Dazed and confused? Not me. I’m just Lost in the Cheese Aisle.

Thursday, July 29, 2010


On the boardwalk with Toni, The Other Elisson, and Eli. Sharp-eyed observers will spot the old Parachute Jump tower in the distance, right next to The Other Elisson’s head.

Last weekend, as I sat and enjoyed my seafood dinner with Eli (hizzownself), Toni, and The Other Elisson, we began casting about for something to do Saturday afternoon. Toni tossed out a suggestion: Why not take a ride to Brighton Beach?

I thought this was a capital idea. Long a Jewish enclave, a huge influx of both Jewish and non-Jewish Russians beginning in the 1970’s had transmogrified the place into something resembling Moscow West. I had not been to Brighton for something approaching three decades and was eager to see how it had changed.

Brighton - named after the English beach resort where Elder Daughter made her home for close to a year - is sandwiched between Manhattan Beach to the east and Coney Island to the west. It’s right on the Atlantic Ocean, with a boardwalk that runs along the shore. Our mission, however, had nought to do with taking the waters or catching a few rays: We were there in search of Exotic Foods, of which there were plenty.

Once we found a parking spot - not an easy task, but Eli and Toni were more than up to the job - we headed straight to Tatiana’s Café, right on the boardwalk. Eli and I enjoyed bowls of cold, refreshing green borscht made with spinach and dill; Toni had barley soup; we all followed this up with a lemony beet and arugula salad. A light meal, it was perfect sustenance on what had to be the hottest day of the year.

The meat counter at M&I International.
Fortified by our luncheon, we began our real mission: raiding the various Exotic Food Shoppes along Brighton Beach Avenue. Chief among these is M&I International Foods, a rambling, three-level affair where you can buy pretty much anything you might have a mind to eat. Meats, prepared foods, smoked fish, canned goods - it’s all there. You want Russian hot cereal mix? A bottle of ice-cold kvass (the Russian answer to Coca-Cola, a beverage made from fermented bread)? They have that stuff too.

Kvass: Bread in a bottle.
Toni and I were in our element here. While she raided the meat counter, I found a square of prune-nut strudel and a couple of slices of sturgeon. The only thing holding me back - I could have bought the place out - was the fact that I was on the road and had no place to put things save for The Other Elisson’s fridge, and that only for the night. So I was, out of necessity if nothing else, good to go.

Did I mention that Russians were thick on the ground here? Street signage was all in Cyrillic, and the various shopkeepers spoke an amalgam of Russian, Ukrainian, and heavily accented English. Eli and Toni, who have been to Russia, say it’s more Russian in Brighton Beach than in Russia these days, and I have no reason to doubt them. They don’t call this place “Little Odessa” for nothing.

Purchases in hand, we repaired to the third level, where there is a café of sorts. We ordered a few cold drinks and were shortly joined by the Sweetheart of Sheepshead Bay herself, the ever-charming Erica, who lives just a mile or two away from Brighton.

Brighton 3
Eli (hizzownself), Toni, Erica, and Yours Truly in Brighton Beach. [Click to embiggen.] Photo by The Other Elisson.

We had a lovely visit there, sipping iced coffee and talking about all manner of things. At one point I had to gently steer the conversation away from some of the events of an infamous Helen blogmeet - events involving an inflatable sheep, a broomstick, and Velociman - items and personages the mere mention of which caused Toni’s eyes to grow very wide - but we had a splendid time together, conversing on Matters Brooklyn. Alas, all too soon, it was time for us to hit the trail and head for points east... whereupon we all managed to cram ourselves into the Elimobile to deliver Erica right to her front door.

All in all, a fine afternoon - never mind that it was hotter than the hubs of Hell. Next time, though, we’ll wait for cooler weather... and it’s gonna be vodka and caviar, baby! Nashe zdorovʹe!


Erica said...

Sorry about that. It was the official symbol for "International Play Half-Rubber Time" -- or so V-Man had dubbed it.

I had a wonderful time, but that photo...ack...I will be giving SWMBO a call post-haste.

Erica said...

...and allow me to add: I cannot wait 'til next time.

The Other Elisson said...

@Erica... It was a privilege to meet you last Saturday. Brooklyn born, bred and proud, as evidenced by your shirt... and a heart of gold.

Anonymous said...

I am flying to New York August the 11th to see my son Eric. He is married to a Russian-Jew lady, pretty as she can be, Cat