I’m convinced someone over at The Village Voice sold their soul to the devil because it was strangely beautiful on the day of Sirenfest (The Siren Music Festival, run by The Village Voice). In the first Saturday in weeks, we weren’t inundated by rainstorms, flood watches, and general meteorological crapiness. It was the way it should be in New York during the summer: blisteringly hot and humid. And so, David and I were off to Coney Island for some sun, music, carnival craziness, and of course food.
There’s a Nathan’s in every food court and highway rest stop in the United States, and probably outside the U.S. as well, but when you’re in Coney Island, the hot dogs somehow taste better. Maybe it’s the sun, the surreal frenetic energy of the carnival, or the close proximity to the beach, but the the skin tastes snappier and the salty sausages taste juicier. I got a hot dog with sauerkraut, onions, and mustard ($3.15), and an ice cold Mike’s Hard Lemonade ($3) as soon as we got to Coney Island. It’s the breakfast of champions.
Of course a hot dog is good, but it’s not exactly a meal, so I got a taco afterward from a Mexican stand right behind the Festival by the Sea Flea Market. The sign said they were the same people behind the Prospect Park taco stand, which I actually never heard of, but I got a taco anyway. I got a beef barbacoa taco with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, a pickled pepper, shredded mozzarella, sour cream, and guacamole ($3). The meat was tender, but the taco in general was a bit plain tasting, even with all the toppings. Perhaps cotija instead of mozzarella would have helped. It was filling though, and I still liked it, especially with a squirt of lime and some hot sauce, but it wasn’t as good as the tacos from Red Hook circa 2007.
David grabbed a fried whiting and french fry platter ($8) from one of the food stands next to the Stillwell Stage. Not sure why, but the fish wasn’t hot. David must have gotten one that had been sitting out for a while. The fish was a soggy spongy mess. This is a lesson to us all. If you don’t see fried fish coming fresh out of the fryolater, keep on moving. No need to fill up on inadequate food.
After the food, we hung out listening to a few bands until we got tired of that, so I rode the Cyclone. We were in Coney Island after all. I’m smack in the middle in the picture above. David doesn’t like roller coasters, so he stayed below and took pictures of me instead. I forgot how much fun the Cyclone is, even though it’s so short and rickety. When I was little, I always thought the 7 train was like the Cyclone. When you rode it, there was always the nagging suspicion the car would jump the track any minute. Thankfully I survived and didn’t leave my taco and hot dog behind.
There was a truck and a guy in a pushcart giving away Vio, the new carbonated milk drink from Coca-Cola, at Sirenfest. They were free, so we tried all four flavors: peach mango, berry, citrus, and tropical colada. The drinks taste milky, but not too much so. At first sip of the citrus, we both thought it tasted like Korean frozen ice pops (쭈쭈바, jjujjuba). It was tasty in a sweet children’s drink sort of way. Tropical colada, however, tasted completely artificial; it was godawful. We threw it out after a sip.
The one band I wanted to see, The Raveonettes, weren’t set to play until the end of the day, so we decided to explore the area. We walked along Brighton Beach for a while until David looked at my shoulders and said I was getting beyond tanned, so we decided to take shelter indoors for a while. I remembered Robyn’s post about carrot cake at M & I International Food and also recalled the pictures of the cream rolls David is always on the prowl for on Eat to Blog. At one mention of the cream rolls, David said “Let’s go!”
A few blocks away, we found ourselves in a huge market with every edible Russion/Eastern European food imaginable. Blintzes, latkes, pirashki, name it, M & I had it. Of course, we were on a mission for carrot cake and cream rolls, so we went straight to the pastry section. One cream roll and one slice of carrot cake was $5.
The carrot cake at M & I has a serious online following, and for good reason. There’s no cream cheese frosting, but this allows the focus to be on the subtle sweetness of the cake instead. At first bite it seemed plain, since I’m used to tooth-achingly sweet frosted carrot cakes, but after I few more bites, I started appreciating the moist cake filled with carrots, raisins, pineapple, and caramelized walnuts that was strangely crisp on the outside. (A corner slice guarantees maximum crispness and more caramelized action.) Each bite was more addictive than the next, and soon it was gone. I still regret not buying more. Till next time carrot cake, I will eat you!
While I was eating my carrot cake, David was in heaven with his cream roll pastry. David always talks nostalgically about the delicious cream rolls he used to eat back in Michigan. In New York, he’s found suitable substitutions, but none that came close. Previous to M & I, I used to get him rolls at the 38th Street Restaurant & Bakery until they closed, which by the way were vile anyway. The rolls tasted like stale pastry filled with Crisco. The deli on Rivington right next to ‘inoteca also has them once in a while, but not too frequently. Those are a bit better, but still pretty disgusting. David thought the the M & I version of the cream rolls, which we kept calling cream cones because of the shape, was the closest version to his beloved childhood favorite sweet. I took a small bite, and I thought they were far better than any cream roll I’ve had previously in New York. The pastry was flakey and sweet like a softer palmier, and the cream was light and sugary. If anyone knows where I can get these in Manhattan, please let me know so I can win the best girlfriend in the world award. I would be extremely grateful.
After our sweet treats, we went back to Coney to catch the Raveonettes on the Main Stage. Their dreamy sounds were a nice end to a our little vacation outside of Manhattan. To the people over at the Village Voice, I hope the devil treats one of you well.
1310 Surf Ave (at Stillwell Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11224
M & I International
249 Brighton Beach Ave (betw Brighton 1st Road & Brighton 1st Place)
Brooklyn, NY 11235