photo of The Cherry Tree’s backyard courtesy of Meredith–thanks!
Over the weekend, I celebrated my 25th birthday with a few friends by bar-hopping around my old streets in Park Slope. Little did I know you can now bar-hop on Fourth Avenue. We began at Sheep Station, at 4th Ave. and Douglass, and I was dismayed to discover it had changed overnight into primarily a sit-down restaurant (no doubt thanks to the NYTimes review), and there was no room for us to just drink. So we headed a few blocks up to The Cherry Tree on 4th and Bergen, hung out in their beautiful backyard, which was well-heated thanks to the warm brick pizza oven back there (Adam, you might want to check this out if you haven’t already–my friends were raving about it and they’re generally picky about pizza), and a warm WHOLE PIG that happened to be roasting in the middle of the backyard. We’d stumbled into the place on the first Saturday of the month, which according to head chef Patric, was free roast pig night. He informed us the thing had been killed that morning in New Jersey and had been roasting and smoking for a good part of the day, though he was disappointed he didn’t have as much time to marinate it as he would have liked.
Of course, since it was my birthday and since it was totally free (and utterly unexpected), I accepted a serving of some hacked up pieces of pork, skin, and lots of its fat, which were passed out to any open hand in individual paper french fry dishes. Though the raucous crowd questioned the absence of sauce or surface seasoning, the pig was incredibly juicy, hot, the skin as crispy as a thin layer of bone, and tasty as…well, a pork skin. Unfortunately for the vegetarian members of my party, the spectacle was a true carnivore’s dream. Seeing the chefs turn over the whole pig, pressed tightly between two grills, and transfer it onto a chopping block for carving, was of course the most opportune moment a food blogging photographer could ever hope for…if I had only remembered to bring my camera. So please check it out for yourselves on the first Saturday of the month, and tell Patric I sent you!
After the pig eating, we began to tire of the fratty crowd that was quickly dominating the place, and headed across the street to the 4th Avenue Pub. It was a perfect bar to end the night–they serve a generous selection of drafts, had a free old-time popcorn maker in the back and an oldschool video game machine (to the delight of Ms. Pac champ Karol), and at some point in the early morning, the bartender offered our table a few slices of an apple pie that his mom made. We all agreed it was the best apple pie we’d ever had. I’m not sure if it had something to do with the fact that it was 2am and we had drank a hearty variety of drinks throughout the night and had already eaten a lot of free greasy stuff. But somehow everyone was convinced that I needed to extract the bartender’s mom’s recipe because it was just that good.
So I asked the bartender if he knew it, and without another word he picked up his cell phone and called his mom at 2am, woke her up, got the recipe out of her (for the filling only, unfortunately), and apologized for waking her up. I think he was a little soused. It was nothing surprising–half a cup of sugar, half a cup of brown sugar, 6 or so granny smiths, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pats of butter before the crust is put on. I think something about being older, more experienced, and a mom in particular, is what tends to result in the best pies I’ve ever tasted. Well, that’s something to look forward to in life.