This time of year, conversations at Chow Bella staff meetings tend to turn to who's eaten what and where. With the summer travel season in full swing, we bring you Food Tours, our writers' suggestions of what to eat and drink out of town.
On a recent trip to New York City, we walked from the Lower East Side to Harlem and pretty much everywhere in between (well, there might have been a cab or two involved), which is good, because we pretty much ate every carb along the way. From knishes at Yonah Schimmel on Houston Street to hamentaschen at the Hungarian Pastry Shop in Morningside Heights -- with a bagel bomb from Momofuku thrown in for good measure (we promise to devote a separate post soon to the powers of the bagel bomb) -- it was a memorable pig out. But one food day stands out from the rest, and that happened in Brooklyn.
The Sunrise Dog from Jack's Chedbred Begin your food day at the Smorgasburg -- you can catch this amazing outdoor fair on Saturdays at East River State Park (through the summer, anyway, go to the Smorgasburg web site for details and other locations/days). Smorgasburg will make your city's food truck scene blush. It's incredible -- there's no way to try everything you're going to want to try, even if you employ our friends' method of "shaking it down," a sort of happy dance done in between food booths meant to aid digestion. We began with a corn dog from Jack's Chedbred. It was a tough choice but we went with the Sunrise Dog -- a ginger-and-sage spiked sausage deep-fried in a sweet, crunchy corn dog wrapper, topped with maple-bacon sauce. Until the first bite, we thought we were over the bacon craze (except for VooDoo Donuts' maple-bacon bar, of course) but this made us rethink that decision. The Sunrise Dog was the perfect combo of sweet and salty, meat and corn bread. Pair it with a beet lemonade (trust us) and a seat at a picnic table with a riverfront view of Manhattan and you can see why everyone's flocking to Williamsburg. (Except the hippest of the hipsters, who are long gone. No prob -- more corn dogs for us.)
The Cemita from Cemita's Mexican Sandwiches and Tacos Our homesick (for Mexican food and a good margarita, anyway) friend chose the Cemita, and was glad she did. A sandwich so complex it deserves its own chalkboard drawing, the Cemita includes chipotle spread, papalo, avocado, pickled onion, Oaxacan cheese, tomato, lettuce, the protein of your choice, mayo and black bean spread. You better have one big mouth to get this sandwich down. We also tried a samosa from Mamak, iced coffee from Grady's Cold Brew and eyed The Salty Road's taffy -- pulled on site by a machine named Rosie. In keeping with our goal to not wait in line for anything in New York (hey, we were only there for a week!) we skipped the Ramen Burger. The line's a lot shorter than it used to be for the latest fad food to hit Brooklyn (soon to be featured at restaurants in New York and other cities) but still, too long for us.
Pink Peppercorn Raspberry Ice Cream from OddFellows Ice Cream Co. A painting of Jesus holding a melting ice cream cone lets you know you're still in Brooklyn, and OddFellows -- a family-run artisan (duh) ice cream shop a block or so from the Smorgasburg -- is definitely more than worth the walk. We fell hard for the PB&J ice cream, but the pink peppercorn raspberry stole the show, as we fought for bites and tried to decide which flavor hits the tongue first.
Anything on the Tasting Table at Mast Brothers You can buy a truffle or a few caramels tucked behind glass at Mast Brothers' chocolate factory (oh yes, friends, this is a chocolate factory, complete with very Brooklyn-looking chocolate-makers), but why bother when the tasting table is a smorgasbord (not to be confused with a Smorgasburg, which is pretty pricey) of free chocolate? Don't be a pig -- buy a bar when you're done nibbling. Mast Brothers has partnered with the Brooklyn Art Library down the street (make sure you stop by to check out The Sketchbook Project and get your own library card) to create a super-cute bar wrapped in sketch paper, complete with a pencil.
A Bag of Bedford Espresso Blend from Toby's Estate You won't have time for coffee school -- though the cupping room at arty, high-ceilinged Toby's Estate looks way cool, and we made a note to come back some day and enroll -- but be sure to grab a bag of beans to take home. The Bedford blend delivers on the promised tasting notes (hey, it's Brooklyn, just go with it) of nougat, malt chocolate and orange maralade. Drink it and wish you were still in New York.
Kara Walker's "a Subtlety" at the Domino Sugar Factory We didn't wait for that ramen burger, which gave us plenty of time to stand in (a suprisingly fast-moving) line to see Kara Walker's installation at the old, iconic Domino Sugar Factory. The factory's a short walk from Smorgasburg (even shorter if you stop at OddFellows for ice cream!) and although this is a food blog, the theme is so perfect and the exhibit so amazing we had to mention it.
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Walker has cast resin sculptures of young African American boys tending sugar crops and dipped them in molasses (one is made entirely of molasses and was already quite melted on our visit June 14, it might be gone by now) so that time would affect them, creating an extra impact. Those sculptures are amazing, but the real show is constructed of more than 300 styrofoam cubes, covered in 400 tons of sugar, to take the form of a Sphinx-like African American woman.
The show is open through July 6, Fri-Sun. Admission is free.