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Brooklyn Gal

Apparel Insiders: Gotham’s Queen of Retail

 

As the chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s Retail Leasing and Sales Division, Faith Hope Consolo always has the keys to the city.

With her immaculately coiffed blonde hair, chic suits and touch of bling, Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate’s Retail Leasing and Sales Division, is one of the most recognizable figures in the specialized world of retail real estate.

But it’s not only her elegant mien that sets her apart. Consolo, who’s been dubbed the Queen of Retail, plays a prominent role in revitalizing and shaping retail corridors in Manhattan and across the nation. Truly a mover and shaker, she’s been instrumental in facilitating the transformation of neighborhoods such as Times Square and Herald Square into shopping districts and she’s maximized her far-reaching expertise in the realm of luxury goods, too, helping to reignite the glitter and glamour of Madison Avenue’s ‘Golden Mile.’  With an unerring eye, Consolo and her team excel at targeting the right neighborhoods for high-profile companies from around the world, securing leases that benefit landlords and tenants as well as the neighboring stores and communities.

Apparel Insiders recently caught up with Consolo to talk about the go-to shopping neighborhoods in Manhattan and the boroughs and to get the dirt on some of the latest retail trends and emerging areas. Without question, Consolo has her finger on the pulse of New York’s mercurial retail scene.

AI: Soho still seems to be the epicenter of retail with new stores opening left and right. That’s certainly been a trend over the past few years but it seems to be in overdrive! Why is Soho still the retail hot spot and why does it draw so many European companies?
FHC: Soho may once have been a redeveloping area for struggling artists, but that was a long, long time ago. Now, it’s an exceptionally affluent trendy area with an artistic sensibility, making it perfect for European designers. Yet it’s still a neighborhood. It really is the ultimate New York.

AI: What other NYC neighborhoods are ‘on fire’ right now? Are the West Village, Meatpacking District, the Golden Mile, Herald Square and Midtown in the 40s still in demand? Are there any areas that are emerging that might not be on many shoppers’ radar just yet?
FHC:
The [economic] downturn opened opportunities for retailers and brands to come to the marquee streets that were unaffordable before — Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue — and has helped to expand retail near Herald Square and Times Square. With those areas now pretty full up, we are seeing interest returning to the Meatpacking, particularly as the Highline is expanding, and to some of the side streets near the prime boulevards. Continue to keep an eye on Harlem as the residential development continues.

AI: What other NYC neighborhoods are ‘on fire’ right now? Are the West Village, Meatpacking District, the Golden Mile, Herald Square and Midtown in the 40s still in demand? Are there any areas that are emerging that might not be on many shoppers’ radar just yet?
FHC: The [economic] downturn opened opportunities for retailers and brands to come to the marquee streets that were unaffordable before — Madison Avenue, Fifth Avenue — and has helped to expand retail near Herald Square and Times Square. With those areas now pretty full up, we are seeing interest returning to the Meatpacking, particularly as the Highline is expanding, and to some of the side streets near the prime boulevards. Continue to keep an eye on Harlem as the residential development continues.

AI: Ten years ago the shopping center and/or mall was the antithesis of the New York City shopping experience but that’s no longer the case thanks to destinations like the Time Warner Center and Columbus Square, a unique center of sorts that seems to be expanding. And then, of course, we have Hudson Yards to look forward to in 2017. Any theories as to why customers and retailers are more receptive to that type of shopping environment?
FHC: With Time Warner, the urban mall was done right for the first time in New York City — do not underestimate the importance of the Whole Foods in that complex. It essentially is the dining room for a good chunk of that neighborhood. That has gotten New Yorkers more accustomed to the format. Retailers, of course, want to be around successful neighbors, and Hudson Yards will have the advantage of parking fields that will be familiar to them.

AI: Why did the mixed-use Limelight Marketplace fail to meet expectations? True, Todd English’s new Cross Bar restaurant just opened there and Grimaldi’s and Cana Wine Bar will remain on board, but the independent apparel and accessories vendors are gone or leaving. According to recent press reports, owner Jack Menashe now plans to convert the three-floor Gothic-Revival church into a single department store called Limelight, slated to open in September.
FHC: Limelight was an interesting experiment, but its location may have been a challenge. It’s not close enough to the tourism centers to draw out-of-towners regularly, and mostly just drew from those people living or working in the area. People will come to a different neighborhood for a nightclub, but not necessarily for unusual shopping — at least not often enough for it to be successful. And without major, major names to draw the interest, it was going to be tough, especially during an economic recovery.

AI: Has the expansion of the Highline been a boost to retailers’ business and their plans for the future?
FHC: Any time you build a place where people want to gather, retail will eventually follow. It just takes time, patience and the help of a good negotiator! So of course, the Highline will help boost retail in the area — it already has in parts of Meatpacking.

AI: Popular contemporary brands are also opening stores with greater frequency. Milly and Joie, for instance, both opened this spring. Do you see that trend continuing going forward?
FHC: Absolutely. Opening its own stores is a tried-and-true way for a brand to control the presentation of its product and to show its full line of goods. That’s how you become a world-class name.

AI: Fall is always one of the most thrilling seasons for shoppers around the city. What are some of the most exciting retail openings coming up for the fall season?
FHC: Uniqlo on Fifth Avenue, of course, will be literally the biggest opening. Anthropologie will debut a huge two-level store on the Upper East Side. Designers relocating to or opening new stores in Soho include Stella McCartney, YSL, Carlos Campos, and Balenciaga. It’s busy and getting busier!

AI: On the Brooklyn front do you know of any retailers that are planning on opening in the vicinity of the controversial Atlantic Yards development, which also includes the sports venue Barclays Center? Does Atlantic Yards present an opportunity for retailers? Will those retailers help change the character of Downtown Brooklyn?
FHC: There are rumors of a Dave & Busters — or a similar concept — to come to the area. That would be perfect given the Barclays Center — people attending an event need somewhere to dine/be entertained, as do the many commuters who go through the subway and LIRR stations at the site.  Rent increases will drive more trendy shops. Already, a number of boutiques are moving from Soho to Brooklyn. Given the presence of Barneys Co-Op and Trader Joe’s not too far away, I wouldn’t be surprised to see much more upscale shopping near the project. Atlantic Yards will complement and continue what’s already going on in the area: increasingly upscale shops and restaurants that match the pricey residences in Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill.

AI: If you could change one thing about doing business in the retail end of the apparel industry, what would it be?
FHC: Anyone who’s hired someone who’s not Prudential Douglas Elliman? Seriously, there isn’t much I would change. You always want tenants and landlords with reasonable expectations and the ability to compromise to find the best deal. I want even more globalization. But overall this business runs well.

For more information about Faith Hope Consolo, go to www.faith-consolo.com.

-Randi Gollin

 

 

 

Edible Brooklyn| Spring 2011

Mastering the Art of Mexican Cooking

A Park Slope chef from Mexico City has penned a Latin answer to the Julia Child classic.

By Randi Gollin

It’s not that Roberto Santibañez aspires to be a 21st-century Julia Child—Julie Powell of Julie & Julia fame more or less has that ground covered. But with his just-released cookbook, Truly Mexican (John Wiley & Sons), the highly acclaimed chef/owner of Park Slope’s popular restaurant Fonda hopes to channel what Child did for French cuisine and eliminate the intimidation factor that often stands between American home cooks and great Mexican fare.

Child led that charge by hoisting beehived and be-Jelloed homemakers over cultural hurdles with her own culinary bible, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Correspondingly, Santibañez, who hails from Mexico City, aims for his vivid tome to educate enthusiasts on how to cook authentic carnitas, enchiladas, tostadas and taquitos—all illuminated by his lessons on authentic, transcendent sauces. Instead of veering into well-trod topics like Mexico’s diverse regional cuisines and rich history, covered by the influential likes of Diana Kennedy and Rick Bayless, he focuses on the salsas, guacamoles, adobes, moles and pipiánes that form the backbone of Mexican flavors, offering step-by-step directives that are certain to vanquish that no-can-do mindset and replace it with a hearty sí se puede!

In much the same spirit as that famous big-boned dame, Santibañez aims to infuse a soupçon of much-needed levity into the making of a truly Mexican meal. Fittingly, he credits his fascination with Child in equal measure to her endearing flaws and accomplishments. He admires the way she taught America tech niques for dishes they loved to eat, but didn’t know how to cook.“She did so beautifully, saying ‘don’t be scared—grab the chicken and cook it this way.’ And she sometimes got it wrong and she would laugh about it—it was fantastic.”

Coincidentally, Santibañez also trained at the Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, the storied culinary school where the indomitable icon herself first embraced the joys of cooking à la française, whisking her way into epicurean history. He found many French cooking methods to be a revelation, worlds away from those he grew up watching over his grandmother’s shoulder as she stirred her cazuela. He was amazed to learn that the addition or subtraction of a few ingredients could convert one so-called Mother sauce, say, béarnaise, into a Maltese.

In Truly Mexican, Santibañez hands readers the Mother-sauce keys to the cuisine of his homeland. Instead of scattering recipes for, say, moles, throughout the book, he presents them together—and reveals—eureka!—how alike they can be. “I’m just trying to [show] people, oh my God, the basic techniques give you all these possibilities,” he explains. “We Mexicans have made it seem, because of our historical

facts and geographical diversity, much more complicated than it really is. Once you understand it, it’s so much simpler.”

Brooklynite bookmaster J. J. Goode, who’s currently collaborating on cookbooks with such culinary nobility as April Bloomfield, Zak Pelaccio and Aarón Sanchez, himself took on the project as a Mexican cooking neophyte, but came away with a new skill set, inhibitions long forgotten. “Mexican food is so popular, but people still do not cook it at home at all. And it’s really, really doable,” he insists. “I’d say it’s even easier than French food, even peasant French food—easier than beef Bourguignon, for sure.”

Goode joined Santibañez and Shelley Wiseman, the chef ’s longtime friend and the book’s recipe developer, countless times in one or the other’s home kitchen, and that’s where the knowledge in Santibañez’s head and hands literally got translated onto the page. “You get the best information when you’re cooking with someone,” says Goode. “Roberto’s very laid-back in the kitchen, and Shelley has her stopwatch and she’s saying, ‘Roberto, when did you add the water?’ He’s like, ‘I don’t know, Shelley, I just added it.’ It was like Abbott and Costello,” he laughs. “But it’s great to have that precision. You know chefs—‘it’s done when it’s done.’ And home cooks are like, ‘OK, what the hell does that mean?’”

Such exactitude has its rewards, as evidenced in recipes like “Pork in Adobo D.F.” (an abbreviation for Distrito Federal, or Mexico City). The five-ingredient adobo—a boldly flavored, blender-whirred puree of dried chiles, garlic, spices and vinegar—is laced with cinnamon, preferably canela (Mexican cinnamon), and as the pork shoulder chunks simmer, the sauce becomes spectacularly silky.

“I always speak about the platform of flavors, colors, textures that make cuisines what they are,” explains Santibañez. “We use many similar ingredients to China and India, but our food tastes distinct.” Mexicans, he points out, roast tomatoes, garlic and tomatillos, without one drop of oil, in the toaster oven or pan, until charred. And they toast chiles on a griddle, comal or heavy skillet, until blistered—core precepts passed down through the generations. “All these little factors give us these flavors that are particularly Mexican.”

Goode found such fundamentals an eye-opener—and exceptionally easy to master in his own kitchen. “I make stuff all the time now and it’s amazing how good it can turn out!” he raves, sounding a little surprised himself.

Somewhere up in food heaven, Julia Child must be smiling.

(Click on link to see story on Edible Brooklyn’s site. BOOKlyn | Spring 2011)

 

The Washington Post – The Impulsive Traveler: A Vermont town straight out of Currier & Ives

On weekends when my husband and I feel the need to leave our urban lives behind for a spell, we drive about four hours from Brooklyn, N.Y., to southern Vermont, where we’re greeted by my mother-in-law and her handsome golden-haired dog. Luckily for us, she owns a lovely vacation home in a rambling residential community called Chimney Hill, just a short drive from the quaint village of Wilmington. Come holiday weekends, when the guest ranks quadruple, we rent a house next door and enjoy the best of both worlds: family togetherness and a dose of privacy.

On a recent visit, after lolling in front of her wood-burning stove and taking a stroll through the woodsy, secluded Chimney Hill roads (eyes wide open for errant black bears), I joined the family pack and ventured, as tradition dictates, into town to bop around the inviting boutiques and galleries.

Winter, spring, summer and fall, the historic district on (and off) Wilmington’s West Main Street never loses its magical aura. Beautifully preserved landmarks include the cedar-shingled Crafts Inn, which once welcomed such famous guests as President William Howard Taft, and adjacent Memorial Hall, where we saw folk singer Odetta perform a few years ago. Both built by architect Stanford White in 1902, they evoke a bygone era. When it snows, the white-blanketed streetscape feels like a Currier & Ives print sprung to life, and it’s easy to imagine that the Yankees of yore still inhabit the late-Colonial and Colonial Revival buildings.

“There’s a warm, classic New England feel to the downtown area,” says Laura Sibilia, executive director of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, noting that village zoning has put the kibosh on big-box commercialization, so the town is historically intact. And it’s not uncommon in the winter, she says, to see people snowshoeing or skating on the Deerfield River, which runs through town.

Another local sight: Dot’s, a retro-perfect neon-signed diner in a former Wilmington post office building dating back to 1832. “Even on a cold January morning, there’s a line out the door with people waiting for their Berry Berry pancakes – with good reason,” says Sibilia. When we join the throngs, I order spicy Cajun scrambled eggs, with a pile of homemade sunflower cracked-wheat toast. That bread, manager Mitch Soskin tells me, is as popular as those mixed berry flapjacks and the blue-plate specials served at dinnertime.

Such affection for the reassuringly familiar also extends to the Anchor Seafood restaurant, which burned to the ground a year ago on Martin Luther King Day weekend. The new, historically correct incarnation, which opened on Oct. 21, mirrors the 1850s original and fits right in with its venerable neighbors. “When you look at it from the outside it’s almost like it was never gone,” says owner Susan Lawrence. She says that business has been brisk since it rose again, and the former menu remains unaltered. “Our customers would probably have our head if we changed things up on them,” she explained.

Farther down the street, I poke into a restored and repurposed church that now houses the Young & Constantin Gallery. Proprietor Liz Wheeler features mostly local and regional artists, showcasing everything from wooden kaleidoscopes to New England landscapes in the airy two-story space. The work is arresting and the white clapboard setting equally so.

I detect a buoyancy in the air as I make my customary trek from the gallery to Manyu’s, a fashionable women’s boutique with a city edge, and Quaigh Design Centre, renowned for its Scottish capes, to the Incurable Romantic, a historic white house bursting with silk flowers, stylish women’s wear, sparkly jewelry and intoxicating lotions, and to Bartleby’s Books, teeming with browsers. “I think the downtown here, the village, is feeling reasonably vibrant,” muses Lisa Sullivan, proprietor of Bartleby’s, president of the Chamber of Commerce and owner of the Book Cellar in Brattleboro, about 20 miles away. “When the Anchor burned down it was ‘Uh-oh, is that going to come back?’ and it did. There are a number of restaurants to go to and a number of unique little shops. I think that travelers like that little piece of authenticity.”

Sullivan says that she has seen a 15 percent uptick in business since moving into more prominent West Main Street quarters last year. With tables and chairs scattered about and shelves appealingly crammed with such bestsellers as David Sedaris’s “Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk” and Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” the low-ceilinged digs exude a cozy air that’s catnip to book junkies like me. Lending local flavor: a wealth of titles from Vermont-based authors, including Archer Mayor, who pens a popular detective series, and books such as Jeremy K. Davis’s newly released “The Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont,” which appeal to the winter sports folks who swarm the town between alpine adventures.

The big-mountain pleasures of Mount Snow, about seven miles north in the Green Mountain National Forest, are of course close at hand. Skiers and snowboarders whoosh down what Vinnie Lewis, Mount Snow’s events and public relations manager, calls “the best snow surface possible,” the result of $10 million in fan guns – state-of-the-art snowmaking technology – installed over the past three years. Then there’s Adams Family Farm in Wilmington, with traditional sleigh rides pulled by Belgian draft horses, and a skating rink at the handsome Hermitage Inn in nearby West Dover.

My snow sport of choice: tubing down the sloping hill in front of the White House Inn, a picturesque, amenity-laden 16-room property that sits right outside downtown. “We have the best tubing hill in southern Vermont,” maintains owner Stacey Tabor. Though it’s a bit of a nail-biter, I find the ride to the foot of the incline an exhilarating rush, and the hike back up a workout for the hamstrings.

Such exertion calls for a reward, and the recently renovated inn offers many, including rejuvenating spa treatments, cocktails at the cozy tavern’s new mahogany bar beside the wood-burning fireplace and a just-launched game room.

Plenty more reasons for this city mouse to return to Wilmington – again and again.

 

Fairmont Hotels Magazine – Bermuda story – Winter 2011

Afternoon tea in Bermuda perfectly encapsulates the entire vibe of this island. A pot of Earl Grey and a shrimp and watercress-stu!ed mini-croissant, plus a rum scone with Devonshire clotted cream and lime jam: everything is properly British – yet with a distinct island accent.

Though Bermuda’s stormy beginnings are rife with stories of treasure-laden galleons and plundering pirates, civilized serenity reigns here today, as evidenced by its neat lines of colonial cottages in sherbet shades overlooking the crystalline Atlantic. The 54 square-kilometer (21-square-mile) archipelago is the oldest of the British overseas territories. Yet still, like the Bermudian businessmen I see everywhere wearing smart blazers with colorful knee-socks and the country’s namesake shorts, beneath its orderly Anglo-Saxon-isms, the maverick origins of this place are ever present.

After nibbling on sweets and savories, I take in the sights of the capital city, where my teatime oasis, the resplendent Fairmont Hamilton Princess hotel, is situated. The bustling capital is flush with restaurants and boutiques. Mopeds zip by and cruise ships rest in the ferry terminal. The venerable hotel, celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, is a beloved fixture of this urban environment. The “Pink Palace,” as it’s known locally, was bestowed its offcial moniker in honor of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise, who had extolled the glories of Bermuda as a kind of paradise. True to form, The Fairmont Hamilton Princess has its own dishy history. During World War II, it was intelligence HQ for allied secret agents and served as temporary home to a real-life Commander Bond (reportedly the basis for Ian Fleming’s rogue agent 007).

As the lazy afternoon melts into evening, teatime gives way to happy hour. Now I find those Bermuda-clad %nanciers in relaxation-mode, mingling with women in breezy casual-chic attire while children scamper on the lawn. The live band lets loose with Fleetwood Mac and Coldplay covers, and I get into the local sway, ordering a Dark ’n’ Stormy, the island signature made with Gosling’s Black Seal Rum and Stormy Ginger Beer. Settling into a seat on the terrace, I cap off the evening by dreamily watching boats breeze past Hamilton Harbour.

The feeling of Bermudian intrigue resonates with me again the next day as I explore the sprawling Fairmont Southampton, a few parishes and an entire mindset away from Hamilton. The country resort, set on the island’s highest point, overlooks the pink-sand idyll known as the South Shore. Here, I join 11th-generation Bermudian Peter Frith and his wife, Chrissy, on the outdoor terrace of the Ocean Club, where we hoist signature Ocean-tinis (vodka, rum and vibrant blue Hpnotiq liqueur). My host (who happens to be the resort’s former director of sales) is descended from legendary seafarers: Christopher Carter, one of two Brits who settled in Bermuda after the shipwreck of their vessel, the Sea Venture, off the east coast in 1609 and Hezekiah Frith, a plucky privateer. “That’s like a legal pirate,” winks Frith naughtily. “The King of England gave them permission to raid any ship with which they were at war.”

My own treasure arrives on a plate: harissa-spiked tuna tartare, and rockfish, in a complex kaffir lime leaf sauce, revealing the worldly palate of Sanjay Leeme, senior chef de partie, whose résumé includes a stint working with a French master chef.

Tableside, the Sri Lankan talent confides that he uses local catch whenever possible and “mixes Asian flavors into European cuisine.” Each bite is as transcendent as the view of towering black rocks over azure water.

By day, the seascape is just as mesmerizing. As I splash along Horseshoe Bay Beach, near the Fairmont Beach Club, the ocean, like the Miles Davis classic, is a harmony of blue in green. I saunter along the pinkish, powdery sand of one of the world’s most photographed coastlines, then up the dunes, encountering dramatic coves that create pockets of privacy dotted with sun worshippers and shutterbugs. This beach reminds me of the dreamy interlude I enjoyed at the luxe Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Southampton: the smooth stones used in my hot-stone massage were black like the island rock; the rose- and cedar-scented oil reminiscent of Bermuda’s heady flora. A facial with sea algae and the invigorating salt used in a body scrub are both inspired by this sea and this air. A bikini-clad adventuress ambles atop a striated black boulder, waving her arms. She’s the queen of the world, for a moment in time.

Another sensory encounter awaits in the Town of St. George, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. George’s parish. The town crier is off duty as I walk past King’s Square and follow the narrow, cobblestone streets, past storybook houses, to Stewart Hall. Here I find The Bermuda Perfumery, which has been making its own distinctive fragrances under the Lili Bermuda brand since 1928.

Isabelle Ramsay-Brackstone, the French-Canadian owner and master perfumer, leads me to the maceration room, where essential oils commingle in enormous bottles, then to an atmospheric, cedar-beamed room boasting perfume-making paraphernalia from bygone eras and jars stu!ed with orrisroot, oak moss and musk seeds. As I sniff paper blotters infused with single notes, Ramsay-Brackstone explains how she strives to capture the island’s “lush greeneries and flowers, the ocean, the fruits,the wind, the sand and the sun” in her artisan fragrances. One of her latest is South Water, a coconut milk, sea salt and juicy guava blend. “I call it Liquid Bermuda because to me it smells like the beach. It’s incredibly sultry and flirty.”

I dab it on my wrist; like Bermuda itself – from its blush-hued beaches to its unconventional cuisine – it’s perfection, with just a hint of wild abandon.


 

Edible Brooklyn| Winter 2010 – Like Mom Used to Make

Virginia Dobles never regarded her mother, homemaker Patsy Roberts, as a professional role model. But after Dobles lost her job last year, she spent two weeks soul-searching, mostly under the bedcovers in her Park Slope apartment, and had a revelation.

With her 30-year advertising career kaput, Dobles, 53, wondered whether baking—always her mother’s passion—might hold the key to her happiness, too. “She was a real mom’s mom. Everyone in the neighborhood used to get a tin of her cookies for their birthday—everyone. That she became my inspiration sounds hokey, but it’s true.”

Dobles mixed up the butter cookies that had made Patsy, now 84, a local legend decades earlier in Rockaway Beach, Queens, and a nebulous plan took shape: Why not distribute bundles to 50 friends for Thanksgiving and let kismet take its course? Dobles’s husband, Cristian, a former ad agency creative director, whipped up retro-cute labels featuring Patsy in her prime with a fitting tagline—“Sweetness is the main ingredient”—and Patsy’s Cookies took flight.

Friends told friends about the Dobles’s prettily packaged cookies and they sold 500 boxes for Christmas. Soon they were selling three varieties—cookie-pressed butter cookies, dusted with sugar crystals; chocolate-chip butter; and walnut and maple syrup—to Union Market and Back to the Land in Park Slope and the Blue Bungalow in Rockaway Beach, even the Garden of Eden Gourmet Market in New Jersey.

Dobles believes the “sense memory” resonates with customers. At the couple’s in-store samplings, shoppers take a bite and wax nostalgic about their own mother or grandmother’s buttery renditions. She says some even well up.

These days the Dobles’s sprawling Slope apartment is “corporate headquarters,” while their cookies—along with brownies and walnut crumb cakes—are baked in a certified kitchen in Bedford- Stuyvesant. Dobles substitutes real vanilla for Patsy’s cheap stuff, chops nuts in a Cuisinart instead of, ahem, a meat grinder and mixes dough in a KitchenAid stand mixer. “My mother did it like this,” she says, stirringan imaginary bowl.

The resultant cookies are lighter, but Patsy Roberts wholeheartedly approves. “The first time I showed her the packaging with her face on it,” recalls Dobles, “she said ‘Now I feel like I have a legacy’ and it made me so proud.”

patsysbuttercookies.com

—RG