Earlier this spring, Andrew and I set off on one of our city adventures. We headed to Red Hook, Brooklyn, known to be a hipster haven and now, sadly, likely better known for having been flooded out by Hurricane Sandy.
The place took a terrible beating. It is only a few feet above sea level and 14 feet of water from Sandy’s storm surge inundated the neighborhood. Five feet of water closed the huge Fairway Market for four months. The store sits directly on the water at the end of the main drag, Van Brunt Street. Since the market anchors the whole neighborhood, this closing was hard on everyone. But at a cost of $10 million, the store was up and running again on March 1. And it should be noted that since the storm’s arrival on October 29, Fairway kept Red Hook employees on the payroll, shuttling them to other Fairway stores to keep them on the job. Here’s to you, Fairway! There were plenty of reasons for Andrew and me to want to support the neighborhood on our jaunt there on a sunny, if cold, April day. For one, we wanted to try what Bon Appétit called "The Best Lobster Roll in the Country," and we wanted to make a pilgrimage to Baked, the café and bakery home to two of our favorite bakers, Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis.
After opening an email blast from Fairway last week, I was thrilled to see that every summer weekend, you can ferry over to Fairway from Manhattan for free! You just go down to Pier 11, one block south of Wall Street, and every 40 minutes, a ferry will take you on a sightseeing cruise of New York Harbor, depositing you at the foot of Van Brunt Street right outside the Fairway Market… for free! This is a distinct step up from the free Ikea Ferry, which operates from Pier 11 to the massive Ikea store in Red Hook.
Though that one, too, is free, but you have to cover a lot of Red Hook to get to Van Brunt Street, which, quite honestly, with two exceptions, is the only real reason to go to Red Hook. The two exceptions are the incredible Cacao Prieto Chocolate Factory and Widow Jane Whisky distillery, housed in the same glorious building one block north of Van Brunt at 218 Conover Street. The other is if you happen to be a passenger on the Queen Mary 2, which sails from a berth in Red Hook.
Now onto that lobster roll. As amazing as it sounds, by Bon Appétit's reckoning the best lobster roll in the entire country — including those found in the great state of Maine — comes from not much more than a hole-in-the-wall in Red Hook. That's the lobster roll sold at Red Hook Lobster Pound. They make two versions of this classic. Both follow a very simple recipe: fresh-picked Maine lobster meat is served with some celery, spices, and a hint of mayonnaise. The "Connecticut" lobster roll comes with warmed lobster. The "Maine" lobster roll's meat is chilled. And both of course come with the simple split-top white bun that looks an awful lot like a hot dog bun.