On January 23, in the midst of a “polar vortex” (what we from Vermont call “winter”), I snapped out of a five-month hiatus and took a spin around Midwood.
Two, actually. But more on that in a bit.
I had big plans for this day. Midwood is a stronghold of the Jewish Orthodox community, so there was to be plenty of cultural exploration, with a focus on food.
I was able to make it only to some of the western half of the neighborhood before my extremities began to freeze and my camera (phone) died of hypothermia. The temperature registered in the teens, with a wind chill near zero. The conditions were sub-optimal, but I was determined.
I began my journey in the northwest, at the Avenue H station on the Q train. Here, the BMT Brighton Line runs at ground level, so there are few ways to get from west to east. One entrance to the station doubles as an underground pedestrian-only passageway.
Just to the south of the station is the long-abandoned LIRR Bay Ridge Branch, which has been floated as a potential right-of-way for the Triboro Rx line, which would be awesome.
To cross the Bay Ridge Branch, I walked over a pedestrian bridge on East 15th Street. The snow was piled high at the end of the road. On the other side was an MTA facility that has fallen into disrepair, and is listed for sale.
There was also the burnt-out shell of a house; more on that later.
Speaking of Sanitation, they have plenty to do here.
There is a nice variety of houses, sometimes right across the street from each other. I believe I was standing in the same spot on East 14th Street for both of these.
All right, let’s talk food – particularly Jewish bakeries. I visited a few. On the left, Meir’s Hemishe Bakery offers 44 different types of muffin. Options include Raisin Oat Bran, Banana Nut, Cherry Almond, and Zucchini Chocolate Chip. I went for a regular Chocolate Chip and was surprised how quickly it disappeared, as I’m not a muffin guy.
At right we’ve got some goods at Ostrovitsky’s Bakery. I picked up some chocolate bow ties; they were decent, but a bit too powdery and dry for my liking. Maybe a larger sample would have been a solid idea!
One store specializes in silver products and, according to one employee, is “known throughout the world”. Perfect, perhaps, for serving your rugelach and cookies.
The big surprise of the day was stumbling upon Pomegranate, a supermarket taking up a full block. It also has a huge parking lot, something Trader Joe’s can’t boast, indicative of the lifestyle in this area. At least it’s tastefully surrounded by a fence adorned with pomegranate sculptures.
Pomegranate is beautiful inside. It might be the country’s largest kosher supermarket, with three different kitchens: one for meat, one for dairy, and one for pareve. (Pareve products can be served with either meat or cheese.)
One friend suggested I check out the tahini selection. Next time. I’ll also probably be purchasing a DVD of the “Agent Emes” series, just to check it out.
Just one more stop before scurrying off to the “warmth” of the Q train platform at Avenue M: the Vitagraph smokestack. Vitagraph was a film company in New York at the turn of the 20th century, and used to have a studio at this location. That building is gone, but the smokestack remains, in the back corner of a high-school parking lot. It’s not in great shape.
After a respite at home, it was back to the neighborhood for dinner. Di Fara was to be the perfect cap to a great day, and it lived up to the hype. Owner Dom DeMarco, who’s nearing 80, makes every pie by hand – kneading the dough, tossing it, applying sauce and toppings, even cutting it.
The “classic” has sausage, peppers, mushrooms, and onions, and a perfect parmesan topping that ties the pizza together. $32 is steep but it’s well worth it.
Di Fara was hosting a dinner party that night, so it was one slice in the shop and back home with a nearly full pie on the train. I think I made a lot of people jealous that night.