Bistros and brasseries reached their height of buzz in the late ’90s/early ’00s (just around the time that Sex and the City made Balthazar in New York a household name). In the years since, such transparently French transplants became somewhat expected, and their cuisine started to seem old hat. Lately, however, we’re seeing a resurgence of interest in French culture—its aesthetics, its foods, and even its lingerie.
No blog da Carla, cheguei a falar da onda francesa que assolou NY este verão, especialmente downtown, onde novas brasseries e bistrôs trouxeram de volta os prazeres (simples) da cozinha francesa. Primeiro foi Monmartre, uma brasserie despojada, com jornais do dia, pratos pequenos, médios e grandes, em Chelsea (que precisava muito). Depois veio Calliope no East Village, com seu menu retro, ostras e coelhos e novos players na gastronomia de NY (o casal Eric Korsch e Ginevra Iverson). O Le Philosophe na Bond Street adicionou alguns toques de haute cuisine, com seus patos e lagostas. Mas o melhor acho que foi o novo de Andrew Carmellini, Lafayette, na Lafayette St, com seu menu gigante, com pratos de todas as regiões da França, ingredients de mercado e comida para o dia a dia. Os preços nem se comparam a São Paulo – o prato mais caro provavelmente sai por $35. Vive La France!
Finally back to writing my food blog this week. And as I researched the news about Brooklyn Farmacy opening inside a Kiehl’s store, I came across a bit of history of Americana and thought it was really fun…. the “soda fountain”!
Kiehl’s was founded as an old-world apothecary in the Lower East Side neighborhood 160 years ago. And until today the old house on third avenue looks like a pharmacy. As to the soda fountain, as old as Kiehl’s, it became popular exactly in pharmacies, as an attempt to replicate mineral waters that bubbled up from the Earth with rejuvenating and/or curating powers. In the early 20’s the soda fountain flourished in all sorts of pharmacies, ice cream parlors and train stations; also creating a very civilized public space where neighbors could socialize and exchange community news. The person that operated the soda fountain, mixing syrups to the water he carbonated., in a highly coveted job, was the soda Jerk…
Cut to today, Kiehl’s opens a satellite of the very cool hipster joint from Caroll Gardens (Henry Street, that I miss so much) Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda Fountain, also old-fashioned and classy store decorated with original tile and wood from 1920’s. Along with serving up the legendary NY Egg Cream, they’re mixing on-the-spot, old-time favorites such as Cherry Lime Rickeys, Ginger Ale, Lime and Root Beer. The soda jerks are probably NYU students raising cash and they hop back and forth from Brooklyn to Manhattan; but really….it’s cool.
HBK Incubates is a non-profit food business development group in NY that does an amazing job aiding future gastro-entrepreneurs. Originally founded to offer employment opportunities to low income immigrants, HBK has become a thriving business in the industry. First with Hot Bread Kitchens, baking multi-ethnic breads for gourmet delis such as Dean & Deluca, Union Square market, and Fort Greene; now with the incubates projects they offer women and minorities overall a real hands on training to become entrepreneurs. From the rental space in a commercial kitchen in Queens, to assistance in developing large scale recipes, and workshops about everything in the food business, from networking to financial planning and marketing.
When Starbucks officially became the ‘new home office’; the independent coffee bars latinized themselves introducing americans to the standing coffee-bar-habit. The excuse was to be social. OK then. I really don’t like Starbucks. And for several reasons, from capitalism to moral to plain taste. But I confess they get it so right at times, it’s amazing. On the day of presidential elections, coffee was free…. Hear Music has always been a fabulous label with the coolest compilations, and one of the first stores where consumers could create their own CDs…. Then the smart consumer gimmick, and “working from home” became synonymous with “working from my neighborhood Starbucks”. Trendsetter they are.
Independent coffee stores, on the other hand, are upgrading their design schemes to facilitate social interaction. As noted by the NYT, Stumptown Coffee Roasters in NYC’s Ace Hotel, Café Grumpy’s new Park Slope outpost, and Intelligentsia in Venice Beach have all found success in this shift away from coffee bar-cum-workspace culture. Maybe it’s that Italian thing (and the recently opened Eataly is their best representation so far), the latinization of habits (um cafezinho….) Anyway, comfy chairs are out, and standing room-only bars are in. The purpose is to make one move away from behind the laptop, stand side by side a fellow customer…..and get social.
Perbacco is a little place on the Lower East Side that after you visit, probably will always remember as one of your most memorable meals…ever. Wow! No, WOW…. Is the most common expression at this trattoria’s dining room. A couple of years ago Frank Bruni of the NYT described it as a “humble setting in the far East Village” –correct!– that was a “a trove of surprises, of dishes that don’t duplicate anything anywhere else in Manhattan.” He was absolutely right. Fortunately even though they’re seven years old, they’re still under the radar!
The chef, although from Modena, is a fan of Ferran Adria, so the meal begins as unconventionally as it might end—perhaps with crème brulee made with aged parmesan in a mousse topped with a thick, crackly shell of balsamic-infused cream. Then green olives stuffed with four different kinds of meat, dunked in breadcrumbs and fried to resemble mini croquettes. El secondo was a vitello tonnato, disguised as sushi, or seared tuna and veal little squares garnished with the slightest sprinkle of sea salt and cracked pepper. Dessert, vin santo. I am addicted.
Slowly New Yorkers are catching on the very civilized European habit of using a bicycle as their main means of transportation. The city is flat so it helps. Added to the fact that transit is chaos and a (good) taxi is a rare commodity, why not right? A bicycle can do just wonders, not only as a device for exercising, but also as a safe and fun alternative transportation. The bike lanes are getting new paint and new routes, new parking spaces are being created and the city is embracing the culture. Fashion is tagging along putting out int he market iconic styles, such as folding bikes that come from Korea and China are super-handy and rarely get stolen; or cruisers, that have a super cool retro style and are known for durability. Not to mention Puma’s Urban Mobility line, the Glow Rider (aka Stealth Visibility Bike) is pretty much the coolest city bike ever.