Yes, it’s true. At a place called the Meat Hook Sandwich Shop there is in fact a vegetarian sandwich. Clocking in at an extraordinary $13, the sandwich has gotten a lot of good press around the food blog circuit. What they do is pack all of the vegetarian sandwich toppings from other sandwiches into this one. Things I was able to pick out among the ice-cold condiments: pickled vegetables, eggplant, crispy fried onions, roasted red peppers, shredded lettuce, and some kind of sweet beet spread. It’s a fine sandwich, but not a great one — certainly not worth the price. There’s no real thought into whether the flavors of all of those disparate items actually go together. I know there are people who will say something about being lucky there’s a vegetarian option at all, considering the place has the word “meat” in its name, but that’s a silly argument. If you’re going to put ANY item on the menu, don’t you want it to be as good as you can make it? I should note that there’s no cheese on the sandwich, so it’s actually vegan.
Meat Hook Sandwich Shop — 495 Lorimer St
Thanks to the ID NYC program I recently got a free membership at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. My membership card arrived the day before the annual Chile Pepper Festival, an event I’ve never attended. Since my membership entitled me free entry to the festival, I decided to check it out. I knew my friend Chitra from Brooklyn Delhi would be there, but I was surprised to see a few other friends there. Sarah Gross (one of the organizers of the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival) was there giving out spicy samples from Rescue Chocolate, and my friends from Culture were serving strawberry frozen yogurt with chile-chocolate chips (they kindly treated me to a free cone).
With over 50 vendors it was hard to stand out from the crowd. With so many vinegary hot sauces, it’s no wonder the ones that stood out were the vendors offering something different. Some of my favorites were the vegan & gluten-free moles from HERNÁN, the lime leaf sambal from Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen, and the vegan kimchi from Mrs. Kim’s. It was a fun event, with several live bands and chile pepper-themed artwork for sale. I picked up some really interesting sauces, hopefully I’ll make good use of them. I’m not sure I would have gone, or purchased what I did, if I had to pay to enter so I’m glad I got the free entry this year.
I travel all over this Borough looking for great vegetarian and vegan food, but sometimes I forget to look in my own backyard. In nearby Park Slope is the vegan (and Kosher) restaurant V-Spot, and until recently I’d never been there. I stopped by for lunch a few weeks ago, and got the Jamaican wrap. Filled with soy “chicken,” kale, beans, and brown rice, the wrap was well seasoned and nicely spiced. It was even better with some of the house hot sauce, bottles of which were thoughtfully placed at every table. Less successful was my side of plantains; overly sweet and mushy. I’d say you’re probably better off sticking with the wraps and entrees.
V-Spot — 156 5th Ave
After seeing this article about Stolovaya, a Russian restaurant in Gravesend, I knew I had to visit. It wasn’t just the cheap vareniki, or dumplings, it was the pickle plate. If you’ve read my post on Kebeer you know I love a good pickle plate, and Stolovaya has a doozy. Sure, there are a few pickled cucumbers and some pickled cabbage, and a pickled red tomato. But there are also slices of pickled apple (which a regular viewer on my Flickr stream tells me she remembers from her childhood in Romania), a few pieces of pickled watermelon, and a cluster of pickled grapes. The grapes were my favorite — a light vinegar flavor that disappears when you bit into the grape, releasing the sweet juice inside. The watermelon was also excellent, like the grapes a fantastic mix of sweet and sour. In fact, the pickled cucumbers were my least favorite thing on the plate. I could go on for longer about how much I loved this pickle plate, but I think you get the idea.
Oh, and the potato-mushroom vareniki are pretty great too.
Stolovaya — 813 Avenue U
I know it’s September, but we’re bound to have some more really hot days before the summer is truly over. This time of year cucumbers are all over the farmer’s markets, and because of the way cucumbers are built they actually do stay cool inside. I like to cook, but when it gets this hot out I don’t like turning on the stove. Lately I’ve been making multiple variations on this simple cucumber salad, which is almost a quick pickle. Feel free to customize it to your taste.
Start by slicing the cucumbers or cutting them into chunks, depending on what you want. Some cucumbers have thicker skins than others, so you might want to peel them first. Thick cucumber skins aren’t bad for you, but they can be unpleasantly bitter. After prepping the cucumbers put them into a colander, pt the colander into the sink, and pour salt on them. A lot of salt. Make sure all of the cucumbers are coated, and then let it sit for about 20-30 minutes. Don’t worry, you’re not going to eat all of that salt, but the liquid in the cucumbers will be drawn out by the salt, then some of the salty water will be drawn back into the cukes, seasoning them. While they get salty, make a quick dressing. I like using rice wine vinegar, a splash of sesame oil, and some chili-garlic sauce.
After letting them sit rinse the cucumbers thoroughly — get all of the surface salt off. Put the cucumbers into a bowl and pour the dressing over them. Mix well, and then put the bowl into the fridge for another 20-30 minutes. This last part is really just to make sure the cucumbers are nice and cold again, the salad is ready to eat as soon as you’ve dressed it. For other variations try using different types of vinegar, maybe add some minced fresh garlic, or fresh chili peppers. You don’t have to make it spicy, but spicy foods also help cool down the body.
Hey, it’s my first Crown Heights blog post! Glady’s is a Caribbean restaurant that has a good number of vegan and vegetarian items on its short menu. I went there for the jerk seitan, which is soaked in a salty marinade and briefly crisped on a stove. I found the seasoning was a little over-powering, and benefited from being mixed with the spicy slaw. The sharp crispness of the slaw helped cut through the saltiness of the seitan. The biggest success of the evening were the slushy cocktails. One was a take on a dark and stormy, and tasted (in the best possible way) like a Coke Slurpee. There was a pineapple slushy cocktail that was also delicious. My go-to for vegetarian Caribbean place is still Veggie Castle II, in Queens, but Glady’s is a good Brooklyn alternative.
Glady’s — 788 Franklin Ave
So even though I live in Windsor Terrace, I haven’t really spent much time exploring the food scene here. I often head toward Park Slope or Gowanus, or take a long train ride to a specific restaurant. Lately, however, I’ve decided to correct this. And within the span of a few weeks I got two recommendations for the same place: Brancaccio’s Food Shop. I stopped by for a sandwich the other day, and when I walked in I immediately noticed the staff prepping fresh food out where customers can see them, and everything looked fresh. I ordered off of the breakfast menu, a sandwich with potato, egg, and cheese. By the time I got it home the cheese had melted into the shape of the plastic wrap, which resulted in what you see above. I’m a fan of potato and egg sandwiches, and this is a good one — there are some sweet peppers to balance out the savory elements. My only gripe is that the bread was too soft; I like a good crusty bread. But there are so many more sandwiches on the menu, with so many different ingredients, I’m looking forward to trying more.
Brancaccio’s Food Shop — 3011 Fort Hamilton Pkwy