Sunday, after having a delicious brunch at the sustainable and organic Community Food and Juice in our neighborhood on the Upper West Side, Vicki (the roomie) and I set out on an adventure all the way down to the Lower East Side. I was actually just there Saturday night with Agatha, my friend from work. But I wasn’t going down there on Sunday for Ommegang beer and gin and tonics. Nope, I was headed down to sample hand crafted macarons, spicy popsicles, and peruse some vintage wares and locally-made crafts.
Allow me this rant first: Sometimes I really hate the MTA. New York’s transportation system is like a five year old’s birthday party run by a drunk grown up: nobody knows what is going on, it’s always a mess, and there ends up being a lot of pissed off people.
I had gone jogging earlier in the morning at 9, and reported back to Vicki that it wasn’t “that bad. It’s doable.” But as we came closer to noon, the heat became close to unbearable. Vicki and I found that the subway 1 line was not stopping at 125th, 116th, 110th, or 103 going downtown. Since we live at 110th, this put us in a predicament. We waited at the bus stop, panting like poodles in the heat. One bus rumbled by, too full to stop. Another pulled over to let over a little old Asian couple, but didn’t allow anyone on. Our trip to the fair seemed like it might be a huge mistake. Vicki suggested we walk east to the AC line, four long blocks West. Peering out from our shady spot under the bus shelter was like gazing from an oasis across a parched desert. But I finally agreed. We passed through a pedestrian fairway with shady trees, and finally managed to get a train going in the right direction, cooling off in the wonderfully icy interior of the subway car. From the Grand St subway stop, the fair was only a few blocks away.
The Hester Street fair is deceptively small. With only a hundred yards of grounds, you would think you would get bored quickly. And yeah, you might if you like to speed shop and you aren’t hungry. But Vicki and I spent nearly an hour as we hopped from booth to booth, gossiping with the vendors, asking them about their foods and crafts, and nibbling on the tasties.
After passing by some cute stationary (which is getting old, I feel like a see at least one – if not three – hand printed stationary table at every fair in New York) we stopped at DBA. I thought DBA only produces beautifully simple biodegradable pens, but upon visiting their site right now, I’ve found all sorts of nice little sustainable things that are “forthcoming,” like a dishrack, an extension cord, and a heater. Ok, sounds boring, but it would be the most stylish extension cord you ever owned, trust me. But right now, besides the matte black pen that uses non-toxic ink and is 98% biodegradable, they also have an “endless notebook” that can
be combined and rearranged to create your perfect little notebook. It’s 100% post-consumer waste and chlorine free. If you don’t have a compost bin, you can just send the pen back, and they’ll take care of it for you!
I scribbled a bit using the pen and chatted with Niamh (pronounced Neev – she’s one of those Irish beauties whose name is crazily spelled) Hughes, the Business Development Manager. She tried on my Kayu glasses, saying she had been salivating over them for some time. I think they actually looked cuter on her than on I…Obviously, I bought a pack of the pens, happy to support the venture.
Next door: the Macaron Parlour with Simon Tung manning the table. We’re lucky we didn’t come Friday, because the shop had sold out, riding on a wave of customers after a mention in the Daily Candy. But today he had lots of flavors. I tried the lemon macaron, which seems silly in hindsight, with flavors like candied bacon with maple cream cheese, thai chili, and earl grey available. I mean, I’m not saying was disappointed with my choice. I bit in
to the flaky crust which melted away to reveal the ganache filling – tart and tasty. “This is better than Laduree!” I declared. He practically blushed. “No way, that isn’t true. Though Christina [Christina Ha, his business partner] did study under Pierre Herme in Paris.” I nodded like I knew what he was talking about. It sounded impressive, at least.
Vicki ordered the cinnamon pistachio with morello cherries, which I nibbled on as well. Not bad!
Moving on to the next yummy thing, I had a iced lychee white tea, then a delicious waffle with sweet red bean in the center. A bean filling sounds savory, but this one was sweet, almost like a fruit filling. And they were shaped like fish! Charming. I felt bad for the pair manning the griddle, in the 90 degree heat though. Luckily nearby there was a tent whose sole purpose was to cover visitors with a cool mist.
Also, I almost got a ping pong ball the to the face, but luckily one of the players snatched it from the air by my head. Of course, I had no clue until they both started laughing. Typically me.
Vicki and I perused some vintage jewelry and dishes, marveling at an old butter churn and examining old postcards. I gave some serious thought to getting some lovely jars (something I’ve been obsessed with lately) but the swing-top lid was so rusty it was a struggle to get it open and that’s not something I wanted to deal with on a daily basis.
I passed by Laura Fisk’s table and fell in love with her printed cotton accessories. There were classy cobalt blue napkins with ruby pomegranates. “If I had a real house with more than two seats at a table, I would get those,” I told Vicki. Instead I opted for a pretty little apron with an adjustable neck, and cupcakes on the front. I was giddy when Laura yanked on the strings and the apron slid up. “We short people always have to fold it up,” she said. I totally agree. It gets annoying that normal aprons starts right under my boobs. She also had a children’s book, stationary, and some children’s-sized aprons. They’re printed with non-toxic inks as well, though I wish it was organic cotton. Can’t win ’em all!
You can see her stuff at fiskandfern.com.
Of course, it wasn’t all stuffing my face with food and shopping for myself. I shopped for other people too! I bought Mike a very manly belt from Feur Wear made from out-of-commission German fire hoses. That’s Dave, above, posing with the belt. His company, Holstee, is selling the belts for Feur Wear, because they like the German company’s stuff so much and wants to see them in the US. Holstee designs and curates beautifully designed sustainable goods, and you should really give their website a look, because there is some uber-cool stuff on there. It debunks the myth that sustainable design is all hippie skirts and fanciful stationary.
I especially love their manifesto:
“This is your life. Do what you love and do it often. If you don’t like something, change it. If you don’t like your job, quit. If you don’t have enough time, stop watching TV. If you are looking for the love of your life, stop; they will be waiting for you when you start doing things you love…” And on. (I don’t want to brush up against copyright infringement by reprinting the whole thing here…” You’ll have to check it out for yourself.
Next to Holstee was a table displaying some select stuff from Sustainable NYC: adorable fold-up reusable bags, Toms shoes, soy candles, and upcycled purses. I did not even know this place existed, but now I feel like I have to go there! It’s at Avenue A and 9th St. A bit out of the way for me, but still….
At this point another vendor piped up, saying a huge rain storm was about ten minutes away. To the West the sky was dark and ominous. Vicki wanted to leave right then, but I wanted to stay a little longer.
Finally we stopped at Xoom for some smoothie samples. I wish this smoothie and tea shop wasn’t so far away from me, because if Xoom was on the UWS, it would replace my obsession with Juice Generation, I’m sure. Not only because the smoothies are delicious, but their green creds (to the right) are top notch.
At this point we hurried away from the fair to beat the rain. As fat raindrops spattered the sidewalk, I took one last picture of the bike valet and Vicki and I promised each other we would come back to try everything else. What we didn’t get to sample: the ice cream sandwiches, sassily flavored popsicles, and barbecue. Not to mention the adorable yoga bags I forgot to go back for. Another day, another time…
Vicki set off in a dead run for the subway, with me calling after her. “Wait up!” as I struggled to run in my Jack Rogers. You would think she would melt or something. We waited on the platform for a full twenty minutes, watching train after train go by on the opposite platform. Finally a voice over the intercom. “Wah wah wah Brooklyn bound only wah wah.”
That’s when we saw a sign saying no north-bound trains at that station. Awesome. We emerged, walked ten steps and then the skies let loose. Luckily the Green Market farmers market was right next to use, so we hid under a tent and chatted with the Green Market worker about her time in India while waiting for the downpour to ease. (I love New York!)
When the rain eased up a little, we walked on, stopping at The Pickle Guys for Vicki, and then we hopped a bus and took it up to The Strand. Can you believe I’ve never been to this bookstore before? I could spend hours in there, but I stuck to my shopping list and walked away with Markets of New York City (natch), 101 Things I learned in Culinary School, and Remember Be Here Now, the classic hippie tome about the spiritual life. That and psychedelic drugs, ha.
Finally we hopped on the subway and came home. I cooked some stir fry up for Vicki and Mike, Vicki made mimosas, and it was a good day.