A Fresh-Ground Cafe Culture
James Hull - April 2014
Seasoned restaurateurs make the most of their coffee program at a contemporary new hotel restaurant in Manhattan.
For M.F.K. Fisher, the town of Aix-en-Provence in France was embodied by Brasserie Les Deux Garçons, its most famous restaurant and cafe. The endless flow of espresso and wine carried out to the terrace brought the whole town to table, and thus its façade became the gateway to Aix. Jo-Ann Makovitzky and Marco Moreira are hoping to create a similar phenomenon in New York City at Quatrième, the cafe and coffee haven inside The Fourth (see “A Sense of Plate,” page 75) at the Hyatt Union Square New York. Located on Fourth Avenue, the name also references the fourth (or quatrième) arrondissement of Paris, known for its cafe culture. Quatrième has set out to become a community fixture where locals can disconnect from their electronic devices long enough to enjoy the jovial environs. “For a little coffee, you get a lot for your day,” says Makovitzky. “There are always newspapers around and someone to talk to. We’re trying to create a little civilization.”
Already home to the Union Square Cafe and the greenmarket, Quatrième joins a New York City neighborhood committed to quality food. It combines the cool atmosphere of American coffeehouses with a European feel and features a menu that straddles those influences. The decor has a modern theme that accentuates the well-lit dining room and its lofty ceilings. The barista is dressed in a white coat and tie over stylish jeans. Quatrième is a quiet space, elegant but relaxed. Waiters float by the bar as staff alternate turning out espresso drinks, pouring wine, and chatting with bar patrons. Quatrième is open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., though The Fourth serves dinner and drinks into the evening. Quatrième’s coffee is given as a parting gift to VIP guests at Toqueville, Makovitzky and Moreira’s restaurant on 15th Street, cross-promoting the two locations.
Makovitzky is serious about her java. In a country where chain cafes have introduced customers to a variety of coffee drinks, but where quality is often spotty, Quatrième offers inspiring recipes, reliable production consistency, and a polished presentation. Makovitzky works with a coffee roaster to create signature brewed coffee and espresso roasts using South American arabica beans, then lets the batches age two weeks to lower the beans’ acidity content before brewing them. Here, every espresso is a double, topped with a rich brown crema and accompanied by a small glass of sparkling water for a refreshing Old World touch.
Traditional favorites like cappuccino and macchiato are offered, but the baristas have much more up their sleeves. A perennial hit is the café cortado, a short espresso topped with frothed milk. For the warmer months, there is the café con hielo, or espresso poured over ice. A selection of homemade pastries, including perfectly browned croissants, is made fresh daily by pastry chef Eugenio Mauro Pompili. They are positioned by the bar and adorned with handwritten signs. “Cafe desserts” include the traditional affogato, the café bonbon—espresso sweetened with condensed milk—or con panna topped with whipped cream. For something a little stronger, the bar offers espresso Martinis; a “Larderner,” which combines espresso with amaro; and a Grasshopper made with Quatrième’s signature roasted coffee and crème de menthe. Smiling, Moreira says they sometimes offer an espresso with grappa, the favorite tipple of Italian laborers.
Makovitsky describes the operation as a five-ring circus, and at its heart is a gleaming centerpiece—a La Marzocco espresso machine. “It’s like our child,” she says. She and Moreira picked a Franke automatic espresso machine for Toqueville. While that provides a level of consistency and ease of use that are valuable in a high volume setting, the extra coordination required to have well-trained baristas was worth it at Quatrième, and the La Marzocco gives the coffee a handmade feel. Moreira calls it his Ferrari, and describes its custom paint job, which he special-ordered to match the bar’s decor. Even the grind of the espresso is varied to compensate for weather conditions and ensure the machine pulls a shot in the optimal duration of time. To stand out amongst a sea of cafes, Quatrième has taken on a passion for perfection.