I often donate food tours to nonprofit groups so that they can auction them at benefits. Yesterday I took the winner of a silent auction for the Classic Stage Company and four of his friends on a food tour of Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens with two stops in adjoining Red Hook for dessert. We had a blast. It was a particularly interesting and felicitous bunch. Included in the group was Jill Donenfeld who runs a private chef company called The Dish's Dish. She also announced early on that she was running in the New York City Marathon without training for it. She had in fact run in the Marine Marathon in Washington, D.C., last year without training and finished in less than four and a half hours. Once she told me of her plans, I decided to load her up with my kind of carbs. This is where we went.
Our first stop was Joe's Superette (349 Smith Street; map), where I quickly ordered 14 prosciutto balls. These golf ball-sized beauties go for 50¢ each, and believe me when I tell you that you cannot buy anything else (in this country at least) for 50¢ that will give you so much pleasure. These prosciutto balls are crisp and golden brown on the outside with a molten creamy filling of ricotta cheese and prosciutto bits.
From there we went to Esposito's Pork Store (357 Court Street; map) for some sweet and hot sopressata and three baseball-size arancini (rice balls)—one each of chile, cheese, and regular.
We went next door to the newly reopened Monteleone's and Cammareri Bakery (355 Court Street; map), where we enjoyed a slab of Sicilian-style cheesecake that I had written about in my New York Times cheesecake story.
One of our party informed me at this point that he hoped there were going to be many more stops, as he was only 25 percent full. I assured him that I was going to raise that number to 95 percent by the time we were done.
The next three stops were of the sandwich persuasion:
At Caputo Fine Fine Foods (460 Court Street; map) proprietor John Caputo made us a chicken cutlet sandwich with house-made mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes on a rosemary ciabatta. Doesn't that sound delicious? In fact it tasted even better.
Down the block from Caputo's is Frankie's 457 (457 Court Street; map), where we ordered two of its incomparable meatball sandwiches. These meatballs are light, studded with pine nuts, are lightly sauced, and come on Sullivan Street Bakery's light, simultaneously crisp and tender pizza bianco.
From there we went to Ferdinando's Focacceria (151 Union Street; map) the hundred-year-old bastion of Sicilian cooking on Union Street. There we had the two house specialties, vastedde (spleen sandwich) and a panelle (chick pea fritter) sandwich, topped with a schmear of fresh ricotta cheese and a little bit of mozzarella all on a house-made soft roll. We washed down both with the appropriate Manhattan Special coffee-soda accompaniment.
I think I had raised my doubter's fullness level to well more than 50 percent and told him not to worry, that we were just getting started.
Right across the street from Ferdinando's is the legendary House of Pizza and Calzone (132 Union Street; map) which many Serious Eaters were concerned about when it was sold a few years ago. No worries. The pizza offerings there are still solid and varied (I spotted a grandma pie in the house for the first time), and the deep-fried calzones were still wonderful.
I could tell this group were serious eaters because they insisted on going next door to Schnäck (122 Union Street; map) for a slider chaser, which were excellent, by the way.
My not-quite-full-to-capacity food explorer was definitely getting full, and my marathoner said she was actually getting quite ill, but we persevered. We hit Margaret Palca Bakes (191 Columbia Street; map) for some of her as-good-as-it-gets rugelach and a fine if not crazy good red velvet cupcake. Next door, one of our party insisted on trying an Australian meat pie from DUB Pies (193 Columbia Street; map), which had a wonderfully flaky crust.
Our man was now 90 percent full, and I had to top him out with two more courses of dessert.
At Baked in Red Hook (359 Van Brunt Street; map), we had an excellent piece of apple pie, the best piece of coffee cake I've had in ages, a pumpkin whoopie pie that was really pumpkiny, a butterscotch pudding tart that was crazy good, and a chocolate chocolate chip cookie that was much more moist than chewy.
The coup de grâce? A mini Key lime tart and a Swingle, a frozen, chocolate-covered Key lime pie pop from Steve's (204 Van Dyke Street; map). Our marathoner was fully loaded, and our doubting Thomas was loaded and full.
The next day, Marathon Sunday, I got an email from Donenfeld: "I am really sore from the marathon—it was harder this year. Maybe it was the Swingle."
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