Monday, January 26, 2009
Getting Fette in Brooklyn
My meal at Fette Sau in Brooklyn was, quite simply, incredibly fun. Meara and Laura and I were in good spirits and eating meat with such abandon still feels new and a little forbidden to me, regardless of its provenance. Barbecue is bound to be a major part of my eating journey as I travel through Virginia and the Carolinas, then later in Texas, but the northeast doesn’t offer much produce in winter and we were cold and found ourselves contemplating dinner from across the street at Spuyten Duyvil over mulled wine, so we headed over, shivering. We were in just the right mood for a place with communal tables and cafeteria trays. Rolls of paper towels and unlabeled squeeze bottles of sauce are handily set at each table. It was a Wednesday but we waited for seats; the buzz hasn’t worn off of this place yet. We ordered spicy Berkshire pork sausage, boneless beef ribs, baked beans and brisket, with German potato salad and broccoli salad sides. The guy slinging the meat was a skinny, hip jokester with weird, perfectly round patches of white in his beard. I asked him where the meat came from. He told me that the beef came from Pineland Farms upstate. The pork, he said was Berkshire pork. “Berkshire, like, from Western Mass?” I asked. “It’s all organic. I know that,” he said.
“Berkshire Pork” refers to the Berkshire breed, not to the hills of western Massachusetts. Descended from English herds, these black pigs are known for their tender, juicy flesh. American Berkshire pigs, or kurobuta, can be from anywhere in the states. Of course it’s no big deal that the guy serving us didn’t know this—he’s not a chef. It’s interesting, though, that so few people have asked where the meat was coming from. Organic, it seems, is enough to assuage most recent-vegetarian consciences, and I’m sure that many recent converts break edge at this place. I certainly enjoyed my meal. We all went caveman on the piles of fatty meat and picked at the sides. What you see is really what you get at Fette Sau. All the meats were cooked properly and the pork sausage, while not very spicy, had a nice caraway flavor. The broccoli, though overcooked and doused in vinegar, was a comforting palate-cleanser between bites of different meats, and the potato rolls provided a nice, chewy sponge to soak up the grease. We had a half-gallon jug of their house beer and a tasting flight of American whiskey. By the end of our meal, we were singing Brooklyn’s praises with a couple of Brits at the end of our table. Meara demonstrated some James Brown dance moves. I’m so glad that I got to go to this place with good friends—as a solo traveler, it wouldn’t have been such a standout.
Next up: Baltimore, then Charlottesville.