Brooklyn has really burst on to the food landscape with not only a thriving restaurant scene, but also a food manufacturing movement. It has been decades since one could purchase so many different types of specialty foods from the borough of Kings, and foodies in Brooklyn have a status once reserved for writers or artists. It is common to hear “artisanal pickles” associated with the movement, but usually as a joke rather than a positive note. Although it may still have detractors, the local food production movement is growing and its future looks bright. It is fitting then, that City Harvest, the city’s oldest food rescue organization, decided to host its second annual Brooklyn Local fundraising event in Brooklyn Bridge Park.
The event planners at City Harvest must have gotten a lot of good karma from delivering excess food to the needy, as Saturday turned out to be a wonderful sunny, fall day. Entering Pier 1 from Old Fulton, small signs with adjectives like “yummy” and “delicious” lead people to the main event. Upon going through the entrance you could see a Kids Zone set up with stroller parking (of course), and the family friendly atmosphere was rewarded with dozens of kids running about.
The main tent hosted 75 food purveyors and vendors that use Brooklyn not only as their homebase but also share the namesake. Brooklyn Roasting Company was next to Brooklyn Brewery, next to Brooklyn Kitchen and just across the aisle was Brooklyn Cured. They squeezed in alongside Spoonable, Saxelby Cheesemongers, Free Bread, and many others vendors offering a wide selection of goods.
The presence of all these purveyors here together made it seem almost like a Brooklyn food industry trade fair rather than a fundraising event. Each time I attend an event like this, I realize there are more and more types of food that are made right here in Brooklyn. Furthermore, these businesses are growing and evolving. Stinky Bklyn, which started as a speciality cheese shop had its new prepared food line available. The vendor showed off their Maple Bacon Peanuts and Rice Crispy Treats, which he pointed out will be available at the Brooklyn Nets new stadium.
The highlight of the day was the tasting tent. Here was a collection of Brooklyn restaurants, including Char No. 4, Brooklyn Star, Mile End, The Hook and others putting out sample dishes by their head chefs. My personal favorite was Benchmark Restaurant ,which served a BBQ spare rib with spicy pickled watermelon. The sweet but tangy watermelon really complimented the deliciously cooked spare rib. Head Chef Ryan Jaronik told me he learned to pickle from his grandmother, and when thinking of a dish for this event he had summertime BBQs in mind.
In addition to the restaurants, Brooklyn Brewery, Red Hook Wines, and Smith & Vine set up a table dishing out locally made beer and wine. Red Hook Wines offered four of their wines, and I tried the Seneca Lake Riesling made from grapes upstate. The sweet wine was perfect for transitioning in to the desserts, which included tarts from Pies and Thighs and ice cream from Van Leeuwen. To wash it all down I sampled Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Local 1, coincidentally sharing the event’s name.
I don’t think it was a hard to decide to host the event at Brooklyn Bridge Park, what better way to support a growing food manufacturing industry than by hosting it on Brooklyn’s marquee park of the new century. The weather was great, the views of the Financial District skyline were outstanding and the festival attendees were serenaded by local bands.
I think this event is a solid example of where this food movement is going. It’s not just about buying $8 bottles of Raspberry JalapeÃ±o jam (although after trying it at The Jam Stand I definitely did on Saturday), but it’s about the entire experience you can find at these events. It is a celebration of locally made products, where makers can meet and educate their buyers in person, with live music all set set in neighborhoods spots or parks that we love. With the density of people who love all things local in New York City, they really cater to their target market. The cross pollination that then occurs between food enthusiasts, food writers, chefs and purveyors helps coalesce it all, and causes the food culture of Brooklyn to continue to evolve
The fact the movement is teaming up with City Harvest for a good cause makes me hope all the more that these food makers succeed. In the end it was obvious that an event like Brooklyn Local makes it easy for people to support food rescue, as donating and having fun here are not mutually exclusive. And yes, there were artisan pickles there, and nobody complained.