I’m a savory guy. Give me a hot meatball sub over cookies or candy any day. And without question, this time of year I’ll take a slice of Escarole Pie over chocolate covered Peeps or a Cadbury Egg. Have you had Escarole Pie? Up until I moved to the neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, I hadn’t even heard of it. Served for lunch at Christmas or Easter, this traditional Neapolitan dish is particularly outrageous this time of year when the winter escarole is at its peak. It’s baked like a traditional pastry topped pie, but filled with fresh green escarole, garlic, olives, capers, onions, pine nuts, raisins and occasionally anchovy. It is a salty, sweet, crusty and faintly bitter baked delight. It’s unlike anything else I’ve ever tasted and on paper it probably shouldn’t be so delicious but who am I to challenge several hundred years of Italian culinary wizardry? You can try to bake your own (good luck with that) or if you act quickly there is absolutely still time for you to hop the F train to Carroll Street and pick up this seasonal treat from local butcher-deli geniuses, G. Esposito & Sons Pork Store. And hell, if you’re already at the counter there you should probably ask them to make you a Dana’s Special Hero to go. That’s the sub to get, and we wouldn’t steer you wrong because we’re all about feeding your face at On the Real. Enjoy your weekend and happy holidays!
Heard a bell outside my apartment window today, and was shocked to see that the mythical grinding truck parked out front. Like the Sasquatch, I’ve heard people talking about this guy but the stories are always third hand and I’ve never actually even seen the truck. Wasting no time, I grabbed all our remarkably dull knives and headed down to the street.For the uninitiated, the deal is this: a grinder is an itinerant tradesman who sharpens all household blades, and in this case the grinder’s name is Dominic and he’s a third generation grinder. The traveling grinder in Brooklyn is a living and working throwback to a different era (like a tinker, or the milk man) and although Dominic the Grinder doesn’t drive a horse and buggy, his red hoopty ’76 GMC truck isn’t all that spiritually far off.
I asked Dominic how his customers locate him when they need sharpening, but there’s no way to find him: in true nomadic fashion, you just have get lucky and be home when he comes around. He wanted to know when my knives were last sharpened. “Never.” He looked a little aggrieved at that response but set to work. He didn’t rush, about 5 minutes per knife. I watched him work from the curb—there’s a generator huffing inside the truck that spins the grindwheels and sparks literally do fly.
On rainy or slow work days, I’ve tried to pick up Eve a little early from day care so we can spend a little time together. Lots of times we take bike rides (remember the Wee Ride?) or go to the park, but when it rains it’s hard to know what to do with an enthusiastic two year old. On a lark, we tried out The Painted Pot on Smith Street last week when it was raining cats and dogs.
I remember these places when I was a kid growing up on Long Island, but I hadn’t seen one in years: you get to pick out some kind of ceramic thingy (Eve chose a dog) and then paint it. They fire it in their kiln, and you can pick it up later on. Good clean fun! OK, maybe not so clean, but that’s one of the things that was fun about it.
I love a breakfast sandwich. Egg, meat, cheese, roll: so simple, so delicious. Raise your hand if the $3.50 corner deli-variety of bacon/egg/cheese on a Kaiser got you through the rugged alcohol-soaked mornings of your mid-twenties. Raise ‘em high! It is with this reverence that we at On the Real announce our hunt for New York’s greatest breakfast sandwich, or ”The Great Breakfast Sandwich Smackdown.” You’ve already heard about the fantastically diabolical Breakfast Burger from Mile End. Next up: an entry from newcomer Smith Canteen, in Carroll Gardens.Born from the same culinary minds that created the refined southern delight Seersucker, the foodie folks at Smith Canteen offer up Berkshire ham, organic eggs and NY Cheddar on an everything croissant. The ham is thick, salty and delicious, the cheddar is flavorful and gooey, the eggs are fluffy… but what really puts this over the top is the everything croissant. Buttery, flakey, and with the savory crunch of your favorite everything toppings. The croissant is pure genius. I’d be hard pressed to think of something that would not be improved by sticking it in this croissant. Is this the best breakfast sandwich in the city? I’ll give it 4 out of 5 eggs.
Got a kid? Got a bike? Do you both a favor and order the Wee Ride kid’s seat right now. What a great invention! Greg found this thing somewhere, I don’t know how, and after insistent harangues I finally ordered one up– and it was the best thing I did this summer. The great thing is the way the seat is positioned right over your crossbar: you not only have your arms around the kid in a quasi-defensive posture (which is reassuring to you both) but you also have the opportunity to chat while you ride along. When they’re in one of those seats behind you, how do you carry on a conversation? No fun. The Wee Ride set-up makes it a much more collaborative experience. Eve loves it!
You may recall my deep affection for the enormous Gnomethat has called the end of our street home the past couple of months. I’ll cut to the chase: we are now, suddenly and inexplicably, Gnomeless.
I plan on finding out where the Gnome went. Three story high garden Gnomes simply do not disappear. Foul play?
Whether it’s Father’s Day or not, I love an outing with my favorite kid at F. Monteleone’s Bakery, on Court Street in Carroll Gardens. This place is the real deal, and they are not fooling around. Cannolis dipped in chocolate, thick cheesecakes, rich Napoleons, pretty glossy fruit tarts, and a brilliant assortment of fragrant and buttery Italian cookies. But that isn’t what my 22 month old is after. She craves their creamy and amazing gelato, and so do I.
The flavor choices span the rainbow – but Eve doesn’t feel the need to stray. She loves the strawberry, which is so fresh you can taste strawberry seeds in it. I’m partial to the pistachio which is sweet and nutty. They have a nice bench out front, so you can park it with your treats and watch the people walking by. It’s a relaxing way to enjoy the old neighborhood with some of the best Italian sweets west of the Mediterranean. As my own dad would say, “What’s not to like?”