Archive for the tag 'robert fernandez'

Photo by Robert Fernandez

Photo by Robert Fernandez

THE BITE: I’m going to dive into the great pizza debate that rages over Brooklyn.

Here in Southern Brooklyn, we are lucky to have two of the best pizza parlors in the world. Di Fara, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s personal favorite, and Totonno’s, labeled best by one of my favorite food writers, Robert Sietsema. But, there’s one other, a recent arrival to the neighborhood who in its original location vied for the crown, called Grimaldi’s.

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THE BITE: Roll n Roaster (2901 Emmons Avenue, just west of Nostrand Avenue) is well known for its roast beef sandwiches, late night crowds and its 1970s television commercials. But it also sells Cheez burgers, fries and “freshly squeezed orangeade,” all of which are prominently touted on their take-out bags. Talking with friends, it seems that most folks don’t stray far from the roast beef and fries when they hit the restaurant. Even the New York Times picked up on this, quoting a customer “You kind of have to get the roast beef,” he said. “They looked at you weird when you didn’t get it.”

We here at the Bite are used to being looked at weird.

So, today’s Bite brings you the “Western Cheez Burger.” It’s allegedly available rare, medium or well done and sells for $5.25. So what is a “Western cheez burger,” you ask? It’s a thin beef hamburger patty, topped with their ubiquitous cheese sauce, onion rings and barbecue sauce on one of RnR’s outstanding buns. How that makes it western I have no idea. And, don’t get me started on the cheese sauce – or “cheez sauce,” as they like to call it.

Frankly, I love that “cheez,” whatever it is. Is it real cheese or some sort of evil corporate concoction that is oddly addictive? Strangely, it’s nowhere to be found on RnR’s website menu. Some people claim that it is “Cheez Whiz” which is made by Kraft and available in your local supermarkets. Others claim it’s an invention of Roll n Roaster owner, Nick “Buddy” Lamonica. I really don’t care either way. The cheez sauce is one of my reasons for visiting RnR so frequently.

And it saves the Western burger. This thin burger patty arrives burned, dry and flavorless no matter how you order it, but is covered with the  cheez sauce that brings both flavor and much needed moisture. It is then topped with a very sweet Kansas City-style barbecue sauce and a couple of perfectly cooked, whole onion – not chopped – onion rings. While the actual burger patty itself is nothing special, the toppings and the bun make this a worthy meal.

Roll N Roaster, 2901 Emmons Avenue, just west of Nostrand Avenue, (718) 769-6000.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fishmongers  or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

THE BITE: What’s more Brooklyn than cheesecake? How about a New York-style cheesecake baked by immigrants, topped with Oreos? Did you know that the Oreo was invented by NABISCO in New York City in 1912 and originally came in two flavors? One version came with the cream you know and love, the other with lemon meringue. Did you know that Oreos are kosher? I wonder if they still are when placed on a cheesecake.

Brooklyn Bloom (1607 Avenue U, between East 16th Street and East 17th Street) offers up an interesting take on the traditional New York style cheesecake for $3.50 a slice. Baked to about three inches high, this golden crust cake is built on a nest of ground graham crackers and topped with whole Oreos. Why do I say interesting take? Well, this cheesecake is lighter than most. While still creamy, this cake somehow manages to avoid the heaviness of the cheesecakes we’re more familiar with – Junior’s, I’m looking at you.

But, something was sacrificed with the weight. While this was a good cheesecake, it just seemed to miss the mark. There was no trace of vanilla, or any other flavoring agents besides the cream cheese and sugar. While the blandness of the cake allowed the flavors of the graham crackers and Oreo to dominate, I would have preferred the cake itself to be much more assertive. Usually there’s a slight tang that comes from the cream cheese; it didn’t make itself known here. Pity.

The graham cracker crust is thick, almost the same thickness as the Oreos that top the cake. The Oreos themselves suffer from the placement on the cake, with the bottom layer of the cookies becoming very soggy as they melt into the cake batter. The sweetness of the Oreo filling is lost in the sweetness of the cheese cake, and the sudden texture switch is a bit off-putting; give me a plain cheesecake any day.

While this cake has some problems, it still is a good cake. It’s not outstanding, but it is enjoyable if you keep it on the surface. It’s much like the champion feather weight fighter taking on the heavy weight champion of the world. He’s a good fighter in his realm, but no match for the master – Junior’s, I’m still looking at you.

Brooklyn Bloom, 1607 Avenue U, between East 16th Street and East 17th Street, (718) 339-1333.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.,


Photo by Erica Sherman

THE BITE: Hey, today, March 19, is St. Joseph’s Day. What better way to celebrate than by eating some St. Joseph zeppole? What’s that you say? What are St. Joseph zeppole?

St. Joseph zeppole, or zeppole di San Giuseppeis, is a classic Italian pastry traditionally made only for the feast day of St. Joseph. In Italy, it’s also their Father’s Day. According to Academia Barilla:

On this day, pastry shops around Italy sell zeppole di San Giuseppe, fritters filled with pastry cream. This tradition dates back to 500 AC and the Latin celebration of Baccanali, which took place on March 17th in honor of Bacchus and Silinus, respectively, the gods of wine and wheat. The Ancient Romans would consume large quantities of wine and wheat-flour fritters to celebrate the two divinities. It should come as no surprise that St. Joseph’s day, which comes two days later, often includes similar customs. The modern-day recipe for zeppole, however, was created fairly recently. It is believed that this type of fritter was invented by a convent of monks at the beginning of the 19th century.

Luckily, we don’t have to travel to Italy to celebrate. Head over to T & D Bakery (2307 Avenue U between East 23rd Street and East 24th Street) for a great Italian-American version of this sacred treat.

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THE BITE: On a recent night I sat down for dinner at Chop Stix (3790 Nostrand Avenue, between Avenue Y and Avenue Z) with my friend Ned. Ned likes to joke about whenever someone eats in a Chinese restaurant that they spend a lot of time looking over the encyclopedic menu before ordering the same thing they always eat. Determined to prove him wrong, I suggested that we order the fried octopus leg appetizer ($6.95). We both laughed at my suggestion.

When the waiter came to take our order, I ordered Kung Po Chicken. Yes, I was trying something new; well, not exactly new, but not of my routine. When the waiter turned to Ned, he ordered his main dish, which was his default Chinese restaurant order, and then said, “and an order of the fried octopus.” This surprised me. I thought he knew I was joking with my suggestion.

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I’m a huge fan of Grillin’ On The Bay. It’s not just that I’ve become good friends with the event organizer, Robert Fernandez, or that Robert is now a writer for Sheepshead Bites. It’s for one really simple reason.

Grillin’ On The Bay and The Brooklyn Chili Smack Down is a thriving event that recognizes Sheepshead Bay for the lively and joyous neighborhood it is. And we need more events like that.

Keep reading and find out why you should compete!

This year’s Grillin On The Bay and Brooklyn Chili Smackdown was the largest yet, with more than 1,000 visitors converging in Sheepshead Bay to attend the city’s only grilling competition (and Brooklyn’s largest BBQ event).

The 5th year of the annual event drew 27 teams and 36 judges from places as far-flung as Massachusetts and Virginia. For the chili competition – a people’s choice event - attendees drowned in 30 pots of chili (just about all of it was gone hours before the school closed up shop).

And it paid off, too. Proceeds broke every previous record by the organizers, racking in nearly $5,000 for St. Mark Elementary School (East 18th Street and Avenue Z).

As for me, I had a wild time. The first few hours were split between judging the BBQ competition then running out to meet readers who stopped by our table. I easily met a couple dozen people who read the site – so to those people, thanks for stopping by! For those who came by while I was behind the scenes, thank you too! We’ll just have to meet at the next event.

And of course, a big thank you goes out to Robert Fernandez, the Sheepshead Bay resident who organizes the event every year.

After the judging, I had the pleasure of hanging out with all those readers who lingered – and, of course, Sheepshead Bites’ fantastic staff of volunteers and supporters – and quaffed down a couple of discounted beers (note for next year: beer prices tumble as it gets later in the game).

Read on after the jump to see the results of the competition and two galleries of photos (one of photos throughout the day, the other of the awards ceremony).

Grillin’ On The Bay 2010 results and photos

We’ve just been told that Robert Fernandez, aka BrooklynQ, the organizer of Sheepshead Bay’s Grillin’ On the Bay festival/competition, and frequent tipster here at Sheepshead Bites, has signed on to help teach a Pit Master Training Class in Staten Island.

He will assist Smokin’ Joe Mizrahi, proprietor of the 20-year-old critically acclaimed Smokin’ Joe’s True-Blue Texas Barbecue Inc. and Stephen Harkavy in a one-day classes to instruct in the techniques of authentic wood-smoked barbecue.

Full details are available at his well-known blog, WhiteTrashBBQ.

Grillin' On The Bay

Sheepshead Bay’s warm weather events are kicking off this weekend with the Grillin’ On The Bay and Brooklyn Chili Smackdown at St. Mark’s! This means, not long after, the Cyclone will be open, Bayfest will be roaring, fishing boats will be departing (well, they never stopped — but now you’ll actually want to go on them!), and the block parties will be kicking. And we sure are ready for that warm weather, aren’t we?

Grillin’ On The Bay organizer Robert Fernandez sent this year’s lineup and some additional information. Don’t forget – this is an event that helps support St. Mark’s AND good meats in southern Brooklyn.

From Fernandez:

Grillin’ On The Bay and The Brooklyn Chili Smack Down takes place on April 4, 2009 in St. Mark’s Schoolyard on the corner of East 18th Street and Avenue Z. Gates open at 6:00 am, but the real fun starts around noon when the cooks begin turning in their food for judging.

Atom’s Ribs featuring the award winning barbecue of Matt Fisher will be selling food all day.

We also have a people’s choice chili contest where the public can sample all the chilies for only $10. That runs from 1:00 until 4:00.

This year’s Grillin On The Bay includes some very heavy hitters in the world of competitive barbecue and we have a fair amount of virgins; just look at this line up… [Ed.-after the jump.]
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(Steak: Because you like it.)

Robert Fernandez, the organizer of the annual Southern Brooklyn meatfest Grillin’ On The Bay, has asked that we let everyone know that the event is now seeking contestants for its two competitions. The activities take place April 4 on the corner of East 18th Street and Avenue Z (the St. Marks playground).

First up is the grilling competitions, with four categories (chicken, fish, pork and chef’s choice). Entry costs as little as $75, and all profits go to support St. Marks Catholic School – so all the little kids get to benefit from you filling your gullet with meat and booze. Mmm… helping the community has never tasted so good.

The pepper-fueled Brooklyn Chili Smackdown’s People’s Choice Chili Contest (say that 10 times fast. No… say it one time fast) is free to enter. All types of chili allowed. Winner gets $100, plus the right to be called the chiliest dude of Sheepshead Bay.

We here at Sheepshead Bites love the Grillin’ On The Bay events. Even if you don’t feel up to muster (mustard?) to compete, patrons can buy the right to eat all the chili they want for a measly $10, and then a little more for the grilled meats. Where else can you get a sampling of bangin’ burnin’ chili for so little greenbacks?

Details after the jump.
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