The Renaissance. A cultural movement that profoundly affected the intellect of Italy, Europe and eventually the world. Renaissance scholars embodied humanistic methods of study, searching for realism and human emotion through our experiences, and of course, artistic ability. The Renaissance man sought to develop knowledge and skill of every kind.
In New York, Alphabet City has gone through its own Renaissance. The lower Manhattan neighborhood has a long history of being a cultural and ethnic enclave. Originally known as “Kleindeutschland” or Little Germany, the neighborhood was the third largest German speaking population during the 19th century. By the middle of the 20th century, what was once known as “Kleindeutschland” became known as “Loisaida.”
The Spanglish nickname was given by the many Puerto Rican families that moved in during the 1960’s and 1970’s, a time that became known as the Nuyorican movement. During the 1980’s, Alphabet City was home to many struggling artists, musicians, and attracted a bohemian lifestyle; much like the derelict conditions depicted in the hit Broadway show turned movie, Rent.
Today, Alphabet City has architectural proof and other remnants of its colorful past, it is also once again revolving. With the the summer season upon us, I encourage you to explore this culturally rich neighborhood, and allow me to enlighten you to one hidden gem.
What sits on the corner of 11th and Avenue B is a restaurant set with gold flatware, adorned with French salon mirrors, a sake list, and a secret garden patio tucked away at the end of a long intriguing hallway. At Kingsley, Chef and Co-owner Roxanne Spruance embodies the spirit of the Renaissance.
“I could never ask someone to do something, if I could not do it and do it better.” exclaims Chef Spruance. “That is why I wanted my own restaurant.”
Along with running the kitchen, Chef Spruance writes the wine list, writes the sake list, she designed and built the beautiful jewel toned interior, she plants and tends to the restaurant’s garden, and she butchers whole pigs for the restaurant’s tasting menu.
Oh, did I mention she is only 30 years old?
Chef Roxanne Spruance is a woman whose career is a testimony to hard work and diligence. She is as extraordinary as the food she cooks at Kingsley. A Chicago native, Chef Spruance stepped into the culinary world at the age of 15 as an apprentice in the pastry kitchen of Blackbird Chicago. Her talent and driven personality was immediately recognized. Instead of a formal culinary education, Chef Spruance accepted an offer to play field hockey from Michigan State University. She maintained, and developed her skills in the culinary arts by working for Chefs such as Koran Grievson, Elissa Narrow, Dale Levitski, Shawn McClain, and Christian Delouvier.
In 2010, Chef Spruance decided to advance her culinary career in the big apple, where she became Chef de Partie under Chef Wylie Dufresne at his acclaimed WD-50. She went on to be the Sous Chef for Chef Dan Barber’s Blue Hill Stone Barns, the consulting Chef for Cafe Tallulah, and the Executive Chef for Alison Eighteen. She has been awarded the Snail of Approval from Slow Food New York, given to Chefs with sustainable kitchens, and became a Chopped champion on the Food Network’s series Chopped.
Kingsley, focusing on seasonal, local market American-French cuisine has one goal; being delicious. The menu consists of an interesting juxtaposition of flavors, textures, and aromas. The dining room is neutral, with details on fresh flowers, and accented with touches of gold. Her food is creative, exciting, aesthetically beautiful, and absolutely scrumptious. Chef Spruance makes French classics approachable and fun to eat. Take her roasted bone marrow. Chef Roxanne Spruance offers an etiquette adopted by upper class diners of the 17th century when she serves this dish with an elongated marrow spoon. She offers an air of refinement, but without the pretension. Her roasted bone marrow is accompanied with a sake sherry shot that is meant to be drizzled over the marrow, and shucked back!
The lamb tartar offered for Sunday brunch is a must try. Served with crispy potato chips, as a tartar should be, this dish is a thorough expression of the finesse in Chef Spruance’s self educated culinary technique. To settle your sweet tooth, opt for the classic, and witness where it all began for Chef Spruance – in pastry. When you receive the Popcorn Crème brûlée you will be marveled at the creativity of this deconstructed dessert. It smells like buttered popcorn, it tastes like buttered popcorn, and the caramelized sugar thinly coated over the top cracks like a classic crème brûlée.
Designed for easy comfort and joyful spirits, Kingsley is contributing in revolutionizing a young neighborhood of New York. Kingsley is truly a hidden gem.
190 Avenue B, NYC