For many shoppers, the frozen food aisle is the place to go for cheap TV dinners and boxed pizzas, to be reheated on nights when the effort to cook or go out is too great. But at Babeth’s Feast, frozen food is given a gourmet makeover. In fact, the store pretty much only sells frozen foods, for the most part. The Upper East Side location opened about a month ago and is essentially one big frozen food aisle–but don’t expect to find any Stouffer’s microwavable meals lining the walls. Spinach and goat cheese quiche, bacon-wrapped scallops, and lobster wellington are just a some of the available options that require nothing more than a little time in the oven to prepare.
The concept for Babeth’s Feast was born in Paris, where company founder Elisabeth de Kergorlay lived for an extended period. Ms. de Kergorlay found that the city’s high-quality frozen food offered a great way to feed guests without the time or hassle of cooking a whole meal. But upon moving to New York, she couldn’t find any store with frozen food elevated to nearly the same level. Thus Babeth’s Feast began as an online distributer of gourmet frozen food from local and international producers, and some of Ms. de Kergorlay’s own recipes, all with a decidedly French emphasis. Even Babeth’s logo color and font is reminiscent of that of Picard, the main frozen food store in France.
The new 3rd Avenue store is divided into sections for hors d’oeuvres, side dishes, main courses, sauces, meat and fish, and dessert, making it straightforward to assemble a complete meal. Some of the more unexpected offerings we saw included cooked octopus tentacles and duck hot dogs.
Not all the food is frozen either. There is a small display dedicated to dry pantry goods, almost all of which were in French packaging. The prices were cheaper than the lavishly named food might suggest. Fifteen pieces of spanakopita costs $10.99 and a box of blanquette de veau meant to serve 4-5 people comes out to $25.99.
Some of Babeth’s more unusual fare
In case you’re skeptical that a frozen meal could ever taste gourmet, an in-store full service kitchen prepares free samples of the stores offerings. We were able to try a toasted almond croissant and coq au vin, both of which definitely beat anything we’ve had out of a Swanson frozen dinner. Make sure to stop by and try for yourself in store’s location at 1422 3rd Avenue between 80th and 81st.
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