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Brooklyn larder failing where franny's succeeded?

johannabanana Jun 8, 2009 02:15 PM

Went on the weekend. A beet greens and ricotta salata sandwich was truly delicious. The cheeses look vastly better aged than anywhere else in Park Slope and there is a prominent aging room. But the location is even less salubrious than franny's and, judging from a couple of direct comparisons, the prices seem to be slightly more expensive than at Blue Apron or Union Market, the local competition. (And even if the Park Slope Food Coop is not a fair comparison, members still can buy quite a lot of the same dry goods at a fraction of the cost -- Bklyn Larder should have tried to set itself apart more.)

Maybe the focus will eventually turn to more pre-prepared food, like $35/lb octopus salad.

My girlfriend and I think Brooklyn larder might well fail where franny's has succeeded: we love franny's, but the bill for two people can easily top $100 when you only have a salad starter, a side, a pizza, a pasta and the cheapest bottle of wine. The success of franny's clearly demonstrates that people are willing to pay steeply to eat class (if simply-prepared) ingredients at a restaurant on Flatbush -- perhaps especially when they live nearby. But a deli is not a restaurant. In this economy, Brooklyn Larder might have a tough time.

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  1. jen kalb RE: johannabanana Jun 8, 2009 03:08 PM

    Your thread title (how can a store that has just opened be failing?) and your comments about the Flatbush Ave. neighbornood not being "salubrious" are absurd. The location next to the Bergen St. Subway is far from trendy but it is safe and excellent for hitting people on their way home from work - I presume the rent is also reasonable. The signage could be more prominent - you really have to know its there to see it. For the thousands of people who are north of Union St. and in Prospect Hts, its a great add to the neighborhood..

    Based on a single visit, the cheeses and cured meat I bought were of stellar quality. I wont say the cheeses are actually substantially better than Blue Apron, which also has very good stuff. - a cheese merchant is really only put to the test when the cheeses start to get old - do you pull those expensive little babies or leave them around a bit longer. The store has a very serious, curated flavor, with many special items. It will be interesting to see how much they bulk up the stock - in many small stores like this, the fancy foods items accumulate and dont ever move. Im hoping for a good solid bread supply (reasonably priced) and my neighbor is hoping they will start serving coffee.

    I cant tell whether you are commenting on the prices or not - while some of the prices are a little stratospheric at least if you are taking out you can save a little money by drinking your own wine or rustling up your own green salad to eat with the chow. Im looking forward to adding slices of their porchetta and other pork products to our dinner menus, and sampling other items as well..

    3 Replies
    1. re: jen kalb
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      chowbie RE: jen kalb Jun 8, 2009 03:16 PM

      Agree with you, Jen, about the signage (I walked past that corner several times looking for it without spotting it) and BREAD--we need good bread in the nabe, and if Bklyn Larder steps up, it could be the thing that brings the traffic they need to succeed.

      1. re: chowbie
        johannabanana RE: chowbie Jun 8, 2009 04:21 PM

        By less salubrious, I'm not saying Flatbush is unsafe -- just that it's less attractive and I'm sure much cheaper retail space than 5th or 7th Avenue yet the prices at Bklyn larder are higher than the shops there.

        Bread-wise, unless they're baking their own I expect they will stock Sullivan Street which you can get at Union Market.

        Cheese-wise, I strongly disagree about a cheese merchant only being put to the test when the cheese turns old. Cheese is a living organism and as soon as it gets blasted too much in a refrigerator or wrapped for too long in plastic wrap it loses its character, to some degree irreparably. This is what can happen at the Coop. For example, the Vermont Butter&Cheese Bonne Bouche at Bklyn Larder looks perfectly aged -- its creaminess is visible!

        All in all, I just don't feel like Bklyn Larder is filling much of a niche - MOST of the stuff they sell (excepting hyper-expensive freshly prepared foods and their own $9 ice-cream) can be bought on the 1 block stretch of Union encompassing Blue Apron/the Coop /Union Market. (Of course, not everyone wants to work at/belong to the Coop...) And in this sense, Bklyn larder feels a bit redundant if you're coming from the Park Slope direction. The space was a bit too sparse for our tastes, too -- it lacked a certain generosity that we had hoped it would have (like Di Palo's, for example.)

        Maybe they will fill up the shelves more when the get more stock in. We hope they will get with the program and start selling more homemade stuff at better prices.

        1. re: johannabanana
          jen kalb RE: johannabanana Jun 8, 2009 08:13 PM

          I repeat, not everyone passes through the central slope every day at dinner time. It is not the center of the universe for everyone. There is enough space in the neighborhood for multiple fine foods stores.

          I am sure the shelves will fill up a bit more - they have only been open what two weeks? but I repeat, many stores shelves are full because the fancy food items are not moving - better to have fewer items and see how it goes than to have too many - better to choose with care and passion and choose only items that meet your standands than to fill up the shelves too fast.

          They are selling Sullivan St, Grandaisy, etc breads - and will happily accept input on what they should carry, which is great.

          I wish all the cheesemongers in the neighborhood good luck - its a darn finicky and challenging product and I imagine its hard to make a good living selling it at the high end.

          I am no major advocate for Franny et al - but I have respect for their judgment, taste and discipline and am thankful for this further commitment to our neighborhood.

    2. m
      malarosa RE: johannabanana Jun 24, 2009 07:54 PM

      I know this may sound a little overly critical, but couldn't they have come up with a better name for the place? They still have time to change it...we'll forgive them! I live just a block away and will probably end up buying a lot of nice stuff here (and we love Franny's) but somehow, Laaaaarrrrrrder just doesn't call out to me!

      2 Replies
      1. re: malarosa
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        bhill RE: malarosa Jun 25, 2009 04:57 AM

        Does the name of a retail shop or restaurant really impact what you think of it? I admit, it's not the most original name, but I think they could have called it Purple Phigwhackle and I wouldn't bat an eye...

        1. re: bhill
          jen kalb RE: bhill Jun 25, 2009 07:00 AM

          The name is a little bit staid perhaps since larder is an old-fashioned word, for a food supply cupboard or pantry but its totally appropriate to their concept. Dont get the objections - is it the LARD? Would "Frannys Pantry" have been better? the local food movement of which they are a part takes itself fairly seriously/is a little pretentious at times and the name is in keeping with that.

          what do you think of their food offerings? I think they have some wonderful stuff but it still feels a little sparse. I also feel like they need to get better organized behind the counter. It ought to be possible to go in and just buy something quickly, but the last time I dropped in all the counter staff was fussing over rather involved service (think - several customers slowly shopping like the little old italian ladies that used to shop at A&S buying a quarter pound of 10 different things) =- they need a cashier who is not tied up in all this and can sell a loaf of bread or a pint of icecream. End result was I walked back out again without making a purchase.

      2. b
        bob96 RE: johannabanana Jun 26, 2009 12:25 AM

        Let a million great food stores bloom, of course, but there's just a little whiff of the dangerously precious (and needlessly self-important) in this genre. I've shopped Blue Apron and compliment its quality and selection, and have generally been served well there. Not yet been to Larder, but from what I've read and seen there's a risk that such (scarce) things as hospitality, customer care, and real value might get lost in exchange for the "meticulously curated" product stagings that stand in for the unpretentious gifts of good food, offered with joy. I mean: if one walks out of a place because no one's ready to serve them, does it matter how artistically the $35/lb pecorinos are presented if you can't find a way to buy some? And this now becomes the model of our daily pantry? Just asking.

        1 Reply
        1. re: bob96
          jen kalb RE: bob96 Jun 26, 2009 04:24 AM

          Ive gotten served very nicely at other times with tastes of multiple cheeses, etc. I just think they need a cashier who does not get involved in preparing orders and to accumulate a little more basic merchandise.

        2. c
          Claire RE: johannabanana Jun 26, 2009 06:44 AM

          What bothers me about your post is the title. The way you've stated it, and even with the question mark, it makes "Brooklyn Lager Failing" and "Franny's succeeded" sound like facts, not your opinion. Let's be responsible with post titles. It's not easy for businesses right now. Don't make it harder.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Claire
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            demigodh RE: Claire Jun 26, 2009 07:41 AM

            "Let's be responsible with post titles"

            hahahaah, i love it

            1. re: demigodh
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              Claire RE: demigodh Jun 26, 2009 08:43 AM

              Why is it funny?

              1. re: Claire
                southernitalian RE: Claire Jun 26, 2009 09:30 AM

                Maybe because you wrote "Lager" instead of "Larder".

                1. re: Claire
                  d
                  demigodh RE: Claire Jun 26, 2009 10:12 AM

                  It's funny because you took it upon yourself to enforce a moral guideline for subject lines on chowhound posts. Don't get me wrong, I agree with everything you said. I just like how you followed up a logical and well thought out point about this particular thread (your point being that the OP's subject line is misleading) with a declaration of chowhound etiquette, not to mention the gravity you give the pretty insignificant cause (the cause being the enforcement of responsible subject lines).

                  1. re: demigodh
                    c
                    Claire RE: demigodh Jun 26, 2009 12:03 PM

                    Sorry about the Lager Larder error. Obviously, I don't think a misleading title is insignificant or I wouldn't have posted. And I'm not trying to enforce anything, just making a comment. I'm no "demigodh."

            2. g
              ginsbera RE: johannabanana Jun 26, 2009 08:31 AM

              I'm no Franny's advocate, I actually think it's overhyped for what it is, but I am thrilled with the opening of Bklyn Larder. Living in Prospect Heights I don't have the luxury of being around the corner from Union Market (as Jen stated) and while Blue Apron is nice they can be a bit overpriced in some areas. The fact that they have sandwiches and will be curing their own meats is a huge thing for the neighborhood, regardless of what Flatbush looks like. There is plenty of room for stores that are responsible and aim to bring people high-quality ingredients.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ginsbera
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                bob96 RE: ginsbera Jun 26, 2009 08:59 AM

                Completely agree in principle, and good news in the end for PH. I guess I'm just old enough to recall when there were many small shops that sold quality ingredients, provided professional service, and didn't make a big fuss about it. I realize that the style stakes have changed since I was sent top buy a fresh loaf of bread and a pound of [housemade, yes] ricotta as a kid along Fifth Avenue in the late 50s and 60s, but I can't shake the feeling that, as good as their products are, these new gastronomie run the risk of becoming another iteration of those musty "speciality stores" lined with odd mustards and expensive canned mystery sauces. What also strikes me is the disconnect between pricey goods and the often throw-away service. But that's another discussion.

                1. re: bob96
                  jen kalb RE: bob96 Jun 26, 2009 09:11 AM

                  I think one of the things that has changed is that college grads are now involved in the food business. At a place like the Larder, the young sales staff seems engaged and quite serious about what they are selling (their old grandmothers who worked their fingers to the bone in small shops to get their children educated and out of the grind might be turning in their graves!). In other places sometimes what one faces is young maybe-too-well educated sales staff that is not completely comfortable in their service role.

                  Im hoping the larder will offer bread, etc at a reasonable price -otherwise I will continue to trek to Bensonhurst, Williamsburgh etc.

                  p.s. the price for Lioni's mozzarella is I think just a $ more than it costs on 17th Ave, not unreasonable.

              2. m
                matthewborden RE: johannabanana Jun 26, 2009 11:43 AM

                Picked up two sandwiches from Bklyn Larder on Wednesday night. Beet and Ricotta and Tuna and Anchovies. Both were delicious and fairly priced. I saw the $9 gelato and was intrigued but not enough to drop the loot.

                1 Reply
                1. re: matthewborden
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                  brooklynsabra RE: matthewborden Jun 27, 2009 02:01 PM

                  had lunch at brooklyn larder recently. while all the ingredients separately were fresh and of good quality, i found the flavors together to be too subtle for my tastes. I tried the aforementioned beet and ricotta sandwich, and two sides--one was sauteed zucchini and summer squash in some sort of tomato sauce served at room temp, and another was an israeli cous cous salad. i kept thinking that garlic, pepper flakes, and/or a few dashes of vinegar, would've jazzed all of these items up one way or another--the clerk who waited on us had told us that the prosciutto and butter sandwich, and the bacon and egg sandwich were his favorites, and i'd certainly be willing to go back and try either of those, but i won't be rushing.

                  i also want to add that at least in our case, the clerk who waited on us appeared to take the shop's concept a bit too seriously. my gregarious husband tried to joke with him about a pricey can of imported tuna in olive oil that was on the shelves: my husband said in a totally joking way, "what's in there, gold?" --or something like that. the clerk sort of sputtered and started going on about what high quality the tuna was--maybe i'm just used to my husband's sense of humor, but he has made similar jokes (yes, he needs new material) at other places and most of the time, people laugh along with him--these are tough times--why not joke about overpriced tuna?

                  as an aside, afterwards we went to cake ambiance nearby for cupcakes--not an especially inexpensive spot either--and the owner was so warm and engaging--my husband insisted i post about his cupcakes here--a little bit of charm goes a long way.

                  btw, we also tried the $9 (!!!) pint gelato from brooklyn larder a few weeks ago, which i believe my smart alek husband purchased out of spite right after i said how crazy it was to charge so much--we tried the pistachio flavor--this i really liked, but i am not sure if it was $9.00 worth of like--j. torres is selling pints of his ice cream (yes, i know it's not gelato) for $7.50 and when his products start to sound affordable...i'm just sayin'

                2. c
                  champers09 RE: johannabanana Jul 26, 2009 08:21 PM

                  Brooklyn Larder is a beautiful store with glorious products, however, everything is utterly overpriced. I understand it's a business, but considering you can travel a few subway stops to Manhattan and buy the same products at much lower prices and in some cases, better quality, I'm quite shocked. And, $9 a pint for their homemade, but too sweet gelato is a joke. Go to Grom or Labaratorio Gelato for a taste of heaven.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: champers09
                    jen kalb RE: champers09 Jul 26, 2009 08:47 PM

                    for the most part their prices for cheeses, meats etc are pretty much on a par with other Brooklyn stores with similar pretensions, Fairway, Blue Apron, etc. and their quality is high. Cant see any reason to spend the & to take a subway to manhattan and then stand in line for similar stuff.

                    1. re: jen kalb
                      johannabanana RE: jen kalb Aug 31, 2009 07:07 AM

                      It's been great to read everyone's heated responses to our post last spring. To the person who thought our title was bad form, we deliberately chose something provocative to attract attention. We went back to the larder yesterday afternoon and the shelves definitely filled up. There's a good selection of dairy stuff from Evan's farm etc. and more prepared goods (eggplant parm looked great). Everything seems so expensive, though, that the place lacks soul. does that make sense? $8 for a small bread with cherries in it from Scratchbread ($1 more than at Blue Apron, incidentally); $9 for gelato... When you are constantly flipping products over to check the price, you start to feel like you're buying cashmere sweaters rather than just food to eat. At these sort of prices, you may as well go to a restaurant (Franny's is just around the corner!) - that way, you won't have to do wash the dishes you eat your $14 serving of eggplant parm on.

                      My suspicion is that all of these little fancy food stores - Blue Apron, Franny's and even Union Market and the Co-op use the same distributors because they all have almost the exact same european jams and olive oils, chocolate bars, etc. - and it's not as if Italy and France only have a dozen types of olive oil. I would be a lot more impressed with the Larder if they sourced (imported?) their own unique products from Italy or wherever. I'm thinking about the Fromagerie on Marlybone High Street in London, and how the shelves are heaving with beautiful products (mostly French and Italian and British) that you've never seen before and are always up to an incredibly high standard. For this sort of sourcing and editing of gastronomic treasure, I am happy to pay a bit extra. But if you're just offering say, Nunez del Prado olive oil, (which, don't get me wrong, is a nice oil) that I can easily pick up at Whole Foods for a few $ cheaper, you're essentially a convenience store.

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