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20 Nov 2008 06:00
In the dark we make our way along the deserted streets, past giant warehouses and overflowing trash cans. We find the building we’re looking for, enter the bare corridor, squeeze past someone’s bicycle and knock on the unmarked door.
It’s hard to believe, but this obscure, pre-gentrified corner of Brooklyn is at the cutting-edge of New York’s foodie scene.
This is the home of Whisk and Ladle, a secret supper club run by three hip twentysomethings from their Williamsburg loft apartment.
Mark, Danielle and Nick have turned their love of entertaining into one of the city’s exclusive nights out, charging a select group of people—$40 a head to dine in their apartment.
So, what’s the attraction of dining in someone else’s home in a city with 9 000 restaurants (in Manhattan alone)—enough to eat somewhere different every day for 25 years? The novelty value, stoopid. Young New Yorkers don’t have dinner parties because they live in shoeboxes. The idea of an intimate supper with fellow artists, writers, photographers, filmmakers (most guests work in the media or arts, making this prime networking territory too) is fast catching on. Other hush-hush restaurants that you’ll need detective skills to track down include Chez Fisha—hosted in a wine store in Fort Greene—and roving secret dinnerclub Coach Peaches.
Whisk and Ladle caters for about 20 at their fortnightly suppers—but they receive close to 100 enquiries, selecting their guests according to whether they’ve sent an enthusiastic enough email. Pretentious? You bet. I overheard one girl at dinner screeching “God, real conversation, is, like, so boring,” but as a visitor, it’s also a fun insight into the city. And though there is an undeniable whiff of exclusivity about it, Whisk and Ladle, says Mark, is the precise opposite of uppity New York dining. It’s a bit chaotic, laid-back and about simple, home-cooked food.
The apartment is undeniably funky—with the huge windows, bare brick wall and beamed ceiling you’d expect in any former industrial space, but it’s also very lived-in. A skateboard leans against the wall, a candelabra made of metal bunnies hangs over three tables pushed together and a cluster of mismatched chairs. The kitchen shelves are heaving with food processors, spices and pans, and in the middle of it all is the serene Danielle, still managing to look gorgeous while wearing a pinny and doling out soup.
As for the other guests, I sat with Amanda, editor of food blog eater.com and her boyfriend, a musician in a local band; and David, a playwright and his partner Erin, who works for an advertising agency. They were interesting and approachable and, of course, knowing New York like the backs of their hands, they proved an invaluable source of local titbits. (I made a note to check out Amanda’s favourite Motorino’s pizzeria in Williamsburg for its wood-fired ovens and bring-your-own policy).
I loved the fact that Nick, who works in a bar in the Hamptons, had set up his own makeshift bar next to his bedroom from which he plied guests with delicious cocktails.
And the food? Well, this is a bunch of friends who like cooking, and that is reflected in the food—a starter of gazpacho was delicious, but the risotto that followed was disappointing. I wolfed down pudding (pancake with ganache and chocolate sauce). My wine glass practically overflowed with refills—a different wine for each course. And $40 for five courses and plentiful drinks is not to be sniffed at in any city. If you get an insight into Brooklyn loft living and some handy tips for the rest of your trip thrown in for the price of a single cocktail in some fancy-pants hotel—what’s not to like?—
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