When I’m looking for a place to eat dinner, it always involves a lengthy research process, much to the chagrin of my more spontaneous friends; however, it usually yields very delicious results. One of my favorite tools to find good restaurants is the restaurant finder on NYMag’s website, which allows you to select a vast number of qualities such as location, price, cuisine, and special features when you’re trying to narrow down the universe of dining options.
Last weekend, knowing exactly what I wanted out of a restaurant but not actually having a specific place in mind, I pulled up the restaurant finder. I input “Romantic,” “Outdoor Dining,” and “Critics Pick.” Some of the results were to be expected – like the lovely and incredibly yummy August in the West Village – but what I wanted was something really new and interesting. So I looked closely at the results it generated in Brooklyn, and from that list I picked home/made.
The name immediately attracted me – its brazen simplicity, if that’s even possible, made me think that this place must have pretty good food, so good that they know it and they feel totally comfortable just hanging out in Brooklyn waiting for someone to stumble upon them and enjoy a glorious meal.
The restaurant is very charming and romantic, but in a more relaxed, mature romantic way – there are several low, fluffy white couches, local artwork, large glass jars full of sangria and homemade lemonade, dainty cake stands housing freshly baked desserts, an occassional printed pillow here and there, and a large wood slab bar with a generously sized wine rack behind it. However, what’s even more romantic and perfect for summertime is their outdoor eating area. There are several wooden picnic tables in their back garden, all complete with cream linen pillows. There are also lots of potted plants, candles, and a few large white canvas umbrellas to keep diners cool during Sunday brunch.
When we arrived around 10:30 (home/made takes in new customers until 12am on Fridays and Saturdays, though they let us stay and relax until 1:30am), there was one couple dining inside and then several groups of friends enjoying the gorgeous weather and adorable surroundings in the garden. We chose the outdoor dining as it felt a little more intimate to sit outside away from the food preparation and bustling waitstaff inside. The waitress was extremely friendly and bubbly, but not in an annoying, exaggerated kind of way – she just came across as being genuinely happy to have us there. She was also a total trooper when it came to answering my many questions about the menu and pointing out things that she really loved, both in terms of food and alcohol.
home/made has a nice selection of interesting wines, probably because its roots are in wine. home/made was originally Tini wine bar, but it moved to its new location and became more of a full service restaurant, even serving a tasty sounding brunch, within the past year. I ordered a glass of white wine, which was good and affordable but not really worth writing home about, while my dining companion ordered a beer – they have several beers on tap, and the selection is constantly changing. He enjoyed it and was pleased by the fairly large glass of it he was given.
After receiving our drinks, we placed our food order. Initially, we ordered the bowl of warm olives marinated in citrus, but once our waitress realized that they were out of that dish (what can you expect when you’re placing your dinner order at 11pm?), we ordered the artichoke and garlic puree on crostini with parmigiano reggiano. We also ordered the cheese tasting plate with dried and fresh fruits, nuts, and breads as well as the caramelized onion, gruyere, and ham tarte and the gourmet take on a BLT, made with maple smoked bacon and roasted tomatoes on focaccia.
The pace at which our dishes came out was great – we got to enjoy each course without ever feeling rushed into the next one, a fact which I appreciated even more given how late we arrived. The crostini was absolutely heavenly. The puree was so creamy and fluffy – almost like light, freshly whipped butter – and the flavors were fantastic. The artichoke gave the puree a nice earthiness, while the generous amount of garlic provided the puree with a perfect tanginess without being overpowering. The parmigiano reggiano was hand grated into the smallest little curly shavings atop the crostini, and the crostini itself was very well toasted – definitely crispy and warm, but not toasted to the point at which the whole thing breaks apart when you sink your teeth in for the first bite.
After devouring the crostini, the waitress brought our cheese plate. It was presented beautifully on a thick wooden cutting board with the most gorgeous array of jellies, breads, dried fruits, and fresh fruits. We never managed to find out exactly what the cheeses were with the exception of the one house-made goat cheese. The goat cheese was quite good, though it didn’t have the tanginess or vibrancy that I was expecting – but it did have a nice herb crust on it. One of the other cheeses was hard but mild in taste, while the other was super creamy and milky (that was my personal favorite). Thankfully, none of the cheeses had a stinky or sweaty flavor, which I hate in cheeses and I often feel that cheese plates can go that route just to come across as more “gourmet.”
Although the cheeses were all very enjoyable, the star of the cheese plate is actually the fruit. The unique array of fruits was terrific – no granny smith apples here. The plate included dried apricots and I believe dried plums, deliciously sweet fresh figs, and most incredible fruit compote I’ve ever eaten. I was practically smacking my dining companion’s hand away from it – I just couldn’t get enough of it. I couldn’t quite identify the type of fruit included in it, but its cinnamon and ginger flavors were divine, especially when paired with the milky cheese.
Once we had practically licked that cutting board clean, the waitress brought out our entrees. They were both so good that, even after gorging ourselves on the cheese plate, we managed to finish both. My BLT was astoundingly delightful. I’m not typically a big fan of BLTs, as I always find them to be a bit lackluster. This BLT, however, was totally the opposite. There was such an abundance of bacon on the sandwich that I was able to take a few pieces off and share them with my dining companion – and it was really yummy bacon. Instead of being ultra crispy and salty, it was thick and perfectly salty-sweet with its notes of maple syrup. The chipotle mayo on the sandwich was the perfect complement with its luscious texture and spicy but not super salty flavor. The focaccia, however, was my favorite part of this dish. Normally, I find focaccia to be overwhelmingly dense and chewy when it is used as a sandwich bread, but this focaccia managed to be light with a delicately crispy outer crust and spongy crumb. After my dining companion and I gobbled down the sandwich, we focused our attention on the tarte. The menu says that it makes for a good shared dish, and that it definitely does, as it’s relatively large for a tarte. The ham was decent – it was kind of small and chewy – but the combination of the onions and gruyere with the crispy, flaky crust of the tarte was very enjoyable.
A little while after we polished off the last bites of our entrees, our waitress returned and asked if we wanted dessert. Though we were both very full, I can’t ever pass up dessert, so I enthusiastically told her “yes!” She named off several things that sounded quite good – like their Guinness stout cake – but I ultimately selected a vanilla ice cream with olive oil and salted caramel sauce (which reminds me of something I’d get at the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck). I was shocked when it arrived – the bowl contained about 3 generous scoops of ice cream and plentiful caramel sauce, whereas I was expecting a tiny little dish that my dining companion and I would have to fight over.
The dessert was the perfect ending to a perfect meal – a fact which could be attested to by my dining companion, who normally doesn’t even like ice cream and yet was scraping up the melted ice cream and caramel sauce from the bottom bowl by the end. The ice cream was fairly standard, but the caramel sauce really wowed me. I adore salted caramel, and this sauce had the ideal amount of salt in it. It really gave me that salty-sweet flavor profile that I love so much (which you all might remember from my post on Momofuku Milk Bar). The olive oil drizzle was also a nice, unexpected touch – it gave an otherwise very rich dish a freshness and a hint of a grassy flavor in certain bites.
In the end, our incredible food and lovely atmosphere cost us $69. I had total sticker shock, but in a good way, when I saw our bill. An equivalent meal in Manhattan would probably cost closer to $100, so three cheers for restaurants in Brooklyn who have lower rent and can offer reasonable prices. My only fear in revealing the amazing value of home/made is that they’ll jack up their prices soon – but I think what will ultimately keep them from doing so is the fact that getting to them is a bit of a struggle.
Okay, it’s actually a huge struggle. You have to take the F or G train to Smith-9 Streets and then get on the B61 which takes you into “Downtown Brooklyn.” It took us over an hour to get from Grand Central to the restaurant, and it took us closer to 2 hours to get home, as the buses weren’t running normally anymore and we had to do a fair deal of walking through a somewhat unsavory neighborhood to get from the restaurant back to the train, which then took forever to arrive at the station.
Nonetheless, I would certainly go back to home/made again. I’m tempted to try their brunch, but I had such a wonderful time in their romantic garden at night that I think I’ll keep returning for dinner until it gets too cold to eat outdoors, in which case I’ll probably try out the brunch (though, I should note that they have large outdoor heaters for the wintertime).
PS – Sorry for the lack of pictures, it was just too dark outside for the iPhone camera, and I didn’t feel like lugging my actual camera there!
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