Archive for the 'Crown Heights' Category

24
Oct
10

Pizza at Basil


Recently, this blog was chastised on chowhound.com for not having any photos of Basil‘s pizza in either of my reviews of this superb restaurant (here and here), even though its menu offers a full array of mouthwatering pizzas. I had to agree the particular commenter was absolutely right, which gave me the perfect excuse to return to Basil (270 Kingston Ave; Brooklyn, NY 11213; Telephone: 718.285.8777) for the omitted shots. Ahhh, the things we do to keep our readers happy.

This past Thursday I made my way to the restaurant anticipating a superb pie. I entered their doors at 4:00pm to a front room overflowing with early diners, and was directed to the recently opened backroom. It’s a comfortable large room featuring two fireplaces that generate a warm and cozy atmosphere.

In spite of the early hour, there were some people there already. I ordered a Pizza Margherita a la Genovese, it came with home made mozzarella (made in house from  curd), fresh San Marzano tomatoes (most chefs consider these the world’s best for sauce) and pesto.

Pizza Margherita alla Genovese

Extreme closeup of the above...

I accompanied the pizza with a delightful glass of 2007 Ramon Cardova Rioja. Made fully from Tempranillo grapes from old vines around the Spanish village of Haro, in La Rioja, this bright ruby red wine paired perfectly with the pizza, totally complementing and enhancing its taste; a marriage made in heaven.

As I finished this superbly made dish, I got to to speak to Basil’s new Italian Executive Chef, Andrea Milazzo.

After graduating from the very exacting culinary school in Alassio, in Italy’s Liguria region on the gulf of Genoa, – Savona Province, Chef Andrea went to work in Montecarlo for world famous Alain Ducasse’s Le Roi Louis XV restaurant at the Hotel de Paris (regularly listed on the Conde Nast Traveller Gold List). After a while he left for Munich, Germany, where he operated his own establishment for 8 years.

A few weeks ago he accepted the position of Executive Chef at Basil. When you speak to Chef Andrea, his passion for food becomes all apparent. I asked him what is his main criteria in creating a new dish or a variation of an old classic, his quick response was: “I follow my senses!” To determine how good his senses are, I asked the Chef to prepare me a special dish – regardless of price – that I would take home; even I was unprepared for the resulting masterpiece…

Chef Andrea Milazzo dramatically flambeeing his special dish for The Kosher Scene

He made me Gnudi alla Toscana. Gnudi (nude) are close cousins to gnocchi but more tender. Whereas gnocchi are made from semolina, wheat flour, bread crumbs or potatoes, gnudi are made from Ricotta cheese.

Watching the Chef at work was like being a spectator at a George Balanchine choreographed ballet, the graceful, elegant and precise moves coupled with the facial expressions, all bespoke of truly inspired artistry at its highest levels.

Before starting the preparation of the dish, Chef Andrea had me inspect all the ingredients. Starting with the superbly aromatic in-house made truffle oil (truffles are infused for two weeks into pure Tuscan olive oil, the result is great scent and a very distinctive flavor), the fresh tomatoes, spinach and cheese all combined for a beautiful symphony of taste and aroma, well worth many an encore. Bravo Chef Andrea! Bravissimo!!!

CS

RELATED POSTS

Basil – Pizza & Wine Bar

Breakfast at Basil

Preserving or Policing the Dilemma?

Basil on Urbanspoon

11
Oct
10

Preserving or Policing the Dilemma?


Basil, a great little kosher neighborhood restaurant, sitting on the periphery of the Lubavitcher community finds itself caught in the middle of a socio-religious maelstrom, one that has even attracted the scrutinizing eye of the New York Times Magazine (provocative stories about religious Jews do sell papers!). Basil has an urban chic that  draws a diverse clientele.  Now it seems that this unlikely utopian gastronomic convergence is causing a bit of an uproar.

It’s ironic that one of the hallmarks of the Lubavitcher community is its uncanny ability to plant branches in even the most remote areas around the globe, offering friendly outreach services that attract affiliated and unaffiliated Jews. Often you’ll find Lubavitcher shluchim inviting Jews to connect and come closer to their spiritual heritage through the mitzvah of Sabbath candle lighting, or donning philacteries, shaking a lulav, or offering assistance to travelers by joining them for prayers, a meal or a farbrengen (a chassidic gathering where various aspects of chassidus are taught, stories the past are told, etc.). So, here we are in their homestead – the 770 heartland – and chillin’ Basil is getting more than it’s share of being chilled out by protesting neighbors and others seemingly concerned for the spiritual well being of their community.

Their kosher supervising organization has been called in to check up, not on their kashrut protocols which are being adhered to the letter, but on those entering the restaurant and whether the eatery is putting their Jewish clientele in some sort of spiritual jeopardy by allowing all manner of clients and get up to enter their premises. Tell me, gentle reader, are we so fragile that we need this kind of policing?  Do we really need to remove ourselves from our very environs in order to thrive and survive? Should we return to the ghettoes of yesteryear Europe? Shall we perhaps move into a 21st century American version of Rome’s 2000 year old Lungotevere Cenci – right next to the ruins of the Roman Forum and a few blocks from the Colisseum – where some Roman Jews still live, surrounded by fortress like walls with the Papal Arms at the gate? Where do we draw the line on what a supervisory organization can or cannot control in its granting of supervision? If they don’t like the music being played or who walks in off the street for a snack or a drink, can they pull their kosher certification?  Clearly, we have the tenets of kashrus which must be followed scrupulously, and we understand that Basil does so.

Photo by: brownstoner.com

When we interviewed Chef Adam, the first time we visited Basil, he mentioned – in passing – how time consuming it was to check the vegetables for bugs and how their culinary artistry is somewhat limited by the constraints of the high standards of kashrus they have to adhere to; yet, he was very proud of the fact that given the constraints they were still able to deliver the high quality and taste that brings customers back time and again.

We remember how Clara, the manager, discussed the attire and attitude of the staff as representing not just a place to eat, but also adhering and respecting the values of the Lubavitch community in whose midst they are located. When some felt the music had too much of a hip beat, Basil‘s management changed it to classical, which didn’t really detract at all (frankly, I thought it made it classier). But… the complaints continued; some protested the type of clientele, some objected to immodest modes of dress, others about speech and behavior, and talk swarmed around to whether kosher certification should be revoked if Basil allows such clients into their restaurant.

I suppose they could have a dress code – as some of the finer restaurants do – jacket and tie- no bare feet, no whatever… should they ban bare shoulders? short skirts? tattoos? foul language? touching? I mean, where do you draw the line? Should they start policing? Should they start handing out shawls, skirts and fig leaves to cover any uncovered areas?

Should the supervising organization threaten to remove their certification if they observe immodest clients eating or snuggling at the restaurant? Should such a dress and behavioral code be enforced throughout the NYC tri-state area? You can be sure that if such enforcement ever takes root, many a prestigious eatery will turn to less qualified, less careful kashrus organizations and the losers will be all of us – the kosher consumers. The fact remains that many of the higher end kosher establishments could not make it if their clientele consisted strictly of Orthodox Jews . I can just see our metropolis now – business men and women being thrown out of the finest kosher dining establishments because a dress is cut too low or a couple has been caught hugging or smooching between courses? Should we require horse blinders for humans and sell them at Basil‘s counter along with the frappé and cappuccino?

We live IN the world, not OUTSIDE of it. The true man of G-d knows how to walk among men and hold his own, gird his loins, look away when necessary, and mind his own counsel despite his surroundings. A true Jew knows how to be a beacon of light by living the Torah and not snuffing out all that glitters. We are the nation that since many a millenia has been turning sparks of ensoulment into huge flames of spiritual warmth and enlightenment. We hold our own in diversity and that is what makes us strong, that is what allowed us to endure after every mighty nation of yore is remembered mostly by its ever present ruins and tales of past glory.

Every upscale kosher restaurant and almost every other kind is constantly faced with the dilemma, but… guess what? A restaurant is not a shul, it is a public place and anyone might come in. Those who are bothered by the proximity of someone who does not meet their standards are under no obligation to patronize such an establishment.

What do you think, gentle reader? We’d love to hear your comments, pro or con.

SYR




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