By Rory Winston
Unlike Brooklyn with its post-ironic flare for resuscitating artery-clogging comfort foods till they smack of pedigree, Manhattan ‘just don’t take too kindly to Midwestern fare’… unless, of course, it’s been thoroughly reinvented by the likes of Nicholas Nostadt, the Ohioan chef reared in the heart of …well, the French Culinary Institute.
That Picnic (www.picniceastvillage.com) is a cosmopolitan paean to the best of the Corn Belt is in no small thanks to Nostadt’s eclectic vision.
After deciding to ‘go west’ and crossing the great divide between Williamsburg’s Berry Park and the East Village, our young chef saddled up some American classics - such as turkey leg confit with cranberry barbecue sauce - and filled his satchel with Franco-American fusions - the likes of mussels steamed in hard cider, Dijon cream, and apricot nectar – while rustling up a host of eclectic dishes that would soon have all his new neighbors stampeding towards Picnic’s vintage tables.
Complete with zinc bar, tin ceiling, subway tiles, brick walls, and expansive windows, Picnic is an urban cowboy’s dreamscape.
Home on Nostradt’s range leaves lots of room for play. Although deer and antelope may be scarce, Roll-ups made of Mortadella and Roquefort; and Grilled Cheese sandwiches of Taleggio and Fontina seem to make the most of it.
With décor that juxtaposes industrial motifs with French Bistro ambiance, and cuisine reminiscent of Agnes de Mille’s square dance-ballets, Picnic manages to ride that delicate balance between rodeo and dressage.