“It’s really exciting that our second location is in such a cool place, such an institution of the city, and a place where we both spend a lot of time,” said Melissa at their opening day event.
The two sisters, who opened their first Four & Twenty Blackbirds location at 439 Third Ave. in Gowanus in April 2010, cut their culinary teeth in their mother’s Hecla, S.D. restaurant – one of only two restaurants in the town of 227 residents. There, they also learned the value of conscious food sourcing and healthy menus.
“There were two restaurants in town so we didn’t have a whole lot of competition,” explained their mother, Mary Elsen. “We threw a few French fries and chicken sandwiches in there but we kept it healthy for the most part.”
Mary said she was extremely proud of her daughters for their collaboration with the library, and excited to see the library promoting home cooking rather than putting a chain restaurant or prepared food vendor in place.
For their introductory menu, the sisters chose to feature four of their signature flavors of pie: Salted Caramel Apple, Black-bottom Oat, Lemon Chess and Salty Honey. They are also working with the head chefs of Pines and Vinegar Hill House to build a healthy, wholesome savory menu to fuel the minds and bodies of their learned clientele. The menu includes fresh and hot sandwiches, scones, soup, oatmeal, homemade hotdogs, home-cured bacon and much more.
“It’s all wholesome and seasonal,” Melissa said. “We source everything from the farmer’s market, we’re going to source everything locally. That’s something we’ve done at our other pie shop,”
Among those who came to show support for the Elsen sisters’ latest endeavor was the Wiklow family, owner-operators of Wiklow Orchards in Highland, NY, from whom Four & Twenty Blackbirds sources all their apples.
Albert Wiklow said he was happy to be able to show support for the new shop, and said, “They get more apples from us than any other wholesale account we have.”
He and his wife Kortney, along with daughter Paisly and son Henry, enjoyed slices of pie and ice cream together before heading back upstate to tend to their trees.
“The girls have been associated with Albert and his family for some time, and all his apples go into his pies. They’ve made a good friendship now,” Mary explained, to which Melissa added, “We went to his sister’s wedding party.”
Four and Twenty opened their first shop in April 2010, and they have been making a name for themselves in the Brooklyn food scene ever since.
“We started it from home, doing it on a small scale,” Melissa said—much in the same fashion as the main characters from the CBS sitcom “Two Broke Girls.”
Now, with two locations and a recently-published cookbook, their shop is becoming it’s own institution in the community. Melissa said one of their central goals, now that they have a location inside the library, is to work on collaborations so that their shop can be more than just a food provider, but also a source of learning about food.
“That was a goal of the library [when they approached Melissa and Emily], and the girls were really happy to jump on board with that,” Mary said. “Brooklyn is their home, they love it here.”