Brookline’s (First and Hopefully Not Last) Winter Marketplace

31 Jan

Outdoor portion of Brookline Winter Marketplace (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

Saturday’s Brookline Winter Marketplace caught me by surprise. When I arrived early for my 11:00 gym class, I noticed that folks were setting up a few outdoor tables with produce and that one side of the parking lot was barricaded. Faced with the prospect of losing out on getting my butt kicked in cardio boxing (because isn’t that what everyone looks forward to on the weekend?), I didn’t have time to investigate right away, but I definitely intended to do so on my walk home.

Image: Johnisha M. Levi

It turns out that these tables were just the tip of the iceberg. Signage promised a “Brookline Winter Marketplace” with free samples, as well as produce and goods for sale, with a local focus (hence the slogan Eat Local, Eat Smart, Move More). This was just one of the signature events scheduled as part of Brookline’s (second annual) Climate Week.  As I would discover later, Climate Week  here consisted of everything from art installations to seminars on solar and geothermal energy to a styrofoam recycling collection.

Styrofoam Drop for Recycling (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

I wasn’t prepared for the crowd and the abundance that greeted me when I scampered down the stairs of the Brookline Department of Health building in search of the Marketplace. I also promptly realized that I didn’t have cash on hand to make any purchases. But that didn’t deter me from speaking with a few of the vendors and gathering information on how to find their products outside of this event.

I first chatted briefly with a representative of NOFA/Mass, an organization with a mission of educating the public about the benefits of local organic systems. In addition to offering various workshops on everything from bee-keeping, cheese-making and soil-building, NOFA/Mass is also active in anti-GMO campaigning, and advocates for access to raw milk and food safety to name a few of its key causes. You can learn more about NOFA’s upcoming events and initiatives here, including a February 13 fundraiser dinner at Nourish.

As I moved into the main room, I noticed everything from breads to chocolate to pasta vendors offering samples and promoting their wares. Because I am a pastry lover first and foremost, my eye was naturally drawn to the colorful macaron display toward the center of the room.

Blue Macaron’s macarons du jour! (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

That is where I met pâtissier Jacqueline Lee and sampled morsels of both her mint and mixed-up berry macarons. The macarons were not only eye-catching colors–the shells were crisp, delicate and airy, and the fillings were nice bursts of flavor. I particularly enjoyed the mint for its fresh mint flavor that didn’t pack the toothpaste punch of baked goods flavored with extract. You will find The Blue Macaron at the SoWa Winter Market on Sundays; she also takes orders.

Jacqueline Lee (Blue Macaron) portions out some macaron samples (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

After moving on from Blue Macaron, I crossed the aisle to visit with Four Star Farms and the L’Etoile family of Northfield. All of the farm’s products are grown and processed on site. I discovered a universe of beautiful flours, including spelt, pastry, whole wheat and buckwheat. I ran my hands through ground cornmeal and weighed some wheat berries in my palm. I quite enjoyed these tactile sensations. I didn’t leave before finding out where in the neighborhood I could purchase these exceptional flours and whole grains.

(Image: Johnisha M. Levi)

Although I returned empty-handed from the Marketplace, I am glad that I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I am also planning to follow-up and find out how I can help make the Winter Marketplace more than a one-time event.

Four Star Farms Wheatberries (Image: Johnisha M. Levi)


2 Responses to “Brookline’s (First and Hopefully Not Last) Winter Marketplace”

  1. Sacha January 31, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    I didn’t even know this took place! I am particularly interested in the Four Star Farms flours and The Blue Macaron. It is hard to come by a macaron that is well-executed in these parts, and I look forward to checking out the selection at SOWA.

    Your blog title is so clever!

    • levjoh January 31, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

      Sacha, Thanks for reading! Yes, it was really a great event. . . it was a happy accident finding it. Jacqueline is making the macarons in JP and looks like she is just starting out, so I’m hoping the word spreads!

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