If the borough of Brooklyn has a signature dessert, it may be red velvet cake.
At least four bakeries served up variants of the popular sweet to attendees at the 12th annual Brooklyn Eats, a culinary showcase designed by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to whet the appetites of food-lovers from the borough and beyond.
There was the traditional rich but airy red velvet layer cake, plus red velvet cupcakes from Cake Man Raven, plus delicate and unctuously smooth red velvet cheesecake from The Sweet Tooth, more red velvet cupcakes from Abu’s Homestyle Bakery, and barely-a-mouthful red velvet whoopie pies from Trois Pommes Patisserie.
Desserts, of course, were the proverbial icing on the cake at the event, which required practiced palates to work overtime, nibbling just a little bit more, despite the overwhelming sense that, surrounded by scrumptious food, it was impossible to eat even a morsel more.
Thus, wandering around the two exhibit floors at Stage 6 at Steiner Studios, in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, this reporter circled the tables, swooping in for a taste, then did another circuit, just to make room -- a sort of headfirst dive into a horn of plenty. Maybe a walk home from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to Flatbush was in order?
Or, maybe another walk through the dens of temptation was what was needed.
Balancing a tiny plate stacked with ginger coconut marinated shrimp on mirin nori sticky rice, from Abigail Kirsch at Stage 6, while scribbling notes in a standard reporter’s notebook is the sort of challenge I feed on, after all, though I did eschew the chopsticks -- given the circumstances, way easier to savor the delicate blend of flavors and textures with a fork.
Easy to eat standing up or not, among my favorites were some of the spiciest offerings at the event. The Chicken Tikka Masala from Baluchi’s Indian Food was deep and flavorful, making me yearn for seconds, though a quick glance at the offerings from other eateries quickly made me reconsider.
The Cider-Glazed Baby Back Ribs, accompanied by two varieties of homemade pickles, from Buttermilk Channel was sweet at first bite, then teasingly hot, a culinary two-step whose richness was subtly cut by the bright sourness of the pickles.
The paella from Pilar Cuban Eatery balanced backnotes of smoked paprika with the ineffable savor of saffron -- a transformative combination that works wonders on rice’s starchy simplicity.
Some of the longest lines noted were at tables offering classic comfort food -- such as the mac and cheese, collard greens and BBQ chicken from Soul Sister Quisine, or the Southwest Barbecue Turkey Meatloaf Slider with Rose Corn-Black Bean Salsa and Cumin-Coriander Ketchup from Waterfront Ale House.
The tables serving up beer, wine and mixed drinks -- many more than in previous incarnations of Brooklyn Eats -- appeared to be attracting numerous sippers savoring the offerings of such homegrown businesses as Brooklyn Brewery and Shmaltz Brewing Company (known for its HE’BREW Jewbelation Bar Mitzvah beer), and the sexy creations of the borough’s master mixologists such as Super Hero cocktails from Bushwick’s Gotham City Lounge and the Biloxi Bloody Mary and Velvet Sidecar from Park Slope’s Magnolia Restaurant and Bar.
While there appeared to be fewer tables offering up culinary treats than the previous year (the economy, after all, has been in turmoil), there was more than enough to sample, and the event was proclaimed a success by Chamber of Commerce President Carl Hum.
“It’s a success as long as the exhibitors get to show their wares, which they did in style and finesse,” he remarked. “The proof is going to be in the pudding, when people come back to these restaurants.” And that, Hum added, was a likely bet, “given the fact that we have a lot of repeat exhibitors.”
Clearly, if you feed them, they will come. Or, as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz put it, Brooklyn is “One of the top culinary centers in these United States. Chefs are creating dishes here today that set the standards through America -- the very finest food, with no attitude on the side.”