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Restaurant recommendations, new openings, and highlights from the NY Chowhound community.

Cider with Character from Connecticut’s Applebrook Farm

So what kind of apples does Applebrook Farm press into its Grampa Tony’s Cider? Depends on when you ask, but the season’s delicious second batch was made of Gala, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Macintosh, Cortland, Macoun, Ginger Gold, Honey Crisp, Roxbury Russet, Jonamac, Jonagold, Liberty, Paulared, Empire, Jonathan, Summer Rambeau, and Spartan. That’s right, 17 varieties, and the result is an uncommonly complex cider–sweet, tart, and refreshing, with a beautiful finish, reports gordon wing.

They do around 18 pressings a season, and the mix changes each time. “They know what they’re doing, so it will continue to be a well-balanced cider,” gordon adds. It’s unpasteurized, so bring a cooler to keep it cold on the way home.

Applebrook also sells doughnuts, made from its cider by Donut Dip in West Springfield, Mass. They’re first-rate, says Jestner–crunchy outside, moist inside.

Applebrook Farm [Hartford County]

216 East Rd., between Reservoir Ave. and Chamberlain Rd., Broad Brook, CT

860-654-1590

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Donut Dip [Hampden County]

1305 Riverdale St., between Ashley and Wayside Aves., West Springfield, MA

413-733-9604

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Grandpa Tony’s Unpasteurized Apple Cider–Applebrook Farms, Broad Brook, CT

In Hell’s Kitchen, a Heavenly Blueberry Cupcake

At Burgers and Cupcakes, the cafe from Mitchel London Foods, blueberry-vanilla cupcakes are “oh my god amazing!” effuses haleyjen.

Burgers and Cupcakes [Clinton]

formerly Mitchel London Foods

458 9th Ave., between W. 35th and 36th Sts., Manhattan

212-643-1200

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How are the cupcakes at Hamburgers & Cupcakes?

Le Fandy: Stellar French in Fair Haven, NJ

Le Fandy is flying high. Two years after chef Luke Peter Ong took over from the founding chef, the place has settled into a satisfying groove, turning out elegant, assured French-influenced food. Seafood is especially good. Lobster crepes, garlic-sauteed rock shrimp, and the signature pan-roasted halibut with rosemary glaze (served with portobello confit and caramelized onions) are smart orders. Also recommended: butternut squash soup, seared strip loin, and apple or molten chocolate tarts for dessert. It’s the best and most consistent upper-end restaurant in the area, sums up seal.

Yet some think the place is underappreciated. “The food is wonderful, but I cannot figure out why there is not a line out the door,” muses Angelina. Another fan, foodreview, sees it this way: “As a fellow chef, I’ve come to understand that the chefs who simply turn out exceptional food, without fanfare, without PR people, without calling publications to beg for interviews, often are overlooked. But I suspect chef Ong would have it no other way.”

Le Fandy Restaurant [Monmouth County]
609 River Rd., near Cedar Ave., Fair Haven, NJ
732-530-3338
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Le Fandy, Fair Haven

Le Fandy in Fair Haven…suggestions?

I finally went to Le Fandy in Fair Haven, NJ

At Raoul’s, Belly Up to the Bar Steak

The durable Soho bistro Raoul’s has a dependable crowd-pleaser in its bar steak. Flavorful and faultlessly cooked, it comes with a heap of good fries, a mesclun salad, and a basket of crusty baguette with sweet butter. Great steak, inviting neighborhood vibe, and a decent deal at $22, reports chow_gal. “It is one of my simple pleasures in life,” declares Sweatshirt Guy.

Raoul’s Restaurant [Soho]
180 Prince St., between Sullivan and Thompson, Manhattan
212-966-3518
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Bar Steak at Raoul’s–SOHO

El Cocotero: Well-Stuffed Corn Cakes, Venezuelan Style

The pabellon is one of the best of the arepas at El Cocotero. It’s highly seasoned shredded steak, white cheese, black beans, and fried sweet plantain stuffed into a fresh corn cake. “A perfect little sandwich,” marvels Skillet Licker, who recommends a side of guasacaca (Venezuelan-style guacamole). Another great choice is a cold arepa sandwich called the Chiquinquira, filled with a refreshingly light combination of tomato, avocado, and guayanes cheese.

Also on the menu at this rustic, informal eatery: plantain “crostini” (tostones with meat, cheese, or vegetable toppings) and a popular lineup of entrees including roast pork, baked chicken, and stewed or grilled beef.

El Cocotero [Chelsea]
228 W. 18th St., between 7th and 8th Aves., Manhattan 10011
212-206-8930
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El Cocotero–Arepas

Colombian Pastries at a Staten Island Doughnut Shop

Alongside glazed, raised, and old-fashioned, look for Colombian pastries at Staten Island’s Country Donuts. A turnover-like treat filled with guava jam is especially fine, says HHH. Ask them to heat it up for you.

Country Donuts [Staten Island]
160 Richmond Ter., near Hamilton Ave., Staten Island 10301
718-876-7182
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delicious columbian guava pastry on Staten Island

Ferdinando’s Revisited: Sicilian Surprise in Brooklyn

Over a century of dishing up hearty Sicilian chow, Ferdinando’s has had its ups and downs–mostly downs in recent years, says Steve R. But his latest lunch there suggests things are looking up again. Panelle (chickpea fritters) and arancini (rice-cheese balls) are flavorful and clean-tasting, and vastedde are just right: fresh calf spleen and cheese in a nice, medium-soft sesame roll. “If the rest of their food is as well prepared,” adds Steve, “this place is back up there with Joe’s of Avenue U as one of the last remaining places to eat this type of Sicilian cooking in Brooklyn.”

Others recommend marinated eggplant, lightly dressed octopus or calamari salads, and the first-rate veal parmigiana sandwich, on fresh house-baked bread with smooth, flavorful tomato sauce.

Beyond the food, the ancient room looks brighter and spiffier than it has in years, and service is uncharacteristically friendly. Hours, as always, are variable. Recent reports say they’re open longer than before, as late as 10 p.m. But some regulars say the food is better and fresher earlier in the day.

Ferdinando’s Focacceria [Carroll Gardens]
151 Union St., between Hicks and Columbia, Brooklyn
718-855-1545
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Joe’s of Avenue U Italian Cuisine [Gravesend]
287 Ave. U, between McDonald Ave. and Lake St., Brooklyn
718-449-9285
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Ferdinando’s

Sniffing Out White Truffles Around Manhattan

White truffles are here, and A Voce is making the most of the all-too-brief season. Phil E spotted three truffle specials on the menu early this month, including an egg dish and a delicious pasta, which arrived covered in truffle shavings. They run around $85 for appetizers and $105 for entrees.

Bottega del Vino offers a white truffle menu that includes a gorgeous risotto, perfectly cooked with rich, buttery cheese sauce–$110 and actually worth it, swears Hot Chocolate. Truffled asparagus-quail egg salad ($65) was not as good, marred by overcooked egg and soggy asparagus, though flavors were strong.

At Cru, truffle lovers have a couple of options: a full truffle tasting menu for $400 or truffles as an add-on to any dish for $50. Eleven Madison Park offers white truffles for a $65 supplement with Parmesan risotto, lobster lasagne, or frog legs with egg and chanterelles.

Hearth also has white truffles some nights. Mazzer, seated at the kitchen counter when neighboring diners coughed up the $50 supplement, watched a visibly excited chef Marco Canora cover a plate of risotto in a generous flurry of truffle slices.

WineTravel says Alain Ducasse gets the best truffles around for its amazing $320 tasting menu: “Killer!! Oh yeah, I had to pay.”

A Voce [Midtown]
41 Madison Ave., entrance on 26th St. between Madison and Park Ave. S., Manhattan
212-545-8555
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Bottega del Vino [Midtown]
7 E. 59th St., between 5th and Madison Aves., Manhattan
212-223-3028
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Cru [Greenwich Village]
24 5th Ave., at 9th St., Manhattan
212-529-1700
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Eleven Madison Park [Gramercy]

11 Madison Ave., at E. 24th St., Manhattan
212-889-0905
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Hearth [East Village]
403 E. 12th St., at 1st Ave., Manhattan
646-602-1300
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Alain Ducasse [Midtown]
155 W. 58th St., in Essex House, Manhattan
212-265-7300
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It’s white truffle season (I think)

Hamburger Tips from Forest Hills to the Bronx

A stealth burger lurks on the menu at Corfu Grill, where it goes by bifteki and comes with pita triangles and tzatziki. Whatever they call it, it’s really a hamburger, says janie. She declares it the best in Forest Hills–and a deal at $5.50 for the lunch special. If you ask, they’ll put it on a bun. The rest of the menu leans toward Greek specialties like moussaka, pastitsio, gyro, and souvlaki.

Another Forest Hills spot, Cobblestones, makes a solid hamburger–known here as a hamburger–that Afikoman ranks ahead of hound favorite Donovan’s in Woodside. For $8.95 it comes with two toppings (cheese, bacon, chili, vegetables, etc.) plus lettuce, tomato, onion, and fries. Cheddar and chili is an especially nice combo. Beyond burgers, this place dishes up better-than-average pub chow, says kid_aa.

In the Bronx, the Hilltop serves a huge, satisfying hamburger with house-made mashed potatoes and a soda, all for $4.95, marvels beke. Other winners: lasagna, fresh-squeezed lemonade, steak sandwiches on garlic toast, and moussaka (when they have it)–“no creepy white stuff on top, just scrumptious layers of eggplant, potatoes, and ground beef.” Breakfast fare is skippable.

Corfu Grill [Forest Hills]
70-17B Austin St., between 67th Dr. and 68th Ave.Forest Hills, Queens
718-263-6263
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Cobblestones Pub [Forest Hills]
117-18 Queens Blvd., between 77th and 78th Aves., Forest Hills, Queens
718-263-9754
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Hilltop Restaurant [Bronx]
1306 Castle Hill Ave., near Westchester Ave., Bronx
718-409-0412
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Great Burger in the Bronx on Castle Hill
Good burger in/around Forest Hills?

Soulful Salt Cod at Kurio

When salt cod turns up as a special at Kurio, it’s worth a try. A recent dinner of Portuguese-style bacalhau was superb, reports Dave Feldman: funky, flavorful cod with huge hunks of sweet potato and just enough tomato to cut the sweetness and richness.

For the uninitiated, this low-key neighborhood gem is not a Portuguese restaurant, but serves an eclectic, often-changing menu with flavors from all over the map–the Mediterranean, Asia, Latin America. “Kurio is one of my favorite places to eat or drink on the East Side,” Dave writes, “not the least because of the quiet, relaxed vibe, the interesting folks in the neighborhood, the excellent drinks, and the wonderful family that runs it.”

Kurio [Upper East Side]
338 E. 92nd St., between 1st and 2nd Aves.
Manhattan, NY
212-828-1267
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Bacalau at Kurio on 92nd St. on Between 1/2nd Ave.