While pursuing a graduate degree in food studies at New York University, Elizabeth Jones was forced to choose between two tracks: food culture and food systems. For Jones, who was most interested in the intersection of the two subjects, it was a nearly impossible decision.
And so, three years ago, she started a food book fair in Williamsburg to allow hundreds of others an opportunity to learn about both aspects of food.
“I thought about what it would be like to share all the books and celebrate all the authors behind what we were reading in class,” Jones told the Gazette.
This weekend, fair-goers can do just that at the third annual NY Food Book Fair at the Wythe Hotel. Dozens of well-known authors, chefs, artists and publishers will be at the event for educational discussions, panels, cooking demonstrations and more.
The literary-minded can get their magazine fix at an event solely dedicated to food periodicals then sit down to a dinner inspired by “To Kill A Mockingbird” at Egg –just a couple of the many events going on in and around the Wythe Hotel this weekend.
The fair kicked off early on April 18th with a pop-up bookstore, presented by Greenpoint’s WORD, in the hotel’s lobby. Jones, a Greenpoint resident, was pleased the pop-up shop could “tie in our little community.”
On Tuesday, Budin coffee shop hosted a talk with world champion coffee maker Tim Wendelboe that attracted a “good mix of coffee professionals and home coffee enthusiasts.”
“I mostly talked about what I do at farm level in order to improve the quality of the coffee that I buy,” Wendelboe said. “Getting better ingredients (green coffee) is absolute key in order to achieve a great cup of coffee, so that is why I work closely with the farmers who supply me my coffee in order to make sure the quality is at its best.”
Wendelboe got involved with the fair last year by chance during a trip to New York from his home and namesake micro-roastery in Oslo, Norway. He had a free day in town, so he offered to give a short presentation.
“I really find it interesting to meet coffee enthusiasts from other parts of the world and I ended up chatting with some of the people that showed up and that was a lot of fun,” he said.
And what about all the outrage over coffee prices in Williamsburg? Well, Wendelboe said Oslo residents are used to it.
“People don’t make a fuss about paying more money for coffee if the coffee tastes great,” he said.
On Sunday, Brooklyn beer lovers can enjoy brews inspired by the Wythe Hotel’s surroundings at Brew Pub, a project by Portland artist and craft beer enthusiast Eric Steen. The pop-up pub will feature 25 different beers from local home brewers – some inspired by the neighborhood’s history and others by the natural environment.
“One brewer made beer with figs from a local fig tree, which was inspired by a story about a landlord,” Steen said in an email. “Still, another brewer team made a beer with herbs that can currently be found in neighbors herb gardens.”
The fair will end on Sunday evening with a food tasting and lecture on umami, the fifth taste of savoriness, given by biophysicist Ole G. Mouritsen and Pam Yung and Jose Ramirez-Ruiz of the restaurant pop-up project Chez Jose. Mouritsen is the author of the new book “Umami: Unlocking the Secrets of the Fifth Taste.”
“We actually focus most of our work on vegetables, and bringing out umami qualities in them, which is actually quite prevalent naturally in a lot of vegetables,” Yung said. “Mouritsen’s book really broke everything down for us to the molecular level.”
Yung and Ramirez-Ruiz will serve several courses throughout the lecture – like brioche smothered with black garlic and burdock rice balls with a miso aioli – to give participants a precise taste of the umami flavor.
The fair had over 2,000 visitors last year, but Jones hopes for an even larger turnout this time around. She thinks that Brooklyn residents are particularly interested in food culture because of its creative aspect.
“Making food within that environment has become very performative and very creative,” she said. “There’s more room for people to think about food in a different way.”
For more information and a schedule of events, visit the Food Book Fair website: http://foodbookfair.com/.