Thursday, June 09, 2011

Traveling in New York City - Brighton Beach

I grew up in New York City and have always loved visiting to its outer reaches, to neighborhoods where you can feel like a foreigner. It's best to go with someone who can act as a guide, but it's also fun to explore with a friend when neither of you really have any idea what you're doing.

Recently a buddy and I went to Brighton Beach, the mostly Russian and Central Asian Republic neighborhood next to Coney Island, all the way at the southern tip of Brooklyn. The boardwalk is always a kick, and an entire afternoon can easily be spent wandering there between Brighton and Coney Island. But it is inland where you will feel like you are in another country, on boulevards like Brighton Avenue under the elevated subway tracks, or on Neptune Avenue, where you can stroll all the way to Sheepshead bay.

Don't go for the hospitality - that's not the vibe. People in Brighton seem to regard it as an extension of their hometown, and when we Amerikanski go there, speaking our English and getting in the way of things, it's an annoyance, nothing more. That it is New York City is meaningless, at least that's what it seems like to me whenever I'm there. For the price of a round trip subway ride, you feel like you are traveling.

On a recent sunny Saturday, we walked the boardwalk, and then wandered the shops on Brighton Avenue. Here are a few photos:

Tarragon flavored drink. Pretty tasty.

Also comes in pine flavor. Haven't tried it.

There is a lot of meat on display. Here are dry sausages.

Different kinds of sausages.

Can of pork. The Cyrillic reads "Svinaya Tushyenka." I don't know what Tushyenka means. I hope it doesn't mean what it sounds like it means. Perhaps not so appetizing, but you have to admire the design.

Lots of smoked, pickled, and cured fish too. These smoked salmon wings reminded me of the luscious collar that is often broiled with salt in Japanese cooking.

Loads of smoked fish.

There was evidence also of vegetables. Here are prepared salads.

At a bakery, these looked and sounded great - peanut butter layered with wafers. But there was something figgy in there, and I didn't love them.

On the whole, the pastry was pretty appetizing. Check out those rugelach!

If you drink vodka at cellar temperature and always while eating, you'll never have a problem. This is the half-bottle of Russian Standard Platinum that I drank with two Russian friends who were kind enough to take me to Brighton for dinner the following week, after I told them of this adventure.


Anonymous said...

Uh, have the police called you in for questioning yet? Just a little suspicious that you happen to take this nice little trip right about the same time the gunshots started flying. Don't think it isn't noted. Brooklyn on Brighton gang wars.


Anonymous said...

Tushenka is basically stewed meat (usually pork), canned with some fat and juices. Reheat and serve.

Typical Soviet dinner: boil a pot of potatoes, mix with a can of tushenka, serve.

Due to ease of preparation it was also very popular as a hiker's food.

Anonymous said...

So, Tushenka is Russian for Spam.

The Wine Mule said...

You like Brighton Beach? You read any of Reggie Nadelson's books? "Red Hot Blues" and some others are set at least partly in the neighborhood.

Alex Halberstadt said...

Where did you end up eating? There are a couple of jewels among the dross, and I always take the F-train there with a bittersweet feeling, as I grew up in Moscow and Brighton appears both nostalgic and a bit garish. Still, Oceanview Cafe (which has no ocean view but six screens of Russian MTV) and Gletchik are the standouts. BYO, naturally. And of course M&I International Foods, which you photographed, is great for smoked fish, salmon roe, sunflower seed oil (great in salads), dark rye bread, good German butter, dry sausage, eggplant caviar and other staples of my childhood. A few years back I rode the subway home with the tail of a 4-foot-long smoked sturgeon popping out of my backpack and looming over my head.