Brooklyn Girls Night: Beast
Brooklyn Girls Night had been in a bit of a slump since summer. After more intimate gatherings at Ici in July and Alias in September, it seemed as if we’d never find another time to all get together. After too many emails to count, we finally agreed on a date. When Judith sent out a reminder for Thursday night’s outing, there were no last-minute cancellations and even three new members. Brooklyn Girls Night was back.
Five months since our last outing, a number of milestones had occurred. Judith had gotten married, Lucy turned 30, I celebrated my 5-year wedding anniversary, Allison became an aunt, and Roxanne was one week away from 30. Throw in our three new members Maggie, Molly and Mary Heath, and we had a lot to celebrate.
Judith had selected Beast, a tapas spot with a strange name in Prospect Heights. A quick haircut had me running late, so when I arrived with my blown out ‘do and much shorter bangs, I walked into the medieval style space (first snapping a cell phone shot of the bulletin board advertising ladies night -- that Judith is just so very practical, I tell you), and noted a slight resemblance to Corner Bistro with its long wooden bar and dark, cozy feel.
A waiter led me to the back room which I mistakenly thought had been reserved just for us. I shouted, a little too loudly, "It's laaaaaadies night!” which made the Brooklyn girls laugh wildly, but our fellow diners didn’t seem so pleased. My Mom's constant complaint, "Why are women so LOUD?" came to mind.
A few bottles of Rioja had already been ordered (and I wish I remembered the name because at $26 a bottle, it was good stuff), and everyone was hungry and ready to eat. We decided to each order one thing from the menu and share. Always fearful of not having enough food (I really think I must have been starved in another life or something, because this fear often causes me to over order and then, unable to waste, overeat), I was still unsure whether to go with the beer braised short ribs or the lamb skewers. Allison whispered to just get both, so I sneakily placed my order, then quickly apologized to Judith, the one vegetarian member of the group.
I’d heard a lot about Maggie, a personal chef who lives in the Williamsburg apartment above Roxanne (that was once Judith’s), and we immediately hit it off. She was funny and engaging, just as Roxanne had described, and her relationship with Molly, her warm and genuine best friend, was incredibly inspiring. Mary Heath, a food photographer, had met Lucy a few years ago when their dogs Montana and Madison fell in love at Lucia, the Park Slope store Lucy owns (a great spot for shoes, clothes and jewelry that you can learn more about here). We were seated at opposite ends of the table, so while we didn't have much chance to talk this time around, I hope we will at our next outing.
I also didn't have a chance to check out the decor and I never did find out why the restaurant has such an unusual name. What I do remember is that the back room we were in was hot, either from lack of ventilation, all that red wine we were drinking or probably a bit of both. The space was fairly simple, and our long, rectangular table perfect for a large group, but if I were to go back with less people, I'd prefer the cozier front room.
As for the food, I couldn't keep up with it (surprise, surprise!) once the plates started circling the table. I tasted an assortment of cheeses, including one particularly pungent one, served with Sullivan Street bakery bread, a number of different salads though it's the arugula with citrusy fennel and a tangy feta that stood out, some unexciting short ribs that lacked the strong, meaty flavor I was craving, perfectly seasoned lamb skewers that were delicious after a dip in a pea puree, house marinated olives with hunks of garlic and a cinnamon stick, fresh from the green market roasted vegetables (which Maggie explained can be achieved by using more salt and olive oil than you think you’d need), marinated slices of chorizo, tender free range chicken with a garlic confit, and a potato-egg tortilla (my personal favorite).
My small plate was overflowing with all these oversized tapas, and while I probably could have eaten even some more, four of Beast's five desserts finally filled me up. There was an extra buttery sticky toffee pudding (the best one Maggie and Roxanne had ever tasted in their lives), S’mores, a dark chocolate mousse, and grilled bananas that I, too busy scooping up the last bites of some sticky marshmallows, forgot to try.
I had left my camera at home and since the room was dimly lit, I wasn't too disappointed about not getting any food photos. But I did make sure to ask our waitress to take one photo of us before we all finally said goodybe. It's not the best picture, but I still love it.
Right when I thought I couldn't love Brooklyn any more, I get that much more obsessed. Brooklyn Girls Night is back. And it's better than ever.
638 Vanderbilt Avenue