In our Ask a Shopkeeper series, we tap the coolest store owners we know for a tour of their space and to ask them what items are trending right now—and beyond. For this installment, Katherine Lewin—the former editorial director of restaurants at The Infatuation—gives us the scoop on Big Night, her just-opened Greenpoint, Brooklyn, shop that’s dedicated to dining essentials in all of their forms—everything from specialty cheeses and conservas to the pieces you’ll need to serve them beautifully.
How did Big Night come to be?
I’ve been hosting a lot over the past six years, and I always wished there was a place where I could pick up everything I needed, both the food and the serving pieces. The shop combines my two career lives and loves. In my past life at the Infatuation, I spent a lot of time in restaurants and around food. And then also in my life before that, I was in retail merchandising at J.Crew. So the store is a marriage of the food side of my life and the retail/shopping/product side of my life.
Did you host an especially memorable event that helped spark Big Night?
On one side of the spectrum, my husband and I have a tradition of hosting an event called the Ragu Rivalry, which is just this ridiculous thing where we cook competing pastas and then force our friends to basically score them. Then on the other end, there’s one party that comes to mind that was truly just a massive wine tasting we had with takeout pizza. It was one of those nights where it was a really interesting combination of people—some knew one another, some didn’t—but by the end, we were all dancing.
What was the inspiration for the store’s design?
I wanted it to feel really happy and joyful and welcoming and easy and relaxed, like you’re walking into someone’s apartment. So there’s this open pantry and then what we’re calling an open kitchen, which is at the back of the shop. It’s a place where you might walk over and pick up some beautiful sponges or hand soap or dish towels, or you might grab the perfect bowl for your pasta or glass for your wine—right above you, as you would in your own kitchen. And then there’s a long dining table that runs throughout the space. That is where I really wanted to make it look like a dream dinner party table.
What is your favorite design detail of the space?
Essentially the whole process was so, so special. I worked with a close friend of mine, Erica Padgett of Decorum Design + Build. I love the incorporation of Big Night Red, as we’re calling it, our signature red-orangey color, and our lighting fixture—which sometimes I just stare at for a moment of joy and calm. I love it so, so, so much. It was made by Trueing, and it’s glass chain links with a globe light at the bottom.
Do you have any ingenious hosting hacks?
Yes! Sometimes a snack table is even better than a dinner table. It’s especially great for any kind of party where maybe everyone isn’t already best friends. It allows people to mingle around a common place—food is always a great conduit for conversation.
Any tried-and-true entertaining rules?
Always take your cheeses out of the fridge for at least an hour before serving. I want to get this tattooed on my arm. The flavors come out as they warm to room temperature. And if you skip this step, you’re missing out on all of the flavor and craftsmanship of the cheese that you bought.
Music that’s always playing in the store: Everything from Prince and Robyn and Whitney Houston to Diana Ross, New Order, and Hot Chip—just really fun, you-cannot-help-but-dance tunes.
Instagram accounts you go to for inspiration: @cookbookmarket, @wineandeggsshop, @sesame.la, @nowservingla, @botanicafood are just a few similarly minded shops in Los Angles that I think are doing really, really special stuff.
Dream person to walk into Big Night: Samin Nosrat and Diane Keaton—preferably if they walked in together.
Favorite nearby shop that’s not your own: Greenpoint is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to shops and restaurants. Edy’s Grocer is a newer spot for incredible Lebanese deli treats. Word is my favorite bookstore in the neighborhood. A couple doors down from Word is Porter James, and it has really incredible vintage furniture. Even if I’m not shopping for furniture, it’s a place to go for inspiration. Archestratus is an amazing spot for cookbooks.
Favorite nearby restaurant and/or bar: It’s tough to narrow it down to just one, especially given my background as a professional restaurant-goer, but I really love Di An Di, Chez Ma Tante, Chiko, and Bernie’s.
Favorite piece in stock right now: This is like choosing children, but we have handblown glass cake stands from Estelle in the most beautiful colors. And we have a couple of local ceramists that I’m excited about. One is named Aziza Mirzan and the other is Fefo. On the food side of things, I’m really excited about Exau olive oil. We’re actually the first New York stockists to carry it!
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