Red Hook, one last time

The vendors were MOBBED this weekend — their last for 2007 — at the ballfields. I don’t know if the wait in lines 20-deep was behind it, but all the eaters were more social this time too. (Usually the whiteys and I eye each other warily, trying not to acknowledge that yeah, I read about this on Chowhound/Gothamist/Grub Street and I’m not really here for the fútbol, but if I pretend I don’t relate to you other gringos, maybe no one else will notice that I’m one too.) This time, we had all kinds of people (gringos and not gringos) approaching, asking where we got the plantains (the hipsters sharing our table were really excited about this one: “Man, they ran out of those at this stand!” And when I was like “What the hell is this sauce they put on my plantains?” They explained helpfully that that was crema and made it extra good. And you know what, hipsters? You wuz right.) and the tamales. Some guy in line insisted that we HAD to get pupusas from a particular stand (the one where they ran out of platanos), and the ebullient grandmother and her hungry grandchild taught us, respectively, that we wanted the pork-and-cheese, or revuelta pupusa and that that shit is good. We ate our fill. We drank horchata till we could drink no more. And then we went to LeNell’s to pick up some bourbon. Because it ain’t a proper trip to Red Hook otherwise.

Meanwhile, over at Ganda’s crib, an important question is being asked: are your favorite restaurants led by women or men? I’ve thought a great deal lately about how gender plays out when it comes to cooking, and it’s been especially interesting to note that all the scene-iest, most written-up places in town are helmed by men, and yet all my favorites, my go-tos, are run by women (Marlow & Sons, Prune). (Except for Momofuku Ssam. But that’s because he cooks from a special place. A porky place.) Their food may not make great television (witness Top Chef and The Next Iron Chef) because they’re not about gimmickry or flashiness or the latest chemical additive that will turn the purée into a new textural sensation — no, they’re cooking from the gut. They’re cooking FOR the gut. And they satisfy on some deeper level. (I think there’s another interesting question within this one: what is it that makes San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston more hospitable to women chefs than New York and Chicago? Is there some inherent genderedness to the restaurant scenes in these towns? Don’t even get me started on Vegas. Gack.)

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