I’m madder than Morris the Cat when his nitwit owner feeds him “Tender Vittles” instead of his beloved “Nine Lives” over how difficult it is to make sure you keep everybody happy when planning a party in a place as diverse as Brooklyn.
Look, you all know the Screecher isn’t politically correct. In fact I hate the term, as well as some other expressions (most notably, “Hold the mayonnaise”). But that doesn’t mean I’m going to intentionally insult some of my guests by making sure every meat dish is parmigiana or insisting we only serve pork and lobster instead of steak and fish.
So it’s a good thing that I hold my big Bensonhurst West End Community Council (BWECC!) annual dinner dance at the beautiful, delicious, and culturally sensitive El Caribe in Mill Basin — where they know how to make sure everyone has something to eat.
And do you know how they do it! With unlimited variety!
I’d be lying to you if I told you I went to management this year and demanded it make sure a good potion of the food is Kosher or Halal or whatever. You know why? Because I don’t have to! These guys are businessmen, and they know their business. And they know that if they want to keep their business, they need to mix it up! And mix it up they did, keeping everyone happy!
So this week, I’m dedicating my column to cocktail hour at El Caribe — because there was so much delicious food served there, that I won’t have enough space to get to the main course!
Now, I know what your thinking: “Carmine, the only reason you do this is to make good on the deal you made with these guys, telling them you’ll give them free press if they give you a good deal.”
Well, if that’s what you think, I’ve got one word for you: “You’re wrong.”
If you know anything about the Screecher, you know he only shoots his mouth off when he’s speaking the truth. And I can assure you that the only reason I’m writing these nice things about El Caribe’s menu is because it is what it is: superb.
Here’s a taste, followed by my opinion of the dish (of course I tasted everything, because that’s what I do):
Boneless Chicken Balsamico: Morsels of rosemary-scented chicken sautéed in white wine and aged balsamic vinegar served with fresh lemon and sliced mushrooms. “Yum, yum.”
Eggplant Rollatini: Eggplant filets stuffed with creamy ricotta, homemade mozzarella, and pecorino Romano cheeses, topped with marinara sauce. “This dish had no meat, so my lovely wife Sharon could enjoy it without having to worry about her gout.”
Broccoli di rabe and sausage: Florets of broccoli sautéed with garlic, oil, and pepperoncini, tossed with wedges of fennel-laced sausage. “This is a very favorite Italian dish, that keeps away the two things banned at my parties: werewolves and vampires.”
Szechuan-flavored country-style spareribs: Baby back spareribs marinated with sliced shallots and hoisin sauce, then broiled to perfection. “If you like hot, you will love these ribs.”
Grilled Calamari: Tender calamari, char-grilled, and dressed with an emulsion of fresh lemon, extra virgin olive oil, and a seasonal herb bouquet. “For those who can’t pronounce it right, just say ‘Delicious fried squid’.”
Stewed tripe with peas: Premium honeycomb tripe, simmered with San Marzano tomatoes, baby peas, and sautéed onions. “If you like eating innards, you’ll love it.”
Braciolettini: Bundles of top round beef stuffed with mozzarella, flat leaf parsley, chopped garlic, and herbs, topped with marinara sauce and Parmesan cheese. “Never been one of my favorites, because of the garlic.”
Asian spiced loin of pork: Sliced pork tenderloin marinated in teriyaki sauce and fresh ginger, then broiled and presented with oven dried scallions and carrots. “Look, some of us eat pork, and love it!”
Spiedini: Milk-fed veal cutlets, dusted with seasoned breadcrumbs, shallots and bay leaf, rolled and broiled. “I am not politically correct when it come to veal, because it tastes so good.”
MusselsCaprese: Broiled New Zealand green-shelled mussels topped with chiffonnade basil, sliced garlic, and diced plum tomatoes. “Look, some of us like to eat shellfish, and love it!”
Linguini aglio e olio: Linguini cooked al dente and tossed with extra virgin olive oil, browned garlic and chopped parsley. “Garlic galore!”
Deep-fried calamari: Tender calamari, dusted with flour then deep fried golden brown, accompanied by fresh lemon wedges and marinara sauce. “There’s an expression in the restaurant business: ‘You fry it, they buy it!’ Mmmmmm.”
My editor tells me that’s all I’ve got room for! But I’ll tell you more about it when I screech at you next week!
Stuffed pork filet: Center-cut pork medallions stuffed with fennel sausage, sun dried tomatoes, and oreganata breadcrumbs, topped with a light tomato sauce. “The only thing better than pork is stuffed pork!”
Grilled chicken and garden vegetables: Sliced breast of chicken, char-grilled and tossed with herb-infused olive oil and char-grilled seasonal garden vegetables. “This is healthy and delicious, so I ate three servings.”
Spanakopita: A savory Mediterranean pie with phyllo dough crust and a filling of spinach and feta cheese. “If you don’t like spinach pie, there is something wrong with you!”
Norwegian salmon: Whole, succulent Atlantic salmon, poached in a traditional court-bouillon. “This one passes everyone’s tests.”
Mussels marinara: Prince Edward Island Mussels steamed with fresh garlic plum tomatoes and fresh parsley. “I don’t always eat mussels, but when I do, I prefer mussels marinara.”
Caviar Mélange: American golden and black caviar served chilled, presented with toast points and lemon wedges, garnished with hard-cooked egg whites and yolks, minced onion, and capers served beside accompanied by iced vodka. “A different kind of surf and turf! And the vodka is Kosher! (I think).”
More on this next week, when I will screech at you again!
Read Carmine Santa Maria's column every Sunday almost exclusively on BrooklynPaper.com. E-mail him at [email protected], if you have the guts.