Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Brooklyn Food Tour Revisited

I conceived Urbane Adventures as a way to combine two things I love very dearly – food and good people. I believe very much that this city offers the most unique food experiences in the entire country for the simple fact that you can have both authentic and innovative foods from all over the world within a relatively small area. Given people, such as myself, can be preconditioned to avoid leaving the safe confines of their everyday lives, I decided it was time to force them to experience the city – the food, the people, and the neighborhoods. On the first tour, 7 of my friends joined me in a hunt for good eats in Jackson Heights, Queens. This time, around 32 people decided that discovering taste was worth giving up a Saturday to travel around Brooklyn. To be totally honest, I did not expect so many people to show up, but from the moment we all congregated to the moment we ate that last bite of sinfully rich chocolate cake, it was a Saturday that I will forever remember. My deepest thanks to every person who came and walked the miles, ate the food, and made the event what it was. Without you, it would not have been possible.

Enough mushy stuff, lets get to the food!

Oasis, our first stop, is a small falafel shop on 7th and Bedford, right on top of the Bedford Ave stop in Brooklyn. I was introduced to this gem by Viridian Sun who had so graciously shared a small part of her crunchy Brooklyn life with me. Falafel, as you may know, is a dish common to many Arab countries, and is essentially a ball of fried chick peas served with various sauces. I will concede, Oasis quite possibly has the best falafel in the 5 boroughs, but that was not the source of my pride for this destination. Given their expertise with the chickpea, they also have an astounding offering of hummus. Let’s be clear, I live on hummus. Sometimes I will eat it alone just for dinner. I made it the purpose of my previous travels to seek out, far and wide, the best hummus (ok, I was really on vacation in Dubai, but you get the point). As a side for the falafel plate, Oasis offers some of the most flavorful, robust, and creamy hummus this side of the Mediterranean.
$6 / plate

Vinnie’s Pizzeria
Serendipity is defined as good luck in making unexpected and fortunate discoveries. What more appropriate word could be used to describe the second stop on our tour? As you may notice from the map provided, we originally were to stop at Brick Oven Pizza, but apparently it doesn’t exist where it should. Thankfully, my strawberry blonde savior thought of a place to go that was near Oasis, so we doubled back to Bedford Ave on 9th St. However before we even got to that place, I spotted a pizza place that seemed good enough, so I stopped the group to take a chance on an unknown. What we discovered was an amazing hidden gem! Vinnie’s is a gourmet pizza shop, more art than slice, offering everything from tortellini pizza to taco pizza! Though the herd was rowdy from realizing we walked in a total circle, they were soon cooing with contentment at the experience of Vinnie’s Pizzeria.
Slice ~$4

Raymund’s Place
What do you think of when you hear the word “pirogi”? If you’re like me, you think “what the hell is that”? I had heard of pirogies, but never actually seen or tasted one, and since my roster of Polish/Czech/Slavic friends is relatively short, I figured we might as well crash the party and see what all the noise is about. What we discovered was that pirogi are a small fried dumpling stuffed, in this instance, with potato and cheese, served with vegetables and vinegar cured bacon bits. Now, if you are reading this blog, you probably already have a pre-disposition to food, so you understand just how ethereal bacon is by itself. To add this as a garnish to a savory, crispier version of a pot sticker is to be knocking on heaven’s door. Pay a visit if you are in the area. Not only do they have amazing pirogi, but their apple pancakes are a great comfort food, and they have a large supply of Zywiec (pronunciation here), that is crisp enough to wash food down, light enough to not overwhelm the pirogi, but still distinctly individual with a light touch of hop and spring flavors peeking through.
Pirogi Plate - $6.75

It was right about here we made the transition to Park Slope. I will take a point of privilege and say DAMN YOU F TRAIN!!!! If you went on the tour, you understand why.

Roots Café
Southern food is in my blood. As previous posts will tell you, I am from Texas – no apologies about it. However, when I think back to my roots, I never considered bologna and cheese to be a staple of that region. Nor would I consider green eggs and ham a usual breakfast meal below the Mason Dixon. Leave it to a homesick southerner to interpret ghosts from the brown bag lunches of childhood into an innovative recession friendly luxury. Roots Café was our first stop in Park Slope, and after a long journey, we were starved. This café not only offers a great ambiance similar to coffee shops in the Bay and Portland, but also some great down to earth paninis. We sampled the Green Eggs and Ham Panini, which is a scrambled egg sandwich with avocado mixed into the eggs. We also sampled the Bologna and Cheddar Panini. Both of these sandwiches were a stellar example of how down home food can still be good even if it’s made into gourmet remix.
Bologna & Cheese - $3.50, Green Eggs & Ham - $6.75

Tacos New Mexico
This was definitely one of my favorite stops on the trip. Not so much for the food, but for the humor. Tacos New Mexico is a traditional Mexican diner, serving everything from tostadas to horchata. I decided we would have a sampling of tacos, and to my excitement, their menu had 8 distinct types. I figured it would be fun to try something unusual, so I ordered beef and pork tacos. After a few minutes of waiting, I brought them out for people to eat, and as they devoured the offering, comments started circulating. “This one’s so fatty”. “That’s a unique texture”. After people had tried enough of the tacos, I dropped the punch line. Yes, these were pork and beef tacos, but specifically, they were veal brains and beef tongue, amongst the regular tacos. Tongue was a favorite on the last tour, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
~$3 / taco

Park Slope Fish and Chip Shop
You have to love the British. For all their pomp, they have given us some timeless classics. Big Ben. Tea. And on this trip: Fish and Chips. Frying foods has always been a way to make a less than phenomenal cut of meat taste great. Though there are many variations of the fish and chip, Park Slope Chip Shop offered us fried cod. Along with the accent and the fish, we partook in some fried mac and cheese – not specifically from the UK, but just too hard to pass up. This place offers both take out and restaurant seating, but we opted for the street. Granted it’s difficult to make bad fish and chips, but this place truly paid attention to the details. Our fish was fresh, the fries were crisp, and the British accents were hilarious. This place is definitely shaken, not stirred.
Fish and Chips Basket - $12, Fried Mac & Cheese - $5

Los Politos
In the food world, I often liken chicken to a blank canvas. A great artist can take control and make it into something memorable. The spit roasted chicken at Los Politos demonstrates exactly what that means. We stopped by the last savory destination on the tour quickly, grabbed the food and walked on. To everyone’s amazement, the chicken was bursting with flavor. Spit roasting had given it its juicy, tender flesh, but someone at that restaurant seasoned this chicken much like Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Magnifico!
Whole Roasted Chicken - $7.65

The Chocolate Room
If chocolate is an aphrodisiac, then this place needs to be moved to a red light district. I’ll be honest, the hour was getting late (thanks to that awful F train), and I was getting restless. I wanted everyone to be happy with the tour, and given the length of time it ran, I thought people might be getting antsy. But just as a good stew or brisket becomes more flavorful the longer you cook it, so too did our enjoyment increase over time. We had spent so much time laughing and eating together as a group, that we barely noticed the time. Chocolate Room was the last stop on the tour, so I was convinced that we should finish strong. This dessert shop is purported to have some of the most divine chocolate cake and brownies in the city. I was a bit skeptical, because nothing can ever be that good (especially when Oprah makes a recommendation), but lo and behold, when we bit into the first bit of icing on that chocolate cake, I went into full fledge shock. To this day I’m not sure if it was from diabetes or elation, but in either case, this little dessert shop lives up to the hype.
Chocolate Layer Cake - $6, Brownie - $6

All in, a delicious day, and all under $20 / person. Here’s to good eats and good friends!

-The UE


shayla said...

Love, love, love the food tour. Such good company... meeting new peeps and catching up with the familiar


oh, excuse me.. I mean, the chicken and the chocolate were delightful :)

wild cowgirl said...


i was working like my ancestors that day...in my heart of hearts i did want to be present.

next time beloved...next time.

viridiansun said...

Food Tour=Awesome=went back the next day for more pizza=can't stop thinking about pirogi=my boyfriend won't give me peace until i take him for the fish & chips that we had.

you've created a monster

Jerryanne said...

I was so proud to participate in a food tour of MY BOROUGH!! All of the food choices were delicious and the company delightful. My favorites...chocolate room and roots cafe. Let's not forget the post-tour stops for beers and wine at Union Bar and Scopello.