Where We’re Eating and Drinking: January 10, 2015

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A taste of Vinegar Hill House. Photo credit: Vicky Wasik

We’ve been huddling indoors during this cold snap, seeking refuge in some of our favorite haunts across the city. From East Williamsburg to the East Village, here’s where our editors and writers are eating and drinking this week.

Looking for more suggestions? Check out our guides in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island and the East End for curated listings in your area.

Gabrielle Langholtz: Semilla
On a recent Saturday I splurged at Semilla. It’s not quite as much fun to say as its former incarnation, Chez Jose, but it sure is fun to eat at; in fact Semilla feels like a slice of Per Se plopped down on Havemeyer. The upscale fiber-philic set menu starred everything from celeriac to seaweed, lovage to rutabaga, even fingerling potatoes baked in a serious salt crust was great fun to break open. We washed it all down with orange wine and then took turns in the loo, watching the tiny-but-mighty kitchen through a magical one-way mirror.

Carrington Morris: Urban Rustic
With so many beloved establishments falling through the cracks of Williamsburg’s skyrocketing real estate, it’s great to see Urban Rustic still standing strong. For seven years now, this urban general store with sky-high ceilings and plank wood floors has been serving up Brooklyn staples like craft beer, Kombucha Brooklyn on tap (two kegs! And growlers!), nostalgia candy, artisanal sweets, eggs and dairy, pickles and other locally canned and jarred goods, substantial salads (a surprising rarity around these parts) and sandwiches galore. Across from McCarren Park, it’s the perfect go-to for an informal picnic and my favorite low-key meeting spot for catching up with friends. Happy seven years anniversary! May you be with us for many more.

Talia Ralph: Prune
I may be late to this party, but Gabrielle Hamilton’s new cookbook is the perfect excuse to get to her extra-cozy, extra-charming East Village outpost. I went twice in one week, and though my bank account protested, my stomach did not. You can’t take a bad turn on her menu, from the pigeon to the whole fish, and there’s no one who taps into the visceral pleasure and memories associated with eating like Hamilton does. I dream about her bread and chocolate dessert almost every night.

Ruth Temianka: Vinegar Hill House
As the new year gets off to a cold, icy blast I yearn to be tucked away somewhere cozy and preferably tasty. A favorite place to escape is Vinegar Hill House. Chefs press together in a tiny kitchen creating rustic bites illuminated by the glow of copper pots and candlelight. The dark cobblestone street outside is always eerily quiet save for the crack of swinging power cables overhead. If it’s possible to escape the city or the chill by moving deeper into either, this isn’t a bad place to try.

Tove Danovich: Chavela’s
It’s hard to find good Mexican food in NYC (especially if you’re a West Coast native) and I’m thrilled to be living only a few blocks away from this little Mexican joint. If you know me, I’ve probably suggested Chavela’s happy hour to you at least once ($2 tacos, you guys). Rather than embracing the cold with hearty stews and roasts, I like to imagine it all away while noshing on a nopales taco. It combines cactus, avocado and queso fresco on one of those delicious corn tortillas that fill you up faster than you ever thought possible. Another favorite are the micheladas: a spicy beer cocktail that you can drink on the cheap. Added bonus: this place has also been a hit with my vegetarian and vegan friends. Overall, it’s as close as I can get to the beach when it’s only 10 degrees outside!

Sari Kamin: Huertas
This past summer I visited Bilbao and San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain. I loved visiting the bars and filling up on assortment of pintxos, the Basque answer to tapas. Smaller and more compact than a tapa, a pintxo is generally eaten a croquette or a bite of food on a skewer or small piece of bread. My favorite were the gildas; the most typical and the most simplistic. Just a skewered anchovy, an olive, and a pickled pepper eaten in one bite, the burst of flavor is addictively briney. I hadn’t ever seen a gilda in New York until I visited Huertas. Like a slice of Spain in the East Village, Huertas serves up all your Basque cuisine needs. Pintxos are offered up dim-sum style, except trays have been swapped for carts. On Tuesdays, pinxtos are only $1; other days they are $2-$3 a pop. Additonally, there is a menu with some larger items like perfectly grilled octopus with pimenton and papas bravas. Whatever you do, you must get the setas; meaty wild mushrooms that have been cooked with heady smoked garlic and oil. I also reccomend you try the tinto on tap. Even if you don’t think you like vermouth, this house blend of citrus, spices, bitters, and red vermouth on ice is the perfect foil to the rich flavors of Basque cuisine.

Lauren Wilson: Brooklyn Ball Factory
So actually the best time to visit Brooklyn Ball Factory is in the summer; their rooftop perch sits a couple blocks west of the Montrose L stop and is a snug outdoor setting for savoring relatively cheap Asian beers and bento boxes. Personal highlights of the Japanese café-style menu include shabu-shabu style pork, their signature ginger dressing and their curries combos. They recently revamped their coffee service to feature slow-drip coffee brewers and other Japanese techniques, but I’m particularly partial to their matcha lattes that make up for the lack of sunny store-top access well into the dead of January.

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