Flea Bitten

In food on 11/23/2009 at 9:59 am

Where else but in NYC would you go to a flea market just to eat the food? The Brooklyn Flea is the newest stomping ground for foodies who also like to browse and shop while eating. It’s the pinnacle of the hipster DIY mentality that is the embodiment of a Brooklynite.

Brooklyn Flea is the brainchild of Jonathan Butler, a DIY vehicle for him to bring people to his beloved borough. Hey, it worked on me. In a way, Brooklyn is way too big a neighborhood to get your mind wrapped around it, so this guy is really doing a great PR job. He’s elevated the humble yard sale to something quite unique.

There’s two locations: Ft. Greene and DUMBO (literally under the Brooklyn Bridge). In the winter, the Flea goes indoors in DUMBO. Last week, we went to the Ft. Greene one, which is enclosed in the fenced parking lot of a Catholic school, a typical location for a flea market.

Ft. Greene is a very residential area, with mostly well-preserved brownstones, without the chic little cafes or boutiques on the ground floor. We were there early when not many vendors were set up, but I had seen the Martha tour of the Flea and knew which goodies I wanted to eat. While it was only 10am, Pizza Moto was already churning out pies. The woman ahead of us had ordered three. They were individual servings, 4 slices of the gourmet thin crust-style in two options: Margherita or White.

The story of the oven: This is this the third Pizza Moto pizza oven so far.  The previous two were crude brick and mortar structures that lasted only a few weeks aboard the trailer. The punishment from NYC’s streets quickly reduced them to shattered piles of rubble. This oven is a vast departure from its more traditional predecessors. It has a masonry hearth that soaks up the heat of the fire to produce thin crispy bubbly crusts, but instead of the heavy fragile brick and mortar enclosure, this oven is made from a double walled vault of insulated 12 gauge diamond plate steel! It is a much stronger and lighter structure that solves the problem of how to make a light weight wood-fired brick oven that can travel safely across the streets of NYC or anywhere that’s connected to a road.

This pizza is no joke. It is now the best pizza I’ve ever had, ever. The beauty lies in the crust made from a sourdough using yeasts found on local apples. QQ to the infinity. And using a simple tangy sauce of chopped Italian tomatoes, real mozzarella slices, and blistering the heck outta the outer rim doesn’t hurt either.

Yesterday we drove to DUMBO just for another dose of the pie, traversing two bridges to find ourselves smack dab between two more bridges when we arrived. I was also hoping I’d also get a taste of the Red Hook Lobster Pound lobster roll, People’s Pops and Blue Marble maple ice cream. I had to poach these pics since I didn’t have my camera with me.

DUMBO is such a picturesque waterfront, with ultimate views of eastern Manhattan and industrialization that has maintained the local character of the buildings. The location can’t be beat, right under the most famous bridge in the world. The square footage of this Flea is much smaller than the Ft. Greene parking lot, which adds to the intimate feel.

While the other half procured another pie, I scooted over to the lobster roll purveyor. There was no line for that one. But then again, maybe other customers didn’t know $14 per roll is actually quite affordable for the product you get! I did see many vendors and customers sucking down a small cup of the lobster bisque for $8 as a consolation prize.

It was totally worth it. A stern woman in a fur coat approached the stand and demanded another half roll, because her first one “didn’t have enough meat in it.” Mine had at least two lobsters’ worth, perfectly cooked, still tender, minimal mayo, just a clean, refreshing sweetness.

The recipe is a hybrid of the Maine (classic) and Connecticut versions, mildly tangy, with scallions cut on the bias sprinkled on top, dusted with paprika. It was buttery, but not overly so. The vendor flies in lobster fresh from Maine every week, along with the authentic New England Style rolls. The flatness of the roll permits proper toasting of the buttered sides. The sandwich is gorgeously delicate and hearty. Superb.

The food vendors are sequestered in one area. Next to my lobster roll stand was the Soler pupusa stand, supposedly the best of all the ones at the Red Hook soccer fields. Martha even had the proprieter on her show to demonstrate the pupusa-making technique. Unfortunately, these guys are suffering from the weight of their fame. Whereas other vendors were doing gourmet, restaurant-quality entrees, Soler is still churning out pedantic street food.

I ordered a chicken tamale and the daily special of pork and jalapeno pupusa. It comes with pickled fixin’s: cabbage, onion, chiles, sour cream sauce and chunky hot sauce. The stuff only rendered the pupusa mushy and soggy. The overly large tamale was already overcooked, so was mostly unaffected by the onslaught of sides. Very disappointing to say the least.

There were other food vendors there which we didn’t try: Asiadog, Choice Market (mostly pastries, didn’t see the sushi), Choncho’s Fish Tacos etc… too many to list. Check out the vendor list.

We did stumble upon Fine + Raw Chocolate, which we had sampled before at the Williamsburg Indoor Artists & Fleas. They give you a tiny pinch of truffle and it’s like you’ve eaten a giant bonbon. The flavor profile explodes in your mouth, with hints of coconut and salt, along with the deepest, richest chocolate, unadulterated. We bought a bonbon bar, which has a sandwich of dark bitter chocolate around the truffle. Unfortunately, the bitterness of the hard chocolate masks the subtlety of the truffle flavor.

The food and product vendors vary depending on which location you patronize. There was this taco place (on-site fresh flour tortillas) at the Ft. Greene location we had wanted to try that wasn’t at DUMBO. As for non-foodstuffs, a girl was selling exquisite terrariums at Ft. Greene, while a wacky-looking man with a waxed mustache was selling 18th century refurbished clocks at DUMBO. It’s really a trip worth tripping.

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