Good eats for all the outcasts - UnFancy Food Festival checks into the East River Bar

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Tom Mylan welcomes all foodies, locavores and ingredient-driven dining enthusiasts to Williamsburg for the UnFancy Food Festival, but sometimes the former Marlow and Sons buyer wishes pretentious eaters would stay home.

“I feel like going to the Culinary Institute of America is the new arts school,” Mylan said. “Cooking used to be the last bastion for outcasts. You don’t have a green card, don’t have any references, you have the will to work long hours and work really hard, that’s the Williamsburg food community.”

Mylan, now Marlow and Sons’ (81 Broadway) butcher, his co-organizer and fellow fromager Sasha Davies, and a few of his farmer and food producer friends will be gathering at the East River Bar (97 South 6th Street) on June 29 for the second annual New York UnFancy Food Show. The show coincides with the Fancy Food Show, which takes place annually at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, as a reaction to the food products the Fancy Food show usually features.

“The last time I went to the Fancy Food Show I was depressed by the number of products that were not at all what I consider fancy, lots of processed and flavored stuff and pre-made mixes. More importantly I didn’t see much of the great, small-scale local stuff that we carried at the shops I had worked at in NYC,” Davies said. “Local producers explained that the show was too expensive and that the majority of people shopping at it wanted products that they could get in big volumes and via distributo­rs.”

Instead, Davies and Mylan invited several of their local artisan friends they met through their work at Dean and DeLuca, Murray’s Cheese Shop and Marlow and Sons. Mylan has a story for each food producer and farmer who peddled their specialty goods at the stores he worked at, whether it was Mateo Kehler of Jasper Hill Dairy sending cheese wheels for him to taste at Dean and DeLuca or Bob McClure stopping by Marlow and Sons with a jar of his crisp and tangy McClure’s Pickles.

“Mateo wanted to make sure that people who knew cheese the best could judge it and say what’s good and what’s bad,” said Mylan.

As these relationships developed, Mylan found himself visiting farms in Vermont and New York to get to know local producers and their products better. He also saw the need to get local producers to meet one another in Williamsburg where many of their products are sold and beloved.

“We wanted to do something to get our friends together to talk, hang out and exchange ideas,” Mylan said. “Everyone spends a lot of time working and this may be one of the only times they come to New York during the year.”

Michael Betit, a pork and chicken farmer at Tamarck Hollow Farms in Vermont, is attending the UnFancy Food Festival to meet other members of the food community and to spend time eating and drinking with friends.

“I’m certain that the true center of the NYC food world is a cramped kitchen in Brooklyn,” Betit said. “It’s a place where too many guests covet too few chairs, eat overcooked risotto and love it. These gatherings are informal, unscripted and important.”

Mylan and Davies hope to connect all levels of eaters, even Fancy Food Show attendees, with local food producers and create an environment for unpretentious, unabashed enthusiasm for food.

“We want them to talk if they want to and for everyone to have a good time and eat tasty food,” Davies said. “There’s a bigger goal here – just good access for people to taste what is available to them from local hands.”

The UnFancy Food Show will take place June 29 from noon to 6 p.m. at the East River Bar on 97 South 6th Street. There is a $5 suggested donation. For more information, visit

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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