Food Swapping in Brooklyn

BK Swappers Food Swap
A few weeks ago, I read a really cool article in the New York Times about a food swapping event being held every so often here in New York, during which a group of canners, bakers, gardeners, food bloggers, and other talented food folks get together to exchange their homemade (or homegrown) treats, share potluck dishes, and just hang out in person for a few hours.

Awesome, right? I was instantly smitten with the idea, and signed up to attend the next event, which was held yesterday afternoon at a store/culinary studio called Brooklyn Kitchen in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.

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The items I made and brought to the food swap (all in my homemade packaging!)
In anticipation of the event, I spent a few days trying to figure out what to bring. I'm not really much of a canner, so I don't have stores of pickles and jams and things in my pantry, but I do love to make stuff,  so I ended up putting together a variety of sweet and savory items that I hoped would go over well with the other swappers.

I decided to go with a kind of Latin theme. I used a bag of dried hibiscus flowers (flor de jamaica) that my friend Looney brought me from Nicaragua a while ago to make hibiscus blossom cordial and candied hibiscus blossoms in syrup, both of which can be used for cocktails and sparkling non-alcoholic beverages. I also made a couple Puerto Rican pantry staples that I thought might attract attention: achiote oil, a red-hued oil made by simmering anatto seeds in canola oil that is used to naturally color Latin dishes (it's the yellow in yellow rice),  and sofrito, a fresh blend of vegetables, herbs, and aromatics that acts as the base of pretty much all Puerto Rican dishes. I printed up sheets with recipes for black bean soup and yellow rice so that people who took home the sofrito and achiote would know what to do with it.

I also baked a batch of my signature Italian Rainbow Cookies, and I portioned out cute packages of my homemade vanilla bean pudding mix, each with a half of a vanilla bean tucked in. (I know you're curious so don't worry because ALL of these recipes are indeed forthcoming!) The swap was also meant to be a potluck brunch, so I brought some of my smoky deviled egg salad with caramelized shallots to share with the other swappers.

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I'm all about presentation and branding (and love any excuse for a craft project), so I created some simple, but elegant labels on Illustrator, and packaged the items in pretty bottles, jars, and clear treat bags. The results were adorable--so much so that I was worried I would have a difficult time letting go of the treats once I got to the event!

I was glad to have put in the extra effort as the people at the event all seemed to really love my packaging (some folks even asked if cater or have a store!). Even better, all of my items were well-received, although I have to note that the sofrito and the rainbow cookies were definitely the standouts from my bunch. The other items on offer were incredible--everything from hard cider and infused booze to all kinds of pickles, jams, and preserves. Savory items seemed to be more popular than the sweet ones, but I think everything got a little bit of love!

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My products on display with folks swapping and snacking in the background.

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The swap itself was a bit of a whirlwind--almost a little overwhelming, actually. We started out Chinese auction style by writing our names on little cards placed near each item, but come swapping time, it was really more of a free-for-all; with people just walking up to the person who had the item they wanted and negotiating a trade. There were a few times when I found myself totally confused by what was going on as food kept exchanging hands, but once it settled down, I was pleased with the results. Delighted, actually!

I came home with two heavy bags FILLED with treats (Eugene lovingly drove me to the event and then picked me up, as it would have been impossible for me to carry everything on that long train ride with my back injury).  In exchange for my items I got: chipotles in adobo sauce and salsa verde (by Gabriela from Gabriela's Kitchen), hot curry cinnamon chocolate sauce, port wine chocolate sauce from Melissa of the Spatula Queen, homemade "dumpling" pork sausage seasoned with chives, glazed lemon cake, strawberry chipotle jam, homemade coconut extract by Emily of Nomnivorous, a carafe of freshly squeezed orange juice, chocolate babka by Richela, salted cinnamon caramels by the Singing Chef, mango chutney, homemade marshmallows, raw vegan sun-dried tomato and basil spread, pickled beets from Communal Table, upside-down pineapple cake, salt and pepper cookies, honey and chili nut brittle by Raganella, and a tub of schmaltz. (The latter of which has made Eugene very pleased indeed; he keeps talking about getting some "good bread" to spread it on. Nothing like rendered chicken fat to make a Jewish man happy!)

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The selection of treats I brought home from the swap.

I haven't been able to try everything yet, but I was really surprised to find that the raw vegan spread is so far in the running for my favorite item. I've been spreading it on crackers and snacking on it all day, which just goes to show why events like this are a great way to not only meet and share with people, but to try new things that you otherwise wouldn't even think consider.

I had a great time at the swap, and look forward to the next event. If you live in NY and are interested in attending the next swap, sign up for the BK Swappers Facebook page to find out more details. (And I hear that there are swaps taking place all over the country, so check Facebook for local swaps in your neck of the woods!)

Visit the Always Order Dessert Facebook page to check out more of my photos from the swap!


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