Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mr. Potato Man at the Farmers Market

The Greenmarket Farmers Market in NYC is an open-air market that's been around since 1976, featuring fresh, healthy and local produce to New Yorkers. It supports local farmers by providing small family farmers a place to sell their fruits, vegetables, and other farm products. Basically, the rule here is that whatever is sold here by the vendor, they must have grown it or baked it. Although we've only been to their Union Square location, they have 26 locations in Manhattan, as well as in the outer boroughs, which makes it one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. And most locations are open in the dead of winter. The Greenmarket also has "market-to-table" tours where New York's top chefs shop for their fresh ingredients with you at the market, then take you back to their restaurant where they cook for you using those ingredients. That sounds like fun!

This strawberry farmer sold some of the freshest mouth-watering strawberries we've ever seen.

The same farmer also sold pure strawberry apple cider juices.

The market had a really nice and large selection of organic breads, cookies, jams, honey, and other treats.

And we can't say enough about this gingerbread-like molasses/cinnamon/sprinkled sugar cookie that we fell in love with. One of the best cookies we have ever tasted in our adult life. It was crispy on the outer edges and chewy in the middle. Genius. Three large pieces, all for $2.50.

There were so many absolutely stunning plants and a color burst of flowers here. We didn't see any that were wilting. These flower purveyors bring the best of the best.

And last but certainly not least, one of the main attractions for crowds at this market is this man - potato man, ladies man, sales man - Joe. He's a potato peeler and a fine pitchman with an eloquent British accent wearing a gentlemans' suit. Joe's been selling potato peelers at the market for over 15 years. He demonstrates how easy it is to peel potatoes and carrots with the $5 Swiss-made peeler as though he's a carpenter. When he wasn't giving his crowd-pleasing demonstration, we saw him hunched over eating a sandwich that looked like it had nothing between the baguette except for the carrot he had just peeled. He has the best way of saying "po-tay-to."

I was intrigued by this man so I wanted to do a little research on him and subsequently found some great articles, some from notable magazines, that covered his story. This man apparently lives in a luxury Park Avenue condo and dines out almost every night at the swankiest restaurants in this city. His potato-peeling pitch has made him a pretty well-to-do man. It's actually quite refreshing to hear success stories of unique people here that's made their money outside the finance, real estate or fashion markets as is normally the case. It seems unlikely that this gig would support him financially since the vegetable peelers are only $5, but apparently he sells a lot of them. Joe also doesn't have a permit to sell in the markets so he gets chased around by security all the time, which doesn't seem to daunt him one bit.

Here's an amusing excerpt from one of the articles about him:

"He looked so distinguished and was so free with the bubbly that the CafĂ© Pierre crowd, Landis included, at first had him pegged as one of the “owners”—the tycoons who actually live at the Pierre in stupendously high-end co-op apartments. If no one was brave enough to ask him where he lived, quite a few people asked him what he did for a living. Holding his glass of champagne by the stem, Joe would say simply, “I sell potato peelers.”