Brownie Points: Competing with Bouley

I walk by Bouley Market every morning of the workweek and I’m often tempted, but until just now I’d never gone in. I’ve been pretty happy with my pre-work Starbucks routine. Why mess with a perfectly fine, overly caffeinated, corporate mega-chain cup of morning joe? It took J.Lo to finally drive me in. She’s in town filming her latest, The Back-Up Plan, and her set blocked my usual side of the sidewalk. J.Lo’s trailer was parked across the street, watched over by buff security dudes and the paparazzi. Had J.Lo dashed in for a coffee and one of Bouley’s famous pastries? The possibility of a sighting was too much to resist.

Inside, scents of roasted coffee and fresh-baked breads and pastries knocked all thoughts of Bronx divas from my mind. An employee in a classic white baker’s coat came over and asked if he could help. I sheepishly ordered a latte and a croissant and stood aside, still sniffing. The adjacent dining room looked airy and inviting, with upholstered armchairs, white tablecloths, and potted trees. I wanted to stake out a table by the open french doors and sip my latte and wait for J.Lo. Not an option for a wage slave, though. I consoled myself with a departing impulse buy, a walnut brownie. The croissant was nirvana, a perfect balance of butter, flaky, ans crispy. The latte was smooth and rich and foamy. Less impressive was the brownie. Walnut overload. It had a nice deep cocoa flavor, but the texture was light and cakey and I like my brownies chewier and denser. Maybe it’s just a matter of personal taste. This recipe won’t beat Bouley for complexity or sophistication, but it’s got the texture I crave when I’m in brownie mode.

Basic Brownies 1 cup, less 1/2 tsp flour 1 cup sugar 1 stick unsalted butter 4 tbl cocoa powder 2 eggs, beaten 1/2 tsp vanilla 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 325°. Sift together the flour, salt, and cocoa, and set aside. Cream together the sugar and butter until well-blended, then blend in the eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture gradually until all is incorporated. Pour batter into a lined or greased 8×8 baking pan. Bake 17-23 minutes. Brownies are done when the sides come away from the pan and a toothpick inserted comes out with moist crumbs. Can be garnished with powdered sugar.

Inside David Bouley’s Test Kitchen

Last night, booze behemoth William Grant held a cocktail party at David Bouley’s test kitchen in Tribeca. The vaunted chef and owner of his eponymous Tribeca trifecta — Bouley, Bouley Market, and Bouley Upstairs — started this culinary laboratory as a way to bring chefs together to share trade secrets and techniques. Think of it as cooking school for the world’s best cooks. “We’ve had chefs from about 35 countries here so far. We don’t get involved in their prolific or esoteric style of cooking, but we want to understand from a cultural standpoint about an ingredient or technique, and apply that to what we do already,” said Bouley, who showed up towards the end to help his staff with dessert. After the jump, exclusive pictures of Bouley at work inside the test kitchen, and how the economy is affecting his food empire.

“I’ve already been through this,” says Bouley about the challenges hawking gourmet food in a difficult economic climate. “I opened my first restaurant four weeks before Black Tuesday, when people were jumping out windows. Then I went through it in, the 90s, and then living through 9/11 in this area wasn’t fun. This one’s affecting everyone a little bit more, so it’s definitely more challenging than before. I have certain parts of the business that are growing like crazy, others are stable, and of course, the higher end is quieter, but it’s slowly getting better.”








Industry Insiders: Erin Fetherston, Dreamy Designer

Ever since bidding bon voyage to the Parsons School of Design in Paris, Fetherston has been making a splash among the New York fashion set. Her Autumn/Winter ’09 show took place at the Fashion Week tents on February 15 and wowed spectators with super-feminine mini frocks, amazing gravity-defying teacup skirts, two-toned tights, lace gloves, flowing dress layers, rhinestone bows and accents, floral capes, and glittery mouse masks. The new collection is every girly girl’s über fantasy.

What was your inspiration for Autumn/Winter ’09? I wanted to do something that felt very polished for the season, and I wanted to have more structure. With the economic climate and what’s going on in the world, it felt right to do a collection that really fit together. It’s more respectful and buttoned up. I looked at different things for inspiration, in particular, I looked at large images from Ballet Rouge. I’m very involved with images of the ballet and dancers.One of the other things that I really was in love with in the inspiration stage is an old black-and-white German film by a filmmaker called [Ernst] Lubitsch, named The Doll. The story is that there is this man who needs to get married in order to inherit his family fortune. He doesn’t want to get married, so the toymaker in town tells him, “I’m going to make you a life-sized doll, and you can make it your wife.” But really the toymaker makes up his daughter as the doll. So, she marries him and plays a doll playing a girl. I’ve always thought about living dolls in working on my collection.

Who is the Erin Fetherston girl? The Erin girl is really her own person, and she’s got her own style. What she wears is a reflection of her personality, her interests, her taste. She has a sense of originality. My clothes are definitely fun and playful, and the girls who gravitate to that, want those clothes, because the clothes help them tap into ideas of themselves.

Which celebrity are you dying to dress? Drew Barrymore. I feel like her whole personality is really right on with my collection. She is a free-spirited girl, and I like that she’s always smiling and always happy. There is a poppy and upbeat point of view in my collection, and I really respond to someone who is on the red carpet smiling and laughing instead of always giving that catty stare-down. I also like that Drew is really animated and adorable. So I would love to dress her. I think she would look great in my clothes.

Who are inspirational figures in your life? I take inspiration from people who are close to me. There are a handful of girls who are meaningful to me in that way. It’s always good to have real people in mind when you’re designing clothes. One example is my good friend Sophie Flicker. I really think she’s a brilliant muse, in a way. She has so much charm and vibrancy from what she’s wearing to what she’s doing to how she’s living. I love Christian Lacroix. I think he’s amazing. I think in terms of career, obviously, what Marc Jacobs has accomplished — in a relatively short period of time — is really phenomenal.

Your Target collection was a huge hit. What was different about designing for that project? I love that collection, and I loved working on it. I really just wanted it to be me, and it wasn’t very hard to be me and make it democratic. I wanted it to remain a quality fashion product. I didn’t want it to be too watered down, because then I feel like, well then, what’s the point? I think it’s exciting to offer a quality product at that price point as well. I tried to focus on signature elements for my collection in general to work those into the clothes. If you look at the Target collection, it is still going to be relevant to the feeling of my collection then, now and moving forward. I just wanted it to all be very signature.

What are some of your favorite places in New York? I really like Broadway East, Cookshop, Balthazar, Pastis, Rose Bar. I like the Greenwich Grill — they have a great sushi bar downstairs. I like the East Village as a neighborhood. There are great vintage shops there. I also like Bouley Market. I do like Giorgione.

What are some positive trends you’ve seen in the fashion industry? The level of consciousness of being green is being championed by the fashion industry. I think that’s incredibly positive.

How did you come to collaborate with Ellen von Unwerth? I met Ellen in Paris during the five years that I lived there. I met her at a party, and we kept bumping into each other socially around Paris. We just naturally became friends. Very shortly after we met, we decided to do this short film together called “Wendybird.” Doing that partnership together was a bonding experience, and I would say that project really brought us together. She has become a very strong person in my life, a really good friend, and she’s a big influence.

What do you miss most about Paris? Everything. In terms of lifestyle, we have really good friends there, and I miss them. I miss taking your dog for walk and having your dog come in with you for lunch. It’s so quiet there. Everything in Paris has a sense of design. From the food to the pastries you eat, design is very integrated into everything. Obviously, I am a design-oriented person, so that makes me feel good. Even frozen vegetables are packaged in a really chic way.

Where are your favorite places in Paris? My favorite restaurant is in the 1st arrondissement, very close to rue de Rivoli. It’s called Toraya. I wish there was a Toraya in New York. I smuggle their green tea back through customs whenever we visit. It’s really quiet and charming. Anahi is great, it’s an Argentinean restaurant. Le Martel is a French brasserie we love. It’s really like a hole in the wall, because it’s in a very random neighborhood. There is this amazing taxidermy place called Deyrolle. All of the museums are so amazing in Paris. I love the Musée des Arts Décoratifs — they have the best bookstore there.

Finally, what are some things on your radar right now? I like the film that came out a few years ago called, The Squid and the Whale. I’m also really excited that MTV is re-launching House of Style.