Recently, on two separate days, I decided to try a fairly new place in the city (new to me anyway) and one of my standbys in Lower Manhattan. I first went to a Jamaican/Carribean street cart called Veronica's on Front Street near Wall Street. It's on the same block as the Jianetto's Pizza truck I posted here back in May. I had heard about Veronica's from some friends and on Chowhound. It's about a 5 minute walk from where I live, so I figured it was high time I checked it out for myself. The catch is that they close up when they run out of food and I've made the mistake of arriving late (around 1-1:30 pm) and having them tell me to come back tomorrow.
My vantage point from the back of the line. Many corporate types line up here for their fix every day.
No fanyc menu here, just a dry erase board. Lots of regional favorites for homesick Carribeans: jerk chicken, stew chicken, curry chicken, oxtail, goat, kingfish, rice and peas, plantains and callaloo (a spinach-like green). For beverages, included were seamoss, sorrel (both I think are some sort of leafy green), ginger beer and Solo (a carbonated soft drink). Not sure what Bake N' Codfish is though.
The listing of sides.
Lots to choose from and decnet prices too.
More plate options.
I took this pic just to get the phone number.
This guy was really cool. He spoke with barely a whisper of a voice and he was in charge of taking the money. We had a nice converstaion about Central NY.
My to go box.
Lunch-I decided to load up so I could try a bit of everything. I ordered the jerk chicken ($7.00) that came with two sides (I think that is right, but not entirely sure). I opted for mac & cheese and callaloo (never even heard of it before, so something new sounded pretty good to me). I also got some rice and peas and friend sweet plantains. I picked up a ginger beer and was debating between a slice of chocolate cake or the pineapple cake. My inner child, who loves chocolate, spoke loud and clear!
The chicken was moist and juicy and had good jerk flavor, especially on the skin. I have to say though, I'm a white meat person, so I would have preferred more white to dark. The heat was of the creeping variety and lingered a bit, which I loved. The callaloo was really good and had a nice spinachy, leafy flavor to it. I know that doesn't describe it well, but I it was a nice balance to the meat. It was not so much of the leafy texture, but more finely chopped. The plantains were soft and sweet, just as I like them, but the rice and peas were a bit undercooked for my taste. A bit more bite than I care for, but the flavor was alright. The mac and cheese was a big disappointment for me. I love it so and have tried countless variations in my 37 years (homemade, store bought, restaurant, Kraft (and I still have emotional scars from it!). Veronica's looked the part with a beautiful browned cheese crust and the texture was just past al dente, but the flavor was really flat. Lots of cheese in it, but you wouldn't know it by tasting it.
My slice of cake. This looked better than it tasted. I'm betting that the frosting was straight from the can and the cake was moist enough, but nothing to write home about.
Ginger beer. Interesting, very interesting. This is non-alcoholic and made, I think, with ginger, lemon, sugar and water. Always on the lookout for some new beverage to try, this was powerful stuff! An very bold ginger presence. A little too strong and spicy for me. Perhaps an acquired taste.
Sophie's is a place (or rather, places)downtown that I have been frequenting for the past year. Now I'm sure there are more Roadfoody places with far cheaper food uptown, but like most New Yorkers, I don't travel that often out of my comfort zone and I really, really love Sophie's pernil (roast pork)!
The menu is in spanish and english and almost everyone who works there is Spanish speaking.
My pernil meal ($9.00) of slow roasted pork, rice, black beans (2 sides included). I added on a side of maduros (sweet fried plantains). They ask if you want onions (with tomato and cilantro) on top of the pork and YES is always my reply. These are not raw, but some sort of picked onions that just make perfect sense with this rich, salty, meat. This is how the "to go" meal is presented, although I staged the maduros for their photo op!
Oh, I do so wish I could eat this pork every single day of my life! Porky, moist, salty, tender shreds (although no cracklin skin-though I've never asked for it-hmmm?) and paired with the onions is perfection. The vinegary onions cut through the richness of the meat. I usually don't like cilantro, but it doesn't have it's usual boldness in this for some reason. The black beans are always creamy and the rice is cooked just right, nice and soft and the liquid from the beans seeps into it, which I love. The sweet maduros provide another contrast for the palateand a forkful of those with the pernil is just wonderful!
I can't always finish this meal as it is substantial enough to make two meals for me on most days. Today was good and I ate every last bite. They do close around 7 pm and they only take cash. There are other things that look tempting, but every time I walk in there, I'm like a culinary sailor being lured on to the rocks by that siren known as pernil!
I just had to include this shot from my friend Marisa's birthday party last month. She and her boyfriend Doug are the ones who took me out in Queens for my birthday. These are more of the wonderful PB & J cupcakes and I was lookin' like the fox in the henhouse when she brought these out! I wasn't up to the task of baking cupcakes on this day, so I made her some chocolate mint chip cookies using Andes Candies baking chips instead of chocolate chips. They seemed to be a hit.
Just want to leave this report with a quote I read while on the subway a couple of weeks ago. From E.B. White's "Here is New York", his love letter to the city: There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter--the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last--the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. I hope to explore much more of the city and the surrounding areas in the months to come. It's just waiting for me!