We abandoned our typical Sunday brunch plans today in favor of something a little more “seasonal.”
Despite the threat of rain, hidden behind ashen clouds, we decided to have a picnic!
However, rather than packing our own basket, we stopped in at Hester Street Fair‘s first-ever Sunday Summer Picnic. The Hester Street Fair is typically only open on Saturdays, but today they hosted a special event with just food vendors, picnic tables, fun games, and live music.
More than 20 vendors converged on the Lower East Side’s Seward Park and sold a variety of tasty goodies.
Our first round of food included Arancini Bros.’s risotto balls—hot softball-sized spheres of fresh, creamy arborio rice with various fillings. The offerings today included taleggio and mushroom, marinara, and spinach—just a fraction of the flavors they offer at their Bushwick, Brooklyn, storefront.
We couldn’t resist the taleggio and mushroom iteration, so we didn’t try any of the other flavors, but they all looked fantastic. (Arancini Bros. co-owner Will Levatino is a Roberta’s alumnus, so how could they be anything but?)
We also stopped by The Clerkenwell’s tent to give their currywurst on a pretzel roll (um, yum?) a shot.
The Clerkenwell is a new-ish restaurant, but the chef, Ryan Jordan, is a friend of my Ryan’s and protégé of April Bloomfield (of The Spotted Pig and The Breslin fame), so we weren’t surprised that even The Clerkenwell’s picnic fare was extremely tasty.
The sandwich consisted of the bratwurst on the pretzel roll bun, but it was also topped with caramelized tomato, onion, madras curry, Thai chilies and allspice—a delicious combination.
Our first dessert was a serving of poffertjes with strawberries and cream.
Poffertjes? Yeah, I didn’t know either, but it turns out that they’re Dutch mini-pancakes, perfectly light and fluffy with just a hint of sweetness. Supposedly they’ve been a big hit at the Hester Street Fair so far—last week they were sold out by the early afternoon!
We slowed our feast at this point, but not before we had a s’mores cupcake from Peels’ pastry chef Shuna Lydon.
The cupcake was made of dark, dense chocolate, with another layer of unmelted chocolate on top, but it was also complemented by a perfectly toasted marshmallow. A house-made graham cracker accompanied it.
(Also, shameless plug here, but Peels, which just opened in December, has the best fried chicken I’ve ever had!)
Our last treat was a strawberry egg cream from Brooklyn Farmacy.
The egg cream is an elusive, endangered bird that actually involves neither egg nor cream. This 19th century concoction traditionally consists of chocolate syrup, milk and soda water, but strawberry syrup was available so the self-professed “soda jerk” was happy to experiment for me.
After our egg cream, we wandered around and inspected the other vendor’s wares. Tacos, tea, macarons, or pickles—it was all there.
We were particularly enamored with The Shaved Ice Shop’s tent.
A huge machine rotated a round of ice, which was then shaved into “snow.” The ice was topped with syrups, fruits, and hard toppings, in the traditional Taiwanese style. The end result was colorful and perhaps resembled an Amy Stevens’ cake.
We also admired the impressive cemitas Mexican sandwiches, the live music courtesy of the Red Hook Ramblers, fresh sodas from our favorites at P&H Soda Co., and a delectable assortment of jams from the Jam Stand.
By the end of the afternoon, even the clouds knew they could no longer bring down the mood at Seward Park and they receeded—lighting up a whole herd of well-fed, happy ping-pong playing, taco-eating folks.