I have the distinct honor of having performed a cross-borough Thai chicken crackling mitzvah. It all started when I heard that my buddy Noah Arenstein was having problems sourcing gribbenes for Scharf & Zoyer, his new sandwich stand at Smorgasburg. So last Friday night I breezed by the throng waiting for tables outside Thai juggernaut Sripraphai and purchased four boxes of nan kai, super-crunchy fried chicken skin seasoned with salt and garlic.
Noah had me play guinea pig with his newest creation, a kugel double down with carrot and cabbage slaw topped with gribbenes. The kugel sandwich is his invention and a brilliant one at that. This version of it needs some tweaking, though the Thai gribbenes played their crunchy, salty role perfectly. “I think you’ll find the original more balanced,” Noah said.
My kugel experience is very limited, mostly to the sandwiches Noah fed me. The classic kugel double down ($5) is extraordinary. The noodle pie bread encases maple flavored farmer’s cheese, orange-apricot preserves, and fried shallots. It’s sweet, cheesy, savory, tart, and six kinds of tasty. I almost had Noah make me one with crackling on it, but thought I might as well sample some other Smorgasburg offerings.
A bowl of uni ramen and half dozen oysters put me in a nautical mood so I braved the line for Red Hook Lobster Pound. It actually moved rather quickly and soon I had a $16 Maine style lobster roll in hand. The cool lobster tucked into the griddled and buttered roll was a vacation in sandwich form.
Just as I was leaving I noticed that all-time favorite pork sandwich purveyor, Porchetta, had a stand offering mini sandwiches for $7. The lady behind the cutting board was chopping up bits of burnished crackling and meat. When I asked to take a photo of the sandwich I accidentally nudged it with my hand, an unintentional but fortuitous gaffe that resulted in the gifting of the mini sandwich. By this point I was absolutely stuffed so I placed the wrapped sandwich in my pocket.
After a Rocket Fuel at the nearby Sweetleaf I decided to take a stroll through Williamsburgh along Metropolitan Ave. A stroll that turned out to be much longer than expected. I wound up walking the 6.5 miles back to Rego Park. About halfway through I remembered that little pork sandwich. Maybe Smorgasburg isn’t so bad after all, I thought to myself as I happily munched on the sandwich on a Ridgewood street corner.
Smorgasburg, East River State Park, at Norh 7th St., Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.