On July 15, Smith Street will look a bit more like the Champs-Elysees thanks to its annual Bastille Day celebration. Much of the street closes for an all-day (and well into the evening) celebration in honor of the storming of the Bastille in 1789, the symbolic beginning of the French Revolution. In Paris, the grand boulevard closes for a military parade up the avenue, and while Brooklyn might not do that, we can drink and feast with the best of ’em.
The feast associated with Bastille Day is meant to honor the peasants who helped to oust King Louis XVI and his empathy-challenged wife Marie Antoinette, who were rumored to have gorged while the public starved.
In modern-day Brooklyn, there are two new French spots with chefs who have no problem saying, “Let them eat cake!”
Emily Isaac, the former pastry chef at Union Square Cafe, opened her very French bakery Trois Pommes Patisserie in Park Slope this past May.
“My baking is American with a French twist,” Isaac said to me. “I trained at the French Culinary Institute in New York City, so my technique is based on their pastry making tradition.” With its brick walls, high ceilings and tremendous crystal chandelier, Isaac’s new shop reflects true Parisian style.
And just like the bakers in the City of Light, there’s no skimping here on fine ingredients. The tender crust on her fresh, seasonal fruit pies is made with all butter and no shortening and no artificial flavors are employed in anything. When chocolate is called for, only the rich, French chocolate Valrhona will do.
In addition to the popular pies, Isaac bakes up lush cakes, pastries and cookies as well. Need something more? Ice cream is made in-house with fruits and herbs from the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket — and the tastes of the produce shine through. Flavors like lavender honey, sour cherry, fresh mint chocolate chip and buttery caramel crunch are swoon inducing.
Pair a slice of the cherry pie with a scoop of house made blueberry sorbet, add a cup of the Gorilla coffee that they pour, and dig into a perfect Bastille Day treat.
Across town, Jean-Pierre Marquet, who started a revolution of his own with Marquet Patisserie in 1987 on then-tougher Smith Street, is celebrating at his new boite, Le Barricou.
“It’s like Paris here,” Marquet said of his Williamsburg locale. “People like to leave for vacation.”
For heat-resistant types who linger in the neighborhood, Marquet said that his partner and chef Joab Masse (formerly of Balthazar and Luluc), “will be cooking his usual very, very good food” for the holiday. In the 2,500 square foot space there’s plenty of room at the expansive bar to linger over Masse’s globe-spanning, classic French, Latin and Asian menu.
“He’s Spanish and he has worked in Thai kitchens, too,” said Marquet of Masse, “so that comes through in the cooking.” For a commemorative Bastille Day feast, there’s escargot or grilled tiger shrimp with mango, avocado with spinach salad tossed in Osaka dressing, traditional coq au vin or Thai mussels in a red chili-coconut cream sauce. For dessert? Creme brulee, of course. Toss on a few strawberries and blueberries and you’ve got an Independence Day special.
Vive la France!
Le Barricou (535 Grand St., between Union Avenue and Lorimer Street in Willliamsburg) accepts cash only. The restaurant serves dinner daily and brunch on weekends from 11 am–4 pm. Closed Tuesday. Entrees: $8–$14. Subway: G, L to Lorimer St./Metropolitan Ave. For information, call (718) 782-7372.
Trois Pommes Patisserie (260 Fifth Ave., at Carroll Street in Park Slope) accepts cash only. The bakery is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 7 am–8 pm, Thursday and Friday from 7 am–10 pm, Saturday from 8 am–10 pm and Sunday from 8 am–6 pm. Closed Monday. Pastry: $2–$5; whole pies and cakes: $25–$40; ice cream and sorbet: $3-$5. Subway: R to Union St. For more information, call (718) 230-3119.