“I don’t believe in omens,” says Aaron Foster, owner of Foster Sundry, Bushwick’s new specialty shop. “But it did feel like a fateful moment.”
During an especially rough phase in the build-out of the store last fall, Foster happened to run into his neighbor, Paige Lipari, owner of Archestratus, the food-focused book store and café in Greenpoint. They got to chatting about his plans for Foster Sundry, and she realized that the location, on the corner of Troutman and Knickerbocker, had been home to her grandparents’ cheese shop, Lipari & Sons Latticini, half a century earlier.
While that sort of serendipitous connection might seem like a wrinkle in the plot of a cheesy (see what we did there?) foodie rom-com, in actuality it’s a neat piece of luck that nicely mirrors Foster’s deep connections in the Brooklyn food world. Over the past decade he has helped to shape the tastes of fickle foodies in New York City, and to discover the the world’s most interesting edibles, from a behind-the-scenes perch as head buyer, first at Murray’s Cheese, then at Brooklyn Kitchen.
The shop, Foster notes, is really like four businesses in one. There’s a café in the front, where you can grab your morning Americano and a croissant. A well-edited selection of cheese comes next, with stars from the American cheesemaker scene on display next to European wheels you definitely won’t find at every other cheese shop. “We’re not dogmatic,” says Foster. “It’s all stuff I like, which is fun.”
A small but excellent grocery selection features everything from Island Trollers albacore tuna from Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest, to fresh vegetables, to pints of ice cream from Ample Hills Creamery. In the back, the butcher counter displays grass-fed beef from Slope Farms, housemade sausages, pastured pork and chickens. It’s a highly distinguished meat team, headed up by Matthew Dale, formerly the head butcher at Marlow & Daughters, and Cara Nicoletti, butcher, pastry chef and author of Voracious. They’re expecting to be one of the first and only shops in the city to carry whey fed pigs from Jasper Hill Farm, a cheese producer in northern Vermont that Foster has a had a relationship with for more than a decade.
In the coming months, Foster Sundry will add beer and cider to the mix, as well as a sandwich menu. His butchers will be curing pastrami and making ham, and he envisions a sort of “full circle sandwich” made with Jasper Hill pork and cheese, as well as greens from Pete’s Greens, a Vermont business that collaborates with Jasper Hill. It’s also a pick-up spot for Mermaid’s Garden, a community supported fishery similar to a CSA.
While that sounds like a lot to fit into a small space, Foster Sundry feels spacious inside–it’s not the sort of New York specialty shop where you’re constantly worried that your bag is going to knock a $40 jar of jam off a shelf. That expansive, friendly spirit extends to everyone working behind the counter, as well. Foster says that he hired people who not only know their stuff, but who also love to share their knowledge with customers. “I want this to be a welcoming environment,” he says. “We all love to cook, eat and talk about food. Our customers are amazing. They’re happy we’re here–everyone who works here has heard that at some point.”
Foster considered several other neighborhoods before deciding that the area around the Jefferson stop on the L train in Bushwick was where his shop made the most sense. “A lot of my friends had moved over here,” he says. “Then Faro opened and I’d been going to Northeast Kingdom for a long time, I’d been to Montana’s–there’s a lot happening in the neighborhood, but no retail food scene. I also know so many specialty food store owners in Brooklyn and I think they do a great job. I didn’t want to open in someone else’s backyard. I wanted to stake my own claim.”
The news that he would be setting up shop in the same place where Lipari’s grandparents once made balls of mozzarella and fresh ricotta connected Foster even more deeply to Brooklyn’s long history as a great place to cook and eat. And, if he had any lingering doubts about whether or not Foster Sundry would be a service to the neighborhood, consider the other business that wanted his corner location. “We were competing with a vape shop for this place,” he says.
215 Knickerbocker (at the corner of Troutman)