Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beyond this borough, and on a budget

A couple of weeks ago, my girlfriends and I decided it was time for another semi-monthly "girls night out" dinner, as we've been so busy. Getting the four of us together is a task!

We set a date for Sunday night. Amy and Meredith were free, but sadly Susan was away that weekend. What were we up for? We had been talking about margaritas, as we typically do mid-week when we're stressed. Mer mentioned Hecho en Dumbo, a mexican place by night (and a general store/housewares shop by day), might be just the thing: good food, reasonable prices, and a mean margarita. I had heard about the spot before - and recalled it used organic, locally-sourced, free-range and antibiotic free ingredients! Yum! Plus, the website says that it is an "Authentic Mexican Restaurant," as certified by The Mexican Ministry of Agriculture and Sabores Autenticos de Mexico. It was unanimous that it would be the spot!

Sunday came, and it was a cool, drizzly day. Blah. All day long, I was looking forward to meeting the girls for dinner! The plan was to meet at 6pm at Hecho. I hopped on a downtown C train around 5:15 and read the whole way down to High Street. I got off the train and climbed up to street level. Though it was gray and wet outside, I was quickly reminded how much I love DUMBO and the Brooklyn waterfront!!! The hill, the quiet, the old quirky streets and restored lofts. Sigh. I will have to move here some time...

Thank goodness Mer had warned me that Hecho didn't have a sign, but a simple "Bar" sign outside. I walked in to what I thought was the restaurant. Hmm. A rustic space, couple of tables, a great bar, housewares in back. Check. But, didn't seem like a "general store" in my mind. Plus, the menus on the wall featured paninis and salads...nothing mexican. But, I was impressed with the space. I could see myself sitting here for a couple of hours, in fact, cappuccino and book in hand I walked back out, doubting my choice in venue, to await the arrival of one of my friends. I walked down the block, peering into an interesting gourmet market on the eastern end of the block. I could live here, I thought!

Mer soon arrived and confirmed for me that the space I was in earlier was indeed Hecho. Yay! I surveyed the scene as we sat down at a table by the door to await Amy. Young friends, families made up many dining that evening, but don't fear - it wasn't overrun with loud kids. In fact, the low lighting was soothing, and there was audio equipment set up for a live musician later on!

It wasn't five minutes before Amy arrived, and the waiter promptly came over to see what we wanted. After looking at the menu with the variety of Micheladas and tequila drinks, I quickly decided that I'd be going with tried and true - and so were Mer and Amy - margaritas with salt all around.

We caught up quickly as we waited for the drinks, which didn't take long at all. When the drinks arrived, so too did some delicious chips and salsa. Quickly hit the spot for me - I was quite hungry having not had anything since oatmeal for brunch. Sipping and nibbling, we perused the menu. Guacamole, sopes, queso, chorizo - oh my! So many options, and all looked delicious, but guacamole and "molletes" quickly jumped out at us. More thick cut homemade chips, with a creamy fresh avocado guac sounded delicious, while the molletes - warm ciabatta with black bean puree, melted mozzarella, with pico de gallo - sounded divine. Most of the dishes are small, perfect for sharing and and splitting among friends. But what else to get? We decided that the sample platter would suffice: we could taste the molletes, sample each taco, sopes, and burritas, and then still have room to order one last dish!

The molletes were better than we had ever imagined. Soft ciabatta, gently warmed and spread with black beans, and the melted mozzarella and pico de gallo on top. Heavenly! Next, I sampled the steak tacos. I didn't care much for the corn tortillas, but the steak! SO good! I then tried the cactus burritas. Wasn't sure what to expect - CACTUS? It was surprisingly good. The cactus was roasted until tender, kind of like a perfectly roasted green pepper. It was mixed with a chile cream sauce (but it wasn't creamy...) and then served in a small flour tortilla. A delicious combination of flavors...but I wanted more meat.

My favorite dish was definitely the sopes de pollo: slow cooked local and organic chicken in a chile sauce, served in a handmade, stone ground corn masa medallion that is coated with black bean puree, crema fresca, crisp lettuce, and cojita cheese. The medallions were so tender, and warm - reminded me of the tortilla making set up that was offered at meal time on morning when my family travelled to Costa Rica last year.

Having finished the first round of drinks, and our guacamole and sample platter, we still had room for one more dish - and another round of drinks. What to get? The sopes de pollo!!

Satisfied and not full, yet completely "full" from the fresh flavors and ingredients, I was so happy with our decision to dine at Hecho en Dumbo. I definitely want to go back - to sample the chorizo, the picaditas de jiaba (crab!!), and the ensalada rosaura. And, of course, the pastel tres leches cake, a classic cake with lime creme fraiche frosting, served with a dollop of mexican caramel ice cream...

Hecho en Dumbo is a real treat - the way food should be prepared: clean, fresh flavors, modest portions (and prices), and attention paid to source on the highest quality ingredients. Now, I just have to take my Texan friend there...I hope she loves it, too!

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