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New Amsterdam Market Valentine’s Market & Apothecary

If you, like me, have been having withdrawal symptoms fromthe New Amsterdam Market’s weekly gatherings of this fall, visiting theirValentine’s Market & Apothecary was a bright ray of sunshine for this coldSaturday.  Held in theireducational space on Front Street, this was a perfect chance to pick up someunique artisan gifts for the special people (or person) in yourlife.
I had a chance to see some of my favorite food folksincluding the ice cream geniuses at The Bent Spoon.  Flavors are available for purchase as pints or you can get an instant fix in the form of a small cone (similar to the ones at the Ice Cream Festival this summer).  TheStrawberry-Chocolate had a deep, dark chocolate flavor paired with an intense ripe berry freshness that felt like biting into summertime fruit.  The gorgeous redcolor is completely in theme with the holiday.  The Bitter Chocolate (seen above) was rich and darkly seductive, perfectfor the chocoholic in your life. My favorite, however, was the Olive Oil.  Creamy and smooth with a bright yellow-green flavor and a slightlynutty finish.  Made with a Spanisholive oil, the texture of the ice cream shines a warm, flattering glow on the oil’s features.  This was really fantastic andwould make a great ending to that meal à deux that you are planning to prepare.
Next to them were Cyrilla and Warren at Nuts+Nuts.  I picked up a packet of their SpicyCashews (my favorites from the New Amsterdam Holiday Market) and the HoneySesame Cashews, which were going fast today.  I’m a huge fan of these cashews, which are smaller andmeatier than the ones that you typically find for sale.  Cyrilla is passionate about herproduct, which is sourced directly from farmers in her native Indonesia. Theywill be at New Amsterdam tomorrow, too, but they are also at another market at145 Front Street in Dumbo, if you can’t get downtown this weekend to see them.
Liddabit Sweet’s Liz Gutman was behind the table at theirstand today (Jen King was at the Brooklyn Flea).  In addition to their delectable candy bars and silken caramels, she had aselection of their Jellies in a box that contains Cassis, Guava, Meyer Lemon, and BloodOrange flavors.  There were also special gift boxes of gorgeous Salted CaramelBonbons sprinkled with gold dust. You could opt instead to give your sweetie one of their beautifulCinnamon Heart Lollipops whose coloring comes from beets, not artificialdye.  Both the Lollipops and theJellies are vegan.
I don’t think I’ve run into P&H Soda’s Anton Nocitosince the Hester Street / Grub Street Food Festival.  At that time, he had his handmade Concord Grape sodaavailable.  Sadly, that is now outof season, but I’ve been told it will return again when local grapes areavailable.  He’ll also be bringingback his quince, cherry, strawberry flavors during their peak times, as well.  For this weekend, he has several of hisclassic syrups like Lime, Ginger, Hibiscus, and Cream available for purchase,to be combined with fizzy water to make your favorite sodas.  You can also catch up with Anton at oneof the classes he gives at The Brooklyn Kitchen.
When I was very little, I remember that every holiday seasonwe received a box of citrus fruit from Florida.  My great-grandmother and great-great-aunt had moved to St.Petersburg, away from the harsh Midwestern winters, and I think my grandparentsarranged for us to get this from them as a present.  Seeing Cee Bee’s Citrus colorful display of grapefruit, tangelos,and tangerines, brought back for me the excitement and wonder of opening thatpackage of orange and yellow orbs. A family-run farm, one of the few left in Florida, they pick and packtheir fruit to order with it arriving at your home 4-5 days off of thetree.  I had a sample of theirMonarch Tangerines, which were originally grown solely by the King of Morocco, he liked them so much as to keep them for himself.  With one bite, I could tell why, luscious juiciness flowedover my tongue with just enough sweet aftertaste and none of the metalliccloying I sometimes find in the supermarket-purchased variety.  I’ve heard murmurings of a pairing up between P&H Soda and Cee Bee’s Citrus so soda lovers be on the lookout for somethingspecial to happen.
Wild Food Gatherers had a display of black walnuts along withtheir tinctures and ginseng products. They had honey and ginseng combinations in male and female versions,which I understand are supposed to be taken alternately for best effect.  The tinctures are designed based upondifferent ailments.  I was evenshown a sample of what the different sexes of the wild ginseng look like, whichwas an interesting botany lesson on a lazy Saturday.  The wild ginseng for these wares are hand-foraged in thewild.
Next to that table were the delicious and gorgeous chocolatebars (photo left) from the Mast Brothers.  Myfriend had picked up a bar to tide her over while I walked around themarket.  I didn’t try any samplesfrom them today, except at the next stand I visited, Shandaken Bake, where Ipicked up a huge chocolate chunk cookie (photo right) that had Mast Brothers Dominicanchocolate embedded within it.  Iabsolutely loved the combination of the decadent, sultry chocolate chunksjutting out from the cookie that had slivers of chocolate dancing around thedough.  The cookie itself had theperfect combination of a crisp outer ring, with that burnt butter finish Ienjoy along with a chewy center. This is going to be one of those market finds I go back for again andagain.
In the non-food variety, there were these beautiful cardsfrom Robert Wagner.  I saw severalfolks buying these to have them personalized by Deborah Delaney in her gorgeous, scrolling calligraphy.  A gift ofone of these would be a Valentine’s Day gift to cherish in a keepsake album.
After the market winds down, however, it could be time toput your feet up and relax with a cuppa. With names like “Chill Out” and “Snowy Day” who could resist a bag ofherbal tea from Terra Cura Botanicals? The 100% organic ingredients are either grown by the owners themselves(about 30%) or sourced from small farmers and are naturally non-caffeinated.  They also sell a line of traditionalteas, which they source from China. I smelled the Jasmine Green Tea (one of their most popular), which had awonderful, deep, rich perfume to it.
Lore and Yewande Komolafe shared the table closest to thedoor today.  The former is a smallshop that is being incubated by this market.  There wereseveral pieces of cookware that caught my eye.  I’d have to figure outwhere on earth to put them in my tiny kitchen at this point, so I had to hold off on buying anything today. The latter vendor had the most beautiful-looking thumbprintcookies.  Buttery shortbread on theoutside with homemade jam dotting the center in either blood orange or Meyerlemon flavors.  I picked up asquare of moist, rich Basbousa, which is a semolina cake with honey, almonds,and orange.  The perfume of thecitrus syrup filled my mouth with warm happy feelings, taking the chill off ofthe day.
Midway through my market tour today, I ran into RobertLaValva, the Director of the New Amsterdam Market.  He shared with me how happy he was to see the turnout.  At that point, it was literallybumper-to-bumper people all checking out the different treats for sale andpicking up goodies for either themselves or their loved ones.  Doing something off-season in thisspace was a bit of a test for them to see how it would work.  As he said, he is “thinking about thevendors who support the market,” and “wants to have a good market forthem.”  If the traffic flow todaywas any indication, it was a great success.  I know of at least one vendor who was on the verge ofselling out of everything they’d brought for the day.  This is probably my favorite market in the city, so I, too,was glad to see how popular it was.
The New Amsterdam Market Valentine’s Market & Apothecary is open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, February 12-14, 2011, which means youhave a couple of more days to check out all the wonderful things that are downthere.  For a complete list of theactivities taking place, visit their website.  The best way to find out about the activities and scheduleof the New Amsterdam Market is to get on their email list, where they alsohighlight the vendors who are participating on market days.
Buon appetito!