Jill: My trip, believe it or not, wasn’t all food. We squeezed in a little history, as well, with a visit to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. My waistline, it must be said, made history, expanding more quickly than any other in recorded time. And, although it wasn’t planned, we managed to merge the two – history and food – by going to Buttermilk Channel.
This restaurant in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, was named for the tidal straight between Brooklyn and Governor’s Island. When dairy farmers crossed by boat to sell their wares, the strength of the tidal currents was said to turn churn the milk into buttermilk. I fell in love with the concept immediately, and was pleased that it wasn’t just a cheap marketing ploy. Our experience was excellent.
Maya: I have to admit that I used Jill’s visit as an excuse to break out my to-try list and cross off a few restaurants. Buttermilk Channel has been open for little more than a year, but if I had a dollar for every time I said “I want to check that place out” in that time, I wouldn’t have to fantasize about winning the lottery anymore. As usual, though, I procrastinated, and I’m kicking myself for it.
Jill: We spent a significant amount of time in the restaurant, waiting for our table and leisurely enjoying our meal. The servers read our table well, and could clearly see that while we were in the serious business of eating, we also wanted to catch up and chat between courses. We’d coerced an unsuspecting friend to join us for dinner, and I’m proud to say that she survived the ordeal.
Maya: I don’t think I realized that Jill has a nut allergy until this particular visit, when she had to respond to nearly all of my ordering suggestions by reminding me of what she could and couldn’t eat. I’m ashamed to report that I was selfish when it came to the maple-and-bacon–roasted almonds—they sounded too good to pass up, especially under the influence of the bottle of wine we had shared while waiting to be seated. For two of the three of us, they were a great menu-perusing nosh.
Jill: Ah, to be close to a coast. These oysters were (obviously) a head above my last oyster experience: fried and on a bun at a pumpkin-themed carnival in the Midwest.
Jill: We clearly ordered – and received – several starters prior to picking our main dishes. These (out of focus) sweet potato and goat cheese croquettes didn’t last long on the table. I do believe that I resolved to learn how to make these sometime during the dinner. This was the least ridiculous of my Buttermilk Channel-induced resolutions.
Maya: I’m not a huge fan of sweet potatoes, but you wouldn’t have known it by looking at my plate. Though I wanted more goat cheese and less potato, my portion disappeared in a matter of minutes.
Jill: Those of you who follow me on Twitter may remember my proposal to chicken liver mousse. Served with some sort of tangy cherry or berry, specialty salt and grilled crisps, this mousse was life-changing. We cleaned that bowl.
Maya: 2009 was the year I rekindled my love affair with all things chicken liver, and this specimen was the best of the bunch. Forget cleaning the bowl, I wanted to lick it. (Think those might’ve been grapes of some kind?)
Maya: After the mind-blowing goodness that was the chicken-liver mousse, the Berkshire-pork rillettes were something of a disappointment. Granted, they were at a disadvantage: Maybe if we hadn’t had the mousse first, these would’ve been more of a standout; also working against this dish was my personal compulsion to compare it to the offering at the JakeWalk, my current high-water mark. Apples to oranges, as the Jake’s is made of duck and served warm, but regardless, this version came up short. (We still finished every last bite, though.)
Jill: I barely touched the rillettes, mainly because I’d conveniently placed the chicken liver mousse close to my side of the table. I agree with Maya; compared to the mousse, these were lackluster.
Jill: This grilled kale and endive salad with a soft-boiled egg and anchovy vinaigrette had a lovely crisp bite to it, a perfect combination of flavors following the rich charcuterie. The soft-boiled egg, it seems, has joined pork bellies and brussels sprouts in the race to be the trendiest topping in New York. Love ’em all.
Maya: All of my favorite things on one plate: leafy, bitter greens, a great egg, and bread of some sort (in this case, croutons). Bacon might make it even better, but who wants to mess with perfection?
Jill: And then came the popovers. We didn’t order these buttery, sweet and silky babies, but we loved them. I announced to the table that I wanted to live in a pile of popovers. (Perhaps the strangest of my resolutions. I blame the wine. And whoever made these.)
Maya: I cannot understate my adoration of the popover—let’s just say it’s indecent and leave it at that. These particular ones had me vowing to figure out what went wrong during my previous attempt to make them myself, rectify the problem, and bake a batch every single day.
Jill: I ordered three main courses. There was much discussion, after the deed was done, about how two dishes would have been enough for the three of us to share, but it was too late. Besides, I don’t know which of the three we could have eliminated. This bacon-wrapped brook trout (served with prune jam and baby turnips) was beautiful, light and healthy-ish. (Turnips erase anything bad about bacon.)
Maya: What she said. It was all of those things—the few bites I managed to wrangle left me wanting more, more, more.
Jill: Although we were all sharing, I placed the warm lamb and romaine salad in front of me. There’s just something alluring about that soft-boiled egg. I thought this dish had a nice balance and under normal circumstances, it would be the perfect size.
Maya: This one might’ve been my favorite; the roasted cauliflower was insanely good, caramelized to a crisp and the ideal foil for the warm, slightly gamey meat. By the time Jill was too full to continue (yes, it happens), the waitress had cleared away our silverware, but I soldiered on: Lamb salad makes for surprisingly satisfying finger food.
Jill: And then there’s the cover girl. Maya pointed out that Buttermilk’s chicken and waffles graced the current cover of Time Out New York; as she was in the ladies’ room when the main courses arrived, I made sure that this dish was placed at her seat. If I hadn’t already had so much to eat, I would have easily taken that plate for myself. The cabbage slaw, by the way, is what brought the meal together. Ah, delicious.
Maya: The fried chicken deserves all the hype it’s garnered for both chef and restaurant—with moist meat encased in a beautifully crunchy, well-spiced coating, the waffles were almost superfluous. Almost, but not quite: The sweetness of both powdered sugar and maple syrup tempered the chicken’s heat and made dish as a whole irresistible. As with everything else we ordered, sharing was a struggle.
Jill: As we finished our meal, we realized the once-packed restaurant had emptied out. A sign, maybe, that we should stop ordering and go home for the evening.
Maya: We didn’t even get dessert. That, my friends, is a historic event.
524 Court Street