Church Bake Sale Chic

What did you do all weekend? I went shopping in New York City for a bunch of food that I didn’t need. There are just too many kinds of food markets in this town. Besides farmers’ markets held in just about every neighborhood until winter hits, and indoor vendor stalls like the Chelsea Market, there are outdoor non-vegetable-focused food markets, with stuff like pickles, mustard, candy, cookies, and cheese from local artisans. Last weekend saw the opening of two new markets: the Greenpoint Food Market in Brooklyn, at the extreme DIY end of the spectrum, and the fancier New Amsterdam Market in the heavily touristed South Street Seaport in Lower Manhattan.

Saturday’s Greenpoint Food Market, held in a church basement, had a fun adult-bake-sale vibe and, for the most part, featured amateurs who paid the $50 table fee to sell homemade cookies, cupcakes, pickles (pictured, Brooklyn Brine’s table), and the like. One woman dressed as an angel was selling deviled eggs for $1 each, displayed inside a papier-mâché replica of an exploding volcano.

Best treat of all was a rich, buttery pound cake filled with raspberry mousse baked by Jessica Reed, who’s working on a book about the culture of cake. She got the recipe from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook. Reed is part of a program called Sweet Tooth of the Tiger, which allows artists to raise money for their projects by participating in bake sales. “I’m on for two hours,” said Reed. “Then another artist will replace me and sell their stuff.”

The following day’s market at New Amsterdam was a rather different scene, with slicker offerings. Among them: sliders of brisket and of ham, $3 apiece, from the Brooklyn restaurant Marlow & Sons; wild ramps from the Vermont-based Wild Food Gatherers Guild & Cooperative; barley and honey lollipops from Brooklyn-based Liddabit Sweets; and lots of cheese, including the semisoft, ultracreamy Appalachian cow’s milk cheese from Meadow Creek Dairy in Galax, Virginia (its products are distributed through the NYC-based Saxelby Cheesemongers). And even though the asphalt was covered in the previous night’s rain and there was a hint of fall in the air, People’s Pops was doing brisk business selling frozen pops in flavors like cantaloupe and tarragon, as well as hand-shaved ice.

Although I went home with some mind-blowing beer-pretzel caramels from Liddabit, the block-party-style jankiness of the Greenpoint Food Market won me over. There’s more opportunity for surprise and risk-taking when the barrier to entry is low, and I realized I’ve always dug bake sales. Who doesn’t?