Sometimes you’re struck with a vivid vision but just can’t make it a reality—until years after you’ve given up, when it’s unexpectedly resurrected and surpasses your wildest expectations.
Take our “Brooklyn Fridge” section, which I dreamed up while compiling our first issue. After reading about hand-churned ice cream floating in craft root beer and tortas topped with heirloom beef tongue, even gastro geeks like myself can suffer foodie fatigue. So I created that section to chronicle the everyday eats of borough-based writers and rockers whose week-old pizza and bottles of Bud would serve as foil to all that farmstand fennel.
Imagine my surprise when John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants showed me his stash of duck fat (“for home fries”), Dan Zanes raved about sidewalk epazote and rooftop honey, and Yo La Tengo’s James MeNew extolled Michael Pollan and raw milk. I resigned myself to the fact that in Brooklyn, even professional partiers obsess over ingredients. And then, four years later, I read with rapture our interview of rock promoter Todd P (see p. 29) whose broken microwave, passion for Popeye’s and freezer full of catfood and cheap booze were everything I’d ever wanted that section to be.
This whole issue is a dream I’d presumed dead. A few years back, writer St. John Frizell e-mailed that he’d found a Sheepshead Bay plumber distilling grappa and a Bushwick hipster bottling absinthe. If only we could find a third, he could cover the budding trend of D.I.Y. distilling—but the search got shelved while St. John opened Fort Defiance. Just two years later, the borough is home to five hipster hooch startups with legal locavore liquor in the proverbial pipeline. As he writes in “Whiskey Rebellion,” by year’s end Brooklyn will boast the third largest concentration of distillers in the nation.
But my favorite Edible example of sleeper success is the most personal. Back before this magazine existed, I was daydreaming with Rachel Wharton, now my deputy editor but then just a friend as obsessed with the pursuit of meaningful food experiences as I was. That day she had a vision—that the two of us could convince Gourmet to assign us a column profiling the best artisan foods in the country. Oh please, I thought. I’m not qualified to buy coffee for that staff, much less co-write a regular column!
Before long Rachel and I were creating our own little magazine, and last October, when I heard Gourmet was folding, I cried. This winter, when I learned Rachel’s profiles of egg, Roberta’s and Franny’s had been nominated for a James Beard award—up against three Gourmet articles, for best series—I was stunned. And then, last month, when we were announced as the winner—well, let’s just say I hope I never wake up.
Here’s to drinkers, and dreamers.
Backyard hops on the rise.