Monday, July 25, 2011

5 Ways to Drop a Lot of Dough at Smorgasburg and Walk Away Happy

Smorgasburg: gratuitous chalk board and beagle shot
 Remember my friend Jill, of The Rum House fame?  She and I are kind of extreme around each other when it comes to all kinds of activities.  To the point where I'm glad that she lives 4 hours away since I think I might otherwise be 50 lbs fatter, have a 50% less functioning liver, and spend all of my money on dressing fabulously and exotic Bikram yoga retreats.

Since our friendship goes back 20+ years now (!), I knew to prepare myself for our visit to the Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg by stretching, budgeting, and dieting ahead of time.  We each allowed ourselves $80 for the day (a historically modest sum for the two of us), and with the exception of a small wall hanging and one round of drinks on the way home, the entirety was spent at Smorgasburg.

Ah, Smorgasburg.  The seasonal food-centric outpost of the Brooklyn Flea on the Williamsburg waterfront is a fantastic destination unto itself.  As expected, we flitted around for hours and hours like giddy children overwhelmed by all of the tasty treats and appealing chalkboard signs until we were too full to flit anymore and had to roll ourselves back over the bridge.

Here are five tips for visitors of the future:

How to Drop a Lot of Dough at Smorgasburg and Walk Away Happy

1.  Keep your fluid intake up.

Smorgasburg is located in an unsheltered parking lot during the height of summer with no shade in sight and zero breeze; you will require lots of drinks, and must embrace this.  If I had to estimate, I would say there are 6 gabillion different beverages to choose from.  Some overpriced, some not, all delicious.

Rhubarb shaved ice ($2.50) from People's Pops
Blood orange iced tea ($3) with miscellaneous tapioca ball from Thirstea

Rhubarb limeade ($3) from The Stand, SO GOOD

Kyoto style iced coffee ($4) from Blue Bottle - yes this is a lot for iced coffee but YOWZA it was strong.

2.  Go early.  Smaller vendors sell out quick, and desserty things can suffer from hours in the heat.

While this didn't slow us down a bit, it did result in facial frosting coverage on more than one occasion.  We also did no research beforehand and mostly stuck to stalls with limited lines, but if you have a particular item in mind, the earlier the better.  I'm told they open at 9am, and hipsters don't get up that early anyway, right?

Earl grey dark chocolate doughnut ($2, deal of the day!) from Dough, invoking Jill's omgthisissogood face and associated frosting trail
Doughnut remnants
Mini cupcakes from Kumquat Cupcakery, including the most excellent banana with peanut butter frosting and bacon ($2)

Salted caramel macaroon ($2) from Danny Maccaroon

3.  Bring a friend. Try more things.

This is just basic economics.  A friend creates twice as many purchased tasting opportunities with half of the stomach space occupied.  Example: this delicious-despite-the-photo chicken biscuit sandwich from King's Crumb cost $10 (ouch!) but was the size of a softball (score!).  Add a friend, and a costly gut-bomb instantly becomes an affordable tapas plate.  More or less.

Moist fried chicken breast, flaky biscuit, herby pickle mayo sauce, red onion, there is nothing not to like here.
Or go alone, and you can easily subsist on the free samples.  This is my plan for my next visit, so keep your eyes peeled for the girl wearing dark sunglasses and making several sneaky passes by the brownie and pecan stands.

4.  But don't waste your time with the most of the Greenmarket vendors (with two notable exceptions).

I guess Smorgasburg is technically a farmer's market under the Greenmarket umbrella, and offers about 5 sad little stalls with overpriced produce and a poor selection.  But why would you bother with the fresh stuff?  You came here for cupcakes and sesame noodles after all.  On Saturdays, there are any number of other markets that are cheaper and closer to home so you're not left carting around that bunch of radishes for hours around the city

Of course I still managed to find things to buy in this section, and walked away with a delicious wedge of ultra-stinky cheese from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and cheap local honey.  But do avoid those radishes.

Spring wildflower honey ($5) from Nature's Way Farm

5.  Think delayed gratification.  You can take it home!  Or find it elsewhere.

It's overwhelming.  So many delicious things everywhere you look.  But you don't have to eat yourself sick!  I've also seen several of the prepared foods I first had at Smorgasburg at area Whole Foods stores offered for the same price.  My personal favorites were the grapefruit and smoked salt marmalade and rhubarb and hibiscus jam ($5 for 4oz) I picked up from Anarchy in a Jar.  Whoever decided to pair them at a table with Roberta's bread.. genius.

Another take-home was a pound of Barry's Organic soy, oat and barley tempeh ($9).  This was a rather pricey novelty gift for a tempeh-lover, as I generally think it tastes like crumbly rancid feet.  But it fried up nicely, no foot odor to be seen.  Not a convert yet though.

I consider myself somewhat of a ginger-beverage connoisseur, and daresay that Q ginger ale ($5 for 750mL), lightly sweetened with agave nectar and spiked with cayenne pepper is the best I've ever had.  This is not an exaggeration.  If the bottle wasn't fancy frosted glass, I would probably carry it around with me at all times.

So prepare yourself.  Or you could end up like this.  She still thinks it was worth it.


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