La Goulette

La Goulette Williamsburg

Even though there are plenty of vegetarian options at La Goulette, meat-lovers can still get their taste of lamb merguez sausage, shown here

Middle Eastern food has been a consistent choice for vegetarians, thanks to its emphasis on grains, legumes and yogurt.  Out in Williamsburg, a new Middle Eastern spot has emerged that offers a new perspective on this unique cuisine.  While most Middle Eastern restaurants are more Levant-focused (Lebanese, Syrian, etc), La Goulette is a takeout spot with a Tunisian twist.  As a North African country, Tunisia isn’t strictly in the Middle East, but it’s still part of the same culture, and is offering a new perspective to New York’s dime-a-dozen casual falafel and shawarma joints.

However, the menu is a bit uneven, so it’s important to choose dishes carefully.  The Tunisian carrot salad comes with shreds of raw carrots and vinaigrette, along with soft and oily fries.  Yet there are some more standout items on the menu, such as the roasted cauliflower and artichokes, spooned over a rich and tangy yogurt called “labneh”.  The well-browned vegetables underneath this yogurt are tender and well-seasoned, dressed with tahini and strewn with fresh herbs that add the extra kick of flavor.  This small dish is a great example of the high points of Middle Eastern cuisine.

The falafel is exceptionally crisp, and loaded with fresh herbs that offer an all-around bright green color, standing out among New York’s often-mediocre falafel.  There are also a series of smoothies and juices that can wash everything down you get from La Goulette.  The house shake is a unique blend of bananas, dates and milk that combine together to create a cool, creamy and not-overpowering concoction.

If you’d like to learn more, you can click here, where I read about La Goulette, or visit their site, here!

Brooklyn’s Best West Indian Food

Immigrant food has been a part of New York’s culinary heritage from the very beginning: Dutch settlers in the 17th century brought donuts, hot dogs come from the Germans who arrived in New York in the 19th century, while pizza, bagels and pastrami have their origins in the Italian and Jewish immigrants who came through Ellis Island in the early 20th century.  Yet in the past 50 years, New York has seen an influx of immigrants that have changed the city’s culinary tradition even more.  Out in Brooklyn – Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy and Flatbush in particular – West Indian immigrants are leaving their mark on the culinary scene with their spicy, exciting food.  I recently came across an article that featured some of the best Caribbean restaurants in Brooklyn, listed below:

Gloria's Caribbean Cuisine

Gloria’s: For over 40 years now, Gloria’s has been serving countless loyal customers authentic Trinidadian food.  The key in their success lies in diversity: Gloria’s is just all-around good, making it a great spot for both novices and experts of West Indian food.

The Islands Brooklyn

The Islands: A quintessential hole-in-the-wall a block away from the Brooklyn museum, The Islands offers good food at a reasonable price and in huge portions.  You can choose between two portion sizes, but despite the name, both of them are gigantic; a “large” meal can easily feed two people for a whole day.

Glady's

Glady’s: While the neighborhood around Glady’s has fallen victim to gentrification and Glady’s itself has seen a massive makeover, it remains standing, offering cheap Caribbean fare.  There are the standbys like jerk chicken, as well as such less-known items like pepper shrimp, jerk lobster and a whole variety of sides.

Ali's Trinidad roti shop

Ali’s Trinidad Roti Shop: Trinidad’s strong Indian influence means that here the name of the game is rotis, curry chicken in particular.  For the full experience, get a bottle of Ting grapefruit soda to wash everything down.

Peppa's jerk chicken

Peppa’s Jerk Chicken: If you’re a purist who wants a dish done right, then look no further than Peppa’s spicy, flavor-packed jerk chicken.  Cooks grill, slice and serve the restaurant’s signature title dish in huge amounts every day to crowds of locals and visitors alike.

Red Hook is My “Hometown”

In the world of barbecue, beef ribs have earned the nickname of “brontosaurus ribs” for their size, and in a type of cuisine where gigantic portions are a must, they’ve been slowly gaining in popularity.  In Red Hook, Bill Durney of Hometown Barbecue decided that these Flintstone-style ribs weren’t big enough, so in a bold move he made them better.  Durney purchases his ribs in three-bone sections, removes the middle bone then divides the hunks into two.  Once he’s done this, Durney rubs them with salt and pepper, and smokes them for up to 14 hours before he finally decides that they’re ready to be served up to customers.

Hometown Barbecue

People waiting in line to get their fix of barbecue at Hometown

While eating a whole beef rib isn’t easy, Hometown Barbecue makes it even harder.  If you can make it through an entire rib, you’ll most likely have trouble finding room in your stomach for anything else.  If you end up giving up before you finish, don’t worry, because you’ll be sure to have some great leftovers.

Located on the water in Red Hook, Hometown was originally supposed to open in late 2012.  Yet at the tail end of Van Brunt Street, it was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.  Yet when his barbecue spot was flooded, Durney didn’t give up.  He and his business partner drained the flood waters, made repairs and finally opened a year later.  Defiantly fighting the elements, Hometown is still in its original waterfront location, almost daring another hurricane to try and erase it.

Not surprisingly, the story of Hometown has caught the eye of food nuts in Brooklyn and beyond.  New York food blog Serious Eats has written several articles about the spot.  According to the writers, the best thing to eat there is hands-down the beef rib.  $22 a pound, the ridiculously tender meat is barely held together by a large bone.  The rich meat eats like a tender steak as opposed to a stew meat, serving as a shining example for how beef ribs should be made.  Apart from such barbecue standards as sausage and brisket, Durney serves more off-beat barbecue dishes, such as pulled lamb belly or jerk chicken.  As a general rule, Durney does a great job at not over-smoking his meat, a major pitfall of pitmasters.

If there’s one fatal flaw of Hometown Barbecue, it’s its location.  Red Hook is naturally a hike; most spots (and Hometown is no exception) are far, far away from any subway stop, and in the case of Hometown, that stop is on the notoriously ill-reputed G line.  Yet making the trip is well worth it, as evidenced by the generous (and delicious portions) and the fun atmosphere of the massive spot, a campy honky-tonk place that’s able to keep its charm without feeling like an impersonal generic “barbecue theme park”.  If you ever do find yourself in Red Hook, however, then it’s definitely worth a visit.

 

New York’s Muslim Jewish Deli

David's Brisket House pastrami

David’s Brisket House, some of the best pastrami in Brooklyn

Since they were first developed in the latter half of the 19th century, New York City’s Jewish delis have become just as New York as pizza, bagels and street hot dogs.  In Manhattan, names such as Katz’s, 2nd Avenue Deli and Carnegie Deli have become New York institutions.  Yet across the East River, in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, lies one of the most intriguing of New York City’s Jewish delis: David’s Brisket House.  It’s a fairly nondescript little spot, with nothing but a few tables and chairs, yet what makes it unique is that it’s New York City’s only Jewish deli run by Muslims.

Originally founded by Jewish immigrants from Yemen and Russia in the earlier half of the 20th century, David’s became a Muslim-owned institution after it was passed down to a Yemeni Muslim partner in the 1980s.  The new owner inherited the nickname “David”, and turned the small deli into a family business, which they turned into a completely unique New York City business: a Jewish deli, run by Muslims.  With some of the best pastrami in Brooklyn and some of the most tender brisket to be found in New York City, the owners of David’s Brisket House have been able to turn their deli into a rip-roaring success, and even opened a second location in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bay Ridge.

Although much of the food served at Jewish delis can be traced to Kosher foods prepared in Eastern Europe, the Jewish deli itself has its origins in New York City.  In the 1840s and 1850s, German immigrants in New York began opening “delicatessens”, which served traditional German dishes.  The delicatessens founded by Catholic and Protestant immigrants tended to feature plenty of pork on their menus, while those founded by German Jews were Kosher.  When Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe arrived in New York City in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they gravitated to these Kosher delicatessens, adding their own foods such as pastrami and kreplach in the process.  And thus a unique New York tradition was born.

If you’d like to learn more about David’s Brisket House, click here: