Braised kale on ciabatta ($8.95) brought to mind a great vegetarian option at Shorty's (nee Tony Luke's). Once known as the "green sandwich," essentially this was the shop's celebrated "roast pork Italian" without the pork. The current name, "broccoli rabe sandwich," preempts what must have been a common question with a blunt answer (and eliminates the option of spinach, which to my taste doesn't have enough bite). But the newer name surrenders something, too. There's satisfaction in visiting a favorite feeding ground and knowing what's what without having to ask, in being one of the guys and not a johnny-come-lately.
This evening the only mystery was for my dining buddy — from our table, she couldn't quite see the menu board behind the counter — who guessed that the ciabatta was spread with a particularly nice hummus, when in truth it was a luscious fava bean puree. In short, nice sandwich.
Lincoln Station 409 Lincoln Pl. (Washington-Classon Aves.), Crown Heights, Brooklyn 718-399-2211 www.StationFoods.com
One festival stall gave this dish the name picadillo, but that familiar ground beef has never been so chunky. Panamanians know it better as bofe (Bo-fay), or beef lung, which has an iron-rich flavor accentuated by simmering with onions and spices. Typically bofe is eaten with a frybread called an hojaldre (oh-Hahl-dray), whose name derives from the Spanish "hoja" — that is, it's a "leaf" you tear into pieces and use to pick up your food. This fried-to-order hojaldre was especially dense and provided many sturdy, bite-sized "utensils."
A handful of food vendors did business along the parade route; one served cupfuls of chicheme, a creamy, cinnamon-flavored beverage plentiful with kernels of corn. Most vendors, however, were set up on the festival site, a short walk away. In addition to bofe and chicheme, the most readily available fare included assorted frituras (the batch below gives a clearer look at an hojaldre); souse, a vinegary jumble of cucumber with pieces of cow foot (or pig foot, if you prefer); and (not shown) corn and skewered meats from the grill.
Panamanian Pre-Independence Day Parade and Festival Parade, on Franklin Ave. from Bergen St. to Eastern Pkwy.; festival, on Classon Ave. between Eastern Pkwy. and President St., Crown Heights, Brooklyn (The 2013 parade and festival were held on October 12)
The raucous West Indian Day Parade presents many opportunities to sample foods that don't often show their face in New York. I've come across breadfruit many times, often roasted, occasionally slow-cooked, but until this year's parade I'd never encountered boiled breadnuts. The batch shown here (first photo) surfaced at a stall wearing the colors of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Though the texture was similar, in truth they were not as toothsome as the very best chestnuts.
Most of the vendors, such as the Jamaican couple whose menu included blue drahs (second and third photos), aren't affiliated with restaurants; they prepare food only for catered events and other special occasions. Blue drahs — as in drawers, the undergarments, perhaps with off-color connotations — are also known as duckunoo and dukunu in Jamaica. Similar starchy, leaf-wrapped, boiled puddings include the ducana of Antigua, the ducunu of Belize, and the conkie of Barbados; all have common roots in West Africa, and with foods such as the kenkey of Ghana. This particular parcel, wrapped in banana leaf, included cornmeal, raisins, coconut milk, and spices. As with kenkey, fingers proved to be the best utensils.
The West Indian Day Parade is held each year on Labor Day; it runs along Eastern Parkway, in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. You'll find food vendors along the parallel roads to the north and south of the parade route. Though it's possible to cross Eastern Parkway, this becomes more and more difficult as the parade proceeds; by mid-afternoon, in many places it's difficult to maneuver at all. To see as many vendors as possible, a good strategy is to arrive by late morning at the Utica Ave. end of the parade route, work your way along the south side of the parkway, cross over as you near Flatbush Ave., and eat your way back to Utica Ave., or as far as your stomach can take you. If you'd prefer to focus your explorations, the most fertile territory is along the south side between Nostrand and Franklin. You'll also find many vendors not sanctioned by the parade organizers on those and the intervening avenues; I spotted the breadnuts only by getting off the main drag.
Good hospital food can sometimes be had on the outside, looking in. Many health-care facilities attract satellite businesses that cater to medical professionals with a particular heritage; the Filipino restaurants and markets within a short walk of Beth Israel, in Manhattan, are one example.
The typeface suggests the early days of the horseless carriage, prior to World War I, but the text points to a later era. Clarence Birdseye introduced the first commercially viable frozen-food technology in the mid-1920s; "frozen food" would have been an attraction to private home-owners and apartment-dwellers only with the retreat of iceboxes and the widespread availability of refrigerators, a decade or so later. (The mention of "beer" likewise rules out any date prior to 1933, and the end of Prohibition.)
A reasonable guess would be that J&M dates to the years just after World War II, and that the typography was meant to give an old-timey feel and evoke a slower-paced, simpler time.
J&M Food Market Surviving signage on Rogers Ave. at Carroll St., Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Cou-cou is a Caribbean porridge of cornmeal and okra, just firm enough not to slump into mush. In the photo, one end of the semicircular mass is visible at far left. Also largely concealed by sauteed onions are three tender fingers of mahi-mahi (all in, $14); kingfish and red snapper were also on offer. In Barbados, flying fish is traditional, but the counterman (as well as the proprietor of another Bajan eatery nearby) observed that recently these have been hard to come by.