Brooklyn’s ‘Smorgasburg’ Is a Food Market Maze You’ll Never Want to Find The Exit To

Sign for the Smorgasburg food market in Brooklyn.

When it comes to food, New Yorkers are spoiled. There are so many options it makes them wonder, “Am I really in the United States?” What other cities can you find Moroccan food, Italian food and Cuban food, all within a block of each other? At Smorgasburg flea food market that’s standard. It’s tents upon tents of different foods from around the world.

Customers begin their search for food.

Located in Williamsburg, every Saturday, starting April 7th, from 11am to 6pm.

Customers waiting on one of the many lines for food.

Opening day was filled with lines of people waiting for burgers, tacos, donuts and more.

Granola Lab

Granola from Granola Lab.

You know what they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you skipped breakfast and want to start off with a light snack before you get to the heavier foods, try Granola Lab. The company was created by Alex, who started out by making granola in her house. There are five different types of granola to try: activation energy, cranberry-cashew compound, elemental formula, get gingersnapping and tamarind fusion.

You can follow Granola Lab on twitter @GranolaLab.

Miss Amy’s Preserves

If your stomach still isn’t ready to try something daring, try Miss Amy’s Preserves. Miss Amy, has been making fruit preserves for fifteen years. Made fresh every week, you can buy an 80z  ($7) or 16oz jar ($11), flavors include peach, strawberry mango and raspberry jam.

Home By The Range

Menu for Home By the Range.

Ready for something warm? You can’t go wrong with a sandwich from Home By the Range. Owner William Imre works directly with farmers to bring us the most wholesome products . Try the ‘Jersey Cow ($8)’ if you eat meat, filled with braised beef or if you’re a vegetarian try the ‘Garden State ($8),’ with portobello mushroom, fontina cheese, avocado, green onion and arugula. Even while on the clock, the employees enjoy the food.

Follow Home By The Range on twitter @homebytherange to get updates on their food in New York and New Jersey.

Sunday Gravy

Steven Smith’s, Sunday Gravy specializes in slow-braised meat sauce. Normally, I think pork tastes rubbery, but there was something special about this gravy that made my mouth water for more. The gravy is served spooned on a cracker that adds a special crunch.

Follow Sunday Gravy for updated information on their slow braised meat sauce on twitter @sundaygravynyc.

Employee Jeremy Funstun making a sale for Kumquat Cupcakery.

Strawberry and Lavender Cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery.

So, we’ve had breakfast and we warmed our stomachs up with lunch, but we can’t forget dessert.

These miniature cupcakes might look cute and tiny, but they really pack a punch of flavor. Owner of Kumquat Cupcakery, Keavy Landreth, has been open since 2007. Kumquatcupcakery.com says, “Taking inspiration from the many gourmet patisseries around Manhattan, Keavy creates cupcakes that are enjoyed like a truffle or a bonbon.” Try the red velvet cupcakes that are topped with vanilla frosting or the chocolate peanut butter cupcake topped with creamy peanut butter frosting.

People Pop’s employee Brian Austin demonstrating shaving ice to customers.

People’s Pops stand.

Move over Mr. Softee, there’s a healthier summer treat in town. People’s Pops specializes in different all-natural  fruit-flavored shaved ice ($2.50) and popsicles ($3.50). Brian Austin, an employee of People’s Pops, shaves the ice in front of you so the ice cone will be fresh and cool. He calls shaving an “old school” technique. Some flavors include sour cherry, strawberry rhubarb and my personal favorite, blueberry lavender with actual blueberry pieces.

Follow People’s Pops on twitter @peoplespops.

If you’re looking for breakfast, lunch, dinner or even baby food, the Smorgasburg can please just about anyone.

My advice? Bring a wallet overflowing with singles and let last nights pots and pans soak in the sink. Not only is the food affordable, it’s also delicious and there are enough free samples you may have to loosen a notch or two on your belt.

Tired of the Same Old Bean? The Brooklyn Bean Co. Has a Selection of Fresh Beans That’ll Surprise You

Williamsburg Savings Bank

Flea markets were once the place people went to buy trinkets, clothing and cheap toys. As customers shopped they ate quick hot dogs or chicken tenders from a stand. If they were lucky, they’d get fresh zeppoles, soaking a paper plate with fried oil and topped with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.

The point is, the food wasn’t exactly healthy but that’s because flea markets didn’t have the Brooklyn Bean Co. to thrust bags of beans into the hands of wandering customers.

Thankfully, the Brooklyn Flea does.

Sign for the Brooklyn Flea.

On winter Saturdays, inside the old Williamsburg Savings bank, in Fort Greene, is the Brooklyn Bean Co., the place to eat whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or even a meat eater.

The vault at the Williamsburg Savings Bank.

It’s at first eerie to find out the food is sequestered at the bottom of the bank, all the way inside the vault, as if it is the flea markets metaphorical way of saying, “This is what really matters and what needs protecting.”

Or maybe it makes for a good conversational piece when customers enjoy their lunch from the different food vendors. Whatever the case, if new customers are expecting to be overwhelmed by hordes of people and are warming up their arm muscles to get ready to push people out of their way to reach their destination, well, they’re mistaken.

There was no pushing, no shoving but there was a new air of excitement as people walked through the vault door in search of a food vendor.

Co-owners of the Brooklyn Bean Co., Erica Pratico and William DeFillips.

As they walk in, customers are met with the smiling faces of co-owners Erica Pratico, food writer of Nona Brooklyn and William DeFillips, chef and teacher at the Culinary Institute for twenty years. The two are young and eager new food vendors that glowed underneath the dim lighting of the bank vault. Their stand was modest, made just of wood and a large sign, the stand was large enough to spread out their chili, bean banana bread and sacks of beans, sans gimmicks.

Buy fresh beans to take home for later.

Launched last March, the main ingredient in all the dishes in the Brooklyn Bean Co.’s food is, you guessed it, beans. Of course it’s not just black beans or kidney beans. It’s a variety of over forty different beans. Pratico and DeFillips favor lima beans, giant Peruvian limas, the scarlet runner, kidney beans and…well, they couldn’t actually decide which one they favored the most. Pratico says there are so many “variables and they all have their advantages.”

The Brooklyn Bean Co. spends the winter in the Bank and the summer at Fort Greene (opening April 7) and the Smorgasburg.

Customers inside the vault.

Right now, the Williamsburg Brooklyn Flea market is more of a food court for them. There’s a decrease in bean sales inside the vault but that changes when they are outside at the Smorgasburg, where there are more vendors, a green market and recurring customers. However, since beans are cheap, compared to other vendors they’re still making a tidy profit. DeFillips says, beans are, “low cost, wider margin,” so they don’t have anything to worry about just yet, compared to others whose main staples might include something costly like fish or poultry.

Brooklyn Bean Co. Stand

Pratico says the idea behind the Brooklyn Bean Co. came because the two wanted “ownership of something.” They researched different ideas and tried to figure out what wasn’t out there already. In a city where varieties of food trucks run the streets, they reached out to local farms, bought fresh beans on wholesale and the ideas sprung from there.

Pratico and DeFillips wanted a “healthy option” menu that was “all bean based” that could cater to “vegetarian and people who eat meat.” A truck is the next step, an idea they’ve been discussing between themselves but for now Pratico says they’re trying to “ease in, start small,” and then they plan to “graduate to a food truck.”

The beans come from local farmers, from states such as Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont and even New York. The two contact the farmers directly, who are excited to work with them. Direct contact allows for the company to know how the beans are sorted and packaged, and how fresh they really are.

DeFillips serving vegetarian chilli with all the fixings.

DeFillips says the company has “rejuvenated” his love for cooking.

Brooklyn Bean Co. menu during the winter.

“Dried beans in general are a commodity,” says Pratico, who also mentioned with a grin that beans were the first documented food in ancient Greece.

They offer the two a lot of versatility because they can be incorporated into many different dishes, if done the right way.

“It’s not just something that should be a side dish,” Pratico argued strongly for her beans, “because there are so many different sizes and shapes. They’re a huge deal.”

She calls beans an “ethnic food,” because she didn’t grow up with them but they were staples in her friends’ foods. In the Spanish community beans are a big deal, you can’t have arroz without your frijoles, right?

Pratico believes that people are “afraid to work with dry beans.” They do take a lot more work to cook compared to canned beans but the end result is worth it.

At the mention of canned beans, a look of horror and repulsion passes on Pratico’s face. According to her, supermarket beans are old and can be up on the shelves for “five years or more,” eventually turning “to dust,” or a congealed high sodium mess. The beans they sell themselves are as close to three to six months old, at the most.

Vegetarian Chilli with all the ‘fixings.’

Their menu changes seasonally. During the winter they sell bean soup, chilies ($5 – $7)—one with beef and one without —and even pastries. The chili contains simple but effective ingredients, beans, their own chili paste, spices and vegetables. They also roast onion and garlic to extract as much flavor as possible. Their cooking technique make the spices stand out.

Pratico says they try not to make it “spicy,” because they want to appeal to the “masses.”

I recommend the chili with the “fixings,” a dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of shredded cheese and colorful green chives. You can also get a small dessert, a fresh red bean banana bread ($3). Fresh beans are also on sale to buy and cook later.

Banana Bean Bread from the Brooklyn Bean Co.

“It’s more about technique,” says DeFillips. The technique seems to be working because customers who at first contort their faces with disgust at the mention of beans become, “Surprised at how it taste really good,” says Pratico.

The surprise is evident. One customer, Sonia Baptise, from Brooklyn, said, after trying the vegetarian chili-sans fixings, “Listen, I’m a vegetarian. There’s only so much I will eat, there’s a lot I won’t eat and there’s a small fraction of food I can eat. This? I’ll eat this, it’s made of beans. Not many people can pull off bean dishes.”

Another customer, Eva Marco, said about the company, “Beans are easy, what a simple idea and yet it works. They have a business out of beans. Beans!” she exclaimed with a hint of envy. “They make you think, don’t they? What could I have? What could I make? What could I sell that tastes just as good and is simple? Of course I can’t cook, so that might be a problem.”

Truthfully, they surprised me as well. I was sure I had finally found a fault with DeFillips and Pratico. Banana bean bread? I was certain it was going to taste awful and that I would have to find the nearest hot dog vendor and scarf a dirty water dog down to get rid of the taste. Staring down at the piece of bread, cut in a square that resembled a gooey brownie, I hesitated as I bit into the dessert.

A moment later I had quickly shoved the bread in my mouth, chewing and swallowing it whole, instead of savoring every bite. The bread was delicious, the mix of the banana and the red kidney bean gave it this out of worldly taste that forced me to pause once I was done and close my eyes as if I was in a dream.

My taste buds danced as if I had jumping beans inside my mouth. I could see different colored beans growing on a farm, men and women harvesting them and then Pratico and DeFillips staring down at the beans, the gears in their heads turning as they contemplate what to do next.

Next just so happens to be bean balls.

In the summer, during the Smorgasburg, they plan to sell bean balls, their take on a traditional meatball, with smashed black beans and Parmigianino cheese along with black bean burgers. For spring, get ready for a Moroccan lamb chili that’s sure to get your taste buds tingling.

You can follow The Brooklyn Bean Co. on Twitter: @BrooklynBeanCo.

From Belgium to Greece, Five Food Trucks You Need to Visit in New York City

In the city that never sleeps, you’ll never go hungry. Food trucks cruise the city constantly. New York City has gourmet trucks, vegan trucks, dessert trucks and everything in between.

Thanks to Twitter, you can easily find the location of many trucks. But how do you decide which truck to visit when you’re craving something quick and cheap.

Here are five food trucks to visit whether you’re a tourist scouring the streets of New York or a native New Yorker looking for something new.

Photo Credit: Zach Brooks @ Midtown Lunch

If you like waffles then Wafels & Dinges is the truck for you. This yellow Belgian food truck specializes in waffles (or wafels) and, you guessed it, dinges. New York Magazine says the wafels are, “a dense, oblong treat cooked with imported sugar pearls that pop warmly and sweetly in your mouth,” while the dinges or ‘toppings’ can be, “anything from whipped cream and strawberries to Nutella and dulce de leche.”

If you can’t decide on a topping, you can create a combination of your own, a “WMD” or “Wafel of Massive Deliciousness.” The mini wafel runs at $3 while  larger wafels cost between $5 and $8.50.

You can follow Wafels & Dinges on twitter @waffletruck.

Photo Credit: by twi-ny/mdr

If you want to feel like you’re in another country, Souvlaki Gr is the next truck to visit. Mark Wiens, of migrationology.com, points out that Souvlaki Gr is, “the only food truck in New York City serving authentic Greek Street Food.” Greek music serenades customers as they place their order and as they wait, eyes lock onto the design of the truck, examining the images of the cliffs and buildings of Greece. Wiens says you can get, “grilled meat, wrapped in a warm pitta with tzatziki sauce ($4.50),” and french fries, “done the Greek way,” topped with feta cheese ($5), as a side.

Follow the truck on twitter @souvlakitruck for updates on location.

Photo: Sherry @ porkandchocolate.blogspot.com

The next truck, Korilla BBQ specializes in Korean-style tacos ($7), burritos ($7) and chosun bowls. You can get the chosun bowls ($8) with bacon and kimchi fried or plain rice with tofu or a meat (pork, chicken) and you can load on different vegetables and sauces.  Serious Eat’s says, “The best parts about Korilla are their kimchis and sauces, and in bowl form, you can pile on just about as much as you want: any of Korilla’s six kimchi renditions, four sauces, and numerous garnishes.”

Follow them on twitter @KorillaBBQ for updates.

Photo Credit: Andrea H. at midtownlunch.com

If you’re nervous about trying something new, visit New York City’s Milk Truck which specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. CBS  called the food, “the most visually appealing grilled cheese sandwiches around,” made with thick bread and different cheeses and toppings. They also sell milk shakes ($5.5), tomato soup ($5.25) and chickpea salad ($4.00).

Check out their  menu and follow them on twitter at @milktrucknyc.

Photo credit: Robyn Lee @ Serious Eat’s

If you’re looking for dessert instead of a meal, DessertTruck might be just what you’re looking for to satisfy your sweet tooth. Megan Gambino and Aviva Shen of Smithsonian Magazine, say this “sweetmobile,” specializes in “upscale confections usually found in gourmet restaurants, including a warm chocolate bread pudding made famous on Throwdown with Bobby Flay.”  The menu also includes cookies ($3.03), macaroons ($4.96) and even pumpkin cheesecake ($5.97 for a slice).

For delicious desserts, follow @desserttruck on twitter.

Your taste buds will tingle and your nose will wrinkle as you take in the smell of syrup, chocolate or fresh cookies while your stomach expands from satisfaction when you take the first bite out of something new. Try to remember where you are when you start walking with your food. Your deliriously heightened senses might tune out the sites of New York City.

The Red Hook Lobster Pound Food Truck Brings Maine to New York

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“Butter tastes better with lobster,” are the words that are written on the Red Hook Lobster Pound food truck. It isn’t the first thing you notice when your gaze falls on the white truck covered with vibrant red images of lobsters. You might not even notice the motto when you walk up to the truck because the rich smell of roasted garlic shrimp is so intoxicating.

Michelle Barbier, a nursing student, has been working in the truck for a year, which is referred to as “Big Red,” by those who visit it often. Irene Pappas was also on deck, she has been working with the Red Hook Lobster Pound since 2008 after she lost her job when the economy took a downturn.

According to Pappas, a husband and wife started the company because the wife loves lobster. They started with a lobster store and then branched to markets with live lobsters in the Brooklyn Flea. The employees didn’t know how much the truck makes but they did say that it is profitable, especially in Park Slope because they see the same people come back often.

All of the food, including the buttery baked rolls and soda, come from Maine. The chef and owner of the storefront, located on Van Brunt Street, decide on the menu. The menu includes lobster rolls with an option of a Maine (with a light mayo) or Connecticut (warm with butter) style for $16 each. They also serve shrimp rolls ($9) tossed in roasted garlic. If a roll isn’t what you’re looking for, you can have New England Clam Chowder ($7), lobster mac and cheese ($10) and whoopee pies ($2) with a delicious marshmallow butter cream between two chocolate cake layers that melt in your mouth. The fresh food is prepped daily at the store and sold on the truck.

In February there was a protest by street vendors at City Hall, against the “excessive fines and ticket blitzes by the New York Police Department,” reported the New York Times.  Barbier said with a vehement headshake that the, “Mayor shouldn’t give us permits if he’s going to fine us,” when questioned about the fines.

Reading the menu, I noticed that it didn’t have a calorie count unlike many restaurants in New York. I asked if they thought having a calorie count for the food would harm their business and Barbier said, “No. People would eat it. They eat McDonald’s, don’t they?”

With all the other food trucks in New York City, you would think the Red Hook Lobster Pound might have a problem concerning location. However, they say they haven’t brawled it out with anyone. Laughing, Pappas said they, “have fought,” but after all these years they’re set with their spots. Now, she said with a grin, “They have to watch out for us.

One customer, Ursula Lopez, raised in Red Hook, was excited to visit the truck for the first time. She has wanted to eat at the truck ever since she saw it on a Food Network competition. When she heard the truck was going to be in Park Slope she said, “I just had to try it!”

Lopez isn’t a stranger to food trucks or carts. She visits them once a week and likes to indulge in the hot pretzels and chicken sandwiches from different food carts she finds in the city.

She looks for the healthy options because as a social worker she’s always on the run. “It’s easy to pick up and in my budget,” she said. She tried the Maine style lobster roll and said the lobster, “is very fresh. The mayonnaise is delicious and reminds me of the lobster roll I had in Maine when I went two or three times. It tastes just as good.”

When asked her opinion on the fines the trucks receive, she said with a headshake, “I don’t think it’s fair. They’re trying to make a living. There are no other jobs out there. The economy is bad. It takes a lot of money to start up a restaurant. These are restaurants. They’re just restaurants on wheels. Give them a break.”

She also added that she would, “highly recommend” the Red Hook Lobster Pound because the food was “nourishing and delicious,” and hopes to order from the truck for future lunches.

* Follow the Red Hook Lobster Pound on twitter: @RedHookLobster for truck location updates.

Food Cart Smackdown: Let The Battle Begin

Have you ever wondered about the food you see sold on the streets? Maybe you look forward to eating the honey roasted nuts, or a large warm pretzel during your walk through the cold and windy city of New York. Maybe it’s a way for you to be adventurous and break up the monotony of your day-to-day life. For some of us, food carts are something we frequently visit on our lunch breaks or on our way home after a long day. Perhaps you salivate over the thought of squeezing yellow mustard on a hot dog or taking the first bite out of a gyro, the smell of the seasoned garlic meat wafts up your nose making you want more.  Thanks to New York City food carts, you can sample different foods from around the world everyday.

My name is Alyssa Olivo. I’m a Journalism student at The College of Staten Island that will be digging deeper into the mystery that is the food cart. In upcoming posts you’ll find out:

What’s the difference between a food truck and a food cart?
Where are the supplies shipped?
How does one get into the business?
Why is there a petition going around for food carts?
How profitable is the food cart business?
How do they handle competition when in close proximity?
How do they go choose a location for their business?
Do people really brawl it out for a certain location?
How are they inspected? How are they rated in their inspections?
How do they decide on a menu? Are there any healthy options?
How many types of food are served on these carts?
What is considered the most prominent food cart?
How often do people visit food carts and what do they think about them?