I don’t think they could have possibly been as happy to see me, as I was to see them. The women running the grilled corn stand at the Brooklyn Flea never, ever want for customers, but I really, really want their corn. This winter the market moved indoors to DUMBO but there was no place for the Red Hook Vendors among the jaded hipsters walking their architectural dogs. That made the open air return of the Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School location in Fort Greene that much sweeter. I’d heard about the fresh grilled corn slathered in Mexican crema and cotija cheese and topped with chile when some friends, who insisted it was Cuban, kept asking me where they could find it. It’s actually a Mexican preparation that I finally tried last year. I’ve been daydreaming about it since April, knowing that soon I’d be back on steps of the high school enjoying the first corn of the summer. I noticed today that this is also the best place to watch the vendors at work. Perfectly preparing each one with just the right amount of cheese and chili powder, calmly facing the long lines that never end.
Posts from the ‘Restaurants & Cafes’ Category
I discovered Despana by accident, looking for something else, in the disorienting cross streets where Little Italy becomes Soho. A small gourmet shop and wholesaler specializing in Spanish imports, it’s lined on one side with olive oils, jars of preserves, canned delicacies and Valor hot chocolate and cases of cheese and cured meats on the other. There’s also a small lunch counter offering pintxos, tortillas, bocadillos, salads and desserts. Basically, everything you worried you’d never find when your year abroad ended. Now that I have found it, I plan to seek it with purpose, again and again and again.
I live a few blocks away from Cobble Hill’s Smith Street where you can’t swing a baguette without hitting three French bistros. With my mother visiting and my blog in mind, we decided to try Coco Roco, a Peruvian restaurant, for lunch instead. After my last few deep fried days, I ordered the Peruvian paella with mixed seafood and chorizo although next time I will definitely have the arroz chaufa de puerco, a fried rice with shredded pork that was tender and well seasoned. Simple dishes, I loved the brightness the cilantro, fresh peppers and corn added to each. Read more
I had asked my mother to bring me one bag of yucca flour from Miami but received five bags of Brazilian farofa instead. So naturally I was interested to read Seth Kugel’s New York Times article about how São Paulo’s chefs were finding inspiration in traditional ingredients writing:
…the idea that Brazilian cuisine can hold its own is slowly taking hold in São Paulo, thanks to a new generation of chefs looking outward for technique but inward for ingredients and tradition. Attuned to the necessities of presentation by their (mostly) European training and conscious that the heaviness of traditional Brazilian dishes will never pass muster with the gym-going elite, they have created a movement that has given their own nation a new sense of pride in its culinary heritage. Read more
I have no present plans to visit Santiago, Chile but I love saving these travel articles when I come across them. I thought this wonderful review of Hosteria Doña Tina worth keeping if only because it says there are few restaurants in Santiago that serve traditional Chilean food, so I’ll want to remember where they put this one. Actually, I find this true of many Latin countries, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps because so many swear that the best, most authentic food can only be found in their homes, the only alternative is to have their actual mother as the chef and the brothers and sisters as waiters.
Given the dire state of our economy, it’s probably a mistake to take every business closing in my neighborhood to heart, but I can’t help it. When Café Nova on the corner of Warren St. & Court St. closed down, I was crushed. Naturally, I blamed myself. Was it because I regularly took up their tables for an hour and 15 minutes to nurse a single latte while I did my laundry? Was it because I refused to call it anything but Café Nova even though it had been Margaret Palca Bakes for a couple of years already? Was I too aggressive when I stared down that spoiled 8 year old girl for a table? Did I scare away the mommy money and help put them out of business? Mostly, I love my neighborhood and don’t want to see it suffer. Since my favorite coffee spot closed this January, my heart would sink a little every time I passed the shuttered corner. Read more
Baked in Red Hook is the dream coffee shop for anyone not fully recovered from the first season of Twin Peaks. With its hunting lodge atmosphere and sleek design, you feel like Audrey is going to stroll in any minute. Always busy despite its location in the lonely industrial stretch leading to the piers, it’s customers seem to materialize just outside it’s doors. The bakery offers grown up versions of the sweets you would have wanted all the time when you were a kid, if only you could have found someone to make them for you. Rows of chunky cookies, whoopie pies, malt ball covered cakes, and peppermint marshmallows to serve off little princess plates between cups of pretend tea to your (in my case imaginary) friends. Read more
I start every trip to Miami at Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho. Versailles lives up to its name with its mirrored walls, court in eternal debate, and heavily bejeweled matrons . The front entrance opens onto a long red carpet leading to the two, raucous dining rooms. There may be music playing at Versailles, but it’s impossible to hear over the sounds of politics, silverware, and full-blast air conditioning. Recognition is key, and upon entering everyone immediately scans the room for familiar faces. A quick table stop or two before being seated can whether you’re given the real menu or the tourist menu in English.
I rarely have Cuban food outside of Miami. Deceptively simple, it’s easy to get wrong. Today, I arrived with a checklist of things I’ve been dreaming of from the moment I booked my flight – tortilla de platanos, croquetas de yucca, ropa vieja, flan de queso. Nevertheless, once there, I ordered to please my waitress. Versailles boasts the boldest wait staff in the Miami and possibly the world. They’re like a female army in tight green, polyester leisure suits trained by hypercritical, but well-meaning Cuban grandmothers. One raised eyebrow or sharp comment, will prompt you to cut down a croqueta order and cancel the fries, yet they seem genuinely disappointed if you don’t clean your plate and order dessert. I had a media noche since it’s hard to find a cuban sandwich made with the traditional pan de agua outside of Miami. It was heavy on the ham but still delicious. The fried plantains were also fantastic, perfectly sweet without being oily. For dessert, I had the brazo gitano, a rolled cake with dulce de leche filling and chocolate frosting. My cake was a little dry, and I was soon begging my sister to share her flan with me. Finally, even though it’s just a macchiato, it tastes so much better when you can call it a cortadito and have it on a warm December day.
When I was little, I made no distinction between the plastic baroque of Versailles and the palaces of books and Disney movies. Even as an adult, it never disappoints. Like going through the looking glass, it becomes as small or big as you need it to be on that day, at that moment. I’ll visit Versailles several times on my trip as I work my way down my list. With each meal, I settle into it’s rhythms and sounds till it’s time to go home again.