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Queens County Market

Despite the raging heat outside, it was nice and cool on Saturday at Sunnyside Community Services where the third Queens County Market was held.  This was a terrific collection of local food entrepreneurs all in one space, along with demonstrations in pasta making and butchery.  The market’s schedule is still being ironed out, so the best way to find out when the next one will be held is to sign up on their website for email updates.

I first saw Veda’s Cakes beautiful treats at the Taste of 5 Boros Expo during the IACP Conference.  For the market, she also brought with her a couple of hot dishes, including one with long beans and a Guyanese Chicken Roti.  I picked up a soft, buttery Almond Cookie for the trip home.

For those who love salty-sweet pairings, these Fatty Sundays & Co. Happy Pretzels might be just up your alley.  They had nuggets of the PB&J and Berry Granola varieties available for tasting.  I tried the latter, which I found to be too sweet for me with a strong dried berry-ish backnote.  Their site also lists several other flavors that they have, so maybe I just haven’t found the combination that suits my tastebuds as yet.

My first savory sampling of the day was a dip into Gustavo’s Salsa.  His Chipotle salsa starts out smoky and tomato-y and then builds with heat and spice that lingers lightly on the palate, delivering just the right amount of each sensation to make you want to go back for another bite.  This would be perfect to cook with or to eat on its own.  I picked up a container to use at home and haven’t quite decided which of those two routes I’ll be taking with it.

One sip of the Sweet Sweet P&P by DeLIFEful Foods and I could feel the power of the ginger coursing through my veins and the antioxidants in the pineapple and pomegranate doing their work, as well.  I tried their Kickin’ Ginger flavor, too, which had a much milder hit of spice, but was still nicely refreshing.  These raw, cold-pressed juices could be the perfect drink for a hot summer’s day.

Quinoa is one of those ingredients that I know is really good for me, but that I don’t have that many chances to incorporate in to my diet on a regular basis.  The folks at I Heart Keenwah have taken away all of my excuses for this with their bite-sized, quinoa-based treats.  With several flavors to choose from, I went right for the Chocolate Sea Salt variety, which will make snack time healthy as well as a bit indulgent.

This company started out of a mother’s interest in feeding her toddler child food without preservatives and additives.  Now, she delivers to many areas in Manhattan as well as Brooklyn and Queens.  Mommy’s Yummies brings food to your door twice a week geared towards the nutrients that growing, active younger children need.  While I’m not in the demographic for this meal service, I can see how useful this would be to parents trying to start their kids off on a healthy lifestyle from the beginning.

One of my new-ish favorite products has got to be Nonna’s Red Pesto from Spicy ‘n Sweet.  I use it to dress up poached or fried eggs, to add depth to tomato sauce or to give a boost to a panino with mozzarella and grilled vegetables.  Its rich, acidic bite and pop of heat along with a layer of sweetness makes it the ideal foil for so many dishes.  Their pasta sauces are also delicious.  I had the pleasure of meeting Nonna Carolina, who was there giving a pasta making demonstration at the market.  They told me that they’ll be giving a tomato canning demonstration at the New Amsterdam Market (where you can also find them on Sundays) on August 26 for the Tomato Festival.

These adorable miniature Bundt cakes, or Gugelhupfi, were bursting with candied fruit surrounded by moist, delicate cake.  Sandra and Hans, the owners of 2 Penz, told me that they hadn’t seen anything quite like it in the markets, so they decided to turn to their roots and bring a bit of Germany to New York.  The savory version of these cakes, made with speck, was no less tasty.  Look out for them, too, in the holiday markets around the city later on this year, where they are hoping to be selling their traditional German Christmas cookies called “keksies.”

Fortunately, the market’s organizers knew to have an ice cream vendor selling cool treats there, which was more than welcome with the balmy temperatures outside.  Located in Long Island City, Malu seems to be a neighborhood favorite.  One bite of the smooth, creamy Caramel Clodhopper (photo above) with its crunchy, salty, chocolate-covered crisped rice morsels and I could see why.  I ran into a friend and her boyfriend there who opted to go for the Blueberry Honey Graham flavor, which they said was delicious (click the link for a photo).

Rye bread in several forms seems to be popping up lately, although these are a far cry from the caraway-seed studded sliced loaves with which I grew up.  These versions have more nutty, complex flavors, and, I have been told, great health benefits.  The products from Northern Rye were not only visually appealing with their bold, bright colors, but also had a nice flavor with the rye bread providing a harmonious base.  I really enjoyed the Sweet Potato-Onion-Rosemary variety with savory, herbal notes and big chunks of delicate, roasted vegetable.  These would be great as a snack, a quick lunch or an appetizer.

I probably could have listened all day to Sabba’s Spicery‘s owner talking about how he gets his inspiration for his spice blends by researching culinary history and pulling together the tastes and smells from the different regions of the world at certain points in time.  His By The Sea Blend is still not powerful enough to tear the can of Old Bay from my fingers, which he understood completely, but his other combinations like the Southwestern Blend, with the essence of dusty deserts and hot, dry climates, and the Powder Forte Blend, with hints of medieval spice trades and Middle Eastern fragrances, had deeply evocative aromas.  We talked about several recipe possibilities for each of these products; however, he added, they are all also just really good sprinkled on popcorn.

The folks at Rainforest Beer were at the market with bottles of their Citrus “Farm Ale” and Jaguar Stout.  Unfortunately, samples of these beverages were not available to try today, as they function as a non-profit that combines their interest in brewing with contributing to forestry projects through Camino Verde.  They are currently working on a distribution model so that more of us can enjoy their creations.

Even though I’d had several sweet treats already, it was really difficult for me to pass up these delectable Argentine Alfajores by Buenos Angies.  Crumbly, buttery cookies with a swath of dark, toffee-like dulce de leche nestled between them.  Sweet and salty at the same time, these just melted in my mouth, like they promised.

“Ketchup” as referred to here, in the Canadian way, is a little closer to what we would call chutney, I was told by the owners of Mel’s Melting Pot.  No matter what you call it, this sweet, condiment with notes of cinnamon and other spices would be ideal served with roasted or boiled meats or on a cheese platter.  I think I preferred the spicy version a bit more to the regular one as there was the taste of fruit up front followed by heat with a long, layered finish.

The menu for Lovebug Kitchen sounded amazing, but I was pretty full by the time I got to her table.  I did take a peek at the Chocolate Coconut Cornbread and make a promise to myself that, next time, I’d make sure to start my food tour on that side of the room first.  The website says that she’ll be at Hester Nights as well this week, so maybe I’ll head over there to check out what other dishes she’ll have for sale.

Aside from ice cream, one of my other favorite sweets is cookies, so I knew I wasn’t going to be able to resist these ones from Cookie Fairy Sweets.  Besides, my friend whom I’d run into earlier at the market told me that I had to try them.  The Lil’ Devils started off with rich cocoa, followed by spice notes, and followed at the end by even more chocolatey flavor.  These are the kind of carefully-nuanced baked good that I long to be able to create in my own kitchen.  Fortunately, these treats come already baked and are available in the refrigerated section of several stores, so you can keep them on hand for when you have that cookie craving but are too lazy to whip up a whole batch of them.

The fragrant, spiced tea from Chai Mookie was the right finish to the afternoon.  The healing and digestive properties of the spices that go into these blends hit the right spot in my stomach after all the snacking and noshing.  I picked up a bag of the Wake Up! Mookie, which has black tea combined with their signature spice blend, to have on hand for an afternoon break.

There were so many wonderful vendors to discover with a wide variety of food items to sample as well as to take away at this market on Saturday.  It seemed as though several of those selling there were newer to the market scene in New York, which was exciting to see as that means that there will be many fantastic new products for all of us to try in the future.  As I mentioned above, the next date for Queens County Market has not yet been fixed, so the best way to find out when the next one will be held is to sign up on their site for updates.

Buon appetito!

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