When I first spotted the curious label "public grocery," my mind ran to the sort of public market where shoppers once purchased fresh foodstuffs from multiple pushcart vendors. Nowadays, in New York, the indoor Essex Street Market and the outdoor Greenmarkets continue to fill the bill. The term "public market" itself, which until recent years was on the verge of becoming quaint, has been rehabilitated as a hallmark of civic virtue, in contrast to the (perceived) narrow self-interest of private parties.
The corner establishment shown here is, of course, a privately owned, for-profit enterprise (and all power to them; margins are low). I've stopped by, during the summer, for a cold can of soda, but on a more recent, winter, visit I couldn't bring myself to venture a cup of hotplate coffee. The current signage was installed at some indeterminate time after Mom & Sons got out of the restaurant business, decades ago, perhaps by the owners of Peace World Newsstand — a name long since effaced from the awning.
Current management isn't chatty. If there's a story behind "public grocery," perhaps the way to tease it out is to spend a few minutes by the counter while warming my hands on a cup of that coffee. I can take small sips.
This bakery's heart is in specialty and custom cakes, or so you'd gather from its vast online portfolio. (Maybe you'd also wonder, as I do, what's on those skewers?) By comparison the cookies and pastries can seem humdrum, but a poppy seed roll ($2) was plump and satisfying, if just a touch too sweet.
Kiev Bakery 1627 East 18th St. (Kings Hwy.-Ave. P), Homecrest, Brooklyn (shown) 718-627-5438 Also at 2666 Coney Island Ave. (Crawford Ave.-Ave. X), Gravesend 718-996-6277 www.KievBakery.com
"Kichlach" is Yiddish for "cookies," an umbrella term that applies to savories as well as sweets. These onion and poppy seed kichlach ($6.99 per pound, for about 20) are a sturdy sort that travel well — just keep your hands out of the cookie bag.
Chiffon Kosher Cake Center 430 Ave. P (East 2nd-East 3rd Sts.), Midwood, Brooklyn 718-258-8822
Large, round, and cheese-filled is one way to make a khachapuri (Kotch-ah-Poor-ee), the best-known baked good in the country of Georgia and, perhaps, Brighton Beach. As my penovani khachapuri ($2) makes apparent, however, other sizes and shapes are possible. Indeed, at this month-old Georgian cafe, so are other fillings. More on this in future posts; many khachapuri are larger and meant to be shared, and this afternoon I had a table for four all to myself.
Also shown: nigvziani badrijani ($6.95), a cold appetizer of eggplant rolls stuffed with ground walnuts; garlic was one notable seasoning of many. I also appreciated the tartness, and occasional pop between the teeth, of whole pomegranate seeds.
Mallawach pizza ($8.25) is not truly a pizza; it's a kosher dairy mashup of griddled flatbread and marinara with cheese, Yemeni Jewish and Italian-American. I would have done better to order my mallawach (mah-Lao-wahk) in the traditional presentation, undressed, with tomato sauce, salad, hardboiled egg, and feta on the side. There's little sense in smothering a hot flaky flatbread such as this.
Also shown: another application of ethnic idiom to classic carbohydrate, Cajun fries (small, $3.75).