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Gastronomie 491 Brings Euro-style Gourmet Treats (and Cheese!) to the UWS

May 20, 2012

New York may be the capital of takeout, but alternating nights of Chinese and pizza after late nights at work can start to crush both your soul and your summer diet plan. Most supermarkets offer prepared foods that are meant to make you feel like you’ve whipped up a home-cooked dinner. But unless you have a Whole Foods nearby, the quality is disappointing more often than not.

When I lived in Paris, my paltry intern salary mostly meant pasta on a nightly basis, but every now and then Frenchie and I would splurge on treats from the local traiteurs and epiceries, or gourmet take-out shops. For one Christmas dinner en amoureux, rather than cook or eat out, we headed over to the market at Galeries Lafayette, and indulged in a feast of Moroccan tagines, veggies, couscous and more that we heated up at home.

Gastronomie 491 on the Upper West Side, recently opened by a neighborhood foodie, makes fine dining at home easier for harried New Yorkers. Though there’s no shortage of specialty food shops in this part of town, Gastronomie 491 offers a twist with a European-style market/cafe atmosphere where an espresso sipped at the counter is not only allowed, but encouraged. In addition to prepared foods ranging from a cauliflower gratin to colorful Mediterranean salads, the cafe boasts a thoughtful cheese selection, cured meats, bread from all the star bakers in Gotham (including bagels from Montreal!), and shelves stocked with spices, olive oils, teas and more imported from all corners of Europe.

A take-out menu features an array of creative pan bagnats and paninis – including a turkey/apple/cheddar combo or a Turkish chicken salad – that would be perfect Central Park fare.  Or you can snag one of the tables at the back of the shop, and choose from more complex concoctions from chef Steven Gutterman.

For our initial trip, we headed straight to the cheese counter, where an impressive selection curated by Martin Johnson of The Joy of Cheese  awaited us. Frenchie quickly took charge as I apparently have no credibility when it comes to choosing cheese.

Cheese galore at Gastronomie 491

There are a number of good cheese purveyors in NY – I like Artisanal or Murrays, and Whole Foods will do in a pinch – but there’s always room for more good cheese in my book. Plus, when we saddled up to the counter and brazenly asked to taste test 4 plus cheeses (that’s how we roll), they didn’t bat an eye. I almost felt like I was back at Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco, where we’d spend hours tasting (and leave with pounds and pounds of cheese).

Our final bounty: a tomme crayeuse, a manchego, one more I can’t remember, and something super oozy and stinky that needed its own container

I also lingered way too long at the desserts counter that draws you in as soon as you enter. Tartes au citron in three sizes was enough to get my attention, but I started swooning when I saw the gorgeous Richart chocolates from Paris and adorable miniature macarons in every color and flavor.

Richart chocolates and macrons from France

Gastronomie 491 has all the makings for a neighborhood mainstay – so I hope it sticks! Personally, I can’t wait to make it a pre-park stop this summer, a fuss-free lunch spot with girlfriends or even an easy dinner option on a weeknight. And when La Duree feels like too much of a hassle (i.e. always) and I need a macaron fix, you can bet I’ll be headed back for a box of minis.

Gastronomie 491
491 Columbus Avenue, between 84th and 85th Streets
New York, NY

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