Brooklyn is a borough of foodies — not just those who like to eat, and eat well, but for makers of goods, too. Inspired by the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming food event “Bklyn Made” at Borough Hall on May 14, which will spotlight more than a dozen of the borough’s food and beverage brands, we decided to check in with some of our oldest, thriving businesses and those with only a few years under their belts.
Hole in one
Martin Bell began making bagels out of his Borough Park basement 65 years ago, delivering door-to-door to about 300 clients.
Today, the business, now based out of a Canarsie facility, has gone global, as well as branched out into flavored bialys and pizza snacks.
One thing that has remained consistent? The company’s signature product, the bialy, which still made by hand in a time where most manufacturers have moved to machines.
“We make the best bialys in the country,” said Warren Bell, who has been running the family business for 30 years. “There’s nobody doing it by hand anymore.”
A real bialy needs to be stretched and pulled by hand, said Bell, to get the texture just right.
Another secret weapon of the company’s comes right from the faucet.
“The Brooklyn water does make a difference,” said Bell. “It has a much better taste.”
They’re so good, in fact, you don’t need any added butter, cream cheese or jam.
“If you have a bialy right out of the oven, there’s nothing better,” said Bell.
Bagels by Bell [10013 Foster Ave. at E. 101st Street in Canarsie, (718) 272-2780]. For info, visit www.bialy.com.
One hundred years ago, Greenpoint was teaming with “jobbers” — men who would pick up fresh, hot fish from smokehouses and deliver them by horse-drawn wagon to stores throughout the city.
What remains of that history can be found on Gem Street. In 1954, several of the businesses consolidated to become Acme Smoked Fish Corporation, which has since become one of the biggest, well, fish, in the game.
“I don’t know if they ever imagined back then that their operation would have been the survivor and would grow into the size and shape of what Acme has become,” said Buzz Billik, vice president of sales of Acme, which is the largest processor of smoked fish and herring in the country.
Acme cures and smokes millions of pounds of fish a year in its facility, which expanded in 2003 to now take up the entire block. Part of its success is owed to its New York style taste — mild and lightly smoked — which is difficult to reproduce elsewhere, said Billik.
Acme fish can be purchased in nearly every supermarket in the country, but on Friday mornings, the facility opens to the public, where the salmon can be bought at wholesale.
“The really local people have supported the factory outlet for years,” said Billik. “But over the past several years, the word has gotten out that there is this unique opportunity.”
Acme Smoked Fish [30 Gem St. Meserole Avenue and N. 15th Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383-8585]. Wholesale market on Fridays from 8 am to 1 pm. For info, visit www.acmesmokedfish.com.
You’ve heard of dessert wines, but have you ever heard of a wine dessert?
Wine Cellar Sorbets are just that — a dessert where wine is the main ingredient.
For the last five years, Bret Birnbaum has been building his Brooklyn business to become “the Ben and Jerry’s of wine sorbets.”
“We let the wine speak for itself, and the result is pretty wild,” said Birnbaum.
Wine really is the main attraction, with the nine flavors including mimosa, Cabernet Sauvignon and sake.
The frozen treat is, admittedly, non-alcoholic; Birnbaum makes the sorbets in Greenpoint factory by first removing the alcohol from the wine and then running it through a high-quality Italian sorbet machine. The rest of the recipe is kept secret.
The resulting treat is fat free, gluten free, and dairy free, without high fructose corn syrup or other artificial flavors, and can be eaten alone, mixed with drinks or paired with actual wines or cheeses.
The sorbets are available in 30 states in more than 300 stores, including than a dozen natural and gourmet food retailers in Brooklyn.
You might also see Birnbaum with his desserts at various street fairs and events around Brooklyn this summer.
“Brooklyn is becoming the hotbed of new food,” said Birnbaum. “I wanted to be part of the community.”
Wine Cellar Sorbets [76 Kent St. near Franklin Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383-8308]. For info, visit www.winecellarsorbets.com.
Fine Fido food
Thanks to Robbie Dawg, your dog could eat better than you do.
Seven years ago, Lisa Fortunato was looking for healthy and flavorful treats for her Tibetan Spaniel, Robbie. Unable to find what she wanted, she started making her own biscuits right out of her Prospect Heights kitchen.
Today, Fortunato’s experimenting has led to her own business of dog — and cat — treats that are handcrafted in a Red Hook facility, made daily using organic ingredients, including grass-fed beef and free-range poultry, without any preservatives, trans fat, wheat or added salt and sugar.
Fortunato’s most popular flavor is a nod to her roots — Real Brooklyn Pizza (that’s organic Romano cheese, roasted tomatoes and garlic) — with another top seller including the first biscuit she ever made: Peanut Butter and Carrot. She’s also expanded to a second line of dog treats — Little Lulu — when she got a second Tibetan Spaniel named, what else?, Lulu.
Business is so good that Fortunato is moving out of Red Hook to a space three times the size in Gowanus this summer.
“We’re getting more organic biscuits to the dogs of Brooklyn and New York and the world,” said Fortunato.
Because everything that goes into the biscuits is human grade, you too, could enjoy a Real Brooklyn Pizza biscuit.
“I’ve certainly eaten my share,” said Fortunato. Though not everything’s game. “The Skillet Fish Fry biscuit — I’d pass on that.”
Robbie Dawg [246 Creamer St. between Court and Smith streets in Red Hook, (718) 855-1552]. For info, visit www.robbiedawg.com.
— with Elizabeth Dana
To try these foods and more, head to Bklyn Made at Borough Hall [209 Joralemon St. at Court Street in Downtown, (718) 802-3700] on May 14, noon to 4 pm. Free. RSVP by May 13. For info, visit www.ibrooklyn.com.