My trip to the Fairway in Red Hook

I finally made it to the new Fairway in Red Hook last Friday afternoon. Getting there is quite a trick. As the ominous directions on their site say the new store is "at the end at the water's edge." I was hoping I could get there by boat, but I found out the water taxi only runs on the weekends, though they have just announced a special $5 fare for Fairway shoppers.

A sign just inside the door explained that first-time visitors to their "big, dumb" store could follow the yellow arrows on the floor of the store to be sure not to miss anything. Grocery store dork that I am, I followed the yellow arrows all through the store.

The first part of Fairway, built in a former coffee warehouse, is not laid out in a standard aisle format. It winds around, from produce, through the prepared foods, the deli, meat and seafood departments and then the organic and specialty departments, with a layout similar to Stew Leonards, but much less corny. All of the meats, vegetables and produce seemed to be very high quality.

Continuing to wheel my big green car along the yellow arrow marked trip, I stopped to play with this Willy Wonka style organic peanut butter machine, in the middle of their organic store within-the-store. I wanted to buy some peanut butter just for the chance to play with the machine, but I quickly reminded myself that I still had plenty of organic peanut butter left from the huge shopping I did on my first visit to our new Trader Joe's. The organic section seemed to have many of the same bulk and specialty items I bought at the Park Slope Food Co Op. It even smelled like the food co op. This could be a good source for Brooklynites looking for organic and natural items, without so much drama.

I am a big Ina Garten fan and was interested to check out her her new line of products for the first time. A few of the Barefoot Contessa's pretty striped packages tip-toed into my cart, but the good old-fashioned price tags on the top of the boxes kept reminding me that these items were very overpriced: $8.99 for coconut cupcake mix and $11.99 for coffee cake mix, forget it.

Fairway also has a good selection of groceries from England, including Lucozade, a sort of more aggressively flavored carbonated Gatorade, which R* introduced me to on our last trip to the UK.

There were spirited signs hanging through the store. One sign convinced me to buy imported artichoke and garlic cream, which, according to the sign, could be slathered on chicken or served on bread. The information on a few of the signs was so helpful that I wished they had copies of them to hand out. These signs read like they were written by people who really cared about food and about Fairway shoppers. Too bad I can't say the same for many of the employee's who were working the floor the afternoon I was there.

I asked for help finding the preserved lemons. The first person I asked through I was looking for lemon preserves and took me to the jelly aisle, then he asked a co-worker for help and then a manager. After about 5 minutes of awkward waiting in the olive oil aisle, it turned out that they were all sold out of preserved lemons. I realize that preserved lemons are an obscure item. I've never bought them before and I know they are not in stock at most grocery stores in the city, even Fresh Direct.

The only reason I was looking for preserved lemons was because they are featured on Fairway's blog as one of the "ten things I must have on hand at all times" so I figured I would give them a try. The manager cursed when he got the word that the lemons were out. The Fairway blog is excellent and I hope they keep updating it.

The last part of the store on the yellow arrow tour is the more traditional part, with the standard aisles of paper goods, canned vegetables, snacks, milk and yogurt, etc. Next to the bakery aisle, there's a cafe with sandwiches and cakes and cookies. I had a decent apricot tart and an excellent iced tea.

Rather than buying food from the cafe, I suggest picking out a snack from the prepared food section which has more selection. The woman working at the cafe said you can buy anything in the store -- except beer -- and eat it on the outside deck.

While relaxing and soaking in the sun on the cafe patio, which doubles as a dock for the water taxi, I saw the Queen Mary 2 pulling out of its dock. You can see the Statue of Liberty just behind the boat in the picture above.

I left at about 5:30 p.m., just as the store was getting a bit more crowded. I asked the check out workers about crowding. They said the weeknights were pretty empty, but the weekends were "crazy."

The Fairway is by far the best grocery store in Brooklyn. I will be very interested to see how business at the store plays out. Will such a large store so far from public transportation be able to survive? With Ikea on the way, maybe Red Hook will grow up around the store.

Gowanus Lounge: Red Hook Transportation Problems
Brownstoner: Park Slope types whining about bike parking at Fairway
B61 Productions: What's up in Red Hook


Cooking fish in the dishwasher with Bob Blumer

I was late for work today because the dishwasher repair guy showed up early. While trying to remain calm about a broken part on my beautiful if busted less-than-a-year-old Bosh dishwasher, I realized that this week is the 10 year anniversary of the start of the summer I spent interning at Salon Magazine in San Francisco. Back when I worked at Salon, it was called Salon1999.com. Having 1999 in the URL made the site feel futuristic at the same and there was some hairdresser in Texas who wouldn't sell them the Salon.com URL. Somewhere along the line they must have acquired the Salon.com link and ten years and four jobs later, I still work in Internet marketing.

The reason I bring this up on my food blog is that Bob Blumer wrote a weekly column for Salon called the Surreal Gourmet. Each we he had a new recipe, original drawing and copy about why he came up with the recipe and what he associated with it. Best of all, each recipe came with a secret tip, an adventurous way to expand the recipe and some (pre-iTunes) music to cook by.

I'm so thankful that Salon still has all of Bob Blumer's artwork and recipes still archived here. In some ways, what Bob started on Salon was a precursor to the food blogs of today.

I saw on his website that Bob has or had a show on the Food Network. I'll try to catch that. Has anyone else seen it? If you have, please post a comment below.

In the mean time, I'll be digging through his archive. The place where I lived in San Francisco had a disgusting kitchen and a big dog who lived there, so I never tried one of Bob's recipes, but I always loved the pictures. Now I'll have to try them out.

Here's a few highlights you shouldn't miss:
Spontaneous summer salad and an awesome centerpiece idea

Tips for grilling

Hummus to celebrate Ellen's Coming Out (totally 90s fun!)


Diet Coke and Mentos

Am I the only one who has completely missed out on this craze? Why am I always the last to hear?

This isn't the kind of recipe I usually talk about on this site, but I can't resist. Apparently, when you mix four or five Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke, you can create a geyser that shoots several feet into the air. Cool!

Now I've microwaved a Peep or two in my day, but this is even cooler. If I had a backyard, I'd be out there tonight trying this.


Murray Hill Steak Out

One of the hardest parts of starting a new job is finding new lunch places. Places that have a fair price, pretty short lines, interesting food that break up the day a ltitle. I headed out today determined to find something great. A co-worker suggested that -- if I wasn't up for the cheap sushi place -- I walk down Third Avenue and check out all the places.

There were a bunch of pubs packed with people watching the World Cup (cmon England!) and a Patsy's Pizza. I almost went for the pizza, but I wasn't up for $12 for a small pie.

Then I found a tiny place with a window full of solid reviews and a delicious smell: Carl's Steaks.
I was sort of hunting for a make-your-own salad place, a standard part of work week lunches in my last job and I wasn't even too excited for a cheesteak after spending a good part of the weekend grilling hamburgers for a church picnic, but I decided to go for it.

I got a cheesesteak with provelone cheese and onions with a fountain Coke. This is the perfect sandwhich, the hoagie rolls was the right mix of moist with a crunchy crust, the onions were nicely gilled and the meat had lots of flavor. The cheese was nicely melted on top. Best of all there wasn't a lot of extra crap in the sandwhich. They don't need to hide the meat becasue it's so good. I also had forgotten how good a fountain Coke is, lots of ice served in a waxy paper cup. I think fountain soda tastes much better.

Weirdly Carl's long, narrow restaurant kind of feels like a barber shop. The all-male clientle was watching Wold Cup on two loud TVs. I didn't mind since I'm curious about soccer/football after my trip to the UK, plus the sandwhich took my whole attention.

After coming back the office, I did a quick Google to see what other people are saying about the place. They said that the biggest problem is that you get back to the office smelling like a cheesesteak. I didn't even notice, that's how good my cheesesteak is.

When I tell people I grew up in Pennsylvania, they sometimes ask me what my favorite Philly cheesestake place is. For now, I can say it's in Murray Hill.


Cream tea in Chaddesley Corbett

While we were on vacation in the UK, R*'s mum made sure stopped for cream tea at the Chaddesley Corbett Post Office.

R* and his mum ordered hot chocolate and a scone. I was indecisive about the menu. I wanted to order the full cream tea, but didn't want to seems like too much of a pig. I already had a pasty while souvenir shopping in Kidderminster a few hours earlier.

Since I never had a real English cream tea, R* and his mum encouraged me to order one, so I went for it.

After a few minutes spent gazing out the tea room's beautiful picture window (you can see the big window in the far right of the picture below), the waitress came back to say that they were almost out of plain scones. She explained that the scones were homemade every day by a local woman. The order for the new day hadn't yet arrived.

She offered cheese scones as an alternative. Those also sounded good to me, but R* and his mum said that they would rather share the one order of plain scones.

We waited a few more minutes. There were some souvenir note cards with watercolor paintings of the black and white cottages of Chaddesley Corbett and some Chaddesley Corbett tea towels. R*'s mum explained that it's a tradition for some people to give tea towels from the villages they visit.

Then a man with two over-stuffed plastic shopping bags came into the room. He told us he had the new scones and asked if we wanted to go back to our original order of scones for three. Yes, we quickly said.

After a few more minutes, our food came out. The hot chocolates came first, in tall china mugs. Then my tea pot and the scones, served with clotted cream and raspberry jam. They came in a crescent-shaped dish, to hug my saucer.

I dug right in. I was trying to be tea room proper, but I couldn't help myself. I broke open my first scone and it was still warm in the middle. I started smoothing the rich clotted cream on to the scone and then the raspberry jam.

Then my British hosts politely stopped me . . . know why?