As I was working the event, and bringing plates back to my fellow volunteers, I managed to grab just a few photos with my phone. I had opted not to bring my camera with me, as I wasn’t sure how the day would evolve. The Whole Hog Sausages with Harvest Pickles from Matt Weingarten of Inside Park at St. Bart’s were robust and meaty, served on brown bread with a range of mustards and fresh horseradish. This is the kind of meal my father loves to eat.
What did you do over your Labor Day weekend? Well, aside from checking out the food trucks on Governors Island for the Parked food festival, I ended up looking for some real locavore eats. On Monday, I joined about 30 other people for a tour of the edible plants that can be found in Central Park. “Wildman” Steve Brill has been leading tours of this and other areas in and around the city and upstate to show people the bounty that can be found right in their back yards.
This activity has long been on my to-do list; I’ve read stories about it for years. Brill is a font of amazing information and stories about the plants and herbs that are right under our noses. I still wouldn’t really feel confident about going around and picking things out of the ground to eat or to cook with, but he makes it seem like it could really be possible to find some great culinary and/or medicinal items in and around us in our local parks. There were several folks who were repeat customers on his expedition.
He hunted down the local apples that we gathered and American hackberries that we sampled. Some impressive poison ivy was pointed out to us, from which we were told to stay away. At the same time, we were shown the plant that would take away the ivy’s itch, should we get too close to it. I never knew that a sprinkling of epizote on cooked beans could cure farting, but I do after yesterday’s tour. I also discovered that sorrel in several forms grows in Central Park and, when tender, is great in salads and soups.
The tour was about four hours long, including a brief lunch break (pack your own) and a bathroom break along the way. He gears his talks to the audience, allowing children to be the first to sample some of the pickings. The amount of information that he shared and the number of photos that I took were too much and too many to post them all here, so I put them on Facebook under the blog’s account.* Please check them out there. Unfortunately, I think it was too early to be able to pick my own mushrooms. I was so hoping that we could find chanterelles so that I could have some for dinner that night!
*Caveat – This was my first time on the tour so I tried to take as many notes as possible and have tried to be accurate regarding the plants we saw; however, no one should just pick what he or she finds on the ground and eat it without being absolutely certain of what it is. My notes should not be taken as a guide to your own foraging efforts.
This Sunday, when I looked outside, it hardly seemed like appropriate weather to head downtown to the Ice Cream Festival at the New Amsterdam Market. Still, the chance to try six sample-sized cones of handmade, artisanal treats for just $20.00 was too tempting to keep me lounging around my apartment for long. Besides, I had written about how much my grandfather had enjoyed eating ice cream, and this would be a way to honor his memory as well as that of his Dutch ancestry, as that same site has housed many of New York’s markets.
My first stop was to try MilkMade Ice Cream’s Blackberry and Gingersnap flavor. I loved the tart fruit paired with the peppery backnote of the ginger. This one definitely topped the fruit category for me of the samples that I had at the market. They offer a monthly delivery program where you can have a pint of locally-sourced, handmade ice cream right at your door, if you live within a certain area. I discovered that I am in one of the zip codes they serve, which makes this an item to put on my holiday wish list.
The next stand I visited was Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, which has a store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and several trucks stationed around the city. I opted for Pistachio, which can sometimes be a difficult flavor to love. This one was rich and creamy with lots of nuts. On an errand of mercy later in the market, I grabbed a cup of their Chocolate for Karen Seiger, who was manning the table for her terrific book, Markets of New York City. She raved about how delicious it was.
For my next two choices, I went a bit out-of-the-box as far as ice cream flavors go, at least for me. I stopped by Roberta’s (based in a pizzeria in Brooklyn) and Early Bird Cookery (a catering and food-delivery service). At the former, I had their Husk Cherry cone. This is based upon a fruit called the cape gooseberry, which is a small, papery-husk covered yellow orb. The taste is something like a cross between a cherry and a pineapple. It made for an interesting sample. I could see having a scoop of it along with a molten chocolate cake or a slice of pound cake as a tangy-tart counterpoint.
At the latter place, I tried their Hay ice cream. Yes, that is right, hay. This one tasted a lot like honey with a nutty backnote, which was not an unpleasant flavor at all. One of the more interesting aspects of this stand, however, was that the bowls they were using are made of a compostable sugarcane base. The spoons were made of birch. This is a long way from the plastic-coated paper cups of my elementary school days.
Finally, I was faced with a dilemma. Two tickets left and two stands to go. Should I pick one flavor to try from each, as I’d done with the others? I asked the two women who were standing next to me as I finished up my most recent selection. Go to The Bent Spoon and try their Bourbon Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel, they advised, you can’t miss it. Oh, they were so right! It is a good thing that I didn’t have this as my first flavor of the day, as I don’t think I would have continued to eat anything else. At first bite, my synapses fired on high alert: bourbon, vanilla, salty, sweet, creamy, decadently smooth, rich lusciousness all at once. This was ice cream heaven!
The other recommended flavor (on the left in the photo) was the Nectarine, which had a deeply fruity, refreshing palate cleansing taste. It is made from Terhune Orchard produce, which I know from visiting their stand at the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays. Still, I think that my favorite ice cream of the day was the first one that I tried from The Bent Spoon. Apparently, other folks thought the same way as I did because it had the longest line of any of the stations.
My apologies for not visiting Marlow and Daughters, but I ran out of tickets by that point, and the downpour had become torrential. I hope that the New Amsterdam Market folks decide to hold another one of these events, so that I can get there next time. There were also so many other flavors that I had wanted to try including Peach and Black Pepper and Concord Grape. It was wonderful to see all the ice cream being made locally and with seasonal ingredients, and I think that my grandfather would have enjoyed making a trip with me to check out all the samples.
New Amsterdam Market is located near the South Street Seaport, between Beekman Street and Peck Slip, near the site of the former Fulton Fish Market. See website for directions and closest means of transportation. From Sunday, September 12, 2010, the market will be functioning on a weekly basis.