Saturday, November 22, 2008

new york snapshots

Just a few weeks after our rendez-vous with the Colonel, we were back in New York. This time we drove back and forth through Upstate, but, unfortunately, we didn't really have the time to stop. We were heading to the Big Apple, and we only had about 48 hours to play with.

MTA 4 fig. a: fakin' the A Train

MTA 3 fig. b: Canarsie-bound

We were a little rusty when it came to riding the Metropolitan Transit Authority's subway system, so we paid a visit to the MTA's Transit Museum to get a little practice on some vintage subway cars before moving on to the real thing--you know, with movement, crowds, graffiti, debris, etc. As you can tell, it didn't take us long to get back in the swing of things.

MTA 2 fig. c: oysterettes!

P1010448 fig. d: yes! it's...

P1010426 fig. e: strictly vegetable

What we hadn't anticipated was that the Transit Museum is a fantastic repository for vintage advertisements, including plenty of food ads. We especially liked the ones for Oysterettes and for Schmulka Bernstein's kosher cold cuts. Too bad we couldn't find one for Bernstein's kosher Chinese.

P1010450 fig. f: trains, trains

It's also a great place to take kids. Every kid we saw was having a blast.

A & A bake & doubles, a.k.a. "the doubles king" fig. g: A & A

Now that we had our NYC legs, it was time to make use of them. One of our very first stops was A & A Bake & Doubles Shop in Bed-Stuy. We'd heard raves about A & A's authentic Trini chick pea doubles with hot sauce, and doubles are quite simply one of our favorite delicacies. A & A's doubles were rather different than the ones we're accustomed to up here (Mister Spicee), but we loved them just the same. Their fried dough was thin but tasty, and their chickpeas were heavenly--sweeter and more fragrant than we'd ever had, with lots of herbs and spices (allspice, nutmeg, etc.). Great hot sauce and tamarind sauce too. A & A is take-out only, but those doubles barely lasted the trip out the door.

sahadi's halwah fig. h: "it melts in your mouth"

I bought Michelle this Sahadi's halwah tin years ago thinking that we had been there together on one of our visits to New York and that she loved Sahadi's as much as I do. Turns out Michelle had never been there and that she didn't know Sahadi's from Bebe Rebozo. Oops.

sahadi's fig. i: Sahadi's dried fruit

Well, I finally took her there this time around. Michelle was looking for dried fruit for this year's batches of fruitcake, and though Sahadi's prices could barely compete with the brand spanking new Trader Joe's that's opened across the street, their selection was still pretty hard to beat. She walked out with two pounds' worth of dried citron (and, no, that's not French for "lemon").

brooklyn flea market fig. j: at the Brooklyn Flea Market

One of the major highlights of our New York trip (actually, it was barely long enough to be a trip--it was more like a fling) was our Sunday morning trip to the Brooklyn Flea Market. There we found tons of great stuff to be had--clothes, furniture, knick-knacks, art, clock faces, etc.--but what left the deepest impression on us was the small but stunning array of food stands.

beef taco fig. k: fresh beef taco

Stop #1 was to the rather prosaically named Martinez Food Vendors From Red Hook, seasoned veterans (no pun intended) of the legendary "soccer tacos" scene. We could barely wait to get our hands on a couple of freshly prepared tacos with "the works" for our Sunday brunch, so we marched right over and got busy. Perfect timing, too. They had just finished cooking down another batch of carnitas just as we arrived. Topped with all manner of fixings, plus a couple of lethal hot sauces, these were the best tacos we've had since Frisco.

pizza moto 2 fig. l: truckin' good

Just as impressive, and even more original, was the Pizza Moto stand.

pizza moto 3 fig. m: Pizza Moto's oven

Here, Mr. Moto (a.k.a. Dave Sclarow, seen on left) serves freshly baked pizzas from a brick oven built on the bed of a trailer. Good pizzas. Very good pizzas.

pizza moto 1 fig. n: Pizza Moto's pizza

Sure, they looked a little funny, but they made up for it with a chewy crust, a wonderfully assertive tomato sauce, and some rather tasty blistering. This was pizza #1. #2 was even better. It was also better looking, but I was too busy eating it to snap a shot. Talk about the little oven that could.

When we got back to Montreal I checked to see if our friend Adam "Slice" Kuban had paid a visit yet. Not yet, apparently, but it turns out Mr. Sclarow just recently got some well-deserved coverage in the New York Times. According to the NYT, there's a reason Pizza Moto's pies have so much character: Sclarow honed his skills at Franny's and picked up some additional inspiration backpacking through Italy.

Oh, yeah: and don't miss the stand selling open-faced sandwiches with smoked ricotta and hand-carved prosciutto di Parma on semolina-sesame bread. Among other reasons, they not only use Brooklyn's own Salvatore ricotta, with its unparalleled creaminess, they sell it retail too.

gimme! fig. o: gimme!

The very best coffee of the weekend, by a long shot (again, no pun intended), was the macchiato I had at Gimme! My expectations were big, but Gimme! delivered. And then some. After that jolt, it was more like Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!

café sabarsky 3 fig. p: menu, table, upholstery

But the most magical hour out of the 48 we spent in New York, was probably the hour we spent at Café Sabarsky. Michelle had made Café Sabarsky her #1 priority for the weekend after hearing P. wax poetic about chef Kurt Gutenbrunner's meticulous Mitteleuropean pastries. She insisted that we pop in on our way out of town, and god bless her for having been insistent.

Café Sabarsky is located inside the Neue Galerie, specializing in Austrian and German modernist art, and is named after Serge Sabarsky, the Vienna-born art collector to whom the gallery is dedicated. It's got an absolutely note-perfect Central European café feel to it, from the professional service right down to the upholstery.

café sabarsky 2 fig. q: apple strudel

And the pastries? My apple strudel was among the very best either of us had ever had, a perfect marriage of tangy sliced apple filling, the flakiest of strudel doughs, and plenty of ground walnuts,

café sabarsky 1 fig. r: strudel + sachertorte + kaffee = bliss

while Michelle's sachertorte was simply fantastic, leagues better than anything we'd ever experienced. It was light as a feather and had the most exquisite chocolate flavor, yes, but really it was that homemade apricot preserve that made all the difference. Truly outstanding. And that whipped cream!

So there you have it.

MTA's Transit Museum, Boerum Place and Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn Heights, (718) 694-1600

A & A Bake & Doubles Shop, 481 Nostrand Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Brooklyn Flea Market, Lexington and Vanderbilt, Fort Greene, Brooklyn, Sundays

Gimme!, 228 Mott St., (212) 226-4011

Café Sabarsky @ the Neue Galerie, 1048 5th Ave., Manhattan, (212) 628-6200


R & A 2 fig. s: the occasion

[Thanks to H. for the hospitality. Thanks to R. & M. for providing us with the occasion.]


Cerulean Bill said...

What are doubles?

Anonymous said...

So glad you tried A&A!

aj kinik said...

Hi, CB--This is the way we've described the chicken and chickpea doubles at Mister Spicee here in Montreal: "fresh, shredded chicken curried with chickpeas, served between a couple of steaming hot, tasty flatbreads, and slathered with the two house sauces..." They're a Trinidadian street food. No less an authority than Madhur Jaffrey describes her first experience of having doubles in Port of Spain as follows: "I was handed a greaseproof paper package, tied up with a rubber band. I discarded the band, opened the package, and found what could be best described as a scrumptious vegetarian 'hamburger.' Sandwiched between two soft, spongy, fried flatbreads were some delicious chickpeas to which the restaurant had added hot sauce and chutney, their version of mustard and ketchup..." She goes on to attribute the delicacy to a milkman named San Fernando Ali who used to sell them from his bicycle and died a millionaire.

Hi, Lauren--Nice to hear from you again. We loved A & A. Any other West Indian tips in the greater NY metro area? Do tell.

Anonymous said...

You have to try Yonnah Shimmel's Knishes on Houston and 2nd Ave.

aj kinik said...

Hi, anonymous,
we have--numerous times--we've written about them too.

You can find a post about them (and some other places) here:


Leigh said...

some great shots, guys - that pizza looks oustanding. I really need to taste NY pizza