Ninth annual Taste Williamsburg Greenpoint benefits local nonprofits

Foodie fest catches many vendors by surprise as crowds leave pantries bare

September 20, 2018 By Andy Katz Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce members by the Chamber’s tent. Eagle photos by Andy Katz
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North Brooklyn’s ninth annual Taste Williamsburg Greenpoint on Sunday was so successful, it had vendors scrambling well before its afternoon finale.

“We had enough to make more than 500 tostadas,” said Rayna Hipp of Lorimer Street’s Zona Rosa Tacqueria. “We ran out by 2 p.m.”

It was quite a contrast to the year before when, according to Hipp, the tacqueria presented only about 300 tostadas. Momentarily disappointed customers hovered nearby, hoping restaurant staff would return quickly with comestible reinforcements.

Nearby, at Barano’s tent, chef Al Di Meglio was still putting out cocoa-infused ravioli, but as 2 p.m. approached, it was clear that supplies weren’t lasting.

“We had enough to serve 1,000 ravioli,” Di Meglio said, after dispatching crew members back to the store’s 26 Broadway location. “But clearly we’re not going to make it.”

It was the same all over East River State Park as people filled the narrow walkway that separated more than 40 vendors. All the food is donated by the participants, who are members of the Brooklyn Allied Restaurants and Bars [BABAR]. Proceeds support local charities like the Firehouse Community Center, Churches United for Fair Housing, Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, and most recently, the North Brooklyn Angels Mobile Soup Kitchen Truck.

Brooklyn Roasting Company presents chilled coffee in front of the North Brooklyn Angels Food Van.

North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce board member and organizer Felice Kirby estimates that more than $500,000 has been raised since Taste first began.

Bed-Stuy resident Kevin Allen paused in disappointment after learning from Clinton Hall’s Emma Salisbury that were no more burgers on hand, at least for the moment. “We went through 90 pounds of ground beef in two hours,” Salisbury said.

“This is my first time here,” Allen said. Asked which vendors stood out in particular, Allen smiled: “That caramel and salted ice cream is just the best,” he said, in reference to one of Coolhaus’ signature flavors.

The Brownsville Community Culinary Center, a nonprofit “anti-gentrification” restaurant and training center, was founded in 2013 by Claus Meyer and Lucas Denton to serve a number of roles. Primarily, it trains members of the Brownsville community in the culinary arts with a 40- week program that includes both classwork and hands-on apprentice work. Rather than paying the five-figure tuitions required by culinary schools across the river, students earn a stipend and are helped to pass the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s food handler’s safety certificate before graduating.

Under the supervision of director Philip Hoffman, the center restaurant serves Afro-Caribbean inspired dishes that include jerk chicken gyros, pulled pork, griddlecakes and Suya-spiced steak.

And, like nearly every other vendor they’re momentarily out of food.

Close to the park entrance, alternative transportation vendors gathered in a single big tent. Revel Transit was on hand with two samples of its scooters, and founder and CEO Frank Reig was there. Car2Go, CitiBike, Maven and Lyft were also represented, with staffers ready to offer alternatives to North Brooklyn residents soon to be left without L Train service for a year-plus.

A Revel Transit rep with samples of the company’s electric scooters in the background

Next door to Empire State Park, Julia Moak’s Greenpointers website staged an indoor market, focusing less on food and more on resident crafts and artisanal works.

“We’re calling it a “late summer celebration,” Moak said.

Guitar-maker Farhan Akhtar sat behind a table upon which two of his classic models were displayed.

“I make them all by hand,” Akhtar said. “I buy only a few metal parts that would be too difficult to configure without a smelter. I even make my own pickups.”

Offering contrast to the artisans who work within the confines of the material world, member of the Brooklyn Paranormal Society could be found at a small nook near the entrance. While musician Jack McClachlan evoked somber chords on his electronic keyboard, occasionally dispatching plumes of pale smoke from a device near the floor, society founders Anthony Long and Stacy Cecil explained that since the group was founded three years ago, it has gained nearly 1,000 members throughout the borough and beyond.

“We brought a professional opera singer to BAM,” Cecil said, “to evoke the spirit of Marian Anderson once.”

As a resident of Fort Greene, Anderson gave regular concerts between 1938 and 1965. What better place to channel her spirit?

“Was it successful?” Cecil was asked.

“Oh, we think so,” she said.

“We started as ‘Drunken Spirits,’” Long explained. “Because when you’re drunk, you’re way open to anything, especially the paranormal. Now, we’re open to everything.”


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