A Brand Grows in Brooklyn
Beverly Stephen / December 2012
New York City—Leave it to the French to put the final imprimatur of cool on Brooklyn. On a late September weekend, the French organization called Le Fooding figuratively tied a scarf around the Brooklyn Bridge by inviting some of the world’s most sought-after young chefs to pair up with the anointed locals.
The weekend events topped off a series of dinners held throughout the week. Then on Saturday, at “The Luncheon in the Dust” (a riff on Édouard Manet’s The Luncheon in the Grass) at the Fort Greene Brooklyn Flea, Magnus Nilsson, of his 12 seat restaurant Fäviken Magasinet in remotest Sweden, grilled oysters and served them on nests of hay. Why hay? “I had to put them on something.”
Bertrand Grébaut of Septime in Paris offered up lamb and smoked eggplant. Van Leeuwen dispensed peach Melba ice cream. Sponsors San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna poured their waters into vintage glasses. Nearby, a local artisan was selling jewelry fashioned out of vinyl records, while others displayed vintage clothes and old furniture.
A few blocks away, at DeKalb Market, another French group, the Omnivore World Tour, gathered their own coterie of chefs for master classes and “two f---ing dinners.” They rounded up the likes of San Francisco’s Dominique Crenn (Atelier Crenn), Brooklyn’s Carlo Mirarchi (Roberta’s and Blanca), and Ivan Shishkin of Moscow’s Delicatessen. Moose jerky anyone? But the pièce de résistance was Le Fooding’s Sunday night “Campfire Session #02” on the grounds of Williamsburg’s open-air Smorgasburg. Pierre Hermé, perhaps the world’s most famous pastry chef, flew in from Paris and ensconced himself nearby in the über cool Wythe Hotel. His dessert offered a choice of four flavors of citrus curd resting on pâte sablée and topped with gelée, then Chantilly cream, then meringue—a delectable pairing for the San Pellegrino fruit-flavored sparkling sodas.
But let’s go back to the savory. Danny Bowien (Mission Chinese, San Francisco and New York City) was preparing Chinese toppings such as kung pao pastrami and broccoli beef brisket to top slices from Pizza Moto (Brooklyn). Fredrik Berselius of the late Frej (Brooklyn) and Food Arts’ September cover came up with the idea of putting a Swedish street seafood salad on a taco provided by Forrest Cole of Choncho’s. “In Sweden we put it on flatbread,” he explained. “We put on mashed potatoes, shrimp, cucumbers, dill—everything you can think of. Ours is like a big burrito. Every country has its take on a wrap.”
Daniel Rose of Spring (Paris) and Brooklyn chef/restaurateur Saul Bolton (Saul, Vanderbilt) were doling out what was essentially a duck hot dog topped with Armangnac-soaked prunes and pickled walnuts. East London’s Young Turks Isaac McHale and James Lowe were matched up with Rae and Noah Bernamoff of Mile End (Brooklyn), grilling salmon belly sprinkled with crunchy oats and crystal malt.
In case the heat emanating from this white-hot group was not enough to ward off the early fall chill, there were a couple of actual campfires.
And where, you might ask, was René Redzepi?
The very next day, New York magazine’s cover declared “Brooklyn is finished,” on the eve of the opening of the controversial redevelopment project, the 18,200 seat Barclays Center arena. The subhead was “Or has it only just begun?” Long story short, it depends on which side of gentrification you fall. Or, as the author wryly asks, what would his grandmother have made of “cremini-and-fennel-sausage pizza.”
The branding of Brooklyn food continues here with “Brooklyn Taste,” the stadium concessions that feature foods from 37 different Brooklyn restaurants and purveyors, ranging from the tried-and-true Nathan’s Famous to Brooklyn bangers from Bolton. Overseeing it all is Levy Restaurants, the foodservice behemoth from Chicago, wherever that is.