By Matthew Taub
Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
The first annual ‘Taste of Bushwick’ was a smashing success, with overflow crowds rejoicing in food and drink from some of the hottest restaurants in the neighborhood, all while providing donations that will benefit the performing arts.
“The event is essentially a fundraiser for the Bushwick Starr, while also showcasing the great food scene in the neighborhood,” said Rachel Levens, an intern for the theater. “We work with Bushwick vendors and artists to bring the community together in support of a great cause.”
Noel Allain, Artistic Director of the theater, was thrilled to see the event turn into such a success.
“Honestly, we hope to expand even more next year,” Allain said. “Our idea was just to start small, and the response was overwhelming–larger than we ever anticipated.”
Executive Director Sue Kessler indicated the patience required behind the scenes, along with what was to come.
“We needed to wait for the right moment, when the entire community was ready,” Kessler said. “Now is that time. This is just the beginning. It’s such an explosive moment in the restaurant food scene right now.”
Both new restaurant and mainstays of the area participated, with Northeast Kingdom’s crab soup alongside Boar’s Head sauerkraut loaded hot-dogs. Borough President Eric Adams stopped by and was brought back to an old job he held in Shea Stadium.
“We made it a point to include long-time vendors as well as newcomers,” Allain said. “I want to get even more of the Dominican restaurants involved next year if we can.”
Simon Glenn was more than eager to show off his offerings from Pop-Up Tchoup Shoup, Operating Out of Heavy Woods.
“We take it to an 11,” Glenn said.
David Hasemann of Boar’s Head said he was amazed by the neighborhood’s transformation. The company, operating from its Bushwick location for 65 years and in business since 1905, was eager to help newcomers and the performing arts improve the area.
“This is a great collaboration” Haseman said. “We love the idea. Last year, the artists approached us about using our space for a performance, which we agreed to. Since then, we’ve been on board with whatever they want to do. It’s been great.”
Attendees were both foodies and theater-goers, and often a combination.
Caleb Hammons has been coming to the Bushwick Starr for eight years, since its inception. He remembers when Allain lived in the building, which was originally equipped with a shower and kitchen.
“Even if others don’t go to the theater that often, it’s still wonderful to get them to support the arts, and to get them through the door,” Hammons said. “It exposes them to the location, to the idea of theater, so they might venture to it in the future.”
William Tedford agreed–while also finding the range of offerings to be unbelievable. “From oysters on the half shell to hot dogs, what more could you want?” Tedford said.
Hammons also mentioned how there was just as much alcohol as there was food, which seemed to compliment the choices available nicely.
Dan Ross-Leutwyler of Fritzl’s Lunch Box, offering delicious chicken wings, has been in the neighborhood for 16 months.
“It’s great to see everyone come out to support a neighborhood institution,” Fritzl said.
Borough President Adams briefly spoke to the audience, reminding them of his police department days in the neighborhood, wearing a bullet-proof vest, and how happy he was to see the community rally for a common cause.
“An event like this brings the people together,” Adams said. “From a feast in a Sukkah to roti to egg rolls to tacos, we’ve got it all in Brooklyn. Food drives the conversation.”
All proceeds from the event benefit the upcoming 2014-15 Season of theater, dance, puppetry, and performance at the Obie Award-winning, non-profit theater The Bushwick Starr, located at 207 Starr Street in Bushwick. In addition to attending, supporters of the theater could also provide a donation that would put their name to a chair in the audience. The venue has more information for those interested.
The full food lineup included seasonal and locally sourced fare from NORTHEAST KINGDOM, the European-style eatery CAFE GHIA, fresh arepas and the Venezuelan cuisine of AREPERA GUACUCO, craft beer from THE SAMPLER, New Orleans-style BBQ out of Simon Glenn’s pop-up TCHOUP SHOP @ HEAVY WOODS, Cuban fare from CAFETERIA LA MEJOR, wine and liquor tastings from THE BODEGA and HENRY’S WINE & SPIRIT, inspired sandwiches and salads from FRITZL’S LUNCH BOX, and two of the neighborhood’s very first culinary landmarks – fresh tortillas from LOS HERMANOS TORTILLERIA, and hot dogs from BOAR’S HEAD.