When we get an invite that says, “We will set something on fire, and it may be a can of PBR,” we perk up. This one came from Tom Mylan, the blogging butcher at Diner and Marlow & Sons who occasionally teaches you how to cut up a lamb (sorry, ladies, he’s taken). He and Sasha Davies of Cheese by Hand are bringing together producers at Jasper Hill Farm, Sixpoint Craft Ales, and Salvatore Brooklyn, as well as local pickle makers, beekeepers, and chocolatiers, for the UnFancy Food Show, a jab at the Fancy Food Show at the Javits Center. It occurs on the same date, June 29, at East River Bar, from noon to 6 p.m. After you read our interview with Mylan, you’ll agree it’ll be the place to be.
Williamsburg has a reputation for being full of disaffected hipsters. Do they really care where their food comes from?
Absolutely. The majority are NYU-student dipshits who are buying their clothes at Urban Outfitters and are living here because it’s cool. The people that are actually the avant-garde — the people who are pushing “hipster culture” forward, who are actually intelligent and aren’t just into ironic T-shirts — are interested in a large spectrum of things, and food is just one of them
So what’s your beef with the Fancy Foods Show?
The Fancy Food Show has turned into this joke — it’s mostly commodities stuff that is no different than a barrel of oil. There’s a limited supply, and people go and negotiate deals. It’s a big business — most of the stuff is imported or produced industrially. We’re having people who actually make the stuff in small-production batches, literally by hand. The other orthodoxy that we’re reacting to is the one at the Greenmarket — the sort of Alice Waters, precious, let’s-all-pat-ourselves-on-the-back-liberal-guilt kind of joyless thing that the Greenmarkets are. Or the culture that surrounds them. (I’m not knocking the Greenmarket). It’s that culture of joyless healthy consumption as sort of penance for being able to drive SUVs or something. We wanted it to become fun again.
Obviously, you think there’s a need for a Greenmarket alternative.
Our next step will be a thing called the Blackmarket. It’ll be a small e-mail list where people will be invited the week before to sell their moonshine and pickles and homemade bitters — things that are illegal to sell because no one is producing them in a commercial kitchen.
Moonshine aside, tell me about someone who’s doing something interesting outside of the Greenmarket system?
Mateo [Kehler] from Jasper Hill has built an enormous 22,000-square-foot underground-cave complex in the northeast kingdom of Vermont where he has started doing European-style cooperative affinage and distribution. He’s getting all these small producers to give him cheese, and he ages cheese for them. He’s going to move forward into aging hams and stuff like that. He’s really the future of small or slow food.
How about someone who doesn’t make food?
The Cut Brooklyn guy makes chef knives by hand in this tiny workshop down in Gowanus. Each knife has ten hours of labor in it.
So what do you see as the next trend in this area? The next Greenmarket?
The Greenmarket very soon is going to lose its — I’m not going to say its monopoly, since I don’t think there’s anything inherently evil about them. But on that sort of bizarre market sort of thing. Robert LaVal is trying to do the New Amsterdam Market. He’s trying to get one of those old Fulton Fish markets turned into a permanent indoor market like the Embarcadero in San Francisco. And then obviously what we’re doing with the Blackmarket. And that maker mind-set where people are reverse engineering and making stuff out of recycled goods (making a table out of a door), and where people are producing things again, that’s really big, especially here in Brooklyn.