Thursday, January 20, 2011

Artisanal, My Tuchas....The Real Deal on Brooklyn Cuisine.

Calamari on a Friday night....
My son, Tom, recently suggested that I talk too much about Brooklyn in this blog. I respect his opinion immensely and have tried to control myself.

However, like bulges squeezed into other locations by a pair of Spanx, it has to come out somewhere, so.. to the UPS man, mailman, cashier at Shoprite, gas station attendant, kid at the drivethru, teller at the bank, guy in the Volvo at the red light yesterday--- my apologies.
I recently read something that requires my attention, Tommy, so forgive me but....
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (which may explain things a bit) talks about how the culinary scene is changing in my home borough.

It seems there is a huge artisanal (what does that really mean, anyway?) culinary movement there and that a new restaurant is being developed in Manhattan to promote Brooklyn cuisine in the city.  
As far as I knew, Brooklyn cuisine had already made it to Manhattan (since Manhattan is a higher-priced reflection of the surrounding boroughs, anyway) but this article informed me that what Brooklyn cuisine is now considered to be is, among other things, hand-crafted cheeses, pretzels, beers and pickles.  What? WHAT????
It also went on to stun me by claiming that many people from the county of Kings now prefer the term Brooklyneer  to Brooklynite. Are they crazy? What are we-- friggin' pirates?  Anyone I grew up with—real Brooklynites with heavy accents and lots of attitude would hit you with a bat if you called them a Brooklyneer. Hence, the standard response: "Hey, whad-daya  callin’ me???  Get the $%&%@ outta here before I hit you with a bat!”   
Honestly, people. Is nothing sacred? Have we been yuppified and gentrified into thinking that artisanal cheese is Brooklyn cuisine? Go tell them that at the Vegas Diner on 86th Street and see if you escape unbloodied.
I ate at the Vegas through out my youth and both pregnancies....cold salad platters, roast pork on kaiser rolls, chef salads, Greek salads....I followed this all up with hummus, felafel and gyros in Bay and heros from Bensonhurst, pasta from Pastosa under the el--so fresh, it would slap your face..deli, bagels and seven layer cake from Boro Park..knishes, frozen custard and Nathan's franks from Coney Island and ice cream at Jahn's, cheescake at Junior's...This, my friends, is Brooklyn cuisine.  You can throw a little artisanal cheese on the eggplant parm before you shove it into the oven.  If you must. 
I'm mouthing off here, I know. And, by nature, I've always been open to new ways and new cuisines. I've tried vegan and even "raw." I might even taste a handmade pretzel crafted by some whippersnappers who moved to Brooklyn from the midwest because they enjoyed reruns of "Welcome Back, Kotter" when they were kids. But do not be confused about Brooklyn cuisine. And, if I so much as hear you whisper the word (and I use that term lightly), "Brooklyneer," I'm gonna hit you with a bat. Now, go...have a canoli and calm down.


  1. Mrs. Szold, how could you forget the Lox and Rainbow Cookies.

    Thank god the only Jahn's left is in Queens. Otherwise I would have never had the joy of the Kitchen Sink.

  2. Ahhh, Michael! I forgot about Rainbow cookies!! And the Kitcehn Sink is a classic....thanks for reading!

  3. You're making me hungry!!! I'm almost out of bagels (my dad made a bagel run for me before taking me back to AU!

    Seriously, it kind of reminds me of what people did to polenta. In Italy, it was what you ate if you had nothing else. Now, everyone thinks it's gourmet. Puh-lease..............I could get ugali (same thing, different maize) in Kenya for about ten cents (if that). Why the hell am I gonna go to a restaurant and pay ten bucks for it?

  4. All the food in Brooklyn is delish!! :-) Love the blog!

  5. Thank you, Mark,,,and I really do agree about the food!

  6. And on behalf of the Brooklyn pirate community, let me just say: we don't like this 'Brooklyneer' business either.

  7. Love this and you are so right! Brooklyneer my a**!

  8. Blue Ribbon Smoked Fish in Canarsie, along with Bell Bialys which are now shipped to other cities. The store moved to its factory along Foster Ave. I remember eating Pletzels, soooo good.

    There are other things I remember having. Ruby's Kinishes, too.

    When I was a kid, there was Garfields on Flatbush Ave, and can't forget the original Lundy's Bros.

    Brooklynite forever

  9. In 1999 I was having lunch with Tim Zaggat, who invited me out because I was leaving the NYC Host Committee. He asked me how he could improve "the product" (his restaurant guides) and I told him he wasn't doing right by the boroughs. He said he had guides for the boroughs. I pointed out that you don't need great chefs to have a great restaurant; you need fresh ingredients. And Brooklyn is the place where the immigrants come, they open restaurants but also open the salumarias, the deli's, the bakeries and smokehouses where the ingredients for the restaurants are made. That's why Brooklyn has great food.
    He took some notes, thanked me, then asked me to pay for lunch.