Caroline Schiff had been gearing up for months for her role as pastry chef in the rebirth of Brooklyn's historic Gage & Tollner, slated for its grand reopening on March 15th which, as any pandemic scholar can tell you, was just days before COVID-19 shut the whole damn city down.
Gage & Tollner didn't even try to open that weekend, and the fate of the landmark restaurant remains in limbo, but in the meantime Schiff has been busy as hell feeding residents of a Brooklyn shelter through Meals On Us, and also teaming up with former Milk Bar operations manager Elyssa Heller for a new venture. Turns out, that venture is probably the best bagel pop-up this city has ever seen, Edith's.
Named after Heller's great aunt, who owned a Jewish delicatessen in Brooklyn in the 1950s, Edith's uses the kitchen—and the huge wood-burning pizza oven—at Paulie Gee's on Greenpoint Avenue to crank out a tight but enormously appealing menu of bagels, sandwiches, and pastries. The bagels are hand twisted, wood-fired, and come in Plain, Poppy, Toasted Sesame, Salt and "Chicago," which was described to me, accurately, as being "like an Everything, but with more heat."
You can eat these topped simply with cream cheese, house-made jam, labneh, Zaatar, and/or butter, all of which sound great, but as far as I'm concerned the real action at Edith's is over in the sandwich section. Just look at these beauties! To start, there's the first worthwhile innovation to the usually unimprovable Bacon, Egg, and Cheese I've had in years, the BEC&L, that last letter honoring the inclusion of a crisp, greasy, all-around lovely Latke to the mix.
You can also get a Latke or six on the side—they're based on Schiff's grandmother's recipe—in case you only have room for one sandwich and want to try the NY Classic, starring home-smoked salmon and cream cheese, or the Smoked Trout Salad concoction, which is topped with golden whitefish roe. But since you're at one of the city's best pizza restaurants, it seems mandatory to also eat one of Schiff's Pizza Bagels, a new combo rolling out each week based on one of Paulie's Gees pies. On a recent visit I made short work of the Red, White, and Greenberg (fresh mozzarella, guanciale, pickled red onions, arugula), and it was superb.
The pastries are just as good. Or, I should say, the Honey Baharat Shnecken, a trio of sticky buns with walnuts and honey, and the Salted Caramel Challah Knot were both delicious. I haven't yet tried Schiff's Chocolate Sesame Twist, nor her Shakshuka Morning Bun, but confidence is high that they would not disappoint. Coffee, fresh squeezed juice, and Passionfruit Gazoz round out Edith's offerings.
The only catch: lots of other people are just as excited about this place as I am. Which is great for the business, obviously, and we all should be happy for anyone who can survive and thrive during this strange and terrible coronavirus era, but it does mean you'll probably have to wait for your food. Like 20 minutes on line to place your order, then another 20 milling around until a masked-up staffer brings out your bag of goodies. There's plenty of room down here to spread out, everyone was instinctively distancing, and it was a pleasant summery scene, but at least on opening weekend, eating at Edith's is more of a fun event than a quick grab-and-go.
Edith's is operating out of Paulie Gee's, at 60 Greenpoint Avenue between Franklin and West Streets, every Thursday through Sunday, 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. (or until they sell out, which on the first Thursday was about 11:00 a.m.), from now through all of October (edithsbk.com)