Saturday, September 13, 2008

West Indian Parade Tamale

Riding on Sweet Tea's coat tails I'll post just a few pics and one of a lovely, delicious find from the West Indian Parade. Let me introduce you to my new greasy friend, the Caribbean Tamale.

Hell yeah, it looks good huh?! The maza tasted like there was some potato in it and there was definitely a lot of pork fat involved and that did not deter me one bit! Once I dug in I was a little disappointed at the ratio of fat to tender pork in the chunks of meat, but the green olives and heavily spiced sauce made it a unique find at the parade. So where did I get this? Well, where do you usually get tamales? From a older lady selling them on the corner from a cooler. Yeah, in L.A. you get them from a shopping cart, but nevertheless they were homemade and great! Wait, let me read that again, am I saying I'd rather have them from a shopping cart? Well, you can take the girl out of the barrio but you can't take...... well you know the saying.

I also had the crab and cabbage, but it was dry, overcooked and utterly unremarkable, which was a shame because I'm a sucker for crabs.

Crabby goodness

Lastly, a lovely drug store shop with an old and beautiful sign. Bye bye kiddos. 

Great sign

Friday, September 12, 2008

There Was More To Eat, But I Couldn't Eat It: Sweet Tea Hits The West Indian Day Parade

Where I grew up, school started in mid-August, so I never understood the big deal about Labor Day. Now that I teach in New York (where school begins on the traditional Tuesday) and live in Crown Heights, Labor Day marks not only the great funeral feast of summer but also the culmination of a week of parties and concerts and merry uproar celebrating the Island roots of many of my neighbors. No one in the neighborhood gets much sleep that week, but we have a good old time before the winds grow cold.

There’s better music at J’ouvert, but for

gossamer costumes,
Watching the Mas Bands


Skully Man

Jewelry Store on A Granny Cart

Thunder BOLT

Trinis for Obama!

freelance pray-ers,
Need Prayer?

Laughing Ladies

Patriotic Pants

as flags,
Bajan Baby

and food,
On the Sidelines


Antiguan Eats

…you can’t beat the Labor Day Carnival parade, Brooklyn’s Mardi Gras.

Flags for Three Kings

and feathers

are out in force, and just as Fat Tuesday Catholics prepare for Lent with a proper gorging, we lucky parade-goers stuff ourselves silly in expectation of the next 364 days of relative depravation. Mamacita and I both hit the parade this year, though we never did find each other among the 3 million or so revelers. She’ll give her report separately; here’s mine:

I hit the parade on Island time, which is to say that I told friends I’d be there at noon but in fact shouldered my new boulevardierre bag at about 1:30. Roving Eye and I arrived at Bedford and Eastern Parkway hungry for doubles, a magical Trini chickpea sandwich and my favorite Carnival food.

When it became clear that finding doubles would take some doing, we agreed it wouldn’t be prudent to undertake the search on an empty stomach.

First stop: Roti.

Let’s face it: unless you’re tied by blood loyalty to another of the islands, it’s hard to argue that anyone’s food at the parade is better than the Trinis’. Trini food combines the Native American, European, and African elements common to much Caribbean food with Indian, Lebanese, and Chinese flavors and techniques. The result is sublime. I like a good Bahamian conch salad or Bajan fried flying fish as much as anyone, but if you have to choose only one flag to eat beneath, make it this one:

Flag and Oaks

Although this stand
Trini Food Stand

was out of doubles, they had chicken and goat curry roti, as well as plenty of fresh nuts and fruit.

Watermelon Woman

The young woman who served us said she ordinarily works a shishkabab stand but wanted to learn roti. She may have been new at this, but whoever was doing the cooking knew their way about all right. Roving Eye and I found a spare patch of curb to sit on, having not mastered the art of eating roti while walking.
Roti is essentially a stew burrito, a savory meat curry wrapped — bones and all — in a chewy flatbread. Before the first bite, it looked like this:

Chicken Curry Roti

…And after the first bite, it looked like a hot mess. Oh, but it was delicious! The bread is soft and chewy but not so absorbent as to become soggy in the curry. The chicken was tender and spicy, and the curry itself studded with perfect, slightly flakey potatoes. Neither of us could get the way of taking a bite and then extracting the bones neatly from our mouths, though I’m keen to practice more.

Our vigor renewed, we set off on our doubles mission once more, but I couldn’t resist stopping at this fruit stand, which was selling sugar cane.

Sugar Cane

We kids used to buy slender, 8-inch lengths of cane from the molasses-making exhibit at the state fair. We’d carry them around all day, chewing the stalks for the sake of their juice, spitting out hunks of masticated fiber. These folks were selling whole canes, thicker than those of my childhood recollection, but they agreed to sell me just a foot’s worth for $2, and they chopped off the shiny exterior. Ah, sweet nostalgia!

One of the magical things about the parade is that the vendors aren’t limited to established restaurants and catering businesses. Seems like everyone with an idea and a kitchen gets in on the act, using whatever is at hand. Roving Eye bought delicious pink lemonade from a man with a huge tupperware-esque file box balanced on a grocery cart. His other customer looks pretty unimpressed with me:

Obama for Pink Lemonade

We walked a few more blocks, but found no doubles. But we did find a woman selling Bajan fish cake!

The Fish Cake Lady

Fish cake is little fried nuggets of salt fish and flour and spice. The insides are fluffy and surprisingly dry, rather like hushpuppies:

Fish Cake!

I wasn’t sure how much more I could eat, but I rallied when we found, at long last, DOUBLES!, sold by J&K Halal Food for $2. I was distracted by delight, so some of these pictures are by Roving Eye:

Don’t let the piles of fried chicken and french fries fool you — I’m sure they taste fine, but there are better things here to fill your stomach.

Doubles from J&K Halal
By R.E.

Doubles is (yes, is — “doubles” is the singular and plural, as in “I’d like a doubles”) the perfect street food. First, take two pieces of yeast dough, seasoned and yellowed with tumeric, and fry them in 4-inch circles. These are the “double” part.

Frying Doubles Bread

Then, make a sandwich using the fried dough, with channa for the filling. Channa is a spicy mix of chickpeas — tastes very Indian. The chutneys that accompany the channa vary by the cook. Sometimes they are very spicy, sometimes cooling mint plays off peppers. In this case, the chutney was sweet with whole tamarinds. You can see a tamarind in the middle of this picture:
Doubles from J&K Halal

The result is a perfect balance of protein and fried satisfaction. This doubles is a bit more oblong than the standard and bigger, which may account for its being served in a dish rather than wrapped in foil for eating on the go. Just as well, since spitting out the tamarind seeds made it less than easy eating. But oh, so tasty.

Doubles from J&K Halal
By R.E.

Someday maybe I’ll try this recipe.

I regret to admit that by then I was too full for shark & bake or pholourie or anything else besides the snow cone I bought off a stoop on Bedford. But there’s always next year -- I have faith that summer will come again.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Park Slopes First Annual Restaurant and Food Tour

Yes, you heard me right...but wait there's more! It's Free!!

Park Slopes First Annual Restaurant and Food Tour
Thursday, September 18th
Starting at 7:00pm

A chance to sample (for free!) food from the many 7th ave and nearby establishments. According to Buy in Brooklyn:
Restaurants will have hors d'ouevres, wine shops will have tastings, food businesses will have samples, and other creative glomming-on-businesses will think of other brief things to delight and entice you. The idea is to allow you to saunter through a wonderful Movable Feast, and let you discover, sample and try things you never even new existed!

Freeloaders: Mark your calendars and be sure to have a light lunch!
Business owners: Think swarm of locusts and prepare accordingly.

Restaurants participating will be:

Barrio Restaurant 210 7th Avenue, 718-965-4000

Big Nose Full Body 382 7th Avenue, 718-369-4030

Grab Specialty Foods 438 7th Avenue, 718-369-7595

Miracle Grill 222 7th Avenue, 718-369-4541

Moim 206 Garfield Place, 718-499-8092

Naidre's Cafe 384 7th Avenue, 718-965-7585

NoNo Kitchen 239 7th Avenue, 718-369-8348

Park Slope Fitness Collective
366 7th Avenue, 718-499-1849
Free fitness class, time TBD

Pizza Plus 359 7th Avenue, 718-768-5327

Russo's Mozzarella & Pasta 363 7th Avenue, 718-369-2874

Second Helpings 448 9th Street, 718-965-1925
Serving butternut squash chowder

Sette Enoteca e Cucina 207 7th Avenue, 718-499-7767
Serving Grandma Nonna's beef & veal meatballs

Slope Cellars 436 7th Avenue, 718-369-7307

Tonio's Restaurant 306 7th Avenue, 718-965-4252