Tastes of Brooklyn is bringing their event to Carroll Gardens once more to highlight the many small businesses in the neighborhood and celebrate its distinct and diverse culinary wonders — and all for a good cause.
Tastes of Brooklyn, founded in 2011 by Nancie Katz, aims to showcase the many historic restaurants, bars and bakeries within the borough while supporting Seeds in the Middle, Katz’s charity, which provides children in Brooklyn with access to healthy foods and produce.
Visitors at Tastes of Brooklyn can purchase tickets which allow them to peruse each neighborhood and its many small eateries for a selection of small plates. Guests can sample four tastes for a $40 ticket and 12 tastes for $115 with proceeds from the ticket sales going directly to Seeds in the Middle.
Katz was inspired by events like Taste of Tribeca to create her own event to benefit Seeds in the Middle in a way that was more sustainable and accessible.
“It initially started as a food festival at Cadman Plaza, inviting chefs from all over Brooklyn, but we realized that it’s kind of expensive to put that kind of event on and we’re just a small charity,” Katz told Brooklyn Paper. “So I started thinking a better way that was more affordable and actually could benefit the places even more by doing a drink crawl, where you literally walk from place to place and try their menu options.”
Katz developed her model and trialed the first Tastes of Brooklyn event in her own neighborhood, Carroll Gardens, as a way to not only support her efforts to combat food deserts in Brooklyn, but to support the local businesses in Carroll Gardens — particularly the old Italian businesses that had been in the area for decades.
“From there, people really liked it and we started doing them in other neighborhoods,” said Katz. “So we’ve done Crown Heights, Franklin Avenue, Flatbush, Red Hook, Gowanus and each time we’re taking a certain amount of blocks and places so people can actually create their own food and drink adventure. A culinary tour.”
With the growing success and popularity of Tastes of Brooklyn, Katz was able to continue to grow Seeds in the Middle.
“We work almost completely in central and east Brooklyn, which is basically food deserts or places that have a chronic lack of fresh fruits and vegetables and they are places where people don’t really get a lot of education on this,” Katz said. “And what we do is we create student-run farm stands at schools in these neighborhoods. And we’ve done community farm stands as well and then we teach healthy cooking so people know how to cook whatever is seasonal.”
The project started at P.S. 91 in Crown Heights with the help of the school’s teachers and administrators in 2010, just when communities started to realize how important good nutrition is — especially in early childhood.
“So our big idea is to create a network of school-run farm stands that essentially erases a food desert because it is run by the community for the community,” said Katz. “The idea is instead of giving food away, we’re actually building a sustainable market that can last, the school will sell it. It helps sustain the market so we’re not always so dependent on grants in the city.”
Seeds in the Middle focuses on ensuring that the markets are available in neighborhoods of color in New York, which are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity and food deserts.
Seeds in the Middle also runs stands called Hip2B healthy markets, where children can help make healthy treats like fresh orange juice and fruit cups for as little as 50 cents to a dollar “so they won’t go to the bodega and get junk food after school,” Katz said.
The Tastes of Brooklyn events also allow small businesses the opportunity to financially get back on their feet following the COVID-19 pandemic with some exposure and support.
“We haven’t done Carroll Gardens since before the pandemic and a couple restaurants reached out to me and asked if we could have it again,” said Katz. “I already knew they were in, so we started walking around asking, calling, Instagramming ‘Do you wanna do this?’”
Tastes of Carroll Gardens will run from 2-6 p.m. on Nov. 4 at dozens of locations across Carroll Gardens. Participating restaurants include Bar Bruno, Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, Levant on Smith, Other Half Brewing Company, and more.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to try a new neighborhood and check out their cuisine and also support,” Katz said. “We call it ‘Eat, drink and do good.'”
Update: The ticket cost for four tastes is now $40 instead of the originally reported $44.