Brighton Beach Road Trip
Today, me and my friend went on a road trip to Brighton Beach. Honestly went because I was in a store and someone put a fur scarf around my neck and after looking at the price tag, I said, nada but the sales person said I should go check out the fur places in Brighton Beach which are so much cheaper…and so we did. Figured, what the hell, let's make a day of it.
Of course, it ended up to be much more of an eating extravaganza. I worked in Brooklyn, at the Kings Plaza Mall, my first year after graduating college. I was working for Macy's and ran the cosmetic department there. It was one of my most memorable experiences. I had about 80 people working underneath me at 21 years old and it was more like managing the United Nations. I drove out to Brooklyn every day and actually once we started going today, I knew where I was. Such a fantastic borough.
Our first stop was the M & I International Food at 249 Brighton Beach Avenue. An emporium of food. Sausages, pastries, vats of pickled vegetables, etc. Jars and jars of food from all over at incredible prices. Upstairs there is a small cafe where we sat down and tasted a few things. Everyone there speak Russian. I actually asked a woman in line what she was ordering and she said I am not sure how you explain it in English even though she tried. We might have been in Brooklyn but we could have been in another country.
We tried a sweet and sour mixture of sliced cabbage that had been cooked down. We kept seeing it in other markets as it appeared to be a staple and was really delicious. We also had a simple vinegar based cole slaw with dill. Really good. The cabbage roll was stuffed with chopped sausage, I think it was veal, with a tomato based sauce. The cabbage literally cut like butter. Excellent and savory. Another pastry was wrapped around a chopped cabbage which was something I had not seen before. The other two goodies were a meat blintz and a pastry folded with cheese and eggs. All and all, an interesting mix of food. Classic Jewish Russian fare.
Afterward, we walked into Classic Furs, 221 Brighton Beach Avenue. Classic is the perfect word. We tried on a few of the big Russian looking fur hats which were hilarious…and warm. The coats are probably half the price of what they are in NYC but in terms of style, think not. Certainly the styles are perfect and beautiful for the local community but not sure they work for me. A bit of the bling and a big of the old bubbie look. We walked into another fur store that not only sold furs, they also sold toaster ovens and random household equipment. Furs are what you were in Russia because its so damn cold so the tradition continues here.
Our next stop was Gold Label deli, 281 Brighton Beach Avenue. A smaller version and a tad more upscale than M & I but the best part was the window out to the street where they sold street food. One thing was better than the next and the woman working the counter was wonderful. She also couldn't describe the pastry in one of the treats and I told her what it was. She repeated it back to me so she could tell other people. Loved that. We had a long roll made of puffed pastry, like a big fat cigar, stuffed with chopped meat, veggies and potatoes. Pipping hot. We also had a poppy pastry roll that had the consistency of a donut. Hot, sweet, chewy and out of this world. One more thing was a big round pizza pastry stuffed with spinach, feta and dill. Wow. I brought one home for the kids for dinner among many other things.
After that we checked out Vintage Food Corp. 287 Brighton Beach Avenue which is like being in a Middle Eastern store. Dried fruits and nuts galore.
Our last stop was Cafe La Brioche, 1073 Brighton Beach Avenue. Incredible smells wafting out the door. Big pastries, small pastries, cakes, etc. More of the honey covered poppy pastry, big folded over apple tarts and puffed pastries filled with cheese, rugallahs and layered cakes. They even had homemade mallomars the size of my fist. This place was the real deal. Russian Jewish bakery.
Such a fun day. A nice change from the day to day. What is so great is that Brighton Beach is so close in proximity but seriously far in mentality as we really did feel like we were in another country without having to get on a plane. This could be the first of many more NYC road trips to come.