Sandwiched between Red Hook and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, about a 10-minute walk west from the heavy foot traffic of Smith Street and a 5-minute walk south from the quiet grit and chic of Van Brunt Street, exists a tiny stretch of land poised for its renaissance. The Columbia Street Waterfront District is an eclectic 22-block enclave of dockworkers, artists, young families, older families, small business owners, and a healthy number of community gardens to sit with a book and pass the time in. Last summer, it seemed only natural for Orchard, a locally-sourced and seasonal restaurant with a focus on food, culture, and design to plant its fruit trees on the quiet but rising star block, Columbia Street.
Orchard’s menu is “an American menu with Russian influences” and is written on the back wall (and this one door) with chalk because it is constantly evolving.
Olga Solovyeva and Julie Solovyeva are the mother-daughter team, respectively, behind Orchard. Julie, who was born in Kazakhstan and lived in Russia before moving to New York in 1998 with her parents, spent years studying art history and learning from former Chez Panisse pastry chef, Claire Ptak, at her small bakery in East London. “The idea and inspiration for Orchard definitely came from London where you could get a good cup of coffee in the morning and, at night, a good glass of wine,” she says. While Olga works hard at preparing all of the delicious meals in the kitchen, Julie’s focus is on organizing events and creative for the restaurant, such as setting up rotating exhibitions of local artists.
All of the furniture in the restaurant, including the tables, coffee bar and stools, was built by a local woodworker using reclaimed wood from a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. “We wanted everything to be clean and light because the space becomes quite dark once you move away from those front windows,” says Julie.
The restaurant focuses on an integrated, wholesome approach to dining that looks to celebrate both community and the slow-food movement. Olga has made it her business to serve up a palatable array of vegetarian and vegan dishes (in addition to meat!). Produce is sourced from Alex’s Tomato Farm in Sprakers, NY; eggs and dairy are sourced from the Hudson Valley Farms in Highland, NY; cheeses are sourced from Cato Corner Farm in Colchester, CT; grains and bean flours are sourced from Cayuga Pure Organics in Brooktondale, NY.
There’s a natural symbiosis between art and food, and it’s clear that Orchard believes art can bring another dimension to the culinary experience, even if just to ignite conversation over a shared plate of Siberian dumplings. Currently, they are featuring the sculptural objects and ceramic work of Sabina Magnus, a Brooklyn-based artist with studio space at Clayworks on Columbia, a full-service Clay studio located just a couple of blocks away from Orchard. Sabina’s work will be on display at Orchard through April 26th.
The coffee baristas at Orchard were trained by Kings Coffee Roasters, a South Brooklyn coffee company that sells beans and brews espresso out of a 300 square foot open garage right around the corner from the restaurant. Dominic Palastro, owner of Kings Coffee, is “very supportive of us featuring single origin coffees and helps source from various regions and farms. He roasts it especially for us.”
Much of Orchard’s menu incorporates honey as an ingredient. Alan Tremblay, a life-long beekeeper and the owner of Tremblay Apiaries in Van Etten, NY, supplies Orchard with a gorgeous variety of flavors. “Their honey is a wonderful reflection of the land and the flowers that grow there,” says Julie. “What’s great is that the second batch will always be different.”
Orchard’s baked goods are reason enough to stop in and pay a visit. Here, Julie shows off her mother’s homemade beet cupcakes with beet cream cheese icing.