BROOKLYN BUZZ: Brooklyn food scene continues to expand

March 19, 2012 Helen Klein
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It would take a really long time to get to know everything that’s going on, on the Brooklyn food scene.

And, the new restaurants popping up all over the place – some in places that haven’t had a sit-down restaurant, not to mention a restaurant with creative, locally-sourced food in years or ever – are just the tip of the iceberg.

Food production in the borough is booming, too, thanks to the confluence of a young, locavore-minded migration to Brooklyn with the existence of manufacturing zones that are hospitable to small, artisanal companies producing everything from chocolate (Mast Brothers and Raaka) to beer (Brooklyn Brewery, Six Point Ale) to wine (the fledgling Brooklyn Winery in Williamsburg, a year and a half young, and one of three wine making operations in the borough).

Then, again, that’s just the tip of the iceberg, too, thanks to survivors like the Moore Street Market, constructed in the ‘30s when Williamsburg, where it’s located, was home to an immigrant Jewish population.

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Today, the building – which was almost lost, a few years back, when the city wanted to develop the land on which it sits for affordable housing – caters to the area’s burgeoning Latino population with ingredients and ready-to-eat foods from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Mexico, among others.

Many of the borough’s most intriguing culinary purveyors will be on view when holds the second annual Local Food & Travel Expo on Saturday, April 14 from noon to 5 p.m. at Skylight One Hanson, the breathtaking landmarked interior space that once was home to the Williamsburg Savings Bank in the eponymous building that dominates the Brooklyn skyline and which has been repurposed as a tony event locale.

Downstairs, the bank vault will be tasting central giving attendees the opportunity to graze on Robicelli Cupcakes, beers from Kelso Brewery, McClure’s Pickles and food from such eateries as Park Slope’s Palo Santo and Bushwick’s Roberta’s, as well as learn about the borough’s foodie byways, while upstairs, food-themed getaways within a few hours of the borough will mount displays.

“We’re trying to get urbanites to connect with where their food is coming from,” explained Caylin Sander, the founder of EscapeMaker.

While Sander describes the borough’s culinary scene as an “explosion,” it was actually long in the making. Bob Lewis, the special assistant for market development at the State Department of Agriculture, stressed that its roots go back to 1976, when the first Greenmarket opened.

That, he said, was, “When city folk discovered farmers and farmers discovered city folk.”

Fast-forward 35 years, and, said Lewis, that sense of discovery has been transmuted into, “The apotheosis of local. There’s a whole new interest in people knowing about food, not just as an object but as a subject. There’s been a rediscover of the earth, the land. The connections have been profound.”

That too has morphed. Fueled by the discovery of locally sourced raw materials, entrepreneurs have staked out Brooklyn for its small-scale manufacturing potential, said Lewis, who stressed that the result is “a real social revolution.”

If the destinations on a quick tour of Brooklyn culinary highlights – organized by EscapeMaker and led by Urban Oyster — are any indication, the day will offer a wide array of palate-pleasers.

A zinfandel from Brooklyn Winery was rich and satisfying, with a deep currant flavor that would be an excellent foil for hearty cold-weather meals.

The pizza at Roberta’s was nothing short of amazing. The Margherita featured fresh mozzarella and a sassy basil-spiked tomato sauce; another topped with crisped shards of kale and chunks of pork sausage was redolent with garlic. Both featured the amazing blistered crust that can only be achieved in a wood-burning oven. The romaine salad which preceded the pizza was equally stellar – topped with shavings of pecorino cheese, toothsome candied walnuts and mint leaves.

The stands at the Moore Street Market offered a different sort of experience. Esperanza poured out tiny cups a fruity beverage with the evocative name of “Morio Sueñando” – die dreaming – that tasted more like a Creamsicle than anything else. And, Diego Hernandez, the owner of the tiny American Coffee Shop, fried up sweet corn fritters that were crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, and absolutely addictive.

That sort of contrast makes sense not only for the particular dish, but in a larger sense, for the borough’s diverse food culture, which has embraced the incredibly local even as it has expanded to include cuisines from every part of the world. Where it all will lead time will tell, but there sure will be some good eating along the way.

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