This past Sunday I was dispatched, on short notice, to attend the UnFancy Food Show, a celebration of Brooklyn’s food scene. It moved this year to the Bell House, a spacious venue near the Gowanus Canal.
On this blisteringly hot day, dozens of vendors were set up inside and a few more, under tents, set up shop on the sidewalk in front. I headed into the air-conditioned space, paid my $5 entrance fee, and took stock of my surroundings. Most of the vendors were in a back room, in three cramped aisles, and I believe half of Brooklyn was there in support — and to sample the wares at most of the booths.
My first stop, naturally, was Macaron Parlour, a new bakery but three months old, specializing in, well, macarons. Only, instead of the usual chewy almond cookies encasing a sweet ganache, Macaron Parlour also creates flavors like… candied bacon. With maple cream. I assure you, this is deliciously wrong as a macaron. And you want it.
Still so, so wrong was the Peanut Butter Cup, aptly named with a healthy dollop of creamy peanut butter covered by chocolate. This was a perfect macaron to showcase the creative abilities of Macaron Parlour.
Part of what called me to Gowanus was the promise of $2 cans of Brooklyn Lager, I’ll admit. I am The Beer Boor, after all. These indeed existed, but proved unwieldy while navigating the shoulder-to-shoulder crowds of the main exhibition floor, so I stopped after one — once I also realized I hadn’t enough hands to carry a beer can and sample AND make my way through the narrow aisles.
I then found my way to Robicelli’s Cupcakes for a special reason: Allison and Matt Robicelli have a cupcake named — drum roll, please — the YVOnne, named for, yes, The Feisty Foodie herself! That there is a cupcake made with riesling, and buttercream “topped with blueberry-thai basil compote” — in other words, a mouth full of awesome. Just a great melding of flavors in each bite. I took home another of these, and an Iona, far more savory with pear-olive oil cake, blue cheese buttercream, port wine reduction and candied walnuts, which tasted like a greens-free salad: very interesting, in a good way, as a cupcake.
McClure’s Pickles enjoyed a big stand by the entrance to the back room, and since I’ve long enjoyed what they pickle, I dropped in to restock. The spicy pickle spears are far hotter than they have a right to be (this is a very good thing), and for kicks I also tasted, then bought, a jar of relish, made from their popular garlic-dill pickles. The pickles aren’t cheap, but they are about the best jarred pickle you can find in the city.
Crop to Cup Coffee takes the Fair Trade idea a step further, and contracts with individual family farms in Uganda and, more recently, Burundi. Their crops are shipped to Crop to Cup for roasting and selling.
One blend specially for iced coffee — it’s less bitter and more rounded — was on offer for sampling while I learned about the operation. Right now the coffee is in a number of local restaurants, and is available online. The Uganda Bugisu (also sampled) was on the thin, fruity side, more like a South American bean, while the iced coffee blend had a fiuller, richer coffee profile. I opted to buy a bag of the Burundi Bwayi beans (labeled as tasting “Floral Honey Caramel”), for home use. Again, not inexpensive, but I fully expect the flavor is worth it.
Still thirsty and warm, my final stop in the Bell House led me to P&H Soda Co., specializing in homemade soda and syrups. The flavors in the picture are but a small sampling of what they create. I was pleased to note that they too use a Sodastream to carbonate water in small batches…
… though you can see in the picture above, to the left, they still have some CO2 cartridges to run through before being completely weaned off the seltzer bottle. I kind of want those. Still — the syrups are pungent, and really, a pure soda made with actual fruit juices is far superior to the store-bought copies, though, yet again, you have to pony up for that sort of quality. P&H made quite possibly the best lime soda I’ve had to date. And I love that they’re just regular people who discovered they could do what they really enjoy doing in life and maybe make a few dollars along the way. Who doesn’t aspire to that?
There were so many booths I didn’t have time to visit: chocolates, organic ice cream, organic vegetables, pastries, jerky, kimchi, knives… something for everyone, truly. I wasn’t concerned about the nominal entrance fee, as there was plenty to sample if I so desired, and it isn’t like it won’t be put to good use. UnFancy was well worth the experience, and the people I talked to clearly enjoy what they are doing. I’ll be back next year for sure. Support local businesses in your eating adventures!