400], Nov. 30 at 8:30 pm; Dec. 4 (sold out) at 9 pm; and Dec. 5 at 8:30 pm. Tickets, $35. For info, visit www.matisyahuworld.com.


Forget Radio City — the best theatrical spectacles this holiday season are in Brooklyn:

Bible burlesque: Storybook Burlesque’s new show covers — or uncovers — stories from the Good Book in “Bible Show.” On Dec. 3, the sacrilegious striptease comes to Coney Island, with tassel twirling, Japanese theater, and lyrical dance that you won’t remember from Sunday School. Then again, your teachers weren’t Cherry Magdalene, Rosey La Rouge, or Victoria Privates. 

Storybook Burlesque’s Bible Show at Sideshows by the Seashore [1208 Surf Ave. at W. 12th Street in Coney Island, (718) 372-5159], Dec. 3 at 9 pm. Tickets $15. For info, visit www.storybookburlesque.com

Swinging time: Talk about rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Aerial theater company Suspended Cirque is back for another dizzying holiday show, “Under the Tree” (pictured above), starting Dec. 22 at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO. Christmas-themed “toys” like Barbie, a candy cane, and a tree angel come alive, swinging from chandeliers and art frames. Where else can you see circus, acrobatics, music, dance and theater in one place this season? 

“Under the Tree” at Galapagos Art Space [16 Main St. at Water Street in DUMBO, (718) 222-8500], Dec. 22 and 23 at 8 pm. Tickets $20. For info, visit www.suspendedcirque.com

Pirate shtick: Sick of the typical saccharine holiday fare? Then you’ll love “Dar and Matey’s ‘Christmas SpectaculARGH!’ ” Written by Robert Ross Parker of Vampire Cowboys, this new play at the Brick follows pirates Dar and Matey as they brave the North Pole, polar bears and Tiny Tim to rescue their from the torturous clutches of Old St. Nick, that fat bastard. It’s part of the theater’s “Fight Fest,” a celebration of stage combat, so you know punches will be thrown.

“Dar and Matey’s ‘Christmas SpectaculARGH!’ ” at the Brick Theater [575 Metropolitan Ave. near Lorimer Street in Williamsburg, (718) 907-6189], Dec. 4-22. Tickets $15. For info, visit www.bricktheater.com.


Arty performances in warehouse spaces not your cup of tea? For more traditional holiday fare, look no further:

Narrow minded: Starting on Dec. 3, Narrows Community Theater presents its “Musical Christmas Ball,” a melodic extravaganza featuring more than 30 singers and dancers that brings together myriad seasonal tunes, including songs from “A Christmas Carol,” “Polar Express,” and “White Christmas.” There’s also a nativity scene accompanied by a five-part choral arrangement of “We Have Seen His Star.” And let us not forget the tap dancing battle between real and artificial Christmas trees.

NCT’s “Musical Christmas Ball” at St. Patrick’s Auditorium [9511 Fourth Ave. at 97th Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 482-3173], Dec. 3 and 4 at 8 pm, and Dec. 5 at 3 pm. Tickets $10 adults, $5 children. For info, visit www.narrowscommunitytheater.com

Old school: One of the biggest names in Christian vocal jazz will be singing in the holiday season on Dec. 11, as Grammy-winning Christian vocal jazz group Take 6 heads to Brooklyn College for its seasonal show, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The program will feature some of the most beloved traditional and contemporary holiday songs, including many off the group’s numerous Christmas albums.

Take 6’s “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts at Brooklyn College [2900 Campus Rd. at Hillel Place in Flatbush, (718) 951-4500], Dec. 11 at 8 pm. Tickets, $35-$45 (at the door). For info, visit www.brooklyncenteronline.org.  

Capra nostra: The only thing wrong with Frank Capra’s 1946 classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” is that it’s the same old movie every year. But starting on Dec. 3, the Heights Players brings the heart-warming tale of George Bailey to the stage. We can already anticipate the standing ovation when he finds Zuzu’s petals in his pocket!

“It’s a Wonderful Life” at the Heights Players [26 Willow Pl. between Joralemon and State streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 237-2752], Dec. 3-19. Tickets, $20. For info, visit www.heightsplayers.org

Fa la la la la: It’s a giant Christmas sing-along — and you’re the chorus! Emerging Brooklyn vocalists will join musicians from Union Church and Brooklyn College to sing with audience members at the Union Church of Bay Ridge on Dec. 12. One lucky bidder will get the chance to conduct the Hallelujah Chorus as it performs Handel’s Christmas classic, “Messiah,” during the show. 

“Sing-It-Yourself Messiah” at Union Church of Bay Ridge [8101 Ridge Blvd. at 81st Street in Bay Ridge, (718) 745-0438], Dec. 12 at 4 pm. Tickets $15. For info, visit www.ucbr.org

A Yiddish Christmas: Join one of the world’s most acclaimed authorities of Yiddish song, as Zalmen Mlotek performs “100 Years of Yiddish Musical Theatre” at Kingsborough Community College. This elegant piece by the National Yiddish Theatre-Folksbiene’s artistic director celebrates the Jewish musical accent in American theater. Beginning with the origins of the Yiddish theater in the wine cellars of Romania, you will hear operetta arias, humorous vaudeville ballads, backstage renditions of Fiddler on the Roof, and more.

“Zalmen Mlotek’s 100 years of Yiddish Musical Theatre” at Kingsborough Community College [2001 Oriental Blvd. at Decatur Avenue in Manhattan Beach, (718) 368-5596], Dec. 12 at 3 pm. Tickets $25. For info, visit www.kcckpac.org.

A good man: No holiday season would be complete without Charlie Brown and the gang. Starting on Dec. 8, the Brooklyn Lyceum will present a live-action rendition of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” featuring the familiar cast of characters — Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, Snoopy, and, of course, the football-missing Charlie. A live jazz trio plays Vince Guaraldi’s classic soundtrack.  

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” at the Brooklyn Lyceum [227 Fourth Ave. at President Street in Park Slope, (718) 857-4816], Dec. 9-19. Tickets $10. For info, visit www.brooklynlyceum.com.


Baby it’s cold outside, but that shouldn’t stop you from checking out these annual lighting festivities:

• Borough President Markowitz will kick off the first night of Hanukkah by helping light a 29-foot menorah at Borough Hall [209 Joralemon St. at Court Street in Downtown, (718) 802-3700] on Dec. 2 at 5:30 pm.

• Half an hour later, the first candle is lit at Grand Army Plaza (Union Street between Flatbush Avenue and Prospect Park West). Hot latkes will be served.

• The borough’s “official” Christmas tree lighting — usually the best tree in town — is at Borough Hall [209 Joralemon St. at Court Street in Downtown, (718) 802-3700] on Dec. 8 at 5:30 pm.

— with Meredith Deliso and Michelle Manetti


Give Brooklyn

Give the gift of Brooklyn this holiday with these borough-centric items from some of the borough’s newest designers. 

AphroChic throw pillows
Earlier this fall, AphroChic, a lifestyle brand focusing on high-end product design, launches its “Brooklyn Renaissance” line, comprised of table top décor, wall coverings and other decorative items that pay tribute to our borough. But the most eye-catching items belong to the throw pillows ($105-$225) inspired by some neighborhoods and the women that inhabit them. Prints include the Fort Greene, which features a stencil drawing of a fashionably dressed young woman sipping a latte and reading a book, and the Park Slope — an image of an equally chic young woman standing next to a taxi.

Sheepshead Designs prints
Sure, there are hundreds of paintings and prints of the Brooklyn Bridge, but Sheepshead Designs’ bold offerings are hard to beat. The original prints by designer Philip Sachs, which range in size from  5X7 to 16X20 ($20-$50), feature a skyline view of the Brooklyn Bridge as seen from the Brooklyn side, of course. The views are all the same, but color palettes vary from vibrant reds to navy to orange. So you can find one for any color scheme, regardless of what color the Brooklyn Bridge actually is.

Find Sheepshead Design at the Brooklyn Flea [1 Hanson Pl. at Ashland Place in Fort Greene, (718) 230-0400], Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am-5 pm.

Pop Chart Lab posters
The Gowanus-based design collective Pop Chart Lab started making its pop culture obsessed posters and T-shirts this past September, which chart varieties of beer, video game controllers and names of rappers. But its more clever conceits is the “No Sleep ’til Breuckelen” poster ($18), a black, grey and white print that gives a shoutout to 17th-century Dutch Brooklyn with a map of the original Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Bosjick, Rood Hoek and Midwout. There’s even a colonial dude with a massive boombox rocking out. Finally, the hip-hop loving historian in your life can kick it olde school.


Monday, November 29, 2010

Bugging out

By Meredith Deliso

If you thought the book about a guy transformed into a bug was haunting, wait until you see it on stage.

Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” comes to life on stage this month at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in Fort Greene.

The classic tale of alienation, from Iceland’s hailed Vesturport Theatre, doesn’t use any extreme makeup or costuming to show salesman Gregor Samsa’s transformation from man to bug; rather, it hinges on actor Gisli Orn Gardarsson’s lithe, mesmerizing physicality. 

Thanks to some production magic — the second floor of the dual-level set can turn 90 degrees — as well as intense training on Gardarsson’s part, the actor can climb walls and swing from the rafters for some spellbinding aerial feats.

“It’s probably the hardest thing I have done in my whole life,” said Gardarsson. “The more awkward, and thus hard, [the movements], the better it seemed to look. Every morning after a performance when I wake up, I feel like I’ve been hit by a train.”

Lighting also plays a large role in conveying Samsa’s solitude. Upon turning into a bug — and no longer able to provide for them — his horrified family shuns him to his upstairs bedroom, a dark, shadowy place that contrasts to the drab, well-lit sitting room underneath. And then there’s the melancholy, dreamlike score by the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis that punctuates this darkly funny yet horrific tale about human nature.

“The energy and inventiveness that Gardarsson brings to his productions is a powerful reminder that there is no substitute for the sheer thrill of live performance,” said Joe Melillo, BAM’s executive producer.

Kafka, though, might disagree. 

“Metamorphosis” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Harvey Theater [651 Fulton St. near between Rockwell and Ashland places in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], Nov. 30-Dec. 4 at 7:30 pm, and Dec. 5 at 3 pm. Tickets $25-$65. For info, visit www.bam.org.


Friday, November 26, 2010

The Weekend: 11.26-11.28

Friday, Nov. 26

Williamsburg: Elizabeth Streb's latest gravity-defying show, "Falling Sideways," launches at her SLAM space.

DUMBO: St. Ann's Warehouse's new show, "The Red Shoes," is a humorous, yet haunting, feat.

Saturday, Nov. 27

Bay Ridge: Forget Black Friday. The best finds are this Saturday at Sam's Bakery, with the Brooklyn Artisan Trunk Show.

Sunday, Nov. 28

Bay Ridge: The nabe gets its own pie social, thanks to the folks behind the Art Room.

Williamsburg: Everyone's favorite children's musician, Dan Zanes, is back, playing at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.


Check out this squash

By Helen Klein

You can’t go wrong with November’s savory foodstuffs.

Squash, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, and nuts: toss a bunch of them together in a pot or pan and good things are likely to emerge.

That’s exactly what I did one recent afternoon. My crisper was overflowing with seasonal bounty, a judicious selection that came together in a sweet yet savory side dish that starred golden squash, tart apples and buttery sweet pears, spiked with onion, nutmeg, cinnamon, a shot of lemon juice and maple syrup. The final touch? A sprinkling of pecans, whose crunch provided welcome contrast to the softened produce, even as their flavor echoed the sweet nuttiness of the maple syrup.

Winter squash melange
Serves 4-6

1 Tbl. olive oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 3/4-1 1/2 lbs. winter squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
2 small Granny Smith apples, cored and cubed
1 just-ripe pear, cored and cubed
1/4 cup maple syrup
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup shelled pecans, coarsely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat oil in large non-stick frying pan. When oil is hot, add onion, sprinkle with salt, and sauté, stirring occasionally over medium heat till onion is soft and golden-colored. 

Add squash, and continue to sauté, tossing from time to time. When the squash has begun to soften, add the apple and pear chunks and continue sautéing, stirring occasionally and adding a splash of water as necessary.

When squash, apples and pears are partially cooked, add maple syrup, lemon juice and spices, and stir well. Continue to cook until liquid in the pan is reduced and squash is tender, adding a little water as necessary to prevent burning. When dish is nearly done, add pecan pieces, and stir to combine.

Taste and adjust seasonings, adding salt and pepper as necessary.

Serve when squash is tender.


Is this the hottest pot in Brooklyn?

By Alex Rush

At the Bensonhurst Sichuan restaurant Spicy Bampa, pleasure is pain.

The 18th Avenue eatery specializes in hot pots, a bubbling cauldron of oil, chilies and peppercorns that isn’t too common in South Brooklyn — though that could change now with the emergency of the 18th Avenue Chinese scene, with Spicy Bampa at the forefront.

The four-year-old restaurant’s hot pot special is a real steal at $15.95 per person on weekdays ($18.95 on the weekends). It’s served with a platter of raw meats, fish and veggies to dip in the boiling oil, including sliced lamb, beef, head-on shrimp, eggplant and even noodles. There are also three cooling sauces: a soy and fish sauce-based concoction, sesame sauce with tofu, and minced garlic with oil.

Hot pot is popular all over China, as it’s essentially the country’s version of fondue.

“Just dunk in the meat or vegetables, wait five minutes and then it’s done,” said Carmen Ng, a waitress at Spicy Bampa who was kind enough to give us a hot pot lesson.

The oil is hot, but it’s nothing compared to But the fire of the Sichuan peppercorns, which burn like drops of Tabasco on your tongue — if you’ve first pricked it all over with a pin.
Some of the Spicy Bampa staff can’t even take the heat. 

“I don’t like the spice,” Ng said. “I just get the soup broth.”

The restaurant also offers a more mild, savory hot pot and a full menu, including its $4.95 lunch specials.

Spicy Bampa [6920 18th Ave. between 69th and 70th streets in Bensonhurst, (718) 236-8088]

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