[This entry originally took place on September 20th]
When my coworkers told me that the Red Hook Ball Fields would stop serving food for the year after September 21st (and possibly foreverrr), my first reaction was, "NOOOOOOO!!"
My second reaction after about a second or two of cursory thought was, "Well, I'm definitely too lazy to go." The idea of sleeping, of not expending energy, of not trying to catch a train or hauling my hefty ass around Brooklyn, of just lying in bed like a corpse and letting my brainmeats steep in brainmeat juices, was so nice. It was...beautiful.
But then I chatted with Kathy and found myself a fooding buddy (two actually, with her roommate Shann). Which meant there was energy expenditure in my future (besides consumption of lots of awesome food, but you know, when you're tired all you want is sleep). Dammit.
So that's how we ended up at the Red Hook Ball Fields. I mean, I took the train from NJ to NYC, then the subway to Kathy's place, then we took the F train to Smith-9th Streets, walked under the Gowanus Expressway as it peed dirty automobile-tainted liquids on our heads and meandered over to Red Hook Ball Fields. It's easy to get to from Manhattan, although the area can be a little sketchy at night.
That's how I felt when I walked into the tent-covered food corner of the field and passed piles of grilled corn. ...And mountains of meat sizzling on a griddle, and pictures of tacos, and people carrying around plates loaded with meat and tacos, etc.
"Where should we start!?" exclaimed Kathy while wearing a grin on her face that said, "OhmygodIwanteverything."
I didn't have an answer to her question, but as I craved the cinnamon-vanilla-ricey goodness of horchata most terribly my legs took me towards the drink station. As someone who tends to just drink water, it's surprising that I could love a drink so much even after only having drank it once in my life (in Phoenix). But it's magical. Maybe. It kinda tastes like drinkable rice pudding.
"I think I'd rather eat rice pudding," said Kathy.
She had a point. Hell, I'd usually say the same thing; why drink something if you can eat it? (Ice cream shakes come to mind—I get a lot more satisfaction out of chewing ice cream than drinking it.) But what I like about horchata is that I can get the taste of rice pudding in a light, refreshing liquid form without having to eat loads of it in solid form. Eating rice pudding in solid form tends to result in "pregger's belly," a condition that I'm overly familiar with. I mean, I feel really fat. Yeah, okay.
Drawn towards the sizzling pile of meat on the griddle, we picked a huarache—which my meager knowledge would describe as a gargantuan taco whose shell is a double-layered corn tortilla filled with a thin layer of bean mash—as the first solid food for our lunch.
After your huarache is done, you can top it with mysterious bucket contents. Sauces, I think. And maybe pickles.
While I didn't break out a ruler to measure the length of our huarache, that it extended over the boundaries of the plate should tell you something. Huge ass. Like a freakin' snow show. The bean mash-filled tortilla was topped with pork, guacamole, salsa, chopped lettuce, grated cheese, something creamy, and possible more. By this point I don't remember. Admittedly, if I had written this entry the day on September 21st, I probably still wouldn't have been able to remember much about the huarache.
I mean, we DOWNED THAT BABY like it was our first meal after being stranded in a forest for two weeks, left to subsist on a diet of berries, dirt, and obsessive thoughts about death. Kind of. The best way to eat a huarache is to pick it up with your hands and shove it into your open mouth, but since we had to split it between the three of us we tore at it with forks and...forks. There weren't any knives. So in case you were wondering, knives are very, very useful; they can cut through things. Forks suck at this. And that concludes your kitchen utensil lesson of the day.
So we were pretty focused on eating our individual shares with our forks, mutilating it in the process. Oops. Aside from the mutilation, it was mega tasty. The tortilla did a lot for the tastiness; slightly crisp, soft, chewy, not too thick, full of corny goodness. I'd say that whenever I eat something in a sandwich-esque category it's the bread part that is just slightly more important than the filling. Slightly. In my opinion that no one else has to share (although I hope someone does), mediocre filling in great bread tastes better than great filling in mediocre bread. The huarache did great on filling and bready part.
We ate it. Ah, success.
We moved onto a stall selling 100% golden fried things. And meat on sticks. If this doesn't get the tummy rumbling with grease-laden glee, then you're reading the wrong blog. (...It's alright—you can stay!)
We sat on a bench in front of the athletic field while Kathy balanced our styrofoam bowl of "chunka fried potato mash with a hidden surprise!" on her lap. Our dense potato ball was filled with bits of rice, peas, and shredded pork, breaded and deep fried. Sounds lovely, right?
Unfortunately, it was pretty bland. We were probably supposed to put sauce on it, but being virgins to the fried potato bomb, we didn't know the best way to proceed. Good stuff: the light and crunchy crust was great and the filling was agreeable (as things with bits of moist shredded tend pork be). Bad stuff: the potato would've been tastier with a sodium injection.
As Kathy waited in the pupusa line, Shann and I indulged in some grilled corn goodness. Grilled corn goodness is made like so: take ear of grilled corn, shove a stick up its nether regions, slather it with mayo, roll it in powdery white cheese (which has a real name, but I won't guess what it is), squeeze on the juices from half a lime and sprinkle with chili powder. And...BAZAM!!!
You are now the proud owner of a beautiful ear of grilled corn. Each bite burst with juicy kernels of...um, juice. Sweet corny juice. With a hint of hotness and sourness and cheeseness.
The pupusa stand, dedicated to the Salvadoran stuffed, hearty tortilla pancake, was the busiest one there. One woman (wearing the pink hat) seemed to have most of the pupusa-making duty; she would gather a ball of the maize dough from the giant mother-dough, shove in some filling, flatten it out, and BOOM, done. In five seconds. Or so.
Our plate of one loroco flower and cheese pupusa and one meat and cheese pupusa was topped with a pile of pickled cabbage and pickled jalapeños. Pickled cabbage = crunchy and yummily tart! Pickled jalapeños = DEATH TO ROBYN'S TONGUE, SEARING HOT PAIN, ETC. They go nicely with warm, happy pupusa matter, but on their own they're hot angry little buggers to want to burn off your taste buds.
My first pupusa-eating experience left me wanting more. Much more. More sniffing of enticing grainy masa fumes, cracking through the crisp griddled exterior, chomping on a mouthful of warm, thick corny bread mixed with gooey cheese and meat/vegetable bits. It's not like anything else I've ever eaten, but fulfills the idea that things wrapped in dough are usually tasty.
Despite its popularity at the fields, it doesn't seem to be anywhere near ubiquitous in NYC. Which means I don't know where to get them. Bahia Restaurant has a wide selection of them, but if you have any recommendations please TELL ME, TELL ME YOUR SECRETS, for my stomach writhes for pupusa.
While we were waiting for our pupusas, Kathy bought a cup of Atol de Elote, a dessert drink made of corn, cinnamon and milk, out of burning curiosity for what possibly life-changing properties the giant bucket of hot, thick, milky liquid held.
HOLY SHIT IT, WAS SO GOOD. There's no need to be eloquent when it comes to Atol de Elote. It tastes like freshly squeezed angels. Fat angels. Brought up on a diet of ambrosia. And corn. It reminded me mostly of drinking corn-infused creme anglaise, which I have done (sans the corn). (There's NO SHAME in this, no shame at all.) The only downside perhaps is that this stuff had the density of lead, or at least this cup did—Kathy said it had too much cornstarch. Less thick and we would've gulped it down in no time.
We were going to stop there. Really. But then we walked into the path of a churro cart. And when presented with a churro cart, one cannot ignore the churro cart.
Love the girl's expression in the above photo. And her wardrobe...is interesting. (I can't comfortably wear a halter top.)
For $1 we walked away with two skinny, sugar-coated ridged sticks of chewy fried dough. While churros are perfectly tasty on their own (hello, fried dough + sugar?), Kathy wondered, "If only we had hot cocoa to dip them into."
So we did the next best thing and dipped them into the remaining Atol de Elote. ...Which didn't work out so well, or not as well as it would've with hot chocolate. Not that it was bad. Sweet, viscous liquid goo atop sweet carbs is usually a winning combination.
We washed out hands at one of the convenient hand washing stations around the food stands before moving onto our next edible victims. Of which there were many. You'll have to wait until the next entry for that.
For more Robyn-eating action (but really, is this what you want?), read Kathy's entry!
Red Hook Ball Fields
155 Bay St, Brooklyn, NY
...But there's not much point in going now since it's not food-filled. :(