Well, there’s no use trying to hide it: I’m not Nikita Richardson. Nikita is on assignment with another department in the newsroom for three months, and while she’s gone, the editors asked me to fill in. Me? I’m Pete Wells, the restaurant critic for The New York Times. While I learn the “Where to Eat” dance steps, I’ll still write reviews, but not as often — every other week, for the time being. (You can have them delivered to your inbox in newsletter form.)
OK, the table’s ready. Let’s eat.
Wine bars can be ideal at this time of year. You hop out of your gondola, smooth your linen suit, ask for a glass of chilled something-or-other and order a small bite that won’t make many demands on you or the kitchen. Then you can take your time figuring out your next move.
I’ve been thinking about wine bars where a good portion of the menu — in some cases, the best portion — is outsourced. I appreciate the post-Estela wave of chef-centered wine bars with quietly serious cooking. But I can be just as happy in one where very little cooking to order takes place, where the most trusted tools in the kitchen are a flywheel meat slicer and a can opener. Here are some of my favorite wine bars for snacks that have been made well ahead of time:
Winner on Franklin for Caribbean patties
One recent night I found myself with a fizzy glass of Loire Valley pet-nat in one hand and a Caribbean patty in the other at this latest satellite in the expanding solar system presided over by the chef Daniel Eddy in Brooklyn. The butter pastry caught my attention; rolled and baked very thin, it had a flavor and crispness that made it stand out from the many, many other patties sold around Crown Heights. The filling was notable, too, a teasingly spicy paste of salt cod sweetened with plantains. One patty led to another. The second one was filled with ground beef, mildly seasoned, almost sweet with allspice, and very tender.
These were on the evening bar menu under the heading Pop’s Patties, alongside cheese, charcuterie and somewhat cheffy wine-bar cooking. They are the work of Shirwin Burrowes, a cook of Barbadian descent who grew up in the Bronx. Since January, Mr. Eddy has given him working space in the kitchen at Winner on Franklin in the mornings, along with a slot on the menu there and at the other Winner locations.
Besides ground beef and cod-plantain, Mr. Burrowes makes patties with minced jerk chicken, and, for a vegan number, curried vegetables in coconut milk. All are $6, except one stuffed with oxtails and short rib stewed with brown sugar. It is $8 and has a habit of selling out.
El Pingüino for tinned seafood
I have nothing to add to Helen Rosner’s ringing endorsement of Spanish vermut in The New Yorker, or her suggestion that you drink it with “the weirdest tinned fish you can find.” This Spanish seafood bar in Greenpoint happens to be one of the best places in the city to hunt exotic fish and eat them right out of the can — like tiny, hand-trimmed scallops the size of dimes from Ramón Peña, or tender wood-grilled razor clams from Güeyu Mar, an Asturian restaurant and conserva maker whose packaging has a serious cult following. The standard vermut and soda here is made with Atxa white vermut and fresh soda water.
& Sons for Southern ham
The theme of this “ham bar” in Prospect Lefferts Gardens is American wine with American ham. The wines come from some of the most significant vineyards in California and Oregon, and the vintages go back to the 1970s. The hams, like Allan Benton’s new collaboration with the South Carolina pig ranchers Holy City Hogs, can stand beside a great cured pig leg from Spain or Italy.
Terroir for charcuterie and more canned fish
Those of us who start to giggle and twitch when someone whispers “trockenbeerenauslese” already know that this is the 15th Summer of Riesling at Paul Grieco’s semi-fanatical TriBeCa wine bar. The riesling section of the list is almost as long as “The Magic Mountain,” and far livelier. Once you’ve chosen a glass, you can order canned fish or cured meats from leading charcuterie artisans like Brooklyn Cured, Fabriques Delices in California, and the Spotted Trotter in Georgia.
Where to look for me
I keep all kinds of restaurant lists. One of them, updated constantly, keeps track of newer places that intrigue me. What follows is a way shorter version of that list.
Libertine, West Village
Are the blackboard menus and Serge Gainsbourg poster a little too on the nose? Peut-être. But Libertine handles modern bistro food with more nuance and sensitivity than we are used to seeing in New York. (Opened in May.)
It’s as if a little fragment of New Mexico drifted across the continent and came to rest on Nostrand Avenue, hauling a full load of roasted Hatch chiles all the way. (In fact, Ursula came from no farther away than Crown Heights, where it operated as a takeout business until earlier this year.) There are enchiladas and poblanos rellenos at night; by day you can sit with coffee and pastries, a green-tomato sandwich and breakfast burritos to which the word “finesse” can be applied with an absolutely straight face. (Opened in April.)
So much attention went into the design of this two-level, skylighted Italian seafood restaurant on West Broadway that you start to wonder whether the food will be an afterthought. But the quality of the raw bar ingredients is no joke: The griddled English muffin-y things made from fermented farro are delicious, and the ricotta cheese dumplings called ndunderi really are as good as the servers say. (Opened in March.)
What I’m reading
Warming ocean temperatures are disrupting the lives of Japanese sea creatures, writes Stephanie Yang in The Los Angeles Times, which in turn is disrupting the livelihood of Japanese fishing fleets, which in turn is disrupting the lives of sushi chefs and sushi eaters.
I love reading Tamar Haspel in The Washington Post when she has a contrarian take. She can even make settled science sound contrarian, as she does this week.