I stopped by the newly opened Red Star Sandwich Shop a couple of weeks ago to try out their lone vegetarian sandwich — the Beer-Battered Eggplant. Although it was a busy lunch service, my sandwich came out extremely fast. Way too fast to have been fried to order, which I took as a bad sign. Sure enough, the eggplant was room temperature. I was disappointed, but kept eating. Once I got past the temperature, however, I started to appreciate how good it was. There was a great balance of ingredients, and the sandwich was constructed in an interesting way: bottom bun, shiitake mushrooms, eggplant, pickled vegetables, tofu mayo, top bun. Separating the shiitakes from the pickled veggies kept the flavors distinct, and the tofu mayo helped lubricate the whole thing. Even better were the P’tater Tots (silly name notwithstanding). Crispy on the outside but creamy on the inside, these were appropriately hot and delicious. Now that I’ve eaten the sandwich I don’t feel any pressing need to return, but they are open until 10pm Monday through Saturday, so some late-night tots may be in order one of these days.
Red Star Sandwich Shop — 176 Smith St
There used to be a place called Veggie Castle on Church Ave. It was in an old White Castle, but it served vegan Caribbean food The food, served from arming trays, was incredible — not just veggies like yams and stewed okra, but also fake meats in jerk seasoning. It was run by some Rastafarians, following many of the principles of Ital cuisine. They closed several years ago, and though I’ve heard they re-opened up in Queens I haven’t been up there to check it out. But a few weeks ago I was on Coretlyou Road and did a double-take; I saw a place called Hartwell Vegetarian Cuisine that reminded me of Veggie Castle. The had a sign in a window for Jerk seasoned soy protein, and I could see warming trays inside. I was in the neighborhood to eat at the Farm on Adderley (second time eating there, second mediocre meal), so I filed the information away for future use. When I went back for my visit, they didn’t have the Jerk stuff — they rotate through different vegan proteins on a daily basis. I got a “Medium” — two proteins with three sides, loaded into a takeaway container. After sampling a few things, I chose the “Lemon Stew” and the “BBQ Pepper” as my proteins — both featured wheat gluten, but seasoned completely differently (they also have plenty of gluten free options). The lemon stew was chunks of wheat gluten with mixed veggies in a mild, lemony sauce. The BBQ pepper had strips of the gluten, this time in a slightly sweet barbecue sauce with peppers and beans. For my sides I got black beans, mixed vegetables, and kale with spinach and garlic. The sides incredibly fresh but they weren’t seasoned particularly well; I was expecting something on the level of the aggressive seasoning from Veggie Castle, and this wasn’t it. But when mixed with the proteins, it was all quite good. I’m looking forward to going back and trying some of the other proteins — I’m still craving the Jerk seasoning.
Hartwell Vegetarian Cuisine — 1017 Cortelyou Rd
When I think of scrambled eggs, I have two very different memories. The first is of my grandfather; he had a very specific way he liked his scrambled eggs. He kept a bag of frozen chopped onions in the freezer. When he wanted scrambled eggs he would have my grandmother cook up the eggs with those onions with a ton of garlic powder. He liked the eggs cooked to death, super hard and dry. My other memory is of when my sister and I were in Japan back in 2003. One morning we had breakfast in our hotel, and I ordered scrambled eggs. What arrived at the table was a plate of yellow liquid; it was as if they had waved a lit match in front of raw scrambled eggs and declared then cooked. What I have found over the years is that I prefer my eggs done somewhere in between — still moist, but with firm curds. What follows is a quick recipe for making summery scrambled eggs the way I like them. My secret is to use a lot of butter. Not only does butter taste good, but when you fold the scrambled eggs into the melted butter it coats the inside of the curds.
Melt some butter in a non-stick pan. Add some sliced onions and season them with salt and pepper. Cook them until soft. Add some sliced summer squash, season those, and cook them until they start to brown. Then add some chopped squash blossoms, and cook until they are wilted. Add your eggs to a bowl. I suggest three eggs per person. Season the eggs and scramble lightly, I don’t like them over-mixed. I’ve seen chefs on television who use a blender to scramble them, which supposedly makes them fluffier because it incorporates air into them. That’s not for me, though. Add the eggs to the cooking squash, and use a for to gently fold the mixture all together. It only takes a minute of two for the eggs to start to solidify. Finally, turn off the heat just before they get to the texture you like, as the eggs continue to cook for a bit even off the heat. They’re perfect on their own, or stuffed into a roll.
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Tagged cooking, eggs
Hay Rosie is a tiny storefront ice cream place that opened recently in Carroll Gardens. They’ve gotten a lot of attention, not all of it positive, for their unusual ice cream flavors. Going to their website you can find combinations like the Bruce Wayne: “Champagne Bourbon Vanilla with Quince-Golden Raspberry Swirl and Candied Ginger.” What? I needed to find out for myself, but Hay Rosie is only open for a few short hours during the week. Finally a few weeks ago I got my chance; my friends Scott and Donny and I stopped by after a few drinks at Buschenschank (the short version: the beer is way better than the food). After much deliberation, and a small sample, I selected the Bonfire on the Beach: “Smoked Sweet Cream with Candied Pineapple and Coconut Scratch.” I was blown away by how well the flavors worked together — sure, we’ve all had coconut with pineapple, but the addition of smoke and a little bit of salt made the ice cream something truly special. I couldn’t stop eating it, and almost went back for a full pint of it. To be honest, if (when) I go back I’d like to try another ice cream flavor — Feta Tomato? Pretzel Honey Mustard? — but the Bonfire on the Beach still haunts my dreams…
Hay Rosie — 204 Sackett St
Early last year I was told that I should eat more whole grains. I thought it was a good idea, but there was a problem: I eat a ton of pasta. And I mean literally a ton of pasta; I haven’t actually weighed it, but I’m sure that if you added it all up it would be at least a ton. So I set out to find some alternatives. I cooked with grains like spelt, brown rice, and wheat berries. And they were good. Yet I still missed pasta, so I started looking for a whole grain pasta that I liked. I started, naturally, with whole wheat pasta. I tried multiple brands, and multiple cooking methods, but I couldn’t find one that I liked. Beyond Whole Wheat is my search for a pasta alternative.
At a health food store in Clinton Hill I came across quite a few pasta alternatives. One of the ones I picked up was this spaghetti, made of soy beans. I made a quick meal of it, using tofu, broccoli, and snap peas with lemon juice. The texture was pretty good; the edges of the spaghetti were squared off, and the soy bean pasta cooked to a nice al dente texture without getting mushy. The real problem I had was the flavor of the spaghetti. There was a definite bean-y flavor that overwhelmed the other flavors in the dish. That’s definitely not what I want in a pasta — the flavor should compliment, not take over the dish. So far, brown rice pasta is still my favorite alternative.
There’s a whole new generation of pizza places popping up all around NYC these days. Now that restaurants like Roberta’s and Paulie Gee’s have become institutions, they’ve inspired new people to follow their passion and make pizza. One such place is Emily, which opened recently in Clinton Hill. In fact, the owners spent some time at another of my favorite places, Brooklyn Central. I had the Luca — a classic combination of tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella, and basil (along with a generous sprinkling of another cheese, possibly pecorino). There was a great balance of ingredients, and the crust was thin and wonderfully charred. I also had a taste of a great pizza called Emily, a white pie topped with honey, pistachios, and a truffle-infused cheese called sottocenere. I can’t wait to work my way through the rest of their menu.
Emily — 919 Fulton St
After their Lower East Side location closed, the folks behind Mission Chinese decided to start running a pop-up restaurant out of Carroll Gardens’ Italian juggernaut Frankies 457. The pop-ups became so popular they became a semi-regular occurrence, and it was recently announced that they would continue on for the foreseeable future. I had a good meal at the LES location, and was curious about the pop-up. Luckily my friend Siobhan has a friend on the inside, and a few weeks ago she made reservations for six of us to dine there. She let them know ahead of time that there would be a vegetarian in the party, and they made sure to take care of me. I got a few plates all to myself, and for $40 I ate a ton of food. Some things made the journey from their old location intact: the large dragon hanging from the ceiling; the rice cakes (pictured above), wonderfully chewy and incredibly spicy. Other dishes were new to me; of particular note was the Kung Pao Beets (a vegetarian version of their popular Kung Pao Pastrami). Small nuggets of beets were hidden among chunks of potato, all tossed with an incendiary sweet chili sauce and topped with crushed peanuts. It was so spicy that I could only eat about half of it at dinner, and I ended up with heartburn later that night. It was delicious though, I have to give them that. And it was just as good two days later, straight out of the fridge — though that lead to heartburn as well.
Mission Chinese Pop-Up — 457 Court St