Monday, August 14, 2006

Let them eat organic muffins

I confess that I don't give a damn either way about Ratner's plans for my neighborhood. I don't own property in Brooklyn (or anywhere, come to think of it), have nothing against tall buildings, yet see the charm in the littler ones.

That said, some evidence of gentrification is so jarring that it merits a mention, even when much bigger things are happening in the world, just because, well, wow. A new cafe opened near me, on Bergen and Nevins, and I'm a fan of coffee and pastries, so I took a look. The Nascent sells the usual upscale Brooklyn coffee-bar things--muffins, scones, cupcakes, organic caffeinated beverages hand-grown by fair-trade laborers paid a full $50 an hour more than the customers freelance-writing in the cafe. The place is different from others, however, for a couple reasons. One: it's gorgeous. Mirrors, glass, tiles, and assorted shiny and clear chairs and objects are used to full effect, such that the place is stunning the way someone's house in Wallpaper* might be stunning, I don't know how else to describe it, and so should just go over there sometime in full hipster regalia and take some pictures.

So that's one thing that makes the place different from the other charming and well-designed local coffee places. The other thing that makes it different is, good grief, things there are expensive. Brownies, espresso drinks, all that fabulousness goes for just a touch more than it would on, say, the Upper East Side. Which feels sort of strange, given that the place is not near a whole lot else, other than townhouses, a small hipster boutique selling (what else?) retro sneakers and keffiyehs, and some rather large housing projects. The housing projects pretty much dominate that stretch of town, to the point that this coffee bar, while aesthetically far less obvious a symbol than the tell-tale green and white logo, stands out and looks sort of ridiculous.

Is it worse, morally, to sip your $4 coffee amidst outer-borough poverty than at a Union Square Starbucks? As moral dilemmas go, this can't be major one, but I recommend the sale on French presses at Bodum in the Meatpacking District to anyone looking to avoid $4 coffee for reasons moral, financial, or as yet unnamed. The barista who was there when Katherine and I checked the place out-- a Caucasian-Hipster-American, if I dare classify him as such-- told us how great it was that everyone who worked there lived nearby, that it's such a good addition to the neighborhood, so that now Boerum Hill residents won't have to walk all the way to Smith Street for a coffee shop. But of course, on nearby, fully gentrified Smith Street (which one "friend of WWPD" referred to as resembling Greenwich, Connecticut), you won't feel nearly so self-conscious spending $10 on a dainty snack.

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