Some things never sound all that good, no matter how you try to describe them. Take, for example, pickled herring (gooey but oddly delicious), goat meat (stringy, but I swear that it’s a good sort of stringy), or Korean gelatinous fish skins. Or codfish patties, which sound like something you might find while cleaning the bottom of your pet cod’s aquarium.
But really, codfish patties are deceptively tasty. Especially the fresh-baked codfish patties served at Saint Vincent Bakery (formerly known as Vincie Bakery) in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn. The patties are made with spicy, dry shredded salt cod—slightly chewy, with bits of onion, hot pepper, and unidentifiable bits of green herbs—folded into a pocket of flaky dough that splits the difference between an empanada and a stuffed croissant. Great stuff for $1.50 per patty. The bakery also sells some excellent, inexpensive currant and coconut rolls ($1-$2, depending on the flavor).
And in case you’re wondering, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a tiny, independent country in the Caribbean, not too far from Barbados, Saint Lucia, and Grenada. The total population of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is around 120,000 souls, mostly concentrated on the relatively large island of Saint Vincent; the smaller Grenadines islands have a total population of 9,200, which is less than an average block in Manhattan. Sounds much nicer than Manhattan.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines should not be confused with Grenada, a completely separate Caribbean nation of around 110,000 people. The nation of Grenada also encompasses a few of the sparsely populated Grenadine islands, but the larger island of Grenada is not technically part of the Grenadines (got that?). Grenadine, the pomegranate syrup used in Shirley Temples and other terrifyingly sweet cocktails, has nothing to do with either place; “grenadine” is derived from the French word for pomegranate. And pomegranates are not native to the Grenadine islands nor Grenada.
Confused? OK, good. I’ll stop now.
Anyway, the bakery named after the nation of Saint Vincent and Grenadines also serves food from the country of Grenada. But only on Saturdays. At long last, I get to try oildown!
As mentioned in an earlier post about Bahamian food, oildown sounds like something sexy that may or may not happen to you on a beach in Grenada. It’s also the national dish of Grenada, made from breadfruit, meat, and vegetables that have been simmered in coconut milk for hours and hours. When the dish is finished cooking, only a coating of coconut oil remains on the meat and veggies. I always thought that sounded ridiculously awesome.
And it was ridiculously awesome, once I finished startling the friendly Grenadian servers. I don’t think they were expecting a little white dude to walk into a bakery in Flatbush and order a dish that doesn’t appear anywhere on a sign or a menu. One of the friendly ladies behind the counter (presumably one of the chefs responsible for the oildown) stopped dead in her tracks when I ordered oildown, gave me a quizzical look, and said, “Oildown?!? What you know ‘bout oildown?!?” And then she laughed as if I’d just told a really great joke, and disappeared into the kitchen.
A couple of minutes later, the friendly Grenadian chef/server reemerged from the kitchen with a large Styrofoam container, jammed with meat and vegetables in a bright yellow sauce. She helpfully described the contents of the container: carrots, breadfruit, yucca, green plantains, pig tails, some chunks of chicken, and a dribble of okra. And we all know that nothing dribbles like okra.
The oildown was filled with pleasant surprises… and isn’t that exactly what you would want from any oildown, culinary or otherwise? The coconut flavor was far less intense than I’d expected, and the dish was nowhere near as oily as the name might suggest. But the pig tails were absolutely delicious—apparently, pigs reserve their most intense ham flavors for their tails. Good job, pigs.
The other revelation was the breadfruit, which tasted like… well, bread. Or bread dough, to be specific—it reminded me of a crustless bread that had been pressed into an impossibly dense, flat patty. As a card-carrying carb lover, I was in heaven.
As heavenly as the breadfruit was, it’s still hard for me to believe that the pigtail-spiked oildown was as heavenly as having a gorgeous Grenadian give you a full-body oildown on a Grenadian beach… but I wouldn’t really know, unfortunately. And it was probably as close as you can get to Grenadian heaven without leaving Flatbush.
St. Vincent Bakery
1721 Nostrand Ave., Brooklyn
Subway: Beverly Ave. (2, 5 trains)