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Learning To Cook, Bay Ridge Style

7 Feb

New York City is a city of neighborhoods. This may come as a surprise to some non-New Yorkers, but yeah, there’s some truth to the way TV shows and movies portray us; we do stop and talk to our neighbors, ask about the grand-kids and pet the puppy next door.

The other thing about New York neighborhoods is that each one has its own distinctive rhythm and flavor that, much like my personality, is as much a product of it’s past as it is of it’s present. To me, the easiest way to spot these pasts and presents is, of course, in the food.

Fish Stew

The Lower East Side was giddy, transient, loud, brash, hopeful. It was the place for new immigrants to stop first, be they Eastern European Jews, Puerto Ricans & Dominicans, a diaspora of Asian cultures or college graduates from Ottumwa, Iowa. There were tons of bars, tons of places to get great Cubanos and haute cuisine, Asian groceries, Jewish delis, yuppie bodegas and nerdy wine shops. I could get nearly anything I wanted at nearly any hour of the day.

And Bay Ridge? Yeah, not so 24-7.

It may be too soon to be drawing grand conclusions about our new home, but I’m a bit of a impetuous ass at times and will do so anyway. Bay Ridge reminds me of my childhood. Stores are closed on Sunday. When they’re open on Saturday, you can’t be sure for how long they’ll remain so, as it really does depend on what the proprietor feels like doing. Thursday is the late-night shopping night. The fish guy stays open later on Friday. This is one traditional little neighborhood. Might it have something to do with it’s Italian, Scandinavian and Irish heritages? Yeah, I’m willing to jump to that conclusion.

I’ve quickly marked five spots as my “go to” locations for quick eats that are really, really Bay Ridge.

There’s a Scandinavian grocery that sells the most wonderful multi-grain rolls, veal and pork sausages, everything lingonberry, and yes, Hamcheese In A Tube.

Hamcheese In A Tube

There’s Polbridge (the only one who’s name I can remember) conveniently located next door to Polonica, that carries, bestill my beating heart, Podravka Liver Pate, the very same stuff we ate the hell out of while in Croatia. That right there was worth all the pain and suffering the move entailed!

There’s the Italian fish market (open late on Friday) which is just down the block from Cangiano’s, the Italian grocery that has everything except vegetables (and fish) and makes so-so fresh mozzarella.

And finally, directly across the intersection from the Italians is a Korean grocery of the most wonderful and classic sort; reasonably priced and full of diverse fruits and vegetable that, since they’re the only game in town as far as produce goes (as far as I can tell) is always really fresh because of their high turnover.

Brasciole and Bitter Greens

See? Quite the little United Nations of food! And I haven’t even begun to try parsing all the different Middle Eastern, Turkish and Egyptian groceries that blanket the hood!

And so what have I been cooking? Mainly Italian. It’s comforting, easy, warm, quick and a cuisine I know like the back of my hand (despite not having a drop of it in me). Our first real meal in the house was a thrown together fish stew. The second, my first experience ever with pre-packed, grocer-prepared “convenience meat,” a take on brasciole.

I can’t wait for this weekend when we actually have the weekend to ourselves. No Time Warner, no movers, no shakers, no noones but us. I’m hoping to do some bread baking, some stewing and maybe some exploring of those Middle Eastern delis!

Oh, and can you tell I’ve found a new blog that I love? Dave, the guy behind Eating In Translation is eating his way through the Five Boroughs and taking us along for the ride. This is really great stuff! Dig in, explore and enjoy!

Head below the jump for recipes for Bay Ridge “Caciucco” and Brasciole With Bitter Greens.

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