Paul and I spent today on a Brunch Date! We dropped Ben off at his class at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and then, realizing we still had two hours until we had to pick him up, kind of looked at each other
“What do you want to do?” my husband asked me.
“Well, it depends,” I said. “How much biking do you want to do?” I’m back in Physical Training mode, after all – trying to get myself back to the physical shape I was in when I first got sick in June. Therefore, I’m prioritizing more challenging physical activity this week to start rebuilding my endurance, so I can resume my personal training sessions without collapsing halfway through. But I also don’t want Paul to have to wear himself out just because I’m pushing myself more these days.
Fortunately that wasn’t a concern for Paul. “I’m fine,” he told me. “I’ll bike as far as you want to go.”
I smiled. “Then lets go to Smorgasburg! It’s only 4.3 miles away! I checked!”
“Isn’t Smorgasburg coming to Prospect Park on Sundays now though?” Paul asked.
“Yeah, it is,” I replied. “But I think we should go to the Williamsburg location. We will get there right when it opens at 11. It won’t get crowded that early because all the hipsters in Williamsburg wake up late from having been out last night. Whereas the Prospect Park one is going to be mobbed as soon as it opens at 11am tomorrow with families whose kids all woke up at the ass crack of dawn on a Sunday and announced they were bored.”
Paul nodded. “I see the logic here,” he said. “Let’s go. Lead the way.” So I jumped on my bike, and did so, leading the way up Classon to the Navy Yards, and then up the bike path to East River Park. We arrived at 10:52, with just enough time to use the reasonably clean port-a-potties and the conveniently placed hand washing stations before attacking the food vendors.
I had read up before heading out to Smorgasburg this year. The event has, after all, only become larger and even more of a Crazy Food-Off since we first visited it in 2012. I found a good recent Refinery29 article that covered it pretty well and helped me prioritize which stands to hit. (Hint: Not the Ramen Burger…and not just because it had a ridiculous line, ten minutes after it opened)
We wandered up and down to see this year’s lineup first. There were no lines at ANY of the stands because Smorgasburg had just opened, and people were still coming in, so we felt secure taking a few extra minutes to survey the offerings before jumping into brunch. At the recommendation of the R29 article, I suggested starting with the Imperial Egg: a Scotch Egg vendor. What is a Scotch Egg, you ask? It’s an egg, wrapped in meat, and deep fried, and it is AWESOME.
This was a lamb merguez style meat coating. The egg was cut in half, covered in a yogurt sauce, and then we added sriracha at the recommendation of the chef. It was amazing at a half-portion each. The egg yolk and yogurt sauce and sriacha all mixed to drip onto the arugula, which was a great counterpoint to the rich layers of the scotch egg.
Then we moved on to Duck Season, again, based on recommendations from the Interwebs…but also because how could anyone resist a blatant Looney Tunes reference?
We opted for their specialty: the Duck Confit, a perfectly cooked duck leg with red onion marmalade. This isn’t the sort of thing that can be easily split, so Paul and I took turns taking bites of it. It was the first duck confit I’ve ever had that wasn’t too salty, but still managed to be crispy on the outside, while being tender and juicy on the inside. I was so interested in eating it, I forgot to take a photo until it looked like this:
So here’s a photo I went back and took of the demo model:
Eating the confit, sitting on a concrete wall, we both discussed how, if no one sets up a food stall called Rabbit Season for 2016, we will be SERIOUSLY disappointed.
We then followed the sound of “Welcome To The Jungle” next door, to Bon Chovie, a seafood and rock and roll themed stall, where I ordered the fried anchovies, “Jersey style” (which I totally didn’t think was a thing.) The menu also included a salmon burger, and a chef that I suspect, based on his Seahawks hat, probably brought that Seattle style. The anchovies were, as promised, head and tail on, deep fried, and served with smoked paprika sauce:
Yes, these kind of small fish are considered seal food where I come from, but the harbor seal is my spirit animal. I shared two with Paul, after which he declared them “too fishy”, even with lemon squeezed on them.
Since both of us were rapidly approaching Food Overload by then, we decided to hit one more stall. We looked somewhat longingly at the short ribs at Carnal. Paul remarked, “I know I can get fries anywhere, but those giant cones of fries look really good”
“You are allowed to choose your own food, my love,” I pointed out. “You do not have to let your wife pick ALL the foods.”
“I know,” he told me, “but wasn’t there one more you wanted to try?”
Yes. Yes there was. The MofonGO, a dish of plantains with a chicken curry stew on top.
I love plantains. They’re super versatile, and work with both sweet and savory dishes. My current list of Things I Want To Cook includes this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo. And mofongo seemed like the sort of dish I could easily modify for our own meals at home.
We settled in to eat it while sitting on the edge of the East River, watching tourists take selfies, and talking about how we could NEVER TELL BEN about going to Smorgasburg, because he would be no end of annoyed with us. Telling our son that we left him to engage in child labor harvesting vegetables at the botanical gardens while we ran off to eat duck confit and deep fried fish would not sit well with him.
As it was, by the end of the mofongo, we were both definitely full, and it was time to bike back down to Prospect Heights. After all, as fun as it is riding our bikes around Williamsburg and pretending to be the sort of people who to go Smorgasburg, we are usually a little family who do everything together. So we reversed direction back down the bike path, and after some back and forth with Google Maps, managed to get to the Botanical Gardens just in time to retrieve Ben from his gardening class.
I collected Ben at the Children’s Farm, and promptly made the mistake of asking him, “how was your class?”
“Terrible. I only got five beans!”
I looked in his bag, and sure enough, there were five yellow wax beans. Ben continued, “I picked twenty of them, but I had to give them all away because other kids didn’t pick any!”
I sighed internally. “That’s OK, my love. I’m proud of you for sharing. I’m actually prouder of you for sharing that I would be of you for bringing all the beans out with you.”
“But I picked, like, twenty beans and I only got to keep a few!”
Thankfully, it was time after that to take Ben to his next stop: a Lego and Pokemon themed birthday party a half mile away. We loaded ourselves back onto our bikes and headed back up the hill, up to Eastern Parkway, past Grand Army Plaza, and onto the Bergen Street bike path to Brickz 4 Kidz. Ben was dropped off, happy with his people, and seemingly over the horrible indignity of having to pick beans only to have to give them away to other children. (Clearly, our son does not agree with communism.)
Paul and I then headed down into the Slope to engage on our last Brooklyn Food Stereotype activity: picking up our CSA from Fishkill Farms, along with our meat share from McEnroe Farms. Lately, the shares have been sizeable, and Paul has had to bike uphill with an extra twenty pounds of produce strapped to his back. It’s still less than the seventy pounds of Ben and trailer bike he used to haul though, so he has done it cheerfully. This week was no exception, as we collected our vegetables, fruit, and grass-fed cow. And to Paul’s credit, even after biking almost twelve miles at that point, he still steadily paced up the hill, back up from 5th Avenue to Prospect Park West, and finally, back around Grand Army plaza to home.
When I got home, I immediately plugged the routes into MapMyFitness, just so I could see how far we rode…and realized, I had totally burned off all the deep fried food we’d eaten at Smorgasburg. Here’s the map showing our route
Now, sitting on the couch, I realize I a extra tired from the effort. Like, really tired, exhausted tired, the sort of exhausted I used to have to bike a lot further to get to. Getting back to bike commuting before the season ends will be tough: today’s 13 miles was done in chunks, and I’m not sure I can do ten miles in less than an hour anytime soon. But if I don’t start now, I definitely won’t be able to return to that level of physical fitness, so I may as well go for it, and see what I can achieve before winter. And if, in the process, I get to go for bike rides and brunch outings with my husband, so much the better.Here’s the map: