Friday, June 22, 2007

The Red Hook ball fields

On Saturday and Sundays a slew of food stands are set up along the perimeter of the ball fields in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Fans and players, mostly Hispanic, gather here to eat and watch baseball and soccer. If you don't know Red Hook, you should. Poised on the tip of Brooklyn with no subway and only one bus, it is not the most accessible place but it is the nabe with the best water views and the hippest vibe around.

The stands are wonderful family operations serving food from Mexico, Columbia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala etc. There are picnic tables but most people just buy something to eat and sit on the lawn. The crowd is diverse, and we found ourselves with a changing array of tablemates from families who spoke only Spanish and were eager to help us identify the food, to a pair of young urban professionals here on an outing with their four week year old baby. This duo were enjoying Elotes, grilled corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, rolled in a grated cheese called cotija, and dusted with red chili powder. They liked it but thought there might be a bit too much mayonnaise.

Most of the food is wonderful. I sampled as much as I could from various stands starting with a place that was grilling steak and making tacos. All the fixings were lined up so you could customize your taco: fabulous salsas, green sauces, jalapenos, cilantro, and so on. Something was brewing in a covered pot that turned out to be goat. I passed though my friend was eager to try it. There are no menus or prices posted but I did see a mysterious sign for us anglos that read, "Do Not Make a Line for tacos." Huh?

At a Columbian stand I ordered a plate of rice and beans with strips of fried pork that looked delicious and was. The pork was crunchy and the meat was tender. A few stands had tamales but these were substandard with a slimy masa and an unpleasant chicken filling. But the hits and misses make the whole thing fun and, fortunately, there are way more hits than misses.

I brought some wine, a bottle of Condrieu and a 2005 Landmark Overlook chardonnay. The Landmark is not an overly oaky chard; it's acidic and fruit driven and well balanced enough to hold up well to spicy food. The Condrieu, of course, was fantastic. I was warned ahead of time that it is illegal to drink alcoholic beverages in a NY City park, so be discreet if you byob.

The last thing I tried was a pupusa, which is sort of a tortilla made from corn and filled with meat and cheese and then grilled. My friend, who is a regular, said that the people who set up nearby on Sundays make far better ones so I'll go back and try those. I also missed the ceviche stand that everyone raves about but will try it next time too.
This was a great afternoon, and I will definitely come again and bring some friends.

Red Hook Ballpark Open Mid-April to late October
Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am till 10:00 pm
Clinton and Bay Streets
Red Hook


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