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Best Weekend Food Events: Greenmarket Friday, Lobster Roll Party, Waterfront Beer Garden

Greenmarket Summer Friday
Union Square Greenmarket (17th Street and Union Square West)
Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Tonight’s the night: the final Greenmarket Summer Friday, featuring Asian street food made with greenmarket ingredients. Some of the restaurants participating in the bash include Laut and Smorgasburg’s Parantha Alley. Chef Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard will be this evening’s special guests, signing copies of their book, Koreatown: A Cookbook. Beer, wine, and hard cider will also be available at the beer garden. For those of you looking to take the party home, craft brewers and distillers will be selling their goods from noon until close.

Lobster Roll Party
Babeland Brooklyn (462 Bergen Street, Brooklyn)
Friday, 7 p.m.

Grab a lobster roll and brush up on ways to make these hot summer nights even steamier. The first ten guests will receive goodie bags and one lucky raffle winner will get a grand prize: a Luke’s Lobster gift card. RSVPing doesn’t guarantee one of those delectable lobster rolls (those are first come, first served, so get there early) — but guests are encouraged to register in advance here.

Beer Garden
North Brooklyn Farms (320 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn)
Saturday, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Join North Brooklyn Farms for a waterfront beer garden highlighting local breweries like Finback, along with food provided by Smoke Show NYC available to purchase. A ticket ($65) into this rain-or-shine event will get you unlimited pours for the entire evening. Reserve your ticket here.

Brews, BBQ & Beats 
Rockaway Brewing Company (46-01 5th Street, Queens)
Sunday, 2 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Snag a plate of barbecued meats and sides from John Brown’s Smokehouse and dance the day away. The menu includes pulled pork, brisket, mac ‘n’ cheese, collard greens, and dessert. Score your $20 ticket here.

Whisky Time! A Japanese Whisky Tasting
EN Japanese Brasserie (435 Hudson Street)
Sunday, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Taste the intricacies of Japanese whisky and whisky cocktails. Brands like Ichiro’s Malt, Akashi, and Mars Iwai will be poured alongside small bites while whiskey importers will lead a class on tasting notes. Tickets are $65 and include all food, drink, and service. Reserve yours here.

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Günter Seeger Brings His Brand of Micro-Seasonal Tasting Menus to New York

Developing a menu that satisfies more than most is difficult for any well-trained chef. However, when a chef changes a ten- to twelve-course tasting menu each day — all based on the micro-seasonality of ingredients — it takes a certain kind of leader to oversee the kitchen. Günter Seeger has proven himself up to the challenge at his newly opened restaurant on the border of the Meatpacking District and West Village, Günter Seeger New York (641 Hudson Street; 646-657-0045).

Nestled on the first floor of a townhome that dates back over 100 years, the staff makes guests feel at home immediately. There’s a clear view into an open kitchen from every chair in the house, and Seeger’s private art collection adorns the white-washed brick walls. And if the aesthetic doesn’t set the tone, Seeger can also be seen strolling through the main dining room chatting with guests about their dining experiences.

“This fall, it will be nine years here in New York,” notes Seeger, who moved to New York after closing his acclaimed Atlanta restaurant. “The reason to come to New York was really to open a restaurant here because mainly, you know, what New York is. It’s a thriving culture. It’s the best food city in the United States. I wanted to bring what I do to New York.”

Brûléed plum tart with fresh cinnamon leaf pastry cream and thyme
Brûléed plum tart with fresh cinnamon leaf pastry cream and thyme

For the chef, that meant appealing to a bigger, international clientele on top of an already passionate local crowd. And for a city that attracts nearly 60 million tourists, that means each day is a chance to create something new to impress everyone who walks through the door. Seeger explains that New York’s global appeal for diners with a variety of tastes is what keeps restaurants afloat in the city: “The high-end restaurant just needs that kind of audience.”

Seeger focuses on inspiring his team through quality ingredients and micro-seasonality, which means constantly monitoring the greenmarket for goods that disappear in the blink of an eye. It’s those challenges of embracing ingredients that have a brief lifecycle define Seeger’s style of cooking. “The flowering onions are there, but they may only last a week,” Seeger laments.

Scallop in bay leaf with Chanterelle mushrooms
Scallop in bay leaf with Chanterelle mushrooms

Some of the most recently featured ingredients on his tasting menu include snap pea gazpacho, bay leaf-wrapped scallops with Chanterelle mushrooms, and a brûléed plum tart with fresh cinnamon leaf pastry cream and thyme.

It’s a painstaking process to create and compose an ever-changing menu, but he explains that “it’s really the only way to get a vegetable that’s the best product — a great product is really the main focus.”

A look into the kitchen at Günter Seeger New York
A look into the kitchen at Günter Seeger New York

The restaurant currently offers dinner service with a five-, ten-, or twelve-course tasting menu with additional wine pairings. Larger parties and guests who don’t mind sitting with strangers can also opt for a chef’s table tasting inside the kitchen.

“As long as we are authentic in what we do, as long as we have personality, we will do the best we can,” Seeger says.

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This Week in Food: Food Swap, Greenmarket Turns 40, and Absinthe Tasting

Seasonal Jewish Cooking: A Talk and Tasting, 92 Street Y, 1395 Lexington Ave., Monday, 7 p.m.

Explore the history of Jewish cuisine — from its inception to its modern focus on seasonality and sustainability — during this discussion featuring The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen author Amelia Saltsman. Saltsman will discuss the six mini-seasons central to Jewish cooking traditions, with samples of select recipes provided. Tickets are $25 and can be reserved here.

BK Swappers Food Swap, Fine & Raw, 288 Seigel Street, Brooklyn, Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Swap your homemade, edible goods and pick up some chocolate and beer along the way. Attendees are encouraged to bring items like homemade jams, jellies, spice rubs, and breads to trade with others free of charge. A selection of food and drink will be available for purchase. The event is free, but guests must RSVP in advance here.

NYC Greenmarket Turns 40: What’s in Store for the Next 40 years, Hunter College Silberman Building, 2180 Third Avenue, Wednesday, 8:30 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

Curious about the status of your local greenmarket? Attend a panel discussion featuring Greenmarket’s director Michael Hurwitz and chef Peter Hoffman of Back Forty West, who will be joined by a farmer and buyer to address public food policy. Reserve a free spot here.

Hot-Sauce Tasting Dinner Menu, Heatonist, 121 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, Thursday, 7 p.m.

Heatonist is collaborating with private chef duo bigLittle for a hot-sauce tasting series, where $75 nets you five courses paired around select hot sauces, small bites, and a Kings County Distillery cocktail. The menu will not be revealed until Thursday evening, and all guests must provide any dietary restrictions in advance. Guests can RSVP here.

Absinthe Tasting, Clement, 700 Fifth Avenue, Friday, 6 p.m.

Jared Fischer (Clement’s director of wine and spirits) and Ted Breaux (Jade Absinthe’s founder) will lead an absinthe tasting designed to teach guests what to look for in absinthe besides a green fairy.  The tasting includes a welcome cocktail and three absinthes modeled after traditional recipes from the Combier distillery in Saumur, France. Small bites are included in the $65-per-person ticket package. Reservations can be made by contacting clementpny@peninsula.com.

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Union Square Greenmarket in Winter

Deals are to be had on designer garlic.

Austere are the pleasures of area farmers’ markets in winter, and the mother of them all, the Union Square Greenmarket, is no exception. The number of vendors has shrunk by about half, as have the number of pedestrians making their way through the L-shaped parking lot — making shopping more of a pleasure, especially for those who favor seasonal and local eating .

The stock of summer and fall vegetables has been largely decimated, and supplies of tomatoes, broccoli, and brussels sprouts have given way to root vegetables, alliums, and hardy fruits. Indeed, apples, pears, carrots, onions, garlic, and kohlrabi now share space with vendors hawking dairy products, meats, and wines from Long Island.

Here are some pictures taken in the Union Square Greenmarket right before sunset yesterday.

Don’t go away empty-handed.

Carrots are everywhere…

…and so are sweet-fleshed apples and pears.

Wine tasting is a popular pastime.

Lining up to buy goat meat and goat yogurt

Potatoes and parsnips are the stars of the show.

In the winter Greenmarket, find plenty of elbow room.

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Tommorow: Our 10 Best Things to Eat Around Union Square

Will Pizza Bash, on the east side of the square, make the cut? If judgments were based on sidewalk statuary alone, it certainly would win.

Twenty years ago, you wouldn’t have recognized Union Square. Instead of students sunning themselves, there were sketchy characters selling loose joints. Instead of soaring residential towers, there were vacant storefronts. And the culinary offerings — other than stuff that came from kebab carts and Mister Softee trucks — were limited to a couple of pizzerias and forward-thinking culinary pioneers like Union Square Café and Coffee Shop.

Now things are different, and Union Square has one of the most interesting collections of cafés, carryouts, and restaurants, and the area is made even more desirable by the impromptu collection of trucks parked on the west side of the park most days. Those are fair game for Our 10 Best, too, with the caveat that they won’t always be there when you go looking for them.

So please join us bright and early tomorrow morning for Our 10 Best Things to Eat Around Union Square. We guarantee some surprises, and please have your own favorite places ready for the comments section.

Produce from the farmers’ market that assembles four days out of the week in Union Square is often to be found on the menu of restaurants in the vicinity.

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Heirloom Tomatoes Overwhelm Greenmarket — Lowest Prices This Year So Far

This one is called Black Krim.

At the start of the season in June, prices topped out at $5.50 per pound for vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes, nearly all grown in greenhouses by enterprising farmers. But now that the actual tomato harvest season is upon us (no greenhouse tomatoes here), farmers are discovering that they might have planted too many vines.

Prices on heirlooms have fallen to fire-sale levels at the Union Square Greenmarket.

Prices have been sinking lower, and today, Fork in the Road spotted a sign advertising $2.95 per pound heirlooms, with eight different varieties represented. Note that this is a maximum, un-negotiated price. As the day wears warmly on, and tomatoes get soft, you’ll find you can bargain a better price, especially if you’re willing to buy at least a few pounds.

This might sound like heresy, but almost-mushy heirlooms have the best flavor of all, and anything cooked with them turns out spectacular. Of course, you’d be unlikely to cook with tomatoes you just forked over almost $6 a pound for, but what if you got a bag of squishy ones for, say, $2 a pound.

Here are all the varieties seen today at the 20 or so stands that were selling them. We’ve made a laughable attempt to identify them based on pictures found on the Internet, but even there you won’t find any agreements as to the correct names. In addition, different seed houses confer their own proprietary names for the common varieties they sell.

The one in the middle is sometimes known as Caspian Pink.

This pale-fleshed variety sometimes goes by the name of Candy’s Old Yellow.

Here are two varieties of Zebras.

Can’t find a name for this one.

The three red ones lined up vertically in the middle are certainly Brandywines.

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Union Square Greenmarket, 4:43 P.M.

See other Offered Without Comment posts.

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Mountain Sweet Berry Farm Sells Tristar Strawberry Sorbet

The sorbet is made for Mountain Sweet by DiCosmos Italian Ices of Queens, according to the sign.

When I hit the Union Square Greenmarket this past Saturday, Mountain Sweet Berry Farm was not selling Tristar Strawberries, but they were selling Tristar Strawberry sorbet, made from their fruit by a Rockaway Beach ices company.

Priced at $3 per (biodegradable) cup, the color was rich red and the flavor was scrumptious, not overly sweet but tasting exactly like the prized strawberries, which should be still in season at this time of the summer.

Run by Rick Bishop, the farm in Roscoe, Sullivan County, was one of the earliest farmers’ market participants, and became famous for selling the strawberries, which are closely related to wild strawberries. Tristars — known generically as “day neutral strawberries — are are about one-third the size of regular commercial varieties, and more pungently sweet.

Pending the return of the berries to the market, visit the stand and enjoy something that tastes about a hundred times better than a FrozFruit. Mountain Sweet Berry Farms is at the Union Square Greenmarket on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The sorbet is inside that chest, packed in dry ice.

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Lavender, What Is It Good For?

There’s an entire Greenmarket stall devoted to it–and you can smell it from a block away.

Lavender is the most unloved of herbs. Apart from use in a minor role in a Provencale bouquet garni, it rarely sees action as anything but pillow stuffing. But does it have its uses? You bet, and they may be multiplying.

You can almost smell it through the computer screen.

Fifteen years ago, a Hell’s Kitchen Argentine place named Chimchurri Grill made a splash by serving lavender flan. But I can’t recall anyone saying they liked it.

Little bits of lavender (or even violet) candy are sometimes used by pastry chefs as decorations, but only cautiously, since the flavor tends to remind you of soap.

More recently, 10 Downing (now sadly closed) had a gin-based cocktail called lavender lemonade, and Café Sabarsky has a lavender-chamomile tea, but those are beverages and not dishes. It’s easier to drink something with an overly flowery scent than eat it, even when your nostrils shout “Whoa!”

Boldy, the General Greene has a lavender sweet-potato mash advertised among its small plates in their Menupages listing – but it seems to have significantly gone missing from the current menu as represented on their website.

Is there anything great you can do with lavender? Well, Doughnut Plant proves there is. Their lavender donut is a wealth of subtle flavor, well-frosted and embedded with tiny lavender chips. Wolf down one of these donuts, and I guarantee you won’t be thinking of soap.

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
212-505-3700

Donut Plant
220 West 23rd Street
212-675-9100

Doughnut Plant’s lavender donut: The trick to using lavender turns out to be extreme moderation, like saffron.

Take a look at last week’s 10 Best Donuts.

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First Cantaloupes in Farmers’ Markets

The first and only melons so far to hit the farmers’ markets this year are cantaloupes, very sweet, orange-fleshed, and dripping with juices.

About a month earlier than expected, cantaloupes made an appearance in the farmers’ markets this weekend in limited supply. These are very juicy and weigh as much as three pounds. Regardless of weight, they’re selling for around $6, which is an incredible bargain.

The variety pictured is known as the European cantaloupe or true cantaloupe. The variety seen more frequently in vegetable stands is the North American cataloupe, which has a reticulated skin of raised intersecting veins.

The ridged European variety is a little juicier and ripens faster, which explains why it is the first melon to appear in markets. Most cantaloupes take 80 to 100 days to grow and ripen. When choosing a melon, pick one without any soft spots on the rind, and also one that seems heavier than the appearance would suggest.

Cantaloupe makes an excellent summer dessert, deseeded and topped with ice cream or Greek yogurt and honey.

Happy eating!

Here is a list of Greenmarket locations.

The growers with cantaloupes this weekend and in the coming week are all from south Jersey, where the growing season starts earlier — as much as two months earlier — from upstate New York farms.