A short subway ride from Manhattan, Williamsburg is the hipster hub of Brooklyn – we knew we had arrived when we saw the sea of excessively bearded men and checked duffel shirts. It’s a great place to just mosey around and has plenty of trendy bars, restaurants and quirky shops, including a big junk store and an indoor market. We ended up in Williamsburg on a Saturday, in search of Smorgasburg food market, which is described as an ‘outdoor flea food market’ with 100 vendors. There was an immense array of food on offer – brilliant fusion foods such as Asian hot dogs, Mexican-Japanese, along with some innovative veggie foods, including a whole stand devoted to beetroot burgers.
There are lots of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans in NYC and I’d been keen to sample some of their typical dishes since our arrival. Although a lot of it is pretty similar to Colombian food, both these cuisines make mofongo – mashed green plantain which can be filled with vegetables, meat or fish. Mofon-go was one of the stalls in the market and their menu was simple – mofongo (surprisingly), filled with either chicken or vegetables. I went for the chicken, which came with chicharrón (fried pork crisps) and a wonderful tomato sauce, filled with olives and oodles of flavor.
My lovely mother decided she wanted something meatier (because clearly the combo of chicken and fried pork didn’t do it for her – easy to see where I get my carnivorous side from). She opted for a burger from a rock-themed burger stall and went for the “balls to the wall” lamb burger with a harissa-tahini dressing. Once the guy on the stall and I could get over my mother asking for “balls to the wall” in her politest voice, her burger was served – a really tasty lamb patty, served with a side of chickpea salad.
Smorgasburg is a great show of just how foodie New York really is, and I only wish I had the gift of never being full to allow myself to try a bit of everything! We left Brooklyn but were keen to return – given the fact it such a huge borough in the city, we knew there was more to be explored.
Crown Heights is in the middle of Brooklyn, and I came to read about it doing some foodie research on NYC eats. Crown Heights has a majority West Indian and African American population, and I was drawn to the area in search of what Serious Eats claims to be some of the best Trinidadian food in the city.
Gloria’s seems to be somewhat of an institution in the area, so much so that there is the original Gloria’s which we headed too, and a “Gloria’s Next Generation” which is just down the road. Serving up Trini classics such as goat curry and stew oxtail, my mum, my sister and I sat down for what turned out to be some exceptionally tasty food.
My sister (the fish-eating vegetarian) opted for one of their famous filled rotis. Trinidadian roti is much like that found in Indian cooking and is a great accompaniment to a meal – it can be served torn up (called buss-up shot) or used as a wrap. While she enjoyed her curried shrimp roti roll, me and my mum got stuck into the ‘dinner’ options, which came as a main dish with rice and two sides. My mum went for stew chicken, which is cooked in spices and brown sugar, giving it a delicious, caramelized taste. Her sides were callalo (served up almost liked creamed spinach) and pumpkin. I enjoyed my favorite choice of curry goat with fried plantain and baghee (which is also a lot like spinach).
My curry goat was rich and delicious, with all the perfectly cooked, tender meat slipping beautifully away from the bone. I opted for an extra double on the side, which is a typical Trinidadian fried bread (known as bara) filled with sauteed chickpea (called channa) and onion. Often eaten alone as a snack, I really enjoyed this tasty addition to my meal, which was particularly yummy dipped into the curry.
Overall, a brilliant lunch, and bloody good value too! All that food with soft drinks came to a grand total of $38 dollars. Highly recommended and worth veering slightly off course for a taste of these Trini delights.
Williamsburg and Crown Heights are two very different Brooklyn boroughs, but very good examples of how much Brooklyn has to offer. If you are visiting NYC, you definitely need to head out of Manhattan and check out the many things happening across the Brooklyn Bridge. Stay tuned for the next New York City post, which sees me back at another Manhattan classic, Katz Deli. Pastrami sandwiches here I come!