Brooklyn, a City Tasting Tour in urban farmers
Urban gardening is the longest-lasting trend in the Big Apple.
Here, a group of bright young minds, with masters degrees from Ivy League universities, pre-packaged careers awaiting them and possible investments on Wall Street (before the economic crisis), have decided to become urban farmers.
Certainly, the recession that is flattening the aspirations of twenty-to-thirty-year olds has given the coup de grace to any dreams of making millions, but the demand for organic is such a big thing in New York that those with a good nose have gone from brokers to city farmers. But not in Manhattan, impossible...
Better to move to Brooklyn, where everyone wants to live. And it's easy to see why. Cleaner air, an alternative, lively atmosphere, and cooler people. The first wave of migration from Manhattan was about money: Brooklyn is cheaper. But actually, the houses are nicer, the pace is more relaxed, and the demand for all things new is high.
Which is why our urban rural friends have chosen to rediscover the age-old art of home-made products, and have transformed it into a business. They began (or began again) to produce beer, cold cuts, cheese and chocolate, all strictly local.
Small organic factories, urban cheese-makers and city bakeries have started to sell to the best gourmet stores of the Brooklyn foodies, in Williamsburg, currently Brooklyn's most chic neighbourhood, but also in the less well-known (and more interesting), Fort Greene, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Cobble Hill and Boerum Hill.
Here a city tour of the best urban farms in Brooklyn.
Any gourmet tour of this area should start from Brooklyn Kitchen. Not only is it a store full of pots and pans, equipment and knives, it is also a precious source of information on all the strategic locations in the neighbourhood.
They might suggest the nearby Urban Rustic store-and-café, where you can buy homemade cheese, fabulous breads and granola, the crunchy breakfast muesli mix. You will also find locally-grown organic and biodynamic fruit and vegetables.
Next stop, the Bedford Cheese Shop a refined temple to flavour, on the main shopping street. Here you can buy the famous local ricotta, produced by Salvatore Bklyn, two friends who learned to make it during a trip to San Gimignano, Tuscany (Italy).
Just a short walk away is the Brooklyn Brewery, which is very popular here. Because it's local, and because it's good.
Also nearby are chocolate makers Mast Brothers Chocolate, who produce wonderful chocolate wrapped in paper that would be pretty chic even without the chocolate! Carrying on southward you pass through the orthodox Jewish quarter, and this is the great thing about this city: as if by magic, you're in 19th-century Poland. If you want to try some traditional bread, call into Kosher Gourmet.
In Fort Greene (between Clermont and Vanderbilt Avenue) you will find one of the two sites of Brooklyn Flea, the big open-air market selling second-hand clothes, antiques, collectibles and of course food. The section of the market dedicated to purveyors and local farmers is called Smorgasburg(here on Saturdays, and in Williamsburg on Sundays). Here you can take in the real spirit of Brooklyn.
You will find all the different products that grow in the area, in addition to Mexican, Asian and European specialities. As well a market, this is the place where the local foodies exchange ideas and recipes. There are chefs that prepare dishes using local produce, and events organised by associations including Slow Food, Just Food, and the Brooklyn Food Coalition.
PARK SLOPE & BOERUM HILL
From Fort Green to Park Slope, another charming neighbourhood. Small brick houses, lots of vegetation and a lively population. This is where writerPaul Auster lives, and judging by the quality of the shops, there are a lot of foodies here too.
The first essential stop is at Blue Apron Food. An excellent selection of products from all over the world (French cheeses and Latini pasta) as well as ricotta produced by Lunetta in nearby Boerum Hill, mortadella from a German butcher who works in Queens, and locally-roasted coffee. Nearby café-shop Gorilla serves the same coffee, offering you a well-deserved break after this gastronomic tour de force.