One of the best things about summer vacation is the lack of homework, a lack which allows for longer forays into the city for food! Another great thing about summer is that it’s very hot, and gives you an excuse to eat lots of ice cream. Behold, the Brooklyn Flea Market Crème de la Crème Annual Ice Cream Bonanza, also known as the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and clearly named for Edgar’s concoctions in the inspiring 1970 feature film The Aristocats.
According to the Brooklyn Flea Market’s website, this annual ice cream festival is a the result of Ronald Reagan’s declaration that July be National Ice Cream Month. A smart man, this Reagan. In its fourth year (the festival began in 2011), the Crème de la Crème features a dozen vendors with a multitude of flavors at both the Fort Greene and the Williamsburg locations.
One of the first things people say to me when they discover that I have a food allergy is, “Wait. So you can’t have ice cream?” They proceed to make assumptions, and then ask several more times just in case the answer is different after the seventh time, and then conclude that I live the worst existence in the universe. Welcome to the twenty-first century, pals, where non-dairy ice cream is finally a reality! Thanks to Alchemy Creamery, People’s Pops, Steve’s Ice Cream and other establishments, a non-crème de la crème day was afoot!
The Williamsburg location for the Brooklyn Flea Market is at 50 Kent Street, between 11th and 12th street and just a short walk from the Bedford Avenue station on the L train. They are open every sunday from 10 AM-5PM, and make sure to give yourself plenty of time to sample all the delicious vendors!
The Williamsburg market has a number of food vendors, but it was too hot to eat a lot of “real” (read: warm) food, so I only sampled the shrimp tacos from the Asian-fusion-inspired Takumi Taco.
The man running the booth made a personal phone call to the manager and discovered that the guacamole had sour cream, so a taco sans the guac was a perfect light meal for a hot day. It was spicy, with corn salsa and chips that gave it a succulent and refreshing texture. Tacos are awesome finger food, so it kept me busy while my friends wanted to shop around.
Other establishments include beef brisket sandwiches (though the bread has dairy), Mexican tacos, rice bowls, etc. The next time I’m in Brooklyn for lunch, the Williamsburg market might be my first stop!
Onto the good stuff, though, right? Alchemy Creamery, an all-non-dairy establishment, had a number of flavors available with a number of toppings.
In addition, they had their signature ice cream “push-pops, which is basically a scoop of ice cream with toppings already inside a plastic box with a handle. Very convenient for wandering through the various vendors and not dripping all over a $350 vintage leather attaché or a set of artfully mismatched antique spoons.
Though the chocolate chips and the cookie crumbs in my strawberry push-pop were sweet and crumbly, the ice cream itself was not so potent. I could tell by the faint pink color and a hint of flavor that I had indeed gotten the strawberry, but as a strawberry lover, the flavor profile didn’t match up as much as I would have liked.
In the case of Alchemy Creamery, it was as if making ice cream without the cream meant just making ice. The consistency was fine, but the diluted flavors were not great for more than staying somewhat hydrated. If I was looking for flavored ice, however, I would have preferred to stick with People’s Pops.
People’s Pops is a regular establishment at the Williamsburg location, and they specialize in exotic flavors of popsicles and shave ice.
I tried a small cup of the plum orange blossom shave ice, and I can only say two words: spoon straws. That is what People’s Pops are missing. Nothing is better for a hot day than eating a cup of ice, but I would have loved a spoon straw to distribute the flavored syrup in a time-tested, 7-11 fashion.
Holding the cup was also a great way to cool down, although it was a little drippy after a while. The plum orange blossom flavor was very sweet and maybe not as subtle as it should be, but I think cold temperatures have a way of dulling flavors a bit. It was also a beautiful color, which is not necessarily the point of eating something, but makes it all the more delicious. I definitely recommend the People’s Pops as the perfect dessert-first option to a lunch at the market.
And finally, for the true crème de la crème. I come from a family particularly fond of food, most especially dessert. We are known to sit and reminisce about a particular cookie or cake for years, and I think I have found one to add to the list. Imagine the tingly feeling of delight that a scoop of cinnamon coffee ice cream and blueberry preserves sandwiched in a cinnamon sugar doughnut, all allergy-friendly and all amazing, can bring you in the midst of a hot, sweaty, cranky afternoon. Steve’s Ice Cream partnered with Babycakes NYC to create the most perfect ice cream sandwich I have ever encountered in my entire life, and I think my greatest regret is not getting another one.
It is rare that I fall quite so in love with a food, but I can’t wait to recreate it at home with some freshly baked cinnamon sugar doughnuts and a pint of Steve’s from the nearest Whole Foods.
I have often said that it is a dream of mine to walk into a bakery and order anything that I want, and while I still love that image, I would like to add an allergy-friendly ice cream shop next door. After all, the crème de la crème of dessert wouldn’t be complete without a perfect scoop on a hot day.
Lazy summer Sundays are excellent for wandering around, eating ice cream, and watching hipsters and the Williamsburg flea market is the ideal location for all three. Though, as most things are in the foodie game, everything at the market is irksomely overpriced and though it was a little warm for a fluffball like Bear, the novelty of enjoying ice cream on a hot day is still one too rare for me to pass up. Until the next Crème de La Crème National Ice Cream Day Bonanza, I will be dreaming of desserts gone by.