More than a few Chowhounders were a little bit riled last fall when Cobblestone Foods opened in the former Tuller’s space on Court Street. Cobblestone Foods was billing itself as a specialty foods shop, but there was just one problem: “Where’s the chow?” asked one CH member, after finding “1/3 stocked" shelves during a fact-finding mission. Other curious shoppers found the same problem but noted Cobblestone's vital signs to be otherwise normal -- behind the register, the rotisserie was filled with Long Island duck and roaster chickens, and the large refrigerated display case was stocked with a variety of fresh vegetable salads. More than a few customers seemed confused. “[T]hey were very friendly,” offered one CH member.
Five months after opening, the shelves at Cobblestone Foods are still fairly uncrowded, and for good reason: it’s all part of chef-owner Jeremy Wachalter’s plan to minimize the ooh la la-affect- the Dean and Deluca sprawl that plagues many specialty food shops, where customers can’t move a foot without risking a toppling tower of jarred piquillo peppers, or a headlong fall into a quicksand-style tub of couscous. By providing an open, accessible space and encouraging special menu requests from customers, Wachalter is trying to break down the fourth wall in provisions shopping. Rather than overwhelming the public with boutique spices and vast self-service bins of whole grain nonsense, Cobblestone Foods focuses on chef-prepared products that save the home cook time. Of course, the space issue also matters. “There’s not a lot of real estate in the store,” says Wachalter, “so we really have to pick and choose what we carry.”
Before the 30 year-old Suffern, N.Y. native opened Cobblestone Foods, Jeremy Wachalter worked as a Sous Chef at The Modern. He also did time at Town and Union Pacific. His self-described style is “French and Italian, with some Asian-inspired touches,” and the shop reflects the instincts of a chef -- every product, from chevre to pasta, has been thoughtfully selected. Shelf-hogging forty-dollar bottles of Italian olive oil, intended mostly for drizzling or finishing salads, have been replaced by a few thirteen-dollar bottles of more versatile Spanish product. Vegetable plates and healthy salads have taken the place of mayonnaise-plied deli case standbys, with an emphasis on seasonality -- for instance, you won’t find a vine-ripe tomato salad at Cobblestone in February. Other items reflect Wachalter’s professional experience and Culinary Institute of America training: Cobblestone sells freshly made lamb jus, veal and chicken stock. Even the dark, clarified juices that collect at the bottom of the rotisserie can be bought. A small amount of this concentrated, roasted chicken stock packs a flavorful punch, and should be used to enrich sauces, beating the efficacy out of standard issue powdered boullion. Wachalter’s rotisserie jus is superior even to the $29 half-pints of readymade demi-glace that can be found at Williams Sonoma, because it's not loaded with the high sodium levels or preservatives often found in those items. The chef uses the small, open kitchen that takes up about half the shop's square footage to its fullest, with good results: a lot of what is outsourced by other specialty food stores is prepared in-house at Cobblestone -- a nice touch. The shop cures and confits its own duck legs, which are available by the piece. With a simultaneous nod to the home cook, Cobblestone also sells quarts of duck fat for those who prefer to keep their confit DIY.
Gothamist sampled three of Cobblestone’s prepared dishes: The first was a kind of Swiss (as in its neutral flavor, not the involved dairy) macaroni and cheese. Wachalter trades elbows for orecchiette, binds everything with a nutmeg-tinged béchamel, and tops it off with homey, butter-toasted breadcrumbs. We also tried a smashed red bliss potato salad mixed with whole grain mustard and sliced cornichons, which got a nice crunch from slab bacon. Quinoa mixed with dried apricots and cranberry, roasted pignoli, and flecked with parsley was the healthy choice.
Cobblestone Foods has a Murray’s Cheese ex-pat handling the dairy case, and the description labels that accompany each selection list beer and wine pairing suggestions. Wachalter cooks and packages a rotating variety of homemade cheese condiments, including fresh quince paste, and kumquats preserved in vanilla syrup.
Cobblestone Foods pushes local product when it can. They carry Rick’s Picks smokra and gt 100’s, import a daily selection of Doughnut Plant Donuts, and sell artisanal, French-style breads from Sullivan Street Bakery. Milk, butter, and yogurt come from Ronnybrook Farm. Wachalter features Gorilla Coffee, and the city-chic 5 Boroughs Ice Cream (sample flavor: Staten Island Landfill: cherries, chocolate covered crunchies, brownie chunkc, fudge swirl, and vanilla ice cream). The shop even buys local chicken eggs from a woman at the Red Hook Poultry Association. “She brings in an average of five dozen a week,” Wachalter says. “They’re beautiful. They’re all different colors.”
Future events at the store include cheese tastings; a customizable, full-service catering for special events is available through the shop. Call for details.
199 Court Street