"The strawberry is awesome," she said. Sitting on top, in the first photo, that's a good version of maple — a flavor I seek out whenever possible every autumn — but as my server made clear, the pure, slightly sour strawberry is an ice cream for all seasons. Also shown, seeking shelter under a shade tree: a precariously perched scoop of root beer ($5).
Once the chef of pop-up Tchoup Shop leased kitchen space here for prep work, his New Orleans chow soon found its way onto the Dean Street menu, too. The bread for this shrimp po' boy ($12) is firmer than the classic baguette-like, fluffy-crumbed loaf, and, atypically, it's toasted — adaptations to cooler climes, perhaps. But not only is it fully "dressed" like any proper po' boy, with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo, it's dressier than most: The lettuce is leafy, not simply shredded iceberg, and the mayo is tweaked with scallion. The shrimp are generous in number, and plump; they would appear plumper if not for the logjam of fries.
Black cow float (one scoop, $4.25), root beer ice cream swirled with milk chocolate. Note that this was a very hot day, and when served, the consistency was more like ice cream and less like a float. Nice texture, even so.
Ample Hills Creamery 623 Vanderbilt Ave. (at St. Marks Ave.), Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 347-240-3926 www.AmpleHills.com Closed Monday
The menu board at this rundown lunch counter has been turned over to Nigerian food like the namesake stew, also spelled "palaver." Whether there's a connection between the chow and the other meaning of the word (lengthy talk that may be loud, confused, or argumentative), I can't say; the proprietress was closing up and in no mood for a chat.
Palava Hut 992 Atlantic Ave. (Grand-Classon Aves.), Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 718-783-8806
Pumpkin pizza, with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar ($3 per slice) was an intriguing idea — this pie was just for show — but even a slice from the warming rack couldn't pull it off, at least not here. For a "fresh, seasonal, local" ingredients under more conducive conditions, I'll have to visit Ici itself.
Ici 246 DeKalb Ave. (at Vanderbilt Ave.), Brooklyn (At the Red Hook Farmer's Market Harvest Festival) 718-789-2778
For a Haitian get-together, this spicy pumpkin soup with mixed vegetables started the evening with a colorful kick. Rara, an even more colorful cold salad of beets, corn, bell peppers and onion, was almost sweet by contrast. We also enjoyed akra, herb-flecked light fritters made from grated yautia, a taro-like tuber, and accompanied by piklis, an intensely spicy cabbage-carrot slaw. Chicken wings, prepared creole-style, were typically labor-intensive; fried calamari was undistinguished.
Having scraped syrupy sludge off many a sweet-and-sour fish, I was especially happy with the escovitch red snapper; fried and then topped with onions and peppers, its tender interior still tasted of a vinegar-and-sour-orange marinade. Tassot griot — moist yet crispy marinated goat, shown below with fritters of double-fried plantain — was more tender and less bony than renditions I've chewed on at other restaurants.
Those fritters also served as an excellent platform for legume beef (shown at bottom) and its blend of carrot, zucchini, chayote, tomato, cabbage, and peas. Though also as tender as you'll find, the lambi, or conch, arrived swimming with lima beans in too much tomato sauce. A thinner, peppier sauce bathed the gumbo shrimp; red and green bell peppers, as well as onion, accompanied the okra. Entrees were served with an exceptionally savory mushroom-flavored rice.
Frothy, cinnamon-flavored Haitian coffee was interesting, but perhaps because the kitchen was overwhelmed by our group at this point in the evening, showed up later and less hot than it might have. In truth, unflavored coffee would have paired better with pain patate, a spiced sweet-potato dessert with molasses overtones and a sprinkling of coconut.
Kombit Bar & Restaurant 279 Flatbush Ave. (Prospect Pl.-St. Marks Ave.), Brooklyn 718-399-2000
The upstairs room of this tiny restaurant brought "Being John Malkovich" to mind; after climbing a steep, cramped stairway, Jim and I found we couldn't stand upright. With Sue, Kathi, and Gil, we did manage to settle in around a table for five; complementary drinks managed to keep us comfortable during the hour our food took to arrive. (Perhaps delivery orders take precedence in this barren zone near the Brooklyn Museum.) Good curried goat platter (small; $8), including especially tender cabbage; the very sweet homemade lemonade ($2) had ginger overtones.
Elsewhere at the table, stew chicken, jerk chicken, and oxtail platters were good; "calypso shrimp" was a little too coconutty for me; mac and cheese, perhaps steamed, was insubstantial; roti was doughy.
The Islands 803 Washington Ave., Prospect Heights, Brooklyn 718-398-3575