Thursday, June 9, 2011

Fleaing to Brooklyn

What do Café Habana, Peoples Pops, and The Meat Hook all have in common? For one, they not only provide New Yorkers with delicious summertime taste sensations, but each eatery also has booths in some of the most foodie-forward neighborhood fairs and fleas around Brooklyn. If you were some of the few who decided to forego the beach trip this past Memorial Day holiday, then you, (like me!) remember being handed a nice smack of heat and humidity in the city. While I won’t argue that feeling a constant state of frizzy, dampness isn’t what I would call flattering, I was ecstatic that with the long weekend came the long-awaited arrival of what finally felt like summer!

I’ve been spending a lot of time fleeing to Brooklyn over the past year; Mr. Mix lives in the heart of hipsterdom–a.k.a. Williamsburg, but over the holiday, my man was off on a three day concert circuit with his boys, while Erin and I spent the weekend “fleaing” of a different sort. We made plans to explore the new Brooklyn Flea Smorgasburg that weekend, and I couldn’t think of a better way to jump-start the season than with an extra helping of sun, fun, and food! But before we got to taste, sip and shop through the stalls at the flea market, Erin had a surprise in store…

Erbear lives in Downtown Brooklyn and bodes confidence in where to go for great treats and eats in her hood. Before hitting The Flea, she  suggested we start off in her neighborhood to swing by an eclectic street fair of an entirely different appetite. My mind was set on getting to Billyburg, but Erin lured me with promises of elotes callejeros from Habana Outpost (and cab fare). My knowledge on how to navigate Brooklyn is still being practiced, so I gave in–what better time than a decidedly sunny afternoon to eat my way through what BK had to offer?

Upon exiting the subway at Atlantic terminal, I was suddenly transplanted south, and not just to the southern states, but all the way down to the Caribbean as well. Bob Marley blared on the steamy downtown Brooklyn streets; smells of incense, white pepper and confectioner’s sugar mingled in the air. Kids were running around with sticky fingers from fried Oreos, and the crowd donned large plastic cups filled with iced lemonades and Arnold Palmers. The vendors dished up pure comfort soul food like savory yams, fried chicken and green beans mixed with hot peppers, but fried foods weren’t the only things on offer–fresh fruit juice and smoothie vendors were also favorites among the locals looking to cool off from the sun. Making our way to the Café Habana Outpost we plopped ourselves down and dug into fresh corn-on-the-cob rolled with chili, cheese and butter, then quickly moved on and devoured our chicken tacos alongside some fair-found chicken wings and funnel cakes. Bellies full, we set off once again toward the Williamsburg waterfront, and even more food.

The Brooklyn Flea is always a popular destination for those inclined to pick up fresh produce, sort through vintage treasures, and take in tons of people watching. In addition to the farmers’ market, The Flea features hundreds of top vendors of antique and repurposed furniture, vintage clothing, collectibles and antiques, as well as a tightly curated selection of jewelry, art, and crafts by local artisans and designers. But on Saturdays, the market kicks it up a notch with their new addition of an all-food “Smorgasburg” that features 100+ vendors selling packaged and prepared foods of all kinds, as well as 15 Greenmarket farmers. It’s closest thing New Yorkers have got to a California style eat-while-you-shop farmers’ market, and it serves up many of Brooklyn’s best eats all in one convenient location with a Manhattan backdrop to boot.

A completely different vibe than the Southern roots we had just left behind, the market was a mob scene filled with hipsters, families and tourists swarming among endless stands featuring fresh strawberries, cured meats, hand-made cheeses and every imaginable foodie find. Erin and I felt like we were being pulled in countless directions, until I zeroed in on a booth that caught my eye…The Brooklyn Grange. The Grange Farm is one of very few fully-functional rooftop farms in New York City, and one of the best. Most of their harvest is outsourced to markets and top, local restaurants like Joseph Leonard, Fatty ‘Cue and Bobo. I snatched up some wild arugula to take home with me to act as a salad bed for my beet and goat cheese napoleons, and we then began our search for something sweet. Still full from our Mexican fiesta and with temperatures soaring with the high noon sun, we decided on rhubarb popsicles from People’s Pops. With greens and pops in hand, we perched on a grassy knoll down by the river and took in the breeze, the crowd, and the satisfying sense that we had tasted Brooklyn’s best.

For folks eager to explore outer borough flavors, cultures, and vistas this summer, might I suggest carrying plenty of cash, crossing the bridge, and coercing an expert Brooklyn navigator to shop by your side…then Eat it Up!

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