If you, like me, have been having withdrawal symptoms from the New Amsterdam Market’s weekly gatherings of this fall, visiting their Valentine’s Market & Apothecary was a bright ray of sunshine for this cold Saturday. Held in their educational space on Front Street, this was a perfect chance to pick up some unique artisan gifts for the special people (or person) in your life.
I had a chance to see some of my favorite food folks including the ice cream geniuses at The Bent Spoon. Flavors are available for purchase as pints or you can get an instant fix in the form of a small cone (similar to the ones at the Ice Cream Festival this summer). The Strawberry-Chocolate had a deep, dark chocolate flavor paired with an intense ripe berry freshness that felt like biting into summertime fruit. The gorgeous red color is completely in theme with the holiday. The Bitter Chocolate (seen above) was rich and darkly seductive, perfect for the chocoholic in your life. My favorite, however, was the Olive Oil. Creamy and smooth with a bright yellow-green flavor and a slightly nutty finish. Made with a Spanish olive oil, the texture of the ice cream shines a warm, flattering glow on the oil's features. This was really fantastic and would make a great ending to that meal à deux that you are planning to prepare.
Next to them were Cyrilla and Warren at Nuts+Nuts. I picked up a packet of their Spicy Cashews (my favorites from the New Amsterdam Holiday Market) and the Honey Sesame Cashews, which were going fast today. I’m a huge fan of these cashews, which are smaller and meatier than the ones that you typically find for sale. Cyrilla is passionate about her product, which is sourced directly from farmers in her native Indonesia. They will be at New Amsterdam tomorrow, too, but they are also at another market at 145 Front Street in Dumbo, if you can’t get downtown this weekend to see them.
Liddabit Sweet’s Liz Gutman was behind the table at their stand today (Jen King was at the Brooklyn Flea). In addition to their delectable candy bars and silken caramels, she had a selection of their Jellies in a box that contains Cassis, Guava, Meyer Lemon, and Blood Orange flavors. There were also special gift boxes of gorgeous Salted Caramel Bonbons sprinkled with gold dust. You could opt instead to give your sweetie one of their beautiful Cinnamon Heart Lollipops whose coloring comes from beets, not artificial dye. Both the Lollipops and the Jellies are vegan.
I don’t think I’ve run into P&H Soda’s Anton Nocito since the Hester Street / Grub Street Food Festival. At that time, he had his handmade Concord Grape soda available. Sadly, that is now out of season, but I’ve been told it will return again when local grapes are available. He’ll also be bringing back his quince, cherry, strawberry flavors during their peak times, as well. For this weekend, he has several of his classic syrups like Lime, Ginger, Hibiscus, and Cream available for purchase, to be combined with fizzy water to make your favorite sodas. You can also catch up with Anton at one of the classes he gives at The Brooklyn Kitchen.
When I was very little, I remember that every holiday season we received a box of citrus fruit from Florida. My great-grandmother and great-great-aunt had moved to St. Petersburg, away from the harsh Midwestern winters, and I think my grandparents arranged for us to get this from them as a present. Seeing Cee Bee's Citrus colorful display of grapefruit, tangelos, and tangerines, brought back for me the excitement and wonder of opening that package of orange and yellow orbs. A family-run farm, one of the few left in Florida, they pick and pack their fruit to order with it arriving at your home 4-5 days off of the tree. I had a sample of their Monarch Tangerines, which were originally grown solely by the King of Morocco, he liked them so much as to keep them for himself. With one bite, I could tell why, luscious juiciness flowed over my tongue with just enough sweet aftertaste and none of the metallic cloying I sometimes find in the supermarket-purchased variety. I’ve heard murmurings of a pairing up between P&H Soda and Cee Bee's Citrus so soda lovers be on the lookout for something special to happen.
Wild Food Gatherers had a display of black walnuts along with their tinctures and ginseng products. They had honey and ginseng combinations in male and female versions, which I understand are supposed to be taken alternately for best effect. The tinctures are designed based upon different ailments. I was even shown a sample of what the different sexes of the wild ginseng look like, which was an interesting botany lesson on a lazy Saturday. The wild ginseng for these wares are hand-foraged in the wild.
Next to that table were the delicious and gorgeous chocolate bars (photo left) from the Mast Brothers. My friend had picked up a bar to tide her over while I walked around the market. I didn’t try any samples from them today, except at the next stand I visited, Shandaken Bake, where I picked up a huge chocolate chunk cookie (photo right) that had Mast Brothers Dominican chocolate embedded within it. I absolutely loved the combination of the decadent, sultry chocolate chunks jutting out from the cookie that had slivers of chocolate dancing around the dough. The cookie itself had the perfect combination of a crisp outer ring, with that burnt butter finish I enjoy along with a chewy center. This is going to be one of those market finds I go back for again and again.
In the non-food variety, there were these beautiful cards from Robert Wagner. I saw several folks buying these to have them personalized by Deborah Delaney in her gorgeous, scrolling calligraphy. A gift of one of these would be a Valentine’s Day gift to cherish in a keepsake album.
After the market winds down, however, it could be time to put your feet up and relax with a cuppa. With names like “Chill Out” and “Snowy Day” who could resist a bag of herbal tea from Terra Cura Botanicals? The 100% organic ingredients are either grown by the owners themselves (about 30%) or sourced from small farmers and are naturally non-caffeinated. They also sell a line of traditional teas, which they source from China. I smelled the Jasmine Green Tea (one of their most popular), which had a wonderful, deep, rich perfume to it.
Lore and Yewande Komolafe shared the table closest to the door today. The former is a small shop that is being incubated by this market. There were several pieces of cookware that caught my eye. I’d have to figure out where on earth to put them in my tiny kitchen at this point, so I had to hold off on buying anything today. The latter vendor had the most beautiful-looking thumbprint cookies. Buttery shortbread on the outside with homemade jam dotting the center in either blood orange or Meyer lemon flavors. I picked up a square of moist, rich Basbousa, which is a semolina cake with honey, almonds, and orange. The perfume of the citrus syrup filled my mouth with warm happy feelings, taking the chill off of the day.
Midway through my market tour today, I ran into Robert LaValva, the Director of the New Amsterdam Market. He shared with me how happy he was to see the turnout. At that point, it was literally bumper-to-bumper people all checking out the different treats for sale and picking up goodies for either themselves or their loved ones. Doing something off-season in this space was a bit of a test for them to see how it would work. As he said, he is “thinking about the vendors who support the market,” and “wants to have a good market for them.” If the traffic flow today was any indication, it was a great success. I know of at least one vendor who was on the verge of selling out of everything they’d brought for the day. This is probably my favorite market in the city, so I, too, was glad to see how popular it was.
The New Amsterdam Market Valentine’s Market & Apothecary is open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, February 12-14, 2011, which means you have a couple of more days to check out all the wonderful things that are down there. For a complete list of the activities taking place, visit their website. The best way to find out about the activities and schedule of the New Amsterdam Market is to get on their email list, where they also highlight the vendors who are participating on market days.