Brooklyn on the Seine at Le Bon Marché

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Brooklyn on the Seine at Le Bon Marché
Brooklyn. It’s been hot for years. It’s got a certain cachet that connotes cool, creative, and cutting edge. Which is why there’s a wine bar in Paris named Brooklyn on rue Quincampoix in the fourth arrondissement and the Brooklyn Café on Place Saint-Ferdinand in the seventeenth, and why the New York Times reported back in 2012 that, among young Parisians, there was no greater praise than “très Brooklyn.” They were talking about cuisine, but the term can easily be extrapolated to other areas, as well. Now, even Le Bon Marché, the oldest department store in Paris and arguably the swankiest, and its subsidiary, La Grande Épicerie, want to get in on the reflected cool of Brooklyn. Until October 17th, they’re hosting a Brooklyn-themed extravaganza of food, fashion, and fun. Let’s start with the food. The food bar at the southeast entrance of La Grande Épicerie has been rebranded the Brooklyn Bar. The menu includes lobster and shrimp rolls, coleslaw, and honey and dark-chocolate ganache pie from the Brooklyn-based Four & Twenty Blackbirds pie shop, started by “pie queens” sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen in Brooklyn in 2010. Head on into the store and, let’s see – ya got your hot dogs, ya got your pickles, ya got your bagels, and ya got your Brooklyn Brewery beers. Apparently no Hebrew Nationals here, and who in Brooklyn puts ketchup on their hotdogs? But let’s not quibble. This is Paris, and here they do it their way. And the pickles? Ya got your regular ones and your Damn Spicy ones in jars straight from the source. The bagels? Not so much. The Grande Épicerie pastry chef has transformed the New York bagel into a little cake-like concoction of a sweetened brioche-type bread, but with a bagel-like hole in the middle, sliced in half and filled with enough rich ingredients to call them Brooklyn Bagel Framboise, Brooklyn Bagel Noisette, and Brooklyn Bagel Choco. No purists here! Sprinkled liberally throughout both stores is the water tower theme. Water towers are ubiquitous in cities – they’re what ensure all those tall buildings have enough pressure to keep the system running, and Brooklyn is no exception. So it’s a fitting and fetching symbol. It’s the shape of the kiosks and the shape of the signs telling you what food or fashion you’re looking at. While most of the products are created by Brooklyn purveyors, there are some that boggle the mind. How did Wish-Bone salad dressing make the cut? The original recipe is from Kansas City, Missouri. It’s now produced by a company headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey. But again, I quibble. If nothing else, the brand captures the culinary “sophistication” of Middle America, and is amusing to see on the shelves of a food store that bills itself as “A leading light in the world of Parisian gastronomy.” And those bottles labeled Arizona tea? Made in Woodbury, which is on Long Island, New York. But again, let’s not quibble. Those not in the know will not know. There are in fact bona fide Brooklyn brands. In addition to the pickles, beer, and pie are products whose company founders take their métier very seriously. They source ingredients locally when possible, care about the environment, and are driven by a passion to produce wholesome, tasty treats. Included are Brooklyn Brittle; Brooklyn peanut butter; drink mixers – called Craft Mixers, in this case; Coconut Key Lime Cashew Butter; Salt Water Taffy; Ginger Ale; Redhead Bloody Mary Mix; a Chipotle Pepper Sauce whose slogan is “Pain is Good”; and Empire Classic Mayonnaise, to name just a few. New York is known as “The Empire State.” After you’ve had your fill of those goodies, head on over to Le Bon Marché to check out the nonfood wares. And there are many. Products include hand-knit caps, in a rainbow of colors from Brooklyn Industries; housewares; furniture; and something called La Boîte (The Box), which is a kind of survival kit for the body that includes Dr. Bronner’s soaps, Kiehl’s facial lotion and shampoo, and several temporary tattoos in the shape of arrows, in case you’re aiming at somebody’s heart and arrows are their thing. Information is provided – on brownish recycled paper – about the background and philosophy of the company founders. Some started very, very small and have grown their products. And not by accident, mind you. These are real entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs with a conscience, maybe, but entrepreneurs, nonetheless. So you can read about Jackie Rosenthal’s Ware of the Dog “luxury dog accessory collection”; or Lynn and Lawrence who talk about their values, environmental awareness, and their support for the charity Boundless Brooklyn, a bona fide Brooklyn company, creates do-it-yourself model kits of landmarks, such as water towers, lifeguard towers, and billboards. In keeping with the social consciousness concerns of Brooklyn entrepreneurs, the company is involved in the local art community and sponsors nonprofit art classes. There is Artisanal, Organic Pancake + Waffle Mix from Catskills Provisions. Who would have thought that the Catskills, which years ago was synonymous with resorts where people went in the hope of finding a spouse, and…

Lead photo credit : Brooklyn at Le Bon Marché/ Diane Stamm

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Diane Stamm occasionally writes from Paris.


  • Boundless Brooklyn
    2015-09-17 18:48:00
    Boundless Brooklyn
    Thanks so much for the wonderful article, Diane, and for mentioning our line of craft model kits. Honored to be a part of such an incredible lineup, alongside so many other fantastic Brooklyn brands.


  • Denyse Mains
    2015-09-17 17:33:32
    Denyse Mains
    I was born and raised in Paris and came in U S A in my 20 ,every time I came back to Paris my favorite shopping place was Le bon Marche I could always find something to bring back with me to give or keep as a reminder of my younger days I love your News paper thank you very much for letting me keep up with my beautiful Paris .


  • Patou
    2015-09-11 21:53:16
    I'm the daughter of a born and bred Brooklynite, and both she and I are serious Francophiles who spend several weeks in Paris in a rented flat every year...the fact that my favorite dept. store in Paris is celebrating the Borough-or that the Borough itself is even considered so hip and cutting edge as to deserve one-makes us both laugh heartily. When I was small, Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Red Hook were dangerous, seedy places where no one wanted to live! Look at 'em now. Of course, the people who've cleaned them up aren't from Brooklyn-or even New York-at all. Bravo, Le Bon Marche, for the beautiful Brooklyn on the Seine expo. I'll arrive in Paris a month too late to see it, but I'm getting my fix online!