Volume 20, Number 31 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | December 14 - 20, 2007

"Support businesses and organizations that support Downtown Express"

A glimpse into the Seaport’s future?
Temporary food market has big plans

By Julie Shapiro

Two years after the Fulton Fish Market closed its doors, local food vendors are returning to the Seaport — at least for a day.

This Sunday, Wintermarket will bring harvesters, purveyors and chefs from throughout the northeast to introduce New Yorkers to sustainable, natural food. Modeled on London’s Borough Market, Wintermarket will offer food grown and produced within 500 miles, such as fresh cheeses and shellfish, raw honey, juniper berries, apple cider molasses, winter greens and an entire Black Angus steer, which will be sold in parts.

“We want to bring New Yorkers back to the Seaport,” said Jill Slater, program director and co-founder of non-profit New Amsterdam Public, the event’s organizer.

Slater hopes to create a year-round sustainable market at the Seaport, in the New Market Building and adjacent Tin Building. Since 1642, a market has stood on that site.

“I love that [Wintermarket] harks back to a time when everybody was eating sustainably, locally, because there was no choice,” Slater said. “We want to make sure we don’t lose important parts of agriculture for the sake of efficiency.”

At Wintermarket, visitors will sample dishes created by well-known chefs, including Mario Batali. Batali, a Greenwich Village resident, runs Babbo Ristorante e Enoteca and Del Posto in the Village and Chelsea and frequently appears on the Food Network. Another Wintermarket highlight is the Market Meal, cooked by a communal group of attendees and chefs and served to the guests.

Nova Kim and Les Hook will dig beneath a foot of snow in Vermont to find the foods they will bring to Wintermarket, including mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes, wild ginger and dandelion greens. They are foragers, or “wild crafters,” who harvest food that grows spontaneously in nature.

“We’re trying to raise awareness of what is out there so [people] can have a closer understanding and protect it,” Kim said.

Tom Bivins, executive chef for the New England Culinary Institute, will use Kim and Hook’s findings to prepare a salad of greens with high bush cranberries, rose hips, day lily tubers and a wild ginger vinaigrette.

“People think of wild food as survival food,” Kim said. “[Wintermarket] makes sure people think of it as gourmet.”

Bivins has worked with Kim and Hook for 10 years, crafting recipes around the ingredients they bring him.

“It’s pretty amazing what they’re able to find,” Bivins said. As opposed to supermarket produce, wild foods have “an interesting richness of flavor,” Bivins said. “The textures are different.”

A new trend toward locally grown food is replacing an older trend toward exotic produce flown in from around the world, Bivins said. Amid food contamination scares, consumers are demanding more information about where their food comes from and what is in it.

The growing interest in wild food makes sense, because “Wild is the original organic,” Bivins said. “Politics have finally hit the plate.”

Caroline Fidanza, chef at Marlow and Sons in Williamsburg, is coming to Wintermarket to spread the word on sustainable food.

“Sustainability is the new organic,” Fidanza said. She cooks with local, seasonal ingredients to create dishes for Marlow and Sons, and for Wintermarket she’s making braised beef sandwiches and vegetarian chili.

“We want to support our local economy,” Fidanza said. “It’s a political choice. It’s a moral choice.”

Anne Saxelby, owner of Saxelby Cheesemongers in Essex Market, will be at Wintermarket to sell farmstead cheeses, which are produced on small farms.

“In any big city, the market culture is always a big part of what makes the city vibrant and great,” Saxelby said. “New York doesn’t have anything like that.”

Unlike grocery stores, markets offer a chance to “really talk to someone about what you’re going to be buying and serving,” Saxelby said.

Saxelby hopes the event will spread awareness of sustainable food.

“Our world has been largely built on unsustainable practices,” Saxelby said. “It’s time to start doing things again so we can continue for the next hundreds of years and not make the planet totally burn out. We need to shift to doing things on a smaller scale, with a little more thought toward the earth.”

The future of a permanent market at the South Street Seaport depends on General Growth Properties, which leases much of the area from the Economic Development Corp.

“We continue to be interested in finding a permanent home for a public market somewhere in the Seaport,” said Janell Vaughan, senior general manager for G.G.P. New Amsterdam Public lists General Growth as a supporter on its Web site, and Vaughan confirmed that support. General Growth has not announced development plans, but would not put the market in the New Market or Tin buildings, Vaughan said. She will know more about how the market could fit into General Growth’s plans in three to six months.

Gary Fagin, a Seaport resident and a director of the Seaport Coalition, would like to see the market take up permanent residence in the neighborhood. He has seen the neighborhood change rapidly after the Fulton Fish Market left, and he thinks a market has wide appeal to both recent transplants and longtime residents.

“It’s attractive both to the community of people who miss the fish market and the people who moved down here because the fish market left,” Fagin said.

Amanda Byron Zink, a Seaport resident and a co-owner of The Salty Paw, a dog grooming shop on Peck Slip, has had Wintermarket written on her calendar for months.

“This is a huge bonus for the Seaport,” Zink said. “It’s going to be something everyone sees and wishes was here.”

Wintermarket will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sun., Dec. 16. at South Street Seaport. The events and samples are free, with a $5 suggested donation.

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