06 May 2007

Sunday Lunching at Red Hook Park



I took the B61 to the B77 to Red Hook Park midday Sunday to partake of the super-cheap delicacies at Red Hook Park, as I had read that this was the opening weekend for the park's increasingly celebrated vendors of soccer-field-side treats.

Indeed, they were open for business, just as in years past, before the New York Times discovered them. I had a sort of Calvin Trillin episode (if you've read his food writings, you know what that means) and felt compelled to try just about everything on offer. I started with a a pork huarache (sort of a large open-faced quesadilla) from the stand second over from the left as you enter the field on the corner of Bay and Clinton. I continued with a tamale stuffed with beans, a Salvadoran style pupusa (like a smallish, pudgy quesadilla—I guess everything's a bit like a quesadilla), filled with cheese, with shredded cabbage served with hot sauce on the side.

I thought that would do it, but soon after I went to the tent to the right of the entrance and got two shredded-chicken tacos and a large glass of tamarind-flavored drink. I would've eaten more if I could, but by that time, I couldn't.

The servers couldn't have been nicer. And every thing I mentioned above, taken together, cost about $15. Visiting the field reminded me of how New York City felt when I first moved here 19 years ago. Great meals could be had for $5, folks on meager incomes didn't feel like outcasts, and you knew a great day in the city could be had if you were just willing to go look for it. Perhaps the Red Hook Park vendors have preserved this way of life because they're on the very edge of the city. I know everything's moving up and up in Red Hook, but I hope this corner of the neighborhood remains modest and honest.

7 comments:

Upstate Johnny G said...

Brooks, just wanted to drop a line and let you know how much I love your blog. It's become my guide for interesting things to do when I'm in town. I've just stumbled across a reference in a book to a restaurant that used to be on E81st. It was famous in its day (closed in '78) for the quality of the food served there, and its chef-owner (Pearl Byrd Foster). It was called "Mr. and Mrs. Foster's Place". Although I know it's been gone for years, I'd love to know where it had been. Being keenly interested in cooking and food and often on E81st, I'd like to be able to gaze upon a place that was once a legendary dining establishment. Any ideas?

Brooks of Sheffield said...

Thanks for the kudos, Upstate Johnny. I appreciate it. I really do. As to Mr. and Mrs. Foster's Place, that's a new one on me, but I will look into it and see what I can find out.

Upstate Steve said...

Upstate Johnny, I remember Mr. & Mrs. Foster's place. While I don't remember the street, I do remember the experience. There where "no" walk-ins. You'd call for a reservation, they'd tell you the menu and you'd order your dinner. When you arrived it was much like have a dinner in someones home. While you did not share tables with other guests there was a certain style that made you feel that way, not the least that Mrs Foster would come a sit with you awhile to welcome and entertain. The food was fresh, excellent and expensive and a special time was had by all. I loved it.

oshiyay said...

Hi, Mr & Mrs. Foster's was in the eighties just west of 1st
avenue. It was on the south side of the street. The building/storefront is still there. I walked by it this July and thought about the wonderful dinners I had there. I'm sure it was 81st street. the caviar bilini was wonderful

Thomas said...

Mr. and Mrs. Fosters Place...amazing. Pearl Byrd Foster was my great aunt -- she was one of the worlds renowned chefs during the 50's and 60's and early 70's -- respected worldwide for her "culinary genius" in the genre of "American Cooking".

I remember spending summers helping her in the restaurant, meeting famous people (David Frost, Walter Cronkite, Dick Cavett come to mind immediately) dining there...

I remember shopping with her in the mornings, for hours she would shop and inspect each item of produce...

Mr. and Mrs. Fosters place was a black tie and jacket affair; if you didn't arrive with either she had both for you to wear before you were seated...

She had a successful recipe book called "Classic American Cooking" which is still available online or at Amazon, etc.

I still have her recipe files, hundreds (maybe thousands) of them; notes on collaborations with famous French chefs (she would close the restaurant for 6 weeks every summer and travel to Paris as guest of some of the most renowned French Chefs at the time) -- so many memories.

Thanks for the blog -- it's wonderful to see people who still have the memories.

Upstate Johnny Gee said...

Wow, the web is so freaking cool. Imagine this, I read both "Lost City" in 2007 AND a memoir by former Town and Country magazine food critic James Vilas (circa 1980). Vilas mentions a favorite restaurant in NYC called "Mr. and Mrs. Foster's Place". My interest is piqued. On a whim I post a comment to Brooks' "Lost City" blog and lo and behold...not only do some folks who ate there reply, but a member of Mrs. Foster's family writes a beautiful, very personal, reminiscence. Thank you one and all. Wow. That's it. Wow. I'm blown away by the connections we can make here. Thanks so much.

Upstate Johnny Gee

Bruce said...

In the 1970's I lived on East 78th, a simple walk to see Mrs. Foster ( Mr had died I believe). She and I became fast friends and she'd ofteb call me if there were a no show or cancellation , and I would grab a friend and rush over for a meal.

A delicate, elegant dream of a NY lady who's charm only made the extraordinary food even better. WHAT a place, tiny and simply elegant by her reflection of life.

Thank you for refreshing the cherished memories.

Bruce McC.