When one of my best friends emails me and insists on a Big Apple getaway, I always oblige:
“Hey Kitty, what are your plans on Saturday, November 21st?”
“No plans. Why? What’s up?” I respond, curious.
“Good! We’re going to New York City to try Le District for your blog!”
Ok! Sign me up! This was a special invitation. First thing’s first: yes, my friend and I nicknamed each other ‘Kitty’. It is a long story, but the endearing nickname also happens to be a darn good nom de plume for the purpose of this post. Moving forward… Le District– an expansive 30,000 square foot eating hall at Liberty Street’s Brookfield Place- was first introduced to me by Kitty a while ago before it actually opened for business. She enthusiastically emailed me a link to a New York Times article about its grand opening and- font in all caps- was adamant that we go. That’s the thing about wonderful friends- they engage and support you and your interests. It’s as simple as that. I found myself in an emotional fluster. Life, as it is sometimes, had been challenging with a nonstop barrage of personal issues. Throughout this stretch of slight misfortune, one of my few respites would be the creation of this website, and knowing such, Kitty insisted that a trip to Le District would be the perfect opportunity to stop, recharge, and collect some great material for this blog. Grateful, I agreed. We were soon off to New York City to eat our way around the french eatery. I did snicker to myself that the second feature of this New England blog would focus on a place in New York. C’est la vie! À La Prochaine does focus on french influence in New England, but on occasion we’ll venture to other areas for some joie de vivre. Where french goes, I’ll soon follow.
Le District intrigued me for a few reasons. I couldn’t understand how this place functioned. I knew there would be food- a lot of food- but was it a formal restaurant? A market? A cafeteria? As I would discover, Le District is actually all of the above. The market is comprised of four different districts, each containing distinctive stations and areas with authentic French fare:
- Restaurant District:
- Le Bar- Wine and cocktails.
- L’Appart- Chef’s table and tasting restaurant.
- Beaubourg (Brasserie)- Casual and classic French dishes, such as Steak Frites.
- Café District:
- Chocolat (Candy Symbol)- Biscuits, chocolates, truffles, and other various candies.
- Pâtisserie (Croissant Symbol)- Waffles, crépes (sweet & savory), cakes, macarons, ice cream, and other various sweets.
- Coffee (Mug Symbol)- Gourmet prepared coffees.
- Garden District:
- Groceries (Broccoli & Coffee Bean Symbols)- Produce, salad bar, spices, teas, and coffee to go.
- Market District:
- La Fleuriste (Flower Symbol)- Plants, flowers, and arrangements.
- La Boulangerie (Baguette Symbol)- Breads, baked goods, sandwiches, hot dogs, and croques.
- La Poissonerie (Fish Symbol)- Fish market.
- La Fromagerie (Cheese Symbol)- Mostly French cheeses.
- Le Comptoir (Wine Glass Symbol)- Wine bar (by the bottle or glass), champagne, charcuterie plates, fromage plates, and other light fare for accompaniment.
- La Charcuterie (Pig Symbol)- Cured meats and sausage.
- La Boucherie (Cow Symbol)- Fresh meat prepared on site.
- La Rotisserie (Chicken Symbol)- Whole chicken, cornish hens, and pork.
When I initially walked into Le District– through the Garden District entrance- I was so confused. Kitty and I exchanged a panicked look, each of us wearing obvious perplexed expressions. It was chaos. Where would we even begin? People were chatting and meandering around us. Pots and pans clanged and clonked in the distance. This was a small supermarket. Being in the grocery section, my first thought was, “…but… but… where’s the fancy cheese?” I saw what resembled a delicatessen, with a salad bar and similar fixings. I saw bags of ground coffee. I saw a small refrigerator stocked with raspberry lambic. Then with a sharper glance, a sea of baguette-armed people traipsed toward us. I knew that in just a few short steps, Kitty and I would hit the mother land- more formally known as, the Market District.
Since we were not entirely sure what to expect going into Le District, and our trip was somewhat impromptu, we did not have a definitive plan. I knew that I simply wanted to try some good cheeses, meats, wines, and treats. We strolled around the parameter of the market to get our bearings, and with stomachs growling, decided to stop at Le Comptoir, which is the wine station situated in the heart of the Market District. Admittedly, sitting at a wine bar in the middle of a market felt strange. I always associate wine and charcuterie with quiet conversation, which was certainly not the atmosphere at Le Comptoir. Guests sit in the midst of the bustle. Everything surrounding us was in constant motion, and conversing was difficulat simply because we were so distracted by the constant flurry. This was not necessarily bad, just different. Kitty and I did not investigate the Restaurant District this time around, but I suspect that would be more conducive for intimate conversation. A few glasses of Beaujolais later, paired with mouthwatering charcuterie and cheese plates, and we were ready to really explore. Naturally, we headed straight for the impressive pâtisserie and went a little overboard. Multiple opera cakes were purchased. Priorities.
Le District was fabulous. To visitors like myself, I recommend some slight planning before the first trip. In essence, it is a fancy food court where truly everything is magical, so deciding what to try on site was painstaking. I wanted it all. If you are a city local, I would recommend going straight to the Restaurant District and picking up some fun items after. Do not go there hungry. That was a poor decision on my part. The unique characteristic about Le District is that you can find atypical treats here. If you really want to be dazzled, skip the familiar treats like macarons and brie. Try an exciting new stinky cheese or a pistachio opera cake. In typical New York City fashion, it can be expensive. I noticed one cheese was around $30.00 per pound. One more glass of Beaujolais, and I might have actually made that purchase! The good news is, you can make it as expensive or as inexpensive as you would like. The fromagerie offered an emmental and fig preserves baguette for $4.00, which we discovered after gorging at Le Comptoir. These are authentic quality products. If you’ve ever visited an outdoor market in Paris, then Le District would have a very similar feel. Lots of people. Lots of fresh items. A whirlwind of everything. You will even find many french guests relaxing at the bar or in line any of the stations. Kitty and I left delightfully stuffed and satisfied. If you appreciate a good french market, then be sure to visit Le District.
À la prochaine!
225 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281
Tel: (212) 981-8588