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For the Smell of Homemade Bread: French Bakery & Café L'imprimerie opens in Bushwick

“I heard we are the best bakery opposite a White Castle!” jokes Gus Reckel, the owner of the newly opened L’imprimerie (1524 Myrtle Ave) on their Instagram account. The French café and bakery opened on June 1 and it shares the pleasant whines of the elevated M train with the fast food chain.

“We want people to come here for our bread and croissants,” tells us Gus Reckel, referring to the fact that L’imprimerie isn't just a coffee house, but first and foremost, a bakery. You may call him Monsieur Gus, if you'd like. Gus begins work a little before 4AM each day to first finish the pastries which were proofed overnight, then is onto mixing breads with sourdough or preferments from the night before.

The name L’imprimerie is French for “print shop” and the bakery's building used to serve as one, though it hasn't been touched for 60 years. Gus wanted to pay homage to the neighborhood and its history by calling it L’imprimerie. Believe it or not, the building was a bakery in a past life too and, though unused today, its original coal oven still resides in the building’s basement.

“We kept the printing press from the store and called the bakery L’imprimerie!” Gus says. The original printing press is on display in the front of the café.

Opening at 6AM every day, the café helps early risers with their caffeine fix by serving Parlor Coffee from a micro roaster at the Navy Yard at $2.25 a cup. They have also a full service espresso bar using La Marzocco.

A little after 6AM, Gus begins to work on his breads and baguettes while the pastries bake. From then until 11AM, he is proofing, baking, and cooling all the breads and pastries. Though Gus works seven days a week, is up before the sun rises and down when the sun sets, he is an extremely relaxed and friendly human being, happy to assist customers in trying any of his creations.

Gus’ favorite thing to bake is sourdough bread because,“despite being trickier to work with, it develops more texture and flavor,” he says. Every time it tastes a little different since bread making is dependent upon a variety of delicate factors, which Gus says is “the way bakers have been doing bread for thousands of years.” The baguette is made from four ingredients: flour, salt, yeast, and water. Knowing that, the taste of bread has a lot to do with the dedication and hands of its baker.

Some of the flour is milled by Farmer’s Ground, a cooperative located in upstate New York that produces 100% organic flour. Gus makes an effort to maintain the operation as green as possible. Apples come from upstate; milk and yogurt are from Ithaca. If you aren’t vegan, the yogurt is quite the treat in a bowl with homemade almond granola. Its ingredients largely hail from the Park Slope Food Coop.

Prices at L’imprimerie may be tad steep for the area, yet comparing the café to any other spot nearby is almost unfair, pointless, since what Gus is achieving with L’imprimerie extends beyond the definitions of café or coffee house.

The space of L’imprimerie is very airy, I like to point out that though the door is always wide open, the serenity and calmness make you pay no mind to the rattling M train above. Though one of the baristas, Marie Meyer, endearingly told me that she feels like a character in Les Triplettes de Belleville at work whenever the train whizzes past--in a good way.

The bakery portion has glass walls so you can see Gus baking up goods or preparing other savory dishes.  There are six tables in total and several seats at the counter window on either side. The tables aren’t puny like in many coffee shops in the area, but are capable of spreading out on and can even withstand my Dell laptop circa 2008. The customers seem to reflect this peacefulness and all sink into their work, book, or teeth to whatever scrumptious treat was baked that day. Most customers that stay end up staying over an hour.

L’imprimerie offers four types of breads daily: walnut raisin, cereal bread, sourdough, and baguette. The loaves all sell for $7.00, except for the French baguette which is $3.50. There are samples of their bread at the counter top when you order, swooning you into having some aside your coffee.

Instead of buying a whole loaf, L’imprimerie also offers mini personal loaves priced from anywhere between $1.50-$2.00, which are about the size of a small closed fist.

On Fridays they bake Challah and sell the loaf at $10. In the near future, they will offer brioche bread on weekends. All breads and pastries are served on the day they were baked.

As far as pastries goes, L’imprimerie offers almond, chocolate, and the classic French croissant. At $4.50 you can devour escargot, the pastry that swirls like a snail, in raisin, cheese/herb, or pistachio. They also have a poppy seed cake with cream cheese frosting, which is the only baked good that can last for two days. On busy days, they bake more breads and pastries in the afternoon to service the after-work crowd.

Gus suggests relaxing after work with some wine, one of his baguettes, and cheese. Speaking from experience, there is literally no better combination to relax the muscles after an arduous work day. Or maybe you had a perfectly relaxing day: why not put a cherry on it?

Let’s rewind to the cheese. L’imprimerie serves a cheese plate for $9.50. The type of cheese is dependent on their cheesemonger, but brie is more or less a constant of the plate. A stronger cheese they may have would be taleggio and goat, and for milder cheese, young goat and young feta may be offered. The plate is served as a mix of three different kinds of cheese or all the same, with toasted or untoasted choice of bread.

The salmon avocado tartine is another savory option, which comes with chili pepper, olive oil, mustard micro greens, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Or, if you're vegan, nix the salmon and have an avocado tartine!  Quiche is on the menu as well--indulge in bacon and cheese, and tomato/mozzarella/basil.

The only other vegan option is their almond granola, which is also baked in house. You don't even need yogurt, the stuff is totally delectable on its own. As for the gluten-free eaters, L’imprimerie doesn’t offer any gluten free baked goods.

If you visit L'imprimerie regularly, you'll start noticing that their selection is always a little different or tweaked. Like, for example, they had Tartes Fines Aux Pommes a couple weeks ago, and in their first week, they had meat puff pastry pie. Depending on the market, they serve different types of quiche. Sometimes there is a different bread, such as this week's fougasse. As a person who loves mystery, I find it tickling to see what they’ll bake up next.

Projecting a couple months from now, they will be serving their own honey from their beehives atop the roof.

Photo by Gus Reckel of L'imprimerie

Standing on the Manhattan bound Myrtle-Wyckoff M platform, you can see these hives. Their website asks "What's more local than ...ultra local honey from the beehives on the rooftop?" But until the ultra-local bees make their honey, you can enjoy a selection from Andrews Honey, which is also sold at farmers markets around the city. Have it slathered on a slice of bread, or drizzled in the previously mentioned heavenly yogurt and granola.

To round it all out, L’imprimerie closes at 7PM every day. Gus is done proofing and making preferments for the next day around 8PM. Then, he says, “it’s time to go to bed and to do it all over again the next day to deliver the best coffee and pastries to the community!”

This writer strongly encourages all lovers of bread, pastry, and coffee to pop into L'imprimerie and guarantees you'll have a lovely little time.  And lastly: yes, they have WiFi.

Joy = cereal bread + honey + une tasse de café

Photo by Gus Reckel

Seed bread. Hmm.

Ithaca yogurt and almond granola with walnut raisin bread

Ithaca yogurt and almond granola with walnut raisin bread

L'imprimerie is open every day from 6AM to 7PM at 1524 Myrtle Avenue, Bushwick.

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