Amidst a Salone-del-Gusto style tasting hall filled with kombucha, kimchi, cupcakes, and all manner of pantry-stuffing samples, Edible Brooklyn publisher Stephen Munshin declared, “It’s time for a trade show in Brooklyn focused exclusively on the borough’s talented tastemakers.” His remarks kicked off Brooklyn Eats, a showcase of more than 100 local food and drink makers organized by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce as this borough’s answer to Manhattan’s Fancy Food Show.
Munshin told the packed room of Kings County business leaders, media and elected officials of the explosion in Brooklyn’s food economy since the launch of Edible Brooklyn in 2006. “Smorgasburg didn’t exist in 2006. Neither did the Brooklyn Flea or City Harvest’s Brooklyn Local or the Red Hook Taco Truck or any of the artisan food popups that have become fixtures in the city.” Not to mention the handful of craft distilleries, the three wineries, the dozen or so rooftop farms, the gaggle of food tech startups (Quinciple, Mouth, Homegrown Collective, Plated, StudioFeast, KitchenSurfing, GoodEggs) and the many coffee roasters now in the borough. Since 2006, sales of Brooklyn Brewery beer have jumped nearly fivefold, from $11 million to $50 million.
The location of Brooklyn Eats itself was evidence of all the potential that remains. It was held in the massive, former Pfizer laboratory on Flushing Avenue, whose floors are now home to a growing number of food making operations, from Sfoglini pasta to Kombucha Brooklyn, with more businesses joining all the time. “Brooklyn tastes great, and will be even more delicious in the future. We are proud to be an ally with you all in continuing to push Brooklyn in this direction.” The remarks also included a requisite Brooklyn facial hair joke and a rare flat tire and Dunkin Donuts tale from the first issue of Edible Brooklyn. Read on below, and learn more about Brooklyn Eats here.[Unedited remarks from Stephen Munshin at Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce kickoff for Brooklyn Eats 2013, June 26, 8:30 a.m.]]
Thank you to the Brooklyn Chamber and their President, Carlo Scissura, Chair, Denise Arbesu, and to Citibank, National Grid and all the sponsors for their support.
It’s definitely time for a trade show in Brooklyn focused exclusively on the borough’s talented tastemakers. Edible Brooklyn is excited and honored to be involved, and we welcome Brooklyn Eats with open arms (and mouths).
We at Edible Brooklyn have had the good timing and fortune to be front row center for the Brooklyn food revolution that’s taken place over the last decade. There is no question that Brooklyn, and specifically food in Brooklyn, has had a renaissance, which has clearly accelerated in recent years.
You can look to any number of places for evidence. The NY Times recently ran a piece on the global brand usage of Brooklyn and pointed out what it connotes to an international audience—small-batch production, urban husbandry and period facial hair.
But, as many of you food and drink entrepreneurs and fellow appreciators in this room know, it hasn’t always been this way. And getting there took a lot of hard work, sometimes sleepless nights and a tireless vision of what our food and drink community could be.
In fact, I look back fondly on a particularly dark night a few months after we launched Edible Brooklyn in 2006. It was pouring rain, maybe sleet. A miserable night and…flat tire…tried to fix it for a few hours. Part of the reason why the jack kept failing was that the car was loaded down with 50 or 60 boxes of magazines, which we couldn’t abandon in the rain. This was in a time pre-smartphones, so apart from calling AAA, we didn’t have many options. Now, had we known what we know today—we would have headed over to 4th Avenue which we now know is where everyone in Brooklyn takes their flat tires. But instead we called AAA, got towed to the complete other end of Brooklyn where we waited until nearly 3 in the morning for a young man built like the Hulk to fix our tire. We wanted to talk food and so we asked if the man was Cuban. An icy stare came back and the man said no, he was Dominican, and he then began to regale us with tales of Dominican food culture from his homeland and from Brooklyn. And so we got to have an Edible experience even as we watched the sun come up with some Dunkin Donuts coffee.
Yes, we’ve come a long way. Let me point to some other signs of how much has changed since we launched Edible Brooklyn way back in the food stone age.
In 2006, Brooklyn Brewery did about $11 million in sales, this year they are on track to do $50 million. Hard to Fuggaabout that, right Marty?
There were no craft distilleries in Brooklyn in 2006, and only a handful in the state. Today there are at least a dozen in the borough (including Greenhook Ginsmiths and the formidable Jack from Brooklyn, both here today) all contributing to New York State’s position as one of the national leaders in the craft distiller movement.
There was no one making wine in Brooklyn, outside of some old Italian families. Today there are 3 wineries in the borough including Brooklyn Oenology and Brooklyn Winery, both here today.
In the first issue of Edible Brooklyn we ran a piece on Fairway’s new store in Red Hook, mentioning the concern some local residents had that their neighborhood would change for the worse. Now, it’s the anchor of Van Brunt Street, bringing hungry folks from all over Brooklyn and beyond to one of the most vibrant food communities in the borough.
Over the past 7 years we’ve had the honor of telling the story of many other of the gifted food makers that are here today including icons of the New York food community like Acme Smoked Fish in Greenpoint and Gomberg Seltzer (now delivered by the Brooklyn Boys) in Canarsie, as well as those who have taken their family businesses into this new food age like chocolatier Michael Rogak of Jomart Chocolates on Franklin Avenue and Louis Coluccio’s salumeria, ALC Italian Grocery, in Bay Ridge.
Smorgasburg didn’t exist in 2006. Neither did the Brooklyn Flea or City Harvest’s Brooklyn Local or the Red Hook Taco Truck or any of the artisan food popups that have now become fixtures in the city. The list goes on and on to include the locally roasted coffee made by a highly trained barista I’m guessing most of you are drinking right now.
And this growth has been contagious. Look at what’s happened in Long Island Wine Country, Brooklyn’s closest wine region. In 2006, there were just over 20 wineries. Today there are nearly 50. And so much of that growth came because of enthusiastic wine drinkers in Brooklyn. Our friend Trent Preszler, of Bedell Cellars in Cutchogue, said that Brooklyn restaurants and wine shops are so much more eager to try New York wine than their Manhattan counterparts. He said Bedell’s sales in Brooklyn have tripled since 2006.
In yet another example of the interest in home grown and made, we just hosted the 7th annual Brooklyn Uncorked, Edible Brooklyn’s annual pairing event of NY wine and NY food at One Hanson Place. It’s always been popular but this year’s event was the biggest ever with over 1000 food and drink enthusiasts packing the room for a taste of the region.
And we know this same growth, this enthusiasm and interest and solidarity from both food producers and food consumers, has spread across the country. Edible Brooklyn, and our sister titles Edible Manhattan, Edible East End, and launching this fall Edible Long Island, are part of a national network of Edible magazines with a shared mission to chronicle their local food and drink community. This network started in 2002 in Ojai, California, and it now includes 80 magazines from coast to coast. There are 8 in New York State. It’s a concept that seems to appeal everywhere. In small towns and big cities, on the coasts and in the Heartland, in red states and blue states.
And, as you might expect, the growth of Edible magazines mirrors the growth of the food system that we are writing about. That is, we are a grassroots, place-based publishing model that mimics the decentralized, regional and local food systems that are popping up across the country. Edible magazines are locally owned, locally published, locally distributed, and supported almost entirely by local advertising. We are proud to share this ethos and business model with the gifted food and drink artisans participating here today.
Brooklyn tastes great, and will be even more delicious in the future. But we aren’t done yet. Events like this are a big step in the right direction. And let’s continue to move the forward with things like—more incentives for green roofs, more food processing capacity and facilities, and getting schools and the medical and health communities to support this local, healthy, delicious food system.
We are proud to be an ally with you all in continuing to push Brooklyn in this direction.