The weekend has been saturate with non-stop adventure. On Saturday, I went exploring around the neighbourhood on my own, getting groceries at the McCarren Park farmer’s market, checking out Smorgasburg, stopping off for a sandwich at Saltie, then heading over to East Williamsburg to check out Gimme! Coffee and Crest Fest. Sunday was a fly-by food tour of epic proportions with my inimitable friend Jordan. She’s working at Murray’s Cheese in the West Village this summer (just like Chloe last summer), and at Serious Eats, the authoritative NYC food blog, and we took her one day a week off as a prime opportunity to crawl around the borough all day feasting on anything particularly delicious we could lay our hands on.
The day began at Brooklyn Flea. It’s in the same spot as Smorgasburg (on the waterfront between N6th and N 7th), but is the more typical flea market with vintage furniture, antiques, and gems of all kinds. There was so much beautiful wooden furniture, glass bottles, and even sculptures made out of old metal parts. They reminded me of the art show yesterday at Crest Hardware.
We did a not-so-quick once-over of all the stalls, and decided to start at the Red Hook food stands with some grilled corn and horchata. It was my first time trying horchata, and it was delicious – almost too sweet for me by itself, though, so it was a great call to have it with the grilled corn. The whole ear was charred at the edges (just the way I like roasted/grilled veggies), doused in a crumbly, salty cheese almost like parmesan, and finished with a generous dash of smoked paprika.
Nom that corn, Jordan.
Let’s inspect the damage:
We sampled some Brooklyn Salsa, Maiden Preserves, and soda from Brooklyn Soda Works (think grapefruit + jalapeño, or cardamom cream), as well as the ricotta from Salvatore Brooklyn, possibly my second favourite ricotta ever (Liuzzi, you still hold no.1, never fear). But Salvatore is so good it must just creep up there – it’s light enough to be unoppressive, smooth enough to be versatile (and palatable, for that matter – no one likes a gritty ricotta, do they?), yet dense enough to feel like you’re actually sinking your teeth into something substantial.
Then it came time to admit that we weren’t done yet with the Red Hook stands, so we returned for a pupusa. We got the one with loroco, a traditional Salvadorean edible flower, and cheese. Topped with sour cream, pickled cabbage, and a couple pieces of jalapeño, it was perfect.
Fluffy, doughy, crispy on the outside from the cheese, it was all brought together for me by the pickled cabbage. Maybe I’m just still very enamoured with Saltie, but the combination of the tangy, almost sweet cabbage, the cool sour cream, and the piping hot pupusa just worked.
Oh, we also picked up this tartine with goat cheese and roasted vegetables. It was one of those “Do you want it? We don’t really need it, but…” moments, and we are glad we went for it. Jordan is an awesome food expedition pal for many reasons, one of which is that she always says yes. Just like in improv, I think that’s a sort of cardinal rule.
You can see what I mean.
After our piecemeal and very satisfying lunch, we decided to use the rest of the day to pursue a couple desserts we had both been wanting to try for a while. First stop, Babycakes in the Lower East Side. We walked across the Williamsburg bridge – it was a beautiful day with a brisk breeze, lots of people out walking and biking, and a potent reward at the end beckoning us onward.
Babycakes is the cutest. It is, perhaps, the best vegan bakery in New York. Definitely the best I’ve been to. The cakes and other pastries are better than your average. If you didn’t know it was vegan (and often gluten free), you would never guess.
We got the banana chocolate chip loaf and the carrot cupcake to share.
Both great decisions if I do say so. They were both so incredibly moist and flavourful. The loaf was dense, the cupcake light, fluffy, and cool – that was a novelty, a cool cupcake on a hot day. The icing might have been the star of the show, though. Jordan may or may not be quoted as having wished for a spoon of it by itself.
Next stop: The Chocolate Room in Brooklyn. We went to the one in Cobble Hill because it was right on the F. It felt good to be back in the wide streets, trees, and calmer vibe of Brooklyn after the bustle around Essex-Delancey. But first, we made a brief stop into the Essex Street Market (especially to pine after Salvatore’s ricotta at Saxelby’s).
We got a nice table near the window at the back of The Chocolate Room, and were promptly brought a taste of their chocolate sorbet – it took me off guard, because it was so rich and decadent, with such a concentrated flavour, with no hint of ice crystal or wateriness.
We came for the ice cream sandwiches, a different one each day made by house made ice cream and cookies. Today was Banana Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies. It was good, but the cookies were a little too sweet and overpowered an otherwise great banana ice cream. We also got a float, made from Southern Tier Imperial Mokah Stout – a blend of chocolate and coffee stouts – and vanilla ice cream. The beer came in a huge bottle though, so instead of sharing one between the two of us, we had to have one each with about a third of the bottle to finish! We tried our best but couldn’t get through it all. It was still delicious though. The combination of the tangy beer, rich chocolate, and bitter espresso was a winner, and with the added creaminess of the ice cream, it was pretty decadent. The best part was the foam made from the beer fizz and the melting ice cream.
We had one more stop on our list for the day: Baked, in Red Hook (we keep coming back to this, don’t we?), in pursuit of their fabled Sweet & Salty Brownie. It was a trek. There are no metro stops in Red Hook. It is cut off from the rest of the borough by the Gowanus Expressway. Needless to say we were up for the challenge.
We kept walking south from The Chocolate Room, through Cobble Hill, through Carroll Gardens, under the Gowanus Expressway, and made our way into the heart of Red Hook. We wandered past a family bbq on the street, past the Stumptown tasting room, past galleries and bus stops (there are some of those), past the only completely free-standing house I’ve seen, I think, so far, and eventually made it to our destination.
Behold,the Sweet & Salty Brownie:
It was hands down the densest, most luscious brownie I have ever had. Almost malleable, like ganache, with an incredible crunchy sugar top. Really, on reflection, it was much less a brownie than it was fudge with a bit of flour thrown into the batter (Jordan is having none of my theories – somehow it feels a little less permissible to eat a square of fudge this size). In any case, it was worth the trip. But we also love the trip itself, so don’t take our word for it – make the trek and see for yourself.
I loved this.
When I finally got back to my apartment, a fire hydrant had burst across the street, families were celebrating father’s day on the sidewalk, and the sun was still lingering in the early evening air.