New York was such an epic part of our trip that it would take me a million years to detail what we got up to over there and since this is essentially a blog about food I figured I would just include the most important part of our trip – the food. I have taken it upon myself to just write solely about the most memorable food spots that we visited starting with Smorgasburg in Brooklyn…
Smorgasburg: I had been following the mouth watering Instagram page of this outdoor food market for quite some time now. Suffice to say that Cairns is severely lacking in the outdoor food market department so anytime I see or hear about a food truck or food market I make a beeline straight for it. At the time of writing Smorgasburg is held outdoors every Saturday in Williamsburg and every Sunday at Brooklyn Bridge Park Pier 5. I had planned for us to do the Brooklyn Bridge walk on our one and only Sunday in New York and then onward to Smorgasburg at Pier 5 on the waterfront to fill our bellies.
The walk across the bridge only took us about 20 minutes and it gives you fantastic views of the city. Only problem is that it’s quite a popular pastime for tourists and New Yorkers alike so you can expect to spend the walk with literally hundreds of people which can get a little annoying because everyone is constantly stopping to get photos. Be careful of the bike riders going past because they aren’t going slow and some of them definitely aren’t friendly. Never mind that Brooklyn Bridge was the first steel-wire suspension bridge constructed, all MS cared about was that Jay Z had taken a photo on it and we spent a significant portion of our trip across attempting to recreate said photo.
On the otherside in Brooklyn we found ourselves walking amongst beautiful old buildings and warehouses on our way to Smorgasburg. Brooklyn is clearly the more family friendly and affordable part of New York judging by the amount of young couples and families we saw going about their business and if you’re a Sex and The City fan then you would know that Miranda was horrified when she realised she had to move to Brooklyn to raise her family. Seemed like a pretty nice place to me!
Back to the food – Smorgasburg kicks off every Sunday at 11am and we arrived there at about 11.45am. By that time a reasonable sized crowd had gathered so we lined up at the first stall that was selling Bao’s. A bao is kind of like a Chinese style pork bun if you haven’t had one before – you know those heavenly sweet buns filled with delicious pork and MSG? We ordered two share for US$9 – a Red Coconut Curry Chicken Bao with Peanuts, Cilantro, Fried Garlic and Shallots and a Braised Pork Belly Bao with Cucumber, Scallions, Hoisin Sauce and Jalapeno’s. Neither of them particularly floated my boat and they didn’t seem to be very fresh. The accolade for Best Bao still goes to the wondrous hidden gem Wonderbao in Melbourne IMO (if you’re in Melbourne it’s an absolute must!)Next up MS was chomping at the bit to get his chompers on his own bit of meat from popular stall Carnal. He had seen other big manly men wandering the markets with big bits of meat on the bone and needed one of his own so we joined the line for a Beef Short Rib with Bone Marrow, Ramps and Black Pepper for US$13. Carnal was easily one of the most popular stalls out of the more than 100 at Smorgasburg that day so the wait was a little longer than anywhere else but by the end we were met with a freshly grilled and extremely juicy beef rib that MS sprinkled with a mixture of fried garlic and chicken skin. Yep you heard it here. That salty/fatty goodness. Onward we wandered to the next stall – another one that I already had pegged from Instagram the Ramen Co. Stall for a Ramen Burger while MS stood off to the side in a state of bliss as he navigated his enormous piece of juicy meat on the bone. While waiting in line at the ramen burger place I chatted to a friendly Chinese guy who was originally from San Francisco but had moved to New York to start a job in IT. I told him that we were going to SF so he gave me a few tips on where to go to get good food over there – namely egg tarts. The Ramen Burger was essentially a bit of meat between two ‘burger’ patties that were made out of fried ramen noodles and Kewpie mayonnaise. It does sound kind of amazing but it was just so fatty that all I could taste was oil. It failed miserably against my very high expectations. Whilst waiting for my ramen burger MS had gnawed the last remaining piece of meat of his rib and already cased the next stall he wanted to try – the Scotch Eggs stall so aptly named The Imperial Egg. Much to the delight of my London friend SS who is a connoisseur of Scotch Eggs (or so she says) this was to be my first ever Scotch Egg. Since it was MS’ baby he chose the Lamb Merguez Scotch Egg which was so expertly cooked that when they cut it open the golden yolk was still oozing and just perfect! They must have a technique after cooking hundreds if not thousands of scotch eggs and I can safely say they have it down pat. I will go as far to declare the Scotch Egg the best thing we ate at Smorgasburg that day. After that we were pretty much stuffed and knowing full well that I still had plans for us to go to a famous Brooklyn pizza joint for ‘afternoon tea’ we called it there – ok after we ate some Red Velvet Cupcakes.
So many food stalls, so little time but there were so many more that I wanted to try like the lobster rolls, the ice cream sandwich and all the other flavours of Scotch Eggs. One stall that I did find particularly interesting was the Von Kava stall with a three course tasting menu that they call ‘Flash Fine Dining’ for only $15. Pretty cool idea if you ask me! Would I recommend the Smorgasburg food market? Hell yeah! Just make sure you get there early because by the time we were leaving at about 1pm the place was absolutely packed with people and lines were enormous with some places selling out of food. Places that we missed out on in Brooklyn because we just didn’t have enough time (or room in our stomachs were):
Brennan and Carr – another Man Vs Food gem famous for it’s French dipped Roast Beef Sandwiches (pretty much a sandwich dipped in gravy). Sounds kinda foul but apparently it’s amazing.
Roberta’s – a pizza joint that has been named as one of America’s top 15 pizzeria’s.
Brisket Town – A bbq joint that well, the name speaks for itself really.
Till next time x
If you’re a true Cairns local then it’s more than likely that you’ve heard of the Wings of Death challenge at the Green Ant Cantina on Bunda Street. For those of you that haven’t well it goes a little like this… The Wings of Death are chicken wings that are coated in secret hot sauces made from ‘some of the hottest chillies known to man’ – the habanero and the ghost chilli. To win the challenge one must eat seven of these wings without any liquids to ease the burn and the plate must be completely sauce free at the end. If you achieve all that then you get a bumper sticker and your name on the ‘Wall of Flame’, because how cool are bumper stickers? Pretty sweet deal huh? Did I do it? Well, not exactly…
As someone that has watched the entire series of Man Vs Food and heard various tales of people that have attempted the Wings of Death I’d be lying if I didn’t say curiosity had gotten the better of me over time. Thinking that I am pretty bulletproof admittedly I have always wondered what it was like to do one of these so called ‘challenges’ last Friday night whilst there with my family for a friend’s birthday dinner MS suggested we give it a go.
Ok, ok initially the suggestion was made for the Birthday Boy to do the entire Wings of Death challenge but he pretty much straight up refused it. Soon after dad’s curiosity as to how hot these wings really were also got the better of him. He lay down the challenge to myself and the Birthday Boy saying that we couldn’t/wouldn’t eat one and so we decided that the only way to find out was to order a plate of the Wings of Death and share them.
This wouldn’t be the first time my dad has egged me on and no doubt it won’t be the last. Ever since I was a kid everything between me and him has been a competition (a friendly one of course) – from who could run the fastest to who could eat dinner the fastest, hence the reason that now as an adult I don’t chew my food, I inhale it. And who could forget our much contested appearance on the live audience version of Fear Factor at Universal Studios back in 2005 where we both drank a concoction of blended up sour milk, fish guts, duck tongues, live maggots and live crickets. I beat dad by drinking two cups of the horrendous tasting gunk to move onto the next round in my unquestionable gut churning domination of the event. Dad still to this day cannot let it go and swears that he drank it faster than I did unbeknown to the entire studio audience that was watching. Needless to say The Mummy rollercoaster ride later on that day was a memorable experience for all the wrong reasons.
So now you understand how competitive things can get between us I shall go back to my original story. To cut an already long story short the death wings arrived at the table and out of the 9 people there only 3 of us ate a Wing of Death – myself, my dad and the Birthday Boy. My brother put his finger in the chilli to taste it and cried like a little baby, my Sri Lankan mother who barely consumed a ‘bee’s d*ck’ of the sauce made an awful racket about how badly it burned and then the rest of the table just down right refused to go anywhere near it.
The remaining three of us each consumed a wing whilst waiting for our mains to arrive. It goes without saying that these wings are ridiculously hot but because we weren’t officially doing the challenge (we were just sharing an entree) we could have as much water or in my case blue cheese sauce as we wanted. After the tears and the running noses we all decided that one Wing of Death was indeed enough and the remainder of the wings were pushed to the end of the table never to be thought about again. Or so we thought.
We had dinner, which might I add wasn’t particularly great, and I was about to signal the waitress to bring out the birthday cake. About an hour had passed since we ate ‘one’ Wing of Death each and I began to feel a slight burning in my tummy followed by a strong feeling of being generally ill. I excused myself from the table and went to the ladies toilet which was luckily very close by, all the while using every ounce of my energy not to fall over because I was so dizzy. I sat in there for a good five minutes sweating profusely and wondering if possibly my drink had been spiked. I also seriously considered lying down and curling up on the cold concrete floor at my feet. I heard a bit of a commotion outside the door and realised that I wasn’t in fact the only one that felt this way.
Because I had so quietly excused myself to go to the toilet when my dad started panting heavily and struggling to breathe MS sincerely thought he may be having a heart attack and went into full emergency mode, which luckily is what he is trained for. A few minutes later when I literally dragged myself from the toilet and the rest of the table saw how deathly white and pouring with sweat I was we all realised it was in fact the Wings of Death. The party was over. No cake for me and dad, or anyone for that matter. Mum drove dad home stopping suddenly along the way so he could power spew on the side of the road. My sister, who pleaded with me to go straight to the emergency ward, on my staunch request took me straight home where I lay on the shower floor in foetal position with severe stomach cramps until MS forced me to drink milk and miraculously as quickly as it had come on the pain subsided.
For dad and I it was a bit of a horrific end to what was a nice birthday dinner for the Birthday Boy, who might I add despite a bit of heart burn didn’t succumb to the Homer Simpson-like experience that dad and I did. Dad is still convinced that someone is probably going to die one day doing the actual challenge which is probably why anyone that does do it has to sign a medical waiver before they commence. They’re certainly not called the Wings of Death for nothing but in the end I didn’t spew like dad did so that makes me the clear winner. Again.