[Local 111]
The Chronogram, June 21, 2007

Food and Function
by Pauline Uchmanowicz and photographs by Jennifer May

Local 111 Salad

The main entrance opens onto a foyer refurbished in local black walnut and including a built-in bench. Plush, burnt-orange drapes along the far wall provide a dash of glamour. The opposite-facing walls are graced by large windows; installed across one, as if by Christo, a billowy scrim creates a grid between antechamber and dining room.

Accessed across a door-less threshold, a sense of expansiveness permeates the cozy central eating area, its stone-ground, earth-colored interior rising 13 feet. A discretely placed mirror provides the illusion of additional space while a ceiling fan, salvaged from the service station, heightens the effects of minimalist decor. Buffed and sprayed to achieve a yellow-tinted, marble-like finish and now featuring a radiant heating system, poured-concrete floors have replaced the grease pits. Bounded by a garage door, a row of dark leather banquettes forms an agreeable sightline along a far wall, complementing a singular artwork that stretches its length. Commissioned by Gatter and Dannis to capture the spirit of the surrounding rural landscape, The Promise of Light (2006), an oil painting by Great Barrington, Massachusetts, artist Gabrielle Senza, depicts a pastoral view looking north from Craryville, New York.

Made of mixed materials that evoke the industrial heritage of Philmont and crowned by a slotted wine rack spangled with miniature luminaries, the bar centers and unifies the main room. "I wanted something more rugged for the bar," says Gatter, who hired a local steelworker to fabricate its frame and a Hillsdale, New York, woodworker to craft walnut and plywood into the top and underside, outfitting it with a foot rail. Edged in steel, square wooden tables elsewhere in the dining room repeat the bar's patterning. Behind where a server would stand, a diner-style analogue clock floats on a backboard above a countertop where a chrome espresso machine rests like a combine in the garden.

Projecting an inviting ambiance, the ingenuity of the building's redesign is reinforced by Chef Wurth's inventively prepared, less-is-more food. A graduate of the Restaurant School in Philadelphia during a time when cooking was considered a trade skill as much as a culinary art, he nevertheless set out to elevate basic technique to fine craft, seeking an inspired and elegant, yet straightforward form. In 1986, Wurth found work in a small, open-kitchen Philadelphia restaurant that served seasonal local food. He became an advocate of Alice Waters-style unfussy, ingredient-driven recipes, also finding inspiration in provincial French and Italian dishes.

Wurth landed in the Big Apple in 1990, and for the next decad worked as sous chef at Savoy. "They were getting almost all their produce from green markets supplied by growers from up here," he recalls, which induced him to move nearer to the original source. Twin principles presently define his cooking philosophy at Local 111: "Let the ingredient guide you; it will tell you what to do. Get to know your local farmers and trust that they are doing right by their animals and fields." Grateful for regular deliveries from neighboring Threshold Farm, and supplemented by an expanding roster of regional purveyors, Wurth likewise consults his CIA-trained sous chef, Brian Williams, formerly of Aubergine in Hillsdale, in protean menu planning. He also benefits from contemporary food writing, lately Rogers Gray Italian Country Cookbook.

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