Well, Clif and I made it “there and back again,” as Bilbo Baggins might say. We love visiting with our daughter, and New York is an exciting city, but it’s oh so tiring for the two country mice from Maine. The drive in and out of Brooklyn is the biggest challenge. The route itself isn’t too bad—it’s fairly straightforward, and our daughter doesn’t live far from the highway—but the traffic is, well, a bit frantic. This makes little things like lane changing and keeping track of where to turn a huge challenge. And a stressful one. But although we had some near misses, we came back with no new dents in the car and only a few more gray hairs.
The big event on this trip was the Brooklyn Flea Market, or the Flea, as it’s known in the city. Although it’s not too far from the Brooklyn Academy of Music, where we’ve been several times, it took us a while to find the Flea, but find it we did. It’s quite the event—150 vendors in an empty lot—and it attracts a big crowd.
As to be expected with a flea market, there was a fair amount of what we Mainers would call “junk,” stuff like that wonderful speckled vase Aunt May gave you for Christmas thirty years ago. It was ugly then, and it is ugly now. But maybe just maybe someone will decide a speckled vase is exactly the thing they want for that retro look. You never know. And no doubt along with that speckled vase there were other more attractive items. However, as our own house has enough gewgaws to clutter the shelves, nooks, and crannies of several homes, we prudently stayed away from most of the actual flea market fare.
There were a fair number of crafts people at the Flea, and they sold jewelry—some of it very, very tempting—T-shirts, and art. There was a vendor selling some old book illustrations, and my favorite was of humpback whales with the wonderful caption “Humpback Whales Disporting.” That one almost came home with me.
But, of course, I was mostly interested in the food. I had, not necessarily in this order, a madeleine (Why ever did Proust make such a fuss over them?); a cannoli, tasty but not as good as the ones in the shop by Dee’s apartment; a sample of some of McClure’s garlic pickles (I bought a jar to bring to our friends Bob and Kate); a bite of Dee’s chocolate scone (too dry), and a nibble of Clif’s “Asia dog” hot dog, a wiener topped with Asian spices (one nibble was definitely enough). For me, the winner of the day was an unexpected candidate, one that I hadn’t really considered when I perused the vendors’ list. It was a fish taco from Choncho’s Tacos.
Fish tacos are not common in central Maine, and to this Mainer, who loves fish, they just weren’t that appealing. But as I sat resting on the stone bleachers directly behind Choncho’s Tacos, it seemed to me that it might be worth reconsidering my stance. I watched as fresh fish was dipped in batter and fried to puffy goodness in very small batches. Once out of the hot oil, those golden fish nuggets were placed in a small, soft corn tortilla shell, drizzled with a mayo and yogurt dressing, and then sprinkled with cilantro and shredded red cabbage. It wasn’t long before Clif was sent to wait in the fish taco line. While I limited myself to one, I could have easily eaten two of them, and I will never be indifferent to fish tacos again.
By the time we left the Flea, it was midafternoon, and after spending more time wandering around a very crowded Union Square, we had Thai food for dinner (good, but not great) before heading to a movie at Angelika Film Center. (The movie was Collapse, a documentary about a journalist named Michael Ruppert, who seemed slightly unhinged but nevertheless had it mostly right about peak oil, energy use, and overpopulation.)
On Sunday, after a bagel breakfast (there’s a shop right around the corner from Dee), we reluctantly said our goodbyes, and headed back to Maine, holding our breaths as we drove on I-278 out of Brooklyn, taking care not to inadvertently zip through the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel into lower Manhattan or make any number of wrong turns that would take us from our I-278 lifeline. At times it was a squeaker, but we made it, and there is no lovelier sign to a Mainer than one that reads “I-95 North.”
We arrived at Bob and Kate’s house at midafternoon, where we had salad, spiced pork sandwiches, and a rich, dense chocolate cake that just might be the chocolate cake that dessert lovers around the world dream about but so seldom get. Was it the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had? Without further testing, it would be hard to say, but it’s certainly in the running.
From Maine to New York to fish tacos to New Hampshire to sheer chocolate delight. All in all, quite a trip.