The New Amsterdam Market is lower Manhattan’s answer to the Union Square Greenmarket. With more space, fewer vendors and lower prices, the Market is a great spot to mill about, sample some rich foods, and pick up absurdly cheap groceries.
Trains and traffic rattle above the old Fulton Fish Market, now replete with rows of stalls, each backed by a chalkboard advertising its wares. A few fresh produce stands, manned by gentlemen with lined faces and cracked hands, stand at the edges of the market. Local restaurants, including Jimmy’s 43 and Porchetta, have also set up shop, offering $5 sandwiches and sliders. Make your way inward, though, and there are much richer treasures to uncover. You may find yourself tearing indelicately at pizza Bianca, an oily foccaccia caked with goat cheese, or indulging in the thick, smoky and intensely flavorful bacon from Brooklyn Cured. A few tables down, you might lick prize-winning ricotta or a fun, grainy duck confit from wooden ice cream spoons. (The duck is prepared three other ways: smoked breast meat, prosciutto, and a strong salami). You can cleanse your palate with delicious agua fresca, squeezed from fresh cantaloupe and watermelon and sprinkled with chopped mint, or a surprisingly hoppy probiotic tea called Kombucha.
The more obscure foods are worth a taste test as well. Nettle butter, a pea green paste, is lemony and fresh. A flat, doughnut-shaped Ruis bread, crumbly and nutty, pairs beautifully with thinly-sliced Cheddar and cucumbers at the Nordic Breads stand. Sweet hot mustards from School House Kitchen are zestfully kicky (and they’re launching in Whole Foods this week!) Last weekend, the Anthony Road Wine Company held a grape-stomping demonstration in wooden vats, and invited patrons to get their feet dirty. (This writer’s opinion? Feels like stepping in a lot of seaweed.)
The best part of the New Amsterdam Market (after the food, of course) is the people. Since the Market is a bit of a hike from the nearest subway, the crowds are enthusiastic but not oppressive. The merchants are eager to engage, unlike the Union Square Greenmarket, where cramped space and forced expediency can press you to pay for your nasturtiums and get the hell out. Through pick-up conversations with New Amsterdam vendors, I learned how to process and harvest cocoa beans, where to take classes on killing pigs, and a few neat descriptors for cheese (Cabo is sweet and nutty, Landaff is sour and rustic). I’ll be back for the conversations, and to try a bit more of that bacon.