Jill: Brooklyn Flea: the weekly market that fittingly sells repurposed and crafty wares in a bank repurposed as a three-floor mall, filled to the brim with furniture, boots, hand towels and jewelry that we can only dream of owning and with people who are way cooler than you or I will ever be. Maya and I visited this past December with a mission: to visit as many of the basement food vendors as humanly possible. And although I became momentarily distracted and purchased a porcupine-screened tea towel, we completed our task with precision and professionalism. (Porcupines are obviously the new bacon-owl-mustache. Duh.)
Maya: Though the allure of the Flea has diminished for me (thanks both to the ubiquity of the mobile vendors and to my awareness of what vintage goods bought at flea markets should cost), it was worth the trip just to introduce Jill to some of New York’s premiere food-truck players. Today’s Friday Five highlights some of the things we managed to stuff in our beaks.
1. Lobster macaroni and cheese, from Red Hook Lobster Pound.
Maya: I’d sampled almost everything on this admittedly short menu—Maine– and Connecticut–style lobster rolls, shrimp roll, lobster BLT, clam chowder—but somehow, the combination of two of my favorite food groups (lobster and cheese, obviously) had eluded me. I maybe even suggested the Flea just for this dish. Of course, with such high expectations, disappointment was practically inevitable: the pasta was just this side of undercooked, and while the lobster was fine, for $10 a pop I hoped for more than a piece or two.
Jill: I generally joke that whatever food trends that happen in New York City will hit the midwest several months later (or longer), but in the case of the Lobster Macaroni, we’re on even footing. The middle of the country can lay claim to any dairy-rich pasta-based dish, and this one is no exception. The combination did not thrill me, and even the most midwestern of midwesterners can attest that al dente pasta has no role in macaroni and cheese.
2. Papusas, from Solber Papusas.
Maya: One of my very favorite things to eat in Red Hook, papusas, for the uninitiated, are Salvadorean corn cakes, stuffed with cheese and the meat or vegetable of your choice and griddled to perfection, then topped with a gloppy mix of red sauce, sour cream, and pickled onions and jalapeños. (I like mine with extra red sauce and pickled things, easy on the sour cream.) Granted, they’re better on a hot day, after (or with) a beer or two; something is lost in the transition from sunny afternoon to what may as well be a cramped church basement.
Jill: Maya made a big deal about papusas. After being loaded with cool- or room-temperature toppings, the hot papusas quickly became lukewarm, as did my feelings toward them. It wasn’t them, I swear. It was me. And I had my eye on something else: the hot dogs.
3. Pork belly hot dog, from Asia Dog.
Maya: A hot dog. Topped with pork belly. Need I say more? I had this decidedly non-kosher sausage during the summer, and I was blown away. I fished those hoisin-basted bacony chunks out and ate them separately, and I feel no shame in telling you that I licked my fingers afterwards—clearly, the normal rules don’t apply when pork belly this good is involved. I was sure that Jill, obsessed as she is with both primary ingredients, would feel the same way.
4. Banh mi hot dog, from Asia Dog.
Jill: While I’m usually a sucker for pork belly, my favorite of the bunch was by far the banh mi hot dog. From the paté to the cilantro to the pickled vegetables, it seemed as if the Vietnamese sandwich was always meant to be paired with the all-American ballpark food. Asia Dog in general was my all-around top pick from the Brooklyn Flea food vendors. For my Columbus readers: imagine if Dirty Franks and Fresh Street Foodie Cart had a love child. Yeah.
5. Porchetta sandwich, from Porchetta.
Jill: This is a lie. We did not actually try the porchetta sandwich. (And maybe, given our track record with the other vendors, it was better that way – things ended up looking better than they tasted). But we really, really, really wanted to try it. So much so, that three months later, we’re both thinking about it. So, readers, do us a favor and go, try and tell us we made a grave mistake.