Are there really vineyards on Long Island? Yes. Where did the cocoa in the chocolate come from? Ecuador. What is in the Halve Maen pie? Mincemeat. Where can I normally buy this cheese? At Fairway. You really make handmade corn tortillas? Yes. Such were the questions directed toward producers at the New Amsterdam Market on South Street this past Sunday. Inspired by the notion that great public markets make great cities, the organization selected dozens of A-list regional producers to set up shop to sell their fare for the market's inaugural event.
Markets play an equally important role in New York's history, but many have faded away - among them the Washington Market in present-day Tribeca and the Fulton Fish Market in its old location (providing the backdrop for the New Amsterdam Market). Yet, the interest in slow, artisanal food and healthier organic produce has created a need for new markets among conscientious consumers. Furthermore, and this was perhaps the most reassuring trend I observed at the New Amsterdam Market, many young people are showing an interest in the older craft aspects of food production, whether it's wine, cheese, bread, or chocolate.
One thing I appreciate about shopping in a public market is the ability to chat with individual merchants. This kind of exchange of questions and answers about consumables and their production mirrors the ideal of the political public space, a notion inspired by the polis of classical Greece where toga-draped men spoke great words about civic virtue. With a direct exchange of thoughts among citizens, compelling actionable policies move forward. I don't think we'll be discussing the merits of a war with Sparta at the New Amsterdam Market, but we could form the basis for long-lasting relationships. Getting to know the people that make our food is virtuous enough.
To bring this discussion down to earth, I ate two yummy things on site at the market - a succulent brisket and slaw sandwich from Marlow & Sons (Brooklyn) and a delicious Halve Maen Pie from Bathazar Bakery (it tasted like Thanksgiving Day). I also purchased handmade corn tortillas from the Hot Bread Kitchen (Brooklyn), a rustic bread from Sullivan Street Bakery (Hell's Kitchen), and a bottle of chardonnay from Paumanok Vineyards (Aquebogue, NY) for later.
The next dates scheduled for the New Amsterdam Market (official site) are October 25, November 22, and December 20, all extremely well-timed in advance of the nearby holidays.
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from September 13, 2009.