Mac and cheese, escargot soup, lobster salad, BBQ ribs, tacos, granola, chicken hot dogs or a cookie ice cream sandwich – what ever you were in the mood for Tuesday night, you could have found at The Green Building in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, and you could have smelled it from the subway station on Smith Street.
Three hundred people wandered through the rows of tables displaying dishes that have come to give Brooklyn its fame as a food haven. Tuesday was the third annual Tasting Brooklyn event hosted by Brooklyn Exposed, a website that calls itself the guide to everything Brooklyn, created by Sharon Beason in 2010. More than 30 Brooklyn businesses participated this year with the hope of bringing more business to their establishment, but also to honor what Brooklyn has come to be known for – food.
Joshua Grinker, who opened Stone Park Café in Park Slope in 2004 with his childhood friend and business partner Josh Foster, grew up in Brooklyn and says he has seen the change of the food scene throughout the borough the past 10 years and feels like his restaurant has been a part of that change.
“Brooklyn used to be a borough without a soul, but now we are not that anymore because of all the restaurants that are opening,” he said while manning his restaurant’s table and passing out samples of escargot soup. “People move to New York for finance or culture, and when you talk about culture you talk about museums, movies, theater and food – food is culture,” he said.
Grinker and many of the chefs at Tuesday’s event explain the difference between the Manhattan and Brooklyn culinary scenes as the lack of constraints for restaurants in Brooklyn – the owners are also often the chefs and can hone their craft by experimenting and being more creative to make specialty menu items. “We are not answering to a buttoned up clientele,” he said.
Chiffon Edwards, 46, who has lived her whole life in Brooklyn was anything but buttoned up on Tuesday in her leather jacket and striped dress. Her favorite item at the tasting was a concoction called the “Hot Mess.” Served by chef Tim Coughlan, 31, of Fort Reno, a new barbecue and cocktail restaurant in Park Slope, the dish includes seven layers: mac and cheese, baked beans, corn bread, pulled pork with a vinegar and BBQ sauce, coleslaw and spicy pickled vegetables.
“There was not one thing I didn’t like, but I especially liked the Hot Mess,” said Edwards. “With so many different races of people in Brooklyn, you can find any type of food you could ever want anywhere you go – it’s great.”
It was for that same reason that Beason, of Brooklyn Exposed, created Tasting Brooklyn two years ago – to celebrate the food scene in the borough.
“I love the Brooklyn culinary scene, so I thought – ‘what better way to celebrate it than to bring everyone together,’” she said.
And as the event caught on, Beason had to find a bigger space, so this year she moved the location from the Dumbo Loft to a larger venue, the Green Building in Carroll Gardens. To participate in the event, restaurants had to have been reviewed on the Brooklyn Exposed website, or have the nod of approval from the editorial team.
The crowd could not get enough of all the Brooklyn flavors, and Chef Luis Ulloa, 42, from the Elbow Room, could not serve up his Chicken Tinga Mac, a macaroni dish that includes shredded chipotle chicken, Monterey jack cheese, avocado and pickled red onion, fast enough. He opened two locations in Brooklyn in 2012, but this was his first appearance at the tasting event, where he was sandwiched between chicken hotdogs from Allswell and chocolate and whiskey from Cacao Prieto.
As a newcomer to Brooklyn, Ulloa, who is originally from San Francisco, said he is excited to be part of the new, younger, artisanal culinary scene happening in the borough.
“Brooklyn feels a lot more like San Francisco,” he said while passing out mac and cheese. “Manhattan follows a very constrained model, but there is a craft to being a chef -it is artisanal and Brooklyn understands that.”