Friday, June 29, 2007

Tarting It Up at My Block Party

I’m not one to get starstruck. Whenever I happen to see a “celebrity,” I don’t automatically send an email to Gawker Stalker or run for my cell phone camera. As UsWeekly has told me time and time again, Stars, They’re Just Like Us ™.

That being said, how could anyone who is “just like me” pass up this mixed berry tart?!?


Look at it! It’s beautiful! And delicious! So, how, Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams, how could you just saunter on by and not give it a second glance? They don’t make tarts like this in your Brokeback Mountain or your Dawson’s Creek (except Katie Holmes. ZING!)

Heath, you seem like a tart-loving man, no offense to Michelle. There were many delectable foods on display at our block party, so I can see how you would be overwhelmed by all of the choices and choose to simply walk on by. But really, was there any choice to be made? THAT TART WAS THE PINNACLE OF ALL TARTS.

Stars are apparently nothing like me, because I would have ran over to the buffet parked in the middle of the street and helped myself to tasty desserts, block residence be damned. That’s just how I roll.

Not only was this resplendent pastry on full display, but the most attractive strawberry-rhubarb pie that I have ever had the fortune to bake was right next to it.


Observe how the egg white brushing makes the crust a beautiful shade of golden-brown! Marvel at how the filling isn’t pushing itself out of the sides! Tremble at the masterful slits and the ingenious pinching! I have to say, I’m mighty proud of myself. I have made many a pie in my time, but none that have actually come out resembling pies. Well played, Krys. Well played.

Both recipes came from the massive and unabridged Baking Illustrated from the good folks of Cooks Illustrated. I think I've said it before, but you really can't go wrong with this book. Well, unless you make croissants. I can't figure them out.

Here's a link for the tart recipe, but you'll need to register (there's a free 14 day trial). I actually did modify this recipe a bit, so I'll post my modifications shortly. The strawberry-rhubarb pie was a result of following the recipe to a T, so unfortunately, I can't post that copyrighted recipe here. (SPOILER ALERT: It uses arrowroot as a thickener.) These desserts may not be good enough for the celebrities in my hood, but they certainly are good enough for me.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Okay, I just need to take a timeout and express how friggin' excited I am for Ratatouille.

I really think that KFC is missing out not having a promotional tie-in. Rats are somewhat synonymous with the Colonel. I wonder if McDonald's will.

Here is a glimpse of what kind of merchandise is going to be available. There's a radio control Remy. Perfect for my kitchen! Or I could just go down the street and see the real things, but I somehow doubt any of them have aspirations of being chefs.

Check out the preview here. I can't wait for June 29th! I totally seem like a shill here, but I don't care. Adorable pixar rats + a film about cooking = an excited Krys.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Red Hook Ball Fields: Brooklyn Mexican Latin Madness

Growing up in Florida, I was never a huge fan of summer. Being outside in South Florida when it is 95 degrees and humid sucks. It sucks hard. However, I have discovered that I positively love summers in New York. It can be just as hot and just as humid, but there's always some interesting (and usually cheap) way to enjoy the heat.

I also love summers in New York because of all of the outdoor eating options. As I mentioned in my last post, I basically like eating with lots of other people, whether I know them or not. One of the absolute best places to get your food on is at the soccer fields in Red Hook. I'm trying to think of a good way to describe the Red Hook Ball-Field experience, and "colorful" is way too cliche. Maybe "comfortable."

The Porkchop Express has a great writeup on the history of the Field's food stands here, and a super-handy map. I wish I had discovered this before I went, but I kind of like figuring things out with my stomach.

The stands are located along a small corner of the soccer fields, but it would take days to sample all of the food available. There isn't really a language barrier as all of the venders are super-nice and accomodating when your spanish isn't up to snuff. Smiling and pointing will get you far.

First stop: Soler Dominican for a pork and cheese papusa.


This was my first experience with the papusa, and I didn't realize how similar it is to an arepa. Pork, cheese, and cornmeal are amazing in any country, and the cabbage coleslaw added a great crunch. This was a great start.

Next stop: Ceron Colmbian for an empanada. Unfortunately, I don't think I dig my dumplings deep-fried, which is surprising because I enjoy EVERYTHING deep-fried. I just can't handle greasy food on hot days. Q enjoyed it because it reminded him of a Jamaican patty.


Up next: Rojas Ecuadorian for some mixed ceviche.


Holy crap, this was a lot of food! For $7, we were handed a pint of delicious citrus broth full of shrimp, fish, octopus, and squid. Everything was sooo tender and refreshing. The octopus was a bit chewy, but not in a bad way. I'm used to ceviche being less brothy and more like salsa, so this was a bit different. It was more like a cold fish soup, but it was so delicious. I wish that they served it at every sporting event, but I somehow don't think Yankees fans would go for that.

More food: Carrello Guatamalan for a fried chicken taco.


I have memories of eating those microwave taquito thingees in the afternoons when I got home from high school. I also liked Hot Pockets at that time. I apparently was a fratboy stoner when I was 16. Anyhoo, I had no idea what how similar they were to poop-shaped cardboard before I had a real, homemade taquito. The chicken was so flavorful and the tomato sauce on top was so friggin' good. I hearby dub it the crackito. Yup.

This wouldn't be a post if I didn't include some pork porn. (I can't wait to see how many google hits I get for that). Final stop: Hernandez Huaraches for a spicy pork taco.


At that point, we couldn't fit a whole huarache in our rapidly expanding bellies, so we just grabbed a taco for dessert. The pork was a little dry, so it may be better to grab your meat-stuffed tortillas earlier in the day, but it was nice and crisp. It had just the right amount of cooling lettuce and cheese to counterbalance the salty, spicy pork.

The best part of this feast was that I think we spent around $15 for all of this food. Any time you can stuff Q and me for that cheap is quite an impressive feat.

In just a few hours, I had tasted amazing home-cooking from around Latin America. It was almost like a summer in Florida, going around the world at Epcot Center, but sooooo, soooo, (soooooo) much better. This is why I like summers in New York.

Unfortunately, the stands are in danger right now. I won't go into a huge amount of detail, but you can read about everything here at The Gowanus Lounge. If this post interested you at all in this amazing Brooklyn experience, visit, write to Parks Commissioner Drian Benepe, and get your butt over to the Ball Fields to eat some tacos. If only eating tacos solved every problem. Wait, it kinda does.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

2007 Big Apple BBQ: My Continuing Journey to Becoming a Pork Product

Two weekends ago, we left the safe haven of Brooklyn to attend the 5th Annual Big Apple BBQ Block Party in Madison Square Park. We put on our finest elastic pants and practiced our stretches. We weren't going for the spectacle... we meant business. The Big Apple Barbecue brought together some of the finest barbecue from across the country, and by gum we were going to stuff ourselves on tasty offerings from across the land. It was our patriotic duty.

We had stopped at the BBQ in 2006, but we were young and unprepared for the tastiness. Not this year. We had our map and our plan of attack all ready. As soon as we arrived, we made a beeline for the whole hog sandwich from Mitchell's BBQ from Wilson, North Carolina. Ed Mitchell is a genius. The meat itself is so tender and flavorful, seasoned with salt and some secret seasonings (maybe they weren't so secret, but I like the mystery), and bits of the cooked skin chopped up for good measure. The only downside is occasionally finding a bit of bone, but that's an obstacle I'm willing to face.


The picture does not represent how truly delicious this is. I'm telling you. If you like pork, and you have the opportunity to try this sandwich, DO IT.

We braved another long line to sample some baby back ribs from 17th Street Bar & Grill from Murphysboro, Illinois. The pitmaster, Mike Mills, seems to be somewhat of a legend on the barbecue circuit, and I trusted the extremely long line to steer me to yumminess


I was able to peek at the ribs inside the giant smoker. Yum.


I think the portions at the event were pretty generous. If you're sharing every dish and have your heart on trying most of the out-of-towners, you'll be quite stuffed. Anyhoo, the ribs did not disappoint. The meat was tender, but not too saucy. It broke away from the bone cleanly, which is apparently desirable in a rib. I just knew it was tasty.

Since the line for the 17th Street Bar and Grill was so long, Q ran to Ubon's "Champion's Choice' from Yazoo, Mississippi to grab some pulled pork shoulder. The line was nonexistent, so he was able to quickly procure some line-waiting fuel.

Eh. There was a reason the line was short. The pork itself lacked a bit in flavor. While it certainly was good, it didn't compare to the other offerings.

We then waddled over to the beer garden for a breather.


I think Madison Square Park should always have a beer garden set up. Screw Shake Shack.

The offerings weren't just limited to pork. There was beef too! The Salt Lick BBQ from Driftwood, Texas offered beef brisket and sausage. I'm not a huge sausage fan, but it was nicely spicy and had a good snap. The brisket was very good, but I thought the best thing about The Salt Lick was their selection of sauces. I should have seen if I could buy a bottle. Oh well.


At this point, our pants were getting a wee bit tight. We met up with our friend Jill, who is now living in Baltimore, so we went by the New York offerings so she could quickly catch up. We went by our favorite BBQ joint in the city, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, and sampled their pulled pork shoulder.


Oh Yazoo, Mississippi, now THIS is pulled pork shoulder! Delicious! Dinosaur can do no wrong in my eyes. The sandwich was sweet and tangy, but the meat flavor always shone through.

While we were strolling by the New York stands, we decided to try the offerings from Hill Country, a new BBQ joint that had just opened that weekend. Hill Country offers Texas-style BBQ, meaning beef! We bit into one of their huge beef ribs.


Unfortunately, most of the rib was bone. The rib definitely did not live up to the hype going around about this place, but I'll give the restaurant a shot.

MAXIMUM MEAT CAPACITY!!! We were heading into a giant coma brought on by copious amounts of beef and pork. Wait. What's that giant vat?


Brunswick Stew, eh? That sounds a bit dubious. Wait, doesn't that usually have squirrel in it? Sure does smell good though. Ok, maybe a little taste...


This tied as my absolute favorite thing here (along with Mitchell's whole hog sandwich). They passed out recipe cards so you can be sure of what you're eating, but I'm not going to ruin the surprise for you. I'll definitely need to try my hand at making it, but the recipe card is for a few gallons of the stuff. May need to cut that down a bit. Maybe.

You can buy a Bubba's Fast Pass, which allows you to go in shorter VIP style lines, but I actually really like the experience of waiting in line. Everyone is there for the same thing, and they kill time by sharing stories and experiences. Nothing brings people together like delicious barbecue, cold beer, and a beautiful day in the park. Sigh. Life is good.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Cookie Project: Tood (aka Sister Todd aka Mike)

(sung to the tune of Coconut by Harry Nilsson)

I need to find a recipe
For coconut and lime
But it has to be a quick one
For I’m low on time

I’ll take a lime and some coconut
And mix them both up
I’ll take a lime and some coconut
And mix them both up

I said, Cookbook, can you tell me what to bake
I said, COOKBOOK, I want cookies not cake
I said, Cookbook, can you tell me what to make
I said, COOKBOOK, for Tood and not for Jake

PERFECT! Lime Coconut Snowballs!


Whenever I think of Tood, I fondly remember him singing this song passionately at karaoke for his birthday. That moment on loop in my mind best exemplifies his soul. Plus he enjoys a good no-bake cookie, so that was a bit of a bonus.

I modified Cooking Light’s recipe for Key Lime Coconut Snowballs. I used regular limes rather than key limes, and I cut out the additional sugar so the lime and coconut flavor would shine through. I also increased the size, which kinda defeats the “cooking light” purpose, but a low-fat cookie wasn’t my intention. I think the result suits Tood, although next time I’d double the recipe. Tood’s a growing boy!

Tood’s Lime Coconut Snowballs
2/3 c. graham cracker crumbs (smashed in a Ziploc baggie)
6 tbsp. sweetened condensed milk (nonfat)
1 tsp. grated lime rind
Fresh lime juice from 3 ½ limes
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. shredded unsweetened coconut, divided (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

Mix the graham cracker crumbs, condensed milk, rind, juice, and vanilla in a medium bowl. Add 2/3 c. coconut and beat with a mixer at medium speed for about 1 minute. I used a stand mixer, but a hand mixer would work perfectly. Cover and chill for 20-30 minutes.

Shape mixture into balls, about 1 tablespoon each. Place remaining 1/3 c. in a shallow bowl or a pie tin. Roll balls in coconut.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Pacifico - Brooklyn Mexican Madness (Part Three)

Okay, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been back from Iceland, but between work and enjoying the warm weather in NYC, I’ve been severely neglecting this blog. NO MORE! I hit my work deadlines this week, so by george, I will start updating again! I promise! You believe me, right? I really don’t lie very often (and when I do, you can totally tell), so my intentions are sincere.

Vacation was wonderful, but it was really nice to be back home in Brooklyn. So nice in fact, that it was cause for celebration. What does that mean, boys and girls?


We first tried Pacifico about a year ago, and were pleasantly surprised. The margaritas were nice and we fell in love with the casual outdoor space. Unfortunately, our experience this time wasn’t as great.


The outdoor space is still pretty awesome. Apparently, they have a backyard, but I’ve only sat in the front. I like the kitschy string lights and seemingly uncontrived messiness. That’s how I roll. I like things kitschy and messy.

Since this is the year of the pig, I ordered a burrito with their pork carnitas. I made a point in asking about the type of beans in the burrito. While I enjoy beans in all their incarnations, I looove black beans in a burrito. I was assured that there were indeed black beans, and so my decision was swayed from the fish tacos, my backup choice.


The burrito was about the size of my calf. Okay, maybe not that long, but the girth was impressive (that’s what she said). I dug in, and was struck by two things: the pork was pretty bland and THOSE BEANS AREN’T BLACK! I haven’t been so disappointed in a burrito since the Democratic party lost the presidential election. (Think about that for a while. The joke totally worked in my head.) The price was roughly $8, which is about the same price as a Chipotle burrito, which is the same size and tastier.


I’m a trooper, so I ate it anyway. Q ordered the yardbird enchiladas, which looked fantastic, but also suffered from being a little too bland.

I still think the outdoor space at Pacifico is great, and it lends itself well to sipping margaritas and munching nachos in the sun with friends. Even if the food was mildly disappointing, I’m still drawn by the temptation of cheese and tequila. It’s in my blood.