Treats for the Treasure Hunter
The rumors of huaraches were greatly exaggerated (or at least premature), but they lured me to Brownstoner’s Brooklyn Flea as if I were a cartoon hobo drawn to a pie on the windowsill.
The Flea is a new outdoor market that takes place Sundays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the 40,000-square-foot playground of Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School on Lafayette Avenue between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenues in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. (The full name refers to brownstoner.com, a blog by Jonathan Butler, who founded the market with Eric Demby, who oversees day-to-day operations.)
Most of the 100-plus vendors I saw were craftspeople, young designers and folks selling costly vintage items, rather than peddlers of bric-a-brac who would make the appellation “flea” a more fitting one. But while the vendors are the raison d’être of the weekly gathering, I was there to eat.
A few food vendors from the Red Hook ball fields were supposedly taking their places among the other food stands at the Flea and would be offering their well-regarded street fare.
But the Vaquero family were the only Red Hook vendors on hand, serving up elotes, the Mexican grilled ears of corn impaled on sticks and slathered with the unlikely trifecta of mayo, cheese and chili powder ($3). Their presence and the utter scarfability of their elotes give me faith in Mr. Demby’s assurances that that both pupusas and huaraches will be present and accounted for starting Sunday. There were plenty of other comestibles worth seeking out.
Salvatore Bklyn Ricotta, a Brooklyn-based two-woman cheesemaking operation, has a stand where they sell their airy ricotta and $3 palm-size cannoli. Each crisp cannoli shell is filled to order, piped full of lightly sweetened ricotta spiked with lemon zest, Marsala, chopped chocolate and salt. The one cannolo I ate was the best I’ve had outside of Sicily.
The market’s layout depends on the number of vendors; updated information is at brooklynflea.com. When I was there, around the corner were the Lilliputian cupcakes at Keavy Landreth’s stand, Kumquat Cupcakery. Each is moist and dense, so much so that they might be overkill at three times their size. But they’re perfect as they are. Kumquat’s selection changes regularly (updates are posted at kumquatcupcakery.blogspot.com), which means, sadly, that the apricot and poppy seed cupcakes will someday be gone. A box of six cupcakes is $5.
When the day comes that I am crying into my pillow over cupcakes of the past, I hope to be doing so with a box of bonbons ($15 for a dozen) from Nunu Chocolates, another vendor. These chocolates, by Justine Pringle, are thicker-skinned than the most in-vogue truffles, but the chocolate is bitter, dark and mouth-filling. A butterfly-shape chocolate was filled with a gooey dark caramel; a little square dotted with salt turned out to be a thicker, saltier caramel enrobed in chocolate. Biting into a teacup revealed a florid jasmine ganache; inside a flower was an essence of Earl Grey tea as enveloping as plunging your nose into a batch of fresh, aromatic tea leaves and dried flowers.
There are plenty more vendors, including Choice Cafe, a stand that doles out coffee, cookies, pastries, pies and creative sandwiches (all $7.50) that were the most filling savory option at the Flea when I was there. A grilled marinated hoisin salmon sandwich came with a banh mi-worthy slaw of pickled carrots, radishes, cucumber and more. I preferred the grilled marinated skirt steak, stuffed into a hearty ciabatta-like roll with avocado, cilantro, onions and chimichurri.
Starting June 1, Hot Bread Kitchen, which “honors the culinary experience of immigrant women and provides entrepreneurial and job skills,” according to its site, hotbreadkitchen.org, will do so at the Flea by selling some of the best tortillas ($5 for eight) and crisp lavash chips ($4 for a 4-ounce bag) in the city.
Vendors expected in the coming weeks include McClure’s Pickles and a stand that will be selling the new packaged food line from the Korean restaurant Do Hwa.
And if the huaraches materialize, the only things left to look for will be space to eat on the school steps and a vendor selling hammocks for afterward.
As seen in The New York Times.