European style gives flare to New York food shops
New York — That biggest is best and small is beautiful might be the respective mottos of two New York entries in the ever-expanding world of gourmet foods. Both the DDL Foodshow and La Cremerie owe their European cachet and glamour to the men who designed them.
La Cremerie, on Lexington Avenue near 75th Street, is reminiscent of an authentic French shop selling cream, butter, and eggs. It has been handsomely decorated by antique dealer-designer Jean-Paul Beaujard, a witty Frenchman who speaks like Maurice Chevalier.
The piece de resistance as you enter La Cremerie is a turn-of-the-century porcelain counter, all art nouveau flourishes in the most vivid pastels. An old-fashioned and beguiling wicker bench offers waiting patrons a place to sit.
But the best part of La Cremerie, which is fast becoming a favorite neighborhood spot, is its drop-in-anytime air. Pale-green and cream tiles and mirrored walls give the small room an expansive feeling and reflect over and over again the random bunches of fresh wildflowers.
You can stop in here for a breakfast of flaky croissants and some fine French preserves - mirabelles or fraises des bois - and for a light lunch of sandwiches or salads, cold meats, pate, or cheese with crunchy, crusted French bread. The shop offers an elegant selection of cheeses and pates, but it is the sort of selection that is limited enough not to confuse.
At dinner there are simple, excellent entrees, such as lamb chops and chicken , served in authentic bistro style on the marble-top tables surrounded by lovely rush-seat chairs.
Plans include a second floor expansion floor, which Mr. Beaujard says he will decorate with an ''Impressionist'' look.
At the other end of the scale - and on the other side of town - is the extravagant food shop called DDL Foodshow. Dino de Laurentiis's emporium is on Columbus Avenue - called the street of a thousand eateries - at 81st Street.
This is the de Laurentiis who produced ''Bitter Rice,'' ''La Strada,'' ''Serpico,'' and ''Hurricane.'' The place has been called a five-ring circus of gastronomy. The space itself, evoking the food markets at Les Halles in Paris and Covent Garden in London - with 12,000 square feet of oak and brick, wide aisles, and soaring vaulted skylights - is the masterpiece of Israeli designer Adam Tihany.
Like Dino de Laurentiis, Tihany is an impressive cook, and the heart of DDL is a copper-hooded rotisserie where poultry and meats of every description are prepared daily.
DDL's theatrical splendor is due as much to the food as the design. At the stand-up counter, snacks include sandwiches of salmon or prosciutto, Gorgonzola cheese or truffles, on any of the breads available at the bakery counter.
And there are breads galore: bread with caviar, salmon, or herbs; bread with sesame, fennel, or poppyseed.
There are zucchini, artichoke, and tomato breads; banana, coconut, and date breads; corn-rye, oat, and bran breads; as well as handmade breadsticks and croissants. This being New York, there are also baskets full of bagels.
Many customers have trouble passing up the pastry counter - Tarte Tartin, Savarin, Italian cheesecake abound. There are tarts filled with strawberries, figs, gooseberries; chestnut and chocolate cake; cookies and biscotti; passion-fruit and lime-filled chocolates.
Other shoppers inevitably take home a bottle of one of the array of olive oils and vinegars, herbs and spices, dried fruits, nuts, and preserves.
Owner de Laurentiis designed the store space so that employees must wade through crowds of shoppers with trays of eye-catching foods, such as the six-foot pizza, which leaves a trail of potential customers as it is put on the shelf.
Just about everything at DDL is made on the premises. There are about 5,000 square feet of kitchen. Although the prices are high, you pay not just for the food, but also for a theatrical experience.