Home with a croqueta preparada

I have yet to hear a compelling enough argument to make me want to move back to Miami, (especially when I keep reading headlines about the city facing serious climate-related issues and one day sinking into the ocean) but let me tell you, Cuban food always gets the closest.

Cuban is pretty much the unofficial cuisine of Miami and as I’ve said several times here before, I miss it all the time. For as many and as varied as the food options are in New York, there just don’t seem to be that many Cuban ones so I’m often left wishing I had what’s so easy to get in Miami.

But after moving to Crown Heights last fall I’m now just a couple of stops away from a Cuban spot I had been meaning to try for some time, Pilar, the Bed-Stuy restaurant named after the Brooklyn-built boat Ernest Hemingway had in Cuba. (Is that not a great name and explanation?)

The restaurant is cute and laid back, with a mellow vibe and just enough cool factor to remind you that you’re still in Brooklyn, but not so much that you wish you’d worn something different (’cause that’s a thing, for me anyway). The menu hits all the classics: cafe con leche, maduros, Cubanos (as in the eponymous sandwich), ropa vieja and vaca frita to name a few, but I knew what I was getting the second my eyes landed on it, the croqueta preparada.

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It’s a slightly ridiculous thing really: ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and my favorite part, croquetas de jamon (ham croquettes), all smeared with mustard and sandwiched between two pieces of Cuban bread, toasted and pressed together to make one tight, dense, absolutely delicious meal.

Pilar’s croqueta preparada was great, getting the combination of different flavors and textures just right: the crunchy buttery bread, bright, tangy pickles, the spicy bite of mustard, gooey, melted cheese, juicy ham and tender roast pork, and then the soft, breaded (’cause it’s the weekend so I say, yes carbs on carbs!) ham croquetas to round everything off.

I’m not exactly ready to move back to Miami after eating at Pilar, but that croqueta preparada was definitely to make me want to check out flights for a potential weekend there in the near future. And as my mom can attest, it’s not just anything that makes me want to do that.

A great day for a Great Hotdog Cookoff

Saturday had everything I ask of summer in the city: tolerable warm weather, cold beer and lots and lots of hot dogs. Bam! Just like that, recipe for a good time.

Along with the beau and a couple of friends, I spent Saturday afternoon in Williamsburg at The Great Hot Dog Cookoff,  stuffing my face full of hot dogs at this annual summertime event benifting the Food Bank for New York City. The cookoff included 24 teams of amateur chefs and 4 professionals (from places like Mile End Deli and Gramercy Tavern) all competing for Best In Show (judge fave) and Top Dog (crowd fave). For the price of admission you got four beers and unlimited hot dog samples from the different teams. I repeat: recipe for a good time, folks. Below, the highlights of a hotdogtastic Saturday in Brooklyn:

The Nick Mangold Over the Line Dog

This was probably my favorite of the many I had. A chili cheese dog of sorts, the “Nick Mangold Over The Line Dog” was a deep-fried (yea, I know) hot dog with spicy, sweet chili and here it comes… mini fried cheese balls that kind of resembled tater tots. A heart attack waiting to happen, but SO good.

Little Bundles of Joy

Re-imagining the traditional hot dog presentation, “Little Bundles of Joy” were like small hot dog empanadas, fried pockets of hot dog, mac and cheese, kimchi and chinese sausage. Double points for tastiness and new form.

Genereal Tso’s Hot Dog

Another tasty dog with interesting presentation was “General Tso’s Hot Dog,” a play on the Chinese restaurant staple, General Tso’s chicken. Battered and deep fried, this little dog was smothered in sweet and spicy sauce and topped with broccoli, sprouts and crunchy chow mein.

Pa-Pa-Ya Summer Roll Hot Dog

Also putting an asian spin on things was the “Pa-Pa-Ya Summer Roll Hot Dog,” which instead of a traditional bun came wrapped in Vietnamese style rice paper and took flavor cues from spring rolls and shrimp and papaya salads. It was light and clean, with zesty, spicy flavors.

The Reuben Dog

“The Reuben Dog” instead, took its inspiration from the Reuben sandwich, with almost all of the same ingredients that make the sandwich a classic: sauerkraut, corned beef, Russian dressing, gooey swiss cheese, and a rye bun. As a Reuben fan, I gave this dog two greasy thumbs up.

The Hot Dogiflette

Finally, when I was at the point of undoing the top button of my shorts while also breaking out into the hot dog sweats, I made room for one more, “The Hot Dogiflette.” Based on the french dish, tartiflette, this dog was served on a toasted baguette and topped with mashed potatos, sauteed onions,  herbs, melted cheese and sour cream. Kind of hard to eat and required a bit of a wait (probably because of all the ingredients that were painstakingly layered on there) but sacrebleu it was good!

While there were some I ate and just didn’t post here, there were still a whole bunch I didn’t try! That means, Hot Dog Cookoff, I’ll see you again in 2013!