Every Monday evening, the parking lot of Stardust Coffee and Video comes alive with local vendors exhibiting at the Audubon Park Community Market. Providing a more intimate experience than some of the others, it also draws a crowd localized to the neighborhood.
The recipe for building community, this market establishes relationships between the customers and sellers, showcasing some of the most enthusiastic local business owners in Central Florida.
Held rain or shine, the market was under a tapestry of dark clouds Monday evening as Hurricane Ian approached. What may have deterred some passerby didn’t stop the energy from everyone exhibiting. Outside of food, a woman from the City of Orlando discussed the importance of composting while a man from Florida Shroom King sold mushrooms.
Betty Crea ran a dessert and catering business in New York, when she decided to move to Florida. Recognizing a lot of her customers wanted cookies, she shifted her business into a gourmet cookie one, and The Cookie Jar Orlando was born.
Right now, Crea operates as the CEO (Cookie Expert Officer). The Cookie Jar Orlando operates at pop-up markets and other farmer’s markets in the area. She also caters, mostly for weddings. She works with the concept of a “cookie table.”
“They’re like dessert bars,” she said. “You can go up and grab a quick snack after dancing!”
Crea’s cookie selection includes deep-dish, cookie pies and even specialty flavors. At her booth, her fall specialty flavors included maple walnut, pumpkin spice, and praline frosted butter pecan.
She also has what she calls “foodie favorites.” Her favorite from this category is the brown butter brown sugar cookie, but she shared how all of her children have a different favorite.
Eliot Hillis and Seth Parker are still getting their restaurant’s name around, as they prepare to open their brick and mortar store. By late 2022/early 2023, the two hope to have Red Panda Noodle open in the Casselberry/Winter Park area.
Working together for different restaurants around Orlando, the two always talked about creating a dry fire noodle shop. The idea came to fruition when they created Red Panda Noodle about a month and a half ago.
Red Panda Noodle operates on approachable Szechuan Cuisine blended with French cooking techniques. Meals are cooked wok-style on open flames under their tent.
“We wanted to use noodles as media to introduce people to new flavors,” Parker said.
Until their permanent location opens, Red Panda Noodle will be bouncing around different pop-up markets. Their biggest event will be the BeerFest in early November.
Growing up visiting the Audubon Park Community Market, Alli Sagastume now attends as a seller. Tume, her restaurant, was started in Oregon and made the move back to the east coast with her.
Sagastume loves the community aspect of the market, and the consistency in customers that allows her to build relationships with them.
The plant based business serves Peruvian and Guatemalan cuisine. Tume sources their dishes locally, working with other vendors in the Orlando area. On Monday, one of their dishes served used mushrooms from the Florida Shroom King, exhibiting at the booth next door!
Sagastume started the business a few months before the pandemic, delivering meals around Portland. Tume also operated out of pop-ups; in kitchens and food trucks.
Outside of food, Tume works to educate people about sustainability, and how they can use it in their cooking. Sagastume has an organic garden she cultivates for her dishes. Eventually, she has her eyes on a brick-and-mortar, but for now is enjoying the more relaxed lifestyle of pop-ups.
On the other side, Orlando City Kombucha is one of the biggest kombucha names in the city. Owner Josh Archer has helped create its reputation. His products can be found at some coffee shops around the Orlando area, and at pop-ups where he represents the brand.
Brewed locally, Orlando City Kombucha also uses local ingredients as often as possible. They use a Florida-based tea importer and look to sell their products to Orlando companies. All of their products are organic.
Their kombucha is green tea based and low in sugar, both decisions made to err on the side of health. They started bottling their standard flavors in April, but to catch their specialties, you’ll have to find their keg at a local event.
Maria Castaner worked at the JW Marriott as a chef for 11 years before leaving after COVID. She eventually worked her way up to overseeing the production of soups and sauces before starting her own business. Partly working out of her home kitchen, Cykel lets Castaner cook what she likes and wants to cook.
Castaner has been cooking since 1998. She attended culinary school in Ecuador, coming to Orlando to continue her education. She loved the area so much, she decided to stay. Her new bakery, started with one of her friends, allows her to experiment and create new recipes. Their first day of operation was Father’s Day 2022.
Cykel has a number of delicious baked goods, from cinnamon rolls to the seasonal pumpkin tres leches. They usually sell empanadas too, but Castaner sadly told me her machine wasn’t working on Monday. She assured, however, that they were as delicious as her other delicacies.
Cykel sells online and appears at a number of markets around Orlando.
Audubon Community Market is definitely worth a visit. Be sure to visit these, and the other local business owners sharing their expertise!