I love working morning shifts. M Street is loud and chaotic during the day with tourists and it being the favored driving route of ambulances, fire trucks and delivery vehicles. But at 5:30 or so when I head off to work, it’s quiet. There are a few cars out but virtually no pedestrians, and you can hear the wheels of the few bicyclists whirring as they fly past you. 5:30 am is also awash with that rich blue light; you know the sun is there but it hasn’t quite peeked its head over the horizon just yet. Then the sun rises in gold, violet and red, and the light shifts from it’s voluptuous blue to a shade that’s a bit starker, but no less pleasant.
Fast forward about 9 hours. The chaos and energy of the morning (plus access to a really excellent espresso machine) has faded and I sit down and realize that I am really, REALLY tired. This is not helped by the fact that I wake up periodically during the middle of the night in a panic, worried that my alarm hasn’t gone off. Although I am feeling pretty delirious at the moment having lived through exactly what I just described, I’m determined to get this New Amsterdam Market post completed. Today. I think I’ve exhausted my descriptive abilities, so we’re going to do a mostly visually inspired tour of the market, which I will embellish as needed. Here we go …
Everything at the market is visually beautiful. In addition to whatever food is for sale, all of the vendors have these sort of rough/polished booths that, visually at any rate, really bring the market together into a cohesive whole. I like to call this aesthetic “Brooklyn Rustic” because it reminds me of a lot of my favorite restaurants and shops there (including, but not limited to, Cafe Pedlar in my old neighborhood of Cobble Hill). The lines and palette are simple and soothing, utilizing the industrial aesthetic of a city (note the metal) combined with materials like raw wood.
Among the (few) produce stands was one vendor selling rich, meaty mushrooms. One thing I don’t understand is a dislike of mushrooms. To me, everything about them is appealing; their soft/crunchy/chewy texture, their rich taste, their versatility when cooking. They’re also gorgeous to look at, too. Something about their striated colors reminds me of the Painted Desert.
Another vendor was offering early-in-the-season apples. Tart and firm, these apples would be delicious on their own, with cheddar, or maybe baked into a galette …
Next was a seriously yummy duck pâté (I forgot to write down the name of the vendor). I’ve gone from being a serious vegetarian to being seriously interested in consuming everything animal related, but this particular flavor combination was very approachable and appealing for those who don’t always like the richness of pâté.
In the midst of this initial phase of exploring, it had been lightly drizzling. Then suddenly, it started to pour. The Brooklyn Bridge went from looking like this:
Inches of water were pouring down some of the aisles between vendors, literally rushing over the bare toes of people who weren’t paying attention to where they walked. But since the market itself was covered, no one was exactly going to leave. Jing and I waded through one of the soggier aisles to sample Ruis bread, a sour Finnish rye flat round bread. Although I don’t usually like sourdoughs, I am never one to say no to a sample, especially when that sample comes with cheddar and bright green cucumber.
I wasn’t disappointed, so I left with two (which I then prepared and ate exactly the way I tried it at the market).
Next came Mast Brothers Chocolate, of infamous video fame. These guys are obsessed with chocolate, and I do mean obsessed. They bring their cocoa beans in by boat. Sailboat. They sort through their beans individually, and use a unique machine designed by a NASA engineer to separate the hulls from the beans (really, just watch the video). And just look at the pretty, pretty packaging, designed by the girlfriend of one of the brothers and then carefully wrapped around each bar by hand. Actually, by hand defines how the Mast Brothers do everything. A trio of these were picked up for my dad’s birthday present.
It was still pouring buckets, with everyone taking shelter. Jing pointed out this bicyclist trying (in vain) to stay dry across the street. At least we were stuck where the food was …
We dawdled around some more, looking at poached fruits stewed with cinnamon and other warm spices:
and a creamy soft goats cheese hanging out in oil and bright green herbs:
We stopped at Narragansett Creamery, where they were sampling ricotta with blueberries and honey. It was so delicious and fresh tasting that I had to stop and talk to them, which turned into a huge conversation about where they should distribute in Mystic (where my family now lives part-time, and only a stone’s throw from Narragansett, RI). These lovely people gave me a big tub of their lovelier cheese as thanks, which I baked into my not-a-cake-birthday-cake.
At this point, the rain had mostly abated and Jing and I fled the market, full of food and good conversations with people as passionate about making quality products as we are about eating them. We may have come out on the other side a bit soggier than when we started, but all in all, there wasn’t a better way to spend a Sunday.