It was a Lower East Side foodie weekend this past one. Not only did I take in the Grub Street / Hester Street food festival on Saturday, but I also went down there again for International Pickle Day 2010. Truthfully, I’m not all that much of a fan of pickles, muchas I try to be. Turns out thatwhile this festival pays homage to the many flavors and brining treatments forthe cucumber, its scope also covers canning and preserving in general, so thatsome of the participants brought their jams, chutneys, and other items in that genre.
One of the more well-known stores who participated inSunday’s festival was Russ & Daughters. Their ancestor started out selling herring and other items from a push carton the Lower East Side, which wasnot an unusual enterprise in New York in other centuries. To start up a store and to keep it going through the economicups and downs that we’ve had since then is. The Beet & Lemon Shrub that they had at the festival wasa drink that was supposedly popular at one time, prior to carbonatedsodas. As I broughtit up to my nose, the smell of the beets attacked my senses. The tang of the lemon hit after thefirst sip. I have to say that it was not my thing at all.
More recent entries into this field include Rick’s Picks,who sell at many of the Greenmarkets. What I also really enjoyed about this festival was the free samples, so that Icould find the right taste and texture for me. I fell in love with several things on Sunday. One of these was Rick’s MeanBeans. The vinegar tang and crispcrunch of the green beans with that punch of garlic and spice are right up myalley. I could see serving theseto munch on at a Super Bowl party. I was also very surprised to find out that I liked their People’sPickles. I will be going back forthose on another trip.
In the jams and chutney department, I also found some newfavorite ingredients. Beth’s Farm Kitchen, whom I knew already from their wonderful jams and preserves, also let us samplesome of their chutneys and relishes. My pick was the Cranberry & Horseradish. That would really liven up the holiday feast if I brought itback with me to Virginia.
Another big winner for me was the Apple Cranberry Chutneythat Divine Brine had available. This had a big “wow” factor at first bite. Tart, sweet, and with a little kick, this really perked upmy sliced turkey and cheddar on rye that I had for lunch today. They had several other varieties ofchutney also available via their website as well as different flavors ofpickles.
Then, we wrapped around to the side street to the bigbarrels of pickles, where we were given free samples. This completely reminded me of when I was little, when pickles were still sold at the grocery store in a big wooden slat barrel, and my dad would sometimes let me have one. Yesterday, however, I received culinaryenlightenment. I found out that my taste in the briny stuff isn’t me after all, it is the kind of pickles that I have been subject toeating my whole life. I am notyour standard dill person. I aminstead, a half-sour, as in the photo below:
This pickle is still bright green, like the Kirby cucumberof its origin, and is still very crunchy with lots of snap to it. I can say that I probably won’t need to keep a jar of these in my fridge on standby, but nowthat I know what to ask for, the next time I get a delisandwich, the right pickle for me will be there to go with it, too. Horman’s was serving the same kind of treats plusseveral other flavor selections on a stick for less messy eating.
Not to neglect anyone else, I did get one photo of the severalplaces selling Kimchi. We decidednot to stand on those lines. Evenyesterday, I noticed that Kimchi and Tacos seem to be one of the new waves thatwe are having, despite the fact that my sister thinks that those two thingsshould never be put together.
More than just a fun day out for everyone, this streetfestival was about celebrating a part of New York’s colorful culinaryheritage. It was also about thehistory of food preservation and the people who brought this knowledge andtraditions to the U.S. when they emigrated. Whole Foods had put together a display of some of thisinformation, and it was also neat to see a table where children could puttogether a combination of pickling spices with vinegar to try it forthemselves.
Aside from the food epiphany that I had over thehalf-sour and all the wonderful products that I had a chance to sample, thisalso connected me a bit with my own family’s culinary heritage. I was sharing the events of the daywith my dad, who loves pickles (and would definitely have chowed down on thePeanut Butter and Pickle Sandwich that Amateur Foodie Adventures found – sorry Nora!) when hecommented that his own mother used to go to the waterfront in Washington, DCwhen the markets were there to buy produce to can and preserve. I knew her later in life, when she nolonger did this, so it was interesting to hear that even in the 1950s insuburban Virginia when supermarkets were all around, some folks still carriedout food preservation in the time-tested traditional way. To this day, however, my father still cannot stomach strawberryjam, as that was one of the things she always made.