Farmer's Market Mirage


Photo by ellievanhoutte/Flickr CC and Junko Kimura/Getty Images

Even before Restaurant Week, with it's $35.50 meals, was under way--as it is today in New York and has been throughout the summer in many other cities--my stepdaughter, Jessica, called with an enthusiastic report of the bargain buffet to be had at the Bouley Bakery, part of the small empire whose owner seems always to be changing plans and shapes.

The current format at his lower West Broadway location, with its soaring arched windows, is a retail bakery and cafeteria on one side, where you pay for food by weight, and a fancy, spacious dining area on the other, those wide windows opened to the street, where you can take your weighed and paid food and enjoy the view. The real estate alone is a bargain, and Jessica reported a more-than-decent sized portion of salmon was as well: "I had lunch for less than $6!" For young people like her, fresh out of grad school and working in offices nearby, it seems a godsend.

And, of course, she'll be visiting several restaurants this week to try out bargain menus in the low-season promotion the Zagats dreamed up many years ago and restaurants across the country have adopted with such enthusiasm that many keep prix-fixe lunches on the menu year-round. Our Terrence Henry has timed his American Food Tour visit to New York this week, and I expect reports on trying to fulfill your poll-result wishes during the annual summer Restaurant Week marathon crush.

He might be fooled by the same mirage Jessica was coming out of her triumphal Bouley Bakery bargain lunch: a gorgeous, ideal farmer's market on Duane Street with eye-popping produce and flowers. Not only a high-quality bargain lunch next door to her new job but a beautiful farmer's market, too! Plus a sign she and doubtless dozens of her friends have been waiting to see: "Want gluten-free bread? We've got it!"

Alas, when she tried to go in she found it was just a movie set and word that J Lo herself was the star and strolling the sidewalks across from her workplace were little consolation. She sent this link to a picture of the star on the set for the movie, whose working title is Back-up Plan. But, in an only-in-New-York tone of disappointment, she'd much rather run to a farmer's market when she goes for lunch break than run into a movie star.