Translating taste

A Parisian takes LLNYC on tour of Le District, the ‘French Eataly’

French macarons, a croque monsieur and sweets from France
French macarons, a croque monsieur and sweets from France

Le District, a French-themed grocery and food court that recently debuted at Brookfield Plaza in the Financial District has been called the “French Eataly.” But like so many things in NYC, Eataly — a sprawling 50,000-square-foot labyrinth dedicated to Italian food — owes its success in part to a perceived authenticity. So is Le District parlaying a similar enchantment into success? LLNYC decided to test that theory and see if Le District measures up to the culinary fastidiousness of a French native. LLNYC invited its resident Parisian, The Real Deal’s designer Keziah Makoundou, to shop, eat and potentially turn up her nose. Writer Chris Cameron came along for a taste.

We entered Le District’s grocery, where the fruits, vegetables and packaged products are labeled in French. While the store is neat and cheerful, unfortunately, the prices are a bit too NYC, even for those accustomed to Paris’ haute prices.

“This would cost €2.50 in France,” Makoundou frowns, eyeing a $12 bottle of Teisseire, a flavored syrup that is often mixed with water.

The grocery leads into the prepared food court. Naturally, we started with hors d’oeuvres at the meat counter, some jambon cold cuts and pâté.

“Wow, this is really good,” I say, taking a spoonful of truffle mousse pâté.

“It’s okay,” Makoundou offers.

We pass up the cheese counter. “Cheese is cheese,” Makoundou says. “Fairway actually has the best selection of French cheese.”

We head to the bakery to order a croissant, a slice of quiche and a croque monsieur.

Seated at a nearby table, it is time for the moment of truth: “I think they got something wrong here.” Makoundou says, one bite into the croque monsieur — a sandwich of bread, ham, Gruyere and béchamel. “I don’t really see the béchamel sauce and they went too heavy on the cheese.” 

“These are really American-sized portions,” I add, feeling heavy. Makoundou agrees.

“That’s the lede: French food, American portions,” I joke. We toss the sandwich.

Next up, the quiche. “This isn’t bad, but I don’t think the crust is handmade,” Makoundou says.

As for the croissant, “it tastes like it was made today,” I say.

“Yeah, not bad. It’s crunchy. You can give it a 7.5,” Makoundou says.

Points were awarded for decoration: “They kept the décor like a real French bakery,” Makoundou says. “You will find those baskets in France.” We agree Le District represents a good effort. The products are authentic and the space feels more intimate than Eataly.

“It is very difficult to duplicate real French food,” Makoundou says. “The ingredients here are really different. Sometimes I cook recipes from France here and automatically the meal tastes different. It doesn’t taste the way it should.” She adds, “People don’t eat out so much in France. We go to the grocery and we get good products, and it’s so much cheaper than here. People really cook.”
—Chris Cameron

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Median sale prices

Studio         $715,000
1 bed           $1,284,750
2 beds         $2,200,000
3 beds         $4,602,500
> 3 beds      $6,552,500[/column]

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Median rents

Studio         $3,000
1 bed           $3,895
2 beds         $5,735
3 beds         N/A
>3 beds      $25,000[/column]

 

Riding round and round, designer perfumes and a giant restaurant

$5
Price to ride the new Seaglass Carousel in the Battery (formerly known as Battery Park)

178 years
The age of Hermès, which is opening its first-ever parfumerie at Brookfield Place 

11,000
Square footage of a new four-story restaurant at 70 Pine Street, from the owners of the Spotted Pig

Class is in session

FiDi-2The Institute for Culinary Education (ICE) marked its 40th anniversary by making a move from the Flatiron District to a new 74,000-square-foot space in Brookfield Place. At its new facility, ICE will have a culinary technology lab, indoor hydroponic farm, mixology and beverage center, and a stock-making and smoking kitchen. But perhaps the most exciting feature is the chocolate lab featuring an artisanal chocolate studio with bean-to-bar production equipment.

Easy walking 

The intersection of Greenwich and Fulton streets, which has been closed since construction of the original World Trade Center in 1967, has reopened for foot traffic from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. The section is at the crossroads of 2 World Trade Center, the World Trade Center Transportation hub, the entrance to the 9/11 Museum, and an area designated for a performing arts center. Pedestrians can enjoy a walk without worrying about cars, which are still banned from the stretch.

New place to network

Goodbye suits, hello hoodies. Well, maybe not quite yet, but Lower Manhattan Headquarters (LMHQ), which just opened a 12,500-square-foot networking space on the 20th floor of 150 Broadway, wants to become the “premier venue for the creative community to forge meaningful connections.” In other words, it’s a place where techies can meet up and discuss ideas. Prices for an individual membership start at $1,920 per year (though you can drop in for the day for just $30).

FiDi-3