BY DENISE ROMANO AND HEATHER J. CHIN
Hundreds of people gathered at Pioneer Works on Tuesday, October 22 for the seventh annual Taste of Red Hook, a fundraiser featuring the best restaurants and purveyors from the community, benefitting the Red Hook Initiative (RHI).
This year was a real testament to the strength of the neighborhood and its residents, as the event took place one year to the day of last year’s gala—which was held one week before Superstorm Sandy struck, flooding and damaging most of the homes and businesses of everyone participating.
Again, all 45 participating restaurants donated the food and drink being featured, and the smiles on their faces showed no hint of the hardships undergone over the past year. Ticket sale proceeds go towards funding educational, employment, and other community programming with RHI.
“Almost every single business here was severely damaged and many were unsure they would reopen,” said RHI Executive Director Jill Eisenhard. “Our sincere thanks go to those here tonight who all donated despite still struggling to get back on their feet. Let’s show our thanks by coming back to Red Hook [and supporting their businesses].”
Attendees ate their way through the space on Pioneer Street, with soft lights hanging above, live music and of course, the fabulous food.
Dominic Palastro and Oliver Jevremov were giving out samples of their Kings Coffee, located at 37 Carroll Street. The pair learned the art of slow roasting coffee beans Italian-style by a man known as “Mr. Joe” in Bensonhurst.
“My family is from Red Hook and from Bensonhurst. This feels like home,” Palastro said.
We tried the Bourbon and Cold Drip Coffee, which tasted almost like chocolate. Made with Widow Jane bourbon, which is filtered with limestone, the coffee takes 12 hours to cold drip. The taste is unbelievably rich and smooth. Their Hibiscus Tea is also an inspired drink, with a lighter, crisply sweet taste that is perfect for summer.
Mile End Deli, located at 97A Hoyt Street, served two of their popular sandwich pairings: Chicken Salad on Pumpernickel and Smoked Meat on Rye. The smoked meat tasted like silky pastrami and was a classic combo with some spicy yellow mustard on the soft rye. The chicken salad was simultaneously refreshing and earthy, with chunks of tender meat balanced perfectly with celery in every bite.
Travis Post, a representative of Hometown Bar-B-Que, which recently opened after a months-long delay to repair its Van Brunt Street space, said that he was glad to be “back in affect” after being shut down for months, thanks to Sandy. Owner Billy Durney was serving Smoked Jalapeno Cheddar Sausages with whiskey sour pickles made from Brooklyn Brine. It was warm, smoky deliciousness. Their fire pit also provided warmth to diners, as well as a cozy feel. Hometown Bar-B-Que is located at 454 Van Brunt Street.
Erling Berner, owner of Brooklyn Southern, located at 126 Union Street, was serving up a Mufaletta sandwich, featuring delicious Italian meats, including sopressata, mortadella, salami, capricolla and prosciutto. What can we say? It was delicioso!
Brooklyn Crab, located at 24 Reed Street, was offering raw oysters in a half shell and New England clam chowder. The oysters were grabbed as quickly as they could be shucked and the chowder was so thick and tasty, made with celery, potato, cream, tender clams and seasoned with pork fat, that we will definitely go back to the restaurant for a full bowl.
Thick, hearty soups were popular this night, with the Red Hook Lobster Pound, located at 284 Van Brunt Street, offering a smooth and savory Lobster Bisque that featured strong notes of sherry. The lobster was so fine, that one could easily drink it as a broth. We could have sipped a whole gallon.
Similarly, the Jersalem Artichoke Soup from The Good Fork was a creative juxtaposition of textures, with the creamy artichoke pairing well with the crunch of homemade pickled vegetables. Nightingale 9’s rice congee with braised chicken, green onions and a sprinkling of peanuts was a warm, comforting bowl of deliciousness that hits all the right nostalgic notes while adding contemporary flavors.
Jordan Burch, executive director and co-founder of Red Hook Volunteers, was polishing off a seafood taco from La Slowteria as he noted that it was “great to see the local businesses still going.
“I am happy to see everyone come with smiling faces; to come back a year later and break bread,” he said.