Ice cream with the deep, nutty savor of toasted sesame seeds?
Honey spiked with chili peppers?
Frozen coal oven pizza, crispy crust, basil leaves and all?
What do all these foods — the brain children of Noona’s Ice Cream, Mike’s Hot Honey and Table 87 respectively –have in common?
They are the product of Brooklyn companies and were among the dozens of comestibles available to sample during the 2017 iteration of Brooklyn Eats, a showcase of the borough’s foods that the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce began as a salute to Brooklyn’s restaurants in 1996 and which morphed into a manufacturer’s showcase in 2013.
While there were some familiar faces and flavors (such as Brooklyn Brine, making artisanal pickles for eight years; Aladdin bakers, renowned for its flatbreads; and JoMart Chocolates, arguably the oldest purveyor at the event, dating back to 1946, way before the borough’s food manufacturing renaissance), many of the companies displaying their often quirky products were newish or even brand new, and were aiming for product recognition and hopefully orders through their participation in the event.
Korean BBQ sauces produced by We Rub You, for example. The company — then two years old — debuted its original sauce back at the 2013 Brooklyn Eats show, and got picked up by Fairway, “which was huge for us, said co-owner Janet Chung. Today, We Rub You offers three variants, mild, which is sweet with top notes of sesame and back notes of chili; spicy, still sweet but with a more persistent heat; and the newest, Gochujang, which adds a smoky back note.
About a year old, Zesty-Z has one product — za’atar paste, based on a Lebanese recipe that co-founder Alexander Harik, who began the company with mom Lorraine George-Harik, said that she used to feed him while he was growing up.
“We believe za’atar is the future flavor,” Harik said. “Twenty years ago, would you have said millions of Americans would be eating chickpea paste and tart yogurt?”
Another family business, Brooklyn Whatever, which specializes in Mediterranean-style snacks and condiments, has gone the opposite route, starting with one product in 2015, and growing exponentially, to eight, then 10, then 34 different products (with some 50 products right around the corner) — including seven kinds of pickles, two varieties of sauerkraut, plus mustard and ketchup, gorgeous herb-inflected Gaeta olives and a selection of spiced nuts.
Set up across the aisle and a few tables down, three-year-old Fil Fil Foods is hoping to ride the wave of garlic addiction to success. With over 20 cloves of garlic in every bottle, its condiments — also based on a family recipe — can be “used in any way in the cooking process,” says co-partner Jeff Silva.
According to Andrew Hoan, president of the Chamber, “Brooklyn accounts for one third of the city’s manufacturing base in food and beverage products. Every year, we’re adding three percent growth in jobs in that sector and those jobs on average pay 20 percent more than any other manufacturing jobs in New York City,” which is good news, not just for hungry foodies but for local residents.