Quesadilla at The Brooklyn Flea

November 10, 2008 | By | COMMENTS

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Hyperbole is the crutch of the lazy food writer. Take the post below this: “The Best Broccoli of Your Life.” With a title like that, of course you’re bound to read that post. And my enthusiasm, while authentic, is expressed in the most simplistic language possible; like all polarities–”good and bad,” “right and wrong”–”best and worst” are overly reductive, a 4th grader’s tools of expression, not an adult’s.

It is therefore with great humility and restraint that I must avoid titling this post what I wanted to title it: “The Best Quesadilla of My Life.” For the quesadilla I had yesterday at the Brooklyn Flea Market was, without question, the best quesadilla I’ve ever had in my life; yet, I’d lose all credibility if I had two “best of” posts in a row. So let’s just say this quesadilla, which doesn’t look at all like a quesadilla, is much closer to the “best” end of the best/worst spectrum that simple-minded folk like me revert to when writing about food.

I hadn’t planned a trip to the Brooklyn Flea Market on Sunday, but then it was glorious outside and I wanted to take a walk. And I was hungry. And I remembered that there was a Brooklyn Flea market a neighborhood away in Ft. Green that had notable food, at least according to the other food blogs I read.

Look at this tree I saw on my walk over:

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Yes, taking a walk was a good idea. And when I got to the Brooklyn Flea, which took about 20 minutes, I couldn’t have been happier with my choice:

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You might not know this about me, but I grew up going to Flea Markets. My grandmother, mom’s mom, Grandma Ronnie had a stall at the Roosevelt Field Flea Market where she sold pickles while married to Grandpa #2, Grandpa Joe, who owned a pickle factory on Long Island (Stern’s Pickles.) When Grandpa Joe died, Grandma, an entrepreneurial spirit, didn’t give up her spot at Roosevelt Field. She started selling t-shirts splattered with paint; that was a fad in the 80s, remember? My brother and I would help her splatter the paint on the shirts and put little reflective mirrors on the still-wet paint to give them that 80s sheen.

That’s one flea market connection, the other is that the town where I grew up, Oceanside, New York, had a flea market in the shopping center with my favorite bagel store (Stuff N’ Bagels.) At THAT flea market, I remember going to meet Santa Claus, having my picture taken on his lap. More importantly, though, another t-shirt entrepreneur opened a spot there with an airbrush artist who could paint anything you wanted on to a shirt. For Hanukkah one year, my grandmother offered to buy me a custom-designed shirt with any image of my choosing. What did I pick?

Alfred E. Newman playing the piano. You know, Alfred E. Newman from “Mad Magazine”? That’s right I had him airbrushed on to a t-shirt playing the piano with the speech balloon, “What Me Worry?” Because I played the piano, see. I was the coolest kid in 4th grade, believe me!

Why am I telling you all this?

Oh yes, flea markets. So I love flea markets. And the Brooklyn Flea was like a flea market made for people my age; with cool art and cool furniture and cool people walking around (I ran into my friend Rachel Wharton from The Daily News and Edible New York) it’s an ideal way to spend afternoon during the last, colorful days of fall.

And the food. Go for the food, too.

I must confess here that I am the most derelict of New York food bloggers: I haven’t been to the Red Hook Ball fields. That’s supposed to have some of the best Latin food in New York.

Well, lazy, crazy me; I just never went. But there I was at The Brooklyn Flea and I saw a line 80 million people long (hyperbole!) for this booth:

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See what the sign says? “Martinez Food Vendors from Red Hook Park.”

Here was a Red Hook vendor right here in my own backyard!

They were selling huraches, which looked really messy, and quesadillas which looked much more manageable. I should point out that another huge line ran parallel to this line: that was the line for pupusas also prepared by Red Hook vendors. That’s right: two Red Hook vendors for the price of one right here at The Brooklyn Flea.

I stuck with my quesadilla line (I’ll try pupusas next time) and I can’t really find the words to express how much I enjoyed this. The tortilla was the freshest I’ve ever consumed, grilled to perfection right in front of me. They put cheese on top, waited for it to melt, and asked me which kind of meat I wanted. I said chicken.

Then they asked: “Do you want everything on it?”

I did. That included shredded lettuce, bright red salsa, creamy guacamole, sour cream and some dry cheese that they sprinkled over the top. When they handed it to me I could barely manage to hold it and get the money out of my wallet; never mind taking the bottle of water I also asked for.

I took the quesadilla to the steps behind the food sellers, sat down, and bit in. Streams of liquid and gunk fell on to the floor (this was a messy quesadilla) but I didn’t care. I was blissing out; this was seriously good. Every element was an ideal version of itself; and after a lifetime of eating mass-produced burritos (Chipolte) and mediocre to just downright bad Mexican food, this was really a revelation.

See, I said it was a revelation but I won’t say it’s the best again; I’m changing my ways. I’ll simply say that head out to the Brooklyn Flea next weekend and judge for yourself. And if you want to write a blog post and say it’s the best quesadilla of your life, I won’t stop you. I won’t even judge you. Frankly, I’ll be jealous of your candor.

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  • teddy

    Hey,

    I was right around the corner from you this weekend.

    I walked through Ft. Greene Park, with my New York pal who wanted to show me the location for his planned restaurant.

  • http://citygirllifestyle.blogspot.com City Girl

    Going to the Brooklyn Flea was one of my favorite activities this year… sadly, I moved from Brooklyn to WDC a month ago so I no longer live within a 20 minute walk of the Flea, and still miss the really yummy food from the Red Hook Food Vendors. You must try the huarache, even if it is messy. My solution to that was to bring extra napkins and a couple paper plates from home. It really helped :)

  • http://ohboykarencooks.blogspot.com Karen

    Somehow food like that just tastes better from a food vendor out in the open!

  • http://aufildemesrevesdamour.over-blog.com/ Eleonora

    Your blog is super. So are your photographies. They make me hungry. I have spent a nice moment when seeing them. Thanks a lot.

  • Proletariat

    I hate to say it Adam, but that is no quesadilla. That is a veritable soft taco.

  • megsny

    I have never had those quesadillas, because I can never, never pass up the pupusas. What a sparkling day for the flea yesterday!

  • http://daniinnc.blogspot.com/ Dani in NC

    Great post! You made me miss flea markets and Latin food.

  • http://aloshaskitchen.blogspot.com Melissa

    Quesadilla, taco, whatever they or you or anyone calls it, it sounds *awesome* and I live in a place with lots of good Mexican food (SoCal). I would still gladly line up for that thing.

  • Jazzy

    It looks reminiscent of shawerma in a pita to me, but great nonetheless :) You can do all sorts of fun, non-Mexican things with quesadillas…my boyfriend loves to make them with pear, goat cheese and caramelized onion. I like the straight-up Mexican ones from my beloved SF taquerias (notably Cancun)…although I admit that SoCal does quesadillas better. We California people are such Mexican food snobs; it’s refreshing to know you can find good quesadillas west of the Mississippi!

  • http://devourthis.typepad.com/ Jackie

    AWESOME post. Thank you, Adam!!

    I ripped out a page from Country Living mag (love it!) about the Brooklyn Flea and put it up on my inspiration wire…I am dying to go and now even more so after this blog entry.

    Also, please check out my piece about you (“The Proof is in the Blogging”) in the new online magazine Featuring America

  • Molly

    I can’t believe your grandfather #2 owned Stern Pickle Works!

  • http://chewonthatblog.com Hillary

    Holy smokes! That looks more like a soft taco but whatever, it looks amaaaazing!!

  • http://www.smorgasbroad.blogspot.com smorgasbroad

    your blog is quite original. and entertaining!

    i can barely believe that that’s a quesadilla. it looks monumental. i am jealous…in scandinavia, latin americans don’t exist. but the people love “tex mex” food…hoo boy.

  • kristian lazzaro

    Anyone who writes “soft taco” in their correction post has to be disqualified. They obviously don’t know anything about Mexican -Mexican food.

  • kristian lazzaro

    Anyone who writes “soft taco” in their correction post has to be disqualified. They obviously don’t know anything about Mexican -Mexican food.

  • Confused

    I don’t get it… why the excitement over Red Hook vendors? Enlighten a non-New Yorker please!

  • http://www.widedriven.com Rovina

    A quesadilla is a dish in Mexican cuisine or Tex-Mex, which involves cooking ingredients, most importantly cheese, inside a corn or wheat tortilla or a wrapping of masa. quesadilla is cooked after being filled or stuffed, while a taco or burrito is filled with pre-cooked ingredients. Quesadillas can be stuffed with ingredients other than just cheese.

    ———–

    Rovina

    Guaranteed ROI

  • Milio

    That “some dry cheese” was most likely cotija which can be likened to a mexican version of parmesan cheese.

    A popular mexican food stand item is Elote which is basically roasted corn on the cob with a mayo (or crema) and chili powder spread and cotija cheese sprinkled on top.

    As for breaking out of the fast food Chipotle (once owned by McDonalds) and learning about real mexican food, find a hole in the wall mexican taqueria and order the carnitas. Carnitas alone, carnitas tacos, whatever. Done right, carnitas are a sublime homage to the wonder of pork.

  • http://canItasteitnow.blogspot.com Janice

    That quesadilla photo just makes my heart go a-flutter…thanks for sharing- love your blog!