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Mad Sq Eats Returns!

Today, Mad Sq Eats opened up again bringing delicious food vendors to a sliver of space across from Madison Square Park.  Having enjoyed some of the wonderful eats at this same event held this past spring, I’d marked my calendar to make sure I stopped by when it was up and running.  I had an appointment in the neighborhood this afternoon, which gave me an even more convenient excuse to head over there.

Before I even get to the food, can I just mention that these tablecloths and umbrellas are really darling.  This is probably the best-dressed street food fair I’ve ever seen.  On a grey, rainy day, these bright flowers livened everything up when contrasted against the washed-out buildings and concrete pavements of the city.  It could have almost been a watercolor painting.

Really, though, it was seeing what all the vendors had on display that I was interested in exploring.  As it was about dinner time, I knew I needed to make some important choices as to what to have for my evening meal at the market.  I was almost waylaid by waffles early on in my tour, as the guys from Wafels & Dinges were right there close to the start.  I also found out that they will be at several of the upcoming holiday markets in addition to their usual trucks around town.

The folks from NuNu Chocolates had some beautiful, delicious selections for sale as well as beer (also in growler form as in the photo).  Their store on Atlantic Avenue is a great place to take a break while shopping in that part of Brooklyn.  It was very convenient when the Brooklyn Flea was located at One Hanson Place.

Nearby to snack on while you tip back a glass of those suds (or wine, which they had, too), Sigmund’s Preztelshop has some of my favorites.  Their Cheddar and Truffle pretzels is on offer as well as the equally tasty Feta and Olive versions.  They had a Garlic-Parsley ones in another window along with a sweet Cinnamon Raisin.

For something more substantial, Flatiron locale Almond has a variety of sandwiches to tempt your tastebuds.  The hearty Moroccan Meatball Hero looked ideal for this dreary evening, but the Pastrami Sandwich and JB’s Jalapeno Cheddar Brat looked to be equally enticing dinner options.

To keep yourself going while trying to decide what to eat among all the wonderful selections from local food vendors, Coffee Connection is there with espresso drinks and various syrups to create your own custom beverage.  They were located next to Simon from Macaron Parlour, whom I haven’t seen in a while, so we took time to catch up.

He had so many gorgeous-looking things to sample, that I wasn’t sure that I could choose just one.  The Chocolate Chocolate Chip Fleur de Sel creation seemed so amazing that it is definitely next on my list to try.  Instead, I went with one of my favorites of theirs, the Nutella macaron.  The barest crisp of the exterior as your teeth bite into it yields to a soft, delicately sweet interior with a ribbon of hazelnut-chocolate richness waiting to hit your tongue.  It is pure perfection and the ideal small bite.

This section of the market must have been set up as dessert central, as a few stalls down from there were the folks from Cuzin’s Duzin, whom I first saw at Dekalb Market.  I was almost tempted as I saw these mini rings of fried dough coming hot off of the oil.  Then I turned as saw one my all-time favorite vendors who had the most enchanting display to signal the start of fall.

Cupcakes by candlelight, as the soft glow bathed Robicelli’s treats, what could be more romantic?  Check out the Pumpkin Spice Latte cupcake (pumpkin cake, espresso mascarpone buttercream, fall spiced chocolate covered espresso beans), as I did, to get you in the mood for the flavors of the season.  I’m not sure, however, that it got me thinking about hoe-downs specifically.  Check their Tumblr feed to see what I mean by this as well as for a list of the other amazing flavors that they’ll have available at this market.  They also have brownies and whoopie pies for sale as well.

On the other side of the market were other vendors putting together sweet treats, too.  At Bar Suzette, they were making crêpes to order.  Just look at the slather of Nutella going into this one.  It was definitely an option to be considered after I ate something that really qualified as dinner, not just a snack.

Nearby, on the same stretch of vendors was the stand for Stuffed Artisan Cannolis.  Not going to make it down to Little Italy to deal with the crowds for San Gennaro?  No problem.  Here’s a great way to get your cannoli fix without having to elbow up to the counter and scream your order.  They come in mini versions so that you can try more than one.

Not quite yet ready for dessert or have qualms about pre-sserting?  There’s plenty of savory options to choose from at the market as well.  This selection of Indian dishes from Junoon looked amazing.  It wasn’t quite what I was in the mood for for my own evening meal, but I think that they are definitely on my list to be considered during my next market visit.

The folks at Roberta’s Pizza had their oven fired and ready to go to serve hungry visitors, too.  I stopped by to watch them whip up a pie on the spot for some lucky customer.  The last time this market was held, they were one of the more popular vendors, so you might want to allow for a bit of a wait if this is what you are craving.

Speaking of craveable, it took all of my willpower to stay away from two of my favorite savory food vendors who are at the market.  Red Hook Lobster Pound‘s lobster rolls with succulent chunks of sweet meat or their delicate, flavorful shrimp roll with a zip of roasted-garlic and tarragon mayo will make you wish that summer would come back again, even with the steamy temperatures.  Fortunately, they are available in the city year-round.  Asia Dog, which I also skipped this time around, is always a win with great riffs on the classic hot dog.  The Vihn, a mock banh mi is still probably my top pick, with freshness from cilantro and carrots as well as a punch from the peppers and aioli, leaving a little bit of tingling on your lips after it is done to remind you how delicious it was.

A new set of folks whom I met there, were the people behind Perfect Picnic NYC.  I felt really bad that the gloomy, wet day wasn’t exactly the right fit for their concept, but I loved that they feature so many terrific local food artisans in their shop.  Click on the link above for their website to see what I mean.  On one of the crisp fall days that we have yet to enjoy, I can completely see calling on them to help pull together a hamper full of meats, cheeses, pickles, jams, relishes, and dips.  It was also delightful to see the owner’s daughter enjoying a very gooey, stringy-cheesed sandwich from The Milk Truck, which was located next to them.

So, in the end, I went with another favorite food vendor for my dinner selection.  I have to give a special plug to the guys behind Calexico Cart.  One afternoon, after dealing with getting new sheets and towels at a major department store’s sale, I was completely starving, having not planned very well about grabbing lunch during my errands.  They were pretty much shutting up shop at their usual perch in Madison Square Park.  Not a lot was left by way of selections, in fact, they had run out of most things and were short on ingredients.  This next part is what I really love about all the artisan, entrepreneurial-types who are a part of New York’s thriving food scene right now.

They threw together what they had left and made an amazingly delicious burrito creation just for me with black beans, carne asada, and a whole bunch of other good stuff wrapped inside.  When I saw them last night at the market, I knew that they had my dinner plans in their hands.  I was not disappointed at all.  Of the two tacos above, the Carne Asada and the Chipotle Pork, I have to say the latter won hands down.  Smokey, pull-apart tender meat with crunchy pickled onions, a bit of heat from the pico, and a mild cool-down from the crema.  It was the perfect flavor combination for me.   Now I get why they have lines of devoted followers at the markets when I see them.

I didn’t get to check out all of the vendor stands last night, and some of them were not open, perhaps because of the rain.  By the time I made it through my initial sweep, the wet stuff seemed to be coming down harder, and I was on the verge of being drenched.  Despite the weather, however, it seemed as though there were quite a few folks stopping by on the way home from work or en route to another evening destination.  It is a great hub of culinary treats that I highly recommend taking a detour to this part of the city to visit.  The market will be open until October 21.

Buon appetito!