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eG Foodblog: Nina C. - Around the World in Just One Borough


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Great stuff, so glad you persevered. Great pies, great sausages!

No breakfast for me as I stayed up too late working, and now I just don't have any appetite.

Who hasn't done that at one time or another? Have your breakfast before you go to bed, it becomes tomorrow-guy's problem, not hungry-tonight-guy's problem.

BTW, If Bedford-Stuyvesant can be "Bed-Stuy" I think goat roti can be "goti".

Peter Gamble aka "Peter the eater"

I just made a cornish game hen with chestnut stuffing. . .

Would you believe a pigeon stuffed with spam? . . .

Would you believe a rat filled with cough drops?

Moe Sizlack

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Great stuff, so glad you persevered. Great pies, great sausages!
No breakfast for me as I stayed up too late working, and now I just don't have any appetite.

Who hasn't done that at one time or another? Have your breakfast before you go to bed, it becomes tomorrow-guy's problem, not hungry-tonight-guy's problem.

BTW, If Bedford-Stuyvesant can be "Bed-Stuy" I think goat roti can be "goti".

Goti! I love it.

(If anyone's wondering, I know the old Dutch town names can be difficult. It's pronounced Bed-ford Sty (like a pig sty) ves ant)

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Nina Callaway

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Holy smokes, that's a lotta stuff! I'm looking forward to seeing the 10 dishes you make with it. :laugh:

I'm enjoying your blog, and glad to see you back online. What certain birds or certain seafood is excluded from Halal cookery, do you know? I knew about the pork, but clearly, I have more to learn.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)

"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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I'm still in the midst of uploading pictures, so I'll have to tease a little more until tomorrow.

Here's what I saw, ate, or bought today:

tacos al pastor

tripe

more kielbasa

bahn mi

pan dulce

hundreds of fruits and vegetables

pig trotters

pork buns

preserved lemons,

litchee milkshake,

gallery_37101_5335_6695.jpg

and

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Nina Callaway

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Breakfast this morning:

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These are made by Baked, a chic little bakery in Red Hook. (Although I bought them yesterday at Blue Apron Foods in Park Slope.)

You may have heard of Red Hook for its legendary Latin American foods at the ball fields or for it's history of shipbuilding and longshoremen. Right on the water, Red Hook isn't served by any subways, and it's geographically divided from the rest of Brooklyn by the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. It has few grocery stores and it seems like it has been forgotten by those who maintain city infrastructure for far too long. (Potholes and burned out street-lights, for example) But the yuppies are moving in, slowly and a few intrepid businesses and restaurants are springing up. Baked is one of them.

Baked has a young design sense, characterized by the faux-animal heads on the wall, and clean packaging look of lower-case letters. They got write-ups in all the important press, and hipsters decorate their lounge-like cafe. But far more important than any of the hype is that they make a great product.

These are not quite as good as homemade but they're still light and fluffy and the cocoa flavor is rich. I wouldn't be surprised if they were using Valhrona cocoa. The only description I've found of them says that they are dusted with cocoa, but they've got a light-brown inside which makes me suspect that chocolate is also added at an earlier stage. They made a good and sugary breakfast, which I'll need to get through a long day!

Edited by Nina C. (log)

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Nina Callaway

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All of Carroll Gardens used to be considered as Red Hook until it started becoming gentrified in the 80's. BTW, Ferdinando's lies within your definition of Red Hook. :wink:

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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All of Carroll Gardens used to be considered as Red Hook until it started becoming gentrified in the 80's. BTW, Ferdinando's lies within your definition of Red Hook. :wink:

That is a fascinating thing I did not know! It's especially interesting considering the backlash against people trying to apply the Red Hook label to the Columbia Waterfront district - which used to be part of Red Hook? I guess it's kind of like the Clinton / Hell's Kitchen name war - the developer types want the nice name and the dive bar types want the cool one. One of my friends used to live in Red Hook and LeNell's, now, that is an amazing place to go if you like bourbon.

Nina, you don't seem to be at all intimidated by ethnic markets or factory settings. Were you ever? Some places I can handle and some just scare the crap out of me. It's not my fault I was raised on sterile supermarkets :blush:

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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Oh for a bigger stomach! Oh for expanding pants!

Such is the lament of a writer visiting Sunset Park.

This neighborhood.south of Park Slope is home to two great eating areas – a cluster of Mexican groceries, taco spots, and churro sellers on 5th avenue, and Brooklyn's Chinatown on 8th Avenue. These are areas that I have yet to explore as thoroughly as I would like – partially because it's a multi-transfer train ride from my house, partially because I'm lazy, partially because I don't have enough eating buddies who think a Saturday spent eating tacos is a fantastic Saturday.

But all this means is that when I do make it here, around every corner is a new surprise, a new gamble to take. Will this place sell better dumplings than the other? Will this sweet bread contain a great filling or a terrible one? And of course, how bad will my indigestion be?

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The place I've liked before, Tacos Matamoros, was strangely closed but I wasn't too worried. At Ricos Tacos: one taco al pastor, one taco carnitas. I stay away from the tortas, thinking I should keep things light, save room. At the last minute, my mouth defies my brain, and adds on a spicy chicken tostada. I can take things home, I reason.

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As I open these babies up and snap their picture, I think to myself that I should analyze them so I can report back to you all. But as soon as I've tasted a bite, all pretentious food babble goes out the window. I'm hungry, the receptors in my brain recognize GOOD FOOD IN MOUTH and before I know it, the carnitas taco is gone, my stained fingers their only legacy. This isn't food for pretension anyway – it's simple, it's spicy, it's hot and it's good. The al pastor was even better than the carnitas – less about heavy handed spice, and more about flavor. But that's all I can tell you for now. More research is necessary.

I did try a few bites of the tostada, but my mouth was ready to move on to new adventures. Around the corner, and a few doors north, the smell of baking breads lures me into a tiny bakery. Their small shelves are full of my manna – pan dulce. When I take out my camera, it turns into a photo shoot as an owner eagerly asks me to take pictures of the men working, the many breads and sweets, and even himself eating dinner.

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My bag grows fuller with 2 kinds of pan dulce.

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(above: pyramid of manteca aka lard, tripe, pig trotters, charcuterie of a different sort, piloncillo sugar, I forget the name of these, bags of chilis, fried churros and treats, pinatas.)

Reason starts to win over desire as I walk further. I have chili peppers and Ibarra and even some jarred mole already at home. I don't stop in any grocery stores, although another bakery causes me to buy a few more sweets. But there is no time for pausing now. It's on to Chinatown.

Edited by Nina C. (log)

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Nina Callaway

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All of Carroll Gardens used to be considered as Red Hook until it started becoming gentrified in the 80's. BTW, Ferdinando's lies within your definition of Red Hook. :wink:

It's funny how the neighborhood names change, don't you think? Honestly, the entirety of Park Slope has such shifting borders. Real Estate agents seem to push the southern border ever southward. Sometimes areas far too western are called Park Slope. There's a new neighborhood called "Greenwood Heights" and I know that since I've only been here 8 years, I probably don't call neighborhoods the same thing as old timers.

I don't know if I'm going to get to Carroll Gardens really. I was there briefly tonight for dinner, but I wasn't really in food blog mode. My best friend got some scary medical news today so this was Be cheerful! Hang out! Drink wine! Oh that's right, I should take some pictures mode.

Park Slope I have one or two pictures of. It's changed so much - you should see 5th avenue. Hot restaurant central. When I lived in the slope it was boarded up storefronts, the odd video store, and El Salvadorian restaurants. Unfortunately that's not where I was yesterday, so no pictures of that.

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Nina Callaway

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Nina, you don't seem to be at all intimidated by ethnic markets or factory settings.  Were you ever?  Some places I can handle and some just scare the crap out of me.  It's not my fault I was raised on sterile supermarkets  :blush:

Not really. The one time I've had food poisoning, I got it from a vegetarian restaurant. And it was terrible, awful food poisoning. Also, I lived in Mexico as a child (where I did have Montezuma's curse but that's different) so I probably got any fears out of my system quickly. It's possible I'll get sick, but it's certain that I'll get to try new and/or satisfying foods.

I am kind of creeped out by freegans. Or just eating any of their food. But that's neither here nor there.

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Nina Callaway

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Whoops! There goes another one of my poor vocabulary choices. 'Sanitary' was the word that popped into my head when I imagined cold, impersonal service (or lack of, really) and over-packaged, robot-produced food things lined neatly up on shelves. I didn't mean to imply my market was any cleaner than those - who knows what went on in the back room at the A&P?

Women in my family tend to be shy so we love non-interactive shopping. My mom would have loved Fresh Direct even more than I do. Small markets I can handle, e.g. the Thai Grocery in Chinatown, esp. when I know exactly what I need and can't get it (or recognize it) myself. But enough about me!

So I guess what I was trying to ask was, have you always been an adventurous shopper, or did you have to train yourself?

(Oh, and I used to have chef friends who went dumpster-diving at Trader Joe's long before it had a cool name. The only creepy part, really, was the fear of getting caught and lectured by the employees. The food was quite fine - just broken.)

To hell with poverty! We'll get drunk on cheap wine - Gang of Four

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I reacted poorly as well - I should have discounted the notion that the places I shop aren't as sanitary. But an attempted sentence to that effect sounded sanctimonious, so I deleted it rather than work on it further.

A quick digression: Because of my mother's work as an art historian, I spent several years as a child in Oaxaca, Mexico. My nervous mother brought suitcases full of board games, peanut butter, and breakfast cereal, and plenty of iodine to wash the vegetables and fruits. We were strictly forbidden to eat any street food, as she couldn't be sure that it was safe for us unless she had cooked it herself. Little did I listen.

Since she was working most days, my brother and I were left on our own, or with a babysitter. We had money for shopping – with the old peso of the 80s, fifty cents meant we were the richest kids anywhere. My brother spent his money on soccer balls, which quickly sailed over fences or popped on the shards of glass that guarded compounds. I spent mine on art supplies and food. Most of it was sweet – packs of chicles, fruit on sticks, sticky bunelos in the middle of the zocalo. But my child-size sweet tooth was most sated by pan dulce - a soft white bread decorated with a thick layer of sugar, often in tempting colors.

Unfortunately, the idyllic memory of pan dulce means that what I've found in this country has a hard time measuring up. I keep buying it, content for the first few bites at the simple sweetness, but then the bread tastes fake, not what I know bread to taste like. I suspect it is because most pan dulce here is coming from a central supplier, or uses vegetable shortening, but I'm not certain.

I suppose the same instinct that leads me to be what you call an "adventurous shopper" is what brought me to New York. Plenty of people ask me how I can live in NYC's dirt/crime/bustle, but the truth is that none of that is as extreme as it seems and what's left has more charm than negativity for me. Then again, I don't think of myself as that "adventurous" - you'll notice that none of the tripe made its way into my basket. :biggrin:

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Nina Callaway

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If you've ever walked through Manattan's Chinatown, you know the assault of the senses can be overwhelming -- millions of products with bright colors (many of which make noises or flash lights,) thousands of pounds of foodstuffs, shopkeepers shouting, trying to lure in customers, cars honking and traffic bustling, and above all, the swarms of tourists reaching for a cheap knockoff Fendi bag. While one would hardly call Brooklyn's Chinatown quiet, the lack of tourists, the more contained sidewalks, and wider streets mean that a foodie on a mission has a little more elbow room to squeeze the persimmons and smell the durian.

Chinatown stretches for almost 20 blocks along 8th avenue, but fortunately, my favorite Vietnamese sandwich shop is near the start. .Fortified with a thick litchee shake and a half a banh mi, I poke through almost every shop, my bag gaining weight every few steps. I seem to be planning for a starch-a-thon, as the bakeries and dumpling houses keep tempting. The old axiom of "no recommendations? Look for the most popular spot" doesn't work; every place is full of people seemingly having an afternoon snack and chatting up a storm. So what's a girl to do, but keep pointing to ambiguously-filled soft golden buns, waiting for a reaction from the non-English speaking workers? When they make a face, I assume they are saying "White girl, you don't want that. That's hard core." But if they just nonchalantly put it in a bag, charging me 80 cents, it gets added to the pastry Russian Roulette that awaits me.

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gallery_37101_5335_64591.jpg - the best Banh Mi

In the grocers, fish tanks of lobsters and large mouthed fish swim along, stupefied, on their way to becoming tonight's dinner. Piles of brightly shined fruit, each more impossibly cheap than the next sit to gardens of bok choy in every size, and mountains of dried mushrooms and herbs. The items I can't identify far outnumber those I can. People around me motion for the workers to given them small dried brown things from one jar, and bright orange jellies from another.

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The color is pretty accurate

gallery_37101_5335_21203.jpg Rachel Perlow would be proud.

I start to worry at having to tell my sweetheart, "We're having cold bahn mi and an assortment of sweet pastries for dinner." Will he be ready for a carbo joy ride, punctuated with rich pork products? Perhaps we need a soup – a simple, healthful, brothy vegetable soup to counteract the damage I'm doing. In my bag, a few vegetables make friends with the piles of baked dough – bok choy, garlic scapes, carrot, scallions. Then I grab what I assume are rice cakes along with a huge bag of dried black mushrooms. I don't think too much about authenticity – I couldn't even begin to. I consider piles of shrimp, glistening in their beds of ice, but decide instead that simple is better. However, Chinese hot sauce, unusual snacks, lap xuong (sausage) and more bakery buns come home with me. Those devious words "it's research!" keep looping through my head.

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Later that night, I soak the mushrooms to make a rich broth, add soy sauce and sesame oil, then simmer the vegetables and rice cakes briefly. To liven up all the moody browns, I slice the carrots into pretty little flowers. The pastries are nice, but it is the soup that deeply satisfies.

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Don't worry - we didn't begin to finish all of these. gallery_37101_5335_30220.jpg

This one we did finish - the inside was an intense coconut paste that was awesome with the flaky and soft pastry

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Nina Callaway

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banh mi has got to be the most satisfying and cheapest meal one can get (:

oh and those mushrooms look absolutely beautiful. They taste fantastic cooked on a korean tabletop grill after you cook pork belly on it so they can fry in all the pork fat

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

whoa I just saw that you added some korean rice cakes to your soup (: don't they add a nice texture to soups? I love adding them to spicy ramen

Edited by SheenaGreena (log)
BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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I'm loving this blog so much! just about my favourite thing in the world to do on holiday is just walk, poke my nose into neighbourhood grocery stores and try to figure out what everyone is eating and cooking.

those pastries look wonderful :wub: now to make a coconut paste danish.....

Spam in my pantry at home.

Think of expiration, better read the label now.

Spam breakfast, dinner or lunch.

Think about how it's been pre-cooked, wonder if I'll just eat it cold.

wierd al ~ spam

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Good morning -

This is the sight that greeted me today: gallery_37101_5335_257631.jpg

It's 20 degrees outside, and the forecast calls for the snow to change into delightful "wintery mix" of rain and snow by the afternoon.

and so I'm eating breakfast and pondering what to do with the day. I think that rather than treking around the city, it might be a nice day for a baking project and/or an elaborate soup.

gallery_37101_5335_181548.jpg

(it feels silly to take a picture of an english muffin with peanut butter and banana. But there it is.)

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Nina Callaway

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Good morning -

gallery_37101_5335_181548.jpg

(it feels silly to take a picture of an english muffin with peanut butter and banana. But there it is.)

Oh, but that is just perfect on a cold snowy morning. An elaborate soup would be most welcomed as we are covered by snow.

Hubby and I were in Manhattan's Chinatown acouple of years ago. It was a completely new experience for me - to be surrounded by so many and so much Chinese! I felt like a foreigner (and I'm Chinese!)and was very envious of all that people in big cities have easy access to. I can't even remember where or what we ate - just the clothes we bought. :rolleyes:

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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banh mi has got to be the most satisfying and cheapest meal one can get (:

oh and those mushrooms look absolutely beautiful.  They taste fantastic cooked on a korean tabletop grill after you cook pork belly on it so they can fry in all the pork fat

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

whoa I just saw that you added some korean rice cakes to your soup (:  don't they add a nice texture to soups?  I love adding them to spicy ramen

Mmmm I wish I had some of those mushrooms right now!

I love the rice cakes - They are soft and chewy and add heft to the soup. Do you know how to store them? How long will they keep?

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Nina Callaway

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banh mi has got to be the most satisfying and cheapest meal one can get (:

oh and those mushrooms look absolutely beautiful.  They taste fantastic cooked on a korean tabletop grill after you cook pork belly on it so they can fry in all the pork fat

mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

whoa I just saw that you added some korean rice cakes to your soup (:  don't they add a nice texture to soups?  I love adding them to spicy ramen

Mmmm I wish I had some of those mushrooms right now!

I love the rice cakes - They are soft and chewy and add heft to the soup. Do you know how to store them? How long will they keep?

you freeze them if you want to store them for a while...or refridgerate them if you are going to use to fairly soon. To reconstitute them if they are frozen, you just soak them in some water.....for how long I don't know ): Some people say all day, some an hour, I usually soak them until they get soft (an hour)

BEARS, BEETS, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA
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Nina: I’m a little hazy on when your foodblog ends, but I will not be at all upset if it continues for a while (you may feel differently, of course). I visit NYC now and again, and you have provided lots of ideas for exploring your borough beyond the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Thanks persevering in the face of adversity and providing a week filled with charm and lovely food (especially the beautiful market montages).

Nicely done!

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