by Libby Collier
Food is a catalyst for discovery and new experiences. The sound of crackling eggs and bacon can be the motivating factor to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes the smell of garlic cooking in olive oil is the only reason to pause a Netflix marathon and join your family in the kitchen. Big-time foodies take the opportunity to do their research and travel long-distance to attend festivals and culinary events throughout the country and abroad. Food is what motivates people to action, but it ultimately becomes a catalyst to reach the people, places, and overall experiences that surround the food.
This summer, food allowed me to catch up with friends in Colorado and see the Golden Gate Bridge at dusk. It led me to discover locations in New York City I may never have stumbled across on my everyday path. In July, on behalf of Foodlyn, I headed to the Good Food Mercantile in Brooklyn.
I considered my options for transportation from Manhattan and ended up on the ferry. My walk to the ferry terminal led through different, zigzagging paths of lower Manhattan. I walked along the water, passing morning joggers, and finally found the crowds of people waiting for their ferries. I mingled among them. Every now and then, there was a lull in their conversations to let the noise from helicopter tours pass. I found a spot in the shade to observe the city waking up.
On the ferry, as we made our way toward Brooklyn, I looked back to see the historic buildings and factories of the Lower East Side and the distinctive architecture of the Financial District. The reflective sides of the Freedom Tower functioned as a mirror to the buildings around it. I’d never seen New York, my home just for the summer, from this perspective before.
I stepped off the ferry in Brooklyn into a small park with paved paths and benches packed with readers. Someone meandered past with an ice cream cone in hand. It was still morning. I was exactly the right place.
It took a few wrong turns to find the Mercantile at the Expo Center in Williamsburg. Once I stepped inside, my senses were overwhelmed. Over 90 food crafters from the east coast and beyond were packed inside, in aisles sprawling across the massive warehouse.
But even though the space was huge, the vendors made it feel cozy and quaint with their charisma and positivity. Table after table displayed spreads of cheeses, chocolates, coffee, confections. Fragrant honeys filled glass cylinders alongside a table of truffles topped with gold flakes. Elixirs of natural flavors — some bubbly, some flat — could revive your senses in time to try a sample of mustard or nut butter.
Each display was simple and organic, allowing the products to speak for themselves. Burn, a small-batch business based out of Santa Cruz, California, had an eye-catching display: three small, white dishes on a table, each pooled with fermented hot sauce. It was the indescribable color of their habanero-bell pepper hot sauce that caught my attention. The sauce emanated the richness of an egg yolk. I can only describe its hue as the pure concentration of a habanero pepper — neither orange nor yellow, but an exceptional blurring of the two. It was evident, throughout the show, that each product was made with the same level of intention and care.