Text: Adrien Behn
A repurposed basketball court may be the last place you expect to have an artisanal sweets fair. Or in New York, that’s exactly where you would expect to find one. Stationed behind a chain link fence, laced with autumnal clematis, is the Upper West Side’s weekly Grand Bazaar. This is where thrifters come far to pick up all thrifty gems from gently worn vintage clothing to Turkish rugs. This past weekend, attached to the typical bazaar, was a tiny sampling of the New York-based desserts. Although there were no more than 15 vendors, the variety highlighted the culinary contradiction that New York always is.
From the simple to the strange to the hifalutin to the homemade, this intimate fair gave a snapshot of NYC dessert scene in one space. We noticed a few themes and highlight some of our favorites.
Childhood flavors was a common theme swirled into a number of baked goods. There were Lucky Charms based ice cream, Captain Crunch encrusted cupcakes, and corn flakes baked into cookie batter. These cereal based concoctions piggybacked off of the success of Milk’s Bar trending cereal obsession. Sandwiched between these stands was Hudson Valley Marshmellow Company. This upstate New York crew is making organic and handmade marshmallows, a perennial American treat without any of the high fructose corn syrup. Their store Beacon also makes marshmallows flavor buddies: homemade graham crackers and hot chocolate mixes. If you ask, they will toast it perfectly for you.
Stax Ice cream was offering cremellas: an ice cream stuffed doughnuts. The store offers a variety of unique ice cream flavors, including a limited edition Fruity Pebble flavor. The ice cream is scooped and then stuffed into a toasted doughnut, for those who thought jam was too weak of a filling.
Elizabeth G. from Cereally bakedput it best, “There is a big trend in nostalgia right now. Millennials are gravitating towards things they grew up with. We are living in a world where things are scary and uncertain, and going back to things that you know makes you feel good. This is something that people will keep doing.” Elizabeth bakes cereal right into her cookie batter to give them an extra crunch and sense of forlorn childhood.
We have gotten good at stress eating our childhood cravings: who knew that nostalgia could be so tasty.
There was a handful of American centered chocolate stands from the North Atlantic to Argentina.
Atlantic Confectionary Company is making world-class chocolates that aren’t too sweet. Matt Frederick has studied under expert chocolatiers from around the world. However, he is interested in making more American styled chocolate, heavier on the cacao than the cream. He highlights New World ingredients, which is experienced best in his Monarch bar. These bars are inspired by the migration of the monarch butterfly who flitter from Canada to Mexico in a 100 day, 265-mile journey. The bar incorporates the iconic flavors of each country all dipped into one: Canadian maple sugar, Mexican chipotle and chocolate, and American poppy, sesame, and pumpkin seeds. What better way than to honor their hard work than to lazily unwrap chocolate and watch them float by on a warm summer’s day.
There wasn’t much outside of the North American palate, other than the tiny stand called Delicacy selling Brazilian truffles created from the grandmother’s recipes of the owner, Beatriz Melo. These Brigadeiros have a base of sweetened condensed milk, the liquid that Argentinians bleed if you cut them. Their particular specialty is a Parmigiano based truffle which was surprisingly tasty, the umami cuts into the sweetness very nicely.
The only sign of a healthier option was Gwell, selling all organic, gluten-free, vegan truffles. The owner, Fawziyya Sugai, was inspired to make healthy truffles inspired by the drinks and treats that one will forgo when attempting to “quit sugar.” However, they are exclusively made of nuts, seeds, and cacao to curb those sucrose cravings. Their signature is their Piña colada, a pineapple, coconut, and cashew based truffle.
Overall it was a sweet little treat to stop by and sample the range of creative confectionery inspired in New York. Only here could you have so many contradicting desserts peacefully side by side, like the subway riders of the city.