“Hipster 20-somethings using their roofs for chicken coops and growing collard greens” © Michel Setboun/Corbis
Brooklyn foodism: artisanal, locavore, foraged, seasonal, small-batch, single-origin, hand-crafted, ethical, authentic, sustainable, farm-to-table, nose-to-tail. Back to basics, conscientious bearded hipster young 20- 30- somethings wearing flannel-in-the-city and bicycle clips are inventing new careers pickling and jamming, foraging for wild cress between concrete flagstones and using their roofs for chicken coops, growing collard greens and evaporating seawater into locally harvested salt.
It’s hard to get a coffee without the background construction noise of beans being roasted and milled on site. It’s hard to walk through the Brooklyn Flea or the carefully curated street art murals of Bushwick without being distracted by various carefully packaged delights of a foodie fetishism gone slightly silly: make-your-own kimchi kits, beer and pretzel caramels, righteous raisin cookies (a percentage of the price is donated to animal rescue), espresso dulce de leche brownies, and the ubiquitous kale chips.
Food shops have gone micro speciality. One makes chocolate bars with cocoa nibs that have been sailed up from the Dominican Republic, another focuses on mayonnaise in various flavours—bacon, preserved lemon, black garlic. Across the river in Manhattan there is a boutique that sells only salt and another that sells only water. Recently, a New York Magazine cover story asked: “Is artisanal Brooklyn a step forward or a sign of the apocalypse?”
Peter and Kristin invited me for dinner one perfect New York spring afternoon when the magnolia blooms turn Brooklyn Heights more beautiful than Paris. Their friend Jérôme Waag—a chef at America’s first and original local seasonal restaurant, Alice Water’s famed Chez Panisse in Berkeley—was staying with them and cooking.
I deliberately arrived three hours early. Jérôme—French, sexy, stubbled—spends six months a year devising a new menu every day and the rest of the time fashioning food as experiments in art, installation and participation. He described a collaborative ravioli project he had done with a friend in Japan. The pictures on his mobile phone showed a several-metre long tongue of fresh pasta heaped with multivaried mounds of filling waiting to be sealed and cut and cooked; asparagus, raw tuna, boiled quails’ eggs, tomato confit. “I don’t know what they were putting in there! And they were all adding to each others’. There was such a spirit of sharing!” he smiled.
Jérôme set Peter…