Fine and Raw's chocolate elves at the New Amsterdam WinterMarket photo credit: Bonnie Hulkower
Hundreds of people weathered the blizzard last Sunday to support New Amsterdam's Wintermarket in lower Manhattan. The New Amsterdam Market is not your typical market. Its goal is to promote local agriculture and support a community of purveyors, who practice environmentally and socially responsible food production. Housed in the footprint of the historic Fulton Fish Market, the New Amsterdam Market creates the aura of a returning to a slower paced life. The New Amsterdam Market is in the same location where markets existed for hundreds of years along South Street and Peck Slip. The first market started along the East River in 1642. Farmers arrived via ferry from Brooklyn to lower Manhattan to sell their goods. The recent Wintermarket had an old-world feel as vendors sold wool goods, meats, cheeses and cider.
The New Amsterdam Market is a cross between a greenmarket where regional farmers sell local produce, meat and fish and the Essex Street Market, an indoor market where vendors (not necessarily farmers) sell produce and prepared foods like chocolates and baked goods. At the Wintermarket the lively mood and bell ringing made it feel more like a social gathering than a trip to the grocery. I had already bought holiday gifts and didn't need specific items for a meal, so I stopped at stalls, depending on whoever was smiling the widest.
Breezy Hill Orchard's tempting cookies and cider photo credit: Bonnie Hulkower
The burly man in the black parka at Breezy Hill Orchard had a big grin as I strolled by, so I bought a gingerbread man and a cup of cider. The gingerbread man had the perfect cookie consistency with a spicy yet subtle ginger flavor. The apple cider was delicious and the cup also doubled as a hand warmer. One of my favorite stalls was Fine and Raw's Chocolates. The chocolates were rich and earthy tasting and handmade in Brooklyn. I couldn't believe they were raw and made without butter. I couldn't believe how many I sampled.
W and T's oysters were a big hit, as were Fleisher's grass fed and organic meats, both selling their products like hot cakes. Speaking of cakes, or in this case potato pancakes, Katchie Farm's was selling warm latkes that went surprisingly well with their kimchi. Other shoppers were busily buying cheese, pickles, and seaweed. Despite the freezing weather, many attendees were clamoring for Bent Spoon artisinal ice cream, which was selling such seasonal flavors as creamy eggnog (made with rum, Courvoisier, and bourbon) and peppermint shtick (made with organic peppermint and handmade chocolate-covered candy canes). It sounded delicious, but I couldn't imagine eating anything cold. Unfortunately, I couldn't find Saxelby Cheesemongers's booth, but you can visit their store at the Essex Street Market throughout the year.
Ringing the market bells photo credit: Bonnie Hulkower
The New Amsterdam Market has been held monthly since September, but its future is uncertain. The market is hoping to establish itself as a permanent fixture, but requires a permanent home. Initially the founders planned to hold it at the South Street Seaport, but recently it seems the seaport may be used for other development plans, possibly a mall. I hope the New Amsterdam Market finds a permanent venue near the seaport. It was a thrill to see seafood being sold again against the backdrop of the old Fulton Fishmaket signs and the Brooklyn Bridge. The Wintermarket brought a sense of history back by reviving the public market tradition. It was a food destination as well as a community event in a public space.
Happy meat shopper at the market photo credit: Bonnie Hulkower
The most memorable public markets for me create a sense of place and evoke memories and smells that I never forget such as Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona or Pike Place Market in Seattle. Markets like these used to be common in New York and most American cities until supermarkets displaced them. The New Amsterdam Market, when it finds a permanent home, could become one of these iconic places.