By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
"Oh my god I'm plotzing." Those are the inspired words of chowhound Nina W. (many usernames are abbreviations or nicknames), in response to a post on chowhound.com's outer borough message board, which provided a detailed description of the food stalls that border Red Hook Park's ball fields. (For non-Yiddish speakers, to plotz means to explode, crack, or burst). "Louise", who had written up the original report (which fellow 'hound Bob Martinez called "the definitive post on the ball fields"), replied with a confirmation: "Totally plotz-worthy."
This exchange is just a drop in the obsessive bucket. There are pages and pages of tips and updates about the "Red Hook ball fields" on the chowhound site. So, what's all the plotzing about? Louise raved about Columbian beef skewers and empanadas, Ecuadorian ceviche, pupusas (Salvadoran), and plenty of Mexican delights, like huaraches and tacos. Other "hounds" are fixated on the pineapple juice or a drink made from cashews, and the grilled corn (elotes) with chili powder, lime juice, mayonnaise, and crumbled cheese.
Over ten years ago, the first of these stalls was set up, simply to feed the soccer and baseball players who compete in local league games on the weekends. One of the pioneer stands was established by Eleazar Perez, who is originally from Puebla, Mexico. She and her husband have since opened a restaurant, La Asuncion, in Borough Park. Her children, Perla and Fabian, 21 and 18 respectively, have both been cooking at their parents' stall every weekend (through October) for a few years. Despite her particular expertise in tacos, flautas, and tostadas, Perla, like those drooling hounds, has strong opinions when it comes to any of the diverse delicacies. "Oh, you got pupusas at the first stall?" she shrugged, in pity, saying "I only like them from the second one. They're smaller, but better. Whatever."
Packing a pupusa: Masa gets a cheese-and-pork filling before heading off to the griddle.
photo: Nina Lalli
At a Columbian stall, I had a plate of deep-fried pork belly, chopped and topped off with sweet, soft onions. At the Perez's stall, I had a steak taco, made on a grilled tortilla (not a fresh one, but great nonetheless) and at the biggest, most elaborate Mexican stall, I sampled a fresh-made quesadilla with pork, beef, guacamole, radishes, and cheese. To end the weekend, I had one more fresh tortillasmall and perfect, and stuffed with braised lamb, lettuce, cheese, and topped with hot sauce.
Waitwas there a soccer game going on there, too?