Those long of tooth and geologic of mind might thank the Wisconsin glaciation for Brooklyn’s incandescent and enduring influence on the way we eat today. Twenty thousand years ago, an ice sheet charging across the country like a slow-mo bat-outta-hell carved out the East River, separating the island of Manhattan from the land mass of Brooklyn in such a way that the estuary was spannable years later by a series of bridges and tunnels. Spanned it was—in 1883, 1903 and 1909—and tunneled under too, most saliently in 1924 with the 14th street tunnel through which the L train runs, such that by the turn of the 21st century, Brooklyn rested in an equilibrium between remote and accessible, tilled and untilled, potential and kinetic energy. Thus did it become the fertile crescent for American restaurants.
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In the last fifteen years, with the bell curve bulging in the early- to mid-aughts, there was nowhere more influential than Kings County when it came to reimagining what the American restaurant could be. The confluence of time and place in the borough’s kitchens created the culinary equivalent of the Swinging 60’s. Every restaurant was Sgt. Peppers or Dark Side of the Moon or Pet Sounds. The key, then as now and as Virginia Woolf knew back in 1929, was a room of one’s own. In Brooklyn, this was the happy after-effects of the ice age which gave space to the imaginative faculties of its chefs to work from the inside out, rather than the outside in.